Environment

Fly Relief

The misery that cows suffer from biting flies could be greatly reduced, thanks to a novel paint job for the animals devised by a team of Japanese researchers.

They found that by painting white stripes on cows, similar to those on zebras, the number of flies landing on the cows fell by more than 50 percent.

Flies seem to avoid landing on black-and-white surfaces due to the difference in the polarization of light reflecting off the two shades, which confuses the flies.

Writing in the journal PLOS One, scientists say fewer flies on the striped cows led to a sharp decline in the fly-defense movements made by the bovines, such as stomping of the feet and flipping of the head.

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Oil Spill – Brazil

Brazilian officials are pointing their fingers at Venezuela for a massive oil spill that has polluted hundreds of miles of beaches in nine northeastern states during the past few weeks.

The spill has killed numerous sea turtles and kept swimmers and fishermen from the contaminated coastal strip.

Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said the spill appears to have come from Venezuela, and that more than 110 tons of oil have been recovered.

“It could be something criminal, it could be an accidental spill, it could also be a ship that sank,” said Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro.

Global Warming

Mediterranean Warming

A new report, whose main conclusions are being presented on Thursday in Barcelona by the Mediterranean Institute of Biodiversity and Ecology, shows that the temperature increase in the Mediterranean region has already reached 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, which means that the warming effect in this area is 20% faster than the global average.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees Celsius) in Rafha, Saudi Arabia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 92.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 68.9 degrees Celsius) at Concordia, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Ozone Changes

The hole in stratospheric ozone that develops over Antarctica as the frozen continent emerges from winter is now acting in ways never before observed.

Scientists at Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service say the hole is not only about half as large as normally seen in September, but it has been off-center and far from the South Pole.

They point to a sudden and significant warming of the stratosphere over Antarctica during the month. This appears to have destabilized the process in which ozone has been destroyed since the now-banned chlorofluorocarbons began causing the ozone hole during the 1960s and 1970s.

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Environment

Demand for charcoal threatens Madagascar’s forests

In the southwestern part of the country, charcoal is everywhere: sold on the side of major roads as well as next to coffee shops in remote villages. At about $1 for a sack the size of a large garbage bag, it is cheap even by Malagasy standards. But charcoal comes with a high environmental price that has to be paid by somebody.

Firewood, while not without its own environmental costs, typically entails collecting branches that are already dead and fallen. But to make charcoal people cut down living trees. They then burn the wood in a low-oxygen environment inside a kiln to turn it into nearly pure carbon that burns hotter, weighs less and lasts much longer than firewood — hence its popularity.

At least 15,000 hectares (37,100 acres) of dry forest located to the north and south of Toliara, the closest major city to Mikea Forest, are razed each year for fuelwood, according to the NGO World Wide Fund for Nature Madagascar. Much of this logging is done illegally.

Looking at 323,000 hectares of forest that includes Mikea National Park, the forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch reports that approximately 37,000 hectares (91,400 acres) of tree cover was lost between 2001 and 2018 — nearly 11.5 percent of the total area.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49.4 degrees Celsius) in Rafha, Saudi Arabia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 93.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 69.4 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Human CO2 Emissions Greatly Outstrip Natural Sources

Human activity churns out up to 100 times more planet-warming carbon each year as all the volcanoes on Earth, says a decade-long study released on Tuesday.

The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a 500-strong international team of scientists, released a series of papers outlining how carbon is stored, emitted and reabsorbed by natural and manmade processes.

They found that manmade carbon dioxide emissions drastically outstrip the contribution of volcanoes – which belch out gas and are often fingered as a major climate change contributor – to current warming rates.

The findings, published in the journal Elements, showed just two-tenths of 1% of Earth’s total carbon – around 43 500 gigatonnes – is above the surface in oceans, the land, and in our atmosphere.

The rest – a staggering 1.85 billion gigatonnes – is stored in our planet’s crust, mantle and core, providing scientists with clues as to how Earth formed billions of years ago. One gigatonne is equivalent to around 3 million Boeing 747s.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) in Basrah, Iraq.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 99.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 72.7 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Landmark UN report warns sea levels will rise faster than projected

Cities from New York to Shanghai could see regular flooding, as sea levels rise faster than previously thought.

Glaciers and ice sheets from the Himalayas to Antarctica are rapidly melting.

And the fisheries that feed millions of people are shrinking.

These are just some of the impacts that emissions of greenhouse gases have already triggered across the planet’s oceans and frozen regions, according to a new landmark report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This new report paints a full and alarming picture of the rapid thawing happening in frozen regions all across the globe — and how the changes will dramatically alter human civilization in the coming decades.

The findings show that the planet’s warming is accelerating melting in glaciers and ice sheets from Greenland to Antarctica, and that sea levels will likely rise more than previously projected by the end of this century.

Of the major ice sheets, Greenland’s — which has the potential to raise sea levels around 20 feet — is melting the fastest, and lost more than 275 gigatons on average per year between 2006 and 2015. But the even larger Antarctic ice sheet is also shrinking, and its mass loss tripled between 2007 and 2016 compared to the previous ten years.

Even if collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet is not imminent, the report says that many of the 680 million people around the world living in low-lying coastal areas will experience annual flooding events by 2050 that used to occur only once a century.

Global Warming

Mayhem as sea ice melts in heating world – Bering Strait

In the Bering Strait region, where a narrow passage separates Alaska from Russia and links the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific, the sea ice is long gone and mayhem has taken hold in the marine environment.

The most striking signs are on the shorelines, which have been littered with dead animals ranging from tiny shellfish to giant whales.

The toll of discovered dead animals as of mid-July: 137 ice-dependent seals and five gray whales, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); dozens of walruses, piles of bird carcasses — marking what has become the latest in five consecutive years of bird die-offs in the region; carcasses of salmon that never got the chance to spawn clogging rivers and streams; and in some spots, stretches of dead blue mussels and krill have coated beaches.

Sometimes animals are found alive, but only barely so. A walrus found in June near Solomon, a village 30 miles east of Nome, was so thin that its ribs were visible and so weak its head was down on the ground, according to a local report. “It was having trouble keeping its head out of the mud,” said the report filed with the Local Environmental Observer network operated by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Extreme warmth that, this summer, brought air temperatures in places to the high 80s and even low 90s Fahrenheit (or into the 30s Celsius) and cooked marine waters.

Freeze-up that used to come in fall is now delayed to mid-winter and the ice that forms is thin. That thinner ice melts earlier, exposing open waters that absorb more of the sun’s heat. That means water temperatures soar, freeze-up is again delayed, the late-forming winter ice is again thin, melt is early, and so on.

When there is little or no ice, seals and walruses cannot find platforms to rest in between food-foraging dives and during key life events like birth and nursing of young. More light penetrates the water, boosting phytoplankton blooms and upsetting a prior balance, benefitting fish and pelagic species in the upper reaches of the ocean water but reducing the amount of nutrition that drifts down to the deep-dwelling benthic species like tiny amphipods, clams, crabs and snails that are crucial to the marine-mammal food web.

The absence of a winter freeze also means lack of the usual “cold pool” of ultra-salty, super-chilled water that normally serves as an underwater barrier separating the high-fat, nutrition-dense species in the northern Bering Sea from the lower-fat species that live in the southern part of the sea.

There is another possible heat-related explanation for the die-offs: lack of the high-quality, high-fat food in the environment. As water temperatures rise, the lower-fat species more typical of the southern Bering Sea are moving north, taking over the higher-fat northern species’ territory.

Among the newcomers is Pacific cod, a staple of people’s diets for millennia in southern Alaska and marine predators so voracious they are known to eat seabirds. To the south, in the heated-up Gulf of Alaska, cod have become scarce, a severe blow to commercial fishermen and fishing-dependent communities; harvest quotas were slashed so deeply that the state sought a fisheries disaster declaration from the federal government. Now it appears that cod populations have swum north, swarming Norton Sound, a waterbody famous for its harvests of succulent king crab.

The wildlife in the region are unable to adequately deal with changes and interruptions in their traditional food chains and poisoning from the toxins released by increasingly prevalent algal blooms.

Global Warming

Climate Change Protests

Millions of people around the world walked out of their schools and workplaces Friday to demand urgent action on climate change. The global climate strikes, which are taking place in more than 150 countries, were scheduled ahead of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly and the Climate Action Summit on September 23.

Global Warming

Hottest Summer

A full 90 percent of the world’s population just experienced the hottest summer on record, according to the U.S. agency NOAA.

While it was the second-hottest on record worldwide, most people live in the Northern Hemisphere, where records say it was a tie with 2016 as the hottest meteorological summer.

• French researchers say that mounting atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels is warming the Earth’s surface more quickly than earlier predicted.

New models that will replace those used for the current U.N. global warming predictions point to an atmosphere up to 2 degrees Celsius hotter than the 2014 U.N. report had warned.

Environment

Nuclear Waste Flush

Japan’s power company is running out of storage for the radioactive water held in tanks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant and will have to start dumping it into the Pacific.

Since the 2011 meltdowns, brought on by an offshore temblor and subsequent tsunami, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has collected more than 1 million tons of contaminated water from the cooling pipes that keep the remaining reactors from melting.

“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada told a news conference in Tokyo.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.9 degrees Celsius) in Basra, Iraq.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 106.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 76.7 degrees Celsius) at Concordia, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Researchers forecast more intensified global warming

The latest climate forecasts made by several French scientific bodies reveal a rather alarming situation: current forecasts are a little too optimistic in relation to the reality of global warming.

According to models from the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute (IPSL) and France’s National Meteorological Research Centre, our planet, in the worst-case scenario, could warm up to 6 or even 7°C by 2100.

However, at best, the situation is also alarming. If the planet achieves carbon neutrality by 2060, which is far from certain, then global warming will reach 1.9°C, as opposed to less than 1.5°C.

In an intermediate scenario, where the planet would reach carbon neutrality by 2080, the increase would be 2.6°C.

In the scientific community, the 1.5°C target appears increasingly unattainable. And climatologists are now increasingly reluctant to mention a “business as usual” scenario, simply because it no longer exists.