El Niño Dramatically Reshaped Western Coastlines

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 14, 2017 4:16 pm
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Large storm waves crashing on the rocks near Santa Cruz, California. (Credit: Christine Hegermiller, U.S. Geological Survey)

Beaches and shorelines are locked in an eternal battle between land and sea.

The struggle usually comes out to a draw — the rate of erosion is offset by the amount of new sediment deposited. But as weather patterns grow more erratic and storms intensify, our shores could begin yielding ground to the waves.

The most recent El Niño event was one of the most energetic in years and brought powerful storms and punishing waves to the Pacific Northwest. While this may have been good news for a drought-stricken region, it also pounded beaches that protect coastal communities from erosion and flooding. A new study, led by researchers from the United States Geological Survey, assessed the work of the 2015-2016 El Niño and found erosion was 76 percent higher than normal levels.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

Look Closely, This Ant Is Carrying a Passenger

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 10, 2017 3:27 pm
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Can you spot the hitchhiker? (Credit: M. Maruyama)

Sometimes even experienced entomologists need a double-take to fully grasp what they’re seeing. And upon closer examination, they found a new species hiding in plain sight.

A new kind of beetle discovered in the Costa Rican rainforest almost passed by unnoticed, because it hides so well on the army ants it uses for transportation. It was only after the researchers tried to puzzle out the mystery of the ants with two abdomens that they spotted the squat beetle, named Nymphista kronaeuri after Daniel Kronauer, the biologist who first found the species. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals, ecology

Part Turtle, Part Pig, Bulbasaurus Was a Stout Survivor

By Ian Graber-Stiehl | February 10, 2017 11:33 am
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Bulbasaurus phylloxyron (Courtesy of Matt Celeskey)

You may have seen the story: Last week scientists decided to name a recently discovered mammalian ancestor after the Pokémon, Bulbasaur. But in this case, fiction is stranger than truth.

Indeed, the new species goes by the name Bulbasaurus phylloxyron, but its association with pocket monsters is coincidental. In taxonomy, it’s common to name a new species after its prominent features, and Bulbasaurus (bulbous lizard ) phylloxyron (leaf cutter) is simply a nod to its unique nasal protuberance and beak. Therefore, the German and South African researchers who unearthed it are, in fact, not weaboos.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: paleontology

Lava Waterfall the Latest in Hawaiian Volcano’s 30-Year Show

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 9, 2017 2:45 pm
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Lava flows into the ocean near Kilauea. (Credit: USGS)

For over a month, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has been spewing molten rock into the Pacific Ocean, creating what was until recently a glowing waterfall of lava.

The most active of the main island’s five volcanos, Kilauea has been erupting since 1983. While the outflows usually pose no risk to human settlements, they have occasionally washed over houses and consumed roadways on the island. The most recent event began on New Year’s Day when 21 acres of the Kamokuna lava delta collapsed into the ocean, opening up an underground lava tube and allowing its contents to spill into the ocean. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment
MORE ABOUT: earth science

Elusive Blue Lightning Filmed Dancing Above a Thunderstorm

By Carl Engelking | February 8, 2017 4:41 pm
A blue jet caught on camera over the Bay of Bengal. (Credit: ESO)

A blue jet caught on camera over the Bay of Bengal. (Credit: ESA)

In Earth’s upper atmosphere, blue jets, red sprites, pixies, halos, trolls and elves streak toward space, rarely caught in the act by human eyes.

This mixed-bag of quasi-mythological terms are all names for transient luminous events, or, quite simply, forms of lightning that dance atop thunderstorm clouds. Airplane pilots have reported seeing them, but their elusive nature makes them hard to study. But ESA astronaut Andreas Morgensen, while aboard the International Space Station in September 2015, filmed hundreds of blue jets flashing over a thunderstorm that was pounding the Bay of Bengal, confirming a mysterious atmospheric phenomenon. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: physics

Solar Flares May Lead Whales to Peril

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 8, 2017 2:33 pm
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A whale stranded on shore. (Credit: littleny/Shutterstock)

The solar storms that fling waves of charged particles toward the Earth may be to blame for the stranding events that leave whales dying on shore for unknown reasons.

It’s not a new hypothesis, but now researchers from NASA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) plan to combine datasets on these seemingly disparate events to see if a statistical link between solar flares and stranding events exists. If there’s a connection, it’s a discovery that could help to protect many species of endangered whales. Read More

Astronomers Identify a New Class of Black Holes

By John Wenz | February 8, 2017 1:03 pm
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Globular cluster 47 based on data from FORS1. (Credit: ESO)

Some black holes are small. Some black holes are giant. But oddly enough, in the cosmic fight between innocent passing stars and voracious black holes, scientists have never found a mid-sized black hole. Until now.

The star cluster 47 Tucanae, located about 13,000 to 16,000 light years from Earth, is a dense ball of stars. Hundreds of thousands of stars compacted into a 120 light-year span give off gamma rays and X-rays and more energetic events, but to date, no black holes had been found there. The center seemed ripe for opportunities to find one, but a lack of tidal disruption events and a jumble of stars hard to sift through obscured finding any lurking black holes there. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: black holes

Researchers Lambast Daily Mail’s Climate Change Article

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 7, 2017 3:09 pm
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(Credit: lexaarts/Shutterstock)

A recent article published in the Daily Mail critical of climate science has drawn sharp criticism from multiple climate researchers.

The controversy concerns a paper, published in 2015 by a team of NOAA researchers led by Thomas Karl, that revealed a purported “pause” in global warming was nothing more than an artifact of incomplete data. Now, the Daily Mail has published an article based on an exclusive interview with former NOAA employee John Bates alleging that the Karl paper misinterpreted data to overstate the scope of climate change. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: climate change

Midwest Meteor: Where Did You Come From, Where Did You Go?

By Hannah Gavin | February 7, 2017 1:53 pm
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A still image from a dashcam video caught by Glendale, Wisconsin police officer at 1:29 a.m. Monday. (Credit: Glendale Police Department)

Dash cam footage of a meteor streaking over the Midwest on Feb. 6 is collecting views and instigating an envy of regional night owls who witnessed the event live.

The National Weather Service detected the meteor around 1:29 a.m. It flew over Lake Michigan between Sheboygan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The meteor was spotted as far south as Kentucky and as far east as New York, Astronomy reports.

Read More

How Pitcher Plants Acquired a Taste for Meat

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 6, 2017 3:44 pm
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(Credit: National Institute for Basic Biology)

Researchers have peered into the genome of pitcher plants to see how they developed their carnivorous appetite.

Genes that once helped to regulate stress responses may have been co-opted to assist with capturing and digesting insects and other creatures. Looking at several different species an international team of researchers led by Mitsuyasu Hasebe says the same genomic regions were all altered in the same way at different times, which is an indication that the path to carnivorousness looked the same, regardless of species.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: plants. genetics
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