Latest air pollution finding shouldn’t surprise anyone…


Click to enlargeKieran Doherty/Reuters

A smoggy day in London town…

The hearts of people who live in polluted areas are weaker than those who regularly breathe cleaner air, according to a new study which adds to the growing volume of evidence that fossil fuels are killing us.

The researchers said they found evidence of harmful effects even when levels of pollution associated with diesel vehicles were less than half the safety limit set by the European Union…

According to a UK government estimate, about 40,000 people die prematurely because of the air they breathe…

The process by which air pollution harms the body has been poorly understood. Until recently it was not known if fine particles could pass through the lungs into the bloodstream.

However, a study in which volunteers inhaled gold nanoparticles showed it was possible for this to happen with gold showing up in their blood and urine 15 minutes after they had breathed it in. The particles were still there up to three months later.

…Shouldn’t surprise anyone, that is, except heartless conservatives!

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Reality of falling oxygen levels in Earth’s oceans is worse than expected

❝ A new analysis of decades of data on oceans across the globe has revealed that the amount of dissolved oxygen contained in the water – an important measure of ocean health – has been declining for more than 20 years.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology looked at a historic dataset of ocean information stretching back more than 50 years and searched for long term trends and patterns. They found that oxygen levels started dropping in the 1980s as ocean temperatures began to climb…

❝ The study, which was published April in Geophysical Research Letters, was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The team included researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Washington-Seattle, and Hokkaido University in Japan.

Falling oxygen levels in water have the potential to impact the habitat of marine organisms worldwide and in recent years led to more frequent “hypoxic events” that killed or displaced populations of fish, crabs and many other organisms.

❝ Researchers have for years anticipated that rising water temperatures would affect the amount of oxygen in the oceans, since warmer water is capable of holding less dissolved gas than colder water. But the data showed that ocean oxygen was falling more rapidly than the corresponding rise in water temperature.

“The trend of oxygen falling is about two to three times faster than what we predicted from the decrease of solubility associated with the ocean warming,” associate professor Taka Ito said. “This is most likely due to the changes in ocean circulation and mixing associated with the heating of the near-surface waters and melting of polar ice.”

RTFA to see where and when this leads. Unless you’re one of those Trumpkins who sucks up fake news like sugary drinks through a fat plastic straw.

Scientists are by definition and practice a cautious and conservative lot. I’m never surprised when bad news exceeds their predictions. Or, for that matter,when the cowards in Congress and the White House ignore even conservative advice.

China, India Reaching Climate Goals Early — Trump’s US Will Fall Short

❝ Gradual reductions in coal in China and India put the two countries on track to better their carbon emissions goals.

According to Climate Action Tracker forecasts, greenhouse gas emissions from both countries are growing more slowly than previously predicted. The difference projects roughly 2 to 3 billion tons annually by 2030.

That would be sufficient to offset the expected underperformance of the U.S. — the number two contributor to world carbon emissions, behind China and ahead of India.

❝ American President Donald Trump rolled back the country’s emission controls, putting U.S. on track to miss its Paris Pledge mark. The U.S. is now on track to emit 400 million metric tons more than previously projected by 2030…

❝ …The other two top emitters are ardently fighting climate change by cutting coal use and boosting renewables. “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping — or even slowing — coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle…

The analysts rated both China and India’s climate plans as “medium,” but said that Trump’s planned policies could downgrade U.S. from “medium” to “inadequate.”

Like most of his projects, you can expect Trump to Fail or Go Bankrupt. Running the US government, he may succeed in doing both in record time.

Our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic


BURP! — Wildest Arctic

❝ Of course, all our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic.

It isn’t freaking Narnia!

❝ The Arctic, in our popular imagination, is a frozen expanse teetering figuratively and literally on the edges of human culture. It remains primal and wild and unsullied by human contagions…

The Arctic, as a physical place, is directly connected to the same ecosystems that we humans are polluting closer to home. It’s foolish to think that harming one part of a connected ecosystem doesn’t harm the others, as a study released on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances makes clear. The study found that even in the remote Arctic we can’t escape the megatons of plastic waste humanity unleashes upon the world…

❝ Plastic in the world’s oceans has been a growing concern since at least 1997 when Charles Moore stumbled across the Great Pacific Garbage patch as he crossed the Pacific after competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race. Today we know that there are at least six main garbage patches filled with plastic plaguing the seas. By some estimates as much as 300,000 tons of plastics are in the world’s oceans…

❝ Plastic in the ocean isn’t just unsightly. In fact, the plastic debris that we see is less of a problem than the plastic that is too small to see easily. That’s because plastic never biodegrades. It doesn’t revert back to its molecular elements the way other materials do.

Given enough time a leaf laying on the soil floor will be eaten by bugs and microbes to become soil that once again provides the tree with nourishment. Given enough time plastic will become a smaller piece of plastic. That’s it – this stuff never goes away. Eventually, after being buffeted about by sun and salt water, it becomes small enough that sea animals confuse it with morsels of food such as seaweed, or plankton. A 2015 study found that roughly 20 percent of small fish have plastic in their bellies. Researchers have also found that some northern fulmar’s, a sea bird that hangs out mostly in the subarctic, have elevated levels of ingested plastic. Plastic it seems, is not just an occasional snack, but a steady part of their diets. Tasty.

Most societies, most governments – which you might think would know better – still think of oceans as an open sewer. You can throw any of your society’s debris in and it will somehow disappear.

Wrong.

NASA GRACE Satellite Mapping


Click to enlarge

❝ Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center generate groundwater and soil moisture drought indicators each week. They are based on terrestrial water storage observations derived from GRACE satellite data and integrated with other observations, using a sophisticated numerical model of land surface water and energy processes.

❝ The drought indicators describe current wet or dry conditions, expressed as a percentile showing the probability of occurrence within the period of record from 1948 to the present, with lower values (warm colors) meaning dryer than normal, and higher values (blues) meaning wetter than normal. These are provided as both images and binary data files.

Important stuff even if you don’t earn your living from the land. That ain’t a large number of folks as the percentage of US population. Their products are significant even in a global economy.

Sooner or later, everything in these maps is going to affect your life.

Inside the firestorm


Click to enlargeNick Guy/University of Wyoming

❝ Aircraft N2UW has flown through all kinds of weather. The twin-propeller plane is sleek, petite, and so packed with scientific gear for studying the atmosphere that there’s barely room for two passengers to squeeze into its back seats. Monitors show radar reflections, gas concentrations and the sizes of cloud droplets. The plane has flown through tropical rainstorms in the Caribbean, through the gusting fronts of thunderheads over the Great Plains, and through turbulent down-slope winds that spawn dust storms in the lee of the Sierra Nevadas. But the four people on board Aug. 29, 2016, will never forget their flight over Idaho.

❝ The plane took off from Boise at 4 p.m. that day, veering toward the Salmon River Mountains, 40 miles northeast. There, the Pioneer Fire had devoured 29,000 acres and rolled 10 miles up Clear Creek Canyon in just a few hours. Its 100-foot flames leaned hungrily into the slope as they surged uphill in erratic bursts and ignited entire stands of trees at once.

But to David Kingsmill, in the plane’s front passenger seat, the flames on the ground two miles below were almost invisible — dwarfed by the dark thing that towered above. The fire’s plume of gray smoke billowed 35,000 feet into the sky, punching into the stratosphere with such force that a downy white pileus cloud coalesced on its underside like a bruise. The plume rotated slowly, seeming to pulse of its own volition, like a chthonic spirit rising over the ashes of the forest that no longer imprisoned it. “It looked,” says Kingsmill, “like a nuclear bomb.”

❝ Undaunted, Kingsmill and the pilot decided to do what no research aircraft had done: Fly directly through the plume.

Sometimes stunning, every bit as interesting as any wildfire may be. RTFA. Longish and nothing is extraneous.

Yes, fire season is already here in New Mexico.

Discovery of giant sulfur-powered shipworm — Eeoough!

❝ Our world seems to grow smaller by the day as biodiversity rapidly dwindles, but Mother Earth still has a surprise or two up her sleeve. An international team of researchers were the first to investigate a never before studied species — a giant, black, mud dwelling, worm-like animal. The odd animal doesn’t seem to eat much, instead it gets its energy from a form of sulfur. The findings, led by scientists at the University of Utah, Northeastern University, University of the Philippines, Sultan Kudarat State University and Drexel University, will be published online in the…Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

❝ People have known about the existence of the creature for centuries. The three- to five-foot long, tusk-like shells that encase the animal were first documented in the 18th century. “The shells are fairly common,” begins lead investigator Daniel Distel, Ph.D., a research professor and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center at Northeastern University, “But we have never had access to the animal living inside.”

The animal’s preferred habitat was unclear, but the research team benefitted from a bit of serendipity when one of their collaborators shared a documentary that aired on Philippine television. The video showed the bizarre creatures planted, like carrots, in the mud of a shallow lagoon. Following this lead, the scientists set up an expedition and found live specimens of Kuphus polythalamia.

❝ With a live giant shipworm finally in hand, the research team huddled around Distel as he carefully washed the sticky mud caked to the outside of the giant shipworm shell and tapped off the outer cap, revealing the creature living inside.

Not exactly destined to replace linguine with clams. But, RTFA for an interesting tale of science and search.