Hurricane Harvey: Why Is It So Extreme?

Spoiler Alert: It may have to do with climate change.

Experts say Harvey has been stuck longer in one place than any tropical storm in memory. That is just one of the hurricane’s extremes; the storm is off the charts by many measures.

Scientific American wanted to learn why, and asked meteorologist Jeff Masters for help. Masters is the co-founder of Weather Underground, a web site that meteorologists nationwide go to for their own inside information about severe weather. Masters also wrote a fascinating article on why the jet stream is getting weird.

 

Read about it here!

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Flotillas of fire ants add new layer of horror to post-Harvey flood havoc

What kind of fresh new horror is this? Fire ants, who’s bite is painful and itchy, don’t die when flooded. They form a flotilla using the body of dead ants. That’s right, the dead ones create a raft for the live ones to float away.

Want to have nightmares of ants crawling all over you while you are drowning in flood waters? Read more about it here!

And don’t touch the flotillas of fire ants. Kill it with fire (I’ve been told detergent is better. Less satisfying but better).

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Those are all floating fire ants. All of them.

All the trees will die, and so will you

The title of this post is not my own, but it kind of has a point. Not “everything dies” but rather, a lot more apocalyptic.

A brown-black beetle (the polyphagous shot hole borer) breeds inside trees. It drills networks of tunnels, which then get infected by a fungus it carries to feed it’s young. Eventually the tree dies, the beetle moves on and the whole cycle starts again.

This would be a cute horror story, if the beetle wasn’t on track to kill 26.8 million trees across Southern California. Which is going to directly link to the death of humans. Interested? Find out why here.

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The Endangered Species Act may be heading for the threatened list.

Well this is nuts. Not surprising… but nuts none the less.

“A Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs.

The two-hour meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee was led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who said last month that his focus in a bid to change the act would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and the bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs,” according to a report in Energy and Environment News.”

The article goes on to discuss how it will likely be dismantled. Call your representatives!

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Computers discover how to talk to other Computers… without humans…

Alice and Bob were trying to talk to each other without allowing anyone to eaves drop. Eve’s job is to figure out what Alice and Bob are saying to each other. Seems like the usual love triangle, likely the next chick flick movie due out this fall, right?

But Alice, Bob and Eve are all artificial intelligences. And Alice and Bob were not given a program to keep their conversation encrypted. They wrote it themselves. And no one knows how it works, except Alice and Bob.

I’m not saying that this is the beginning of Skynet, but it is pretty creepy. Do we consider AI biological research? Should we?

Read about it here.terminator_28453_4db5a1135e73d67af40067b5_1303953272-640x360

The trees are dying

In Hawaii trees are dying at an alarming rate due to an unknown and uncharacterised disease.

Since 2010 66 million trees have been killed in the Sierra Nevadas due to an invasive pathogen called Sudden Oak Death.

In Montana Bark beetles and mountain pine beetles are killing trees at a rate 10 times higher than normal.

These are a few but not exhaustive examples. Want a better summary of the trials facing our american forests? Read about it over at the Guardian.

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Save the Bananas!

Interesting facts: All commercial bananas in the US/Europe/Canada (really all imported bananas) are all decended from one banana grown on the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (Chatsworth House).

They are all clonal, which makes them particularly susceptible to a coevolving disease.

Such as Panama Disease, which is now killing off bananas in the thousands.

What’s more, this has happened before… and may result in there being no bananas left on our grocery shelves.

Read more about it over at the BBC.

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