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Small Planet Around Kepler -37

NASA's Kepler mission scientists have discovered a new planetary system that is home to the smallest planet yet found around a star similar to our sun. The planets are located in a system called Kepler-37, about 210 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra (the general direction of the star Vega). The smallest planet, Kepler-37b, is slightly larger than our moon, measuring about one-third the size of Earth. It is smaller than Mercury, which made its detection a significant challenge. >> Read the Full Article

Latin America Analysis: Environmental Policy and Deforestation

In a year that was marked by bad news on the environmental front — the polar ice caps melting at an increasing rate, the decline in biodiversity, the failure to reach agreement on climate change, amongst other things — the release of data, at the end of 2012, showing a fall in deforestation in the Amazon, one of the most important biomes in the world, came as a relief. According to estimates by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) — a Brazilian organisation that conducts environmental surveillance programmes in the region — 4,600 km2 of jungle, in Brazilian territory, were deforested between August 2011 and July 2012. This is a drop of 27 per cent, compared with the same period, a year before. Brazil, where deforestation is seen as the main cause of carbon emissions, has set itself a voluntary goal to reduce illegal logging, annually, in the Amazon, to an annual maximum of 3,900 km2 by 2020. The latest figures would seem to indicate that the country is only four per cent shy of reaching its goal. Celebrations, however, have been short-lived. The Amazon's monthly deforestation alert system is already showing a marked increase in the area cleared in the last five months of 2012. >> Read the Full Article

Avocados Linked to Better Diet Quality

Break out that guacamole! New data suggests avocado consumption may be associated with better diet quality! Avocados, also known as the alligator pear for their shape, skin and rough texture can be found in dishes all around the world. From adding them to dips, spreads, salads and sandwiches, avocados not only add to the flavor of your meal, but carry multiple health benefits as well. >> Read the Full Article

Mobile masts could help measure rain and chill vaccines

Mobile-phone masts in Africa could be used for other development initiatives, such as filling gaps in rainfall data and providing electricity to refrigerate vaccines, experts say. For example, masts could be used to measure rainfall in areas without rain gauges, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this month (4 February). >> Read the Full Article

Renewable Energy Capacity Fuels Power Growth in January

The latest Energy Infrastructure Update released yesterday by the Office of Energy Projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reports that the US had 1,231 megawatts (MW) of new in-service generating capacity come online in January of 2013 – all of it from renewable sources including wind, solar and biomass. The new capacity for January represents a three-fold increase from the 431 MW of new renewable generating capacity that came online in January of 2012. Wind energy led the pack with six new units providing 958 MW, followed by 16 new solar units generating 267 MW of electricity and six new biomass units for 6 MW of new generation. Nuclear, hydro and all fossil fuel sources, including coal, oil, and natural gas offered no new electrical generating capacity last month. >> Read the Full Article

Air Pollution and Heart Attacks

There are many forms of air pollution. There is no doubt that air pollution is not healthy. The uncertainty is at what level is it an acceptable risk. The one of concern in this study is the finest of particulate matter. The largest study yet to investigate the links between fine air-borne particulate matter (PM) and patient survival after hospital admission for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) found death rates increased with increased exposure to PM2.5 – tiny particles that measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less, approximately 30 times smaller than a human hair. The amount of PM in the air is measured as micrograms per cubic meter of air. The main sources of PM2.5 are emissions from road traffic and industry, including power generation. >> Read the Full Article

Food: Sustainability, Security, Self-reliance

Poor harvests and rising food costs have become a depressingly familiar news item, with unusual weather patterns affecting food production across the US, Russia and in the UK. At the same time, more and more people are struggling to feed themselves and their families. >> Read the Full Article

Climate Change Adaptation for Agriculture, Forests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on February 5 released "two comprehensive reports that synthesize the scientific literature on climate change effects and adaptation strategies for U.S. agriculture and forests." The effects of climate change will be profound and far-reaching, according to the two reports, which drew on more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies carried out by scientists in federal service, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, tribal lands and the private sector. >> Read the Full Article

Is a Baby Giant Armadillo Cute? Yes!

Despite weighing as much as full-grown human, almost nothing is known about the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) including its breeding and reproductive behaviors. How does mating occur? How long does pregnancy last? How many babes are typically born? Scientists are simply in the dark, but a ground-breaking study employing camera traps is beginning to change this. For the first time, scientists in the Brazilian Pantanal have documented giant armadillo breeding and the happy outcome: a baby giant armadillo (see video and more photos below). "Being part of this exclusive moment in the history of this species conservation and seeing the first picture of a baby giant armadillo was one of the most exciting moments of my career as a wildlife professional," said Danilo Kluyber, a wildlife veterinarian with The Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project. >> Read the Full Article

The Seas Rise but the Lands Rise Too

As the Arctic ice melts it will raise the sea level. But as it does it removes the enormous weight of the ice and the land will rise too in places, Sophisticated computer modelling has shown how sea-level rise over the coming century could affect some regions far more than others. The model shows that parts of the Pacific will see the highest rates of rise while some polar regions will actually experience falls in relative sea levels due to the ways sea, land and ice interact globally. Reporting in the journal Geophysical Research Letters researchers have looked ahead to the year 2100 to show how ice loss will continue to add to rising sea levels. Scientists have known for some time that sea level rise around the globe will not be uniform, but in this study the team of Ice2sea researchers show in great detail the global pattern of sea-level rise that would result from two scenarios of ice-loss from glaciers and ice sheets. >> Read the Full Article