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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

The Uncertain Role of Extractive Reserves in Conservation

During the 1980s, Brazilian rubber tapper Chico Mendes was a prominent activist for the preservation of the Amazon region. He urged his government to set up reserves for rubber tappers and was instrumental in creating various organizations and unions for his peers. In 1988, Mendes was murdered by a rancher intent on logging the site of a future reserve. Partly in response to the international media outcry, Brazil created the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, consisting of 980,000 hectares of land protected for forest-dependent indigenous inhabitants. >> Read the Full Article

Initiative Raises Money to Keep Oil Companies out of Ecuador

The Yasuni-ITT Initiative has been called many things: controversial, ecological blackmail, revolutionary, pioneering, and the best chance to keep oil companies out of Ecuador's Yasuni National Park. But now, after a number of ups and downs, the program is beginning to make good: the Yasuni-ITT Initiative has raised $300 million, according to the Guardian, or 8 percent of the total amount needed to fully fund the idea. The program, which is the first of its kind, proposes to leave an estimated 850 million barrels of oil untouched in Yasuni National Park if donors worldwide compensate Ecuador for about half of the worth of the oil: $3.6 billion. The money would keep oil companies out of 200,000 hectares known as the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) blocs. >> Read the Full Article

New Study Reveals the Key to Maintaining Healthy Knees

The human knee is an extremely important joint. It holds the weight of the entire body, provides the strength needed to lift heavy objects, and bends and flexes to give us mobility. Since this crucial joint is under stress at almost all times (except when sitting or lying down), it is susceptible to wear over time. This is especially true for the cartilage which holds together all the bones in the knee. As we age, the knee ages and the cartilage can develop a number of ailments that could potentially prohibit mobility. A new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America found that both too much and too little physical activity can accelerate the degeneration of knee cartilage in middle-aged adults. >> Read the Full Article

New Development for Phytoremediation: Harvesting Collected Contaminants

A team of researchers led by the University of Warwick are about to embark on a research program called "Cleaning Land for Wealth" (CL4W), that will use a common class of flower to restore poisoned soils while at the same time produce platinum and arsenic nanoparticles that can be used in a range of applications. A "Sandpit" exercise organized by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council allowed researchers from the Warwick Manufacturing group (WMG) at five universities to share technologies and skills to come up with an innovative multidisciplinary research project that could "help solve major technological and environmental challenges." >> Read the Full Article

Type 1A Supernovas

A supernova is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. I Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. A Type Ia supernova is a sub-category of supernovae that results from the violent explosion of a white dwarf star. Supernova can be easily picked out and are often used as a way to measure distances. A study using a unique new instrument on the world’s largest optical telescope has revealed the likely origins of especially bright supernovae that astronomers use as easy-to-spot mile markers to measure the expansion and acceleration of the universe. >> Read the Full Article

Doha Climate Summit off to a Rocky Start

The EU will not commit to renew climate funding which runs out in 2013 ahead of talks at the Doha climate summit, which opens today (26 November). But new climate aid may be announced in the conference’s second week. Development NGOs reacted angrily to an EU statement on 23 November which said only that in Doha, the EU would "discuss with its developing country partners how major flows of EU climate finance can continue in 2013-2014". "If the EU and other developed countries are serious about making climate action a reality for the period 2013-2020, they can't afford to come to Doha empty handed," Lies Craeynest, Oxfam’s EU policy adviser told EurActiv. >> Read the Full Article

Climate Change Impacts in New England

In the northern hardwood forest, climate change is poised to reduce the viability of the maple syrup industry, spread wildlife diseases and tree pests, and change timber resources. And, according to a new BioScience paper just released by twenty-one scientists, without long-term studies at the local scale -- we will be ill-prepared to predict and manage these effects. Following an exhaustive review of more than fifty years of long term data on environmental conditions at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the paper's authors arrived at a sobering conclusion: current climate change models don't account for real life surprises that take place in forests. >> Read the Full Article

Forests worldwide near tipping-point from drought

Forests worldwide are at "equally high risk" to die-off from drought conditions, warns a new study published this week in the journal Nature. The study, conducted by an international team of scientists, assessed the specific physiological effects of drought on 226 tree species at 81 sites in different biomes around the world. It found that 70 percent of the species sampled are particularly vulnerable to reduction in water availability. With drought conditions increasing around the globe due to climate change and deforestation, the research suggests large swathes of the world's forests — and the services they afford — may be approaching a tipping point. >> Read the Full Article