Report casts world’s rivers in ‘crisis state’

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Report-casts

Report-casts

The world’s rivers, the single largest renewable water resource for humans and a crucible of aquatic biodiversity, are in a crisis of ominous proportions, according to a new global analysis. The report, published today (Sept. 30) in the journal Nature, is the first to simultaneously account for the effects of such things as pollution, dam building, agricultural runoff, the conversion of wetlands and the introduction of exotic species on the health of the world’s rivers. The resulting portrait of the global riverine environment, according to the scientists who conducted the analysis, is grim. It reveals that nearly 80 percent of the world’s human population lives in areas where river waters are highly threatened posing a major threat to human water security and resulting in aquatic environments where thousands of species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction.

“Rivers around the world really are in a crisis state,” says Peter B. McIntyre, a senior author of the new study and a professor of zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology.

The Nature report was authored by an international team co-led by Charles J. Vörösmarty of the City University of New York, an expert on global water resources, and McIntyre, an expert on freshwater biodiversity.

Examining the influence of numerous types of threats to water quality and aquatic life across all of the world’s river systems, the study is the first to explicitly assess both human water security and biodiversity in parallel. Fresh water is widely regarded as the world’s most essential natural resource, underpinning human life and economic development as well as the existence of countless organisms ranging from microscopic life to fish, amphibians, birds and terrestrial animals of all kinds.

NASA uses 3 satellites to see strengthening Tropical Storm Nicole

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NASA uses

NASA uses

NASA is providing data from three satellites to give forecasters valuable information on newly strengthened Tropical Storm Nicole. Nicole was Tropical Depression 16 until 11 a.m. EDT, Sept. 29 and NASA data helped confirm her new designation. Satellite data from NASA showed frigid thunderstorm cloud top temperatures, heavy rainfall, and extensive cloud cover as Nicole strengthened. The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument uses infrared technology to take a tropical cyclone’s temperature. AIRS sits on NASA’s Aqua satellite and captured an image of those cloud top temperatures on Sept. 29 at 0723 UTC (3:23 a.m. EDT) revealing very high thunderstorms around Nicole’s center, colder than -65 Fahrenheit.

NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite (a satellite shared with the Japanese Space Agency) captured the rainfall within Nicole on Sept. 28 as 1447 UTC (10:47 a.m. EDT) when she was Tropical Depression 16, and at that time noticed several areas of very heavy rainfall, falling at a rate of more than 2 inches per hour around the south and eastern sides of the storm’s center of circulation. That heavy rainfall continues today, Sept. 29. TRMM will be closely monitoring Nicole with the expected accumulations of 5 to 10 inches over the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Cuba and even isolated amounts up to 20 inches are possible over the higher elevations of Cuba and Jamaica.

Simple approach could clean up oil remaining from Exxon Valdez spill

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Simple-approach

Simple-approach

Traces of crude oil that linger on the shores of Alaska’s Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez oil spill remain highly biodegradable, despite almost 20 years of weathering and decomposition, scientists are reporting in a new study. Their findings, which appear in ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest a simple approach for further cleaning up remaining traces of the Exxon Valdez spill — the largest in U.S. waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon episode. Albert D. Venusian and colleagues note that bacteria, evaporation, sunlight, and other items in Mother’s Nature’s clean-up kit work together to break down the oil and make it disappear. Scientists have known for years that adding nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer to oil-contaminated soil can speed the growth of bacteria that decompose, or biodegrade, oil. But it has been uncertain whether oil that has lingered in the environment for almost 20 years still is biodegradable, leaving questions on whether further clean-up efforts might be worthwhile.

The scientists collected oil-contaminated soil from different beaches in Prince William Sound and treated the samples with phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer in the presence of excess oxygen from the air. Oil in the fertilized samples biodegraded up to twice as fast as oil in the unfertilized control samples, but significant biodegradation occurred even in the unfertilized controls. The results showed that oxygen supply was the major bottleneck, or limiting factor, in the field that prevented further decomposition of the oil. The scientists used data from the research to postulate a simple treatment scheme that would involve applying simple nitrate salts to possibly break down the natural organic matter in the sediment. That would cause an increase in sediment porosity that would allow dissolved oxygen in seawater to penetrate to the oiled zone and create oxygen-rich conditions that might stimulate more rapid

Climate accord loopholes could spell 4.2-degree rise in temperature and end of coral reefs by 2100

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Climate accord

Climate accord

A global temperature increase of up to 4.2 º C and the end of coral reefs could become reality by 2100 if national targets are not revised in the Copenhagen Accord, the international pledge which was agreed at last year’s Copenhagen’s COP15 climate change conference. Just ahead of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, which starts on 4 October in Tianjin, China, a new report published today, Wednesday, 29 September, in IOP Publishing’s Environmental Research Letters describes how, due to lack of global action to date, only a small chance remains for keeping the global temperature increase down to 2 º C as set as a target in the Accord.

Looking at individual countries’ agreed targets for emission levels, the report shows that many developed countries such as the USA and the European Union have set their aims very low, aiming at reaching emission levels just a few percent lower than 1990 levels by 2020. Only Japan and Norway are aiming to drastically reduce their emission to 25% and 30 to 40% below 1990 levels respectively.

Chakra Balancing

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Chakra Balancing

Chakra Balancing

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Carbon Dioxide in Fizzy Drinks Sets Off Pain Sensors in Nasal Cavity

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Carbon-Dioxide

Carbon-Dioxide

The carbon dioxide in fizzy beverages ignites the same pain sensors in the nasal cavity, very much like mustard and horseradish,according to a new study.

Carbonation evokes two distinct sensations. It makes things sour and it also makes them burn. We have all felt that noxious tingling sensation when soda goes down your throat too fast,” said Emily Liman, an associate professor of neurobiology in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California.

The burning sensation is caused by nerves that respond to pain, skin pressure and temperature in the nose and mouth.

“The cells that responded to CO2 were the same cells that detect mustard,” Liman said.

These cells express a gene known as TRPA1 and serve as general pain sensors. The gene, however, provides only one aspect of carbonation’s sensory experience. Another study had shown earlier that carbonation trips cells in the tongue that convey sourness.

Ancient “Fossil” Virus Shows Infection to Be Millions of Years Old

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Fossil-virus-bird

Fossil-virus-bird

Viruses can be thought of as hyperspeed shape-shifters, organisms that can adapt quickly to overcome barriers to infection. But recent research has been finding ancient traces of many viruses in animal genomes, DNA insertions that have likely been there for much longer than the viruses were previously thought to have existed at all.

A new study describes evidence of a hepadnavirus (a virus group that includes hepatitis B, which infects humans as well as other mammals and ducks) hiding in the genomes of modern songbirds. By tracing back to these bird species’ common ancestors, the researchers behind the new work estimate that this family of viruses has been around for at least 19 million years—and possibly as long as 40 million years—rather than the several thousand years researchers had estimated.

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