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Global warming continuing

Earth has just had the hottest January-September on record, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today, adding that the average air and sea temperatures in September logged the greatest rise above monthly average in the 136-year historical record.

According to a press release from WMO, the Global Climate Report from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the globally averaged air temperature over land and sea surface temperature for September was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average temperature. Record warmth was observed across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

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Yellowstone Grizzly Bear population studied by USGS

Genetic data show the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has grown since the 1980s with no loss in genetic diversity, according to a report by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.

Results indicate that the effective population size of Yellowstone grizzly bears, or the number of individuals that contribute offspring to the next generation, has increased 4-fold over a 25-year period. This provides evidence that Yellowstone grizzly bears are approaching the effective size necessary for long-term genetic viability.

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Some Ice Sheets in Greenland slowing their movement

In the face of decades of increasing temperatures and surface melting, the movement of the southwest portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet that terminates on land has been slowing down, according to a new study being published by the journal Nature on Oct. 29.

Researchers derived their results by tracking ice sheet movement through Landsat satellite images taken from 1985 to 2014 across a roughly 3,088-square-mile (8000-square-kilometer) region in southwest Greenland. They found that, between 2007 and 2014, ice movement slowed in 84 percent of the study area, during a period of high surface melt, compared to the years between 1985 and 1994. The average slowdown was 12 percent, or 32.8 feet (10 meters) per year.

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The northern snakehead fish

The invasive northern snakehead fish found in the mid-Atlantic area is now cause for more concern, potentially bringing diseases into the region that may spread to native fish and wildlife, according to a team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists.

The team found that a group of adult northern snakehead collected from Virginia waters of the Potomac River south of Washington D.C. were infected with a species of Mycobacterium, a type of bacteria known to cause chronic disease among a wide range of animals.

"Mycobacterial infections are not unusual among fish, but they are nonetheless noteworthy because they can have an impact at the population level and potentially even affect other fish and wildlife," said lead author Christine Densmore, a veterinarian with the USGS.

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2015 Antarctic Ozone Hole larger and formed later than previous holes

The 2015 Antarctic ozone hole area was larger and formed later than in recent years, said scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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Assessing the health and economic consequences of Dieselgate

Volkswagen’s use of software to evade emissions standards in more than 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. will directly contribute to 60 premature deaths across the country, a new MIT-led study finds.

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that the German automaker had developed and installed “defeat devices” (actually software) in light-duty diesel vehicles sold between 2008 and 2015. This software was designed to sense when a car was undergoing an emissions test, and only then engage the vehicle’s full emissions-control system, which would otherwise be disabled under normal driving conditions — a cheat that allows the vehicles to emit 40 times more emissions than permitted by the Clean Air Act.

That amount of excess pollution, multiplied by the number of affected vehicles sold in the U.S. and extrapolated over population distributions and health risk factors across the country, will have significant effects on public health, the study finds.

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Historic Nitrate Levels Still Plague U.S. Rivers

During 1945 to 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. rivers increased up to fivefold in intensively managed agricultural areas of the Midwest, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller and levels have remained high in most of the rivers studied. 

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VW Dieselgate and EV priorities in Europe

The pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed auto giant Volkswagen is turning up the heat on the German government to make more determined headway in its self-declared "electromobility" goals, analysts say.

The "bitter irony" of the scam that has rocked the automobile sector around the world and plunged the once-respected carmaker into a major crisis, is that the billions of euros VW could potentially face in fines"could have been used to finance an entire electric car programme," complained Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks recently.

Over the past six years, Berlin has put up €1.5 billion for research into an electric car, the minister pointed out. And her ministry is looking into a series of measures to promote the electric car, such as tax incentives and purchase subsidies.

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Dancing makes you feel good and help bond with others

Dancing in time with others raises your pain threshold, Oxford University researchers have found.

A team from the University's Experimental Psychology and Anthropology Departments wanted to see whether our feelings of social closeness when dancing with others might be linked to endorphins – the body’s 'feel good' chemicals.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that form part of the brain’s pain control system, but they are also implicated in social bonding. Dr Bronwyn Tarr explained: 'Dance is an important activity around the world, and it could be a way to connect with other people and feel socially bonded. We wanted to see the effect of high and low energy, and synchronised and unsynchronised dancing had on both pain threshold and the sense of bondedness to fellow group-members.'

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Black Holes and their flares studied by NASA missions

The baffling and strange behaviors of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA's Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR. The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light, helping astronomers address an ongoing puzzle: How do supermassive black holes flare?

The results suggest that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas -- sources of extremely energetic particles -- shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.

"This is the first time we have been able to link the launching of the corona to a flare," said Dan Wilkins of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, lead author of a new paper on the results appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "This will help us understand how supermassive black holes power some of the brightest objects in the universe."

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