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Showing posts from 2015

Hurricane Patricia a record setter

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B. McPherson
Hurricane Patricia heralded in the storm season for the eastern Pacific by setting new records. Patricia used the very warm waters of the eastern Pacific to fuel a category 5 monster. It grew rapidly from a tropical blip on the radar to a full-fledged hurricane in fewer than 36 hours. Wind gusts of 320 km/ hour(200 m/hr) were recorded. The west coast of Mexico braced for a slamming. The area is very popular with N. American tourists. Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo were in its predicted path. Flights were cancelled and shelters were made ready. A state of emergency was declared. Harbours were shut down. Then Mexico got as lucky as they could in the situation. The centre of the storm made landfall between the two towns in an area sparsely settled. The area got torrential rains and landslides but the expected catastrophe didn’t happen. The mountains of Mexico disrupted the hurricane and weakened the winds, leaving heavy rains in its path. By morning Saturday the system was…

Hurricane Patricia a record setter

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B. McPherson
Hurricane Patricia heralded in the storm season for the eastern Pacific by setting new records. Patricia used the very warm waters of the eastern Pacific to fuel a category 5 monster. It grew rapidly from a tropical blip on the radar to a full-fledged hurricane in fewer than 36 hours. Wind gusts of 320 km/ hour(200 m/hr) were recorded.
The west coast of Mexico braced for a slamming. The area is very popular with N. American tourists. Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo were in its predicted path. Flights were cancelled and shelters were made ready. A state of emergency was declared. Harbours were shut down.
Then Mexico got as lucky as they could in the situation. The centre of the storm made landfall between the two towns in an area sparsely settled. The area got torrential rains and landslides but the expected catastrophe didn’t happen.
The mountains of Mexico disrupted the hurricane and weakened the winds, leaving heavy rains in its path. By morning Saturday the system was…

British Columbia under extreme forest fire hazard

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B. McPherson Sun at 11:30 filtered through smoke and ash There are those who will say our climate isn’t changing, or if it is, it’s nothing to do with human activity. I’m not a climatologist, but I am an observer. I’ve noticed some things. On the Vancouver Island we usually have two distinct climatic types. The west coast gets generous(some would say to a fault) rainfall and supports true temperate rainforests. The east coast tends to drier. Down the spine of the island is a ridge of mountains which are usually snow covered until late May.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the mountains got little snow last winter. A ski hill that was used as a practise site during the 2010 Olympics never truly opened due to lack of snow. The lowlands where I live had no snow at all. We had one week of relatively cold weather – we had light frost in the morning.
May was the driest May since records were kept. June was the driest in 50 years. July has started out hot and dry. That alone does not denote cl…

Neurotoxin to be sprayed on Washington oyster beds

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B. McPherson
Never forget the law of unintended consequences Washington State has given the oyster harvesting industry the go ahead to spray about 2000 acres of sea bed with imidacloprid to kill burrowing shrimp. Imidacloprid is a neurotoxin that particularly affects invertebrates(animals without backbones).
The state department of ecology has issued permits to spray the mudflats of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The stated reason is to reduce the population of burrowing shrimp. They are also known as ghost shrimp. The two areas that are to be sprayed with the pesticide are important oyster producing areas. The annual revenue is over US$60 million per year.
The shrimp are feeders of small particles and given a high enough population can compete with other plankton eaters for resources. Burrowing shrimp dig in the intertidal mud flats almost constantly and kick out sand and other detritus. The sediment can cover the very young oysters(spat), suffocating them.
Imidacloprid is the most wi…

NOAA reports warmest March on record

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B. McPherson
NOAA has reported that March in N. America is the hottest on record. The records for this go back to 1880. They are also reporting that records for Arctic sea ice and global average temperatures have reached record marks as well. 
Of course one month in the history of the planet doesn’t make for a crisis. But record keeping can point out some troubling trends. NOAA’s March report does not speculate causes, but reports the measurements. They indicate that changes are happening.
The following information is based on the March report.
·Global land and ocean temperatures – 0.85o C (1.53oF)above 20th century average. The previous record high was 2010.
·Land surface temperatures globally averaged nearly three degrees F. (1.65oC) above 20th century averages.
·Ocean surface temperatures were a little over half a degree Celsius  higher.
Warmer temperatures indicate that there is more energy in the weather and water systems. When we get more energy in, we see more energetic, read ext…

Rio rotten fish float in Olympic lagoon

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B. McPherson

Rio de Janeiro in Brazil will be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics. They have the honour of being the first South American country to host them. The Games were awarded to Rio amid much hoopla and celebration. It is now likely that some of the Olympic Committee are having second thoughts. There is no debate about the stunning setting that Rio has with a combination of ocean, lagoons and mountains. Over six million people call it home. And many hold their nose while doing so.
You can imagine the garbage and sewage that six million people produce daily. Now imagine the mess if two thirds of the people have no garbage pickup and two thirds of the sewage is not treated, but is allowed to drain into waterways and canals. It is not just those unfortunate to live in the slums that dump untreated sewage directly into nearby waterways. This weekend past, hundreds of people demonstrated their anger over a modern condominium block contributing to the city’s stench.
Yesterday thousand…

Vancouver oil spill shows weak response by feds

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B. McPherson
Update: The Canadian Coast Guard is reporting that all the recoverable oil has been removed from the water. What does that really mean? You know that means that besides that oil that is now polluting Vancouver beaches is also in the water. While our Coast Guard personnel do the best job possible in the circumstances, you and I know that taking six hours to contain what is a tiny spill is not good enough. Let's remember that the Feds closed the Vancouver Harbour Coast Guard station and plan to remove even more disaster protection from one of the country's biggest ports. __
An oil spill Wednesday in Vancouver, BC, showed the residents how an oil spill would likely play out. The oil was spotted in that part of the harbour known as English Bay and reported by a sailor.
At 5pm the oil slick was reported. Three hours later a crew showed up to try to contain the spill of heavy bunker oil. It took until 2 am Thursday morning for crews to put a containment boom around a f…

Antarctic summer brings more bad news

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B. McPherson
It will take a few hundred years for it all to go, but go it will
Antarctica is entering its winter season, but the summer has seen accelerated melting of the vast ice sheets. In 2014 we found that the Western Ice Sheet was flowing rapidly into the ocean and melting. Research conducted this summer on the eastern part of that continent has found that that side of the continent is also spilling its hoard of ice into the Austral Ocean.

Warmer ocean temperatures have infiltrated under the Western Ice Sheet and accelerated the flow and melt rate. If the whole ice sheet were to melt, it would raise the ocean levels and average of 10 feet(3 metres). This summer scientists found a previously unknown ocean trough that can allow warm, for the Antarctic, water to seep under the Totten Glacier on the east coast. The Totten Glacier acts as a brake or plug to keep the interior ice from flowing to the ocean. Like the ice shelf in the west, the Glacier’s seaward edge is now found to be f…

Horse dung may save your life

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B. McPherson Copper metal kills bacteria. Copper plated push plates on doors cut infections. Horse poop has long been known as great for gardens, but save your life? Mushroom growers know that horse manure is ideal for producing those delectable morsels. A mushroom of a different kind – the inky cap(Coprinus comatus) has researchers hot on the trail of a new antibiotic.
The promising new compound is copsin, a protein substance that interferes with cell wall formation. Bacteria have cell walls. Scientists are reproducing the substance via genetically modified yeast. It is a long way from growing yeast in small scale batches to industrial production and clinical trials.
Medical researchers have been sounding the alarm about multi-resistant bacterial infections. Gradually, as an antibiotic comes into widespread use, it loses its ability to kill bacteria. When penicillin was first produced it could wipe out nearly any infection, revolutionizing modern medicine.  Other fungal based bacte…

Golden Rice fails its test

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B. McPherson Making children unknowing guinea pigs undermines trust in official pronouncements The genetically altered grain known as Golden Rice has been touted as the answer to Vitamin A deficiency in many countries around the world. The premise is that a gene inserted into the DNA of rice would produce beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A.
This would be the first GM organism that would be aimed at improved nutrition rather than having commercial traits inserted into the genome.
While those who fully support the growing of GM field crops are still supporting the Golden Rice and castigating those who would criticize tinkering with the genes of one of the world’s most important foods, Golden Rice has been field tested and found wanting.
The International Rice Research Institute(IRRI), located in the Philippines, is a non-profit organization that is overseeing various research projects that seek to improve the nutrients in rice. Both traditional selection and hybridization methods a…

Yeast may be the answer to replacing palm oil

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B. McPherson

Palm oil is used in a myriad of places around the world. From face creams to biodiesel, palm oil is everywhere in today’s modern world. Why? Because it’s a cheap(relatively), versatile substance that remains soft but solid at room temperature, is non-toxic and edible and can be produced by trees and sunlight.
It sounds like an all around winner but as the palm oil industry has grown along with massive tropical plantations of the oil palm major environmental damage is becoming evident. About 87% of the world’s palm oil is produced from plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. The ripping up of rain forests has far reaching deleterious effects on the people and animals that were living there.
Now the insatiable appetite for palm oil is industrializing tracts of land in Africa with Nigeria leading the way in leasing out land for palm oil plantations.
Researchers at the University of Bath may have come up with an alternative to digging up the tropical forests and evicting the …

Mad cow disease shows up in Alberta

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B. McPherson Mad cow disease can cause this CJv in humans An animal destined for the beef market was found in Alberta to carry mad cow disease. This is the first case of mad cow since an isolated case in 2011. The public has been assured that the sick animal never made it to the slaughter house. During the initial outbreak of mad cow in 2003 in Canada the beef industry in Canada took a huge economic hit. This is not expected to be the case with this incident.
While it is early days in this investigation, there is speculation that cattle feed pre-dating tighter restrictions was fed to the animal in its first year. In 1997 the Canadian government mandated that feed formulas be changed to exclude the processed remains of ruminant animals. Protein is a valuable commodity in the agricultural industry and it was routine to feed cattle processed “waste” from slaughtered carcasses of cattle and sheep.
Mad cow disease is known by other names: bovine spongiform encephalitis, BSE, transmissible …

TTIP will tighten corporate noose

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B. McPherson
For those who believe that giant corporations rule, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(TTIP) is an ominous development. For proponents, it will bring about a new era of free trade between the USA and the EU.
The two great political entities are long time trade partners with few serious disputes over tariffs and markets. This proposed new trade agreement would eliminate even more of them. Together the USA and EU trade represents 60% of global GDP.
Negotiations have taken place largely out of the public’s purview but in March 2014 the German newspaper Die Zeit, leaked some of the content
Proponents of TTIP assure the public that this agreement once implemented will reduce artificial barriers to trade, reduce or remove tariffs and result in cheaper goods for consumers. Those who oppose the agreement are not convinced.
Key to environmentalists in the EU is the assurance that their higher standards for environmental protections will not be eroded. Th…

Madagascar millions face famine from locust plague

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B. McPherson
As many as 13 million people will face famine if the recurring  locust plague is not curbed this year. The insects which resemble large grasshoppers hatch in the billions and create huge hungry swarms which can devastate a field of crops, eating everything green. It has been estimated that the swarms consume over 100,000 tonnes of greenery every day.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) is pleading for funding to combat this year’s hatch of eggs which is expected to coincide with the end of the rainy season in May. To date nearly US$29 million has been spent on a variety of methods to fight the insects over the past two years. The programme was planned for a three year stint, but funds are drying up. The FAO needs more than US$10 million to fund this year’s effort. They warn that if measures are not taken the previous years’ efforts may go to waste.
Some money is being provided by the Madagascar government but accusations have been made of incompetence and mos…

Fukushima radiation spike sets new highs

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B. McPherson
How long until another Fukushima in Japan? Just when you thought it was safe to eat the rice. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station has released a massive cloud of radiation. On January 12, 2015 nearly four years after the nuclear power station was wrecked in an earthquake/tsunami one two punches of dangerous levels of radiation are being released.
The four elements reported on in the January 12, 2015 news release show stunningly high radioactivity.
·Cesium 134 emitting at 7,500% above the January 8 reading, setting a new record high ·Cesium 137 emitting at 7,500% above the January 8 reading, setting a new record high ·Cobalt 60 emitting at 400% of previous record high
·Beta particles emitting at 6,000% above January 8 reading 1,300% above old record high The area tested is near one of the trenches dug to contain radioactive water that has been used to cool the melted reactor cores. Radiation in this area is too hot for people to work safely and Tepco has contracted with an Ameri…

Monsanto wants to spread gene altering tech

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B. McPherson You are what you eat The clever scientists at Monsanto have come up with a new weapon. This new weapon is an RNAi-based spray that will target the Colorado potato beetle. While most of us are familiar with the term DNA, RNA is less well known. Instead of a double stranded helix as seen in DNA, RNA is a usually a single strand but some forms are doubled. It carries out many functions in the cell directing the construction of many of the cell’s proteins and acting to stop or start cell reactions. The RNAi based sprays use gene silencing technology that tells the target organism to shut off certain genes. Not just plant pests have been targeted by this new technology. Monsanto has developed a new soybean. Their Vistive Gold soybeans genes switch off production of saturated fats. The lower case i refers to gene interference. Scientists not associated with or financed by the chemical giant have expressed misgivings over the spraying of a biopesticide that may spread to uninte…