Author Archive

Brazil’s Severe Drought Dries Up Reservoirs

National Geographic: Thanks to the worst drought in eight decades in southeastern Brazil, water levels have dropped dramatically in the reservoirs that supply São Paulo, the country's largest city. New satellite imagery from NASA reveals that critical reservoirs there have dwindled to 3 to 5 percent of storage capacity, creating shortages in the region. Rainfall totals in the region this year are 12 to 16 inches (300 to 400 millimeters) below normal. According to a poll conducted this week, 60 percent of respondents...

Wildfires Intensify in Pacific Northwest as Winds Rise

National Geographic: More than two dozen wildfires in Oregon and Washington, sparked by lightning strikes last weekend and spurred by hot, dry conditions and strong winds, are expected to intensify Friday. Hundreds of people have been evacuated and about 1,000 homes have been threatened as more than 300,000 acres burn. "We're going to have another windy day today, so we expect more fire growth, but we're doing the best we can to contain them," says Ken Frederick, a spokesperson with the National Interagency Fire Center...

First New Species of River Dolphin Discovered in a Century

National Geographic: A suspected new river dolphin species has emerged in Brazil, and scientists warn that it is highly endangered. River dolphins (also known as botos) are among the rarest, and most endangered, dolphins in the world. Three of the four known species are listed as "threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The discovery of a wholly new species-the first such find in a century-is thus exciting news for biologists and conservation officials. Scientists led by Tomas...

Surprising “Lake” Bigger Than West Virginia Found Inside Greenland Ice

National Geographic: A vast aquifer "lake" lies trapped under southeastern Greenland, scientists report, based on ice core results. The finding may help reveal a changing climate's effects on the world's massive, but shrinking, ice sheets. Greenland's ice sheet, the second largest in the world, covers some 656,000 square miles (1,710,000 square kilometers). Together with Antarctica's even more vast ice sheet, its melting in a warming climate is a big factor in projections of future sea-level rise. That is why the...

Avoid Antibacterial Soaps, Say Consumer Advocates

National Geographic: Federal officials' questions about antibacterial soaps have raised a lather among environmental and consumer advocates concerned about the safety of controversial ingredients in these cleansers. Reviving a long-running controversy over antibacterial soaps and body wash, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Monday that the makers of such products will have to prove that they are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and curtailing infection. According...

Washing Hands in Hot Water Wastes Energy, Study Says

National Geographic: It doesn't kill germs better than cooler water, but turning tap temperatures high, the U.S. burns carbon equal to the emissions of Barbados. People typically wash their hands seven times a day in the United States, but they do it at a far higher temperature than is necessary to kill germs, a new study says. The energy waste is equivalent to the fuel use of a small country. It's cold and flu season, when many people are concerned about avoiding germs. But forget what you think you know about...

How Sequoias Survive Wildfires

National Geographic: As the Rim Fire rages in and around Yosemite National Park, biologists have taken steps to protect two groves of giant sequoia trees. One tree expert suspects, however, that the measures have more to do with public relations than with sound forest policy. The Rim Fire has burned for nine days, razing 134,000 acres, which makes it one of the biggest blazes in California's history. The flames have largely been confined to Yosemite's remote northwestern section, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from...