Tag Archive: environment

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 …

DVD Review: The Hunter

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The Hunter Released: 29 October 2012 Starring: Willem Dafoe, Frances O’Connor, Sam Neil Summary: A beautiful, poignant film with a magnificent central performance from Dafoe.  The thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger) officially became extinct in 1936 but, despite this fact, sightings have been widely reported across the Australian island state of Tasmania ever since. And this is what inspires the basic premise of The Hunter (based on the 1999 novel of the same name): having been reliably informed that a single tiger still survives near to a tiny Tasmanian logging town, a sinister biotech corporation hires Willem Dafoe’s shady character (alias Martin David) to hunt it down for them. Under the flaky guise of a researcher studying wild Tasmanian devils, Martin arrives at his mission site to a hostile reception: ‘we don’t like greenies around here’ is what one angry local tells him in the town bar. And so Martin begins the tricky task of tracking down his elusive quarry whilst trying not …

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 …

Quiz 4 – Physical Environment

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It’s that time again – it’s Unpopular Science’s fourth science quiz. This week the theme is the physical environment. For those that don’t know, after 5 weeks, whoever has the highest cumulative score will win a copy of  Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall*.  If you want your score to be tracked, add your name and email. If you just want a bit of fun, don’t worry. You can start the quiz by simply clicking Next. To see the leaders, see our leaderboard. You can still join in, by doing our first quiz here, our second here and our third quiz here.   * In the event of a tie, names will be drawn at random and the Editor’s decision is always final. One entry per person. Also, good luck!

Climate change making a mocha-ry of wild coffee populations

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If you’re planning on having a cup of coffee in 68 years time, then you might want to think again. Research published in Plos One suggests that by 2080, wild populations of the world’s most popular coffee species, Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), could be extinct due to climate change. Wild populations of Arabica coffee are important to coffee producers because of their genetic diversity and could be used to develop new strains of coffee in the future. Wild Arabica populations show a range of disease, pest and drought tolerance, all of which have potential advantages in a changing climate. If the wild population of Arabica coffee were to go extinct, coffee producers would struggle to breed coffee that could survive in new conditions. Scientists from the UK and Ethiopia used current data on wild Arabica populations and the climate in those locations to model how the climate might affect the distribution of Arabica suitable sites in the future. Once the …

Flooding in the UK

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Over the past week, heavy rain has lead to flooding across many parts of the UK causing millions of pounds worth of damage to homes and businesses, even taking a couple of lives. The most significantly affected area has been south-west England, closely followed by the Midlands, north-east England and Wales. With this in mind, we asked Sally Webb, our resident meteorologist, to walk us through exactly why this is happening? WHY IS IT SO BAD? The recent flooding is due to a succession of deep pressure systems moving across the UK. Each one has had a large frontal system associated with it and often a wrap-around occlusion (where a cold front catches up with a warm front) that becomes slow-moving. The depth of the system leads to the strong winds that have also battered many areas, knocking down trees and causing damage to buildings. Although the weather is not so unusual for autumn, it is unfortunate than the systems all seem …

Aerosol map of the world

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Greenhouse gases are not the only thing in the atmosphere to causes changes to our climate. This computer simulation from NASA (officially known as Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5) shows aerosols spiralling through the atmosphere. While greenhouses gases tend to have a warming effect, aerosols cool the planet by reflecting more solar radiation back into space. Dominating the picture is an orange streak of sand, blown off the Saharan and Arabian deserts. Light blues in the northern and southern oceans are sea salt particles swirling around cyclones. In the north, gray smoke from fires, and white sulphates from industry emissions and volcanoes complete the picture. Over the years, a number of calls have been made to use aerosols to fight the increasing threat of global warming. It might seem sensible to release agents that causes cooling to balance the greenhouse gases that are causing warming. But as the picture above demonstrates, the atmosphere is an incredibly complex thing. Hundreds of factors determine what our climate …

Desert beauty revealed from space

Source: ESA

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Who knew so much geography could be crammed into such a beautiful image as this one. Taken by ESA’s ENVISAT satellite, this image shows the mountains of Tibesti on the borders of Chad and Libya. First of all, the dominant blue smudge are the mountains themselves – the highest range in the Saraha. Most have been created by now-dormant volcanoes, but some are still active in the region. Lava flows can just be seen on the western edge, flowing to the left. The highest peak – Emi Koussi can be seen as a darker circle in the lower right part of the dark area. Emi Koussi is a really interesting volcano, as scientists believe it is a good analogue Elysium Mons – one of the largest volcano on Mars. The white area at the top of the image is a depression in the landscape, caused by accumulating carbonate salts blown off the surrounding regions. When these carbonates dissolve in water …

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