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Sat, 22 Jan 2022
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Sunspot activity correlates to global climate change

Harvard astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon tells us that Earth has seen a reduced level of sunspot activity for the past 18 months, and is currently at the lowest levels seen in almost a century. Dr. Soon says "The sun is just slightly dimmer and has been for about the last 18 months. And that is because there are very few sunspots." He says when the sun has less sunspots, it gives off less energy, and the Earth tends to cool. He notes 2008 was a cold year for this very reason, and that 2009 may be cold for the same.

As of today, there have been 15 days in a row without any sunspots. In 2008 there were 266 days scattered throughout the year without sunspots, and in 2007 there were 163 days without sunspots. These are the #2 and #9 fewest sunspots years seen since 1911.

Cow Skull

Bioethanol's Impact On Water Supply Three Times Higher Than Once Thought

At a time when water supplies are scarce in many areas of the United States, scientists in Minnesota are reporting that production of bioethanol - often regarded as the clean-burning energy source of the future - may consume up to three times more water than previously thought.

Sangwon Suh and colleagues point out in the new study that annual bioethanol production in the U.S. is currently about 9 billion gallons and note that experts expect it to increase in the near future. The growing demand for bioethanol, particularly corn-based ethanol, has sparked significant concerns among researchers about its impact on water availability. Previous studies estimated that a gallon of corn-based bioethanol requires the use of 263 to 784 gallons of water from the farm to the fuel pump. But these estimates failed to account for widely varied regional irrigation practices, the scientists say.

Alarm Clock

Honey Bees in Danger

Image
© Getty Images
Industrial, pesticide-dependent agricultural practices in the United States are creating a death trap for the honeybee and threatening the human-bee symbiotic relationship forged over milieu.
When I was teaching at Humboldt State University in northern California 20 years ago, I invited a beekeeper to talk to my students. He said that each time he took his bees to southern California to pollinate other farmers' crops, he would lose a third of his bees to sprays. In 2009, the loss ranges all the way to 60 percent.

Honeybees have been in terrible straits.

A little history explains this tragedy.

For millennia, honeybees lived in symbiotic relationship with societies all over the world.

The Greeks loved them. In the eighth century BCE, the epic poet Hesiod considered them gifts of the gods to just farmers. And in the fourth century of our era, the Greek mathematician Pappos admired their hexagonal cells, crediting them with "geometrical forethought."

Better Earth

The snow monkeys of Hell's Valley

Image
© Heather Angel
This photograph of Japanese macaques relaxing in a hot bath was taken on a winter morning by wildlife photographer and zoologist Heather Angel. The pool is in the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Nagano, Japan, in a place known as Hell's valley because of its steep cliffs, dense forests and the boiling water that spurts from the frozen ground. It was built 30 years ago when it was discovered that the monkeys, like us, like to bathe in hot water.

Japanese macaques - also known as snow monkeys - live further north than any other non-human primate. Snow covers the ground in Hell's Valley for four months of the year and temperatures often drop to -20 °C. Thermal pools - both natural and man-made - help the monkeys survive the harsh climate.

Snow monkeys are not only renowned for their love of hot baths, but for using tools and washing their food. In 1953, an 18-month-old female called Imo was spotted washing sweet potatoes to remove the mud before eating them. Ten years later the rest of the troop were also doing this, and had passed on the skill to the next generation. It was the first report of a learned tradition in a non-human species.

Cloud Lightning

US: 2 tornadoes spotted in Florida as storms plague South

Image
© AP Photo/Tallahassee Democrat, Phil Sears
Tim McDonald turns onto Withia Bluffs Way in his kayak to head to check on his house Thursday, April 9, 2009 in eastern Madison County, Fla. Initial reports so far show the rising waters have destroyed or caused major damage to nearly 200 homes and minor damage to more than 500 in Florida since the flooding
Tampa - Forecasters reported two tornadoes touched down in the Tampa Bay area as a line of storms Tuesday ripped roof shingles off homes, uprooted trees and forced the evacuation of school children in trailer classrooms on Florida's west coast.

No injuries were immediately reported. It was the latest round of bad weather to hammer the South after heavy rain and strong winds Monday that hit Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and northern Florida, still reeling from storms and tornados last week.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for 20 Florida counties until Tuesday afternoon.

"To our knowledge, there's been no true structure damage and no injuries," said Jim Martin, Emergency Management Director for Pasco County, where at least one twister was spotted Tuesday morning near Holiday, about 30 miles northwest of Tampa.

Bug

Slave ants keep a taste for revenge

Forget Spartacus - you need look no further than an ant colony for a slave mutiny.

Some ant species raid colonies of smaller species, killing the queen, scaring away worker ants and stealing larvae. Kidnapped larvae grow up as slaves.

Susanne Foitzik of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, has evidence the slaves have evolved an unusual weapon in the fight for survival: mutiny.

Bizarro Earth

Canada: Manitoba's ice age

Ice jams wreaked havoc on riverside communities north of Selkirk early yesterday, destroying homes and forcing evacuations.

Rapidly rising flood waters along the Red River forced several residents and emergency responders onto the tops of homes and vehicles to await rescue in Breezy Point and the Rural Municipality of St. Clements.

Bizarro Earth

Seismologist deems California quakes 'curious'

U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough says the recent small earthquakes in California's China Hills are curious incidents.

Hough said the series of minor earthquakes, which included three small tremors during the weekend, are outside the norm in relation to seismological activity, The Orange County (Calif.) Register said Sunday.

It's curious in the sense that it's one of those sequences that doesn't fit neatly into a well recognized mold, Hough said. If it's a swarm then it certainly isn't a typical one -- not that we understand what a swarm is, or why they happen!

Better Earth

Driller thriller: Antarctica's tumultuous past revealed

The midnight sun hangs low in the sky on this November evening. A plain of flat ice sweeps in all directions and mountains rise in the distance. Perched on the sea ice is a massive, teepee-shaped tent. A mechanised rumble emanates from within.


Inside the tent, men in hard hats tend a rotating shaft of steel. This drill turns day and night through 8 metres of sea ice covering the surface of McMurdo Sound, off the coast of Antarctica, and through 400 metres of water beneath it and into the seabed.

Comment: See also: US Military research site shows Arctic ice thickening over last 12 months


Info

Sunbird learns to hover for sweet reward

Dogs might be resistant, but it turns out you can teach an old bird new tricks. An African bird has learned to hover so that it can collect nectar from flowers, just as hummingbirds do in the Americas. The bird has an unlikely trainer: an invasive South American plant that has made its way to South Africa.