Land surface temperature anomaly for Alaska, January 23rd to 30th, 2014, compared with the 2001 - 2010 average for the same week. This image is based on data collected by the MODIS sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite. A persistent ridge of high pressure off the Pacific Coast fueled this warm spell, directing warm air and rainstorms to Alaska instead of California. The last half of January was one of the warmest winter periods in Alaska’s history, with temperatures as much as 22°C above normal on some days in the central and western portions of the state. The all-time warmest January temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. Numerous other locations all set January records.
Images of California taken on January 18th, 2013, and January 18th, 2014, by NASA’s Terra satellite. California is experiencing a record drought, possibly the driest year on record. Snowpack is 10-30% of normal and vegetation cover is greatly reduced. Water shortages are expected to have a severe effect on agriculture and the environment, prompting a state of emergency.
An extratropical cyclone over the United Kingdom, imaged by NASA’s Terra Satellite on February 12th, 2014. This storm caused heavy rains, flooding, winds in excess of 160 kilometers per hour, and power outages for more than 700,000 people. January was recently declared the wettest month on record by the UK Met Office.
A helical TALE protein molecule wrapped around a double helix of DNA. TALE stands for “Transcription Activator-Like Effectors”, they are produced by Xanthomonas bacteria when entering a plant cell. They manipulate the host cell by switching on certain genes that make the plant cell more susceptible to infection. TALE subunits bind to the nucleotides of DNA in a 1:1 ratio, and each subunit has a pair of amino acids that is specific to a single DNA base. This enables the TALEs to recognize and activate specific sequences of DNA.
Coccolithophores are single celled eukaryotic phytoplankton that synthesize intricate exoskeletons from crystals of calcium carbonate. The functions of these coccoliths are unknown, and may include buoyancy, osmotic regulation, protection from UV light, predation, or mechanical shock. When nutrient and light conditions are optimal, coccolithophores can form massive plankton blooms that are visible from space. Large numbers of these organisms can accumulate on the ocean floor forming chalk deposits such as the White Cliffs of Dover.