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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

97% of climate scientists agree on human-caused global warming

97% of climate scientists agree on human-caused global warming | Amazing Science |
A research team confirms that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by humans. The group includes Sarah Green, a chemistry professor at Michigan Technological University, and is led by John Cook from the University of Queensland.


"What's important is that this is not just one study -- it's the consensus of multiple studies," Green says. This consistency across studies contrasts with the language used by climate change doubters. This perspective stems from, as the authors write, "conflating the opinions of non-experts with experts and assuming that lack of affirmation equals dissent."


Environmental Research Letters published the paper this week. In it, the team lays out what they call "consensus on consensus" and draws from seven independent consensus studies by the co-authors. This includes a study from 2013, in which the researchers surveyed more than 11,000 abstracts and found most scientists agree that humans are causing climate change. Through this new collaboration, multiple consensus researchers -- and their data gathered from different approaches -- lead to essentially the same conclusion.


The key factor comes down to expertise: The more expertise in climate science the scientists have, the more they agree on human-caused climate change. There are many surveys about climate change consensus. The problem with some surveys, Green points out, is that they are biased towards populations with predetermined points of view. Additionally, respondents to some surveys lack scientific expertise in climate science.


"The public has a very skewed view of how much disagreement there is in the scientific community," she says. Only 12 percent of the US public are aware there is such strong scientific agreement in this area, and those who reject mainstream climate science continue to claim that there is a lack of scientific consensus. People who think scientists are still debating climate change do not see the problem as urgent and are unlikely to support solutions.


This new paper is a rebuttal to a comment criticizing the 2013 paper. Green is quick to point out that skepticism, a drive to dig deeper and seeking to better validate data, is a crucial part of the scientific process. "But climate change denial is not about scientific skepticism," she says.

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Ocean temps predict U.S. heat waves 50 days out, study finds

Ocean temps predict U.S. heat waves 50 days out, study finds | Amazing Science |

The formation of a distinct pattern of sea surface temperatures in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean can predict an increased chance of summertime heat waves in the eastern half of the United States up to 50 days in advance, according to a new study led by a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). 


The pattern is a contrast of warmer-than-average water butting up against cooler-than-average seas. When it appears, the odds that extreme heat will strike during a particular week—or even on a particular day—can more than triple, depending on how well-formed the pattern is. The research is being published in the journal Nature Geoscience.


"Summertime heat waves are among the deadliest weather events, and they can have big impacts on farming, energy use, and other critical aspects of society," said Karen McKinnon, a postdoctoral researcher at NCAR and the lead author of the study. "If we can give city planners and farmers a heads up that extreme heat is on the way, we might be able to avoid some of the worst consequences."


The research was largely funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor. In addition to McKinnon, the research team includes Andrew Rhines, of the University of Washington; Martin Tingley, of Pennsylvania State University; and Peter Huybers, of Harvard University.

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Scientists Warn of Perilous Climate Shift Within Decades, Not Centuries

Scientists Warn of Perilous Climate Shift Within Decades, Not Centuries | Amazing Science |

The nations of the world agreed years ago to try to limit global warming to a level they hoped would prove somewhat tolerable. But leading climate scientists warned on Tuesday that permitting a warming of that magnitude would actually be quite dangerous.


The likely consequences would include killer storms stronger than any in modern times, the disintegration of large parts of the polar ice sheets and a rise of the sea sufficient to begin drowning the world’s coastal cities before the end of this century, the scientists declared.


“We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control,” said James E. Hansen, the retired NASA climate scientist who led the new research. The findings were released Tuesday morning by a European science journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.


A draft version of the paper was released last year, and it provoked a roiling debate among climate scientists. The main conclusions have not changed, and that debate seems likely to be replayed in the coming weeks.


The basic claim of the paper is that by burning fossil fuels at a prodigious pace and pouring heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, humanity is about to provoke an abrupt climate shift.


Specifically, the authors believe that fresh water pouring into the oceans from melting land ice will set off a feedback loop that will cause parts of the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to disintegrate rapidly.

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Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Geology!

Rare Earth Elements and their uses

Rare Earth Elements and their uses | Amazing Science |

Rare earth elements are a group of seventeen chemical elements that occur together in the periodic table (see image at right). The group consists of yttrium and the 15 lanthanide elements (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium). Scandium is found in most rare earth element deposits and is sometimes classified as a rare earth element. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry includes scandium in their rare earth element definition.

The rare earth elements are all metals, and the group is often referred to as the "rare earth metals." These metals have many similar properties and that often causes them to be found together in geologic deposits. They are also referred to as "rare earth oxides" because many of them are typically sold as oxide compounds.

Via Catherine Russell
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SVS: Annual Arctic Sea Ice Minimum 1979-2015 with Area Graph

SVS: Annual Arctic Sea Ice Minimum 1979-2015 with Area Graph | Amazing Science |

Satellite-based passive microwave images of the sea ice have provided a reliable tool for continuously monitoring changes in the Arctic ice since 1979. Every summer the Arctic ice cap melts down to what scientists call its "minimum" before colder weather begins to cause ice cover to increase. The ice parameters derived from satellite ice concentration data that are most relevant to climate change studies are sea ice extent and sea ice area. This graph displays the area of the minimum sea ice coverage each year from 1979 through 2015. In 2015, the Arctic minimum sea ice covered an area of 3.885 million square kilometers.

This visualization shows the expanse of the annual minimum Arctic sea ice for each year from 1979 through 2015 as derived from SSMI data. A semi-transparent graph overlay shows the area in million square kilometers for each year's minimum day. The date shown in the upper right corner indicates the current year being displayed.

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First Zika-linked birth defects detected in Colombia

First Zika-linked birth defects detected in Colombia | Amazing Science |

Cases may signal start of anticipated wave of birth defects in country hit hard by Zika virus.


Researchers have found Colombia's first cases of birth defects linked to the Zika virus, Nature has learned — which are likely forerunners of a widely anticipated wave of Zika-related birth defects in the country.


The discovery is perhaps no surprise: the virus arrived in Colombia last September, and the country is second only to Brazil in terms of the number of people infected with Zika. But Colombian researchers hope that plans put in place to closely monitor pregnant women can help to better establish the magnitude of the threat posed to fetuses by Zika. That is a crucial question that scientists have not so far been able to answer with the data from Brazil.


Researchers have diagnosed one newborn with microcephaly — an abnormally small head — and two others with congenital brain abnormalities, says Alfonso Rodriguez-Morales, who chairs the Colombian Collaborative Network on Zika (RECOLZIKA), which made the diagnoses. All three tested positive for the presence of Zika virus. The researchers have submitted a report of their detections to a scientific journal.


Rodriguez-Morales, an infectious-diseases epidemiologist at the Technological University of Pereira in western Colombia, says that he expects to see a rise in cases of Zika-linked birth defects starting in two or three months' time. The RECOLZIKA group — a network of researchers and public-health institutions across Colombia — are already investigating a handful of other suspected cases of microcephaly, which have a possible link to Zika.


Brazil is the only country so far to report a large surge in newborns with microcephaly that coincides with outbreaks of Zika virus. By the time the alarm over a possible microcephaly link was raised there (in October 2015), Zika infections had already peaked in many parts of the country, because the virus first reached Brazil at the beginning of last year.

In Colombia, by contrast, researchers detected the first Zika cases in September, and by December had set up national tracking programmes to monitor pregnant women for signs of infection, and to spot early signs of birth defects in fetuses. Since then, researchers have been waiting attentively to see whether their country might experience a similar rise in birth defects.


The true size of Brazil's surge in microcephaly cases is unknown. The country's health ministry says that 5,909 suspected microcephaly cases have been registered since early November, but only 1,687 of them have been investigated so far. Of those, 1,046 have been discarded as false positives, and 641 have been confirmed.

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Man-made global warming effects will play out over next 10,000 years

Man-made global warming effects will play out over next 10,000 years | Amazing Science |

A large group of climate scientists has made a bracing statement in the journal Nature Climate Change, arguing that we are mistaken if we think global warming is only a matter of the next 100 years or so — in fact, they say, we are locking in changes that will play out over as many as 10,000 years.

“The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far,” write the 22 climate researchers, led by Peter Clark, from Oregon State University.

The author names include not only a number of very influential climate scientists in general but several key leaders behind major reports from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including MIT’s Susan Solomon and Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern in Switzerland.

The researchers’ key contention is that we have been thinking about climate change far too narrowly by only projecting outward to the year 2100, which the research says “was originally driven by past computational capabilities.” Rather, we should consider that the long-term consequences of human emissions for global temperatures and sea level will play out over many millennia.

“It’s a statement of worry,” said Raymond Pierrehumbert, a geoscientist at Oxford University and one of the study’s authors. “And actually, most of us who have worked both on paleoclimate and the future have been terrified by the idea of doubling or quadrupling CO2 right from the get-go.”

“In hundreds of years from now, people will look back and say, yeah, the sea level is rising, it will continue to rise, we live with a constant rise of sea level because of these people 200 years ago that used coal, and oil, and gas,” said Anders Levermann, a sea level rise expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the paper’s authors. “If you just look at this, it’s stunning that we can make such a long-lasting impact that has the same magnitude as the ice ages.”

The key reason for this is that carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a very long time before being slowly removed again by natural processes. “A considerable fraction of the carbon emitted to date and in the next 100 years will remain in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of thousands of years,” the study noted. Meanwhile, the planet’s sea levels adjust gradually to its rising temperature over thousands of years.

So what will the world look like in 10,000 years, thanks to us? That really depends on what we do in the next few hundred years with the fossil fuels to which we have relatively easy access. It also depends on whether or not we develop technologies that are capable of pulling carbon dioxide out of the air on a massive scale, comparable to the amount that we’re currently emitting.

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Lab-bred corals have successfully reproduced in the wild for the first time

Lab-bred corals have successfully reproduced in the wild for the first time | Amazing Science |

For the first time ever, lab-grown Caribbean corals have integrated with wild populations and successfully reproduced, representing the first good news we’ve heard since the world plunged itself into the third global bleaching eventin recorded history.

Scientists have predicted that the damage stemming from this event will affect 38 percent of the planet’s reefs, with 12,000 square kilometres expected to die out with the next 12 months. An estimated 80 percent of all Caribbean coralshave already disappeared over the last four decades.

In an effort to address this particularly beleagured population, scientists from the international conservation group SECORE (which stands for SExual COral REproduction) have been breeding baby corals in the lab to seed out into the wild.

"In 2011, offspring of the critically endangered elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) were reared from gametes collected in the field and were outplanted to a reef one year later," said Valerie Chamberland, a coral reef ecologist a SECORE.

Now, just a few years later, the team is seeing the (very exciting) fruits of their labour. "In four years, these branching corals have grown to a size of a soccer ball and reproduced, simultaneously with their natural population, in September 2015," says Chamberland. "This event marks the first ever successful rearing of a threatened Caribbean coral species to its reproductive age."

Elkhorn coral is one of the most distinctive species you’ll come across, and this makes it vital to the Caribbean reef it inhabits. Its huge, branching shape - elkhorns grow 5 to 10 cm per year and often reach a diameter of 3.7 metres - not only protects the shore from storm damage, but provides a spacious home for other marine life, such as lobsters and parrotfish.

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Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from OUR WEIRD WORLD!

Country that is 100 percent powered by renewable energy taps into new natural resources

Country that is 100 percent powered by renewable energy taps into new natural resources | Amazing Science |

Iceland runs on 100 percent sustainable energy. The country has taken advantage of vast natural geothermal resources to harness power from hot water reserves underground. This water is so clean that hundreds of thousands of people each year bathe in the island's thermal baths. But the small European nation is also windy. It is too windy, in fact, for traditional wind turbines, which spin out of control. So inside a former coal plant, work was underway on a new renewable energy concept, reports CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti.

"The more simple the system the longer it lasts," said inventor Saethor Asgeirsson. He has developed a unique turbine called the CW1000.

This new turbine's precisely engineered, curved blades mean that, as strong winds hit it from one side, it both catches and goes against the force at the same time. The result is a turbine that can slow itself down without needing expensive mechanical brakes that often fail in traditional turbines in high wind.

And while it might seem odd that entrepreneurs in a country that already powers itself sustainably are working on developing other renewable energy technologies, Jonas Ketlisson of Iceland's National Energy Authority explained that there is always room for innovation.

"After our financial crisis that we encountered a few years back, people had to rethink and restructure," Ketlisson said. "I think it did bring us a lot of good ideas. Those ideas could grow into something big." And thinking big is something Saethor Asgeirson hopes to do, Vigliotti reports, when he exports his green energy to the wider European market and other parts of the world.

Via Seth Dixon, Leonardo Wild
Mike Oehme's curator insight, January 26, 2:50 AM

geothermal energy for the future

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2015 was the second warmest year on record in the US

2015 was the second warmest year on record in the US | Amazing Science |
2015 was hot. In fact, US government scientists just announced it was the second warmest year on record, since record keeping began in 1895. The average temperature was 54.4℉, or 2.4℉ above the 20th century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today. Only 2012 was warmer for the US with an average temperature of 55.3°F.

This past year was the 19th consecutive year for above-average temperatures. It also rained... a lot: average precipitation was 34.47 inches, or 4.53 inches above the average, making it the third wettest year on record. The Central and Southeastern US got soaked more than normal in 2015, while parts of the West and Northeast were drier than average.

NOAA also noted that there were 10 weather-related disasters with damages and losses exceeding $1 billion each. These events included a drought, two floods, five severe storms, a wildfire event, and a winter storm. Overall, these resulted in the deaths of 155 people.

Globally, 2015 was the hottest year on record, beating out 2014, the previous record holder. The global rise in temperature is thanks to both El Niño, that band of warm ocean water that disrupts weather conditions across the Pacific Ocean and beyond, as well as the increase in carbon dioxide emissions, that are the result of human behavior. Prior to 2014, the Earth's warmest years were 2005 and 2010.

serena woods's curator insight, February 16, 6:39 PM

How do you read this and not believe in global warming?


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Current pace of environmental change is unprecedented in Earth's history

Current pace of environmental change is unprecedented in Earth's history | Amazing Science |

University of Bristol Cabot Institute researchers and their colleagues today published research that further documents the unprecedented rate of environmental change occurring today.

The research, published online on 4 January in Nature Geosciences reconstructs the changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (pCO2) during a global environmental change event that occurred about 120 Million years ago. New geochemical data provide evidence that pCO2 increased in response to volcanic outgassing and remained high for around 1.5-2 million years, until enhanced organic matter burial in an oxygen-poor ocean caused areturn to original levels.

Lead author Dr David Naafs explained: 'Past records of climate change must be well characterised if we want to understand how it affected or will affect ecosystems. It has been suggested that the event we studied is a suitable analogue to what is happening today due to human activity and that a rapid increase in pCO2 caused ocean acidification and a biological crisis amongst a group of calcifying marine algae. Our work confirms that there was a large increase in pCO2. The change, however, appears to have been far slower than that of today, taking place over hundreds of thousands of years, rather than the centuries over which human activity is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. So despite earlier claims, our research indicates that it is extremely unlikely that widespread surface ocean acidification occurred during this event.'

The observation that yet another putative 'rapid' geological event is occurring perhaps a thousand times slower than today and not associated with widespread surface ocean acidification has been the focus of much recent research at the University of Bristol. Co-author Professor Daniela Schmidt, who was also a Lead Author on the IPCC WGII report on Ocean systems, emphasised that today's finding builds on one of the IPCC's key conclusions: that the rate of environmental change occurring today is largely unprecedented in Earth history. She said, 'This is another example that the current rate of environmental change has few if any precedents in Earth history, and this has big implications for thinking about both past and future change.'

The research was possible due to the exceptional Spanish section that the team analysed. Co-author Professor José Manuel Castro of the University of Jaen adds, 'The sediments at Cau accumulated very rapidly resulting in an expanded section. This allowed the high resolution multidisciplinary analysis that are the basis for this important study.'

Senior Author and Director of the University's Cabot Institute, Professor Rich Pancost, added, 'We often use the geological record to help us test or expand our understanding of climate change, for example, determining the sensitivity of Earth's temperature to higher CO2 levels. But testing the risks associated with the pace of modern environmental change is proving problematic, due to a lack of similar rapid changes in the geological past. Consequently, these risks, in this case to the marine ecosystems on which so many of us depend, remain associated with profound uncertainty. Decreasing CO2 emissions, as recently agreed in Paris, will be necessary to avoid these risks.'

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Lakes around the world are rapidly warming

Lakes around the world are rapidly warming | Amazing Science |
Climate change is rapidly heating up lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems across the planet, according to a study spanning six continents.

More than 60 scientists took part in the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

"Our knowledge of how lakes are responding to global change has been lacking," said Henry Gholz, program director in the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation, which funded the research. "That has made forecasting the future of lakes -- and the life and livelihoods they support -- very challenging. These newly reported trends are a wake-up call to scientists and citizens, including water resource managers and those who depend on freshwater fisheries."

The study found that lakes are warming an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade. That's greater than the warming rate of the oceans or the atmosphere, and it can have profound effects, the scientists say.

At the current rate, algal blooms, which ultimately rob water of oxygen, should increase by 20 percent over the next century. Some 5 percent of the blooms will be toxic to fish and animals.

Emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, will increase 4 percent over the next decade. "Lakes are important because society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses -- not just for drinking water, but manufacturing, energy production, irrigation and crops," said paper co-author Stephanie Hampton of Washington State University. "Protein from freshwater fish is especially important in the developing world."

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Biodegradable and recyclable non-petroleum-based bioplastic

Biodegradable and recyclable non-petroleum-based bioplastic | Amazing Science |

The textbooks and journals said it couldn’t be done. But Colorado State University (CSU) chemists have done it: They’ve made a completely recyclable, biodegradable polymer, paving a potential new road to truly sustainable, petroleum-free plastics.

The innovation is from the lab of Eugene Chen, professor of chemistry and recent recipient of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award. Publishing in Nature Chemistry Nov. 23, Chen and postdoctoral fellow Miao Hong describe synthesizing a polyester that, when simply reheated for an hour, converts back to its original molecular state, ready for reuse.

Compostable cutlery and other products made from the biomaterial PLA are biodegradable, but not fully recyclable. In a recent paper, CSU researchers have reported a breakthrough in recyclable polymers, which can be transformed back into their original molecular states using heat. Their breakthrough could lead to truly recyclable plastics. 

Their starting feedstock was a bio-renewable monomer that textbooks and journal papers had declared non-polymerizable, or could not be bonded into large molecules – polymers – typically required for use as a material.

Plastics are the most common type of manmade polymer, which is the chemical term for a long chain of repeating small molecules, or monomers. Plastics like polyethylene and polystyrene are king among synthetic polymers, and have come under fire for piling up in landfills. Chen’s lab is focused on making renewable and degradable plastics and other polymers to replace conventional petroleum-based materials.

“More than 200 pounds of synthetic polymers are consumed per person each year – plastics probably the most in terms of production volume. And most of these polymers are not biorenewable,” Chen said. “The big drive now is to produce biorenewable and biodegradable polymers or plastics. That is, however, only one part of the solution, as biodegradable polymers are not necessarily recyclable, in terms of feedstock recycling.”

There are several biodegradable plastics on the market today, chief among them a starch-based material made from polylactic acid, or PLA. Compostable cups, cutlery and packaging in dining halls are made from PLA. They’re biodegradable, yes, but they’re not truly recyclable – once made, they can’t be completely reconstituted into their original monomeric states without forming other, unwanted byproducts.

And what about those little numbers on the bottoms of plastic containers? Doesn’t that mean “recyclable”? Sort of. Soda bottles, computer keyboards and millions of other plastics can be repurposed to extend their product lifecycle. But in the true, chemical sense of “recyclability” – biomolecules that can be synthesized into a useful material, and then completely converted back to the same molecules simply by heating the bulk material – is unheard of. Until now.

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Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Conformable Contacts!

NASA Just Opened Up Access To 2.95 Million Images Of Earth

NASA Just Opened Up Access To 2.95 Million Images Of Earth | Amazing Science |

For the past 16 years, a Japanese-built instrument aboard a NASA research satellite has been quietly gathering data about Earth’s changing surface. Those changes include everything from volcanic eruptions and massive wildfires to the worst North Korean drought in a century. NASA made the data publicly available on Friday for free — including more than 2.95 million images. The data was previously accessible for a small fee through Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.


The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, also known as “ASTER,” measures Earth’s land surface temperature, elevation and the amount of light it reflects across 14 different spectral bands.


NASA can use the information to not only examine glacial advances and retreats, but also identify stressed crops, monitor thermal pollution and coral reef degradation, and evaluate wetlands.


According to the space agency, a single capture by ASTER covers a square of land about 37 miles wide and 37 miles tall. The instrument has recorded data for 99 percent of Earth’s landmass.

Via YEC Geo
YEC Geo's curator insight, April 12, 11:16 AM
Absolutely astounding images.  No kidding.
Suggested by Harry Boutin!

Particulates pollution: Beware of the danger in your city

Particulates pollution: Beware of the danger in your city | Amazing Science |

We all are aware of the air pollution and its impacts on human life but we may not know how big is the problem. As per a research, air pollution is the 4th biggest cause of the early deaths and it is above the alcohol and drug abuse in the top ten list. It killed 5.5 million people in year 2013.


Air pollution is caused by harmful gases (like NOx, SOx, CO), volatile organic compounds, biological molecules and Particulates. Major sources of these pollutants are vehicles, chemical industries and coal & furnace oil based power plants. Many of us will be surprised to see particulates in the lists. These are less known but most dangerous part of air pollution. Years of data compilation and research has revealed the dangers of particulates.

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Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from DNA & RNA Research!

Stopping malaria … one mosquito at a time

Stopping malaria … one mosquito at a time | Amazing Science |

UCI vector biologist Anthony James and colleagues have developed a genetically modified insect model blocking transmission of the disease – and it may also work on Zika.


Anthony James doesn’t dislike mosquitoes. He just doesn’t want them to transmit malaria. The University of California, Irvine vector biologist has earned international acclaim for tinkering with mosquito genetics to prevent diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. The impact of his work could be considerable. Millions of people around the globe are sickened by or die from mosquito-borne ailments, and new insect models that block this transmission could help dramatically improve public health in some of the world’s poorest areas.


In 2000, James’ team was the first to create a genetically modified mosquito model. His latest effort is his most promising yet, and it’s gaining widespread attention.


He and colleagues from UC San Diego employed a revolutionary genome editing method called Crispr-Cas9 to insert anti-malaria antibodies into a DNA strand of male mosquitoes that controls the development of reproductive organs, rendering them incapable of transmitting malaria. The researchers found that this anti-malarial trait was successfully passed on to 99 percent of the progeny, an astounding number made possible by the Crispr-Cas9 technique. In previous mosquito models genetically modified by James and others via different methods, only half the progeny inherited the anti-disease trait.


What this means is that the anti-malaria reproductive DNA could spread through a large mosquito colony much more rapidly, making the use of these altered insects in wild populations potentially much more effective.


Last November, the James team published its findings, which garnered great media and scientific attention. In choosing the Crispr-Cas9 method as the 2015 breakthrough of the year, Science magazine highlighted the UCI-UCSD work.


“This is a significant step,” says James, Distinguished Professor of molecular biology & biochemistry and microbiology & molecular genetics at UCI. “We know the gene works, and we know this method allows us to efficiently create large populations of mosquitoes unable to transmit malaria.”

Via Integrated DNA Technologies
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Trillions of trees: Survey of surveys finds 422 trees for every person on Earth

Trillions of trees: Survey of surveys finds 422 trees for every person on Earth | Amazing Science |

Three trillion: the latest estimate of the planet’s tree population, published in this issue of Nature (201), exceeds the number of stars in the Milky Way.


At more than 7 times the previous estimate of 400 billion, the figure is impressive, but it should not necessarily be taken as good news. The forest-density study — which combined satellite imagery with data from tree counts on the ground that covered more than 4,000 square kilometrers — also estimated that 15 billion trees are cut down each year. And in the 12,000 years since farming began spreading across the globe, the number of trees on our planet has fallen by almost half.

Kit Newton's curator insight, March 17, 4:12 PM
UK has piss poor tree density.
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Newly discovered bacteria can eat plastic bottles

Newly discovered bacteria can eat plastic bottles | Amazing Science |
A team of Japanese scientists has found a species of bacteria that eats the type of plastic found in most disposable water bottles.


The discovery, published Thursday in the journal Science, could lead to new methods to manage the more than 50 million tons of this particular type of plastic produced globally each year.

The plastic found in water bottles is known as polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. It is also found in polyester clothing, frozen-dinner trays and blister packaging.


"If you walk down the aisle in Wal-Mart you're seeing a lot of PET," said Tracy Mincer, who studies plastics in the ocean at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Part of the appeal of PET is that it is lightweight, colorless and strong. However, it has also been notoriously resistant to being broken down by microbes-what experts call "biodegradation." Previous studies had found a few species of fungi can grow on PET, but until now, no one had found any microbes that can eat it.


To find the plastic-eating bacterium described in the study, the Japanese research team from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University collected 250 PET-contaminated samples including sediment, soil and wastewater from a plastic bottle recycling site.


Next they screened the microbes living on the samples to see whether any of them were eating the PET and using it to grow. They originally found a consortium of bugs that appeared to break down a PET film, but they eventually discovered that just one of bacteria species was responsible for the PET degradation. They named it Ideonella sakainesis.


Further tests in the lab revealed that it used two enzymes to break down the PET. After adhering to the PET surface, the bacteria secretes one enzyme onto the PET to generate an intermediate chemical. That chemical is then taken up by the cell, where another enzyme breaks it down even further, providing the bacteria with carbon and energy to grow.

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Japanese Robotic Farm's First Harvest Next Year—Half a Million Lettuces a Day

Japanese Robotic Farm's First Harvest Next Year—Half a Million Lettuces a Day | Amazing Science |

In modern times, farming's gone from humanity's top job to a sliver of the economy—a trend that continues today as fewer young people choose to farm. For every farmer under 35 there are 6 over 65, and a quarter of today's US farmers will retire by 2030. But we all still have to eat. One wonders: "If there are no new farmers, who will grow our food?"

Robots, of course. One recent example? Japan's new automated indoor lettuce farmGrowing lettuce isn't the flashiest occupation, but it gets a little flashier when you do it with the press of a button.Japanese company Spread is expanding its indoor farm and more fully automating it. People will plant the seeds, but a robotic system takes it from there. Conveyor belts equipped with robot arms will water, trim, re-plant, and harvest crops. Sensors will monitor humidity, CO2, light, and temperature—automatically adjusting the indoor climate to make sure the lettuce is happy.

“The seeds will still be planted by humans, but every other step, from the transplanting of young seedlings to larger spaces as they grow to harvesting the lettuces, will be done automatically,” according to JJ Price, Spread’s global marketing managerCompared to their current indoor farm, Spread's new facility aims to reduce energy costs by a third with LEDs. Automation will reduce labor costs by half, and by recycling 98% of their water, Spread says their pesticide-free lettuce consumes 100 times less than conventionally grown lettuce.

Once operational next year, the farm will more than double production from 21,000 heads of a lettuce a day to 50,000 a day, and they're aiming for half a million a day in five years. While indoor farms offer a more controlled setting, farm robots aren't limited to them.

Self-driving tractors have been in fields for years. A farmer usually has to be in the cab, but they can focus their attention elsewhere, doing business on a laptop for example. (And full autonomy is coming.) Other kinds of farm robots abound. Robot arms can prune plants or spot and pick ripe fruit. Autonomous drones can skim fields and monitor crop health from above. All this farm automation isn't new; it's the continuation of a long trend. Robots will take over some jobs from people, but fewer of us are choosing to farm too. If your focus is elsewhere, no problem, farm robots like these ones will make sure you still eat your greens.

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Rapid loss of phytoplankton in the Indian Ocean

Rapid loss of phytoplankton in the Indian Ocean | Amazing Science |

A rapid loss of phytoplankton threatens to turn the western Indian Ocean into an “ecological desert,” a new study warns. The research reveals that phytoplankton populations in the region fell an alarming 30 percent over the last 16 years.

A decline in ocean mixing due to warming surface waters is to blame for that phytoplankton plummet, researchers propose online January 19 in Geophysical Research Letters. The mixing of the ocean’s layers ferries phytoplankton nutrients from the ocean’s dark depths up into the sunlit layers that the mini plants inhabit.

The loss of these microbes, which form the foundation of the ocean food web, may undermine the region’s ecosystem, warns study coauthor Raghu Murtugudde, an oceanographer at the University of Maryland in College Park.

“If you reduce the bottom of the food chain, it’s going to cascade,” Murtugudde says. The phytoplankton decline may be partially responsible for a 50 to 90 percent decline in tuna catch rates over the last half-century in the Indian Ocean, he says. “This is a wake-up call to look if similar things are happening elsewhere.”

In the 20th century, surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean rose about 50 percent more than the global average. Previous investigations into this ocean warming’s impact on phytoplankton suggested that populations had increased. But those studies looked at only a few years of data — not long enough to clearly identify any long-term trend.

Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, Murtugudde and colleagues tracked the microscopic phytoplankton from space. Phytoplankton, like land plants, are tinted green. When the sea surface is filled with phytoplankton, the water takes on a lighter, greener tinge. As the phytoplankton population thins, the water turns darker and bluer.

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Not only was 2015 the warmest worldwide since records began, it shattered the previous record

Not only was 2015 the warmest worldwide since records began, it shattered the previous record | Amazing Science |

Global temperatures in 2015 were by far the hottest in modern times, according to new data from American science agencies.

Not only was 2015 the warmest worldwide since records began in 1880, it shattered the previous record held in 2014 by the widest margin ever observed, a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. "During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 0.90 Celsius above the 20th century average," the NOAA report said.

"This was the highest among all years in the 1880 to 2015 record [and also] the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken."

The US space agency NASA, which monitors global climate using a fleet of satellites and weather stations, confirmed that last year broke records for heat in contemporary times. NASA said that the temperature changes are largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

"Climate change is the challenge of our generation," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said. "Today's announcement not only underscores how critical NASA's Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice — now is the time to act on climate."

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The Ominous Greenhouse Gas Accumulation Continues: Peak Methane Approaches 3,000 Parts Per Billion

The Ominous Greenhouse Gas Accumulation Continues: Peak Methane Approaches 3,000 Parts Per Billion | Amazing Science |

The world finally appears like it’s slowly starting to wake up from the grips of a fossil fuel influence-induced fever dream. Slowly, despite endemic political meddling by these powerful entities, some changes are starting to happen. Global carbon emissions growth remained flat during 2014 and likely 2015. Renewable energy adoption ramped up. Some major international commitments to reducing global carbon emissions were made. But the very pertinent question must be asked — are we waking up fast enough? And the still rapidly growing concentrations of gasses that heat the Earth’s atmosphere would seem to supply the answer in the form of a resounding, thunderous — “NO!”

On January 8th of 2016, we saw another record methane reading for the global atmosphere. The most recent single point peak for NOAA’s METOP measure hit a new all-time atmospheric high of 2,963 parts per billion or just 37 parts per billion shy of the milestone 3,000 parts per billion threshold. Another record methane spike rockets its way toward the ominous 3,000 parts per billion milestone in the NOAA METOP satellite array. The location of the current spike appears to be in the region of the Arctic where a number of very large carbon stores are now starting to warm up. Image source: NOAA OSPO.

In the broader context, we continue to see rising average global methane concentrations after a pause in atmospheric increases during the 1990s through the mid 2000s. This rate of increase is a sign that either new human sources, new global feedbacks from methane sources, or a combination of the two are pushing global totals higher. It is worth noting that the lower Latitude measures like Mauna Loa, however, did not pick up a signal that some kind of major-to-catastrophic environmental methane emission was underway. A situation some observational scientists fear may be possible, but that other, more well-established specialists tend to consider far, far less likely. Regardless of the current scientific conjecture, heightened and rising methane readings in the Arctic remain rather troubling.

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Drought and extreme heat slashed international cereal harvest by up to 10% in recent decades

Drought and extreme heat slashed international cereal harvest by up to 10% in recent decades | Amazing Science |
Drought and extreme heat events slashed cereal harvests in recent decades by 9% to 10% on average in affected countries – and the impact of these weather disasters was greatest in the developed nations of North America, Europe and Australasia, according to a new study led by researchers from McGill University and the University of British Columbia.

Drought and extreme heat events slashed cereal harvests in recent decades by 9% to 10% on average in affected countries – and the impact of these weather disasters was greatest in the developed nations of North America, Europe and Australasia, according to a new study led by researchers from McGill University and the University of British Columbia.

At a time when global warming is projected to lead to more extreme weather, the study, published in Nature, provides the most comprehensive look yet at the influence of such events on crop area, yields and production around the world. The researchers analyzed national production data for 16 cereals in the 177 countries included in an international database of extreme weather disasters.

The impact from droughts grew larger in the period from 1985 to 2007, according to the study, which examined the effects of about 2,800 weather disasters from 1964 to 2007.

"We have always known that extreme weather causes crop production losses,” says senior author Navin Ramankutty, professor of global food security and sustainability at UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. “But until now we did not know exactly how much global production was lost to such extreme weather events, and how they varied by different regions of the world."
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Infectious microcephaly? Brazil warns against pregnancies due to a spreading Zika virus

Infectious microcephaly? Brazil warns against pregnancies due to a spreading Zika virus | Amazing Science |

Brazilian health officials are dishing out some unusual advice these days: Don't get pregnant. That's the message for would-be parents, especially in the country's northeast, after officials linked a mosquito-borne virus called Zika to a surge in newborn microcephaly, a neurological disorder that can result in incomplete brain development.

More than 2,400 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported this year in 20 Brazilian states, compared with 147 cases last year. Doctors are investigating 29 related infant deaths.

Microcephaly results in babies being born with abnormally small heads that cause, often serious, developmental issues and sometimes early death. As a result, six states have declared a state of emergency. In Pernambuco state alone, more than 900 cases have been reported.

"These are newborns who will require special attention their entire lives. It's an emotional stress that just can't be imagined," Rocha said. "Here in Pernambuco, we're talking about a generation of babies that's going to be affected."

When the cases of microcephaly started to soar last month, doctors noticed they coincided with the appearance of the Zika virus in Brazil. They soon discovered that most of the affected mothers reported having Zika-like symptoms during early pregnancy -- mild fever, rash and headaches.

On November 28 2015, Brazil's Health Ministry announced that during an autopsy it had found the Zika virus in a baby born with microcephaly, establishing a link between the two. "This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research," the ministry said on its website.

Fact Sheet About Zika Virus

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Paired With AI and VR, Google Earth Will Change the Planet

Paired With AI and VR, Google Earth Will Change the Planet | Amazing Science |
When it debuted in 2005, Google Earth was a wonderfully intriguing novelty. From your personal computer, you could zoom in on the roof of your house or get a bird’s eye view of the park where you made out with your first girlfriend. But it proved to be more than just a party trick. And with the rapid rise of two other digital technologies—neural networks and virtual reality—the possibilities will only expand.

Via YEC Geo
YEC Geo's curator insight, December 12, 2015 10:53 AM

Well, maybe that's overstating the case a wee bit, but still interesting.