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Permafrost Carbon

Permafrost is defined as subsurface material that remains below 0o C (32o F) for at least two consecutive years. Because permafrost soils remain frozen for long periods of time, they store large amounts of carbon and other nutrients within their frozen framework during that time. Permafrost represents a large carbon reservoir that is seldom considered when determining global terrestrial carbon reservoirs. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions from thawing permafrost could amplify warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This amplification is called the permafrost carbon feedback. Permafrost contains about 1700 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in the form of frozen organic matter, almost twice as much carbon as currently in the atmosphere. If the permafrost thaws, the organic matter will thaw and decay, potentially releasing large amounts of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. This organic material was buried and frozen thousands of years ago and its release into the atmosphere is irreversible on human time scales. Thawing permafrost could emit 43 to 135 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2100 and 246 to 415 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2200. Uncertainties are large, but emissions from thawing permafrost could start within the next few decades and continue for several centuries, influencing both short-term climate (before 2100) and long-term climate (after 2100). >> Read the Full Article

Sea-level Rise Outpaces Expert Predictions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected an annual sea level rise last year in 2011 of 2 millimeters per year. According to new satellite data, there appears to be a stark difference between their projections and reality. Sea-levels are rising 60 percent faster than predicted, at a rate of 3.2 millimeters per year. Global temperatures, on the other hand, are continuing to rise at the consistent pace which IPCC predicted. The study shows that the increased rate in sea-level rise is not significantly affected by internal variability in Earth's climate system, but is rather reflective of a general trend. >> Read the Full Article

Green Building Designs Can Help Protect Homes During Natural Disasters

One of the best antidotes to climate change is rarely discussed. Buildings in the U.S. generate 40 percent of the global warming gases and use 70 percent of the electricity. If we do things right, we can cut energy use 90 percent in new buildings and 70 percent in retrofits while improving comfort and health. In new buildings, this may be done at no cost if integrated resilient design strategies are adopted. We can improve comfort, productivity, how students learn, health and security, often at no added cost. >> Read the Full Article

Administration says no to EU Carbon Tax on Airline Flights to Europe

President Barack Obama signed a bill on Tuesday shielding US airlines from paying for the carbon their planes flying into and out of Europe emit, despite a recent move by Europe to suspend its proposed measure for one year. The carbon fee bill was the first piece of legislation debated on the House floor after Congress returned from recess on November 13, and had been cleared by the Senate in September in a rare unanimous vote. It directs the US transportation secretary to shield US airlines from Europe's carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) if he or she deems it necessary. >> Read the Full Article

Forecasting Flu Outbreaks with Weather Technology

Flu season often coincides with winter months as it has been found that the influenza virus lasts longer in cold, dry air. Knowing this, researchers have developed a framework for initializing real-time forecasts of seasonal influenza outbreaks using a technique used for weather prediction. The availability of real-time, web-based estimates of local influenza infection rates can make quantitative forecasting possible. Scientists at Columbia University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have announced a new system that adapts techniques used in modern weather prediction to generate local forecasts of seasonal influenza outbreaks. By predicting the timing and severity of the outbreaks, the system can eventually help health officials and the general public better prepare for them. Each year, flu season peaks at various times from region to region. Pinpointing the outbreaks with the new forecast system can provide "a window into what can happen week to week as flu prevalence rises and falls," says lead author Jeffrey Shaman, an assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. Shaman and co-author Alicia Karspeck, an NCAR scientist, used web-based estimates of flu-related sickness from the winters of 2003–04 to 2008–09 in New York City to generate weekly flu forecasts. Consequently, researchers found that the technique could predict the peak timing of the outbreak more than seven weeks in advance of the actual peak. >> Read the Full Article

ATP Keeps it Running

Adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP) is a nucleoside triphosphate used in cells as a coenzyme. It is often called the "molecular unit of currency" of intracellular energy transfer. ATP transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism. Most healthy cells rely on a complicated process to produce the fuel ATP. Knowing how ATP is produced by the cell’s energy storehouse – the mitochondria -- is important for understanding a cell’s normal state, as well as what happens when things go wrong, for example in cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, and many rare disorders of the mitochondria. Two years ago, Kevin Foskett, PhD, professor of Physiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania discovered that fundamental control of ATP production is an ongoing shuttle of calcium to the mitochondria from another cell compartment. They found that mitochondria rely on this transfer to make enough ATP to support normal cell metabolism. >> Read the Full Article

US EPA Updates Recreational Water Quality Criteria

Yesterday, the EPA recommended new recreational water quality criteria that will help protect peoples' health during visits to beaches and other waters. The last time the EPA issued recommendations for recreational waters was in 1986 so updating these criteria are crucial in the continued protection of the public who partake in water-related activities like swimming, boating, and beach combing to name a few. The new science-based criteria provide information to help states improve public health protection by addressing a broader range of illness symptoms like stomach ailments, better accounting for pollution after heavy rainfall, providing more protective recommendations for coastal waters, encouraging early alerts to beachgoers, and promoting rapid water testing. >> Read the Full Article

To Fight Tick-Borne Disease, Someone Has To Catch Ticks

Most people try to avoid ticks. But not Tom Mather. The University of Rhode Island researcher goes out of his way to find them. Mather's not having much trouble finding deer ticks. In fact, he just might be the best deer tick collector in the country. He caught 15,000 of them last year. >> Read the Full Article

Martian Dust Storms

Mars also has the largest dust storms in the Solar System. These can vary from a storm over a small area, to gigantic storms that cover the entire planet. They tend to occur when Mars is closest to the Sun. A Martian dust storm that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking since last week has also produced atmospheric changes detectable by rovers on Mars. Using the orbiter's Mars Color Imager, Bruce Cantor of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, began observing the storm on Nov. 10, and subsequently reported it to the team operating NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The storm came no closer than about 837 miles (1,347 kilometers) from Opportunity, resulting in only a slight drop in atmospheric clarity over that rover, which does not have a weather station. >> Read the Full Article

Shrubs help assess history of Glaciers

The stems of shrubs have given researchers a window into a glacier's past, potentially allowing them to more accurately assess how they're set to change in the future. Their findings have been published today, 27 November, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, and show how a glacier's history of melting can be extended way past the instrumental record. Much like the rings on a tree stump indicate how old it is, measuring the width of rings on the stem of a shrub can give a good indication of how well it has grown year on year. Under extreme environmental conditions, such as those close to a glacier, a shrub's growth relies heavily on summer temperatures, meaning the ring-width of a shrub can be used a proxy for glacial melting, which also relies heavily on summer temperatures. >> Read the Full Article