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Study Finds Parrotfish are Critical to Coral Reef Health

An analysis of fossilized parrotfish teeth and sea urchin spines by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego showed that when there are more algae-eating fish on a reef, it grows faster.In the new study, published in the Jan. 23 issue of the journal Nature Communication, Scripps researchers Katie Cramer and Richard Norris developed a 3,000-year record of the abundance of parrotfish and urchins on reefs from the Caribbean side of Panama to help unravel the cause of the alarming modern-day shift from coral- to algae-dominated reefs occurring across the Caribbean.“Our reconstruction of past and present reefs from fossils demonstrates that when overfishing wipes out parrotfish, reef health declines,” said Cramer, a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps and lead author of the study.

UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica

Two new studies by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA have found the fastest ongoing rates of glacier retreat ever observed in West Antarctica and offer an unprecedented look at ice melting on the floating undersides of glaciers. The results highlight how the interaction between ocean conditions and the bedrock beneath a glacier can influence the frozen mass, helping scientists better predict future Antarctica ice loss and global sea level rise.The studies examined three neighboring glaciers that are melting and retreating at different rates. The Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers flow into the Dotson and Crosson ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea embayment in West Antarctica, the part of the continent with the largest decline in ice.

Storms in Mexico Kill Millions of Monarchs

While international efforts are under way to help keep dwindling populations of monarch butterflies from disappearing, scientists are raising concerns about how severe weather and a loss of forest habitat at their wintering grounds in Mexico are affecting them.Every year, monarchs embark on an epic multigenerational migration that takes them thousands of miles from Canada and the U.S. in search of sites in California and in Mexico. The fir trees in the southern regions offer the shelter and warmth they need to survive the winter.Unfortunately, these vital forests in Mexico have been threatened by illegal logging, and now storms have destroyed hundreds of acres of habitat, while severe weather is believed to have killed an estimated 6.2 million of these iconic butterflies.

2014 Napa earthquake continued to creep, weeks after main shock

Nearly two years ago, on August 24, 2014, just south of Napa, California, a fault in the Earth suddenly slipped, violently shifting and splitting huge blocks of solid rock, 6 miles below the surface. The underground upheaval generated severe shaking at the surface, lasting 10 to 20 seconds. When the shaking subsided, the magnitude 6.0 earthquake — the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989 — left in its wake crumpled building facades, ruptured water mains, and fractured roadways.

Mapping the health threat of wildfires under climate change in US West

A surge in major wildfire events in the U.S. West as a consequence of climate change will expose tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades, according to a new Yale-led study conducted with collaborators from Harvard.The researchers estimated air pollution from past and projected future wildfires in 561 western counties, and found that by mid-century more than 82 million people will experience “smoke waves,” or consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.The regions likely to receive the highest exposure to wildfire smoke in the future include northern California, western Oregon, and the Great Plains.

Frogs that can take the heat expected to fare better in a changing world

Amphibians that tolerate higher temperatures are likely to fare better in a world affected by climate change, disease and habitat loss, according to two recent studies from the University of California, Davis.Frogs are disappearing globally, and the studies examine why some survive while others perish. The studies reveal that thermal tolerance — the ability to withstand higher temperatures — may be a key trait in predicting amphibian declines.HEAT-TOLERANT FROGS ESCAPE DEADLY FUNGUSOne of the world's deadliest wildlife pandemics is caused by a fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd. The fungus is linked to several amphibian extinctions and global declines.

Provisional names announced for super heavy elements 113, 115, 117, and 118

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Inorganic Chemistry Division has published a Provisional Recommendation for the names and symbols of the recently discovered superheavy elements 113, 115, 117, and 118.The provisional names for 115, 117 and 118 — originally proposed by the discovering team from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, Russia; the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee — will now undergo a statutory period for public review before the names and symbols can be finally approved by the IUPAC Council.

California drought putting many trees at risk

California's forests are home to the planet's oldest, tallest and most-massive trees. New research from Carnegie's Greg Asner and his team reveals that up to 58 million large trees in California experienced severe canopy water loss between 2011 and today due to the state's historic drought. Their results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.In addition to the persistently low rainfall, high temperatures and outbreaks of the destructive bark beetle increased forest mortality risk. But gaining a large-scale understanding a forest's responses to the drought, as well as to ongoing changes in climate, required more than just a picture of trees that have already died. 

A Christmas Eve Asteroid!

Asteroid 2003 SD220 will safely fly past Earth on Dec. 24 at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have generated the highest-resolution images to date of this asteroid using the Deep Space Network's 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at Goldstone, California. The radar images were acquired between Dec. 17 and Dec. 22, when the distance to this near-Earth object (NEO) was narrowing from 7.3 million miles (12 million kilometers) to almost the flyby distance.