Amazing skies, tornadoes, and the drying up of a once-great lake

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This time around, we’re highlighting topics ranging from the recent string of tornadoes to strike the American heartland, to the alarming rate of land ice disappearance, to future of a rare Afghan sheep.

Photo of thunder and clouds. Image: Roger Hill/Science Photo Library) Strange Skies: Seven Wonders of the Atmosphere – Originally Published by New Scientist. Despite the fact that we humans spend most all of our time on the ground, we are constantly immersed in the air. Yet the atmosphere still holds many secrets from us. New Scientist takes us on a tour of just a few of the amazing occurrences taking place above us from tiny living beings in the clouds to eery earthquake warnings from above.





Reuters photo of a gas dispenserThe Dis-United States of Gas Prices: Why Fuel Is So Cheap in Denver – Originally Published by The Atlantic. Gas prices often vary greatly by region in the United States, the result of local regulations, taxes, and proximity to refineries, but recent price differences are caused by something else. A glut of crude oil in the middle of the United States with no easy way to move it has resulted in very cheap gas in places like Utah and Colorado.





Expanding desert in China's Gansu province. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFPThe Inside Story on Climate Scientists Under Siege – Originally Published by The Guardian. Climate scientist Michael Mann, author of the upcoming book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” shows how entrenched interests have worked for years to discredit climate science. The story goes back to a paper co-authored by Mann in the 1990s with a graph showing a sharp upward climb in global temperatures – the now famous “hockey stick”. Ever since then, Mann and others like him, have been on the constant defensive.





Satellite image of the Aral Sea. Credit NASA Earth ObservatoryThe Aral Sea, Before the Streams Ran Dry – Originally Published by NASA Earth Observatory. The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world. That was before the Soviet Union dammed, diverted, and channeled its tributaries so as to grow cotton and other crops in the desert. Now, not more than 60 years later, the lake is an estimated 10% of its original size.






People and wreckage following Friday's tornadoes in the heartland. Credit Butch Dill / APTwister Slams Same Area Hit by Killer Storm in ’11 – Originally Published by SF Chronicle. The heartland of the United States was rocked by a series of tornadoes last Friday, many of them touching down in areas devastated by storms not more than ten months ago. The repeated hits on homes – many still in repair from the previous twisters – is forcing people to make tough choices about rebuilding or simply walking away.





A marco polo sheep, dead from a hunter's bullet (Photo by SCI Houston First for Hunters)Rare Afghan Sheep Survives Despite Poachers – Originally Published by Environment News Service. In Afghanistan’s Badakhshan region, the Marco Polo sheep’s numbers have recovered to 1,500, up from an estimated 220 in 2009. Hunting the animal is now prohibited, but not too long ago, foreign tourists were paying heavy prices for the chance to take a shot at these creatures. While this has relieved some of the pressure on the sheep, poaching continues to haunt the population.





Pictures of fruit and vegetables. Credit: Sarah Lee for the GuardianMaps Show Global Extent of Permafrost Regions – Originally Published by environment360. About one-sixth of Earth’s exposed land surface is covered by permafrost. As the climate warms, permafrost melts and can not only cause infrastructural damage, but can release large amounts of potent methane. Swiss researchers using high-resolution air temperature and elevation data have compiled a map showing areas that are most at risk as Earth’s permafrost slowly melts.