Climate Change Compared to Weapon of Mass Destruction

This Year’s Hurricane Season Is Going to Be Pretty Bad

 

 

Hurricane Sandy flood water in NYC subways - photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

Hurricane Sandy flood water in NYC subways – photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

In the June 6th episode of his news show, Chris Hayes discussed this year’s recently arrived hurricane season. He cited a report by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal agency, which predicts:

” …there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.”

The report goes on to say that of the factors contributing to this increase in severity, warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea play a significant role.

Hayes makes the obvious connection between warmer water and global warming during the broadcast in a way that should put any doubt as to whether or not human activities can alter the weather to rest. He also mentions Superstorm Sandy, which will now and forever be considered the hallmark of extreme weather brought on by global warming/climate change.

Chris Hayes - photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Chris Hayes – photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

 

Watch the video to see him tell it.

 

 

Europe Takes Action on Bee Decline While US Does Little

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

It’s a familiar, yet still maddening scenario.

The public, as well as scientists, express legitimate concern about something. The US government reacts more or less by explaining that it will deliberate on potential courses of action once all the facts are responsibly gathered by experts from government-run agencies. Then and only then, will something possibly be done.

It seems Europe often does things a bit differently. The recent collapse of bee populations world-wide, and the question of what to do about it, offers a fresh example of this. In a May 28 online article, The Guardian (a UK newspaper) published this:

“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked to perform a risk assessment of the insecticide fipronil [by the European Commission], paying particular regard to the acute and chronic effects on colony survival and development and the effects of sub-lethal doses on bee mortality and behavior.”

The EFSA’s official statement about the result of the study was this:

“The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize.”

What’s particularly interesting is that Europe has acknowledged for years the scientific evidence which shows that pesticides are causing damage to bees and have acted swiftly and decisively on the matter. Science, plus huge public protests, ultimately culminated in the European Commission (EC) imposing a ban recently on three neonicotinoids, chemicals similar to fipronil. The assumption is that the EC will ban fipronil as well.

While it is obviously a good thing that Europe is taking steps to address the problem, Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, thinks even more should be done. According to The Guardian, Contiero said:

“These pesticides have been building up in our environment for a decade, so limited, temporary bans won’t be enough to give bees a breather. The commission should develop a comprehensive plan for the protection of insect pollinators, starting with a solid ban on fipronil and other bee-harming substances.”

So what sweeping, vigorous action has the US government taken? In the words of The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as reported by Food Safety News online, this is it:

“The forces impacting honeybee health are complex, and the USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge.”

They’ll be engaged in addressing this challenge. Which is to say that there will be no bans.

The Pesticide Action Network of North America, and the Center for Food Safety have both petitioned the EPA to place bans on these dangerous chemicals. Lawsuits against the EPA are pending, as well. Unfortunately, the odds are against the bees.

Dog Feeding an Orphaned Lamb

I found this video on YouTube and just HAD to share it!

I love animals and love learning about animal behavior. So for me, not only is this video adorable, it also raises some fascinating questions. How aware is the dog of what it’s doing- does he understand the concept of feeding, or is he simply copying behavior his owner taught him? Did the owner show the dog how to feed the lamb? It looks to me like the answer is probably a combination of being taught a specific behavior, as well as at least partially understanding what the behavior is for.

I know that animals can make friends with other animals, even of a different species. So does the dog see the lamb as a friend? Or has he “adopted” the orphaned lamb, which has been documented in several cases among various species in zoos and animal shelters. I’d say that the dog probably sees the lamb as a friend/playmate.

Post a comment if you’d like to share your thoughts and theories! I hope this video made you smile!

Endangered Parakeet Population Grows on Predator-Free Island Reserve

Malherbe’s Parakeet- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

Malherbe’s Parakeet- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

From ScientificAmerican.com:

“Malherbe’s parakeets are one of the world’s rarest and least-studied birds, with fewer than 300 wild individuals on Earth and a total population of maybe 1,000. Endemic to New Zealand, the birds were only recognized as their own species in 2000 after many decades of being considered a colorful variant of the orange-fronted parakeet (C. auriceps). Unfortunately, the 10 years leading up to that new taxonomic declaration were devastating to Malherbe’s parakeets, as an invasion of rats and stoats took their toll on the tiny (23-centimeter) birds.

Early this century the New Zealand Department of Conservation brought most of the remaining Malherbe’s parakeets into a captive breeding program. Then, in 2007 they started moving some captive-bred birds to Maud Island, a predator-free 320-hectare island that also serves as a nature reserve for other endemic species.”

For more, go to ScientificAmerican.com

Amphibians in U.S. Declining at ‘Alarming and Rapid Rate’

Yellow Legged Frog- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

Yellow Legged Frog- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

 

From ScientificAmerican.com:

“Why the drop in amphibian species matters: Amphibians control pests, inspire new medicines, feed other animals and help make ecosystems work. They are inherently valued by people of all ages—watching tadpoles and listening to frog calls are some of the most accessible interactions we have with the natural world.”

For more, go to ScientificAmerican.com

Truly Amazing Animal Camouflages

Tawny Frogmouth- courtesy of Listverse.com

Tawny Frogmouth- courtesy of Listverse.com

From Listverse.com:

The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus Strigoides) is a type of owl (in case you’ve been trying to spot a frog for a few minutes) native to Australia. Although they are, unsurprisingly, nocturnal, they have developed a sophisticated method of daytime camouflage: they sit still, close their eyes, stretch their neck and compact their feathers, making them look like a broken tree branch. This is used as a defense mechanism, not for hunting, like some of the other entries. Ironically, the biggest threat to the Tawny Frogmouth is their method of hunting. They mainly eat insects, and since they are nocturnal, insects are most visible in lit up areas. Unfortunately, the most lit up area is often directly in front of a moving car, where many of these birds will probably wish they were easier for us to spot.

See this animal and 9 others who almost disappear into their environments using natural camouflage.

Fracking Has Caused Earthquakes

A drilling rig- courtesy of LiveScience.com

A drilling rig- courtesy of LiveScience.com

 

From LiveScience.com

Earthquakes triggered by fluids injected deep underground, such as during the controversial practice of fracking, may be more common than previously thought, a new study suggests.

Continue reading

EXTINCT: Three South Florida Butterfly Species

Skipper Butterfly- courtesy of HuffingtonPost.com

Skipper Butterfly- courtesy of HuffingtonPost.com

From HuffingtonPost.com:

By Barbara Liston (Reuters) – After six years of searching, an entomologist has concluded that three varieties of butterflies native to south Florida have become extinct, nearly doubling the number of North American butterflies known to be gone.

“These are unique butterflies to Florida. This is our biological treasure. Each unique species that we lose, we won’t ever get that back again,” Marc Minno, who conducted the survey for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told Reuters on Monday.

The disappearance of butterflies should serve as a warning about the degradation of south Florida’s environment, he said.

“It’s indicating there are major problems, environmental harm to Florida. And this is an indication that quality for people is also degrading and people should be worried about that,” Minno said.

Before Minno’s survey, only four varieties of North American butterflies, all from California, were presumed to be extinct, and the last one added to the list was 55 years ago. Besides the three varieties which Minno concluded are extinct, two more native butterflies no longer exist in Florida but are living in the Caribbean, and two more are heading toward extinction, he said.

Miami Blue Butterfly- courtesy of LiveScience.com

Miami Blue Butterfly- courtesy of LiveScience.com

What is happening to the Florida butterflies remains an unanswered question. The Schaus’ Swallowtail, found only in the upper Florida Keys, became in 1976 one of the first insects ever given legal protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Minno said only six of the swallowtails were sighted in 2012.

Scientists began noticing a general decline in the butterfly populations in the 1980s, and Minno, like many scientists, assumed the spraying of pesticides to kill mosquitoes might be at fault. But his survey suggested otherwise.

In urban areas, such as Key West which has little natural habitat remaining and is routinely sprayed, Minno said, “There are so many butterflies flying you can hardly keep track of them all. There are just swarms of butterflies sometimes. You just wonder what the heck is going on. It’s just the opposite of what you would think.”

By contrast, Minno said he found few butterflies in vast conservations lands without mosquito control, such as the million-acre Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park.

One of his theories is that mosquito spraying might bolster butterfly populations by killing off native and non-native parasitic wasps which feast on butterfly larvae and caterpillars. Another theory is that invasive predatory ants, such as the Mexican twig ant and fire ants, which were introduced to the area in the 1970s and are unrestrained by pesticides in conservation areas, might be overwhelming butterfly populations there.

Minno said the three butterflies that were found only in southern Florida and are now extinct are the Florida Zestos Skipper, the Rockland Meske’s Skipper, and the Keys Zarucco Skipper. In addition, the Bahamian Swallowtails and the Nickerbean Blues are gone from Florida but alive in the Caribbean. Minno also expects the Schaus’ Swallowtail and the Miami Blue, both of which continue to decline despite formal recovery plans, to become extinct soon. Of 120 varieties of butterflies documented in the Keys, Minno said 18 have become imperiled since the 1970s.

Minno said no state, federal or private agency has funded research to find out what is causing the decline. (Editing by Tom Brown and Phil Berlowitz)

Amazing Animals- The Sand Cat

Sand Kitten- courtesy of environmentalgraffiti.com

Sand Kitten- courtesy of EnvironmentalGraffiti.com

I found a wonderful website with pictures and info about animals that are native to deserts. It’s amazing that any animal can survive such harsh climates.

This cat might look a lot like an ordinary domestic cat, but it was born to live in the desert. In fact, sand cats (Felis margarita) can survive in the kind of testing environments most house cats couldn’t endure for more than a couple of days. For one thing, they have extra tufts of fur on their feet to protect them from the scorching sand. They can also go for months without drinking water, getting all the moisture they need from their food.

Zooborns.com says of the species:

“Specially adapted for desert life, sand cats can thrive in some of the world’s driest areas, beyond the range of any other feline. Much like the fennec fox, sand cats sport big furry pads between their toes to dance along the hot sand and oversized ears, which act like radiators to disperse heat. The sand cat’s oversized ears help to dissipate heat and detect prey scurrying along the sand, also like fennec fox.”

Isn’t it amazing how evolution can create such unusual life simply by tweeking an existing body design (the wild cat) to handle novel/extreme conditions? I would’ve never thought that a cat species could be native to a desert.

Sadly, though, this cat is endangered. But there are people at a zoo in Tel Aviv that are trying to save them. Check out the zoo’s website to see the work they are doing.