The idea first came to Jerry Melillo nearly 30 years ago, as he drove down a highway in Sweden, where he was attending a scientific conference. He noticed that, even though a blanket of snow covered the surrounding fields, the roads appeared ice-free.
Melillo asked around and discovered that in the winter, the underside of the roads were electrified by thick underground cables.
“They made a really robust resistance cable that could take a real beating,” recalls Melillo, an ecosystem scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “I realized it might be a technology we could use” — to help scientists understand the long-term effects of climate change.
Decades before the dire scientific reports and the climate-driven increase in natural disasters, Melillo and a colleague, inspired by those cables, hatched a plan for a kind of ecological time machine. They would create a patch of land, deep inside a Massachusetts forest, where the predicted warming of the Earth could be measured, controlled, and examined before it actually occurs. Read more …
Caption: Researchers William Werner and Melissa Knorr monitor the soil-warming experimental site that Jerry Melillo created in 1991 at Harvard Forest, Massachusetts. Credit: Webb Chappell