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Wed, 23 Jun 2021
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Australia's top solar physicist says we may be in for decades of global cooling

Climate change has been the most important and complex issue on my plate in 15 years as a science and technology correspondent for The Canberra Times. So an appropriate topic for a farewell commentary for this newspaper is an emerging scientific debate with the potential to complicate the already difficult relationship between scientists and politicians on this issue.

Bizarro Earth

Arctic sea ice drops to 2nd lowest level on record

More ominous signs Wednesday have scientists saying that a global warming "tipping point" in the Arctic seems to be happening before their eyes: Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is at its second lowest level in about 30 years.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea ice in the Arctic now covers about 2.03 million square miles. The lowest point since satellite measurements began in 1979 was 1.65 million square miles set last September.

With about three weeks left in the Arctic summer, this year could wind up breaking that previous record, scientists said.

Cloud Lightning

New Orleans mulls evacuation as Gustav looms

New Orleans -- Three years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast, New Orleans residents on Wednesday again confronted the prospect of an evacuation as Tropical Storm Gustav loomed.

Image
©REUTERS/Evens Felix
A woman walks during rainfall caused by Hurricane Gustav in Port-au-Prince August 26, 2008.

Not since Katrina struck on August 29, 2005, have residents faced a forced departure from their homes and businesses as many still struggle to rebuild their lives in a city famed for its jazz clubs and Mardi Gras festival.

Storm levees broke under the onslaught of Katrina, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans and killing almost 1,500 people in the city and along the Gulf of Mexico coast. The hurricane caused $125 billion in wind and flood damage.

With Tropical Storm Gustav swirling near Cuba and likely to enter the Gulf of Mexico as a hurricane this weekend, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said an evacuation could begin as early as Friday -- three years to the day after Katrina inundated New Orleans.


Comment: Gustav can be tracked here.


Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Zone Off Oregon Coast Surprisingly Active

Oregon State University scientists have completed a new analysis of an earthquake fault line that extends some 200 miles off the southern and central Oregon coast that they say is more active than the San Andreas Fault in California.

The Blanco Transform Fault Zone likely won't produce the huge earthquake many have predicted for the Pacific Northwest because it isn't a subduction zone fault. But the scientists say an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 to 7.0 is possible, if not probable in the near future, and their analysis suggests that the region may be under some tectonic stress that potentially could affect the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Results of the study were just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

During the past 40 years, there have been some 1,500 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater along the Blanco Transform Fault Zone, and many thousands of smaller quakes. The Blanco fault is the boundary between the Juan de Fuca and the Pacific plates. As the Juan de Fuca plate moves to the east, it is subducted beneath the North American plate at the rate of about 1.5 inches per year. But as it moves, it must break free of the adjacent Pacific plate.

Fish

Is Extinction Or Diversity On The Rise? Study Of Islands Reveals Surprising Results

It's no secret that humans are having a huge impact on the life cycles of plants and animals. UC Santa Barbara's Steven D. Gaines and fellow researcher Dov Sax decided to test that theory by studying the world's far-flung islands.

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©iStockphoto/Richard Goerg
In New Zealand, there were about 2,000 native species of plants, the researchers noted. Since colonization, about 2,000 new plant species have become naturalized. Over the same period, there have been few plant extinctions, so the net effect is that humans have transformed New Zealand's landscape by bringing in many new species.

Their research, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds surprising light on the subject of extinction rates of species on islands. The paper, "Species Invasions and Extinction: The Future of Native Biodiversity on Islands," is one in a series of reports by this team studying how humans have altered the ecosystems of the planet.

Gaines and Sax started the project with a question: What effect are humans really having on biological diversity? "The presumption at the time was that we are driving biodiversity to lower levels," said Gaines, who directs UCSB's Marine Science Institute. "Certainly, if you think about it at the global level, this is true because humans have done a lot of things that have driven species extinct."

Info

Hot And Cold: Circulation Of Atmosphere Affected Mediterranean Climate During Last Ice Age

A new study published in the scientific journal Science reveals the circulation of the atmosphere over the Mediterranean during the last ice age, 23,000 to 19,000 years ago, and how this affected the local climate.

ice age
©National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
Cold polar air often invaded the Mediterranean region during the last ice age, causing more rain and snow to fall on Mediterranean mountains.

This innovative study paves the way for future interdisciplinary efforts to understand and predict regional climate change, and is co-authored by Professor Eelco Rohling of the University of Southampton School of Ocean and Earth Science, based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified the Mediterranean as a "future climate hot spot" likely to suffer increasingly from severe droughts, heat waves and wildfires, due to global climate change. This is potentially bad news for the many people who now live in the region.

The new work gives important clues about regional rainfall patterns in the past. This will help scientists check computer simulations of the Mediterranean climate, which is essential for predicting and planning for future climate in the region.

Bizarro Earth

10,000 Indian flood victims have entered Nepal for relief: Report

Kathmandu: Around 10,000 flood victims from India have entered Nepal to seek relief material, being distributed in the Himalayan nation, according to a report. Over 60,000 people have been displaced and 500 industries face closure in Nepal due to spilling of river Saptakoshi.

Nuke

US: NY state says nuke plant kills too many fish

White Plains, N.Y. - The huge numbers of fish sucked to their death by the cooling system at the Indian Point nuclear plant prove that the system harms the Hudson River environment, a state official has ruled.

The finding by J. Jared Snyder, assistant commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, is a victory for plant critics who claim that up to 1.2 billion fish and eggs are killed each year as the plant continuously draws in river water for use as a coolant.

Red Flag

South Africa: Experts probe 'mini tsunami'

Cape Town - A mini tsunami may be the reason for the sudden rise and fall of the sea level along the West Coast over the last few days.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) received reports that the sea level in Hout Bay, St Helena Bay, Saldanha Bay and Lambert's Bay changed suddenly three times on Thursday.

In Hout Bay, the water level first fell by a metre and then rose again by the same amount in the space of 20 minutes.

Info

Amazon Trip Yields A Treasure Trove Of Diversity

A group of Yale undergraduates have discovered dozens of potentially beneficial bioactive microorganisms within plants they collected in the Amazon rain forest, including several so genetically distinct that they may be the first members of new taxonomical genera.

The analysis of 135 endophytes - fungal and bacterial microorganisms living within the inner tissue of plants - by members of the Rain Forest Expedition and Laboratory course at Yale will be published August 25 in the journal PLoS One.

Image
©Yale University
Yale undergraduate Sun Jin Lee discovered that an extract from a second fungal endophtye reduces inflammation in human tissue. A subsequent analysis of the molecule revealed it to be an inhibitor of apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

The endophytes were collected during a 2007 trip to Peru organized by Scott Strobel, chair of the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.