Saturday, April 23, 2011

How Do You Make the Perfect Sled Dog?

ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2010) — Over the last few hundred years, Alaskan sled dogs have been bred to haul cargo over Arctic terrain and, more recently, for racing. Now, researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genetics have identified the contributions different breeds have made to the speed, endurance and work ethic of Alaskan sled dogs.Heather Huson and Elaine Ostrander, from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA, worked with a team of researchers to carry out genetic analysis in 199 sled dogs and 681 purebred dogs from 141 different breeds.

Huson said, "The Alaskan sled dog comprises several different lineages, optimized for different racing styles -- long or short distance. We sought to identify breed composition profiles associated with expertise at specific tasks, finding that the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky contributions are associated with enhanced endurance; Pointer and Saluki are associated with enhanced speed and the Anatolian Shepherd has a positive influence on work ethic."

The researchers sampled sled dogs from eight kennels, rating them for speed, endurance, and work ethic, using established criteria specified for the distinct racing styles of sprint and distance. These attributes were correlated with genetic information taken from each dog and compared to likely ancestral breeds.
Speaking about the results, Huson said, "The Alaskan sled dog presents a case in which a genetically distinct breed of dog has been developed through the selection and breeding of individuals based solely on their athletic prowess. Interestingly, this continual out-crossing for athletic enhancement has still led to the Alaskan sled dog repeatedly producing its own unique genetic signature. Indeed, the Alaskan sled dog breed proved to be more genetically distinct than breeds of similar heritage such as the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Does Snow and Cold Weather Disprove Climate Change?

It’s Cold and My Car is Buried in Snow. Is Global Warming Really Happening?

Woman scrapes snow off of her car after cold weather and a snow stormFor years, climate contrarians have pointed to snowfall and cold weather to question the scientific reality of human-induced climate change.
Their annual barrage of misinformation obscures the interesting work scientists are doing to figure out just how climate change is affecting weather patterns year-round.
Understanding what scientists know about these effects can help us adapt. And, if we reduce the emissions that are driving climate change, we can avert its worst consequences in the future.

What is the relationship between weather and climate?

Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a snowstorm or a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades.
NASA and NOAA plus research centers around the world track the global average temperature, and all conclude that Earth is warming. In fact, the past decade has been found to be the hottest since scientists started recording reliable data in the 1880s. These rising temperatures are caused primarily by an increase of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere created when we burn coal, oil, and gas to generate electricity, drive our cars, and fuel our businesses. Hotter air around the globe causes more water evaporation, which fuels heavier precipitation in the form of more intense rain and snow storms.
At the same time, because less of a region’s precipitation is falling in light storms and more of it in heavy storms, the risks of drought and wildfire are also greater. Ironically, higher air temperatures tend to produce intense drought periods punctuated by heavy floods, often in the same region.
These kinds of disasters may become a normal pattern in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue to rise.
The United States is already experiencing more intense rain and snow storms. The amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest one percent of storms has risen nearly 20 percent, averaged nationally—almost three times the rate of increase in total precipitation between 1958 and 2007.
Some regions of the country have seen as much as a 67 percent increase in the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest storms.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Global Warming Science

"There is no longer any doubt in the expert scientific community that the Earth is warming—and it’s now clear that human activity has a significant part in it." - The Union of Concerned Scientists

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Endangered Wolves Sacrificed in Budget Deal

wolves-photosAlthough Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama stood firm against Republican attempts to repeal clean air and clean water protections, wolves in the Northern Rockies weren't so lucky.
Under pressure from ranching interests in Montana and Idaho, as well as anti-wolf zealots in those states, Reid and Obama agreed to accept an amendment from Montana Democrat Jon Tester mandating the removal of grey wolves in Idaho and Montana from the endangered species list. For Obama, at least, the move isn't surprising: his administration backed the Bush administration's delisting of wolves even though it would allow the two massive states to cut wolf populations to as few as 450 individuals between them.
While the decision is bad news for the ecology of the Northern Rockies, where wolves play an important role in keeping elk and deer herds healthy, it also sets a disturbing precedent. Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickheisen told The New York Times:
In all the decades of the Endangered Species Act, Congress has never legislatively removed protections for any species. It's bad to do it for the wolf, and it could set a very bad precedent, replacing scientific determinations with politics.
The extraordinary thing about this action is that it was eminently preventable -- and may still be if environmentalists are willing to act a little more like wolves and less like lambs. The reality is that the American people love wolves and other charismatic predators -- and want politicians to protect them.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Budget's Wolf Delisting Opens Pandora's Box of Species Attacks

A bipartisan measure to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in Montana and Idaho undermines the scientific integrity of the 37-year-old law and could open the door to removing safeguards for other species and their habitats, environmental groups said.

The proposal from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) to return wolf management to their respective states was included in a bicameral budget agreement to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year (E&E Daily, April 11). The spending bill is expected to be approved this week.
But while it enjoys broad support from hunters, ranchers and state officials in Montana and Idaho, the proposal would be the first time legislation has ever removed ESA protections for a species. It could threaten other wildlife whose protected status is under attack in Congress, groups say.
"It certainly sets a precedent, but probably more disturbingly, it sends a signal that, as far as the Obama administration is concerned, the Endangered Species Act is a bargaining chip," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Environmentalists said they are concerned lawmakers in the Republican-led House will hold other species and habitat protections hostage as the administration pursues other must-pass legislation, such as a bill to raise the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget.

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Fact-Checking The Ryan Budget Plan

“We need to get rid of all these accounting tricks, all these budget gimmicks, and we've got to attack the drivers of our debt.”
--Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, April 5, 2011
 With a snazzy video presentation and a plan long on rhetoric and short on details, Rep. Ryan unveiled his 2012 “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint Tuesday, setting the stage of a titanic clash of government philosophies. Give Ryan credit for his willingness to offer some bold ideas on spending, including fundamentally changing the venerable Medicare and Medicaid programs — after all, President Obama punted on those issues — even as Ryan refuses to consider any kind of tax increases to deal with the growing budget deficit.
In any case, the Fact Checker doesn’t deal in philosophical questions; we look at cold, hard facts. Ryan on Tuesday suggested he was going to get rid of “these accounting tricks, all these budget gimmicks” in writing his budget plan. So how did he do?  Here are some initial findings.
The Facts
First of all, his fancy presentation stacks the deck a bit. His budget presentation shows a scary-looking graph depicting an ocean of red stretching out into the future. The graph is titled, “We are in a Spending-Driven Debt Crisis” and says it is based on “CBO’s Alternative Fiscal Scenario.”  But then when you actually look at one of CBO papers that outlines this scenario, it turns out that the scary scenario is also based on taxes being too low, not just spending being too high. 
 Read more at the Washington Post