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How do atmospheric rivers and aerosols impact California rainfall?

In the midst of the California rainy season, scientists are embarking on a field campaign designed to improve the understanding of the natural and human-caused phenomena that determine when and how the state gets its precipitation. They will do so by studying atmospheric rivers, meteorological events that include the famous rainmaker known as the Pineapple Express.

CalWater 2015 is an interagency, interdisciplinary field campaign starting January 14, 2015. CalWater 2015 will entail four research aircraft flying through major storms while a ship outfitted with additional instruments cruises below. The research team includes scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NOAA, and NASA and uses resources from the DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility—a national scientific user facility.

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We Reside Here - Earth is Easter Island

The ocean surrounding Easter Island is vast and great, so large it seems impossible that one could ever sail away and find a home away from home.  Trees and animals fill the land to the very coast, a paradise, a home.  This is where the Rapanui reside, a great Polynesian people, a great nation.  They built great Moai to their gods. They ripped the trees from their roots, used them for rope, homes, fire and boat.  Their people reached in the tens of thousands, vast and great.  This is where the Rapanui reside, in their island, in an ocean so far from anything, so alone.  They did not take notice to the consequences of destroying their land, they did not notice that the destruction of nature was the destruction their home, their paradise.  For many generations they lived taking what they wanted from the island, and despite the changes their home had gone through they still did not change their ways.  The droughts, the famine, the changes, in their home happening too slowly for them to notice in time.  The lack of food, the starvation of the poor, the absence of other life.  Even if some of them had known what was to come if they stayed their course it did not matter, and once the very last tree on Easter island was slain their fate was sealed.  The death of an entire people, an extinction.  This is where the Rapanui reside, in the dirt, in their tombs, lost, forgotten, the only thing left are their great Moai, and one day they will be gone too.

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Wild pollinators at risk due to diseased commercial bees

A new study from the University of Exeter has found that viruses carried by commercial bees can jump to wild pollinator populations with potentially devastating effects. The researchers are calling for new measures to be introduced that will prevent the introduction of diseased pollinators into natural environments. Commercial species of honey bee and bumble bee are typically used to pollinate crops such as tomatoes, sweet peppers and oilseed rape. Fast evolving viruses carried by these managed populations have the potential to decimate wild pollinator species, including bees, hoverflies and butterflies, placing biodiversity and food security at risk.

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European study shows biofuel production can increase with low impacts

EU countries could increase their production of biofuels with a minimum impact on the environment, Utrecht University scientists concluded in a study published on Tuesday (13 January). 

Biofuels are the main green alternative to fossil fuels used in transport, but they compete with feed crops that share the same agricultural land.

As a consequence, forests are being turned into farmland to increase the terrestrial surface for planting more food crops, a phenomenon known as indirect land use change (ILUC). 

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For sea turtles, there's no place like magnetic home

Adult sea turtles find their way back to the beaches where they hatched by seeking out unique magnetic signatures along the coast, according to new evidence from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The findings will be reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on Jan. 15.

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How the environment shapes our immune system

Why did you get the flu this winter, but your co-workers didn’t? The answer, according to a new study of twins, may have less to do with your genes and more to do with your environment—including your past exposure to pathogens and vaccines. Our immune system is incredibly complex, with diverse armies of white blood cells and signal-sending proteins coursing through our veins, ready to mount an attack on would-be invaders. Everyone’s immune system is slightly different—a unique mixture of hundreds of these cells and proteins. But the main driver of this variation is unclear. Although scientists know that our immune system can adapt to our environment—that’s why vaccines work, for instance—it is also built by our genes.

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New data suggests sea levels are rising faster than previously thought

The acceleration in global sea level from the 20th century to the last two decades has been significantly larger than scientists previously thought, according to a new Harvard study. The study, co-authored by Carling Hay, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS), and Eric Morrow, a recent PhD graduate of EPS, shows that previous estimates of global sea-level rise from 1900-1990 had been over-estimated by as much as 30 percent. 

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Bolt EV concept car from GM could help mainstream electric cars

Concept cars at automobile shows generally offer the following: great opps for selfies, dreams over driving a vehicle that will never exist and, of course, the occasional eye roll. But this week at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, one concept car dazzled because of its design and its potential to transform the automobile industry: General Motors’ (GM) Chevrolet Bolt EV, which could hit the market as soon as 2017.

The Bolt is a huge step closer toward the holy grail of electric vehicles (EVs): affordability and sustainability — the latter of which in this case is defined by range, the current bugaboo of most EVs. Sure, we love Tesla for its phenomenal design and range of 265 miles between charges. Unfortunately, the sticker price, which ranges between $70,000 and $90,000, is out of range of most of our budgets. GM’s Chevy Spark EV could be a car for the rest of us, with a price of about $20,000 after federal rebates. But with a range of about 82 miles, it fails to snag interest from most consumers due to that massive hurdle: “range anxiety.”

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Study Finds New Toxic Contaminants In Oil And Gas Wastewater

Scientists have discovered high levels of two potentially hazardous contaminants, ammonium and iodide, in wastewater being discharged or spilled into streams and rivers from oil and gas operations.

Levels of contamination were just as high in wastewater coming from conventional oil and gas wells as from hydraulically fractured shale gas wells.

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Salting Roads takes a Toll on the Environment

The United States has a salt problem, and it extends well beyond the excessive sodium we consume in our diets. In the winter months, municipalities rely on dumping salt on the roads to minimize the effects of ice. Altogether, the U.S. uses ten times the amount of salt on roadways than it does in the processed foods we consume. While the salt may help to keep drivers safe, it does come at a cost:

1. It Increases Our Own Salt Consumption

You can throw salt down on roads, but you can’t force it to stay there. In due time, salt makes its ways into nearby waterways where it lingers. As a result, a lot of the water we wind up drinking has higher levels of salt than it would otherwise. Vox cites a study that finds 84% of city-adjacent streams have higher levels of chloride thanks specifically to these road-salting techniques. Apparently, during the months following salted roads, 29% of these streams have more salt than the federal “safety limits” for drinking water allow.

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