El Niño fuelled Zika outbreak, new study suggests

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shown that a change in weather patterns, brought on by the 'Godzilla' El Niño of 2015, fuelled the Zika outbreak in South America. The findings were revealed using a new epidemiological model that looked at how climate affects the spread of Zika virus by both of its major vectors, the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).The model can also be used to predict the risk of future outbreaks, and help public health officials tailor mosquito control measures and travel advice.

Millions exposed to mercury in urban Pakistan

More than 40 per cent of Pakistanis living in urban areas are exposed to mercury contamination through dust particles and bioaccumulation, says a new study.  The study, published last month (November) in Science of the Total Environment, amassed hair samples from 22 sites in five zones in Pakistan — Swat Valley & Gilgit-Baltistan regions, Kashmir Valley, Lower Himalaya Mountains and Indus Plains.

7 Sustainable Holiday Gift Ideas

Tis the season, and we all are buying gifts. The question is how to do so without saddling friends and families with returns, throwaway gift paper or mounds of fattening desserts.Here are seven gift ideas that show you care for not only the person receiving the gift, but also for people and planet.1. Make a donationThis is my favorite gift. I give to a charity that I think aligns with the gift recipient’s passions. Does she love dogs? A gift in her name to the humane society always results in a truly genuine positive response. What family is not touched by health issues like heart disease or cancer? A gift to the Heart Association or Cancer Society is a thoughtful and meaningful way of saying you care. Looking for a charity? I use Charity Navigator to find credible nonprofits. The site also has top 10 lists that cover a diverse range of charities.

Researchers Solve Mystery Of Historic 1952 London Fog And Current Chinese Haze

Few Americans may be aware of it, but in 1952 a killer fog that contained pollutants covered London for five days, causing breathing problems and killing thousands of residents.  The exact cause and nature of the fog has remained mostly unknown for decades, but an international team of scientists that includes several Texas A&M University-affiliated researchers believes that the mystery has been solved and that the same air chemistry also happens in China and other locales.

Study: Maximizing grain yields won't meet future African needs

Maximizing cereal crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa would still fail to meet the region’s skyrocketing grain demand by 2050, according to a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Wageningen University and multiple African institutions.

Scientists devise new method to give 'most robust' estimate of Maasai Mara lion numbers

Scientists based at Oxford University have created a new method for counting lions that they say is the most robust yet devised.Using the Maasai Mara National Reserve and surrounding conservancies in Kenya as a case study, they estimate there to be 420 lions over the age of one in this key territory. At almost 17 lions per 100 square kilometres, that represents one of the highest densities anywhere in Africa.

Warming global temperatures may not affect carbon stored deep in northern peatlands, study says

Deep stores of carbon in northern peatlands may be safe from rising temperatures, according to a team of researchers from several U.S.-based institutions.And that is good news for now, the researchers said.Florida State University research scientist Rachel Wilson and University of Oregon graduate student Anya Hopple are the first authors on a new study published today in Nature Communications. The study details experiments suggesting that carbon stored in peat—a highly organic material found in marsh or damp regions—may not succumb to the Earth's warming as easily as scientists thought.

How noise pollution impacts marine ecology

Marine ecologists have shown how noise pollution is changing the behaviour of marine animals - and how its elimination will significantly help build their resilience. Laura Briggs reports.Building up a library of sound from marine creatures including cod, whelks and sea slugs is important to helping build resilience in species affected by noise pollution, according to Exeter University's Associate Professor in Marine Biology and Global Change Dr Steve Simpson.Human noise factors including busy shipping lanes, wind farms and water tourism can all impact on the calls of various species - including cod which relies on sound for finding a mate with their "song".

Surge in methane emissions threatens efforts to slow climate change

Global concentrations of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and cause of climate change, are now growing faster in the atmosphere than at any other time in the past two decades.That is the message of a team of international scientists in an editorial published 12 December in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The group reports that methane concentrations in the air began to surge around 2007 and grew precipitously in 2014 and 2015.

Flame Retardant Pollution in Great Lakes Is a Serious Matter, Commission Says

The International Joint Commission has developed a strategy for how U.S. and Canadian governments can address this toxic problem.