Tag Archives: northeastern

Causes Of California Drought Linked To Human-caused Climate Change

Posted: October 1, 2014 at 8:47 am

Image Caption: The drought crippling California is by some measures the worst in the state’s history. Credit: NOAA

National Science Foundation

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are very likely linked to human-caused climate change, Stanford scientists say.

In a new study, a team led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

The research, published on Sept. 29 as a supplement to this months issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the link between climate change and Californias ongoing drought.

Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this regionwhich is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in Californiais much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, said Diffenbaugh, associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The exceptional drought currently crippling California is by some metrics the worst in state history. Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state. A recent report estimated that the water shortage would result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion, and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone. Such impacts prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency, and the federal government to designate all 58 California counties as natural disaster areas.

Scientists agree that the immediate cause of the drought is a particularly stubborn blocking ridge over the northeastern Pacific popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or Triple Rthat prevented winter storms from reaching California during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons.

Blocking ridges are regions of high atmospheric pressure that disrupt typical wind patterns in the atmosphere. Winds respond to the spatial distribution of atmospheric pressure, said Daniel Swain, a graduate student in Diffenbaughs lab and lead author of the study. We have seen this amazingly persistent region of high pressure over the northeastern Pacific for many months now, which has substantially altered atmospheric flow and kept California largely dry.

Blocking ridges occur periodically at temperature latitudes, but the Triple R was exceptional for both its size and longevity. While it dissipated briefly during the summer months of 2013, it returned even stronger by fall 2013 and persisted through much of the winter, which is normally Californias wet season. At its peak in January 2014, the Triple R extended from the subtropical Pacific between California and Hawaii to the coast of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska, said Swain, who coined the term ridiculously resilient ridge last fall to highlight the unusually persistent nature of the offshore blocking ridge.

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Stanford scientists say drought linked to climate change

Posted: September 30, 2014 at 1:43 am

By Ker Than

Associate Professor Noah Diffenbaugh and graduate student Daniel Swain explain the ‘ridiculously resilient ridge’ and its role in the California drought.

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are “very likely” linked to human-caused climate change, Stanford scientists write in a new research paper.

In a new study, a team led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

The research, published on Sept. 29 as a supplement to this month’s issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the link between climate change and California’s ongoing drought.

“Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s,” said Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The exceptional drought currently crippling California is by some metrics the worst in state history. Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state. A recent report estimated that the water shortage would result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone. Such impacts prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency and the federal government to designate all 58 California counties as “natural disaster areas.”

Scientists agree that the immediate cause of the drought is a particularly stubborn “blocking ridge” over the northeastern Pacific popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or “Triple R” that prevented winter storms from reaching California during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons.

Blocking ridges are regions of high atmospheric pressure that disrupt typical wind patterns in the atmosphere. “Winds respond to the spatial distribution of atmospheric pressure,” said Daniel Swain, a graduate student in Diffenbaugh’s lab and lead author of the study. “We have seen this amazingly persistent region of high pressure over the northeastern Pacific for many months now, which has substantially altered atmospheric flow and kept California largely dry.”

Blocking ridges occur periodically at temperate latitudes, but the Triple R was exceptional for both its size and longevity. While it dissipated briefly during the summer months of 2013, it returned even stronger by fall 2013 and persisted through much of the winter, which is normally California’s wet season.

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Ocean Genome Legacy at Northeastern University – Video

Posted: March 29, 2014 at 12:43 am



Ocean Genome Legacy at Northeastern University
Ocean Genome Legacy (OGL) is a nonprofit environmental research organization dedicated to promoting new methods for the study and conservation of…

By: Northeastern

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Censorship on campus?

Posted: March 25, 2014 at 7:42 am

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Four-stranded DNA discovered

Posted: January 25, 2013 at 8:50 am

Sixty years after scientists described the chemical code of life an interweaving double helix called DNA researchers have found four-stranded DNA is also lurking in human cells.

The odd structures are called G-quadruplexes because they form in regions of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that are full of guanine, one of the DNA molecule’s four building blocks, with the others being adenine, cytosine, thymine. The structure comprises four guanines held together by a type of hydrogen bonding to form a sort of squarelike shape. (The DNA molecule is itself a double strand held together by these building blocks and wrapped together like a helix.)

The new visualization of the G-quadruplex is detailed this week in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Science news from NBCNews.com

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

“I think this paper is important in showing directly the existence of this structure in vivo in the human genome, but it is not completely unexpected,” said Hans-Joachim Lipps, of the University of Witten in Germany, who was not involved in the study. [ See Images of the 4-Stranded DNA ]

Scientists had shown in the past that such quadruplex DNA could form in test tubes and had even been found in the cells of ciliated protozoa, or single-celled organisms with hairlike appendages. Also there were hints of its existence in human cells, though no direct proof, Lipps said.

But scientists still didn’t have concrete evidence for its existence in the human genome. In the new study, researchers, including chemist Shankar Balasubramanian, of the University of Cambridge and Cambridge Research Institute, crafted antibody proteins specifically for this type of DNA. The proteins were marked with a fluorescent chemical, so when they hooked up to areas in the human genome packed with G-quadruplexes, they lit up.

Next, they incubated the antibodies with human cells in the lab, finding these structures tended to occur in genes of cells that were rapidly dividing, a telltale feature of cancer cells. They also found a spike in quadruplexes during the s-phase of the cell cycle, or the phase when DNA replicates just before the cell divides.

As such, the researchers think the four-stranded DNA could be a target for personalized medicine in the future. If they could block these odd ducks perhaps they could stop the rapid cell division of cancer cells.

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Need-to-know news and views for UB faculty and staff

Posted: September 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Book reveals health hazards from coal By ELLEN GOLDBAUM Published: September 27, 2012

Coal kills. Thats the message of The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health by Alan H. Lockwood, UB emeritus professor of neurology.

His book examines how human health is harmed by the burning of coal, which supplies nearly half of the energy in the United States and a far greater percentage in industrializing countries, such as China, India and Brazil.

While Lockwood says its widely accepted that lifestyle choices are key determinants of health and longevity, air pollution is underappreciated as a factor behind causes of death in the U.S.

There are these environmental factors that you dont have as much control over that are important contributors to mortality and morbidity, he explains. Coal is a major contributing factor to the top four causes of death in the U.S.cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and strokebut I think people are completely unaware that pollution from coal is responsible for huge numbers of deaths.

The book examines how coal is a factor in each of these diseases. Additional chapters examine the science, politics and economics of coal burning and global warming.

Beyond the top four causes of death, Lockwood adds, new scientific studies are beginning to show that coal burning also may play a role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimers disease and Parkinsons disease.

Lockwood, a board member with Physicians for Social Responsibility, became interested in how coal affects human health while writing a white paper on the subject for the organization. All profits from the book will be donated to Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Thats when it really began to strike home with me that coal was a major source of air pollution damaging the health of Americans, he says. The worst health effects of coal are felt by residents of states in the Northeastern U.S., east of the Mississippi, where most coal is burned and where the power plants are the oldest.

Coal burning causes disease through two main mechanisms, Lockwood explains: the inflammatory response that inhaled particulate matter triggers in the body and the penetration into the brain of inhaled particulate matter.

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