jet streamNASA Waves in the jet stream, as shown here, increase the likelihood of extreme weather.Frightful floods, freezes and heat waves favor certain parts of the Northern Hemisphere, the result of strong atmospheric currents that steer extreme weather to the same places over and over again, a new study finds.Fear a cold winter? Then avoid eastern North America. Hate floods? Stay out of western Asia. Enjoy a long shower? Then drought-prone central North America, Europe and central Asia aren’t for you. Can’t stand the heat? Rule out heat-wave-prone western North America and central Asia, according to findings published today (June 22) in the journal Nature Climate Change.The atmospheric currents that control the bad weather are similar to a sky river: They swoop back and forth across the hemisphere at about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface, with giant waves that resemble the Mississippi River’s wide bends. The currents also have vertical pressure waves that vary like a riverbed that shallows and deepens — these contribute to the pressure highs and lows in daily weather reports. [Infographic: Tour Earth’s Atmosphere Top to Bottom]These atmospheric waves shove air around the planet, sucking warmth up from the tropics and cold air down from the Arctic. Extreme weather hits when the swoops freeze in their tracks, trapping storms, heat or cold in place for weeks.”We’re not saying these extremes are becoming more prevalent,” said lead study author James Screen of the University of Exeter in the U.K. „These waves have preferred locations, so you’re more likely to get extreme weather in one place over another.”However, many weather observers have noted an apparent rise in extreme weather in recent decades. This has led some researchers to blame global warming for altering these wind patterns, resulting in more stuck air waves and more frightful weather.The new research did not examine the link between global warming and extreme weather, however. Rather, scientists set out to test one of the idea’s main tenets: that these planetary air currents really cause terrible weather.”The narrative I’ve been reading is almost like these waves can cause anything, anywhere, anytime, but it actually doesn’t seem to be that way,” Screen said.Only month-long severe temperature and rainfall events, not a few days of miserable weather, merited a look in the study. The researchers examined these extreme weather events, along with past atmospheric wave patterns, from 1979 through 2012. (Screen said the 2013-2014 „polar vortex” winter in eastern North America would have qualified for the study.)The scientists discovered the waves tend to get stuck in the same spots over and over again. These „preferred locations” are influenced by topographic features such as mountain ranges and oceans.The currents studied by Screen and his co-authors are shallower than the more well-known jet stream, which flows at about 6 miles (10 km) above the ground. However, the shallow currents „play an important part in controlling our weather,” Screen said.Now that the team has identified which regions of the Northern Hemisphere are most strongly affected by stuck planetary waves, the next step is thinking about what might happen if the waves get larger, as some researchers predict might happen under the influence of global warming.”The meteorological implication is that climate change is not necessarily going to make everything more extreme everywhere,” Screen said.Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.Read more:
The Most Stunning Rainbow Beaches in the World

The Most Stunning Rainbow Beaches in the WorldThe scarlet sands of Greece’s Red Beach.  (Photo: Flickr/Jeremy Vandal)Red Sand: Red Beach in Santorini, GreeceLocated near the ancient village of Akrotiri, Santorini’s Red Beach is a major tourist attraction. The beach’s unique color is a result of the volcanic activity on the island. imageLife is peachy at Ramla Bay Beach. (Photo: Flickr/Jennifer Morrow)Orange Sand: Ramla Bay, MaltaWhat a beautiful way to start your day. Ramla Bay, on the Maltese island of Gozo, gets its breathtaking golden-orange hue from the high levels of iron in the sand.Related: 7 Cheap and Chic Beaches You’ve Never Heard of … Until NowPapakolea Beach, HawaiiGoing green: Papakolea Beach, Hawaii. (Photo: Flickr/David J LaporteGreen Sand: Papakolea Beach, HawaiiThe beautiful stretch of beach is located on Hawaii’s Big Island. The emerald color is thanks to the presence of Olivine crystal, a volcanic mineral.  Punalu’u Beach, HawaiiThe midnight sands of Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii. (Photo: Flickr/Rachel Savage)Black Sand: Punalu’u Beach, HawaiiIn addition to green sand, Hawaii’s Big Island also boasts a startling black beach at Punalu’u. The jet-black sand was created by lava flowing into the ocean, exploding, and then cooling.Related: Beachfront Hotels in the United States Under $200Pfieffer Beach, California50 shades of purple on California’s Pfieffer Beach. (Photo: Flickr/ Steve Jurvetson)Purple Sand: Pfieffer Beach, CaliforniaBig Sur, California is known for its amazing weather, great surfing and the majestic purple sands of Pfieffer Beach. imageThe best beach down under: Hyams Beach. (Photo: Flickr/Jonas Smith)White Sand: Hyams Beach, AustraliaThe bleached sand in New South Wales, Australia is often referred to as the whitest beach in the world. Next to the crystal-clear water and perfectly blue sky, this locale is definitely postcard worthy. Related: Surf Up! We Want to Visit America’s Top Ten BeachesHarbour Island, BahamasPretty in pink: Harbour Island, Bahamas. (Photo: Flickr/Solarnu)Pink Sand: Harbour Island, BahamasIf you’re looking for a picturesque vacation, try the three-mile-plus stretch of pink beach in Harbour Island, Bahamas. The rose colored grains get their color from the shells of a tiny microscopic animal called foraminifera.Want more like this? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter so that we can inspire you every day.

Posted: Updated:

Print Article

ALIENENCOUNTERS5 The question of whether humans are alone in the universe may have an answer sooner rather than later.The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has always been a needle-in-a-haystack effort, utilizing radio and optical telescopes to seek out alien signals from deep space. In the past few years, thanks to NASA’s extraordinary Kepler spacecraft, many extrasolar planets have been discovered, expanding the potential for finding habitable worlds.

„Unfortunately, it’s probably still a needle-in-a-haystack because we don’t know how many needles are out there,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in California.

„What we do know that we didn’t know, even a year ago, is what fraction of stars have planets that might be habitable,” Shostak told The Huffington Post. „And these days, the answer is maybe one in five. That’s a preliminary analysis of Kepler data. We now know that there are going to be lots of worlds out there where you could have life.

„The number of habitable worlds in our galaxy is certainly in the tens of billions, minimum, and we haven’t even talked about the moons. You know, moons can be habitable, too. And the number of galaxies we can see, other than our own, is about 100 billion. So 100 billion times 10 billion is a thousand billion billion [habitable planets] in the visible universe,” he said.Shostak is featured in Tuesday night’s episode of Science Channel’s „Alien Encounters” series, which explores the idea that an alien presence on Earth has spawned a generation of human-alien hybrids who eventually connect with a powerful quantum super computer. So far, he noted, the concept of one species breeding with another is just the stuff of sci-fi.”It’s science fiction, of course, that they’re coming here to breed with us, to make hybrids. We don’t do that with other species of our own planet very often. We might crossbreed a couple species, but nobody here has got experiments to crossbreed humans with mayflies or something like that,” Shostak said.”Maybe with parrots — that would be good because then maybe we would live longer, and we’d still be able to talk. We don’t do that kind of thing because it doesn’t make any sense biologically.”Given the staggering number of potentially habitable planets now thought to exist by astronomers, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology was interested enough to invite Shostak and Dan Werthimer, director of SETI’s research center at the University of California, Berkeley, to testify before the committee last month. Shostak and Werthimer told lawmakers that more funding would increase SETI’s chances of finding that elusive proof of ET’s existence.”I told them it would be a couple of decades,” Shostak said, „and explained to the committee why I thought that was the right time scale to find some sort of life. You might find it in the solar system. You might finally build a telescope that could find oxygen and methane in the atmosphere of nearby planets around other stars — we could build that today except for the fact that there’s no budget, but there may be budget within 20 years to do that. And the third approach, of course, is SETI.””Each of these has a decent chance of succeeding,” he added, „and I also think that one of them will.”Watch the full congressional hearing here.

„Alien Encounters” airs Tuesdays on Science Channel at 10 p.m. Check your local listings for more information.

 NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Planet NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Planet Extrasolar Planet HD 209458 b, Osiris Planet & Its Parent Star Hot Jupiter The Goldilocks Planet: Glises 581 G Imagining Extrasolar Planets

Rare Pictures of Flat-headed Cats in Park 
By , | June 24, 2014
You may also likePoacher Kills Another Rhino in Wildlife SanctuaryMore in Environment
Photo trapping is a popular technique for gathering images and information about elusive wildlife. Recently, camera traps captured the first-ever images of wild flat-headed cats (Prionailurus planiceps) in the Pasoh Forest Reserve, an unexpected find in the forestland southeast of Kuala Lumpur, according to a new report in’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.These house cat-sized felines are so rarely seen that next to nothing is known about the species. Even though the cats seem scarce, the scientists suggest these felids may also have been ducking detection by walking underneath previously set photo traps. Conservation efforts for this feline, and other reclusive species, could be improved by placing cameras that are better tailored to species-specific locations.Flat-headed cats, so named for their flattened nose and muzzle, are one of the least understood species, according to the authors of the paper. Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2008, few reliable sources on the cats’ past and present distributions are available. The last flat-headed cat was reported during a study between 1968 and 1974 when indigenous people living within the Pasoh Forest Reserve captured one of these felids.“The conservation status of this species is currently difficult to gauge due to lack of detections, species-specific studies, or knowledge of past and current distributions,” write the researchers.Although scientists think the cats’ range may include Borneo, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and Thailand, sightings have been too infrequent to do more than speculate. In the Pasoh Forest Reserve, which the researchers describe as a “forested island” of approximately 140 square kilometers (55 square miles), with few year-round freshwater streams, wildlife habitats are under increasing pressure from encroaching rubber and palm oil plantations and continued logging disturbances. Flat-headed cats are also vulnerable to snares set for other small animals, collisions with road traffic, and competition from domestic cats. But with little information to go on, it’s difficult to develop useful conservation strategies.Last year, southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) contributed to conservation efforts by moving one of the research area camera traps lower to the ground and onto a less frequently used animal trail. In the new location, only 10 centimeters from the ground, the camera caught two cats “moving together during the daytime in June 2013,” according to the report. The cats were traveling only about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) away from a plantation, far from the lakes or major rivers previously thought to be their preferred habitat.Finding the flat-headed cats so close to the palm oil plantations prevalent around the Pasoh Forest Reserve suggests these animals may be more adaptable to human presence than previously believed, say researchers. It also shows that camera placement may select against finding some species. The standard protocol of placing cameras near well-traveled trails or logging roads at a height of 30-40 centimeters (12-15 inches) may mean that many species are missing their photo opportunities.The photo trap was part of a large-scale project conducted by the Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring network (TEAM), which monitors tropical vertebrate communities, tracks changes, and searches for drivers of those changes. To get images of as many species as possible, TEAM established a standardized protocol for 17 locations across Latin America, Asia, and Africa.In the Pasoh Forest Reserve, single-camera stations were set up near animal trails and operate around the clock for thirty days. There were 457 images taken in the one-month period during which the flat-headed cat photos were captured. In total, eight species caught on camera during that time, including a monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), a rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus), a common tree shrew (Tupaia glis), and a long-tailed rat (Leopoldamys sabanus). Of the animals photographed, the most common were southern pig-tailed macaques, which is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.Citations:
Wagey J., Fletcher C., Campos-Arceiz A. 2014. First Photographic Evidence of flat- headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) in Pasoh Forest Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia Tropical Conservation Science Vol.7 (2): 171-177