A Taste For Pork Helped A Deadly Virus Jump To Humans
It was a balmy Sunday evening in early 1999, and Dr. Kaw Bing Chua hadn't had lunch or dinner.
There wasn't time to eat. Chua was chasing a killer. And he thought maybe he had finally tracked it down. He slid the slide under the microscope lens, turned on the scope's light and looked inside. "A chill went down my spine," Chua says. "The slide lit up bright green, like bright green lanterns."
Right there, in Chua's hands, was a virus the world had never seen before. And as he soon learned, it's also one of the most dangerous ones. Now Chua had enough of the virus to kill everyone in the lab. Maybe worse. More
In Somalia, Drought Leaves 110 Dead In Last 48 Hours
Mogadishu: Some 110 people have died in southern Somalia in the last two days from famine and diarrhoea resulting from a drought, the prime minister said on Saturday, as the area braces itself for widespread shortages of food.
In February, United Nations children's agency UNICEF said the drought in Somalia could lead to up to 270,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition this year.
"It is a difficult situation for the pastoralists and their livestock. Some people have been hit by famine and diarrhoea at the same time. In the last 48 hours 110 people died due to famine and diarrhoea in Bay region," Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire's office said in a statement. More
Lake worshipped by Incans now littered with trash
LAKE TITICACA, Peru — Tucked between snow-capped mountains, Lake Titicaca was once worshipped by the Incas, who proclaimed its deep blue waters the birthplace of the sun.
These days the shores of South America's largest lake are littered with dead frogs, discarded paint buckets and bags of soggy trash. Less visible threats lurk in the water itself: toxic levels of lead and mercury. The steady deterioration of the prized tourist destination has caused a rash of health problems among the 1.3 million people in Peru and Bolivia living near Lake Titicaca's polluted banks.
Untreated sewage water drains from two dozen nearby cities and illegal gold mines high in the Andes dump up to 15 tons of mercury a year into a river leading to the lake. More
Skeptical Climate Scientists Coming In From the Cold
In the world of climate science, the skeptics are coming in from the cold.
Researchers who see global warming as something less than a planet-ending calamity believe the incoming Trump administration may allow their views to be developed and heard. This didn’t happen under the Obama administration, which denied that a debate even existed. Now, some scientists say, a more inclusive approach – and the billions of federal dollars that might support it – could be in the offing.
“Here’s to hoping the Age of Trump will herald the demise of climate change dogma, and acceptance of a broader range of perspectives in climate science and our policy options,” Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry wrote this month at her popular Climate Etc. blog. More
Travelling star heading towards Earth could cause DEVASTATING comet strikes as it passes by our sun
A star know to be on a collision course with our solar system will come even closer than first thought, a new study has discovered. Data captured by the European Space Agency's Gaia observatory has shown that hydrogen-burning main-sequence star Gliese 710 could come close enough to cause major comet strikes. As a result, it will appear as both the brightest and fastest object in the night sky.
Detailing their findings in a paper published by the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, co-authors Filip Berski and Piotr Dybcznski from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland revealed the star's minimum distance to our solar system will be almost five times closer than previously thought. More
Scientists say the global ocean circulation may be more vulnerable to shutdown than we thought
Intense future climate change could have a far different impact on the world than current models predict, suggests a thought-provoking new study just out in the journal Science Advances. If atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were to double in the future, it finds, a major ocean current — one that helps regulate climate and weather patterns all over the world — could collapse. And that could paint a very different picture of the future than what we’ve assumed so far.
The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC, is often described as a large oceanic conveyor belt. It’s a system of water currents that transports warm water northward from the Atlantic toward the Arctic, contributing to the mild climate conditions found in places like Western Europe.
In the Northern Atlantic, the northward flowing surface water eventually cools and sinks down toward the bottom of the ocean, and another current brings that cooler water back down south again. The whole process is part of a much larger system of overturning currents that circulates all over the world, from pole to pole. More
2016 was the Hottest Year on Record
WASHINGTON - Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, government scientists said Wednesday. They mostly blame man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino, which has since disappeared.
Measuring global temperatures in slightly different ways, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that last year passed 2015 as the hottest year on record. NOAA calculated that the average 2016 global temperature was 58.69 degrees (14.84 degrees Celsius) - beating the previous year by 0.07 degrees (0.04 Celsius).
NASA's figures, which include more of the Arctic, are higher at 0.22 degrees (0.12 Celsius) warmer than 2015. The Arctic "was enormously warm, like totally off the charts compared to everything else," said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York, where the space agency monitors global temperatures. More
One of Earth's Most Dangerous Supervolcanoes Is Rumbling
A long-quiet yet huge supervolcano that lies under 500,000 people in Italy may be waking up and approaching a "critical state," scientists report this week in the journal Nature Communications.
Based on physical measurements and computer modeling, "we propose that magma could be approaching the CDP [critical degassing pressure] at Campi Flegrei, a volcano in the metropolitan area of Naples, one of the most densely inhabited areas in the world, and where accelerating deformation and heating are currently being observed," wrote the scientists—who are led by Giovanni Chiodini of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics in Rome. More
Sounding the Alarm: Comets Pose Threat to Earth, Too
SAN FRANCISCO — If your death-from-above musings focus solely on asteroids, you need to broaden your worried mind.
Comets can also deliver a heaping helping of calamity to Earth, and scientists and policymakers alike should start taking measures to combat the threat, said Joseph Nuth, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"Comets have largely been ignored by people that are interested in defending the planet," Nuth said during a news conference at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. More
World’s last wild frankincense forests are under threat
In a tradition dating to Biblical times, men rise at dawn in the rugged Cal Madow mountains of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa to scale rocky outcrops in search of the prized sap of wild frankincense trees.
Bracing against high winds, Musse Ismail Hassan climbs with his feet wrapped in cloth to protect against the sticky resin. With a metal scraper, he chips off bark and the tree’s white sap bleeds into the salty air. “My father and grandfather were both doing this job,” said Hassan, who like all around here is Muslim. “We heard that it was with Jesus.”
When dried and burned, the sap produces a fragrant smoke which perfumes churches and mosques around the world. Frankincense, along with gold and myrrh, was brought by the Three Kings as gifts in the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus. More
Goodbye World: We’ve Passed the Carbon Tipping Point For Good
It’s a banner week for the end of the world, because we’ve officially pushed atmospheric carbon levels past their dreaded 400 parts per million. Permanently.
According to a blog post last Friday from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, “it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future.” Their findings are based on weekly observations of carbon dioxide at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, where climate scientists have been measuring CO2 levels since 1958.
What’s so terrifying about this number? For several years now, scientists have been warning us that if atmospheric carbon were allowed to surpass 400 parts per million, it would mark a serious “milestone.” In 2012, the Arctic was the first region on Earth to cross this red line. Three years later, for the first time since scientists had begun to record them, carbon levels remained above 400 parts per million for an entire month. More
All Queens Must Die
The cows were the first to go because cows are big, and killing them was easy. The ranchers on Santa Cruz Island had been killing cattle for more than a century already. Rounded up, marched onto ships and motored 20 miles across the Pacific to mainland California, the cows were slaughtered, just like they’d been slaughtered for a hundred years, or longer even. By the early 1980s, the cows were gone. So were nearly all the ranchers.
The sheep were trickier. There were a lot more of them, something like 40,000, grazing over 96 square miles of mountainous island covered in dense chaparral, little oak woodlands, deep canyons, towering cliffs, and some of the largest sea caves in the world. A great landscape to hide in. The Nature Conservancy — which owns about three-quarters of the island — set about eradicating the sheep in 1981. By 1989, the Conservancy had killed at least 37,000 of them, but some sheep survived on Santa Cruz into the ‘90s. More
Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun
NORFOLK, Va. — Huge vertical rulers are sprouting beside low spots in the streets here, so people can judge if the tidal floods that increasingly inundate their roads are too deep to drive through.
Five hundred miles down the Atlantic Coast, the only road to Tybee Island, Ga., is disappearing beneath the sea several times a year, cutting the town off from the mainland.
And another 500 miles on, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., increased tidal flooding is forcing the city to spend millions fixing battered roads and drains — and, at times, to send out giant vacuum trucks to suck saltwater off the streets.
For decades, as the global warming created by human emissions caused land ice to melt and ocean water to expand, scientists warned that the accelerating rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline. More
Earth Just Narrowly Missed Getting Hit by an Asteroid
On Saturday, astronomers discovered a new asteroid, just a few hours before it almost hit us.
The asteroid is called 2016 QA2, and it missed the Earth by less than a quarter of the distance to the moon. That puts it about three times as far away from Earth as our farthest satellites. And we never saw it coming.
So how did 2016 QA2 sneak up on us like that? For this particular asteroid, the answer seems to be that it has a very peculiar orbit. It's highly elliptical, which means it can usually be found hanging out by either Mars or Venus, but rarely ends up near Earth. More
Black Lives Matter UK says climate change is racist
The Black Lives Matter movement may have started in the United States, but local versions are spreading across the world. And as the movement expands, so does the message.
In Britain on Tuesday, members of Black Lives Matter UK gained access to London City Airport, where they chained themselves together on the runway in protest. Flights into the capital were diverted for several hours. Nine activists were arrested.
It followed a similar demonstration on a road outside Heathrow, London’s largest airport, last month.
But while the activists at Heathrow emphasized police brutality, the group at City Airport wanted to highlight something else: climate change. A statement from the group said climate change has a disproportionate effect on people of color in the developing world. "Black people are the first to die, not the first to fly, in this racist climate crisis," the group said. More
Louisiana's vanishing island: the climate 'refugees' resettling for $52m
Wenceslaus Billiot, an 88-year-old native of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, remembers growing up on a much different island than the two-mile sliver of his ancestral home that remains today.
“When I was a kid I used to do trapping in the back,” he said, gesturing towards the back of the small, one-story house that stands elevated on stilts to escape the floods that roll in from the bayou after nearly every storm. “You could walk for a long time. Now, nothing but water.”
The back balcony overlooks a vast expanse of water leading to Terrebonne Bay and, further, the Gulf of Mexico – that now lies in his backyard.
Billiot and his equally sprightly 91-year-old wife, Denecia Naquin, are among the last remaining residents of this island, which has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. The population, which peaked at around 400, is now down to around 85. More
A lightning strike just killed 300 reindeer in Norway
More than 300 wild reindeer have been killed by a lighting strike in a Norwegian national park, and experts say they’ve never seen anything like it.
While details about the incident are still forthcoming, it’s suspected that the reindeer huddled together in the rain, and when the lightning hit, its energy travelled across the ground and up the animals' legs, killing them where they stood.
The victims belonged to Europe’s largest wild reindeer herd, numbering 10,000 or so in Norway's Hardangervidda national park - the largest high mountain plateau in northern Europe, spanning some 8,000 square kilometres (3,088 square miles). More
Scientists think they’ve just pinpointed the key driver of ice loss in Antarctica
The Antarctic Peninsula is headed for trouble — that much scientists know. Glaciers on the peninsula, which extends from the increasingly unstable West Antarctic region, have been retreating for decades, and some in the region have undergone particularly accelerated melting since the 1990s.
Until recently, many scientists assumed that a steady increase in air temperature around the peninsula, the product of global warming, was the primary cause behind most of the ice loss. But new research looking at the western side of the peninsula suggests that this may not be the case after all. A study published Thursday in the journal Science suggests that warm ocean water may be the biggest driver of glacial retreat in that region — and it’s a problem that may not be getting enough attention. More
Blastomycosis: Survivors of spore-borne illness tell harrowing tales
MANITOULIN—Seven years later, John Bowerman of Sheguiandah is still dealing with the affects of blastomycosis—a disease that left him hospitalized at Health Sciences North in Sudbury for over three months.
Following last week’s front page article, the first in a multi-story series on the subject of blastomycosis, Mr. Bowerman reached out to The Expositor, wanting to share the news that numerous dogs have also died as a result of the fungal infection (a fact this newspaper has reported in the past and which will be covered later in this series), noting that he himself is a survivor.
He said he did not know how he came in contact with the fungal spores but said he had helped a neighbour to plane lumber but that the wood had not been mouldy. This was in 2008. More
Ontario to spend $7-billion on sweeping climate change plan
The Ontario government will spend more than $7-billion over four years on a sweeping climate change plan that will affect every aspect of life – from what people drive to how they heat their homes and workplaces – in a bid to slash the province’s carbon footprint.
Ontario will begin phasing out natural gas for heating, provide incentives to retrofit buildings and give rebates to drivers who buy electric vehicles.
It will also require that gasoline sold in the province contain less carbon, bring in building code rules requiring all new homes by 2030 to be heated with electricity or geothermal systems, and set a target for 12 per cent of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2025. More
Incoming asteroids could crumble harmlessly before they hit us
The skies may be safer than we assumed. Many asteroids are weak and brittle – which could be good news for us on Earth.
More than 90 per cent of asteroids and comets larger than a kilometre across in Earth’s neighbourhood have already been discovered, and scientists think the region is mostly clear of them.
Should one wander near to us, though, it could have devastating results. Scientists have ideas about how to push it away with thrusters or solar sails. However, the success of these plans depends on understanding what the rocks are made of and whether they might break apart. Space rocks fall to Earth as meteorites all the time, but few are recovered, so scientists are reluctant to crush them to study their contents and behaviour. Earth rocks usually serve as models instead. More
Portland Public Schools bans material that is skeptical on climate change
The Portland Public Schools Board on Tuesday decided to ban any classroom materials that cast doubt on climate change. The resolution passed unanimously and requires that textbooks and other material purchased by the district present climate change as a fact rather than theory.
Material will also need to present human activity as one of the phenomenon's causes.
In testimony to the board, Bill Bigelow, a former Portland teacher, told district officials that "we don't want kids in Portland learning material courtesy of the fossil fuel industry."
Bigelow said that material that treats climate change as anything other than fact is published by companies making concessions for fossil fuel companies. He pointed to words such as "might," "may" and "could" in educational materials. More
600 tons of melted radioactive Fukushima fuel still not found, clean-up chief reveals
The Fukushima clean-up team remains in the dark about the exact locations of 600 tons of melted radioactive fuel from three devastated nuclear reactors, the chief of decommissioning told the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program in an exclusive interview.
The company hopes to locate and start removing the missing fuel from 2021, the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) chief of decommissioning at Fukushima, Naohiro Masuda, revealed.
The fuel extraction technology is yet to be elaborated upon, he added.
Following the 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant uranium fuel of three power generating reactors gained critical temperature and burnt through the respective reactor pressure vessels, concentrating somewhere on the lower levels of the station currently filled with water. More
Earth Was Struck By A 19-Mile Wide Asteroid That Would Have Caused ‘Cliffs To Crumble’
Earth has experienced the apocalypse more than once.
From the famous Chicxulub asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs to the Ordovician–Silurian extinction which was reportedly caused by a devastating gamma ray burst from a hypernova explosion some 6,000 light years away. The fact that we’ve survived this long then is nothing short of a galactic roll of the dice.
New research suggests we’re even luckier than we thought as scientists are uncovering evidence of what would have been another cataclysmic event to take place on Earth. Scientists from the Australian National University have found evidence that around 3.45 billion years ago a titanic asteroid struck the Earth with enough destructive force that it would have made cliffs crumble. More
Love in the time of climate change: Grizzlies and polar bears are now mating
BARROW, Alaska — Most Alaskans and Canadians have a bear story — tales of fearsome grizzlies, even polar bears. But a mix of the two?
They’re known as pizzlies or grolars, and they’re a fusion of the Arctic white bear and their brown cousins. It’s a blend that’s been turning up more and more in parts of Alaska and Western Canada.
Last week, a strange-looking bear was shot by a hunter in Nunavut, a remote territory that curves around Canada’s Hudson Bay. Its head was large, like a grizzly’s, but its fur was white. The bear’s genetics were not tested, but Arctic researchers seem unified in their analysis: It’s a polar-grizzly mix. A hybrid. More
Changing climate: 10 years after An Inconvenient Truth
More than 25 years before the star-studded Los Angeles premiere of An Inconvenient Truth, glaciologist Lonnie Thompson was about as far away from the red carpet as possible. It was 1978, and high in the rugged Andes, Thompson and fellow scientists were witnessing the first glimpses of a pending worldwide disaster. Rising temperatures were melting ancient titans of ice and snow. Mammoth glaciers were disappearing at unprecedented rates and withering to the smallest sizes in millennia. The delicate balance of Earth’s climate was upset.
As research mounted, scientists around the world from fields as diverse as chemistry and astronomy were coming to grips with a newfound truth: Carbon dioxide spewed by fossil fuel burning and other greenhouse gases were warming the world at an alarming rate, potentially threatening the health and livelihoods of millions of people. Despite the gravity and urgency of their findings, the scientists’ warnings fell mostly on deaf ears for years. More
'Scarier than we initially thought': CDC sounds warning on Zika virus
WASHINGTON — Public health officials used their strongest language to date in warning about a Zika outbreak in the United States, as the Obama administration lobbied Congress for $1.9 billion to combat the mosquito-borne virus.
"Most of what we've learned is not reassuring," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought."
As summer approaches, officials are warning that mosquito eradication efforts, lab tests and vaccine research may not be able to catch up. There are 346 cases of Zika confirmed in the continental United States — all in people who had recently traveled to Zika-prone countries, according to the most recent CDC report. Of those, 32 were in pregnant women, and seven were sexually transmitted. More
Uncertainties for asteroid 2013 TX68 Earth flyby
Astronomers haven’t exactly been biting their nails about asteroid 2013 TX68. Although the asteroid’s trajectory is highly uncertain, they’ve never thought the asteroid would hit Earth when it passes closest in early March.
Latest estimates say the asteroid will pass no closer than 19,000 miles (30,000 km).
By contrast, the moon’s distance is 250,000 miles (400,000 km). The space rock is currently approaching Earth from the sun’s direction, which makes it difficult to track it – and get a more exact orbital estimate – until it is closer to us and passes to the night sky between late February and early March.
Astronomers did make a step forward in refining the asteroid’s orbit when realized that this object – which was observed only briefly in 2013 before going into a region of the sky lit by the sun’s glare – was visible on some images a few days before it was officially detected on October 6, 2013. The new images let scientists roughly refine its trajectory, but just a bit. More
UN: 420,000 people die annually from foodborne diseases, over a quarter are young children
BERLIN — The World Health Organization says some 420,000 people die each year from foodborne diseases, with young children accounting for more than a quarter of all deaths.
The U.N. health agency says it estimates that about 600 million people fall ill annually after consuming tainted food.
The agency said Thursday that a comprehensive review of diseases caused by 31 types of bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals found the highest burden in Africa and Southeast Asia. More
Aerosols are causing global warming on JUPITER: 'Fluffy' haze of particles is found to be heating the gas planet's atmosphere
Astronomers studying the atmosphere around the gas giant Jupiter believe they have finally solved the mystery about what keeps the planet's temperature regulated.
Using data from Nasa probes, the planetary scientists have found that the gases in Jupiter's atmosphere alone can't account for the planet's climate.
Instead, they now believe a thick haze of low density hydrocarbons interacts with solar energy in the atmosphere to regulate heat. The findings mean Jupiter's atmosphere is heated differently to Earth's, and could help us to understand the climate of other planets in the solar system, and beyond. More
Zika’s alarming spread: CDC investigates link to paralyzing condition, adds 8 countries to travel warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported this week that a dozen cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the United States, is expanding its advisory that pregnant women should avoid travel to countries currently seeing high rates of infection.
The agency's initial list contained 14 countries, but the CDC on Friday added eight more -- in South America, the Caribbean and Polynesia -- as places where the reach of the virus is growing.
The CDC now is working with authorities in Brazil to study a potential link between the mosquito-borne virus and a rare syndrome known as Guillain-Barré that can lead to paralysis. In Brazil, which is currently the epicenter of Zika, public health officials were already investigating a link between the virus and a rare birth condition called microcephaly. That country has seen nearly 3,900 suspected cases since October, with the babies involved suffering serious brain damage. More
The world faces widespread food shortages due to global warming: Crops will become scarce as droughts ravage Africa and Asia
Widespread water shortages caused by rising global temperatures could lead to food shortages and mass migration, an expert has warned.
The head of the World Meteorological Society, Michel Jarraud has warned that of all the threats posed by a warming climate, shrinking water supplies are the most serious. It is predicted that by 2025, some 2.8 billion people will live in 'water scarce' areas - a huge rise from the 1.6 billion who do now.
Parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia will be worst affected, with pockets of Australia, the US and southern Europe also predicted to suffer. More
Higher Levels Of Radiation From 2011 Japan Nuclear Accident Detected Offshore
Experts from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) reported on Thursday, Dec. 3, that higher levels of radiation were detected off the west coast of North America. The recent discovery was made years after the 2011 Japan nuclear accident.
The new report shows the rise of sampling areas where indications of contamination are present. Furthermore, the researchers were able to identify the highest level of radiation ever recorded from a sample obtained in an area 1,600 miles west of San Francisco.
Although the amount of radioactive cesium isotopes (approximately 264 gallons) is 50 percent larger than any other sample obtained along the West Coast, the number is still 500 times smaller than the safety limits for drinking water set by the government of the United States. The levels are also significantly lower than the limits that warrant concern for radiation exposure during water activities such as swimming and boating, among others. More
Human cases of 'rabbit fever' have jumped to highest mark since 1984, officials say
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Health officials are seeing an increase of a rare illness called rabbit fever that was beaten back decades ago.
In the last two decades, health officials saw an average of only about 125 cases each year of the illness — known to doctors as tularemia. But there have already been 235 cases this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. That's the most since 1984.
Officials aren't sure why cases are up, but speculate that it may have to do with weather conditions that likely helped rodents — and the bacteria — thrive in certain states. At least 100 of this year's cases have been in four states — Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Among those cases was an elderly man who died. More
Nuclear is not the answer to the climate crisis
Contrary to the article by James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley (Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change, 3 December), many scientists around the world remain sceptical that nuclear is the answer, or even part of the answer, to climate change.
The academic authors have a fine record in identifying the causes and consequences of climate change, but their proposed solution simply doesn’t make sense. The main problem is that, contrary what many think, nuclear power is a poor method of reducing carbon emissions: its uranium ore and fuel processes have heavy carbon footprints. Indeed, of the ways to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sphere, nuclear is by far the most expensive in terms of pound per tonne of carbon saved. More
Nicaragua refuses to make climate pledge at Paris talks
It has been a while since the 6m people of Nicaragua did much to attract global attention.
But the Central American state burst on to the world stage at this week’s climate change conference in Paris when it became the first nation to declare it had no intention of publishing a national plan to combat global warming.
That would be “a path to failure” said Paul Oquist, Managua’s lead negotiator, explaining his country did not want to be a part of a process dooming the world to “the hell” of dangerous global warming.
More than 180 of the 195 countries involved in the Paris talks have volunteered a plan to combat climate change since March as part of an effort to forge a new global accord to stop global temperatures rising more than 2C from pre-industrial times. More
Global warming may cause East Asian monsoon belt to shift north
A small team of researchers with the Chinese Academy of Sciences has conducted a study of organic matter in parts of China and in so doing has concluded that the southern drift of the East Asian monsoon rain belt will reverse itself and travel north—courtesy of global warming. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they studied the past to predict the future of summer monsoon rain patterns over China.
For the past couple of decades parts of northern China have been experiencing draughts, which scientists have found is due to the East Asian monsoon belt shifting south—areas in the south, meanwhile, have been experiencing summer flooding. But this trend may not last long, the research team in China suggests, because global warming is likely going to cause the monsoon belt to shift northward again. More
Asteroid to narrowly miss Earth on Halloween
Don't look now, but an asteroid is heading our way on Halloween.
On the other hand, go ahead and look. As it misses Earth by about 300,000 miles (slightly farther away than the moon), the asteroid, named 2015 TB145, will be visible to those with good telescopes -- and NASA, which announced the discovery.
Calling it "one of the best radar targets of the year," a Jet Propulsion Laboratory report on the asteroid said that "the flyby presents a truly outstanding scientific opportunity to study the physical properties of this object." The asteroid will be traveling through Orion on October 30-31. It's a good thing it will miss, though. The asteroid is estimated to be 300 to 600 meters wide and traveling at 78,000 mph. By comparison, the meteorite that exploded in the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 was about 20 meters wide. More
It's Too Late to Save Over 400 U.S. Cities From Rising Seas, Scientists Say
An alarming new study has found that, no matter what we do to fight climate change, it is already too late for more than 400 U.S. cities — including Miami and New Orleans — which will be overcome by rising sea levels caused by anthropogenic climate change. Under a worst-case scenario, New York could be unlivable by the year 2085. Most of the population in those cities live within five feet of the current high tide line.
"Some of this could happen as early as next century," said lead author Ben Strauss, vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central, a nonprofit climate news organization with offices in New York and Princeton, New Jersey. "But it might also take many centuries," he added. "Just think of a pile of ice in a warm room. You know it is going to melt, but it is harder to say how quickly." More
Toxic algae blooming off West Coast endangering marine life and forcing seafood bans
A vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago, according to surveyors aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel.
This coastal ribbon of microscopic algae, up to 64 kilometres wide and 198 metres deep in places, is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. It now stretches from at least California to Alaska and has shut down lucrative fisheries.
Shellfish managers on Tuesday doubled the area off Washington's coast that is closed to Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat. More
A Bug Swarm so Big it Shows up on Weather Radar
Weather radar has picked up thousands of insects flying over Knox County, Texas, according to the National Weather Service of Norman, Oklahoma.
Rangers at Copper Breaks State Park in Quanah, Texas confirmed that the radar is picking up a large swarm of both grasshoppers and beetles. It is difficult to correlate a specific amount of insects to what the radar is seeing because it depends on the size and proximity of the insects as they fly, says Forrest Mitchell, Observations Program Leader at the National Weather Service of Norman, Oklahoma. They are swarming from the ground up to 2,500 feet, covering a distance of over 50 miles, he says. More
Earth could get just 12 hours' warning of damaging solar storm
Humanity would only have a 12-hour warning about the arrival of a “coronal mass ejection” that could damage the National Grid, pipelines and railway signals, according to a newly released document from the UK Cabinet Office.
In a report worthy of a Bruce Willis film, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has set out the nature of the risk to the UK from “severe space weather”, which it says results from various types of solar activity.
The report, the Space Weather Preparedness Strategy, states: “Solar activity can produce x-rays, high-energy particles and coronal mass ejections of plasma. Where such activity is directed towards Earth there is the potential to cause wide-ranging impacts. These include power loss, aviation disruption, communication loss, and disturbance to (or loss of) satellite systems.” More
To bee, or not to bee: This is no bumbling insect audit
APPLETON, Maine — Mad as a hornet, a bumblebee buzzes her wings in vain against the walls of the vial holding her captive. She alights briefly on the paper tab indicating her number, and then resumes scuttling around her plastic prison.
Her warden is Shaina Helsel, one soldier in a citizen army that is taking a census of Maine's bumblebees in an effort to secure the future of the state's blueberries, cranberries and tomatoes amid concern about the population of pollinators.
"Time, location, elevation play a factor in what species are where," says Helsel, a biology student at University of Maine at Augusta. "It's an interesting thing, going out and finding a bunch of different bumblebees. I've so far collected 105."
The project is among a growing number of "citizen science" efforts around the country that are designed to motivate the public to gather data about pollinators. The Great Pollinator Project of New York City tallied nearly 1,500 observations of the city's more than 200 bee species from 2007 to 2010. Across the continent, scientists and students at Washington State University also have tried to galvanize the public to collect data about bees, and more efforts are abuzz elsewhere. More
Warming climate pushes walrus further north, leaving Alaska natives with fewer food sources
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anna Oxereok grew up eating walrus in the western Alaska village of Wales. Today it's such a rare treat she can't bring herself to part with the plastic gallon bag of meat in her freezer.
"I have to save it for something special," she says.
Her brother caught two animals this spring and shared the meat and fat, but it didn't go very far in the village of 150. She's thankful for what she got, though. It's become increasingly difficult to land a walrus.
Other remote communities at the edge of the Bering Sea also are seeing a steep decline in walrus harvested the past several years. Walrus, described by some as having a taste between veal and beef, is highly prized by Alaska Natives as a subsistence food to store for winter, with the adult male animals averaging 2,700 pounds. The sale of carved ivory from the tusks, legal only for Alaska Natives, also brings in supplemental income to communities with high unemployment rates. More
Crews forced to use plows against bug swarm
SABULA, Iowa —Iowa highway crews had to plow a bridge crossing the Mississippi River because of ankle-deep mayflies that swarmed the span.
The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reports the insects on Saturday night swarmed to the Savannah-Sabula bridge, connecting Iowa and Illinois.
The bugs covered the bridge so thickly, and caused such slick conditions, that crews plowed the bugs off the lanes and then applied sand for traction. More
The Really Big One
When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, Chris Goldfinger was two hundred miles away, in the city of Kashiwa, at an international meeting on seismology.
As the shaking started, everyone in the room began to laugh. Earthquakes are common in Japan—that one was the third of the week—and the participants were, after all, at a seismology conference. Then everyone in the room checked the time.
Seismologists know that how long an earthquake lasts is a decent proxy for its magnitude. The 1989 earthquake in Loma Prieta, California, which killed sixty-three people and caused six billion dollars’ worth of damage, lasted about fifteen seconds and had a magnitude of 6.9. A thirty-second earthquake generally has a magnitude in the mid-sevens. A minute-long quake is in the high sevens, a two-minute quake has entered the eights, and a three-minute quake is in the high eights. By four minutes, an earthquake has hit magnitude 9.0. More
Will Florida’s coastal economy adapt to rising sea levels?
Florida is a coastal state. Nearly 80% of its 20 million residents live near the coast on land just a few feet above sea level, and over a hundred million tourists visit the beaches and stay in beach-front hotels every year. The coastal economy in Florida is estimated to account for 79% of the state’s gross domestic product, a measure of direct revenue into the economy.
People living and working on the Florida coast face threats from hurricanes and storm surge, sometimes more than once a year. Scouring of beaches by wind and waves takes away sand, and beaches must be nourished with new sand, as often as yearly, in areas with high erosion. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties now have problems obtaining near-shore, low-cost sand. More
Enjoy summer now: a new mini ice age will arrive in just 15 years, scientists say
The scientific community has reached consensus on global warming: it's happening, and it's already proving highly destructive. But in another 15 years, even Al Gore might be questioning this inconvenient truth.
That's because, separate from the human-caused warming trend, we could face conditions in the 2030s similar to the last "Little Ice Age." The sun has cycles of activity, each of which lasts for about a decade. Scientists have known this since the 1840s, and now astrophysicists have figured out how to track each cycle's intensity, in part through the annual average number of sunspots.
After analyzing solar activity cycles dating to the 1970s, a research team led by Northumbria University mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova created a model that the team claims is 97 percent accurate in predicting the next cycle. The team posits that solar activity will drop by some 60 percent in the 2030s. This conceivably could lead to unusually cold weather conditions, though many climate scientists don't believe this will occur. The last time Earth endured a "mini ice age" was from 1645 to 1715. More
After Hottest Year On Record, Ocean Warming Is Now 'Unstoppable'
Sea levels, warming of the surface and upper layer of the oceans, greenhouse gases and land temperatures all hit a record high in 2014. In addition to this, glacier melt and tropical storms were also at a high, while sea ice loss continued. These are the findings from the annual State of the Climate report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The results are based on the work of 413 independent scientists from 58 countries.
“This report represents data from around the globe, from hundreds of scientists and gives us a picture of what happened in 2014,” explained Thomas Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who carried out the report, which has been produced every year for the last 25.
“The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” he added. The report also hints at something even more worrying. Even if greenhouse gas levels were cut immediately, the researchers claim the warming of the oceans is predicted to continue for centuries and millennia. It seems we might have reached the tipping point, and crashed over the edge. More
Earth has entered sixth mass extinction, warn scientists
Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction with animals now dying out at 100 times the normal rate, scientists have warned.
Humans have created a toxic mix of habitat loss, pollution and climate change, which has already led to the loss of at least 77 species of mammals, 140 types of bird since and 34 amphibians since 1500.
They include creatures like the dodo, Steller’s Sea Cow, the Falkland Islands wolf, the quagga, the Formosan clouded leopard, the Atlas bear, the Caspian tiger and the Cape lion.
Scientists at Stanford University in the US claim it is the biggest loss of species since the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. More
Moderately Cold Temps ‘More Deadly Than Heat Waves’
Heat waves are not as deadly as has been assumed, according to research that suggests prolonged exposure to moderately cold temperatures kills more people than scorching or freezing spells.
The study of deaths in 13 countries, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, and that premature deaths are more often caused by prolonged spells of moderate cold than short extreme bursts.
“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” says lead author Dr. Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. More
Feds to require climate change plans for states seeking disaster relief
A new Federal Emergency Management Agency policy requiring states to address climate change before they can become eligible for grant funding is drawing fire from congressional Republicans.
The regulations, part of a FEMA State Mitigation Plan Review Guide issued last month, are not set to take effect until next March. But lawmakers are demanding an explanation for the rules now.
In a letter to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, the lawmakers said they’re concerned that the agency’s decision will create unnecessary red tape in the disaster preparedness process.
“As you know, disaster mitigation grants are awarded to state and local governments after a presidential major disaster declaration,” they wrote. “These funds are crucial in helping disaster-stricken communities prepare for future emergencies.” More
Hellacious Eel-Like Fish Dropping From The Sky In Alaska
It can be hard to go outside in Alaska, but some days it just takes more courage to leave the house.
Take last week, for example, when residents of Fairbanks reported seeing several terrifying foot-long eel-like fish scattered around town.
Four have been spotted throughout Fairbanks so far -- one was found squirming in the parking lot of a thrift store, while someone else found one in their lawn. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says they're adult Arctic lampreys and residents have nothing to worry about.
Arctic lampreys are mysterious parasitic fish native to Alaska, yet they are rarely seen or caught because they live primarily in the mud of rivers and tributaries throughout the state. The Department of Fish and Game suspects these ones were dropped by gulls who plucked them from the nearby Chena River, where the fish spawn. More
Global levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide pass milestone that scientists call disturbing
WASHINGTON — Global levels of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent heat-trapping gas, have passed a daunting milestone, federal scientists say.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says in March, the global monthly average for carbon dioxide hit 400.83 parts per million. That is the first month in modern records that the entire globe broke 400 ppm, reaching levels that haven't been seen in about 2 million years.
"It's both disturbing and daunting," said NOAA chief greenhouse gas scientist Pieter Tans. "Daunting from the standpoint on how hard it is to slow this down."
He said it is disturbing because it is happening at a pace so fast that it seems like an explosion compared to Earth's slow-moving natural changes. Carbon dioxide isn't just higher, it is increasing at a record pace, 100 times faster than natural rises in the past, Tans said. More
Algae Could Help Solve Our Environmental Problems, so Why Aren't We Using It?
Earlier this month, English design firm ecoLogics Studio drew the attention of attendees at Expo Milano 2015 (this year's Universal Exhibition, neé World's Fair) when they set up a working prototype of their newest invention, the Urban Algae Canopy. With 390 square feet of cushiony flaps lined with tubes filled with a slurry of green algae and attached to a series of pumps, the canopies are meant to be the newest revolution in urban greening, gardening, and even fuel generation.
Programmed to react automatically to weather patterns or to manual commands from passers-by using a digital interface, the canopy pumps varied levels of water, air, and nutrients to the algae within it, generating more photosynthesis and thus more shade and greenery in the sun, or less when desired. The flaps can be moved about as needed. Providing dynamic greenery for cities is already a fairly cool invention, but beyond its aesthetic values, one canopy alone can purportedly suck up as much carbon dioxide and produce as much oxygen per day as 400,000 square feet of woodlands and generate 330 pounds of algal biomass, 60 percent of which (depending on the type of algae used) can be converted into food or current engine-compatible biofuels. More
Warning over aerosol climate fix
Any attempts to engineer the climate are likely to result in "different" climate change, rather than its elimination, new results suggest.
Prof Ken Caldeira, of Stanford University, presented research at a major conference on the climate risks and impacts of geoengineering.
These techniques have been hailed by some as a quick fix for climate change. But the impacts of geoengineering on oceans, the water cycle and land environments are hotly debated.
Researchers are familiar with the global cooling effects of volcanic eruptions, seen both historically and even back into the deep past of the rock record. More
Rising sea levels threaten lower Napa River
With sea levels rising, the U.S. Geological Survey Bay Area predicts the lower Napa River could see an increase of 39 inches over the next 100 years, a rise of more than 3 feet. What this means for towns along the Napa River was the subject of a community meeting at Napa Valley College this week hosted by the League of Women Voters Napa County.
While rising sea levels will not lead to a flood of biblical proportions, geomorphologist Jeremy Lowe said king tides that often flood roads will become more frequent, causing more interruptions in our daily lives.
Fortunately, the Napa River Flood Control Project is intended to decrease that risk in Napa’s urban areas. Rick Thomasser, operations manager for the Napa County Flood Control District, said the flood project is designed to offer protection for an anticipated three feet of water level increase.
Unfortunately, the flood project still needs another $65 million worth of floodwalls and pumps — additions that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently unwilling to pay for. More
Environmental groups sound alarm over 'self-destructive' fracking in Colorado
Environmental groups are sounding the alarm as several states in the western US seek to ramp up oil and natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing, potentially disturbing sensitive, federally protected lands.
The Center for Biological Diversity and three other groups based in Colorado filed a protest against the Bureau of Land Management this week seeking to stop the federal agency from instituting rules that would vastly increase the amount of fracked oil and gas produced on public lands in the state. If the BLM’s rules go through, the number of fracked wells in north-west Colorado could increase from about 1,800 to 17,000 over the next two decades.
That, environmentalists say, would threaten an area already stressed from the drying up of the Colorado river.
“The Colorado river system’s endangered fish can’t handle more water depletions,” John Weisheit, the conservation director of local activist group Living Rivers, said in a statement. “The river system is already over-allocated and climate change is making that situation worse. It’s hard to imagine a more self-destructive policy.” More
Obama on impact of climate change on his family's health
While his administration announced efforts to highlight links between climate change and its impact on health, President Obama delved into his own family's personal medical history in an interview Tuesday with CBS News, touching on his daughter's early struggles with asthma.
"I've seen how scary it is when your kid comes up to you, your four-year-old, and says, 'I'm having trouble breathing,'" the president told CBS News' Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook.
"Malia - early on, when she was young - had asthma," Mr. Obama explained. "And we had to go to the emergency room once. We had good health insurance, and we had the capacity to really knock it out early, so that over time, she was able to not have to carry an inhaler around." More
'Next Pinatubo' a test of geoengineering
Scientists who study ideas to engineer the climate to mitigate global warming say we should be ready to deploy an armada of instrumentation when Earth has its next major volcanic eruption.
Data gathered in the high atmosphere would be invaluable in determining whether so-called "geoengineering" solutions had any merit at all.
It would have to be an event on the scale of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.
That eruption cooled global temperatures for a couple of years. It did so by pumping 20 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide high into the sky above the Philippines. More
Watch Those K-Cups You’ve Been Trashing Turn Into a Monstrous Problem
Move over, Godzilla. There’s a new monster ravaging the streets, and it’s covered in K-Cups—those single-serving plastic pods used in Keurig coffee machines. Not scary enough for you? Alien spacecraft fly through the air, firing lethal K-Cup “bullets” at people.
At least that’s what’s going down in this invasion parody video from Mike Hachey, head of Egg Studios, a video production outfit based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hachey is trying to raise awareness of the environmental impact of the tiny containers, which, like plenty of other plastic waste, end up in landfills.
Hachey has firsthand experience with the amount of trash a Keurig machine can generate. Last year he purchased one of the devices for the 22-person Egg Studios staff to use. More
Scientists Link Underwater Eruptions to Climate Change
Do fire and ice link up to alter Earth's climate?
The climate-driven rise and fall of sea level during the past million years matches up with valleys and ridges on the seafloor, suggesting ice ages influence underwater volcanic eruptions, two new studies reveal. And because volcanic chains spread across 37,000 miles (59,500 kilometers) on the ocean floor, the eruptions could pump out enough carbon dioxide gas to shift planetary temperatures, the study authors suggest.
"Surprisingly, the deep seafloor matters in the long-term climate cycle," said Maya Tolstoy, lead author of one of the studies and a marine geophysicist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.
New oceanic crust is born at underwater volcanic chains called spreading ridges, where molten rock rises to fill the gap between moving tectonic plates. Scientists think that as the plates pull away from spreading ridges, the new crust cools, cracks and sinks, creating gaps between the lines of volcanoes (which are carried away from the ridge with the plate). These parallel volcanic ridges and valleys are some of the most visible features on Earth's ocean floor. More
U.N. Official Reveals Real Reason Behind Warming Scare
conomic Systems: The alarmists keep telling us their concern about global warming is all about man's stewardship of the environment. But we know that's not true. A United Nations official has now confirmed this.
At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.
"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution," she said. More
Pollution in China May Alter Weather in United States
Humans across the globe are connected now more than ever before; actions taken on one continent can affect people on another. Now, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (CIT) are showing this is true even for weather.
New research out of JPL and CIT reveals that during our cold-weather season, pollution in China is altering weather patterns in the United States and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Jonathan H. Jiang, a JPL research scientist, explained to weather.com what this means.
“During the wintertime, human-induced pollution such as coal burning in many Asian cities can create smog that lasts for weeks,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Under favorable wind conditions, pollution particles can be transported downwind across the North Pacific, where winter storms are prevalent.” More
This Is What Your City Would Look Like If All The World's Ice Sheets Melt
Portland, Oregon, may not be a coastal city, but if all of the world's ice sheets melted, it would still end up mostly underwater. In a new series, Seattle cartographer and urban planner Jeffery Linn mapped out what Portland and several other cities would look like with maximum sea level rise.
Each map includes newly named islands and bays, like the "Chula del Mar" in San Diego. In L.A., the city of Downey has become "Drowney," and the airport is "Ex-LAX."
The map also notates where landmarks like Disneyland and the Miracle Mile would end up in the newly formed bay. The mapmaker was inspired by a similar map by a San Francisco blogger. "I'd always been fascinated by what the world would look like with a sea level rise," Linn says. "I was very impressed with his take on it. So I stole his concept." More
Study: Offshore Fault Where The 'Big One' Originates Eerily Quiet
Any parent of a rambunctious youngster can tell you trouble might be afoot when things go quiet in the playroom. Two independent research initiatives indicate there is a comparable situation with the Cascadia earthquake fault zone.
The fault zone expected to generate the next big one lies underwater between 40 and 80 miles offshore of the Pacific Northwest coastline. Earthquake scientists have listening posts along the coast from Vancouver Island to Northern California.
But those onshore seismometers have detected few signs of the grinding and slipping you would expect to see as one tectonic plate dives beneath another, with the exception of the junctions on the north and south ends of what is formally known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone. More
These 11 Cities May Completely Run Out Of Water Sooner Than You Think
For decades scientists have been saying that the United States' lakes, rivers and aquifers are going to have a hard time quenching the thirst of a growing population in a warming world.
A recent report from NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences does not alleviate those fears. It showed that nearly one in 10 watersheds in the U.S. is "stressed," with demand for water exceeding natural supply -- a trend that, researchers say, appears likely to become the new normal.
"By midcentury, we expect to see less reliable surface water supplies in several regions of the United States," said Kristen Averyt, associate director for science at CIRES and one of the authors of the study. “This is likely to create growing challenges for agriculture, electrical suppliers and municipalities, as there may be more demand for water and less to go around.”
And a recent Columbia University Water Center study on water scarcity in the U.S. showed that it's not just climate change that is putting stress on water supply, it's also a surging population. Since 1950 there has been a 99 percent increase in population in the U.S. combined with a 127 percent increase in water usage. More
Oceans experiencing largest sea rise in 6,000 years, study says
There are two main forces that can drive sea levels higher. One is something called thermal expansion, which involves the expansion of ocean water as it warms. The other is an influx of additional water, ushered into the sea by melting ice sheets and glaciers. Scientists have long concluded that sea levels are rising. Just look at Miami. Or the Maldives. They’ve also discerned that major ice sheets are melting at a faster clip than previously understood.
What has been less clear, however, is whether the development is recent or not. Over the last several thousands of years, has the ocean risen and fallen and risen again? A new study, just published in PNAS, suggests that the ocean has been surprisingly static since 4,000 B.C..
But that changed 150 years ago. Reconstructing 35,000 years of sea fluctuations, the study, which researchers say is the most comprehensive of its kind, found that the oceans are experiencing greater sea rise than at any time over the last 6,000 years. More
Half of North American birds in peril from climate change
More than half of birds in the United States and Canada -- a total of 314 species -- are losing critical habitat and food sources as the planet warms, said a report by the National Audubon Society.
Meanwhile, another annual report called the "State of the Birds 2014, USA," issued by the 23-member US Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, described losses of as much as 46 percent of birds in deserts and drylands such as Utah, Arizona and New Mexico since the 1960s.
Common backyard birds are becoming less common, and those who breed and eat in the coastal wetlands are also struggling.
Birds like the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink have declined by some 40 percent since 1968, but losses have leveled off since 1990 with the help of "significant investments in grassland bird conservation," said the State of the Birds report. More
Huge Solar Flare Erupts from Biggest Sunspot in 24 Years
The biggest sunspot on the face of the sun in more than two decades unleashed a major flare on Friday, the fourth intense solar storm from the active star in less than a week.
The solar flare occurred Friday afternoon, reaching its peak at 5:41 p.m. EDT (2141 GMT), and triggered a strong radio blackout at the time, according to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center. NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory captured stunning video of the huge solar flare.
The flare erupted from a giant active sunspot known as AR 12192 and was classifiedas an X3.1-class solar storm — one of the most powerful types of solar storms on the sun — but it is not the first time the sunspot has made its presence known.
"This is the fourth substantial flare from this active region since Oct. 19," NASA spokesperson Karen Fox wrote in a status update. More
The Surveillance State Is Looking in the Wrong Direction: The Asteroid Threat
The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was as wide as San Francisco and taller than Mount Everest. It slashed through the atmosphere 150 times faster than the average passenger jet, hitting the Yucatan Peninsula with a force 2 million times more powerful than the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated.
Humanity has watched similar-sized asteroids and comets pass harmlessly by for millennia. It's only in the last 50 years or so that we've had missiles and spaceships to help prevent a city-size rock from taking out, say, Paris.
And yet we’re somehow no better prepared than the dinosaurs were. Last year, a mere 7,000-ton rock burned up over Chelyabinsk in the Ural mountains and created shock waves that damaged 7,200 buildings and put 1400 people in the hospital. No one saw it coming. More
Climate change may cut corn, wheat crop yields
BOSTON — Rising temperatures caused by climate change increase the odds that corn and wheat yields will slow even as global demand for the crops for food and fuel increases in the next 10 to 20 years, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
There is as much as a 10 percent chance the rate of corn yields will slow and a 5 percent probability for wheat because of human-caused climate change, said David Lobell, the associate director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, and Claudia Tebaldi, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
When anthropogenic climate change is removed from the equation, the chance crop yield growth will slow falls to about one in 200, according to a statement from the center in Boulder, Colorado. More
UFO mystery as 'flaming space rock' falling from sky is feared to be alien craft
This is the moment a suspected meteorite lit up the Spanish skies with a trail of fire, sparking fears from panicked people that a burning UFO was heading for Earth.
Scores of scared residents and holidaymakers called emergency services reporting sightings of a UFO on fire, while others thought the fireball was a downed plane.
Space experts examining Sunday's fireball have been helped by a swarm of DIY footage posted to social media. One seven-second clip shows the fast ball of light – thought to be a meteorite – speed across the sky before exploding as it is burnt up by the earth's atmopshere. It was reminiscent of the stunning moment last year when a 10-ton meteor travelling at 33,000mph blew up over Russia leaving hundreds injured. More
Studies Suggest Many Coastal Cities Eventually To Be Abandoned With Antarctic Ice Collapse
New studies in Science and Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) find that glaciers in the Amundsen Sea region of the great Antarctic ice sheet have begun the process of irreversible collapse.
That by itself would raise sea levels 4 feet in the coming centuries.
But more importantly these glaciers act “as a linchpin on the rest of the [West Antarctic] ice sheet, which contains enough ice to cause” a total of 12 to 15 feet of global sea level rise, as the University of Washington news release for the Science study explains.
What most of the media has failed to emphasize is that 1) this is not a worst-case scenario and 2) failure to curb carbon pollution ASAP will result in vastly higher levels of sea level rise that devastate the world’s coastlines. More
The great American oyster collapse
Willapa Bay is an ideal place to farm oysters.
Vast swathes of the bay, in the northwestern US state of Washington, are exposed at low tide - making it an ideal place for oyster cultivation. It's one of the most productive oyster farming areas in the US.
But just over 10 years ago, the dynamic in the bay and other parts of the Pacific Northwest changed: Oysters started dying off, a development believed to be linked to climate change.
Dave Nisbet has been in the oyster business since 1975, when he started growing oysters on a small plot in Willapa Bay. He then opened his own business. The Nisbet Oyster Company, a family-owned operation, has been processing oysters since 1978. Nisbet's daughter Kathleen Nisbet-Moncy has worked every job in the company, and is now the plant manager, overseeing the processing of nearly one million kilogrammes of oysters a year. More
Tropical Fish Cause Trouble as Climate Change Drives Them Toward the Poles
Marine ecologist Adriana Vergés emerged from a scuba dive in Tosa Bay off the coast of southern Japan last week and was amazed at what she'd seen: A once lush kelp forest had been stripped bare and replaced by coral.
The bay is hundreds of miles north of the tropics, but now "it feels like a tropical place," said Vergés, a lecturer at New South Wales University in Australia.
The undersea world is on the move. Climate change is propelling fish and other ocean life into what used to be cooler waters, and researchers are scrambling to understand what effect that is having on their new neighborhoods. They are finding that the repercussions of the migration of tropical fish, in particular, are often devastating. Invading tropical species are stripping kelp forests in Japan, Australia, and the eastern Mediterranean and chowing down on sea grass in the northern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic seaboard. More
Scientists have worked out the likely cause of that enormous crater in Siberia
The mystery of what caused that gigantic crater in the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia may have been solved. And the reason is scarier than all those totally valid theories involving aliens and meteorites.
Andrei Plekhanov, an archaeologist at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, visited the massive cavity after it was discovered by reindeer herders in mid-July.
Plekhanov believes the roughly 100-foot wide hole, which was found in a region of northern Siberia so remote it is called “the end of the world,” was caused by an explosion of methane gas, which is normally trapped in the permafrost. More
Republican Calls Climate Change A Hoax Because Earth And Mars Have 'Exactly' Same Temperature
In a condemnatory speech last week against the Obama administration’s new Environmental Protection Agency carbon emission regulations, Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (R) claimed that man-made climate change is scientifically implausible because Mars and Earth share “exactly” the same temperature.
Smith, the owner of a mining company called Mohawk Energy, argued that despite the fact that the red planet doesn’t have any coal mines, Mars and Earth share a temperature. Therefore, Smith reasoned, coal companies on Earth should be exempt from emission regulations.
According to NASA, the average temperature on Earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit -- 138 degrees above Mars' average of -81 degrees. More
River in China mysteriously turns blood-red
There will be blood!
In a story straight out of Exodus, a river in eastern China has mysteriously changed to a crimson color.
The river’s plague-like transformation was noticed early Thursday by residents in Zhejiang province who said they initially noticed a weird smell coming from the area, ABC News reports. Locals said the river appeared perfectly fine around 5 a.m. local time, but less than one hour later, people suddenly noticed the blood-red metamorphosis.
Upon inspection, investigators with the Wenzhou Environmental Protection Bureau were unable to find any specific causes for the bloody incident. More
Climate change could make red hair a thing of the past
REDHEADS could become extinct as Scotland gets sunnier, experts have claimed.
The gene that causes red hair is thought to be an evolutionary response to the lack of sun in Scotland.
Redhead colouring allows people to get the maximum vitamin D from what little sun there is.
Only one to two per cent of the world’s population has red hair but in Scotland the figure is about 13 per cent, or 650,000 people.
However, the figure could fall dramatically – and even see redheads die out completely in a few centuries – if predictions that the country’s climate is set to become much sunnier are true.
Dr Alistair Moffat, boss of genetic testing company ScotlandsDNA, said: “We think red hair in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England is adaptation to the climate. We do not get enough sun and have to get all the vitamin D we can. More
Great Lakes ice cover from brutal winter could lead to a chilly summer
The Winter of 2013-14 demands that it be remembered.
A relatively cool spring will give way to a colder-than-usual summer locally, all because of the continuing impacts of the intensely frigid, snowy winter, scientists said. And at least one Great Lakes ice researcher thinks that the domino effect could continue into a chilly fall and an early start to next winter — and beyond.
The reason is the unusually late ice cover that remains on the Great Lakes. Heading into May, the Great Lakes combined remain 26% ice-covered, with Lake Superior still more than half-blanketed in ice. By comparison, at this time last spring the lakes were less than 2% covered with ice.
The remaining levels of ice cover are amazing, said Jia Wang, an ice climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.
“This prolonged winter will affect summer temperatures. This summer will be cold, and then a cooler fall,” he said. More
California governor links wildfires to climate change
California Gov. Jerry Brown is linking the recent wildfires that blazed through San Diego County to global warming, saying on Sunday that the state is on the "front lines" of climate change, which is making its weather hotter.
Almost a dozen fires caused more than $20 million in damage last week, and Brown said the drought-stricken state is preparing for its worst wildfire season ever.
"We're going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature," Brown said on ABC.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to more than 1,500 fires this year, compared with about 800 in an average year, and the state firefighting agency went to peak staffing in the first week of April instead of its usual start in mid-May. More
Scientists say Australia's Tony Abbott is engineering an 'environmental train wreck'
LONDON — An “environmental train wreck.”
That’s what leading environmental scientists say that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has engineered, in less than one year in office. They say the changes he’s implementing could result in irreversible damage to some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems.
And they say they are “screaming in the dark” to get the country’s ultra conservative government to take a more sustainable course, so far with little luck.
Of course, not everyone agrees with the scientists, or at least with their priorities. Abbott came to power last September promising to abolish the country’s landmark carbon and mining taxes, and cut “green tape” that he said hindered development. More
America’s power grid at the limit: The road to electrical blackouts
Americans take electricity for granted. It powers our lights, our computers, our offices, and our industries. But misguided environmental policies are eroding the reliability of our power system.
Last winter, bitterly cold weather placed massive stress on the US electrical system -- and the system almost broke. On January 7 in the midst of the polar vortex, PJM Interconnection, the Regional Transmission Organization serving the heart of America from New Jersey to Illinois, experienced a new all-time peak winter load of almost 142,000 megawatts.
Eight of the top ten of PJM’s all-time winter peaks occurred in January 2014. Heroic efforts by grid operators saved large parts of the nation’s heartland from blackouts during record-cold temperature days. Nicholas Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, stated in Congressional testimony, “This country did not just dodge a bullet -- we dodged a cannon ball.” More
We should give up tying to save the world from climate change, says James Lovelock
Saving the planet from climate change is ‘beyond our ability’ and we should stop wasting time trying to tackle global warming, a leading scientist has claimed.
James Lovelock, who first detected CFCs in the atmosphere and proposed the Gaia hypotheses, claims society should retreat to ‘climate-controlled cities’ and give up on large expanses of land which will become inhabitable.
Lovelock, who has just published his latest book A Rough Ride To The Future, claims we should be ‘strengthening our defences and making a sustainable retreat.’
“We’re reaching an age in history where you can no longer predict the future with any hope of success. “We should give up vainglorious attempts to save the world. More
Massive Extraterrestrial Rock Hit Earth 13 Millennia Ago, According to Nano-Evidence
About 13,000 years ago, a chunk of a comet or asteroid hurtled into the atmosphere at a shallow angle, superheating the atmosphere around it as it careened toward the surface. The air grew hot enough to ignite plant material and melt rock below the object's flight path. Within a few microseconds, atmospheric oxygen was consumed and the freed carbon atoms condensed into nanodiamond crystals.
An air shock followed several seconds later, lofting these nanodiamonds and other carbon particles into the atmosphere, spreading them around. Mega mammals starved, unable to forage on the scorched earth, and human populations dwindled. The shock on the atmosphere was enough to lower global temperatures for a thousand years.
This is according to a new study of ancient Mexican nanodiamonds, and it's another salvo in a longstanding ancient-climate dispute. The study bolsters the controversial argument that an asteroid impact might have chilled the planet during the Younger Dryas, an abrupt and very short cold interval that started about 12,900 years back. More
What will really happen when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts?
Lurking beneath Yellowstone National Park is a massive underground reservoir of magma, capped by the park's famous caldera. 640,000 years ago, a super eruption rocked the region. What would happen if another such event blasted the park today? We asked USGS geologist Jake Lowenstern, scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.
Most volcanic activity in Yellowstone would not qualify as "super eruptions," in which 1,000 km3 or more material is ejected from a volcano. Lowenstern told io9 that supervolcanoes are "very large, single eruptions" that usually last for about a week. But, unlike what you'll see in certain television specials and Hollywood films, even a super eruption at Yellowstone wouldn't endanger the whole United States. It also wouldn't cause the kind catastrophe you might expect. More
Experts Fear Nuclear Famine: “A Disaster So Massive in Scale that No Preparation is Possible”
At last count, there are eight countries in the world that have officially designed, developed and tested nuclear weapons. Another two (Israel and Iran) deny they have built or are building such weapons, but the probability that Israel has them and that Iran is building them is believed by members of the international community to be extremely high.
That being said, it’s only a matter of time before a madman at the helm in any of these ten nuclear-armed states decides to push the button. With the global economy in shambles, the world’s super powers mobilizing military assets, and hundreds of trillions of dollars in unservicable debt soon to be realized by the financial community, how long before history rhymes with previous large-scale events that culminated in the fall of the Roman empire or the World Wars that devastated tens of millions of lives in the 20th century?
War, it seems, is inevitable. Not just because of the many problems faced by mankind, but because of the nature of mankind itself. More
1859 solar event would be catastrophic today
On a cool September night in 1859, campers in Colorado were roused from sleep by a "light so bright that one could easily read common print," as one newspaper described it. Some of them, confused, got up and began making breakfast.
Farther east, thousands of New Yorkers were rushing onto their roofs and sidewalks to gaze up at the heavens.
The sky was glowing, ribboned in yellow, white and crimson.
At the time, it was a dazzling display of nature. Yet if the same thing happened today, it would be an utter catastrophe.
The auroras of 1859, known as the "Carrington Event," came after the sun unleashed a large coronal mass ejection, a burst of charged plasma aimed directly at the Earth. When the particles hit our magnetosphere, they triggered a fierce geomagnetic storm that lit up the sky and frazzled communication wires around the world. Telegraphs in Philadelphia were spitting out "fantastical and unreadable messages," one paper reported, with some systems unusable for many hours. More
Are you ready for the Viking Apocalypse? Norse myth predicts world will end this Saturday
We’ve survived the Mayan apocalypse and Y2K, but be afraid – the end of the world is coming…again.
This time it’s the Viking apocalypse that is allegedly set to destroy Earth, with Norse mythology claiming the planet will split open and unleash the inhabitants of Hel on February 22.
According to the Vikings, Ragnarok is a series of events including the final predicted battle that results in the death of a number of major gods, the occurrence of various natural disasters and the subsequent submersion of the world in water.
The wolf Fenrir is also predicted to break out of his prison, the snake Jormungand will rise out of the sea and the dragon of the underworld will resurface on Earth to face the dead heroes of Valhalla – who, of course, have descended from heaven to fight them. More
Climate change profs burn skeptical book
Two environmentalism professors at San Jose State University were photographed hosting their own private book burning party.
The offending text, “The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism,” challenges the validity of man-made global warming.
The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, sent the book to the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at SJSU. Department chairperson Dr. Alison Bridger and assistant professor Dr. Craig Clements eagerly posed for a photo depicting them applying a lit match to “The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism.”
The photo initially appeared on the department’s website with the caption, “This week we received a deluge of free books from the Heartland Institute… shown above, Drs. Bridger and Clements test the flammability of the book.” More
Abrupt Climate Disaster Threat Raises Call for Early Warning System
The threat of sudden climate change disaster—from the poles melting to farmlands failing—is real and requires an early warning system, an expert panel suggested on Tuesday.
Looking at "tipping points" for global warming disasters, the National Research Council panel report on "abrupt" climate impacts finds noteworthy risks of sharp, sudden sea-level rise, water shortages, and extinctions worldwide in coming years and decades.
"Climate change is real, it is happening now, and we need to deal with it," says James White of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who headed the panel. "Step number one is to recognize the points where we stand on the threshold of abrupt impacts." More
Waterless World: China’s ever-expanding desert wasteland
NAIMAN QI, INNER MONGOLIA, China — Over the last three years, San Qinghai has had to dig four new wells, each one deeper than the last.
The village's old stone wells used to go down 30 feet. But the 31-year-old Mongolian farmer and shepherd’s new wells descend 140 feet to reach groundwater.
Squinting and wearing a ragged gray sweater, San pointed to several acres of dry, brittle corn behind his house. He said he lost a third of his crop this year.
"The winters have been getting colder, and there hasn't been much rain," he said. "I'm worried that the sandstorms will destroy my crops. It's been getting worse."
Long days in the dry air and punishing sun have left deep creases in his leathery skin, making him look older than his age. After gazing at the field, he tosses a few dry husks into a horse’s feed trough and plods back home on the village’s narrow lanes. The streets are soft and thick with sand. More
Government Report Confirms That A Major Solar Event Will Be A Kill Shot For The United States
An official report prepared by John Kappenman, an independent consultant, was commissioned by The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2010. The report is summarized in The JASON report on Impacts of Severe Space Weather on The Electrical Grid, project number 13119022.
JASON is an independent group of some 60 scientists that advises the United States government on science and technology that could have national implications. It is run by the non-profit making MITRE Corporation in Virginia. There is a massive amount of information in the report which was published in November 2011.
For the technically minded, transformers are discussed in detail, highlighting the problems that space weather impacts could, and does have on them. There are examples from around the world of the damage caused to electrical grids when a coronal mass ejection hits the Earth. There are details of different types of space weather, their effects and likely outcomes of such incidents. More
UN's 2C target will fail to avoid a climate disaster, scientists warn
The limit of 2C of global warming agreed by the world's governments is a "dangerous target", "foolhardy" and will not avoid the most disastrous consequences of climate change, new research from a panel of eminent climate scientists warned on Tuesday.
In a new paper, the climate scientist Professor James Hansen and a team of international experts found the most dangerous effects of a warming climate – sea level rise, Arctic ice melt, extreme weather – would begin kicking in with a global temperature rise of 1C.
Allowing warming to reach 2C would be simply too late, Hansen said. "The case we make is that 2C itself is a very dangerous target to be aiming for," he told the Guardian. "Society should reassess what are dangers levels, given the impacts that we have already seen." More
Which Hollywood-Style Climate Disasters Will Strike in Your Lifetime?
In a just-released report, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has taken an extensive look at the scary side, the dramatic side…let's face it, the Hollywood side of global warming.
The new research falls under the heading of "abrupt climate change": The report examines the doomsday scenarios that have often been conjured in relation to global warming (frequently in exaggerated blockbuster films), and seeks to determine how likely they are to occur in the real world. More