Tuesday, 15 August 2017

An Unprecedented Fire Is Raging Across Greenland Right Now

Wildfires are known for striking in hot, dry regions of the planet, but a huge fire is currently raging across the icy, cold surface of Greenland, one of the most northernmost countries in the world.
It's not clear what started the fire, but it seems to be made up of multiple blazes happening in the tundra on the coast of the country. Just before the fires started, relatively high temperatures of 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit) were recorded in the area.

Experts think climate change could be to blame – that dead plant matter usually encased in permafrost is catching fire as the frost melts due to warming temperatures. Scientists have spotted much more wildfire activity in Greenland so far during 2017 than in any other previous year on record.

"There are fires in Greenland, but it's not an African Savannah," Stef Lhermitte, from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, told Maddie Stone at Gizmodo. "As far as I can see, the current fire is the biggest one recorded by satellites since 2000. I think it's the biggest on record."


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Fears rare native falcon could kill every dotterel on Eastbourne beach

A rare, native kārearea could wipe out the entire banded dotterel population on a popular Eastbourne beach.

The sight of one of the world's fastest flyers would normally be a source of  great enjoyment for Parker Jones, if it was not for the falcon's sinister intentions.

Jones is part of the Mainland Island Restoration Organisation (MIRO) and his pet project is looking after the local population of banded dotterel.

A tiny population of endangered banded dotterel on the Eastbourne beach is facing an unexpected threat from a rare karearea.

A tiny colony exists in front of houses where people walk their dogs, jog and enjoy the beach daily, without knowing they share it with the endangered bird.


Monday, 7 August 2017

HIV scientists get help from cattle

Prospects for defeating HIV, once considered an invincible killer, look brighter with major advances against the AIDS-causing virus discussed at an international conference recently.

One of those pieces of good news comes from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. In collaboration with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, its researchers have generated "broadly neutralising antibodies" that kill HIV using an unexpected source – cattle.

The startling feat was announced in a study published in the journal Nature. It marks another milestone step toward the long-elusive aim of creating a vaccine against the virus, with the antibodies perhaps also leading to creation of new HIV drugs.

"It takes humans years" for the immune system to trigger formation and full production of broadly neutralising antibodies. "The cows solved it in a couple of months," said Dennis Burton, co-author of the new report and a longtime researcher of such antibodies at Scripps Research.

In other news at the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris, researchers highlighted the case of an HIV-infected child who has apparently been cured of the virus. They also announced success in using a long-lasting injection to suppress HIV levels.

Yet another study showed that certain HIV drugs were able to prevent transmission of the virus in hundreds of couples where at least one person was HIV-positive.


Friday, 4 August 2017

eSecret possum rescuers: the people who love a hated New Zealand pest

Little Batman is fighting for his life.

The baby possum struggles to feed after the soft roof of his mouth when damaged when he was ripped from his mother's pouch by a hunter.
Too young to regulate his body temperature, the six-week-old is fed through a tube by his carer, who tends to his every need, desperately trying to keep him alive.

Little Batman is critically ill. He has to be fed with a tube because his mouth was damaged when he was ripped from his mother's pouch by a hunter.

She may be breaking the law by doing so.

Sally (not her real name) is part of an underground network across the country, dedicated to saving the lives of animals that are, to most Kiwis, one of our most hated pests.


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

New Zealand's more than 2000 moth species at odds with LED street lights

LED street lights will save money, but could come at a cost to native moths, says one environment-lover.

All older, yellow, high-pressure sodium lighting in Auckland is to be replaced with new light-emitting diode (LED) street lights by about 2025.

The first stage of fitting 44,000 LED residential street lights, has been under way for the past 18 months.

The lights use just a third of the electricity the older style lights use, and last four to six times longer. They have the potential to save the city $32 million over the 20-year life of the lights.

But Geoff Reid wasn't glowing about it, saying the lights could negatively affect New Zealand's more than 2000 species of moth, as the tone of the light changes from golden yellow to white.

"Moths are really important in our ecosystem. They are kind of these central key species because they not only provide food for birds, they pollinate plants and also provide food for other insects," Reid said.

He said the new LED street lights, measured in kelvin, sit at more than 4000 while the current bulbs are around 2200. He said anything over about 2800 kelvin is bad for moths who are drawn to the blue light.

"They extract moths out of the ecosystem. It wears them out and they also congregate in one area around a light and what we're finding is mice are just cleaning them up."


Saturday, 29 July 2017

Extreme El Nino events likely to become twice as common in New Zealand

Extreme El Nino events - the sort that can bring severe droughts to the east of New Zealand and more heavy rain to the west - are likely to happen twice as often if the global mean temperature rises by 1.5 degrees Celsius.

If the temperature increases more than that, they'll happen even more often, according to a new report published in the Nature Climate Change journal. It's not good news for weather-reliant industries like agriculture.

It also means that even if the 2015 Paris climate agreement - which aims to limit global warming to 2C - is kept to, more extreme El Nino events will occur.

Average annual rainfall in Rotomanu on the West Coast is 3.5 metres, but close to 6m in El Nino years. El Nino often causes increase rainfall west of the Southern Alps.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Researchers map plastic patch bigger than Greenland floating in the South Pacific

A massive plastic patch larger than Greenland has been discovered in the South Pacific, and much of the waste is believed to have originated in New Zealand.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers led by Captain Charles Moore, and is vital to understanding the extent of plastic waste, he says.

Moore spent 180 days at sea, trawling a fine mesh net in order to discover the edges of the 2.5 million square-kilometre plastic patch, which sat around Easter Island and Robinson Crusoe Island.
mate how many particles are floating in the plastic patch.
"This area is enormous, it's heavily polluted with plastic fragments," he said.