UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Aug. 15, 2007 at 5:44 PM
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Lake Superior might hit record low levels

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Lake Superior is nearing a record low level for the month of August and might set records for September and October, U.S. government hydrologists said.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can forecast lake levels 12 months in advance, using current hydrological conditions combined with long-term climate outlooks.

"Lake Superior is less than 6 centimeters (2.3 inches) higher than its August record low of 182.97 meters (600 feet) which was set in 1926, and it looks as though the water levels may continue to plunge," said Cynthia Sellinger, deputy director of NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Sellinger said NOAA's lake level forecasts predict a 15 percent to 20 percent probability that new monthly records will be set some time this fall.

The researchers said for every inch Lake Superior drops, 529 billion gallons of water are displaced. During the past decade, 12.7 trillion gallons of water have left Lake Superior.

The lake's all-time record low of 182.69 meters (599.37 feet) was set in April 1926 as a result of a major climatic event that led to the nation's infamous dust bowl era.

Prostate cancer immune molecule identified

ROCHESTER, Minn., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. medical scientists have identified the first immune molecule that appears to play a role in prostate cancer development and progression.

"This discovery will allow physicians to individualize treatment and observation plans for prostate cancer patients," said Mayo Clinic Dr. Timothy Roth, lead author of the study. "Being able to tell a patient his specific risk after surgery, and perhaps even prior to surgery, will be a huge step forward."

The scientists determined the molecule, called B7-H3, remains attached to the surface of prostate cancer cells and does not appear to migrate, thus becoming an attractive therapeutic target. The researchers said they believe B7-H3 kills or paralyzes immune cells that are trying to attack the cancer.

The findings indicate B7-H3 may prove useful as a diagnostic, prognostic and even therapeutic tool because it is increasingly displayed by tumor cells as prostate cancers develop -- even after initiation of anti-hormone therapy, which is the most common treatment for advanced prostate cancer.

The study is detailed in the current issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Study: Cities make storms more intense

PRINCETON, N.J., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. study has determined summer thunderstorms become much more intense when they collide with a city than when crossing open countryside.

Alexandros Ntelekos and James Smith of Princeton University's School of Engineering and Applied Science focused on an intense thunderstorm that hit Baltimore in July 2004.

Their modeling suggests the city experienced about 30 percent more rainfall than the area would have received had no buildings existed. The storm produced about six inches of rain within a two-hour period.

Storms of that intensity occur only once every 200 years or so, but the researchers said they might become more frequent.

"Precipitation events like gully-washing rainstorms are expected to increase in intensity as the world warms due to the buildup of greenhouse gases," said Princeton Professor Michael Oppenheimer. "This is just the sort of research that combines science, engineering and social response that may allow us to better cope with the future, warmer climate.

"I hope it will also serve as a warning about the complexity of adaptation and, therefore, as a goad to policymakers to act more urgently to stabilize the climate."

The research appeared earlier this year in the Journal of Hydrometeorology.

Mars equipment is field-tested in Norway

SVALBARD, Norway, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- An international group of space scientists and engineers is in Svalbard, Norway, field-testing instruments for future Mars missions.

The Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition is designed to take advantage of similarities between the conditions on Mars and those at Svalbard in conducting scientific research in preparation for future space exploration, such as the European Space Agency's ExoMars mission and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Mars Science Laboratory.

The expedition is led by Hans Amundsen from the Earth and Planetary Exploration Services in Oslo, Norway, in collaboration with Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and scientists and engineers from other NASA and ESA-related institutions.

The expedition, which started Sunday, continues until Aug. 26.

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