Top Story: April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

earth day, environment, pollution, great lakes, marine, ocean, rivers, colorado, drought, trees, climate change, ecology, evolution, energy, renewables, fossil fuels, solar, wind, power, flights

By Molly Michelson

Happy Earth Day! We would like to share a few recent headlines for you to peruse to ponder and protect our planet...

Pollution
From high to low, all around the world, pollution affects our world. Recent headlines show that “Toxic chemicals are accumulating in the ecosystems of the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau,” according to Nature. Tiny plastic particles aren’t just trouble in the oceans; the Great Lakes contain millions of microplastics, too. The New York Times’ Dot Earth blog has a short post about the importance of not littering. And National Geographic has an article about how pollution on land can affect marine life like dolphins and local sea otters.

Colorado River
While many U.S. rivers have problems with pollution, the Colorado River’s mismanagement, overuse and drought put it atop the list of Endangered Rivers of 2013. National Geographic has an entire series on the Colorado River delta, and the New York Times has offered both an article and video last week on the region’s hopeful revival.

Drought
Speaking of drought… Do drought-stressed trees cry for help? French scientists are listening for clues. Climate change was not responsible for last summer’s Midwestern drought, according to NOAA, but then what was? And how might we be able to predict future droughts?

Climate Change
Climate change may not have caused of the recent drought, but it is responsible for other devastating events and looming disasters: bumpier flights, more storms, bark beetle plagues, drowned islands, failures in agriculture systems and more extinctions. Researchers are also getting a better handle on tracking climate change through mapping ocean eddies and looking at historic ocean temperatures and air pressure.

Ecology
How do species react to environmental changes? Rapid evolution, according to one study. Another study suggests that endangered species are already doomed. And Nature offers an update on a decades-long study of habitat fragmentation in the Amazon.

Energy
How has energy usage in our country changed over the past two hundred years? NPR has a graph (or four) for that. In response, Scientific American presents a diagram illustrating our potential for future alternative energy use and resources accompanying an article titled, “How to Power the World without Fossil Fuels.” Germany seems to have taken notice—the European country has ambitious renewable plans. But it's not the only one. The U.S. had a huge year in 2012 for wind power. And, heading across the country soon? How about a solar-powered flight?

Earth Day
Finally, let’s truly celebrate the planet’s holiday with history, maps, jokes about Earth Day, and facts and photos of our beautiful home.

Image: Terra/ASTER/NASA and NASA Earth Observatory

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