What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Ancient writings can reconstruct past climate

Ancient manuscripts written by Arabic scholars during the 9th and 10th centuries can provide valuable meteorological information to help modern scientists reconstruct the climate of the past, according to a new study.

The research analyses the writings of scholars, historians and diarists in Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age between 816-1009 AD for evidence of abnormal weather patterns.

Reconstructing climates from the past provides historical comparison to modern weather events and valuable context for climate change. In the natural world trees, ice cores and coral provide evidence of past weather, but from human sources scientists are limited by the historical information available.

Until now researchers have relied on official records detailing weather patterns including air force reports during WW2 and 18th century ship’s logs.

Now a team of Spanish scientists from the Universidad de Extremadura have turned to Arabic documentary sources from the 9th and 10th centuries (3rd and 4th in the Islamic calendar).

“Climate information recovered from these ancient sources mainly refers to extreme events which impacted wider society such as droughts and floods,” said lead author Dr Fernando DomInguez-Castro.

Meteors brighter than Venus bombarding Earth

Astronomers are mystified over the bizarre breed of slow-moving meteors that are lighting up the skies this month. Although the February’s fireballs - a term that describes meteors that appear brighter in the sky than Venus- are a well-known phenomenon but the astronomers are eager to know as to where they come from.
The strange deep diving, slow-moving fireballs vary in size from basketballs to buses and some are believed to have dropped meteorites. Experts have asserted that the fireballs aren’t more numerous than normal, but their appearance and trajectory are odd.

“These fireballs are particularly slow and penetrating,” Discovery News quoted meteor expert Peter Brown, a physics professor at the University of Western Ontario, as saying.

“They hit the top of the atmosphere moving slower than 15 kilometers per second (33,500 mph), decelerate rapidly and make it to within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of Earth’s surface.”

The month’s fireball action started on February 1, when a meteor lit up the skies over central Texas, putting up a dazzling show for people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Airflow obstruction ups risk of heart failure

Reduced lung function and obstructive airway diseases can strongly and independently increase risk of heart failure, scientists including one of an Indian origin have said.

Importantly, say the investigators, this association was even evident in never-smokers and was still evident after adjustment for smoking status and number of years smoking. The results were derived from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a population-based cohort from the USA, in which almost 16,000 adults aged 45 - 64 years were followed for an average of 15 years.

The study found that the long-term risk of developing heart failure increased with reduced lung function as measured by forced expiratory volume (FEV1) by spirometry.

The investigators acknowledge that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common co-morbidity in patients with heart failure, and vice versa.

Baseline data of the ARIC cohort was collected between 1987 and 1989 and included information on socioeconomic indicators, medical history, family history, cardiovascular risk factors, serum chemistries, ECGs, medication use, and lung volumes.

Three re-examinations followed the baseline visit, as well as annual telephone interviews and active surveillance of hospitalisations and death. Incident heart failure was ascertained from hospital records and death certificates up to 2005 in 13,660 eligible subjects.

Hazard ratios for heart failure, which were calculated according to quartiles of FEV1 in both men and women and adjusted for age, smoking and height, increased steadily over descending quartiles of FEV1.