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Hurricane Sandy and Potentially Hazardous Waters

When flood waters hit lubricating oils, heating oil, gasoline and diesel fuel and other potentially hazardous or toxic liquids, there is the potential for contamination of surface waters in ponds and rivers. The US Geological Survey is undertaking sampling of waters to see if contamination exceeds acceptable levels. As recovery efforts for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy continue, U.S. Geological Survey crews are sampling water for nutrients, sediment, and pesticides to document water quality in areas affected by the hurricane. This sampling effort is part of the federal government’s broad efforts to ensure public health and to support the state, tribal, and local response to the storm. "We tend to think of events like Sandy in terms of the ephemeral effect of the wind, rain, waves, and even snow as it swept through our communities, but in fact this superstorm can have a longer-term effect in the large pulse of sediment and associated pollutants swept into our waterways," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "It is particularly important to quantify the input of this one unusual event before concluding that certain efforts to reduce pollutant run-off from year to year have or have not been effective." >> Read the Full Article

Researchers study effects of open-fire cooking on air quality and human health

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has just launched a study examining the impact of open-fire cooking on regional air quality and human health. The study will look at atmospheric air pollutants and human diseases in terms of the effects of smoke from traditional cooking methods in households, villages, and entire regions particularly in northern Ghana. There are many factors that force developing countries to rely on cooking food with open flame fires. For example, electricity and energy sources are extremely scarce and lead natives to use dried plant stalks and other mediums for fuel. Research suggests that the continued use of these open fire pits and stoves has the potential to create problems for local populations. >> Read the Full Article

"Fertilizer to Fork" Approach Contributes to Climate Change

Growing, transporting, refrigerating, and wasting food accounts for somewhere between 19-29 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, according to a new analysis by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). In hard numbers that's between 9.8 and 16.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than double the fossil fuel emissions of China in the same year. Over 80 percent of food emissions came from production (i.e. agriculture) which includes deforestation and land use change. >> Read the Full Article

Hope for Shark Finning Bans Continues

Last month in Cambridge, volunteers from the community group Fin Free Cambridge delivered a petition with over three and a half thousand signatures to the Guildhall. The group, and all the signatories, are hoping to make Cambridge the first UK city to ban the use of shark fins. Currently four businesses in Cambridge use shark fins and the UK is ranked 19th in the world for shark fin exports. Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful activity, with around 73 million sharks being killed each year for their fins alone. The number of threatened shark species in the world has grown to more than 180 from a total of just 15 in 1996. >> Read the Full Article

Economics of Coal Power and Wind are shifting in favor of Wind

While the cost of wind power has been dropping, a fascinating article in The Washington Post describes how coal mining is becoming more difficult and expensive. The coal industry cites environmental regulations as the main source of upward pressure on costs but WaPo writer Steven Mufson makes a convincing case that factors within the coal fields themselves are the main culprit. Mufson is careful to note that the trend varies from one coal field to another, but it is occurring in the key coal-producing region of Appalachia among others. Against the backdrop of falling wind prices, the rising cost of coal provides businesses with yet another incentive to explore ways of tapping the wind to power their operations. >> Read the Full Article

Climate change mitigation 'far cheaper than inaction'

Tackling the global climate crisis could reap significant economic benefits for both developed and developing countries, according to a new report. The impacts of climate change and a carbon-intensive economy cost the world around US$1.2 trillion a year — 1.6 per cent of the total global GDP (gross domestic product), states 'Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet'. >> Read the Full Article

Hurricane Sandy Update: Eight to Ten Million Cumulative Power Outages Predicted

Hurricane Sandy is weakening and moving faster than anticipated. Therefore a computer model developed by an engineer at The Johns Hopkins University is now predicting fewer power outages than initially expected. Seth Guikema is predicting that an overall cumulative total of 8 to 10 million people will lose power in the wake of the hurricane, based on the last storm track and intensity forecast at 2 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Oct. 30. It is important to note that the computer model predicts cumulative outages, not peak outages. Cumulative means the total count of anyone who has lost power, versus peak, which is the number of people without power at any one point in time. For instance, in Maryland, the local utility company reported approximately 290,000 cumulative power outages as of 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, but their peak was approximately 210,000 because they were actively restoring outages while new outages were occurring. >> Read the Full Article

Slowing Down Parkinson's

A team of scientists at Northwestern University have discovered what might slow the progression of Parkinson's disease. This compound was developed by Richard B. Silverman at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and creator of the molecule that became the drug Lyrica. This compound or rather the family of compounds work by blocking calcium flow in the brains neurons. The main mechanism is the suppression of a membrane protein, which allows calcium to flow into the dopamine neurons. With this membrane protein blocking calcium flow into the dopaime neuron it avoids further cell damage. >> Read the Full Article

Hurricane Sandy in 3-D from NASA Images

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, or TRMM satellite can measure rainfall rates and cloud heights in tropical cyclones, and was used to create an image to look into Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 28, 2012. Owen Kelly of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. created this image of Hurricane Sandy using TRMM data. At 2:20 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 28, Hurricane Sandy was a marginal category 1 hurricane and its eyewall is modest, as TRMM reveals, which gives forecasters and scientists hints about its possible future strength. The eyewall appeared somewhat compact with its 40 km (24.8 miles) diameter The eyewall contained only relatively light precipitation, and none of Sandy's eyewall storm cells managed to burst through, or even reach, the tropopause which has about a 10 km (6.2 miles) height at mid-latitudes. Evidence of the weak updrafts in the eyewall comes from the fact that the TRMM radar's reflectivity stayed under 40 dBZ, a commonly cited signal strength at which updrafts can be vigorous enough to form hail and to lift smaller ice particles up through the tropopause and into the stratosphere. >> Read the Full Article

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Hurricane Sandy is no longer a hurricane, as it continues to bring high winds and rain to large portions of the north east and northern mid-west US. There are many trees down, and massive power outages. It will be days before the clean up is complete. The ENN offices have no power so editors are working remotely to maintain a reasonable update schedule. There is also a reduced amount of news being published by our news sources which include university research departments and government agencies as they are dealing with storm related issues themselves. As news on storm related damage and recovery becomes available, we will publish updates. >> Read the Full Article