Archive | Atmospheric Science

Penguins Sent to U.S. for Global Warming Exhibition

A group of 20 penguins rescued from Brazilian beaches last year have been sent to the U.S. for an exhibition on climate change.

Brazilian scientists say the Magellanic penguins arrived safely this weekend in Los Angeles, where they will be kept in quarantine before being sent to California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, AFP reports.

The birds were among hundreds of Magellanic penguins that washed up on the beaches near Rio de Janeiro while migrating from Argentina’s southern Patagonia region.

Brazilian wildlife officials are currently studying the penguins’ changing migration patterns. They said the birds have been following schools of fish further north in recent years, and that global warming may be to blame.

Posted in Birds0 Comments

Monarch Butterfly Population Recovers, But Still in Danger

Monarch butterfly colonies in Mexico have seemingly bounced back from last year, when bad storms decimated their numbers by 75 percent.
The orange-and-black butterflies, which migrate from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico each year, have more than doubled since last year’s low – but their numbers remain below average, scientists say.
A study sponsored by World Wildlife Federation Mexico along with the Commission on Natural Protected Areas and the cell phone carrier Telcel found that the colonies increased by 109 percent this year to coat about 10 acres of forest.
“These figures are encouraging, compared to last year, because they show a trend toward recovery,” said Omar Vidal, director of the conservation group World Wildlife Federation Mexico, according to The Associated Press.
But the numbers suggest the species remains under threat: this year’s colonies were the fourth-smallest since data collection began in 1993.
“Fluctuations in insect populations are normal in nature,” the study’s sponsors said in a statement. “With regard to the monarch butterfly, these fluctuations could be due mainly to climatic conditions.”
But scientists said that natural fluctuation doesn’t account for huge drops like they’ve been seeing. Illegal deforestation in Mexico’s Michoacan state has played a role, and extreme weather conditions caused by global warming represents a long-term threat. Genetically modified crops and pesticides also hurt the butterflies’ numbers by crowding out milkweed, their food of choice during migration.
“The caterpillars feed on milkweed so changing soil use in the United States and Canada is definitely having an impact on the butterflies,” said Vidal, according to AFP.

Posted in Bugs, Insects, & Invertebrates0 Comments

Traveler Detained for Possessing 200 Illegal Animals

An Indonesian man was arrested Wednesday at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand for attempting to smuggle 200 live animals – including tortoises, snakes, squirrels, spiders, lizards and a parrot – in three suitcases.

The international wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said in a statement Thursday that the traveler was stopped after airport officials spotted the animals in images of the scanned luggage.

“It’s not unprecedented to find numbers — sometimes even hundreds — of live animals inside luggage like this,” TRAFFIC spokesman Richard Thomas told “What makes this case unusual is the wide variety of wildlife in the cases. Animals like tortoises are usually taped up to keep them from moving, and being detected, but quite how the man in this instance expected not to be found out is quite extraordinary.”

The suspect said he had illegally purchased the animals from an outdoor market in Bangkok.

“One really has to question how Chatuchak Market, which is located just down the street from both Wildlife Protection and Nature Crime Police Offices, can continue these illegal mass sales,” TRAFFIC regional director William Schaedla said, according to MSNBC. “The situation is totally unacceptable in a country that claims to be effectively addressing illegal wildlife trade.”

TRAFFIC reportedly found the following animals crammed inside the three black bags:

88 Indian Star tortoises

34 ball pythons

33 elongated tortoises

22 common squirrels

19 bearded dragons

18 baboon spiders

7 radiated tortoises

6 Argentine horned frogs

6 mata mata turtles

4 spiny tailed lizards

4 striped narrow-headed turtles

3 aldabra tortoises

2 boa constrictors

2 Sudan plated lizards

2 corn snakes

2 king snakes

1 ploughshare tortoise (world’s rarest turtle)

1 pig-nosed turtle

1 African gray parrot

1 milk snake

1 hog nosed snake
The man is currently in police custody and faces smuggling charges, TRAFFIC said.

Posted in Amphibians, Birds, Mammals, Reptiles0 Comments

Clean Air Regulations to Create 1.5M Jobs, Report Finds

An upcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal that will mandate air pollution laws for industrial facilities could create 1.5 million jobs over the next five years, according to a new report.

The study by Ceres and the Political Economy Research Institute claims that the new federal regulations will generate engineering, construction and pipefitting positions as facilities work to meet pollution standards and as older, inefficient plants are dismantled.

“New Jobs – Cleaner Air” predicts $200 billion in capital improvements in the electric power industry in the 36 Eastern states over the next five years.

The report flies in the face of the frequent objection by Republicans that a shift to clean energy would be “job killing,” forcing coal industry workers out of employment.

“The bottom line: clean air is a worthwhile investment,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, as quoted by AP.

Most of the 1.46 million jobs created over the next five years would be temporary, related to power industry investment in the construction of new facilities.

But the clean air regulations would trigger more than 2,000 permanent positions in operations and maintenance, according to the report released Tuesday at the 2011 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference in Washington, D.C.

The new EPA regulations – designed to reduce smog-causing emissions in the East, reduce mercury output, and curtail other harmful pollutants – are expected to be finalized later this year.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution Prevention0 Comments

Pollution Standards Won’t Apply to All, EPA Says

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday reversed pollutions standards for a California power plant waiting for a permit, and the decision could leave a dozen additional industrial facilities exempt from the stringent new rules as well, The Associated Press said Wednesday.

A top EPA official reportedly told a federal panel that a California facility would not have to comply with new federal air pollution regulations.

The EPA on Wednesday appeared before a Senate panel to go over its new federal controls on heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Republicans say the new restrictions will kill jobs and slow economic growth.

AP reported Wednesday that the reversal could exempt about 10 to 20 industrial facilities from the standards on smog and pollutants responsible for acid rain.
An EPA official said the change would not influence efforts to fight global warming.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution Prevention, Air Pollution Remediation0 Comments

Winter Storm System Headed for Midwest

The Great Plains and Midwest are bracing for an intense winter storm expected to dump  10 inches of snow on the area beginning Tuesday.

Meteorologists say freezing rain and snow will sweep through the country’s core region starting Monday, with heavy snow and 30 mph winds to follow on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The light freezing rain is expected to complicate things for commuters.

“It could be enough to make the roads, especially secondary roads, pretty slick,” said Matt Dux, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, according to the Kansas City Star.

The weather service posted a blizzard warning for Tuesday and Wednesday for southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and northwest Indiana. Some areas in the nation’s midsection could receive more than 2 feet of snow.

Weather service officials warned that the heavy gusts of winds combined with snowfall could create whiteout conditions, especially on Tuesday night.

Posted in Atmospheric Science, Climate Science & Weather0 Comments

Davos Forum: Leaders Call for Green Economy

International leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland say U.S. businesses must pressure the federal government to work toward an energy-efficient economy before China reaches one first.

U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres said Thursday that China “is going to leave us all in the dust” if Western countries don’t begin to act on climate change, AP reports.

Figueres said the Chinese “are not doing it just because they want to save the planet. They are doing it because it’s good for the economy.”

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard called for U.S. businesses to change their perspective on energy efficiency, saying they should realize that “it’s bad business to not be among the front-runners” in the race for a green global economy.

The annual conference is held in a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.

Posted in Effects, Energy Efficiency, Energy Industry, Finance, Accounting, & Investment, Global Warming, Globalization & Free Trade, Policies & Solutions0 Comments

GE, NRG, COP to Invest in Clean Energy

General Electric, NRG Energy, and ConocoPhillips Thursday announced plans to form a joint venture that will invest $300 million in new energy development.

The energy technology entity, to be called Energy Technology Ventures, will power three initial projects. One investment will go to the Santa Clara, Calif.-based solar plant Alta Devices to improve production economics. Another project with Ciris Energy will focus on cleaner coal technologies, and the third collaboration with CoolPlanetBioFuels will promote biomass conversion technology, RTT News reports.

The new joint venture will invest in about 30 growth-stage clean energy companies over the next four years.

It marks the first joint venture for utility company NRG Energy and oil and gas company ConocoPhilips. GE has invested $200 million in 27 companies since 2007.

The corporate tie-up will focus on companies based in North America, Europe, and Israel.

GE was at $20.02 in midmorning trading on the NYSE Thursday, while NRG was at $21.19 and COP was at $69.42, according to RTT.

Posted in Energy & Fuels0 Comments

Giant Crayfish Species Found in Tennessee

A new species of giant crayfish has been discovered in Tennessee that is twice the size of other species, researchers said Wednesday.

Scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Eastern Kentucky University found the first specimen of the new crustacean under a rock in a well-explored Tennessee creek.

The new species belongs to the genus Barbicambarus, which have distinctive “bearded” antennae, covered in hair-like bristles called setae that boost sensory awareness.

“This isn’t a crayfish that someone would have picked up and just said, ‘Oh, it’s another crayfish,’ and put it back,” said University of Illinois aquatic biologist Chris Taylor, who co-discovered the new species with Eastern Kentucky University biological sciences Professor Guenter Schuester.

“If you were an aquatic biologist and you had seen this thing, because of the size and the setae on the antennae, you would have recognized it as something really, really different and you would have saved it,” Taylor said in a statement.

The crustaceans, which can grow nearly as large as lobsters, are about 5 inches (12 cm) long and have been officially named Barbicambarus simmonsi.

“We spend millions of dollars every year on federal grants to send biologists to the Amazon, to Southeast Asia — all over the world — looking for and studying the biodiversity of those regions,” Schuster said.

“But the irony is that there’s very little money that is actually spent in our own country to do the same thing. And there are still lots of areas right here in the United States that need to be explored.”

North America is home to more than half of the world’s 600 known species of crayfish.

The report was published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

Posted in Bugs, Insects, & Invertebrates0 Comments

Chrysler, EPA Work on Hybrid Minivan

Chrysler and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working together to develop a hydraulic hybrid system for minivans.

The company and the agency announced Wednesday that they hope to design and build the gas-efficient model of Chrysler’s popular minivan by November and complete testing by July 2012.

The system could potentially bolster the minivan’s gas mileage by 35 percent to around 27 miles per gallon. That’s up from the 20 mpg the top Chrysler minivan currently gets in combined city and highway driving, AP reports.

The announcement comes as auto manufacturers struggle to meet new fuel economy standards effective in 2016. The regulations call for a fleet average of 35.5 mpg, nearly 10 mpg above the current standards. The government could call for an average mpg as high as 47 to 62 by 2025.

Chrysler, which is partly owned by the U.S. government after a 2009 bailout, is the only U.S. car maker without a hybrid model, and had the lowest corporate gas mileage average of any major automaker in 2009.

The hydraulic hybrid system, which was developed by scientists at the EPA’s laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., uses energy from braking in a hydraulic pressure vehicle. It is currently used in more than a dozen trash and package delivery trucks in Florida and Michigan, and about 50 more trucks have already been ordered.

Chrysler will finance the majority of the project and the EPA will contribute $2 million, Reuters reports.

Posted in Energy & Fuels0 Comments

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