September 29, 2014

3:00 PM | 3.5 M new cellulosic RINs in August?!? Or did EPA just sink the 2nd-gen biofuel market?
What drove the registration of 3.5 million new cellulosic RINs in August, after less than 5,000 the month before??  Looks like EPA recently changed the rules in a huge way: Now, bio-methane produced from all sorts of sources (wastewater … Continue reading →
12:31 PM | Antarctica Is Doing Its Best Sandra Bullock Impression
By Susan Cosier Melting on the Antarctic Ice Sheet is weakening the region’s gravitational pull. OMG! Are penguins floating into the heavens? Um, no. The changes are slight, but they're still significant enough for the European Space Agency to detect with its most “accurate gravity model ever.” Earth’s gravitational pull can vary due to the planet’s rotation and changes in land mass, such as mountains or ocean trenches. Between […]
2:56 AM | Killing Fields for Songbirds
By Rocky Kistner A small brown warbler dangles upside down in a grove of acacia trees, its feet and wings stuck to a sticky, lime-soaked branch. The bird had been flying from Europe to northern Africa, when it decided to make a pit stop on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Little did it know that thousands of traps and nets wait there for migrating songbirds.According to the new documentary Emptying the Skies, directed by Douglas Kass, hunters in rural […]

September 26, 2014

12:17 PM | The hackathon is coming
The Geophysics Hackathon is one month away! Signing up is not mandatory — you can show up on the day if you like — but it does help with the planning. It's 100% free, and I guarantee you'll enjoy yourself. You'll also learn tons about geophysics and about building software. Deets: Thrive, Denver, 8 am, 25–26 October. Bring a laptop. Need more? Here's all the info you could ask for. Even more? Ask by email or in the comments.  Send your project ideas The […]
11:35 AM | Cloudy with a Chance of ... Butterflies?
By Susan Cosier Meteorologists spotted a strange blip on the radar last week: a butterfly-shaped cloud hovering over southern Illinois and central Missouri. The reading was peculiar, since at the time there wasn’t an actual cloud in the sky over the region. The flying mass was big, and the meteorologists had a hunch it was something biological, but knew it wasn’t an enormous flock of birds, gaggle of geese, or colony of bats. Well, the mystery […]

September 25, 2014

6:09 PM | So You Want to Be a Rockefeller…
By Brian Palmer Financial reporting seldom affords an opportunity to use the word “irony,” but the business pages were filled with it this week. On Monday, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund committed to divesting from fossil fuels. That’s right—an organization founded by the world’s most famous oil family is renouncing black gold. Not since Baskin-Robbins heir John Robbins went vegan have a tycoon’s progeny so publicly turned […]
6:04 PM | Civil Disobedience
By Brian Palmer Earlier this month, climate change protesters Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara faced two years in prison for blocking a coal delivery to the Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. In defense of their 2013 “Lobster Boat Blockade,” the pair intended to put climate change itself on trial, calling famous experts like climatologist James Hansen and environmental writer Bill McKibben to the stand.They never got the chance. […]
2:42 PM | There’s a Big Ocean Out There (and We’re About to Protect More of It)
By Susan Cosier The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is about to get a lot larger … nearly seven times larger (and FYI, it’s already pretty darn big). With a wave of his pen and help from the Antiquities Act, President Obama is expected to create the earth’s biggest fully-protected marine reserve today, expanding the existing monument in the central Pacific from 87,000 to 490,000 square miles—home to 130 underwater […]

September 24, 2014

2:09 PM | How Will World Nations Fight Climate Change? It’s All Over the Map
By Susan Cosier “We’re the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it," President Obama declared at yesterday’s landmark United Nations climate summit. He and more than 100 other world leaders called for action on global warming—action that can come in many forms. Above is a map from Mashable that details how different countries are answering the call with initiatives […]

September 23, 2014

9:42 PM | Real Fiscal Conservatives Fight Climate Change
By Brian Palmer Deep down, a lot of climate change denial has always been about money. That’s why Upton Sinclair’s observation—“It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it”—has by some accounts become the signature quote of the climate debate. Somehow, science and morality seem beside the point for the doubters and do-nothings.Yet the Obama administration is now […]
3:18 PM | Picking parameters
One of the reasons I got interested in programming was to get smarter about broken workflows like this one from a generic seismic interpretation tool (I'm thinking of Poststack-PAL, but does that even exist any more?)... I want to make a coherence volume, which requires me to choose a window length. I use the default on a single line and see how it looks, then try some other values at random. I can't remember what I did so I get systematic: I try 8 ms, 16 ms, 32 ms, and […]
2:23 PM | NYC Cops Arrest Polar Bear!
By Susan Cosier Thousands of protesters flooded Downtown Manhattan yesterday in an effort to hold Wall Street—and the fossil-fuel-based corporations it supports—accountable for exacerbating climate change. The sit-in followed the largest climate march in history, which took place uptown on Sunday, and preceded the international climate talks commencing at United Nations Headquarters today. "Flood Wall Street" is probably the most controversial […]
6:51 AM | 9 billion or 11 billion? The research behind new population projections
IIASA demographers explain why they project the world population to peak this century and UN demographers believe stabilization is unlikely Continue reading →

September 22, 2014

3:40 PM | The Jargonaut: 2,4-D? Come Again?
By Brian Palmer 2,4-D (n.): an herbicide popular in both agriculture and lawn care Farmers and weeds are in an arms race. Soon after a new herbicide emerges, weeds start evolving ways to defeat it. Eventually, the product becomes useless, forcing manufacturers to concoct an even more powerful pesticide. Roundup, the world’s most famous herbicide, hit the U.S. market in 1976. Paired with crops genetically engineered to tolerate it—such as […]
1:51 PM | Hey-Hey! Ho-Ho! Climate Change Has Got to Go!
By Susan Cosier The largest climate protest in history took place yesterday, with 400,000 folks filling four miles of New York City streets (around 600,000 people took part worldwide). Participants in the People’s Climate March, who included notables like U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Bill McKibben, Jane Goodall, Kevin Bacon (note: all marchers are now within one degree of him), and this guy. They marched, waved banners, chanted, and twerked, […]

September 19, 2014

5:26 PM | Obama to Superbugs: We're Watching You
By Susan Cosier Antibiotic-resistant microbes, strains of bacteria that fight off drugs, are a serious problem. Two million people a year in the United States get sick with those so-called superbugs, and at least 23,000 of them die. Yesterday President Obama signed an executive order to begin addressing this growing public health issue.Under the new order, a task force led by the departments of health and human services, defense, and agriculture will […]
2:51 PM | Bloomberg's Climate Challenge
By Andrew Revkin Michael R. Bloomberg has been one of the most vocal leaders, at any level of government, when it comes to sounding the alarm about what climate change is doing, and will continue to do, to our planet—including exposing the deep vulnerability that human communities face from climate extremes and coastal flooding. As the mayor of New York City during Hurricane Sandy, Bloomberg was tasked with handling not just one but two disasters of […]
1:50 PM | Louisiana’s Boot Is Shrinking in Size
By Susan Cosier When learning the states as I child, I always remembered Louisiana as the “boot-shaped” one. But as you can see in the illustration on the right, the sole of that boot is wearing thin as the Gulf coastline disappears, thanks to oil and gas drilling, canal channeling, and sea-level rise (see "Losing Lousiana"). Between 1932 and 2000 the state lost nearly 1,900 square miles of land, and an area the size of a football field […]

September 18, 2014

7:27 PM | Thar They Blow!
By Brian Palmer The Earth almost lost its largest living creature in the last century. Whalers killed more than 350,000 blue whales worldwide, nearly hunting the species to extinction. But according to a recent study, a group of these behemoths living off the West Coast has recovered to almost pre-whaling levels.Worldwide, only 10,000 to 25,000 blue whales remain today, and few communities of these mammals—which can be found in all of the […]
2:35 PM | The UN Is About to Get Wild
By Susan Cosier Ahead of the Peoples’ Climate March in New York City on Sunday, the Ocean Preservation Society will begin projecting endangered species onto the side of the United Nations Headquarters (where eight days of international climate talks will kick off on Tuesday). These animals—chimpanzees, whales, parrots, and more—will move across the building on the east side of Manhattan, highlighting how humans are contributing to mass […]

September 17, 2014

8:15 PM | NRDC Names New Leader
By The Editors Rhea Suh, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Interior, was today named the new president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation’s leading environmental advocacy groups (and the publisher of OnEarth). Suh is the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, appointed to the post by President Obama in 2009. She oversees the agency’s $12 billion budget and more […]
2:36 PM | What’s Inside a 13-foot Colossal Squid? There’s Only One Way to Find Out…
By Susan Cosier It’s an octopus! It’s a giant squid! No, no … it’s a colossal squid, a species so mysterious and elusive that humans rarely get a glimpse of one (outside of their nightmares). But now you can see the second intact specimen ever caught—though, this dissection video shows the squid becoming very much less intact. If you can handle it, skip to minute 6:57 for all the gooey goodness. Fishermen hauled up the […]
1:13 PM | To Catch a Predator
By Mary X. Dennis This week marks the beginning of black bear-hunting season across much of upstate New York, with wildlife officials permitting the "sport" in some parts of the state for the first time in decades.At last count, New York had as many as 8,000 black bears, and many of them have been venturing out of remote territories in the Adirondack, Catskill, and Allegheny mountains to more populated places in central New York, increasing the number of […]

September 16, 2014

4:36 PM | faulty cement well casings cause of fracking related contamination
A new study finds that the well casing – the cement that seals the drill holes – to be the cause of fracking related water contamination.  It has been a little unclear if the well casings were the cause of … Continue reading →
2:39 PM | Fore! Critically Endangered Bat Hits the Putting Green...
By Susan Cosier The Miami Bat Squad (not the Vice squad, though we wish) just found what could be the first known roost of the critically endangered Florida bonneted bat in decades. The bat is one of the rarest mammals in the world, and scientists don’t know much about them—except that only a few hundred remain, thanks to pesticides and habitat destruction (a.k.a. development). But without swampy forests and wetlands, these mysterious night […]

September 15, 2014

4:52 PM | Forging a New Path
By Kim Tingley More than a century ago, as America’s first national parks began taking shape out West, there really wasn’t too much else out there. Few people back then could imagine a day when those vast swaths—2.2 million acres for Yellowstone; one million for Glacier; three-quarters of a million for Yosemite—would come to seem more like specks amid an ever-growing expanse of human settlement. But at the very least, people thought, […]
2:12 PM | Will Scotland Bet the Kingdom on Offshore Oil?
By Susan Cosier Scots will vote Thursday on whether to remain in the United Kingdom, and many separatists are hoping to rely on revenue from offshore oil rigs—like this one off the Scottish Highlands—to power the country and fund its schools, health care, and social welfare programs. There’s just one problem: the oil beds off Scotland's coast are drying up. Four decades of drilling in the North Sea has substantially decreased the amount of […]

September 12, 2014

6:59 PM | Saving a Sea of Strange
By Jason Bittel Coral is weird stuff. Reefs can stretch for miles, but the actual animal (yes, coral’s an animal) is pretty tiny—a single polyp attaching itself to other polyps to form massive undersea ecosystems. Coral have tentacles, mouths, and exoskeletons. Some look like fans. Some look like trees. Others look like brains. And they range from the rock-hard to the soft and slimy. But many of the 6,000-plus coral species have at least one […]
2:30 PM | Canada Lynx Protections Slink into New Mexico
By Susan Cosier The Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday that it will protect the Canada lynx in New Mexico. Yay! The big cat—which lives in forested areas of Canada (duh), New England, the Northwest, and the Rockies down to New Mexico—is now considered "threatened" throughout the Lower 48. The agency, however, did not designate any critical habitat for the species in the southern Rockies or New England. This means hunting the animal […]

September 11, 2014

4:08 PM | Chalk Like an Egyptian
By Brian Palmer The year is 9014. While digging up the remains of our civilization, our distant descendants happen upon the painting below. You may recognize the work as Edward Hicks’ The Peaceable Kingdom, but what will future humans—or perhaps the mutant rats that have inherited the Earth—think of it? Many big-cat species may not survive two more decades, let alone seven millennia. What will future beings think of those two enormous […]
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