Concept: Relative humidity
The evolutionary reasons for variation in nose shape across human populations have been subject to continuing debate. An import function of the nose and nasal cavity is to condition inspired air before it reaches the lower respiratory tract. For this reason, it is thought the observed differences in nose shape among populations are not simply the result of genetic drift, but may be adaptations to climate. To address the question of whether local adaptation to climate is responsible for nose shape divergence across populations, we use Qst-Fst comparisons to show that nares width and alar base width are more differentiated across populations than expected under genetic drift alone. To test whether this differentiation is due to climate adaptation, we compared the spatial distribution of these variables with the global distribution of temperature, absolute humidity, and relative humidity. We find that width of the nares is correlated with temperature and absolute humidity, but not with relative humidity. We conclude that some aspects of nose shape may indeed have been driven by local adaptation to climate. However, we think that this is a simplified explanation of a very complex evolutionary history, which possibly also involved other non-neutral forces such as sexual selection.
The current study provides details of sleep (or inactivity) in two wild, free-roaming African elephant matriarchs studied in their natural habitat with remote monitoring using an actiwatch subcutaneously implanted in the trunk, a standard elephant collar equipped with a GPS system and gyroscope, and a portable weather station. We found that these two elephants were polyphasic sleepers, had an average daily total sleep time of 2 h, mostly between 02:00 and 06:00, and displayed the shortest daily sleep time of any mammal recorded to date. Moreover, these two elephants exhibited both standing and recumbent sleep, but only exhibited recumbent sleep every third or fourth day, potentially limiting their ability to enter REM sleep on a daily basis. In addition, we observed on five occasions that the elephants went without sleep for up to 46 h and traversed around 30 km in 10 h, possibly due to disturbances such as potential predation or poaching events, or a bull elephant in musth. They exhibited no form of sleep rebound following a night without sleep. Environmental conditions, especially ambient air temperature and relative humidity, analysed as wet-bulb globe temperature, reliably predict sleep onset and offset times. The elephants selected novel sleep sites each night and the amount of activity between sleep periods did not affect the amount of sleep. A number of similarities and differences to studies of elephant sleep in captivity are noted, and specific factors shaping sleep architecture in elephants, on various temporal scales, are discussed.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published about 3 years ago
Sulfate aerosols exert profound impacts on human and ecosystem health, weather, and climate, but their formation mechanism remains uncertain. Atmospheric models consistently underpredict sulfate levels under diverse environmental conditions. From atmospheric measurements in two Chinese megacities and complementary laboratory experiments, we show that the aqueous oxidation of SO2 by NO2 is key to efficient sulfate formation but is only feasible under two atmospheric conditions: on fine aerosols with high relative humidity and NH3 neutralization or under cloud conditions. Under polluted environments, this SO2 oxidation process leads to large sulfate production rates and promotes formation of nitrate and organic matter on aqueous particles, exacerbating severe haze development. Effective haze mitigation is achievable by intervening in the sulfate formation process with enforced NH3 and NO2 control measures. In addition to explaining the polluted episodes currently occurring in China and during the 1952 London Fog, this sulfate production mechanism is widespread, and our results suggest a way to tackle this growing problem in China and much of the developing world.
In 2015, more than 200,000 saiga antelopes died in 3 weeks in central Kazakhstan. The proximate cause of death is confirmed as hemorrhagic septicemia caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida type B, based on multiple strands of evidence. Statistical modeling suggests that there was unusually high relative humidity and temperature in the days leading up to the mortality event; temperature and humidity anomalies were also observed in two previous similar events in the same region. The modeled influence of environmental covariates is consistent with known drivers of hemorrhagic septicemia. Given the saiga population’s vulnerability to mass mortality and the likely exacerbation of climate-related and environmental stressors in the future, management of risks to population viability such as poaching and viral livestock disease is urgently needed, as well as robust ongoing veterinary surveillance. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to research mass mortality events under rapid environmental change.
Sensory effects in eyes and airways are common symptoms reported by aircraft crew and office workers. Neurological symptoms, such as headache, have also been reported. To assess the commonality and differences in exposures and health symptoms, a literature search of aircraft cabin and office air concentrations of non-reactive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone-initiated terpene reaction products were compiled and assessed. Data for tricresyl phosphates, in particular tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (ToCP), were also compiled, as well as information on other risk factors such as low relative humidity. A conservative health risk assessment for eye, airway and neurological effects was undertaken based on a “worst-case scenario” which assumed a simultaneous constant exposure for 8h to identified maximum concentrations in aircraft and offices. This used guidelines and reference values for sensory irritation for eyes and upper airways and airflow limitation; a tolerable daily intake value was used for ToCP. The assessment involved the use of hazard quotients or indexes, defined as the summed ratio(s) (%) of compound concentration(s) divided by their guideline value(s). The concentration data suggest that, under the assumption of a conservative “worst-case scenario”, aircraft air and office concentrations of the compounds in question are not likely to be associated with sensory symptoms in eyes and airways. This is supported by the fact that maximum concentrations are, in general, associated with infrequent incidents and brief exposures. Sensory symptoms, in particular in eyes, appear to be exacerbated by environmental and occupational conditions that differ in aircraft and offices, e.g., ozone incidents, low relative humidity, low cabin pressure, and visual display unit work. The data do not support airflow limitation effects. For ToCP, in view of the conservative approach adopted here and the rareness of reported incidents, the health risk of exposure to this compound in aircraft is considered negligible.
Uncontrolled excess moisture in buildings is a common problem that can lead to changes in fungal communities. In buildings, moisture parameters can be classified by location and include assessments of moisture in the air, at a surface, or within a material. These parameters are not equivalent in dynamic indoor environments, which makes moisture-induced fungal growth in buildings a complex occurrence. In order to determine the circumstances that lead to such growth, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of in situ moisture measurement, the influence of building factors on moisture parameters, and the levels of these moisture parameters that lead to indoor fungal growth. Currently, there are disagreements in the literature on this topic. A literature review was conducted specifically on moisture-induced fungal growth on gypsum drywall. This review revealed that there is no consistent measurement approach used to characterize moisture in laboratory and field studies, with relative humidity measurements being most common. Additionally, many studies identify a critical moisture value, below which fungal growth will not occur. The values defined by relative humidity encompassed the largest range, while those defined by moisture content exhibited the highest variation. Critical values defined by equilibrium relative humidity were most consistent, and this is likely due to equilibrium relative humidity being the most relevant moisture parameter to microbial growth, since it is a reasonable measure of moisture available at surfaces, where fungi often proliferate. Several sources concur that surface moisture, particularly liquid water, is the prominent factor influencing microbial changes and that moisture in the air and within a material are of lesser importance. However, even if surface moisture is assessed, a single critical moisture level to prevent fungal growth cannot be defined, due to a number of factors, including variations in fungal genera and/or species, temperature, and nutrient availability. Despite these complexities, meaningful measurements can still be made to inform fungal growth by making localised, long-term, and continuous measurements of surface moisture. Such an approach will capture variations in a material’s surface moisture, which could provide insight on a number of conditions that could lead to fungal proliferation.
Weather conditions are commonly believed to influence musculoskeletal pain, however the evidence for this is mixed. This study aimed to examine the relationship between local meteorological conditions and online search trends for terms related to knee pain, hip pain, and arthritis. Five years of relative online search volumes for these terms were obtained for the 50 most populous cities in the contiguous United States, along with corresponding local weather data for temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and precipitation. Methods from the climate econometrics literature were used to assess the casual impact of these meteorological variables on the relative volumes of searches for pain. For temperatures between -5°C and 30°C, search volumes for hip pain increased by 12 index points, and knee pain increased by 18 index points. Precipitation had a negative effect on search volumes for these terms. At temperatures >30°C, search volumes for arthritis related pain decreased by 7 index points. These patterns were not seen for pain searches unrelated to the musculoskeletal system. In summary, selected local weather conditions are significantly associated with online search volumes for specific musculoskeletal pain symptoms. We believe the predominate driver for this to be the relative changes in physical activity levels associated with meteorological conditions.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published about 3 years ago
Rising atmospheric CO2 will make Earth warmer, and many studies have inferred that this warming will cause droughts to become more widespread and severe. However, rising atmospheric CO2 also modifies stomatal conductance and plant water use, processes that are often are overlooked in impact analysis. We find that plant physiological responses to CO2 reduce predictions of future drought stress, and that this reduction is captured by using plant-centric rather than atmosphere-centric metrics from Earth system models (ESMs). The atmosphere-centric Palmer Drought Severity Index predicts future increases in drought stress for more than 70% of global land area. This area drops to 37% with the use of precipitation minus evapotranspiration (P-E), a measure that represents the water flux available to downstream ecosystems and humans. The two metrics yield consistent estimates of increasing stress in regions where precipitation decreases are more robust (southern North America, northeastern South America, and southern Europe). The metrics produce diverging estimates elsewhere, with P-E predicting decreasing stress across temperate Asia and central Africa. The differing sensitivity of drought metrics to radiative and physiological aspects of increasing CO2 partly explains the divergent estimates of future drought reported in recent studies. Further, use of ESM output in offline models may double-count plant feedbacks on relative humidity and other surface variables, leading to overestimates of future stress. The use of drought metrics that account for the response of plant transpiration to changing CO2, including direct use of P-E and soil moisture from ESMs, is needed to reduce uncertainties in future assessment.
Earthquakes are lethal natural disasters frequently burying people alive under collapsed buildings. Tracking entrapped humans from their unique volatile chemical signature with hand-held devices would accelerate urban search and rescue (USaR) efforts. Here, a pilot study is presented with compact and orthogonal sensor arrays to detect the breath- and skin-emitted metabolic tracers acetone, ammonia, isoprene, CO2and relative humidity (RH), all together serving as sign of life. It consists of three nanostructured metal-oxide sensors (Si-doped WO3, Si-doped MoO3and Ti-doped ZnO), each specifically tailored at the nanoscale for highly sensitive and selective tracer detection along with commercial CO2and humidity sensors. When tested on humans enclosed in plethysmography chambers to simulate entrapment, this sensor array rapidly detected sub-ppm acetone, ammonia and isoprene concentrations with high accuracies (19, 21 and 3 ppb, respectively) and precision, unprecedented by portable sensors but required for USaR. These results were in good agreement (Pearson’s correlation coefficients ≥ 0.9) with bench-top selective reagent ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SRI-TOF-MS). As a result, an inexpensive sensor array is presented that can be integrated readily into hand-held or even drone-carried detectors for first responders to rapidly screen affected terrain.
Atmospheric water is a resource equivalent to ~10% of all fresh water in lakes on Earth. However, an efficient process for capturing and delivering water from air, especially at low humidity levels (down to 20%), has not been developed. We report the design and demonstration of a device based on porous metal-organic framework-801 [Zr6O4(OH)4(fumarate)6] that captures water from the atmosphere at ambient conditions using low-grade heat from natural sunlight below one sun (1 kW per square meter). This device is capable of harvesting 2.8 liters of water per kilogram of MOF daily at relative humidity levels as low as 20%, and requires no additional input of energy.