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#MetsUnite to Spread Climate Change Awareness as Heat Wave Season Begins

Climate
#MetsUnite to Spread Climate Change Awareness as Heat Wave Season Begins
West Palm Beach broadcast meteorologist Jeff Berardelli with the graphic used in Thursday's #MetsUnite campaign. Jeff Berardelli

If you tune in to a TV weather report on today's Northern hemisphere summer solstice, you might notice the meteorologist wearing a unique striped tie or necklace that begins in blue and changes to red.

This isn't just a fun summer style. The design is actually University of Reading climate scientist Ed Hawkin's "Warming Stripes" visualization, which represents the change in annual global temperatures from 1850 to 2017. Nearly 100 TV meteorologists are displaying it in some way on Thursday as part of Meteorologists United on Climate Change or #MetsUnite, Weather Underground reported.


#MetsUnite was launched by Jeff Berardelli, a meteorologist with CBS12 (WPEC) in West Palm Beach, Florida.

"The message is simple: humans have become a force of nature. Our influence on the climate matches or exceeds the impact of natural variations. It's real. It's us. It's serious. And while the public opinion ship has veered in a favorable direction, we need an abrupt pivot, right now, to avoid the worst impacts of the iceberg called climate change," he told Weather Underground.

Berardelli was especially inspired by the communication potential of the Warming Stripes design.

"I saw Ed Hawkins Warming Stripes pattern and the simplicity resonated with me. It is our job as meteorologists and station scientists to explain weather and climate in simple, memorable terms," Berardelli told former American Meteorological Society president Dr. Marshall Shepherd for a Forbes opinion piece.

As Shepherd pointed out, TV meteorologists are the only scientists the average citizen encounters daily. But many have been hesitant to discuss climate change with viewers, partly because meteorology and climatology are different fields, so weather forecasters don't always feel comfortable presenting on a topic they might have only taken a single course on to earn their bachelor's degree. Further, a few are climate skeptics, and others are afraid of alienating conservative viewers or have been told by managers to avoid the topic out of fear it might lower ratings, Shepherd wrote.

"Traditionally meteorologists have shied away from climate change communication," Berardelli agreed in an email to Weather Underground. "Some don't want to turn away unreceptive viewers, while others may feel that they don't have a firm enough grasp on all the particulars. But the time has come for meteorologists to step up to the plate. This is our day job, and our reach as a group is vast. If we do not take the helm, who will do it?"

To help out his colleagues, Beradelli made several "Warming Stripes" products available from Zazzle.

Climate Central, a climate education non-profit that already runs a Climate Matters program to train meteorologists in addressing climate issues, has co-sponsored #MetsUnite.

Climate Matters manager Bernadette Woods Placky told Weather Underground that the summer solstice timing for #MetsUnite was an important part of the messaging.

"This is our season of extreme heat. We really want our local communities to know what's going on. There's so much confusion about climate change. These are TV mets delivering the science to really inform our communities," Placky said.

Meteorologists are using the #MetsUnite tag on Twitter to show off their summer gear, and climate science expertise. Log on to see if your local TV weather person has joined in!

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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