2017 had the second hottest first half of the year since 1880

The first half of 2017 was the warmest in 138 years, according to a recent report published by US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The report also said that the past month was the third warmest June on record across the globe.

 

NOAA records between 1880 and 2017, 2016 was the warmest year on record of the agency. It was also the year in which the month of June saw the mercury rise to the highest point on the thermometer. In this regard, it was followed by 2015 and 2017 respectively. In fact, June 2017 was the 41st consecutive June and the 390th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above average.

The numbers have surprised the scientists as they were not expecting this year to be as warm as it has been.  The strong El Niño that had caused 2016 to be uncharacteristically warm had died down in the beginning of this year.

The report also mentioned some other weather anomalies that were observed in June 2017. The sea ice coverage in the Arctic was found to be 7.5% below the average value since 1981. Meanwhile, the average sea ice coverage in the Antarctic was the second lowest on record at 6.3% below the average.

June 2017 was also the second warmest year on record in terms of sea surface temperature while the land surface temperature in the month was fourth warmest on record. It also became the warmest June for Africa, the second warmest (after 2007) for Europe and third warmest for South America.

 

 

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Earth is on its way towards sixth mass extinction

Planet Earth is well on its way towards the sixth mass extinction, according to scientists. They believe that thousands of species of plants and animals will get extinct over the next couple of decades. The most distressing part of this news is that this “biological annihilation” is a direct consequence of human activities.

These revelations were made in a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was conducted by Gerardo Ceballos from National Autonomous University of Mexico, Paul Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo from the biology department of Stanford University. The report concludes that the next two decades are extremely crucial in deciding the pace of the extinction.

According to the study, 200 species have become extinct in the last 100 years. Even populations of animals like cheetah, giraffe, lions, etc have declined significantly since 1900. In comparison, two species were lost every hundred years for the previous two million years.

The report also mentioned the causes behind this imminent massive decline in animal population. These included  habitat conversion, climate disruption, overexploitation, toxification, species invasions, disease, and (potentially) large-scale nuclear war. However, the researchers warned that it was overpopulation of humans and overconsumption by existing human beings.

While drawing their conclusion, the researchers said, “A glance at our maps suggests that as much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone, as are billions of populations. The sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most”

They suggest reducing hunting and poaching, increasing dependence on plant based foods and changing agricultural practices.

A bike that absorbs pollution and releases clean air to help China deal with smog

Recent weather phenomena in China have caused worry among the environmentalists. However, a new development is likely to raise their spirits, and perhaps the smog and pollution in the Asian giant. The Smog Free Bicycles could become a common sight on the streets of Beijing in a few months’ time.

The project has been taken up by China’s biggest bike sharing firm Ofo, Dutch innovator Daan Roosegaard and Chinese design platform TEZIGN. The partnership was announced last week during the World Economic Forum, held in Dalian in China. The designing is still underway and more details will be released by the fall.

“Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city. Together with Chinese and Dutch expertise we will bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog free cities,” said Roosegaard during the announcement. He added that the eco-friendly bike he is designing will absorb polluted air, clean it and release the cleaned air around its rider.

Roosegaard is the pioneer behind the Smog Free movement. Last year, his studio designed towers that were put up in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The towers collect carbon particles from the polluted air around them, and convert them into diamonds. It was found that the towers were able to provide cleaner air in places near it, acting as giant vacuum cleaners.

Similar towers are being planned to be put up in countries like India, Columbia and Mexico soon. Roosegaard also plans to use the technology in various aspects of urban living including building, parks, residential colonies and public transport among others.

Turkey decided to exclude “redundant” Theory of Evolution from textbooks

The education department of Turkey has decided to exclude lessons on Theory of Evolution from its ninth grade biology books in the next academic year. The subject was thought to be controversial and redundant. Moreover, the government thinks that the teenagers in school are too young to understand the complex ideas expressed in the theory.

With that logic, students in Turkey will only be able to learn Charles Darwin’s theory when they reach college. The decision has been approved by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The textbooks for the next academic year are set to be published next week when the holy month of Ramadan ends.

“We have undertaken a simplification in the curriculum. In educational programs we are trying to convey basic values, information, skills, capability, sufficiency, attitude, and good behavior to our children. We have tried to add our local and national values to the curriculum,” said the head of the Education Ministry’s curriculum board Alpaslan Durmuş. He added that the government was trying to remove redundancies by removing elements inappropriate to the local values.

With this, Turkey will become the second country after Saudi Arabia to exclude Theory of Evolution from their school curriculum. The decision was made since it defies the religious beliefs of Muslims who believe in the creationist theory, that Allah made the world in six days. Other Muslim countries have both the theories as a part of their school curricula.

The decision has met with a lot of opposition within as well as outside of Turkey. The academic and scientific communities, and even the country’s main opposition has criticized the move. They believe that this will push the country towards more conservative beliefs rather than secular ones. The opposition, meanwhile, said that it will challenge the decision in the country’s highest court of law.