Devastating floods have struck the Northeastern US, causing severe damage to farms during the peak of the growing season. Unprecedented rain, surpassing the volume of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, obliterated crops, leading to significant losses for farmers in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. At Diggers’ Mirth Collective Farm in Vermont, the flood destroyed a $250,000 harvest. In Massachusetts, 75 farms sustained damage, with crop losses estimated at a minimum of $15 million across 2,000 acres. Farms in Connecticut lost around 2,000 acres of crops, while Pennsylvania also experienced significant damage. The floods are part of a broader climate crisis, with scientists attributing the increased rainfall to climate change, warning of more extreme weather in the future. The disaster has sparked calls for federal, state, and private financial support to help farms recover and build resilience against future events. (Associated Press)
A study from the University of Texas at Austin, leveraging the UK Biobank’s repository of half a million genetic and health records, has produced a map of genomic regions potentially responsible for human’s unique skeletal architecture, including our propensity for upright walking. Artificial Intelligence was used to select and analyze over 31,000 records with whole-body X-ray images. The study found 145 genetic locations linked with skeletal changes, many of which play roles in skeletal development. The development of limb and torso proportions were linked to separate genetic programs. These genetic regions also differed significantly from those found in other great apes, indicating evolutionary selection. The study also found support for the hypothesis that early hominins evolved upright walking for more efficient heat dissipation. The research additionally identified genetic regions associated with osteoarthritis, a leading cause of disability in the US. (Nature)
A study published in JAMA Network Open has found a significant rise in the incidence of type 1 diabetes among children and teenagers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research, which analysed data from 17 studies, found a 14% increase in type 1 diabetes cases during 2020, and a 27% rise in 2021, compared to 2019. While earlier theories suggested the virus might trigger type 1 diabetes, this now seems unlikely. Instead, researchers speculate the increase may be due to environmental or lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic. The study also revealed a disruption in the usual seasonal pattern of type 1 diabetes, typically seeing more cases in winter than summer. The pandemic has also led to more severe presentations of type 1 diabetes, possibly due to delays in seeking medical help due to COVID-19 restriction. (Nature)
Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered that “underground climate change” is causing the land beneath downtown Chicago to gradually sink, potentially posing long-term risks to urban structures. The phenomenon, also known as “subsurface heat islands,” is a result of heat radiating into the earth from man-made structures like buildings and underground transportation. This is different from atmospheric climate change, which is linked to greenhouse gas emissions. As ground temperature rises, Chicago’s clay soil contracts, potentially leading to foundation cracks or distortion of buildings. The study found city ground temperatures increasing by around 0.25 degrees Fahrenheit annually, causing some areas to expand upwards or sink down. In addition to structural risks, rising subsurface temperatures can impact plant growth, thermal pollution of groundwaters, transportation infrastructure, and potentially cause health issues for people underground. The study suggests using thermal insulation and harnessing geothermal energy as possible mitigation strategies. (Smithsonian)
In the largest payout to protesters in US history, the City of New York has agreed to a $13 million settlement, compensating around 1,380 individuals with $9,950 each. These protesters were part of the racial justice demonstrations that occurred in 2020 following George Floyd’s murder. The settlement resulted from a class action lawsuit claiming widespread police misconduct during these protests. The legal team used Codec, a video categorization tool by SITU Research, to analyze terabytes of video footage from police body cams, social media, and helicopter surveillance. This analysis included more than 6,300 videos, creating a comprehensive map of alleged police misconduct incidents. Despite this landmark case, defendants have not admitted any wrongdoing. The use of Codec to map incidents of police violence could mark a significant step in holding law enforcement accountable, even as further automated enhancements are planned for the tool. (Wired)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.