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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Canada's tundra is turning green and its Boreal forest brown, NASA study finds

Canada's tundra is turning green and its Boreal forest brown, NASA study finds | Amazing Science |

Using NASA's Landsat satellites, researchers conducted the most precise study yet on vegetation growth trends across North America.


In the most precise study yet on vegetation growth trends across North America, researchers from America’s space agency have found that nearly a third of the land cover in Canada and Alaska has greened in recent decades as a result of climate change.

The researchers also found that, while vegetation productivity is on the rise in the tundra regions of the continent, warming temperatures might be having the opposite effect on the Boreal forest, which showed some signs of browning. Overall, three per cent of the land experienced vegetation decline.


The researchers used data from NASA’s Landsat satellites between 1984 and 2012 in order to trace wide-scale changes over the 10.6 million sq-km landscape. Areas characterized by growth – where grasslands became shrublands, or where existing shrublands became bigger and denser – were classified as greening, while those where vegetation declined were classified as browning.


Scott Goetz, deputy director and senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, said the study shows “a clear distinction” between what’s happening in the tundra and Boreal regions of Canada and Alaska.

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Most compelling climate change visualization

Most compelling climate change visualization | Amazing Science |
Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, devised the spiral animation to show how global average surface temperatures are increasing relative to the average temperature during preindustrial times.
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Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Fragments of Science!

An enzyme enigma discovered in the abyss

An enzyme enigma discovered in the abyss | Amazing Science |
Scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Newcastle have uncovered the secret of the 'Mona Lisa of chemical reactions' -- in a bacterium that lives at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
It is hoped the discovery could lead to the development of new antibiotics and other medical treatments.


The Diels-Alder reaction, discovered by Nobel Prize-wining chemists Otto Diels and Kurt Alder, is one of the most powerful chemical reactions known, and is used extensively by synthetic chemists to produce many important molecules, including antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs and agrochemicals. However, there has been much debate and controversy about whether nature uses the reaction to produce its own useful molecules. If it does, the identity of the biological catalysts (enzymes) responsible for performing this reaction have remained a mystery until now.


Some candidate natural 'Diels-Alderases' have been identified, but these have either been shown not to perform the reaction, or the evidence that they catalyze a Diels-Alder reaction is ambiguous.


Now, researchers at BrisSynBio, a BBSRC/EPSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Bristol and the School of Biology at Newcastle University have conclusively shown that a true 'Diels-Alderase' (Diels-Alder enzyme) exists. They have also established in atomic detail how it catalyses the reaction.


Dr Paul Race, from BrisSynBio, said: "We found the enzyme, called AbyU, in a bacterium calledVerrucosispora maris (V. maris), which lives on the Pacific seabed. V. maris uses the AbyU enzyme to biosynthesise a molecule called abyssomicin C, which has potent antibiotic properties."


To establish the details of how the AbyU enzyme catalyses the Diels-Alder reaction, the team first had to solve the atomic structure of AbyU, and then simulate the enzyme reaction using quantum mechanics methods.


Dr Race said: "Once we had figured out how AbyU was able to make natural antibiotic, we were able to show that it could also perform the Diels-Alder reaction on other molecules that are difficult to transform using synthetic chemistry."

Via Mariaschnee
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Sea Level Rise Swallows 5 Whole Pacific Islands

Sea Level Rise Swallows 5 Whole Pacific Islands | Amazing Science |
Evidence confirms dramatic climate change effects in the Solomon Islands


Sea-level rise, erosion and coastal flooding are some of the greatest challenges facing humanity from climate change. Recently at least five reef islands in the remote Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and a further six islands have been severely eroded.


These islands lost to the sea range in size from one to five hectares. They supported dense tropical vegetation that was at least 300 years old. Nuatambu Island, home to 25 families, has lost more than half of its habitable area, with 11 houses washed into the sea since 2011.


This is the first scientific evidence, published in Environmental Research Letters, that confirms the numerous anecdotal accounts from across the Pacific of the dramatic impacts of climate change on coastlines and people.

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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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How many species are we losing?

How many species are we losing? | Amazing Science |

How many species are we losing? Nobody really knows the right number. Just to illustrate the degree of biodiversity loss we're facing, let’s take you through one scientific analysis:


  • The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than thenatural extinction rate.*
  • These experts calculate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year.
  • If the low estimate of the number of species out there is true - i.e. that there are around 2 million different species on our planet** -  then that means between 200 and 2,000 extinctions occur every year.
  • But if the upper estimate of species numbers is true - that there are 100 million different species co-existing with us on our planet - then between 10,000 and 100,000 species are becoming extinct each year.

*Experts actually call this natural extinction rate the background extinction rate. This simply means the rate of species extinctions that would occur if we humans were not around.

** Between 1.4 and 1.8 million species have already been scientifically identified. 

Unlike the mass extinction events of geological history, the current extinction challenge is one for which a single species - ours - appears to be almost wholly responsible.

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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 and 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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In changing oceans, cephalopods are booming

In changing oceans, cephalopods are booming | Amazing Science |
Humans have changed the world's oceans in ways that have been devastating to many marine species. But, according to new evidence, it appears that the change has so far been good for cephalopods, the group including octopuses, cuttlefish, and squid. The study reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 23 shows that cephalopods' numbers have increased significantly over the last six decades.


"The consistency was the biggest surprise," says Zoë Doubleday of Australia's Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide. "Cephalopods are notoriously variable, and population abundance can fluctuate wildly, both within and among species. The fact that we observed consistent, long-term increases in three diverse groups of cephalopods, which inhabit everything from rock pools to open oceans, is remarkable."


According to the researchers, there has been growing speculation that cephalopod populations were proliferating in response to a changing environment, based partly on trends in cephalopod fisheries. Cephalopods are known for rapid growth, short lifespans, and extra-sensitive physiologies, which may allow them to adapt more quickly than many other marine species.


To investigate long-term trends in cephalopod abundance, Doubleday and her colleagues assembled global time series of cephalopod catch rates (catch per unit of fishing or sampling effort) from 1953 to 2013. The study included 35 cephalopod species or genera representing six families. The data show that cephalopods, of many different types living all over the world, are on the rise.


The ecological and socio-economic ramifications associated with this increase in cephalopods are much less clear and are likely to be complex, according to the researchers.

"Cephalopods are voracious and adaptable predators and increased predation by cephalopods could impact many prey species, including commercially valuable fish and invertebrates," they write. "Conversely, increases in cephalopod populations could benefit marine predators which are reliant on them for food, as well as human communities reliant on them as a fisheries resource."


What may happen to cephalopod populations in the future is difficult to predict, particularly if fishing pressure continues to increase. Doubleday says that they are now investigating the factors responsible for cephalopods' proliferation.

"It is a difficult, but important, question to answer, as it may tell us an even bigger story about how human activities are changing the ocean," she says.

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One in five of world's plant species at risk of extinction

One in five of world's plant species at risk of extinction | Amazing Science |

One in five of the world’s plant species is threatened with extinction, according to the first global assessment of flora, putting supplies of food and medicines at risk.

But the report also found that 2,000 new species of plant are discovered every year, raising hopes of new sources of food that are resilient to disease and climate change. New finds in 2015 included a giant insect-eating plant first spotted on Facebook and a 100-tonne tree hidden in an African forest.


The State of the World’s Plants report, by experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, reveals that there are currently 390,000 species of known plants, with more than 30,000 used by people. However, more than 5,000 species have invaded foreign countries and are causing billions of dollars of damage every year.


“Plants are absolutely fundamental to humankind,” said Prof Kathy Willis, director of science at Kew, who led the new report. “Plants provide us with everything - food, fuel, medicines, timber and they are incredibly important for our climate regulation. Without plants we would not be here. We are facing some devastating realities if we do not take stock and re-examine our priorities and efforts.”


The report is the first of what will be an annual benchmark analysis to set out what is known - and not known - about plants and highlight critical issues and how they can be tackled. “I am reasonably optimistic,” said Willis. “Once you know [about a problem], you can do something about it. The biggest problem is not knowing.”

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Aerofarm has built the world's largest vertical farm

Aerofarm has built the world's largest vertical farm | Amazing Science |

AeroFarms' headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, is a former steel factory that's been converted into the world's largest vertical farm. Throughout the 6,410m2 of growing space, plant beds are stacked on top of each other in 12 layers between floor and ceiling. LEDs provide lighting and the roots of leafy greens, herbs and salads are kept nourished using an "aeroponic" mist claimed to use 95 per cent less water than outdoor agriculture.


"This is game-changing in terms of productivity," explains Marc Oshima, AeroFarms' co-founder. "We can take the same seed that might take 30-35 days to grow outside, and it will have a 12-16 day crop cycle in our system, so we can have 20 crop cycles a year." 


AeroFarms' agricultural optimisation relies on algorithms that continually monitor nutrients and lighting at different points in the plants' growth cycles. By optimising light wavelengths and the nutrient-filled mist, operators can endow plants with different tastes, textures, colours and yield. "For example, we can make watercress spicier and lettuce sweeter," he says.


“Our mission is to build farms in cities all over the world,” Rosenberg recently told The Huffington Post. “We are very much building the infrastructure not to build one, two or three farms but to build 20, 30 or 50 farms.”


Indoors farming has long been touted as a way to address two major problems. The first is macro-level and lofty: How will we, the Earth’s 7.4 billion (and counting) humans, go about feeding ourselves in a changing world? The second is more immediate: How do you get fresh, healthy produce to people in urban food deserts, where diet-related conditions like diabetes and obesity run rampant?


The answers to those questions could be a gold mine. By 2050, the world’s population is projected to rise to between 9 billion and 10 billion people. Those numbers, coupled with income growth across the world, could result in more than a 70 percent increase in demand for food by that year, according to a report by the World Bank. Making matters worse, the unpredictable and increasingly extreme weather, droughts and flooding that come of climate change are expected to grow more intense in the coming decades, as greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm the planet.


The flagship facility, in partnership with RBH, Prudential and Goldman Sachs, will be able to produce 900,000kg of vegetables -- which will be distributed to local buyers -- annually when it reaches full capacity, predicted for midway through 2016.

Zhenchuan Ma's comment, May 11, 9:09 PM
Very good! It's the direction of future farm.
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Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa

Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa | Amazing Science |

The number of climate refugees could increase dramatically in future. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have calculated that the Middle East and North Africa could become so hot that human habitability is compromised. The goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, agreed at the recent UN climate summit in Paris, will not be sufficient to prevent this scenario. The temperature during summer in the already very hot Middle East and North Africa will increase more than two times faster compared to the average global warming. This means that during hot days temperatures south of the Mediterranean will reach around 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit) by mid-century. Such extremely hot days will occur five times more often than was the case at the turn of the millennium. In combination with increasing air pollution by windblown desert dust, the environmental conditions could become intolerable and may force people to migrate.

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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.
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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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