Getting too warm…sent the Polar Vortex down into North America, Europe and Asia

It was…temperatures high in the stratosphere above Siberia. In the first week of January, they increased from about minus 92 degrees Fahrenheit to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. While these “sudden stratospheric warming” events happen to some extent every year, this one is categorized as a major event and is less common.

The mass of extremely warm air threw the freezing polar vortex out of balance, shoving it off its North Pole axis so forcefully that it in effect split in two, as if growing a pair of legs: one over North America and one over Europe…

The interaction between disruption to the stratosphere and weather in the troposphere is still not precisely understood. But when the vortex in the stratosphere is disrupted—split, displaced, or elongated—it can push the jet stream below it south, bringing Arctic air into cities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

What this article was predicting over a week ago has landed in our lap. And many others in the Northern Hemisphere. Read the article for the complex and predictable parts of the process that dropped Arctic temperatures in lands further south.

Wheels down on Mars, once again


First image from Perseverance

NASA folks land on Mars, again. I switched onto the NASA Channel to check on how they were doing…and the lander had chute deployed and about 7 kilometers above the surface of Mars.

It was just halftime in the Europa League football match I was watching; so, I quick ran to get my wet-and-snow walking shoes – to change while watching. I usually start a couple laps of our fenceline at halftime if I’m watching footie and we got a few more inches of snow, last night.

They spiked the landing. Truly fun to watch for an old time science and scifi geek like me. Nice to see reality match fiction.

Check your local TV access for progress!

Unaffected by Covid? Maybe thank your Neanderthal ancestors

People who survive a bout of Covid-19 with mild symptoms or even no symptoms may be able to thank their Neanderthal ancestors, a new study suggests.

Researchers found a genetic mutation that reduces the risk of severe Covid-19 infection by about 22%. It was found in all the samples they took of Neanderthal DNA, and in about 30% of samples from people of European and Asian origin.

The genetic region involved affects the body’s immune response to RNA viruses such as the coronavirus, as well as West Nile virus and hepatitis C virus, the researchers reported Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

The finding could help explain why Black patients are so much more likely to suffer severe coronavirus disease. Neanderthals, who went extinct about 40,000 years ago, lived alongside and sometimes interbred with modern humans in Europe and Asia but not in Africa, and people of purely African descent do not carry Neanderthal DNA. Studies estimate that about 2% of DNA in people of European and Asian descent can be traced back to Neanderthals.

RTFA. Details on the research. And it’s certainly interesting to our household. Genetic analysis shows my wife with about 2% Neanderthal DNA. I’m actually at about 3%.

Breastfeeding moms with COVID-19 pass antibodies to their Babies

Breastfeeding women with COVID-19 don’t transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus through their milk, but do pass on milk-borne antibodies that can neutralize the virus, a new study indicates.

Researchers analyzed 37 milk samples submitted by 18 women diagnosed with COVID-19. None of the milk samples contained the virus, while nearly two thirds of the samples did contain two antibodies specific to the virus.

Critically, the findings provide evidence that COVID-19 positive mothers should not be separated from their newborn children. At the onset of the pandemic, major health organizations provided contradictory advice on the necessity of separation was necessary.

You’ll find the details of the study over here. Good news, sound science, is always worth checking out.

Side effects are worth it…


Getty

…Side effects are a natural part of the vaccination process, as my colleague Sarah Zhang has written. Not everyone will experience them. But the two COVID-19 vaccines cleared for emergency use in the United States, made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, already have reputations for raising the hackles of the immune system: In both companies’ clinical trials, at least a third of the volunteers ended up with symptoms such as headaches and fatigue; fevers like my husband’s were less common.

Dose No. 2 is more likely to pack a punch—in large part because the effects of the second shot build iteratively on the first. My husband, who’s a neurologist at Yale New Haven Hospital, is one of many who had a worse experience with his second shot than his first.

But much like any other learning process, in this one repetition is key. When hit with the second injection, the immune system recognizes the onslaught, and starts to take it even more seriously. The body’s encore act, uncomfortable though it might be, is evidence that the immune system is solidifying its defenses against the virus.

Side effects generally resolve quickly, whereas COVID-19 can bring on debilitating, months-long symptoms and has killed millions.

Please read the article. Lose the excuse!

Chemical Weapon the United States dropped on the people of VietNam maims and kills, decades later


NY Times

A French court will…hear a case against more than a dozen multinationals, accused by a French-Vietnamese woman of causing grievous harm to her and others by selling the Agent Orange defoliant to the US government which used it to devastating effect in the Vietnam War.

Tran To Nga, born in 1942 in what was then French Indochina, worked as a journalist and activist in Vietnam in her 20s.

She filed the lawsuit in 2014 against 14 firms that made or sold the highly toxic chemical, including Monsanto, now owned by German giant Bayer, and Dow Chemical…

So far, only military veterans — from the US, Australia and Korea — have won compensation for the after-effects of the chemical whose toxic properties…were “absolutely phenomenal” at around 13 times the toxicity of herbicides in civilian use such as glyphosate.

Four million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were exposed to Agent Orange, according to NGOs, over a decade when the US military sprayed an estimated 76 million litres (20 million gallons) of the herbicide and defoliant chemical to halt the advances of communist North Vietnamese troops and deprive enemy combatants of food sources.

“Conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure” (Delaware Gazette 2/11/21) https://www.delgazette.com/opinion/columns/88753/conditions-linked-to-agent-orange-exposure Part 3 of a four part series on agent orange see https://muckrack.com/harold-b-wolford/articles
“Agent Orange Wasn’t the Only Deadly Chemical Used In Vietnam : The “Rainbow Herbicides” left a lethal legacy.” https://www.history.com/news/agent-orange-wasnt-the-only-deadly-chemical-used-in-vietnam

If Nazi Germany had done this in World War 2, chemical war on civilian populations would likely be a leading war crime remembered for centuries. When the GOUSA does it…when most of us still study history books written by English-speaking apologists for crimes like this…it takes decades just to find a court that will listen to the complaints of civilians and the survivors of those maimed and murdered by our war criminals.

The coronavirus vaccines have surpassed expectations

The big picture: The pandemic isn’t over. There are still big threats ahead of us and big problems to solve. But for all the things that have gone wrong over the past year, the vaccines themselves have shattered even the most ambitious expectations.

The vaccines represent a “stunning scientific achievement for the world … unprecedented in the history of vaccinology,” said Dan Barouch, an expert on virology and vaccines at Harvard, who worked on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine…

Most importantly, all the leading vaccines work extremely well.

All four vaccines or vaccine candidates in the U.S. — from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — appear to prevent coronavirus deaths, and to offer total or near-total protection against serious illness.

RTFA. Engage with scientific facts and practice. Please, please, don’t wander off into the pop culture of profiteers, economic and ideological, who seek to line their pockets by encouraging fear and foolishness.

The First Nation came to the Americas ~15,000 years ago. They brought their dogs.


Ettore Mazza

An international team of researchers led by archaeologist Dr. Angela Perri, of Durham University, UK, looked at the archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs.

They found that the first people to cross into the Americas before 15,000 years ago, who were of northeast Asian descent, were accompanied by their dogs.

The researchers say this discovery suggests that dog domestication likely took place in Siberia before 23,000 years ago. People and their dogs then eventually travelled both west into the rest of Eurasia, and east into the Americas…

The Americas were one of the last regions in the world to be settled by people. By this same time, dogs had been domesticated from their wolf ancestors and were likely playing a variety of roles within human societies.

Nicely enough, they still do.

1st non-human primate in the GOUSA infected with COVID-19

A gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California has recovered from Covid-19 after receiving monoclonal antibody therapy and other treatments.

Winston, an elderly silverback gorilla, and eight other gorilla troop members tested positive for the virus earlier this month after showing symptoms of “mild coughing, congestion, nasal discharge and intermittent lethargy,” the zoo said. The gorillas were suspected to have been infected by an asymptomatic staff member…

From a supply not permitted for human use, Winston received monoclonal antibody therapy, heart medications and antibiotics…”Treatment with these synthetic versions of the body’s natural defenses is thought to be effective in diminishing effects from the virus,” the zoo said in its news release. “The veterinary team who treated Winston believe the antibodies may have contributed to his ability to overcome the virus.”

Monoclonal antibody treatments that are used to treat humans have been shown to reduce viral load and lower a person’s risk of hospitalization and even death. Unlike a vaccine that takes a few weeks to work, antibody treatments work right away.

What’s happening to the bees?

Researchers at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) in Argentina have found that, since the 1990s, up to 25% of reported bee species are no longer being reported in global records, despite a large increase in the number of records available. While this does not mean that these species are all extinct, it might indicate that these species have become rare enough that no one is observing them in nature. The findings appear [in January 22, 2021 issue of] the journal One Earth.

“With citizen science and the ability to share data, records are going up exponentially, but the number of species reported in these records is going down,” says first author Eduardo Zattara…“It’s not a bee cataclysm yet, but what we can say is that wild bees are not exactly thriving.”

While there are many studies about declining bee populations, these are usually focused on a specific area or a specific type of bee. These researchers were interested in identifying more general, global trends in bee diversity…

“It’s not really about how certain the numbers are here. It’s more about the trend,” says Zattara. “It’s about confirming what’s been shown to happen locally is going on globally. And also, about the fact that much better certainty will be achieved as more data are shared with public databases…”

“Something is happening to the bees, and something needs to be done. We cannot wait until we have absolute certainty because we rarely get there in natural sciences,” says Zattara. “The next step is prodding policymakers into action while we still have time. The bees cannot wait.”

I second that emotion!