Earth has warmer-than-average temps for 400 straight months

For 400 consecutive months — that’s more than 33 years — the earth’s temperature has been above average, and climatologists aren’t mincing words as to why.

The dubious milestone was reported in the April edition of NOAA’s monthly global climate report. The report also states that this April had the third-highest temperatures of any April since NOAA began collecting such records in 1880.

“It’s mainly due to anthropogenic (human-caused) warming,” NOAA climatologst Ahira Sanchez told CNN. “Climate change is real, and we will continue to see global temperatures increase in the future.”

There are natural causes for warmer years, too.

“If you were to remove the human factor, you would still see a variability, but it would be up and down,” Sanchez says.

Natural factors like the warming effects of an El Niño or the cooling effects of a La Niña have an impact on global average temperatures.

2016 was the warmest year on record, and it featured a strong El Niño system.

Similarly, during significant volcano eruptions, global temperatures can go down because the ash and smog deflects solar radiation away from the earth.

When climatologists talk about temperatures and averages, they are comparing the numbers to the 20th Century averages of a given month or year. So “higher than average,” in this case, means higher than the average temperatures of the 100 years between 1900 and 2000.

The bottom line is, 18 of the warmest 19 years have occurred since 2000. While natural factors can account for some of those anomalies, NOAA scientists say the overall pattern is definitely not natural.

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OneSpace launches China’s first private rocket

China’s private space sector has achieved liftoff.

OneSpace, a startup based in Beijing, on Thursday became the country’s first private company to launch its own rocket. It said its 9-meter tall OS-X rocket successfully blasted off from a base in northwestern China.

The aim of the mission is to collect data for a research project it is working on with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, a state-owned company.

Founded in 2015, OneSpace is often likened to Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, a comparison that founder and CEO Shu Chang doesn’t shy away from.

“OneSpace’s situation right now is very much like where SpaceX stood in its early years,” Shu told CNNMoney in an interview ahead of the launch. “SpaceX is the first in the US. We’re the first in China.”

“This is the first rocket developed and built entirely with homegrown technology,” Shu said.

It’s still a long way from matching the feats of SpaceX, which regularly launches big rockets that put satellites in orbit and then return to Earth. OneSpace’s OS-X rocket is designed to carry out tests and research during suborbital flights.

Some of the Chinese company’s claims have also been met with skepticism.

Xin Zhang, a professor of aerospace engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said he doubted the rocket is entirely OneSpace’s own work.

Shu says the rocket only took three years to develop and build.

“That’s supersonic speed,” according to Zhang, who said it can take companies as long as 10 years.

OneSpace says it has so far raised 500 million yuan ($78 million), which is a paltry sum in an industry that regularly swallows billions of dollars, Zhang added.

“I think it’s difficult unless they cut corners,” he said.

Shu says that like SpaceX in its early days, OneSpace is used to facing doubters.

“When OneSpace was founded in 2015, we visited a lot of business insiders and experts, and they all said it’s impossible,” he said.

The company claims it has lowered costs in part by using a specially designed electrical system that weighs 10 times less than those typically used in other rockets.

Like a growing number of startups, OneSpace wants to use its rockets to help companies launch small satellites for a range of uses, including improving internet access on planes and trains.

It is planning to roll out a line of rockets later this year that it says could help halve the cost of satellite launches.

Its ultimate goal is to make space accessible to ordinary people, according to Shu. Someday, the company would like its rockets to be able to take humans to space, but for now it needs to stay grounded and “practical.”

“Many compare us to SpaceX but to be honest, the gap is more than a little,” the CEO said.

“No matter how good your story is, what matters is if you have launched a rocket or not. It’s the benchmark of a rocket company. So this launch is crucial to everything — capital investment, media attention and the government’s support.”

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Facebook suspends 200 apps over possible data misuse

Facebook has suspended 200 apps for possible misuse of user data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook said in a blog post Monday that it has investigated thousands of apps after it emerged that Cambridge Analytica had harvested information on about 87 million users without their knowledge.

It did not name the apps that have been suspended but said they would be subject to a more thorough investigation into how they handle user data.

Cambridge Analytica, which worked on President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, used data collected via an app developed by University of Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan.

The app offered a personality test, but Facebook users who downloaded it also gave the professor permission to collect data on their location, their friends and content they had “liked.”

Kogan provided that data to Cambridge Analytica, in a breach of Facebook’s rules. Facebook said it asked Cambridge Analytica to delete the data in 2015, but learned in March that this had not happened.

Kogan has said he suspects thousands of other developers and data scientists used similar methods to gather information on Facebook users.

In response to a backlash that cost the company billions in lost market value, Facebook said it would investigate every app that had access to large amounts of data prior to 2014, when it tightened its controls.

Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, said in Monday’s post that the company will ban any app found to have misused data. He said Facebook would notify users about such bans and make it possible for them to check whether their data was misused.

“We are investing heavily to make sure this investigation is as thorough and timely as possible,” Archibong said.

Cambridge Analytica, which announced it was closing earlier this month, has denied misusing Facebook data for the Trump campaign, and maintains its employees behaved ethically and lawfully.

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Apple’s Tim Cook urges Duke graduates to think hard about data privacy

During a commencement address to Duke University Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook used some well-known platitudes, telling the students to make brave choices, rise to challenges and be unafraid to break with conventional wisdom.

He also appeared take yet another jab at Facebook and its handling of user data.

“We reject the excuse that getting the most out of technology means trading away your right to privacy,” Cook said. “So we choose a different path, collecting as little of your data as possible, being thoughtful and respectful when it’s in our care because we know it belongs to you.”

The comment echoed Cook’s earlier criticism of Facebook, which has endured months of criticism after it was revealed that a political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, was able to harvest data for nearly 90 million Facebook users.

“I wouldn’t be in this situation,” Cook told reporters from Recode and MSNBC in March.

“The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product,” he said. “We’ve elected not to do that.”

Cook also called for increased regulation of social media and questioned whether Facebook should monetize user data on its free platforms by selling targeted ads.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shot back at Cook in an interview published by Vox last month.

“You know, I find that argument, that if you’re not paying that somehow we can’t care about you, to be extremely glib. And not at all aligned with the truth,” Zuckerberg told Vox.

Cook on Sunday again aimed to paint Apple’s handling of user data in stark contrast with Facebook’s. He credited Apple co-founder Steve Jobs with instilling within the company the drive to do things better.

“In every way at every turn, the question we ask ourselves is not, ‘What can we do?’, but ‘What should we do?” Cook said. “Because Steve taught us that’s how change happens, and from him I learned to never be content with the way that things are.”

Apple has had a few tangles with privacy issues as well.

The company caught flack when it announced in February a plan to move iCloud accounts registered in mainland China to state-run Chinese servers. Apple made the move after it unsuccessfully fought to be exempt from a controversial new cybersecurity law in the Asian nation, but the decision alarmed privacy advocates.

And in 2014, hackers were able to steal nude photos from celebrities’ iCloud accounts.

After that, Apple committed to increased transparency, and the company encrypted iPhones to make it more difficult for anyone — even authorities — to get their hands on data.

Cook, who often weighs in on social issues, also used his platform at Duke University to praise the “fearless” women who have spoken out in the #MeToo movement, the Parkland student advocating for tighter gun control, and people who “fight for the rights of immigrants.”

— CNN’s Sherisse Pham, David Goldman and Seth Fiegerman contributed to this report.

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New fissures open; Hawaii volcano spewing lava near geothermal plant

Two new fissures opened on Hawaii’s Big Island, spewing lava and fueling fears of violent explosions more than a week after the Kilauea volcano erupted.

Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated since the Kilauea volcano erupted May 3, sending lava flowing into communities and threatening a nearby geothermal plant.

The 17th fissure, a crack on the ground through which lava pours out, was reported Saturday night, the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

“Lava from this latest outbreak is actively spattering,” it said.

The volcanic vents, or fissures, have released slow-moving lava and toxic gas into island communities, gobbling up dozens of homes and vehicles.

Another fissure, the 16th one, was reported earlier Saturday and “produced a lava flow that traveled about 250 yards before stalling,” officials said.

That vent was about a mile east of the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, where officials removed 60,000 gallons of flammable liquids due to safety concerns.

In addition to the new fissures, USGS officials said an explosive eruption is possible at Halemaumau crater at the top of the Kilauea volcano. Such an eruption could generate ash plumes over an area 12 miles from the summit crater, the HOV said.

Trump signs disaster declaration

President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in Hawaii on Friday. The declaration allows federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by the Kilauea volcanic eruption and earthquake.

Federal funding is available to state, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis, the White House said.

The estimated cost to protect residents over the next 30 days is expected to exceed $2.9 million, according to the governor’s office.

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