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Messages - vox_mundi

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The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: June 21, 2019, 09:08:15 PM »
Now You See It; Now You Don't: Mysterious Glowing Light on Mars Captured by Nasa's Curiosity Probe

A photograph taken by Nasa’s Curiosity rover on Mars has captured a mysterious bright glow on a distant Martian hillside.

The black and white photograph shows the desert landscape with high rocky hills in the background.

In front of the larger rock formations, a tiny elongated white blob appears to be streaking past.

Nasa has previously admitted to similar anomalies in pictures taken by the probe. This image was taken on 16 June, and while conspiracy theorists have said the photograph is evidence of extra-terrestrials on the Red Planet, it appears more likely to have been a cosmic ray, some kind of camera lens flare or sunlight reflecting on rocks. (... or maybe swamp gas reflected off a weather balloon rising on Venus)

This image was snapped by Curiosity at 3:53:46 UTC, June 16, 2019 or Sol 2438 (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The navcam snapped the picture at 03:53:59 UTC, June 16, 2019 or Sol 2438 (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image was snapped by Curiosity at 03:54:12 UTC, June 16, 2019 or Sol 2438 (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)


Trump, Senators Receive Classified Briefing on UFO Sightings

Washington (CNN) A group of US senators, including the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, received a classified briefing Wednesday about a series of reported encounters by the US Navy with unidentified aircraft, according to a congressional aide.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: June 21, 2019, 06:25:27 PM »
The giant fireball from the Philadelphia refinery explosion was seen by satellites in space

A satellite of the National Weather Service (NWS) spotted the massive fireball from the explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery early on Friday morning .

Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: June 21, 2019, 05:48:57 PM »
Bee Populations In Trouble Following EPA Pesticide Decision

Just a few weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was pulling 12 products off the market that contained pesticides that were harmful to the honeybee. This week, the agency made an emergency exception for nearly a dozen states to use a pesticide called sulfoxaflor on certain crops. Environmental advocates worry about the chemical's harmful impact on bees.

Segraves says, "The release of the Environmental Protection Agency's announcement is ironically timed with 'Pollinator Week". Unfortunately, the new policy will have strong negative impacts on pollinator populations.

"Sulfoxaflor is quite toxic to native bees such as bumblebees that are key pollinators of many native and rare plant species as well as crop plants. Moreover, other pollinating insects and natural enemies of herbivores can also be affected. ... "We should follow the lead of the European Union and ban these chemicals."

Consequences / Re: Drought 2019
« on: June 20, 2019, 10:38:21 PM »
Satellite Images of Parched Water Bodies Highlight Chennai Drought: Before & After

Chembarambakkam Lake in Chennai before the drought. 2018

Chembarambakkam Lake in Chennai after the drought. 2019

Puzhal reservoir in Chennai before the drought 2018

Puzhal reservoir in Chennai after the drought 2019

Consequences / Re: Effects on Arctic Wildlife
« on: June 20, 2019, 09:37:30 PM »
Researchers Confirm Narwhals and Belugas Can Interbreed

Skull morphology of (a) beluga, (b) MCE1356, and (c) narwhal

A team of University of Copenhagen researchers has compiled the first and only evidence that narwhals and beluga whales can breed successfully. DNA and stable isotope analysis of an anomalous skull from the Natural History Museum of Denmark has allowed researchers to confirm the existence of a narwhal-beluga hybrid.

For nearly thirty years, a strange-looking whale skull has gathered dust in the collections of the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Now, a team of researchers has determined the reason for the skull's unique characteristics: it belongs to a narwhal-beluga hybrid.

A Greenlandic hunter shot the whale in the 1980's and was puzzled by its odd appearance. He therefore kept the skull and placed it on the roof of his toolshed. Several years later, Professor Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources visited the settlement and also immediately recognized the skull's strange characteristics. He interviewed the hunter about the anomalous whale he had shot, and sent the skull to Copenhagen. Since then, it has been stored at the Zoological Museum, a part of the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

"As far as we know, this is the first and only evidence in the world that these two Arctic whale species can interbreed. Based on the intermediate shape of the skull and teeth, it was suggested that the specimen might be a narwhal-beluga hybrid, but this could not be confirmed. Now we provide the data that confirm that yes—it is indeed a hybrid," says Eline Lorenzen, evolutionary biologist and curator at the University of Copenhagen's Natural History Museum of Denmark. Lorenzen led the study, which was published today in Scientific Reports.

The hybrid's skull was considerably larger than that of a typical narwhal or beluga. But the teeth were markedly different. Whereas narwhals have only one or rarely two long spiraling tusks, belugas have a set of uniform conical teeth that are aligned in straight rows. The hybrid skull has a set of long, spiraling and pointed teeth, that are angled horizontally.

"This whale has a bizarre set of teeth. The isotope analysis allowed us to determine that the animal's diet was entirely different than that of a narwhal or beluga—and it is possible that its teeth influenced its foraging strategy. Whereas the other two species fed in the water column, the hybrid was a bottom dweller," according to Mikkel Skovrind, a Ph.D. student at the Natural History Museum and first author of the paper.

Open Access: Mikkel Skovrind et al. Hybridization between two high Arctic cetaceans confirmed by genomic analysis, Scientific Reports (2019)


Beluga Whales Adopt Lost Narwhal in St. Lawrence River

An unusual visitor has been hanging out in the St. Lawrence River for the past three years: A narwhal, more than 1,000 kilometres south of its usual range.

But the lone narwhal is not alone — it appears he has been adopted by a band of belugas.

The narwhal — thought to be a juvenile male because of its half-metre-long tusk — was filmed in July playing among a pod of young belugas, thought to be mostly or all males.

The video was taken by the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), a non-profit group dedicated to whale research, conservation and education based in Tadoussac, Que.

"It behaves like it was one of the boys," said Robert Michaud, the group's president and scientific director.

The interactions between the narwhal and the belugas appear to be identical to those among just the belugas, suggesting the narwhal has been fully accepted as part of the group.


Russia to Release 100 Illegally Captured Whales

Russian officials have launched an operation to release nearly 100 illegally captured whales whose confinement in Russia's far east has become a rallying cry for environmentalists.

... Russian prosecutors have brought criminal charges against four companies keeping the whales.


Russians Capture Hungry Polar Bear Roaming Arctic City

The rest / Re: Unsorted
« on: June 19, 2019, 08:59:44 PM »
Learning Constrains Further Learning

Why is it that a master musician can learn a new score in no time, yet encounter difficulty learning something else, like skateboarding tricks? Could there is any truth to the myth that you use only 10 percent of your brain? A recent neuroscience study at KTH Royal Institute of Technology offers some answers about the limits of new learning and how the brain adapts to developing new skills and knowledge.

While there is no question that 100 percent of our brain does indeed function, in recent years experimental observations suggest that brain activity has only about 10 degrees of freedom. Which means the neurons are wired in such a fashion that only a selected set of patterns was possible. This set was named the "intrinsic manifold" of the circuit which allows the brain to generate certain base patterns of neural activity.

... "Experimental findings suggested that the patterns in the intrinsic manifold are made up of a weighted combination of base patterns, much in same way color displays give the impression of true colors by weighting the primary colors red, blue and green," Wärnberg says. It is easy to adjust the existing color channels but extremely difficult to add a new color channel because it would require fresh mixing of the primary colors.

Similarly, creating patterns that lie outside the original manifold requires a thorough rewiring of the neurons—something animals find difficult, if not impossible, to do.

The research offers an explanation of how such manifolds of neural activity contribute to the computations the brain makes. In the process of learning a set of tasks the brain acquires a connectivity to perform the task efficiently, but this new connectivity constrains the neural activity and precludes learning of a different set of tasks, Kumar says. "In effect, learning constrains learning.

"It explains why once you have learned how to drive on the left side of road, like in India or the UK, you find it difficult to drive in Europe or the U.S., where they drive on the right," he says.

Open Access: Emil Wärnberg et al. Perturbing low dimensional activity manifolds in spiking neuronal networks, PLOS Computational Biology (2019)

Consequences / Re: Heatwaves
« on: June 19, 2019, 08:26:50 PM »
High Temperature Records Will Be 'Smashed' in Coming Century

Climate change will cause some regions of the world to "smash" high temperature records every year in the coming century, researchers warn. That will push "ecosystems and communities beyond their ability to cope," according to the authors of the study published online June 17 in Nature Climate Change.

The researchers used 22 climate models to forecast future summer temperatures. They determined that by the end of the 21st century, temperature events "will be so extreme that they will not have been experienced previously."

High monthly mean temperature records will be set in 58 percent of the world every year, with the greatest impact in developing countries and small island nations, according to the researchers. The highest monthly mean temperature records will occur in 67 percent of the least developed countries and 68 percent of small island developing states.

Maps indicating the number of high monthly records set per decade during the period 2070–2099.

Scott B. Power et al. Setting and smashing extreme temperature records over the coming century, Nature Climate Change (2019)

White House Physicist Sought Aid of Rightwing Thinktank to Challenge Climate Science

A member of the Trump administration’s National Security Council has sought help from advisers of a conservative thinktank to challenge the reality of a human-induced climate crisis, a trove of his emails show.

William Happer, a physicist appointed by the White House to counter the federal government’s own climate science, reached out to the Heartland Institute, one of the most prominent groups to dispute that burning fossil fuels is causing dangerous global heating, in March.

In the messages, part of a group of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Happer and the Heartland adviser Hal Doiron discuss Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down the concept of climate emergency, as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership”. Happer writes he had already discussed the work with another Heartland adviser, Thomas Wysmuller.

The emails from 2018 and 2019, received by the Environmental Defense Fund and provided to the Associated Press, also show Happer’s dismay that Jim Bridenstine, the Nasa administrator, had come round to accepting the science of climate breakdown.

In May 2018, an exchange between Happer and Heartland’s Wysmuller called Bridenstine’s change of heart “a puzzle” and copied in the Nasa administrator to urge him to “systematically sidestep” established science on temperature increases and sea level rise that the duo call “nonsense”.

This was followed by a February 2019 email in which Happer relays a complaint to James Morhard, Nasa’s deputy administrator, about climate crisis information on the space agency’s website. “I’m concerned that many children are being indoctrinated by this bad science,” said the email that Happer forwarded.

... “These people are endangering all of us by promoting anti-science in service of fossil fuel interests over the American interests,” Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University climate scientist, told the AP. 

Climate Change Poses Major Risks to Financial Markets, Regulator Warns

WASHINGTON — A top financial regulator is opening a public effort to highlight the risk that climate change poses to the nation’s financial markets, setting up a clash with a president who has mocked global warming and whose administration has sought to suppress climate science.

Rostin Behnam, who sits on the federal government’s five-member Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a powerful agency overseeing major financial markets including grain futures, oil trading and complex derivatives, said in an interview on Monday that the financial risks from climate change were comparable to those posed by the mortgage meltdown that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

“If climate change causes more volatile frequent and extreme weather events, you’re going to have a scenario where these large providers of financial products — mortgages, home insurance, pensions — cannot shift risk away from their portfolios,” he said. “It’s abundantly clear that climate change poses financial risk to the stability of the financial system.”

... On Wednesday, Mr. Behnam plans to detail the formation of a panel of experts at the trading commission assigned to produce a report on how global warming could affect the financial sector, potentially impacting food costs, insurance markets, the mortgage industry and other economic pillars.

Because the report, expected late this year or early next, would be a product of the federal government, it would most likely put Mr. Behnam in direct conflict with the policies of the Trump administration. The report, which Mr. Behnam said he expected would focus in particular on potential harm to the nation’s agriculture sector, is likely to emerge at a moment when Mr. Trump will be making the case to farm states, which have already been hurt by his crop tariffs, to re-elect him in 2020.

... “We understand that climate change causes a big systemic risk,” said Stefano Giglio, a professor of finance at Yale University who has published studies with the National Bureau of Economic Research on the financial consequences of warming. “But right now, we don’t have enough information, and we don’t have the right financial products to insure this risk. The CFTC can help give that information and help lay out a global marker for what we need to do.”

Antarctica / Re: What's new in Antarctica ?
« on: June 13, 2019, 06:19:17 PM »
Warming Waters in Western Tropical Pacific May Affect West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Warming waters in the western tropical Pacific Ocean have significantly increased thunderstorms and rainfall, which may affect the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and global sea-level rise, according to a Rutgers University-New Brunswick study.

Since the mid-1990s, West Antarctica—a massive ice sheet that sits on land—has been melting and contributing to global sea-level rise. That melting has accelerated this century. Wind and weather patterns play a crucial role in governing the melting: Winds push warm ocean water toward the ice sheet and melt it from below, at the same time as winds bring warm air over the ice sheet surface and melt it from above.

The study, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that the South Pacific Convergence Zone, a region of the western tropical Pacific, is a major driver of weather variability across West Antarctica.

Rutgers researchers studied how warming ocean temperatures in the western tropical Pacific influence weather patterns around West Antarctica. This century, the Antarctic Peninsula and interior West Antarctica have been cooling while the Ross Ice Shelf has been warming—a reversal of what happened in the second half of the 20th century. From the 1950s to the 1990s, the Antarctic Peninsula and interior West Antarctica were the most rapidly warming regions on the planet, and the Ross Ice Shelf was cooling.

The temperature trends flipped at the start of this century. Coinciding with the flip in West Antarctic temperature trends, ocean temperatures in the western tropical Pacific began warming rapidly. Using a climate model, the researchers found that warming ocean temperatures in the western tropical Pacific have resulted in a significant increase in thunderstorm activity, rainfall and convection in the South Pacific Convergence Zone. Convection in the atmosphere is when heat and moisture move up or down.

A rainfall increase in the zone results in cold southerly winds over the Antarctic Peninsula and warm northerly winds over the Ross Ice Shelf, consistent with the recent cooling and warming in those respective regions. So the West Antarctic climate, although isolated from much of the planet, is profoundly influenced by the tropics. The findings may help scientists interpret the past West Antarctic climate as recorded in ice cores.

Kyle R. Clem et al, Role of the South Pacific Convergence Zone in West Antarctic Decadal Climate Variability, Geophysical Research Letters (2019).

Consequences / Re: General Drought Stuff
« on: June 13, 2019, 05:30:53 PM »
South Australia's Droughts are Getting Worse

Despite Adelaide experiencing its wettest day in more than two years this month, a new study by UniSA shows droughts are becoming longer and more severe in South Australia.

The analysis shows a clear pattern of increasing drought across much of South Australia, notably over the State's most heavily inhabited areas and major catchments.

"We looked at data from 1960 to 2010 from every high-quality weather station in the State and there is a clear pattern, with drought increasing in the south of the State and over the Murray-Darling Basin, which is the food bowl of Australia," Prof Beecham says.

The study, published in a Royal Meteorological Society journal, also indicates there has been significant long-term reductions in rainfall at the most problematic time of year, which is through autumn and winter.

"This is when water systems should be recharging and flows should be building up again," Prof Beecham says. "When it is dry during this time, as it was earlier this year, it is a problem for the State's water supplies, as winter rain is soaked up by the dry environment and less ends up in reservoirs."

... "Much of the drought intensification can be linked to changes in two key climatic indices, known as Niño 3.4 and the dipole mode index," Prof Beecham says.

"As a result of changes to temperature and pressure over the Indian and Pacific oceans, South Australia's rainfall patterns are changing."

M. Rashid, S. Beekham, Characterization of meteorological droughts across South Australia, Royal Meteorological Society Journal, 03 February 2019

Consequences / Re: Floods
« on: June 09, 2019, 03:35:32 AM »
Mississippi Seeks Seafood Disaster Declaration Amid Spillway Complaints

Mississippi's governor wants the federal government to declare a fisheries disaster as freshwater from a Mississippi River spillway gushes into what's normally a partly salty estuary, killing countless oysters and crabs.   

...  Gov. Phil Bryant announced Friday that he had made the request, releasing a May 31 letter to U.S Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Bryant says 70% of the Mississippi Sound's already imperiled oyster population is estimated to be dead, with the crab catch down by 35%. He also noted that shrimp season would normally be getting underway in June.

"The large releases of freshwater from the actions of the spillway inundate the saltwater of the Mississippi Sound and greatly disrupts the unique ecosystem, and subsequently, all sea life of this region," the Republican Bryant wrote to Ross

... This year's months-long flood along the Mississippi led the Corps to open the spillway for an unprecedented second time, after already opening and closing it once before. Salinity levels in the sound are normally about 18-22 parts per thousand, about half the saltiness in deeper parts of the Gulf of Mexico. But Friday, the highest salinity level of any reporting station in the sound was 7.6 parts per thousand.

That's especially bad for oysters and other plants and animals anchored to a particular spot. Mississippi's oyster industry has been in steep decline because of repeated freshwater inundations and other problems. ... a heavy dose of freshwater in late spring and early summer could be especially bad. That's when plants and animals in the shallows atop the continental shelf are normally bulking up at the beginning of a new growing season. Graham said that with normal summer winds from the south, the giant shield of freshwater could linger all summer in the Mississippi Sound. The only thing likely to break it up would be a tropical storm.

"You're really talking about a prolonged event that's happening at the wrong time for productivity on the shelf," Graham said. "There likely will be a cascading ecological effect that will continue through next spring or longer."

From your source, KK:

... "We cannot be certain that the present observed water level drop is caused by factors related to global climate change, or that it portends a long-term problem," the study states. But the ongoing decline in water levels make it "prudent to include lower lake levels in future management planning," the researchers note.[/size][/font][/color]

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: June 07, 2019, 08:01:52 PM »
Rapid Change in Coral Reefs Prompts Global Calls for a Rethink

Coral reef experts from around the world are calling for an urgent re-evaluation of our climate goals in the light of increasing evidence of unprecedented speed of change to these fragile ecosystems.Coral reefs, which have functioned relatively unchanged for some 24 million years, are now going through profound changes in their make-up.

Writing in a special feature of Functional Ecology, some of the world's leading coral reef experts are asking searching questions about the priorities for reef conservation and reef ecology in the face of these recent and rapid changes, which have far exceeded predictions.

The scientists address issues such as how we should actually define what comprises a functioning coral reef in the Anthropocene, an era where humans are the dominant force of planetary change.

Open Source: Gareth J. Williams et al, Rethinking coral reef functional futures, Functional Ecology (2019)

The forum / Re: Suggestions
« on: June 07, 2019, 05:58:48 PM »
All things are relative; take dung beetles for instance...   :)

that's a dangerous statement because often abused by those who deny facts of life and eventual physics.

NOT all is relative, simply and outright wrong and the most favoured killer argument of the narrow minded or ego-trippers to justify their doings.

for example: if we burn fossil fuel and blow CO2 into the atmosphere the climate becomes warmer and the sea-level will raise and destroy habitable zones in quantity as well as arable land in quantity. nothing about that is relative but it's cause and effect based on laws of physics.

magnamentis, good sir

lighten up; get a sense of humor; the world is not ALL darkness.

.. NOT ALL is SERIOUS, un-fun science meant to kill humor, levity, and otherwise eliminate a respite for the broad minded who are trying to interject a spot of absurdity in an otherwise tragic situation.

For future reference, I realize that North American humor may lose something in translation, but my cartoon post applied to the 3 prior post on inappropriate language - and only those posts. No hidden meaning.

Remember, at the end of the game, both the king and the pawn end up in the same box. Life is short. Laugh when the opportunity arises. And I say this as a scientist with over 40 years of experience.

The forum / Re: Suggestions
« on: June 06, 2019, 11:31:22 PM »
All things are relative; take dung beetles for instance...   :)

The rest / Re: Pareidolia
« on: June 06, 2019, 01:32:09 PM »

Consequences / Re: Heatwaves
« on: June 05, 2019, 04:59:34 PM »
Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Stokes Summer Heat Waves in Southern U.S.

Composites of summer extreme (left panels) and oppressive heat wave (right panels) frequency during summers of low (top), neutral (middle) and high (bottom) Hudson Bay sea ice extent. Credit: AGU   

A new study in AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres explores how seasonal fluctuations of sea ice coverage trigger changes in atmospheric circulation patterns during the boreal summer.

The study draws upon four decades of satellite data of Arctic sea ice coverage collected between 1979 and 2016, overlapped with heat wave frequency data across the United States during the same time period.

The team found evidence for a strong statistical relationship between the extent of summer sea ice in the Hudson Bay and heat waves across the southern Plains and southeastern U.S 

... "The latest research on this topic suggests that declining Arctic sea ice may be linked to increased incidence of extreme weather patterns across the northern hemisphere," said Dagmar Budikova, a climatologist at Illinois State University in Normal and lead author of the new study. "Our results confirm this hypothesis by offering further evidence that Arctic sea ice variability has the potential to influence extreme summer temperatures and the frequency of heat waves across the southern U.S."

The new study finds the loss of sea ice across the Arctic begins with warmer-than-usual spring temperatures in the Hudson Bay and Labrador regions in the southeastern Canadian Arctic.

"This process starts when temperatures across the southeastern Canadian Arctic and northwestern Atlantic are 2 degrees [Celsius] warmer than expected in March, April and May," Budikova said.

This springtime warming lessens the north-to-south change in temperature between the high and middle latitudes of eastern North America, leading to a reduction in the strength of regional wind patterns. These conditions are symptomatic of weakened large-scale movements of air that appear to persist into the summer months, Budikova said.

Dagmar Budikova et al. United States Heat Wave Frequency and Arctic Ocean Marginal Sea Ice Variability, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (2019)

Arctic sea ice / Re: The 2019 melting season
« on: June 04, 2019, 10:22:20 AM »
Dr. Jeff Masters (Wunderground-Cat6) is referencing Neven's ASIF ...

Strong Arctic High-Pressure System Bringing Significant Melting of Sea Ice

A large surface high pressure system has set up shop over the North Pole and is predicted to stay there and intensify over the next ten days. This will bring clear skies, warm temperatures, and near-record and possibly record melting of Arctic sea ice. Over the next ten days, temperatures are predicted to be near or just above freezing over much of the Arctic Ocean--about 2 - 5°C above average--according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.,2591.msg202956.html#msg202956
... See Fig 1 Image credit: Neven Curlin/Arctic Sea Ice Forum

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: June 03, 2019, 07:44:34 PM »
Thanks for sharing that b.c.

I've been following what other travelers to that plane have seen during their life review. We're all here to teach or be taught. And if we're lucky; to discover the true meaning of life.

This one struck me as prescient ...

... I saw the earth cleansing itself with massive storms and waves in areas where too much dark matter had collected. I saw mass amounts of people were beginning to awaken to things from their past lives even though they had not experienced an NDE. I saw the fall of government systems as we know them. There was a return to innocence, only after the earth purges herself of a vast number of dark energies. The world population was greatly diminished.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts ...

W. Shakespeare - As You Like It - Act II Scene VII

Policy and solutions / Re: Energy Efficiency: The “First Fuel”
« on: June 03, 2019, 06:45:54 PM »
10 Percent Efficiency Boost: Solar cell Defect Mystery Solved After Decades of Global Effort

An international team of researchers have resolved a key fundamental issue of material defect which limits and degrades solar cell efficiency. The problem has been known about and studied for over 40 years, with over 270 research papers attributed to the issue with no solution.

The new research shows the first observation of a previously unknown material defect which limits silicon solar cell efficiency. 

...  "During the first hours of operation, after installation, a solar panel's efficiency drops from 20 percent to about 18 percent. An absolute drop of 2 percent in efficiency may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that these solar panels are now responsible for delivering a large and exponentially growing fraction of the world's total energy needs, it's a significant loss of electricity generating capacity."

The energy cost of this shortfall across the world's installed solar capacity measures in the 10's of gigawatts, this is equivalent to more energy than is produced by the UK's combined total of 15 nuclear power plants. The solar shortfall has to be therefore met by other less sustainable energy sources such as burning fossil fuels.

The multi-disciplinary experimental and theoretical approach employed by the researchers identified the mechanism responsible for Light Induced Degradation (LID). Combining a specialized electrical and optical technique, known as "deep-level transient spectroscopy" (DLTS), the team have uncovered the existence of a material defect which initially lies dormant within the silicon use to manufacture the cells.

The electronic charge within the bulk of the silicon solar cell is transformed under sunlight, part of its energy generating process. The team found that this transformation involves a highly effective "trap" that prevents the flow of photo-generated charge carriers (electrons).

... "This flow of electrons is what determines the size of the electrical current that a solar cell can deliver to a circuit, anything that impedes it effectively reduces the solar cell efficiency and amount of electrical power that can be generated for a given level of sunlight. We've proved the defect exists, it's now an engineering fix that is needed." 

The researchers in Manchester lead by Prof Matthew Halsall found that their observations were strongly correlated with this charge carrier lifetime, which was reduced significantly after transformation of the defect under illumination. They also noted that the effect was reversible, the lifetime increased again when the material was heated in the dark, a process commonly used to remove the "traps."

Open Access: Michelle Vaqueiro-Contreras et al. Identification of the mechanism responsible for the boron oxygen light induced degradation in silicon photovoltaic cells, Journal of Applied Physics (2019)

Consequences / Re: Effects on Arctic Wildlife
« on: May 30, 2019, 12:03:51 AM »
Mass Die-Off of Puffins Recorded in the Bering Sea

A mass die-off of seabirds in the Bering Sea may be partially attributable to climate change, according to a new study publishing May 29 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Timothy Jones of the citizen science program COASST at University of Washington, Lauren Divine from the Aleut Community of St Paul Island Ecosystem Conservation Office, and colleagues. The birds appeared to have died from the effects of starvation.

Beginning in 2014, increased atmospheric temperatures and decreased winter sea ice led to declines in energy-rich prey species in the Bering Sea, as well as a shift of some species more northward, diminishing puffin food resources in the southern portion of the sea.

Beginning in October 2016, tribal and community members recovered over 350 severely emaciated carcasses, mostly adults in the process of molting, a known nutritional stressor during the avian life cycle. A reduction in food resources before entering molt may have prevented many birds from surviving, the authors suggest. Using wind data to model beachings, they calculated between 3,150 and 8,500 birds could have died in the event. Tufted puffins comprised 87% of this total, or 40-100% of the Pribilofs Islands' population

The authors suggest that climate-driven shifts in prey abundance and/or distribution, combined with the onset of molt, may have caused this puffin die-off, and note that further climate variability in this region is probable.

Natural Gas Is Now Called 'Freedom Gas,' According to the Department of Energy

Jingoistic nationalism and promoting fossil fuels go hand in hand for the Trump administration. But the Department of Energy took that connection to a new level on Tuesday with a press release touting natural gas as “freedom gas” full of—I feel stupid even typing this—“molecules of U.S. freedom.”

Which I guess means we now definitively know the cost of freedom: According to the global market, it’s $2.64 per million BTUs as of Wednesday late morning.

... We get it. The agency loves gas and the Republican construct of American freedom and the big, strong men that work on natural gas fields and fracking rigs. But in case that wasn’t clear enough, the press release adds this quote from Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg:
... “With the U.S. in another year of record-setting natural gas production, I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world.”
Comparing the U.S. concept of freedom to a combustible mix of hydrocarbons like methane is actually pretty spot on these days, but something tells me that’s not what the assistant secretary was going for. ... But beyond the farcical language, nothing could be further from the truth about natural gas being a pathway to freedom.

Natural gas is a source of methane and carbon dioxide, both greenhouse gases that are cooking the planet. Exporting it locks countries into generating energy from a dirty fuel and puts the world on track to climate chaos.

It has as much in common with 'freedom' as this:


There's a Climate Crisis – But Trump's Cabinet Continues to Backtrack On Science

... As Naomi Klein argues, even the right’s fervent conspiracy theorists tend to understand at some level how profound the implications of this crisis are for business as usual, which has distributed its profits among elites of both parties. With Donald Trump at their helm, Republicans will keep denying climate change because it represents a dire threat to their fossil fuel donors’ bottom lines.

Members of Trump’s cabinet,” Klein has written, “with their desperate need to deny the reality of global warming, or belittle its implications”, nonetheless “understand something that is fundamentally true. To avert climate chaos, we need to challenge the free-market fundamentalism that has conquered the world since the 1980s.”

For all their bluster and junk science, Republican decision-makers have a clear sense for their own self-interest – and just how much is at stake for them and the rest of the 1%. ... As the New York Times reported in its article on the White House’s new climate plans, both William Happer and John Bolton – who tapped him for the administration – have received generous support from the Mercers, the rightwing family credited with both spreading climate denial and helping fuel the opioid epidemic.

We can’t know whether Happer genuinely believes the nonsense he’s spouting, or is just being paid well enough to sound like he does. The answer doesn’t really matter. Any clear-eyed assessment of what the science is telling us spells out who the winners and losers of rapid decarbonization would be. To cap warming at around 2C – a threshold many already dealing with climate impacts argue is too high – about three-quarters of known fossil fuel reserves will need to be kept underground, a reality that if realized as public policy would crater the stock price of energy companies.

Scientists Revisit the Cold Case of Cold Fusion

In a $10 Million dollar 3-year study funded by Google, scientists from the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Google are conducting a multi-year investigation into cold fusion, a type of benign nuclear reaction hypothesized to occur in benchtop apparatus at room temperature.

... "We need a fundamentally new energy technology that can be scaled within the span of a human lifetime," says UBC chemist Curtis Berlinguette, principal investigator on the study. "This program provided us with a safe environment to take the long shot—given the profound impact this could have on society, we should remain open to it even if there is an unknown probability of success."

A progress report published today in Nature publicly discloses the group's collaboration for the first time.

Nature piece sums up the findings of Google’s investigation into cold fusion: there’s “no evidence whatsoever” the phenomenon exists.

For some, cold fusion represented a classic example of pathological science. This term was coined in the 1950s to describe a striking claim that conflicts with previous experience, that is based on effects that are difficult to detect and that is defended against criticism by ad hoc excuses. In this view, cold fusion joins an insalubrious list that includes the N-rays of 1903, the polywater affair of the late 1960s and the memory of water episode of the late 1980s.

Is that the final nail in the cold-fusion coffin? Not quite. The group was unable to attain the material conditions speculated to be most conducive to cold fusion. Indeed, it seems extremely difficult to do so using current experimental set-ups — although the team hasn’t excluded such a possibility. So the fusion trail, although cooling, is not yet cold, leaving a few straws for optimists to clutch on to.


Google Revives Controversial Cold-Fusion Experiments

Google’s team was made up of 30 researchers who had no strong opinions on cold fusion. All had access to each other’s data and apparatus, and could review each other’s work.

The researchers pursued the three experimental strands that they deemed sufficiently credible. In one, they tried to load palladium with amounts of deuterium hypothesized to be necessary to trigger fusion. But at high concentrations the team was unable to create stable samples.

A second strand followed up on 1990s work by US physicists who claimed to have generated anomalous levels of tritium — another heavy hydrogen isotope, created only through nuclear reactions — by bombarding palladium with pulses of hot deuterium ions. Google’s analysis of nuclear signatures showed no tritium production from this experiment.

Pulsed plasma apparatus.

A final strand involved heating up metallic powders in a hydrogen-rich environment. Some current proponents of cold fusion claim that the process produces excess and unexplained heat, which they theorize is the result of fusing elements. But across 420 tests, the Google-funded team found no such heat excess.

Detecting excess heat at high temperatures.

But the researchers say that both palladium experiments warrant further study. The hypothesized effects in the tritium experiment could be too small to measure with current equipment, they suggest. The team also says that further work could produce stable samples at extremely high deuterium concentrations, where interesting effects might occur.

... This project was carried out in stealth. We didn’t want the fact that Google was funding research in this area to become a distraction. For the first couple of years, we didn’t even tell other members of our group the real reason behind the hydrogen storage experiments going on in the lab!

Our objective was to be scrupulously objective, and I think we have managed to avoid any form of “confirmation bias.”

Science / Re: Solar cycle
« on: May 28, 2019, 07:27:45 PM »
The Sun Follows the Rhythm of the Planets

Study Corroborates Influence of Planetary Tidal Forces On Solar Activity

One of the big questions in solar physics is why the Sun's activity follows a regular cycle of 11 years. Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), an independent German research institute, now present new findings, indicating that the tidal forces of Venus, Earth and Jupiter influence the solar magnetic field, thus governing the solar cycle. The team of researchers present their findings in the journal Solar Physics

As with the gravitational pull of the Moon causing tides on Earth, planets are able to displace the hot plasma on the sun's surface. Tidal forces are strongest when there is maximum Venus-Earth-Jupiter alignment; a constellation that occurs every 11.07 years. But the effect is too weak to significantly perturb the flow in the solar interior, which is why the temporal coincidence was long neglected. However, the HZDR researchers then found evidence of a potential indirect mechanism that may be able to influence the solar magnetic field via tidal forces: oscillations in the Tayler instability, a physical effect that, from a certain current, can change the behavior of a conductive liquid or of a plasma. Building on this concept, the scientists developed their first model in 2016; they have since advanced this model in their new study to present a more realistic scenario.

In the hot plasma of the sun, the Tayler instability perturbs the flux and the magnetic field, itself reacting very sensitively to tiny forces. A small thrust of energy is enough for the perturbations to oscillate between right-handed and left-handed helicity (the projection of the spin onto the direction of momentum). The momentum required for this may be induced by planetary tidal forces every eleven years—ultimately also setting the rhythm at which the magnetic field reverses the polarity of the sun.

... the scientists systematically compared historical observations of solar activity from the last thousand years with planetary constellations, statistically proving that the two phenomena are linked. "There is an astonishingly high level of concordance: what we see is complete parallelism with the planets over the course of 90 cycles," said Frank Stefani, lead author of the study. "Everything points to a clocked process."

Besides influencing the 11-year cycle, planetary tidal forces may also have other effects on the sun. For example, it is also conceivable that they change the stratification of the plasma in the transition region between the interior radiative zone and the outer convection zone of the sun (the tachocline) in such a way that the magnetic flux can be conducted more easily. Under those conditions, the magnitude of activity cycles could also be changed, as was once the case with the Maunder Minimum, when there was a strong decline in solar activity for a longer phase.

In the long term, a more precise model of the solar dynamo would help scientists to quantify climate-relevant processes such as space weather more effectively, and perhaps even to improve climate predictions one day.

F. Stefani et al. A Model of a Tidally Synchronized Solar Dynamo, Solar Physics (2019)

... we focus on the 11.07-years alignment periodicity of the tidally dominant planets Venus, Earth, and Jupiter, whose persistent synchronization with the solar dynamo is briefly touched upon. The typically emerging dynamo modes are dipolar fields, oscillating with a 22.14-years period or pulsating with a 11.07-years period, but also quadrupolar fields with corresponding periodicities. ...  Phase coherent transitions between dipoles and quadrupoles, which are reminiscent of the observed behavior during the Maunder minimum, can easily be triggered by long-term variations of dynamo parameters, but may also occur spontaneously even for fixed parameters. Further interesting features of the model are the typical second intensity peak and the intermittent appearance of reversed helicities in both hemispheres.

The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: May 28, 2019, 06:59:21 PM »
Researchers Suggest Ancient Supernovae Prompted Human Ancestors To Walk Upright

A paper published today in the Journal of Geology makes the case: Supernovae bombarded Earth with cosmic energy starting as many as 8 million years ago, with a peak some 2.6 million years ago, initiating an avalanche of electrons in the lower atmosphere and setting off a chain of events that feasibly ended with bipedal hominins such as homo habilis, dubbed "handy man."

The authors believe atmospheric ionization probably triggered an enormous upsurge in cloud-to-ground lightning strikes that ignited forest fires around the globe. These infernos could be one reason ancestors of homo sapiens developed bipedalism—to adapt in savannas that replaced torched forests in northeast Africa.

... Based on a "telltale" layer of iron-60 deposits lining the world's sea beds, astronomers have high confidence supernovae exploded in Earth's immediate cosmic neighborhood—between 100 and only 50 parsecs (163 light years) away—during the transition from the Pliocene Epoch to the Ice Age.

"We calculated the ionization of the atmosphere from cosmic rays which would come from a supernova about as far away as the iron-60 deposits indicate," Melott said. "It appears that this was the closest one in a much longer series. We contend it would increase the ionization of the lower atmosphere by 50-fold. Usually, you don't get lower-atmosphere ionization because cosmic rays don't penetrate that far, but the more energetic ones from supernovae come right down to the surface—so there would be a lot of electrons being knocked out of the atmosphere."

The KU researcher said the probability that this lightning spike touched off a worldwide upsurge in wildfires is supported by the discovery of carbon deposits found in soils that correspond with the timing of the cosmic-ray bombardment.

"The observation is that there's a lot more charcoal and soot in the world starting a few million years ago," Melott said. "It's all over the place, and nobody has any explanation for why it would have happened all over the world in different climate zones. This could be an explanation. That increase in fires is thought to have stimulated the transition from woodland to savanna in a lot of places—where you had forests, now you had mostly open grassland with shrubby things here and there. That's thought to be related to human evolution in northeast Africa. Specifically, in the Great Rift Valley where you get all these hominin fossils."

Melott said no such event is likely to occur again anytime soon. The nearest star capable of exploding into a supernova in the next million years is Betelgeuse, some 200 parsecs (652 light years) from Earth.


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Science / Re: Extreme weather event attribution
« on: May 25, 2019, 02:54:40 AM »
Climate Change is Destroying a Barrier That Protects the U.S. East Coast from Hurricanes

A new paper, published today in Scientific Reports, finds that climate change could alter wind shear in a way that could deliver more powerful hurricanes to the East Coast. ... as hurricanes move northwestward out of the tropical Atlantic, a strong vertical wind shear along the East Coast prevents the storm from gaining strength, thus providing a protective barrier to strong landfalling hurricanes.

Ting and Kossin, along with Lamont researchers Suzana Camargo and Cuihua Li, used model simulations to examine the effects of climate change on hurricanes in the United States. The group found that these hurricanes will be affected in two different ways. As earlier studies have shown, rising sea surface temperatures will lead to an increase in hurricane intensity. But this study was the first to find that rising anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will weaken the vertical wind shear along the East Coast which will, in turn, enable further intensification of hurricanes that make landfall in this region.

"Once the natural protection is eroded by greenhouse gas warming, we may experience unprecedented hurricane intensification along the East Coast that can lead to stronger landfalling storms and higher storm surges in the future," Ting explains. "This is on top of the stronger tropical cyclone strength expected from the warmer sea surface temperature that we are already aware of. Home owners and policy makers have to take this into account when planning for coastal development and protections." 

Although climate change is typically a slow process, the models point to the possibility of these anthropogenic effects emerging quickly. One of the models with a larger number of simulations indicated that these effects could start to be seen around the year 2040. A timeline like that only gives us about 20 years to try to change course by taking actions to reduce climate change and, at the very least, prepare for more extreme weather events.

Open Access: Mingfang Ting et al. Past and Future Hurricane Intensity Change along the U.S. East Coast, Scientific Reports (2019)

Permafrost / Re: Permafrost general science thread
« on: May 23, 2019, 01:59:44 PM »
Widespread Permafrost Degradation Seen In High Arctic Terrain

A McGill-led study published recently in Environmental Research Letters presents close to 30 years of aerial surveys and extensive ground mapping of the Eureka Sound Lowlands area of Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands located at approximately 80 °N. The research focuses on a particular landform (known as a retrogressive thaw slump) that develops as the ice within the permafrost melts and the land slips down in a horseshoe-shaped feature. The presence of these landforms is well documented in the low Arctic.

... "Our study suggests that the warming climate in the high Arctic, and more specifically the increases in summer air temperatures that we have seen in recent years, are initiating widespread changes in the landscape," says Melissa Ward Jones, the study's lead author and a Ph.D. candidate in McGill's Department of Geography.

The research team noted that:

- There has been a widespread development of retrogressive thaw slumps in high Arctic polar deserts over a short period, particularly during the unusually warm summers of 2011, 2012 and 2015;

- That the absence of vegetation and layers of organic soil in these polar deserts make permafrost in the area particularly vulnerable to increases in summer air temperatures;

- Despite its relatively short duration, the thaw season (which lasts for just 3-6 weeks a year) initially drives the development of slumps and their later expansion in size, as their headwall retreats; and

- Over a period of a few years after the initiation of slumps, study results suggest various factors related to terrain (e.g. slope) become more important than air temperature in maintaining active slumps

Open Access: Melissa K Ward Jones et al, Rapid initialization of retrogressive thaw slumps in the Canadian high Arctic and their response to climate and terrain factors, Environmental Research Letters (2019)

E.P.A. Plans to Get Thousands of Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its Math

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, a shift that would make it easier to roll back a key climate change rule because it would result in far fewer predicted deaths from pollution, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans.

The E.P.A. had originally forecast that eliminating the Obama-era rule, the Clean Power Plan, and replacing it with a new measure would have resulted in an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year. The new analytical model would significantly reduce that number and would most likely be used by the Trump administration to defend further rollbacks of air pollution rules if it is formally adopted.

The proposed shift is the latest example of the Trump administration downgrading the estimates of environmental harm from pollution in regulations. In this case, the proposed methodology would assume there is little or no health benefit to making the air any cleaner than what the law requires. Many experts said that approach was not scientifically sound and that, in the real world, there are no safe levels of the fine particulate pollution associated with the burning of fossil fuels 

Sea Level Rise Could Be Much Larger Than Expected

Scientists believe that global sea levels could rise far more than predicted, due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica,

The long-held view has been that the world's seas would rise by a maximum of just under a metre by 2100.

This new study, based on expert opinions, projects that the real level may be around double that figure.

In the researchers' view, if emissions continue on the current trajectory then the world's seas would be very likely to rise by between 62-238cm by 2100. This would be in a world that had warmed by around 5C - one of the worst case scenarios for global warming.

"For 2100, the ice sheet contribution is very likely in the range range of 7-178cm but once you add in glaciers and ice caps outside the ice sheets and thermal expansion of the seas, you tip well over two metres," said lead author Prof Jonathan Bamber from the University of Bristol.

... According to the authors, this scenario would have huge implications for the planet.

They calculate that the world would lose an area of land equal to 1.79 million square kilometres - equivalent to the size of Libya.

Much of the land losses would be in important food growing areas such as the delta of the Nile. Large swathes of Bangladesh would be very difficult for people to continue to live in. Major global cities, including London, New York and Shanghai would be under threat.

"To put this into perspective, the Syrian refugee crisis resulted in about a million refugees coming into Europe," said Prof Bamber.

"That is about 200 times smaller than the number of people who would be displaced in a 2m sea-level rise."


Ice sheet contributions to future sea-level rise from structured expert judgment

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Cuts Funding for Kids’ Health Studies – “It Works Out Perfectly for Industry”

(Nature) – The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health has tracked the lives of hundreds of children in New York City since 1998. Scientists have collected samples of blood, urine and even the air in children’s homes, starting when their subjects were in the womb, to tease out the health effects of chemicals and pollutants. The centre’s findings influenced New York City’s decision in 2018 to phase out diesel buses, and its staff members teach schools and community groups about the harmful chemicals and pollution that kids encounter each day.

Now, the future of the Columbia facility and a dozen like it is in doubt. Their last grants from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has provided half of the centres’ funding for two decades, will expire in July — and the agency has decided that it will not renew its support for the facilities.

The programme’s other government sponsor, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) says that it cannot replace the funding that the EPA has historically provided. Scientists at the children’s centres are increasingly worried that the EPA’s withdrawal will force them to shut down decades-long research projects.

Studies of this length are rare and valuable, because they can reveal associations between environmental exposures early in life and health problems years later. And the mix of threats that kids face changes over time. “Twenty years ago, what we were studying is not the same as what we’re studying today,” says Ruth Etzel, a paediatrician at the EPA who specializes in children’s environmental health. “We have to study children now, in their communities.”

Many environmental-health researchers see the EPA’s decision to cut funding for the children’s centres as part of a push by President Donald Trump’s administration to undermine science at the agency, which is responsible for the safety of US air and water.

“It works out perfectly for industry,” says Tracey Woodruff, who runs the children’s centre at the University of California, San Francisco. When weighing the harms of a chemical against its benefits, she says, “... If EPA doesn’t know, it counts for zero”.

Linda McCauley, an environmental-health researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who leads the children’s centre there, thinks that the EPA’s personnel moves were designed to benefit the chemical industry, by stymieing research that could suggest the need for new or tougher regulations.

... “That’s how this administration is working,” she says. “They can be effective by slowing things down to a crawl.”

Long-term weather starts to get into tele-connections ...

Hot Arctic and a Chill in the Northeast: What’s Behind the Gloomy Spring Weather?

... It may seem counter-intuitive, but the story of the strange weather unfolding this spring in the US is related in part to snow last October in Eurasia. This indicator—the Eurasian October snow cover extent indicator—is proving to be worthy of additional attention by US weather geeks. The good news is that the scientists who were paying attention to the Eurasia snow extent behavior during October, along with a host of other indicators, gave advanced warning of the emerging US winter and spring weather pattern for 2018/2019. 

... I encourage those who want to know, to spend some time clicking on the links here or links in earlier blogs that point to even more information (see here, here, here, and here). These describe the details regarding how Arctic sea ice decline, particularly in the Barents-Kara sea ice, north of Scandinavia and Russia, contributes to ocean and atmosphere behavior. Which contributes to Eurasian snow cover extent behavior. And ultimately a wavy jet stream with episodic cold outbreaks over winter and spring in the Northern Hemisphere, including the US.

... Here is an example of the science as Judah Cohen explains, “There is a growing consensus that it is Barents-Kara sea ice in the late fall and early winter that has the greatest impact across Eurasia.  Therefore, low Barents-Kara sea ice in November for example, favors a strengthened Siberian high, increased poleward heat flux, a weak stratospheric Polar Vortex and finally a negative Arctic Oscillation. An important point regarding the Siberian high is that it strengthens or expands northwest of the climatological center.  For low snow cover and/or high sea ice the opposite occurs.”  Translation, a weakened polar vortex means more cold outbreaks deep into US territory like this past winter and spring. ...

North Atlantic Warming Hole Impacts Jet Stream

The North Atlantic warming hole (NAWH), a region of reduced warming located in the North Atlantic Ocean, significantly affects the North Atlantic jet stream in climate simulations of the future, according to a team of researchers.

... To investigate how the development of the NAWH impacts the jet stream, the team conducted a series of large-ensemble, atmospheric model experiments in the CESM with prescribed SST and sea ice levels over three different time periods.

Their results indicate that the NAWH plays an important role in midlatitude atmospheric circulation changes in the model's future climate simulations.

"We found that it's really quite important for that region," said Gervais. "The NAWH seems to be elongating the jet even further and shifting it a little bit north. Instead of just thinking about how the tropics and arctic amplification are influencing the jet, we now also need to think about how this warming hole is going to influence the jet. These local changes in the North Atlantic jet are of a similar magnitude to the full climate-change response in the region, indicating that the North Atlantic warming hole could be an important additional factor in the tug of war on midlatitude circulation, that has received little attention."

Melissa Gervais et al, Impacts of the North Atlantic Warming Hole in Future Climate Projections: Mean Atmospheric Circulation and the North Atlantic jet, Journal of Climate (2019)

24 Percent of West Antarctic Ice is Now Unstable: Study

By combining 25 years of ESA satellite data, scientists have discovered that warming ocean waters have caused the ice to thin so rapidly that 24% of the glaciers in West Antarctica are now affected. 

... A team of researchers, led by Professor Andy Shepherd from the University of Leeds, found that Antarctica's ice sheet has thinned by up to 122 metres in places, with the most rapid changes occurring in West Antarctica where ocean melting has triggered glacier imbalance.

This means that the affected glaciers are unstable as they are losing more mass through melting and iceberg calving than they are gaining through snowfall.

The team found that the pattern of glacier thinning has not been static. Since 1992, the thinning has spread across 24% of West Antarctica and over the majority of its largest ice streams—the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers—which are now losing ice five times faster than they were at the start of the survey.

Time sequence of Antarctic glacier ice thickness change (left) and associated contribution to sea level rise (right) between 1992 and 2017. 

Trends in Antarctic Ice Sheet Elevation and Mass, Geophysical Research Letters, 16 May 2019


‘Extraordinary Thinning’ of Ice Sheets Revealed Deep Inside Antarctica

... thinning of some ice streams had extended 300 miles inland along their 600-mile length. “More than 50% of the Pine Island and Thwaites glacier basins have been affected by thinning in the past 25 years. We are past halfway and that is a worry.” 

The rest / Re: Arctic Café
« on: May 15, 2019, 02:12:52 AM »
Thought(s) for the day...

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: May 14, 2019, 05:35:38 PM »
It's Not Just Fish, Plastic Pollution Harms Bacteria That Help Us Breathe

Ten per cent of the oxygen we breathe comes from just one kind of bacteria in the ocean. Now laboratory tests have shown that these bacteria are susceptible to plastic pollution, according to a study published in Communications Biology.

"We found that exposure to chemicals leaching from plastic pollution interfered with the growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean's most abundant photosynthetic bacteria," says lead author and Macquarie University researcher Dr. Sasha Tetu. ... one in every ten breaths of oxygen you breathe in is thanks to these little guys, yet almost nothing is known about how marine bacteria, such as Prochlorococcus respond to human pollutants."

Population growth of Prochlorococcus MIT9312 and NATL2A in the presence of diluted HDPE (high-density polyethylene) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) leachates compared to 0% leachate control. In addition to effects on population growth, leachate exposure had a strong, dose-dependent effect on photosynthesis efficiency of photosystem II (PSII) in both Prochlorococcus MIT9312 and NATL2A 

Open Access: Sasha G. Tetu,, Plastic leachates impair growth and oxygen production in Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria, Communications Biology Volume 2, Article number: 184 (2019)

Antarctica / Re: What's new in Antarctica ?
« on: May 14, 2019, 05:25:39 PM »
ESA: Antarctica Detailed in 3D

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, UK, created this new view by processing data from ESA’s CryoSat in a clever way.
CryoSat carries a radar altimeter that measures the height of the world’s ice. Typically, the data are used to map the height of ice at single points. And, since it was launched in 2010, this has revealed much about how ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice are changing.

Nevertheless, a technique called ‘swath processing’ takes the data to a new level. Scientists have used CryoSat’s novel ‘interferometric mode’ to produce whole swaths of data and in much finer detail and faster than is gained by conventional radar altimetry. The usual spatial resolution of a few kilometres has been improved to less than one kilometre.

The technique is allowing scientists to better understand change and predict how ice sheets, glaciers and ice caps may behave as climate change takes a stronger grip. This is important with respect to global concerns such as sea-level rise.

The team used this method to map Greenland in 2017, and now the Antarctica model is available. Both datasets can be downloaded from the CryoTop website.

Arctic sea ice / Re: What's new in the Arctic ?
« on: May 14, 2019, 05:22:03 PM »
Underwater Arctic Forests Are Expanding With Rapid Warming

Today, climate change is altering marine habitats such as kelp forests on a global scale. In western Australia, eastern Canada, southern Europe, northern California and eastern United States, kelps are disappearing due to warming temperatures. In other areas, kelps are being heavily over-grazed by sea urchins. Coastal conditions in the Arctic are changing dramatically and the region is warming faster than the rest of the world, but these changes could actually be good for kelp.

Kelp forests have been observed throughout the Arctic by Inuit, researchers and polar explorers. The Canadian Arctic alone represents 10 per cent of the world's coastlines, but we know little of the hidden kelp forests there.

Arctic Kelp

Kelps have adapted to the severe conditions. These cool water species have special strategies to survive freezing temperatures and long periods of darkness, and even grow under sea ice. In regions with cold, nutrient-rich water, they can attain some of the highest rates of primary production of any natural ecosystem on Earth.

Arctic kelp forests provide a key example of the diverse responses to climate change. Predictive models and experiments suggest that Arctic coasts are in line to become one of the most impacted environments in the world under changing climate. Yet the possible expansion of kelp forests should provide new habitats for fish and other marine organisms, and enhance a suite of valuable ecosystem services along Arctic coastlines.

Greenland and Arctic Circle / Re: Greenland 2019 Melt Season
« on: May 12, 2019, 08:42:56 PM »
Airborne NASA Scientists Just Filmed Something Troubling In Greenland

Scientists aboard a NASA airplane swooped over some of Greenland's largest glaciers on Monday, spotting melted ice and raging rivers.

It's significant, because though it's not nearly summer, large blue ponds have already formed on the icy ground. NASA’s Operation IceBridge researchers observed this as part of their mission to watch for changes in Earth’s giant masses of polar ice. Greenland, in particular, has been melting at an accelerated rate for some two decades.

"Although the story of the summer of 2019 in Greenland hasn’t yet been written, it's starting on a worrying note," said Joe MacGregor, the project scientist for Operation IceBridge.

While such profound early season melting isn't unprecedented, typically these melt ponds form in late May to early June, explained MacGregor. This spring, there's one obvious culprit: really warm temperatures. Last week in Greenland — one of the coldest parts on Earth — temperatures measured in the upper 50s to low 60s Fahrenheit, he said.

MacGregor is on land in the U.S., but his IceBridge colleague, glaciologist Brooke Medley, captured footage of the early melt creating big pools of water, seen below.

@NASA #IceBridge ✈ observed surface melt north of Jakobshavn ... While the blue water is breathtaking, the early onset of melt over Greenland is concerning for Earth ... "Concerning" - what a uselessly weak verb. Totally fails to convey the gravity of these images ... meltwater ponds also visible on Landsat/Sentinel/Modis pics...caused by record breaking warmth since end of April (Kangerlussuaq up to19deg C).

A mosaic from the CAMBOT instrument on #IceBridge shows a melt pond with surface rippling, as seen on Sunday's flight.

From Sunday's #IceBridge flight: Emerald green ponds weave around ice and debris near the terminus of Russell Glacier, which is showing signs of an early onset into the melt season

"The melt has the potential to accelerate," said MacGregor.


Tsunami Signals to Measure Glacier Calving in Greenland

Scientists have employed a new method utilizing tsunami signals to calculate the calving magnitude of an ocean-terminating glacier in northwestern Greenland, uncovering correlations between calving flux and environmental factors such as air temperature, ice speed, and ocean tides.

The rest / Re: Unsorted
« on: May 10, 2019, 07:15:29 AM »
Helium Is In Short Supply, Hitting Balloons and Scientific Research

There's a major helium shortage affecting a host of industries — and it's not clear how anyone is going to solve it.

... Overall U.S. production has fallen as the Bureau of Land Management has been rationing supply since February 2018 after a group of countries lead by Saudi Arabia announced an economic embargo of Qatar. That created chaos in the helium supply chain for weeks as roughly 30 percent of the global supply was taken off the market.

While that has been resolved, new supplies that are supposed to come online have been delayed and unplanned plant outages have further impacted the market

But demand from high-tech manufacturing, including demand from China, is also rising.

In a market dominated by just a few sources, any disruption in the supply chain will have a magnified impact.

"The problem is, helium is being used up faster than it can be produced these days,"


Party City Says It Is Closing 45 Stores Amid a Global Helium Shortage

The rest / Re: Economic Inequality
« on: May 10, 2019, 03:26:23 AM »
Trump Administration Considering Changes That Would Redefine The Poverty Line

The Trump administration is considering changing the way the government measures poverty, which has anti-poverty groups worried that many low-income individuals will be pushed off assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and Head Start.

The possible change would involve adjusting the poverty line annually using a different inflation measure, one that would result in a slower increase over time.

"They have a goal, and the goal is to cut people of low or moderate income off of government assistance," Sherman said of the administration. He noted that the idea is being floated at the same time that the White House is proposing work requirements and steep budget cuts for safety net programs 

Consequences / Re: World of 2030
« on: May 09, 2019, 03:03:43 AM »
A fact is described as a statement that can be verified or proved to be true. Opinion is an expression of judgment or belief about something. Fact relies on observation or research while opinion is based on assumption. The fact is an objective reality whereas opinion is a subjective statement.

The rest / Re: Systemic Isolation
« on: May 06, 2019, 12:38:32 PM »
Maybe not an invisible teapot, but a shiny red Tesla Roadster :)

p.s. You're both wrong, 2D objects can't rotate in 3D space.  :P

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: May 06, 2019, 11:31:03 AM »
Winter Weather Window Is Costing Rapeseed Growers Millions

UK rapeseed growers are losing up to a quarter of their crop yield each year because of temperature increase during an early-winter weather window. 

Based on analysis of climate and yield data, the team calculate that temperature variation during this critical time window can lead to losses of up to £160 million in the UK rapeseed harvest—about 25 percent of the total value.

"The study shows that chilling of the crop in winter is really important for the development of a high yield. But it's not just winter in general, it's a specific time from late November and through December. Our data showed that even if its colder in January and February, it doesn't have the same effect on yield."   

"If you ask farmers why they don't grow more rapeseed, they usually say it's too unreliable," says Professor Penfield. "The data in our study clearly shows temperature is having a direct effect on UK agriculture productivity."

Penfield,, Yield instability of winter oilseed rape modulated by early winter temperature, Scientific Reports (2019)


Banana Disease Boosted by Climate Change

A new study, by the University of Exeter, says changes to moisture and temperature conditions have increased the risk of Black Sigatoka by more than 44% in these areas since the 1960s.

International trade and increased banana production have also aided the spread of Black Sigatoka, which can reduce the fruit produced by infected plants by up to 80%.

"This research shows that climate change has made temperatures better for spore germination and growth, and made crop canopies wetter, raising the risk of Black Sigatoka infection in many banana-growing areas of Latin America." 

The rest / Re: Human Stupidity (Human Mental Illness)
« on: May 03, 2019, 05:21:43 PM »
While I agree that equating 'stupid' with 'mental illness' may be an unfortunate choice of words; after reading the OP of this thread, What can one call the insanity of ignoring our situation with regards to climate change, and failure to act?

And, what is 'insanity,' if not 'mental illness'

From "Age of Stupid":

Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?

1. having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.
"I was stupid enough to think she was perfect"
synonyms:   unintelligent, ignorant, dense, brainless, mindless, foolish, dull-witted, dull, slow-witted, witless, slow, dunce-like, simpleminded, empty-headed, vacuous, vapid, halfwitted, idiotic, moronic, imbecilic, imbecile, obtuse, doltish; gullible, naive;
 informal thick, thick as two short planks, dim, dumb, dopey, dozy, crazy, barmy, cretinous, birdbrained, peabrained, pig-ignorant, bovine, slow on the uptake, soft in the head, brain-dead, boneheaded, lamebrained, thickheaded, chuckleheaded, dunderheaded, wooden, wooden-headed, fat-headed, muttonheaded; informaldaft, not the full shilling; vulgar slang dumb-ass
"they're not as stupid as they look"
foolish, silly, unintelligent, idiotic, brainless, mindless, scatterbrained, crackbrained, nonsensical, senseless, irresponsible, unthinking, ill-advised, ill-considered, inept, witless, damfool, unwise, injudicious, indiscreet, short-sighted;
inane, absurd, ludicrous, ridiculous, laughable, risible, fatuous, asinine, pointless, meaningless, futile, fruitless, mad, insane, lunatic;
informalcrazy, dopey, cracked, half-baked, cock-eyed, harebrained, nutty, potty, dotty, batty, derpy, barmy, gormless, cuckoo, loony, loopy, zany, screwy, off one's head, off one's trolley, out to lunch;

Humans are kinda like this:

Permafrost / Re: Permafrost general science thread
« on: May 03, 2019, 05:25:08 AM »
Permafrost is Thawing in the Arctic So Fast Scientists are Losing Their Equipment

Permafrost in some areas of the Canadian Arctic is thawing so fast that it's gulping up the equipment left there to study it.

"The ground thaws and swallows it," said Merritt Turetsky, a University of Guelph biologist whose new research warns the rapid thaw could dramatically increase the amounts of greenhouse gases released from ancient plants and animals frozen within the tundra.

...  "We've put cameras in the ground, we've put temperature equipment in the ground, and it gets flooded. It often happens so fast we can't get out there and rescue it.

"We've lost dozens of field sites. We were collecting data on a forest and all of a sudden it's a lake."

Nearly one-fifth of Arctic permafrost is now vulnerable to rapid warming, Turetsky's paper suggests. Plenty of it is in Canada, such as in the lowlands south of Hudson Bay.

Soil analysis found those quickly thawing areas also contain the most carbon. Nearly 80 per cent of them hold at least 70 kilograms of carbon per cubic metre.

That suggests permafrost is likely to release up to 50 per cent more greenhouse gases than climate scientists have believed. As well, much of it will be released as methane, which is about 30 per cent more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Open Access: Merritt R. Turetsky et al. Permafrost collapse is accelerating carbon release, Nature (2019)

Arctic sea ice / Re: What's new in the Arctic ?
« on: May 03, 2019, 05:08:58 AM »
Russian Arctic Researchers Evacuate Station as Polar Ice Cracks

Researchers from the Russian Hydrometeorological Institute, Roshydromet, had to flee from their Arctic station on Monday when the ice floe they were working on started to vanish from under their feet.

The scientists, who are studying pollution in Russia’s Arctic region, had been on the ice for more than a month when the emergency struck and they had to pack up their equipment and evacuate. The whole process took less than three hours, the camp organizers say.

Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: May 02, 2019, 10:58:02 PM »
Forest Fires Accelerating Snowmelt Across Western US, Study Finds

Forest fires are causing snow to melt earlier in the season, a trend occurring across the western U.S. that may affect water supplies and trigger even more fires, according to a new study by a team of researchers at Portland State University (PSU) , the Desert Research Institute (DRI), and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Researchers found that more than 11 percent of all forests in the West are currently experiencing earlier snowmelt and snow disappearance as a result of fires. ... They found that not only did snow melt an average five days earlier after a fire than before all across the West, but the accelerated timing of the snowmelt continued for as many as 15 years.

"This fire effect on earlier snowmelt is widespread across the West and is persistent for at least a decade following fire," said Kelly Gleason, the lead author

... In the last 20 years, there's been a four-fold increase in the amount of energy absorbed by snowpack because of fires across the West.

Open Access: Kelly E. Gleason et al, Four-fold increase in solar forcing on snow in western U.S. burned forests since 1999, Nature Communications (2019)

NASA's New Carbon Observatory is Set for Launch Despite Trump's Efforts to Ax It

A NASA instrument designed to track carbon in Earth's atmosphere is headed to the International Space Station next week, and the president isn't happy about it.

President Donald Trump slashed funding for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 and four other Earth science missions in his proposed spending plan for the 2018 fiscal year, citing "budget constraints" and "higher priorities within Science." His budget for fiscal year 2019 tried to defund them again.

In both cases, Congress decided to keep the OCO-3 mission going anyway. Now it is set to launch as soon as Tuesday.

OCO-3 was built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., for less than $100 million, using parts left over from its predecessor, OCO-2. Once the carbon observatory gets to the ISS, a robotic arm will mount it on the underside of the space station so it can keep a close eye on the carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere.


Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2


After a Decade, NASA Finally Reveals Root Cause of Two Failed Rocket Launches

An Oregon-based company falsified aluminum certification tests for nearly two decades.

A little more than a decade ago, on February 24, 2009, a Taurus XL rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying a NASA satellite OCO-1 designed to measure carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. However, the payload never properly separated from the rocket, and due to the extra mass, the combined spacecraft and rocket failed to reach orbit.

Two years after this, on March 4, 2011, another Taurus XL rocket launched from Vandenberg, again carrying a science payload for NASA. This Glory satellite would have measured the properties of sulfate and other aerosols in the atmosphere. Again, the payload failed to properly separate from the rocket, and it was a total loss.

Combined, the loss of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory and Glory satellites cost the space agency $700 million (... and 10 years of high resolution CO2 data). In the years since, the space agency's Launch Services Program and the rocket's manufacturer, Orbital Sciences—which has since been acquired by Northrop Grumman—have been conducting investigations into what happened.

Over time, some information has come out. Shortly after the launches, it was clear the payload fairing had failed to separate from the two rockets. And in 2015, the company that supplied aluminum extrusions for the four-stage, solid-rocket Taurus XL booster, Sapa Profiles Inc. (SPI), admitted that it had falsified quality control test results for its products.

But only now has the story emerged in greater detail. This week, NASA posted a summary of its decade-long investigation into the mission failures. Long story short: faulty aluminum extrusions used in the mechanism by which the payload separates from the rocket, known as a frangible joint, prevented the separation from fully occurring. Much of the report drills down into the process by which NASA reached and then substantiated this conclusion.

The investigation found that SPI had falsified records about the materials used in its extrusions for about a decade. Internal, handwritten accounts of SPI's material properties tests revealed that the company made alterations to more than 2,000 test results between about 1996 and 2006, affecting more than 200 customers.

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