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Borneo may lose half its orangutans to deforestation, hunting, and plantations

Borneo will likely lose half of its orangutans if current deforestation and forest conversion trends continue, warns a comprehensive new assessment by an international team of researchers. The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, overlays orangutan distribution with land use regulations in Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo. Borneo has suffered high rates of deforestation, logging, and forest conversion for industrial plantations in recent decades, endangering the world's largest surviving populations of orangutans. >> Read the Full Article

Report: Climate-Related Migration

Recent reports, as well as extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy, suggest that climatechange, and particularly sea-level rise, may be occurring faster than earlier anticipated. This has increased public and policy discussions about climate change’s likely impacts on the movement of populations, both internally and worldwide. Research suggests that when climate-related migration does occur, much of it is short distance and within national borders, as opposed to international, according to new analysis conducted by Lori Hunter, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, for the Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs Online service (www.worldwatch.org). Recent research has added nuance to the scientific understanding of the potential connections between climate change and human migration. Previous studies over the past two decades relied largely on descriptive data and simplistic assumptions to put forward at-times alarmist estimates of future numbers of "environmental refugees," ranging from 150 million to 1 billion people. But such broad-sweeping generalizations mask several central issues that are important in the development of appropriate policy responses. These include: >> Read the Full Article

Researchers study the transformation of materials facing water erosion

One of the main reasons why the Grand Canyon looks the way it does is due to water erosion. With its deep valleys and smoothed ridges, the Grand Canyon is a prime example of how erosion can wear away at land formations and change landscapes. But according to a team of researchers at New York University, erosion caused by flowing water does not only smooth out objects, but can also form distinct shapes with sharp points and edges. Researchers at the university studied the effects of water erosion to better understand how water and air work to shape land, rocks, and artificial structures. >> Read the Full Article

Ash dieback: number of affected counties doubles

As tree growers and plant health experts from 80 organisations met at a summit convened by the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said ash dieback had now been confirmed in the wild in six new counties: Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Lincolnshire, Northumberland, Sussex and Yorkshire. A total of 115 sites in 11 counties, including some in Wales and Scotland, are now confirmed. >> Read the Full Article

Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions Delaying the Start of an Ice Age?

Mankind's emissions of fossil carbon and the resulting increase in temperature could prove to be our salvation from the next ice age. According to new research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, the current increase in the extent of peatland is having the opposite effect. "We are probably entering a new ice age right now. However, we're not noticing it due to the effects of carbon dioxide", says researcher Professor Lars Franzén. Looking back over the past three million years, the earth has experienced at least 30 periods of ice age, known as ice age pulses. The periods in between are called interglacials. >> Read the Full Article

Seeing with Sonar

Bat echolocation is a perceptual system where ultrasonic sounds are emitted specifically to produce echoes. By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes, the brain and auditory nervous system can produce detailed images of the bat's surroundings. This allows bats to detect, localize and even classify their prey in complete darkness. Humans cannot do this and must use their eyes. But humans might use the same principle, a very helpful concept for the blind, The UltraCane uses ultrasonic waves - just as bats do - to reveal the location of obstacles. This data is then relayed to users through vibrations to the handle helping them to feel their way around. >> Read the Full Article

Ground Water Inundation

Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) published a study today in Nature Climate Change showing that besides marine inundation (flooding), low-lying coastal areas may also be vulnerable to groundwater inundation, a factor largely unrecognized in earlier predictions on the effects of sea level rise. Ground-water flooding or inundation occurs in low-lying areas when the water table rises above the land surface. >> Read the Full Article

The Many Benefits of Hummus

Once only found in Middle Eastern restaurants or ethnic food stores, hummus has become a surging business for food companies here in the U.S. and abroad. The chickpea (garbanzo) bean spread is no longer a secret and limited only to those who were fortunate enough to have a Lebanese restaurant in the neighborhood. Hummus has now gone corporate, with brands such as Tribe and Sabra (a Strauss Group and PepsiCo partnership) enjoying popularity and impressive sales: $325 million at last count in 2010. >> Read the Full Article

Growth of Renewables will continue with continued subsidies

The International Energy Agency predicts renewables will become the world's second-largest source of power generation by 2015 and close in on coal as the primary source by 2035. But according to the 2012 edition of its flagship publication, the World Energy Outlook, the agency warns this rapid increase is critically dependent on continued subsidies. It says in 2011, these subsidies (including for biofuels) amounted to $88 billion, but over the period to 2035 need to amount to $4.8 trillion; over half of this has already been committed to existing projects or is needed to meet 2020 targets. >> Read the Full Article

Antarctica Ice is Up While Arctic is Down

Global warming only decrease the extent off the ice in polar regions, right. Well maybe not so. The first direct evidence that marked changes to Antarctic sea ice drift have occurred over the last 20 years, in response to changing winds, is published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. Scientists from NERC’s British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena California explain why, unlike the dramatic losses reported in the Arctic, the Antarctic sea ice cover has increased under the effects of climate change. >> Read the Full Article