• NASA Images Reveal 'Kuwait on the Prairie'

    Last month, we published a story about newly released NASA satellite images and we were amazed at the quality and detail of the pictures. Looking at the United States at night, we expect to see patches of light around major cities and brightness from dense populations along the coasts. But after studying the photos, Rovert Krulwich a correspondent for NPR, reports on a mysterious patch of light that shows up in North Dakota. With a population of under 700,000 for the whole state, and a state who’s largest industry is agriculture, what can these lights possibly be from? >> Read the Full Article
  • Renewable Energy Zones on Public Lands in Arizona

    Preserved natural lands are a national treasure that protect wildlife and allow us to see and enjoy the natural landscape of our beautiful country as it has existed for millenniums, without human "improvements". But there are lots of areas in national parks, monuments, and wildlife areas that are not pristine. These areas are targeted for low-impact energy development by the Obama administration. This week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that Interior has designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development. This initiative, known as the Restoration Design Energy Project, caps a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of disturbed land and other areas with few known resource conflicts that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects. The action establishes the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone, the third solar zone on public lands in Arizona and the 18th nationwide. The Solar Energy Zones are part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to facilitate solar energy development by identifying areas in six states in the West with high solar potential, few resource conflicts and access to existing or planned transmission. With the Agua Caliente zone, Interior is delivering on the promise made as part of the Western Solar Plan to identify and establish additional solar energy zones. >> Read the Full Article
  • Biodiversity Loss, Disease Cuts Incomes in Tropical Countries

    Tropical countries' per capita incomes could more than double if they managed to reduce their health burden from vector-borne and parasitic diseases (VBPDs) to that seen in temperate countries, a study has found. The study says that poor economic performance is caused partly by high disease burden, which is in turn affected by biodiversity. The findings that health conditions affect economies, and that loss of biodiversity could exacerbate the situation, have direct policy implications, says the study published in PLoS Biology last month. >> Read the Full Article
  • Extreme Weather Events Sync Rise and Fall of Arctic Populations

    Climate change and changes in weather can affect species in many ways. From altering migration patterns, to varying plant growth leading to deviating diets, to extending or decreasing hibernation periods, climate can ultimately influence the success of a species. In an attempt to study some of these effects, a group of Norwegian scientists have found that extreme climate events can cause population fluctuations not only among single species, but also in a relatively simple high arctic community. >> Read the Full Article
  • Reports Reiterate Link Between Environment and Economy

    Two new reports reiterate the scientific veracity of anthropogenic climate change while reinforcing the interconnectedness of the economy and the environment. The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report 2013 clearly points to the interrelationship between the environment and the economy. A draft of the third National Climate Assessment Report indicates that climate change is both an environmental and economic issue. >> Read the Full Article
  • West Antarctica Vulnerability

    Radiocarbon dates of tiny fossilized marine animals found in Antarctica’s seabed sediments offer new clues about the recent rapid ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and help scientists make better future predictions about sea-level rise. This region of the icy continent is thought to be vulnerable to regional climate warming and changes in ocean circulation. Reporting this month in the journal Geology a team of researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the University of Tromsø presents a timeline for ice loss and glacier retreat in the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica. The team concludes that the rapid changes observed by satellites over the last 20 years at Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers may well be exceptional and are unlikely to have happened more than three or four times in the last 10,000 years. >> Read the Full Article
  • Hope for the Wild Yak

    Unlike Asia's largest animal (the elephant) and its second largest (the rhino), the wild yak—the third largest animal on the world's biggest continent—rarely makes headlines and is never paraded by conservation groups to garner donations. Surviving on the top of the world, in the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau, the wild yak (Bos mutus) lives it's life out in such obscurity that even scientists know almost nothing about it. However, a recent count by American and Chinese conservations with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Montana implies that the wild yak may be recovering after a close brush with extinction. >> Read the Full Article
  • Honeybees at Risk From Pesticide says EU Watchdog

    Three widely-used pesticides made by Switzerland's Syngenta and Germany's Bayer pose an acute risk to honeybees, the European Union's food safety watchdog said on Wednesday (16 January), but stopped short of linking them to bee colony collapse. Fears over the effects on bees of neonicotinoid insecticides - among the most commonly used crop pesticides in the world - led France to withdraw approval in June last year for Syngenta's Cruiser OSR, used to treat rapeseed crops. Responding to the opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Commission said it was ready to take the necessary steps if its findings are confirmed, raising the prospect of EU-wide restrictions on the use of the products. >> Read the Full Article
  • Invading Plants

    We have heard about invasive animal species like Boas introduced into Florida from Africa and Asia. How about invading plant life? Ecologists at the University of Toronto and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) have found that, given time, invading exotic plants will likely eliminate native plants growing in the wild. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reports that recent statements that invasive plants are not problematic are often based on incomplete information, with insufficient time having passed to observe the full effect of invasions on native biodiversity. Invasive plant life simply may take longer to "take over" than invasive animals. >> Read the Full Article
  • NASA Satellite Images Reveal Dramatic Increase in Air Pollution Over China

    NASA's Terra satellite acquired natural-color images of northeastern China on January 3 and January 14, highlighting a drastic shift in air quality for the region. According to the images, the opaque, gray areas tend to be clouds or fog, which are saturated with a gray or yellow tint as a result from the air pollution. Areas that are cloud-free appear gray and brown as a result from the smog that hides the cities below. Residual snow is also noted in the images. >> Read the Full Article