BYE POLAR: The big environmental buzz this afternoon is news that Antarctica is heating up after all, according to a study published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature. The continent had long seemed immune to global warming, showing an overall cooling trend — even gaining sea ice — while Earth's other six continents, and the oceans, got warmer. Scientists have explained that Antarctica has more land coverage than the Arctic, so it absorbs less heat, and it's protected from warm tropical waters by the circumpolar current, a buffer the melting Arctic doesn't have. But that's moot now, according to the researchers, who found that the average annual temperature for all of Antarctica has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1957, and West Antarctica has warmed nearly twice as fast as the east. But not all climatologists are convinced, with some accusing the researchers of "overstating" their findings. (Sources: The New York Times, Reuters, NASA Earth Observatory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Encyclopædia Britannica, The Associated Press)

POLE POSITION: Despite today's bad news about the continent's climate, Antarctic scientists are on top of the world about President Obama's rise to power. As the inaugural zeitgeist percolates around the globe, science-minded folks are generally echoing this sentiment from a University of South Carolina researcher at Antarctica's Rothera research station: "It's a very exciting time. ... There certainly is a feeling that this administration will have science pretty close to the forefront." (Source: Reuters)

CONFIRMATION NUMBER: Six, as in the U.S. Senate confirmed six of Obama's cabinet picks Tuesday, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. (For more cabinetry info, see MNN's guide to Obama's green team.) [UPDATE: The Senate also confirmed Hillary Clinton today as secretary of state, but Treasury secretary-designate Tim Geithner's hearing is still delayed.] (Sources: The Wall Street Journal, AP)

SEASONS' HEATINGS: Another study to be published in Thursday's edition of Nature finds that the hottest day of the year has moved almost two days earlier. Scientists from UC Berkeley and Harvard say human activity may be responsible for the shifting seasons. The researchers used a publicly available database of global surface temperatures from 1850 to 2007, and found 100 years of natural variability followed by a sudden departure from the pattern. (Source: HealthDay

THE THIN GREEN LINE: It wasn't uncommon last summer to see news stories about various police departments considering more fuel-efficient cruisers as gas prices soared past $4 a gallon. But even with the currently low gas prices, the AP reports today that police departments haven't abandoned the idea of gas-sipping fleets. The cost of gas is widely expected to rise again, even if demand doesn't, and squads such as Salt Lake City's are buying hybrids. An Atlanta-based company is even developing a police-only prototype called the E7, which has its flashers built into the body for aerodynamics' sake and reportedly uses 40 percent less fuel than Crown Victorias. (Sources: AP, U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Russell McLendon

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