Category: Uncategorized

Will global warming super-charge hurricanes?

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Tropical storm Isaac churning in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study suggests tropical storms will become more intense

Staff Report

Tropical storms may become less frequent as the planet warms up, but those that do form could be increasingly powerful, according to a new study published in the journal Science last week.

How global warming will affect tropical storm formation in the decades ahead has been the subject of intensive research. The new study says that, so far, the warming effects of greenhouse gases on tropical cyclones have been hard to discern because of natural variability and also because air pollution has been masking the impacts. Continue reading “Will global warming super-charge hurricanes?”

Medical marijuana cuts costs of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program

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Medical marijuana is legal in 25 states, and is reducing costs for Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program, according to a new study.

Patients using cannabis as alternative to prescription drugs

Staff Report

A new study by health experts at the University of Georgia suggests that people are using marijuana as an alternative to prescription medications for ailments that range from pain to sleep disorders.

That trend translates to about $165.2 million in savings for Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program in 2013, the researchers reported in the journal  Health Affairs.The results suggest that if all states had implemented medical marijuana the overall savings to Medicare would have been around $468 million.

The can give policymakers and others another tool to evaluate the pros and cons of medical marijuana legalization, said study co-author W. David Bradford, who is the Busbee Chair in Public Policy in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs. Continue reading “Medical marijuana cuts costs of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program”

Vaquita population drops to brink of extinction

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Continued poaching is pushing the vaquita toward extinction. Photo courtesy Paula Olsen/NOAA.

New survey results show as few as 60 remaining vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California

Staff Report

The population of vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California may be down to just 60 individuals, according to conservation advocates, who released the results of recent surveys in a press release last week.

The vaquita is the world’s smallest and most endangered porpoise and could be extinct in less than a decade without stringent conservation measures, especially a complete and well-enforced ban on gill nets in the northern Gulf of California. The new vaquita population estimate is based on observer data and acoustic monitoring conducted during a joint Mexico-U.S. vaquita research cruise last fall. Continue reading “Vaquita population drops to brink of extinction”

Does industrial pollution from Asia cause oxygen-starved dead zones in the Pacific Ocean?

New research offers clues on global pollution pathways

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A new study shows  industrial pollution from Asia affects the health of tropical oceans. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Polluted dust from Asia is cutting oxygen levels in the tropical Pacific Ocean, researchers said this week, releasing a new study that traces a chain reaction that starts with land-based industrial pollution in China and other Asian countries.

“There’s a growing awareness that oxygen levels in the ocean may be changing over time,” said Taka Ito, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “One reason for that is the warming environment – warm water holds less gas. But in the tropical Pacific, the oxygen level has been falling at a much faster rate than the temperature change can explain,” Ito said.

The study found that the pollution raises levels of iron and nitrogen  in the ocean off the coast of East Asia. Ocean currents then carried the nutrients to tropical regions, where it feeds photosynthesizing phytoplankton. As those organisms feed on the nutrients, it has a negative effect on the dissolved oxygen levels deeper in the ocean. Continue reading “Does industrial pollution from Asia cause oxygen-starved dead zones in the Pacific Ocean?”

National Park Service to update oil and gas drilling rules

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A fracking boom near national parks has already degraded air quality and fragmented wildlife habitat around some of the country’s most cherished public lands. @bberwyn photo.

Agency acknowledges potential for adverse impacts to park values

Staff Report

The recent surge in fossil fuel exploitation on public lands near national parks has raised serious concerns about air quality, wildlife and scenic values — to the point that the National Parks Conservation Association outlined threats in a report a few years ago.

Now, the National Park Service wants to tackle some of the concerns by updating drilling regulations.  The proposal would revise current rules that are 36 years old, predating the modern fracking area. The agency hopes the update will give the fossil fuel industry more certainty, improve the agency’s ability to protect park resources and the values for which the parks were set aside, and protect visitors from potentially adverse impacts associated with fossil fuel development. Continue reading “National Park Service to update oil and gas drilling rules”

Mexico to step up vaquita conservation efforts

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Mexican agencies say they will try to cut illegal fishing and work more closely with conservation groups to prevent the vaquita from going extinct. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Focusing on illegal trade could help protect world’s most endangered marine mammal

By Bob Berwyn

In a hopeful sign for the critically endangered vaquita, Mexican environmental and law enforcement officials have indicated they’ll work more closely with conservation groups to track illegal fishing in the upper Gulf of California, and try to stop the trade of illegal fish in the region.

The vaquita is the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The small dolphins live only in a few thousand square miles of ocean in the northern Gulf of California. Biologists estimate the total population at fewer than 100 individuals. Continue reading “Mexico to step up vaquita conservation efforts”