Thursday's science stories

Oct 15, 2020 - Science

Counting Chinese STEM students in the U.S.

Reproduced from a CSET report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chinese students make up 16% of all graduate STEM students in the U.S. and 2% of undergraduate STEM students, per a new report from Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

Oct 15, 2020 - Science

How to build forests to combat climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Trees can help to combat climate change, but determining what to plant and where is complex — and whether to plant them at all is a growing debate.

The big picture: Protecting, planting and restoring forests can help offset global warming, but experts stress that greenhouse gas emissions still have to be dramatically cut to reach climate goals for the planet.

Oct 15, 2020 - Science

Scientists see hottest September on record

The Bidwell Bar Bridge surrounded by fire during the Bear fire in Oroville, California in September. Photo: JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

This September was the hottest recorded on Earth since 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's another indicator of the impact of human-induced climate change. The data also illustrate this year is on pace to be among the hottest recorded, with the possibility of tying or breaking the record, set in 2016.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Oct 14, 2020 - Science

A new science of prediction

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new approach to predicting geopolitical and business events combines scenario planning for multiple alternative futures with forecasting methods that put hard probabilities on possible events to come.

Why it matters: Every policy is a prediction, as futurists like to say. Researchers hope a new science of prediction can improve the chances that policymakers and business leaders won't be caught off guard by rare black swan events, while allowing them to prioritize their preparations.

Oct 14, 2020 - Science

1.8 billion individual trees found in West Africa's drylands

Satellite image of trees in Senegal (coordinates: 14.723, -16.303). Photo: ©2020 Maxar Technologies

The deserts and drylands of West Africa appear treeless, but researchers have found more than 1.8 billion individual trees and shrubs there, according to a new paper.

Why it matters: Non-forest trees support flora and fauna, provide sources of food and shelter for animals and people, and help moderate climate change by absorbing carbon.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost half its corals in 25 years

A green sea turtle among the corals at Lady Elliot Island, the southernmost coral cay of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost over half of its coral populations in the past three decades because of ocean warming, a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: The World Heritage-listed underwater ecosystem is a haven for biodiversity, with some 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral and "thousands of other species of plants and animals," per the nonprofit Coral Reef Alliance. It spans some 1,400 miles — making it the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world.

NASA astronaut takes off on final U.S. voyage on Russian rocket

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. Photo: NASA/Twitter

The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday morning with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins aboard, bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Why it matters: Per Axios' Miriam Kramer, this is the last contracted flight on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for NASA, marking the transition to using U.S. launch providers like SpaceX instead.