Category Archive: Environment

The Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition

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Last night, one of our team, Sally Webb, got the chance to go to the Royal Society’s Black Tie Soirée at the Summer Science Exhibition. Here are her own thoughts on the evening and what she enjoyed. When my Dad told me I could go to the Soirée with him, I was so excited. Not only did I get to dress up and enjoy the free food (which was fantastic), but I also got to meet some of the most influential scientists of our time. I spent ages looking at the website trying to decide what exhibits I wanted to go and see, but with 16 choices this was really difficult. The event itself was held at the Royal Society, which is a fantastic building off the Mall, filled with photos and books all to do with science. Walking round, you notice the different scientists with their knighthoods, OBEs and CBEs round their necks. I met the famous YouTube sensation …

Unseasonable weather?

Power Lines

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Across the world we’ve had plenty of “unseasonable weather” over the last few weeks and records are being broken globally. But what is the likelihood of these strange weather patterns becoming regular occurrences and no longer “unseasonable”? In the UK, it’s clear that the weather has changed. It’s nearly 7 years since we last had the stereotypical British summer filled with hot sunshine, and the winter months appear to be becoming colder and more unsettled. For example, gritting drivers across the UK had to deal with twice as many “marginal” nights than a normal winter from October 2012 to April 2013. Met Office officials met recently and believe there is a change occurring over the Atlantic and this is causing this strange weather in the UK. This change has been associated with climate change and the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but is that all it’s down to? In America, tornado season is currently in full swing as …

Video: Woodland Wildlife

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Unpopular Science’s Jack Croxall and his chocolate Labrador Archie take a stroll around a springtime forest in search of woodland critters. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeuc4bOCIzI FYI The common toad can live for an astounding 40 years. For information on how you can help protect Britain’s amphibians, check out the Frog Life website. Check out Jack Croxall’s YouTube channel here or website here. Have you found any fascinating wildlife this spring? Let us know in the comments section below.

Shark Teeth Weapons

Helmet from the Gilbert Islands made of porcupine fish skin. PRM 1884.32.31  Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

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Natural History Museum collections have been used for a novel study: the past biodiversity of a remote collection of Pacific coral islands. Joshua Drew from Columbia University and colleagues have just published a paper (see below) reporting on their identification of shark teeth used in weapons made by Kiribati people from the Gilbert Islands over a hundred years ago and now in the collection of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Having no metal, but a tradition of hunting the plentiful sharks, the I-Kiribati people used shark teeth to edge coconut wood weapons, both swords and fierce-looking tridents. While the team found plenty of teeth from species of sharks that still roam the local coral reefs, like tiger sharks, two species were represented that no longer exist around the Gilbert Islands, dusky and spottail sharks. The team were excited that museum collections could be used to shed light on past ecosystems, and to highlight changes in those ecosystems over time. …

Why hasn’t spring sprung yet?

Melting Snow Flake

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After a weekend of heavy snow across much of the UK, everyone is asking, ‘is there going to be much let up from the cold?’ Well, at the moment it’s unlikely. The UK has been experiencing it’s coldest March since 1969 and is close to becoming the coldest month of the year so far (Philip Eden, 2013), a big comparison to last year when March was the 3rd warmest on record! Across much of Europe temperatures are at least 5 degrees below the seasonal average and across parts of Eastern Europe and western Russia, temperatures are up to 14 degrees below the norm. So what is going on? There are a couple of reasons for this unseasonably cold March we have been experiencing and what is likely to be an unseasonably cold start to April too, but they are all interlinked. The jet stream is in the wrong position. Normally during spring, the jet stream begins to push northwards across the UK so that we are positioned south of …

Australia’s Moo-st Wanted

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A guilty TV pleasure of mine, much to my housemates’ dismay, are those documentaries focussing on the exciting* world of border security and customs control. Border Security: Australia’s Front Line, Passport Patrol – you name it, give me a Sunday afternoon and I’ll watch hour after hour of disgruntled international travellers being separated from their dried meat delicacies and Kiwis climbing into the hulls of luxury yachts to seek out illegal immigrants hiding below deck. However, wild plants and animals tend to roam much more freely between destinations rather than spending their time queuing at airports. That’s why the DAISIE database exists. Set up to prevent the invasion of alien species, it aims to limit the damage caused to native fauna by invading species. These unwanted immigrants have the ability to displace species from their natural environment, steal their food and disrupt entire ecosystems. DAISIE – Delivering Alien Invasive Species In Europe – was funded by the sixth framework programme …

Heatwave turns Australia purple

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Over the past week many parts of Australia have been influenced by unseasonably high temperatures. Although it is the peak of summer, temperatures have continued to soar above average. So high in fact that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)  has had to add extra colours to their temperature scale in their colour map. These high temperatures have been caused by a ridge of high pressure developing across the country bringing dry and settled conditions. In addition to this, the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) pattern is beginning to turn more towards La Nina bringing warmer sea temperatures to the area. ENSO is a climatic pattern that occurs in the tropical Pacific Ocean and alters the temperatures of the water. La Nina is known as the cool phase as the cool water in the eastern Pacific intensifies and the trade winds intensify  but these means that warmer seas are more likely around eastern Australia.  Tuesday (Monday night in the UK) has been the hottest …

Extreme cold in China

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With temperatures having recently plummeted across most of China, meteorologist Sally Webb explains exactly what’s going on, and outlines some of the crippling consequences for those affected. Temperatures across much of Asia are below average at the moment, but especially so in China. Generally, temperatures are about 5°C below average, but over higher ground they’re dropping to roughly 15°C below what’s expected for this time of year. Bar the south-east coast, most regions have experienced maximum temperatures in the minus numbers and Bayanbulak, a site on top of the Tianshan mountains, had a maximum temperature of a devastatingly low -31.4°C. Even in more populated areas temperatures have struggled to rise over 5°C during the day, and have dropped well below freezing overnight. Off China’s east coast, the Laizhou Bay froze when sea surface temperatures descended below 1°C and local media has reported that over 1,000 ships are trapped in the ice. In addition to this, one hundred commercial flights have been cancelled in the …

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