Climate Change Weekly Roundup 8/19/14

Publication: Washington Post

Author: Joby Warrick

Date: August 17, 2014

Title: West’s historic drought stokes fears of water crisis

With no rain relief in the winter for the past three years, California’s farmers are struggling to keep their crops from drying up.

According to a study posted in the end of July this year, California’s drought conditions will cause a 6.6 million acre-foot reduction in surface water available for agriculture, only partially replaced by increasing groundwater pumping by 5.1 million acre-feet.


“The resulting net water shortage of 1.5 million acre-feet will cause losses of $810 million in crop revenue and $203 million in dairy and other livestock value, plus additional groundwater pumping costs of $454 million,” said the study.

The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought, according to the study, will be $2.2 billion, and 17,100 workers will become unemployed before the end of the year.

“A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account,” said Richard Howitt, a University of California professor emeritus in resource economics and one of the authors of the study. “We’re acting like the super rich who have so much money they don’t need to balance their checkbook.”

To read more about California’s drought and how researchers are trying to address water resource management in the state, click here.


Publication: Science

Author: Jop de Vrieze

Date: August 14, 2014


Title: Taking antibiotics early in life leaves mice prone to obesity

A new study of mice shows that interrupting the development of gut microbial populations with low doses of antibiotics early in life disturbs their metabolism and boosts the risk of obesity later on.

Children born by cesarean section, as well as those who receive antibiotics during their first year of life, have a higher risk of developing immune disorders such as asthma and type 1 diabetes. Epidemiological studies show an elevated risk for obesity among these children as well, although the effect seems to be very small.

To test out the theory that antibiotics used at a young age could affect an organism’s metabolism later in life, Martin Blaser, a microbiologist at New York University in New York City, and his team of researchers injected low-dose penicillin into mice during the first 4 or 8 weeks after birth and analyzed their gut microbiota and several metabolic characteristics.

As expected, penicillin changed the animals’ gut microbiota by reducing the numbers of lactobacilli and several other species that are believed to be beneficial. But this effect disappeared within a couple of weeks of the last antibiotic dose. Ten weeks later, however, treated mice that ate high-fat diets started gaining weight like mad, the team reported to the Cell.

To learn more about the research into the effects of antibiotics issued at early life stages of mice, and their implications for humans, click here.


Publication: via Huffington Post

Author: Charles Q. Choi

Date of Publication: August 14, 2014

Title: NASA’s Stardust Probe May Have Nabbed Dust From Interstellar Space

NASA’s Stardust probe, launched in 1999 to collect rock samples from comets, may have captured something more fitting to its name.

For 195 days in 2004, Stardust held out a collector tray for interstellar dust as it examined Comet Wild-2. The tray caught grains of rock that were streaming throughout nearby space, and in 2006 returned the captured dust to Earth via parachute for analysis.

What researchers found was that there were seven particles on the probe that appeared to be from origins outside the solar system. And if confirmed, these would be the first interstellar rocks ever returned to Earth by a spacecraft.

The researchers came to this hypothesis after analyzing the chemical compositions of the various dust particles, as well as they tracks the particles made as they crashed into the satellite.

To read more, visit here.


Publication: Science News

Author: Thomas Sumner

Date of Publication: July 18, 2014

Title: Cell phone towers monitor African rains

Cell phone towers in Africa may provide the continent with its most accurate rainfall data to date.

At least, that’s according to 2012 study conducted by researchers at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The study, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that disruptions in cell phone signals caused by rainstorms could be used to measure rainfall and rain patterns with up to 95 percent accuracy.

Rainstorms interrupt specific radio frequencies and can worsen cell phone transmissions. The researchers in the study used these effects to see if they could translate signal disruption data into data useful for storm and rainfall tracking.

This type of study has huge repercussions for weather analysis in Africa, a continent whose forecasting and monitoring infrastructure is almost nonexistent.

To read more, visit here.