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
Impact Risk Hiked for 400-Meter-Wide Asteroid
MOSCOW – NASA has upgraded the impact risk for a massive asteroid recently discovered by Ukrainian observers that will pass close to the Earth in 2032, although a collision remains unlikely.
According to an update on NASA’s Near Earth Object Program site, the impact risk is now 1 in 9,090; up from 1 in 63,000 at the time the asteroid, identified as 2013 TV135, was discovered.
However, the updated figures still mean that the chance of the asteroid completing a safe flyby is 99.989 percent, slightly down from 99.992 percent in the original estimate. The 400-meter-wide asteroid, discovered by an observatory in Ukraine’s Crimea earlier this month, is one of two asteroids to currently rank above zero on the 10-degree Torino Scale, which estimates asteroid impact hazards. More
Al Gore weighs into debate over links between bushfires and climate change
Former US vice-president and environmentalist Al Gore says there is a proven link between climate change and bushfires.
This week, a United Nations official said the devastating fires in New South Wales proved the world is "already paying the price of carbon".
Prime Minister Tony Abbott dismissed the comment on Wednesday, accusing the official of "talking through her hat". He argued that "fire is a part of the Australian experience" and not linked to climate change.
"Climate change is real, as I've often said, and we should take strong action against it, but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change - they're just a function of life in Australia."
But Mr Gore, a Nobel laureate for his work to fight climate change, has told the ABC's 7.30 that climate change will bring about more extreme weather. More
Pacific Ocean cools, flattening global warming
The flattening over the past 15 years of a rise in the world's average surface temperature springs from a natural cooling pattern in the eastern Pacific Ocean, climate scientists reported Wednesday.
That leveling off fed part of the skepticism toward global warming predictions in recent years, but researchers behind the new report see this "hiatus" as a pause in an inevitable climb.
"Our results strongly confirm the role that (man-made) emissions are having on the climate," says climate scientist Shang-Ping Xie, senior author on the Nature journal study. "At one point over the long term, the effect we are seeing in the Pacific will stop. I'm confident the bigger increases in warming will resume."
For now, the "hiatus" in global warming has left average surface temperatures lodged about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the past century. The top 10 warmest years on record have all come since 1998 as a result, but none looks markedly warmer than another. More
Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought
As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.
Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once. More
Bluefin tuna caught off California contains radiation from Japan's Fukushima plant
It is the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.
"We were frankly kind of startled," said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers reporting the findings online on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The levels of radioactive caesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. But even so, that's still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the US and Japanese governments.
Previously, smaller fish and plankton were found with elevated levels of radiation in Japanese waters after a magnitude-9 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. More
South America in massive deep freeze
“Unprecedented Cold For South America This Week.” “Cold is coming. A lot!”
Second pulse of cold air reaches Uruguay.
Very cold in coming days in Rio Grande do Sul, especially at the beginning of next week, warned Luiz Fernando Nachtigall on July 18. Intensive polar air will invade the Southern Cone.
Cold is coming. A lot! Temperature lower than normal at the beginning of next week. This is shown above the map generated from the data of the meteorological model operating in the United States (NOAA / NCEP). The center of South America will see the greatest anomaly.
Notice that the polar jet stream reaches the province of Buenos Aires. The temperature at the Ezeiza airport is at 9am only 5 ° C with rain and windy. In Montevideo, Carrasco Airport, was 16 º C. An automatic weather station particular near the Prado, in the Uruguayan capital, indicated temperature even lower with gusts of 65 km / h. The polar wave led to sharp and strong cooling. More
Global Warming Sparks Fistfights and War, Researchers Say
Climate change will probably trigger more human conflict, according to an article in the journal Science.
An examination of 60 separate studies, including one stretching back to 10,000 B.C., found that individuals, groups and nations are “substantially” more likely to become involved in physical conflict in hot weather and heavy rain.
Climate change is expected to drive up temperatures in many regions, which will “systematically increase the risk of many types of conflict” ranging from barroom brawls and rape to civil wars and international disputes, according to the article.
“The strongest evidence is that high temperatures really matter,” said Solomon Hsiang, one of the study’s authors. “A few degrees warmer is always worse.” Higher temperatures affect people through a combination of geographical, sociological and physiological factors, he said. More
Mysterious hum driving people crazy around the world
It creeps in slowly in the dark of night, and once inside, it almost never goes away.
It's known as the Hum, a steady, droning sound that's heard in places as disparate as Taos, N.M.; Bristol, England; and Largs, Scotland.
But what causes the Hum, and why it only affects a small percentage of the population in certain areas, remain a mystery, despite a number of scientific investigations. Reports started trickling in during the 1950s from people who had never heard anything unusual before; suddenly, they were bedeviled by an annoying, low-frequency humming, throbbing or rumbling sound. More
China outsources carbon emissions to poorer areas
China is outsourcing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions within its own borders, a study has found.
This is much like the way in which rich countries in the West have long turned to China to produce cheap goods, thereby outsourcing dirty emissions.
Poorer areas such as Inner Mongolia produced 80% of CO2-related emissions for goods used in richer coastal areas such as Beijing and Shanghai.
The scientists, writing in PNAS, are concerned this trend will spread. That is, if China continues to adopt Western consumer habits, they could look to further outsource their carbon emissions to developing countries. The researchers examined CO2 emissions flowing between different regions of China and abroad. More
Young Frankenfish: Meet the Terrifying Offspring of GMO Salmon and Wild Trout
It doesn’t happen often in nature, but now and then, a wild Atlantic salmon (yes, there are still a few left) mates with a brown trout and has hybrid offspring.
This ability to reproduce between species had some Canadian scientists curious: If a genetically modified Atlantic salmon were to come in contact with a brown trout, would it too be able to have little transgenes babies? The answer is yes, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. And it turns out that those offspring carry the genetically inserted trait that allows them to grow faster than their Mother-Nature-made cousins. Much faster. In fact, the hybrid offspring outgrew their genetically tweaked parents as well. More
Barack Obama to cut emissions in vow to save planet
In sweeping proposals released after four years of frustrated efforts, Mr Obama ordered new curbs on carbon emissions from power plants and called for America to ready its defences against an already-changing climate.
The president also surprised environmentalists by signalling he would reject a controversial oil pipeline if it was found to “significantly exacerbate” the problem of carbon pollution.
“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing,” Mr Obama told students at Georgetown University. “As a president, as a father and as an American I’m here to say we need to act.”
Mr Obama first promised a new push on climate change during his inagural address on a freezing morning in January, warning that failing to cut emissions “would betray our children”. More
World's cities to expand by more than twice the size of Texas by 2030
Cities worldwide are on track to expand by nearly 580,000 square miles – more than twice the size of Texas – in less than 20 years, according to experts at a major international science conference.
Yale University professor Karen Seto said the North American suburb had “gone global, and car-dependent urban developments are more and more the norm.”
The world’s population is expected to grow from the current 7 billion to about 9 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations.
Experts meeting at the Planet Under Pressure 2012 conference in London said in a statement released by the organizers Tuesday that unless changes were made, “humanity’s urban footprint” would increase in size by 1.5 million square kilometers (nearly 580,000 square miles) by 2030. More
French Ski Resort To Open For Skiing in June For The First Time In History
It’s been a cold 2013 so far in Central and Western Europe. Last weekend snow fell in Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
Europeans are wondering whatever happened to global warming. Climate institutes, who just years ago predicted warm, snow-less winters, have turned 180° and are now insisting that the Little Ice Age-like conditions that have gripped Europe over the last 5 years are actually signs of global warming after all! Fortunately, very few people believe them.
Not only has snow become more frequent in the winter, but now ski slopes in the French Pyrenees are reporting that they will be open for (snow) skiing in June – the first time in history the French Local here reports. More
Hungarians unite as 'worst-ever' floods threaten Budapest
Hungarians are setting aside their differences in a race against time to defend their historic capital Budapest and other areas from what the prime minister predicted will be the "worst floods of all time".
As water levels broke records in the west ahead of an expected peak on Monday, thousands of volunteers joined soldiers and emergency workers -- often crossing traditional social boundaries to make some unlikely alliances -- to roll up their sleeves and don rubber boots.
Students, boy scouts and sports clubs helped to make up and install more than two million sandbags stacked at 16 high-risk locations along the 760 kilometres (475 miles) of the raging Danube River rushing out of Germany and Austria on its way to the Black Sea. More
Melting Ice Opens Fight Over Sea Routes for Arctic Debate
When 16th and 17th century European explorers sailed west in pursuit of a trade route to Asia, their search for a Northwest Passage was foiled by Arctic ice.
Five hundred years later, melting icecaps have set off a global race to control new shipping lanes over the North Pole. Just as the discoveries of Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco de Gama gave seafaring Portugal routes around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, the opening of the Arctic, with its shortcut from the Atlantic to northeast Asia and its untapped oil reserves, can redraw the geopolitical map and create new power brokers.
When the U.S., Russia and six other major stakeholders of the Arctic Council meet May 15 in the northernmost Swedish city of Kiruna, they’ll be joined by nations with observer status, including China and the European Union, that are angling for an elevated status in the diplomatic club and a greater say in the region’s future. More
Klamath Basin water wars heat up as drought threatens
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- For decades, this rural basin has battled over the Klamath River's most precious resource: water that sustains fish, irrigates farms and powers the hydroelectric dams that block one of the largest salmon runs on the West Coast.
Now, one of the nation's fiercest water wars is on the verge of erupting again. New water rights have given a group of Oregon Indian tribes an upper hand just as the region plunges into a severe drought.
Farmers and wildlife refuges could be soon cut off by the Klamath Tribes, which in March were granted the Upper Klamath Basin's oldest water rights to the lake and tributaries that feed the mighty river flowing from arid southern Oregon to the foggy redwoods of the Northern California coast.
Within weeks, the 3,700 members of the tribes are poised to make use of their new rights to maintain water levels for endangered Lost River and Shortnose suckers, fish they traditionally harvested for food. Under the "first in time, first in right" water doctrine that governs the West, the Klamath Tribes can cut off other water users when the river runs low. More
Pacific to suffer worst climate change impacts
The World Bank is urging the international community to heed the plight of Pacific island countries and take action on climate change.
The bank's vice president for Sustainable Development, Rachel Kyte, says Pacific nations will suffer higher sea level rise than other parts of the world.
She says the impact of climate change will threaten the very existence of some countries in the Pacific.
Ms Kyte also warns Australia will see some of the most extreme droughts, with summer temperatures of over 40 degrees becoming commonplace.
She has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat a lack of action on climate change is undermining efforts by the World Bank to address global poverty. "Imagine we've laid the table, ready for the economic and social solutions to ending poverty and building prosperity," she said. More
Cut world population and redistribute resources, expert urges
The world's most renowned population analyst has called for a massive reduction in the number of humans and for natural resources to be redistributed from the rich to the poor.
Paul Ehrlich, Bing professor of population studies at Stanford University in California and author of the best-selling Population Bomb book in 1968, goes much further than the Royal Society in London which this morning said that physical numbers were as important as the amount of natural resources consumed.
The optimum population of Earth – enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone – was 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050, said Ehrlich in an interview with the Guardian.
"How many you support depends on lifestyles. We came up with 1.5 to 2 billion because you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a battery chicken world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just about alive you might be able to support in the long term about 4 or 5 billion people. But you already have 7 billion. So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage." More
UK's coldest spring since 1963 claims 5,000
Freezing Britain's unusually harsh winter could have cost thousands of pensioners their lives.
This month is on track to be the coldest March for 50 years – and as the bitter Arctic conditions caused blackouts and traffic chaos yesterday, experts warned of an 'horrendous' death toll among the elderly. About 2,000 extra deaths were registered in just the first two weeks of March compared with the average for the same period over the past five years.
And for February, 3,057 extra deaths were registered in England and Wales compared with the five-year average for the month.
“Earthworms play an essential part in determining the greenhouse-gas balance of soils worldwide, and their influence is expected to grow over the next decades,’ reads the abstract. “They are thought to stimulate carbon sequestration in soil aggregates, but also to increase emissions of the main greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.” More
As Earthworms Are Blamed For “Global Warming”, Ecologists Suggest Killing Polar Bears
The world of global warming alarmists is increasingly resembling a madhouse, with conservationists falling over each other trying to salvage the last shreds of credibility. Very funny. What makes the situation hilarious, is the fact many eco-zealots inadvertently put out increasingly panicking publications that look more like satires than studies.
As the Daily Caller reported on in February of this year, a new foe has been appointed to “accelerate” global warming: earthworms.Yes, you’ve heard it right. Earthworms. Besides the fact that there is no global warming, and therefore the very premise is faulty, earthworms are now joining the growing list of evildoers who get the blame for global warming. The report states:
“Earthworms play an essential part in determining the greenhouse-gas balance of soils worldwide, and their influence is expected to grow over the next decades,’ reads the abstract. “They are thought to stimulate carbon sequestration in soil aggregates, but also to increase emissions of the main greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.” More
'Rapid' heat spike unlike anything in 11,000 years
A new study looking at 11,000 years of climate temperatures shows the world in the middle of a dramatic U-turn, lurching from near-record cooling to a heat spike.
Research released Thursday in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures back to the end of the last ice age. It shows how the globe for several thousands of years was cooling until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century.
Scientists say it is further evidence that modern-day global warming isn't natural, but the result of rising carbon dioxide emissions that have rapidly grown since the Industrial Revolution began roughly 250 years ago.
The decade of 1900 to 1910 was one of the coolest in the past 11,300 years — cooler than 95 per cent of the other years, the marine fossil data suggest. Yet 100 years later, the decade of 2000 to 2010 was one of the warmest, said study lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University. Global thermometer records only go back to 1880, and those show the last decade was the hottest for this more recent time period. More
After studying Russian meteor blast, experts get set for the next asteroid
The meteor that blew up over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk 11 days ago has provided a new focus for the effort to establish an international asteroid warning system, one of NASA's top experts on the issue says.
Lindley Johnson, the executive for the Near Earth Object Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said that the Feb. 15 impact is certain to become "by far the best-documented meteor and meteorite in history" — but at the time, he and his colleagues could hardly believe it was happening.
"Our first reaction was, 'This can't be. ... This must be some test of a missile that's gone awry,'" Johnson told NBC News. More
High-flying bacteria spark interest in possible climate effects
Ravaged by arid winds and ultraviolet rays, some bacteria not only survive in the upper atmosphere but might affect weather and climate, according to a study published on 28 January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In one of the first attempts to explore atmospheric microbiology at high altitude, researchers analysed air samples from a six-week hurricane-research mission by NASA in 2010. A total of 314 different types of bacteria were collected in air masses around 10 kilometres above the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the continental United States. Although the scientists trapped only a small amount of material, bacteria accounted for around 20% of all particles — biological and non-biological — a higher proportion than in the near-Earth atmosphere.
“I’m really, really surprised at the high bacterial density at these high altitudes,” says Ulrich Karlson, an environmental microbiologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, who was not involved in the study. “This is clearly a harsh environment.” More
Bucket Falls Midair From Military Aircraft, Damages Vehicles
A five-gallon bucket fell from a military aircraft Wednesday night and damaged vehicles in a Miramar auto repair shop, San Diego Fire Department officials said. The bucket crashed through the roof of Renegade Performance in the 6300 block of Marindustry Drive sometime between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday.
An RV and several vehicles were impacted by the pieces of the ceiling and bucket that shattered when the bucket fell through. The RV sustained the bulk of the damage.
The bucket accidentally fell from an MCAS-based MV2 Osprey at about 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, said Lt. Tyler Balzer with MCAS Miramar. Balzer said the bucket was strapped down, but at some point it came loose and fell through the auto repair shop.
The bucket broke apart upon impact, spilling the cleaning solution. The bucket contained "non-toxic environmentally friendly" material, said San Diego Fire Department Battalion Chief Glen Holder. A HazMat team was called to the scene Thursday afternoon as a protocol measure. They have not yet determined if the material is toxic or not. More
Wall of sand hits Western Australia coast
An enormous wall of dust has hit part of Australia as residents brace themselves for a tropical cyclone.
The stunning images of the wild dust storm were captured by tugboat works and aeroplane passengers near the town of Onslow in north-western Australia.
Local reports say the huge swathes of red sand and dust had been picked up by strong winds in the Indian Ocean before being dropped near the town.
The tsunami-like wave of sand could be seen travelling for miles and dwarfed ships out at sea.
Alto Biobio, a community about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Copahue, is under the heightened alert. The governor and emergency officials in Biobio province met Sunday afternoon to discuss possible scenarios, including establishing a plan in case a mass evacuation is deemed necessary. More
Red alert issued for volcano on Chile-Argentina border
Chilean authorities on Sunday issued a red alert -- the most severe in their warning system -- that the Copahue Volcano, high in the Andes mountains on the border with Argentina, might be poised for a significant eruption.
In a statement, Chile's Geological and Mining Service stressed that no mandatory evacuations have been ordered around the remote volcano, which lies about 280 kilometers southeast (175 miles) of Concepcion, though the closest roads to it are in Argentina. Even though the seismic activity suggests a minor eruption, the agency decided to raise the alert level because it could not rule out a major eruption. The service warned specifically about potentially dangerous mudslides within a 15-kilometer (9.3-mile) radius of the crater.
Alto Biobio, a community about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Copahue, is under the heightened alert. The governor and emergency officials in Biobio province met Sunday afternoon to discuss possible scenarios, including establishing a plan in case a mass evacuation is deemed necessary. More
Growing food in the desert: is this the solution to the world's food crisis?
The scrubby desert outside Port Augusta, three hours from Adelaide, is not the kind of countryside you see in Australian tourist brochures. The backdrop to an area of coal-fired power stations, lead smelting and mining, the coastal landscape is spiked with saltbush that can live on a trickle of brackish seawater seeping up through the arid soil. Poisonous king brown snakes, redback spiders, the odd kangaroo and emu are seen occasionally, flies constantly. When the local landowners who graze a few sheep here get a chance to sell some of this crummy real estate they jump at it, even for bottom dollar, because the only real natural resource in these parts is sunshine.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that a group of young brains from Europe, Asia and north America, led by a 33-year-old German former Goldman Sachs banker but inspired by a London theatre lighting engineer of 62, have bought a sizeable lump of this unpromising outback territory and built on it an experimental greenhouse which holds the seemingly realistic promise of solving the world's food problems. More
Canadian government 'knew of plans to dump iron into the Pacific'
As controversy mounts over the Guardian's revelations that an American businessman conducted a massive ocean fertilisation test, dumping around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate off Canada's coast, it has emerged the Canadian government may have known about the geoengineering scheme and not stopped it.
The news combined, with Canadian obstructionism in negotiations over geoengineering at a United Nations biodiversity meeting in Hyderabad, India, has angered international civil society groups, who have announced they are singling out Canada for a recognition of shame at the summit – the Dodo award for actions that harm biodiversity.
They are criticising Canada for being one of "four horsemen of geoengineering", joining Britain, Australia and New Zealand in opposing southern countries' efforts to beef up the existing moratorium on technological fixes for global warming. More
Fukushima Reactor 2 radiation too high for access
Radiation inside the reactor 2 containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has reached a lethal 73 sieverts per hour and any attempt to send robots in to accurately gauge the situation will require them to have greater resistance than currently available, experts said Wednesday.
Exposure to 73 sieverts for a minute would cause nausea and seven minutes would cause death within a month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
The experts said the high radiation level is due to the shallow level of coolant water — 60 cm — in the containment vessel, which Tepco said in January was believed to be 4 meters deep. Tepco has only peeked inside the reactor 2 containment vessel. It has few clues as to the status of reactors 1 and 3, which also suffered meltdowns, because there is no access to their insides.
The utility said the radiation level in the reactor 2 containment vessel is too high for robots, endoscopes and other devices to function properly. Spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said it will be necessary to develop devices resistant to high radiation. More
Tropical Collapse in Early Triassic Caused by Lethal Heat: Extreme Temperatures Blamed for 'Dead Zone'
Scientists have discovered why the 'broken world' following the worst extinction of all time lasted so long -- it was simply too hot to survive.
The end-Permian mass extinction, which occurred around 250 million years ago in the pre-dinosaur era, wiped out nearly all the world's species. Typically, a mass extinction is followed by a 'dead zone' during which new species are not seen for tens of thousands of years. In this case, the dead zone, during the Early Triassic period which followed, lasted for a perplexingly long period: five million years.
A study jointly led by the University of Leeds and China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), in collaboration with the University of Erlangen-Nurnburg (Germany), shows the cause of this lengthy devastation was a temperature rise to lethal levels in the tropics: around 50-60°C on land, and 40°C at the sea-surface. More
Giant Louisiana sinkhole grows to 4 acres
BAYOU CORNE, LA - Issues continue to pile on crews working on the growing sinkhole in Assumption Parish.
Texas Brine, the company that owns a failed salt cavern blamed for the sinkhole says it will comply with new orders.
Texas Brine continues clean up Monday, but is limited to skimming as boats will not be allowed in the sinkhole due to the activity of removing hydrocarbons from the cavern. This is for the safety of workers as the removal of the hydrocarbons may cause pressure changes that could affect the sinkhole.
The current size of the sinkhole is just under four acres. State officials are ordering further testing along with monitoring and removal of natural gas trapped underground.
Residents are still evacuated; they left their homes in early August. More
New toxin showing up in Whatcom County shellfish
Whatcom County beaches remain closed to recreational shellfish harvesting as public health officials continue to study a new marine toxin found in higher concentrations here than anywhere else in the state.
Responsible for diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, or DSP, the toxin can cause flu-like symptoms and sicken people who eat tainted shellfish, and is an emerging health threat.
All Whatcom County beaches have been closed since early July to recreational shellfish harvesting, initially because of high levels of another toxin that is responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning.
But as those toxins began to level off, DSP appeared and then increased - causing the ongoing closure.
"This is a toxin that is pretty new to Washington state," said Tom Kunesh, environmental health supervisor for Whatcom County Health Department. "It's a toxin that's common, I guess, in Europe."
Shellfish in stores and restaurants are tested for marine toxins before going to market. More
How to survive mass extinction
That the last of the non-avian dinosaurs died out some 65.5 million years ago is not controversial. That this occurred largely owing to a dirty great asteroid smashing into the sea off of Mexico is also not in doubt. What remains the subject of much discussion, however, is why they went and other animals did not, or, more specifically, how do you survive a mass extinction?
First off, the elephant in the room: luck. Often overlooked, this can play a major role. Zoos aside, all lemurs live in Madagascar, if the island was struck by a meteor tomorrow they'd all be gone instantly regardless of how well equipped they might normally be to survive such a catastrophe. It's easy enough to think of similar examples and certainly at least some groups would be doomed from such an event simply because of where they were. And on the flipside of this, some theoretically very vulnerable creatures could survive such an event by being lucky enough to live in a place untouched by it. More
Scientists Race to Save World's Rice Bowl From Climate Change
At the Climate Smart Agriculture in Asia workshop held in Bangkok, Thailand, last month, climatologists and agricultural researchers discussed farming practices and technologies that could help the region cope with global warming's effects, including rising temperatures, increased salinity, and sporadic rainfall.
The conference was about "bringing all these players together to look at how the research agenda needs to change in the agricultural research world in relation to climate change," said Bruce Campbell of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which helped organize the two-day workshop.
In addition, scientists at the meeting discussed potential ways to use agriculture to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as methane. Agriculture, forestry, and changes in land use account for a third of greenhouse gas emissions, said Campbell, who is the program director of CGIAR's Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
"That's a significant portion," Campbell said, "but we can reduce it." More
Geoengineering Could Backfire, Make Climate Change Worse
Deploying giant space mirrors and spraying particles from stadium-sized balloons may sound like an engineer’s wild fantasy, but climate models suggest that the potential of geoengineering to offset rising atmospheric carbon dioxide may be significantly overstated.
Through a variety of computer simulations used for reporting to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the team investigated a scenario where an increase in the world’s atmospheric carbon dioxide levels was balanced by a “dimming” of the sun.
Across all four models tested, the team showed that geoengineering could lead to adverse effects on the Earth’s climate, including a reduction in global rainfall. They therefore concluded that geoengineering could not be a substitute for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. More
Greenland Ice Melt, Measured By NASA Satellites, Reaches Unprecedented Level
Unprecedented melting of Greenland's ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall.
According to a NASA press release, about half of Greenland's surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40 percent to 97 percent.
In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland's surface ice cover. When Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory observed the recent melting phenomenon, he said in the NASA press release, "This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: Was this real or was it due to a data error?"
Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Georgia-Athens and City University of New York all confirmed the remarkable ice melt. More
Study points to causes of high dolphin deaths in Gulf of Mexico, post-BP oil spill
July 18, 2012 - The largest oil spill on open water to date and other environmental factors led to the historically high number of dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, concludes a two-year scientific study released today.
A team of biologists from several Gulf of Mexico institutions and the University of Central Florida in Orlando published their findings in the journal PLoS ONE.
For the past two years, scientists have been trying to figure out why there were a high number of dolphin deaths, part of what's called an "unusual mortality event" along the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Most troubling to scientists was the exceptionally high number of young dolphins that made up close to half of the 186 dolphins that washed ashore from Louisiana to western Florida from January to April 2010. The number of "perinatal" (near birth) dolphins stranded during this four-month period was six times higher than the average number of perinatal strandings in the region since 2003 and nearly double the historical percentage of all strandings. More
Geoengineering Could Turn Skies White
The white haze that hangs over many major cities could become a familiar sight everywhere if the world decides to try geoengineering to create a cooler planet.
Scientists have long suspected that one oft-discussed geoengineering technique -- shooting tiny sulfate particles into the upper atmosphere to deflect sunlight -- could turn the blue sky white.
Nature has already provided a basic proof of concept. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, spewing tons of sulfate particles in the atmosphere, it temporarily whitened the sky.
Now a new study by researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science attempts to determine just how big the effect from man-made geoengineering would be. Adding enough sulfate to the stratosphere to block 2 percent of the sun's light would make the sky three to five times brighter, they report in a paper that will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. More
Tree-rings prove climate was WARMER in Roman and Medieval times than it is now
How did the Romans grow grapes in northern England? Perhaps because it was warmer than we thought.
A study suggests the Britain of 2,000 years ago experienced a lengthy period of hotter summers than today.
German researchers used data from tree rings – a key indicator of past climate – to claim the world has been on a ‘long-term cooling trend’ for two millennia until the global warming of the twentieth century. This cooling was punctuated by a couple of warm spells.
These are the Medieval Warm Period, which is well known, but also a period during the toga-wearing Roman times when temperatures were apparently 1 deg C warmer than now.
They say the very warm period during the years 21 to 50AD has been underestimated by climate scientists. Lead author Professor Dr Jan Esper of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz said: ‘We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low. More
Low extinction rate disguises pending Amazon catastrophe
A discrepancy exists between the number of animal species reported extinct and the reality of population numbers on the ground, which is disguising a catastrophic decline in biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest, according to new research published in the journal Science.
No animal species have been confirmed extinct in the Brazilian Amazon during the last 40 years, despite high rates of deforestation in the region, but the authors of the new study say this masks the critical condition of many species, many of whom don't have enough remaining habitat to survive long term.
The scientists from Imperial College London say the difference between the number of species that models predict should be extinct and the number in reality, a figure termed extinction debt, is set to increase in line with global extinctions to the year 2050 and beyond if deforestation continues at present levels. More
Solar flare could wreak havoc on Earth
Survivalists are watching the sky, wondering if doom will come from above. They aren't just worried about an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, they are concerned that the sun could suddenly cause the end of the world as we know it.
"It's one of the biggest natural disaster threats to the developed world," said John Kappenman, an electrical engineer who specializes in solar storms and the impact they would have on the Earth.
"We've been doing nothing in regards to understanding the true severity of these storms, in fact, we are just building bigger and bigger antennae that makes us more closely coupled with severe space weather events."
Space weather emanating from the Sun affects humans all of the time, we just don't notice it unless it disrupts our smartphones or puts on a pretty northern lights show.
Experts warn though that at some point in the future an eruption of radiation and energy from the sun will be so massive, when hits the Earth it could send modern civilization into a long and deadly electrical blackout by frying all of the interconnected power grids. More
Nude surfer Marama Kake makes waves on Sunshine Coast with environmental message
Although scantily clad beachgoers are common in the tourist haven, boardriders and walkers have been left blushing by the sight of a woman taking to the ocean in her bare essentials.
Word of the bold and mysterious visitor has spread quickly from the beach to businesses and barbecues.
Long-time surfer Ian Borland said he almost fell off his board when the "curvy" young woman paddled out "starkers" at Noosa.
"I've been surfing for almost 50 years and I have never seen anything like it. There must have been 100 guys out there and out she paddled bold as brass," he said.
"The reaction was shock at first and then everyone thought it was quite funny. We were all intrigued."
Marama Kake is a New Zealander who calls the world her home and there's much more to the 32-year-old than meets the eye. She rides "green boards", including a timber alaia designed for her by master craftsman Tom Wegener and another from the eco-friendly D'Arcy factory on the Gold Coast, and wants to spread a message of sustainable surfing. More
Scientists warn geoengineering may disrupt rainfall
Geoengineering projects are controversial, even though they are largely theoretical at this point. They range from mimicking the effects of large volcanic eruptions by releasing sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, to deploying giant mirrors in space to deflect the sun's rays.
Proponents say they could be a rapid response to rising global temperatures but environmentalists argue they are a distraction from the need to reduce man-made carbon emissions.
Critics also point to a lack of solid research into unintended consequences and the absence of any international governance structure for such projects, whose effects could transcend national borders.
A small geoengineering experiment in the UK was recently abandoned due to a dispute over attempts by some of the team involved to patent the technology. More
Peru dolphin death mystery deepens
The mystery surrounding the deaths of at least 877 dolphins in Peru has deepened as the government said human activity was not to blame but failed to pinpoint a natural cause for the massive die-off.
A final report from the Peruvian government's Ocean Institute, which manages one of the world's richest marine ecosystems, said the dolphins did not die from a lack of food, hunting by fishermen, poison from pesticides, heavy metal contamination, an infection or a virus. It also said there was no conclusive evidence that linked seismic offshore exploration by oil companies to the deaths of the long-beaked common dolphins along the Andean country's northern coast.
But it did leave open the possibility that abnormally warm surface water temperatures and high levels of algae may have played a role, saying further analysis would be needed to determine if any red and brown plankton species in the sea were toxic. "The dolphins were killed by natural causes and not due to any human activity - that is what you might say is the major conclusion," said Minister of Production Gladys Triveno, who oversees the government's Ocean Institute. More
The Voice judge Will.i.am turns up to climate change debate... in a huge gas-guzzling helicopter
He has been picked as an expert judge to help find the nation's next biggest superstar on hit TV show The Voice.
But when Will.i.am arrived at a climate change debate recently, he showed a shocking lack of judgement.
The 37-year-old Black Eyed Peas star arrived for the talk at Oxford University in his private helicopter.
Seemingly oblivious to the furore that it might cause, the pop star even tweeted pictures of the 'hip.hop.copter' when he landed.
According to the Daily Star, he then spent about an hour with Myles Allen - a leading climate expert - before heading off to carry the Olympic torch in Taunton.
His trip from London was a total of 286 miles and used 71.5 gallons of fuel, ploughing three-quarters of a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is the same as the average UK person produces in an entire month. More
Ocean Garbage 'Vastly Underestimated'
Wind may drive trash and other floating debris deeper into the ocean and lead experts to underestimate oceanic pollution, according to a recent study.
Researchers typically sample the top 10 inches (25 centimeters) of ocean water to extrapolate the total trash levels. However, wind may force much of that trash below the surface water and skew the results, researchers concluded.
"That really puts a lot of error into the compilation of the data set," Giora Proskurowski, study coauthor and oceanography researcher at the University of Washington, said in a statement "By factoring in the wind, which is fundamentally important to the physical behavior, you're increasing the rigor of the science and doing something that has a major impact on the data."
The amount of trash in the ocean may be as much as 2.5 times higher than sampled amounts, a team of researchers estimated. In high winds, surface samples could provide estimates that are 27 times less than samples would suggest.
"The scope of the problem is not just at the very surface but goes down to [65 feet (20 meters)] or so, and that plastic is distributed throughout this layer," Proskurowski said. More
Study Predicts Grim Ecological Effects for Proposed Amazon Dams
Proposals to build more than 150 hydroelectric dams on Andean tributaries of the Amazon River could have catastrophic ecological impacts, causing the first major breaks between the tributaries and the Amazon and leading to widespread forest loss, according to a study published today in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.
The study by researchers at the environmental advocacy group Save America’s Forests, the Center for International Environmental Law, and North Carolina State University found that 47 percent of dams planned for Amazon tributaries in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru would have a high environmental impact, suggesting the need for additional evaluation and increased regional planning.
Examples of high-impact dams, according to the study, include the Andaquí dam in Colombia, which would cause the first major break in connectivity for the Caqueta River and would flood a national park; and the Coca Codo Sinclair in Ecuador, which would disrupt downstream sediment flow for a major tributary of the Napo River and would require extensive construction in primary forest for roads and transmission lines. More
Deadly Bat Plague Spreads to Western US
A fungal disease that has killed more than 5.5 million bats in the eastern United States and Canada is making its way west.
What's known as "white-nose syndrome" has now been diagnosed in three Missouri bats - the first confirmed cases west of the Mississippi, and St. Louis scientists say it won’t stop there.
Since white-nose syndrome was first discovered in bats near Albany, New York, in early 2007, it has devastated bat populations in the eastern U.S..
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do to stop it,” says Tony Elliott, a scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, who says he knew it was only a matter of time before the disease crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri.
That’s because white-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that easily passes from bat to bat. The disease is named for the powdery white growth that can sometimes coat an infected bat’s muzzle and wings. The fungus penetrates the bat’s skin, eating away at the thin, semi-translucent membranes of its wings, tail, and ears. More
Report Warns Of San Onofre Nuclear Risk
SAN DIEGO -- The troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will remain offline until the troubles with the plant are fully diagnosed and corrected, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered Tuesday in a letter to Southern California Edison.
Unit 3 of the plant south of San Clemente has been shut down since Jan. 31, when station operators detected a leak in one of its steam generator tubes. Its two steam generators are undergoing extensive testing and inspections in order to fully assess their condition and the cause of the leak.
Unit 2 was taken down for planned maintenance Jan. 9. Southern California Edison, which operates the facility, has said previously the plant would not return to operation until tests confirm it is safe. More
Fewer Acorns And Mice Leave Humans Vulnerable To Lyme Disease
Scientists are predicting an unusually large surge of Lyme disease this summer in the northeastern U.S, thanks to a low acorn crop of all things. Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, says that the mild winter has nothing to do with this expected surge.
This prediction comes after 20 years of research and observations of acorn levels, mice population and lyme disease conducted by Dr. Ostfeld, Cary Institute forest ecologist Dr. Charles D. Canham, and their team.
Their team has found that acorn crop levels vary from year-to-year, ranging from very high amounts to very low amounts. The fall of 2011 saw a very low acorn crop. As these crop yields fluctuate, so too does the population of white-footed mice. The mice are the preferred hosts for black-legged ticks and are very effective at transmitting the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.
Reporting his findings, Ostfeld said “We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we’ve ever seen, the mouse population is crashing,”
“This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals—like us.” More
Climate Leapfrog? Kiribati Eyes Jump to Fiji
The country of Kiribati straddles the equator and the International Date Line, and is the only country in all four hemispheres - northern, southern, eastern, and western. From west to east, north to south, it encompasses a region of over 1,350,000 square miles, but its total land area is just 313 square miles divided among a disparate group of 33 islands, of which 21 are inhabited by a total of a little over 100,000 people.
With the exception of one island, Kirbati comprises coral atolls that are, at most, a few meters above sea level, potentially placing them at risk from rising seas. Indeed, in 1999 it was reported that two uninhabited atolls disappeared beneath the waves.
According to the country's president Anote Tong, the struggle against the encroaching Pacific is proving increasingly difficult.
"The tides have reached our homes and villages," he says; as a consequence, "our people will have to move ... This is the last resort, there's no way out of this one."
Mr. Tong revealed this week that he has been in contact with the government of Fiji, with a view to purchasing nine square miles of that nation's Vanua Levu island, to which some of the populace could relocate. More
Subculture of Americans prepares for civilization's collapse
When Patty Tegeler looks out the window of her home overlooking the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, she sees trouble on the horizon.
"In an instant, anything can happen," she told Reuters. "And I firmly believe that you have to be prepared."
Tegeler is among a growing subculture of Americans who refer to themselves informally as "preppers." Some are driven by a fear of imminent societal collapse, others are worried about terrorism, and many have a vague concern that an escalating series of natural disasters is leading to some type of environmental cataclysm.
They are following in the footsteps of hippies in the 1960s who set up communes to separate themselves from what they saw as a materialistic society, and the survivalists in the 1990s who were hoping to escape the dictates of what they perceived as an increasingly secular and oppressive government.
Preppers, though are, worried about no government.
Tegeler, 57, has turned her home in rural Virginia into a "survival center," complete with a large generator, portable heaters, water tanks, and a two-year supply of freeze-dried food that her sister recently gave her as a birthday present. She says that in case of emergency, she could survive indefinitely in her home. And she thinks that emergency could come soon. More
Northern Lights Attacking Earth?
The strange, beautiful coloured lights that circle the Earth's polar regions are a source of fascination for many.
But as the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, dance in the frozen skies over Alaska, scientists' trigger fingers are poised to launch rockets.
The researchers at the world's largest land-based rocket range hope to learn more about these storms and their impact on lives in the northern hemisphere.
The luminous sheets of light might look spectacular, but they are also visual indicators of geomagnetic storms in space that can interfere with satellites, power grids, navigation and communication systems. They can even corrode oil pipelines.
It is this disruption that the researchers are trying to help mitigate. More
Disease-Carrying American Crayfish Invade U.K. Rivers
U.S. crayfish and their British cousins do not get along. First the U.K. was invaded by the American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) carrying the deadly crayfish plague, which has killed 95 percent of Britain’s native white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) over the past 20 years. Now another invasive crayfish species—the virile crayfish (Orconectes virilis), native to the U.S. and Canada—is starting to spread in the rivers around East London. The species also carries crayfish plague.
The disease, caused by a water mold (Aphanomyces astaci), is a pretty nasty killer. It literally eats a crayfish from the inside out, leaving nothing but an empty shell behind. Death occurs within weeks of infection.
Virile crayfish were first spotted in East London’s waterways in 2004, probably after being dumped into a pond from a home aquarium. Since then, they have colonized 17 kilometers of the River Lee and surrounding waterways. River Lee has no native white-clawed crayfish left—they were all wiped out by the signal crayfish invasion in the 1980s. More
Sun Storms May Affect Radios, Cell Phones
Intense solar activity may affect Earth today, potentially disrupting radio and cell phone transmissions.
On Monday, the sun released a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is a "massive eruption of solar plasma," according to Space.com. The blast is expected to affect the Earth through Saturday.
"Coronal Mass Ejections from the last few days may cause isolated periods of G1 (Minor) Geomagnetic Storm Activity on December 28-29," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center wrote in an update. "R1 (Minor) radio blackouts are expected until 31 December."
If the storms are powerful enough, they could temporarily interrupt radio frequencies, GPS signals and cell phone communication. More
New Icelandic volcano eruption could have global impact
Mighty Katla, with its 10km (6.2 mile) crater, has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding as it melts the frozen surface of its caldera and sends billions of gallons of water surging through Iceland's east coast and into the Atlantic Ocean.
"There has been a great deal of seismic activity," says Ford Cochran, the National Geographic's expert on Iceland.
There were more than 500 tremors in and around the caldera of Katla just in October, which suggests the motion of magma. "And that certainly suggests an eruption may be imminent."
Scientists in Iceland have been closely monitoring the area since 9 July, when there appears to have been some sort of disturbance that may have been a small eruption. More
World has five years to avoid severe warming
PARIS - The world has just five years to avoid being trapped in a scenario of perilous climate change and extreme weather events, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Wednesday.
On current trends, "rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change," the IEA concluded in its annual World Energy Outlook report.
"The door to 2.0 C is closing," it said, referring to the 2.0 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) cap on global warming widely accepted by scientists and governments as the ceiling for averting unmanageable climate damage.
Without further action, by 2017 the total CO2 emissions compatible with the 2.0 C goal will be "locked in" by power plants, factories and other carbon-emitting sources either built or planned, the IEA said. Global infrastructure already accounts for more than 75 per cent of that limit. More
Fears of Mount Paekdu eruption spreading in N. Korea
SEOUL -- North Korea's adoption of a new rule on natural disasters last month indicates that experts' warnings of volcanic eruptions of Mount Paekdu have spread widely throughout the country, the South Korean government said Wednesday.
Pyongyang's new law stipulates principles for observing and forecasting natural disasters, particularly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, in addition to how to minimize damage and undertake rescue activities, the Korean Central News Agency reported last month, without giving further details.
Experts outside the secretive communist country have warned since last year that North Korea's Mount Paekdu, which borders China, may still have an active core, citing topographical signs and satellite images.
The 2,744-meter Mount Paekdu last erupted in 1903. More
Toxic Toys Are Naughty, Not Nice
Researchers at the U.S. PIRG, a public interest research organization, have released their 26th annual report on toxic toys called "Trouble in Toyland" just in time to warn parents heading out to fill holiday wish lists.
The report includes safety guidelines and provides examples of toys still on store shelves that may pose safety hazards whether from lead exposure, other chemicals or as a choking hazard.
Investigators found two toys with lead levels in excess of 300 parts per million (ppm), above the current standard set by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Another toy exceeded a 100 ppm standard that went into effect in August.
Another four toys exceeded the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that toys not contain more than 40 parts per million of lead. More
Home washing machines: Source of potentially harmful ocean 'microplastic' pollution
Scientists are reporting that household washing machines seem to be a major source of so-called "microplastic" pollution — bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than the head of a pin — that they now have detected on ocean shorelines worldwide. Their report describing this potentially harmful material appears in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Mark Browne and colleagues explain that the accumulation of microplastic debris in marine environments has raised health and safety concerns. The bits of plastic contain potentially harmful ingredients which go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish. Ingested microplastic can transfer and persist into their cells for months. How big is the problem of microplastic contamination? Where are these materials coming from? To answer those questions, the scientists looked for microplastic contamination along 18 coasts around the world and did some detective work to track down a likely source of this contamination.
They found more microplastic on shores in densely populated areas, and identified an important source — wastewater from household washing machines. They point out that more than 1,900 fibers can rinse off of a single garment during a wash cycle, and these fibers look just like the microplastic debris on shorelines.
The problem, they say, is likely to intensify in the future, and the report suggests solutions: "Designers of clothing and washing machines should consider the need to reduce the release of fibers into wastewater and research is needed to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage." More
Nestle chief warns of new food riots
VIENNA - The head of the world’s biggest food company Nestle said Friday that rising food prices have created conditions “similar” to 2008 when hunger riots took place in many countries.
“The situation is similar (to 2008). This has become the new reality,” the Swiss giant’s chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe told the Salzburger Nachrichten daily in his native Austria in an interview.
“We have reached a level of food prices that is substantially higher than before. It will likely settle down at this level.
“If you live in a developing country and spend 80 percent of your income on food then of course you are going to feel it more than here (in Europe) where it is maybe eight percent.”
In 2008, the price of cereals reached historic levels, provoking a food crisis and riots in a number of African countries, as well as in Haiti and the Philippines.
In September the UN food agency’s food price index came in at 225 points, just higher than the peak it hit in June 2008. It is down from the record 237.7 points hit in February this year. More
SDG&E asks for higher rates on customers who go solar
Homeowners with solar power may have to dig a little deeper to pay off their green investment if regulators approve San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s request to change the way electricity is billed.
Under its proposal, SDG&E would unbundle the charges for electricity and for transporting electricity.
The change would have little effect on bills for traditional electricity customers, but customers with solar, wind or other renewable generation would find they pay an average of an extra $33 a month, said J.C. Thomas, the utility's manager for government and regulatory affairs, last week.
Late Monday, SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan revised the estimate, saying the average was closer to $11 a month.
The utility said non-solar customers subsidize solar customers by an average of $1,100 a year, though consumer advocates expressed deep skepticism of that figure. More
Giant Chunk of Greenland Ice Set to Break Away
An ice shelf is poised to break off from a Greenland glacier and float out to sea as an island twice the size of Manhattan, scientists say.
"I don't know exactly when," Jason Box, a climatologist with Ohio State Unversity's Byrd Polar Research Center, told OurAmazingPlanet.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened today — or if it happened next summer."
Just a year ago, in August 2010, the same glacier produced an even larger iceberg — a mass of ice four times the size of Manhattan, the largest in recorded Greenland history — yet researchers warn that the next spectacular break could have more-dire consequences.
Box said it's not clear when the 62-square-mile (160 square kilometers) ice shelf, which is dangling from Greenland's Petermann Glacier, will detach from the mainland.
"I think it's more likely to occur during periods of melt, and that's coming to an end, so I'm losing confidence it's going to break this year," Box said.
Ice shelves are enormous plates of ice that float on polar seas but are connected to the shoreline by the land-bound glaciers that feed into them. More
The Age of Man: A New Geologic Epoch
For the past 250 years, humans have released billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, primarily by burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. Now, scientists say the impact of all this CO2 and other human activities on the natural world is so significant that it constitutes a new period of geologic time in the planet's history.
This new proposed epoch, the Anthropocene — so named to represent the human-dominated influence — is marked by measurable changes in the Earth's climate, geography and biological composition. These changes are akin, they say, to the great extinctions and ice ages that previously signified transitions between geologic periods or epochs now visible in layers of ancient rock.
For the first time, humans are attempting to denote a new geologic epoch as they live through it, and in a new issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A many scientists contend the planet's environment has already met the criteria for a newly-designated epoch.
Moreover, in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the Anthropocene and what types of human activity are expected to have a long-lasting impact on the planet, from a geologic perspective. More
Destructive fish spurs call to ‘re-reverse’ Chicago River
CHICAGO | The city was in a predicament. By the late 1800s the slow-moving Chicago River had become a cesspool of sewage and factory pollution oozing into Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for the bustling metropolis.
The waterway had grown so putrid that it raised fears of a disease outbreak and concerns about hurting development. So in a first-of-its-kind feat, engineers reversed the river by digging a series of canals that not only carried the stinking mess away from the lake, but also created the only shipping route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
Now a modern threat — a voracious fish that biologists are desperate to keep out of Lake Michigan — has spurred serious talk of undertaking another engineering feat almost as bold as the original: reversing the river again to restore its flow into the lake.
The Army Corps of Engineers is studying ways to stop invasive species from moving between two of the nation’s largest watersheds, including a proposal to block the canals and undo the engineering marvel that helped define Chicago. More
Increasingly Powerful Solar Storms Could Disrupt Technology on Earth
Power grids, GPS systems and satellites could be among the technologies affected by surges of energy released by the sun's swelling magnetic field, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The sun is essentially a ball of gas with a magnetic field at its core, and that field regularly expands and contracts in what is dubbed the "solar cycle."
It is currently about a year into a strengthening phase, which is expected to peak around July 2013. As a result, the increasingly volatile magnetic field will likely cause more eruptions on the sun's surface.
"The consequence of a stronger magnetic field is it becomes concentrated in certain parts of the sun and it becomes unstable," said Joe Kunches, a space scientist with the NOAA. "These contorted and somewhat uncomfortable magnetic fields want to return to a more familiar state and in doing so they give off energy." More
Australian kids are living in climate of fear
PRIMARY school children are being terrified by lessons claiming climate change will bring "death, injury and destruction" to the world unless they take action.
On the eve of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's carbon tax package announcement, psychologists and scientists said the lessons were alarmist, created unneeded anxiety among school children and endangered their mental health.
Climate change as a "Doomsday scenario" is being taught in classrooms across Australia. Resource material produced by the Gillard government for primary school teachers and students states climate change will cause "devastating disasters".
"As well as their terrible impact on people, animals and ecosystems they cause billions of dollars worth of damage to homes and other buildings," the material says.
Australian National University's Centre for the Public Awareness of Science director Dr Sue Stocklmayer said climate change had been portrayed as "Doomsday scenarios with no way out". More
Newly Found Gonorrhea Superbug Resists All Existing Antibiotics
A new strain of the gonorrhea bacteria can resist all available antibiotics, doctors say. Gonorrhea is one of the world’s most common sexually transmitted diseases, so this could portend a major threat to public health.
This should actually not be surprising, because for some time now, just one class of drug has been able to successfully treat the infection. Now researchers in Sweden and Japan identified a new variant of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bug that causes gonorrhea, that can survive that last remaining drug, the cephalosporin-class antibiotics. Researchers isolated the strain from the throat of a sex worker in Japan, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“This is both an alarming and a predictable discovery,” said Dr. Magnus Unemo, of the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria, in a statement.
The bacteria has been evolving to resist antibiotics since they became the standard treatment for the infection in the 1940s, during World War II. More
Al Gore returns with new climate campaign
It should almost be called Inconvenient Truth 2.0. Five years after Al Gore launched his original documentary project, the former vice-president returned on Tuesday with a new campaign aimed at exposing the full scale of the climate crisis.
Gore's Climate Reality project announced it would kick off with a 24-hour live streamed event on 14 September. The day's events will include a new multimedia presentation by Gore that will "connect the dots" between extreme weather events and climate change, a statement said.
The campaign represents a modest comeback for Gore who has reduced his public profile on climate action in the past few years – probably out of consideration for the political consequences to his fellow Democrat Barack Obama.
It is being launched four years after Inconvenient Truth, based on Gore's climate change slide-show, won an Oscar for best documentary. More
Could the Net be killing the planet one web search at a time?
It's Saturday night, and you want to catch the latest summer blockbuster. You do a quick Google search to find the venue and right time, and off you go to enjoy some mindless fun.
Meanwhile, your Internet search has just helped kill the planet. Depending on how long you took and what sites you visited, your search caused the emission of one to 10 grams of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Sure, it's not a lot on its own — but add up all of the more than one billion daily Google searches, throw in 60 million Facebook status updates each day, 50 million daily tweets and 250 billion emails per day, and you're making a serious dent in some Greenland glaciers. More
Toxic pesticides from GM crops found in unborn babies
Scientists at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, took dozens of samples from women.
Traces of the toxin were found 93 per cent of the pregnant mothers and in 80 per cent of the umbilical cords.
The research suggested the chemicals were entering the body through eating meat, milk and eggs from farm livestock which have been fed GM corn.
The findings appear to contradict the GM industry’s long-standing claim that any potentially harmful chemicals added to crops would pass safely through the body.
To date, most of the global research which has been used to demonstrate the safety of GM crops has been funded by the industry itself. More
EPA Whistleblower Criticizes Global Warming in Peer-Reviewed Study
The scientific hypotheses underlying global warming alarmism are overwhelmingly contradicted by real-world data, and for that reason economic studies on the alleged benefits of controlling greenhouse gas emissions are baseless. That’s the finding of a new peer-reviewed report by a former EPA whistleblower.
Dr. Alan Carlin, now retired, was a career environmental economist at EPA when CEI (Competitive Enterprise Institute) broke the story of his negative report on the agency’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases in June, 2009. Dr. Carlin’s supervisor had ordered him to keep quiet about the report and to stop working on global warming issues. EPA’s attempt to silence Dr. Carlin became a highly-publicized embarrassment to the agency, given Administrator Lisa Jackson’s supposed commitment to transparency.
Dr. Carlin’s new study, A Multidisciplinary, Science-Based Approach to the Economics of Climate Change, is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It finds that fossil fuel use has little impact on atmospheric CO2 levels. Moreover, the claim that atmospheric CO2 has a strong positive feedback effect on temperature is contradicted on several grounds, ranging from low atmospheric sensitivity to volcanic eruptions, to the lack of ocean heating and the absence of a predicted tropical “hot spot.” More
Exploding watermelons caused by chemicals, weather
NANJING -- An investigation into bursting watermelons in east China's Jiangsu Province shows that growth promoter as well as sudden rainfall may be to blame, said experts on Tuesday.
More than 700 mu (46.7 hectares) of watermelons have been ruined due to the problem in the city of Danyang in May, the harvest time for watermelons in southern China. At the village of Dalu, within the jurisdiction of Danyang, 67 percent of Liu Mingsuo's watermelons have burst, with watermelon pieces piled up in the field.
"This is the first year that I have planted watermelons. I sprayed forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator, and instant calcium on May 6. The next day, about 180 watermelons burst," said Liu Mingsuo.
There are now 20 watermelon producers in the village, up from only seven in 2010 since last year saw a bumper harvest. Agriculture experts believe that the problem is caused by multiple factors such as the use of forchlorfenuron and sudden heavy rainfall after a long period of dry weather after checking 10 watermelons producers' land in the village. More
Record Snowpacks Could Threaten Western States
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — For all the attention on epic flooding in the Mississippi Valley, a quiet threat has been growing here in the West where winter snows have piled up on mountain ranges throughout the region.
Thanks to a blizzard-filled winter and an unusually cold and wet spring, more than 90 measuring sites from Montana to New Mexico and California to Colorado have record snowpack totals on the ground for late May, according to a federal report released last week.
Those giant and spectacularly beautiful snowpacks will now melt under the hotter, sunnier skies of June — mildly if weather conditions are just right, wildly and perhaps catastrophically if they are not.
Fear of a sudden thaw, releasing millions of gallons of water through river channels and narrow canyons, has disaster experts on edge. More
Ocean Noise Pollution Blowing Holes in Squids' Heads
Thousands of Humboldt squid died off the coast of Oregon in 2004 and hundreds again in 2008. The culprit was originally considered a shift in deep-sea currents, but a new study pinpoints the physical trauma noise pollution can inflict on cephalopods and raises new concerns over the incidents of squid strandings.
Dolphins and whales and other marine mammals aren't the only sea life vulnerable to noise pollution from human activities.
Earlier indications that squid might be susceptible to noise occurred in 2001 and again in 2003, when giant squid washed up along the shore of Asturias, Spain. After struggling to identify the reason, biologists eventually concluded that the deaths were most likely related to the presence of vessels using seismic air guns for geophysical prospecting of the seabed. More
180 Lb Giant 'Federal' Wolves Threaten Idaho Citizens
Today there are many issues that confront our political institutions. We are living in interesting times. For state governments the big issues are balancing budgets and federal government encroachment. And for the state of Idaho, the face of federal government encroachment is that of a Canadian Gray Wolf.
Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act, in the mid-70’s Washington D.C. bureaucrats began to contemplate the introduction of wolves into parts of the so called lower 48 states. The reason that this was even a possibility was because the original settlers of the country, who had lived with wolves, decided to get rid of them. Such people will tell you that wolves are a menace, and dangerous on top of that.
Over the objections of the Idaho Legislature, the governor of Idaho, and Idaho’s congressional delegation, in 1995 the federal Fish and Wildlife Service introduced 35 Canadian Gray Wolves into central Idaho. A like number of wolves were introduced into Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, just across the Idaho border.
The plan was to protect this population of Gray Wolves such that their numbers would increase to 300 and at least 30 breeding pairs across the three state region of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The Idaho Legislature, with a gun to its head, agreed to this scheme in a 2002 Wolf Management Plan it ratified; while at the same time passing a resolution stating that its real desire was to remove the wolves from Idaho all together. The DC bureaucrats were going to introduce the wolves no matter what the state of Idaho wanted; and the negotiated 2002 Wolf Management Plan reflected Idaho’s effort to at least have a say in the process. More
Many Coastal Wetlands Likely to Disappear This Century
Many coastal wetlands worldwide -- including several on the U.S. Atlantic coast -- may be more sensitive than previously thought to climate change and sea-level rise projections for the 21st century.
U.S. Geological Survey scientists made this conclusion from an international research modeling effort published December 1 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Scientists identified conditions under which coastal wetlands could survive rising sea level.
Using a rapid sea-level rise scenario, most coastal wetlands worldwide will disappear near the end of the 21st century. In contrast, under the slow sea-level rise projection, wetlands with low sediment availability and low tidal ranges are vulnerable and may drown. However, in the slow sea-level rise projection, wetlands with higher sediment availability would be more likely to survive. More
Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction: Is It Almost Here?
With the steep decline in populations of many animal species, scientists have warned that Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction like those that have occurred just five times during the past 540 million years.
Each of these "Big Five" saw three-quarters or more of all animal species go extinct.
In results of a study published in this week's issue of journal Nature, researchers report on an assessment of where mammals and other species stand today in terms of possible extinction compared with the past 540 million years. They find cause for hope--and alarm.
"If you look only at the critically endangered mammals--those where the risk of extinction is at least 50 percent within three of their generations--and assume that their time will run out and they will be extinct in 1,000 years, that puts us clearly outside any range of normal and tells us that we are moving into the mass extinction realm," said Anthony Barnosky, an integrative biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, and first author of the paper. More
If an island state vanishes, is it still a nation?
CANCUN — Encroaching seas in the far Pacific are raising the salt level in the wells of the Marshall Islands. Waves threaten to cut one sliver of an island in two. "It's getting worse," says Kaminaga Kaminaga, the tiny nation's climate change coordinator.
The rising ocean raises questions, too: What happens if the 61,000 Marshallese must abandon their low-lying atolls? Would they still be a nation? With a UN seat? With control of their old fisheries and their undersea minerals? Where would they live, and how would they make a living? Who, precisely, would they and their children become?
For years global negotiations to act on climate change have dragged on, with little to show. Parties to the 193-nation UN climate treaty are meeting again in this Caribbean resort, but no one expects decisive action to roll back the industrial, agricultural and transport emissions blamed for global warming — and consequently for swelling seas.
From 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) away, the people of the Marshalls - and of Kiribati, Tuvalu and other atoll nations beyond - can only wonder how many more years they'll be able to cope. More
Study: If We're Not Alone, We Should Fear the Aliens
When considering the prospect of alien life, humankind should prepare for the worst, according to a new study: Either we're alone, or any aliens out there are acquisitive and resource-hungry, just like us.
These two unpalatable options are pretty much the only possibilities, according to the new study. That's because evolution is predictable, and alien biospheres should thus produce intelligent creatures much like us, with technological prowess and an ever-increasing need for resources.
But the fact that we haven't run across E.T. yet argues strongly for the latter possibility — that we are alone in the universe's howling void, the study suggests.
"At present, as many have observed, it is very quiet out there," study author Simon Conway Morris, of the University of Cambridge, told SPACE.com in an e-mail interview.
"And given many planetary systems are billions of years older than ours, I'd expect us to be best grilled on toast back in the Cambrian." More
Climate action could save polar bears
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough over the next few decades may stabilize the rapidly shrinking Arctic sea ice sufficiently to provide a sustainable habitat for polar bears, a paper in the Dec. 16 Nature reports. And if emissions do keep rising, another new study finds, the only species that has officially been declared threatened by the U.S. government due to global warming may still be able to hang on for a while in a few pockets of the northern Arctic.
Polar bears need sea ice to hunt their prey, but the frozen skin that floats atop the Arctic Ocean has been thinning and shrinking in recent decades as global temperatures rise.
Between 1979 and 2010, Arctic sea ice cover at the end of the summer melt season dropped an average of 11.5 percent per decade. Many researchers think that end-summer Arctic ice could be almost entirely gone by the middle of this century. More
Massive Volcanism May Have Caused Biggest Extinction Ever
The greatest extinction in the history of life may have been caused, in part, by ozone-depleting gases spewed in a massive volcanic eruption, a new study suggests. Geologists have found surprisingly high amounts of the elements fluorine and chlorine in Siberian lavas dating back 250 million years — when about 90 percent of marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial species went extinct.
Benjamin Black, a graduate student at MIT, and his colleagues described their theory Dec. 13 in a poster presentation at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Researchers have long struggled to explain the “Great Dying” that occurred at the end of the Permian period. Some think that the extinction was a long, drawn-out affair caused by multiple factors — perhaps gradual changes in oceanic or atmospheric chemistry (SN: 5/28/05, p. 339). Others have blamed a single catastrophic event such as a belch of methane from the seafloor or an asteroid impact (SN: 2/24/01, p. 116) like the one thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs and other species 65 million years ago.
Volcanoes might be one of those calamities. In Siberia, around 250 million years ago, a series of massive volcanic eruptions spewed out lava over more than 2 million square kilometers [800,000 square miles]. Some scientists have blamed these eruptions, known as the Siberian Traps, for climatic changes that contributed to the extinction. More
Thousands of birds falling from the sky
The mystery over thousands of birds raining from the sky in America deepened today after hundreds more plunged to their deaths in different parts of the country.
Scientists said that New Year’s Eve fireworks might have been to blame for the 3,000 blackbirds that died in a small town in Arkansas.
But they were forced to order more tests last night after 500 birds plummeted to the ground 360 miles away in Louisiana on Monday and dozens more died in Kentucky.
And just a 100 miles away from the Arkansas mass bird kill, at least 83,000 dead and dying fish washed ashore - possibly as many as 100,000.
The Internet has been abuzz with conspiracy theories about secret government testing and a looming Armageddon. More
Study Charts How Underground CO2 Can Leach Metals into Water
It’s not a common for a solution to carbon emissions to also pose a contamination danger for drinking water supplies, but new research indicates that if CO2 stored deep underground were to leak in even small amounts, it could cause metals to be released in shallow groundwater aquifers at concentrations that would pose a health risk.
In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, authors Mark Little and Robert B. Jackson studied samples of sand and rock taken from four freshwater aquifers located around the country that overlie potential carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) sites.
The scientists found that tiny amounts of CO2 drove up levels of metals including manganese, cobalt, nickel, and iron in the water tenfold or more in some places. Some of these metals moved into the water quickly, within one week or two. They also observed potentially dangerous uranium and barium steadily moving into the water over the entire year-long experiment. More
Bering Sea Was Ice-Free And Full Of Life During Last Warm Period
Deep sediment cores retrieved from the Bering Sea floor indicate that the region was ice-free all year and biological productivity was high during the last major warm period in Earth's climate history.
Christina Ravelo, professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will present the new findings in a talk on December 13 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.
Ravelo and co-chief scientist Kozo Takahashi of Kyushu University, Japan, led a nine-week expedition of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) to the Bering Sea last summer aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution. The researchers drilled down 700 meters through rock and sludge to retrieve sediments deposited during the Pliocene Warm Period, 3.5 to 4.5 million years ago. More
Tigers Could Be Extinct In 12 Years
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Wild tigers could become extinct in 12 years if countries where they still roam fail to take quick action to protect their habitats and step up the fight against poaching, global wildlife experts told a "tiger summit" Sunday.
The World Wildlife Fund and other experts say only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, a dramatic plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago.
James Leape, director general of the World Wildlife Fund, told the meeting in St. Petersburg that if the proper protective measures aren't taken, tigers may disappear by 2022, the next Chinese calendar year of the tiger.
Their habitat is being destroyed by forest cutting and construction, and they are a valuable trophy for poachers who want their skins and body parts prized in Chinese traditional medicine. More
Extreme Heat Bleaches Coral, and Threat Is Seen
This year’s extreme heat is putting the world’s coral reefs under such severe stress that scientists fear widespread die-offs, endangering not only the richest ecosystems in the ocean but also fisheries that feed millions of people.
From Thailand to Texas, corals are reacting to the heat stress by bleaching, or shedding their color and going into survival mode. Many have already died, and more are expected to do so in coming months. Computer forecasts of water temperature suggest that corals in the Caribbean may undergo drastic bleaching in the next few weeks.
"What is unfolding this year is only the second known global bleaching of coral reefs. Scientists are holding out hope that this year will not be as bad, over all, as 1998, the hottest year in the historical record, when an estimated 16 percent of the world’s shallow-water reefs died. But in some places, including Thailand, the situation is looking worse than in 1998. More
Al Gore left car engine on during environment lecture
London, Oct 30 (IANS) Former US vice president Al Gore, who is known for his climate conservation campaigns, has been accused of not switching off his car engine while he gave an hour-long lecture on environment in Sweden, a media report said Saturday.
It is alleged that Gore left his car running for almost an hour while he spoke at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg, Sweden Wednesday, British newspaper Daily Mail said.
His mistake was compounded further by the fact that he had asked his distinguished guests to attend the event by public transport in order to minimise carbon emissions. More
New super-bug spreading from India to Europe
A new gene, NDM-1, has emerged that allows bacteria to be highly resistant to most available antibiotics. The UK now has 37 confirmed cases, all people who have recently been to Pakistan or India for medical treatment or cosmetic surgery.
What is commonly described as super-bugs are bacteria that have become resistant by having been around in hospitals for a long time.
Now, a new gene called NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1) had been detected that enables bacteria to be highly resistant to almost all antibiotics. Having emerged in India, soon spreading to Pakistan and Bangladesh, NDM-1 has now arrived in the United Kingdom, by way of travellers who have been treated in hospitals there during the past year. More
Stephen Hawking says humanity is doomed unless it takes to the stars
If humanity is to survive long-term, it must find a way to get off planet Earth — and fast, according to famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
In fact, human beings may have less than 200 years to figure out how to escape our planet, Hawking said in a recent interview with video site Big Think. Otherwise our species could be at risk for extinction, he said.
"It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million," Hawking said. "Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space." More
Groundwater Depletion Rate Accelerating Worldwide
In recent decades, the rate at which humans worldwide are pumping dry the vast underground stores of water that billions depend on has more than doubled, say scientists who have conducted an unusual, global assessment of groundwater use.
These fast-shrinking subterranean reservoirs are essential to daily life and agriculture in many regions, while also sustaining streams, wetlands, and ecosystems and resisting land subsidence and salt water intrusion into fresh water supplies. Today, people are drawing so much water from below that they are adding enough of it to the oceans (mainly by evaporation, then precipitation) to account for about 25 percent of the annual sea level rise across the planet, the researchers find.
Soaring global groundwater depletion bodes a potential disaster for an increasingly globalized agricultural system, says Marc Bierkens of Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and leader of the new study. More
Cold empties Bolivian rivers of fish
With high Andean peaks and a humid tropical forest, Bolivia is a country of ecological extremes. But during the Southern Hemisphere's recent winter, unusually low temperatures in part of the country's tropical region hit freshwater species hard, killing an estimated 6 million fish and thousands of alligators, turtles and river dolphins.
Scientists who have visited the affected rivers say the event is the biggest ecological disaster Bolivia has known, and, as an example of a sudden climatic change wreaking havoc on wildlife, it is unprecedented in recorded history.
"There's just a huge number of dead fish," says Michel Jégu, a researcher from the Institute for Developmental Research in Marseilles, France, who is currently working at the Noel Kempff Mercado Natural History Museum in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. "In the rivers near Santa Cruz there's about 1,000 dead fish for every 100 metres of river." More
Hoover Dam could stop generating electricity as soon as 2013, officials fear
After 75 years of steadily cranking out electricity for California, Arizona and Nevada, the mighty turbines of the Hoover Dam could cease turning as soon as 2013, if water levels in the lake that feeds the dam don't start to recover, say water and dam experts.
Under pressure from the region's growing population and years of drought, Lake Mead was down to 1,087 feet, a 54-year low, as of Wednesday.
If the lake loses 10 feet a year, as it has recently, it will soon reach 1,050 feet, the level below which the turbines can no longer run.
Those hydroelectric generators produce cheap electricity for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which is responsible for pumping water across the Colorado River Aqueduct to hydrate much of Southern California. More
Climate Change: Hypocrisy of the Green Bully
RAJENDRA PACHAURI has a chauffeur, lives in luxury and jets across the world on his quest to ban Sunday roasts and cheap flights. Now he's accused of exaggerating the climate change crisis.
MOST mornings he is driven to work from his £5 million home in a 1.8-litre Toyota Corolla by his personal chauffeur, as befits his status as director-general of a New Delhi research institute employing more than 700 staff.
Dr Rajendra Pachauri is also a winner of a Nobel Peace prize, the holder of India’s second-highest civilian award, an officer of the French Legion of Honour and is used to being treated with respect.
But for some of those who challenge the international consensus on climate change he is public enemy number one and his travel arrangements are fair game. That’s because he is also the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body set up in 1988 to conduct regular assessments on the state of global warming. More
Absence of sunspots make scientists wonder if they're seeing a calm before a storm of energy
Sunspots come and go, but recently they have mostly gone. For centuries, astronomers have recorded when these dark blemishes on the solar surface emerge, only to fade away after a few days, weeks or months. Thanks to their efforts, we know that sunspot numbers ebb and flow in cycles lasting about 11 years.
But for the past two years, the sunspots have mostly been missing. Their absence, the most prolonged in nearly 100 years, has taken even seasoned sun watchers by surprise.
"This is solar behavior we haven't seen in living memory," says David Hathaway, a physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The sun is under scrutiny as never before, thanks to an armada of space telescopes. The results they beam back are portraying our nearest star, and its influence on Earth, in a new light. Sunspots and other clues indicate that the sun's magnetic activity is diminishing and that the sun may even be shrinking. Together, the results hint that something profound is happening inside the sun.
The big question is: What? More
2 billion gallons of sewage, storm water overflowed
More than 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water spilled out of urban sewers into local waterways after last Thursday's torrential rain storm, but even those overflows could not adequately relieve the sewers and prevent basement backups, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District says in a report to state environmental officials.
"The relief points could not get excess rain and flood water out of overburdened sewers fast enough," the district says in a report released Tuesday to the state Department of Natural Resources. Three district rain gauges on Milwaukee's north side recorded total rainfall of more than 8 inches Thursday and Friday.
MMSD estimates total overflows of 2.1 billion gallons - more than four times the total capacity of the district's deep tunnel storage system - from regional sewers between Thursday evening and Sunday evening, said Peter Topczewski, the district's director of water quality protection. The volume does not include overflows from sanitary sewers in Milwaukee and nine other communities in the metropolitan area that had acknowledged problems last week. More
Global warming blamed for pattern of lizard deaths
When it comes to the hazards of global warming, it may turn out that lizards in burrows are the canaries in the coal mine.
In a study to be published Friday in the journal Science, an international team of biologists reports that in more than one-tenth of the places in Mexico where lizards flourished in 1975, the reptiles now cannot be found. The researchers predict that by 2080, about 40 percent of local lizard populations worldwide will have died off and 20 percent of lizard species will be extinct.
The reason for the huge die-off appears to be rising temperatures. But it isn't heat that is killing the lizards directly.
Instead, global warming appears to be lengthening the period of the day when lizards must seek shelter or risk fatal overheating. In the breeding season, that sheltering period is now so long that females of many species are unable to eat enough food to produce eggs and offspring. More
How BP Gulf disaster may have triggered a 'world-killing' event
Ominous reports are leaking past the BP Gulf salvage operation news blackout that the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico may be about to reach biblical proportions.
251 million years ago a mammoth undersea methane bubble caused massive explosions, poisoned the atmosphere and destroyed more than 96 percent of all life on Earth. Experts agree that what is known as the Permian extinction event was the greatest mass extinction event in the history of the world.
55 million years later another methane bubble ruptured causing more mass extinctions during the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM). The LPTM lasted 100,000 years.
Those subterranean seas of methane virtually reshaped the planet when they explosively blew from deep beneath the waters of what is today called the Gulf of Mexico. Now, worried scientists are increasingly concerned the same series of catastrophic events that led to worldwide death back then may bThose subterranean seas of methane virtually reshaped the planet when they explosively blew from deep beneath the waters of what is today called the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, worried scientists are increasingly concerned the same series of catastrophic events that led to worldwide death back then may be happening again-and no known technology can stop it. More
500 African penguins killed by big freeze in South Africa
Nearly 500 rare African penguins have died in the past 24 hours as a result of extremely cold weather in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.
An AFP report quoted a national parks agency spokesperson, Megan Taplin, who said: "The chicks, aged between a few weeks old and about two months old and covered only with down feathers, succumbed to the cold and wet weather which has hit Bird Island."
The report said the penguin population was already dwindling with only 700 breeding pairs left in the area.
The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus),is also known as the Black-Footed penguin or the Jackass penguin because of its braying call. The species was officially renamed “African” penguin as it is the only penguin species that breeds on the African continent. It has distinctive black and white markings, with a black stripe and spots on the chest, which are unique to each bird. More
Man killed by swarm of bees
A 54-year-old man was killed Wednesday morning by a swarm of bees in a remote area of Encinitas, a fire official said.
The man was working outdoors with his nephew, clearing the property at about 11 a.m., when the backhoe he was driving disturbed a colony of bees, said Encinitas fire Deputy Chief Scott Henry.
Firefighters arrived to find the man had taken shelter in an outhouse about 200 yards from the colony.
"He was covered in bee stings and in full cardiac arrest," Henry said.
The man was rushed to the hospital, where he later died. It was unclear late Wednesday whether the man was allergic to bee stings. More
Scientist: Global Cooling is the Real Crisis
Most of us have heard or seen what global warming alarmists say the consequences will be if something isn’t done to limit the man’s impact on the environment. Al Gore, in his movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” warns global sea levels will rise by a whopping 20 feet, causing coastal flooding and creating a refugee crisis. Others aren’t quite as gloomy, but that’s not the real threat to the planet.
At the Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change on May 17, Professor Don Easterbrook of Western Washington University warned that the climate is headed for a period of cooling. He told the Chicago gathering of hundreds of scientists and policy professionals that there are three possibilities of cooling, examples of which we’ve seen within the last 200 years. More
As Global Temperatures Rise, World's Lizards Are Disappearing
For many lizards, global climate change is a matter of life and death. After decades of surveying Sceloporus lizard populations in Mexico, an international research team has found that rising temperatures have driven 12 percent of the country's lizard populations to extinction. An extinction model based on this discovery also forecasts a grim future for these ecologically important critters, predicting that a full 20 percent of all lizard species could be extinct by the year 2080.
The detailed surveys of lizard populations in Mexico, collected from 200 different sites, indicate that the temperatures in those regions have changed too rapidly for the lizards to keep pace. It seems that all types of lizards are far more susceptible to climate-warming extinction than previously thought because many species are already living right at the edge of their thermal limits, especially at low elevation and low latitude range limits. More
Growing low-oxygen zones in oceans worry scientists
Lower levels of oxygen in the Earth's oceans, particularly off the United States' Pacific Northwest coast, could be another sign of fundamental changes linked to global climate change, scientists say.
They warn that the oceans' complex undersea ecosystems and fragile food chains could be disrupted.
In some spots off Washington state and Oregon , the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions.
Areas of hypoxia, or low oxygen, have long existed in the deep ocean. These areas — in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans — appear to be spreading, however, covering more square miles, creeping toward the surface and in some places, such as the Pacific Northwest , encroaching on the continental shelf within sight of the coastline. More
Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter
The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.
Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat, ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a pesticide on the market.
And on Thursday, chemists at a scientific conference in San Francisco will tackle the issue of chemicals and dwindling bees in response to the new study.
Scientists are concerned because of the vital role bees play in our food supply. About one-third of the human diet is from plants that require pollination from honeybees, which means everything from apples to zucchini. More
Climatologists Baffled by Global Warming Time-Out
Global warming appears to have stalled. Climatologists are puzzled as to why average global temperatures have stopped rising over the last 10 years. Some attribute the trend to a lack of sunspots, while others explain it through ocean currents.
At least the weather in Copenhagen is likely to be cooperating. The Danish Meteorological Institute predicts that temperatures in December, when the city will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, will be one degree above the long-term average.
Otherwise, however, not much is happening with global warming at the moment. The Earth's average temperatures have stopped climbing since the beginning of the millennium, and it even looks as though global warming could come to a standstill this year. More
Urban 'Green' Spaces May Contribute to Global Warming
Dispelling the notion that urban "green" spaces help counteract greenhouse gas emissions, new research has found -- in Southern California at least -- that total emissions would be lower if lawns did not exist.
Turfgrass lawns help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it as organic carbon in soil, making them important "carbon sinks." However, greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer production, mowing, leaf blowing and other lawnmanagement practices are four times greater than the amount of carbon stored by ornamental grass in parks, a UC Irvine study shows. These emissions include nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that's 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, the Earth's most problematic climate warmer. More
We'd best mark apocalyptic predictions for 2012 in pencil
The world did not end as the clock ticked ominously past midnight and into the wee hours of January 1, 2000.
Computers and their networks did not crash. Satellites did not fall from the sky. Power grids did not wink out. We were not thrust into a dark, cold and medieval existence.
Humanity carried on as usual after Y2K, happily reproducing, polluting and pillaging land and sea. But human beings, it seems, can't shake a deep feeling of impending doom, even in happy times.
We survived Y2K. Now we've got the next curtain call for civilization -- December 21, 2012. That's right, citizens, there are less than 1,100 shopping days until the end of days. More
Peru's mountain people fight for surviving a bitter winter
For alpaca farmer Ignacio Beneto Huamani and his young family, life in the Peruvian Andes, at almost 4,700m above sea level, has always been a struggle against the elements. His village of Pichccahuasi, in Peru's Huancavelica region, is little more than a collection of small thatched shelters and herds of alpaca surrounded by beautiful, yet bleakly inhospitable, mountain terrain.
The few hundred people who live here are hardened to poverty and months of sub-zero temperatures during the long winter. But, for the fourth year running, the cold came early. First their animals and now their children are dying and in such escalating numbers that many fear that life in the village may be rapidly approaching an end.
In a world growing ever hotter, Huancavelica is an anomaly. These communities, living at the edge of what is possible, face extinction because of increasingly cold conditions in their own microclimate, which may have been altered by the rapid melting of the glaciers. More
Western Reservoirs Could Be Dry By 2050
There's a one-in-two chance that the water reservoirs of the Colorado River will dry up by 2050 if water management practices remain unchanged in our warming world, a new study finds.
Roughly 30 million people — including many in Arizona and Southern California — depend on the Colorado River for drinking and irrigation water.
The Colorado River system is enduring its 10th year of drought, with the reservoir system currently at 59 percent of capacity, about the same as this time last year.
Previous studies have warned of the potential for water shortages with the drier conditions in the West brought about by climate change. The region's growing population has also put pressure on the water supplies of the desert West. More
Record cold weather dominates large areas
As Britain struggles to cope with a few inches of snow, spare a thought for the travellers who were trapped on this train in Mongolia.
Snow drifts several metres deep meant an army of rescue workers had to be sent out to free the passengers from their carriages.
Heavy snow and unusually harsh winter weather snarled up transport across India, northern China and South Korea.
Major roads in Beijing and Tianjin, as well as nearby provinces Hebei, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, were forced to close due to the heavy snow. The snow shows no sign of stopping, however, and temperatures are expected to drop to -16C in Beijing today, causing more problems for those attempting to return to work after a three-day New Year holiday. More
Climate change alliance crumbling
Cracks emerged on Tuesday in the alliance on climate change formed at the Copenhagen conference last week, with leading developing countries criticising the resulting accord.
The so-called Basic countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – backed the accord in a meeting with the US on Friday night, and it was also supported by almost all other nations at the talks, including all of the biggest emitters.
But on Tuesday the Brazilian government labelled the accord “disappointing” and complained that the financial assistance it contained from rich to poor countries was insufficient.
South Africa also raised objections: Buyelwa Sonjica, the environment minister, called the failure to produce a legally binding agreement “unacceptable”. She said her government had considered leaving the meeting.
“We are not defending this, as I have indicated, for us it is not acceptable, it is definitely not acceptable,” she said. More
Climate change 'sceptic' Ian Plimer argues CO2 is not causing global warming
Professor Ian Plimer, a geologist from Adelaide University, argues that a recent rise in temperature around the world is caused by solar cycles and other "extra terrestrial" forces.
He said carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, widely blamed for global warming, is a natural phenomenon caused by volcanoes erupting.
"We cannot stop carbon emissions because most of them come from volcanoes," he said. "It is a normal element cycled around in the earth and my science, which is looking back in time, is saying we have had a planet that has been a green, warm wet planet 80 per cent of the time. We have had huge climate change in the past and to think the very slight variations we measure today are the result of our life - we really have to put ice blocks in our drinks." More
Obama’s Science Czar John Holdren involved in unwinding “Climategate” scandal
Lift up a rock and another snake comes slithering out from the ongoing University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) scandal, now riding as “Climategate”.
Obama Science Czar John Holdren is directly involved in CRU’s unfolding Climategate scandal.
In fact, according to files released by a CEU hacker or whistleblower, Holdren is involved in what Canada Free Press (CFP) columnist Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball terms “a truculent and nasty manner that provides a brief demonstration of his lack of understanding, commitment on faith and willingness to ridicule and bully people”.
“The files contain so much material that it is going to take some time t o put it all in context,” says Ball. “However, enough is already known to underscore their explosive nature. It is already clear the entire claims and positions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are based on falsified manipulated material and is therefore completely compromised. More
Gropenhagen Conference: Prostitutes Offer Free Climate Summit Sex
Copenhagen's city council in conjunction with Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards out to 160 Copenhagen hotels urging COP15 guests and delegates to 'Be sustainable - don't buy sex'.
"Dear hotel owner, we would like to urge you not to arrange contacts between hotel guests and prostitutes," the approach to hotels says.
Now, Copenhagen prostitutes are up in arms, saying that the council has no business meddling in their affairs. They have now offered free sex to anyone who can produce one of the offending postcards and their COP15 identity card, according to the Web site avisen.dk. More
ClimateGate - Climate center's server hacked revealing documents and emails
Britain’s Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia, suffered a data breach in recent days when a hacker apparently broke into their system and made away with thousands of emails and documents. The stolen data was then posted to a Russian server and has quickly made the rounds among climate skeptics. The documents within the archive, if proven to be authentic, would at best be embarrassing for many prominent climate researchers and at worst, damning.
The electronic break in itself has been verified by the director of the research unit, Professor Phil Jones. He told Britain’s Investigate magazine's TGIF Edition "It was a hacker. We were aware of this about three or four days ago that someone had hacked into our system and taken and copied loads of data files and emails." More
Cattle be £75 for each farting cow
SCOTS farmers’ leaders were fuming last night over barmy EU plans to combat climate change — with a tax on cows’ FARTS.
Member states are considering the bizarre flatulence tariff of £75 per beast in a bid to bring gas emissions in line with Brussels rules.
Figures show that a single cow can emit up to four tons of methane a year by breaking wind. And the farts and burps of farm livestock are estimated to make up 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas discharges.
But Scots Tory MEP Struan Stevenson last night urged ministers to to resist the moves as farmers feel the pinch in the recession. He said: “It would be a catastrophic mistake. The Danish government is said to be considering a staggering £75 per cow tax. More
CO2 Levels Were This High 15 Million Years Ago
You would have to go back at least 15 million years to find carbon dioxide levels on Earth as high as they are today, a UCLA scientist and colleagues report in the online edition of the journal Science.
"The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland," said the paper's lead author, Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA assistant professor in the department of Earth and space sciences and the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.
"Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas, and geological observations that we now have for the last 20 million years lend strong support to the idea that carbon dioxide is an important agent for driving climate change throughout Earth's history," she said. More
Beetle attack will change our world
Slash piles surround the parking area on Pelton Creek Road in the Medicine Bow National Forest, southwest of Laramie near the Colorado border.
Grant Frost, a terrestrial habitat biologist for Wyoming Game and Fish, inspects a tree, looking for tell-tale signs of beetles.
The tree looks alive, but it probably won't be for long. The brown cadavers of lodgepoles past stand among smaller, greener pines, testifying to the unavoidable truth: Change -- big change -- is coming.
"The general feeling is this will end when the food supply runs out," Frost says. More
2012 isn't the end of the world, Mayans insist
MEXICO CITY – Apolinario Chile Pixtun is tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly "running out" on Dec. 21, 2012. After all, it's not the end of the world.
Or is it?
Definitely not, the Mayan Indian elder insists. "I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff."
It can only get worse for him. Next month Hollywood's "2012" opens in cinemas, featuring earthquakes, meteor showers and a tsunami dumping an aircraft carrier on the White House.
At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the "Curious? Ask an Astronomer" Web site, says people are scared.
"It's too bad that we're getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they're too young to die," Martin said. "We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn't live to see them grow up." More
Antarctic ice is growing, not melting away
ICE is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.
The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica, although experts are concerned at ice losses on the continent's western coast.
Antarctica has 90 per cent of the Earth's ice and 80 per cent of its fresh water, The Australian reports. Extensive melting of Antarctic ice sheets would be required to raise sea levels substantially, and ice is melting in parts of west Antarctica. The destabilisation of the Wilkins ice shelf generated international headlines this month. More
Vaster Regions of Antarctica Melting Into Sea
Antarctic glaciers are melting faster across a much wider area than previously thought, scientists said Wednesday -- a development that could lead to an unprecedented rise in sea levels.
A report by thousands of scientists for the 2007-2008 International Polar Year concluded that the western part of the continent is warming up, not just the Antarctic Peninsula.
Previously most of the warming was thought to occur on the narrow stretch pointing toward South America, said Colin Summerhayes, executive director of the Britain-based Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and a member of International Polar Year's steering committee.
But satellite data and automated weather stations indicate otherwise. More
Sydney turns red: dust storm blankets city
Sydneysiders have woken to a red haze unlike anything seen before by residents or weather experts, as the sun struggles to pierce a thick blanket of dust cloaking the city this morning.
Callers flooded talkback radio, others hit social networking sites and scores of emails were received from smh.com.au readers as Sydney residents expressed their amazement at this morning's conditions.
"It's just red, red, red as far as you can see," one caller at the Anzac Bridge told 2GB. More
Chemicals That Eased One Woe Worsen Another
This is not the funny kind of irony: Scientists say the chemicals that helped solve the last global environmental crisis -- the hole in the ozone layer -- are making the current one worse.
The chemicals, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), were introduced widely in the 1990s to replace ozone-depleting gases used in air conditioners, refrigerators and insulating foam. They worked: The earth's protective shield seems to be recovering.
But researchers say what's good for ozone is bad for climate change. In the atmosphere, these replacement chemicals act like "super" greenhouse gases, with a heat-trapping power that can be 4,470 times that of carbon dioxide. More
Scientists predict greater longevity for planets with life
Roughly a billion years from now, the ever-increasing radiation from the sun will have heated Earth into inhabitability; the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that serves as food for plant life will disappear, pulled out by the weathering of rocks; the oceans will evaporate; and all living things will disappear.
Or maybe not quite so soon, say researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who have come up with a mechanism that doubles the future lifespan of the biosphere—while also increasing the chance that advanced life will be found elsewhere in the universe.
A paper describing their hypothesis was published June 1 in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). More
Quake, tsunami potential high on U.S. west coast
WASHINGTON - Scientists have underestimated the potential for a giant quake and tsunami that could swamp much the U.S. northwest and Canadian west coasts, British and U.S. researchers said on Monday.
Geological evidence suggests there have been earthquakes in the past that were even stronger than a magnitude 9.2 quake -- the second-biggest ever recorded -- which caused a 42-foot-high (12-meter-high) tsunami in the Gulf of Alaska in 1964, they said.
"Our data indicate that two major earthquakes have struck Alaska in the last 1,500 years and our findings show that a bigger earthquake and a more destructive tsunami than the 1964 event are possible in the future," Ian Shennan, a professor of geography at Britain's Durham University, who led the study, said in a statement. More
El Nino an early warning for food security
JOHANNESBURG - Rising sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean herald El Niño, which could disrupt the rains in major cereal producing regions, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned.
"Typically, an El Niño has the potential to disrupt the rainy seasons and cause lower rainfall in India, Australia, Southeast Asia - Philippines and Indonesia - southern Africa and Central America," said Robert Stefanski, a WMO scientific officer who works on agriculture-related weather and climate issues.
"In past El Niño events, there was lowered food production in many of these regions." More
MIT Model Predicts Accelerating Warming Trends
If an unusually detailed computer simulation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has it right, global warming in this century is on track to be about twice as bad as predicted six years ago.
The MIT model is said to be the only one that incorporates among its variables possible changes in economic growth and other human activities and draws on peer-reviewed science on the climatic effects of atmospheric, oceanic and biological systems.
After running the model 400 times with slight variations in the inputs, the new predictions are for surface temperatures to warm by 6.3 to 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The prediction is for a 9.4-degree increase in the median temperature, more than double the 4.3 degrees predicted in a 2003 simulation. More
Not so windy: Research suggests winds dying down
The wind, a favorite power source of the green energy movement, seems to be dying down across the United States. And the cause, ironically, may be global warming - the very problem wind power seeks to address.
The idea that winds may be slowing is still a speculative one, and scientists disagree whether that is happening. But a first-of-its-kind study suggests that average and peak wind speeds have been noticeably slowing since 1973, especially in the Midwest and the East.
"It's a very large effect," said study co-author Eugene Takle, a professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University. In some places in the Midwest, the trend shows a 10 percent drop or more over a decade. More
New Zealand could go bust over Global Warming
No country in the world would risk as much for “global warming” as New Zealand if it goes ahead with the cap-and-trade energy taxation installed by Helen Clarke’s now-departed Labour Government.
New Zealand’s economy is almost completely dependent on its farm exports: lamb, dairy products, beef and high-end white wines. Half of New Zealand’s carbon emissions come from cattle and sheep. If New Zealand taxes its cows and sheep hundreds of dollars per animal for methane emissions and manure handling fees, Argentina would almost immediately displace New Zealand’s farm exports. Argentina has more grass, more cattle, the potential for more lambs, a surging wine industry—and no Kyoto obligations. More
The missing sunspots: Is this the big chill?
Could the Sun play a greater role in recent climate change than has been believed? Climatologists had dismissed the idea and some solar scientists have been reticent about it because of its connections with those who those who deny climate change. But now the speculation has grown louder because of what is happening to our Sun. No living scientist has seen it behave this way. There are no sunspots.
The disappearance of sunspots happens every few years, but this time it’s gone on far longer than anyone expected – and there is no sign of the Sun waking up. “This is the lowest we’ve ever seen. We thought we’d be out of it by now, but we’re not,” says Marc Hairston of the University of Texas. More
Bacteria Create Aquatic Superbugs In Waste Treatment Plants
For bacteria in wastewater treatment plants, the stars align perfectly to create a hedonistic mating ground for antibiotic-resistant superbugs eventually discharged into streams and lakes.
In the first known study of its kind, Chuanwu Xi of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and his team sampled water containing the bacteria Acinetobacter at five sites in and near Ann Arbor's wastewater treatment plant.
They found the so-called superbugs—bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics—up to 100 yards downstream from the discharge point into the Huron River. Xi stresses that while the finding may be disturbing, it is important to understand that much work is still needed to assess what risk, if any, the presence of superbugs in aquatic environments poses to humans. More
Caps, Trades and Offsets: Can Climate Plan Work?
It sounds like alchemy, an act of bureaucratic magic. Under the climate-change bill just approved by a House committee, the U.S. government would literally make a commodity -- as tradable as a Pontiac or a pork belly -- out of thin air.
The bill would require polluters to obtain "allowances" -- permits allowing them to emit a given amount of a greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide or methane. Today, these gases are invisible, free and floating all around us. This bill would put a price on them.
That would accomplish an economist's version of a triple back flip. It would divide a problem of the global commons into pieces and make those who use gas or electricity pay for their share of the emissions that result. More
Honeybee Numbers Expand Worldwide as U.S. Decline Continues
Even as U.S. honeybee populations have been hit hard by colony collapse disorder in recent years, domesticated beehives have been thriving elsewhere.
In an analysis of nearly 50 years of data on bees from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, researchers found that domesticated honeybee populations have increased about 45 percent, thanks in large part to expansion of the bees into areas such as South America, eastern Asia and Africa. The results appear in the latest issue Current Biology.
The overall increase, however, is not what surprised Marcelo Aizen, a professor at the National University of Comahue in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and lead author of the study. Instead, he was taken aback by the sixfold increase in the growth rate of crops that depend on domesticated bees for pollination. More
Next Panic: Carbonated oceans
Like a sinkful of hard water deposits suddenly doused with vinegar, the shells of tiny marine snails in Victoria Fabry's test tanks don't stand a chance.
Fabry, a biological oceanographer and visiting researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, studies the effects of ocean acidification on the molluscs known as pteropods. In one experiment, only 48 hours of exposure to slightly corrosive seawater caused normally smooth shells to become frayed at the edges on their way to eventual dissolution, severely diminishing their owners' chances of survival.
The acidity of the water in Fabry's lab had been ratcheted up to levels that might not be seen until the end of the century, but she and other scientists fear that ongoing acidification of ocean water could be causing a slow-motion destruction of ocean ecosystems now. More
Climate change means bigger medical bills
Climate change concerns like melting icecaps, increased desertification, loss of coral reefs and the extinction of species like polar bears can seem a distant concern in our everyday lives. Little attention, however, has been paid to the likelihood of increased bills, through tax and insurance charges, that will be incurred as the UK climate changes.
Alistair Hunt, a researcher at the University of Bath, will be addressing scientists this week at the international Climate Change Congress being held in Copenhagen to present research which shows that the cost of climate change is going to be felt much closer to home than many expect. Alistair’s talk is one of many described in the complete online abstract book of the congress, published in the IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science. More
Blue Sky Research: Increase in Global Air Pollution
A University of Maryland-led team has compiled the first decades-long database of aerosol measurements over land, making possible new research into how air pollution affects climate change.
Using this new database, the researchers show that clear sky visibility over land has decreased globally over the past 30 years, indicative of increases in aerosols, or airborne pollution.
“Creation of this database is a big step forward for researching long-term changes in air pollution and correlating these with climate change,” said Kaicun Wang, assistant research scientist in the University of Maryland’s department of geography and lead author of the paper. More
Global Warming: On Hold?
For those who have endured this winter's frigid temperatures and today's heavy snowstorm in the Northeast, the concept of global warming may seem, well, almost wishful.
But climate is known to be variable -- a cold winter, or a few strung together doesn't mean the planet is cooling. Still, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, global warming may have hit a speed bump and could go into hiding for decades.
Earth's climate continues to confound scientists. Following a 30-year trend of warming, global temperatures have flatlined since 2001 despite rising greenhouse gas concentrations, and a heat surplus that should have cranked up the planetary thermostat. More
Mr Whipple: An Eco-terrorist?
Americans like their toilet tissue soft: exotic confections that are silken, thick and hot-air-fluffed.
The national obsession with soft paper has driven the growth of brands like Cottonelle Ultra, Quilted Northern Ultra and Charmin Ultra — which in 2008 alone increased its sales by 40 percent in some markets, according to Information Resources, Inc., a marketing research firm.
But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them. More
Ecosystems Push South in Antarctica
Adelie penguins are flocking closer to the South Pole. A new study in the leading journal Science explains why: they're following the food supply, which is moving southward with changing climate.
Krill, the shrimp-like critters that Adelies like to eat, feed on phytoplankton. But as global temperatures rise, phytoplankton are declining in the north while increasing further south. The poleward shift is taking place on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, a finger of land stretching toward South America, one of the fastest warming places on Earth. For decades, penguins and other Antarctic predators have been observed further south on the peninsula, where temperatures are colder and sea ice more plentiful. Previous research shows that AdÃ©lie penguins have decreased 70 to 80 percent over their northern range. More
Climate Fears Are Driving 'Ecomigration' Across Globe
Adam Fier recently sold his home, got rid of his car and pulled his twin 6-year-old girls out of elementary school in Montgomery County. He and his wife packed the family's belongings and moved to New Zealand -- a place they had never visited or seen before, and where they have no family or professional connections. Among the top reasons: global warming.
Halfway around the world, the president of Kiribati, a Pacific nation of low-lying islands, said last week that his country is exploring ways to move all its 100,000 citizens to a new homeland because of fears that a steadily rising ocean will make the islands uninhabitable. The two men are at contrasting poles of a phenomenon that threatens to reshape economies, politics and cultures across the planet. By choice or necessity, millions of "ecomigrants" -- most of them poor and desperate -- are on the move in search of more habitable living space. More
'Unprecedented' fires 'caused by climate change'
Climate change experts have warned that severe weather events are likely to occur more often in Australia as global warming continues. Commenting on the Victorian bushfires, climatologist Professor David Karoly told the ABC's Lateline program on Monday night that hot temperatures in Melbourne on Saturday and in many parts of southeastern Australia were "unprecedented".
"The records were broken by a large amount and you cannot explain that just by natural variability," he said. "What we are seeing now is that the chances of these sorts of extreme fire weather situations are occurring much more rapidly in the last ten years due to climate change." More
Tree deaths soar in Western U.S.
Tree deaths, spurred by global warming, have more than doubled in older forests across Western states, federal scientists reported Thursday.
Droughts and pests brought on by warmer temperatures have killed firs, hemlocks, pines and other large trees in particular over the past 30 years without allowing replacements to sprout, the study published in the journal Science finds.
"Very likely the mortality rate will continue to rise," says lead author Phillip van Mantgem of the U.S. Geologic Survey. More
Antarctica Warming More Than Previously Thought
Scientists studying climate change have long believed that while most of the rest of the globe has been getting steadily warmer, a large part of Antarctica – the East Antarctic Ice Sheet – has actually been getting colder.
But new research shows that for the last 50 years, much of Antarctica has been warming at a rate comparable to the rest of the world. In fact, the warming in West Antarctica is greater than the cooling in East Antarctica, meaning that on average the continent has gotten warmer, said Eric Steig, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences and director of the Quaternary Research Center at the UW. More
Earth on the Brink of an Ice Age
The earth is now on the brink of entering another Ice Age, according to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science. Many sources of data which provide our knowledge base of long-term climate change indicate that the warm, twelve thousand year-long Holocene period will rather soon be coming to an end, and then the earth will return to Ice Age conditions for the next 100,000 years.
Ice cores, ocean sediment cores, the geologic record, and studies of ancient plant and animal populations all demonstrate a regular cyclic pattern of Ice Age glacial maximums which each last about 100,000 years, separated by intervening warm interglacials, each lasting about 12,000 years. More
Drought, beetles killing forests
Bugs and diseases are killing trees at an alarming rate across the West, from the spruce forests of Alaska to the oak woodlands near the San Diego-Tijuana border.
Several scientists said the growing threat appears linked to global warming. That means tree mortality is likely to rise in places as the continent warms, potentially altering landscapes in ways that increase erosion, fan wildfires and diminish the biodiversity of Western forests.
It also could prompt new approaches to forestry. Possibilities include replanting logged areas with trees that are tolerant of higher temperatures, thinning drought-stressed forests and deploying pesticides to ward off insects.
But in many cases, landowners have few options to protect their trees once insects and diseases take hold, tree experts said. More
Climate Change Wiped Out Cave Bears 13 Millennia Earlier Than Thought
Enormous cave bears, Ursus spelaeus, that once inhabited a large swathe of Europe, from Spain to the Urals, died out 27,800 years ago, around 13 millennia earlier than was previously believed, scientists have reported.
The new date coincides with a period of significant climate change, known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when a marked cooling in temperature resulted in the reduction or loss of vegetation forming the main component of the cave bears' diet.
In a study published in Boreas, researchers suggest it was this deterioration in food supply that led to the extinction of the cave bear, one of a group of 'megafauna' - including woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, giant deer and cave lion - to disappear during the last Ice Age. More
Sea levels set to rise faster than expected
Geneva, Switzerland: Even warming of less than 2°C might be enough to trigger the loss of Arctic sea ice and the meltdown of the Greenland Ice Sheet, causing global sea levels to rise by several metres.
Ahead of next week’s meeting of governments in Poznan, Poland for UN climate talks WWF analysis of the latest climate science comes to the dire conclusion that humanity is approaching the last chance to keep global warming below the danger threshold of 2°C.
”The latest science confirms that we are now seeing devastating consequences of warming that were not expected to hit for decades,” said Kim Carstensen, WWF Global Climate Initiative leader. More
Revealed: the environmental impact of Google searches
Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.
While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.” More
Climate change pushing lemmings over the edge
Once famous for their numbers, Norwegian lemmings are disappearing, say scientists, who point an accusing finger at global warming.
The hamster-like rodents burst forth in massive numbers from their sub-Arctic homes every three to five years in a frantic search for food. The mad dash sometimes causes them to race over clifftops and plummet into the sea, thus giving rise to the theory -- now discounted -- of mass suicide.
Since 1994, these periodic population explosions have stopped, prompting researchers to ask why. In a study published on Thursday, investigators say the blame lies not with too many predators or a fall in food supply, but changes in weather patterns. More
The methane time bomb
The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.
Preliminary findings suggest that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.
Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf. More
Climate change may drown cities
JOHANNESBURG, SA - People in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, prefer to commute in three-wheeled autorickshaws, taxis and buses that run on compressed natural gas (CNG), in their bid to slow down global warming.
CNG produces a lower level of greenhouse gases and is an environmentally cleaner alternative to petrol. Dhaka's residents are among the most vulnerable to global warming and don't want to become "climate terrorists".
The city is among more than 3,000 identified by the UN-Habitat's State of the World's Cities 2008/09 as facing the prospect of sea level rise and surge-induced flooding. The report warns policymakers, planners and the world at large that few coastal cities will be spared the effects of global warming. More