Ancient Barley Could Help Farmers Adapt to Changing Climate

Publication: By John Roach   Date: July 27, 2009   View Article

DNA has been recovered from an ancient form of barley that persisted for more than 3,000 years and the tastes of five civilizations in Egypt’s upper Nile, according to a new study.

The barely was particularly well-adapted to the region’s parched climate, allowing it to trump more bountiful but less hardy varieties, according to genetic analyses of the preserved grains.

The finding could assist efforts to breed modern crops that are able to survive a drying climate, noted plant researcher Robin Allaby, an associate professor at the University of Warwick in the UK.

“If we find genes that have evolved to cope with arid conditions, we can then look to transferring those genes, or replicating those genes in modern varieties,” he explained to me in an e-mail exchange.


Hubble Telescope’s Highs and Lows

Publication:   Date: April 29, 2009   View Article

The Hubble Space Telescope has circled Earth once every 97 minutes since it was launched in 1990, peering into deep space and sending back digital postcards that have wowed the world. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the world’s best-known eye in the sky. Click through this slideshow to learn about the space telescope’s highs and lows, as described by the experts most familiar with Hubble’s history.

Ancient Ice Yields Good, Not Great, News for Earth

Publication: By John Roach   Date: April 26, 2009   View Article

Air trapped in ancient Greenland ice has yielded some good, but not great, news about the future on a warming planet, according to a new study.

Wetlands were responsible for a substantial increase in the potent greenhouse gas methane in the atmosphere at the end of the last ice age about 11,600 years ago, the study shows.

The finding is cast as “good news” for the planet because it indicates methane clathrates, an even greater source of methane, remained stable in ocean sediments and permafrost.

“The amount of carbon locked up in methane clathrates is about equal to all the fossil fuels combined, so all of oil, gas, and coal,” study lead author Vasilii Petrenko of the University of Colorado at Boulder told me.


Earth Day Pictures: Quirky Ways to Mark the Day

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 20, 2009   View Article

Earth Day is celebrated worldwide each year on April 22, prompting environmental groups and businesses to pull off a host of sometimes unusual stunts to draw attention to their causes and green initiatives. Check out eight of them.

Significant Warming Unavoidable, Study Says

Publication: By John Roach   Date: April 18, 2009   View Article

“We can no longer avoid significant warming during this century,” Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said in a news release Tuesday announcing a new analysis of future climate scenarios churned out by supercomputers.

Left unchecked, global greenhouse gases are on track to reach concentrations of 750 parts per million in the atmosphere by 2100. This would push sea levels up 8.7 inches from thermal expansion; melt nearly all the Arctic sea ice; raise global temperature at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit; and cause dramatic shifts in rainfall patterns around the world, according to the analysis.

The good news is if nations cut greenhouse gases by 70 percent this century “we could stabilize the threat of climate change and avoid catastrophe,” Washington said. Sea levels, not counting melting ice sheets and glaciers, would rise just 5.5 inches; the Arctic ice would shrink another quarter but no more; temperature would rise a degree above current levels, and the worldwide precipitation changes would be half as severe.

The research will be published next week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. (more…)

Seven amazing finds from America’s past

Publication:   Date: April 14, 2009   View Article

Learn about seven archaeological finds from early U.S. history, including artifacts from Jamestown, the bones of lost Irish immigrants, and a pre-Civil War mummy.

Lightning Warns of Hurricanes’ Most Intense Moments?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 6, 2009   View Article

Lightning may help improve hurricane forecasts by signaling when the storms are about to reach peak intensity, according to a new study.

Current satellite and radar technologies can fairly accurately predict a storm’s path, but when and how much a storm will intensify are harder to pin down.

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