Here are some of the headlines which caught our eye this week.
Coastal flooding : Spring tides (nothing to do with the season of Spring) occur with the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, each new or full moon. But “king tides” occur when the moon is closest to the Earth and the gravitational pull is stronger, creating extra high tides, and extra low tides. These are naturally occurring events but can be dramatic if they coincide with bad weather, which has occurred in recent weeks ; observers are now predicting that these “king tides” are a glimpse of the future, when global warming causes sea levels to rise.
“Dark Skies” – the first in the Northern Hemisphere : The Iveragh Peninsula, SW Kerry, Ireland, has been designated a Gold Tier Dark Skies Reserve, somewhere to see the night skies without light pollution. The area is located between the Kerry mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Only two other places have received this accolade, one in Namibia and one in New Zealand. Several towns and villages in Kerry enacted laws requiring responsible outdoor lighting practices.
Extinct frog isn’t : The webless shrub frog (Pseudophilautus hypomelas) has been “rediscovered” in Sri Lanka, having been unseen for 130 years. It has now been moved from the “Extinct” to the “Critically Endangered” list.
CO2 Absorption Concerns : 2 billion extra tonnes of carbon-containing gases are released for every 1º C rise in temperature but tropical rainforests are becoming less able to cope, in a study, co-authored by Prof Peter Cox of Exeter University. The terrestrial “sink” for atmospheric carbon is erratic and prone to human activities such as deforestation and drainage of swamps. “Tropical ecosystems have become more vulnerable to warming” Professor Cox said.
Are wolves smarter than dogs? Studies by scientists in Vienna show that wolves learn more easily from one another than their close relative the dog. Wolves were domesticated more than 15,000 years ago and developed into Man’s best friend. Researchers believe the close relationship between humans and dogs stems from the wolves’ ability to learn from one another – doggies simply transferred this trust to humans during the process of domestication.
Mercury visible : Sky watchers in the northen hemisphere this week will be able to catch a rare glimpse of Mercury, visible to the naked eye in the twilight sky. Head west (see earlier piece on Dark Skies), and 30 minutes after sunset look south-west for a yellow-orange star, Mercury… that’s if the rain abates before 4th February!