Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnell

Climate Desk Associate Producer

Tim McDonnell joined Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine. He remains a cheerful guy despite covering climate change all the time. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.

Get my RSS |

Watch the Government Shoot Thousands of Moths Out of a Drone

| Tue Oct. 6, 2015 4:48 PM EDT

Pink bollworms are a species of pest (they're baby moths) that love to feast on cotton. They've been largely eliminated from the United States, but flare-ups do occur now and then, causing an expensive headache for farmers. So the US Department of Agriculture is experimenting with an innovative but also kind of weird and gross solution, which you can see in the video above.

The process starts by raising bollworms in a lab that are fed a red, oil-based dye. When the bollworms mature into moths, the coloration stays with them, so they can be distinguished from wild moths. The lab moths are blasted with radiation, which makes them sterile. Then they're released into the wild over fields with bollworm infestations. When the sterile lab moths mate with the wild ones, they're tricked into thinking they're going to reproduce, but don't. So no new moths.

Scientists have experimented with releasing sterile moths for the last few years. But now, they've enlisted a new tool: drones equipped with moth cannons. Anytime a bollworm infestation pops up, just call in a drone to deliver a few thousand irradiated moths.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Here's What You Need to Know About the Big Storm Coming for the East Coast

| Wed Sep. 30, 2015 12:40 PM EDT
Hurricane Joaquin is currently passing the Bahamas and heading for the East Coast. This image is from Wednesday at noon ET.

The Northeast is in for a good soaking over the next few days from Hurricane Joaquin, which continues to gather strength as it makes a beeline for Washington, DC.

Here's the current trajectory of the storm. The blue shaded area is where scientists at the National Hurricane Center think the storm will go over the next one to three days:


There's still plenty of uncertainty about where Joaquin could wind up, according to the latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There's a chance it could veer out to sea and not make landfall at all; either way, it seems certain to gain strength over the next several days. As of late this morning, the NHC director was hesitant to make specific predictions about what Northeasterners should expect to face:

Still, he advised that authorities remain on high alert:

No matter which direction the storm goes, one thing is for sure: You're going to need an umbrella. And a jacket. And rubber boots.

NASA Scientists Just Discovered Liquid Water on Mars

| Mon Sep. 28, 2015 11:37 AM EDT

Scientists have known for several years that there is ice on the surface of Mars. But liquid surface water—which many believe would be a prerequisite for life—has remained elusive. Until now.

This morning, NASA scientists announced that satellite images have revealed traces of liquid water on Mars' surface. The water is salty, which keeps it from quickly freezing or evaporating.

From the New York Times:

The researchers were able to identify the telltale sign of a hydrated salt at four locations. In addition, the signs of the salt disappeared when the streaks faded. "It's very definitive there is some sort of liquid water," [lead scientist Lujendra] Ojha said…

Liquid water is considered one of the essential ingredients for life, and its presence raises the question of whether Mars, which appears so dry and barren, could possess niches of habitability for microbial Martians.

Here's a bit more detail from the Guardian:

Liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months…The trickles leave long, dark stains on the Martian terrain that can reach hundreds of metres downhill in the warmer months, before they dry up in the autumn as surface temperatures drop. Images taken from the Mars orbit show cliffs, and the steep walls of valleys and craters, streaked with summertime flows that in the most active spots combine to form intricate fan-like patterns.

Scientists are unsure where the water comes from, but it may rise up from underground ice or salty aquifers, or condense out of the thin Martian atmosphere.

Tue Sep. 22, 2015 4:41 PM EDT
Thu Sep. 17, 2015 1:46 PM EDT
Tue Jul. 21, 2015 4:16 PM EDT
Tue Mar. 10, 2015 12:32 PM EDT