Archetypal East Coast Trees Are Moving West

❝ As anybody who’s taken a drive through Vermont in the autumn will know, the eastern US has plenty of iconic trees, like maple and oak. But over the past three decades, deciduous tree species in this part of the world seem to be shifting westward, according to new research…Evergreens, meanwhile, are going north.

❝ Past research has tracked how some tree species are moving north for reasons related to climate change. But in Science Advances, researchers looked at 30 years’ worth of tree data from the US Forest Service, including 86 species, reflecting changes between 1980 and 2015 — and, to their surprise, saw this westward shift of deciduous trees. “We show that more tree species have experienced a westward shift than a poleward shift (62%) in their abundance, a trend that is stronger for saplings than adult trees,” it reads.

This wasn’t a modelling exercise that casts forward to something that may happen in the future. Rather, it’s tracking changes that are happening now.

❝ This strange shift appears to be linked to climate change and its accompanying effects. Over the last 30 years, the study says, the mean annual temperature in the eastern US has gone up by 0.16 ̊C, on average, and the northern region has seen the highest increase…

Precipitation patterns are shifting, too: The central US has seen an increase of more than 150 mm total in annual precipitation, and there’s been a reduction in the southeast…

“There is still some skepticism out there about climate change,” Songlin Fei of Purdue University acknowledged. With this study, “we’re saying, let’s look at what’s actually happened. We wanted to show the reality, not speculations.” Our environment is changing more rapidly than many scientists expected. Fei asked: “Is our society ready to adapt?”

Yes, this is probably too short-term to be classified as climatology. But, as Fei correctly characterized, scientists have a habit of being conservative – regardless of propaganda from fossil fuel pimps. The inclination described just may be a short-term trend, e.g., meteorology not climatology.

Follow this lightning storm halfway across the US to the East Coast

❝ Watch a huge lightning storm move across the eastern USA. The huge storm caused much damage and unfortunately some loss of life for people in its path.

❝ Seen from space, the lightning is seen as momentary flashes in the featured time-lapse video recorded last month by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) aboard the GOES-16 satellite. The outline of North America is most evident during the day, while the bright lightning strikes are most evident at night

The video shows that much of the lightning occurred at the leading edge of the huge tail of the swirling storm. Because lightning frequently precedes a storm’s most violent impact, lightning data from GLM holds promise to help reduce the harm to humans from future storms.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

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.

Way More Americans Probably Are Atheists Than We Thought

❝ After signing an executive order earlier this month that seeks to relax restrictions on the political activities of tax-exempt churches, President Trump said the order was an important affirmation of the American identity. “We’re a nation of believers,” he said. Trump is right in one sense — 69 percent of Americans say a belief in God is an important part of being American — but he’s wrong demographically: Atheists constitute a culturally significant part of American society.

❝ We’re not sure how significant, though. The number of atheists in the U.S. is still a matter of considerable debate. Recent surveys have found that only about one in 10 Americans report that they do not believe in God, and only about 3 percent identify as atheist. But a new study suggests that the true number of atheists could be much larger, perhaps even 10 times larger than previously estimated.

❝ The authors of the study, published earlier this year, adopted a novel way to measure atheist identity. Instead of asking about belief in God directly, they provided a list of seemingly innocuous statements and then asked: “How many of these statements are true of you?” Respondents in a control group were given a list of nine statements, such as “I own a dog” and “I am a vegetarian.” The test group received all the same statements plus one that read, “I do not believe in God.” The totals from the test group were then compared to those from the control group, allowing researchers to estimate the number of people who identify as atheists without requiring any of the respondents to directly state that they don’t believe in God. The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God.

While this result is fairly stunning and not consistent with any published survey results, there is good reason to suspect that more direct measures significantly underestimate the number of atheists.

Interesting article. Interesting methods. Having figured out I knew enough science to be an atheist by age 13, a philosophical materialist by age 18 – the questions are moot. If not boring. But, then, I don’t know anyone following my personal blog who’s older than me either. 🙂 Sorted these questions a long, long time ago.

Americans are a small measure less chickenshit about such questions, nowadays. Small.

3-D bioprinter can print human skin


Working prototypeUniversidad Carlos III de Madrid

❝ …A team of researchers has demonstrated, for the first time, that, using the new 3D printing technology, it is possible to produce proper human skin. One of the authors, José Luis Jorcano…head of the Mixed Unit CIEMAT/UC3M in Biomedical Engineering, points out that this skin “can be transplanted to patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses.”

❝ This new human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace. It replicates the natural structure of the skin, with a first external layer, the epidermis with its stratum corneum, which acts as protection against the external environment, together with another thicker, deeper layer, the dermis. This last layer consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives elasticity and mechanical strength to the skin.

❝ Bioinks are key to 3D bioprinting, according to the experts. When creating skin, instead of cartridges and colored inks, injectors with biological components are used. In the words of Juan Francisco del Cañizo, of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Complutense de Madrid researcher. “Knowing how to mix the biological components, in what conditions to work with them so that the cells don’t deteriorate, and how to correctly deposit the product is critical to the system.” The act of depositing these bioinks, which are patented by CIEMAT and licensed by the BioDan Group, is controlled by a computer, which deposits them on a print bed in an orderly manner to then produce the skin…

❝ Currently, this development is in the phase of being approved by different European regulatory agencies to guarantee that the skin that is produced is adequate for use in transplants on burn patients and those with other skin problems. In addition, these tissues can be used to test pharmaceutical products, as well as cosmetics and consumer chemical products where current regulations require testing that does not use animals.

I wish folks who rail against technology would look first at the intended use of the tech they hate. Nothing has to be solely useful as weapons of mass destruction. A guy named Alfred Nobel proved that for us.

NASA Satellite Camera records Flashes of Light From Earth


Click to enlarge — Sun glints off stmospheric ice crystals – circled in red

❝ One million miles from Earth, a NASA camera is capturing unexpected flashes of light reflecting off our planet. The homeward-facing instrument on NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, launched in 2015, caught hundreds of these flashes over the span of a year. As keen observers from outside NASA wrote in, questioning the source of these lights, scientists deciphered the tiny cause to the big reflections: high-altitude, horizontally oriented ice crystals…

Investigating the flashes, Alexander Marshak and his colleagues found that similar reflections from our pale blue dot caught the attention of astronomer Carl Sagan in 1993. Sagan was looking at images taken by the Galileo spacecraft, which launched in 1989 to study Jupiter and its moons. During one if its gravitational-assist swings around Earth, Galileo turned its instruments on this planet and collected data. Sagan and his colleagues used that to test a key question: Whether spacecraft could detect signatures of life from afar…

But when the scientists took another took a look at the Galileo images, they saw something Sagan and his colleagues apparently missed — bright flashes of light over land as well as over water. And those flashes appeared in the EPIC images as well. As the contact listed on the website that posts all EPIC images, Marshak started getting emails from people curious about what the flashes were.

❝ Instead, he and his colleagues Tamas Varnai of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Alexander Kostinski of Michigan Technological University, thought of water elsewhere in the Earth system: ice particles high in the atmosphere. The scientists conducted a series of experiments, detailed in a new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, to confirm the cause of the distant flashes…

Another feature of the EPIC data helped confirm that the flashes were from a high altitude, not simply water on the ground…”The source of the flashes is definitely not on the ground. It’s definitely ice, and most likely solar reflection off of horizontally oriented particles,” Marshak said.

Gotta love science. Though, I imagine any of the flavors of conspiracy nutball might have explanations more titillating than high altitude ice crystals.

50 years of glaciers changing, disappearing, in Montana


Click to enlargeUSGS

The warming climate has dramatically reduced the size of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966, some by as much as 85 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University. On average, the glaciers have reduced by 39 percent and only 26 glaciers are now larger than 25 acres, which is used as a guideline for deciding if bodies of ice are large enough to be considered glaciers.

The data include scientific information for the 37 named glaciers in Glacier National Park and two glaciers on U.S. Forest Service land. The retreat of glaciers is significant in Montana because of the impact shrinking glaciers can have on tourism, as well as being a visual indicator of mountain ecosystem change in the northern Rocky Mountains…

“While the shrinkage in Montana is more severe than some other places in the U.S., it is in line with trends that have been happening on a global scale,” geologist Andrew Fountain said…

This information is part of a larger, ongoing USGS glacier study of glaciers in Montana, Alaska and Washington to document mass balance measurements that estimate whether the total amount of ice is increasing or decreasing at a particular glacier. This information helps scientists understand the impact of large scale climate patterns on glaciers in distinctly different mountain environments.

Some of the glaciers the park is named for are now too small to qualify as glaciers. That’s OK. The brains in some of the politicians we’ve elected to serve the people – are now too small to do much more than parrot statements programmed in by major campaign donors and other political scum.

They’re the individuals chosen in our democratic republic charged with solving problems on this scale.

Trump thinks exercise will kill you

❝ One health aspect Trump is transparent about: He doesn’t like to break a sweat. To be more precise, he thinks physical activity will kill you faster.

In a remarkable New Yorker story this week about how Donald Trump could realistically be removed from the presidency, Evan Osnos writes: “Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.”…

Trump is as ignorant his peers. Like Texas Republican Joe Barton who thinks wind is a finite resource…”wind is God’s way of balancing heat”…so, don’t use it up generating electricity.

❝ After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out…On the campaign trail, we learned that Trump didn’t dedicate any extra time to breaking a sweat because he believes exercise is actually harmful…

❝ Let’s pause to consider how remarkably backward this is.

❝ There was a time when doctors would have concurred with Trump on this. That was the Victorian era. Back then, people worried a physical activity could cause everything from exhaustion and heart palpitations, particularly in women.

A century later, doctors’ thinking has moved on. Research now shows exercise is actually the closest thing we have to a miracle cure.

❝ Regular physical activity can “prevent dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions — reducing the risk of each by at least 30%,” according to this 2015 report on the benefits of exercise from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. “This is better than many drugs,” the authors wrote.

It also helps people live longer. “Many studies give an approximate 30% risk reduction in all-cause mortality. Smoking is the biggest contributor to early mortality and years living with chronic illness and disability. Physical inactivity, through multiple mechanisms produces an effect one-third the effect of smoking.” Overall, the researchers found, regular exercise reduces cardiac death by 31 percent.

But, for our so-called president and the chumps who believe him, exercise will kill you.

EPA removes climate science from website after two decades

❝ The Environmental Protection Agency announced that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information…

❝ The agency also said it would carefully archive pages from the past administration.

❝ The change was approved by Scott Pruitt, according to an individual familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, to avoid a conflict between the site’s content and the policies the administration is now pursuing…

Yet the website overhaul appears to include not only policy-related changes but also scrutiny of a scientific Web page that has existed for nearly two decades, and that explained what climate change is and how it worked.

❝ The page contains scientific explanations of climate change and its causes and consequences, and has existed in one form or another since at least 1997. At that time it was called the agency’s Global Warming site.

The site has long served an informational role and sought to provide a comprehensive review of basic climate science, the effects of climate change, and how it is affecting the United States. In addition it contained information about the agency’s approach to climate change and how people could take steps to lower their own contributions to climate change.

Trump and his know-nothing flunkies care as little about science as they do about truth in any other area they consider only to be politics. Reality interferes with their foolishness – and American citizens will bear the results of their destructive crimes.

RTFA for lots and lots of detail. Sad but true.