Should the Wolf continue to be protected?

The ongoing battle over a proposal to lift U.S. government protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) across the lower 48 states isn't likely to end quickly. An independent, peer-review panel yesterday gave a thumbs-down to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS's) plan to de-list the wolf. Although not required to reach a consensus, the four researchers on the panel were unanimous in their opinion that the proposal "does not currently represent the 'best available science'" "It's stunning to see a pronouncement like this--that the proposal is not scientifically sound," says Michael Nelson, an ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, who was not one of the reviewers. Many commentators regard it as a major set-back for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which stumbled last year in a previous attempt to get the science behind its proposal reviewed.

Environmental News Network 2014-02-08 21:24:00

The ill effects of climate change are becoming well known, and now here’s another: The melting ice cap in Greenland has the country now bracing for a gold rush. As the ice melts at record pace in Greenland, the world’s miners, oil workers and construction teams are planning to descend on the country in the next few years, to start digging below the retreating icecap for its ores, hydrocarbons and minerals.

Volcano Power

Still searing from the formation of the solar system, the core of Earth is a nuclear reactor generating heat from the breakdown of radioactive elements like uranium, thorium, and potassium. Scientists have been harnessing that heat for decades by drilling deep wells to power turbines. But now researchers have been able to tap into even greater energy by drilling into volcanoes and exploiting the heat of molten rock. If current geothermal wells are replaced with the new technology, it could provide 30% more power than current renewable energy sources. The idea of tapping the energy of magma came from a pair of accidents. In 1985, workers drilling for a geothermal well in Iceland ran into a sudden and uncontrollable blast of high-pressure steam. Scientists think the steam originated from a reservoir of water that’s under such pressure that as it begins to boil, the water cannot expand enough to become vapor and remains in a liquidlike state. Water in such a "supercritical state" contains enormous amounts of energy. Water reaches this state once it reaches 222 bars of pressure and 374°C or above, and flashes into steam when the pressure drops as the water rises to the surface.

The first big bite!

The first top predators to walk on land were not afraid to bite off more than they could chew, a University of Toronto, Mississauga study has found. Graduate student and lead author Kirstin Brink and U of T Biology Professor Robert Reisz suggest that Dimetrodon, a carnivore that walked on land between 298 million and 272 million years ago, was the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop serrated ziphodont teeth. According to the study published in Nature Communications, ziphodont teeth, with their serrated edges, produced a more-efficient bite and would have allowed Dimetrodon to eat prey much larger than itself. While most meat-eating dinosaurs possessed ziphodont teeth, fossil evidence suggests serrated teeth first evolved in Dimetrodon some 40 million years earlier than theropod dinosaurs.

USGS Develops Tool to Help Track Oil Spills

Each year, tons of oil can be spilled into the ocean. Whether it comes from an oil tank spill, a leak that occurs during offshore drilling, or even natural seeps that occur within the ocean, oil spills can cause grave environmental and economic damage to marine and coastal ecosystems. When an oil spill occurs, the oil that floats on water will usually spreads out rapidly across the water surface to form a thin layer called an oil slick. As the oil continues spreading, the layer becomes thinner and thinner, eventually turning into a thin layer called a sheen. Managing and predicting the spread and path of oil is often very difficult for first-responders and clean up crews, however, a newly developed computer model holds promise to helping scientists track a spill. U.S. Geological Survey scientists developed the model as a way of tracking the movement of sand and oil found along the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Global temperatures now available on Google Earth

Climate researchers at the University of East Anglia have for the first time made the world's temperature records available on the Google Earth platform. The Climatic Research Unit Temperature Version 4 (CRUTEM4) land-surface air temperature dataset is one of the most widely used records of the climate system. The new Google Earth format allows users to scroll around the world, zoom in on 6,000 weather stations, and view monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data more easily than ever before.

Flood insurance hike temporarily suspended

As a follow on to last week's article about the agreement by the Senate to initiate debate to delay increases mandated by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, the Senate recently passed (67-32) the Menendez-Isakson Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act which will delay the Biggert-Waters Act until such time as FEMA can complete an affordability study, provide solutions to mitigate their effect and scientifically certify accuracy of the maps used to determine insurance rates on specific properties. According to FEMA, key provisions of the Biggert-Waters act required "the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders." These rate increases were to begin at the end of last year. The law was developed as a result of the inundation of insurance claims posted after Hurricane Katrina, which put the NFIP on the verge of bankruptcy. Further stress was added following Hurricane Sandy.

Submarine melting gives rise to sea levels by chewing away the Greenland Ice Sheet

Over the past two decades, ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased four-fold contributing to one-quarter of global sea level rise. However, the chain of events and physical processes that contributed to it has remained elusive. One likely trigger for the speed up and retreat of glaciers that contributed to this ice loss is ocean warming.

Study predicts $100 trillion a year in damage due to storm surges

New research predicts that coastal regions face massive increases in damages from storm surge flooding over the 21st century - to $100 trillion annually, more than the world's entire economic product today. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, global average storm surge damages could increase from about $10-$40 billion per year today to up to $100,000 billion per year by the end of century, if no adaptation action is taken.

Peatland plantations drive steep GHG gas emissions in Indonesia’s Riau Province

Versatile is the best way to describe the reddish brown fruit born from oil palm trees. Both the flesh and seed of the fruit is used in many applications including cooking, cosmetics, and biofuel.