Top Stories

After Brief Decrease Last Year, Sea Levels Resume Their Steady Rise

It is no secret that for the last couple decades, as Earth's climate has been changing, sea levels have been steadily rising. But what is not so well known is that in 2011, sea levels throughout the world fell sharply. Of course, with a body of water as large as the world's oceans, a sharp fall only equates to one quarter of an inch (1 cm). It is nonetheless, a dramatic change in general trend which caught the eye of NASA and European researchers. Using advanced satellites, they were able to track average sea levels with precision accuracy. What they have found is that after this brief decrease in sea levels, the seas have been rising again and are now back on track with their trajectory of the last twenty years. >> Read the Full Article

Great apes suffer mid-life crisis too

Homo sapiens are not alone in experiencing a dip in happiness during middle age (often referred to as a mid-life crisis) since great apes suffer the same according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). A new study of over 500 great apes (336 chimpanzees and 172 orangutans) found that well-being patterns in primates are similar to those experience by humans. This doesn't mean that middle age apes seek out the sportiest trees or hit-on younger apes inappropriately, but rather that their well-being starts high in youth, dips in middle age, and rises again in old age. >> Read the Full Article

Climate change predicted to hit poorest hardest

All nations will suffer the effects of a warmer world, but the world's poorest countries will suffer most from food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank’s new report on climate change says. Under new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, a former scientist, the global development lender has launched a more aggressive stance to integrate climate change into development. "We will never end poverty if we don't tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today," Kim told reporters on Friday [16 November]. >> Read the Full Article

Owl wings may inspire new design for quieting aircrafts

Airlines and airports could soon be relying on nature for a unique way to reduce noise pollution after researchers found owl feathers are designed to minimize sound while in flight. Owls have long been known to have the uncanny ability to fly silently, relying on specialized plumage to reduce noise so they can hunt in acoustic stealth. Now researchers from the University of Cambridge, England, are studying the owl's wing structure to better understand how it mitigates noise so they can apply that information to the design of conventional aircraft. >> Read the Full Article

Tall Tower Green House Measurements

A network of integrated greenhouse gas measurements in the UK and Ireland – the first of its kind in Europe – has been established by researchers at the University of Bristol. The UK DECC (Deriving Emissions linked to Climate Change) Network consists of a network of four stations in the UK and Ireland which make high-frequency measurements of all major greenhouse gases from tall towers. Measurements made from the UK DECC Network are used by the Met Office to assess and verify atmospheric trends and UK emissions of these greenhouse gases. They are set tall to avoid ground level effects. Similar tall towers exist on continental Europe. >> Read the Full Article

General Motors Moves Deeper into the Electric Vehicle Business

GM is already the maker of the Chevrolet Volt, the first wide-selling domestic plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to hit the market. With new CAFE standards put in place by the US Government, and with growing public demand for cleaner vehicles, GM has decided to expand its electric vehicle inventory. According to GM's product development chief, by 2017, the US automaker will build up to 500,000 vehicles which utilize some sort of electric technology. Adding to its fleet of Volts will also be the new all-electric Spark, which goes on sale in select markets starting next year. The half-million vehicles expected to be produced would equal about five percent of its total global sales from 2011. >> Read the Full Article

Fast food restaurants add healthier options, but still do not address high-calorie foods

With pressure from media, legislation, and a health conscious society, fast food companies have been coming up with new recipes and ideas for healthier menu options. From salads to oatmeal, fruit cups and apple slices, you might think fast food has become healthier. However, according to a new study, calorie counts remain the same for existing menu items, and while there are new healthy options, little is being done to address the high-calorie food items. Led by Katherine W. Bauer, assistant professor in Temple University's Department of Public Health and Center for Obesity Research and Education, the study found that the average calorie content of foods offered by major fast food restaurants changed very little. >> Read the Full Article

Ozark Hellbender

The Ozarks are a physiographic and geologic highland region of the central United States. It covers much of the southern half of Missouri and an extensive portion of northwestern and north central Arkansas. The region also extends westward into northeastern Oklahoma and extreme southeastern Kansas. The hellbender, North America’s largest amphibian, was named one of the 10 U.S. species most threatened by freshwater pollution in a report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Water Woes: How Dams, Diversions, Dirty Water and Drought Put America’s Wildlife at Risk, highlights how reductions in water quality and quantity threaten imperiled species in 10 important ecosystems across the country. The Ozark hellbender, which can grow longer than two feet, is found in streams in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. The eastern hellbender ranges from Mississippi to New York. Both have declined in recent years and remain threatened with extinction due to water pollution and dams. >> Read the Full Article

What History Teaches Us About Our Environmental Challenges

It seems that the environmental challenges we face are truly daunting. That we may never be able to survive them, even if we do our best to do so. A study by MIT professor Susan Solomon says it's often helpful — and heartening — to look to the past. Solomon points out that recent decades have seen major environmental progress: In the 1970s, the United States banned indoor leaded paint following evidence that it was poisoning children. In the 1990s, the United States put in place regulations to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide — a move that significantly reduced acid rain. Beginning in the 1970s, countries around the world began to phase out leaded gasoline; blood lead levels in children dropped dramatically in response. >> Read the Full Article

Idea that we have reached "Peak Oil" incorrect

A report by theInternational Energy Agency reminds us that the peak oil idea has gone up in flames, and that the truly global implications of the 2012 report lie in the warning that we must leave most of our fossil fuels in the ground, writes Damian Carrington writes on the Guardian’s Environment Blog. Given the bubbling cauldron of violence that the middle East so frequently and regrettably is, the prospect of the US outstripping Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer in the next decade is deeply striking. The redrawing of the geopolitical map may cool some tensions and perhaps spark others. But the truly global implications of the International Energy Agency’s flagship report for 2012 lie elsewhere, in the quietly devastating statement that no more than one-third of already proven reserves of fossil fuels can be burned by 2050 if the world is to prevent global warming exceeding the danger point of 2C. This means nothing less than leaving most of the world’s coal, oil and gas in the ground or facing a destabilised climate, with its supercharged heatwaves, floods and storms. >> Read the Full Article