January 20, 2014

Time to invest in some weatherproofing.     Photo: Getty Images

Climate Change Means More El Ninos

Warming in the Pacific spells trouble

The occurance of the extreme weather phenomenon known as El Nino is expected to double, says new climate research. Devastating weather events such as floods, wildfires, and droughts could increase in severity and cost between $35 billion and $45 billion in damage and economic disruption.

The findings are the result of collaboration between the ARC Center of Excellence for Climate System Science (CoECSS), NOAA, and CSIRO. The collaboration was meant to foster a better understanding of how climate change has affected El Nino events around the globe. What they found was a clear link between global warming and the occurrence of extreme weather events during El Nino cycles.

Extreme El Nino events tend to occur when temperatures exceed 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the eastern equatorial part of the Pacific. Global warming has made those conditions much more common. The team ran 20 different climate simulation models and found that in each case, the warming of the Pacific Ocean lead to a "substantial" increase in extreme El Nino events.

"We currently experience an unusually strong El Nino event every 20 years. Our research shows this will double to one event every ten years," says CoECSS's Agus Santoso, who co-authored the final study. "El Nino events are a multi-dimensional problem and only now are we starting to understand better how they respond to global warming."

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Greg Mortenson signing books in a bookstore. In 2011, 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer aired and published reports showing that Three Cups of Tea contained numerous fabrications.     Photo: Paulsims/Flickr

Greg Mortenson Steps (Back) Into the Spotlight

The embattled philanthropist speaks out for the first time in years about his own public takedown and the discredited bestseller Three Cups of Tea.

It’s been a long time since Greg Mortenson was a public figure who was routinely seen or heard in public—April 2011, to be precise—but that changes starting tomorrow, when Mortenson will appear on "The Today Show," during a pre-recorded talk with Tom Brokaw that airs at 7:40 A.M. in all time zones.

Mortenson's re-emergence has not generated anything approaching the pre-game hype that accompanied Lance Armstrong when he submitted to a grilling by Oprah Winfrey in January 2013, but this conversation bears watching nontheless. A great deal has happened since the spring of 2011, when Mortenson and his charitable group, the Central Asia Institute, were hit by a twin-tipped rocket: Jon Krakauer's mammoth investigation for Byliner, alleging everything from literary fabrications to fiduciary malpractice, and a report on "60 Minutes" that hammered home the same damning messages in primetime.

After giving interviews to Outside and a Montana newspaper, Mortenson went away, silent and deep. Over the next few years, he and CAI were hit with a class-action lawsuit by disgruntled purchasers of his two memoirs (a case that two judges have thrown out), were investigated and severely disciplined by the State Attorney General of Montana, and lived through a dark tragedy—the suicide of Mortenson's co-author on Three Cups of Tea, David Oliver Relin.

In short, there's a lot to talk about. For a quick refresher course on Outside's extensive coverage of the Mortenson case, see the following round-up.

More Greg Mortenson Coverage

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Curbing bullying in P.E. classes could help youth fitness.     Photo: Getty Images/Fuse

Bullied Kids Averse to Exercise

P.E. bullies negatively impact peers for up to a year

Children who are bullied in P.E. class are less likely to pursue and enjoy physical activity, according to a new report published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

The study, spearheaded by BYU psychology professor Chad Jensen, found that children of all weights who were bullied in P.E. classes or other physical activities displayed an aversion to exercise for as long as a year after the incidents.

Prior studies have linked bullying to decreased physical activity when the bullied were obese or overweight, but the new research finds that the correlation extends to children of normal weight.

Researchers polled fourth and fifth grade students from six Midwestern elementary schools about health, emotional well-being, cooperation with others, and academics. A year later, researchers asked students the same questions to track changes.

Scientists suggest that bolstering anti-bullying campaigns could produce tangible results for youth fitness. The study also recommends developing policies to curb peer victimization rooted in physical ability.

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The Sochi Olympics begin February 7.     Photo: jcamilobernal/Thinkstock

UPDATE: White Out of X Games, Again

Lolo completes turnaround and White will skip X Games

Two of America’s leading Olympic stars, Shaun White and Lolo Jones, booked their tickets to Sochi this week.

White finished atop the podium in the final U.S. halfpipe qualifier on Sunday, and quickly announced he would skip the X Games in order to rest for the Olympics.

Former trackstar Jones was also selected for the Sochi team, completing her highly publicized transformation from hurdler to bobsledder.

White, the 27-year-old superstar, travels to Sochi in search of his historic third consecutive gold medal. White began last week's qualifying event with a serious crash during Thursday’s slopestyle training run. He bounced back, however, and went on finish first in both the slopestyle and halfpipe events in Mammoth, California.

Jones’s Olympic berth wasn’t settled by a podium finish, but instead by a six person committee on Sunday night. The committee made its decision after considering World Cup and push championship results, and also accepted input from the team’s drivers. Lauryn Williams, a two-time Olympic medalist in track, was also selected for the team. During the summer of 2013, Jones reportedly urged Williams to try bobsledding during a track meet.

The Sochi games begin on Friday, February 7.

UPDATE: January 22, 2014 

Shaun White changed his mind on Monday and will now compete in the 2014 Winter X Games.

After a fall and eventual first place finish in an Olympic qualifying event last week, White said he planned to skip the X Games to rest. ESPN, an event sponsor, announced on Tuesday morning that the X Games heavyweight will in fact compete in the halfpipe and slopestyle events.

Shaun White has won 18 Winter X Games medals since his debut in 2000.  This year's games begin on January 23 in Aspen, Colorado.

UPDATE: January 23, 2014

After arriving in Aspen, and even taking a training run, Shaun White decided on Wednesday that he would not participate in the Winter X Games, again.

Concerned with his schedule, White doesn’t believe he’ll have enough time to train for the Olympics if he competes in Aspen.

''It's an incredibly tough decision for me and it's not something I take lightly… But I have to make sure I'm prepared for the Olympics," explained the X Games superstar.

White's focus now shifts to slopestyle qualifying on February 6, a day before the Opening Ceremonies.

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A striated caracara captured the first-ever aerial footage of a rockhopper penguin colony shot by a bird.     Photo: Liam Quinn/Flickr

WATCH: Bird Films Penguin Colony

After stealing camera

It turns out that striated caracaras make pretty good videographers.

One of them, intrigued by an egg-cam, captured this amazing video from the Falkland Islands—the first-ever aerial footage of a rockhopper penguin colony shot by a flying bird.

The wild bird stole a camera planted by a team from John Dower Productions, a company that specializes in making wildlife films. The clip is part of the company’s new series, Penguins—Spy in the Huddle.    

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Runners in Central Park, New York City.     Photo: Patrick Gruban/Wikimedia

Run in a Park to Relieve Stress

Working out in nature is more restorative than exercising in a busy city.

If you take a lunchtime run or walk, you'll return to work feeling less stressed if you opt to exercise in a park, suggests a new study from the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

"Our results show that the large urban park and extensively managed urban woodland had almost the same positive influence," the Finnish researchers reported. "Findings suggest that even short-term visits to nature areas have positive effects on perceived stress relief compared to built-up environment."

The study, which investigated the psychological and physiological effects of short-term visits to urban nature environments, included 76 people in three different environments: a built-up city center, an urban park, and an urban woodland.

Those visiting urban parks (such as Central Park in New York City) and urban woodlands (such as Pre's Trail in Eugene, Oregon) reported a boost in mood, creativity, and vitality compared to those in the concrete jungle, who reported decreased positive feelings.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Playing Outside

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    Photo: Getty Images

UPDATE: Dolphins Slaughtered in Japan

Annual Taiji Cove hunt provokes controversy

More than 250 dolphins have been herded into Japan's famous Taiji Cove, where they are waiting to be slaughtered or sold into captivity. According to CNN, the animals have been 72 hours without food, and many have become injured as they attempt to reach other members of their pods.

"Some of them die from injuries incurred during the manhandling or simply the stress," the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said in a statement.

But those in the Taiji community, who organize the annual hunt, maintain that it is no different than the slaughtering of other animals.

"We have fishermen in our community, and they are exercising their fishing rights," says Kazutaka Sangen, the mayor of Taiji. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."

What's worse: According to new research from the University of Kyoto, dolphins see the world in a "fundamentally similar way" to humans. Using a series of geometrical tests during six years, researchers found that despite different environments, dolphins, chimpanzees and humans perceive the visual world comparably.

Now imagine being herded and killed in a cove—according to this study, dolphins would feel similarly.

Update: January 21, 2014

Today the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji Cove ended in the deaths of roughly 500 dolphins—about 250 more than originally predicted by news sources. 

Yesterday, fishermen selected some dolphins to sell to marine parks and aquariums. Those unworthy of living in captivity were killed or put back to sea.

"Dolphin fishing is one of traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference. "Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control, and it's controlled under responsibility of each country."

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