Atmospheric river storms are getting stronger

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands of moisture in the atmosphere that extend from the tropics to higher latitudes. These rivers in the sky can transport 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River. When that moisture reaches the coast and moves inland, it rises over the mountains, generating rain and snowfall and sometimes causing extreme flooding.

Recently…a team of researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Army Corps of Engineers in the first systematic analysis of damages from atmospheric rivers due to extreme flooding. We found that while many of these events are benign, the largest of them cause most of the flooding damage in the western U.S. And atmospheric rivers are predicted to grow longer, wetter and wider in a warming climate.

RTFA. More info. A scale for evaluating the dangerous potential in these rivers. Another wake-up call for this nation.

And so cute, too…


Click to enlarge

Baby spider (Carrhotus xanthogramma juvenile)/Pierre Anquet

“No one knows, incidentally, why Australia’s spiders are so extravagantly toxic; capturing small insects and injecting them with enough poison to drop a horse would appear to be the most literal case of overkill. Still, it does mean that everyone gives them lots of space.”

Bill Bryson, “In a Sunburned Country” (2001)

Forecast: Clear and seasonably cold, possible falling iguanas

The concern for people in South Florida is that these iguanas often sleep in trees, so when their bodies go dormant, they appear to fall from the sky onto streets, cars, pools, or even people walking around. And since iguanas are large — adult males can reach 5 feet in length, and weigh up to 20 pounds — this can be dangerous if one lands on top of you.

The invasive species can’t handle cold temperatures very well because they are cold-blooded. In general, iguanas begin to get sluggish or lethargic once the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit…

Not everyone is concerned about the well-being of these iguanas, though. They are considered an invasive species, so some people are looking forward to an opportunity to rid their yards of these reptiles.

What can I say? Long, long time ago, I had a pet iguana. Named “Hank”.

Brake dust as bad for your lungs as diesel exhaust


Kristian Buus/Getty

Brake dust in urban areas currently makes up around 21% of traffic air particulates, but this is set to rise as regulations on diesel vehicles come into effect. With this information, a team led by Ian Mudway from King’s College London in the UK collected brake dust, produced under conditions representative of modern urban life, to investigate its effects on the immune function of human lungs. The team exposed lung cells to both diesel exhaust and brake dust particles to compare the toxicity of each. Their data showed that both pollution sources increased inflammation markers and impaired the ability of immune cells to ingest bacteria (called phagocytosis), which is the body’s primary mechanism for protecting the lungs against infection.

The study highlights how exposure to vehicle-derived pollution decreases the lungs ability to prevent infection and may be why such infections are more common in urban environments.

There’s good news and bad news in the article. From one of my favorite new tech sources.

Palau National Marine Sanctuary became law New Year’s Day

A huge marine protected area surrounding much of the Pacific Island nation of Palau went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, after years of planning by local officials and advocates. Within the sanctuary, which covers 80 percent of Palau’s national waters, all extractive activities such as fishing and mining are now prohibited

Palau, an archipelago made up of more than 500 islands, became a global leader in efforts to establish fully protected marine areas when its Congress voted in October 2015 to establish the Palau National Marine Sanctuary…Only about 7 percent of the world’s ocean is protected today, according to the United Nations, although a global consensus is building that at least 30 percent must be safeguarded by 2030 to protect ecosystems, preserve the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on fishing, and increase resilience to a changing climate.

At 475,077 square kilometers (183,000 square miles) the fully protected area is one of the biggest in the world. The area is larger than the U.S. state of California and home to thriving marine life. Palau’s waters host more than 1,300 species of fish and more than 400 species of hard coral…

Bravo! A nation with an understanding of thoughtful economics, modern ethics and the courage to implement both.