The Big Science and Environment Stories of the Decade

Dec 23, 2019 at 4:15pm

KQED, by KQED Science

The 2010s saw breakthroughs in medical science and spectacular discoveries in space and physics. For Californians, it was also the decade that climate change arrived in our front yards in the form of serial cataclysmic fire seasons.

During the decade, scientists refined the regimen of HIV/AIDS medication, made life-saving advances in the treatment of cancer, and invented an entirely new gene-editing technology, with the hope of one day curing diseases before they begin.

NASA’s New Horizons probe captured the first close-up images of Pluto, and the world caught its first glimpse, albeit a bit blurry, of a black hole. Our understanding of exoplanets exploded: the Kepler Space Telescope and the TESS satellite found thousands of new planets outside our solar system, and researchers began to comprehend what those worlds might actually look like.

As the decade closes, the KQED Science team has created a sort of mixtape of the major trends, significant moments and noteworthy discoveries, with an eye toward California and the Bay Area.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Well, let’s get it out of the way ...

Wildfires Create Havoc

A crew of inmate firefighters make their way to firefighting operations to battle the Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California on October 26, 2019.

The changing climate is leading to longer dry periods in California, which is at least three degrees warmer since the beginning of the industrial era, the Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2016.

Climate change, combined with a century of suppressing wildfires and denser populations in areas perilously close to fire-prone wilderness, have created the worst fire seasons on record. Since 2012, four of the five biggest California wildfires have burned over 1.2 million acres.

Keep reading the original full article here.