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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    Green sea turtle

    • Up to 99% of endangered green sea turtles born on Australia's east coast are female, which poses a grave threat to the long-term survival of the species.
    • The culprit is increasing temperatures. Green sea turtles don't develop into males or females based on sex chromosomes — rather, it's the temperature outside of the egg that determines the gender of the embryo.
    • If temperatures to continue to rise, some turtle populations are at risk of becoming "completely feminized," which could, in turn, wipe out the population over the course of a few decades. 


    There's something strange happening with green sea turtle populations in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and now scientists believe they have figured out why.

    A new study in the journal Current Biology found that 99% of green sea turtles born in prime nesting habitat on Australia's east coast are female — which poses a serious problem for the survival of the endangered species. The reason, according to the study's authors, has everything to do with rising temperatures.

    Unlike humans — and most other species — green sea turtles do not develop into males and females based on sex chromosomes. Rather, the temperature outside of a turtle egg — while the embryo is developing — controls the gender. At a "pivot" temperature (29.3 degrees Celsius), turtles hatch with a relatively even split between males and females, according to the researchers. 

    Green sea turtle

    But just a few degrees above the pivot temperature, and the hatched turtles will skew female. That's exactly what's happening among the turtle populations the researchers observed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The transitional range of temperatures that produce 100% female or 100% male turtles is just a few degrees Celsius, the researchers note, so small variations in temperature year-to-year can have disastrous effects on the long-term survival of a green sea turtle population. 

    And green sea turtles play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem around them healthy, primarily by chomping down on seagrass beds. 

    In one population towards the southern end of the reef, the turtles skewed 65-69% female, according to the researchers.While that's bad for that populatio' survival rate, it's not nearly as alarming as what the researchers found in a genetically distinct population in the warmer areas toward the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.

    Up to 99% of these hatched turtles, including juveniles and young adults, were female, which poses an existential threat to the population. It's one of the largest populations of the endangered species left, with an estimated 200,000 nesting females, according to the researchers. 

    The problem seems to be getting worse with each generation. Researchers found that adult-sized turtles in the northern population were around 87% female. Just a few generations later, that proportion increased to 99%.

    The culprit is rising temperatures. 

    baby green sea turtles

    When the researchers combined their data with temperature data, they found the northern population has been producing primarily females for over two decades. If temperatures continue to increase, or at least fail to stabilize, the researchers said the "complete feminization" of this population of turtles is possible in the near future. 

    While male turtles exhibit "polygynous" behavior — that is, they have several partners — which helps mitigate skewed gender ratio, the problem is likely to continue getting worse before the turtles can adapt to the changing climate. 

    A recent study in the journal Nature found the planet may get up to 15% hotter by the end of the century than scientists had originally projected. The turtle researchers warned that without proper management, we could see these critical green sea turtle populations go extinct within a few decades. 

    SEE ALSO: The US spent more money on weather disasters in 2017 than any year on record — here's the final total

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what losing weight does to your body and brain

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    Palm Beach Florida

    • Last week, the Trump Administration announced a plan to potentially open 98% of US waters to offshore drilling.
    • Florida Governor Rick Scott quickly voiced his opposition, as did many other coastal governors.
    • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke now says Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts will be off-limits to drilling because the state is "obviously unique." 


    Last Thursday, the Trump Administration released a plan that would allow the US government to lease out nearly all federal waters to oil companies for offshore drilling. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has reversed course on part of that plan, saying the Florida coast is now "off the table" because the state is "obviously unique."

    "The president made it very clear that local voices count," Zinke said, according to the Associated Press, adding, "we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, which clearly the governor has expressed that’s important."

    The original plan, announced by the Department of the Interior last week, would allow oil companies to bid for drilling rights in nearly all US waters over the next five years, save for a few marine sanctuaries and congressionally banned spots. The plan includes Atlantic and Pacific waters that hadn't been up for grabs since the 1980s. 

    This map shows what the original proposal, announced last week, included:

    Offshore drilling map jan 2018


    Florida Gov. Rick Scott was a vocal opponent of the plan, and promised to set up a meeting with the administration as soon as possible to discuss his disapproval. Protecting the state's natural resources, he said, is more important than opening up its waters for oil extraction.

    Florida's economy has been threatened by drilling mishaps before: In 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon spill sent oil gushing into the waters near Louisiana and Mississippi, Florida lost millions of tourism dollars, Reuters reported

    The Florida Ocean Alliance estimates that coastal counties in the state drive 79% of its economy, with tourism and recreation accounting for the vast majority. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that fishing, tourism and related industries in the state employ over 383,300 Floridians.

    But Florida isn't the only state where the economy is inextricably linked to the ocean, of course. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that in 2014, the so-called ocean economy contributed more than $352 billion to US GDP and supported 3.1 million jobs. 

    Officials from other coastal states are furious about the decision to spare Florida from drilling, since their strong opposition to the plan seems to be getting ignored so far. California's State Attorney General was quick to raise his voice on Twitter Tuesday night:

    CA AG Xavier Becerra drilling tweet

    The California Coastal Commission said that "producing oil and gas in these areas could have significant, longterm, and far-reaching effects on marine and coastal wildlife, commercial fishing, wetlands, ocean and beach users, and coastal tourism." 

    Many other states argue their coastline and waters are "unique" as well. Governors, tribal leaders, members of Congress, public officials, and members of the general public submitted public comments voicing their concern about the plan to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

    Leaders of states up and down both coasts, including Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia and New York all agreed they were against the idea last week. But unlike Florida, none of those states voted for Trump in 2016. 

    Now other states that pulled the lever for Trump in 2016 want their voices heard, too. After hearing about Florida's special treatment, South Carolina's Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said he's pressing the administration for an exemption from the plan for his state, the Star Telegram reported. Meanwhile up the shoreline in North Carolina, democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vocal opposition to the idea is at odds with his Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest, who said offshore drilling could bring "thousands of jobs" to that state.

    SEE ALSO: The Trump Administration is proposing auctioning off nearly all US coastal waters for offshore drilling

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These Greek beaches are covered in black sludge after more than 2,500 tons of oil spilled from a tanker

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    Bill de Blasio

    • New York City is taking on fossil fuels by divesting billions from the city's pension funds, and suing five oil companies.
    • The city alleges the fossil fuel industry was aware for decades that burning fuel was impacting climate change.
    • The defendants in the city's federal lawsuit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.


    New York City is taking on the oil industry on two fronts, announcing a lawsuit Wednesday that blames the top five oil companies for contributing to global warming and saying the city will sell off billions in fossil fuel investments from the city's pension funds.

    Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio received immediate blowback from some of the companies, while winning praise from environmentalists and others.

    "We're bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits," the mayor said. "As climate change continues to worsen, it's up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient."

    The city alleges the fossil fuel industry was aware for decades that burning fuel was impacting climate change.

    The defendants in the city's federal lawsuit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. Three of the companies shot back against the mayor's accusations, while two others — ConocoPhillips and BP — declined to enter the fray.

    New York City skyline

    "Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions," said Exxon Mobil's Scott Silvestri. "Lawsuits of this kind — filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life — simply do not do that."

    Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall called the lawsuit meritless and said the litigation will do nothing to address climate change. Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said the courts are not the venue to address climate change.

    New York's lawsuit, filed in federal court follows similar litigation filed by San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz in California.

    Also Wednesday, de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer said they intend to divest the city's five pension funds of roughly $5 billion in fossil fuel investments out of its total of $189 billion. They say the divestment is the largest of any municipality in the U.S. to date.

    "Safeguarding the retirement of our city's police officers, teachers and firefighters is our top priority, and we believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet," Stringer said.

    Clara Vondrich of the DivestInvest campaign says the city joins a movement that started about six years ago. She says hundreds of institutional investors managing assets of over $5.5 trillion have taken their money out of fossil fuel investments.

    exxon mobil

    Last month, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to have the state pension funds also divest from fossil fuel investments. He and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are creating an advisory committee to examine the way to proceed with divestment.

    In November, Norway's central bank urged the Norwegian government to consider divesting oil and gas company shares held in the $1 trillion oil fund.

    Vondrich said other cities and entities selling off fossil fuel interests have included Berlin and Washington, D.C.; insurance companies Swiss Re, Axa and Allianz; and educational institutions such as the University of Oxford in Great Britain, Stanford University in California and Trinity College in Ireland.

    Philanthropies have included the Wallace Global Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notable because the late John D. Rockefeller grew his wealth as an oil baron.

    Kyle Isakower, vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, has previously said that divestment is a "tactic of misinformed activists" that is "incompatible with job creation, affordable energy, and economic prosperity." The industry group's New York executive director, Karen Moreau, accused him of hurting pension holders in "a disgraceful way to score cheap political points."

    Linda Kelly, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group, called the lawsuit a stunt.

    "Ironically, this attack on energy manufacturers comes at a time that New Yorkers have depended on natural gas and heating oil to carry them through the recent extreme cold," she said. "The mayor's announcement may raise his profile, but it will do nothing to address climate change and will ultimately fail."

    Longtime environmental activist Bill McKibben called the actions by the city "one of a handful of the most important developments" in the past 30 years. "The mightiest city on the planet has now sort of walked into a real fight with the richest and most irresponsible industry on the planet," he said.

    SEE ALSO: The world's largest oil and gas companies are getting greener after fighting with shareholders for months

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    NOW WATCH: Why you should never throw away these bags again

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    Theresa May

    • Theresa May will announce plans to extend the 5p plastic charge and tell retailers to create plastic-free aisles in order to crack down on plastic waste.
    • The prime minister will vow to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.
    • Labour described the move as a "cynical attempt at rebranding" the Tory party's image.

    LONDON — Theresa May will today pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 in a speech on her government's environmental policies.

    The prime minister is set to outline a 25-year plan for addressing the "one of the great environmental scourges of our time" which will involve extending the 5p plastic carrier bag charge to all retailers in England and supermarkets being encouraged to sell shelve food without plastic packaging.

    "Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership.  We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates," May will say on Thursday morning. "To tackle it we will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic."

    The prime minister is set to announce the following policies:

    • The extension of the 5p plastic bag charge to all retailers in England.
    • Encourage retailers to introduce plastic-free aisles where all food is loose.
    • Assessment of how extra tax or charges could be used to reduce plastic waste.
    • New funding for plastics innovation.
    • Help developing nations decrease plastic waste through UK aid. 

    Labour has accused the Conservatives of a "cynical attempt" at "rebranding the Tories' image" amid concern within May's party that it is struggling to connect with young people.

    The Liberal Democrats said it "beggared belief" that a 25-year target had been announced when action was required immediately.

    In a speech this morning, May is expected to say: "We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do.

    "In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.

    "In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.

    "This plastic is ingested by dozens of species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds, causing immense suffering to individual creatures and degrading vital habitats.

    "1 million birds, and over 100,000 other sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. One in three fish caught in the English Channel contains pieces of plastic.

    "This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time." She'll add "I want the Britain of the future to be a truly Global Britain, which is a force for good in the world. Steadfast in upholding our values – not least our fierce commitment to protecting the natural environment.

    "When we host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April we will put the sustainable development of our oceans firmly on the agenda.

    "We will work with our partners to create a Commonwealth Blue Charter and push for strong action to reduce plastic waste in the ocean.

    "We will direct our development spending to help developing nations reduce plastic waste, increase our own marine protected areas at home, and establish new Blue Belt protections in our Overseas Territories."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This congressman wants to target the USPS to help stop the opioid crisis

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    climate change trump removal


    The Trump Administration is quietly changing things on .gov websites — and a group of academics and non-profits is keeping track.

    The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) released a new report on Wednesday that details how references to our changing climate and greenhouse gases have been erased from federal webpages since President Donald Trump took office. 

    But new side-by-side comparisons from EDGI provide a kind of virtual trip back in time to the web before Trump took office, shedding light on the subtle ways that the administration is making it harder to track down information about climate change and alternative energy sources online.

    However, the group also said that climate research and data does not seem to be getting totally scrapped from online government archives, and federally funded reporting on climate change continues. In November, the administration signed off on a report from federal scientists saying that "there is no convincing alternative explanation" for the "continuing, rapid, human-caused warming of the global atmosphere and ocean."

    Nonetheless, these snapshots reveal what's missing from the updated federal websites:

    SEE ALSO: The Trump administration is removing Florida from its offshore drilling plan because the state is 'obviously unique' — and other coastal states are furious

    Some of the changes on the web mirror federal policy shifts since Trump took office. For example, The Bureau of Land Management says 'clean and renewable energy' isn't a priority anymore.

    The BLM website used to say that the agency was focused on "energy for today and tomorrow" and "leading the way in allowing for orderly, environmentally responsible development" of sun, wind, and geothermal energy sources.

    You can see the old page here, thanks to the Wayback Machine. 

    Today, the same page says the US favors an "all of the above" energy approach: "The BLM supports the America First Energy Plan, which includes oil and gas, coal, strategic minerals, and renewable energy resources such as wind, geothermal and solar," the website reads. 

    The top priority listed on the BLM website now is "making America safe through energy independence." 

    Some content has been completely scrapped from official sites. This old part of the Environmental Protection Agency's website no longer exists:

    The deleted content isn't just educational.

    Vital information that state officials and experts could use to respond to flooding, hurricanes, and other natural disasters is no longer easily accessible on the web, EDGI says.

    For example, plans the EPA drew up for "climate change adaptation"— including advice about how to prepare for flooding and get protection from toxic chemical exposure —are much harder to find now. 

    Most of these things are still available on archived federal pages. (You can access the old version of the page shown above here.) But not everything is still in those records.

    Some educational materials have been taken down completely, like this old EPA page for kids:

    "Of all agencies, the EPA has removed the most climate web content," the EDGI report says.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    • According to McDonald's sustainability goals, the company plans to drop foam packaging globally by 2019.
    • The chain also said it will switch to packaging made from recycled materials in every location by 2020.
    • The changes are in response to environmental concerns, since foam packaging is hard to recycle.


    If you order an extra-large soda at McDonald's, the fast-food giant might give you a foam cup to fill. But that's about to change.

    By the end of 2018, McDonald's says it will ditch foam cold-beverage cups and trays in every location around the world. The company also plans to use 100% recycled fiber-based packaging globally by 2020. Fiber-based packaging currently makes up over half of all cups, wrappings, containers, and trays, according to McDonald's.

    This is the first time McDonald's has committed to a strict deadline to drop foam materials, which represent 2% of its packaging.

    In recent years, environmental groups and some customers have expressed concerns about the toll McDonald's single-use foam packaging takes on the environment, since it's nearly impossible to recycle.

    According to a 2015 report by environmental NGOs As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council, most large food brands are not doing much to address the issue. The report analyzed 47 food companies — including McDonald's, Burger King, and Domino's Pizza — based on what they call the "four pillars of packaging sustainability:" switching to reusable packaging; recycled content; recyclability and materials use; and boosting materials recycling. None of the 47 brands fulfilled all four pillars.

    McDonald's initially made the foam-packaging announcement on its website in May 2016, and published a report that further outlined its sustainability goals.

    In 1986, the company started serving burgers and chicken nuggets in foam "clamshells," but later dropped them in 1990. A year later, it switched to more environmentally friendly paper wrappings and containers in some locations.

    The latest decision to stop using foam packaging could encourage other fast-food giants to do the same.

    SEE ALSO: 11 photos that show how McDonald's has changed since the 1950s

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what losing weight does to your body and brain

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    WINDFARM FEATURE puerto rico blackout after Hurricane Maria

    • An estimated 1.5 million Puerto Ricans remain without power more than three months after Hurricane Maria lashed the US territory.
    • Early this month, the island's energy commission unveiled a handful of proposed regulations that could revamp the island's power grid.
    • Those proposals emphasize the importance of clean, renewable power from wind and solar — something experts say the rest of the US should embrace, too.


    The lights are still out in more than half of Puerto Rico.

    After Hurricane Maria struck the US territory on September 20, a crippling blackout descended over its 3.4 million residents, cutting communication between loved ones, spoiling food and life-saving medications, and nixing access to banks and clean water.

    The death toll, initially estimated at 64, is now thought to be at least 1,000, according to a recent New York Times analysis.

    More than three months after the storm, 1.5 million Puerto Ricans remain without power, and hundreds of thousands have no clean water.

    It's the result of an abused electric grid left to rot — and what's happening in Puerto Rico could happen in many other parts of America. 

    Many mainland states depend on a dilapidated and crumbling network of coal-fired power plants and natural-gas pipelines for electricity, as does Puerto Rico. Many parts of the system are just one big natural disaster — superstorm, flood, wildfire, earthquake — away from being decimated.

    "Generally speaking, the US gets about a D+ for things like this," Vivek Shandas, an urban-planning professor at Portland State University, told Business Insider after the fall's triple threat of hurricanes lashed Puerto Rico and mainland US. "Much of our infrastructure was built in the late 1800s and it's beginning to fall apart."

    Yet some experts say the storms have offered up a silver-lining for Puerto Rico: the chance to rebuild better, stronger, and cleaner.

    Early this month, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission unveiled a handful of proposed regulations designed to help nail down what the future of power will look like on the island.

    The biggest takeaway after more than 50 companies and organizations weighed in was that microgrids — mini power networks like wind farms or solar arrays that can often function without direct links to the main grid — will play an important role in the territory's energy future.

    Experts say the rest of the US should follow suit.

    'This is a time where we could help Puerto Rico take a major level jump'

    As in much of the mainland US, the power grid in Puerto Rico is more of a patchwork than a unified network. Most of the island’s large power plants lie on its southern coast, but most of its people live in the north, beyond mountainous terrain that makes distributing power difficult. Power plants owned by Puerto Rico’s bankrupt government-owned power authority, Prepa, are four decades old on average.

    WINDFARM FEATURE Tesla tau island microgrid solar 2

    The week after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico and unleashed the single largest blackout in US history, Blake Richetta, the senior vice president of a renewable-energy company called Sonnen, boarded a plane bound for the island. Sonnen makes solar batteries designed to supply homes with an independent source of energy, similar to the Powerwall systems built by Tesla.

    “We got started as soon as we could,” Richetta told Business Insider. “We knew there was going to be a disastrous situation, and we prepared for the worst.”

    To Richetta, providing support was a necessity. But the situation also gave Sonnen the chance to showcase the potential of renewable energy systems as a way to provide immediate power to people in need.

    “This is a time where we could help Puerto Rico take a major level jump,” Richetta said. “It’s a humanitarian crisis, but it’s also a huge opportunity for growth.”

    Sonnen's batteries capture and store the power made by solar panels when the sun is shining so that it can be used later when it’s cloudy or dark. 

    Richetta and a handful of Sonnen staff set up half a dozen solar microgrids in communal areas in some of Puerto Rico’s hardest-hit neighborhoods, in partnership with a company called Pura Energia.

    In Humacao, a blacked-out province where people were using bacteria-infested streams for washing and laundry, Sonnen and Pura Energia helped set up washing machines powered by the sun. In another part of the island, the companies used the microgrids to set up cellphone-charging stations so that people could attempt to reach out to loved ones on other parts of the island or in the mainland US.

    A movement towards a cleaner, cheaper, and more balanced grid

    Microgrid systems are already helping provide some coverage to various parts of the mainland US — but most of these projects are still in the early stages.

    WINDFARM FEATURE ams tesla powerpack microgrid installation socal edison

    In Southern California, a company called Advanced Microgrid Solutions is spearheading a project that involves replacing the energy that was once provided by a large (now decommissioned) nuclear power plant with a series of solar arrays and batteries that AMS can turn on and off based on when the prices for conventional energy are low and when there’s the most demand.

    “We take hundreds of buildings — picture entire city blocks — and each building has a battery. We get the information from each battery, each building, and operate the whole fleet of buildings like one virtual power plant,” Manal Yamout, a vice president at Advanced Microgrid Solutions, told Business Insider.

    The AMS system is still connected to the wider grid, and it isn't designed to provide stand-alone power. But it could.

    Islanded microgrids — systems that can run independently of the wider grid — can power entire communities.

    Ta’u Island in American Samoa is one example of this. There, Elon Musk's energy company, Tesla, has built a network of 5,328 solar panels and 60 Powerpack batteries that supply the entire island with clean energy. On the Hawaiian island of Kauai, a Tesla solar farm accounts for a fifth of the island's peak energy demand.

    The way Yamout sees it, it's less about various individual projects and more about a bigger movement towards a cleaner, cheaper, and more balanced grid. In the event of a natural disaster or emergency, these systems are much more resilient, and perhaps even critical. But if deployed across the entire US, they would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clean up our air, promote energy independence, and make energy distribution more cost-effective and convenient.

    "It’s not just about batteries. This is going to take the form of things consumers are adopting anyway — things like the smart thermostats, electric vehicles. It's going to transform the way the grid operates," Yamout said.

    SEE ALSO: Here's how technology is shaping the future of education

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    mudslides ca jan 12 2018

    The death toll is rising as mudslides continue to ravage southern California. 

    Nineteen people have died as a result of the disaster in the wealthy enclave of Montecito, a community about 90 miles up the coast from Los Angeles.

    The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says finding anyone alive in the muck at this point would be a "miracle," even as rescue workers continue searching for survivors this weekend. The eighteenth victim, an 87-year-old man, was found dead in his home on Friday, the Associated Press reported, and 25-year-old Morgan Christine Corey's body was found Saturday in the mud.

    Rescue workers are using search and rescue dogs to help wade through the mud and rocks — which is sometimes thigh-deep or higher — to search homes and cars. The damage from torrential rains was made worse by recent wildfires in the area that charred the earth and scrubbed the land of vegetation, making the ground slicker and the slides more dramatic.

    Take a look at what rescue crews are dealing with as they survey the deadly damage: 

    SEE ALSO: This year's deadly flu season is reaching its peak — here's how to tell if you're contagious

    Cal Fire search and rescue crews used their hands to get free as they trudged through the mud, looking for survivors.

    Most people who have evacuated are being told to stay away from their homes for at least two weeks, the Associated Press reported. 

    Crews are using search-and-rescue dogs to hunt for victims.

    But time is running out, as authorities plead for the public's help locating six people who are still missing.

    Source: Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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  • 01/15/18--05:38: Do lobsters feel pain?
  • Boil Lobster

    • A new animal protection law in Switzerland requires that lobsters be stunned before being cooked.
    • Animal rights activists and some scientists argue that lobsters' central nervous systems are complex enough that they can feel pain. 
    • There is no conclusive evidence about whether lobsters can feel pain.

    People are more sensitive about killing lobsters than other animals.

    Few diners cringe at the thought of a fish slowly suffocating to death or being slaughtered on the deck of a boat, for instance, but there is considerable more stress associated with dropping Maine's icon into a pot of boiling water.

    In Switzerland, lobsters now must be stunned before they are killed, according to a new animal protection law that will take effect in March.

    But the research on whether or not these creatures feel pain is still inconclusive.

    The Lobster Institute in Maine argues that the lobster's primitive nervous system is most similar to the nervous system of an insect. And while lobsters react to sudden stimulus, like twitching their tails when placed in boiling water, they do not have complex brains that allow them to process pain like humans and other animals do, the institute maintains.

    "Cooking a lobster is like cooking a big bug," said Robert Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute. He added: "Do you have the same concern when you kill a fly or a mosquito?"

    Most consumers still don't see it that way. Lobsters inspire more compassion than chicken, pork, or other fish because it is one of the few foods that urbanites have to kill themselves when cooking.

    In 2014, a scientist from Queen's University in Belfast argued that lobsters and other crustaceans probably do feel pain, on the grounds that crabs in a study learned to avoid a hideaway where they were repeatedly given an electric shock. A Norwegian study from 2005 concluded the opposite: lobsters do not have brains, so they do not feel pain.

    In 2006, Whole Foods banned the sale of live lobsters and crabs in its stores — with the exception of those in Maine — citing that transporting, storing, and cooking live animals was inhumane. In 2013, a video released by PETA that showed live lobsters being ripped apart by hand at a Maine processor again struck a chord with animal rights groups.

    We will never know how the lobster feels, which is why the Lobster Institute focuses on ways to cook lobster so that "it minimizes our own trauma," said Bayer.

    He suggested putting the lobster in either fresh cold water or chilling it in the freezer (without freezing it) before cooking. Both methods, according to Bayer, will "put the lobster to sleep."

    One Maine processor uses an 80,000-pound machine called the "Big Mother Shucker" to kill lobsters in just six seconds using high water pressure.

    Another option is the CrustaStun, a device that home chefs can purchase for several thousand dollars to "zap lobster's nervous system in one jolt," said Trevor Corson, author of "The Secret Life of Lobsters."

    A large kitchen knife will also make for a quick death when cooks hold the lobster upside down and slice it in half from the tail to the head. Corson provides step-by-step instructions for this method on his blog.


    As for the most humane way to kill a lobster, "there's no absolute answer," said Bayer. It's based on what we perceive as pain or perhaps hear as "screams," even if those sounds are just the steam escaping the lobster's shell.

    SEE ALSO: Maine processor has an incredible way of getting lobster out of its shell

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    NOAA deep ocean

    There's a spectacular, uncharted alien world right off the Gulf Coast, and a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) expedition sought to uncover its secrets.

    This past December, a NOAA team, aboard the Okeanos Explorer, conducted the first of three month-long studies of the deepest parts of the Gulf of Mexico, with the dual aim of exploring the diversity of deep-water habitats and mapping the seafloor. 

    Using a mix of remote-operated submersibles (ROVs), and shore-based instruments, the team brought back stunning images of previously unexplored areas. 

    Here's a sample of what they found in the inky depths:

    SEE ALSO: Here are the most stunning images NASA has ever taken of our planet

    Over dozens of dives, NOAA's submersibles brought back images of deep-water creatures that had seldom been observed before.

    Here, the coiled tip of a bamboo coral is pictured growing out of the sediment on the seafloor, thousands of feet below the surface. 

    A submersible explores a shipwreck first spotted by an offshore drilling exploration firm in 2002.

    The submersible, Deep Discoverer, conducted a full archaeological survey of the wreck, collecting 3D mosaic images and analyzing the life living on it. NOAA's researchers believe the ship is a merchant vessel dating back to around 1830. 

    In this image, you can see a tiny snake star, surrounded by the spiny arms of larger sea stars coiled among the branches of a coral, at a depth of 1,315 feet.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    delhi smog

    • 2017 was the second warmest year on record, just ahead of 2015 and behind 2016, according to NASA.
    • The five hottest years on record have all occurred since 2010.
    • The warming is directly attributable to human-caused greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. 


    Last year was the second warmest year on record since 1880, second only to 2016, NASA scientists said on Thursday.

    The global average temperature for 2017 was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average temperature from 1951 through 1980, according to the group of scientists led by Gavin Schmidt at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. 

    2017 was also the third year in a row in which global temperatures were at least 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above late nineteenth-century levels. Last year's average temperature was slightly higher than that in 2015, Schmidt said on a call with reporters. 

    Despite the US' recent bout of frigid weather and snowstorms, the planet's overall temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the last century, and that warming is directly attributable to the greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that humans have pumped into the atmosphere. 

    "Despite colder than average temperatures in any one part of the world, temperatures over the planet as a whole continue the rapid warming trend we’ve seen over the last 40 years," Schmidt said, adding, "Basically all the warming in the last 60 years is attributable to human activity. Carbon dioxide emissions are one component of that."

    nasa 2017 global warming

    Temperatures in 2015 and 2016 were affected by an El Nino event, in which warmer Pacific Ocean currents cause warming across the globe, NASA said. If El Nino's effect were statistically removed from the record, 2017 would actually have been the warmest year. 

    A separate, independent analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that 2017 was the third-warmest year in their record. The quibble is because NOAA uses a different method to measure temperatures in the planet's polar regions — which are warming faster than anywhere else — Deke Arndt, a climate scientist at NOAA, said on the call with reporters.

    Both analyses note the same long-term warming trend, however: The five warmest years on record have all taken place since 2010. 

    Last year, scientists also observed massive declines in sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. When sea ice levels decline, that can create a vicious cycle that increases the rate at which more ice melts.

    "The absence of sea ice means less sunlight is reflected back to the surface, and that tends to add to the heating already underway," Arndt said.

    The warming planet is already causing wide-ranging problems for endangered species, like green sea turtles, as well as residents of coastal cities.

    The US spent more money on weather-related disasters like wildfires and hurricanes in 2017 than any other year, according to a recent analysis from NOAA. Such extreme events are only expected to get more frequent and severe as the Earth's average temperature continues to rise. 

    SEE ALSO: The US spent more money on weather disasters in 2017 than any year on record — here's the final total

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    NOW WATCH: Here's what could happen to Earth over the next 500 years

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    Blue Planet II

    • "Blue Planet II" premieres in the US on Saturday, January 20 at 9 pm ET.
    • For the series, producers spent more than 6,000 hours underwater over four years, visiting 39 countries on 125 expeditions.
    • The footage they captured is breathtaking, heartbreaking, and stunning.

    Earth's oceans make life possible. They're the reason that when the planet is viewed from space, we call it a "blue dot."

    "Blue Planet II," a BBC Natural History Unit production that premieres in the US on Saturday, offers the most breathtaking look at the oceans yet.

    The producers take viewers to the surprisingly full-of-life waters 3,280 feet deep in the Antarctic. The cameras show an octopus battling a shark in a struggle to stay alive. There's a journey to try and finally discover where whale sharks give birth, and a look at how orcas use their powerful tails to kill herring with shockwaves.

    At one point, the show's production team even filmed life in the deepest parts of the ocean, seven miles down, where scientists didn't know anything could live. Creatures there are under pressure equivalent to 50 jumbo jets stacked on top of each other.

    There are at least 12 scientific papers being published based on what the teams observed.

    "As filmmakers, it has been unbelievably exciting to make these films in collaboration and true unity with the scientists who can unlock the secrets to this magical world," Orla Doherty, the producer of the new series' second and seventh episodes, told Business Insider. "I feel like we've pushed the boundary of what we know about the ocean just that little bit more." 

    Blue Planet II

    Our blue planet

    The original "Blue Planet" series came out in 2001, and was one of the first nature documentaries narrated by David Attenborough that captivated the world with the mystery and beauty of Earth's seas. It was followed by other stunning series like "Planet Earth" and "Life," which each showed how remarkable our planet is from other new perspectives.

    In "Blue Planet II," the producers take viewers further and deeper underwater to show how alien and otherworldly the ocean can be and remind humans of how connected we are to the sea.

    "This place isn’t just beautiful, it isn’t just full of extraordinary animals doing really really incredible things," Doherty said. "Once you then stop and think, actually it’s a healthy, thriving, vibrant ocean that’s full of life and full of all the ecosystems doing their function, performing the services they do, that is what makes it okay for us to be living on this planet." 

    Blue Planet II

    True natural history

    As huge and full of life as the ocean is, people have the ability to impact it. The many ways in which human activity is causing widespread harm to the ocean and the creatures in it are shown to heartbreaking effect in several episodes.

    "We didn’t go out there as an environmental series at all but we went out there to film natural history and the natural history is that [the oceans are] changing," Doherty. "I went out to film deep sea corals, ancient animals that have been growing in the darkness of the deep, and what I found was a rubble field because a trawler had been through and had razed the corals to the ground. We came across these scenes over and over again, so it just became our obligation to include some of them because to show our audience an ocean and not show some of the ways we are changing it would have just been so untrue."

    As hard to watch as some of those scenes are, they're powerful.

    The show airs simultaneously on January 20 at 9 pm ET/8 pm Central on BBC America, AMC, IFC, WE TV, and Sundance TV. Check out the trailer below.

    SEE ALSO: The 23 best science movies and shows streaming on Netflix that will make you smarter

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    NOW WATCH: A sleep expert explains what happens to your body and brain if you don't get sleep

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    tectonic plates iceland hiking

    • Geologists predict the Earth could see about twice as many major earthquakes this year as in 2017. 
    • That's because the world is turning a little slower than usual, prompting the equator to shrink slightly, they say.
    • A skinnier equator makes the edges of tectonic plates squeeze together, so earthquakes are likely to happen faster.

    2018 has been a shaky year so far.

    The biggest earthquake yet happened early Tuesday morning, when a magnitude 7.9 quake shook the ocean floor in the Gulf of Alaska, about 174 miles off the coast.

    Just three hours before that, a 6.0 magnitude quake struck less than 25 miles from the shores of Binuangeun, Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an area prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

    Tuesday's two earthquakes were not the only big ones we've seen so far — as of January 23, there have already been three earthquakes that registered above a magnitude 7.0 in 2018. In 2017, the Earth only saw seven quakes that strong the entire year. 

    Scientists say an Earth-slowing phenomenon is likely contributing to the recent uptick in earthquakes around the globe. 

    You may not have noticed, but the Earth is taking things a little slow right now. Since 2011, our planet has been rotating at a pace a few thousandths of a second slower than usual.

    Our planetary spin cycle changes constantly — it's influenced by ocean currents and atmospheric changes, as well as the mantle and molten core underneath the Earth's crust. According to geologists Roger Bilham and Rebecca Bendick, the Earth's slowing could lead to more than twice as many earthquakes with at least magnitude 7.0 in 2018 than there were last year.

    Tectonic plates get squeezed together 

    Bilham, who studies earthquakes at the University of Colorado, told Business Insider that when the Earth's pace lags for years at a time, its middle contracts. That shrinks the equator, but it's hard for the tectonic plates that form Earth's outer shell to adjust accordingly.

    Instead of falling in line with the slimmer waistline, the edges of those plates get squeezed together.

    This takes time for us to feel on the ground. But after five years without many high-intensity quakes, we're approaching the moment when the effects of this squeeze could start to be felt around the globe, Bilham said. He estimates the planet could see, on average, 20 high-magnitude earthquakes in each of the next four years, from 2018 to 2021. 

    A man looks at a damaged building following an earthquake in the town of Darbandikhan, near the city of Sulaimaniyah, in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Iraq.

    This lagging-Earth phenomenon isn't prompting any earthquakes that weren't already in motion. Instead, Bilham said, the slower spin adds more stress and pressure to some of these impending quakes, pushing them to happen more quickly, especially in earthquake-prone zones.

    Preparing for more quakes

    Bendick, who studies geologic hazards at the University of Montana, wrote a report with Bilham last year warning about the trend of more frequent earthquakes, but their latest findings are still under review.

    She said it's important to remember that the Earth's rotation changes all the time, for all kinds of reasons — storms, snow buildup, and ocean patterns can all have an effect.

    But Bendick said earthquake records from the past 117 years suggest plate movement is sensitive to a special kind of 10-year rotational slowdown like the one we seem to be experiencing now. This is most likely because of "interactions of the lithosphere, mantle, and core," she told Business Insider in an email.

    The researchers suspect the effects of the phenomenon may be felt the most in spots near the equator, like Indonesia. At least four different tectonic plates meet up in Indonesia, and the most recent quake there happened less than 500 miles from the Earth's mid-line. 

    In the US, Alaska is home to 75% of all earthquakes that register higher than 5.0.

    The researchers say they hope city planners and politicians in earthquake-prone zones will heed their warning and work quickly to retrofit buildings or update emergency plans. They also advise people to talk to loved ones about disaster preparedness.

    "There is no good reason for people not to take simple steps to be better prepared," Bendick said.

    SEE ALSO: Much of the US could see a warmer-than-average winter season — here's the forecast for your region

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    NOW WATCH: Middle America has become an epicenter for earthquakes — and scientists now know why

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    • President Donald Trump signed off on a new 30% tax on imported solar panels Tuesday.
    • But most of the US jobs in the solar sector aren't in manufacturing, they're in installation. 
    • US companies say they're bracing for "meaningful job loss" because of the decision. 
    • But because the tax isn't permanent and is not as high as some had feared, solar installer stocks aren't taking a hit yet.

    Nearly every solar panel that will be put on a roof in the US just got a little more expensive. 

    On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed off on a new, temporary, 30% tax on imported solar panels. 

    Trump heralded the tariff as a job-creating measure on Tuesday, saying "we’re going to make our own product again. It’s been a long time."

    But most solar companies in the US say that's just not true. 

    As Bloomberg reports, about eight of every 10 solar panels in the US come from abroad, which means the new tariff will deal a serious blow to the solar industry in the states. 

    The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that the new tax will cost about 23,000 jobs in 2018, since fewer people are expected to buy panels at the higher price. (For a typical rooftop-style 250-watt solar panel, the price hike comes out to about $25 extra dollars a piece.) The job losses could include solar panel installers, manufacturers who make metal racks for holding the cells, and companies supplying add-on parts like inverters and machines that track the sun to improve cell performance. 

    US solar-cell producers, who this tariff is designed to help, employed 1,300 workers at their peak in 2012, according to the Associated Press. But the larger industry related to solar installation and solar energy in the US employs roughly 200 times that number of people. Currently, 260,000 people work in the US solar industry, earning between $26 and $45 dollars an hour on average, according to a recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund.

    According to a US Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis from October, solar photovoltaic installer was ranked the fastest-growing occupation, with an estimated growth rate of 105% between 2016 and 2026.

    Kevin Bassalleck is the president of the Albuquerque-based company Affordable Solar, which is working on a $45 million solar farm to power a data center for Facebook. Bassallec told Business Insider in an email that the new tax will "of course lead to a significant reduction in solar demand in the US market," and cause some consumers to re-think the idea of switching to solar energy. 

    "The gains that may materialize in module manufacturing won’t be nearly as much as the near certain losses in the rest of the US manufacturing supply chain and installation jobs," Bassalleck said. 

    In 2016, new solar capacity around the world grew by 50%, according to the International Energy Agency. For the first time, the capacity of new solar installations rose faster than any other fuel, including coal. The EDF now estimates that demand for solar will fall 9% because of the new tax.

    solar tariff

    But the tax may not be completely catastrophic for the US solar industry. In November, Bloomberg reported that a tariff of 30-35% would make the price of a solar module close to what it was for developers in the fall of 2016. 

    Plus, the tariff isn't permanent — it will decrease incrementally over the next four years to a final tax of 15%.

    SEE ALSO: Trump administration slaps steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels

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    NOW WATCH: Why energy stocks are a great bet

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    castle bravo shrimp nuclear test blast bikini atoll mushroom cloud noaa

    • The Doomsday Clock, started during the Cold War, symbolizes the threat to global civilization posed by humans.
    • A panel of experts on Thursday changed the clock to two minutes to midnight, a forward movement of 30 seconds.
    • The time is "is as close as it has ever been to midnight in the 71-year history of the clock."
    • Several factors contributed to the clock's advancement, including President Donald Trump's rhetoric on nuclear weapons and his administration's policy positions.

    A group of eminent scientists behind the "Doomsday Clock" symbolically moved its time forward another 30 seconds on Thursday, marking an alarming one-minute advancement since 2016.

    "As of today, it is two minutes to midnight," Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which sets the clock's time, said during a press briefing.

    The clock is a symbol created at the dawn of the Cold War in 1945, and its time is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group founded by researchers who helped build the first nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project.

    The Bulletin began publicly adjusting the clock in 1947 to reflect the state of dire threats to the world, primarily to address the tense state of US-Soviet relations and the risk for global nuclear war.

    But since the closing of the Cold War in 1991, the clock has come to represent other major threats such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and cyberwarfare.

    "This year, the nuclear issue took center-stage yet again," Bronson said. "To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy."

    Why the Doomsday Clock's time was moved forward

    doomsday clock time 2 minutes midnight bulletin atomic scientists copyrightedFor the 2018 time shift, members of the Doomsday Clock panel squarely took aim at the rhetoric and actions of President Donald Trump, who has said he is pushing for a nuclear arms race.

    Bronson and the panel specifically cited a leaked draft of the Trump administration's 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which lays out US strategy surrounding its nuclear arsenal and suggests that the president intends to act on his word.

    "The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review appears likely to increase the types and roles of nuclear weapons in US defense plans and lower the threshold to nuclear use," the panel said an 18-page statement emailed to Business Insider.

    The panel also noted the worrisome state of nuclear programs and security risks in Pakistan, India, Russia, and North Korea in its decision to move the clock forward, as well as Trump's lack of support for a deal to monitor Iran's nuclear program. The tense situation in the South China Sea, over aggressive Chinese claims to territory, also played a role in the group's decision, according to the statement.

    The Doomsday Clock experts are also gravely concerned about the state of the warming planet, the resulting climate change, and a fractured global effort to confront and mitigate its worst threats by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    The group said in its statement that it is "deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in facts themselves — a loss that the abuse of information technology has fostered."

    The time of two minutes "is as close as it has ever been to midnight in the 71-year history of the clock," Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said during the briefing.

    The last time the Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes to midnight followed US and Soviet test detonations of thermonuclear (or hydrogen) bombs in 1953.

    Here's how scientists have shifted the clock's time from its creation through 2017:

    2017 doomsday clock time history chart graph wikipedia fastfission

    The 2018 shift is the sixth instance the time has been moved to three minutes or less until midnight — the others were in 1949, 1953, 1984, 2015, and 2017.

    How to turn back the clock

    apollo 8 earth blue marble nasa

    The Doomsday Clock and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are not without their critics, however.

    Writer Will Boisvert argued in a piece published in 2015 by The Breakthrough Institute that the symbology may be counterproductive to actually solving the problems the Bulletin hopes to spur action on:

    "Apocalypticism can systematically distort our understanding of risk, mesmerizing us with sensational scenarios that distract us from mundane risks that are objectively larger. Worse, it can block rather than galvanize efforts to solve global problems. By treating risks as infinite, doom-saying makes it harder to take their measure — to prioritize them, balance them against benefits, or countenance smaller ones to mitigate larger ones. The result can be paralysis."

    Yet members of the Bulletin, who announced their Doomsday Clock decision at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, noted their full statement comes with multiple recommendations for turning back their clock, including:

    • Trump should "refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea"
    • The US should open multiple lines of communication with North Korea
    • A global effort to push North Korea to stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles
    • The Trump administration should support the deal to oversee and inspect Iran's nuclear facilities
    • The US and Russia should enact peacetime measures to avoid border conflicts in Europe
    • Peaceful US-Russian negotiations on nuclear weapons should resume
    • Governments around the world "should redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" beyond the Paris Agreement
    • The international community should rein in and penalize any misuse of information technology that would "undermine public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in the existence of objective reality itself"

    But Krauss said that if governments are unwilling to lead the way in fighting threats to global civilization, the people will have to step up their efforts to do so.

    "It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past," Krauss said. "Whether we do so in the future may be in your hands."

    SEE ALSO: North Korea isn't building nuclear weapons to destroy the US — the real reasons are much more surprising

    DON'T MISS: If a nuclear weapon is about to explode, here's what a safety expert says you can do to survive

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    NOW WATCH: Here's how easy it is for the US president to launch a nuclear weapon

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    paris flood jan 18

    Paris — they call it the "Ville Lumière" — a city of lights.

    But this week, the French capital looks more like a city of water. On Tuesday, during Paris's annual spring fashion show, the river Seine started overspilling its banks and gushing into neighboring streets as a result of weeks of rain.

    Paris isn't the only place in the flood zone: at least 15 French departments (the rough equivalent of counties in the US) across the north and east of the country are on alert for more flooding, the Associated Press reports, even as a break from heavy rain is in the forecast. 

    The flood levels in Paris are expected to continue to rise until Saturday. Rainfall totals have been double the normal amount this winter in the city, and the Louvre museum, which sits beside the river, has closed the lower level of the department of Islamic Art to the public until at least Saturday.

    It's a reminder that a catastrophic flood hit the city a century ago, drowning homes for months on end, and setting off a rash of cases of typhoid and scarlet fever. Some think the town is disastrously underprepared for another flood like that one.

    Take a look at this week's flooding.

    SEE ALSO: The wildest scientific discoveries of 2017

    The flooding, which extended to this man's home in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, just outside Paris, comes after months of historically heavy rains.

    French newspaper Le Monde says it’s Paris’s second wettest winter on record since 1900. 

    From December 1, 2017 to January 21, 2018 the city weathered more than 7 inches of rain. That's double what Parisians get in a typical year.

    The high waters made work treacherous for this Paris fire-brigade diver checking the mooring-ropes of a peniche boat. 

    You can see how much higher the river is than it was in August of 2016:

    And the Seine isn't expected to crest until Saturday. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    north brother island new york city bronx google maps

    Less than a mile from Manhattan— one of the priciest and most densely populated places in the world — sits a mysterious island that people abandoned more than half a century ago.

    "North Brother Island is among New York City's most extraordinary and least known heritage and natural places," wrote the authors of a recent University of Pennsylvania study about the location.

    The city owns the 22-acre plot, which pokes out of the East River between the South Bronx's industrial coast and a notorious prison: Rikers Island Correctional Center.

    It's illegal for the public to set foot on North Brother Island and its smaller companion, South Brother Island. But even birds seem to avoid its crumbling, abandoned structures (and contrary to Broad City's depiction of the island, there isn't a package pick-up center).

    In 2017, producers for the Science Channel obtained the city's permission to visit North Brother Island — and the crew invited Business Insider to tag along.

    The story of our small expedition premiered this month on "What on Earth?", a popular satellite-image-based TV show that's now in its fourth season. (Our segment closes out episode 12.)

    Here's what we saw and learned while romping around one of New York's spookiest and most forgotten places.

    SEE ALSO: Incredible photos from space reveal the biggest news stories on Earth in 2017

    DON'T MISS: One of the best nature documentaries of all time is back in its second season

    North Brother Island is accessible only by boat. Leaving from Barretto Point Park in the South Bronx is one of the quickest ways to get there.

    Watch your step — the boat ramp is covered in slippery algae at low tide.

    This small aluminum boat was our ride.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    BPII_EP02_The Deep_7 blue planet ii

    • While the "Blue Planet II" team was exploring the Mariana Trench, they managed to film an ethereal snailfish approximately 5,000 meters underwater.
    • No one knew before then that creatures as complex as fish could live in water that deep, surrounded by so much pressure.
    • "The deep is always going to surprise us," said the episode's producer.

    The most otherworldly and alien parts of the ocean are in the depths — the Mariana Trench could easily bury Mount Everest.

    There's no light when you get into the hadal zone, the deepest part of the ocean. And as narrator Sir David Attenborough says in "The Deep," episode two of the BBC natural history documentary series "Blue Planet II," the pressure at the bottom is equivalent to the force of having 50 jumbo jets stacked on top of one another. Several sea slugs and starfish are somehow able to withstand the pressure, but few creatures can survive down there.

    But as the "Blue Planet II" team was filming the episode, they discovered something they'd never expected to see: a fish. Using a remote camera, they captured footage of an ethereal snailfish, a translucent creature slowly swimming through the deep water.

    "It's extraordinary" that such a complex animal could exist down there, Orla Doherty, the producer of the episode, told Business Insider. "I feel like we've pushed the boundary of what we know about the ocean just that little bit more."

    BPII_EP02_The Deep_5 blue planet

    While filming the series, the team spent more than 6,000 hours underwater over four years, visiting 39 countries on 125 expeditions. At least 12 of the discoveries made throughout the filming are being written up in new academic papers.

    "As filmmakers, it has been unbelievably exciting to make these films in collaboration and true unity with the scientists who can unlock the secrets to this magical world," said Doherty.

    They captured the footage of the snailfish at approximately 8,000 meters down, almost five miles underwater. It was the deepest a fish had been spotted until another team filmed a Mariana snailfish just recently 8,178 meters deep.

    According to Doherty, there are probably many more surprises awaiting us down below.

    "The deep is the final frontier for discovery here on this planet and there's stuff going on down there that makes you believe you've gone to another planet," she said. "The deep is always going to surprise us."

    "Blue Planet II" airs on Saturdays at 9 pm ET on BBC America.

    SEE ALSO: The 23 best science movies and shows streaming on Netflix that will make you smarter

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    BPII_EP02_The Deep_BTS_5 blue planet ii

    • The "Blue Planet II" production team's submersible sprung a leak when they were almost 1,500 feet deep in Antarctic waters.
    • Fortunately, they were able to discover the cause and to conduct repairs underwater.
    • Pushing the envelope is necessary to discover something new and show unseen parts of the world, according to one of the show's producers, but they managed to do that without anyone getting hurt.

    Water started to pool on the submersible floor almost 1,500 feet deep into the first dive the "Blue Planet II" production team took in Antarctic waters.

    A quick taste revealed it was salty, leaking in from the frigid seas outside.

    "That wasn't on the schedule for that day," Orla Doherty, producer of the episode examining life in "the deep," told Business Insider.

    As Doherty said in a behind-the-scenes featurette from the episode, it's a bit concerning to discover that half an hour into a dive — when it takes 30 minutes to get back to the surface — that there's water coming in.

    Fortunately, within 20 minutes, the sub's pilot was able to trace the problem to a faulty pressure gauge, which allowed them to repair the leak and resume their examination of the underwater world.

    BPII_EP02_The Deep_BTS_7 blue planet ii

    "The way I see it is that I thought it was our duty to put ourselves in extraordinary situations because we wanted to show the extraordinary and you can't do that from your desk in the UK, you've got to get out there and go to these places," said Doherty.

    And show the extraordinary they did. The team dove deeper than anyone else ever had in those waters, and revealed that the freezing seas below the most remote and extreme environment on the planet teem with life.

    "To film in Antarctica, to really try and do something that humans haven't done before, there's going to be risks," said Doherty.

    But it's not risk for the sake of risk, she said.

    "Never think that we're just saying, 'oh let's get out there and do something wild.'"

    In spending 6,000 hours underwater over four years, traveling to 39 countries to mount 125 expeditions,  and covering every ocean in the world, there were no serious injuries, according to Doherty.

    "We're not out there to push the envelope just for the sake of it, we're out there to do it to tell a new story, but as importantly, to do it with safety as the number one priority," she said.

    "Blue Planet II" airs at 9 pm ET on Saturdays on BBC America.

    SEE ALSO: The 23 best science movies and shows streaming on Netflix that will make you smarter

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    NOW WATCH: I tried the 7-minute workout for a month — here's what happened

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    corpse flower

    • Amazon is growing a plant known as "the corpse flower" due to its smell, which resembles a rotting carcass.
    • Once the flowers bloom, the tech giant will transport them to its new plant-filled Sphere offices in Seattle.
    • The flowers' smell, meant to mimic dead animals, attracts carnivorous insects and helps with pollination.

    On Monday, at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, hundreds of employees had the option to work inside the company's new greenery-filled Spheres. The glass domes — pitched as tranquil office spaces in the middle of the city — can hold around 40,000 plants.

    One such plant is the titan arum, commonly known as "the corpse flower" for its pungent odor reminiscent of a rotting carcass. The flowers feature massive petals and a tall stem, typically weigh 55 to 110 pounds, and give off "Little Shop of Horror" vibes.

    Amazon is growing several of these plants in its greenhouses, Fast Company reports. Once they bloom, the company will transport them to the Spheres.

    Glenn Fleishman, the reporter of the Fast Company piece, describes the plant's scent as "an invigorating smell of death."

    The flower's stench, as well as its burgundy color, encourages pollination from dung beetles, flesh flies, and other carnivorous insects that eat dead flesh. To further attract them, titan arums can warm up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. After the insects fly in and realize there's no food, they fly off with pollen on their legs, ensuring the continuation of the flower's species, according to the University of California Botanical Garden. The plant feeds on soil, air, and water.

    The plant usually grows to six to eight feet tall, and its leaves can measure up to 16 feet wide. In 2010, the tallest "corpse flower"ever bloomed at Winnipesaukee Orchids in Gilford, New Hampshire, according to Guinness World Records.

    Amazon's Spheres can fit about 800 people, and the company's 40,000-plus Seattle-area employees have reserved all the available time slots through April . 

    Fortunately, the "corpse flower" stench only lasts for 24 to 36 hours while it blooms.

    SEE ALSO: The world's first 'smog vacuum cleaner' can suck up air pollution and turn it into jewelry

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