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Scientists: Strong evidence that human-caused climate change intensified 2015 heat waves

Human-caused climate change very likely increased the severity of heat waves that plagued India, Pakistan, Europe, East Africa, East Asia, and Australia in 2015 and helped make it the warmest year on record, according to new research published today in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.  The fifth edition of Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective presents 25 peer-reviewed research papers that examine episodes of extreme weather of 2015 over five continents and two oceans. It features the research of 116 scientists from 18 countries analyzing both historical observations and changing trends along with model results to determine whether and how climate change may have influenced the event.

New simulations of wind power generation

There has been a massive boom in wind power capacity both in Europe and worldwide. In 2015 global installed capacity was around 350 gigawatt (GW), with 135 GW installed in Europe, distributed across some 87,000 wind turbines. Wind power now provides a bigger share (13 percent) of electricity than nuclear power stations. In countries such as Spain, Denmark and Germany, the amount of wind power already installed is in theory enough to cover nationwide demand for electricity under ideal conditions, i.e. maximum wind power output and low consumer demand.

July Electric Car Sales in China Rose by 188 Percent Over Last Year

Chinese consumers bought 34,000 new electric cars in July, a 188 percent jump over the same period last year, according to CleanTechnica, an energy and technology news organization. The monthly total puts China on track to sell 400,000 electrical vehicles in 2016, accounting for 1.5 percent of the total auto sales market — larger than annual EV sales in Europe, or the U.S., Canada, and Mexico combined. 

After decades of clean up attempts, world's lakes still suffer from phosphorus pollution

Leading scientists warn: Phosphorus pollution is a major concern. We need to speed up recovery treatments of lakes – or accept poor freshwater quality. In a series of studies published in a special issue of the journal Water Research, leading scientists assess how to control phosphorus pollution in lakes.- In 40 % of Europe's lakes the water quality does not meet the demands of EUs Water Framework Directive, mainly due to phosphorus pollution. That is a huge problem for biodiversity and society and we need to put an effort into developing effective approaches to restore these lakes, says Associate Professor Kasper Reitzel, Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark.Together with colleagues Sara Egemose and Henning S. Jensen, Reitzel is co-author of several contributions in a special issue of the journal Water Research. Kasper Reitzel is also co-editor. They are experts in lake restoration and are associated with the Villum Kann Rasmussen Centre of Excellence, Centre for Lake Restoration, (CLEAR)

Fossil record shows seas around Britain were once tropical

Some 210 million years ago, Britain consisted of many islands, surrounded by warm seas. Europe at the time lay farther south, at latitudes equivalent to North Africa today. Much of Europe was hot desert, and at this point was flooded by a great sea – the Rhaetian Transgression.Published in Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, the Bristol team's work is the most extensive study yet, based on more than 26,000 identified fossils, of the Rhaetian shallow sea sharks, bony fishes, marine reptiles, and other creatures. Unusually, five members of the team were undergraduates when they did the work, and this was part of a series of summer internships.The team was led by Ellen Mears, now a postgraduate at the University of Edinburgh, and Valentina Rossi, now a postgraduate at the University of Cork.Ellen Mears said: “I studied the shark and fish teeth, and found remains of at least seven species of sharks and four of bony fishes. The sharks were all predators, but some were quite small. The bony fishes were unusual because many of them were shell crushers.” 

High levels of PCBs threaten whales and dolphins

Scientists are raising serious concerns about the future of whales and dolphins in European waters who are continuing to suffer from the effects of toxic chemicals that were banned decades ago, but continue to linger in the environment.According to a new study led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which was just published in the journal Scientific Reports, whales and dolphins in Europe  have been found to have some of the highest levels of polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) in the world.

Reduction in snow pack puts large areas at risk of insufficient water supplies

Gradual melting of winter snow helps feed water to farms, cities and ecosystems across much of the world, but this resource may soon be critically imperiled. In a new study, scientists have identified snow-dependent drainage basins across the northern hemisphere currently serving 2 billion people that run the risk of declining supplies in the coming century. The basins take in large parts of the American West, southern Europe, the Mideast and central Asia. They range from productive U.S. farm land to war-torn regions already in the grip of long-term water shortages.Snow is an important seasonal water source mainly around large mountain chains. From higher elevations, snowmelt runs gradually into the lowlands during spring and summer growing seasons, when human demand peaks. But global warming is upsetting this convenient balance. Studies show that in many areas, more winter precipitation is falling as rain, not snow, and washing away directly; the snow that does fall is settling at progressively higher elevations, and melting earlier

Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective

Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use, influenced specific extreme weather and climate events in 2014, including tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America, according to a new report released today. The report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective” published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, addresses the natural and human causes of individual extreme events from around the world in 2014, including Antarctica. NOAA scientists served as three of the five lead editors on the report.”For each of the past four years, this report has demonstrated that individual events, like temperature extremes, have often been shown to be linked to additional atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activities, while other extremes, such as those that are precipitation related, are less likely to be convincingly linked to human activities,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. 

Was the Bronze Age plague really spread by flies?

When the plague swept through Europe in 1665, no one could figure out how the devastating disease spread. But after a tailor in the small village of Eyam in central England died that September, people eventually put two and two together. He had received a parcel of cloth infested with fleas just 4 days before dying of bubonic plague. Within a month, five other villagers had succumbed, and the local vicar convinced the town to voluntarily put itself under quarantine. It eventually became clear that it was fleas, probably on rats, that spread the plague so far and so quickly.But now it appears that the plague did not always infect fleas—and the disease may not have always spread so rapidly or been as devastating. A new study of ancient DNA from the teeth of 101 Bronze Age skeletons has found that seven people living 2800 to 5000 years ago in Europe and Asia were infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes the plague. 

Physical activity is good for you, should it be a public health policy priority?

Lack of physical activity – along with unhealthy diets – are key risk factors for major non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).Thirty to 70% of EU citizens are currently overweight, while 10-30% are considered obese,according to the WHO, which warned against an obesity crisis in Europe over the coming decades.To counter the “epidemic”, the WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. This, it argues, would reduce the risk of ischaemic heart disease by approximately 30%, the risk of diabetes by 27%, and the risk of breast and colon cancer by 21–25%.