Skip to main content

Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

Global warming could affect your coffee buzz, Antarctic ice is fast disappearing, and cats in Wyoming are catching the bubonic plague.
A coffee plantation in São João do Manhuaçu, Brazil.

A coffee plantation in São João do Manhuaçu, Brazil.

This week at Pacific Standard, we brought you stories on the efficacy of real-time fact-checking, what 2019 could mean for abortion policy, and how indigenous women help one another when the authorities won't.

But it's been a hectic news week, and there are many more developments we're keeping a close eye on. Here are a few other stories we've been watching this week.

Coffee Species Are in Trouble

Our warming climate is affecting all sorts of agricultural activities. This week's addition to the list of at-risk crops: wild coffee species. According to a study in the journal Science Advances, at least 60 percent of all coffee species are threatened with extinction. (To put that in perspective, 22 percent of plants around the world are considered threatened.) The researchers note that wild variants are important to coffee's future because they could hold the scrappy genes necessary to survive in warmer, drier environments.

"At a time when so much focus is on addressing food security and livelihood income shortfalls for farmers," the researchers write, "it is of great concern that the raw materials for possible solutions are highly threatened."

Antarctica's Glaciers Are Melting Six Times Faster Now Than in the 1970s

A new study has found that, since 2009, the Antarctic has lost 252 billion tons of ice per year. That's a stunning increase: Between 1979 and 1989, the annual figure was 40 billion tons. This finding is adding to concerns that ice loss in the Antarctic could cause even more extreme sea-level rise than what's already been forecast. (Scientists already predict almost three feet of sea-level rise by 2100.)

The overall melt is the equivalent of adding half an inch to sea-level rise. "That's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak," Eric Rignot, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California–Irvine, and a leader of the study, told Reuters, since the ice is continuing to melt.

Cats in Wyoming Have the Plague

According to the Wyoming Department of Health, a feline tested positive for bubonic plague this week. This is the third case of a plague-infected cat in the state in the last six months. Though for many of us, the plague is something we associate with medieval times, fleas carrying the bacteria that cause the plague still pass it to rodents in the western United States.

There have been no reports of human plague cases in the state, but health officials warn that animals (and the fleas they carry) can pass the disease on to humans. The Wyoming Department of Health offered a number of precautions, including avoiding rodent carcasses and "areas with unexplained rodent die-offs." Now also may not be the best time to encourage seemingly aloof cats to be more friendly.