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UMD Critical Issues Poll Reveals U.S., Japanese Attitudes toward North Korea Summit

June 12, 2018
Contacts: 

Brittany Kyser, 301-405-6734

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Two new nationally representative polls—one fielded in the United States by the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll, and a second fielded by Japanese partner The Genron NPO in Japan—provided insight into what the American and Japanese publics expected from the U.S.–North Korea Summit in Singapore, as well as their opinions on broader Asian security issues. 

What do Americans and Japanese expect from the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? Of those polled, a small minority—22% of Americans and 6% of Japanese—expected significant progress toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; but a majority of Japanese (52%) and a plurality of Americans (36%) expected progress on some issues but not on denuclearization.

  Data Set

“While there is guarded optimism in Japan and the U.S. that some progress will be made in the summit, expectations are low, especially in regard to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. This may give President Trump an opportunity to claim victory even with modest results,” said Professor Shibley Telhami, Director of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll. 

Aside from their expectations about the summit, respondents in both countries were asked about what factors might be influencing North Korea’s stated willingness to negotiate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Americans and Japanese respondents were somewhat divided across the board on this: 38% of Americans and 26% of Japanese attributed the tough line, including pressure and threats, taken by the Trump administration; 29% of Americans and 31% of Japanese think it’s because North Korea feels it has strong negotiating leverage after its success in developing and testing and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach American soil and directly threaten the U.S. and its allies; and 31% of Americans and 39% of Japanese say it’s the impact of UN sanctions and/or Chinese pressure. 

Data Set Bar Chart

As has been the case on many domestic and foreign policy issues, American respondents to the poll are deeply divided across party lines on this issue . While a majority of Republicans (61%) say that the tough line taken by the Trump administration is responsible for North Korea’s willingness to negotiate, only 16 percent of Democrats feel the same. And while 42% of Democrats say that North Korea’s success in developing and testing an ICBM is the most important factor, only 13% of Republicans agreed. 

  Data Set Bar Chart

American opinion on world leaders, including those they admire and dislike, was also measured in this poll. When asked to name a world leader they dislike the most in an open-ended question, Donald Trump was named more frequently by respondents than any other leader with 32%, followed by Kim Jong-un (13%), and Vladimir Putin (9%). However, when asked to name two national or world leaders they think are posing the greatest threat to world peace and security in an open-ended question, Kim Jong-un leads the responses with 43% followed by Vladimir Putin in a close second with 42%; Trump came in third place with just 26%. Breaking that question down by party, we see that views of Donald Trump are greatly varied: Democrats view Trump as the greatest threat to world peace and security with 48% whereas only 3% of Republicans say the same. 

Data Set Bar Chart

When compared with the results of a November 2017 Critical Issues Poll, some changes are visible in American views toward which countries they find the most threatening to world peace and security. While North Korea is still seen as the top global threat by respondents at 53%, this is a decline from last November where 77% of American respondents listed North Korea as one of the top two threats. However, when American respondents were asked to name two countries that they believe pose the greatest threat to their country, Russia came in first with 50% followed by North Korea with 44%. 

Looking at Japanese public opinion on this very question, there is growing public concern about the role of the United States. In the joint poll that was conducted last November, Japanese respondents identified North Korea as the greatest threat to world peace and security (55%), followed by the U.S. (43%), and China (34%). However, in the most recent poll, the U.S. is now seen by respondents as the biggest threat (52%) followed by China (34%), and North Korea (30%).

Data Set Bar Chart   Data Set Bar Chart                                               

When asked to name a national or world leader they admire most in an open-ended question, Republican respondents are most likely to say Donald Trump with 34%, followed by Benjamin Netanyahu with 8%. Democratic respondents list Barack Obama as the most admired leader with 30%, Justin Trudeau comes in second with 14%, and Angela Merkel places third with 10%. Among Independents, Queen Elizabeth II comes in first with 12% followed closely by Barack Obama with 11%; Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau tie for third place with just 6% each. 

 Data Set Bar Chart

These results are from a larger UMD Critical Issues Poll conducted by principal investigators, Professor Shibley Telhami, Director, and Professor Stella Rouse, Associate Director. The poll looked at other issues including Middle East policy and trade. Further results from this poll will be released in the coming weeks. 

The poll also included other questions on North Korea. A questionnaire with the American results can be found here and the results from the Japanese poll can be found here

Methodology (U.S.): The survey was carried out June 1-5, 2018 online from a nationally representative sample of Nielsen Scarborough’s probability-based panel, originally recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of adults provided by Survey Sampling International. The national sample was 1,215. Overall, the sample was adjusted to reflect population estimates (Scarborough USA+/Gallup) for adults 18 years of age or older. The survey variables balanced through weighting were: age by gender, race/ethnicity, household income, level of education, census regional division, and political party affiliation. The margin of error is 2.81%.

Methodology (Japan): The survey was carried out May 18 – June 3, 2018 in Japan. The sample is 1,000 among the target population of 18 years of age or older (excluding high school students). The survey was fielded in 50 regions of Japan, with 20 samples from each region collected based on a quota sampling method, which is assigned to match the composition ratio by sex and age nationwide. Placement method was used as the fielding method. The margin of error is 3.1% at 95% confidence level.

 

 

National Academies Member Sean Carroll Joins UMD’s Department of Biology

June 6, 2018
Contacts: 

Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- National Academy of Sciences member Sean Carroll joined the University of Maryland’s Department of Biology in June, as the inaugural Andrew and Mary Balo and Nicholas and Susan Simon Endowed Chair. He is the first Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator to take a faculty position at UMD.

Headshot of Sean Carroll“We are delighted that Professor Carroll is joining the University of Maryland,” said Amitabh Varshney, dean of the UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. “He is among that rare group of distinguished scholars who not only carry out groundbreaking research, but also share their knowledge with others in an inspiring way. His presence on campus will be instrumental in further strengthening our scientific edge in the area of evolutionary developmental biology.”

Carroll is a pioneer and international leader in the field of evolutionary developmental biology, also known as “evo-devo.” His research has shown that the diversity of animal life is largely due to the different ways the same body-building and body-patterning genes are regulated, rather than changes to the genes themselves. Carroll also is a  science educator, author, and video producer and host, who will continue to serve as vice president of HHMI’s Department of Science Education and as head of its film production unit Tangled Bank Studios.

“Maryland creates great opportunities,” said Carroll. “The people in my lab are excited for a whole new group of colleagues and a whole new set of collaborators. And I am looking forward to contributing to the mission of this great public university.” 

At Maryland, Carroll and his team will research the origin of new molecules that carry out new important functions. He will specifically explore the origin of snake venoms to better understand to what degree their toxins are new entities, versus ‘old’ proteins with a new job.

During his career, Carroll has published more than 125 peer-reviewed journal articles and mentored more than 60 undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. More than 35 of his lab alumni now lead their own academic labs.

Carroll has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and an associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organization.’

Carroll also devotes considerable time to communicating and educating about science. His writing has included a multi-year stent (2009-2013) producing the column “Remarkable Creatures” for The New York Times, and authoring seven highly acclaimed books, including “Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom,” which in 2005 offered a framework of that then-emerging field. As the architect of HHMI’s science filmmaking initiative, Carroll has been the host or executive producer of more than a dozen feature or documentary films—including “The Farthest,” “Amazon Adventure,” “Spillover: Zika, Ebola & Beyond,” and “Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink,”—as well as numerous short films for the classroom.

Carroll joins UMD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he first established his lab in 1987 and was the Allan Wilson Professor of Molecular Biology, Genetics and Medical Genetics. 

UMD Study Validates Face Recognition Experts, But Shows Humans Perform Best with an AI Partner

June 5, 2018
Contacts: 

Lee Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- New research that combines computer vision research, forensic science, and psychology shows that experts in facial identification are highly accurate, but that the highest accuracy in face recognition comes through the partnering of a human expert with state-of-the-art face recognition software.

A team of scientists from the University of Maryland, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Texas at Dallas, and the University of New South Wales tested and compared the face recognition accuracy of forensic examiners, computer face recognition programs, and people with no training in face recognition. A paper based on the research was published May 29, 2018, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study, part of efforts to strengthen forensic science in the U.S., found that the performance of professionally trained facial identification experts was much more accurate than that of people untrained in facial recognition.  And it showed this accuracy was further enhanced by combining the evaluations of multiple experts, a common forensic practice.   

However, UMD Distinguished University Professor Rama Chellappa, a study co-author and nationally recognized leader in computer face recognition, said that the other two main results were more surprising.  

 “We found that the face recognition performance of the best computer algorithms is up there with the performance of forensic examiners,” said Chellappa, who is a Minta Martin Professor of Engineering and chair of the department of electrical and computer engineering in UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering and a leading computer vision researcher in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS).

Study co-author and UMIACS Assistant Research Scientist Carlos Castillo said: “This finding represents a computer achievement comparable to the chess playing performance of IBM’s Deep Blue in matches [1996–1997] with then-World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov.”   

“We don’t know yet how this finding should be implemented in forensic practices, but it appears that computer face recognition is a tool that forensic science can use,” said Chellappa, whose post-doctoral associate Jun-Cheng Chen and two doctoral students Rajeev Ranjan and Swami Sankaranarayanan designed and developed the three face recognition programs used in the study. The top performing program, A2017b, whose inventors are Rajeev Ranjan, Carlos Castillo and Rama Chellappa was named a UMD Invention of the Year in April.

According to Chellappa, the broader context for the study is that it is a step in the process of learning how machine and humans can best work together. “These findings add to such knowledge and to the possibility that humans can trust machines to help them.”

The team’s effort began in response to a 2009 report by the National Research Council, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, which underscored the need to measure the accuracy of forensic examiner decisions. In their recent study published in PNAS, the researchers note that remarkably little was previously known about the accuracy of forensic facial comparisons by examiners relative to such comparisons by people without training, and nothing was known about their accuracy relative to computer-based face recognition systems.

“This is the first study to measure face identification accuracy for professional forensic facial examiners, working under circumstances that apply in real-world casework,” said NIST electronic engineer and lead author P. Jonathon Phillips. “Our deeper goal was to find better ways to increase the accuracy of forensic facial comparisons.”

The study involved a total of 184 participants. Fifty-seven were forensic facial examiners, with the highest level of professional training in the identification of faces in images and videos. Thirty were facial reviewers with a lower level of training in facial identification. Thirteen were “super recognizers,” people with exceptional natural ability to recognize faces. The remaining 84—the control groups—included 53 fingerprint examiners and 31 undergraduate students, none of whom had training in facial comparisons.

For the test, the participants received 20 pairs of face images and rated the likelihood of each pair being the same person on a seven-point scale. The research team intentionally selected extremely challenging pairs, using images taken with limited control of illumination, expression and appearance. They then tested four of the latest computerized facial recognition algorithms, all developed between 2015 and 2017, using the same image pairs.


Photo: Are these two faces the same person? Trained specialists called forensic face examiners testify about such questions in court. A new study indicates combining their expertise with state-of-the-art face recognition software gives the best accuracy.  Image Credit: J. Stoughton/NIST

 

The University of Maryland Becomes Overseas Training Base for Anhui Educators

June 5, 2018
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland recently announced its designation as an overseas education training base for educators from the Anhui Province in China. The China Anhui Education Overseas Training Base base will provide robust training to K-12 educators and higher education faculty members on education topics such as innovative pedagogy, higher education administration, teacher quality, and testing. 

Deputy Director-General of Anhui Department of Education XIE Ping, Vice-Governor of Anhui ZHOU Xi'an, UMD President Wallace Loh, Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith

“The designation by Anhui Province as their overseas education training center extends the long bridge that connects our campus to China,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Both Maryland and Anhui benefit, as our exchanges continue to mature.” 

The education training base is one of many programs run by the University of Maryland's Office of China Affairs. OCA also offers training programs to Chinese leaders studying how governments, universities, corporations, educators, nonprofits, and professional associations implement  policies, conduct research, and provide information services. OCA programs are composed of lectures, case studies, discussions, and visits to national, state, and local government agencies and private organizations in the greater Washington, D.C. area. 

“Anhui Province is Maryland’s oldest sister-state relationship,” said Maryland Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith. “This type of educational exchange between Anhui Province and our State’s flagship institution, the University of Maryland, not only strengthens the bonds between Maryland and Anhui Province, but also helps to improve broader U.S-China relations. 

To celebrate the designation, Loh and Wobensmith, along with Vice-Governor of Anhui and the Deputy Director-General of Anhui’s Department of Education, held a plaque unveiling ceremony at the University of Maryland on May 31. The ceremony was the last event scheduled during Maryland-Anhui Promotion Week, a program conceived during a meeting between Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Anhui Party Secretary Li Jinbin las summer. 


Photo (from l to r): Deputy Director-General of Anhui Department of Education XIE Ping, Vice-Governor of Anhui ZHOU Xi'an, UMD President Wallace Loh, Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith.

Notice to community of aerial filming -- Tuesday, June 5, 2018

June 5, 2018
Contacts: 

Jessica Jennings, 301-405-4618

On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m a low-flying helicopter may be visible over campus. The helicopter will be taking aerial photography of the university.

 

UMD Receives Top Recognition in Latest Global Rankings

June 1, 2018
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland has been ranked one of the top 100 universities in the world in two new rankings out this week. According to both the Times Higher Education 2018 World Reputation Rankings and the Center for World University Rankings, UMD continues to strengthen its academic reputation alongside the most prestigious global universities.  

UMD is one of 44 U.S. colleges and universities to make this year’s world reputation rankings list. UMD ranked in the 71-80 range. Only the top 50 institutions receive an individual ranking. 

The 2018 World Reputation Rankings recognizes the most powerful global university brands based on the results of the world’s largest invitation-only opinion survey of senior, published academic. Researchers were asked to name the top 15 universities they believed were the best for research and teaching in their field. This year’s survey had more than 10,000 responses from scholars in 138 countries. For the full Times Higher Education 2018 Top 100 World Reputation Rankings list, click here

UMD was also ranked as a top global university by the Center for World University Rankings. The institution ranked 16 among the top U.S. public institutions and 47 overall out of the top 1,000 universities ranked worldwide.  

The rankings graded 18,000 universities on seven factors without relying on surveys and university data submissions: quality of teaching, alumni employment, quality of faculty, research output, quality publications, influence, and citations. The Center for World University Rankings is recognized as the largest academic ranking of global universities. Their rankings have been published annually since 2012. To view the full rankings list, click here

UMD-led Study Shows How Solar Wind Drops from Gale to Gentle Breeze as It Hits Earth’s Magnetic Field

June 1, 2018
Contacts: 

Irene Ying, 301-405-5204

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – As Earth orbits the sun at supersonic speed, it cuts a path through the solar wind. This fast stream of charged particles, or plasma, launched from the sun’s outer layers would bombard Earth's atmosphere if not for the protection of Earth's magnetic field.

Just as the nose of a motorboat creates a bow-shaped wave as it pushes through the water, Earth creates a similar effect—called a bow shock—as it pushes through the solar wind. A new University of Maryland-led study describes the first observations of the process of electron heating that happens in Earth’s bow shock.

The researchers found that when the electrons in the solar wind encounter the bow shock, they momentarily accelerate to such a high speed that the electron stream becomes unstable and breaks down. This breakdown process robs the electrons of their high speed and converts the energy to heat.

Scientists have sought to explain how Earth’s magnetic field can shove aside the powerful solar wind without unleashing calamity. They have known part of the answer for a long time: the bow shock converts energy from the solar wind to heat stored in electrons and ions. But now, researchers have important new clues about how this process occurs.


The results add an important new dimension to scientists’ understanding of Earth’s magnetic field and its ability to protect the planet from harmful particles and radiation. The research paper was published in the journal Physical Review Letters on May 31, 2018.

"If you were to stand on a mountaintop, you might get knocked over by a fast wind," explained Li-Jen Chen, lead author of the study and an associate research scientist in the UMD department of astronomy. "Fortunately, as the solar wind crashes into Earth’s magnetic field, the bow shock protects us by slowing down this wind and changing it to a nice, warm breeze. We now have a better idea how this happens.”

The scientists obtained their data from NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission. The MMS mission consists of four identical satellites that carry instruments to study the physics of Earth’s magnetic field as it interacts with the solar wind. The satellites obtained three-dimensional measurements every 30 milliseconds, resulting in hundreds of measurements within the bow shock layer. These high-frequency, precise measurements from the MMS mission were critical to the study.

“The extremely fast measurements from MMS allowed us finally to see the electron heating process in the thin shock layer,” said Thomas Moore, a senior project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a co-author of the study. “This is groundbreaking because now we have the ability to identify the mechanism at work, instead of just observing its consequences.”

Scientists have known for some time that the bow shock is somehow able to convert the energy in electrons to heat without any direct collisions between the electrons. This means that friction—a common way to generate heat here on Earth—is not responsible for electron heating in the bow shock.

"The new observations of electron acceleration at the bow shock rewrite the current understanding of electron heating,” said UMD’s Chen, who is also a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "For example, researchers didn't expect that the bow shock could accelerate the solar wind electron stream to the speeds that we observed."

In an earlier phase of the MMS mission, the satellites typically orbited much closer to Earth, so they usually missed the bow shock. However, an unexpected outburst of solar wind pushed the bow shock closer to Earth, allowing the satellites to capture rare and informative data.

Seizing on this advantage, the researchers observed the solar wind’s electron stream before, during and after meeting with the bow shock. The electron stream accelerated by the shock only took 90 milliseconds to destabilize and fully break down.

“The study of electron heating is important not just for understanding how the bow shock protects Earth, but potentially for satellites, space travel and maybe exploring other planets in the future,” Chen said.

By giving the first clear picture of what electrons at the bow shock are doing, Chen and her collaborators hope to encourage other scientists to perform computer simulations, further space observations and laboratory experiments on electron heating.


Other UMD study co-authors include associate research scientist Naoki Bessho, research engineer Levon Avanov and postdoctoral associate Shan Wang, all in the department of astronomy.

This work was supported by NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy (Award No. DESC0016278), the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award Nos. AGS-1202537, AGS-1543598 and AGS-1552142), the French Centre National d'Études Spatiales and the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.


Image: A giant magnetic field (swirling blue lines) surrounds Earth. As Earth travels (R - L) through the solar wind, its magnetic field creates a bow shock in front of itself (pale blue area). Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center 

UMD Study Examines Association of Abortion and Antidepressants

May 31, 2018
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake, 301-405-9418

Study finds that having an abortion does not lead to depression.

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk for depression, according to a new University of Maryland study published in JAMA Psychiatry. To better understand the relationship between having an abortion and women’s mental health, Julia R. Steinberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of family science, University of Maryland School of Public Health, and colleagues analyzed data for nearly 400,000 Danish women born between 1980-1994. The information included abortions, childbirths and antidepressant prescriptions as recorded by the Danish National Registries. It is the first study to explore the risk of antidepressant use around an abortion as a proxy for depression. 

Compared to women who did not have an abortion, those who did have an abortion had a higher risk of antidepressant use. But Steinberg stresses this higher risk was the same for both the year before and the year after the abortion, indicating that the higher risk is not due to the abortion but to other factors such as preexisting mental health problems and other adverse experiences.

The study concludes that the risk of antidepressant use did not change from the year before to the year after an abortion, and that the risk of antidepressant use decreased as more time after the abortion elapsed. 

“The purported mental health effects of abortion have been used to justify state policies limiting access to abortion in the United States,” said Steinberg. “However, our findings show that abortion is not causing depression. Policies based on the notion that abortion harms women’s mental health are misinformed."

Steinberg’s findings from the study Examining the Association of Antidepressant Prescriptions With First Abortion and First Childbirth provide important new evidence that can inform policy. Her research also supports the recent National Academies of Science report “The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States” which concludes that “...having an abortion does not increase women’s risk of depression, anxiety or PTSD.” 

UMD Research Shows Physiological Effects of Mate Separation in Birds

May 29, 2018
Contacts: 

Laura Ours, 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A new study from researchers at the University of Maryland reveals the distinct physiological differences in the effects of mate separation on male and female birds. These findings might help pave the way toward a deeper understanding of the ways in which male and female humans process separation from a mate on physical levels.

Published in Hippocampus, the study observed zebra finches in order to determine if their gene expression would change in response to mate separation.  Zebra finches are monogamous, biparental avian species that form lifelong pair bonds. They are also known to exhibit many sex differences in both brains and behavior. The research team, who initiated the study while they were at Johns Hopkins University, is led by Farrah Madison, Ph.D., UMD research assistant professor of psychology, and Andrew J. Kesner, researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Gregory Ball, Ph.D., dean of UMD’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and a professor of psychology and of biology, and Beau A. Alward, Ph.D.,  a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, co-authored the study. 

The team investigated the effects of mate pair separation by measuring and evaluating changes in gene expression in the brain that are related to the functioning of stress hormones. They measured the effects of mate pair separation on circulating corticosterone concentrations (the main stress hormone in birds), as well as changes in mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), glucocorticoid receptor (GR), and corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) gene expression in the hippocampus and hypothalamus in both male and female finches. The MR and GR are receptor proteins that regulate the secretion of these adrenal hormones through a feedback system between hormone concentrations in the blood and the brain.

The birds were assessed in three scenarios:  the male or female being removed from their respective mate and placed in a cage with a new opposite sex conspecific and stimulus female, the male or female remaining with their mate, but a new stimulus female was introduced, or  the subjects were handled but not separated from their mate or the stimulus female.  

As previously observed,  the researchers found significant increases in plasma corticosterone concentrations in response to both mate pair and stimulus female separation in both males and females. The disruption of the social setting in the birds  increased stress hormone secretion.

No effects of treatment on gene expression were observed in the hypothalamus—the region in the forebrain of both birds and humans that links the nervous system to the endocrine system. But in the hippocampus, the region that sits at the top of the brain in birds and plays a significant role in memory, spatial awareness and the regulation of psychological hormone responses to stress in all vertebrates, females exhibited a significant up regulation in hippocampal MR—but not GR mRNA—whereas males exhibited a significant down regulation of both hippocampal MR and GR mRNA in response to mate pair separation. Such decreases in receptor expression in the human hippocampus are associated with depression.

“This sex-dependent response to mate loss suggests that male and female zebra finches may perceive the stressful effects of mate pair separation in different ways, and MRs may influence behavioral flexibility in females,” Madison said. “This is especially interesting, as we already know that in avian species, females are more likely to leave a pair than males.”

“Our results potentially shed light on neurobiological mechanisms that factor into the observed sex differences in how males and females of other species—including perhaps humans—perceive and respond to stressful psychological events such as the death of a spouse, divorce, or marital separation,” Ball said. “For example, in humans, men have been shown to be more apt to demonstrate negative health outcomes in response to the dissolution of a marriage than women, suggesting that women cope with divorce better than men.”

“While it is still too early to extrapolate possible implications of this study on parallel findings in human subjects, our project could potentially lay some groundwork in such an examination,” added Madison. 

 

Satellite Study Finds Major Shifts in Global Freshwater

May 23, 2018
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md. A new global, satellite-based study of Earth’s freshwater distribution found that wet areas are getting wetter and dry areas drier. The data suggest that this pattern is due to a variety of human and natural factors, including people’s use and management of water,  human-caused climate change, and natural climate cycles.

 

A NASA-led research team that included Hiroko Beaudoing, a faculty specialist in the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), used 14 years of observations from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite program to track global trends in freshwater in 34 regions around the world.

The study, recently published in the journal Nature, also incorporated satellite precipitation data from the ESSIC-led Global Precipitation Climatology Project; Landsat imagery from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey; irrigation maps; and published reports of human activities related to agriculture, mining and reservoir operations. Using data taken from 2002 to 2016, the study suggests that changes in two-thirds of the 34 regions, from California to China may be linked to climate change or human water use, such as large scale pumping of groundwater for farming.

Freshwater is present in lakes, rivers, soil, snow, groundwater and glacial ice. Its loss in the ice sheets at the poles—attributed to climate change—has implications for sea level rise. On land, it is one of Earth's most essential resources. While some regions' water supplies are relatively stable, others normally experience increases or decreases. But the current study revealed a new and distressing pattern.

"What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change," said co-author James Famiglietti of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We see, for the first time, a very distinctive pattern of the wet land areas of the world getting wetter—those are the high latitudes and the tropics—and the dry areas in between getting dryer. Embedded within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion."

Famiglietti noted that while water loss in some regions is clearly driven by warming climate, such as the melting ice sheets and alpine glaciers, it will take more time before other patterns can be unequivocally attributed to climate change.

"The pattern of wet-getting-wetter, dry-getting-drier is predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models for the end of the 21st century, but we’ll need a much longer dataset to be able to definitively say that climate change is responsible for the emergence of a similar pattern in the GRACE data," Famiglietti said. "However, the current trajectory is certainly cause for concern."

Photo of map depicts one image in a time series of data collected by NASA's GRACE mission from 2002 to 2016, showing where freshwater storage was higher (blue) or lower (red) than the average for the 14-year study period.The twin GRACE satellites launched in 2002 measured changes in Earth's gravity field caused by movements of large volumes of water or other forms of mass on the planet below. Using this method, variations in terrestrial water storage were tracked until the GRACE mission ended in October 2017. However, the GRACE satellite observations alone couldn’t tell the research team what was causing the apparent trends.

"We examined information on precipitation, agriculture and groundwater pumping to find a possible explanation for the trends estimated from GRACE," said Beaudoing, who has joint appointments at UMD and NASA Goddard.

The team found that across numerous regions one of the big causes of groundwater depletion was agriculture, which can be complicated by natural cycles. California, which in 2017 produced more than half of the total vegetable production in the U.S., was a prime example. Decreases in freshwater caused by the state’s severe drought from 2007 to 2015 were compounded by groundwater withdrawals to support the farms in the state’s Central Valley and elsewhere. A majority of California's freshwater comes in the form of rainfall and snow that collects in the Sierra Nevadas and then is managed through a series of reservoirs as it melts. When natural cycles led to dry years with diminished snowpack and surface waters, farmers and other Californians relied more heavily on groundwater.

Natural cycles of rainy and dry years also can cause large decreases and increases in regional amounts of freshwater. For example, in Africa the western Zambezi basin and Okavango Delta, is a vital watering hole for wildlife in northern Botswana. And during the 14-year study period water storage in this region increased at an average rate of 29 gigatons (126 million Olympic swimming pools) per year from 2002 to 2016. This wet period during the GRACE mission followed a dry period of at least two decades. Lead author of the paper Matt Rodell, who is chief of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said he believes this is a case of natural variability that occurs over decades in this region of Africa.

"This is the first time we’ve assessed how freshwater availability is changing, everywhere on Earth, using satellite observations," said Rodell. "A key goal was to distinguish shifts in terrestrial water storage caused by natural variability—wet periods and dry periods associated with El Niño and La Niña, for example—from trends related to climate change or human impacts, like pumping groundwater out of an aquifer faster than it is replenished."

The twin GRACE satellites, launched in 2002 as a joint mission with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), precisely measured the distance between the two satellites to detect changes in Earth's gravity field caused by movements of mass on the planet below. Using this method, GRACE tracked variations in terrestrial water storage on monthly to yearly timescales until its science mission ended in October 2017. A successor mission, called GRACE Follow-On is undergoing final preparations for launch.

 


 

Thumbnail: Artist's rendering shows the twin spacecraft of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiement Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ. Image credit: NASA JPL/Caltech.

 

Photo: World map depicts one image in a time series of data collected by NASA's GRACE mission from 2002 to 2016, showing where freshwater storage was higher (blue) or lower (red) than the average for the 14-year study period.

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Damon Evans
June 25
Evans has played a key role in operations, fundraising and Terrapin student-athlete success since 2014  Read
June 25
The University of Maryland will host a press conference Tuesday morning with University of Maryland President Wallace D... Read
June 22
Collaboration will develop the capital region’s talent pool and strengthen technology leadership. Read