Atlantic Hurricanes 2020: NOAA predicts busy season, 13-19 storms | fox43.com

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NOAA predicts ‘busy’ Atlantic hurricane season with 3-6 major storms

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and forecasters say it could be a busy one. Author: TEGNA Published: 12:01 PM EDT May 21, 2020

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WASHINGTON — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters said Thursday that they expect the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to be a busy one. 

The NOAA’s outlook predicts an above-normal season, which officially begins on June 1.

The NOAA predicts there will be 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (74 mph or higher). The NOAA forecasts that there could be between three to six major hurricanes (Storms that reach category 3 or above). 

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including three major ones.  

The NOAA said a combination of several factors, including the lack of El Nino conditions, along with warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, increases the likelihood for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.  A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA’s 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. NOAA

While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, there’s already been one named storm. Tropical storm Arthur sent rain over North Carolina Monday. 

The storm represented another early start for the Atlantic hurricane season. Arthur formed Saturday in waters off Florida, marking the sixth straight year that a named storm has developed before June 1. A summary graphic showing an alphabetical list of the 2020 Atlantic tropical cyclone names as selected by the World Meteorological Organization. The first named storm of the season, Arthur, occurred in earlier in May before the NOAA’s outlook was announced. NOAA

The NOAA’s acting administrator said the agency’s analysis reveals a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season this year. 

RELATED: Forecasters predicting ‘very active’ 2020 Atlantic season

RELATED: ‘No model is perfect’: A look at how coronavirus projections are made

“Our skilled forecasters, coupled with upgrades to our computer models and observing technologies, will provide accurate and timely forecasts to protect life and property,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator.   

“As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe.” https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Bumblebees bite plants to make them flower early, surprising scientists

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Bumblebees bite plants to make them flower early, surprising scientists

How it actually works remains a mystery, but if replicated by humans, it could be a boon for agriculture.

By Virginia Morell PUBLISHED May 21, 2020

A buff-tailed bumblebee flies among flowers in England. Many bumblebee species are declining due to climate change.Photograph by Stephen Dalton, Minden Pictures

Bumblebees aren’t merely bumbling around our gardens. They’re actively assessing the plants, determining which flowers have the most nectar and pollen, and leaving behind scent marks that tell them which blooms they’ve already visited. null

Now, a new study reveals that bumblebees force plants to flower by making tiny incisions in their leaves—a discovery that has stunned bee scientists.

“Wow! was my first reaction,” says Neal Williams, a bee biologist at the University of California, Davis. “Then I wondered, how did we miss this? How could no one have seen it before?”

Consuelo De Moraes, a chemical ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, had the same reaction when one of her students, Foteini Pashalidou,noticed buff-tailed bumblebees making tiny incisions in the leaves of their greenhouse plants. The insects didn’t seem to be carrying off the bits of leaves to their nests or ingesting them. null

https://www.youtube.com/embed/3z1OH_ebxrI#amp=1 Watch pollen-deprived bumblebees damage plant leaves

Suspecting the bees were inducing the plants to flower, the team set up a series of experiments. The results show that when pollen sources are scarce, such as in a greenhouse or during early spring,bumblebees can force plants to bloom up to a month earlier than usual.

The research is promising for two reasons. For one, it strongly suggests bumblebees manipulate flowers, a particularly useful skill as warming temperatures worldwide are causing the pollinators to emerge before plants have bloomed. The insects depend nearly exclusively on pollen for food for themselves and their larvae in the early spring. (Read how bumblebees are going extinct in a time of climate chaos.)

It’s also a potential boost for the human food supply: If agriculturalists can coax their crops to flower early, it could increase food production of some plants.

Master gardeners

For the study, De Moraes, Pashalidou—the study’s lead author—and colleagues placed flowerless tomato and black mustard plants in mesh cages with pollen-deprived buff-tailed bumblebee colonies. They then removed the plants after worker bees made five to 10 holes in their leaves.

The small punctures caused the black mustard plants to flower two weeks earlier than usual, and the tomato plants a month sooner than normal, according to the study, which was published May 21 in Science.

The scientists also placed pollen-fed and pollen-deprived bumblebee colonies in mesh cages with the flowerless plants to compare their behaviors. Worker bees from the pollen-fed colonies rarely damaged the plants, while those from the pollen-deprived colonies busily did so.

To ensure that their results weren’t due to the lab’s artificial conditions, the scientists placed bumblebee colonies and a variety of flowerless plant species on their Zurich rooftop in late March 2018.

The bees—a very common European species—were free to forage as far afield as they liked. Yet they set to work damaging the leaves on all the nonflowering plants nearest to their hives. The bees’ interest in this activity tapered off toward the end of April as more local flowers came into bloom—again, establishing that the bees’ leaf-biting behavior is driven by the availability of pollen, the scientists say. (See seven intimate pictures that reveal the beauty of bees.)

They continued their rooftop experiment through July and found that wild workers from two other bumblebee species (B. lapidgrius and B. lucorum) came to their nonflowering patch of plants to puncture the leaves.

It remains to be seen how widespread the behavior is in other bumblebees, over 250species of which are found around the world, the authors say.

Cracking the code

The mutually beneficial relationship between insect pollinators and flowers extends back some 130 million years. Plants provide the pollinators with food; in exchange, the pollinators fertilize their flowers. (Read more about nature’s “gold dusters.”)

But neither benefits if they’re out of synch with each other, so they’ve found ways to communicate. Saving Bumblebees Became This Photographer’s Mission

“That’s what this study shows,” says Lars Chittka, a behavioral ecologist at Queen Mary University of London, who wrote an essay accompanying the Science paper. “In a sense, the bees are signaling, Hey, we need food. Please speed up your flowering, and we’ll pollinate you.”

“It’s a very sophisticated type of communication,” adds Santiago Ramirez, a chemical ecologist at the University of California, Davis, who wasn’t involved in the study. “It seems bees have cracked the code that causes plants to flower.”

But many questions remain. Why do the incisions cause the plants to flower?

And, asks Chittka, “Does flowering early lead to higher fitness for the plants—meaning, do they have a larger number of offspring?”

Boost for agriculture?

When the study authors used metal forceps and a razor to mimic the holes the bees made, the plants bloomed earlier than normal, but not as soon as they did in response to the bees’ bites.

“They do something we haven’t quite captured,” says study co-author Mark Mescher, an evolutionary ecologist also at the Swiss institute. “It could be they introduce a biochemical or odor cue” from a saliva gland. “We hope to figure this out.”

Doing so could create a whole new way for humans to cultivate plants, a potentially major boon for agriculture. (Here are nine ways to support bees and other pollinators at home.)

For bee experts, one of the greatest marvels of the study is that it started with simple, old-fashioned observation.

“Charles Darwin followed bumblebees around,” says Williams. “Anyone interested in bumblebees has likely spent hours watching them on flowers. But probably not on plants that aren’t in bloom.”

Then Pashalidou did just that—and opened an entirely new phenomenon to our eyes.

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New Mexico Wolf Pack Destroyed After Alpha Female Killed, Yearling Flees – Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 20, 2020

Contact:

Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org

New Mexico Wolf Pack Destroyed After Alpha Female Killed, Yearling Flees

Wolf Mother’s Undisclosed Death in April Follows March Killing of Mate, Pup

SILVER CITY, N.M.— A pack of endangered Mexican gray wolves has been eliminated in the Gila National Forest through a combination of private trapping and federal shooting on behalf of the livestock industry.

Conservationists learned today that the Prieto pack’s nine-year-old alpha female died in federal custody on April 25 and that a yearling has fled dozens of miles from his natal range. These events follow the federal shooting in March of the alpha male and a pup, and the trapping, maiming and/or deaths of seven other pack members during 2018 and 2019.

“This latest incident is the cruel final blow to the Prieto pack, which struggled for two years to survive the Fish and Wildlife Service and avowed wolf-haters in the livestock industry,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll do everything in our power to end the policy of looking the other way on so-called ‘accidental trapping’ of wolves. It’s crucial to stop the federal government’s sickening program of wolf trapping and shooting.”

The alpha female was caught in a privately set trap on April 24. When notified of this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to take the wolf into captivity because the pack was deplored by local ranchers, even though she showed no significant injuries and no removal order was issued for her. The wolf died the next day of apparent capture myopathy, a stress response in which the body overheats.

The alpha female was the granddaughter of one of the first wolves released in 1998, who also died of capture myopathy after federal capture in 2005.

A male and a female wolf of the Prieto Pack were trapped in December 2018, resulting in the death of the female and causing the male to lose a leg and his freedom.

Following those losses, the pack began preying on livestock. In February 2019 another pack member was found dead, and in March 2019 the government trapped and removed two more; one was later released and is now a lone wolf in the wild.

In November two more wolves were trapped by private parties. One wolf was taken into federal custody, and the other was seen dragging a trap on its paw. This wolf was later seen with the trap gone but part of its paw missing, and has not been located in recent months. And in March federal agents shot the alpha male and a pup.

“The government is supposed to be recovering these endangered animals but is far too cavalier with their lives,” said Robinson. “Though the feds claim they’re looking at the population as a whole, this recurring mismanagement is precisely why the Mexican wolf is in worse genetic shape now than when reintroduction began more than two decades ago.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service currently has an open comment period through June 15, to determine the scope of issues to be considered in the course of a court-ordered revision in its 2015 Mexican wolf management rule that must conclude next May.

Prieto pups 2016 USFWS-1.jpg

Prieto pack litter from 2016. Photo courtesy of USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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New pygmy seahorse species discovered, first of its kind in Africa

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New pygmy seahorse discovered, first of its kind in Africa

“It’s like finding a kangaroo in Norway,” says a researcher of the new species of lentil-size fish, found 5,000 miles from its nearest cousins.

By Douglas Main PUBLISHED May 20, 2020

Hippocampus nalu, also known as the African pygmy seahorse, is about the size of a rice grain, and was found living well camouflaged among algae and sand in Sodwana Bay, South Africa.Photograph by Richard Smith

In rough, boulder-strewn waters off eastern South Africa, researchers have found a new species: a pygmy seahorse about the size of a grain of rice. null

The finding shocked them because all seven species of pygmy seahorse, except for one in Japan, inhabit the Coral Triangle, a biodiverse region of more than two million square miles in the southwestern Pacific. This one lives 5,000 miles away, the first pygmy seahorse seen in all of the Indian Ocean and the continent of Africa.

“It’s like finding a kangaroo in Norway,” says Richard Smith, a marine biologist based in the United Kingdom and co-author of a new study on the species, known as the African or Sodwana Bay pygmy seahorse. The second name refers to the location where it was found, a popular scuba-diving spot close to the Mozambique border.

The new species looks somewhat similar to other pygmy seahorses, except that it has one set of spines on its back that have sharp, incisor-like points on the tips, says co-author Graham Short, an ichthyologist at the California Academy of Sciences and the Australian Museum in Sydney. In contrast, the other similar pygmy seahorses have flat-tipped spines.

“We really don’t know what these spines are used for,” Short says. “Many species of seahorses in general are spiny, so their presence could be possibly due to sexual selection—the females may prefer spinier males.” (Related: Strange mating habits of the seahorse.)

The surprising discovery, described in a study published May 19 in the journal ZooKeys, shows how little we know about the ocean, particularly when it comes to tiny creatures, the authors say—and that there are likely many more pygmy seahorse species to be identified. null

“A gift from the sea”

Dive instructor Savannah Nalu Olivier first stumbled upon the creature in Sodwana Bay in 2017, while examining bits of algae on the seafloor. The bay is known for having many species of rare fish, sharks, and sea turtles.

She shared photographs of the fish with her colleagues, and in 2018 they made their way to Smith, who, with colleague Louw Claassens, collected several specimens of the animal at depths of 40 to 55 feet. null

The researchers have named the new seahorse Hippocampus nalu, after Olivier, whose nickname is appropriately “Fish.” (She’s also a Pisces.) In the South African languages Xhosa and Zulu, “nalu” roughly translates to “here it is.”

“I told her that this was a gift from the sea,” says Louis Olivier, Savannah’s father, who owns a scuba diving outfit called Pisces Diving Sodwana Bay. He adds he’s “super stoked about her discovery.”

Mysterious anatomy

Smith sent several specimens of the new species to Short, who analyzed their genetics and body structures using a CT scanner.

His research revealed that, like other pygmy seahorses, the newly found animal has two wing-like structures on its back, rather than one, as in larger seahorses. These “wings” in general serve an unknown purpose for seahorses.

Also like other pygmy seahorses, the African species has only one gill slit on its upper back, instead of two below each side of the head, like larger seahorses—another mystery. null

That would be “like having a nose on the back of your neck,” Short says.

But the new seahorse is unique from its tiny kin in that it was found living in turf-like algae, amid boulders and sand. Sodwana Bay has large swells, and the little seahorses appear to be comfortable being swept about, says Smith, who observed a pygmy seahorse get covered in sand and then wriggle its way out.

“They regularly get sand-blasted,” Smith says. Other pygmy seahorses, which stick to the calmer waters around coral reefs, “are more dainty. But this [species] is built of sturdier stuff.” null

Like other pygmy seahorses, the African version is thought to eat tiny copepods and crustaceans. It also is well camouflaged to match its surroundings.

https://assets.nationalgeographic.com/modules-video/stable/assets/ngsEmbeddedVideo.html?guid=00000165-244b-d3fe-a9fd-7cfb815c0000&account=2423130747#amp=1 New species of pygmy seahorse found in Japan

Many more to find

This finding “demonstrates that there are still many discoveries to be made in the oceans, even in shallow waters near the coast,” says Thomas Trnski, head of natural sciences at the Auckland Museum in New Zealand, who wasn’t involved in the study. Almost all pygmy seahorses have been discovered in just the last 20 years, he adds.

The only pygmy seahorse found outside the Coral Triangle is the Japanese pygmy seahorse, also known as the “Japan pig,” first described in August 2018.

Although populations of regular seahorses have fallen in many areas because of harvesting for use in traditional Chinese medicine and the aquarium trade, that’s not an issue for pygmy seahorses because they are difficult to find, Short says. That being said, some of these species have very low population densities, and there’s not enough data to get a good sense of how many there are, Smith adds.

These fish can spread only very short distances via the current. The study suggests that Hippocampus nalu diverged from the ancestors of all known pygmy seahorses species more than 12 million years ago.

“This means that it is extremely likely that there are many more species of pygmy seahorses yet to be discovered in the western Indian Ocean” and beyond, Short says.

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Friendships

Love at First Sight

Virgin Orbit sending first payload to space Sunday | fox43.com

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The launcher will be released from a Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl. Author: JOHN ANTCZAK Associated Press Published: 12:29 AM EDT May 21, 2020

LOS ANGELES — Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is targeting the coming weekend for its first attempt to launch a demonstration payload into space aboard a rocket released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747.

The air launch is scheduled for Sunday off the coast of Southern California and will only proceed if conditions are satisfactory, the company said Wednesday.

“Although air-launched systems like ours are less vulnerable to bad weather than fixed ground-launch systems, we’ll be watching the weather closely and being cautious for this maiden flight. Should our flight slip, we have a launch window open at a similar time on May 25th,” it said.

The carrier aircraft, named Cosmic Girl, will take off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and fly out over the Pacific.

Release of the LauncherOne rocket would occur near San Nicolas Island, part of the Channel Islands off the California coast.

19dcc5a0-7d62-4422-9d3f-afb41b196839_1140x641This April 12, 2020 photo shows a Boeing 747 with a rocket slung beneath a wing in its final major test before an upcoming demonstration of its system in which the rocket will be carried aloft and launched.   Virgin Orbit

RELATED: NASA’s human spaceflight chief resigns just days before historic SpaceX launch

RELATED: Try this SpaceX simulator and dock with the International Space Station

Earlier this year, Virgin Orbit conducted a rehearsal flight that simulated release of the rocket.

Headquartered in Long Beach, Virgin Orbit is a sister company to Virgin Galactic, which is preparing to carry tourists on suborbital flights high over New Mexico.

Virgin Orbit’s system will be capable of launching small satellites into space from locations around the world.

The launch rehearsal comes after years of development and recent extensive modification of operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as putting team members to work on the development of medical ventilators. https://d-35037793112624109830.ampproject.net/2005151844001/frame.html

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Leonardo DiCaprio saves gorilla park by donating to €1.8 million fund | Living

Leonardo DiCaprio saves gorilla park by donating to €1.8 million fund

American actor turned environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has pledged his support for a gorilla conservation park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Virunga National Park needs $2 million (€1.8 million) in funding to stay afloat after suffering an attack in April of this year. A suspected Rwandan militia group allegedly killed 12 park rangers in the ambush. Ever since, the lack of security patrols has put the endangered mountain gorilla population at even greater risk.

In light of the covid-19 pandemic, gorillas are facing further challenges. Scientists worry that the health crisis poses an “existential threat” towards the survival of the species.

AFP PHOTO / VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK / © LuAnne Cadd

A mountain gorilla at Virunga National ParkAFP PHOTO / VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK / © LuAnne CaddLUANNE CADD

“Virunga urgently needs funds to protect the endangered mountain gorilla population, to provide support to the rangers and the families of rangers who have fallen in the line of duty, and to help deliver essential disease prevention efforts,” the actor told BBC News.

“I had the great honour of meeting and supporting Virunga’s courageous team in their fight against illegal oil drilling in 2013,” he said.

DiCaprio has announced that he is donating towards the Virunga Fund via his organisation Earth Alliance. In a recent Instagram post, he wrote, “The future of Virunga hangs in the balance as it deals with the impacts of Ebola and COVID-19, and now this recent attack.”https://www.instagram.com/p/CAVVjUdlaR1/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=12&wp=743&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.euronews.com&rp=%2Fliving%2F2020%2F05%2F19%2Fleonardo-dicaprio-saves-gorilla-park-by-donating-to-1-8-million-fund#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A2905%2C%22ls%22%3A1164%2C%22le%22%3A1183%7D

Other contributors to the fund include the Emerson Collective, Global Wildlife Conservation and the European Commission.

Why save Virunga National Park?

Virunga National Park is the oldest nature reserve in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world and home to the endangered mountain gorilla. In total, the park provides a habitat for several hundred species of birds, reptiles and mammals.

Two active volcanoes located in the park, Mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, have helped shape its unique ecosystem. Over 3,000 species of flora and fauna have been recorded so far, including animals like the blue-headed tree agama, the African elephant and the golden monkey, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

There are fewer than 1,200 mountain gorillas left in the world

© Phil Moore / AFP

Orphaned mountain gorilla at Virunga National Park© Phil Moore / AFPPHIL MOORE

The Gorilla Organization is a UK-based charity working to protect our closest living relatives. Today, there are fewer than 1,200 mountain gorillas left in the world, so the charity encourages the public to adopt a gorilla for £3 a month to help save them from the threat of extinction.

They are building a ‘Gorilla safe zone’ in the DR of Congo basin rainforest by planting millions of trees. This is to help local communities and stop them entering the national parks where the last wild gorillas can survive.

https://www.euronews.com/living/2020/05/19/leonardo-dicaprio-saves-gorilla-park-by-donating-to-1-8-million-fund

Social distancing one week earlier could have saved 36,000 lives in US, study suggests

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Researchers say the new models show how even small differences in timing could have prevented the worst exponential growth of coronavirus cases. Author: TEGNA Published: 5:39 AM EDT May 21, 2020

New modeling shows that if the U.S. adopted coronavirus social distancing measures one week earlier in March, the country could have saved nearly 36,000 additional lives from COVID-19. Researchers say its a sign of how quickly the virus can spread when no measures are in place.

The estimates are from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. It’s based on modeling that looks at how reduced contact between people starting in mid-March slowed transmission, according to The New York Times. null

On March 16, President Donald Trump announced guidelines from the White House coronavirus task force aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. He asked Americans to avoid discretionary travel, avoid gathering in large groups and encouraged schools to teach remotely.

Columbia researchers say that had such measures been enacted on March 8, the number of total deaths, as of May 3, could have dropped by nearly 36,000. If the restrictions had gone into effect March 1, the researchers projected that the number of deaths could be 54,000 less, as of May 3. 

The leader of the research team told the New York Times that even small differences in timing could have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had already hit New York City, New Orleans and other towns. 

The team estimated that in New York City alone, the number of coronavirus deaths reported on May 3 could have dropped by nearly 15,000 to just 2,838. The researchers’ findings have yet to be peer-reviewed and were shared online to the preprint site medrxiv

RELATED: Repeating 50-day strict lockdown, 30-day relaxing could solve pandemic, study suggests

RELATED: CDC says coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ on surfaces, objects

As of early Thursday morning, there were more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. That includes more than 93,000 deaths.

RELATED: 5 million cases: World COVID-19 count reaches new milestone

RELATED: CDC says coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ on surfaces, objects

In response to the new estimates, the White House released a statement late Wednesday night to the New York Times that reiterated the president’s “assertion that restrictions on travel from China in January and Europe in mid-March slowed the spread of the virus.”

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

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