Technology » Nature and Environment The latest Technology news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:53:15 +0000 en hourly 1 Arctic Freezes Aren’t What They Used to Be Wed, 15 Jan 2014 16:54:35 +0000 Clayton Sandell HT cold snap tshirt 16x9 608 Arctic Freezes Arent What They Used to Be

Clayton Sandell holds up a frozen t-shirt during the cold snap of December 2013. ABC News

It was cold.  It was brutal.  Many T-shirts were frozen in the name of TV news.  But a new analysis from the National Center for Atmospheric Research shows that lately, those Arctic cold snaps like the one earlier this month just aren’t lasting as long.  The graphics below show how things are changing for cities like New York, Atlanta and Chicago (43 consecutive days below freezing in 1977, versus just 11 days this season.)  Climate scientists say it’s part of a years-long trend in which extreme heat records are outpacing extreme cold records 2-to-1, as humans continue burning fossil fuels that are warming the planet.

Duration gx NYC new ice rev 13x11 608 Arctic Freezes Arent What They Used to Be

Duration gx Chicago new ice rev 13x11 608 Arctic Freezes Arent What They Used to Be

Duration gx Atlanta new ice rev 13x11 608 Arctic Freezes Arent What They Used to Be


]]> 0
Whales, Dolphins Putting on Spectacular Show in Monterey Bay Sat, 30 Nov 2013 14:45:20 +0000 Clayton Sandell

In the wild, animals go where the food is, so for hundreds of killer and humpback whales as well as dolphins, the place to be is California’s Monterey Bay.

They’re showing up for a booming seafood buffet thanks to an unusual late-season abundance of anchovies.

Related: Whales seen mating off the coast of California

“We haven’t seen anchovies in this kind of mass in years and years,” said Chris Arcoleo, owner of Chris’ Fishing and Whale Watching.

He said charter companies could not keep up with customer demand for whale-watching trips.

“It’s incredible.  We don’t have enough boats. We don’t have enough tim

GTY killer whale monterey bay 136139921 jt 131130 16x9 608 Whales, Dolphins Putting on Spectacular Show in Monterey Bay

A killer whale is seen in Monterey Bay, Calif. Getty Images

e to do it,” Arcoleo told ABC News. “You’ve got hundreds of whales in the bay, along with sea lions and dolphins.  It’s magnificent.”

Humpbacks can scarf down 3,000 pounds in a day. Their feeding frenzy is a once-in-a-lifetime show, with dozens of whales jumping into the air and lifting giant tails out of the water as they dive.

“Typically during the year you’re fortunate if you see four or five,” Arcoleo said.

The underwater bounty is the exact opposite of what researchers were seeing a few months ago in Southern California when hundreds of sea lion pups were washing ashore skinny and starving.

Related: Protester, 12, targets SeaWorld float in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

In March, Peter Wallerstein of Friends of Animals, Marine Animal Rescue, said he’d done 200 sea lion rescues since January.

“Commercial bait fishermen, friends of mine, said there’s no bait in the water,” Wallerstein told ABC News. “No anchovies, no sardines, no mackerel — the kind of food these animals eat.”

For now, however, there’s plenty to feast on both for the humpback whale and those watching the spectacle from a boat.

]]> 0
New Dinosaur That Rivaled T-Rex Discovered in Utah Fri, 22 Nov 2013 19:43:37 +0000 Alyssa Newcomb AP Siats meekerorum2 ml 131122 16x9 608 New Dinosaur That Rivaled T Rex Discovered in Utah

(Image Credit: The Field Museum/AP Photo)

Meet the biggest bully from 100 million years ago that even rivaled the mighty tyrannosaurus rex.

The discovery of the siats meekeroreum (pronounced see-atch), a new dinosaur species, was announced today by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

The partial skeleton of the meat-eating predator, which weighed more than four tons and was 30 feet long, was found by paleontologists in Utah’s Cedar Mountain Formation in 2008.

After years of careful excavation and cleaning of the fossils, the new species was officially announced today.

“We were thrilled to discover the first dinosaur of its kind in North America and add to mounting evidence that dinosaurs were widely dispersed across the globe 100 million years ago” Peter Makovicky, curator of dinosaurs at the Field Museum, said in a statement.

Paleontologists also found tyrannosaurs teeth near the siats fossils, they said, indicating that the T-Rex was smaller in stature and did not compete with the newly discovered species for a top predator role.



]]> 0
Robot Penguin Spy Cams Capture Rare Moments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 17:07:00 +0000 Linsey Davis

A penguin couple attempting to stage a “chick-napping” after losing their own baby. Another penguin flipping its tail under to keep its egg from freezing. A hungry predator that thought it had picked up dinner instead inadvertently became the first bird to capture an aerial-view shot.

These are just some of the incredibly rare penguin moments caught on cameras filmmakers hid inside life-sized animatronic penguins and then placed among colonies of the real marine birds. There are 17 species of penguin worldwide and these robots look and move like the real thing.

“They have cameras in their eyes and they can get really close to the animals, the penguins, and they can get these kinds of shots that are really in the penguins works and also capture extraordinary behavior,” producer-director John Downer said.



HT penguin robot 1 sr 131120 16x9 608 Robot Penguin Spy Cams Capture Rare Moments

                                  (Photo Credit: Discovery/BBC/John Downer)

HT penguin robot 2 sr 131120 16x9 608 Robot Penguin Spy Cams Capture Rare Moments

                                (Photo Credit: Discovery/BBC/John Downer)

Downer, with producer Phillip Dalton, used the spy-cam embeds to capture unprecedented footage for their new documentary, “Penguins: Waddle All the Way,” which premieres on the Discovery Channel Saturday 9 p.m. ET.

“The cameras actually caught the moment the egg came round and you saw the tail flip round protecting the egg, saved it from the ice,” Downer said. “You know it was a moment that you wouldn’t have seen any other way.”

Downer and his team deployed 50 of these cameras, which were also placed inside fake penguin eggs rocks and ice formations.

The cameras caught emperor penguins as they took the treacherous 60-mile journey to their breeding grounds, rockhoppers as they bobbed and weaved their way through snapping sea lions, and Humboldts as they tried to evade vampire bats. They even captured moments of jealousy.

“The rockhoppers up in the colony, they were waiting for their females to return and most of them had, except for one individual that was quite lonely, and so he turned his eye on our robot and they very quickly bonded,” Dalton said. “But he was caught in the act, the female did return and she wasn’t very happy.”

Indeed, Dalton said, the angry female knocked the animatronic penguin to the ground.

Through these spy cams, the birds were seen slipping, sliding, and stumbling their way through a course of seemingly endless challenges on their annual pilgrimage to the harshest of destinations, all in hopes of creating new life.

“They reflect a lot of our lives,” Dalton said. “They would survive all the knocks in life, get back up, and just keep going.”

]]> 0
Monster Oarfish, 18 Feet Long, Called ‘Discovery of a Lifetime’ Wed, 16 Oct 2013 00:01:57 +0000 Lauren Effron

What began as a marine science instructor’s leisurely snorkeling trip off the Southern California coast turned into the discovery of a monstrous legendary sea creature.

Jasmine Santana, a 26-year-old instructor for the Catalina Island Marine Institute, was snorkeling in Toyon Bay on Sunday afternoon when she saw a half-dollar sized eye staring at her from the sandy bottom. That eye belonged to an 18-foot-long oarfish, a find so rare, the institute hailed it as a “discovery of a lifetime” in a news release.

HT oarfish group nt 131015 16x9 608 Monster Oarfish, 18 Feet Long, Called Discovery of a Lifetime

Crew members from the Catalina Island Marine Institute's Sailing School Vessel Tole Mour holds the 18-foot-long oarfish discovered in Toyon Bay on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. Credit: Courtesy Catalina Island Marine Institute

Oarfish are the stuff of myth and legend, likely the stars of sea serpent tall tales throughout history. The longest of the bony fish species, they are rarely seen dead or alive.

Santana, who didn’t have a camera with her at the time, decided to bring the massive fish, which was newly dead with the body almost fully intact, ashore.

HT oarfish close up nt 131015 blog Monster Oarfish, 18 Feet Long, Called Discovery of a Lifetime

Credit: Courtesy Catalina Island Marine Institute

“She said, ‘I was thinking to myself, there’s no way anyone is going to believe me,” said Mark Waddington, the senior captain of the institute’s sailing school training ship, Tole Mour.

Waddington, one of many instructors who take middle school-age students out on the institute’s Guided Discoveries tours, told that he and a group of instructors were unloading gear from the Tole Mour, when they spotted Santana about 150 feet away, trying to bring in the fish.

“I remember looking over and seeing her wrestling with it,” he said. “When I saw the long tail, I thought, ‘Oh that’s got to be an oarfish.’”

Waddington said he and about 15 to 20 other people from boat rushed over to help Santana, who pulled the monster in 90 feet, before the waves helped push it onto the sand.

When he saw the size of the oarfish for the first time, Waddington said, “I was beside myself, I’m sure I said ‘awesome’ a lot.”

“I had heard of it in studies, but never thought I would see one in person,” he added.

HT oarfish measured nt 131015 vblog Monster Oarfish, 18 Feet Long, Called Discovery of a Lifetime

Credit: Courtesy Catalina Island Marine Institute

It is believed that oarfish, which can grow to be more than 50 feet long, can dive down to 3,000 feet and usually live in deep parts of the ocean, which is why little has been studied about them. Waddington said in the 35 years of Guided Discoveries talking more than 1 million people out on sea excursions, “this was the first one we’ve seen of this size.”

Tissue samples of the giant were sent to experts at the University of California at Santa Barbara for further study. Although CIMI instructors had hoped to preserve the fish’s skeleton, oarfish bones are very delicate, Waddington said, so the specimen remains on ice.

But many other unusual and rare phenomena have occurred in the Toyon Bay this fall, Waddington said. For one, market squid, which are the small variety sold for food consumption, usually come to the bay to mate for a very brief time, but this year, thousands upon thousands of market squid have been staying in the bay for two months straight, which has brought in a variety of dolphins.

Waddington said they have also had four recent green turtle sightings — another rarity.

]]> 0
Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid Sat, 21 Sep 2013 10:15:18 +0000 Jared T. Miller Todd Bretl’s astonishing underwater images of the bobtail squid come from years of practice. Bretl has been diving since the age of 12, and shooting underwater since 2008.

The bobtail squid is a particularly good subject for a light-hungry photographer; the cephalopod possesses bioluminescent bacteria on its underbelly that react to the light hitting the top of its mantle. At about two inches long, the bobtail squid is surprisingly small. But as Bretl’s photos show, it’s a large (and luminous) presence underwater.

ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 8 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 4 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 5 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 6 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 2 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 7 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 3 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid



ht todd bretl bobtail squid blog 9 jtm 130920 Brilliant Photos of the Bobtail Squid

Explore the depths of Bretl’s underwater work at his website,

See more featured photography curated by ABC News’ photo editors at Picture This, the ABC News photography blog.

]]> 0
VIDEO: Dolphins’ Unusual Feeding Frenzy Chases Fish on Land Fri, 20 Sep 2013 14:09:17 +0000 ABC News



A group of dolphins living exclusively in the waters off the Carolinas and Georgia have an unusual, yet ingenious, way of capturing their prey — they force them up on shore.

Dubbed the Seabrook Island gang, these bottlenose dolphins will try to find schools of fish, such as mullet, and use their echolocation to confuse them. Then they actually beach themselves in order to eat.

National Geographic’s director of photography Scott Snider was part of a team that captured these dolphins’ strange feeding pattern while filming the documentary, “Secret Life of Predators.”

“They’re constantly echolocating and hunting and trying to find these schools of mullet. And when they do, they’ll start to work them up,” Snider told “Nightline.” “Once they get them right where they want them on just the right stretch of beach, there’s a vocal cue and they make a sound and they all rush at the same time.”

“They all make this bow wave and it throws and crashes and breaks these mullet up on the beach,” he continued. “Then they lay there on their sides, mouths open, waiting, trying to catch these mullet that are flopping back down.”

Right before they beach themselves, the dolphins make a “strong” noise, Snider said.

“You’ll hear a lot of clicks and whistles while they’re shoring up the fish,” he said. “Then all of the sudden there’s a strong vocalization — a much louder noise — right before they’re going to strand, switching a half a second to a second every single time.”

The feasting rewards may be big for the dolphin but so are the risks. The creatures weigh roughly 400 pounds, so these meals, if not expertly executed, could turn into suicide missions.

“If they sit up there too long they can crush internal organs, they can burn,” Snider said. “A lot of bad things can happen.”

Other onshore dangers include oyster shells. Like giant shards of glass, the sharp shells can slice open a dolphin’s rubbery skin. Another danger is people.

“It’s great as far as a draw and awareness of dolphins and how amazing they are — all of that is good,” Snider said. But “if there’s a line of people 50 on the beach, they’re nervous about stranding and won’t strand. It definitely affects their behavior.”

Dolphins are often thought of as friendly, innocent, almost cuddly creatures of the sea, but biologists say we should see these mammals as the cunning and ruthless hunters they really are.

“They need to make a living, they’re predators, and they are good at it,” Snider said. “They’re just like lions or tigers or anything else for their niche.”


]]> 0
NASA Introduces New Astronaut Class of 2013 Tue, 20 Aug 2013 20:44:52 +0000 ABC News HT astronauts jef 130820 16x9 608 NASA Introduces New Astronaut Class of 2013

Credit: GIna Sunseri

ABC News’ Gina Sunseri reports:

Eight shiny, new astronauts with the right stuff were introduced by NASA today at the Johnson Space Center.

They are the class of 2013 - four women and four men who made it through the rigorous screening and are now on the fast track to go to space.

Lt. Commander Victor Glover told ABC News about the massive amount of writing on the application.

“The one that stands out the most: We were asked to compose a tweet, a limerick or a haiku,” Glover said. “I believe I did a limerick and it goes:

“My eyes fixed off gazing into space

“My mind in awe of the human race

“This is all dizzying to me

“Because I gave so much blood and pee

“Happy to be here …..

“The colonoscopy place.”    

Glover laughed.

“And that is funny if you had to go through this interview process, specifically the medical testing,” Glover said.

Members of the new class will spend the next two years in basic training before they get an assignment.

The question is: What does this class have to look forward to?  The International Space Station is funded through 2020 but there is not a set course for any other human exploration of space.    Ideas have been floated to go back to the moon, rendezvous with an asteroid and, someday, to send humans to Mars – big ideas but without a congressional mandate and no funding, unlikely to get off the launch pad.

Salaries for civilian astronaut candidates are based on the federal government’s general schedule pay scale for grades GS-12 through GS-13. Each person’s grade is determined according to his/her academic achievements and experience.

Currently, a GS-12 starts at $65,140 per year and a GS-13 can earn up to $100,701 per year.

Military astronaut candidates are assigned to the Johnson Space Center and remain in an active duty status for pay, benefits, leave and other, similar military matters.    NASA currently has 47 astronauts on active duty, including the new class.

Maj. Andrew Morgan recalled the moment he decided to become an astronaut.

“I wrote a letter in elementary school to Alan Bean, and he actually wrote back,” Morgan said. “I thought, ‘Wow, I’m an astronaut,’ but that was the moment that made me think it was possible.”

]]> 0
‘Shark Week’ Researchers Dissect Rise of Attacks on Humans Mon, 05 Aug 2013 22:33:27 +0000 ABC News

ABC News’ Darcy Bonfils reports:

Sharks are some of the most feared predators on the planet.

Last year, there were 53 attacks in the U.S. alone, and worldwide there were 80 unprovoked attacks, up from 78 the year before, according to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

This year, in the U.S. alone there have already been 18 — with two occurring last week in Hawaii.

Sam Champion Meets Sharks Eye-to-Eye With ‘Shark Week’ Team

Paul de Gelder, a highly trained diver, was in the waters off the coast of Garden Island, Australia, when a 10-foot bull shark shredded his arm and leg in 2009.

“I can see the lip pulled back, I could see the gums and I could see these teeth all across my leg and over my wrist,” he told the Discovery Channel‘s “I Escaped Jaws.” “I hit him once and that did nothing. … That’s when the pain really kicked in. … All I could do is flop around in the water while this monster was shaking me.”

abc sharks mi 130805 16x9 608 Shark Week Researchers Dissect Rise of Attacks on Humans

ABC News

Some experts say humans could be to blame for shark attacks because they have polluted the waters, overfished and taken away the food that sharks normally eat.

Man Wrestles Shark Ashore, Then Releases It

To test the theory, a team of experts from Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” series show “Sharkpocalypse” took to the waters of the Bahamas with ABC News in search of the frightening creatures.

During an excursion into the Atlantic Ocean near Nassau, the researchers’ boat was immediately surrounded by Caribbean reef sharks. Though normally shy around divers, the sharks have been known to get aggressive in the presence of food. As of 2008, there had been 27 reported Caribbean reef shark attacks on humans.

Another time, the “Sharkpocalypse” team tested the palate of a tiger shark with a buffet that included fish, pork, beef links, turkey and even a watermelon. A 14-foot tiger shark went straight for the barracuda, a fish typical of its diet. Next it went for the pig and then the turkey.

The day’s lesson: Disrupt the shark’s environment — take away their fish — and they’ll feed on the next best thing. In another experiment, the researchers baited the sharks into a feeding frenzy and then sprayed a repellent that made them scatter in seconds.

Eight Great Whites Are Seen Off the Coast of Cape Cod

Gelder told “I Escaped Jaws” that every time he got in the water as a diver he saw sharks.

“Instantly, every single time,” he said. “I was petrified.”

His attack lasted just eight seconds but he lost a hand and leg that day.

“There was nothing [to be] salvaged. I just focused on getting to that safety boat. It was all I wanted to do,” he told “I Escaped Jaws.” “Someone was smiling on me that day.”

]]> 0
Large Dinosaurs Had Hundreds of Teeth to Spare Fri, 19 Jul 2013 10:00:02 +0000 Jon M. Chang HT Diplodocus Tooth inset nt 130718 16x9 608 Large Dinosaurs Had Hundreds of Teeth to Spare

It seems like some of the largest dinosaurs in prehistoric times didn’t need to make dental health a priority.

A new study published in the journal PLoS One examined the teeth of Camarasaurus and Diplodocus dinosaurs and found that they not only had multiple sets of backup teeth, but also constantly regenerated new ones.

John Whitlock, one of the main co-authors of the study and an assistant professor of science and mathematics at Mount Aloysius College in Pennsylvania, relied on the kindness of museum collection managers to do the study.

“Convincing them to let us cut up some of their fossils … it’s not the easiest thing in the world,” he told ABC News. “We were pretty lucky.”

Michael D’Emic, the other main co-author and a paleontologist at Stony Brook University, said that getting to the teeth required an incredible amount of work.

“The fossil preparer spent about six months painstakingly extracting the teeth with this small jackhammer about the size of a pinhead,” he said.

Beneath the dinosaurs’ outermost layer of teeth were several more rows waiting on deck. Though the number of teeth varies from species to species, D’Emic said that the skulls contained 200 teeth or more at any given time.

To measure how old the teeth were, the two scientists cut the teeth apart, sanded and polished them to get even thinner slices, and photographed them using specialized cameras. The pictures revealed layers, similar to how tree trunks have rings. The scientists counted the layers to determine the age of the teeth.

On average, Camarasaurus lost and replaced one tooth every two months, while Diplodocus did so every month, they concluded.

Even though the animals themselves were gigantic, their heads and teeth were relatively small. “If you took a number two pencil and broke it into thirds, that’s about the size and shape of a Diplodocus tooth,” said Whitlock.

Mark Norell, the curator-in-charge of fossil reptiles, amphibians and birds at the American Museum of Natural History, said that the high rate of teeth turnover had to do with the dinosaurs’ constant eating.

“If you think about herbivores today, they’re eating almost 24 hours a day,” he said. “It’s the same with these dinosaurs back then.”

Given how quickly and often teeth were lost and regenerate, you might expect an abundance of single tooth fossils waiting to be discovered.

Norell didn’t think so, though, or at least people won’t be able to recognize the fossils as teeth.

“The teeth are worn down into tiny pieces when they fall out, so they’re non functional,” he said.

]]> 0