Flooding in 23 States Likely This Spring, Says NOAA
Another wet spring and floods are on the way, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Fortunately, the agency predicted Thursday that this year's flooding would not be nearly as bad as last year's, which inundated the Midwest and devastated crops.
"Flooding continues to be a factor for many Americans this spring," with major to moderate flooding likely to occur in 23 states, said Mary C. Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service, in a call with reporters, according to The New York Times. She added the bright spot that the flooding will be less severe and shorter than last year's.
This year's floods are expected to affect parts of the Midwest, the Rust Belt and the Southeast all the way down to the Gulf Coast. NOAA predicted that the most significant flood potential will occur in the northern Plains and the upper Midwest of North and South Dakota, as well as Minnesota, as USA Today reported. Parts of Iowa and Illinois may also experience heavy flooding, according to The Weather Channel.
NOAA expects about 128 million people, or one-third of the U.S. population, to see some sort of flooding this spring, with 1.2 million expected to experience "major" flooding in the aforementioned states, according to Ed Clark, the director of NOAA's National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as USA Today reported.
According to The Weather Channel, several factors went into NOAA's prediction, including ongoing rainfall, highly saturated soils and the increased likelihood of above-average precipitation this spring.
One factor contributing to the threat of flooding is that soil in many central and eastern states is already oversaturated and rivers are running high. That means that heavy rainfall can trigger flooding, according to The Weather Channel.
"Nearly every day, dangerous flooding occurs somewhere in the United States, and widespread flooding is in the forecast for many states in the months ahead," said Clark.
Clark added that heavy rains will likely lead to a larger than usual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. Dead zones are caused by hypoxia, where an area does not have enough oxygen to sustain life, as The New York Times reported.
While farmers who were never able to plant their crops in 2019 because of flooding will not experience anything as drastic as last year, they should expect to see delays in planting, said Brad Rippey, the Department of Agriculture meteorologist, according to The New York Times.
While a large swath of the lower 48 states should expect heavier than average rainfall, the same is true for Alaska. On the other hand, drought conditions are expected to continue and worsen in California, in parts of the Pacific Northwest, in the southern Rockies, and in parts of Southern Texas, according to NOAA, as the The New York Times reported.
Not a single part of the country is expected to see below average temperatures this spring in a year that is shaping up to be one of the hottest years on record.
"There is almost no part of the country that we are predicting to be below normal in any of the three months, which is unusual," said AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel N. Myers, as The Weather Channel reported. "This may be a first."
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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