Death Valley Wins!

How hot can it get on Earth? It is a sort of dubious honor to be the hottest place, but some place has to be the record holder. A World Meteorological Organization panel has concluded that the all-time heat record held for exactly 90 years by El Azizia in Libya is invalid because of an error in recording the temperature. The announcement follows a danger-fraught investigation during the 2011 Libyan revolution. Death Valley National Park in California, USA, now officially holds the title of the world's hottest place - as symbolic for meteorologists as Mt. Everest is for geographers.

UPS Earns Top Score Among U.S. Firms On Carbon Disclosure

For the second consecutive year, UPS (NYSE: UPS) has received the highest score in the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project's "Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index" of S&P companies, receiving a 99 out of 100. UPS is one of only two U.S. companies to achieve the high score, reflecting the company’s commitment to transparency and leadership with regards to carbon reporting and performance in mitigating environmental impact. UPS is the only company from the Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P) Industrials sector to receive the highest score. Only four companies in the world received scores of 99 or higher. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), companies are scored on their climate change disclosure and high scores indicate good internal data management and understanding of climate change related issues affecting the company. Results from the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project indicate that S&P 500 companies are making significant strides with regards to transparency and progress on carbon goals, narrowing the gap with Global 500 companies. The average performance score of the S&P 500 increased by 44% with assurance of emissions data nearly doubling, signaling a greater commitment to transparency and accuracy.

Lost in the Bee-Line

Pesticides. Sprayed across vast expanses of farm land, they have become a ubiquitous part of industrial agriculture. But there may actually be more consequences to their use than we had previously predicted. A recent study headed by Chensheng Lu at Harvard University connects the rising phenomena of beehive abandonment, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), to the use of a family of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

The Mighty Pythons of Florida

There have been many invasive species such as the rabbit in Australia. Now we have a carnivorous threat: the python who is literally eating Florida. Introduced Burmese pythons are firmly established in southern Florida, where they pose a serious threat to native wildlife. Burmese pythons, are native to Southeast Asia and can reach lengths greater than 20 feet. Pythons are long-lived (15 – 25 years), behavioral, habitat, and dietary generalists that are capable of producing clutches of up to 107 eggs. One new study, the first to document the ecological impacts of this invasive species, strongly supports that animal communities in this 1.5-million-acre park have been markedly altered by the introduction of pythons within 11 years of their establishment as an invasive species. Mid-sized mammals are the most dramatically affected, but some Everglades pythons are as large as 16 feet long, and their prey have included animals as large as deer and alligators.

Gestational Exposure to Urban Air Pollution Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency in Newborns

Chevy Chase, MD—Gestational exposure to ambient urban air pollution, especially during late pregnancy, may contribute to lower vitamin D levels in offspring, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM). According to study authors, this could affect the child's risk of developing diseases later in life.

Wind Power and Climate Change

Though there is enough power in Earth's winds to be a primary source of near-zero emission electric power for the world, large-scale high altitude wind power generation is unlikely to substantially affect climate. That is the conclusion of a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and collaborators who studied the geophysical limits to global wind power in a paper appearing in the Sept. 9 edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. "The future of wind energy is likely to be determined by economic, political and technical constraints rather than geophysical limits," said Kate Marvel, lead author of the paper and a scientist in the Laboratory's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison.

Nearly all conventional food crops grown with fluoride-laced water, then sprayed with more fluoride

The average American today is exposed to a whole lot more fluoride than he or she is probably aware. Conventional produce, it turns out, is one of the most prevalent sources of fluoride exposure besides fluoridated water, as conventional crops are not only irrigated with fluoride-laced water in many cases, but also sprayed with pesticide and herbicide chemicals that have been blended with fluoride, and later processed once again with fluoridated water.

Photos: camera traps capture wildlife bonanza in Borneo forest corridor

Camera traps placed in a corridor connecting two forest fragments have revealed (in stunning visuals) the importance of such linkages for Borneo's imperiled mammals and birds. Over 18 months, researchers with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) have photographed wildlife utilizing the corridor located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo.

Shell begins offshore drilling in the Alaskan Arctic

With the approval of the Obama Administration, Royal Dutch Shell began drilling into the ocean floor of the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska yesterday morning. The controversial operation, which has been vehemently opposed by environmental and Native groups, will likely only last a few weeks this year until the Arctic winter sets in. The U.S. government has said that Shell must complete operations by September 24th, however the oil giant has asked for an extension. "We look forward to continued drilling progress throughout the next several weeks and to adding another chapter to Alaska’s esteemed oil and gas history," Shell wrote in an online statement. "We're proud to be offshore Alaska, and we're extremely proud of the preparation we've put in place to do it right." Extreme weather, floating ice, and remoteness are just a few of the challenges that faces any fossil fuel exploitation in the Arctic, and environmental groups say Shell hasn't proven itself ready to drill safely. The oil giant, which spent $4 billion on Arctic oil drilling, has suffered costly and embarrassing delays all year, including an oil spill containment barge which is still harbored in Washington State and undergoing retrofitting.

Summer Temps in the Lower 48 Are 3rd Highest on Record

Between June and August, the contiguous United States experienced its 3rd hottest summer. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature around the lower 48 states was warmer than average in June and August, and set a new heat record for July. The average for the whole summer was 74.4 degrees F, 2.3 degrees above the 20th century average. The only hotter summers were in 2011 and way back in 1936. The most notable aspect of this summer climate is the extreme drought in parts of the country. According to the US Drought monitor, nearly 63 percent of the lower 48 continue to experience drought conditions to this day.