This Week On Earth: January 25-February 1


By Jamie Schmid and Jamie Leventhal

It’s Getting Hot in Here: 2015 Edition


2014 was the hottest on record, but now scientists say 2015 wins the title as the hottest year to date. On this track, 2016 will likely gold medal, placing 2015 and 2014 in silver and bronze.

Scientists place some of the blame on El Niño. This weather phenomenon causes the release of heat from the Pacific Ocean to our atmosphere. However, climate skeptics who claim El Niño is the sole reason for the cozier weather must not get ahead of themselves.

Greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans take the majority of the blame for 2015’s warming. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to build up in our atmosphere, the earth puts on more and more wool sweaters. Soon, the planet will be smothered in unwanted thermal North Faces, and no amount of cooling will help.


Is the Zika Virus the Next Ebola?


The world already hated mosquitoes. Now, the world can hate mosquitos even more.

Infected mosquitos transmit the Zika Virus by biting a human food source. Unlike normal symptoms of a small itchy bump, people instead experience fever, joint pain, and skin rashes. These symptoms can last for 7 days.

Luckily, people do not die from the Zika virus. In fact, with plenty of sleep and fluids every infected person can survive. Unlike Ebola, the Zika Virus is not life threatening. Sounds like a prolonged cold virus. So, what is the problem then?

The problem lies in a mother’s womb. If a woman is pregnant or becomes pregnant when infected with the virus, the probability of her child being born with abnormalities dramatically increases.

Another problem: the virus is spreading rapidly. The World Health Organization called an emergency meeting this Monday to discuss the next steps of combating this sinister bug.


A Few Less Fish in the Ocean


Humans have been overfishing the oceans for decades, but researchers have recently discovered that fishers have taken much more than expected.

A recent study in Nature Communications estimates that as much as half of the global fish catch between 1950 and 2010 went unreported. The growing demand for fish led many to use small-scale fisheries in developing countries, where the numbers were normally ignored by United Nations reports. The previous data had also omitted the catch of recreational fisheries, discarded bycatch and illegal catch, according to the study.

This new data is about 30 percent higher than the formerly accepted U.N. estimates.


Now You See It, Now You Don't


Funny name, not so funny story.

According to recent satellite images, water levels in Bolivia's Lake Poopo are down to an estimated 2 percent of its former water level. While El Niño partially contributed to the shrinking waters, experts say that a big factor is the diversion from Poopo's tributaries to mines and farms. People and animals are leaving the previously second-largest lake in Bolivia by the thousands.

As the Andean glaciers that once supplied the lake with water melt from climate change, it's unlikely that the lake will ever be rejuvenated back to its previous levels.

[fbshare type="button"] [twitter style="horizontal" float="left"]