Top Stories

NASA Satellite Images Reveal Dramatic Increase in Air Pollution Over China

NASA's Terra satellite acquired natural-color images of northeastern China on January 3 and January 14, highlighting a drastic shift in air quality for the region. According to the images, the opaque, gray areas tend to be clouds or fog, which are saturated with a gray or yellow tint as a result from the air pollution. Areas that are cloud-free appear gray and brown as a result from the smog that hides the cities below. Residual snow is also noted in the images. >> Read the Full Article

There is an Upside to the Devastating Pine Beetle Outbreak

Pine beetles have been ravaging forests in the American West for years now, and there is very little that can be done to stop them. However, not all is lost for the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains. A new study from the University of Colorado (CU), Boulder shows that the beetles go for the older mature pine trees, leaving the younger pines and lower vegetation to grow. When this occurs near a stream or water body, the smaller pines more successfully extract nitrates from the water and sediments. They buffer watersheds from nitrate pollution, a common pollutant typically caused by logging or damaging storms. >> Read the Full Article

Desertification solution? Olive Trees.

The planting of ten of thousands of olive trees in arid areas in Israel have proved highly beneficial, according to a study which said the trees provide shade for animals, purge the air and even produce excellent olive oil. The study was conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with the help of the Agricultural Research Organization. Dr. Zohar Kerem, head of the olive oil research lab in the faculty's biochemistry institute, who participated in the study, explained that they followed tree-plantings in Israel's desert areas. >> Read the Full Article

BMI Magic

The body mass index (BMI) is a heuristic proxy for estimating human body fat based on an individual's weight and height. BMI does not actually measure the percentage of body fat. It was devised between 1830 and 1850 by the Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet during the course of developing social physics. It has been for awhile as an indicator of "how fat am I". What if it is wrong? BMI divides a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared to arrive at an estimate of an individual's body fat.The problem lies with the height/weight ratio. >> Read the Full Article

World’s Greenest Building, Bullitt Center, Opens Earth Day in Seattle

Nestled between downtown Seattle and the Capitol Hill district, the Bullitt Center will open on Earth Day, April 22. Builders of the six-story, 50,000 square-foot building claim it will be the "greenest" office building on the planet. Ground broke in August 2011, and since then few green building details have been left unturned, from water efficiency, renewable energy and choice of construction materials. If anything close to a zero-impact office building exists, the Bullitt Center is it. >> Read the Full Article

Global Warming and the Rare Haleakala Silverswords

One of the most spectacular sights in the Hawaiian Islands is the Haleakalā Volcano. This amazing volcano rises more than 10,000 feet from near sea level at its base. The ecosystems change dramatically as you drive up the twisting road that takes you to the summit. Near the top, you start to see the Silverswords. They are not numerous, but stand out sharply from the dark red rocky soil they grow on. In the early 20th century, the Silverswords suffered, but they have made a strong recovery from early 20th-century threats. The Silverswords have now entered a period of substantial climate-related decline. New research published this week warns that global warming may have severe consequences for the silversword in its native habitat. Known for its striking rosette, the silversword grows for 20-90 years before the single reproductive event at the end of its life, at which time it produces a large (up to six feet tall) inflorescence with as many as 600 flower heads. The plant was in jeopardy in the early 1900s due to animals eating the plants and visitors gathering them. With successful management, including legal protection and the physical exclusion of hoofed animals, the species made a strong recovery, but since the mid-1990s it has entered a period of substantial decline. A strong association of annual population growth rates with patterns of precipitation suggests the plants are undergoing increasingly frequent and lethal water stress. Local climate data confirm trends towards warmer and drier conditions on the mountain, which the researchers warn will create a bleak outlook for the threatened silverswords if climate trends continue. >> Read the Full Article

Bee Politics

Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants. Honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present, says an international research team in ground-breaking research just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The research, which took place in California's almond orchards in Yolo, Colusa and Stanislaus counties, could prove invaluable in increasing the pollination effectiveness of honey bees, as demand for their pollination service grows. When blue orchard bees and wild bees are foraging in almonds with honey bees, the behavior of honey bees changes, resulting in more effective crop pollination, said lead author Claire Brittain. Wild bees include non-managed bees such as bumble bees, carpenter bees and sweat bees. >> Read the Full Article

Organic Farming Expands, Contributes to Sustainable Food Security

Despite a slight decline between 2009 and 2010, since 1999 the global land area farmed organically has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service. Regions with the largest certified organic agricultural land in 2010 were Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations (12.1 million hectares); Europe (10 million hectares); and Latin America (8.4 million hectares), write report authors Catherine Ward and Laura Reynolds. >> Read the Full Article

Arctic Sea Ice Decline and Ice Export Between Greenland and Svalbard

The Arctic sea ice is shrinking, both in extent and thickness. In addition to the humanmade contribution to the sea ice loss, there are also natural factors contributing to this loss. In a new study from the Bjerknes Centre we focus on one of these factors: the ice export through the large gateway between Greenland and Svalbard -- the Fram Strait. >> Read the Full Article

The Rise of Mammals in a Warming Land

If it gets warmer what animals may benefit? The climate changes depicted by climatologists up to the year 2080 will benefit most mammals that live in northern Europe’s Arctic and sub-Arctic land areas today if they are able to reach their new climatic ranges. This is the conclusion drawn by ecologists at Umeå University in a recently published article in the journal Plos ONE. >> Read the Full Article