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The living oak has withstood the ravages of history | The science



Live oak trees in Beaufort, South Carolina photographed using the old fashioned wet plate process.
Lisa Elmaleh

“I saw a live oak tree in Louisiana growing / It stood alone with moss hanging from the branches.” — Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1860-1861

More than 150 years after Whitman wrote these lines, the southern live oak still epitomizes the American ideal of individual resilience—a standing, stoic figure. The live oak, one of the most bizarre trees in the country, is also one of the strongest. Indeed, he saved the lives of thousands of people who clung to his limbs during hurricanes. And today, scientists appreciate its extraordinary ability to absorb atmospheric carbon, which is a bonus in an era of climate change. As lonely as the living oak may seem, this species is hard at work to ensure our collective survival.

US native, Quercus virginiana known for its longevity—trees can live for over a thousand years—and its distinctive branches with their twisting, clumsy, whimsical branches. Southern live oaks get their name because, unlike oaks, which shed their leaves in winter, live oaks regrow leaves throughout the year, so their leaves are consistently lush, adorning the southeast from Virginia to the East Coast and south to Texas and Oklahoma. . , with low-hanging branches that seem to beckon climbers.

These robust trees typically grow inland from coastal dunes and are considered the cornerstone of the sea forests of the American South because they provide important support for a remarkably diverse array of species. Meanwhile, their famous deep and strong roots give live oaks an impressive hardiness.

Living oak fed and protected the inhabitants of the continent for many centuries. Since pre-Columbian America, indigenous peoples have ground the acorns of this tree into flour and have known that its strong roots can be counted on during natural disasters. In the late 1700s, the US Navy recognized the wood’s strength and its curved branches, ideal for ship hulls, and began using it to make extra strong ships: the world’s oldest ship still afloat, the USS. Constitution, launched in 1797, was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 after its hull, made partly of live oak, proved to be as good as the formidable British guns. The physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. called this impregnable vessel the “sea eagle” – the floating representative of America itself.

The Angel Oak in South Carolina, famous for its age, is also huge – 65 feet tall and 25.5 feet in trunk circumference.

Lauren McDaniel

The tree’s resilience has become even more important in the era of climate change, and the live oak continues to provide a life raft for those in the path of tropical storms. Salt-water-tolerant trees serve as protection against extreme weather, with deep roots that hold fast and downward-curving branches that provide shelter from strong winds. “While dunes and barrier islands are effective at mitigating storm surges and strong winds, the next round of protection is marine forest,” explains Paul Manos, a professor of biology at Duke University who has studied oak trees for most of his career. “Live oaks are not very tall, but very wide, and biomechanically they do well in strong winds because the wind passes right over them.” Just as importantly, the live oak is considered one of the world’s most efficient carbon sequestration trees due to its large canopy, dense timber, and impressive longevity, which is why Douglas Tullamy, an entomologist and wildlife ecologist at the University of Delaware, sees oaks as important part of long-term solutions to climate change.

The survival skills of live oaks will come to the fore as you drive through southwestern Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico. You won’t see many buildings at the end of the road; fences, businesses and homes have been destroyed by a series of storms over the past decade. But you will see big, beautiful oak trees that are centuries old. So many people have weathered the storms here for generations by holding on tight to the branches of the living oak tree. Historians have traced the practice to a native hunter in the 1800s who taught settlers how to tie themselves to these “thunder trees” during hurricanes. There are still locals who tell me that they survived the catastrophic storm of 1957 in this way.

tin photo of live oak with spanish moss

More Live Oaks in Beaufort

Lisa Elmaleh

One of the biggest threats to live oak is development. “I get calls every day,” says Colin Perilla Landry, chairman Living Oak Society, an organization of the Louisiana Federation of Garden Clubs. “Most of the time they call in a panic at the last second, because the utility is in their yard and is about to cut branches.” Landry usually sends an arborist to the site to see if the tree needs to be cut down, or to make sure the company cuts only what is needed.

The current president of the Live Oak Society is 1200 years old. One of the vice presidents has a trunk over ten feet in diameter. Landry is the only person in society; the rest is trees. One of the most famous is Angel Oak, a 400+ year old titan on Jones Island in South Carolina. The low-lying tourist attraction is protected from developers due to its majestic beauty. In the south, other anonymous live oaks are not protected, although anyone can register a given tree for conservation; thus the society knows to intervene if it is threatened.

Whitman, of course, found his arboreal muse in Louisiana, and while there are live oaks at the National Arboretum in Washington, “we don’t have anything like an angel oak,” says horticulturist Kevin Conrad. “To see the real deal, you need to head south. … It’s almost a spiritual experience to stand under these incredible trees.”

As a keystone, the southern live oak provides shelter to hundreds of forest creatures.

Rebecca Warby

Barred pygmy owl
Glaucidium brazilian

an owl with yellow eyes sits on a branch

Photos of Minden

These tiny long-tailed owls are well known in parts of Mexico, Central and South America, but their range also extends to Arizona and southern Texas. In Texas, bird survival largely depends on live oak, says Fred Bryant, director of development for the Wildlife Research Institute. Caesar Kleberg in Kingsville, Texas. Owls often nest in hollows left by woodpeckers in trees.

barking tree frog

Hyla gratiosa

green frog sits on a white surface


Named for its harsh call, the largest native tree frog in the US – typically 2 to 2.75 inches long – spends the warm months on the branches of live oak trees and hides under the roots in the winter. You can see how these frogs perform acrobatic stunts by jumping towards the canopy. Indeed, in 1961, the late Doris Cochran, a herpetologist at the Smithsonian Institution, observed that in captivity they could “easily play a toy trapeze” due to their strong suction on their fingers and toes.

White strand M

Parrasius m-album

butterfly sits on a branch


This butterfly takes its name from the wings, which are blue above and silver below, with a zigzag white line resembling the letter “M” and, according to some observers, a false eye. In the American South, caterpillars lay their eggs on the leaves of southern live oaks; further north they are dependent on other oak species. However, when they become butterflies, they are difficult to spot because they live very high in the canopy.

Seminole bat

Lasiurus seminolus

close-up photo of a bat's face / Science Photo Library

This reddish-brown bat loves to nestle in the Spanish moss that grows on the living oak branches. These solitary eared creatures especially enjoy the shady Spanish moss mats on the southwestern sides of the oak trees, where they congregate and nap during the day. These areas are generally free of branches, giving the bats a free path to fly.

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British scientists have found one of the largest black holes ever discovered



British astronomers have discovered one of the largest black holes ever discovered.

A team led by Durham University used gravitational lensing to find a supermassive black hole.

Gravitational lensing occurs when a celestial object has such a massive gravitational pull that it bends time and space around it, bending light from a more distant object and magnifying it.

They also used supercomputer simulations on the DiRAC integrated supercomputer facility, which allowed the researchers to study how light is bent by a black hole inside a galaxy hundreds of millions of light-years away.


Artist’s impression of a black hole, where the black hole’s strong gravitational field distorts the space around it. This distorts the background light images almost directly behind it into sharp, circular rings. This gravitational “lensing” effect offers an observational method to infer the presence of black holes and measure their mass based on how large the deflection of light is. The Hubble Space Telescope is targeting distant galaxies whose light travels very close to the centers of intermediate foreground galaxies, which are expected to host supermassive black holes a billion times the mass of the Sun. (ESA/Hubble, Digitized Sky Survey, Nick Reisinger (, N. Bartmann)

A university release says the group has simulated light traveling through the universe hundreds of thousands of times, with each simulation involving a black hole of a different mass that changes the light’s path to Earth.

By including a supermassive black hole in one of their simulations, they found that the path traveled by light from the galaxy to Earth matches what is seen in real images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

They discovered a supermassive black hole in the foreground galaxy, an object with a mass more than 30 billion times that of the Sun.


Astronaut aboard a spaceship

An astronaut aboard the Atlantis spacecraft took this image from the Hubble Space Telescope on May 19, 2009. (NASA)

Durham University said it was the first black hole discovered using gravitational lensing. Durham University astronomer Professor Alastair Edge first noticed the giant arc of the gravitational lens while looking through images of the galaxy in 2004.

“Most of the largest black holes we know of are in an active state, when matter pulled close to the black hole heats up and releases energy in the form of light, X-rays and other radiation,” says lead author Dr. This is stated in a statement by James Nightingale.

Massive galaxy cluster RX J2129 is captured in this observation by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.  Due to gravitational lensing, this observation contains three different images of the same supernova galaxy, which you can see here in more detail.  Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial body causes enough space-time curvature to bend the path of light passing by or through it, almost like an enormous lens.  Gravitational lensing can cause background objects to appear strangely distorted, as seen in the concentric arcs of light in the upper right corner of this image.

Massive galaxy cluster RX J2129 is captured in this observation by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. Due to gravitational lensing, this observation contains three different images of the same supernova galaxy, which you can see here in more detail. Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial body causes enough space-time curvature to bend the path of light passing by or through it, almost like an enormous lens. Gravitational lensing can cause background objects to appear strangely distorted, as seen in the concentric arcs of light in the upper right corner of this image. (ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, P Kelly)

“However, gravitational lensing makes it possible to study inactive black holes, which is currently not possible in distant galaxies. This approach could allow us to detect many more black holes outside of our local universe and show how these exotic objects have evolved in cosmic time.” — said the professor of the physics department.


The results were published in a study also involving the Max Planck Institute in Germany, in a journal. Royal Astronomical Society Monthly Notices.

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US can meet climate targets by 2030, but much remains to be done



CLIMATE WIRE | A couple of new laws, combined with new climate regulations, give the United States a shot at meeting its 2030 emissions targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. But before 2030, a lot could go wrong.

These are the conclusions Thursday report The Rhodium Group, which is exploring America’s path to achieving its goal under the Paris Agreement.

The report says the United States is in a significantly better position to pursue its climate ambitions following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year and a bipartisan infrastructure deal in 2021. .

To achieve the goal, new pollution standards must be adopted, most of which have not been finalized by the Biden administration. Resolving transmission fights and bottlenecks can derail clean energy projects. Supply chain restrictions could drive up the price of renewables, electric vehicles and technology needed for green factories, slowing down their rollout. And the victory of a candidate in the 2024 presidential race who does not consider climate a priority could lead to the fact that the implementation of new climate incentives in the country will stall.

“It’s not as easy as passing a bill by Congress at the moment,” said Ben King, an analyst at Rhodium who helped write the report. “This is work that is being done through the federal government, with a lot of rulemaking across multiple agencies. This is work that is being done in a wide variety of states that are pursuing aggressive climate protection policies.”

The long to-do list is responsible for the wide range of rhodium emissions.

In a climate-best-case scenario, U.S. emissions will be 51% lower than 2005 levels by the end of the decade. This would satisfy the 50-52% reduction in emissions stipulated by the Paris Agreement. However, achieving this goal will require the effective implementation of new laws, a set of rules designed to limit pollution from cars, power plants and factories, and reduce clean energy costs.

However, emissions cuts could fall as little as 32 percent if implementation of the legislation fails and new pollution rules are crushed in court or left on agency drawing boards. In this case, low fossil fuel prices will also increase energy consumption and emissions.

A number of federal regulations will be particularly important in determining whether the United States is meeting its climate goals, King said. New EPA regulations on everything from mercury and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants to vehicle emission standards and methane limits for the oil and gas industry could cut greenhouse gas levels by 6 percent, rhodium has found.

The Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure agreement provide economic incentives to green the economy, but there are no requirements under these laws that companies must comply with. That’s why the new federal pollution standards are so important, King said.

“Ambitious federal action in these areas is a prerequisite for achieving the Paris climate goal,” he said. “A lot of things can go wrong that could keep us at the bottom of that range. But a lot can go wrong.”

Reprinted from News from Europe and Europe with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.

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A Mississippi tornado scoured the ground so hard it left a scar visible from space



These days we are used to seeing very high resolution satellite imagery showing the horrific effects of extreme weather. Below I give a particularly impressive example: the before and after images of the devastation caused by the tornado are one of at least 20 during an outbreak in the south that devastated Rolling Fork, Mississippi on March 24, 2023.

But what struck me even more was the wider perspective in the image above, released by NASA. Instead of a relatively close view of homes and businesses torn to shreds, the Landsat 9 image shows a scar carved into the landscape by one of the March 24 tornadoes. The tornado trail seen in the image is just over eight miles long.

Here’s an even wider view showing the entire 29-mile tornado track:

A wider view of the area around Winona, Mississippi taken on March 24, 2023 by Landsat 9. Almost the entirety of the 29-mile tornado scar is visible as a brownish scar embedded in the landscape. (The box in the upper right corner shows part of the scene visible in the image at the top of the article. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

It first landed in a wooded area near Black Hawk, Mississippi, in the lower left corner of the image. With winds reaching 155 miles per hour, it broke and uprooted trees, overturned vehicles and destroyed homes and other structures. Three people tragically died.

Before and after satellite imagery shows the extent of damage done to homes and businesses by tornadoes that swept through Rolling Fork, Mississippi on March 24, 2023. To: December 27, 2022. After: March 26, 2023. (Source: Maxar Technologies) via twitter)

An even stronger tornado touched down about 70 miles to the southwest. During its almost 60-mile journey lasting over an hour, this twister winds reached at least 170 mph.

The tornado that swept through Rolling Fork left much of the tiny town in ruins, as tragically shown in high-resolution before and after satellite images.

At least 21 in Mississippi and one in Alabama lost their lives as powerful thunderstorms caused a tornado outbreak across a wide swath of the Deep South. In Sharkey County alone in western Mississippi, 13 people out of a total population of 3,700 died during the hurricanes.

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