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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    figure6On Wednesday, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño watch, with a roughly 50% chance of development in the summer or fall of this year. 

    El Niño, also called the southern oscillation, is a warming of the tropical Pacific ocean that happens about every five years. This warming changes wind patterns and affects weather and storm systems around the world. 

    On the eastern coast of the United States, for example, strong El Niño events generally result in warmer, dryer than average winters. California, on the other hand, could expect a wetter than normal winter. This could be beneficial for the currently rain-starved state.  

    "Increased thunderstorm activity over the eastern Pacific allows moisture to rise into the upper atmosphere and leak into this branch of the jet stream," the Washington Post's Dennis Mersereau explains, "creating the opportunity for beneficial rainfall across the affected areas next fall and winter, especially in California where they are experiencing exceptional drought conditions."

    El Niño could also lead to fewer storms during the Atlantic hurricane season. 

    "El Niño conditions tend to make quieter than average Atlantic hurricane seasons, due to an increase in upper-level winds that create strong wind shear over the Tropical Atlantic," according to Wunderblog's Jeff Masters.

    For an El Niño event to be declared, average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific need to be 0.5°C above average or warmer for three months in a row — so there's now a 50% chance these temperature anomalies will happen later this year. 


    The El Niño watch doesn't necessarily mean that El Niño will occur. “A watch simply means that conditions across the tropical Pacific are favorable for the development of El Niño during the next, roughly, three to six months,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, according to

    "While all models predict warming in the tropical Pacific, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether El Niño will develop during the summer or fall," NOAA said in an alert. "If westerly winds continue to emerge in the western equatorial Pacific, the development of El Niño would become more likely. However, the lower forecast skill during the spring and overall propensity for cooler conditions over the last decade still justify significant probabilities for ENSO-neutral."

    SEE ALSO: Before And After Pictures Show How Climate Change Is Destroying The Earth

    SEE ALSO: The 32 Most Spectacular New Images Of Earth

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    philippine bottled waterSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco moved to restrict the sale of plastic water bottles on city property on Tuesday, the first such action by a major U.S. municipality and the latest in a string of waste-reduction measures that included a ban on plastic grocery bags.

    The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to begin phasing out the sale and distribution of water in single-use plastic bottles on city-owned or leased land next fall, and to ban future water bottle purchases with city funds.

    "There are incredible, enormous environmental costs of plastic water bottles," said Supervisor David Chiu, who introduced the measure. "It takes 1,000 years for a typical plastic water bottle to biodegrade."

    Numerous cities in California and other states, including Maui County and a number of Hawaiian municipalities, have made it illegal for grocery stores to pack consumer purchases in plastic bags, and a bill recently introduced in the state legislature would extend such bans statewide.

    San Francisco appears to be the first to try to steer consumers away from using disposable water bottles, which environmentalists say fill landfills and wash out to sea as trash just as grocery bags do.

    Chiu, who proposed the measure, said bottled water restrictions would fall in line with a string of actions, including the plastic bag ban in 2007 and aggressive citywide recycling campaigns.

    Manufacturing, selling and transporting single-use water bottles also leads to excess reliance on fossil fuels, Chiu said.

    "In San Francisco, we've been leading the way in fighting for our environment," Chiu said. The city accounts for tens of millions of water bottles that wind up in landfills, recycling centers or in the ocean each year, he said.

    Some sellers of the water bottles have moved to reduce the amount of plastic used, but opponents of their use say that is not enough.

    If the ordinance wins approval on a second reading next week and is signed by Mayor Ed Lee, then starting in October, city funds could not be used to purchase bottled water and the packaged beverage would be banned from all indoor events held on public property.

    By October 2016, the ban would apply to most outdoor events as well as to food trucks and other mobile vendors selling beverages on city streets.

    Non-profit sponsors of events that attract more than 250,000 attendees, including the city's famous gay pride parade, would be allowed to sell and distribute bottled water until January 2018. Afterwards, organizers could apply with the city to be granted an exception and sell bottled water at their functions.

    Certain athletic events on city property and the San Francisco International Airport would also be excluded from the ban.

    Critics of the measure, including the bottled water industry, say it would make it difficult for people to choose water as a healthy option if they are thirsty at a public event - particularly if sodas or other drinks are still being sold.

    "If people are at an event and they don't have a reusable container in front of them, they're going to look for a packaged beverage," said Christopher Hogan, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association who said he knows of no other city to enact such a ban.

    "It really reduces people's opportunity to choose the healthiest packaged beverage, which is bottled water," he said.

    But Chiu said the city would counter that by making it easier for people refill bottles that they bring from home.

    "In contrast, people could just take a refillable water bottle, put it under a tap and fill it up," Chiu said.

    The measure will be sent to Lee's desk for final approval after a second procedural vote next week. Lee cannot veto an ordinance if it is twice approved unanimously, city officials said.

    (Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker)

    SEE ALSO: If You Think China's Air Is Bad, You Should See The Water

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    Boat and Bloom

    Lake Erie is being invaded by algae that is turning its waters bright green, killing off communities of fish, and seriously injuring the tourism industry.

    The algae's extensive blooming in recent years is due to surges in phosphorus, which is running into the waters from farms and cities, which the algae feeds on.

    You can see how much worse Lake Erie is than the other great lakes in the image below from October 2011. The milky blue near the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan is quartz sand and sediment stirred up by strong winds.

    You don't see that in Lake Erie, the smallest of the Great Lakes. The green is the smelly algae:

    Great Lakes satellite view. This 2011 algal bloom was record-setting — three times the size of the largest previous bloom — and triggered an International Joint Commission investigation. Their report, released last month, discussed the particularly hard-hit western end of Lake Erie, where the Maumee River spills into the lake.

    While boaters and swimmers aren't likely to become seriously ill from touching or swimming in the green waters, some may experience "skin irritation....gastrointestinal discomfort and, in very rare but severe cases, acute liver failure if the bloom is ingested," according to the report. Of all the Great Lakes, only Lake Erie has noted cases of human and dog deaths from harmful algal blooms, said the report.

    Algae can produce toxins harmful to fish. Additionally, as algae die, they decompose, using up oxygen supplies in the process that would normally be reserved for the fish. As the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes, Erie supports more than 130 fish species, said the report.

    Dead Fish, Green WaterThe 2011 bloom caused an estimated $2.4 million dollar loss in Ohio's recreational fishing industry alone and a $1.3 million dollar loss to Maumee Bay State Park due to lack of visitors, said the report.

    The image below, from 2011, shows the algae's impact in Pelee Island in Canada, which is East of Maumee Bay and five miles north of the international border:

    Pelee IslandThe commission said the bloom was caused by increased phosphorus runoff from a variety of sources including farm and residential fertilizers, septic tank leaks, pet waste, and storm drains.

    One of the most infamous bloom-inducing culprits is known as dissolved reactive phosphorus — popular in certain types of farm fertilizers — the use of which has increased two-fold and is algae's favorite meal, Don Scavia, director of the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute, told the Associated Press.

    Roughly 63% of Lake Erie's watershed is used for agriculture, said the report, which is a main source of these phosphorus-heavy runoffs.

    AP Suffering Lake Erie The commission says a 39% decrease in phosphorus levels (from the 2007-2012 average) in the Maumee River — which is Lake Erie's single largest source of phosphorus — would go a long way to solving the algae problem.

    The report also calls for better industrial fertilization practices, such as making sure the fertilizer is directly applied to the soil instead of being trapped on top of ice and snow, which can happen when it is applied in fall and winter.

    There is hope. Similar, though less extreme, blooms occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. By decreasing how much phosphorus made it into the lake, the algal blooms were curbed by the mid 1980s. The lake came back from the dead.

    While we can't predict future blooms, the report suggests bigger and badder blooms may keep coming if nothing is done. Climate change could cause more extreme runoff events and warmer water temperatures — conditions ideal for blooms.

    SEE ALSO: Scientists Have Figured Out An Age-Old Mystery About Rivers

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    What started out as a mishmosh of Tupperware containers, cardboard, and Duct tape is now a functioning system of pipes, drains, and plastic that turns a standard fish tank into a self-cleaning aquarium and garden — all in one system.

    The AquaSprouts system was first developed by Jack Ikard in high school after coming across an old 10-gallon fish tank in his back shed. Ikard, 20, is now a sophomore at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, and has since improved on the unit. Now he's looking to get it noticed.

    "The idea is to be able to see the fish and to get the benefits of aquaponics," Ikard said.

    Aquaponics is a technology that mixes fish and plants. The closed-loop system combines water-based planting, or hydroponics, with fish cultivation. Aquaponics has become a hot topic in recent years because it's seen as a good alternative to traditional agriculture since it doesn't use environmentally-damaging fertilizers and requires less land to grow the same amount of food.

    SystemBreakdown ©AquaSprouts"Our system is a good learning tool to expose people to what aquaponics is," said Ikard.

    AquaSprouts works like most aquaponics systems, but on a smaller scale. Every 15 minutes, water combined with waste from the fish tank is pumped up into a grow bed filled with clay pebbles. The poop-filled water feeds the plants. The plants, in turn, filter the waste from the water. The clean water then drains back to the fish tank. Everyone's happy.

    Te only thing you may need to do to keep the aquarium in good condition is maintain the pH levels of the water, according to the AquaSprouts website

    The AquaSprouts system — which does not include the fish tank — is designed to slide right over the aquarium. The kit includes a grow bed, clay pebbles, a pump with a timer, and even an attachable light bar in case you don't have enough natural light in your home for the plants to grow.

    The only things beside the tank that you're responsible for are the fish, plant seeds, and food for your new marine pets.

    Ikard says that you can use almost any type of fish that are able to live in a 10-gallon freshwater tank, such as guppies, goldfish, and tetras.

    The choice of plants depends on your taste-buds, but lettuce, Swiss chard, basil, cilantro, oregano, and other herbs and leafy green work well. Peppers, baby tomatoes, and flowering plants are also options. 

    Ikard and his co-founder, fellow student Shannon Crow, have turned to popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter to back their project, with the goal of raising $100,000 by April 3. The campaign launched on March 3 and has raised close to $12,000 after six days.

    A $149 pledge will get you the AquaSporuts system and a 10-gallon fish tank as a special offer. The Kickstarter money goes toward materials and complex molds needed to build the system on a large scale.

    The next step is to "create a brand of different sizes of aquariums," Ikard said, "and to think about a bigger system that grows more food and edible fish."

    SEE ALSO: Chicago Company Corners The Secret To Growing Vegetables Without Dirt

    You Might Also Be Interested In: A Brooklyn Duo May Have Finally Figured Out How To Get Americans To Start Eating Insects

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    Killer bees

    A 71-year-old woman is expected to survive after being attacked by 75,000 African killer bees while visiting Palm Desert, Calif., on Thursday, according to ABC News.

    The woman was in critical condition after being stung more than 1,000 times, according to the report.

    Multiple media accounts say the woman was covered from head-to-toe with bees, and some insects were even in her mouth.

    The bee hive was located in an underground cable box. The bees were disturbed by a Verizon employee that lifted the lid to the box.

    Several fireman who came to the elderly woman's rescue were also treated for bee stings.

    According to the International Business Times, a person can survive around 1,500 bee stings.

    SEE ALSO: The 32 Most Spectacular Images Of Earth

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    This year, farmers in California's Central Valley likely won't receive any water through the federal irrigation program, a network of reservoirs, rivers, and canals that is normally replenished yearly by ice melt from the Sierra mountains.

    Crippling water shortages have made desalination technology more attractive, including a startup, WaterFX, that uses the sun to produce heat. The heat separates salt and water through evaporation.

    WaterFX has fewer environmental repercussions than traditional methods of desalination that rely on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

    The technology could not have come at a better time.

    No end in sight

    During a drought-free year, the federally run Central Valley Project provides enough water to irrigate 3 million acres of agricultural land. Last year, farmers only received 20% of their allotment. 

    The lack of water is not just worrying for growers. It affects all people who eat food. One third of the nation's produce is grown in the Central Valley— composed of Sacramento Valley in the north and San Joaquin Valley in the south — and the deep water cuts mean that more than half a million acres of crop land will be left unplanted.

    Some scientists predict California's drought could last as long as a century. Going forward, the state is going to need a substantial water supply that doesn't rely on the aqueduct system, says Aaron Mandell, WaterFX chairman and founder. 

    However, in order to counter California's drought, the push must be toward renewable desalination plants rather than fossil-fuel dependent facilities that further contribute to climate change.

    Making freshwater from sunshine

    In WaterFX's system, a solar trough, which looks like a jumbo-sized curved mirror, collects energy from the sun's rays and transfers that heat to a pipe filled with mineral oil. The mineral oil feeds the heat into a system that evaporates the salty water being treated. Steam is produced, which condenses into pure liquid water. The remaining salt solidifies and can be removed, says Mandell. That salts can be used in other industries as building materials, metals, or fertilizers.

    In order to operate continuously, the solar trough is very large so that it collects extra heat during the day. The energy is stored and used to run the system at night when the sun isn't shining.

    By using sun as the fuel source, WaterFX uses roughly one-fifth of the electricity consumed by traditional desalination plants, according to Mandell. Less electricity means lower operating costs. With conventional desalination, electricity makes up 50-60% of the water costs, says Mandell. A typical desalination plant in San Diego operates at about $900 per acre-foot, while it costs around $450 to produce an acre-foot of water with WaterFX. (An acre-foot is 325,000 gallons, or the amount of water it takes to cover an acre at a depth of one foot).

    WaterFX"Solar desalination is still a very immature technology so there's a quite a bit of room to drive that cost down even further," said Mandell.

    Many desalination facilities, including the $1 billion Carlsbad plant set to open in 2016, use a process known as reverse osmosis that forces seawater through billions of tiny holes that filter out salt and other impurities. This method can produce fresh water on a large scale, but has economic and environmental drawbacks. It uses an immense amount of electricity and only about half of the seawater that goes into the system comes out as clean water. The remaining half is dumped back into the ocean as salty brine where it can be harmful to marine plants and animals.

    By contrast, Mandell says that WaterFX has a 93% recovery rate, meaning that for every 100 gallons of water that goes in, 93 gallons of usable water are spit out.

    WaterFX also helps solve an issue that has long plagued irrigated land. Soils in the arid west of San Joaquin Valley naturally contain a lot of salt as well as high concentrations of metals, like selenium, which can be toxic to humans and wildlife. When the soil is irrigated, the salt, selenium, and other elements become concentrated in the drainage water that collects in a system of drains and pumps under the crops. In the past, harmful drainage water might have been discharged into rivers, wetlands, and aquifers in the San Joaquin Valley. Now, that otherwise unusable water can be diverted to WaterFX and turned into irrigation water again.

    The first test

    The Panoche Water District in Central Valley is home to the first demonstration plant, a 6,500-square foot system that is capable of producing around 10 gallons of freshwater a minute, or roughly 14,000 of freshwater each day.

    When the demonstration plant is operating in commercial mode, running 24 hours a day, it can put out 25 to 30 gallons of freshwater a minute, says Mandell.


    The pilot project, funded by the California Department of Water Resources, will hopefully prove that the WaterFX system is more reliable (it doesn't depend on the Sierra snowpack) and affordable than other freshwater sources.

    The water that's being treated by the pilot plant streams in from a canal that collects salty drainage water from around 200 farms in the area and brings it to a single location. In the pilot phase, the clean water that's produced is blended back in with the drainage water, but a commercial plant would send the water back to farmers through a series of canals that are already in place.

    Additionally, small-scale systems could be used by individual farmers on site to recycle their own drainage water.

    A bright future

    WaterFX is not the first company to experiment with solar desalination. The Sahara Forest project in Qatar and an Australian company called Sundrop Farms are using the technology to grow food in greenhouses. But this is the first time a company has focused on using the sun's energy "to produce a scalable, long-term water supply," Mandell said.

    The goal is to eventually be able to treat salty groundwater in addition to drainage water.

    The immediate next step for WaterFX is to expand operations in Panoche to produce 2 million gallons of water per day. "From there it's about laying out a pathway for replicating this model all up and down the Central Valley," Mandell said. "We're trying to put a plan in place so that by 2020, we may be in a position to wean ourselves off the aqueduct system entirely."

    SEE ALSO: 6 Photos Show Why California Is Desperate For Rain

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    January 2014 Land and Ocean Temperature Percentiles

    The evidence linking human activities to climate change is as strong as the data supporting the idea that smoking causes lung cancer, a new report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said on Tuesday.

    "Many people do not yet understand that there is a small, but real chance of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on people in the United States and around the world," according to the "What We Know" report.

    The report was released one week before the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's second paper of a three-part summary on climate change is due to be made public. 

    The purpose of this report, AAAS scientists said, is to present the key facts about climate change rather than delve into why there's a disconnect between scientific evidence and the public's perception about the severe risks associated with a warming planet, like rising sea levels, melting ice sheets, worsening heat waves, and changing patterns of rainfall and drought.

    In a teleconference Monday morning, AAAS CEO Alan Leshner stressed that the purpose of the publication is not to make "specific recommendations about what to do about climate change," but to reflect on "what the scientific community knows."

    Here is What We Know:

    • 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are changing the climate
    • Extreme weather events are likely to become worse over the next 10-20 years
    • The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide broke 400 parts per million last year, according to the report. It had been relatively stable at 280 parts per million before it began to rise in the 19th century
    • Factors other than greenhouse gases affect the Earth's warm and cold weather extremes — including volcanic eruptions, variation in the sun's energy output, changing ocean currents, and natural changes in carbon dioxides. But the combined effects of these natural drives can't explain the global temperature increase over the last 50 years
    • over the last 100 years. The difference in temperature between the last Ice Age and today is about 9 degrees Fahrenheit. However, that temperature rise took place over thousands of years. In just the past 100 years, the Earth's atmosphere has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit 
    • If carbon dioxide continue to increase at the current rate, climate scientists predict that the Earth could warm another 4 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100
    • It's possible that the land and ocean could eventually hit a threshold for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

    Check out the full report for a complete break-down of the ecological and heath impacts of climate change, including projections for sea level rise, ice sheet collapses, permafrost melt, and the release of sea floor methane.

    SEE ALSO: Shocking Before And After Pictures Of How Climate Change Is Destroying The Earth

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    Britain flooding

    Mass migration. Regional conflict. Dire food shortages. A shrinking global GDP.

    While not scheduled to be released until March 29 — one day after Darren Aronfsky's apolalyptic Bible epic, Noah, hits theaters — a draft of the forthcoming report on the effects of global warming by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was leaked on Tuesday to the UK's Independent

    The analysis, which is the second of three working group reports, focuses on the likely effects of alterations in the earth's climate brought about by carbon emissions. It synthesizes data from thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies. 

    Among the conclusions: 

    • Median crop yields will fall by 2% per decade for the remainder of the century, even as demand increases, setting the stage for rising food prices
    • Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced by rising sea levels, particular in Asia
    • The global economy will shrink by between .2% and 2%
    • Violent conflict from civil war, ethnic rivalries, and protests will increase
    • Territorial disputes due to shifting national boundaries will become more frequent
    • Dry and subtropical regions will experience fresh-water shortages, leading to heightened risk for extinction of various species and conflict over water resources

    The good news? The third IPCC working group report, focused on mitigation strategies, is due to be released a few weeks later. 

    More tips on dealing with catastrophic flooding are below:  

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    Today, March 20, is the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere marked by the vernal equinox.  

    The equinox is cool because it's a time of year when the night and day are almost equal. 

    This awesome GIF of Earth from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) helps to explain why that happens.  

    Generally throughout the year, the changes in season are caused by the Earth's tilt on it's axis. When the top of the Earth is titled toward the sun, it's summer in the north. There's more sunlight over that part of the world and the days are longer. At the equinoxes, the Earth's axis doesn't point toward or away from the sun. 

    The GIF below starts at the equinox in September 2010. The line that separates day and night, called the terminator, is vertical so that half of Earth is in darkness and half is in the sunlight. Halfway through the GIFEarth reaches the equinox in March 2011 causing spring in the north. The GIF ends with the September equinox again. 

    earth seasons gif.gif

    Here's the full explanation from NASA's Astronomy Picture Of The Day (APOD):

    From geosynchronous orbit, the Meteosat satellite recorded these infrared images of the Earth every day at the same local time. The video started at the September 2010 equinox with the terminator line being vertical. As the Earth revolved around the Sun, the terminator was seen to tilt in a way that provides less daily sunlight to the northern hemisphere, causing winter in the north. As the year progressed, the March 2011 equinox arrived halfway through the video, followed by the terminator tilting the other way, causing winter in the southern hemisphere — and summer in the north. The captured year ends again with the September equinox, concluding another of billions of trips the Earth has taken — and will take — around the Sun.

    Watch the video, from APOD on YouTube:

    SEE ALSO: NOAA: Yes, Spring Is Coming But It Will Bring Floods And Drought

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    LifeEdited Party SceneGraham Hill, founder of minimalist design firm LifeEdited, made headlines last year when he transformed a tiny, 420-square-foot apartment in Manhattan's trendy SoHo neighborhood into a livable  and fashionable  home.

    Now he's put the apartment on the market for $995,000 — that's $2,369 per square foot, according to Curbed New York.

    The idea for the apartment was to fit 700 square feet into 420 square feet with the creative use of space. The result is a home that doubles as a treasure trove of storage space, featuring fold-up beds, hidden cabinets, removable walls and more. It can be transformed from a living room to bedroom, workspace, dining room and entertainment space.

    "A simpler life is a happier life," Hill told Business Insider in an interview last year. 

    Hill spent around $300,000 buying the space, plus an extra $250,000 to $300,000 in renovations. He walked us through the stunning space last year. It's being sold with all furniture, and is listed with Corcoran.

    Megan Durisin contributed to this story.

    Here's the floor plan of Hill's apartment. At 420 sq. feet, it could fit inside the average American home about four times.

    Here's what the space usually looks like as a bedroom. Hill says it can transform into five different spaces — including a living room, bedroom, dining room, entertainment center and workspace.

    This is the view from the opposite angle. Hill said he loves the apartment and it hasn't been very difficult getting used to living in the small space, although he had lived in some other small spaces previously.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Stephanie Abrams

    Today, March 23, is World Meteorological Day.

    To celebrate the occasion, we've rounded up a fun group of weather experts and climate reporters who are active on social media and helping to make normally complicated data accessible to the general public. 

    They use terms that everyone can understand and push out maps that make snowstorms, hurricanes, and other weather-related happenings interesting.

    Below is a list of the some best weather people to follow on Twitter. You might even learn some meteorology.

    Eric Fisher — Chief meteorologist at CBS Boston


    Mike Seidel — On-camera meteorologist and field reporter for The Weather Channel. He also covers breaking news for NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC


    Cory Mottice — Meteorologist for AccuWeather


    Stu Ostro — Senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel

    James Spann —
    Chief meteorologist for ABC 33/40, based in Birmingham, Ala.


    Stephen Stirling — Data reporter for the Star-Ledger in New Jersey


    Eric Holthaus — Meteorologist, currently writing for Slate


    Andrew Freedman — Senior climate reporter for Mashable


    Jim Cantore — Broadcast meteorologist appearing on The Weather Channel


    Stephanie Abrams — Meteorologist for The Weather Channel who hosts the "Wake Up with Al" show with Al Roker.


    Tom Niziol — Winter Weather Expert at The Weather Channel


    Ari Sarsalari — Broadcast meteorologist for WAAY 31 in Huntsville, Ala.


    Here are some general news sites that are also good to follow:

    Breaking News Storm — Real-time severe weather updates


    National Weather Service — Weather updates for the entire country from NOAA

  — Breaking news and weather stories from



    Have suggestions for great weather people to follow? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

    SEE ALSO: Before And After Pictures Show How Climate Change Is Destroying The Earth

    More climate:  These Animals Will Be Created Because Of Global Warming

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    A powerful storm system could either slam New England with heavy snow on Tuesday night or turn out to be no big deal, based on an alert from the National Weather Service on Monday.

    The amount of precipitation is in question due to the high variability in computer models showing the storm's track, the weather service said.

    Snow or not, the weather service says that spring is definitely on hold for the next few days. Cold and windy conditions are certain along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts on Wednesday morning with temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below normal already affecting much of the eastern U.S. coast on Monday.

    Here's the potential snow forecast. The New York area could get a few inches:


    SEE ALSO: An Alarming Wake-Up Call From A New Report On Climate Change

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    Norman Borlaug Statute

    A statue was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday of plant scientist Norman Borlaug, the man widely considered the father of the Green Revolution and whose work helped save as many as 1 billion people from starvation in the developing world.

    Magicians Penn and Teller called Borlaug "the greatest human that ever existed" in an episode of "Penn & Teller: Bullshit" (the segment is embedded below). 

    Norman BorlaugBorlaug, who died in 2009 and would have celebrated his 100th birthday today, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for developing new varieties of wheat that were resistant to disease and had high-yield potential.

    The new breeding technique and other advances in agricultural practices that were embraced by farmers in Mexico and Asia, increased food production and helped to save millions from hunger. 

    According to an obituary in The New York Times, Borlaug's "breeding of high-yielding crop varieties helped to avert mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, altering the course of history."

    "Because of his achievements to prevent hunger, famine and misery around the world,"The World Food Prize writes on its website, "it is said that Dr. Borlaug has 'saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.'"

    SEE ALSO: A College Student Has Figured Out A Great Way To Grow Food Using Your Old Fish Tank

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    James Powell Global Warming Chart

    The next time someone tries to tell you that there's a legitimate scientific debate about man-made global warming, point them to this chart.

    It was created by James Powell, an MIT-trained geochemist, longtime Oberlin professor, and former member of the National Science Board (under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush). He searched for all studies published in 2013 that mentioned "global warming,""global climate change," or "climate change," and found 10,885 of them.

    Powell combed through the papers and found onlytwo that rejected the idea that humans are responsible for climate change. 

    "On the one side, we have a mountain of scientific evidence, on the other, ideology and arm-waving," Powell writes.

    His analyses of the research in earlieryears found similar results. (He describes his methodology here and even invites skeptics to download the data for themselves.)

    Some climate change deniers refuse to be moved by the ever-growing "mountain of scientific evidence." But before having a knee-jerk reaction to Powell's findings, consider what they mean, suggests Ashutosh Jogalekar at Scientific American:

    I understand as well as anyone else that consensus does not imply truth but I find it odd how there aren’t even a handful of scientists who deny global warming presumably because the global warming mafia threatens to throttle them if they do. It’s not like we are seeing a 70-30% split, or even a 90-10% split. No, the split is more like 99.99-0.01%.

    Isn’t it remarkable that among the legions of scientists working around the world, many with tenured positions, secure reputations and largely nothing to lose, not even a hundred out of ten thousand come forward to deny the phenomenon in the scientific literature? Should it be that hard for them to publish papers if the evidence is really good enough? Even detractors of the peer review system would disagree that the system is that broken; after all, studies challenging consensus are quite common in other disciplines. So are contrarian climate scientists around the world so utterly terrified of their colleagues and world opinion that they would not dare to hazard a contrarian explanation at all, especially if it were based on sound science? The belief stretches your imagination to new lengths.

    Anyone who points to this cold, long winter as evidence that global warming is a myth may be confusing unpredictable short-term weather patterns with the long-term behavior of the atmosphere. Where you live may have seen a lot of snow this year, but when scientists look at the whole planet, this past decade is still the hottest on record.

    And that's exactly why Powell is sounding the alarm, urging people to stop pretending that there's confusion on this issue among serious climate scientists. As the chart above so clearly shows: There's not.

    "Very few of the most vocal global warming deniers, those who write op-eds and blogs and testify to congressional committees, have ever written a peer-reviewed article in which they say explicitly that anthropogenic [man-made] global warming is false," Powell writes. "Why? Because then they would have to provide the evidence and, evidently, they don't have it."

    SEE ALSO: Why Cold Weather Doesn't Mean Global Warming Isn't Real

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    ooho water

    Move over, plastic water bottles. There's a new way to carry around your water (kind of). Ooho is an biodegradable and edible membrane made of brown algae that holds water, according to PSFK. 

    The flexible water bottle kind of resembles the top of a jelly fish, or a silicone implant. 

    Ooho was developed by three London design students who were aiming to make something sustainable, durable, and cheap  it only costs two cents to make, according to Fast Company.

    While the clear blob fits those categories, it does seem like the amorphous shape could be problematic for packing in coolers. Drinking out of the Ooho could prove tricky, as well.

    Nevertheless, Ooho certainly looks cool and if we ever needed a quick sip of water or wanted to gain some green karma points for the week, maybe we'd grab the biodegradable algae. The design was a recipient of this year's Lexus Design Award; no word on when/if it will appear in your local supermarket anytime soon. 

    Check out the video from Fast Company below to see how it works: 

    SEE ALSO: The Happiest And Healthiest Cities In America

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    CockroachBI Answers: What's the worst way to kill a cockroach?

    Cockroaches are notoriously difficult to eliminate. These suckers can keep chugging for up to a week without their head, thrive for a month without food, and even withstand a nuclear fallout.

    It's not just that cockroaches look disgusting; the pests can also spread different kinds of bacteria, carry parasitic worms, and transmit salmonella. Their decomposing bodies can also trigger allergic reactions. 

    When you see one these grotesque critters scooting across the kitchen floor, what should your plan of action be? We've recently heard a rumor that squishing a cockroach is a bad idea because it could spread the insect's eggs around, making more baby cockroaches.

    "The crushing in itself doesn't really spread eggs," said Louis Sorkin, a scientist in the entomology department at the American Museum of Natural History. That's because the fertilized eggs aren't likely to survive being smashed by your foot, according to Chad Gore, entomologist for Ehrlich Pest Control.


    There is a concern that squashing roaches will bring out others to feed on the corpses since roaches do eat dead roaches. However, this form of cannibalism can be used to a homeowner's advantage if pesticides are used, said Sorkin, since the poison will be transferred from one insect to the next.

    "The worst thing," said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), "is to step on a roach and hope you solve the problem." Where there's one cockroach, there are almost certainly many more hiding in walls and other nooks and crannies. 

    Cockroaches don't "travel in onesies and twosies," said Henriksen. And the longer you let cockroaches live in your home, the greater the infestation can become. Anywhere from 900 to hundreds of thousands of cockroaches can invade urban homes, said Henriksen.

    It may seem like obvious advice, but Henriksen said the best way to control a cockroach problem is not to let them in in the first place. That means removing anything that the insects are going to find attractive — food, water, and warmth. Fix leaky pipes under your sink or the bathroom, sweep up crumbs, and do your dishes. It's also important to seal cracks and crevices through which cockroaches can march into your home.

    Even if you keep your home spick-and-span, cockroaches still happen. They can be carried into the house in boxes and grocery bags. Once you have a cockroach, the best advice is to contact a pest professional.

    From an average joe's perspective, Gore said, the worst method for winning a war on cockroaches is to use total release aerosols that can be purchased by anyone.

    "It doesn't take a lot of training or know-how to activate and release all the contents," Gore said. "That's bad, because the material doesn't get to where cockroaches are and leads to unnecessary insecticide exposure."

    As for other do-it-yourself options and homemade remedies, "some may work and some are dangerous," said Henriksen.

    This post is part of a continuing series that answers all of your "why" questions related to science. Have your own question? Email dspector@buisnessinsider with the subject line "Q&A"; tweet your question to @BI_Science; or post to our Facebook page.

    SEE ALSO: More BI Answers

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    Former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has spoken of his fears for the global climate, saying the winter flooding was a portent of what is to come.

    Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he blamed the lifestyle of western countries, which he said was "pushing the environment towards crisis".

    He said the floods in Britain and similar weather-related catastrophes around the world are the clearest indications yet that predictions of "accelerated warming of the Earth" caused by the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels… are coming true".

    Williams's warning came on the eve of a ground-breaking report into the impact of climate change, and a declaration from the energy secretary, Ed Davey, that Britain must spearhead the worldwide battle against global warming.

    Climate change is "hugely threatening" to life both in the UK and globally, Davey told the Observer, saying that not to lead the fight against it would be "deeply irresponsible".

    The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will this week to release a major report that is expected to warn of catastrophic consequences to food supplies, livelihoods, health and security across the world if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked.

    Leaked versions of the report, published in Japan on Monday, warn that rising global temperatures, droughts and heatwaves will threaten food supplies and human health, while hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding.

    Climate change will cause economic losses, exacerbate poverty and increase migration and risks from violent conflict as well as causing damage to wildlife and habitats, the study by experts from around the world is expected to say.

    In Europe, heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainstorms will increase and there will be a greater risk of coastal and river flooding, it is expected to say, while heat-related deaths will also increase.

    The report, which collates work by thousands of scientists from across the world, is likely to state that global warming has already left its mark on all continents and oceans, and is expected to warn that even a small rise in temperatures could lead to irreversible changes.

    Williams, who stepped down as leader of the Anglican Church just over a year ago, said Monday's report put "our local problems into a deeply disturbing global context".

    Writing in his capacity as chairman of Christian Aid, he said: "We have heard for years the predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels will lead to an accelerated warming of the Earth.

    "What is now happening indicates that these predictions are coming true; our actions have had consequences that are deeply threatening for many of the poorest communities in the world.

    "Rich, industrialised countries, including our own, have unquestionably contributed most to atmospheric pollution. Both our present lifestyle and the industrial history of how we created such possibilities for ourselves have to bear the responsibility for pushing the environment in which we live towards crisis."

    Campaigners on Saturday warned that the world faced a "bleak future" without action to tackle climate change and leading environmentalists called on politicians to break the world's dependency on fossil fuels.


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    brazil drought

    The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the second of its three-part report on climate change at a conference in Yokohama, Japan, on Monday morning local time.

    Here's a link to the live conference. 

    The report, which looks at the risk of climate change and how we can adapt, says that countries are not prepared for the effects of a changing climate. 

    "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by climate change," said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, in an opening statement. 

    In the report, climate scientists predict that the impacts of climate change will include shrinking GDP, food shortages, and a rise in violent conflicts.

    The new Fifth Assessment Report is the IPCC's biggest report since 2007. The first part was released in September 2013

    SEE ALSO: Shocking Before And After Pictures Of How Climate Change Is Destroying The Earth

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    For several decades, yields of the world's major food crops have increased. But the rate of increase has slowed over the past few years as a result of climate change, a massive new report from the United Nations warns. 

    The report is the second of three working group reports issued by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientists held a media conference in Yokohama, Japan, to discuss the details. 

    "Studies projecting decreased crop yields are getting higher and higher," said Christopher Field, the co-chair of the IPCC's working group II paper. The finding has serious implications for food security in many parts of the world. 

    It's becoming evident in many regions, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, "that the so-called green revolution has come to a plateau."

    Want proof?

    This chart, for example, shows the changes in average crop yield as a consequence of events related to climate change, such as rising temperatures and reduced rainfall. In the future, the brown bars (decrease in yield) get taller and the blue bars (increase in yield) get shorter. To put this in perspective, this means that in 50 years or so, the rate of increase will be much less than what it would have been in the absence of climate change. IPCC report

    Wheat and maize are really being held back by climate change. Rice and soy could be next.IPCC chart

    But it's not just about what grows on land. Anything we eat from the sea is also at risk. 

    "Many species will be unable to track suitable climates under mid- and high-range rates of climate change," the report said. "Those that cannot adapt sufficiently fast will decrease in abundance or go extinct in part or all of their ranges."

    The graph below shows the distances that species have moved to cooler waters as ocean temperatures rise. 


    The report, which looks at the risk of climate change and how we can adapt, says that countries are not prepared for the effects of a changing climate. You can read a summary of the report here.

    The new Fifth Assessment Report is the IPCC's biggest report since 2007. The first part was released in September 2013. The third part, which focuses on how to mitigate the effects of climate change, will be released in April 2014. 

    SEE ALSO: Shocking Before And After Pictures Of How Climate Change Is Destroying The Earth

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    Agaricocrinus americanus Carboniferous Indiana permian mass extinction

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sometimes bad things come in small packages.

    A microbe that spewed humongous amounts of methane into Earth's atmosphere triggered a global catastrophe 252 million years ago that wiped out upwards of 90 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land vertebrates.

    That's the hypothesis offered on Monday by researchers aiming to solve one of science's enduring mysteries: what happened at the end of the Permian period to cause the worst of the five mass extinctions in Earth's history.

    The scale of this calamity made the one that doomed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago - a six-mile wide asteroid smacking the planet - seem like a picnic by comparison.

    The implicated microbe, Methanosarcina, is a member of a kingdom of single-celled organisms distinct from bacteria called archaea that lack a nucleus and other usual cell structures.

    "I would say that the end-Permian extinction is the closest animal life has ever come to being totally wiped out, and it may have come pretty close," said Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist Greg Fournier, one of the researchers.

    "Many, if not most, of the surviving groups of organisms barely hung on, with only a few species making it through, many probably by chance," Fournier added.

    Previous ideas proposed for the Permian extinction include an asteroid and large-scale volcanism. But these researchers suggest a microscope would be needed to find the actual culprit.

    Methanosarcina grew in a frenzy in the seas, disgorging huge quantities of methane into Earth's atmosphere, they said.

    This dramatically heated up the climate and fundamentally altered the chemistry of the oceans by driving up acid levels, causing unlivable conditions for many species, they added.

    The horseshoe crab-like trilobites and the sea scorpions - denizens of the seas for hundreds of millions of years - simply vanished. Other marine groups barely avoided oblivion including common creatures called ammonites with tentacles and a shell.

    On land, most of the dominant mammal-like reptiles died, with the exception of a handful of lineages including the ones that were the ancestors of modern mammals including people.


    "Land vertebrates took as long as 30 million years to reach the same levels of biodiversity as before the extinction, and afterwards life in the oceans and on land was radically changed, dominated by very different groups of animals," Fournier said.

    The first dinosaurs appeared 20 million years after the Permian mass extinction.

    "One important point is that the natural environment is sensitive to the evolution of microbial life," said Daniel Rothman, an MIT geophysics professor who led the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The best example of that, Rothman said, was the advent about 2.5 billion years ago of bacteria engaging in photosynthesis, which paved the way for the later appearance of animals by belching fantastic amounts of oxygen into Earth's atmosphere.

    Methanosarcina is still found today in places like oil wells, trash dumps and the guts of animals like cows.

    It already existed before the Permian crisis. But genetic evidence indicates it acquired a unique new quality at that time through a process known as "gene transfer" from another microbe, the researchers said.

    It suddenly became a major producer of methane through the consumption of accumulated organic carbon in ocean sediments.

    The microbe would have been unable to proliferate so wildly without proper mineral nutrients. The researchers found that cataclysmic volcanic eruptions that occurred at that time in Siberia drove up ocean concentrations of nickel, a metallic element that just happens to facilitate this microbe's growth.

    Fournier called volcanism a catalyst instead of a cause of mass extinction - "the detonator rather than the bomb itself."

    "As small as an individual microorganism is, their sheer abundance and ubiquity make for a huge cumulative impact. On a geochemical level, they really do run the planet," he said.

    The Permian mass extinction unfolded during tens of thousands of years and was not the sudden die-off that an asteroid impact might cause, the researchers said.

    The most famous of Earth's mass extinctions occurred 65 million years ago when an asteroid impact wiped out the dinosaurs that ruled the land and many marine species. There also were huge die-offs 440 million years ago, 365 million years ago and 200 million years ago.

    (Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by James Dalgleish)

    SEE ALSO: Humans And Mass Extinction: We Are Killing Machines

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