Archive for March, 2008

Chinook Salmon Vanish Without a Trace

Monday, March 17th, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Where did they go?

The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations — and coming up dry.

Whatever the cause, there was widespread agreement among those attending a five-day meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council here last week that the regional $150 million fishery, which usually opens for the four-month season on May 1, is almost certain to remain closed this year from northern Oregon to the Mexican border. A final decision on salmon fishing in the area is expected next month.


– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Alarming Growth In Expected Carbon Dioxide Emissions In China, Analysis Finds

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

The growth in China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is far outpacing previous estimates, making the goal of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases even more difficult, according to a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC San Diego.

Previous estimates, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, say the region that includes China will see a 2.5 to 5 percent annual increase in CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases, between 2004 and 2010. The new UC analysis puts that annual growth rate for China to at least 11 percent for the same time period.


Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

– This quote, from the article referenced below, is at the core of Perfect Storm concerns:

Although many nations have been pledging steps to curb emissions for nearly a decade, the world’s output of carbon from human activities totals about 10 billion tons a year and has been steadily rising.

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The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.

Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.


Trading Vows in Montana, No Couple Required

Sunday, March 16th, 2008


The blushless bride wears a hooded sweatshirt of red, offset by a bored expression that says she’s done this dozens of times before. The distracted groom wears a sweatshirt-and-cap ensemble of matching olive, offset by his — not their — infant daughter, now fidgeting toward sleep just outside the cramped room where holy vows are about to be exchanged.

The judge, wearing a white outdoor vest, takes her usual seat and exchanges nice-to-see-you-again pleasantries with the young couple, whom she hasn’t seen since the last time she married them, a week ago.

The three principals get down to the business of solemnizing this marriage. And when they are done, they will have another to solemnize, and another, and another, and another, because this is Montana, the only state to permit that strange and sacred ceremony, the double-proxy wedding, wherein the presence of neither the bride nor the groom is required.


– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

US Stands To Lose A Generation Of Young Researchers

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

– I’ve written before about this here: , and . 

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Five consecutive years of flat funding the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is deterring promising young researchers and threatening the future of Americans’ health, a group of seven preeminent academic research institutions have warned. In a new report released here, the group of concerned institutions (six research universities and a major teaching hospital) described the toll that cumulative stagnant NIH funding is taking on the American medical research enterprise. And the leading institutions warned that if NIH does not get consistent and robust support in the future, the nation will lose a generation of young investigators to other careers and other countries and, with them, a generation of promising research that could cure disease for millions for whom no cure currently exists.

The report, “A Broken Pipeline” Flat Funding of the NIH Puts a Generation of Science at Risk,” was co-authored by Brown University, Duke University, Harvard University, The Ohio State University, Partners Healthcare, the University of California Los Angeles, and Vanderbilt University.

It profiles 12 junior researchers from institutions across the country who, despite their exceptional qualifications and noteworthy research, attest to the funding difficulties that they and their professional peers are experiencing. These researchers are devising new ways to manipulate stem cells to repair the heart, revealing critical pathways involved in cancer and brain diseases, and using new technologies to diagnose and treat kidney disease.


Global Warming to Affect U.S. Transport

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Flooded roads and subways, deformed railroad tracks, and weakened bridges may be the wave of the future with continuing warming, a new study says.

Climate change will affect every type of transportation through rising sea levels, increased rainfall, and surges from more intense storms, the National Research Council said in a report released Tuesday.

Complicating matters, people continue to move into coastal areas, creating the need for more roads and services in the most vulnerable regions, the report noted.

“The time has come for transportation professionals to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning of transportation systems,” said Henry Schwartz Jr., past president and chairman of the engineering firm Sverdrup/Jacobs Civil Inc., and chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

Five Major Threats

The report cites five major areas of growing threat:

More heat waves, requiring load limits at hot-weather or high-altitude airports and causing thermal expansion of bridge joints and rail track deformities.

(Related story: Global Warming Likely Causing More Heat Waves, Scientists Say [August 1, 2006])

Rising sea levels and storm surges flooding coastal roadways, forcing evacuations, inundating airports and rail lines, flooding tunnels, and eroding bridge bases.

(Related story: Rising Seas Threaten China’s Sinking Coastal Cities [January 17, 2008])

More rainstorms delaying air and ground traffic, flooding tunnels and railways, and eroding road, bridge < recent (see>, and pipeline supports.

More frequent strong hurricanes, disrupting air and shipping service, blowing debris onto roads, and damaging buildings.

Rising arctic temperatures thawing permafrost, resulting in road, railway, and airport runway subsidence and potential pipeline failures.

(Related story: Arctic Summers Ice Free by 2040, Study Predicts [December 12, 2006])

System Not Built for Change

The nation’s transportation system was built for local conditions based on historical weather data, but those data may no longer be reliable in the face of new weather extremes, the report warns.


Australia’s food bowl lies empty

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

As the BBC looks at the impact of rising food prices around the world, Sydney correspondent Nick Bryant reports from Australia on how the worst drought on record has slashed its exports of wheat.

Though located in a remote corner of the planet, the fields of Australia’s food bowl are central to the worldwide price of wheat.

In this part of rural New South Wales, water-starved farms and cavernous empty grain silos have the potential to create a ripple effect which spreads around the globe.

And that is precisely what is happening right now.

Low yield

After America, Australia is normally the second largest exporter of grain, and in a good year it would hope to harvest about 25 million tonnes.

But the country remains in the grip of the worst drought in a century, which is why the 2006 crop yielded only 9.8m tonnes.

Global wheat stocks are at their lowest levels since 1979, and the ongoing Australian drought is one of the reasons why.


Scientists warn of wheat disease

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Scientists say poorer populations in vulnerable countries could starve if a disease called Ug-99 hits yields hard enough to push up wheat prices.

There is already a global wheat shortage and UN agencies are concerned about the impact of high food prices.

Ug-99 is a form of black stem rust that prevents wheat taking up nutrients and can wipe out whole harvests.

Scientists at the John Innes Centre, in England, are trying to find wheat with a natural resistance to the disease.

Most wheat grown in Africa, Asia and China, has little resistance to Ug-99.

The BBC’s Anna Hill says scientists at the John Innes Centre are testing a wide variety of native wheats from Asia and Africa to see if they can find natural resistance to the disease and breed new varieties from them.

But this could take more than five years, by which time Ug-99 could already be causing wide spread harvest failure.


Supersonic Sheep Impresses Police Pursuers

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

If sheep had Olympic Games, this one would be a gold medalist. A runaway sheep chased by police in northern Germany reached speeds of 45 kilometers an hour before jumping over the police car.

Police in the northern German village of Güster had their hands full on Monday when they were called out to catch an escaped sheep. “They gave chase in their vehicle but the pursuit didn’t prove easy because the animal at times ran at speeds of up to 45 kilometers (28 miles) per hour,” police said in a statement.

They finally caught up with it when it briefly got its leg stuck in a fence. “An officer carefully lifted the uninjured animal from the fence and placed in the field. But the sheep evidently didn’t like its new home because it made a daring leap straight over the hood of the police car.”


Saudi women make video protest

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Saudi women’s rights activists have posted on the web a video of a woman at the wheel of her car, in protest at the ban on female drivers in the kingdom.

Wajeha Huwaider talks of the injustice of the ban and calls for its abolition as she drives calmly along a highway.

She says the film was posted to mark International Women’s Day. Thousands have viewed it on the YouTube website.

The last such public show of dissent was in 1990 when dozens of women were arrested for circling Riyadh in cars.