Bottlenose dolphins

Weekly Environmental News, August 4-10: Dying Dolphins, Wide CO2 Swings, Satellite Revolution and More

In the news this week, concern over more than 100 bottlenose dolphin deaths off the East Coast of the U.S., seasonal CO2 variations appear to be getting larger, a small organization in West Virginia is using satellite data to help boost environmental protection, and a study of trees at Chernobyl reveals the effects of nuclear radiation.

Dolphin Deaths Off of East Coast Worry Federal Wildlife Officials
At least 124 bottlenose dolphins have washed onto beaches from New York to Virginia since July, according to a report in the New York Times, and the cause may be a fast-spreading infection. The National Marine Fisheries Service has labeled the deaths an “unusual mortality event,” a characterization that enables the feds to come in and help find the cause. This NOAA Fisheries page includes graphs showing dolphin stranding statistics over the last seven years.

Swinging CO2 Levels Show the Earth Is ‘Breathing’ More Deeply
NPR’s Richard Harris reports on a new study published in Science magazine showing evidence that seasonal atmospheric CO2 variations have increased in magnitude over the last 50 years, especially in the Arctic. One result is more shrubs are growing on the Arctic tundra, and although they take up more CO2 in the summer, they could have an adverse effect in winter. (Here’s a link to the report in Science.)

SkyTruth, the Environment and the Satellite Revolution
The Washington Post Magazine ran a feature story about how SkyTruth, a small non-profit organization in Shepherdstown, W.Va., is transforming the environmental movement. They take satellite data and imagery, “turn it into maps with overlays of radar or aerial flyovers, then fan it out to environmental agencies, conservation nonprofit groups and grass-roots activists.” SkyTruth tracks fracking impacts in Pennsylvania, mountaintop-removal in West Virginia, and illegal fishing off of Easter Island, to name a few.

Chernobyl’s Legacy Recorded in Trees
BBC News described a new study published in the journal Trees, which examined 100 Scots pines from 12 sites within the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, site of a nuclear power plant accident in 1986. The scientists claim it is the first study to look at nuclear radiation impacts on trees there at a landscape scale. A co-author told BBC, “Many of the trees show highly abnormal growth forms reflecting the effects of mutations and cell death resulting from radiation exposure.”

(Image from NOAA)

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