• Mississippi Flooding

    Nature's fury reached new extremes in the U.S. during the spring of 2011, as a punishing flooding and rainfall brought the greatest flood in recorded history to the Lower Mississippi River, an astonishingly deadly tornado season, the worst drought in Texas history, and the worst fire season in recorded history. There's never been a spring this extreme for combined wet and dry extremes in the U.S. since record keeping began over a century ago as shown by statistics released last week by the National Climatic Data Center. One other results is the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone is predicted to be larger than average this year, due to extreme flooding of the Mississippi River this spring, according to an annual forecast by a team of NOAA-supported scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan. The forecast is based on Mississippi River nutrient inputs compiled annually by the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles. The largest hypoxic zone measured to date occurred in 2002 and encompassed more than 8,400 square miles. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate Change and the West: A Picture of the Western United States in the Coming Decades

    Over the last several years, a picture has emerged of the American west in a climate-changed world. Water: Last week findings of a study by the U.S. Geological Survey show a sharp decline in the snowpack of the northern Rocky Mountains over the past 30 years. Published in the journal Science, the study says the "almost unprecedented" decline, as compared with data analyzed for snowpack conditions over the past 800 years, could have severe consequences for more than 70 million people dependent on water supply from the Columbia, Colorado, and Missouri rivers – all three of which are fed from high-mountain snowpack runoff. But this is only a part of the emerging picture of a changing west. >> Read the Full Article
  • New from BBC Earth: The circus comes to town

    Traveling to the farthest corners of the world, it is not just the remarkable environments that can prove a little hard to capture. When Rivers Producer/Director Mark Flowers met the children from the North-East Indian root tree villages, he hadn't bargained on having to make himself the center of attention. But sometimes it's the little extra's that make an experience unforgettable. The most heart-stealing and downright soul- enhancing benefit of working on a Human Planet shoot is the children we encounter while we are filming. It's unbelievably refreshing to step outside of a regulated, fast-paced and impersonal modern, urban society and meet people who live in a more open, communal and for me personally, a far more "Human" way. The children we met during our trip to film living root bridges in one of the most remote areas of North-East India were fantastic – cheeky, smart and funny. To the young people who live in isolated hill villages in the rainforests of Meghalaya, the arrival of a gangly bunch of giant, pale-skinned strangers, brandishing weird black boxes, screens and cables, was the most surprising thing to happen in a long while. The circus had come to town! Within minutes of us stepping out of the cars, there were bright eyes at the windows and small hands waving from the homes we passed. High pitched "hellos" echoed all around while tiny toddlers stood dumb struck for a few seconds in doorways and then exploded into howls. Dogs barked and sulky, caged cuckoos crooned from dark corners. >> Read the Full Article
  • Measuring Ruminant Emissions Through Biomarkers Found in Stool

    Livestock is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases. The ruminant digestive system creates ample amounts of methane which is released into the atmosphere. It is difficult to measure the amount of methane produced by cows because unlike emission stacks, ruminant exhaust cannot be controlled or monitored. However, researchers from the University of Bristol and the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research Centre in Ireland have made the connection between methane production and a certain chemical found in the stool of cows, sheep, and other animals. This link may be used to more accurately estimate methane emissions by animals and assess their contribution to global warming. >> Read the Full Article
  • Amazon rainforest may be heading towards a tipping point as a carbon sink

    The world's largest rainforest is ravaged by deforestation and two recent droughts. If they continue, says one expert, the Amazon risks entering a period where it can no longer be relied upon to absorb more greenhouse gas emissions than it produces The Amazon rainforest is facing the combined threat of increasingly severe droughts and continuing deforestation that could wipe out large areas of the forest, warned a respected forest scientist this week. In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Science earlier this year, Dr Simon Lewis, of Leeds University, found the 2010 drought in the Amazon was more widespread than the 2005 one, previously thought of as a once-in-a-century event. >> Read the Full Article
  • Natural Gas Green Role

    Some people believe that all energy related problems can be resolved with renewable sources such as solar power or wind power. Maybe in the long term future this will be so. However, in the short term what is the best option for those fuels (energy sources) that we have? MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has issued a report that states that natural gas will play a leading role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions over the next several decades, largely by replacing older, inefficient coal plants with highly efficient combined-cycle gas generation. That’s the conclusion reached by a comprehensive study of the future of natural gas conducted by an MIT study group comprised of 30 MIT faculty members, researchers, and graduate students. The findings, summarized in an 83-page report, were presented to lawmakers and senior administration officials this week in Washington. The two-year study, managed by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), examined the scale of U.S. natural gas reserves and the potential of this fuel to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Based on the work of the multidisciplinary team, with advice from a board of 16 leaders from industry, government and environmental groups, the report examines the future of natural gas through 2050 from the perspectives of technology, economics, politics, national security and the environment. >> Read the Full Article
  • Extreme Heat the New Norm

    The hottest summer day you remember from childhood could be the norm in a few decades; in fact it looks like the heat has already been cranked up. "When scientists talk about global warming causing more heat waves, people often ask if that means that the hottest temperatures will become 'the new normal,'" said Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford, in a press release. "That got us thinking –- at what point can we expect the coolest seasonal temperatures to always be hotter than the historically highest temperatures for that season?" >> Read the Full Article
  • China's CO2 emissions rise sharply

    China's carbon dioxide emissions rose 10.4 percent in 2010 compared with the previous year, as global emissions rose at their fastest rate for more than four decades, data released by BP on Wednesday showed. "All forms of energy grew strongly (last year), with growth in fossil fuels suggesting that global CO2 emissions from energy use grew at the fastest rate since 1969," energy major BP's annual Statistical Review of World Energy said. The rapid growth is happening as U.N. talks look unlikely to agree on a legally binding deal to curb emissions and fight climate change before the existing Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Global carbon dioxide emissions are widely seen as a major factor responsible for an increase in world temperatures. They grew 5.8 percent last year to 33.16 billion tonnes, as countries rebounded from economic recession, BP said. China's emissions accounted for 8.33 billion tonnes. >> Read the Full Article
  • A Medium Solar Flare

    The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection on June 7, 2011. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface. A solar flare is a sudden brightening observed over the Sun surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release of up a sixth of the total energy output of the Sun each second. Solar flares strongly influence the local space weather in the vicinity of the Earth. They can produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind, known as a solar proton event, or coronal mass ejection. These particles can impact the Earth's magnetosphere and cause a geomagnetic storm. A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a disturbance in the interplanetary medium. A geomagnetic storm is a major component of space weather and provides the input for many other components of space weather, and present radiation hazards to spacecraft, astronauts and cosmonauts. The current flare event is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. The flare event should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the it arrives. >> Read the Full Article
  • Air Quality Worsened by Paved Surfaces: Widespread Urban Development Alters Weather Patterns

    ScienceDaily (June 7, 2011) — New research focusing on the Houston area suggests that widespread urban development alters weather patterns in a way that can make it easier for pollutants to accumulate during warm summer weather instead of being blown out to sea. >> Read the Full Article