National Geographic : 2012 Dec
GRAPHICS: ÁLVARO VALIÑO. SOURCES: YAN LIU, "A STUDY OF SURNAMES IN CHINA THROUGH ISONYMY"; U.S. CENSUS BUREAU SURNAMES ; NOAA CHART . PHOTO: MIKE KEMP, RUBBERBALL/GETTY IMAGES NEXT Saving Soap Saves Lives Where does all that partially used hotel soap and shampoo go after guests leave? Traditionally it went in the trash, but now millions of bars and bottles go to Clean the World, a nonprofit that re- cycles and redistributes the products globally. The goal: to fend off pneumonia and diarrheal diseases. The leftover bars are melted and sterilized, then pressed into new, fresh cakes. More than 1,600 North American hotels participate in the program, which includes delivery to poor communities---with a side of education. Kids are taught to sing songs, including a Spanish one with the refrain "Wash your hands, healthy children. Wash your hands." ---Catherine Zuckerman Mercury Rising This past summer capped the hottest 12-month period on the books in the mainland United States. Accord- ing to the National Climatic Data Center, it was also part of an unprecedented 15-month stretch (as of August) of above-average temperatures that began in June 2011, surpassing even the scorching Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. Last year's abnormally mild winter was one reason for the spate of records. Another was a brutal July 2012, which set a new mark as the hottest month (77.6ºF average) since record- keeping began in 1895. Don't bet on the trend ending anytime soon: NOAA scientists predict the northern U.S. will remain warmer than usual into 2013. ---Erin Friar McDermott For each surname in the U.S. there are 350 people on average. In China there are 174,696. JAN +0.50 +1.00 +1.50 +2.00 +2.50 +3.00 +3.50ºF WARMEST: August 2011-July 2012 +3.3 (56.1°F) 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2012 Top ten warmest periods since 1895 shown in color U.S. TEMPERATURES Variation from 20th-century average of each 12-month period (bars below) 20th-century average (52.8°F) JAN JAN JAN JAN JAN JAN JULY Six of the highest 12-month averages occurred between 2011 and 2012.