Disease-carrying mosquitoes spreading quickly in our warming world

Caption: Known as a vector for the West Nile virus, this Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito has landed on a human finger. Eliminating puddles and small containers of water can greatly reduce this mosquito's population. Credit: CDC/Jim Gathany

Global warming is helping disease-carrying mosquitoes spread rapidly to new territories.
Credit: CDC/Jim Gathany

New maps can guide prevention efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Warmer global temperatures are enabling the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes, putting millions of people at risk, Oxford University researchers say.

The scientists recently created the first global distribution maps of two species of dengue and chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes, showing a rapid expansion in parts of the US, Southern Europe and China during the past 10-15 years. Continue reading

Melting Arctic sea ice could ‘cool’ Europe

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Ocean circulation in the North Atlantic is already changing as a result of global warming.

Study tracks links between melting ice cap, Atlantic Ocean currents

Staff Report

FRISCO — The retreat of sea ice caused by global warming could lead to colder weather for parts of northwestern Europe, Canadian researchers said after studying changing ocean dynamics in the North Atlantic.

The new research reinforces previous findings that the shrinking Arctic ice cap is likely to change the delicate balance between the cold and dense water pouring out of the Arctic and the warm waters of the subtropical Atlantic, according to professor G.W.K. Moore, of the University of Toronto Mississauga. Continue reading

U.S. Supreme Court nixes EPA’s mercury limits

Conservative majority ruling puts thousands of lives at risk

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The EPA will have to go back to the drawing board if it wants to regulate toxic mercury emissions from factories and power plants, as the U.S. Supreme Court today voided the agency’s 2012 regulations that were set to take effect this year.

In a divided five-four ruling, the court sided with heavy industry and fossil-fuel burning power plants, saying that the EPA should have considered the costs of the regulations as part of its initial evaluation. The EPA had argued that those costs would be evaluated at the next step of the regulatory process.

Mercury is a global pollutant that has been detected in California’s coastal fogs. In a national assessment, the U.S. Geological Survey found unhealthy mercury levels in 25 percent of all U.S. Streams. And near Hawaii, scientists say mercury concentrations in yellowfin tuna have been increasing 3.8 percent a year. Researchers have even documented signs of environmental stress in Alaskan sled dogs who primarily eat mercury tainted fish. Continue reading

Acoustic survey tracks whale population trends along the coast of Southern California

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.

The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.

Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats. Continue reading

Key Biscayne National Park establishes new marine reserve to try and restore coral reef ecosystem

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary, where protective management has helped rebuild fish stocks. Key Biscayne National Park hopes that a new protected area will help restore coral reefs. Photo courtesy NOAA.

No-fishing zone seen as key piece of new management plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service says a 10,000-acre no-fishing zone will help restore the heart of Key Biscayne National Park’s coral reef ecosystem and boost fish populations in surrounding waters.

The new marine reserve was announced earlier this month as part of an updated management plan for the popular park near Miami. The no–fishing zone covers about 6 percent of the park’s waters. Some other ecologically important shoreline areas will be protected by slow-speed, no-wake, and no-motor zones to benefit seagrass beds, manatees, mangroves and nesting birds. Continue reading

Environment: Tar sands oil releases 20 percent more greenhouse gas pollution than conventional crude oil

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Tar sands development in Canada.

Study bolsters arguments against more tar sands exploitation

Staff Report

FRISCO —A new study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory will add fuel to controversy over development of tar sands oil.

The analyis shows that  gasoline and diesel refined from Canadian oil sands release about 20 percent more carbon into the atmosphere over its lifetime than fuel from conventional domestic crude sources.

The research, which was conducted in collaboration with Stanford University and the University of California at Davis, shows some variability in the increase of greenhouse gas, depending on the type of extraction and refining methods. Continue reading

Environment: EPA finally agrees to study impacts of common pesticides on 1,500 endangered species

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Crop dusting.

Settlement with watchdog group may be the first step in limiting applications of harmful chemicals

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under legal pressure, the EPA last week agreed to begin a far-reaching evaluation of how some of the most commonly used pesticides affect more than 1,500 endangered plants and animals.

The study, to be completed by 2020, could be the first step toward limiting the use of atrazine and glyphosate. The EPA will also analyze the impacts of propazine and simazine, two pesticides that are chemically similar to atrazine. Continue reading

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