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Thursday, January 29, 2015

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Building a better weather forecast? SMAP may help

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 03:56 PM PST

If you were trying to forecast tomorrow's weather, you would probably look up at the sky rather than down at the ground. But if you live in the U.S. Midwest or someplace with a similar climate, one key to a better weather forecast may lie beneath your feet. Better soil moisture observations are just what the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will provide. Scheduled for launch on Jan. 29, SMAP will collect the most accurate and highest-resolution soil moisture measurements ever made from a satellite SMAP will cover the entire globe in two to three days.

Researchers produce two bio-fuels from a single algae

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 02:01 PM PST

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study.

Long-necked 'dragon' discovered in China: Dinosaur's lightweight neck spanned half the length of its body

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 01:05 PM PST

Paleontologists have discovered a new species of a long-necked dinosaur from a skeleton found in China. The new species belongs to a group of dinosaurs called mamenchisaurids, known for their extremely long necks sometimes measuring up to half the length of their bodies. Most sauropods, or long-necked dinosaurs, have necks only about one third the length of their bodies.

Erratic as normal: Arctic sea ice loss expected to be bumpy in the short term

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 01:05 PM PST

Arctic sea ice extent plunged precipitously from 2001 to 2007, then barely budged between 2007 and 2013. Even in a warming world, researchers should expect such unusual periods of no change -- and rapid change -- at the world's northern reaches, according to a new paper.

Smothered oceans: Extreme oxygen loss in oceans accompanied past global climate change

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 12:21 PM PST

From the subarctic Pacific to the Chilean margins, extreme oxygen loss is stretching from the upper ocean to about 3,000 meters deep. In some oceanic regions, such loss occurred within 100 years or less, according to a new study.

Storm Chasers Take on Supercell Thunderstorms in Bangladesh

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 12:21 PM PST

This past April, Scott Olson touched down in Bangladesh to become the country's first known storm chaser. On the other side of the world, back in Oklahoma, meteorologists worked tirelessly to put together accurate forecasts to help Olson get into the thick of the country's notoriously elusive thunderstorms.

Missing link in metal physics explains Earth's magnetic field

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:16 AM PST

Earth's magnetic field shields the life on our planet's surface from cosmic rays. It is generated by turbulent motions of liquid iron in Earth's core. Iron is a metal, which means it can easily conduct a flow of electrons. New findings show that a missing piece of the traditional theory explaining why metals become less conductive when they are heated was needed to complete the puzzle of this field-generating process.

Damaged DNA may stall patrolling molecule to initiate repair

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:14 AM PST

Sites where DNA is damaged may cause a molecule that slides along the DNA strand to scan for damage to slow on its patrol, delaying it long enough to recognize and initiate repair. These finding suggest that the delay itself may be the key that allows the protein molecule to find its target, according to researchers.

Earlier menopause linked to everyday chemical exposures

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:14 AM PST

Women whose bodies have high levels of chemicals found in plastics, personal-care products, common household items and the environment experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of these chemicals, according to a new study.

Chimps with higher-ranking moms do better in fights

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 10:13 AM PST

For chimpanzees, just like humans, teasing, taunting and bullying are familiar parts of playground politics. An analysis of twelve years of observations of playground fights between young chimpanzees in East Africa finds that chimps with higher-ranked moms are more likely to win.

Anthropology: Ancient skull from Galilee cave offers clues to the first modern Europeans

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 10:13 AM PST

The discovery of a 55,000-year-old partial skull in Northern Israel provides new insights into the migration of modern humans out of Africa. A key event in human evolution was the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia, replacing all other forms of hominin (humans and their predecessors), around 40,000-60,000 years ago. However, due to the scarcity of human fossils from this period, these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations have largely remained a mystery. Now, researchers describe a partial skull that dates to around 55,000, which was found at Manot Cave in Israel's Western Galilee.

Spiky 'hedgehog particles' for safer paints, fewer VOC emissions

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 10:12 AM PST

A new process that can sprout microscopic spikes on nearly any type of particle may lead to more environmentally friendly paints and a variety of other innovations.

Elucidating the origin of MDR tuberculosis strains

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:53 AM PST

A study has focused on the evolutionary history of the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis, and more specifically on the Beijing lineage associated with the spread of multidrug resistant forms of the disease in Eurasia. While confirming the East-Asian origin of this lineage, the results also indicate that this bacterial population has experienced notable variations coinciding with key events in human history, scientists report.

New protein detonates 'invincible' bacteria from within

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:41 AM PST

The epidemic of 'superbugs,' bacteria resistant to antibiotics, knows no borders -- presenting a clear and present danger around the globe. Now a groundbreaking discovery may strengthen efforts by the medical community to fight this looming superbug pandemic. By sequencing the DNA of bacteria resistant to viral toxins, researchers identified novel proteins capable of stymieing growth in treacherous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Did genetic links to modern maladies provide ancient benefits?

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:40 AM PST

Genetic variations associated with some modern maladies are extremely old, scientists have discovered, predating the evolution of Neanderthals, Denisovans (another ancient hominin) and contemporary humans.

Beer compound could help fend off Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:39 AM PST

The health-promoting perks of wine have attracted the spotlight recently, leaving beer in the shadows. But scientists are discovering new ways in which the latter could be a more healthful beverage than once thought. It turns out that a compound from hops could protect brain cells from damage -- and potentially slow the development of disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

News from the depths: A new cave-dwelling flatworm species from the Brazilian savanna

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:38 AM PST

Field research in a limestone cave in the Brazilian savanna recorded the first obligate cave-dwelling flatworm of the suborder Continenticola in South America. The species has the characteristic triangular head of the South American freshwater planarians of the suborder, but it is eyeless and unpigmented, as are typical cave-dwelling organisms. The species belongs to the genus Girardia, in which species recognition is difficult. However, the new species shows a unique feature in its reproductive apparatus.

Nordic marine scientists: Showcasing growing pressure on oceans?

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:38 AM PST

A group of 13 scientists argue that the Nordic countries are in a unique position to showcase how to handle the growing pressure on the oceans. However, this relies on a collective ability to regard change as connected.

Slope on ocean surface lowers sea level in Europe

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:37 AM PST

A 'slope' on the ocean surface in the Strait of Gibraltar is lowering the sea level in Europe by 7cm, researchers have discovered. This research will help to more accurately predict future sea levels by providing a more complete understanding of the factors that control it.

A robot to help improve agriculture and wine production

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:37 AM PST

Agricultural researchers and computer scientists are working on the development of an unmanned robot, equipped with non-invasive advanced sensors and artificial intelligence systems, which will help manage vineyards. This robot will provide reliable, fast and objective information on the state of the vineyards to grapegrowers, such as vegetative development, water status, production and grape composition.

Satellite study identifies water bodies important for biodiversity conservation

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

Using satellite images to study changing patterns of surface water is a powerful tool for identifying conservationally important 'stepping stone' water bodies that could help aquatic species survive in a drying climate, a new study shows. The approach has been applied to the Swan Coastal Plain near Perth in Western Australia, which has more than 1,500 water bodies and is one of 25 designated biodiversity hotspots on the globe.

Into the dark: Two new encrusting anemones found in coral reef caves

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

Three marine biologists from Japan have discovered two new and unusually unique species of encrusting anemone. Unlike almost all known species within their genus, these two new species do not have light-harvesting symbiotic zooxanthellae, having lost them as they adapted to life in cracks and caves in shallow coral reefs.

Urban sprawl promotes worm exchange across species

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:34 AM PST

The complex exchange of parasitic worms between wildlife, rats and humans is a little more clear, thanks to new research. "We developed a model concept that allows us to link the probability of worm species occurring in wildlife and occurring in rats, and linked them to the probability of this occurring in a certain geographical area," he says the lead author says.

Blind beetles show extraordinary signs of sight

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:34 AM PST

Researchers have made a surprising discovery in the aquifers beneath the Western Australian desert, which challenges the traditional Darwinian view of evolution. They have discovered that a species of blind predatory water beetles -- living underground for millions of years -- express vision genes (opsin) which are usually only found in species with eyes.

Ocean acidification changes balance of biofouling communities

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 05:22 AM PST

A new study of marine organisms that make up the 'biofouling community' -- tiny creatures that attach themselves to ships' hulls and rocks in the ocean around the world -- shows how they adapt to changing ocean acidification. Authors examine how these communities may respond to future change.

From bacterium to biofactory

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 05:20 AM PST

A genetic blueprint for organelles that give simple cells new functions has been developed by scientists. A research team has refuted a long-held assumption in biology: The scientists have shown that it is not only possible to extend the functions of organelles - organs of the cell - but also to form them from scratch with the help of genetic blueprints

Research projects contribute to shaping EU regulation to control invasive species

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 05:20 AM PST

A new regulation governing the control of invasive alien species became effective in all EU states on 1 January 2015. The European Union hopes that it will actively combat one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and thus the functioning of ecosystems. The new regulation has far-reaching implications for authorities as well as for trade in animals and plants.

Researchers capture, document first northern saw-whet owl in Arkansas

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 05:18 AM PST

Wildlife biologists have captured and documented the first northern saw-whet owl in Arkansas. Between 1959 and 2010, only a dozen sightings of this rare bird -- much smaller than screech, barred or great horned owls -- had been recorded in the state prior to this one.

Sugary drinks linked to earlier onset of menstrual periods

Posted: 27 Jan 2015 06:22 PM PST

Girls who frequently consume sugary drinks tend to start their menstrual periods earlier than girls who do not, according to new research. The findings are important not only because of the growing problem of childhood obesity in a number of developed countries, but also because starting periods earlier is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer later in life.

Do green roofs, solar panels work well together?

Posted: 27 Jan 2015 06:59 AM PST

A new study examines whether solar electricity panels and green roofs can work well in tandem. With ongoing urbanization, which reduces the variety of species found in cities, green roofs can increase biological diversity, and also provide insulation, bringing energy benefits to building owners who will save money on heating and cooling, authors say.

Cell imaging gets colorful

Posted: 26 Jan 2015 09:47 AM PST

The detection and imaging of protein-protein interactions in live cells just got a lot more colorful, thanks to a new technology. The new method converts biochemical processes into color changes that are easily visualized. This method is a new tool for cell biologists and neuroscientists to use to address questions ranging from fundamental mechanisms in cell biology, to the underlying causes of mental illness, to the discovery of novel therapeutics.

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