Tag: climate change

Some Species Of Plants Are Sleeping To Cope With Climate Change

Buttercups are dormancy-prone plants.

Not all species flee rising temperatures.

As the mercury has inched upward across western North America over the last 40 years, many plant species have moved downhill, toward—not away from—warmer climates, according to the results of a new study.

The finding adds to growing evidence that temperature isn’t the only factor influencing how Earth’s life will respond to climate change.

Like animals, plants require specific environmental conditions—such as the right temperature, moisture, and light levels—in order to thrive.

Even small changes in environmental parameters can affect the reproduction and survival of a species.

As global temperatures rise, both animal and plant populations are projected to gradually shift toward northern latitudes and upward to higher elevations where temperatures are cooler in order to stay within their ideal range of environmental conditions.




In an effort to understand how plants may cope with changing climates, researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, compiled geographic coordinate data for the locations of nearly 300 plant species within seven topographically distinct regions across western North America.

Ranging from the western Sierra Nevada mountain range in Nevada to the eastern Rocky Mountain Foothills of northern Canada, spanning the last 40 years.

They then compared these findings with changing climate conditions, such as temperature, rain, and snowfall. The study is the most extensive of its kind to date.

The results of the analysis were unexpected. More than 60% of plants shifted their distributions downward, toward warmer, lower elevations—despite significant climate warming across the regions under study, the team reported online on 24 July in Global Change Biology.

Even more striking, all plants within a region—regardless of species—moved in the same direction.

A Pogonia japonica flower. Pogonias are dormancy-prone plants.

A closer look revealed that the downhill movement of plants was likely driven by the changes in precipitation that accompanied warming temperatures.

Those regions that experienced less rain and snow at high elevations were those with plants shifting toward lower elevations with wetter climates.

Less snow in winter translates into less water in summer, resulting in water-stressed plants and downward shifts,” Harsch says.

Although plant populations are shifting downward toward greater water availability, they will also have to contend with an increasingly warming climate.

It’s a double-edged sword,” Harsch states, “as temperatures rise, water needs will also increase.”

A bee pollinating.

Although previous, smaller studies have also noted downhill movements in relation to water availability, others report uphill movements in relation to temperature, suggesting the direction of species movements is dependent on local environmental conditions as well as the types of species present.

These studies highlight the importance of understanding the complexities not only of future climate change but the climatological requirements of individual species,” says Anne Kelly, a plant ecologist at the Catalina Island Conservancy in Avalon, California, who was not involved in the work.

Future climate changes are projected to intensify precipitation patterns in western North America, leading to more pronounced shifts in plant distributions and potential subsequent effects on the wildlife that depend on them for food and habitat.

How we decide where to allocate limited resources such as money and manpower to conserve species in the face of long-term global warming is a primary concern right now,” Harsch notes.

“We can’t monitor all species everywhere, but, by identifying the factors responsible for environmental changes, we can begin to predict effects and prioritize conservation management choices.”

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5 Ways to Recycle Your Old Smartphone

Having your new phone on hand, you finally have an excuse to ditch your current smartphone. Even if your old phone’s glory days are far behind it, you can still get some value when you decide to get rid of it.

Recycling your smartphone is a great way to reduce electronic waste, help your outdated tech find a new life, support a good cause or even make a little money.




According to a November 2012 survey by Lookout, 62% of American households have old cellphones lying around, unused.

Discarded iPhones alone account for $9 billion of unused goods in consumers’ homes.

Here are eight things you can do to make parting with your old phone that much more exciting.

1. Donate Your Phone to the Troops

Non-profit Phones for Soldiers works to provide U.S. troops with a cost-free way to call home from their active stations.

Through recycling partner Mindful eCycling, old mobile phones are traded in for calling cards and other communications devices.

2. Sell It on Glyde

Looking for a one-stop shop for selling back all the old tech in your home?

Glyde lets you buy and sell a variety of devices, plus it compares the amounts you can fetch on its site with offers from Amazon, Apple and Gazelle.

3. Put It on an Appstand

This picture frame for your iPhone 3 or 3GS turns your old iPhone into a lovely piece of home decor.

Available on sale for $8.73, the Appstand lets you breathe new life into your outdated Apple smartphone.

4. Sell It Back to Apple

Apple will trade your old iPhone for an Apple gift card through its Reuse and Recycling program. Amounts vary depending on your phone’s make and model.

5. Donate to Survivors of Domestic Violence

Verizon has collected more than 10 million phones since 2001 for victims of domestic abuse: one in four U.S. women, one in seven men and nearly 3 million children.

To donate your old phone, drop it at a Verizon store, ship it or donate to a HopeLine phone drive.

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Is There Still Time To Save The Great Barrier Reef?

New research published today in the scientific journal Global Change Biology shows that adopting best management practices can help the Great Barrier Reef in a time of climate change.

The study models a range of predicted outcomes for the Reef out to 2050 under different scenarios of future climate change and local management action.

There is significant potential for coral recovery in the coming decades,” said Dr Nick Wolff, Climate Change Scientist at The Nature Conservancy.

But under a scenario of unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions and business-as-usual management of local threats, we predict that after this recovery, average coral cover on the Reef is likely to rapidly decline by 2050.”




The research involved scientists from The Nature Conservancy; The University of Queensland; James Cook University; the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture; and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

It modelled changes to corals that make up the Great Barrier Reef in the presence of a range of threats including cyclones, Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, nutrient runoff from rivers and warming events that drive mass coral bleaching.

The study provides much-needed clarity around how conventional management actions can support the resilience of the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem.

The $60M package announced recently by the Federal Government including $10.4M for Crown-of-Thorns Starfish control and $36.6M for measures to reduce river pollution is a positive step.

This could buy us some critical time,” said Dr Wolff.

The Queensland and Federal Governments have the right strategy in pursuing ambitious targets for water pollution reduction by 2025.

Further large-scale investments from both the private and public sectors should now be mobilised to expand and accelerate a range of innovative and tailored solutions to ensure targets are met.

Importantly though, the positive signs for the future shown in the research also depend strongly on whether the world meets the ambitious carbon emission targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The study shows that in a world of unmitigated carbon emissions, the increased frequency and severity of coral bleaching events will overwhelm the capacity of corals to recover and the benefits of good management practices could then be lost.

The study’s results also come with an important warning: not all coral reefs can be protected by good management under climate change, even if global warming can be kept below 1.5°C.

To protect the most climate sensitive species in the hardest-hit places, we would need to consider additional and unconventional management interventions beyond carbon mitigation AND intensified management.

“A new innovative R&D program to develop such interventions, including ways to boost the spread of warm-adapted corals to naturally cooler parts of the Great Barrier Reef, is included in the Australian Government’s recent $60M announcement. It’s a big step in the right direction,” concluded Dr Anthony.

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Miles of Dangerous Algae Covering Lake Erie

Dog swims through an algae bloom in North Carolina.

A potentially harmful algae bloom covered more than 1812 square km in the western basin of Lake Erie last week, turning the lake bright green and alarming residents and local officials.

Scientists say that algae blooms have been a growing problem for Lake Erie since the 2000s, mostly because of the extensive use of fertilizer on the region’s farmland.

The algae blooms contain cyanobacteria, which, under certain conditions, can produce toxins that contaminate drinking water and cause harm to the local ecosystem.




Millions of people get drinking water from Lake Erie. Previous blooms have been toxic.

While not all algae blooms are toxic, they can produce a type of toxin called microcystis that can cause serious liver damage under certain conditions.

Dangerous levels of the toxin caused Toledo, Ohio, to shut down the drinking water supply of a half-million residents for three days in 2014.

In total, almost 3 million people get drinking water from the central basin of Lake Erie. Officials have been testing the intake points in the lake where towns draw water and report that the current toxin levels are low.

Green waters of Lake Erie, which emit “18 times more carbon dioxide than all the cars in Detroit,” according to researcher Tonya DelSontro, who studies the relationship of lake algae to greenhouse gases.

The algae blooms are getting larger.

Since the 2000s, algae blooms in Lake Erie have become much more extensive.

According to one study by the Carnegie Institute for Science and Stanford University, most of the increase in the size of the blooms can be attributed to a rise in the amount of dissolved phosphorus flowing into the lake.

In the 1980s, researchers started tracking algae blooms in Lake Erie. They were mostly small, but changes in farming practices caused them to spike.

The blooms are expected to grow more harmful as global warming changes rainfall patterns.

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Chocolate Production Generates A Lot Of Pollution

For decades, commuters and tourists have delighted in the mouthwatering smells radiating from the Blommer Chocolate Co.’s factory near the Chicago River downtown.

But following a federal agency’s complaint, the aroma will soon disappear.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently cited the family-run business for alleged clean-air violations, and officials are hurrying to install equipment that will reduce emissions — and stop the smell.

It’ll start to go away as we put pollution abatement equipment in place,” the company’s vice president, Rick Blommer, told The Associated Press.




The company that makes chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and other products for bulk sale is trying to resolve allegations that its cocoa-crushing process causes air pollution.

Still, the demise of the rich, brownie smell spilling from the 66-year-old Blommer plant will be a bitter loss, said odor researcher Alan Hirsch, head of the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.

Chocolate smells put people in a relaxed state,” said Hirsch, who likened the effect of chocolate vapors on the brain to an antidepressant.

It’s been shown bad odors increase aggression; pleasant ones make people more docile. So you could say the chocolate smell is a real service to Chicago.

Smells are a big deal in this city once closely associated with the stench of slaughtered cows and whose very name etymologists say comes from the American Indian words for skunk or onion.

But a pleasant smell to some is pollution to others.

In citing the company earlier this month, the EPA said inhaling the plant’s emissions in high concentrations can harm children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases.

But within smelling range of the factory, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn’t rave about the chocolate aroma.

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Parts Of The Arctic Spiked To 45 Degrees Above Normal

In December, a team of U.S. government scientists released a “report card” on the Arctic. Their top conclusion was pithy, comprehensive, and bleak. The Arctic, they said, “shows no sign of returning to [the] reliably frozen region of recent past decades.”

Now, it’s almost like the environment is trying to prove them right.

Though the sun hasn’t shone on the central Arctic for more than four months, the region is currently gripped by historic, record-breaking warmth.




On Sunday, the temperature at the North Pole rose to about the melting point, and parts of the Arctic were more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.

A handful of Arctic scientists spent the weekend on Twitter, trying to put the episode into context:

To understand how strange the recent Arctic weather is, it’s worth looking at a place called Cape Morris Jesup.

Cape Morris Jesup is a barren and uninhabited promontory above the Arctic Ocean. Just 450 miles from the North Pole, it is Greenland’s northernmost point.

The sun hasn’t shone on Cape Morris Jesup since October 11. These should be among the coldest weeks of the year for the cape.

But over the weekend, the weather station there recorded an air temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit, more than 50 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The weird warmth was not limited to that one spot. Station Nord, a scientific research station in Greenland nearly 200 miles to the southeast, recorded temperatures of about 36.5 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend.

The Climate Reanalyzer, a tool from the University of Maine, uses data from the U.S. weather model to show how far temperatures have deviated from historic norms. On February 26, 2018, the Arctic was almost 5.4 degrees Celsius (about 10 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal, while much of Europe was almost 10 degrees Celsius colder than normal.

These kinds of on-the-ground observations aren’t available for the North Pole.

But by combing satellite observations and other temperature data, the top U.S. forecast model estimated that temperatures at the North Pole rose as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this time of year, sea ice should still be growing and expanding. But recent satellite observations have shown that two large gaps have somehow opened up in the ice. The first is in the Chukchi Sea, near Russia.

How rare is this kind of Arctic warmth? Climate scientists say they have seen events similar to this one happen before, but that the size and intensity of the warmth made it really notable.

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Sound Waves Could Be Used To Prevent Millions Of Birds Flying Into Wind Turbines

Devices that use focused sounds to prevent birds from crashing into tall structures, or gathering in places where they are not wanted, have been developed by scientists.

It is thought they could be employed to prevent the deaths of millions of birds every year that collide with wind turbines.

When other structures such as mobile phone masts and buildings are taken into consideration, the number of bird deaths resulting from collisions is thought to go into the billions.

At the same time, birds cause an enormous amount of damage to human infrastructure, feeding on agricultural products and flying into aeroplanes.




In response to these problems, behavioural biologist Dr John Swaddle has helped develop technological solutions that use sound waves to drive birds away from areas where they are causing disruption.

The fundamental knowledge of how birds behave and respond to sound helps us derive these new technologies and solutions,” Dr Swaddle told attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Along with his collaborators, Sonic Nets and Acoustic Lighthouses, he has developed two projects to combat the problem.

Sonic Nets have already been extensively trialled, and are known to be effective devices to reduce bird numbers in specific locations such as fields full of ripening crops.

The speakers in these devices emit “pink noise” designed to disrupt the communication of gathering birds. Birds that cannot “talk” to each other are also unable to warn each other about approaching danger.

John Swaddle.

This tends to make birds nervous, meaning they will quickly disperse.

The Acoustic Lighthouse is a newer concept, and one that Dr Swaddle would like to see applied to prevent bird collisions with wind turbines in particular.

A directional speaker mounted on a wind turbine can be used to alert approaching birds to the approaching danger.

Bird anatomy means that when they are in flight, their focus is not directed ahead.

Their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, and while they may turn their heads from side to side to look downwards, their forward-facing vision will not be in high resolution.

Scientists have suggested birds are not prepared for the presence of tall, man-made structures in their aerial environment.

However, if birds are shocked into looking ahead by bursts of sound, they will suddenly stop in the air, averting collision. This was demonstrated in a paper co-authored by Dr Swaddle in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology.

These issues are particularly pertinent in Virginia, where Dr Swaddle is based at Virginia’s College of William and Mary.

Not only does the state sit underneath a major bird migration route, it is also being eyed up as a prime setting for wind turbines.

While the Acoustic Lighthouses are still under development, Sonic Nets are already being commercialised in a partnership with local business Midstream Technology.

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The Physics Behind Hitting A Home Run

On Monday night, some of Major League Baseball’s best sluggers will square off in the sport’s biggest annual display of brute strength: the home run derby.

Each batter has seven “outs” to hit as many balls as possible out of San Diego’s Petco Park.

To most fans, it’s just a fun spectacle. But to Alan Nathan, home-run hitting is a physics problem.

Given the distance between home plate and the outfield wall, what combination of ball speed, bat angle and external factors will send the ball out of the park?

By day, Nathan is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working to elucidate the structure and interactions of subatomic particles.

But the rest of the time, he’s watching baseball with an eye for the underlying physics of the sport. He’s even written several peer-reviewed papers on the subject, which are all available on his website.

At the most basic level, he said, there are just two elements to a well-hit home run: exit speed and launch angle.

If you were a freshman physics student calculating the path of a projectile, these two numbers would be all you needed to know to predict how far the ball would travel.




According to ESPN’s hit tracker, the fastest-hit home run of the season so far was a solo shot slugged by the Angels’ Mike Trout in April.

That ball was traveling 120.5 mph when it left Trout’s bat. The optimum launch angle, Nathan said, is between 25 and 30 degrees. A ball hit at a lower angle will become a line drive or a grounder; a higher angle gives you a pop-up.

These factors can balance one another. A slower ball may make it out of the park if it’s hit at the right angle; a batter can make up for a bad trajectory by hitting the ball super fast.

But astute students of baseball science should take other factors into account.

Those first four all boil down to the same thing: air density. The less dense the air is, the less resistance the ball will encounter as it soars through the stadium.

The thin air at high elevations helps balls travel farther — that’s part of how Denver’s Coors Field, which sits at an MLB-high of 5,200 feet above sea level, got its reputation as a pitcher’s nightmare.

On the other hand, humidity in the stadium can help a home-run ball — if only ever so slightly — by making the air less dense.

Air temperature also plays a part, Nathan said. A 1995 study found that fly balls travel a few feet farther for every 10 degree increase in temperature.

The average fly ball distance in above-90-degree heat was 320 feet; on sub-50-degree days, that distance fell to 304 feet.

But the effect of air density pales in comparison to that of wind.

How far a ball flies also depends on the ball itself.

The stitches on a baseball help it travel farther by reducing drag, but only to a degree — high, loose seams, like those of the repeatedly reused baseballs of the “dead ball” era, will slow it down again.

Then there’s how you hit the ball. Side spin — which happens when the batter is out in front of the ball or just a little bit late — can cause a line drive to curve foul.

But a small amount of back spin gives the ball lift, allowing it to seemingly defy gravity for slightly longer than it otherwise would.

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Japanese Scientists Use Egg Whites For Clean Energy

The new method will help “bring us closer to our ultimate goal of providing hydrogen from water, according to Yusuke Yamada, a professor at Osaka City University.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is currently mass-produced using natural gas or fossil fuels, which result in greenhouse gas emissions.

It can be produced in laboratories without fossil fuels and scientists have traditionally done this by creating a special interaction of the molecules in liquid.




But free-moving and randomly located molecules and particles in the fluid can interact with the process of producing hydrogen and scientists have for many years looked to find a way to immobilise these particles.

Rose Bengal

Yamada’s team used a protein found in egg whites to build crystals with lots of tiny holes to trap these particles. These lysozyme crystals have a highly ordered nanostructure and improve the efficiency of clean hydrogen production.

The molecular components within the crystals must be manipulated carefully. This is achieved by the application of Rose Bengal, which is commonly used in a dye in eye drops to identify damage.

If you use hydrogen as an energy source, it only releases water in the environment. It is extremely environmentally friendly.

We found protein was a useful tool” to generate hydrogen in a laboratory without using a fossil fuel, said Yamada.

The method was published in the February edition of the scientific journal Applied Catalysis B.

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