Environment

Locusts in Sardinia

Locusts are devouring crops across the Italian island of Sardinia in the worst such invasion seen there in 70 years.

While the ravenous insects are often seen on the Mediterranean island during the summer, farmers say they are now greater in number than at any time since World War II because of extreme weather swings during the past two years.

“We had droughts in 2017 and a lot of rain in 2018, the ideal climate for locusts to emerge from fallow land and then move to cultivated fields to eat,” Michele Arbau from the agricultural association Coldiretti Sardinia told Reuters.

Heat and Dust in India

A searing heat wave across India that brought Delhi its hottest ever temperature of 118 degrees F. has killed dozens of people and severely affected wildlife.

Officials say as many as 36 people have perished in the heat so far this year.

At least one troop of monkeys died from suspected heatstroke, or from violent conflicts with other monkeys over dwindling water supplies. Similar deadly conflicts among the human population have also been reported.

Tigers that are dying from thirst in parched forests have been observed moving into communities in search of water.

Environment

Philippines returns waste to Canada

cargo ship carrying tonnes of rubbish dumped in the Philippines by Canada more than five years ago, has left the Southeast Asian country, as nations in the region increasingly reject serving as dumpsites for wealthier states.

The 69 shipping containers of rotting waste were loaded onto the M/V Bavaria at Subic Bay port in the early hours of Friday, before embarking on a 20-day journey to Vancouver, in southwestern Canada.

The waste was transported to the Philippines in 103 containers in 2013 to 2014, and falsely declared as recyclable plastic scraps. Several containers of the rubbish had been disposed of, including in a landfill, leaving 69 containers of electrical and household waste, including used diapers, rotting in two Philippine ports.

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Environment

Drought – Alaska

The wettest part of Alaska is currently experiencing something unusual: extreme drought. Last week, the region, which has been experiencing drought conditions for almost two years, was upgraded by the United States Drought Monitor to a D3—meaning extreme drought, the second-highest level of drought severity measured by the United States Drought Monitor. The affected areas include the southernmost region of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell, and Metlakatla.

Environment

Nuclear Testing Legacy

Cracks in a dome built over a crater left by a 1958 nuclear blast in the Marshall Islands may now be leaking radioactive contamination around Enewetak Atoll.

The Runit dome was built by the United States in 1977, designed to also contain radioactive debris from other nuclear tests in the Pacific between 1946 and 1958. But the new cracks and rising sea levels threaten to inundate the atomic dump, further contaminating the Pacific atoll.

Some of the Enewetak residents evacuated before the blast were finally allowed to return in 1980 after the dome was completed and the Marshall Islands government accepted the U.S. cleanup efforts as final.

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Environment

Heatwave in India

Almost half of India has been put on heatwave alert, with at least 500 people being reported to have died in the heatwave sweeping India, with temperatures reaching 48C (118F) in some areas. Most deaths have taken place in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where more than 140 people have died since Saturday.

Environment

Scientists Went to One of the World’s Most Remote Island Atolls. They Found 414 Million Pieces of Plastic

The amount of plastic pollution previously thought to exist around the world may be a dramatic underestimate — because the vast majority of plastic pollution may actually be below the surface.

That’s the takeaway from a survey of plastic pollution on the beaches of Australia’s Cocos Islands, made up of two coral atolls.

An estimated 414 million pieces of debris are now littering the remote islands, and the vast majority of that waste is buried below the surface, according to a new study. But even that is likely an underestimate, a group of researchers reported May 16 in the journal Scientific Reports.

What’s more, because most of this plastic is buried below the surface, and most global surveys don’t look below the surface, the amount of plastic pollution worldwide may be way more than we previously thought, they reported.

The scientists surveyed seven of the 27 islands, which made up 88 percent of the total landmass of the islands, and estimated that they were littered with 262 tons (238 metric tons) of plastic. A quarter of those pieces of debris were single-use or disposable items such as straws, bags and toothbrushes (about 373,000 of them), The researchers also identified some 977,000 shoes.

Roughly 93% of the debris found, most of it tiny micro-debris, was actually buried below the surface. But because they only dug 3.94 inches (10 centimeters) into the sand, and couldn’t access some beaches that are known to have a lot of debris, these numbers are likely conservative.

The amount of debris buried up to about 4 inches (10 cm) below the surface of the beach is 26 times higher than the amount visible on its surface, the researchers wrote.

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Environment

Heavy metals and harmful chemicals ‘poison Europe’s seas’

Heavy metals and a cocktail of dangerous chemicals continue to poison Europe’s seas, with more than three-quarters of areas assessed showing contamination, according to a report.

The sea worst affected was the Baltic, where 96% of the assessed areas showed problematic levels of some harmful substances, according to the European Environment Agency. Similar problems were found in 91% of the Black Sea and 87% of the Mediterranean. In the north-east Atlantic, unsafe levels of chemicals or metals were found in 75% of assessed areas.

However, in most areas the situation was improving, as many of the toxic substances that have washed into the seas – such as the pesticide DDT and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – are now subject to bans or severe restrictions. The improvement in the breeding success of the white-tailed sea eagle in the Baltic, for instance, is attributed to the decline in DDT. A continuing problem is with flame-retardant chemicals, which are still used and still found in waterways, and DDT from Africa is still leaching into the Mediterranean.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Ancient tree discovered in North Carolina Swamp (USA)

According to a new study published today (May 9) in the journal Environmental Research Communications, scientists studying tree rings in North Carolina’s Black River swampland have discovered a bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) that’s at least 2,624 years old, making it one of the oldest non-clonal, sexually reproducing trees in the world. (Clonal trees, which are vast colonies of genetically identical plants that grow from a single ancestor, can live for tens of thousands of years.)

How old is 2,624 years, really? To borrow an analogy from the Charlotte Observer, that age makes this tree older than Christianity, the Roman Empire and the English language.

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Environment

A Single Thundercloud Carries 1 Billion Volts of Electricity

Using an array of sensors designed to measure electric fields and the intensity of muons — heavy particles that constantly rain down from Earth’s upper atmosphere, decaying as they pass through matter — the team measured the voltage of a large thundercloud that rolled over Ooty, a town in India, for 18 minutes on Dec. 1, 2014. The researchers found that, on average, the cloud was charged with about 1.3 gigavolts of electricity, which is 1.3 times 10^9 volts — roughly 10 million times more voltage than is supplied by a typical power outlet in North America.

Armed with this knowledge, the researchers were finally able to calculate that the thunderstorm carried about 2 gigawatts of power, making this single cloud more powerful than the most powerful nuclear power plants in the world.

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Environment

Vanishing Forests

Forests around the world shrank by 30 million acres last year as human activity and wildfires brought about the fourth-largest amount of deforestation on record.

Most of the losses were the result of expanding agriculture and humankind’s other expanding footprints on the landscape, according to data compiled by the World Resources Institute.

A number of the deforestation hot spots were near the homes of indigenous people around the Amazon, many of whom had previously been unaffected by deforestation.

The institute says that forest loss was 30% greater in 2018 than the average from 2011 to 2017. It points out that the loss of pristine forest cover is only making climate change worse since the larger and older trees store carbon more efficiently.

Environment

Trump’s Alaska drilling study slammed

The Trump administration failed to adequately consider oil spills, climate change and the welfare of polar bears in its expedited study of proposed drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to comments published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The unusually harsh criticism from federal wildlife regulators could deal a blow to one of the most high-profile items in President Donald Trump’s energy agenda, and reflects the pitfalls of the administration’s drive to speed up big projects with quicker, shorter environmental studies.

The Interior Department wants to hold its first lease sale of at least 400,000 acres (160,000 hectares) in ANWR, America’s largest wildlife sanctuary, later this year, but could face lawsuits if its permitting process is flawed.

Caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska: 

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Environment

Extent of Plastic Pollution in Durban, South Africa after Floods – Images

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Global Pollutants

Researchers using chemical-sampling wristbands have found that people on three continents are being contaminated by more than a dozen of the same environmental pollutants.

None of the wristbands returned from volunteers in the United States, Africa and South America had identical chemical exposures, but more than half had picked up the same 14 chemicals.

“Whether you are a farmworker in Senegal or a preschooler in Oregon, you might be exposed to those same 14 chemicals,” said lead researcher and environmental chemist Holly Dixon of Oregon State University.

She said some of the detected chemicals “weren’t on our radar, yet they represent an enormous exposure.”

Environment

Up to 1 Million Species Are at Risk of Extinction

Up to 1 million species are at risk of extinction due to human activity, according to a draft of a U.N. report set to be released on May 6. Preliminary conclusions from the report were obtained by the French news agency AFP.

Human activity, such as overconsumption, illegal poaching, deforestation and fossil fuel emissions, are pushing ecosystems toward a point of no return. A quarter of known plant and animal species are already threatened — and the loss of species is tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years.

Nature is buckling under the pressure, losing clean air, potable water, pristine forests, pollinating insects, fish populations, and storm-buffering mangroves.

What’s more, three-quarters of the land, almost half of marine environments and half of inland waterways have been “severely” changed by human activity, according to the report. These changes will harm humans, especially indigenous groups and those living in the poorest communities.

One-hundred and thirty nations will meet in Paris on April 29 to examine the 44-page report that summarizes a 1,800-page assessment of scientific literature conducted by the U.N.

Environment

Deforestation in Peru

Years of deforestation in Peru are visible from space, tracked in a new animation created from NASA satellite views. And the forest loss is escalating at an alarming rate.

The image series was captured by satellites Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 from 2013 to 2018. Shared on April 19 by NASA Earth Observatory, the animated sequence reveals devastating depletion in the forests of southeastern Peru’s Madre de Dios region, covering approximately 1,350 square miles (3,500 square kilometers).

Madre de Dios rests near the Amazon basin and is a biodiversity hotspot, home to species that live nowhere else on Earth. But with deforestation on the rise, plants and animals that are endemic to the region face an uncertain future.

Environment

Cool Roofs

A new study finds that making rooftops a light-reflective colour can reduce heat-related deaths and cool peak daytime temperatures by more than 3 degrees Celsius during heat waves.

Cities store more heat than the surrounding countryside due to the urban heat island effect. This makes cities more susceptible to the increasing number and intensity of heat waves under global warming.

New modelling by the University of Oxford found that introducing cool roofs across a city could prevent about a quarter of heat wave-related deaths and cut the need for air conditioning.