Darts and laurels

  • Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 12:13 a.m.

Laurels to research into improving the detection of violent storms and providing earlier warnings to people in their destructive paths. According to the Wall Street Journal, scientists at the Severe Storm Research Center at Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta are collecting data from storm systems this spring to help sharpen meteorologists’ ability to predict the formation of tornadoes within fast-moving weather fronts like the one that devastated Moore, Okla. Among other factors, the researchers are tracking bursts of lightning that occur within thunderhead clouds before the emergence of a twister. They’re also studying whether low-frequency rumbles from severe storm systems may point toward a particular pattern that indicates a tornado is forming. Although researchers have years of work ahead, they’re confident their analysis will eventually yield better advance storm warnings — and a few extra minutes to take cover can make all the difference.

Dart to more discouraging reports about the health of three important groups of creatures and what their decline may portend for the planetary environment. Amphibians, honeybees and bats are all under serious stress, with significant population declines reported for all three groups. One recent study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, focused on how quickly frogs, salamanders and toads are vanishing around the United States, with the loss now put at about 3.7 percent a year. The primary culprit is believed to be a deadly fungus, but researchers cite declining habitat and climate change as additional factors. Meanwhile, other recent reports have cited the continuing collapse of honeybee colonies, and the decimation of several species of bats because of a fungus that attacks their metabolic system. These declines have repercussions that extend far beyond the individual species because all play a role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Laurels to some heartwarming news about pets. Having a pet, especially a dog, appears to decrease the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. In a recent news release, the AHA wrote that owning a dog may help reduce cardiovascular problems. In part, that’s because dogs like to be taken for walks and often enjoy vigorous play, which means pet owners get some exercise, too. Researchers also note that pets in general can have a calming effect on their owners and can even help them cope more effectively with stressful situations. So if you’re looking for a healthier lifestyle, a visit to the local animal shelter could be a great first step.

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