Ash from Popocatepetl volcano disrupts flights

US airlines have cancelled flights into and out of Mexico City for a second day over fears that ash from a rumbling volcano could affect their planes. Delta and United Airlines were among the companies that stopped at least a dozen flights on Friday. On Thursday, more than 40 flights were cancelled, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded. Popocatepetl volcano has been rumbling all year, and began spewing ash and steam earlier in the week.

Autism Heredity

Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior. The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood. It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs. Researchers who compared the DNA of patients with autism and intellectual disability to that of their unaffected siblings found that the affected siblings had significantly more “runs of homozygosity,” or blocks of DNA that are the same from both parents. The finding suggests a role for recessive inheritance in this autism subgroup and highlights homozygosity as a new approach to understanding genetic mechanisms in autism.

Weather Extremes UN Report

It is hard to tell how bad or good the weather really is. One has to look back over a period of time to perceive true changes. The world experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes between 2001 and 2010 and more national temperature records were broken during that period than in any other decade, according to a new United Nations report. The report (The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes) says the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest for both hemispheres and for both land and ocean temperatures since measurements began in 1850. High temperatures were accompanied by a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice, and an accelerating loss of the ice sheets of the world's glaciers.

The connection of air pollution to lung cancer

It is widely known that smoking increases your risk of lung cancer. That is not the only risk factor, however. Air pollution plays a role as well. A study by Oregon State University suggests reducing air-polluting PAHs may lower levels of lung cancer deaths. High emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be linked to lung cancer deaths in the United States and countries with a similarly high socioeconomic rank, including Canada, Australia, France, and Germany, according to a study by Oregon State University. Researchers reviewed a range of information from 136 countries, including average body mass index, gross domestic product per capita, the price of cigarettes, smoking rates, and the amount of PAHs emitted into the air. PAHs are a group of more than 100 chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic when inhaled or ingested. They most commonly come from vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood.

Automobile Production Sets New Record in 2012

World auto production set yet another record in 2012 and may rise even higher during 2013. According to London-based IHS Automotive, passenger-car production rose from 62.6 million in 2011 to 66.7 million in 2012, and it may reach 68.3 million in 2013. When cars are combined with light trucks, total light vehicle production rose from 76.9 million in 2011 to 81.5 million in 2012 and is projected to total 83.3 million in 2013.

Ocean bacteria found greatly impacted by CO2 in the atmosphere

Climate change may be weeding out the bacteria that form the base of the ocean's food chain, selecting certain strains for survival, according to a new study. In climate change, as in everything, there are winners and losers. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature rise globally, scientists increasingly want to know which organisms will thrive and which will perish in the environment of tomorrow. The answer to this question for nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis, or "blue-green algae") turns out to have implications for every living thing in the ocean. Nitrogen-fixing is when certain special organisms like cyanobacteria convert inert -- and therefore unusable -- nitrogen gas from the air into a reactive form that the majority of other living beings need to survive. Without nitrogen fixers, life in the ocean could not survive for long.

What Color was that Dinosaur?

The past is in black and white. It is very hard to tell what color was a dinosaur from looking at its fossilized bones. In the past, experts have basically guessed what color ancient animals were as colors are rarely preserved in fossils. But recent discoveries of color-producing structures in fossil insects and feathers are helping scientists solve this mystery and learn about the evolution of color and its role in communication. The cutting-edge science and technology which has uncovered this new knowledge will be demonstrated at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, which runs from 2 to 7 July in London and attracts 15,000 visitors each year.

Climate Change May Hinder Regeneration of Conifers after Forest Fires

From clearing out dead leaves and trees, to jump-starting new growth, to returning minerals to the soil, forest fires have many benefits. However, with increasing temperatures and droughts predicted with upcoming climate changes, it may be difficult for some plants to regenerate after forest fires. According to researchers from Oregon State University, moisture stress is a key limitation for conifer regeneration following major forest fires that occur on dry, low-elevation sites. As a result, reforestation post-fire recovery on dry sites may be slow and uncertain.

Cloudy Worlds Climate

Clouds are pretty to see. They are also much more potent than previously perceived in modifying climate. This is particularly important when considering habitable planets near red dwarf stars. A new study that calculates the influence of cloud behavior on climate doubles the number of potentially habitable planets orbiting red dwarfs, the most common type of stars in the universe. This finding means that in the Milky Way galaxy alone, 60 billion planets may be orbiting red dwarf stars in the habitable zone. Researchers at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University based their study, which appears in Astrophysical Journal Letters, on rigorous computer simulations of cloud behavior on alien planets. This cloud behavior dramatically expanded the estimated habitable zone of red dwarfs, which are much smaller and fainter than stars like the sun.

IUCN Red List reports decline in world’s oldest and largest species

The latest update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species highlights a worrying decline in many economically and medicinally valuable species, from small freshwater shrimps and cone snails to gargantuan conifers, some of the world's oldest and largest organisms. An impressive 4,807 species have been added to the IUCN Red List this year, bringing the total number of assessed species to 70,294, of which 20,934 are threatened with extinction.