Earth Overshoot Day—a marker of when the world's 7.6 billion people will "use more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year"—will fall on Aug. 1, the earliest date yet since we first went into ecological debt in the 1970s.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alex Kirby
The Gulf Stream is slowing, the North Atlantic is cooling. An international scientific study has found new and harder evidence that one of the planet's key heat pumps, the currents which exchange warmth between the tropics and the Arctic, are weaker today than at any time in the last thousand years.
NASA scientists created the most complete map of Earth at night to date—showing humans in all of their electric glory. But, while the photos are magical, they also show human's extreme effect on the planet.
Last month was the hottest September ever recorded, beating 2014's previous record by 0.004°C.
According to new NASA data, temperatures were 1.6°F (0.91°C) above the 1951-1980 average.
Monthly temperatures (departure from 1980–2015), superimposed on the 1980–2015 mean seasonal cycle.NASA / GISS / Schmidt
According to an official statement from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "September 2016 was the warmest September in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York."
NASA's Gavin Schmidt said it "seems locked in" that 2016 will be the hottest year ever with temperatures approximately 1.25°C above the late 19th century average.
With data now available through September, 2016 annual record (~1.25ºC above late 19th C) seems locked in. https://t.co/Btp3Vutakn— Gavin Schmidt (@Gavin Schmidt)1476718563.0
For a deeper dive:
By 2030, 1.1 billion more people are expected to be living on Earth—bringing the total to around 8.5 billion.
James Cridland / Flickr
In a new report published in the journal, Nature, authors Richard T. T. Forman, a Harvard University research professor, and Jianguo Wu, a distinguished professor of sustainability science at Arizona State University, said urban expansion alters a city's 'big seven': natural vegetation, agricultural land, clean water, jobs, housing, transport and communities.
Moving forward, the authors argue we need worldwide cooperation on a new approach to planning cities that will house all of these new people and stop our increasingly heavy ecological footprint.
Nature's 2016 Resource Budget Used Up at Quickest Rate Ever - EcoWatch https://t.co/CjxLX6UW8Z @wwwfoecouk @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1470655219.0
"It will require international and national policies for environmental protection, urban development and human migration. And each city must develop an urban regional plan," the authors wrote.
Aa far as where people can go, Forman and Wu said they see promise in large areas in the Americas, central Africa and Asia as well as pockets of Oceania due to its warm and moist climates suitable for growing crops such as cacao, coffee, palm oil, rice and corn.
They also said metropolitan regions should encourage and develop compact communities—like ones found outside Portland, Oregon, and Canberra, Australia—which provide space for sustainable communities and limits the loss of valuable land.
"Local officials and decision-makers will need policies and incentives to encourage sustainable development in these zones, particularly in rural villages, which tend to empty out as residents move to cities for work," the authors said.
The idea and execution of city planning, they said, should be reversed to focus on building structures around valuable natural resources, not on top of them.
"Society must think globally, plan regionally, then act locally," the authors concluded.
There are multiple theories around the origin of life on Earth, but the most commonly accepted one is the "RNA World" theory, which posits that ribonucleic acid (RNA) was the precursor to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)—the basic building block today of all living organisms and many viruses. But scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California, found a problem with that hypothesis. It led them to suggest that RNA and DNA evolved simultaneously.
Representation of the DNA double helix.Credit: Wikipedia
"Even if you believe in a RNA-only world, you have to believe in something that existed with RNA to help it move forward," said Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at TSRI and senior author of the new study.
DNA is the familiar double-helix of high school biology. RNA is essentially one side of the ladder. The problem with the RNA World theory is that, on the way from RNA to DNA, there would have been times when the two molecules blended, forming heterogenous strands. These strands, called chimeras, would be an intermediate step toward DNA. The Scripps researchers found these chimeras to be unstable. This finding supported previous research by Nobel Prize-winning biologist Jack Szostak of Harvard University.
Ram Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute.Credit: TSRI
The instability of these chimeras means that they would have likely not survived. In modern cells, if RNA nucleotides accidentally join a DNA strand, sophisticated enzymes come in to fix the mistake. These enzymes weren't around 3.8 billion years ago. "The transition from RNA to DNA would not have been easy without mechanisms to keep them separate," said Krishnamurthy.
This led the scientists at TSRI to look at another possibility. "Why not think of RNA and DNA rising together, rather than trying to convert RNA to DNA by means of some fantastic chemistry at a prebiotic stage?" Krishnamurthy said.
If RNA and DNA evolved at the same time, RNA could still have evolved to produce DNA, but the two molecules would already have independent homogenous systems.
While this rocks the RNA World theory, it doesn't offer any clues as to how those key molecules arose in the first place. But, back in May, a study found that the key ingredients to form RNA could have been present on the young Earth. Some of those compounds, including purine, adenine and guanine, could have been created when asteroids and comets crashed into Earth. Additionally, a NASA study showed how the building blocks of DNA could be made in space.
Although scientists will never know precisely how life on Earth began, understanding more about the mechanisms increases our knowledge of fundamental biology.
Find Out How Much the Earth Has Changed Since You Were Born - EcoWatch https://t.co/zoRrngIPhe @Greenpeace @HuffPostGreen— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1469310011.0
Ever wondered what a year on Earth looks like from outer space? Well, thanks to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), you don't have to wonder anymore.
EPIC's photo of Earth at 10:39 on July 16 as the DSCOVR satellite was over Sudan.Photo credit: DSCOVR:EPIC
NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) onboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) snaps about one set of images—each image capturing a different set of wavelengths—of the sunlit side of Earth every two hours. More than 3,000 images shows what a year on our planet looks like. Every image captured by EPIC can be viewed on the camera's Twitter page.
EPIC views the sunrise and sunset at least 13 times a day from its place approximately 1 million miles away.
The images captured by the camera aren't just for fun. The images help scientists study changes in Earth's ozone, vegetation and clouds, Jay Herman, EPIC lead scientist, said.
"The hourly images of the entire sunlit side of Earth, provided by EPIC, will be used to study the daily variations of features over the entire globe, helping us to better understand—and protect—our home planet," Herman said.
DSCOVR was launched in February 2015 and sent back its first image of Earth in July 2015. EPIC has also captured phenomenons such as the moon "photobombing" Earth during its time in outer space. The satellite mission is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
Watch the time lapse created by EPIC's photos below:
Neil Young and TIDAL have partnered to give New York City subway riders a unique experience.
From July 15 - 31, the "S" shuttle train will have an eco-centric installation called the Earth Train. The train is wrapped in various Earth images—trees, water, clouds, etc.—and filled with facts that Young wants to share with riders.
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Earth Train was inspired by Young's album, Earth, which features songs about living on the planet together. The 98-minute uninterrupted album features 11 songs from his 2015 tour with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real mixed with sounds of the Earth, Rolling Stone reported.
"Our animal kingdom is well represented in the audience," Young said. "And the animals, insects, birds and mammals actually take over the performances of the songs at times."
Songs include After the Goldrush, Love & Only Love, Vampire Blues, Hippie Dream, Mother Earth and Western Hero, Rolling Stone said. Four tracks from Young's 2015 LP The Monsanto Years are included as well as I Won't Quit, a track he debuted on his last tour.
Neil Young: Say No to GMOs on 'Behalf of All Living Things' https://t.co/HPFV6xpg6t @GMWatch @food_democracy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1467511226.0
Between Noon and 3 p.m. Friday, TIDAL members that stop by the "S" train platform at Grand Central can pick up a complementary round-trip MetroCard. All attendees will also receive a 3-month membership voucher courtesy of TIDAL and Young.
Check out these incredible images of the Earth Train:
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite captured the moon moving past the sunlit side of the Earth for the second time in a year.
Photo credit: NASA
The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured the images while orbiting 1 million miles away from Earth. Sitting between the sun and Earth, DSCOVR's primary mission is to monitor solar wind for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as EurekAlert noted.
"For the second time in the life of DSCOVR, the moon moved between the spacecraft and Earth," Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said. "The project recorded this event on July 5 with the same cadence and spatial resolution as the first 'lunar photobomb' of last year."
A camera onboard the satellite, Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), is always focused on the sunlit side of Earth to provide observations of ozone, vegetation, cloud height and aerosols in Earth's atmosphere, EurekAlert reported. But for this moment, the camera focused on the moon.
Far side of the moon captured by @NASA EPIC camera aboard @NOAA's DSCOVR satellite on 7/5/16 https://t.co/kDuw1lfL4q https://t.co/AjHoqRdqZf— NOAA Satellites (@NOAA Satellites)1468333524.0
The images seen in the gif above were taken between 11:50 p.m. on July 4 and 3:18 a.m. on July 5. The moon is moving over the Indian and Pacific oceans.
EPIC recorded the first occurrence of the moon "photobomb" between 3:50 and 8:45 p.m. on July 16, 2015.
DSCOVR has also captured eclipses on camera, according to the satellite's website.
The satellite mission is a partnership between NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
Wildfires, the lowest average extent of Arctic ice, remote villages in the Sahara desert and other striking images were captured by satellites to provide a space-eye view of the Earth during June 2016, compiled by The Guardian.
As seen in the image below stagnant lakes stretch across the upper reaches of the Volga river delta in southern Russia. The lakes are trapped by sandy mounds, created after the Caspian Sea's level rose then fell in the wake of the last ice age.
The United Kingdom captured in the image below by the European Space Agency's Sentinel-3A satellite on May 9. At top center, aircraft contrails form a cloud-like trail in the sky. At top right, snow covers southern Norway. In the southern English Channel (bottom right), an algae bloom is visible in shades of blue and green.
The International Space Station captures the surface of the Sahara desert. The dark patches are date and olive groves in the Bahariya oasis, one of several places in Egypt's deserts where people can live.
The East Siberian sea is covered with ice in the fall and winter, with maximum thickness occurring between February and April. In the spring and summer, ice begins to thin and slowly thaw. In this image, taken June 4, ice has pulled away from the coastline and blue can be seen under the thinning ice.
The mountains in Mailuu-Suu in southern Kyrgyzstan, labeled as one of the world's critically polluted areas, are home to radioactive dumps—the product of former Soviet uranium tailing mines.
Lake Tengiz, is the only large lake (615 square miles) in northern Kazakhstan and is visible from space. The lake's island and waterways create a habitat suitable for 318 species of identified birds, 22 of which are endangered. Lake Tengiz is the northernmost habitat of the pink flamingo.
The lake is Kazakhstan's first UNESCO world heritage site.
This map created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the surface temperature of the oceans surrounding North America. The movement of warm water north through the Gulf Stream is clearly displayed.
Arctic sea ice, or the lack of it, can be seen in this picture taken in May. This year has set a record low for the average extent of sea ice in the history of data collection. May 2016's average extent was 224,000 square miles below the previous record for the month, set in 2004.
Photograph: Suomi NPP/NASA/NOAA
Snow blankets the mountain peaks in south central Alaska. The mountain range closest to the coast is made up of the Chugach and Kenai mountains in the east and west, respectively. A warm winter and an early, warm spring has created a high fire risk across Alaska.
Rome's Lake Albano in the pictures bottom right corner is south of the town of Frascati.
Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore in Michigan and its two nearby islands can be seen in the picture below. The U.S. National Park Service uses images like this one to monitor landscape changes over time.
Photograph: OLI/Landsat 8/NASA
A dust storm passes over the Red Sea, a common sight in the area. Gaps in nearby mountain ranges create pathways through which wind carries dust and sand toward the sea. The dust is usually deposited into the sea, providing an important supply of nutrients to the Red Sea.
Plumes of smoke rise from dozens of large wildfires north-east of Krasnoyarsk in north-central Russia in late June. Many of the fires were triggered by lightning storms. The first are located in isolated areas and do not post threats to population centers.
A string of wildfires burns in the Sierra Madre mountain forests of western Mexico. Human activities cause an estimated 97 percent of the wildfires, with agricultural and livestock production activity causing 54 percent.
Photograph: VIIRS/Suomi NPP/NASA/NOAA
Urban Auckland, New Zealand, rests on an ancient volcanic field. Maars (shallow water-filled craters) and cinder cones intermingle with suburban housing developments and city green spaces.
This image of Greece, Turkey and Libya shows their distinct environments. In the middle of the image is the Greek island of Crete, dominated by harsh mountains rising out of the sea, along with natural harbors, coastal plains and the typical Mediterranean scrub. North-west of Crete is a large part of Greece's mainland, showing dense vegetation and agricultural landscape. Top right is part of south-western Turkey with a mixture of agricultural landscape and mountainous regions, where bare soil and rock formations prevail. At the bottom of the image is Libya's arid desert, with the Saharan plateau comprising some nine-tenths of the country.
Streaks of volcanic ash stream from Mount Sourabaya on Bristol Island, one of the remote islands between Antartica and South America, following an eruption that started in late April and continued through mid-June—the first known activity at this volcano since 1956.
Water in the Anthropocene is a three minute film charting the global impact of humans on the water cycle. Evidence is growing that our global footprint is now so significant we have driven Earth into a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene.
Human activities such as damming and agriculture are changing the global water cycle in significant ways.
As datasets build upon one another, the film charts Earth's changing global water cycle, why it is changing and what this means for the future. The vertical spikes that appear in the film represent the 48,000 large dams that have been built.
The film is part of the first website on the concept of humans as a geological force, anthropocene.info. The data visualisation was commissioned by the Global Water Systems Project for a major international conference, Water in the Anthropocene held in Bonn, Germany, May 21-24.
Visit EcoWatch's WATER page for more related news on this topic.