‘Abnormally large dust cloud’ making 5,000-mile trek across Atlantic towards US

https://media.fox43.com/embeds/mobile/video/607-2806f094-cc7c-4d2b-9db9-d6fb09c3d8df/amp#amp=1 accuweather

The dust cloud may also pose a possible health hazard to those living along the Gulf coast. Author: Adriana Navarro (AccuWeather) Published: 2:20 PM EDT June 19, 2020

NOAA/GOES16

Crimson sunrises and sunsets will paint the eastern Texas sky next week, most likely not as any ill omen for the remaining months of 2020, but from dust.

An “abnormally large dust cloud” from the Sahara is making about a 5,000-mile trek across the Atlantic, heralding the chance of red sunrises and sunsets across the Gulf Coast and suppressing tropical development in the Atlantic Basin. However, it may also pose a possible health hazard to those living along the Gulf coast. null

Although it isn’t uncommon for the Trade Winds to carry dust from the Sahara to the Gulf Coast, this plume has caught the attention of a few meteorologists.

“According to scientists that I have gotten some information from, they’re saying this is an abnormally large dust cloud,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and lead hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski told AccuWeather’s Jonathan Petramala. “One of the things I noticed from this is the dust started coming off the coast of Africa several days ago, in fact maybe over a week ago. And it’s still coming. It’s almost like a prolonged area of dust.” Satellite imagery of the dust plume from the Sahara trekking across the Atlantic toward the Americas on June 18, 2020. NOAA/GOES16

Dust making this journey from the Sahara to the Gulf Coast is common during June, July and sometimes into early August. Picked up by the Trade Winds and lofted higher up into the atmosphere, the dust gets trapped as the wind spirits it away across the Atlantic.

“This is the dusty time of the year,” Kottlowski said. This year, he believes a stronger-than-normal, or at least a very active, African easterly jet might be at play in spurring the abnormal dust plume.

As the dust is carried across the Atlantic, it tends to suppress tropical development.

“It keeps a lid on the atmosphere and brings dry air into anything that may try to develop, which is very detrimental for tropical development which relies on warm, moist air,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.

However, dust is rarely a factor during the later months of the Atlantic hurricane season — August, September and October — when storms become more active. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

“Dust tends to be much less of a problem during the heart of the hurricane season,” Kottlowski said.

However, while the dust can suppress development, it doesn’t kill any development entirely, Kottlowski warned. It’s still possible for a tropical wave to clear out a large area of the dust, allowing a second tropical wave following in its wake to take advantage of the break in the dust pattern.

There doesn’t seem to be a break in this dust pattern just yet though.

“I was amazed that the dust is still coming off the coast,” Kottlowski said. “You don’t see a break in it, so it’s just a sort of long-lasting area of dust. We’re going to see hazy skies across the Caribbean, probably into Florida into parts of the Gulf of Mexico area, probably for a week or two.”

The dust is expected to reach the Gulf Coast between Tuesday and Thursday of next week, Kottlowski estimated. With the hazy skies, the sun’s rays will have to bend around the dust particles as sunlight filters through the sky, creating vivid red sunrises and sunsets.

“It all depends on the concentration of the air particles or of the dust that will be there,” Kottlowski said. “But from what I’ve seen thus far, a fair amount of dust is going to get forced into the Texas coast into those areas, so they will see that.”

Volcanic ash and smoke from wildfires have had similar effects on how sunlight filters through the atmosphere at sunrise and sunset. The dust from the Sahara will spread out over a large area, from Florida to Louisiana and Texas, where Kottlowski expects the most dust to be seen.

While the dust will hang higher in the air, it can still pose a health concern. Should any of the fine dust combine with other particles in the air such as ozone or other dust particles or smoke, it could impact people who are more prone to respiratory issues, Kottlowski said. He expects there will be a few poor air quality reports out of eastern Texas next week.

Reporting by Jonathan Petramala.

https://www.fox43.com/amp/article/weather/accuweather/abnormally-large-dust-cloud-making-5000-mile-trek-across-atlantic-towards-us/507-beca253d-a170-4795-b527-f623658a1f16?__twitter_impression=true

Could flushing a public toilet really spread COVID-19?

api.nationalgeographic.com

By Sarah Gibbens 10-13 minutes

PUBLISHED June 19, 2020

An employee places facial masks in the bathroom of a suite of Berlin’s famous Hotel Adlon Kempinski on May 26, 2020, one day after it reopened for tourism as restrictions were eased amid the novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images) Photograph by Tobias Schwarz, AFP via Getty Images

Few people have the bladder fortitude to last through drinks, dinner, or long road trips without having to use the restroom. But as more restaurants, bars, and other public spaces start to re-open this summer, questions have been swirling around whether using a public toilet could become a more serious health risk in the era of COVID-19.

Such worries came to a head this week when researchers in China published a study suggesting that flushing a toilet can create a plume of coronavirus-laden particles, which are flung into the air by the watery vortex inside a toilet bowl.

Several studiesusing genetic tests have previously detected the SARS-CoV-2 virus in stool samples, and at least one investigation shows that the coronaviruses in these feces can be infectious. When a person infected with COVID-19 defecates, the germ at first settles into the toilet bowl. But then “the flushing process can lift the virus out of the toilet and cause cross-infection among people,” says Ji-Xiang Wang, a physicist at Yangzhou University in China and coauthor on the paper published June 16 in the journal Physics of Fluids.

While the toilet plume effect has been studied for decades in relation to other diseases, many questions remain over its role in spreading germs, including the one that causes COVID-19. Neither the World Health Organization nor the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thinks it’s very likely COVID-19 can be spread by bowel movements leading to accidental consumption of virus particles, a route medically termed fecal-oral transmission.

Despite these uncertainties, experts say there are precautions you should take before answering nature’s call in publicly shared restrooms.

How risky are restrooms?

For the latest study, Wang’s team used computer models to show that tiny droplets called aerosols, created by the turbulence of water sloshing inside a toilet bowl, could be ejected up to three feet into the air. Shortly after flushing, water rushes into the bowl, striking the opposite side with enough force to generate a vortex that forcefully pushes not only the liquid, but also the air inside the toilet.

According to their simulations, this combination launches aerosols that can last in the air for just over a minute. The more water used in a toilet bowl, Wang’s team found, the greater the force of the flush.

So what does that mean if you use a restroom after someone infected with COVID-19 flushes? That depends a lot on whether the infectious virus survives in human feces, and that’s still an active area of research.

To start, studies of MERS, a coronavirus relative that flared up in 2012, indicate that this particular virus can survive in the human digestive tract, which is a sign the same might be true for SARS-CoV-2. Flu viruses and coronaviruses are considered “enveloped viruses” because they’re protected by a thin layer called a membrane. Unlike noroviruses, the most common culprit of food poisoning, enveloped viruses are easily degraded by acids, which make them vulnerable to the chemical make-ups of soap and stomach bile.

When cities were cesspools of disease

One hypothesis, based on influenza research, suggests that these kinds of viruses might survive in the human gut if mucus from infected patients protects the germs during their journey through the digestive tract. The question then is how long the virus lasts in fecal matter, and that’s another area that needs more research, says E. Susan Amirian, a molecular epidemiologist at Rice University in Houston.

“Fecal transmission is unlikely to be a major mode of transmission, even if it proves to be plausible,” Amirian says in an email. She notes that the CDC’s assessment of fecal-oral transmission cites one study in which scientists were able to detect only broken bits of the coronavirus’s genetic codein infected patients’ feces. These genetic snippets are an indicator the germ was once present in the body, but the virus has been degraded so much, it can no longer cause an infection.

However, these broken viral bits appear quite often in COVID-19 defecations. Another study published in April found traces of SARS-CoV-2 in the fecal matter of more than half of 42 patients tested. And a May 18 report published by the CDC found viable and infectious SARS-CoV-2 in fecal excretions from a handful of patients.

What’s more, past studies show that fecal-oral transmission may have occurred during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, another coronavirus cousin of COVID-19. Airborne fecal matter was thought to have exacerbated a cluster of 321 SARS cases at a Hong Kong apartment complex in 2003. Later examination of the incident found poor ventilation, contact with neighbors, and shared spaces such as elevators and stairwells also contributed to the event.

“Using a public restroom, especially while taking precautions like maintaining physical distance from others and practicing good hand hygiene, is quite likely to be less risky than attending a gathering with people from other households,” Amirian says via email. She emphasizes that “the major mode of transmission for COVID-19 is person-to-person through respiratory droplets.”

What can you do to protect yourself?

Still, “less risky” isn’t the same as no risk, and exactly how well the virus survives in feces, on surfaces, and in the air are questions scientists are still trying to answer.

A study published last April in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the virus could live on steel and plastic surfaces for up to two and three days, respectively. A simple solution of soap and water can easily destroy the virus. But that means public restrooms can harbor COVID-19 germs if establishments don’t take care to wipe down surfaces.

“At the end of the day, we need to remember that stool can be a reservoir for many diseases, and people sometimes don’t wash their hands as well as they think they do,” says Amirian. “Good hygiene, especially thorough hand washing, is important for reasons beyond COVID-19.”

In public restrooms with multiple stalls that don’t limit the number of people allowed in, clusters of individuals represent an additional risk, as person-to-person contact is still the primary way people become infected with coronavirus.

Joe Allen is the director of Harvard’s Healthy Buildings Program, where he researches how our offices, schools, and homes can influence our health. In investigations of buildings that adversely impact human health, Allen says, “I always remind people to check the exhaust in the bathroom.” He adds that improving ventilation that moves dirty indoor air outside is one of the best ways to safeguard against a contaminated restroom.

“[Public] bathrooms should have exhaust fans that are constantly running,” Allen says.

If possible, he also recommends that establishments install touchless features such as water faucets, soap dispensers, and towel dispensers that turn on with the wave of a hand.

Absent more hygienic upgrades, Wang advises wearing a face mask when using a public restroom. And one of the most effective ways to keep potentially infected aerosols of any kind from flying into the air, Wang adds, is to simply install lids on public toilets.

“Manufacturers should design a new toilet, in which the lid is automatically put down before flushing,” says Wang.

https://api.nationalgeographic.com/distribution/public/amp/science/2020/06/could-flushing-public-toilet-plume-spread-coronavirus-cvd?__twitter_impression=true

They declared them companion animals… But this is still going to happen!!

” Juneteenth” A Celebration of Overcoming tonight at 8 p.m.

Pink Power: Bully Flamingos are Deeper Pink

firepaw.org

New research has just revealed that bright pink flamingos are more aggressive than paler rivals when fighting over food.  When the birds squabble over food, the pinkest flamingos — both male and female — tend to push the others around.  This makes sense when considering that pink plumage is a sign of good health in lesser flamingos, and a flush of color often means they are ready to breed.

“Flamingos live in large groups with complex social structures. Color plays an important role in this. The color comes from carotenoids in their food, which for lesser flamingos is mostly algae that they filter from the water.  Lesser flamingos do not have a breeding season — they breed when they’re in good enough condition. This is often displayed by a “pink flush” in the feathers. The birds then become paler again during the tiring days of early parenthood.

“A healthy flamingo that is an efficient feeder — demonstrated by its colorful feathers — will have more time and energy to be aggressive and dominant when feeding.”

-Dr. Paul Rose, Researcher, University of Exeter

Study overview

The color of individual birds in the study was scored from one (mainly white) to four (mainly pink).

The researchers studied the behavior of Slimbridge’s lesser flamingos in different feeding situations: at an indoor feeding bowl, a larger indoor feeding pool, and outdoors with food available in a large pool.

In the outdoor pool, birds spent less than half as much time displaying aggression, while foraging time doubled (compared to when fed from a bowl).  No difference was found between males and females in rates of feeding or aggression.

Takeaway

“When birds have to crowd together to get their food, they squabble more and therefore spend less time feeding. It’s not always possible to feed these birds outdoors, as lesser flamingos only weigh about 2kg and are native to Africa, so captive birds in places like the UK would get too cold if they went outside in the winter.

“However, this study shows they should be fed over as wide an area as possible. Where possible, creating spacious outdoor feeding areas can encourage natural foraging patterns and reduce excess aggression.”


Journal Reference: Paul Rose, Laura Soole. What influences aggression and foraging activity in social birds? Measuring individual, group and environmental characteristics. Ethology, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/eth.13067


Posted by: Kris

https://firepaw.org/2020/06/09/pink-power-bully-flamingos-are-deeper-pink/