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Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Creepy Science Behind Genetically Engineered "Frankenfish" About to Enter Our Food Supply Unlabeled

By Jill Richardson, AlterNet
This salmon would be the first genetically engineered animal to enter the U.S. food supply, and the science its approval process is frightening. READ MORE »
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Discovery of the Secrets That Enable Plants Near Chernobyl to Shrug Off Radiation

Chernobyl Power PlantImage via Wikipedia

ScienceDaily (Sep. 15, 2010) — Scientists are reporting discovery of the biological secrets that enable plants growing near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to adapt and flourish in highly radioactive soil -- legacy of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.> full story
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Study: Worst CO2 emissions are yet to come

Study: Worst CO2 emissions are yet to come

image credit: kleineolive (Wikimedia Commons)
Future fossil fuel infrastructure set to be built between now and 2060 will have the strongest effect on climate change, according to a report in the journal Science.
The global demand for energy is quickly rising, while political agreements and regulations to curb the resultant rise in greenhouse gas emissions have so far failed.
A new study from scientists in the US and Canada has calculated that most of the ‘key’ impacts of climate change could be avoided if no further CO2 power plants were built and that the real risks come from fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure which has yet to be built.
While previous policies have largely focused on regulating greenhouse gas emissions, a tactic that has so far not produced their desired results, the new study stresses the need for alternative sources of energy and technological innovation.
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Say Goodbye to Sunspots? by Phil Berardelli

Scientists studying sunspots for the past 2 decades have concluded that the magnetic field that triggers their formation has been steadily declining. If the current trend continues, by 2016 the sun's face may become spotless and remain that way for decades—a phenomenon that in the 17th century coincided with a prolonged period of cooling on Earth.
Sunspots appear when upwellings of the sun's magnetic field trap ionized plasma—or electrically charged, superheated gas—on the surface. Normally, the gas would release its heat and sink back below the surface, but the magnetic field inhibits this process. From Earth, the relatively cool surface gas looks like a dark blemish on the sun.
Astronomers have been observing and counting sunspots since Galileo began the practice in the early 17th century. From those studies, scientists have long known that the sun goes through an 11-year cycle, in which the number of sunspots spikes during a period called the solar maximum and drops—sometimes to zero—during a time of inactivity called the solar minimum.
The last solar minimum should have ended last year, but something peculiar has been happening. Although solar minimums normally last about 16 months, the current one has stretched over 26 months—the longest in a century. One reason, according to a paper submitted to the International Astronomical Union Symposium No. 273, an online colloquium, is that the magnetic field strength of sunspots appears to be waning.
More at link
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Report: U.S. Senate's Inaction on Climate/Energy Bill Costing U.S. 1.9 Million Jobs, Including 600,000 in 10 States With Worst Unemployment Topping 10 Percent

With U.S. Falling Behind by Over $200 Million a Day in Clean Energy Investments, China is Clear Winner Due to Senate's Failure; More Than Half a Million Jobs Forfeited in 10 States With 10 Percent Unemployment or Higher; Analysis Highlights Impact of Senate's Failure on 20 States:  AR, CA, FL, IL, IN, MA, ME, MN, MO, MS, MT, NH, NJ, NV, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, and VA.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- China and other leading nations have gained more than $11 billion in job-creating clean-energy investments – with the U.S. losing an estimated $208 million every day – since the U.S. Senate abandoned comprehensive clean energy legislation in late July, according to a new analysis from Small Business Majority, Main Street Alliance, American Businesses for Clean Energy and We Can Lead.
The analysis shows that, if left unremedied, the Senate's failure to act will cost the United States 1.9 million jobs – including 600,000 in the 10 states with joblessness in excess of 10 percent.   The report documents that, in the nearly two months since the Senate failed to act, clean energy investments already have started shifting away from the United States to China and other nations.
More at link.
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Seafood Crisis Time for a Sea Change - National Geographic

Seafood Crisis

Seafood Crisis

Time for a Sea Change

Too many hooks in the water. That’s the problem with today’s fisheries. Working from small pole-and-line boats to giant industrial trawlers, fishermen remove more than 170 billion pounds of wildlife a year from the seas. A new study suggests that our current appetite could soon lead to a worldwide fisheries collapse.

By Paul Greenberg
Photograph by Jonathan Clay
Just before dawn a seafood summit conve
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Goodbye Sunspots? - Hello Ice Age
15 Sep 10 - According to an article today in Science, the magnetic field strength of sunspots appears to be waning. If the trend continues, the sun may become spotless by 2016 and remain that way for decades. A similar dearth of sunspots in the 17th century coincided with a prolonged period of cooling on Earth (the Little Ice Age).
See Goodbye Sunspots? - Hello Ice Age

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Iceland ash cloud 'just a training exercise': expert
Keflavik (AFP) Sept 15, 2010 - The giant Icelandic volcanic ash cloud that caused aviation chaos in April was "just a training exercise" compared with the potential impact of a bigger eruption, an expert warned on Wednesday. "Larger events are less frequent but they will occur," said volconologist Haraldur Sigurdsson, who is chairing a conference to discuss how to better coordinate the global response in the case of anot ... more
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Toxic coal ash a source of concern in China: Greenpeace

Toxic coal ash a source of concern in China: Greenpeace
Beijing (AFP) Sept 15, 2010 - China's coal-fired plants produce enough toxic ash to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every two and a half minutes, creating contaminants that travel far and wide, Greenpeace said Wednesday. As the world's largest coal user, China's more than 1,400 coal-fired electrical plants produce at least 375 million tonnes of coal ash every year - 2.5 times the quantity in 2002, the environmental ... more
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Highway plan would destroy Serengeti: biologists

Highway plan would destroy Serengeti: biologists
Plans to drive a 50-kilometre (31-mile) two-lane highway into Tanzania's Serengeti would destroy one of the world's last great wildlife sanctuaries, top biologists warned on Wednesday. "The road will cause an environmental disaster," 27 biodiversity experts said in a commentary published by the science journal Nature.
They urged the Tanzanian government to look at an alternative route that runs far south of the UN-listed haven.
The planned road slashes right across the annual migratory route taken by 1.3 million wildebeest, part of the last great mass movements of animals on Earth, they said.
The wildebeest play a vital role in a fragile ecosystem, maintaining the vitality of Serengeti's grasslands and sustaining threatened predators such as lions, cheetahs and wild dogs, they said.

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Russia Plans To Restore Its Weather Satellite Network By 2030

File image of Meteor M weather satellite.
by Staff Writers Moscow (RIA Novosti) Sep 15, 2010 Russia will fully rebuild its network of weather forecasting and monitoring satellites by 2030 under a state program for the development of meteorology, the government said in a statement on Tuesday. At present, Russia has only one weather satellite, the Meteor-M type, in orbit and mostly uses meteorological data from U.S. and European weather agencies.
"The work on rebuilding the national space-based weather monitoring network is a priority task because Russia is lagging behind the developed countries in this area, which makes it difficult to ensure a fair exchange of meteorological data [between Russia and foreign countries]," the statement said.
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Drought shrinks Amazon River to lowest level in 47 years
A severe drought parching northern Brazil this year has shrunk the mighty Amazon River -- the world's longest river -- to its lowest level in 47 years, officials said Wednesday. The waterway's depth at Manaus, the main city in the Amazon region, was just 19.34 meters (63.45 feet) -- well below its average of 23.25 meters (76.28 feet), the country's Geological Service told AFP.
The last time the river was at such a low level was in 1963.
Scientists say it appears Brazil is headed for its worst drought since that year. Final data to be collected up to October were expected to confirm that.
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Global Fisheries Research Finds Promise And Peril

While industry contributes $240B annually, overfishing takes toll on people and revenue
by Staff Writers Vancouver, Canada (SPX) Sep 16, 2010 Global fisheries, a vital source of food and revenue throughout the world, contribute between US$225-$240 billion per year to the worldwide economy, according to four newly released studies. Researchers also concluded that healthier fisheries could have prevented malnourishment in nearly 20 million people in poorer countries. This research, conducted by the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre, with support from the Pew Environment Group, quantifies the social and economic value of fish around the world and also calculates the loss of both revenue and dependable protein sources from years of overfishing.
"We know fish play an important ecological role in the marine environment, but these studies assess their 'out-of-the-water' value to people across the globe," says lead economist Associate Professor Rashid Sumaila at the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre.
"Whether you are looking at fish as a financial resource or a source of protein, our research shows that the benefits of healthy, robust fisheries have enormous value far beyond the fishing dock."
Dr. Sumaila and his team of researchers also found that: + Overfishing reduces revenue. Annually, estimated global catch losses from overfishing totaled up to seven to 36 per cent of the actual tonnage landed in a year, resulting in a landed value loss of between US$6.4-36 billion each year.
+ Fishing has a multiplier effect. The fishing industry's economic impact on related businesses, such as boat building, international transport and bait suppliers, is roughly three times larger than the value of fish at first sale.
+ Fisheries generate incomes. Wild fisheries generate more than US$63 billion in annual household incomes around the world.
+ Non-industrial uses of the oceans are a net positive for economies and jobs. Recreational use of ocean ecosystems by sport divers, whale watchers and recreational fishermen contributes US$47 billion each year to national economies worldwide and generates nearly 1.1 million jobs.
One of the four papers focused on global fisheries subsidies, or financial incentives that countries offer to their fishing industries, which may contribute to depleted fish stocks. Large developed countries are spending twice the amount of tax-payer money on global fisheries subsidies that encourage overfishing than they are on subsidies that protect oceans.
"Many economies are paying doubly for continued overfishing of our oceans," says Sumaila. "First, tax-payer money is directly contributing to the decline of worldwide fisheries, and second, fishermen and undernourished people are hurting from a steadily declining resource. From a socioeconomic standpoint, subsidies that promote overfishing are doing far more harm than good."
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Human Impacts On The Deep Seafloor

The study estimated the total area of physical imprint in 2005 to be around 28,000 km2. However many human activities in the deep sea are concentrated in certain areas, particularly in shallower depths between 200 m and 1500 m, and in particular habitats which become disproportionally impacted.
by Staff Writers Washington DC (SPX) Sep 16, 2010 Scientists have for the first time estimated the physical footprint of human activities on the deep seafloor of the North East Atlantic. The findings published in the journal PLoS ONE reveal that the area disturbed by bottom trawling commercial fishing fleets exceeds the combined physical footprint of other major human activities considered. The deep seafloor covers approximately 60% of Earth's surface, but only a tiny fraction of it has been studied to date. Yet as technology advances and resources from relatively shallow marine environments are depleted, human impacts on the deep seafloor are likely to increase.
"Information on the location and spatial extent of human activities affecting the deep-sea environment is crucial for conservation of seafloor ecosystems and for governance and sustainable management of the world's oceans," said Angela Benn of the National Oceanography Centre, who led the new study.
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India’s Water Nightmare

Millions of Indians can’t access fresh water on a daily basis, Shreyasi Singh reports. And the situation is set to get worse.

Why ‘Scientific Consensus’ Fails to Persuade ScienceDaily

Suppose a close friend who is trying to figure out the facts about climate change asks whether you think a scientist who has written a book on the topic is a knowledgeable and trustworthy expert. You see from the dust jacket that the author received a Ph.D. in a pertinent field from a major university, is on the faculty at another one, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Would you advise your friend that the scientist seems like an "expert"?
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E-Fuel Introduces MicroFusion Reactor

Sugar cane residue can be used as a biofuelImage via WikipediaE-Fuel is pleased to announce its latest innovation, the E-Fuel MicroFusion Reactor, a disruptive technology which empowers users to process all forms of cellulosic waste into sugar water, the key ingredient for ethanol fuel.
The E-Fuel MicroFusion Reactor makes available the virtually limitless supply of cellulosic waste materials as a suitable, renewable candidate for ethanol fuel production.
Annually in the United States alone almost 1 billion tons of organic waste material is available for processing by the MicroFusion Reactor into 100 billion gallons of fuel at little or no cost. Converting this waste into fuel reduces the burden on landfills where most waste is currently destined and the detrimental effects on the environment.

The MicroFusion Reactor operates as a continuous process. Every 2 minutes the cellulosic material in the reactor chamber is completely processed and ready for fuel processing. The method of wood hydrolysis dissolves any wood or other cellulosic agricultural material in a manner that is residue free.
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Grain rots in India as millions starve

In India, thousands of tons of excess grain have been rotting away, officials said, as millions of people are starving. Following news reports of the rotting grain, the government admitted that more than 67,000 tons -- enough to feed 190,000 people for a month -- had rotted outside overflowing granaries. Officials were ordered by the Supreme Court to distribute to the poor 17.8 million tons of grain that was in imminent danger of rotting.
The government, however, has yet to work out how it will distribute the grain, The Hindustan newspaper reports.

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Study: Tigers facing 'last stand'

Save China's Tiger, http://english.savechinast...Image via WikipediaThe world's remaining tigers, hit by hunting and habitat destruction, have taken refuge in just 6 percent of available territory in Asia, a U.S. study found. The Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups report fewer than 3,500 tigers remain in the wild, of which only about 1,000 are breeding females, a society release said Tuesday.
The study has identified 42 "source sites" scattered across Asia that are the last hope for conservation and recovery of the world's largest cat.
These source sites are defined as locations that contain breeding populations of tigers and have the potential to seed the recovery of tigers across wider landscapes.

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Plants And The Carbon Capture Question

A peat bog on Ben Lee, Skye Island, Scotland. Image Credit: Richard Dorrell
- Moffett Field CA (SPX) Sep 15, 2010 Planting trees, as everyone knows, is a good way to offset climate change. The more greenery on Earth, the better, since vegetation act as carbon sinks, essentially sucking up the excess CO2 and storing it in leaves, stems, and root systems. But a recent paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience claims we have a long way to go towards understanding the biochemical processes in which plants interact with the climate. Simply looking at the carbon cycle involving plants is not enough, say the researchers led by the earth science department at Lund University in Sweden.
They outlined a number of other biochemical feedbacks worth considering and exploring in greater detail. Take ground level ozone (O3), for example. It's produced during fossil fuel combustion and causes smog, which is toxic to pretty much all life forms, including plants. Ozone enters through the stomata and effectively destroys a leaf"s ability to produce chlorophyll.
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Forestry Professor Helps Shape Future Of Global Industry Research

The IUFRO is a non-profit, non-governmental international network of forest scientists, which promotes global cooperation in forest-related research and enhances the understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests and trees.
Ruston LA (SPX) Sep 15, 2010 - Dr. Bogdan Strimbu, assistant professor of biometrics and quantitative silviculture at Louisiana Tech University's School of Forestry, recently organized and conducted a technical session at the International Union of Forest Research Organization's (IUFRO) XXIII World Congress in Seoul, South Korea. The Congress, held every five years, brings together industry leaders from the IUFRO's eigh ... more
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Clean Water for the Developing World By Katherine Bourzac

Cotton fabric treated with nano inks produces a water filter that's efficient and needs little power to work. At least a billion people have access only to water contaminated by pathogens or pollution. "There is a huge need for an extremely robust, low-cost filter material that does not require a lot of power," says Mark Shannon, who directs a center of advanced materials for water purification at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Most places that need this the most do not have electricity at all, or at most a couple of hours a day," says Shannon, who is not involved with the research.

Bringing Grace To Earth Mass And Water Movements

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The Arctic Ice Cap At The End Of 2010 Summer

This image was compiled using data gathered by NASA's Aqua satellite on Sept. 3, 2010. Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

Greenbelt MD (SPX) Sep 15, 2010 The Arctic Ocean is covered by a dynamic layer of sea ice that grows each winter and shrinks each summer, reaching its yearly minimum size each fall. While the 2010 minimum remains to be seen, NASA's Aqua satellite captured this snapshot on Sept. 3. How does the Aqua satellite "see" sea ice? Microwaves. Everything on Earth's surface - including people - emits microwave radiation, the properties of which vary with the emitter, thereby allowing the AMSR-E microwave sensor on Aqua to map the planet.
Ice emits more microwave radiation than water, making regions of the ocean with floating ice appear much brighter than the open ocean to the AMSR-E sensor. This difference allows the satellite to capture a sea ice record year-round, through cloud cover and the months of polar night.
Continuous records are important because sea ice is dynamic. Besides melting and freezing, the ice moves with wind and currents which can cause it to split or pile up.
"The data from AMSR-E and other NASA satellites are critical for understanding the coupling between sea ice and the ocean and atmosphere," said Tom Wagner, Cryosphere program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It's important for us to understand these connections to improve our predictive models of how the planet will change."
The Arctic sea ice is a major factor in the global climate system. The ice cools the planet by reflecting sunlight back into space.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Extinction: It’s Not Just for Polar Bears -- Report

Extinction: It’s Not Just for Polar Bears -- Report

This Report produced by the Center for Biological Diversity and Care for lthe Wild International offers a dramatic look at Arctic species being pushed toward extinction by rapid climate change. Extinction: It’s Not Just for Polar Bears documents 17 Arctic animals, from Arctic foxes to whales to plankton, struggling to survive the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.
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Sun and Volcanic Eruptions Pace North Atlantic Climate Swings

ScienceDaily (Sep. 14, 2010) — A study presented in Nature Geoscience suggests that changes in solar intensity and volcanic eruptions act as a metronome for temperature variations in the North Atlantic climate.

A research team from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen, Norway, has studied the climate in the North Atlantic region over the past 600 years using the Bergen Climate Model and the observed temperature evolution. They point to changes in the solar intensity and explosive volcanic eruptions as important causes for climate variations in the North Atlantic during this period.

The sun, volcanoes or ocean currents?
The traditional and common view is that climate variations in the North Atlantic lasting a decade and more, is governed by changes in the large-scale ocean circulation. The presented analysis supports this common perception, but only when the climate effects from changes in the solar intensity and volcanic eruptions are left out.

When the scientists include actual changes in the solar forcing and the climate effect of volcanic eruptions in their model, they find a strong causal link between these external factors and variations in the Atlantic surface temperature. In particular, the study highlights volcanic eruptions as important for long-term variations in the Atlantic climate both through their strong cooling effect, but also through their direct impact on atmosphere and ocean circulation.

More at lin
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Nature's Inspiration - A Photographer's Journey

Wildflower Armors Itself Against Disease

Wildflower Armors Itself Against Disease

Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens).
by Staff Writers Los Angeles CA (SPX) Sep 14, 2010 An unusual wildflower that accumulates metals in its leaves has been found to use them as a kind of 'armor' against bacterial infection. Scientists from Oxford University have shown that when Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens) plants accumulate metals in their leaves, they become resistant to attack by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola. They report their findings September 9 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens. Thlaspi, a small plant in the mustard family that grows on metal-rich soils scattered around Britain and Europe, such as the sites of former mine workings, is known to accumulate zinc, nickel and cadmium to very high concentrations in its leaves. "
Our results demonstrate that these plants are exploiting their metal-rich environment to armor themselves against disease," said co-author Dr Gail Preston of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, co-author of the report. "What we've found is a direct link between these high metal concentrations and resistance to bacterial infection."

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Guest Post: Allegation – Americans Flooded Out Millions in Pakistan to Protect U.S. Drone Military Base

Posted: 13 Sep 2010 11:28 PM PDT
Washington’s Blog
(Video embedded at Washington’s Blog)
Feryal Ali Gauhar served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund and is the only UN Goodwill Ambassador who quit over the invasion of Iraq.
Gauhar is a Pakistani actress, filmmaker, writer and human rights activist. Her most recent book is set in Afghanistan. It’s called No Space for Further Burials.
Gauhar told Democracy Now today:
Feryal Ali Gauhar: I just happened to stumble across a contractor … the contractor who built the base, who inadvertently, actually, spoke about it…. So, he actually mentioned to me that the River Indus, which is one of the largest rivers in the world, carrying now a volume of water which has not been known in contemporary history, was breached on the left bank deliberately in order to protect the base, which is on the right bank. And the breaching caused, consequentially, the inundation of an entire district, which resulted in the displacement of millions, not thousands, but millions, because we have 170 million people in the country, and this particular district is one of the most densely populated. So, yes, there is a connect between, you know, what is considered to be a natural disaster, but then the management of that disaster is not natural at all.
Amy Goodman: And this is a base that is used, run by US military, to run its drone attacks?
Feryal Ali Gauhar: Oh, absolutely. In fact, it is a base where non-US military personnel are not allowed. In fact, the person I was talking who was there, who built the base, actually said to me that one of the reasons why non-US military personnel are not allowed is not just for security of the US military personnel, but because they do not wish to share the technology. They are—you know, we’ve had a long historical and political tie with the People’s Republic of China. And so, there is this fear that was expressed while the contractor was working on the base that the drone technology, you know, should remain specifically in the hands of the US military, and it should not be replicated by any other nation. So there is that protection of the technology itself. It’s not just the protection of the personnel.
Even if Gauhar’s allegation is true, she is not alleging that Americans caused all of Pakistan’s flooding. Specifically, the flooding started in the Northwest part of Pakistan, and then spread to the middle and finally the southern-most province of Sindh. The incident which Gauhar addressed took place in Sindh.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New process halves water purification cost

New process halves water purification cost
A new biochemical carbon dioxide water purification process from Krebs & Sisler energy firm halves the cost of turning effluent and salt water into a potable drinking resource in a move with potential for use worldwide.
U.S. government, military and corporate agencies spend billions on purifying water while prohibitive costs and lack of affordable means keeps safe water out of the reach of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Krebs & Sisler's method combines photosynthesis with photocatalysis to treat impure water and turn it into safe water, the company explained
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If The Water Looks And Smells Bad, It May Be Toxic

If The Water Looks And Smells Bad, It May Be Toxic
Reston, VA (SPX) Sep 14, 2010 - Earthy or musty odors, along with visual evidence of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, may serve as a warning that harmful cyanotoxins are present in lakes or reservoirs. In a newly published USGS study of cyanobacterial blooms in Midwest lakes, taste-and-odor compounds were found almost every time cyanotoxins were found, indicating odor may serve as a warning that harmful toxins ar ... more
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Arctic ice melting quickly, report says

Arctic ice melting quickly, report says

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers Bremerhaven, Germany (UPI) Sep 13, 2010 The ice around the North Pole has experienced another severe meltdown this year, German scientists said. Around 1.9 million square miles of the Arctic Ocean will be covered by ice by the end of this summer, the third-lowest figure since satellite monitoring began in the 1970s, scientists from the University of Hamburg and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research said Monday.
In the past four years, the average ice coverage in mid-September was around 2 million square miles, led by a record meltdown to 1.6 million square miles in 2007 from an average winter height of 5.4 million square miles. The scientists attributed the latest meltdowns to a combination of man-made climate change and seasonal temperature shifts.
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