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Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.

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Past Century's Global Temperature Change Is Fastest On Record

Mar 8, 2013
Originally published on March 8, 2013 10:40 pm

There's plenty of evidence that the climate has warmed up over the past century, and climate scientists know this has happened throughout the history of the planet. But they want to know more about how this warming is different.

Now a research team says it has some new answers. It has put together a record of global temperatures going back to the end of the last ice age — about 11,000 years ago — when mammoths and saber-tooth cats roamed the planet. The study confirms that what we're seeing now is unprecedented.

What the researchers did is peer into the past. They read ice cores from polar regions that show what temperatures were like over hundreds of thousands of years. But those only reveal changes in those specific regions; cores aren't so good at depicting what happened to the whole planet. Tree rings give a more global record of temperatures, but only back about 2,000 years.

Shaun Marcott, a geologist at Oregon State University, says "global temperatures are warmer than about 75 percent of anything we've seen over the last 11,000 years or so." The other way to look at that is, 25 percent of the time since the last ice age, it's been warmer than now.

You might think, so what's to worry about? But Marcott says the record shows just how unusual our current warming is. "It's really the rates of change here that's amazing and atypical," he says. Essentially, it's warming up superfast.

Here's what happened. After the end of the ice age, the planet got warmer. Then, 5,000 years ago, it started to get cooler — but really slowly. In all, it cooled 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit, up until the last century or so. Then it flipped again — global average temperature shot up.

"Temperatures now have gone from that cold period to the warm period in just 100 years," Marcott says.

So it's taken just 100 years for the average temperature to change by 1.3 degrees, when it took 5,000 years to do that before.

The research team tracked temperature by studying chemicals in the shells of tiny, fossilized sea creatures called foraminifera. Their temperature record matches other techniques that look back 2,000 years, which supports the validity of their much longer record.

Climate scientists predict that the current warming will continue, given the amount of greenhouse gases going up into the atmosphere.

"The climate changes to come are going to be larger than anything that human civilization and agriculture has seen in its entire existence," says Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "And that is quite a sobering thought."

The research appears in the journal Science.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's look a little more closely at the evidence that the climate has warmed up over the past century. Warming cycles have happened before but climate scientists want to know more about how this current trend is different. Now a research team says they have some answers. They've put together a record of global temperatures going back to the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, their study confirms that what we are seeing now is unprecedented.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: Climate scientists are, in a sense, time travelers. They peer into the past. Ice cores from polar regions show what temperatures were over hundreds of thousands of years - but only for those regions, not the whole planet. Tree rings give a more global record of temperatures, but only back about 2,000 years. Now a team from Oregon State University and Harvard has done something new. They've got a global temperature record back to the last ice age, when mammoths and saber-tooth cats roamed the planet. Geologist Shaun Marcott says what they found is...

SHAUN MARCOTT: Global temperatures are warmer than about 75 percent of anything we've seen over the last 11,000 years or so.

JOYCE: The other way to look at it is 25 percent of the time since the last ice age it's been warmer than now. So what's to worry about, you might think. But Marcott, who's at Oregon State University, says the record shows just how unusual our current warming is.

MARCOTT: It's really the rates of change here that's amazing and atypical.

It's warming up super-fast. Here's what happened before. After the end of the Ice Age, the planet got warmer. Then about 5,000 years ago it started to get cooler - but really slowly. In all, it cooled 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit, up until the last century or so. Then the temperature shot up.

Temperatures now have gone from that cold period to the warm period in just 100 years.

JOYCE: That's right. It's taken just 100 years for the average temperature to change by 1.3 degrees, when it took 5,000 years to do that before. The research team tracks temperature by studying chemicals in the shells of tiny fossilized sea creatures called foraminifera. Their temperature record matches other techniques that look back 2,000 years, which supports the validity of their much longer record. Climate scientists predict the current warming will continue, given the amount of greenhouse gases going up into the atmosphere. Gavin Schmidt is at NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

GAVIN SCHMIDT: So the climate changes to come are going to be larger than anything that human civilization and agriculture has seen in its entire existence. And that is quite a sobering thought.

JOYCE: The research appears in the journal Science. Christopher Joyce, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.