Monday, October 17, 2011

Ocean Trawl Finds Mega Virus

The hunt is on for the mapping of all the oddities we can find in the ocean.  At least for those unable to get out of the way of a net.

It is worth reading through this bit on the unusual nature of the so called mega virus.  It opens fresh potentialities in the study of viruses.

Biology is living through its golden age of discovery and I am not even sure if we can even say that the end is in sight.  However I suspect our megavirus clan will nicely bracket the world of small and large viruses.

Ocean trawl reveals 'megavirus'

10 October 2011 Last updated at 15:51 ET

By Jonathan AmosScience correspondent, BBC News

Hair-like structures can be seen of the outside of the Mimivirus (top) and Megavirus (bottom) particles

The largest virus yet discovered has been isolated from ocean water pulled up off the coast of Chile.

Called Megavirus chilensis, it is 10 to 20 times wider than the average virus.

It just beats the previous record holder, Mimivirus, which was found in a water cooling tower in the UK in 1992.

Scientists tell the journal PNAS that Megavirus probably infects amoebas, single-celled organisms that are floating free in the sea.

The particle measures about 0.7 micrometres (thousandths of a millimetre) in diameter.
"It is bigger than some bacteria," explained Prof Jean-Michel Claverie, from Aix-Marseille University, Marseille, France.

"You don't need an electron microscope to see it; you can see it with an ordinary light microscope," he told BBC News.

Viruses cannot copy themselves; they need to invade a host cell if they want to replicate.
Like Mimivirus, Megavirus has hair-like structures, or fibrils, on the exterior of its shell, or capsid, that probably attract unsuspecting amoebas looking to prey on bacteria displaying similar features.

A study of the giant virus's DNA shows it to have more than a thousand genes, the biochemical instructions it uses to build the systems it requires to replicate once inside its host.

In the lab experiments conducted by Professor Claverie and colleagues, in which they infected fresh-water amoebas, Megavirus was seen to construct large trojan organelles - the "cells within cells" that would produce new viruses to infect other amoebas.

"Everything is initiated from a single particle, and then grows and grows to become this virion factory," explained Prof Claverie. "That's why it needs all these genes."

Megavirus was found off the coast of Las Cruces, central Chile. It was recovered as part of a general trawl in the ocean for biology of interest.

"This is a new way of doing virology," said Prof Claverie.

"Previously, we only discovered viruses because they caused disease in humans, or animals and plants. But now we are initiating what might be called environmental virology and we are looking for viruses everywhere.

"You just go to lakes, seas and oceans and pick up the water, and then you filter it, and try to rescue the virus by co-cultivating it with some potential host."

More generally, there is interest in ocean viruses because they have a major influence on populations of plankton, the microscopic organisms that form the base of many marine food chains. And when they kill plankton, viruses are also helping to regulate the planet's geochemical cycles as the dead organisms sink into the deep, locking away their carbon for aeons.

Prof Claverie said the megavirus would not be hazardous to humans.

j � o t 0�c –ác normal'> Hands down,'s long-range experts agree that the Midwest and Great Lakes region will be dealt the worst of winter this year.

Bitterly cold blasts of arctic air are expected to invade the northern Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes December through January, while snowfall averages above normal. "A couple of heavy hitters are possible [during this time]," Pastelok said in relation to the snow.

In terms of both snow and cold, this winter is expected to be the worst in Chicago.

Full Winter Forecast for the Midwest and Great Lakes

More Monster Snowstorms for the Northeast This Winter?

Overall, this winter is not expected to be as extreme as last winter for the Northeast's major cities. However, there could still be a few snow or ice storms that have a significant impact.

Snowfall is forecast to average near or even slightly above normal in areas south and east of the mountains from Virginia to Maine.

For areas north and west of the Appalachians, however, snowfall for the season is expected to be much higher. An early, heavy lake-effect snow season will put northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York into the zone of winter's worst snow and cold, according to the team.

Full Winter Forecast for the Northeast

Ice Zone Sets Up Across Southern States; Severe Threat Develops in February

The Long-Range Team expects areas from northeastern Texas and Oklahoma into Kentucky and Tennessee to deal with more ice than snow events this winter, especially from early to mid-season.

Occasionally, icing could affect areas farther east into the western Carolinas and northern parts of Alabama and Georgia. This would be most likely in January.

The team also expects a significant risk for severe weather and flood events to develop over the lower Mississippi Valley in February. Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, which were devastated by tornadoes in the spring, will be extremely sensitive to any severe weather outbreaks.

Full Winter Forecast for the Southeast

Southwest, Texas Stay Parched and Warmer than Normal
"Mild and dry" will unfortunately be the mantra this winter for much of Texas and the Southwest, a region that desperately needs rain. Texas continues to suffer through the worst drought in its history.

Precipitation is expected to remain below normal in southern and western Texas and the interior Southwest this season. "The interior Southwest will be the driest area of the country through winter," Pastelok said.

Northern and eastern Texas, however, could fair a bit better with higher chances for precipitation as cold fronts "make it there with ease", as Pastelok stated. The downside to these higher precipitation chances, however, will be the risk of ice events, especially from late December into January.

Full Winter Forecast for the Southwest, Texas and Southern Plains

West to Experience Big Swings This Winter
Apart from the Southwest, people across the western U.S. can expect large swings in weather conditions this winter, according to the Long-Range Team.

December is likely to feature above-normal warmth across much of the entire West. However, from late December into January, the team expects a transition where cold fronts will drop farther south along the West Coast, reaching northern and central California. This transition should bring temperatures back near normal, away from the interior Southwest.

The famed "Pineapple Express", a phenomenon that occurs when a strong, persistent flow of tropical moisture sets up from the Hawaiian Islands to the West Coast of the U.S., could develop for a time this winter. This phenomenon often leads to excessive rain and incredible snow events.

Full Winter Forecast for the West

The 2011-2012 Winter Forecast runs in line with meteorological winter, which begins on Dec. 1 and runs through the end of February. Astronomical winter, on the other hand, begins on Dec. 22 this year and runs through March 20.

Will Sunspots Freeze Europe This Winter? 

 Written by Rebecca Terrell    
 Monday, 10 October 2011 17:32

Forecasters at Britain's national weather service are predicting another frigid winter in the Northern Hemisphere due to sunspot activity. Their recent findings, published in Sunday's issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, show that low-level solar radiation is likely responsible for Europe's past three harsh winters and probably holds the same in store for the upcoming season. Met Office head of Seasonal to Decadal Prediction Dr. Adam Scaife bragged, "Our research establishes the link between the solar cycle and winter climate as more than just coincidence," as reported by the Daily Mail.

On the contrary, scientists have known about the more-than-coincidental relationship for two centuries. Last month Larry Bell, professor of space architecture at the University of Houston, outlined the history in a Forbes article entitled, "Sorry, But With Global Warming, It's the Sun, Stupid." In 1801 William Herschel correlated the number of sunspots to the price of grain in London. German astronomer Heinrich Schwabe proved the 11-year cycle of sunspot activity in 1843. Bell noted the absence of sunspots during the Little Ice Age that spanned the 17th and 18th centuries. And for the past two decades scientists have been publishing research based on the satellite record available since 1979 pointing to the overwhelming influence of solar activity on Earth's temperature. Their research has been very unpopular with, and routinely ignored by, climate change alarmists.

Enter the highly-respected European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), famous for its invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 (much to Al Gore's chagrin). CERN researchers have given Gore something else to stew about. They published an article in the August 25 issue of Nature, detailing their "Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets" (CLOUD) experiment. It found that solar activity significantly impacts Earth's temperatures. More importantly, CERN showed that none of the climate models used to generate dire warnings of global warming takes this sunspot effect into account.

Now the Met Office is making headlines with the same news. Its findings are, like CERN's, based on satellite measurements of solar radiation, and it concluded, as CERN did, that low sunspot activity contributes to colder temperatures. So why is this news drawing attention now, less than two months after it was barely a blip on the media radar?

The significant difference between the two reports is that the Met Office believes solar activity has little bearing on global temperatures in the long run. "Low solar activity, as observed during recent years, drives cold winters in northern Europe and the United States, and mild winters over southern Europe and Canada, with little direct change in globally averaged temperature," reads the report.

In other words, the Met Office uses sunspots to explain severe winters in the midst of an era of alleged man-made global warming. CERN never claimed that sunspots exclusively account for climate change, but lead researcher Dr. Jasper Kirkby blackballed himself and the CLOUD experiment at its launch in 1998 when he predicted that the sun and cosmic rays "will probably be able to account for somewhere between half and the whole of the increase in the Earth's temperature that we have seen in the last century."

Once the CLOUD experiment was complete, CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer admitted to Die Welt Online that he gagged the scientists involved. "I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them," he said, adding that he thereby hoped to avoid the "highly political arena of the climate change debate."

Nevertheless, Kirkby defended the scientific method in a press release accompanying the CLOUD results. Speaking of atmospheric aerosols known to help drive global climate, he noted, "We've found that the vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction of the observations." Kirkby said this "big surprise" underscores the vital importance of discovering "which additional vapours are involved, whether they are largely natural or of human origin, and how they influence clouds. This will be our next job."

He probably won't get much help from the Met Office, as its website unquestioningly attributes global warming to human activities. But perhaps its new "discovery" will improve the weather service's poor reputation for winter forecasting. In each of the past three years the Met Office predicted mild winters, but Mother Nature broke severe weather records every time.

Science editor Dr. David Whitehouse offers little hope for an improvement in the weather service's forecasting abilities, however. Reporting for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, he said solar activity this year is back up to 2004 levels when the Northern Hemisphere experienced mild winters. "So, if anything, the logic behind this particular piece of research points towards the Winter of 2011 being a mild one.

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