It's been quite a week for tropical cyclones (the umbrella term for hurricanes and typhoons) with several records set. Last weekend, for the first time ever there were three Category 4 hurricanes (Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena) in the central and eastern Pacific basins at the same time.
— Eric Blake (@EricBlake12) August 29, 2015
Before then, we had never seen two Category 3 hurricanes, let alone Category 4 hurricanes in the North Central Pacific at the same time prior to this, says hurricane researcher and forecaster Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University. And we are close to setting yet another record: the number of hurricanes that have reached Category 4 or 5 strength in the Northern Hemisphere. We're at 15 so far, just three short of the record 18 set in 2004, according to Klotzbach. The storms have even drawn the attention of astronauts at the International Space Station, who posted images to Twitter:
#Jimena in the Pacific is a massive storm. Makes the moon look puny. #YearInSpace pic.twitter.com/MsvkEphQEK — Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) August 30, 2015
Ignacio and Jimena have since weakened, but they've been joined by yet another storm: Tropical Storm Kevin. While hurricanes in the Pacific were breaking all kinds of records, Hurricane Fred formed further east in the tropical Atlantic than any hurricane on record.
Two impressive #Fred images: 1st ever satellite pics of a #hurricane over Cape Verde, and waves pounding Ilha de Sal. pic.twitter.com/TZzFcejO4I — John Morales (@JohnMoralesNBC6) August 31, 2015
Not to be outdone by Fred, Hurricane Kilo crossed over the international date line, a rare but not unprecedented event, becoming a typhoon (typhoons and hurricanes are called different names in different ocean basins). Though it wasn't the first time a cyclone crossed the international date line, Kilo was the third storm to do so this season—marking yet another first.
The western half of #Kilo is a typhoon and it's Sept. 2, but the eastern half is a hurricane and it's Sept. 1! pic.twitter.com/iljoimCl1M — Dan Lindsey (@DanLindsey77) September 1, 2015
Now-Typhoon Kilo might set even more records. It's forecasted to strengthen in the next several days. If it does, it could become the longest-lived cyclone this year and could even become the longest-lived cyclone ever. That title currently goes to Hurricane John, which also crossed the international date line, becoming a typhoon and lasting 31 days in 1994. Read page 1 Needless to say this has been a very active hurricane season in the Pacific, which experts predicted because of El Niño. “This year, we have had a very active hurricane season and the main reason is El Niño,” meteorologist Chevy Chevalier told The LA Times. There's a good chance of breaking the record for Category 4 and 5 storms "with the Pacific remaining active, and all of September and October to go in the Atlantic," says AOL. On Tuesday, the World Meteorological Society said the current El Niño could be one of the strongest ever. "The 2015-16 El Niño is likely to strengthen further before the end of the year, ... potentially placing this El Niño event among the four strongest events since 1950," said the organization. It's already the strongest since 1997–98. How hurricane activity will change in a warming world is still under intense investigation. The central Pacific is expected to see more tropical cyclones (looking at you, Hawaii) with climate change producing "effects similar to an El Niño," says Climate Central. "In the flurry of hurricane-climate change research in the decade since Hurricane Katrina, scientists have come to largely agree that while some areas may see an uptick in storms, global tropical cyclone activity may decline. But of those storms that do form, more are likely to be on the more intense end of the spectrum."
A 'gray swan' hurricane could be worse than anything we've ever seen http://t.co/cZErUWQAEQ pic.twitter.com/87yji9R4MV — Business Insider (@businessinsider) September 2, 2015
And a study published last week in Nature found that future storms could devastate places previously believed to be at low risk for hurricanes (like Hurricane Fred hitting the Cape Verde Islands), and the destruction from some of these hurricanes would be unlike anything we've ever seen. YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE Ten Years After Katrina
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By Brian Bienkowski
Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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By Laura Beil
Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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