TIME climate change

Sea Levels Are 3 Inches Higher Than They Were in 1992

Stormy ocean water
Getty Images

"It's very likely to get worse in the future."

A panel of NASA scientists said Wednesday that new data shows sea levels are, on average, three inches higher than they were in 1992 due to melting ice from both mountain glaciers and the polar ice caps, as well as warmer oceans.

The data was collected from NASA satellites. NASA also released a video that shows a visualization of rising sea levels.

The changes are concerning and “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” Steve Nerem, a University of Colorado geophysicist and a member of the panel, said in a conference call, Reuters reported. In 2013, a United Nations panel reported sea levels were projected to rise between 1 and 3 feet by 2100; the NASA panel said data indicates the level rise would be on the higher end of that projection.

The sea level change is an average; in some areas, sea levels rose more than 9 inches, and in others—such as along the West Coast, sea levels are falling.

Scientists warn that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet; ocean currents and weather cycles have actually offset some sea level changes in the Pacific, which means the West Coast could see a huge jump in sea levels in the next 20 years.

The panel warned that forecasting the melting rate of the polar ice caps is nearly impossible. And even if the pattern were to stall and reverse, it would take centuries to return to original pre-climate change levels.


TIME animals

One of the Newborn Baby Pandas at the National Zoo Has Died

One cub is still alive

The smaller panda of the twins born to giant panda Mei Xiang at Washington DC’s National Zoo has died, the zoo said on Wednesday.

Mei Xiang was paying more attention to the larger of the panda cubs, and ignoring the smaller one, the zoo said on Tuesday. Zookeepers were struggling to get her to nurse the smaller cub.

The twins were born on Aug 22. On the day of the birth, zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson said keepers were “thrilled, absolutely thrilled.”

According to the zoo, giant pandas have twins 50% of the time, and this is only the third time a giant panda is given birth to twins in the U.S. Only two giant pandas have successfully raised twins in the past, and it required a lot of human help, the zoo said.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

FDA Says Vegan Mayonnaise Can’t Be Called Mayo

Getty Images

FDA rules require mayonnaise to contain eggs; Hampton Creek's Just Mayo doesn't

Vegan mayonnaise—which by definition doesn’t contain eggs—can’t be marketed as mayonnaise, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Hampton Creek Foods, Inc., a health foods company whose best known product is a vegan, egg-free mayonnaise called Just Mayo, was sent a warning letter from the FDA on Aug. 12.

“According to the standard of identity for mayonnaise, egg is a required ingredient,” said the letter, which was released Tuesday and was signed by William A. Cornell, Jr., the FDA’s director of the office of compliance. “[H]owever, based on the ingredient information on the labels, these products do not contain eggs. We also note that these products contain additional ingredients that are not permitted by the standard, such as modified food starch, pea protein, and beta-carotene, which may be used to impart color simulating egg yolk. Therefore, these products do not conform to the standard for mayonnaise.”

The FDA requires that a product calling itself “mayonnaise” contain at least 65% vegetable oil and have one or more “egg yolk-containing” ingredients.

The “egg” of Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo—and Just Mayo Sriracha, which was also cited in the warning letter—is actually a byproduct of Canadian yellow pea and has fast become a popular product on grocery store shelves across the country, TIME reported last year. The company boasts investors that read like the who’s who of the tech world: Bill Gates, Peter Theil and Vinod Khosla all back the San Francisco-based company.

But in November 2014, Unilever—which owns Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise—filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek, arguing the lack of eggs in its Just Mayo disqualifies the product from being classified as a mayonnaise. Unilever dropped the suit less than a month later, with a company spokesperson saying in a statement, “We believe Hampton Creek will take the appropriate steps in labeling its products going forward.”

The letter from the FDA also takes issue with Hampton Creek’s claim that Just Mayo is “cholesterol free,” as well as the website tagline “You’ll never find cholesterol in our products,” saying that “it is an unauthorized synonym for ‘cholesterol free.'”

The FDA has asked Hampton Creek to respond within 15 business days of receiving the letter. Hampton Creek has yet to do so, and did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

TIME animals

New Species of Crayfish Named After Edward Snowden

Cherax Snowden
Chris Lukhaup

Snowden has some big fans in the German science community

Scientists have named a new species of crayfish after NSA leaker Edward Snowden

German researcher Christian Lukhaup and two of his colleagues are apparently admirers of the former NSA contractor now living in Moscow. “The new species is named after the American freedom fighter Edward Joseph Snowden,” they wrote in their study, published Monday in the journal ZooKeys. “He is honored due to his extraordinary achievements in defense of justice, and freedom.”

The Cherax snowden had previously been misidentified as a very similar but different species of crustacean. It hails from West Papua in Indonesia and is often kept as a pet by crayfish enthusiasts in Europe, East Asia and North America because of its orange tipped claws.


TIME space

See Breathtaking Views of the National Parks From Space

Yosemite, Redwood, and other famous parks as they look from outer space

TIME climate change

Here’s What Those Weird Blue Clouds Mean

Photographs of noctilucent clouds appearing in the night sky over Britain on July, 2009.
Jamie Cooper—Getty Images Photographs of noctilucent clouds appearing in the night sky over Britain on Jul. 15, 2009.

They could be related to climate change

If you’ve noticed some strange blue clouds in the night sky recently, you’re not alone. Uncharacteristically blue nighttime clouds, usually seen over polar regions, have been visible as far south as Colorado and Northern California in recent years.

The clouds, known as “noctilucent clouds” or NLCs, glow blue at night because tiny ice crystals 50 miles (80 km) above the earth are reflecting sunlight from the other side of the planet, according to SFGate. And some scientists say the glowing blue clouds may be yet another effect of climate change.

The vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real, but NLCs are a good example of how sometimes the secondary effects of climate change may not yet be completely understood. It’s not clear exactly what the glowing clouds have to do with a changing climate, though there are some theories being discussed. One is that methane emissions can create water droplets at high altitudes, which can lead to NLCs, SpaceWeather.com’s Tony Phillips told SFGate. Another idea is that as the Earth’s surface is heating up, the higher layers of the atmosphere (like the mesosphere, where NLCs form) are actually getting colder, allowing the tiny ice crystals for form, University of Colorado Professor Gary Thomas told NASA in 2003.

So if you see blue clouds glowing at night, it may be yet another effect of climate change.

TIME space

See the Massive Mountain on Dwarf Planet Ceres

Ceres Dawn Mountain
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres on Aug. 19, 2015.

It's just a bit shorter than Mt. Everest

Very small worlds can do very big things—providing you’re willing to grade on a curve. Take the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt, which is currently being orbited by the Dawn spacecraft. Ceres is just 591 miles (952 km) across—or 73% of the size of Texas—with only 3% of Earth’s gravity. If you weigh 150 lbs. here, you’d weigh 4.5 lbs. there.

But Ceres has a mountain—and it’s a whopper, as evidenced by this latest image sent home by Dawn, orbiting at an altitude of 915 miles (1,470 km). The mountain stands 4 miles (6 km) tall—a bit shorter than Mt. Everest, which tops out at 5.49 miles (8.83 km). But context is everything. A 4-mile-tall mountain on a tiny world like Ceres is the equivalent of a 49.8-mile-tall (80.1 km) mountain on Earth, or nine times taller than a pipsqueak like Everest. The Ceres mountain is not terribly active—at least as evidenced by the absence of debris at its base—but it is scored by a bright streak running down its side, which suggests some kind of dynamic processes at least in the past.

Every pixel of the Dawn image represents 450 ft. (140 m) of Ceres’ surface, which is already an impressively granular resolution. In the future, the spacecraft will approach the surface at just 25% of its current altitude, improving image detail dramatically. Whatever secrets Ceres is keeping Dawn may soon reveal.

[time gallery-id=”4003903″]

TIME space travel

A Japanese Drinks Company Just Sent Some Whiskey to the International Space Station

But the astronauts won't get to drink a drop

A Japanese resupply spacecraft successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, and on board there was some unusual cargo.

Included in the 10,000 lb. of supplies were five whiskey samples sent into orbit by Japanese alcoholic-drinks conglomerate Suntory, reports the Associated Press.

But astronauts on board the ISS won’t be able to drink a drop of the liquor, which was sent as part of an experiment to see whether spirits mellow at the same pace in microgravity as they do on earth.

The research is being conducted in the Japanese Experiment Module on the ISS and researchers at Suntory hope the experiments will help find a scientific explanation for the “mechanism that makes alcohol mellow.”

An identical set of samples is being stored in Japan and after a year or so the samples in orbit will return to earth to be compared, analyzed and tasted.

The whiskey experiment isn’t the first drinks-related study to take place on the ISS. Already on board are specially designed coffee cups that have revolutionized how astronauts drink in space and could help scientists build better and safer advanced fluid systems.

And on earth a company called Cosmic Lifestyle Corp. has even invented a zero-gravity-friendly martini glass.

TIME animals

National Zoo Welcomes 2 Panda Cubs

The twins were born hours apart and are healthy

Panda fans, rejoice.

Mei Xiang, the panda housed in Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo, gave birth—as expected—to two cubs on Saturday, about four hours apart. The first baby panda was born around 5:34 pm.

The first birth elicited squeals from visitors and zoo staff alike, with Zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson commenting that keepers were “thrilled, absolutely thrilled.”

“Everybody’s extremely happy,” she said. “We were all tuned in to the panda cam, and we saw her water break. And then just about an hour later … she gave birth to a cub.”

The cub’s sibling was born hours later, at 10:07 pm.

The zoo said both cubs are healthy and released a video of the older cub’s first exam.

It’s a happy weekend for the American panda family. Bao Bao, born in 2013, turns two on Sunday. Mei Xiang and her male partner, Tian Tian, are also the parents of Tai Shan, who was born in 2005.

Following zoo protocol, one cub has been placed in an incubator, though officials have not said which, according to the Washington Post. The other was placed with its mother. The cubs will rotate between incubator and mother over the next few weeks, with each alternating between spending time with their mother and being fed by bottle in the warmth of the incubator.

The cubs will likely not be introduced to the public for months.

TIME animals

Massive ‘Mortality Event’ Kills 30 Whales in Alaska

30 whales have died along the western Gulf of Alaska since May—a historic high

Scientists are deeply troubled and puzzled by the sudden deaths of 30 large whales that washed up on the coast of Alaska, calling the incident an “unusual mortality event.”

“While we do not yet know the cause of these strandings, our investigations will give us important information on the health of whales and the ecosystems where they live,” Dr. Teri Rowles, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator, said in a statement. “Members of the public can greatly assist the investigation by immediately reporting any sightings of dead whales or distressed live animals they discover.”

The deaths of the whales—which include 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified others—are strange: the rate is nearly three times the historical average. NOAA’s declaration of the situation as an “unusual mortality event” will allow the agency to partner with federal, state, and tribal agencies to coordinate a response plan.

Residents are urged to report stranded whales using a special site established by NOAA Fisheries.



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