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MIT: A Cheap and Easy Plan to Stop Global Warming

MIT: A Cheap and Easy Plan to Stop Global Warming | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Here is the plan. Customize several Gulfstream business jets with military engines and with equipment to produce and disperse fine droplets of sulfuric acid. Fly the jets up around 20 kilometers—significantly higher than the cruising altitude for a commercial jetliner but still well within their range. At that altitude in the tropics, the aircraft are in the lower stratosphere. The planes spray the sulfuric acid, carefully controlling the rate of its release. The sulfur combines with water vapor to form sulfate aerosols, fine particles less than a micrometer in diameter. These get swept upward by natural wind patterns and are dispersed over the globe, including the poles. Once spread across the stratosphere, the aerosols will reflect about 1 percent of the sunlight hitting Earth back into space. Increasing what scientists call the planet’s albedo, or reflective power, will partially offset the warming effects caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases.

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FDA declares genetically engineered salmon made by AquaBounty safe to eat

FDA declares genetically engineered salmon made by AquaBounty safe to eat | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Food and Drug Administrationsaid it had concluded that the salmon would have “no significant impact” on the environment. The agency also said the salmon was “as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon.” While the agency’s draft environmental assessment will be open to public comment for 60 days, it seems likely that the salmon will be approved, though that could still be months away.

 

It is unclear why it took until now for it to be released, but supporters of the salmon say they believe it is because the Obama administration was afraid of an unfavorable consumer reaction before the election in November.

 

Environmental and consumer groups quickly criticized the federal agency’s conclusions.

 

“The G.E. salmon has no socially redeeming value,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group opposed to farm biotechnology, said in a statement. “It’s bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment. F.D.A.’s decision is premature and misguided.”

 

But the decision was long in coming. AquaBounty Technologies, the company that developed the salmon, has been trying to win approval for more than a decade.

 

The AquAdvantage salmon, as it is called, is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout, an eel-like creature. The switch keeps the gene on so that the salmon produces growth hormone year round, rather than only during warm weather. The fish reach market weight in about 18 months instead of three years.

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Australian Wind Energy Now Cheaper Than Coal And Gas

Australian Wind Energy Now Cheaper Than Coal And Gas | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Wind is now cheaper than fossil fuels in producing electricity in Australia, the world’s biggest coal exporter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at a cost of A$80 ($84) per megawatt hour, compared with A$143 a megawatt hour from a new coal-fired power plant or A$116 from a new station powered by natural gas when the cost of carbon emissions is included, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. Coal-fired power stations built in the 1970s and 1980s can still produce power at a lower cost than that of wind, the research shows.

 

Relying on fossil fuels to produce electricity is getting more expensive because of the government’s price on carbon emissions imposed last year, higher financing costs and rising natural gas prices, BNEF said. The cost of wind generation has fallen by 10 percent since 2011 on lower equipment expenses, while the cost of solar power has dropped by 29 percent.

 

“The fact that wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a country with some of the world’s best fossil fuel resources shows that clean energy is a game changer which promises to turn the economics of power systems on its head,” Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement today.

 

AGL Energy Ltd., Australia’s largest developer of renewable energy projects, said in November that it expected the A$1 billion ($1.03 billion) Macarthur wind farm in Victoria state to begin operating fully this month. AGL in October suspended the development of the first stage of its 1,000-megawatt Dalton gas- fired power station in New South Wales after reviewing the economic viability for several months.

 

Driven by hydro- and wind-power projects, renewable energy contributed 9.6 percent of Australia’s electricity production in 2011, up from 8.7 percent the prior year, according to the Clean Energy Council, an industry group.

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Wind power could generate all the world's electricity needs without large atmospheric disturbances

Wind power could generate all the world's electricity needs without large atmospheric disturbances | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

There is enough energy for people to reap from the wind to meet all of the world's power demands without radically altering the planet's climate, according to two independent teams of scientists.

 

Wind power is often touted as environmentally friendly, generating no pollutants. It is an increasingly popular source of renewable energy, with the United States aiming to produce 20 percent of its electricity by wind power by 2030. Still, there have been questions as to how much energy wind power can supply the world, and how green it actually is, given how it pulls energy from the atmosphere.

 

To learn more, climate scientist Katherine Marvel at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in Calif., and her colleagues developed a global climate model that analyzed how wind turbines would drag on the atmosphere to harvest energy from winds at the planet's surface and higher altitudes. Historically, people have built wind turbines on the ground and in the ocean, but research suggests kite-borne turbines could generate more power from steadier, faster high-altitude winds.

 

Adding wind turbines of any kind slows winds, and Marvel and her colleagues found that adding more than a certain amount of turbines would no longer generate more electricity. Still, their simulations suggest that at least 400 terawatts -- or 400 trillion watts of power -- could be generated from surface winds, and more than 1,800 terawatts could be extracted from winds throughout the atmosphere. In comparison, people globally currently use about 18 terawatts of power.

 

Simulating a century's worth of amped-up wind-energy production suggests that harvesting maximum power from these winds would have dramatic long-term effects on the climate, triggering major shifts in atmospheric circulation.

 
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Daniel LaLiberte's curator insight, August 10, 2013 12:12 PM

Since the maximum amount of wind energy is over 100 times all of our current energy needs, it is easy to see that enough wind turbines to satisfy our relatively small needs would have minimal impact on the environment. 

 

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Earth: The Virus Planet -- Earth's Invisible World Would Reach Out 100-Million Light Years

Earth: The Virus Planet -- Earth's Invisible World Would Reach Out 100-Million Light Years | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Viruses are by far the most abundant 'lifeforms' in the oceans and are the reservoir of most of the genetic diversity in the sea. The estimated 10E30 viruses in the ocean, if stretched end to end, would span farther than the nearest 60 galaxies. Every second, approximately 10E23 viral infections occur in the ocean. These infections are a major source of mortality, and cause disease in a range of organisms, from shrimp to whales. As a result, viruses influence the composition of marine communities and are a major force behind biogeochemical cycles. Each infection has the potential to introduce new genetic information into an organism or progeny virus, thereby driving the evolution of both host and viral assemblages. Probing this vast reservoir of genetic and biological diversity continues to yield exciting discoveries.

 

Over tens, hundreds and millions years, our ancestors have been picking up retroviruses (HIV is a retrovirus) that reproduce by taking their genetic material and inserting it into our own chromosomes. There are probably about 100,000 elements in the human genome that you can trace to a virus ancestor. They make up about 8 percent of our genome, and genes that encode proteins only make up 1.2 percent of our genome making us more virus than human.

 

Occasionally, a retrovirus will end up in a sperm cell or an egg and insert its genes there, which then may give rise to a new organism, a new animal, a new person where every cell in that body has got that virus.

 

Nature: http://tinyurl.com/abmjhtf

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Life found deep below Antarctic ice

Life found deep below Antarctic ice | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Cells containing DNA have emerged as the first evidence of life in a subglacial lake in West Antarctica. On January 28, a U.S. research team retrieved water from Lake Whillans, which sits 800 meters below the ice surface. The water hosted a surprising bounty of living cells.

The scientists collected three 10-liter water samples from the lake. Preliminary tests conducted in mobile labs show that the cells are actively using oxygen. It may take months for biologists to identify the microbes present.

 

The microbes have been sealed off below the ice for at least 100,000 years.

A challenge was ruling out contamination as a source of the cells, says microbiologist Brent Christner of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, reached by satellite phone at a tent encampment at the drill site. Even glacial ice harbors low concentrations of microbes, “or their corpses,” so the researchers were concerned that cells in the lake samples could actually have come from the ice, Christner says.  

 

Under hundreds of meters of ice lies Antarctica’s network of lakes and rivers. Three research teams have attempted to sample the subglacial lakes Ellsworth, Whillans and Vostok. 

 

He argues that the cells come from the lake. First, cell concentrations in water retrieved from the lake were on the order of 10,000 per milliliter, which is about 100 times higher than the cell count in meltwater from the drill hole. Second, that meltwater is roughly comparable chemically to distilled water. In contrast, mineral levels in the water from which Christner’s team isolated its cells are 100 times higher — equivalent to what’s present in the lake’s water.

 

“This is a big deal — and exciting,” says glaciologist Martin Siegert of the University of Bristol in England. The U.S. team’s drilling endeavor marks “the first clean access to a subglacial lake system.” Acquiring clean samples is imperative, he adds, to inspire confidence that any microbial finds truly come from the buried lakes.

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Microbes Survive and Maybe Even Thrive High in the Atmosphere

Microbes Survive and Maybe Even Thrive High in the Atmosphere | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Each year, hundreds of millions of metric tons of dust, water, and human-made pollutants make their way into the atmosphere, often traveling between continents on jet streams. Now a new study confirms that some microbes make the trip with them, seeding the skies with billions of bacteria and other organisms—and potentially affecting the weather. What's more, some of these high-flying organisms may actually be able to feed while traveling through the clouds, forming an active ecosystem high above the surface of the Earth.

 

The discovery came about when a team of scientists based at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta hitched a ride on nine NASA airplane flights aimed at studying hurricanes. Previous studies carried out at the tops of mountains hinted that researchers were likely to find microorganisms at high altitudes, but no one had ever attempted to catalog the microscopic life floating above the oceans—let alone during raging tropical storms. After all, it isn't easy to take air samples while your plane is flying through a hurricane.

 

Despite the technical challenges, the researchers managed to collect thousands upon thousands of airborne microorganisms floating in the troposphere about 10 kilometers over the Caribbean, as well as the continental United States and the coast of California. Studying their genes back on Earth, the scientists counted an average of 5100 bacterial cells per cubic meter of air. Although the researchers also captured various types of fungal cells, the bacteria were over two orders of magnitude more abundant in their samples. Well over 60% of all the microbes collected were still alive.

 

The researchers cataloged a total of 314 different families of bacteria in their samples. Because the type of genetic analysis they used didn't allow them to identify precise species, it's not clear if any of the bugs they found are pathogens. Still, the scientists offer the somewhat reassuring news that bacteria associated with human and animal feces only showed up in the air samples taken after Hurricanes Karl and Earl. In fact, these storms seemed to kick up a wide variety of microbes, especially from populated areas, that don't normally make it to the troposphere.

 

Although many of the organisms borne aloft are likely occasional visitors to the upper troposphere, 17 types of bacteria turned up in every sample. Researchers like environmental microbiologist and co-author Kostas Konstantinidis suspect that these microbes may have evolved to survive for weeks in the sky, perhaps as a way to travel from place to place and spread their genes across the globe. "Not everybody makes it up there," he says. "It's only a few that have something unique about their cells" that allows them survive the trip.

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Cities affect weather thousands of kilometres away

Cities affect weather thousands of kilometres away | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Heat from large cities alters local streams of high-altitude winds, potentially affecting weather in locations thousands of kilometres (miles) away. The findings could explain a long-running puzzle in climate change -- why some regions in the northern hemisphere are strangely experiencing warmer winters than computer models have forecast.

 

Cities generate vast amounts of waste heat, from cars, buildings and power stations, which burn oil, gas and coal for transport, heating or air conditioning. This phenomenon, known as the "urban heat island," has been known for years, but until now has mainly been thought to affect only city dwellers, especially in summer heatwaves.

 

But a team of scientists in the United States, using a computer model of the atmosphere, point to impacts that go much farther than expected. The high concentration of heat rises into jet-stream winds and widens their flow, transporting heat -- as much as one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) -- to places far away. The modelling sees autumn and winter warming across large parts of northern Canada and Alaska and in northern China.

 

The effect on global temperatures, though, is negligible, accounting for an average warming worldwide of just 0.01 C (0.02 F).

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NASA climate data indicates that the long-term global warming trend is continuing and no end in sight

NASA climate data indicates that the long-term global warming trend is continuing and no end in sight | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

New measurements by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies indicate that 2012 was the ninth warmest year since 1880, and that the past decade or so has seen some of the warmest years in the last 132 years.

 

One way to illustrate changes in global atmospheric temperatures is by looking at how far temperatures stray from “normal”, or a baseline. For the following map, NASA picked a baseline period using temperatures between 1951 and 1980, and compared temperature global temperature readings from 2012.

 

The average temperature in 2012 was about 14.6 degrees Celsius (58.3 degrees Fahrenheit), which is 0.55°C (1.0°F) warmer than the mid-20th century base period. The average global temperature has increased 0.8°C (1.4°F) since 1880, and most of that change has occurred in the past four decades.

 

The long-term trend is clearly represented by plotting temperature anomalies on the line graph, this time from 1880 onward. Even with natural variations due to seasons and other events, we see that average atmospheric temperatures are increasing from decade to decade, which agrees with results from climate models and simulations. And as expected, temperatures have increased as greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, methane, etc) emissions have increased from the U.S. Industrial Revolution in the late 19th Century onwards.

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CineversityTV's curator insight, February 19, 2013 4:18 PM

disinfo is also spread by corporate MSM to confuse the people. Its really happening if U believe it or not.

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Cotton with special coating collects totally pure water from desert fog

Cotton with special coating collects totally pure water from desert fog | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) researchers together with researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), have developed a special treatment for cotton fabric that allows the cotton to absorb exceptional amounts of water from misty air: 340% of its own weight. What makes this 'coated cotton' so interesting is that the cotton releases the collected water by itself, as it gets warmer. This property makes of the coated cotton materials a potential solution to provide water to the desert regions, for example for agricultural purposes. 

 

The researchers applied a coating of PNIPAAm, a polymer, to the cotton fabric. At lower temperatures, this cotton has a sponge-like structure at microscopic level. Up to a temperature of 34°C it is highly hydrophilic, in other words it absorbs water strongly. Through this property the cotton can absorb 340 % of its own weight of water from misty air – compared with only 18% without the PNIPAAm coating. Totally pure water In contrast, once the temperature raises the material becomes hydrophobic or water-repellant, and above 34°C the structure of the PNIPAAm-coated cotton is completely closed. When these high temperatures are reached the cotton has released all the absorbed water, which is totally pure. The research shows that this cycle can be repeated many times.

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Anna Roughton's curator insight, September 3, 2013 10:23 PM

Alternate Water Uses 

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The Worldwide Vulnerability of Forests

The Worldwide Vulnerability of Forests | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Many trees operate with only a narrow margin of safety when it comes to their water supply, so many of the world's important forest species are vulnerable to hydraulic failure.

 

A warming climate creates summertime water stress for trees like these mountain pines in Montana, making them more vulnerable to attack by beetles. The gray trees above died several years ago.


Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL
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Extreme Weather Map 2012 - 3,527 monthly weather records broken for heat, rain, and snow in the US

Extreme Weather Map 2012 - 3,527 monthly weather records broken for heat, rain, and snow in the US | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Climate change increases the risk of many types of record-breaking extreme weather events that threaten communities across the country. In 2012, there were 3,527 monthly weather records broken for heat, rain, and snow in the US, according to information from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).1 That's even more than the 3,251 records smashed in 2011—and some of the newly-broken records had stood for 30 years or more.

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Gerrit Bes's curator insight, January 16, 2013 4:40 AM

I think we see the same in Europe!

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Entrepreneur receives funding for 'tornado' power generator

Entrepreneur receives funding for 'tornado' power generator | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Electrical engineer and entrepreneur Louis Michaud's AVEtec company has received funding from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel's Breakout Labs program to build an experimental Atmosphere Vortex Engine (AVE). The $300,000 in startup funds is to go towards building a working engine to dispel or prove the viability of using such technology to produce electricity with virtually no carbon footprint.


Michaud's idea is to use a fan to blow some of the excess heat produced by conventional power plants, into a cylindrical hollow tower, at an angle. Doing so should create a circular air current, which he says will grow stronger as it moves higher. The higher it goes the more energy it draws due to differences in temperature. The result would be a controlled man-made tornado. To put it to good user, turbines would be installed at the base of the vortex to create electricity. The original test will be conducted at Lambton College in Ontario – the tower will be 131 feet tall with a 26 foot diameter. That should be enough to create a vortex about a foot in diameter – enough to power a small turbine. It's just a proof of concept, Michaud notes on his site, a real-world tower would be about 25 meters in diameter, and would be capable of producing up to 200 megawatts of power using only the excess heat generated by a conventional 500 megawatt plant. Power goes up geometrically, he says, as the size of tower grows. He adds that the cost of producing electricity this way would be about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, well below the typical 4 or 5 cents for coal plants.


Michaud has been investigating the idea of harnessing the power of tornado's to provide electricity for several decades but until now has had problems being taken seriously by venture capitalists. He adds that his company built and successfully tested an AVE prototype in 2009, hinting that he has no doubts that the new tower and turbines will work as advertised.

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Global resources stock check: Estimated remaining world supplies of non-renewable resources

Global resources stock check: Estimated remaining world supplies of non-renewable resources | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

As the world’s population soars, so does its consumption, and as a result we are stretching many of our natural resources to their limits.

 

Of course, the assumption is that human ingenuity and market forces will prevent supplies from running out: we could create better or cheaper extraction methods, recycle materials, find alternatives to non-renewable sources, or reduce consumption.

 

The hope is that talks at the Rio+20 Earth summit will help to steer the world economy on a more sustainable path. But the clock is already ticking, and if the unthinkable happens and we fail to correct current trends, then when can we expect our most valuable resources to run out?

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Daniel LaLiberte's curator insight, February 18, 2013 3:19 PM
Fortunately, the world's population is no longer soaring. The growth rate has been declining since 1980 and is projected to reach 0 in about 65 years. (see http://globalconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/world-population-is-stabilizing/) But nevertheless, once we reach Zero Footprint, it will no longer matter how many people we have. What *will* matter is how we manage resources responsibly, with 100% recycling of everything we use, using 100% renewable energy to power all of it. This is not only possible, but essential!
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ESA has indications that the ozone layer is on the road to recovery?

ESA has indications that the ozone layer is on the road to recovery? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
ESA Observing the Earth homepage, features the latest news on Earth observation missions and satellites, including ERS 1, ERS 2, Envisat, Metop, Meteosat and Living Planet.

 

Satellites show that the recent ozone hole over Antarctica was the smallest seen in the past decade. Long-term observations also reveal that Earth’s ozone has been strengthening following international agreements to protect this vital layer of the atmosphere.

 

According to the ozone sensor on Europe’s MetOp weather satellite, the hole over Antarctica in 2012 was the smallest in the last 10 years.

 

The instrument continues the long-term monitoring of atmospheric ozone started by its predecessors on the ERS-2 and Envisat satellites.

 

Since the beginning of the 1980s, an ozone hole has developed over Antarctica during the southern spring – September to November – resulting in a decrease in ozone concentration of up to 70%. Ozone depletion is more extreme in Antarctica than at the North Pole because high wind speeds cause a fast-rotating vortex of cold air, leading to extremely low temperatures. Under these conditions, human-made chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs – have a stronger effect on the ozone, depleting it and creating the infamous hole.

Over the Arctic, the effect is far less pronounced because the northern hemisphere’s irregular landmasses and mountains normally prevent the build-up of strong circumpolar winds.

 

To understand these complex processes better, scientists rely on a long time series of data derived from observations and on results from numerical simulations based on complex atmospheric models.

 

Although ozone has been observed over several decades with multiple instruments, combining the existing observations from many different sensors to produce consistent and homogeneous data suitable for scientific analysis is a difficult task.

 

Within the ESA Climate Change Initiative, harmonised ozone climate data records are generated to document the variability of ozone changes better at different scales in space and time.

 

With this information, scientists can better estimate the timing of the ozone layer recovery, and in particular the closure of the ozone hole.

 

Chemistry climate models show that the ozone layer may be building up, and the hole over Antarctica will close in the next decades.

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RichardXTyler's curator insight, May 13, 2013 3:10 PM

The natural cycle continues

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Ozone hole changes ocean flow and influences the way that waters in the southern oceans mix

Ozone hole changes ocean flow and influences the way that waters in the southern oceans mix | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The hole in the Antarctic ozone layer has caused changes in the way that waters in the southern oceans mix, an international study shows.

 

A team of scientists led by Professor Darryn Waugh ofJohns Hopkins University, has found that waters originating at the surface at sub-tropical latitudes is mixing into the deeper ocean at a much higher rate than it did 20 years ago, and the reverse is true for waters closer to Antarctica.


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More than 70 percent of all the the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the US is genetically modified

More than 70 percent of all the the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the US is genetically modified | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Last year's drought took a big bite out of the two most prodigious US crops, corn and soy. But it apparently didn't slow down the spread of weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), used on crops engineered by Monsanto to resist it. More than 70 percent of all the the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the US is now genetically modified to withstand glyphosate.

 

Back in 2011, such weeds were already spreading fast. "Monsanto's 'Superweeds' Gallop Through Midwest," declared the headline of a post I wrote then. What's the word you use when an already-galloping horse speeds up? Because that's what's happening. Let's try this: "Monsanto's 'Superweeds' Stampede Through Midwest."

 

That pretty much describes the situation last year, according to a new report from the agribusiness research consultancy Stratus. Since the 2010 growing season, the group has been polling "thousands of US farmers" across 31 states about herbicide resistance. Here's what they found in the 2012 season:

 

• Nearly half (49 percent) of all US farmers surveyed said they have glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34 percent of farmers in 2011.
• Resistance is still worst in the South. For example, 92 percent of growers in Georgia said they have glyphosate-resistant weeds.
• But the mid-South and Midwest states are catching up. From 2011 to 2012 the acres with resistance almost doubled in Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana.
• It's spreading at a faster pace each year: Total resistant acres increased by 25 percent in 2011 and 51 percent in 2012.
• And the problem is getting more complicated. More and more farms have at least two resistant species on their farm. In 2010 that was just 12 percent of farms, but two short years later 27 percent had more than one.

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Increase in Deadly Rains Linked to Climate Change, Study Finds

Increase in Deadly Rains Linked to Climate Change, Study Finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Recent extreme rains may have been intensified by the rising global average temperature.

 

Don’t let the drought in the U.S. fool you, intense rainfall around the world has been causing deadly floods in the past few years. Several have died in the current flooding in Queensland, Australia. In July 2012, the heaviest rain in decades left 37 dead in Beijing, China. More than 400 Pakistanis died in floods in September 2012. The now shriveled Mississippi River was a raging flood in 2011, killing 24 Americans in associated flash floods.

 

Recent extreme rains may have been intensified by the rising global average temperature, according to a recent study, which examined data from more than 8,000 weather stations around the planet. The study looked for correlations between atmospheric temperature and extreme rainfall between 1900 to 2009.

 

“The results are that rainfall extremes are increasing on average globally,” lead author Seth Westra of the University of Adelaide said in a press release. “They show that there is a 7% increase in extreme rainfall intensity for every degree increase in global atmospheric temperature.

 

“If extreme rainfall events continue to intensify, we can expect to see floods occurring more frequently around the world.

 

“Assuming an increase in global average temperature by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, this could mean very substantial increases in rainfall intensity as a result of climate change,” Westra said.

The majority of weather stations showed an increase in rainfall. The largest increase in rainfall occurred in tropical nations.

 

“Most of these tropical countries are very poor and thus not well placed to adapt to the increased risk of flooding, which puts them in a larger threat of devastation,” said Westra.

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Drinking water unexpectedly rich in microbial life when investigated with flow cytometry

Drinking water unexpectedly rich in microbial life when investigated with flow cytometry | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Flow cytometry (FCM) can now be officially used for the quantification of microbial cells in drinking water. The new analytical method – developed at Eawag and extensively tested both in Switzerland and abroad – has been incorporated into the Swiss Food Compendium (SLMB) by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). FCM provides much more realistic results than the conventional method, in which bacterial colonies are grown on agar plates. The results demonstrate that even good-quality drinking water harbours 100 to 10,000 times more living cells than the conventional plate count method would suggest.

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Scientists Take First Glimpse at Interior of an Antarctic Subglacial Lake

Scientists Take First Glimpse at Interior of an Antarctic Subglacial Lake | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have peered for the first time into the interior of a lake hidden beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Subglacial Lake Whillans, located less than 400 miles from the South Pole, had sat isolated under the ice for hundreds of thousands of years—perhaps up to a million years. But over the last week a team of ice drillers has used a jet of hot water to melt a narrow hole into the lake through 2,600 feet of ice.

 

Final confirmation that the lake had been reached unfolded inside a steel shipping container parked on the ice sheet on four massive skis. Seventeen people crowded into this mobile control room as a video camera was lowered into the borehole. All eyes were riveted to a computer monitor. A scene reminiscent of cosmic wormhole travel unfolded on it: the camera steered into the black void at the center of the screen; the smooth, round, undulating walls of ice-hole scrolled by on the edges.

 

Billowing clouds obscured the camera’s view in the lower reaches of the hole. Then, as the swirling silt settled, a fuzzy picture emerged: the camera lay on its side, its lens looking across a muddy brown bottom strewn with small rocks. Wisps of mud drifted above. The image, knitted in rows of grainy pixels, echoed the first pictures of the Martian surface, radioed back by the Viking lander almost 40 years ago.

 

The door of the control room opened and in stepped a woman covered head to ankle in a sterile white Tyvek suit—Jill Mikucki, a microbiologist from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who had helped lower the camera into the lake. Mikucki pointed her own little Canon at the image on the computer monitor and tried to snap a photo—“Oh,” she murmured, disappointed: the cold had killed her batteries. She paused. “It’s beautiful,” she said, forced to appreciate it in the moment—“really beautiful”—then she hurried out to help retrieve the camera.

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Ice core benchmark: Greenland was about 8 degrees warmer 130,000 years ago

Ice core benchmark: Greenland was about 8 degrees warmer 130,000 years ago | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Greenland was about eight degrees warmer 130,000 years ago than it is today, an analysis of an almost three-kilometer-long ice core in Greenland has revealed. It is important to understand what happened in Greenland during the Eemian period because the temperatures experienced then are "within the realms of where we are heading", says Etheridge.

 

However, he says the previous warming was due to the Earth receiving more of the Sun's radiation due to its orbit at the time, while today's warming is being driven by increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The study also shows sea levels were on average 6 meters higher.

 

The results provide "important benchmarks for future climate change projections" in temperature and the contribution of the two main ice sheets to sea level rises, Rubino says. He says the study also reveals the Greenland ice sheet did not melt as much as previously thought so was not the major contributor to sea level at that time. "It shows the major contribution to sea level rises was not coming from the Greenland ice shelf," he says. "It was previously believed that Greenland melted entirely during the Eemian, but in fact the ice sheet was not that much different from what it is now."

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Unusual sudden stratospheric warming event is bringing frigid cold to U.S. and parts of Europe

Unusual sudden stratospheric warming event is bringing frigid cold to U.S. and parts of Europe | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An unusual event playing out high in the atmosphere above the Arctic Circle is setting the stage for what could be weeks upon weeks of frigid cold across wide swaths of the U.S.

 

When the sudden stratospheric warming event began in early January, that signaled to weather forecasters that a cool down was more likely to occur by the end of the month, since it usually takes many days for developments in the stratosphere to affect weather in the troposphere, and vice versa. As the polar stratosphere warms, high pressure builds over the Arctic, causing the polar jet stream to weaken. At the same time, the midlatitude jet stream strengthens, while also becoming wavier, with deeper troughs and ridges corresponding to more intense storms and high pressure areas. In fact, sudden stratospheric warming events even make so-called “blocked” weather patterns more likely to occur, which tilts the odds in favor of the development of winter storms in the U.S. and Europe.

 

The graph shows the evolution of the stratospheric warming event. The contours show absolute heights and the shading are height anomalies in the middle stratosphere, or about 16 miles above the surface. The height anomalies are a good proxy for temperature anomalies in the stratosphere with red representing high heights or warm temperatures and blue low heights or cold temperatures. You can see at the beginning of the loop a cohesive polar vortex along the coast of Northern Eurasia and then this area of higher heights or warm temperaturs rush poleward from Siberia into the polar vortex splitting it into two pieces, one over Eurasia and one over North America. The dramatic rise in heights or temperatures over the Pole is the sudden stratospheric warming. The result is that pieces of the polar vortex move equatorward and with it the associated cold temperatures. Usually something similar occurs in the troposphere in the ensuing weeks.

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Toxic Algae Bloom Possibly Linked to Mass Squid Suicides

Toxic Algae Bloom Possibly Linked to Mass Squid Suicides | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A potent toxin in algal blooms may be causing drunken squid to fling themselves ashore to die.

 

Thousands of jumbo squid have beached themselves on central California shores this week, committing mass "suicide." But despite decades of study into the phenomenon in which the squid essentially fling themselves onto shore, the cause of these mass beachings have been a mystery.

 

But a few intriguing clues suggest poisonous algae that form so-called red tides may be intoxicating the Humboldt squidand causing the disoriented animals to swim ashore in Monterey Bay, said William Gilly, a marine biologist at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, California.

 

Each of the strandings has corresponded to a red tide, in which algae bloom and release an extremely potent brain toxin, Gilly said. This fall, the red tides have occurred every three weeks, around the same time as the squid beachings, he said.

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Effect of Global Warming: Plants Flower Nearly a Month Earlier Than They Did A Century Ago

Effect of Global Warming: Plants Flower Nearly a Month Earlier Than They Did A Century Ago | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Compared to extreme drought, blistering heat, massive wildfires and tropical cyclones, the latest indicator of climate change is unexpectedly attractive: early spring flowers. Unusually warm spring weather in 2010 and 2012 at a pair of notable sites in the eastern U.S. led to the earliest spring flowering times on record—earlier than any other time in the last 161 years.

 

The researchers involved, from Boston University, the University of Wisconsin and Harvard, examined the flowers at two sites well-known for their roles in the early environmental movement: Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau started keeping flowering records back in 1852, and Dane County, Wisc., where Aldo Leopold first recorded flowering data in 1935.

 

“We were amazed that wildflowers in Concord flowered almost a month earlier in 2012 than they did in Thoreau’s time or any other recent year, and it turns out the same phenomenon was happening in Wisconsin where Aldo Leopold was recording flowering times,” lead author Elizabeth Ellwood of Boston University said in a statement. “Our data shows that plants keep shifting their flowering times ever earlier as the climate continues to warm.”

 

In Massachusetts, the team studied 32 native spring flowering plant species—such as wild columbine, marsh marigold and pink lady slipper—for which average flowering dates had been fairly well-documented between Thoreau’s time and our own. They found that the plants’ flowering dates had steadily moved earlier as temperatures increased—Thoreau saw them flower on May 15, while they flowered on April 25 and 24 in 2010 and 2012, respectively. In the two years studied, 27 of the 32 species had their earliest flowering date ever.

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Global warming has increased monthly heat records by a factor of five

Global warming has increased monthly heat records by a factor of five | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

“The last decade brought unprecedented heat waves; for instance in the US in 2012, in Russia in 2010, in Australia in 2009, and in Europe in 2003,” lead-author Dim Coumou says. “Heat extremes are causing many deaths, major forest fires, and harvest losses – societies and ecosystems are not adapted to ever new record-breaking temperatures.” The new study relies on 131 years of monthly temperature data for more than 12.000 grid points around the world, provided by NASA. Comprehensive analysis reveals the increase in records.

 

The researchers developed a robust statistical model that explains the surge in the number of records to be a consequence of the long-term global warming trend. That surge has been particularly steep over the last 40 years, due to a steep global-warming trend over this period. Superimposed on this long-term rise, the data show the effect of natural variability, with especially high numbers of heat records during years with El Niño events. This natural variability, however, does not explain the overall development of record events, found the researchers.

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