Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Urban streams being conta

Many people do not think about it much, but while they are driving on those slick free, freshly salted roads in the winter, they are actually contributing to the contamination of streams and rivers in these heavily used areas. Over the last twenty years, the percentage of contamination as nearly doubled and it just keeps going up as more and more cars end up on the road. It does not help that it is in combination with harsher extreme weather patterns in the winter. The current levels of contaminants is above the recommended acceptable levels. This is going to be bad for habitats of fish and animals that use these water sources. To read more of the statistics, click here.

Strong weathers impact on wildfires

The old ways of letting forests burn so that the can regrow and flourish has begun to be re-adopted in the United States. In letting this happen, forest are able to regrow and be more resistive of fires. Areas that go too long without burning, like the Rim Fire area, have much more devastating consequences on the forest as the fire is much more intense and can cause much more damage. With the restoration efforts that have been taken place in the California forests, it was thought they would be much more defended against fires, but the severe weather that accompanied the Rim Fire, it is no wonder that the first was able to plow right through these areas. Learn more about it here.

Air pollution and autism

According to this article, babies have a much higher chance of being born with autism if the mother is exposed to fine particulate matter. If the mother is exposed to enough of this air pollution, particularly during the third, the chances are much greater. The research suggest that "particles 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller" are what they are concerned with and does not seem to be as big of an influence during the first 2 trimester or after birth. The third trimester in particular appears to be the most dangerous time for pregnant women to be exposed to these PM2.5. This research backs other research that has ended up with similar results and show the current state of our air quality.

Credit: © Oleg Shelomentsev / Fotolia

Shapeshifting plants

Some researchers have discovered that some plants are able to alter their characteristics due to their environment. In the Rocky Mountains, a mustard plant has been discovered that is able to change its appearance along with its grow cycle to optimize its ability to grow. A big theme surrounding climate change is that many species of plants and animals are not going to be able to adjust to the changing planet. This article suggests that some species might be better than others at adapting to changes in their environment. Because only part of a plants life is dependent on climate, the other being sun exposure, scientists believe that plants may be able to adapt better than we first thought, so long as the rotation of the earth stays the same, which it will. To find out more about the details, check out this article.

Credit: Dartmouth College

Americans and their lights

According to this recent article, Americans are up there for leaders in light pollution. One of the countries this study focused on was Germany. On a per capita basis, Germany produces much less light than the United States does. As the countries grew, the light emission rate per capita for the U.S. has continually risen while Germany has has not. With global satellite imaging, researchers have noticed that in less developed countries the primary light source came from things like airport. In more developed countries, like those throughout Europe, the main source of light pollution come from places that are associated with leisure and luxury. The night sky is important for things like astronomers and nocturnal animals. The amount of light output really says something about how we function as a society and manipulate the world around us to get what we want.
Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Centre

Why is Greenland so white?

As many people know, Greenland is hardly green. It is huge hunk of ice, but why is it that way? Greenland is relatively knew when to compared to the geological time scale. There are three reasons that Greenland has ended up the way that it is. The first is Greenland's mountains reach up into the much cooler altitudes. The second, Greenland moved further from the equator into an area where there is not as much solar disturbance. The third reason is that a slight change occurred in the earth rotation which forced Greenland even further from the sun. Greenland is currently losing alot of its ice due to the effect of global warming and has been decreasing much faster over the last twenty years than ever before. At our current rate, it is only a matter of time until it totally melts into the ocean. The details of the article can be accessed here.

Credit: Peter Japsen, GEUS

Can't get it up

It is a sad time for polar bears. Due to anthropogenic pollution and the radiative effects of climate change, humans are altering not only the environment of polar bears but their natural physiognomy as well. In a report published by VICE, the concentration of PCB's, released from industrial process, is higher in polar bears. PCB's are endocrine disruptors-- they damage reproductive capacities. In this case, they are damaging the Bacula-- essentially the cartiliginous material composing the boner of the bears. It's this combination of factors that poses the most pressing threat to the bears. "Bears are drawing down further into their fat stores for energy late in the fasting periods," Dr. Andrew Derocher, scientific advisor to Polar Bears International and a University of Edmonton professor of biology, told me. As thinner bears draw down their fat stores due to above-average fasting, "the remaining pollution is released and circulates at higher levels. This means cubs getting milk from their mothers are getting higher doses of pollution and, for those bears that aren't lactating, it means they have to deal with higher pollution levels."

But don't take my word for it, read more here