The ozone layer is on the mend, eight new species are discovered in a cave and scientists get a special dye to drop a dimension.

Human Activity Cooks Up a Storm

Penn State and MIT researchers have concluded that human induced climate change may be responsible for increased hurricane frequency and strength. The scientists discovered evidence to support an anthropogenic cause of Atlantic Ocean warming. Plus, they found that such warming directly influences the production of hurricanes, which draw energy from the ocean.

Scientists have uncovered evidence of ancient Arctic climate change. Researchers analyzed sediment samples from 430 meters (1411 feet) beneath the Arctic Ocean to uncover the climate history of the arctic. They report that about 55 million years ago Arctic temperatures rose to subtropical levels, 49 million years ago the Arctic contained green plant life including large amounts of ferns, and 45 million years ago the Arctic Ocean included ice.

The earth’s ozone layer appears to be mending itself, with worldwide ozone levels remaining constant over the last nine years, a group of NASA and university researchers reported last week. The hole over Antarctica, however, remains wide open. The researchers attribute about half of this repair to the Montreal Protocol’s mandated reductions in the use of CFCs, ozone-destroying gases.

Cave-Dwellers Come To Light

Last week, scientists discovered eight previously unknown animal species in an Israeli cave thought to have been cut off from the outside world for millions of years. The new invertebrate species serve as an example of evolution due to isolation and evolution in a lightless environment. Scientists say the cave is an isolated ecosystem, and they hope to uncover more of its unique story.

The public favors free access to publicly funded research by a 4 to 1 ratio, with 82% for access, concluded an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive®. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe that if such research were made publicly available, it would be a boon to researchers looking to create cures for diseases. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) recently introduced a bill that would federal agencies that heavily fund research to publish freely available electronic manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from the research.

Blair’s Tone Is Light Green

British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently softened his stance on global warming in response to pressure from the United States, said a report issued last Sunday.  In an earlier speech on foreign policy at Georgetown University, Blair said only, “We must act on climate change,” but he did not go into further detail. Blair’s office denied that White House pressures influenced any of his remarks.

Last Wednesday, the former head of a French radiation-monitoring organization was charged with “aggravated deceit” for a cover-up of the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster on France. The state-run organization allegedly knew of, but failed to report, high levels of contamination in Corsica and southeastern France. This negligence may have caused an increase in thyroid cancer in the affected area’s population.

China will not be able to sustain its economic growth if it behaves according to the Western economic model, environmentalist Lester Brown said last Tuesday. If current trends continue, he said, China’s demand will outrun the world production capacity on several key resources within two decades. The western model of life cannot persist as is, let alone spread to the rest of the world, if humans want to avoid an environmental and economic disaster, Brown concluded.

Tropic Expansion

Atmospheric warming may be expanding the area of the tropics, researchers report in the May 26th issue of Science. Warming has caused jet streams that mark the boundaries of the tropics to shift away from the equator and toward the poles by about 113 km (70 miles) over the last 26 years. The researchers say an expansion of the tropics also causes the earth’s desert areas to expand and may cause global droughts.

Compounding the problem of sea level rise, New Orleans is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico faster than was previously believed, according to new research out of the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. This sinking likely contributed to the Katrina disaster, the researchers say, since some of the levees were built 40 years ago and have sunk some 3 feet since their construction.

A series of three powerful earthquakes in two days has offered further evidence that the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an area that stretches from the North American west coast to Indonesia and New Zealand, is a serious hotbed of seismic activity. Seismologists say this ring of weakness, a series of fault lines in the earth’s crust where continental plates meet, accounts for all three earthquakes.

Roll Over, Enceladus

Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, may have historically experienced a dramatic reorientation with respect to its axis of rotation, concludes a study published in the June 1st issue of Nature. The Cassini spacecraft had previously located a region of active water vapor geysers near the pole of Encladus, and researchers had struggled to explain how a pole could play host to an active region. A past reorientation could explain why these unusual features occur where they do.

New data from the Voyager 2 space probe pinpoints the shape of the edge of the solar system, or heliosphere, and may reveal the trajectory of the solar system itself. The data indicates that Voyager 2 is reaching the edge of the heliosphere much earlier than expected. To explain this early arrival, a scientist from the Binary Research Institute has proposed that the motion of the solar system in interstellar space is distorting the heliosphere, causing it to bulge in some areas and shrink in others.

Scientists at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory have pinpointed conditions under which the Han purple pigment transitions from three-dimensions to two. When it is exposed to high magnetic fields and extremely low temperatures, the dye, which was developed some 2,000 years ago and used on ancient Chinese terra cotta warrior statues, turns into a two-dimensional Bose Einstein condensate.

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Originally published June 2, 2006


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