Writings

The bright side of this winter’s big chill: Fewer mosquitoes this summer

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 24, 2013   View Article

As the bitter cold in the northeastern United States keeps even hardy New Hampshire skiers off the slopes, there’s at least one potential upside to the cold snap: fewer mosquitoes come summer, according to an entomologist riding out the cold in upstate New York.

“Most arthropods have the ability to super-cool themselves in order to survive extreme cold winters in the ranges they’ve become adapted to. However, if unusually cold temperatures strike, it could be below their threshold of tolerance,” Cornell University’s Laura Harrington explained via email to NBC News.

Wind passes record in 2012, but stinker feared in 2013

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 23, 2013   View Article

Government incentives pushed newly-installed wind-generating capacity to a new high in 2012, but the outlook for 2013 is grim, according to an industry analyst.

“The year-end numbers are the ones that make the headlines, so last year was a record year,” Amy Grace, a wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told NBC News

Surprising strategy to fight global warming: Cut down on soot

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 17, 2013   View Article

A quick hit way to slow the pace of global warming may be to tackle soot emissions from things such as diesel cars and coal-burning cookstoves, according to a new study that finds the black carbon these devices emit is the second-biggest contributor to global climate change.

All told, soot has about two-thirds the effect on warming as the best-known greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The findings push methane, which is emitted by everything from belching cattle to fracking operations, from the No. 2 spot.

Warmest springs on record bring earliest flowers

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 16, 2013   View Article

During the exceptionally warm springs of 2010 and 2012, plants bloomed earlier in the eastern U.S. than they have since the American writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau started keeping records near Walden Pond in 1852.

Many plants now flower several weeks earlier than they did in the 19th century, a response linked to increasingly warmer springs due to global climate change.

For example, in Massachusetts, plants are flowering 20 days earlier now than they were during Thoreau’s time. In Wisconsin, where data on flowering dates was recorded by environmentalist and writer Aldo Leopold in the 1930s, flowering dates are, on average, 24 days earlier.

Cold snaps linked to plague, civil unrest

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 14, 2013   View Article

Prolonged cold snaps over the past 1,000 years in Eastern Europe coincided with plague outbreaks, civil unrest and declines in human settlement, according to a new study that also finds the region is warmer now than it has been for the past millennium.

“It is not accurate to say that whenever it is cold you have problems, that is not the case, but there is a tendency,” study leader Ulf Buntgen, a paleoclimatologist at the Swiss Federal Research Institute in Zurich, told NBC News.

Climate warming? Snakes are cool with that

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 11, 2013   View Article

Several snake species appear to have enough flexibility in what time of day they hunt in order to survive — and perhaps thrive — on a warming planet, according to a recent study.

The result is “contrary to what I had anticipated,” Patrick Weatherhead, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Illinois, told NBC News.

Material generates power from water vapor

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 10, 2013   View Article

When scientist Mingming Ma interlocked two different polymers in hopes of creating a new type of electrode to stimulate atrophied muscles, he made something more powerful: an artificial muscle, or actuator, that can generate electricity by drawing on water vapor.

“The first time I synthesized this material, I put the film on my hand and I found it was just moving by itself,” the chemical engineer at MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research told NBC News. “That was very surprising, so I decided to find out why.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach