Winter Storm Quinn Threatens More Than a Foot of Snow
By Jeremy Deaton
Just days after Winter Storm Riley slammed the East Coast, another nor'easter is on its way. Winter Storm Quinn is expected to deliver heavy snowfall from Philadelphia to Boston Wednesday.
Scientists say that climate change is fueling stronger nor'easters by warming the seas. Nor'easters form when balmy ocean breezes collide with cold air from over the continent. The larger the difference in temperature, the more powerful the storm.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania declared states of emergency ahead of the storm. Several Northeast cities have closed schools, and airlines have cancelled more than 2,000 flights. The storm comes at an inauspicious time, as more than 100,000 homes and businesses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York are still without power following last week's nor'easter.
Meteorologists say that the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas could see more than a foot of snow, though there is a wide range of uncertainty because depending on which path the storm takes, it could dump that precipitation as rain instead of snow. The boundary between the area that will see rain and the area that will see snow—what meteorologists call the rain-snow line—more or less runs along Interstate 95.
Storm is starting to get its act together off the mid Atlantic coast this morning. Here is the latest snowfall for… https://t.co/6bKkcc7yvq— NWS Eastern Region (@NWS Eastern Region)1520435083.0
While Winter Storm Quinn won't produce the same high-powered winds as Winter Storm Riley, the storm is expected to deliver winds up to 60 mph to New Jersey, Long Island and New England. Experts say these areas should prepare for minor coastal flooding. More than a century of sea-level rise has made seaside cities and towns more vulnerable to floods.
Officials expect snow and wind will damage trees, and they are urging those in the path of the storm to stay indoors away from windows. They recommend preparing for widespread power outages by charging portable devices and checking flashlight batteries.
If Quinn feels like it should be last big storm of the season, don't worry. Another coastal storm is likely to strike next week.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
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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>