World nations see six all-time record high temperatures, no lows so far in 2011

Eight months into the year, six nations have seen record high temperatures, including Kuwait, Iraq, Armenia, Iran, and Republic of the Congo, reports Jeff Master's Wunderblog. To date no record lows have been recorded in any country in the world so far. This is similar, though not quite as extreme, to last year when twenty countries broke all time highs with none hitting an all time low.

Excrement and Coral

Coral reef ecologists have found a potential answer to a persistent and troubling puzzle. The elkhorn coral, named for its resemblance to elk antlers and known for providing valuable marine habitat, was once the Caribbean's most abundant reef builder. But it has declined 90% over the past decade, in part due to highly contagious white pox disease, which causes large lesions that bare the coral's white skeleton and kill its tissue. Now, after nearly a decade of data collection and analysis, researchers have a possible cause of the affliction: human excrement. The finding represents the first example of human-to-invertebrate disease transmission and suggests a practical approach for halting the disease's spread.

Dust storm engulfs downtown Phoenix

A billowing wall of dust engulfed downtown Phoenix on Thursday, cutting visibility to a few hundred yards and delaying flights at the international airport, authorities and news reports said. Driving rains and winds gusting at nearly 60 miles per hour also buffeted San Tan Valley, southeast of Phoenix in the early evening, according to the National Weather Service. Roaring gusts downed trees and power lines in Pinal County, trapping drivers in their cars and preventing commuters from reaching their homes south of the state capital. "This storm hit during a very busy time for traffic, bringing down power lines over several miles on top of cars with visibility near zero," Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesman Elias Johnson said in a statement.

The Shrinking/Expanding Earth

Is the Earth growing or shrinking? The change may be small but the effects large long term. Since Charles Darwin's time, scientists have speculated that the solid Earth might be expanding or contracting. That was the prevailing belief, until scientists developed the theory of plate tectonics, which explained the large-scale motions of Earth's lithosphere, or outermost shell. Even with the acceptance of plate tectonics half a century ago, some Earth and space scientists have continued to speculate on Earth's possible expansion or contraction on various scientific grounds. Now a new NASA study, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, has essentially laid those speculations to rest. Using a cadre of space measurement tools and a new data calculation technique, the team detected no statistically significant expansion of the solid Earth.

Home in a Box: Cargo Container Dwellings

Cargo containers—those giant, steel, rectangular boxes most often seen hitching a ride on a train, truck, or ship—hold a myriad of industrial goods. But now the shipping container itself is a house. Cargotecture is a modular home that is portable, off the grid, and made of recycled materials. HyBrid Architecture | Assembly designs sustainable living spaces in cargo containers and coined the term "cargotecture" to describe these novel structures.

Amazing recovery, Blue iguana back from the dead

The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman's reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve. How did they do it? Blue iguanas are raised in captive breeding until they are two years old—big enough to keep feral cats at bay, which were decimating juvenile iguanas. Once they hit two, they are released in the 625 acres of Salina Reserve. Populations are then monitored.

Climate change ‘to increase malaria’ in Indian Himalayas

[NEW DELHI] Climate change is likely to spread malaria to new areas in the Indian Himalayas, and lengthen the periods in which the infection is spread in a number of districts, according to projections from malaria researchers in India.

‘Electronic Skin’ Grafts Gadgets to Body

He may have had a laser in his watch and a radio in his lighter, but even James Bond didn't sport gadgets tattooed to his skin. Now he could, thanks to the development of ultrathin electronics that can be placed on the skin as easily as a temporary tattoo. The researchers hope the new devices will pave the way for sensors that monitor heart and brain activity without bulky equipment, or perhaps computers that operate via the subtlest voice commands or body movement.

Methane may be more important than CO2 in warming

Atmospheric levels of methane, 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) at trapping heat, stayed steady for two decades to 2006 on wider fertilizer use to grow rice or a surge in natural gas demand, according to two separate studies in the journal Nature. Climate researcher Fuu Ming Kai from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Singapore research center said in one study that methane output from rice fields in the Northern Hemisphere dropped during the period as fertilizers replaced manure and because of reduced water use. In the second study, Murat Aydin at the University of California, Irvine, concluded that a drop in methane emissions from more efficient burning of fossil fuels and a surge in natural gas demand.

Air Emissions and Disaster

As a result of the fire that shut down Valero’s Memphis, Tennessee refinery, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has exercised its authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive certain federal clean gasoline requirements for parts of Tennessee. This waiver will allow greater flexibility for the fuel distribution system to support an adequate supply. This waiver was granted by EPA in coordination with the Department of Energy (DOE), at the request of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson determined that extreme and unusual supply circumstances exist, which are likely to result in a shortage of gasoline compliant with federal regulations. The federal waiver will help ensure an adequate supply of gasoline in the affected area until normal supply to the region can be restored. In other words air emissions will be slightly increased in order to have gasoline available during the duration of this emergency resulting from the fire.