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New Study Links Kidney Stones to...Warming Climate?

In a study that may both reflect and foretell a warming planet's impact on human health, a research team found a link between hot days and kidney stones in 60,000 patients in several US cities with varying climates. "We found that as daily temperatures rise, there is a rapid increase in the probability of patients presenting over the next 20 days with kidney stones," said study leader Gregory E. Tasian, MD, MSc, MSCE, a pediatric urologist and epidemiologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), who is on the staff of the Hospital's Kidney Stone Center as well as the Hospital's Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness (CPCE). >> Read the Full Article

Arctic sea ice trends confirmed by Whalers' logs

Log books from British whaling ships more than 200 years ago have given new insights into the history of the Arctic sea ice, reports Tim Radford. A new study reveals that the scale of ice melt in the Arctic over the last few decades is new and unprecedented. The retreat of the ice in the last 30 years is part of a more recent and new pattern of climate change. British whaling ships from Tyneside in the north-east of England made 458 trips to the edge of the Arctic ice between 1750 and 1850. >> Read the Full Article

Record Radiation in South America

Astrobiologists from the United States and Germany recorded the highest known level of solar UV radiation to reach Earth's surface. This was around 10 years ago. On December 29, 2003, the UV Index (UVI) peaked, reaching the blistering number of 43.3 over the Andes Mountains in Bolivia. To put this in context, a beachgoer in the United States would expect a UVI of 8 or 9 on a summer day. Even with an 8 or a 9, one may not escape the day without sunburn. Nonetheless, it has taken scientists 10 years to detail a report of this data while taking into account all of the variables and anomalies monitored from an international network of dosimeters – or Eldonets (European Light Dosimeter Network) – that measure UV radiation worldwide. This system is comprised of more than 100 stations across 5 continents to account for variation in the atmosphere above each station. >> Read the Full Article

The Amazon: A Savannah before a Forest

The Amazon is the largest tropical forest on the planet, covering about 6.5 million square kilometers, although much has been lost (around 18-20 percent) in recent decades. The great forest also, very likely, contains the highest biodiversity of species on land; for example a single hectare in Yasuni National Park contains more tree species than all of the U.S. and Canada combined. Yet new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that quite recently—just 500 years ago—a significant portion of the southern Amazon was not the tall-canopied forest it is today, but savannah. >> Read the Full Article

2014 Natural Disaster Damage and Death Toll Well Below Average

Extreme weather events and other natural disasters claimed the lives of more than 2,700 people and caused around US $42 billion in damage worldwide in the first half of 2014, but this was well below the first half of last year and a 10-year average, according to new research from reinsurer Munich Re. However, the briefing report warns that towards the end of the year the natural climate phenomenon El Niño may impact regions differently in terms of the number and intensity of weather extremes. >> Read the Full Article

New Study Quantifies Causes of the "Urban Heat Island" Effect

A new Yale-led study quantifies for the first time the primary causes of the "urban heat island" (UHI) effect, a common phenomenon that makes the world's urban areas significantly warmer than surrounding countryside and may increase health risks for city residents. In an analysis of 65 cities across North America, researchers found that variation in how efficiently urban areas release heat back into the lower atmosphere — through the process of convection — is the dominant factor in the daytime UHI effect. This finding challenges a long-held belief that the phenomenon is driven principally by diminished evaporative cooling through the loss of vegetation. >> Read the Full Article

Our newest Astronauts are fruit flies!

Becoming an Astronaut is a big deal! Men and women selected to go into space are very carefully chosen. They go through rigorous medical evaluations to make sure they are healthy and that their bodies can withstand the forces of liftoff and re-entry. And they go through months and months of training to prepare them for their first space flight. Now NASA is sending untested, untrained astronauts into space. Of course, they are not human, they are fruit flies! Fruit flies are bug eyed and spindly, they love rotten bananas, and, following orders from their pin-sized brains, they can lay hundreds of eggs every day. We have a lot in common. Genetically speaking, people and fruit flies are surprisingly alike, explains biologist Sharmila Bhattacharya of NASA's Ames Research Center. "About 77% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies, and 50% of fly protein sequences have mammalian analogues." >> Read the Full Article

Cell Phone Conservation

Some of the world's most endangered forests may soon benefit from better protection, thanks to discarded treasures from the consumer society - mobile phones. A Californian technology startup, Rainforest Connection (RFCx), has developed a tool - made from recycled smartphones - that it says will pilot new ways to monitor and stop illegal logging and animal poaching throughout Africa's equatorial forests. RFCx has formed a partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an international scientific charity that works for the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. The two organisations are planning to install the anti-deforestation, anti-poaching technology in Cameroon this year. >> Read the Full Article

Why is the US Throwing Away $1 Billion Worth of Fish Every Year?

You've probably already seen the grim news about overfishing: scientists predict that world food fisheries could collapse by 2050, if current trends continue. That's because 3/4 of the world's fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce; 80 percent are already fully exploited or in decline; and in addition 90 percent of all large predatory fish are already gone. But the picture gets worse: every year, the U.S. fishing industry throws about 2 billion pounds worth of fish back into the water. A report released last month by Oceana estimates that this amounts to an annual loss of one billion dollars. >> Read the Full Article

Vast reservoir of gas may fuel star creation in our galaxy

The Milky Way may have found a solution to its gas shortage. Astronomers had calculated that our home galaxy possesses only enough fuel to forge new stars for just a few billion more years. But scientists have now discovered that a long stream of gas falling into the Milky Way is four times as massive as previously thought and could power our galaxy's starmaking career for a long time to come. "It's a very beautiful study with surprising results," says Leo Blitz of the University of California, Berkeley, an astronomer who was not part of the project. >> Read the Full Article