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Dispatches : Nature

12-Year-Old Climbs for Conservation

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World's youngest ski patroller? Taylor Justice on the job at Aspen. Photo: Taylor Justice

There are overachievers, and then there is Taylor Justice. The 12-year-old skier/climber/straight-A student started shredding double-black diamond chutes when she was eight. Three years later, she joined the Junior Ski Patrol at Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain. Earlier this year, she rescued a man who’d fallen 30 feet into a ravine on Peru’s Inca Trail, fashioned splints for his broken wrists out of cardboard boxes, and helped him to safety. And later this month, she’ll climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for critically endangered black rhinos.

It’s enough to give even the most accomplished adventurer a serious complex.

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A Video Showing the Life and Death of Sandy

Here is a view of Sandy's life from above. It was recorded by NASA's GOES-13 Satellite. It begins on October 23, when Tropical Depression 18 morphed into Tropical Storm Sandy. Before that, on October 22, at roughly 11:00 a.m., about 320 miles southwest of Kingston, Jamaica, a hot towering rain cloud that rose roughly nine miles above the ocean formed into a more organized Tropical Depression 18, which generated winds of 30mph. Just six hours later, it became a tropical storm and picked up the name Sandy as it moved toward Jamaica at 3mph while generating winds of 45mph. The next day, Sandy's winds picked up to 80mph and she started growing.

By October 25, Sandy had become a Category II hurricane that blew sustained winds of 105mph—tropical force winds extended more than 205 miles from her center. As she moved over the Caribbean, she caused more than 70 deaths, and left more than 18,000 people homeless in Haiti. On October 25, NASA noted that high pressure moving clockwise over New England might push Sandy into the Mid-Atlantic as a cold front moved in from the west. By October 26, as she passed over the Bahamas, the tone became more serious as her potential to become a gigantic freak superstorm became more obvious. She was dubbed the "Bride of Frankenstorm."

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Death Toll From Sandy Rises to 75 in United States, 143 Overall

SandyLandfallNightA composite image of Sandy making landfall at night. Photo: NASA/Goddard

The death toll from Sandy in the United States has risen to 75, according to the Associated Press. One death in Canada and 67 deaths in the Caribbean bring the count to 143 deaths total from the superstorm. Authorities fear that number will likely rise as search and rescue units scour debris and check areas that are flooded.

The storm knocked out power to more than eight million people in 17 states. The New York Times has a graphic showing the areas and the number of people affected by outages. As subways and buses start up again in New York City, experts warn caution should still be taken in affected areas. The Associated Press has compiled a state-by-state list of the storm's damage. NPR has compiled a list of health hazards—mold, contaminated water, carbon monoxide poisoning—resulting from Sandy, and addressed methods for preventing and dealing with such threats. The Red Cross and FEMA have resources and contact numbers for people who need help.

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Urban Forests Make Cities More Resilient to a Changing Climate

Sandy_night_NYC, Avenue C at East 6th Street, Oct. 29, 2012. Photo: David Shankbone/Flickr

The loss of life and property damage from Superstorm Sandy is still being tallied, but the catastrophe is pointing a spotlight on the need for cities to adapt to more frequent, severe storms (also referred to, in many scientific circles, as "climate change").

"Anyone who says that there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

Bill Ulfelder, the New York director of The Nature Conservancy, has only lived in New York City for three years, but during that time the city has seen its two most costly storms (Irene and Sandy) over just 14 months. "You're going to see more and more of this," he told me on Tuesday.

Fortunately for all of us who like being outside, one way to make cities more resilient to these storms is to foster large, healthy urban forests.

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Blogging the Polar Bear Migration

Polar-bears_feA pair of polar bears walks across the ice near Churchill. Photo: FloridaStock/Shutterstock

The first European to encounter the polar bears of what is now Churchill, Manitoba, was Jens Munk, a Norwegian explorer who wintered on the southern edge of Hudson Bay in 1619 during a doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Munk and the crew of one of his ships, the Enhiörningen, woke early one September morning to find the "large white bear" on the ice nearby, where it was scavenging scraps of blubber and meat from the carcass of a beluga that they had caught the day before. At as much as twice the weight of a Eurasian brown bear, the creature must have seemed absolutely massive to captain and crew.

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