Recent Entries in Eco

"It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.


[After 2003], the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain....

Attytood: When the levee breaks

Have you ever wondered what it's like to fly inside a hurricane or typhoon? Well, I've been there and done that! Way back in the early 1980's, I was a navigator in the U.S. Air Force, flying WC-130 weather reconnaissance aircraft. My first assignment was as a "Typhoon Chaser", based on the tropical island of Guam. Then I became a "Hurricane Hunter", and lived in Biloxi, MS. On some missions, I brought along a camera - you can see the results in the following pages.


A Hurricane Hunter's Photo Album

  Plants That Make You Loco

Found this little gem of a website while looking up a reference for an article on zombies in Apparently tetrodotoxin was supposed to turn people into "zombies," and
datura stramonium (jimsonweed) kept 'em in line. Sounds more like Deadheads than zombies.

Plant Alkaloids

During the past 130 million years, flowering plants have colonized practically every habitat on earth, from arid deserts, boggy meadows and windswept alpine summits, to sun-baked grasslands, lush rain forests and wave-battered rocky shores. They have replaced most of the ancient ferns and seed plants that dinosaurs subsisted on, and developed a complex and fascinating relationship with insects and mammals. During these countless centuries of time, flowering plants have gradually evolved all sorts of ingenious protective devices to discourage hungry herbivorous animals. Leaves and stems have developed a variety of vicious spines and stinging hairs (trichomes). In some plants, the dense covering of silvery hairs may also provide other ecological advantages such as solar reflection and insulation in arid environments. But mechanical defenses, such as spines and trichomes, are of limited value and probably would not deter all hungry herbivores, particularly the chewing and sucking insects. Therefore, plants have developed a "chemical warfare," a defense strategy based on a vast arsenal of chemicals which are toxic or distasteful to animals.

The world's largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts, according to Russian researchers just back from the region.

The sudden melting of a bog the size of France and Germany combined could unleash billions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

The news of the dramatic transformation of one of the world's least visited landscapes comes from Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist at Tomsk State University, Russia, and Judith Marquand at the University of Oxford.

New Scientist News - Climate warning as Siberia melts

US astronomers have discovered an object in the outer reaches of the solar system -- a rock bigger than pluto, which they labelled as the 10th planet.

If confirmed, the discovery would be the first of a planet since pluto was identified in 1930.

Astronomers claim 10th planet

For several years scientists have been finding fossilized embryos of dinosaurs from 80 million to 100 million years ago. They have now uncovered several 190-million-year-old dinosaur embryos, the oldest ever found.

The discovery is being reported Friday in the journal Science by a team of paleontologists headed by Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto. The fossils were actually excavated in 1978 in South Africa, but it has taken this long to expose the embryos from the surrounding rock and eggshell and then interpret the tiny remains.

They identified the embryos as belonging to a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur called Massospondylus. As adults, these creatures reached lengths of more than 15 feet and were able to walk on two legs. Yet the new research suggested that their hatchlings began life moving about on all fours, the scientists reported.

Scientists Find Oldest Dinosaur Embryo Ever - New York Times

My parents have a condo in Florida. These kinds of things always make me worry, cause I don't think they've got flood insurance.

Weather: Dennis grows stronger - and moves closer

The news for storm-weary Florida residents got worse Thursday: Not only did Hurricane Dennis grow stronger, its projected path moved closer to the Florida peninsula.
Mandatory evacuations of the lower Florida Keys were ordered as Dennis developed into a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds in excess of 131 mph.
The storm rumbled past Jamaica on Thursday at about 15 mph. Ten-foot waves lashed the island's shores, flooding low-lying areas. Winds as fast as 115 mph tore off roofs and toppled trees.
Dennis will cross central Cuba today, forecasters predicted, then bear down on the western Florida Keys. Thereafter, the storm is expected to travel northwest through the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall Sunday somewhere between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.

Officials ordered residents and tourists to leave the southern half of the Florida Keys on Thursday as Hurricane Dennis, an unusually powerful July storm, attained major-storm status as it slogged north through warm Caribbean waters.

Packing top winds of 130 mph and classified as a Category 4 hurricane, Dennis could subject the Lower Keys to dangerous winds and a 3- to 6-foot storm surge by this afternoon, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

"We recommend you pack up, secure your property as best you can and leave," Monroe County Sheriff's Deputy Becky Herrin said her department advised those in the southernmost Keys.

Hurricane Grows; Keys Get Order to Evacuate

Israeli scientists say they've succeeded in growing a sapling from what's believed to be the oldest seed ever germinated -- a date palm seed 2,000 years old.

One of the scientists leading the project said she hopes the ancient DNA from the seed will reveal medicinal secrets that have disappeared from the modern plant.

Sarah Sallon, of the Louis Borick Natural Medicine Research Centre in Jerusalem, said on the weekend that her team used seeds from archeological excavations at Masada, the ancient fortress where Jewish rebels committed mass suicide rather than be captured by the Romans in AD 73.

CBC News: 2,000-year-old palm seed germinates

A White House official who previously worked for the American Petroleum Institute has repeatedly edited government climate reports in a way that downplays links between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Philip Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, made changes to descriptions of climate research that had already been approved by government scientists and their supervisors, the newspaper said, citing internal documents.

The White House denied that Cooney had watered down the impact of global warming.

"That's false," spokesman Scott McClellan said. "The reports are based on the best scientific knowledge that we have at this time."

Wired News: U.S. Edits Global Warming Reports

In an era of growing concern over the security of our energy supplies, federal and provincial governments are funding development of alternative sources of energy.

This seems to be taking place without sufficient regard for the underlying scientific and economic constraints that govern likely success.

A case in point is the so-called "hydrogen economy." This seductive concept idealizes clean power, a virtuous cycle of hydrogen from water, energy from hydrogen, and clean water as the only byproduct. Unfortunately, hydrogen is too expensive to become a useful fuel in our modern world.

Fuel Cell Works Supplemental News Page

... it is a commentary by Hans Von Storch on concerns about global warming.

... [skeptics] totally failed to highlight this one though - I wonder why? This is the quote - "we are not claiming that the present concept of global warming is flawed. We are convinced that greenhouse gases are accumulating in the air, and strongly believe that near-surface temperatures are rising in response"

Stephen Gloor: A Funny Thing to Say About Global Warming

Paleontologists working at the base of Cedar Mountain in Utah have discovered the remains of hundreds to thousands of a previously unknown feathered dinosaur, which in life would have resembled a nightmarish ostrich on steroids.

Scientists think the new species, Falcarius utahensis, might have originated in North America.

They also believe the 13-feet-long dinosaur was "bizarre" not only because of its appearance, but because it may represent an evolutionary stage between its vicious, meat-craving Velociraptor distant relatives and its direct descendents, the chunky vegetarian therizinosaurs.

Discovery Channel :: News :: New Feathered Dino Found in Utah

Bob Hunter, one of the founding members of Greenpeace has died in Toronto after a long battle with cancer. He was 63.

Hunter was a popular counter-culture columnist for the Vancouver Sun in the 1960s. Then, in 1971 he and a group of other environmentalists sailed a rusty old 80-foot fishboat, the Phyllis Cormack, from Vancouver to Alaska in a campaign to stop nuclear weapons testing on Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands.

CBC British Columbia - Greenpeace pioneer dies of cancer

For more than a century, the study of dinosaurs has been limited to fossilized bones. Now, researchers have recovered 70-million-year-old soft tissue, including what may be blood vessels and cells, from a Tyrannosaurus rex.

If scientists can isolate proteins from the material, they may be able to learn new details of how dinosaurs lived, said lead researcher Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University.

Scientists Recover Tissue From T. Rex (

Arizona Sen. John McCain joined a failed Democratic attempt on Wednesday to bar oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

McCain joined six other moderate Republicans and most Democrats in looking to stop proposed ANWR drilling.

But the effort fell short by one vote and language allowing for drilling in the Alaskan refuge remains in a larger federal bill.

McCain, Democrats fail to block Alaskan refuge drilling - 2005-03-16

The fossilised skeleton of a four million-year-old human ancestor able to walk on two legs could provide clues as to how humans' upright walk evolved. The remains, found in north-east Ethiopia, are the oldest yet discovered of an upright hominid, scientists told a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday.

New Scientist Breaking News - World's oldest biped skeleton unearthed

A conservation biologist is urging an all-out assault on the American bullfrog in British Columbia this spring, saying the amphibians are a threat to aquatic ecosystems.

Stan Orchard says the bullfrog has a varied diet. Snakes, turtles and birds have been prey. Even cats aren't safe from the invaders, which can grow to the size of a dinner plate.

CBC News: Biologist sounds battle cry against unwelcome amphibian

Scientists reported Friday they have detected the clearest evidence yet that global warming is real -- and that human industrial activity is largely responsible for it.

Researchers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science cited a range of evidence that the Earth's temperatures are rising:

-- The Arctic regions are losing ice cover.

-- The populations of whales and walrus that Alaskan Eskimo communities depend on for food are crashing.

-- Fresh water draining from ice and snow on land is decreasing the salinity of far northern oceans.

-- Many species of plankton -- the microscopic plants that form the crucial base of the entire marine food web -- are moving north to escape the warming water on the ocean surface off Greenland and Alaska.

New global warming evidence presented / Scientists say their observations prove industry is to blame

Nearly 40 years after an historic anthropology expedition to Ethiopia's Lake Turkana basin, researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting human bones found at that time are roughly 195,000 years old. The researchers believe the findings may bolster the "Out-of-Africa" hypothesis that suggests we all trace to an ancient line that first evolved in Africa and then displaced other hominids as recently as 50,000 years ago.

Ian McDougall of Australian National University (ANU), Frank Brown of the University of Utah and John Fleagle of Stony Brook University, report their findings in the Feb. 17 issue of the journal Nature.

The fossils, from near the town of Kibish, are far more ancient than researchers originally suspected and nearly 40,000 years older than skulls from Herto, Ethiopia, the previous record holders.

New clues add 40,000 years to age of human species

Celebrations to mark the birth of the UN's Kyoto Protocol mingled Wednesday with warnings about climate change and renewed appeals for the United States, the biggest single source of greenhouse gas, to take action.

In a message to ceremonies in Kyoto, the Japanese city where the landmark environmental treaty was agreed in 1997, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan branded global warming "one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century."

"By itself, the Protocol will not save humanity from the dangers of climate change," Annan said. "So let us celebrate, but let us not be complacent ... there is no time to lose."

Climate warnings, pressure on US as Kyoto takes effect

A slow process of climate warming rather than a comet or asteroid impact led to Earth's biggest mass extinction, according to research.

Scientists have found no evidence of a major impact around the time of the event, known as the "Great Dying," 250 million years ago.

They believe the extinction was the result of global warming due to volcanic eruptions and a drop in oxygen levels.

The findings provide an ominous glimpse of what can happen when the climate heats up over a long period.

Technology News: Science: Warming 'Wiped Out' Most Life 250 Million Years Ago

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D H McKee's bookshelf: to-read

Sunset and Sawdust
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The Thicket
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