Apr 2, 2009
Officials in coastal states are worried that the high upkeep of boats in the depressed economy has mariners literally abandoning their ships in droves — a practice that could threaten the environment.
There's no official tally of cast-off boats, but an unusually high number are reportedly being dumped in waters off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina and Washington State; California is mulling a measure that would let owners surrender their vessels to the state, according to the New York Times. Other media reported last summer that more than 200 boats had been left in New York's Jamaica Bay. "Our waters have become dumping grounds," Major Paul Ouellette of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Times. "It's got to the point where something has to be done."
Jan 22, 2009 | 10
Hate the cold? Well hey, here's a cynically silver-lined perk to global warming: Hot days come earlier than they once did.
Earth's average temperature increased by 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit (0.7 degree Celsius) from 1905 to 2005, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Over the past 50 years, each season has begun nearly two days earlier than in the century before, Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley, scientists report today in Nature. Scientists have previously noted earlier springs, but the new findings (based on an analysis of land and ocean surface temps between 1850 and 2007) suggest that every season is getting an early start.
The reason for the shift isn’t entirely clear, but the study authors suspect that the Northern Annular Mode, a pattern of air movements across the Northern Hemisphere, may play a role. That pattern has brought stronger winter winds— and, therefore, warmer ocean air—to land, driving up winter temps and, perhaps, the researchers say, triggering earlier springs. And premature spring thaws mean drier soil earlier in the year; the drier the soil, the greater its ability to absorb and trap heat.
Jan 6, 2009 | 7
The environmental legacy of the Bush administration is a matter of some dispute but by designating three more marine monuments in the Pacific today, George W. Bush has entered the annals of history as the protector of 335,000 square miles of ocean. In fact, environmentalists and Bush himself likened the action to President Theodore Roosevelt's creation of the national parks more than a century ago.
"President Roosevelt left office with many achievements and the most enduring of all was his commitment to conservation. As he once said: 'Of all the questions which can come before the nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us,'" Bush said today at the signing ceremony. "That spirit has guided the conservation movement for a century; it's guided my administration. Since 2001, we have put common-sense policies in place, and I can say upon departure, our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our lands are better protected."
Dec 30, 2008
Did a big wave hit the Big Apple way back when? Scientists say a tsunami struck the New York City area 2,300 years ago, possibly as a result of a meteorite crashing into the Atlantic Ocean.
“It would have been a bad day to end all bad days,” research scientist Dallas Abbott of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory tells today's New York Times.
While no one has found a large crater that would indicate that a meteorite struck, Abbott discovered miniscule diamonds and tiny carbon spheres in Hudson River sediment that may be signs that a rock 330 feet (100 meters) across hit the New York City area. Abbott and colleagues at Harvard University reported their finding earlier this month at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
Dec 12, 2008 | 1
Another major earthquake along the same fault line that sparked the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is likely in the next several decades—and it could unleash as much or more destruction, new research suggests.
The tsunami, which killed an estimated 250,000 people, was sparked by a magnitude 9.2 earthquake along the Sunda fault off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. A major 8.4 temblor and aftershocks along a southern section of that fault called the Mentawi patch shook up the region last year.
Now, analysis of coral growth patterns along the Mentawi patch suggests that the 2007 quake may have been just the first episode in an "earthquake supercycle," or set of large quakes that have occurred in the region roughly every 200 years for the past seven centuries. Sections of the Earth's crust called tectonic plates are likely to rupture again under the Mentawi patch within several decades, possibly generating a magnitude 8.8 temblor, according to research published in this week's Science.
Nov 24, 2008 | 34
Increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is making the Pacific coast acidic far more rapidly than previously believed, potentially wreaking havoc for creatures living in it that are unable to tolerate the swiftly changing environment.
Ecologists at the University of Chicago tracked the acidity of the Pacific off an island close to Washington state over the course of eight years. Their results, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: the waters here are becoming acidic 10 times more quickly than had been predicted using other models. Their data also shows that populations of mussels—key animals in that ecosystem—are declining rapidly as the ocean becomes less alkaline.
Nov 11, 2008 | 1
Human displacement and the accompanying decline in sanitation is often a recipe for a disease outbreak, and the latest fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is no different. The crowding and lack of safe drinking water in refugee camps could spark a cholera outbreak there, where 250,000 people are now refugees, health authorities say.
There have been at least 1,000 cases of the diarrheal disease in the region since the beginning of October, and more could occur if sanitation isn’t improved in the camps, the Associated Press is reporting today. Aid groups have diagnosed at least 90 cholera cases around the provincial capital of Goma since Friday, according to the AP. But almost a million people in the eastern DRC are at risk for water-borne diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week.
Nov 10, 2008
There are some unusual things living in the world’s oceans: A "city" made up of tens of millions of brittle stars (relatives of starfish) living on the peak of a seamount (see photo to the left), or underwater summit north of the Antarctic Circle; a huge, 16-inch (407 millimeter) long by quarter-inch (10 millimeter) wide mollusk, Chaetoderma felderi, discovered deep in the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana; and enormous bacteria in the eastern South Pacific that may help clean polluted ocean floors, a concept known as bioremediation.
Those are just some of the 5,300 potentially new ocean species that scientists working on the Census of Marine Life have identified so far. The findings, released ahead of the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity that begins tomorrow in Valencia, Spain, are a preview of this upcoming census of aquatic life. Scientists estimate that the final tally of sea creatures will come in around 230,000.
Nov 4, 2008 | 6
Well, that’s a relief.
A 1,400-pound (635-kilogram) ammonia tank burned up over the Pacific Ocean late Sunday, more than a year after an astronaut chucked it from the International Space Station because it had become obsolete, NASA said yesterday.
"What debris may have been still together after re-entry, it fell into the ocean between Australia and New Zealand," Mike Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager, told reporters yesterday, according to Space.com. "I know a lot of folks were wondering what the end result of that was."
Up to 15 pieces of the tank could have survived its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, with the largest, 40-pound (17.5-kilogram) pieces plunging into sea at up to 100 miles (164 kilometers) per hour, the Web site reported.
Sep 23, 2008 | 1
The chief of the federal agency that keeps watch over US waters and weather patterns has resigned after seven years at the helm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Jr., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, announced his resignation today. His last day on the job is Oct. 31.
The announcement on the NOAA Web site doesn’t say why Lautenbacher is stepping down from his post. But Anson Franklin, a NOAA spokesman, said the resignation isn't unexpected. "I don’t think it's been a surprise to anybody," Franklin tells us. "He's been here for almost seven years, which is a lifetime for political appointees. He's made it clear for a year or so that he'd probably depart before the end of the administration and ended up staying on. He feels he's completed the major projects he was working on and was just ready to move on."
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