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June 18, 2008

The Asian Tiger Mosquito

Asian_tiger_mosquito.jpg If there's anything I dread as much as or more than the heat and humidity of a New York summer, it's the insects the weather brings out. One I particularly fear is the Asian tiger mosquito, or Aedes albopictus. I discovered these mosquitoes only last year. I'd go out into the yard, try to do some weeding, and immediately be swarmed by these quick, aggressive fliers.

Turns out I was lucky to have evaded them for as long as I have. The Asian tiger mosquito is an invasive species in the U.S. It was unintentionally introduced to the continental U.S. in 1985. And an indication of just how tenacious they are, these mosquitoes--which are native to Asia--are believed to have hitched a ride here through used tires imported from Japan. They don't need much water in which to lay and hatch their eggs. They're also active during the day.

But these mosquitoes are not just suburban irritants. Their range has increased as global temperatures have risen, and scientists are worried the diseases they can carry will spread as well. Asian tiger mosquitoes can transmit the viruses that cause dengue, encephalitis, and West Nile. An outbreak of chikungunya occurred in Italy last year, the first recorded instance of this virus being spread in Europe.

Asian Tiger Mosquito, Species Profiles (National Invasive Species Information Center)
Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Chikungunya fever (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control)
"As Earth Warms Up, Tropical Virus Moves to Italy" (New York Times)

Photo: "Asian Tiger Mosquito" in Vero Beach, Florida, by smccann.

November 26, 2007

The Growing Collection of E-Waste

0711ewaste_ill_400.gifNew to the 2008 World Almanac is a table on computer products disposal from 1999 to 2006 (page 351). In just 2005, Americans threw out 1.4 million tons of computers, monitors, printers, scanners, fax machines, and other peripherals. Only a sixth of that was recycled. The rest went into landfills or sometimes an incinerator.

A caveat: the Environmental Protection Agency considers any electronics not sent to the dump as recycled. This includes pieces sold to developing countries for reuse or just dismantling and chemical recovery.

The Electronics Takeback Coalition aims to raise awareness among consumers about this growing problem and have electronics manufacturers take on greater responsibility in disposing of this waste. In September, Sony Electronics USA became the first to sign their Manufacturers Commitment To Responsible Recycling, which means they won't send toxic e-waste to developing countries, use prison labor in disassembling electronics, or send hazardous chemicals to landfills or incinerators.

Electronics Takeback Coalition

November 21, 2007

Forests Also Casualties of Katrina

Pre_post_Katrina.jpg Not only did Hurricane Katrina devastate cities and imperil lives, it also wreaked havoc on the environment. An article in the Washington Post describes a recently published study of ecological losses from the 2005 hurricane.

What scientists found, after examining satellite images of the affected areas, was that approximately 320 million trees were killed or damaged in the hurricane. Many trees that sustained injuries in the hurricane's winds or were exposed to standing water died shortly after the storm.

Also of note:

Chambers [the study's lead author] was even more surprised when his team calculated how much carbon will be released as the storm-damaged vegetation decomposes. The total came to about 100 million tons, equal to the amount that all the trees in the United States take out of the atmosphere in a year.

A short presentation on the NASA site, called "In Katrina's Wake," also summarizes the study's findings.

Links:
"Katrina, Rita Caused Forestry Disaster" (The Washington Post)
"Hurricane Katrina's Carbon Footprint on U.S. Gulf Coast Forests" (Science magazine; subscription or payment required to view full article)

Photos: Pre- and post-Katrina satellite images. Visible are the twin bridges over Lake Pontchartrain, east of New Orleans. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is the large green area toward bottom of left photograph. The same area—in red in the photograph on the right—indicates extensive tree mortality. Courtesy of the U.S. Geologic Survey.

November 15, 2007

Sidr Lands in Bangladesh

Tropical Cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh today with 140-155 mph winds. If Sidr had hit the U.S., it would have been rated in the upper limits of a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. According to the Weather Channel blog, the North Indian Ocean is the only place to have two cyclone seasons, April-May and October-November. Bangladesh suffered the most deadly cyclone in November 1970, killing at least 300,000 in the Ganges Delta. Another cyclone in 1991 killed 139,000. (There is a list of notable hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards, and other storms on page 303 of the 2008 World Almanac.)

Tropical cyclones are the same as hurricanes and typhoons; they are all cyclonic storms. The name varies by location. This map from the World Meteorological Organization shows the different regions for monitoring cyclonic storms as well as what they're called.
0711cyclones.jpg

Reliefweb, a great source for emergency relief response to any disaster worldwide, said that the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has set up 1,580 shelters and mobilized 34,000 volunteers to help with the preparation and recovery.

Bangladesh: Tropical Cyclone - Nov 2007 (ReliefWeb)
On-going Updates of Sidr (Weather Channel blog)
All sorts of cyclone satellite photos (Naval Research Academy at Monterey, Tropical Cyclone Page)

November 13, 2007

Bad News Bears

panda.jpg

Somewhere, Stephen Colbert is thrilled right now. But he's probably also pretty upset that the writers' strike is preventing him from covering the major bear news (none of it good for our ursine friends) that was published yesterday. The World Conservation Union released a report showing that 6 out of the world's 8 species of bears are vulnerable or endangered. The brown bear and the American black bear—both of which are found in North America—were the only two thought to have a low risk of extinction. Number one on the list was the Giant Panda, which is not technically a bear (rather, a "bearlike" mammal).

The bad news for the bearlike continued, with reports that the food supply for Giant Pandas in southwestern China is dwindling, forcing about 1,200 of the creatures (80 percent of the world's panda population) to migrate elsewhere in search of food.

World's Most Endangered Bears [Nat'l Geographic slideshow]
World Conservation Union Report
Panda Cam! [National Zoo]

Flickr photo of Tian Tian at the National Zoo by Scott Ableman

September 5, 2007

Visualization of the Day #1: Superfund 365

I don't know about you, but the first time I heard the word "Superfund," I thought it referred to something really cool or fun—it's not just any old fund, right? It's the Superfund. Right on!

Then I learned that Superfund is the federal government's program to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. And that new sites are being added faster than old ones can be cleared off the list. So, OK: maybe not so fun after all. superfund.jpg

We get our information about Superfund sites straight from the EPA, which has a ton of information online, including tools to map Superfund sites near your home. But a new site (commissioned, curiously enough, by New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., with funding from the Jerome Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts) is working to bring the Superfund to life in a different way. I'll let them explain it:

Each day for a year, starting on September 1, 2007, Superfund365 will visit one toxic site currently active in the Superfund program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We begin the journey in the New York City area and work our way across the country, ending the year in Hawaii. (We will need a beach vacation by then!) In the end, the archive will consist of 365 visualizations of some of the worst toxic sites in the U.S., roughly a quarter of the total number on the Superfund's National Priorities List (NPL).

They're only up to site #5, but it's a promising project so far—with eye-catching visualizations of contaminants at each site, plus maps, photos, and assorted other data. It's not a fun, happy site by any means, but it's an admirable attempt to illuminate a problem that most people are aware of only in an abstract sense.

Superfund365 (via information aesthetics)

Image: No, it's not a Spirograph—that's a visualization of soil, groundwater, and building contaminants at the Jackson Steel manufacturing plant in Mineola, NY.

August 28, 2007

Virgin Reefs: Expedition to Kingman

0708Kingmancoral.jpgWe only devote one sentence in the "U.S. States and Other Areas" chapter of The World Almanac to Kingman Reef, and deservedly so. It’s two barren coral outcroppings about 930 miles southwest of Hawai’i in the Line Islands group, relatively close to the equally remote Palmyra Atoll. But that’s a good thing for marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala, who claimed back in 2005 that it’s “the closest thing to a pristine coral reef” that he had ever seen.

Dr. Sala has returned to Kingman Reef and is blogging the experience, from curious sharks to vicious “reef vampires.” Equal parts entertaining and informative, it's a great chance to learn about a unique place that none of us will probably ever visit.

Accompanying his team is National Geographic underwater photographer Brian Skerry, who is shooting for an upcoming issue.

Virgin Reefs: Expedition to Kingman

July 6, 2007

Danger: Octosquid!

octosquid.jpgIt's not as fearsome as the giant squid (highlighted in The World Almanac for Kids 2008), but it's cool, nonetheless:

"It's kind of an 'octosquid,'" said Jan War, operations manager at NELHA [Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority] at Keahole Point. "It's got the body of a squid but the eight tentacles of an octopus."

. . . War, who fed the octosquid shrimp for breakfast Wednesday morning, said everyone was excited because it was still alive. "And we're also excited because we may have found a new species."


The foot-long creature was sucked up through a 3,000-foot-deep sea pipeline last week.

Scientists all agog at 'octosquid' (Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

May 4, 2007

How's Your Air?

469939617_67fdb65cda_m.jpg The American Lung Association just released its 2007 State of the Air report, which tracks levels of particle pollution and ozone in the air nationwide. Air pollution doesn't just contribute to global warming; it also can have a serious effect on a person's health, in both the short- and long-term. According to the report, 46 percent of Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

Ten Most Polluted Cities (Short-Term Particle Pollution)
1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
2. Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
3. Fresno-Madera, CA
4. Bakersfield, CA
5. Logan, UT-ID
6. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, AL
7. Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, UT
8. Detroit-Warren-Flint, MI
9. Eugene-Springfield, OR
10. Cleveland-Akron-Elyria, OH

Look up the status of your city, county, or state, or find more information about the health effects of air pollution in the full report at the links below.

State of the Air: 2007 [customizable]
Cleanest and Most-Polluted Cities and Counties
Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution

NASA photo of pollution in the atmosphere over Northern New York.

May 3, 2007

Visualization of the Day (#1): Mammal "Supertree"

chart-mammals.jpg An international team of researchers has produced a new family tree for mammals, showing relationships between different mammal groups and when they diverged from each other. According to Kate Jones, from the Zoological Society of London:
The [supertree] is a new way of showing all the mammal species on the planet, starting with a common ancestor. Species relationships can be inferred from morphological characteristics and genetic sequences.

If we had done this from scratch, we would have had to get molecular and morphological data for 4,000 different species.

What we did instead was use already published information from hundreds of researchers around the world. We used a new technique called supertree construction which allows us to get all the information that's out there, re-code it and re-analyse it as if it's all part of one dataset.

Continue reading "Visualization of the Day (#1): Mammal "Supertree"" »

April 18, 2007

Racing for Survival

Great_Turtle_Race.gif It's day 3 of the race, and Windy is in first with only 356 miles left to go. But Billie and Stephanie Colburtle are fast on her heels. Both are about 381 miles from the finish zone around the Galapagos Islands.

Of course, the participants I'm referring to are leatherback sea turtles--the largest sea turtles and the largest reptiles in the world by weight--and what they're "competing" in is the Great Turtle Race.

The race started from their nesting grounds on Playa Grande beach in Costa Rica. There, 11 turtles were outfitted with satellite tracking devices. Scientists have synced up each turtle's data so that over the course of 14 days, race observers will be able to compare the turtles' routes. (I'd wondered the same thing, but no, the turtles weren't forced to leave the beach together on April 16.)

Leatherbacks are among the most migratory and wide-ranging species of sea turtles, found in warmer waters around the world. Unfortunately, hunting, smuggling, entanglement in fishing gear, and pollution have greatly reduced the leatherback population. Some estimate that their numbers in the Pacific Ocean have dropped 80 to 90 percent in the last two decades. They are considered endangered (as are the six other species of sea turtles).

Links:
The Great Turtle Race (hosted by The Leatherback Trust)
The State of the World's Sea Turtles

April 5, 2007

So a Coyote Walks Into a Quiznos ...

Quiznos_coyote.jpgOver the years, I'd heard various stories about coyotes visiting Chicago, but I found this week's story particularly amusing.

Shortly after lunchtime on Tuesday, a young male coyote walked through the open door of a Quiznos sandwich shop in downtown Chicago. It tried unsuccessfully to jump over the counter, coming to rest instead inside an open beverage cooler. It remained there for about an hour before animal control took it away.

No one was injured, and two patrons who were there when the coyote entered the shop didn't leave until after they'd finished eating. The other patrons and employees fled outside.

The coyote--which was released Wednesday on private property in the suburbs--was the third one captured in Chicago in recent weeks. The director of Animal Care and Control is quoted in one article as saying that about 10 to 15 are captured every year in the city.

Coyotes were originally inhabitants of middle America, found as far north as Canada south to central Mexico. Scientists attribute the coyote's expansion into other habitats, including cities, to their versatility. They may live alone, in mated pairs, or in packs. The size of their territories may vary. They eat a variety of food. They may be more active at different times of the day. One researcher estimates that within 10 years, beginning in the 1990s, the coyote population in Chicago grew by about 3,000%. He credits coyotes with keeping the Canada geese population in check by eating their eggs.

The majority of coyote attacks on humans have been bites, frequently inflicted when owners have tried to protect their pets. Typically, though, coyotes keep a low profile. Maybe this one was just looking to become a star.

Links:
"Coyote Visits Loop Restaurant But Doesn't Eat" (Chicago Tribune, includes photos and video)
"City Slinkers" (Smithsonian)
"On the Loose: Urban Coyotes Thrive in North American Cities" (Ohio State research news)

Image: Still from WGN news footage.

March 23, 2007

No Impact Man

beavan.jpg Yesterday, the New York Times published an article that quickly jumped to the top of the 'most-emailed' list. The story profiles Colin Beavan, who, with his wife and daughter, are making scads of sacrifices (think: in-house composting and no toilet paper) to live a "no impact" lifestyle and reduce their ecological footprints. Now, this is something that's been done by others in the past—insert obligatory reference to kooky commune-dwellers here—but not, to my knowledge, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. This makes the process different when you consider a lot of the changes the family has made—they've walked up many, many flights of stairs, they have no backyard for the compost heap (it's in the kitchen), and they're limited to eating only locally-grown food even though there's only so much that can be produced locally in a New York December.

Check out the article and visit Beavan's blog at the links below. Or measure your own impact on the earth with an ecological footprint quiz. You can also read the first chapter of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices online, which contains a less life-altering approach to reducing our negative impact on the environment.

The Year Without Toilet Paper
No Impact Man blog
My Footprint quiz
The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices

Photo of the Conlin-Beavan family from the No Impact Man blog.

March 13, 2007

What’s your favorite water body?

Bay%20v%20Rainbow.jpg I do recall heated debates as a teenager over plenty of pointless things like how Star Wars was cooler than (i.e. not nearly as geeky as) Star Trek, how Radiohead’s OK Computer was a perfect album, why I just couldn’t “relate” to Reality Bites or Friends...

...But whether bays were better than rainbows? Apparently this debate has been raging over at the U.S. Geological Survey, and they’ve posted a survey to bring the issue to a wider audience:

I was a teenager once and I remember how frustrated I would get when other people didn't seem to care about my opinions. I can imagine how upset you get when you want to tell someone what your favorite body of water is, but no one will listen!
Well, we will listen. Use this opinion survey to tell the world what your favorite water body is. We'll then show you what others around the U.S. and the world think.
What I learned? Bays are so not hip!

What’s your favorite water body?

Flickr photo from Footnoteblog

February 28, 2007

Colossal Calamari

Colossal_squid.jpg New Zealand officials announced last week that fishermen had snagged a colossal squid from Antarctica's Ross Sea.

The first confirmed live sighting of a colossal squid occurred only as far back as 2003, when fishermen also in the Ross Sea caught one of these behemoths. Scientists dubbed their catch "colossal squid" (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni).

Colossal squids may possibly grow up to 40 feet in length (including the tentacles). Though giant squids (Architeuthis dux) are believed to reach 35 feet long on average, it's thought that they don't weigh as much as colossals.

This latest specimen--probably only the third intact one to be recovered--weighs about 990 pounds, or nearly half a ton. Scientists still don't know much about this species. The inaccessible nature of their deep-sea habitat makes studying them, as well as giant squids, difficult.

According to one squid expert, the colossal squid "would yield calamari rings the size of tractor tires," though apparently it wouldn't taste very good.

Link: "Photo in the News: Colossal Squid Caught Off Antarctica" (National Geographic News)

February 5, 2007

Japan and Storing CO2 Under the Ocean Floor

One method of disposing carbon dioxide produced by industry is ocean disposal or injection. Just like it sounds, it involves collecting carbon dioxide produced by industrial sources and pumping it down into the deepest parts of the world's oceans, or under the sea floor, thus preventing its release into the atmosphere and hopefully slowing global warming. Disposing CO2 in the ocean is environmentally problematic because in short, CO2 can destroy marine habitats. It’s another example of trading one potential environmental catastrophe for another; in this case, possibly destroying deep ocean habitats with CO2 instead of releasing it into the atmosphere, which would cause more global warming.

Last September 2006, a new amendment was made to the 1972 London Convention (an international agreement between 81 countries including the U.S. that set standards for dumping waste in the ocean), adding CO2 to the list of items that countries can dump into or store beneath the ocean. International approval in hand, Japan, the world's 4th largest emitter of CO2, may give ocean CO2 disposal a bureaucratic green light.

Japan's Environment Ministry submitted a law to the Japanese Diet that would allow businesses to get permission from the environment minister to begin projects for storing carbon dioxide in deep down under the seabed. The move is significant because it provides the Japanese government with a framework for regulation, which will hopefully prevent any construction or disposal methods that in the interest of profit, may be too harmful for marine habitats to be worth doing. Whether or not it works, let alone be made law, is another matter. But it will be interesting to see how or if this idea gets much debate over here on our side of the Pacific.

"Japan to embrace CO 2 storage in seabed," The Japan Times Online.
Here's a link to the London Convention web site.
For information on the top CO2-producing nations, take a look at page 283 in the 2007 World Almanac.

February 2, 2007

The World at a Glance: Changing Times

314854035_5617436462_m.jpgWe're all going full steam ahead on The World Almanac for Kids 2008, so apologies for the late (and light) posting today. To tide you over, here's another "World at a Glance" installment, this time a quick look at some notable changes in agriculture, health, population, and other areas in recent decades. Any other noteworthy trends we missed? Let us know in the comments.

1900-2000: The top country of origin for foreign-born U.S. residents shifted from Germany (26% of the foreign-born population in 1900) to Italy (13% in 1960) to Mexico (30% in 2000).

1940-2005: The total number of U.S. farms fell more than 66%, from 6.4 million to 2.10 million.

1960-2005: Americans’ average savings, as a percent of their disposable income, fell from 7.3% to –0.4%.

1960-2002: The percentage of U.S. adults who were clinically overweight climbed from 45% to 65%, and the number of all U.S. adults considered clinically obese rose from 13% to 31%.

1980-2005: Average annual tuition and fees for a 4-year private college or university were 10 times higher in 2005 than in 1980, rising from $1,809 to $18,838.

1980-2005: The percentage of high school seniors who had at least one heavy drinking episode in the previous two weeks fell from 41% to 28%.

1990-2005: The median price for an existing single family home in the U.S. climbed 138%, from $92,000 to $219,000.

1990-2004: The rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. slowed dramatically: emissions increased by an annual average of 1.7% from 1990 to 2000, but only 0.4% annually from 2000 to 2004.

2006-2050: The population of China, the most populous nation in 2006, will climb from 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion in 2050, but India will surpass China by 2030, and is projected to top the list in 2050 with 1.8 billion people.

January 25, 2007

Heat Mining: A New Energy Source for the U.S.

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Bush mentioned coal, solar, wind, and nuclear energy, but didn't say a word about geothermal energy. While working on the Environment section of The World Almanac for Kids 2008, however, I came across an interesting new MIT report, which suggests that geothermal energy could commercially supply 10% of the United States’ electrical supply by 2050.

Geothermal energy doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of attention; according to MIT, the last in-depth study was done in 1979. This energy traditionally comes from hot springs near the Earth’s surface (like in Reykjavik, Iceland). They emit hot steam, which spins turbines to generate electricity. In contrast to coal, a non-renewable fossil fuel that generates half of the U.S. electrical supply, geothermal energy creates very few emissions; and unlike other "alternative" energy forms, geothermal energy generators can run non-stop without relying on sunlight or wind. Geothermal%20Heat%20Map.jpg

The U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored study focused on an alternate "Enhanced Geothermal System" that would involve drilling holes more than 5,000 ft toward the Earth's mantle, into hot, dry rock. Water would then be sent down the holes to be heated, and then travel through natural fractures to be sucked up other nearby tunnels (The Department of Energy has a good animation). At the surface, the water would either be cooled quickly to make steam (a process called flashing) or looped around another liquid that could be heated into steam at a lower temperature; that steam would power turbines to generate electricity.

The report notes that water would have to be heated in excess of 150-200°C for electricity or 100-150°C for heating homes. Compare those numbers to the map at right, which shows estimated rock temperatures at more than 20,000 feet below ground.

This sounds completely fascinating to me. If you're still confused about how it all works, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a good page explaining these systems.

MIT-led panel backs "heat mining" as key U.S. energy source (Mass. Institute of Technology)

Coffee... For the Birds?

In recent years, new labels have been cropping up in food packaging. The "Organic" label probably looks familiar to many people. If you drink coffee, you might have also seen labels touting "Fair Trade" and "Shade Grown."

bflogo4.gifI recently found out about another label, this one created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. It now offers a certification process that leads to coffee labeled "Bird Friendly." The coffee is described as follows:

"Bird Friendly" coffee is coffee that comes from farms in Latin America that provide good, forest-like habitat for birds. Rather than being grown on land that has been cleared of all other vegetation, "Bird Friendly" coffees are planted under a canopy of trees.

So the coffee is shade-grown coffee. In addition, it must be organic. The center provides guidelines for the amount and type of shade provided, so that there is "structural" diversity as well as a diversity of plant species. This method of production is in contrast to the typical method, wherein coffee is planted under full sun and grown with the use of chemicals and fertilizers.

Link: "Bird Friendly" Coffee (Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Migratory Bird Center)

January 24, 2007

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Measurement? That's Sooo Corny

Each year in the Environment chapter of the World Almanac, we present the annual atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (for 2007, it’s on page 284). We get that information from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, which is part of the Department of Energy. Pre-1943 levels are derived from air bubbles in ice core samples taken in Antarctica, and later measurements are taken directly from the atmosphere. corn_crop.jpgSoon though, you may see us presenting CO2 levels taken from corn samples. That’s right, good ol’ fashioned corn, the vegetable that can do anything from feeding the world, to fueling our cars, to giving us a tasty treat at movie theaters.

Scientists from U.C. Irvine measured levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels in corn samples taken from 31 locations across the U.S. They chose corn because it’s grown pretty much everywhere, and the carbon in it is collected during a single growing season (so it's just the carbon from the most recent growing season, and not seasons past). CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels doesn’t contain any radiocarbons, so the scientists can easily tell if the carbon dioxide came from fossil fuels or from natural sources (veeeery C.S.I.-type stuff). By measuring the corn, the scientists were able to accurately tell which areas of the U.S. had highest concentrations of fossil-fuel-derived carbon dioxide. The highest levels were in California, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The lowest concentrations were in Colorado, Idaho, and New Mexico--because, as scientists found, the Rocky Mountains act as a sort of CO2 barrier.

There are lots of ways to measure CO2 in the atmosphere but this method may provide a cost-effective complement to other methods. If anything, it just goes to show that whatever is in the air can eventually end up in our popcorn.

Press release:Scientists map air pollution using corn grown in U.S. fields (U.C. Irvine)
Map: CO2 concentrations in the U.S. (Red areas have the highest, blue areas have the lowest)
Abstract: Regional patterns of radiocarbon and fossil fuel-derived CO2 in surface air across North America (Geophysical Research Letters, January 23, 2007)

January 19, 2007

Top Dog/Underdog

One of man's best friends is moving up in the world. Earlier this week, the American Kennel Club announced that for the first time in about 70 years, a small breed displaced longtime favorites—German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers—to land at number two on the list of the most popular purebreds in America. The top spot is still held by the Labrador Retriever, the breed that's been leading the pack since 1991, while second place is now held by the tiny Yorkshire Terrier ('Yorkie' to its friends and fans). The rest of the top 10: dogs.bmp

2006 Most Popular Dogs
1. Labrador Retriever
2. Yorkshire Terrier
3. German Shepherd Dog
4. Golden Retriever
5. Beagle
6. Dachshund
7. Boxer
8. Poodle
9. Shih Tzu
10. Miniature Schnauzer

You'll notice that the German Shepherd is always referred to as the 'German Shepherd Dog'—presumably the AKC wants no confusion from people trying to register sheep herders named Klaus.

Check out the full list, as well as individual city rankings, historical trends in breed popularity, and great pictures like the one here, at the links below.

Most Popular American Dogs and Historical Trends
Popular Breeds by City
"Top Dogs" at Top of the Rock (pictures)

January 2, 2007

Livestock's Long Shadow

livestock.jpg The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's ominously-titled report, Livestock's Long Shadow, went largely unnoticed when it was first published in November 2006. The report details the environmental impacts of the rapid increase of livestock agriculture--with some startling figures. For instance, who would have guessed that our lust for red meat was contributing more to global warming (estimates show it causes about 18% of global warming effect) than global transportation emissions? Or that livestock grazing occupies about 26 percent of Earth's land surfaces, and 33 percent of all arable land?

The prosperity of the developed world--as well as the population explosion of the last half-century--means that demand for livestock has never been higher, and will likely do nothing but increase, if current projections hold. However, thanks to a New York Times editorial and subsequent mentions on environmental blogs, the issues raised in the report seem to be gaining some wider exposure.

Livestock's Long Shadow (full report, PDF)
Livestock Impacts on the Environment (FAO Spotlight; report summary)
Livestock a Major Threat to Environment (FAO newsroom)
Meat and the Planet (New York Times, Dec. 27, 2006)
Livestock's Long Shadow (Gristmill; environmental news blog)

About Environment

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Environment category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Energy is the previous category.

Geography is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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