Into the Maelstrom

When 40 climate experts huddled in a small conference room near Washington, D.C., last September, all eyes were on an atmospheric scientist named Jennifer Francis. Three years ago, Francis proposed that the warming Arctic is changing weather patterns in temperate latitudes by altering the behavior of the northern polar jet stream, the high, fast-moving river of air that snakes around the top of the world. The idea neatly linked climate change to weather, and it has resonated with the press, the public, and powerful policymakers. But that day, Francis knew that many of her colleagues—including some in that room—were deeply skeptical of the idea, and irritated by its high profile.

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Sneeze, wheeze, allergies: Valley’s drought making it worse

The drought is drying up Valley farms — but not noses. The dry, warm spring has kicked allergy season into overdrive. Pollen counts began spiking early, in February instead of their typical arrival this month, and except for a storm or two in March there hasn’t been rain to wash the pollen away. In addition to starting earlier, the pollen season could last longer, said Dr. Leonard Bielory, a professor at Rutgers University Center for Environmental Prediction in New Jersey.

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Hamilton residents tap their own rain barrels

They’re made of plastic and sealed with plumber’s tape and caulk, but they get the job done, and they promote conservation, township officials say. On Tuesday, the township hosted its fifth rain barrel workshop…The workshop, held in the Hamilton Township Library basement, was hosted by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Water Resources Program, which has been working with the township since 2010 to help conserve water and mitigate flooding

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A Brutal Allergy Season Is Ahead. Blame the Polar Vortex.

One week ago, I purchased the first asthma inhaler I’ve owned since the 8th grade. …"We’re expecting a lot of cases like you," my doctor told me as he wrote my prescription. "It’s going to be a hell of a pollen season." And for that, you can blame the polar vortex—the extreme cold system that repeatedly hovered over much of the United States this year—along with the rest of this winter’s brutal weather. …While no single weather event—the cold snaps that caused this year’s pollen vortex, for example—can be directly attributed to global warming, the science community is engaged in a lively debate over whether climate change is making unusual weather events, including severe cold temperatures, more likely. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University, argues that the rapidly warming Arctic has caused the jet stream to slow, which could result in atmospheric events, such as winter storms, staying put for longer…The future may offer a reprieve from agonizing allergy seasons. Leonard Bielory, an environmental sciences professor at Rutgers, predicted in Scientific American that a warming planet will eventually cause pollen counts to taper off. "It cannot continue on a linear scale," he said. "If heat goes up to a certain temperature, plants will die. It will hit a breaking point." Of course, at that point, a prolonged allergy season won’t be high on the list of problems.

Read the entire article at Mother Jones »

Kansas science students get a taste of the Antarctic

In Millie Laughlin’s biology classes this semester, students had an unusual opportunity. Valley Heights high-schoolers conducted tests with brine shrimp — and did so with guidance and inspiration from scientists thousands of miles away, conducting similar experiments themselves. Valley Heights High School, in Blue Rapids, was one of 18 Kansas schools that participated in a project this year to link students with a team of scientists studying the effects of ocean acidification in the Antarctic. While the researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Rhode Island tested krill in frigid, far-off waters, Kansas students tested brine shrimp in high school labs around the state

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