1. The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the last 27 years. The loss was due to storm damage (48%), crown of thorns starfish (42%), and bleaching (10%) according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 2 October 2012, by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in Townsville and the University of Wollongong.

  2. Measurements of the ESA ice thickness satellite CryoSat-2 have shown that the total mass of the Arctic sea ice was 36 per cent smaller autumn 2012 than during the same period in the years 2003 to 2008. Five years ago the autumn ice volumes averaged 11900 km3. But in the second quarter of 2012 they had declined to 7600 km3. This conclusion is reached by an international research team after comparing the CryoSat data of the past two years with measurements of a former NASA satellite and with the results of sea ice investigations of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. The study is published in the online issue of the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters on 28 January 2013 and for the first time shows how precisely scientists can observe the development of the Arctic sea ice using CryoSat-2.

  3. Arctic sea ice cover melted to its lowest extent in the satellite record on August 26, 2012, breaking the previous record low observed in 2007. Sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles).

  4. On 16 July 2012 Petermann Glacier calved another large ice island, about half the size of the calving of two years ago, which amounts to about two Manhattans.

  5. For several days in July 2012, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its two-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists. On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. Measurements from three satellites showed that on 8 July 2012, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by 12 July 2012.

  6. On 24 June 2012, Lonesome George, the sole remaining Pinta Island tortoise and Galapagos conservation icon, was found dead in his corral at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, by members of the Galapagos National Park Service. Lonesome George was found on Pinta Island in 1972, although Pinta tortoises were thought to be extinct. Since then, Lonesome George has been part of the Tortoise Program of the Galapagos National Park Service. Over the years, various efforts were made to get George to reproduce.

  7. On 29 June 2012 scientists were at a loss to explain the mysterious deaths of more than 70 green turtles (Chelonia mydas) that have washed up on beaches in northeast Australia over June 2012.

  8. A newly discovered frog in Panama is bright yellow and dyes your fingers yellow if you touch it. The frog was discovered in 2010 in the mountains of western Panama by Andreas Hertz and colleagues, who are reptile and amphibian specialists at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The analysis of the new frog was published May 21 in the journal ZooKeys .

  9. Results from ESA’s CryoSat mission were presented on 24 April 2012 at the Royal Society in London. The complete 2010–11 winter season data have been processed to produce a seasonal variation map of sea-ice thickness. This is the first map of its kind generated using data from a radar altimeter at such a high resolution compared to previous satellite measurements.

  10. After 10 years of service, Envisat has stopped sending data to Earth. On 8 April 2012 the contact with the satellite was unexpectedly lost. Envisat has exceeded its planned life of five years by far. Since it was launched in 2002, this remarkable satellite has orbited Earth more than 50 000 times delivering thousands of images and a wealth of data to study and understand our changing planet, establishing itself as a landmark success in observing Earth from space.

  11. Scientists have identified a new species of leopard frog in and around New York City. The frog was found hiding in plain sight on the borough of Staten Island. In the research, available online in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, scientists used mitochondrial and nuclear DNA data to compare the new frog to all other leopard frog species in the region and determined that it is an entirely new species.

  12. An image taken on 3 March 2012 shows an enormous algae bloom off the coast of Antarctica. Jan Lieser, a marine glaciologist who monitors the sea ice conditions in the East Antarctic using satellite data for the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart, Australia, estimated that the bloom covered an area about 200 kilometres east to west, by 100 kilometres north to south. The field of green algae is so bright that it is clearly visible from space, even through thin layers of cloud.

  13. March 2012 was the warmest March for the contiguous United States since the U.S. record began in 1895. The mean temperature of the U.S. (without Alaska and Hawaii) was 10.6 °C (51.1 °F) exceeding the 20th century March average of 5.8 °C by 4.8 K. Temporary, summerlike temperatures dominated, causing numerous new daily temperature records for the month. Including the very mild start of the year, the first quarter of 2012 was the warmest first quarter on record.

  14. On 23 February 2012, Australian researchers revealed they had filmed a pod of extremely rare Shepherd's beaked whales for the first time ever.

  15. Brookesia micra is a species of chameleon from the island of Nosy Hara in Antsiranana, Madagascar. As of 14 February 2012, it is the smallest known chameleon and among the smallest reptiles, small enough to stand on the head of a match. In length, adult Brookesia micra can grow up to 29 millimetres. Brookesia micra was discovered and named by a team of researchers led by Frank Glaw of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology. Glaw and his colleagues have been conducting expeditions into the Madagascan forests for eight years.

  16. IUCN has classified the Sumatran elephant subspecies (Elephas maximus sumatranus) as critically endangered on its Red List of Threatened Species. There are only an estimated 2,400 to 2,800 of the animals remaining in the wild, a reduction of about 50 per cent from the 1985 population estimate. Scientists say that if current trends continue, Sumatran elephants could be extinct in the wild in less than 30 years.

  17. In new estimates released on 25 March 2014, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.

  18. 2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States of America. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average.

  19. In January and February 2012 poachers slaughtered more than 450 elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon.

  20. Nitrogen dioxide and particulates continue to impact air quality in Germany, according to interim measurement data for 2012 provided by the Länder and the Federal Environment Agency. The allowable annual mean for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) of 40 micrograms per cubic metre air (µg/m3) was exceeded at 52 per cent of urban stations located near traffic. In contrast, the PM10 annual mean values for particulates, which is also 40 µg/m3, remained constant throughout Germany in 2012. Air pollution by particulates last year was one of the lowest since monitoring began. Exceedences of daily mean values occurred mainly at monitoring stations located near traffic. Even when weather conditions were favourable, the values measured in 2012 at nearly 10 per cent of stations close to traffic were over the daily limit value for particulates.