Can the structure of a hurricane make it wobble?

Hurricanes are among the most dangerous natural disasters, but they can still be a challenge to forecast!  In particular, it’s really difficult to understand how a hurricane’s structure – that is, its specific pattern of clouds, winds, and rain – can affect its motion.  In a recent theoretical modeling study, Konstantin Menelaou and his co-authors have examined how one particular kind of hurricane structure, known as a secondary eyewall, can make a hurricane wobble.

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More than just a coincidence? What the co-occurrence of species can teach us about how they interact

Different kinds of plants, animals, and fungi interact with each other in a myriad of ways.  Recently, researchers have been trying to infer the nature of these interactions just by looking at whether you can find these species in the same place!  In a 2018 study, Mara Freilich of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her co-authors examined the reliability of this co-occurrence approach.

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Why was it so hot during the years 2014-2016?

The extreme heat in recent years has led to many unprecedented events, such as global coral bleaching and reductions in Arctic sea ice.  A study by Yin et al. suggests that El Nino released huge quantities of heat from the oceans, resulting in record-breaking warm temperatures during the years 2014-2016.  The rise in temperatures has been so extreme that global temperatures have now increased by one degree Celsius relative to the pre-Industrial era.  For those of you who have been following the Paris Climate Agreement, that’s already two-thirds of the 1.5 degree threshold that they’re working to avoid!

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How hot is too hot for humans?

As my fellow Floridians know, the only way to survive a humid summer day is to find air conditioning, fast. Humidity makes us uncomfortable because we sweat in order to cool off, but this cooling is less efficient when it’s humid. Past a certain threshold of heat and humidity, our bodies can no longer cool off by sweating, and the results can be lethal. A recent study by Coffel et al. suggests that, by the end of the century, climate change may expose millions of people to life-threatening heat stress.

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Are we headed for a sixth mass extinction?

A mass extinction is an event in which the world very rapidly loses a large number of its living species. You’ve probably heard of the mass extinction that occurred sixty-five million years ago, when an asteroid crashed near Mexico and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. There have been four other mass extinctions in the last 500 million years, and each has resulted in the loss of at least 60% of living species. In a recent study, Professor Daniel Rothman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argues that human activities – specifically our inundating the atmosphere with carbon – may result in a sixth mass extinction.

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