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  • richardmitnick 7:52 am on July 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth Observation, , Moho-boundary of the Earth’s crust and the mantle, ,   

    From University of Cambridge: “Crystal clocks’ used to time magma storage before volcanic eruptions” 

    U Cambridge bloc

    From University of Cambridge

    18 July, 2019
    Sarah Collins

    Magma erupting at the Holuhraun lava field in August 2014. Credit: Bob White

    The molten rock that feeds volcanoes can be stored in the Earth’s crust for as long as a thousand years, a result which may help with volcanic hazard management and better forecasting of when eruptions might occur.

    Researchers from the University of Cambridge used volcanic minerals known as ‘crystal clocks’ to calculate how long magma can be stored in the deepest parts of volcanic systems. This is the first estimate of magma storage times near the boundary of the Earth’s crust and the mantle, called the Moho. The results are reported in the journal Science.

    “This is like geological detective work,” said Dr Euan Mutch from Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, and the paper’s first author. “By studying what we see in the rocks to reconstruct what the eruption was like, we can also know what kind of conditions the magma is stored in, but it’s difficult to understand what’s happening in the deeper parts of volcanic systems.”

    “Determining how long magma can be stored in the Earth’s crust can help improve models of the processes that trigger volcanic eruptions,” said co-author Dr John Maclennan, also from the Department of Earth Sciences. “The speed of magma rise and storage is tightly linked to the transfer of heat and chemicals in the crust of volcanic regions, which is important for geothermal power and the release of volcanic gases to the atmosphere.”

    The researchers studied the Borgarhraun eruption of the Theistareykir volcano in northern Iceland, which occurred roughly 10,000 years ago, and was fed directly from the Moho.

    This boundary area plays an important role in the processing of melts as they travel from their source regions in the mantle towards the Earth’s surface. To calculate how long the magma was stored at this boundary area, the researchers used a volcanic mineral known as spinel like a tiny stopwatch or crystal clock.

    Using the crystal clock method, the researchers were able to model how the composition of the spinel crystals changed over time while the magma was being stored. Specifically, they looked at the rates of diffusion of aluminium and chromium within the crystals and how these elements are ‘zoned’.

    “Diffusion of elements works to get the crystal into chemical equilibrium with its surroundings,” said Maclennan. “If we know how fast they diffuse we can figure out how long the minerals were stored in the magma.”

    The researchers looked at how aluminium and chromium were zoned in the crystals and realised that this pattern was telling them something exciting and new about magma storage time. The diffusion rates were estimated using the results of previous lab experiments. The researchers then used a new method, combining finite element modelling and Bayesian nested sampling to estimate the storage timescales.

    “We now have really good estimates in terms of where the magma comes from in terms of depth,” said Mutch. “No one’s ever gotten this kind of timescale information from the deeper crust.”

    Calculating the magma storage time also helped the researchers determine how magma can be transferred to the surface. Instead of the classical model of a volcano with a large magma chamber beneath, the researchers say that instead, it’s more like a volcanic ‘plumbing system’ extending through the crust with lots of small ‘spouts’ where magma can be quickly transferred to the surface.

    A second paper by the same team, recently published in Nature Geoscience, found that that there is a link between the rate of ascent of the magma and the release of CO2, which has implications for volcano monitoring.

    The researchers observed that enough CO2 was transferred from the magma into gas over the days before eruption to indicate that CO2 monitoring could be a useful way of spotting the precursors to eruptions in Iceland. Based on the same set of crystals from Borgarhraun, the researchers found that magma can rise from a chamber 20 kilometres deep to the surface in as little as four days.

    The research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

    See the full article here.


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    U Cambridge Campus

    The University of Cambridge (abbreviated as Cantab in post-nominal letters) is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university. It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

    Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 constituent colleges and over 100 academic departments organised into six schools. The university occupies buildings throughout the town, many of which are of historical importance. The colleges are self-governing institutions founded as integral parts of the university. In the year ended 31 July 2014, the university had a total income of £1.51 billion, of which £371 million was from research grants and contracts. The central university and colleges have a combined endowment of around £4.9 billion, the largest of any university outside the United States. Cambridge is a member of many associations and forms part of the “golden triangle” of leading English universities and Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre. The university is closely linked with the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fen”.

  • richardmitnick 8:25 am on July 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Teams Invited to Test Coastal Hyperspectral Imaging Algorithms", , , Earth Observation,   

    From Eos: “Teams Invited to Test Coastal Hyperspectral Imaging Algorithms” 

    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    Margaret A. McManus

    Eric Hochberg

    Hyperspectral Remote Sensing of Coastal and Inland Waters Webinar; 28 May 2019

    Hyperspectral imagery collected by NASA’s Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) shows part of Swain Reefs off the eastern coast of Australia. Participants in a webinar last May planned an upcoming technology demonstration of hyperspectral remote sensing algorithms applied to coastal and inland waters. Credit: Eric Hochberg

    Satellite remote sensing using a few discrete wave bands of light, selected to fit the specific application (multispectral imaging), is a well-established means of monitoring the world’s open oceans. Coastal and inland waters are often much more complex, and the methods used to study these waters are more complex as well. These waters have greater sediment and algal loads than the open oceans, and light can reflect off the bottoms of these shallower water bodies, which complicates data analysis.

    Remote sensing of coastal and inland environments requires hyperspectral imaging—simultaneously measuring tens to hundreds of narrow, contiguous wave bands (typically visible through near infrared)—to disentangle multiple confounding signals. Efficient manipulation of large hyperspectral image data volumes, as well as subsequent generation of meaningful and accurate data products, requires sophisticated algorithms, which continue to evolve and improve.

    In May 2018, participants in the Hyperspectral Imaging of Coastal Waters workshop, sponsored by the Alliance for Coastal Technologies (ACT) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recommended a technology demonstration of hyperspectral remote sensing algorithms applied to coastal and inland waters. In May 2019, ACT followed up with an introductory webinar to plan the demonstration.

    Thirty-seven individuals participated in the webinar, representing academic and government research institutions, as well as technology developers from around the globe. There were representatives from ACT, seven members of a technical advisory committee established for this demonstration, four individuals and teams already registered to participate in the demonstration, and seven prospective individuals and teams.

    NOAA established ACT in 2001 to bring about fundamental changes in environmental technology innovation and research and in operations practices. ACT achieves its goal through specific technology transition efforts involving both emerging and commercial technologies. Its efforts include the explicit involvement of resource managers, small- and medium-sized firms, world-class marine science institutions, NOAA, and other federal agencies. ACT’s core efforts are as follows:

    technology evaluations for independent verification and validation of technologies
    technology workshops and webinars for capacity and consensus building and networking
    technology information clearinghouses, including an online technologies database

    For the hyperspectral technology demonstration, ACT is inviting individuals and teams with established processing routines and algorithms to work with highly described hyperspectral data sets and corresponding in situ validation data sets. The goal of the demonstration is to evaluate the capabilities and maturities of various algorithms. This exercise is not a research project; rather, it is an opportunity to enhance communication within the community and to advance future applications of hyperspectral remote sensing in coastal waters.

    Three views of the Torres Strait, between Australia and Papua New Guinea, from the CORAL mission illustrate an example of applied hyperspectral data: pseudotrue color image of 12 flightlines were acquired by the Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM) on 12 October 2016 (left); the results of CORAL data processing estimate the probabilities that image pixels are dominated by coral, algae, or sand (middle); and a map of the percentages of coral-dominated pixels in 1 × 1 kilometer grid cells, which enables researchers to fulfill CORAL’s science objective of investigating reef condition in relation to large-scale biogeophysical forcings (right). PRISM data collected for CORAL are freely downloadable.

    Data sets being used in the hyperspectral algorithm technology demonstration characterize kelp forests, coral reefs, harmful algal blooms (including those in inland waters), sea grass, and water quality. It is not required that all individuals and teams work with all data sets. Individuals and teams will select the data sets they are most familiar with, and they are welcome to work with more than one data set or contribute additional data sets that will be made available to all demonstration participants.

    The resulting data products are useful to scientists developing a greater understanding of these natural systems, as well as to resource managers tasked with conservation and decision-making. The data products also support future hyperspectral missions such as NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) and Surface Biology and Geology (SBG).

    The hyperspectral algorithm technology demonstration will be conducted over a 4- to 6-month time frame. The original request for technology was released 20 March 2019. The deadline for individuals and teams to register to participate is 31 August 2019.

    ACT anticipates an additional webinar or in-person workshop in fall 2019. Technology demonstration results will then be shared in a final workshop at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in winter 2020. The overarching goal of the demonstration includes publishing individual project results and synthesis papers on learned best practices. Several manuscripts and a final report are expected to result from these collaborations.

    ACT continues to accept applications to participate in the demonstration. Please contact Thomas Johengen with expressions of interest. ACT will pay for travel costs for one to two members of each team to attend workshops.

    See the full article here .


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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 1:12 pm on July 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Coral on the move to escape sea heat, , Earth Observation, ,   

    From University of Washington and COSMOS: “Reefs on the move- Coral reefs shifting away from equator, new study finds” 

    U Washington

    From University of Washington


    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    July 9, 2019

    Corals and kelp.Soyoka Muko/Nagasaki University

    Coral reefs are retreating from equatorial waters and establishing new reefs in more temperate regions, according to new research published July 4 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. The researchers found that the number of young corals on tropical reefs has declined by 85% — and doubled on subtropical reefs — during the last four decades.

    “Climate change seems to be redistributing coral reefs, the same way it is shifting many other marine species,” said lead author Nichole Price, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine. “The clarity in this trend is stunning, but we don’t yet know whether the new reefs can support the incredible diversity of tropical systems.”

    As climate change warms the ocean, subtropical environments are becoming more favorable for corals than the equatorial waters where they traditionally thrived. This is allowing drifting coral larvae to settle and grow in new regions. These subtropical reefs could provide refuge for other species challenged by climate change and new opportunities to protect these fledgling ecosystems.

    “This study is a great example of the importance of collaborating internationally to assess global trends associated with climate change and project future ecological interactions,” said co-author Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “It also provides a nugget of hope for the resilience and survival of coral reefs.”

    The researchers believe that only certain types of coral are able to reach these new locations, based on how far the microscopic larvae can swim and drift on currents before they run out of their limited fat stores. The exact composition of most new reefs is currently unknown, due to the expense of collecting genetic and species diversity data.

    “We are seeing ecosystems transition to new blends of species that have never coexisted, and it’s not yet clear how long it takes for these systems to reach equilibrium,” said co-author Satoshi Mitarai, an associate professor at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University who earned his doctorate at the UW. “The lines are really starting to blur about what a native species is, and when ecosystems are functioning or falling apart.”

    The study site on Palmyra Atoll, one of the Northern Line Islands that lies between Hawaii and American Samoa.
    Nichole Price/Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

    This experiment in the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific is allowing researchers to enumerate the number of baby corals settling on a reef.

    Recent studies show that corals are establishing new reefs in temperate regions as they retreat from increasingly warmer waters at the equator.

    Writing in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series [above], researchers from 17 institutions in six countries report that the number of young corals has declined by 85% on tropical reefs during the last four decades, but -doubled on subtropical reefs.

    “Climate change seems to be redistributing coral reefs, the same way it is shifting many other marine species,” says lead author Nichole Price, from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, US.

    “The clarity in this trend is stunning, but we don’t yet know whether the new reefs can support the incredible diversity of tropical systems.”

    The research team has compiled a global database of studies dating back to 1974, when record-keeping began. They hope other scientists will add to it, making it increasingly comprehensive and useful to other research questions.

    See the full U Washington article here .
    See the full COSMOS article here .


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    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 12:55 pm on July 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth Observation, ICE symposium,   

    From Stanford Earth: “Ice-observing experts gather at Stanford” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    From From Stanford Earth

    July 09, 2019

    Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland. (Photo credit: Adam Jang/Unsplash)

    Stanford Earth is hosting more than 100 scientists from around the world July 8-12 for an International Glaciological Society (IGS) symposium on the cutting-edge field of ice-penetrating radar.

    For the first time, Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth) is hosting the International Glaciological Society (IGS) for a symposium on the cutting-edge field of ice-penetrating radar. More than 100 scientists from around the world are gathering July 8-12 for the symposium, “Five Decades of Radioglaciology.” Radioglaciology is the study of ice sheets, glaciers, and icy planets using radar to observe processes and conditions below the surface.

    On Monday, July 8, members from the Stanford Radio Glaciology research group led a pre-symposium short course on ice-penetrating radar science and engineering for student and early-career researchers visiting campus for the symposium.

    “Our research focuses on advancing the scientific and technical foundations of geophysical ice-penetrating radar, so it’s an honor to host the international radioglaciology community here on campus,” said symposium organizer Dustin Schroeder, an assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford Earth. “The additional opportunity for my students, postdocs, and me to share our knowledge and love of the subject with a whole new group of young students and researchers makes it really special.”

    Anna Broome, a PhD student in Electrical Engineering and a member of the Stanford Radio Glaciology research group teaches a lecture on radar systems on Monday, July 9. (Photo credit: Matt Chalker)

    A powerful technique

    Radio-echo sounding is a powerful geophysical technique for understanding subsurface conditions of terrestrial and planetary ice masses at local, regional and global scales. Airborne radar-sounding data captured with airplanes or drones have been used to observe ice thickness, topography and glacial layers for more than five decades.

    More recently, scientists also have used radar-sounding data to estimate the extent and configuration of subglacial water, the ice-sheet surface, the geometry of subglacial bedforms, the spatial variation of basal melt, the temperature within glaciers, and the transition between frozen and thawed beds.

    Additionally, planetary radar sounders have been used or are planned to observe the subsurface and near-surface conditions of Mars, Earth’s Moon, comets, and the icy moons of Jupiter. These instruments provide critical subsurface context for surface-sensing, particle, and potential-field instruments in planetary exploration payloads.

    The symposium’s sessions span advances in radar-sounding systems, mission concepts, signal processing, data analysis, modeling and scientific interpretation.

    “So many of the critical processes governing the evolution, stability, and sea-level contributions of Earth’s continental ice sheets are occurring far beneath the surface. So it’s great to have a week dedicated to exchanging ideas with other researches advancing our ability to observe and investigate those processes using ice-penetrating radar,” said Schroeder, who is also an assistant professor of electrical engineering by courtesy and an affiliate of the Woods Institute for the Environment.

    See the full article here .

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    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 12:49 pm on July 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Rare Lava Lake Found on Top of Sub-Antarctic Volcano" on the summit of Mount Michael on Saunders Island, , Earth Observation, , ,   

    From smithsonian com: “Rare Lava Lake Found on Top of Sub-Antarctic Volcano” 

    From smithsonian.com

    Satellite data located the persistent pool of liquid rock on top of Mt. Michael on Saunders Island, part of the South Sandwich Islands.

    July 8, 2019
    Jason Daley

    Hollywood would have you believe that at the peak of most volcanoes is a roiling, red-hot lake of lava, perfect for human sacrifices or killing James Bond. Persistent lava lakes are actually quite rare; of Earth’s roughly 1,500 volcanoes, only seven are known to have lava lakes. So, the discovery of an eighth lava-topped volcano in the sub-Antarctic Sandwich Islands is a big deal, according to a new study in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.

    (British Antarctic Survey)

    The new lava lake is found on the summit of Mount Michael on Saunders Island, which is part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. According to a press release from the British Antarctic Survey, the hot spot was originally hinted at in 2001 when low-resolution satellite data showed a geothermal anomaly at the top of the peak.

    Geologists used higher resolution satellite images of the mountain taken between 2003 and 2018 and cross-referenced that information with additional datasets going back 30 years. Using advanced image processing techniques, they were able to determine that a lake of fire roughly 300 to 700 feet wide was present throughout the time period. They estimated that the lava lake is smoldering between 1,800 and 2,300 Fahrenheit.

    So why didn’t researchers just climb the mountain and peer over the edge? Danielle Gray from University College London, first author of the study, explains that traveling to Saunders Island is extremely difficult and getting to the top is likely impossible except to elite mountaineers.

    Aerial photograph of Mount Michael. Credit: Pete Bucktrout (British Antarctic Survey)

    “It has been visited at the bottom very rarely, and no one has ever got to the summit,” study co-author Alex Burton-Johnson of the British Antarctic Survey tells Tom Metcalfe at LiveScience.

    The next step in investigating the lava lake is to send a drone or aircraft over the mountain. But even that will take some complicated logistics and lots of money. “The problem is that the South Sandwich Islands are so incredibly remote, there is very little ship traffic that goes past there,” says Burton-Johnson. “So there are not a huge amount of opportunities for research vessels in that area.”

    The discovery of the new lake will help researchers understand how to monitor volcanoes from space and teach them more about the rare, persistent lava pools, which also occur on the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia; Mount Erebus in Antarctica; Kilauea on the island of Hawaii, Mount Yasur and Ambrym in Vanuatu; and Masaya in Nicaragua.

    Why do these volcanoes maintain liquid lava lakes while the molten rock congeals and plugs up most other volcanoes? Burton-Johnson tells Metcalfe that in most cases the steam and superheated gases that power volcanic eruptions isn’t enough to keep rock molten at the surface. But in a few special cases, the gases remain at high enough temperatures to keep a bright orange cauldron of lava bubbling at the summit.

    See the full article here .


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    Smithsonian magazine and Smithsonian.com place a Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.

  • richardmitnick 12:18 pm on July 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Atacama Desert-Chile-strange ice spire formations – called 'penitentes', , Earth Observation, ,   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via Science Alert: “Eerie Ice ‘Spires’ Harbor Life Forms in One of The Harshest Environments on Earth” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder



    Science Alert

    9 JUL 2019

    Penitentes ice formations in Chajnantor, Chile. (ESO)

    They’re one of the weirdest, most incongruous-looking natural phenomena you could ever see on Earth’s surface: massive dagger-shaped blades of vertically aligned ice, assembled in mysterious flocks in the middle of the desert.

    These strange ice spire formations – called ‘penitentes’ due to their resemblance to penitent, praying folk – take shape at high altitudes in cold, dry environments, like the hyper-arid wilderness of the Atacama Desert in Chile.

    But their jagged frostiness in the parched land is not the same as lack of hospitality. As it happens, these eerie congregations – aka nieves penitentes – are actually a shelter for invisible life forms.

    In a new study, a team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder trekked up the side of the world’s second-highest volcano, Chile’s Volcán Llullaillaco, and found microbes making a home amongst these silent shards.

    Penitentes on Volcán Llullaillaco in Chile. (Steve Schmidt/CU Boulder)

    “Snow algae have been commonly found throughout the cryosphere on both ice and snow patches, but our finding demonstrated their presence for the first time at the extreme elevation of a hyper-arid site,” says microbial biology researcher Lara Vimercati.

    “Interestingly, most of the snow algae found at this site are closely related to other known snow algae from alpine and polar environments.”

    At an elevation of around 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) above sea level, Llullaillaco’s icy penitentes revealed patches of red colouration, which the team says is a pigment-based signature of microbial activity in snow and ice formations.

    Taking samples back to the lab, the researchers identified microbes dominated by the algal genera Chlamydomonas and Chloromonas – the first time, the team says, that scientists have reported microbial life inhabiting these strange ice structures.

    “Given the harshness of the environments where they are found, nieves penitentes may represent oases for life, because, along with fumaroles [gassy vent-like openings in Earth’s crust], they represent intermittent water sources in these very arid environments,” the authors explain in their paper [below].

    It’s not just a new discovery for life on Earth, either, as the implications of the research might extend even further, hypothetically speaking.

    Penitentes on Volcán Llullaillaco in Chile. (Steve Schmidt/CU Boulder)

    Analogues for Earth’s own icy penitentes have been identified in towering shard-like structures on Pluto and on Jupiter’s Moon Europa – and if the icy shards act as a watery oasis for life in the dry Andes, it’s just possible that the same could hold elsewhere in the Solar System.

    “This first report of snow algae occurring in penitente ice opens the door to future work that will address the altitudinal limits of these communities,” the researchers conclude.

    There’s still much to learn about how these microbial populations got to their dagger-shaped homes, the team says – including figuring out whether they contribute to the formation of the shards somehow, or simply migrate there afterwards.

    While the answers may be hard to come by given the difficulty of travelling to the extreme, remote environments in which penitentes arise, future science beckons nonetheless.

    “We’re generally interested in the adaptations of organisms to extreme environments,” says one of the team, microbial ecologist Steve Schmidt.

    “This could be a good place to look for [the] upper limits of life.”

    The findings are reported in Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research.

    See the full article here .


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    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

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  • richardmitnick 7:23 am on July 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Deleting mentions of ‘climate change’ from U.S. Geological Survey press releases, Earth Observation, ,   

    From Science Magazine: “Trump officials deleting mentions of ‘climate change’ from U.S. Geological Survey press releases” 

    From Science Magazine

    Jul. 8, 2019
    Scott Waldman

    Under Director James Reilly, the U.S. Geological Survey has drawn criticism for deemphasizing concerns about climate change. NASA

    A March news release from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) touted a new study that could be useful for infrastructure planning along the California coastline.

    At least that’s how President Donald Trump’s administration conveyed it.

    The news release hardly stood out. It focused on the methodology of the study rather than its major findings, which showed that climate change could have a withering effect on California’s economy by inundating real estate over the next few decades.

    An earlier draft of the news release, written by researchers, was sanitized by Trump administration officials, who removed references to the dire effects of climate change after delaying its release for several months, according to three federal officials who saw it. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, would face more than $100 billion in damages related to climate change and sea-level rise by the end of the century. It found that three to seven times more people and businesses than previously believed would be exposed to severe flooding.

    “We show that for California, USA, the world’s fifth largest economy, over $150 billion of property equating to more than 6% of the state’s GDP and 600,000 people could be impacted by dynamic flooding by 2100,” the researchers wrote in the study.

    The release fits a pattern of downplaying climate research at USGS and in other agencies within the administration. While USGS does not appear to be halting the pursuit of science, it has publicly communicated an incomplete account of the peer-reviewed research or omitted it under President Trump.

    “It’s been made clear to us that we’re not supposed to use climate change in press releases anymore. They will not be authorized,” one federal researcher said, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisal.

    In the Obama administration, press releases related to climate change were typically approved within days, researchers said. Now, they can take more than six months and go through the offices of political appointees, where they are often altered, several researchers told E&E News.

    In the case of the California coastline study, the press release went through the office of James Reilly, the director of USGS, a former astronaut who is attempting to minimize the consideration of climate change in agency decisions. Reilly is preparing a directive for agency scientists to use climate models that predict changes through 2040, when the effect of emissions is expected to be less severe. The New York Times first reported on the directive.

    At his 2018 confirmation hearing, Reilly promised to protect the agency’s scientific integrity.

    “If someone were to come to me and say, ‘I want you to change this because it’s the politically right thing to do,’ I would politely decline,” Reilly told lawmakers. “I’m fully committed to scientific integrity.”

    A spokeswoman for USGS said the agency has no formal policy to avoid references to climate change.

    “There is no policy nor directive in place that directs us to avoid mentioning climate change in our communication materials,” said Karen Armstrong, the spokeswoman.

    “Scientists at USGS regularly develop new methods and tools to supply timely, relevant and useful information about our planet and its processes, and we are committed to promoting the science they develop and making it broadly available,” she added.

    The agency’s press release about the California coastline study was significantly altered to mask the potential impact of rising temperatures on the state’s economy. Instead, it described the methodology of the study and how it relied on “state-of-the-art computer models” and various sea-level rise predictions.

    “USGS scientists and collaborators used state-of-the-art computer models to determine the coastal flooding and erosion that could result from a range of peer-reviewed, published 21st-century sea level rise and storm scenarios,” the final press release said. “The authors then translated those hazards into a range of projected economic and social exposure data to show the lives and dollars that could be at risk from climate change in California during the 21st century.”

    The USGS release didn’t include the dollar figures outlined in the study.

    An earlier draft of the press release, which was put online by the environmental group Point Blue Conservation Science, a participant in the study, compared the possible effect on Californians to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The release had stark recommendations for coastal planners and emphasized that by the end of the century, a typical winter storm could threaten $100 billion in coastal real estate annually.

    “According to the study, even modest sea level rise projections of ten inches (25 centimeters) by 2040 could flood more than 150,000 residents and affect more than $30 billion in property value when combined with an extreme 100-year storm along California’s coast,” the draft stated. “Societal exposure that included storms was up to seven times greater than with sea level rise alone.”

    The agency has omitted climate change from other press releases.

    A release in 2017 that publicized a study on how polar bears were expending more energy due to a loss of sea ice did not mention climate change. It noted that a “moving treadmill of sea ice” in the warming Arctic forced polar bears to hunt for more seals and placed pressure on their population in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, without stating that climate change is a key driver of sea ice conditions.

    Another USGS release, on shifting farming regions due to climate change, mentioned “future high-temperature extremes” and “future climate conditions” but not climate change. The first sentence of the study that it was intended to promote mentions climate change. It was published in Scientific Reports.

    Some of the USGS studies point to national security repercussions. One study released last year found that a military installation in the Pacific Ocean that would play a role in a possible nuclear strike by North Korea could become uninhabitable in less than two decades due to climate change. The study, which was ordered by the Department of Defense, was released by USGS without a press release.

    USGS conducts important climate research and manages the Landsat satellite system that has tracked human-caused global changes for almost 50 years. Government researchers study sea-level rise and glacial melt and manage regional climate adaptation centers housed at universities from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

    Allowing valuable information to fall through the cracks is a waste of taxpayer dollars and could prevent science from being included in policy decisions, said Joel Clement, a former climate staffer for the Department of the Interior, USGS’s parent agency. Clement, who is now a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said the promotion of studies is an important way to get information into the hands of planners, homeowners, and policymakers. He said Interior appears to be suppressing climate science.

    “It’s an insult to the science, of course, but it’s also an insult to the people who need this information and whose livelihoods and in some cases their lives depend on this,” Clement said. “What’s shocking about it is that this has been taken to a new level, where information that is essential to economic and health and safety—essentially American well-being—is essentially being shelved and being hidden.”

    In the last year of the Obama administration, USGS distributed at least 13 press releases that focused on climate change and highlighted it in the headline, according to an E&E News review. Since then — from 2017 through the first six months of 2019 — none has mentioned climate change in the headline of the press release, according to the list of state and national releases posted on the USGS website. Some briefly mentioned climate change in the body of the release, while others did not refer to it at all.

    Other studies have been quietly buried on the agency’s webpages.

    That subtle form of suppression fits a pattern elsewhere in the federal government.

    Politico recently reported that officials at the Department of Agriculture buried dozens of studies related to climate change. In one case, agency officials tried to prevent outside groups from disseminating a climate-related study. The research looked at how rice provides less nutrition in a carbon-rich environment. That could have global consequences because hundreds of millions of people have rice-based diets around the world.

    The Interior Department has been accused of deleting climate change references from previous press releases. In 2017, The Washington Post reported that the agency deleted a line mentioning climate change in a press release about a study on flood risks to coastal communities. That line was: “Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.”

    Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former energy lobbyist, is under investigation for his ties to the energy industry while serving in government. A separate investigation is exploring whether he sought to block an Interior Department study on the dangers that a pesticide posed to endangered species.

    There is no evidence that Trump political appointees at the agency have blocked climate studies from taking place, but the censoring of press releases has affected the work of researchers worried about their jobs, according to another federal researcher.

    “We are pretty cognizant of political pressures, and with these press releases people are definitely biting their nails over ‘how should we word this’ and if there are proposals within USGS, should we use climate change or not,” the researcher said. “It’s a lot of stuff that definitely filters down, and it affects the reality of people on the ground doing the work when you’re not sure of how I should present this. It’s definitely a huge waste of time.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 2:54 pm on July 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How to Protect Corals Facing Climate Change", , Earth Observation, ,   

    From Rutgers University: “How to Protect Corals Facing Climate Change” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    July 8, 2019

    Todd Bates

    Conserving a wide range of coral habitats is the best strategy.

    The best way to protect corals threatened by climate change is to conserve a wide range of their habitats, according to a study in Nature Climate Change. The finding likely applies to conservation efforts for many other species in the ocean and on land, including trees and birds.

    A coral reef off Cuatros Islas in the Philippines.
    Photo: Michelle Stuart/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

    “Rather than conserving just the cold places with corals, we found that the best strategies will conserve a wide diversity of sites,” said co-author Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Hot reefs are important sources of heat-tolerant corals, while cold sites and those in between are important future refuges and stepping stones for corals as the water heats up.”

    Worldwide, about 500 million people rely on coral reefs for food and livelihoods, with billions of dollars a year boosting economies, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion; provide habitat as well as spawning and nursery grounds for fish; and result in income from fishing, recreation and tourism, among other benefits.

    But corals face several threats, including global warming, warm water bleaching episodes, reef destruction, nutrient pollution and ocean acidification from carbon dioxide emitted when fossils fuels burn.

    Predictions about the future of corals are generally grim, the study notes, but there is growing recognition that they can adapt rapidly to a changing climate.

    Pinsky and scientists at the University of Washington, Utah State University, Coral Reef Alliance, Stanford University and University of Queensland in Australia modeled how different conservation strategies might help coral reefs survive climate change. Previous research addressed where to establish marine protected areas to help corals, but nearly all studies overlooked the fact that corals can also evolve in response to climate change, Pinsky said.

    The researchers evaluated a range of potential conservation strategies, including those that: protected sites where existing coral populations appeared to be “preadapted” to future conditions; conserved sites suitable for corals to move to in the future; conserved sites with large populations of certain species; conserved the smallest populations; or protected reef sites chosen at random. The researchers found that conserving many different kinds of reefs would work best.

    “Corals are facing a gauntlet over the coming years and decades from warming oceans, but we found that reef conservation in general can really boost corals’ ability to evolve and cope with these changes,” Pinsky said. “There is strength in diversity, even when it comes to corals. We need to think not only about saving the cooler places, where corals can best survive in the future, but also the hot places that already have heat-resistant corals. It’s about protecting a diversity of habitats, which scientists hadn’t fully appreciated before.”

    The researchers are developing regional models to test conservation strategies for the Caribbean Sea, the central Pacific Ocean and the Coral Triangle in the western Pacific, he said. They want to understand how the most effective conservation strategies differ from one region to the next.

    “We are working closely with conservation groups that will be applying the guidelines and findings from this study to coral reef conservation around the world,” Pinsky said.

    See the full article here .


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    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

  • richardmitnick 9:55 am on July 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Cave secrets unlocked to show past drought and rainfall patterns", A first-ever global analysis of cave drip waters has shown where stalagmites can provide vital clues towards understanding past rainfall patterns., , as revealed in the stalagmites., Earth Observation, Oxygen isotopes in the drip waters corresponded to just some of the rain events, Stalagmites and stalactites,   

    From University of New South Wales: “Cave secrets unlocked to show past drought and rainfall patterns” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    08 Jul 2019
    Lachlan Gilbert

    Global trends in cave waters identify how stalagmites reveal past rainfall and drought patterns.

    Stalagmites and stalactites in the Buchan Caves, Victoria, Australia. Picture: Shutterstock

    A first-ever global analysis of cave drip waters has shown where stalagmites can provide vital clues towards understanding past rainfall patterns.

    In a study published recently in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, UNSW Sydney scientists led an international group of researchers to amass the data of 163 drip sites in 39 caves on five continents.

    They found that in climates that have a mean average temperature of less than 10oC, isotopes of oxygen in cave drip water were similarly composed as those measured in rainwater. As UNSW’s Dr Andy Baker explains, this follows what you would expect in colder climates with less evaporation of rainfall.

    “This oxygen in the water drips from the stalactites and onto the stalagmites,” says Dr Baker, from UNSW’s School of Biological and Earth and Environmental Sciences.

    “The drip water originally comes from rainfall, providing a direct link to the surface climate. Understanding the extent to which the oxygen isotopic composition of drip water is related to rainfall is a fundamental research question which will unlock the full climate potential of stalagmites and stalactites.”

    But when the researchers examined the oxygen isotopes in drip waters in warmer areas, the oxygen isotopes in the drip waters corresponded to just some of the rain events, as revealed in the stalagmites. Dr Baker says that in such climates, evaporation not only reduces the amount of rainwater that eventually makes its way to the groundwater (a process known as rainfall recharge), but the oxygen isotopes themselves are changed by this process.

    “In hotter climates, recharge to the subsurface doesn’t occur from all rain events, rather it likely only occurs after very heavy rain, or seasonally. This study identifies this for the first time and also provides a range of temperatures constraints – this was never known before,” he says.

    Dripping station at the Arcy-sur-Cure Cave (Yonne, Central-France). The dripping water is regularly sampled at this station and the modern calcite is gathered on a glass. Picture: D. Genty

    In effect, he says, oxygen isotopes in stalagmites in warmer climates display the balance between wet weather events and prolonged periods of drying.

    “For stalagmites in warm regions it suggests that the oxygen isotope composition will tell us about when recharge occurred – in other words, when, and how often,” Dr Baker says.

    “And that is as valuable as it is unique. In regions like mainland Australia, with extreme weather events like drought and flooding rains, it’s a tool to see how often both occurred in the past.”

    Dr Baker says that with this knowledge it will help us understand how important rainfall is in the replenishment of our groundwater resource.

    “This knowledge will improve our understanding of how sustainable our use of groundwater is, especially in regions where groundwater is only recharged by rain,” he says.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

  • richardmitnick 11:46 am on July 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth Observation, It is made up of some 20 million metric tons of Sargassum algae– more than the weight of 200 fully loaded aircraft carriers., , Sargassum provides habitats for turtles crabs fish and birds while also producing oxygen for marine life to live off through the process of photosynthesis., , Scientists have measured what they say is the largest seaweed bloom on record stretching 8850 kilometres (nearly 5500 miles) across the Atlantic Ocean, Too much of the algae can cause problems in terms of restricting the movement and breathing of certain marine species.   

    From Science Alert: “Scientists Discover The Largest Seaweed Bloom Ever Found, And It’s Still Growing” 


    From Science Alert

    6 JUL 2019

    Scientists have measured what they say is the largest seaweed bloom on record, stretching 8,850 kilometres (nearly 5,500 miles) across the Atlantic Ocean and made up of some 20 million metric tons of Sargassum algae – more than the weight of 200 fully loaded aircraft carriers.

    The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, as it’s being called, is expanding due to nutrients washed out from the Amazon river on one side and the West African coast on the other, some of which may be due to increased deforestation and fertiliser use.

    Using satellite data from NASA as well as samples collected in the field, the researchers have identified a tipping point that happened back in 2011. Since then, there have been major blooms almost every year, and there’s no sign of that trend changing – the latest spread stretched all the way from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.

    Spreading sargassum. (Wang et al., Science., 2019)

    The scientists have linked that change to an increase in deforestation and fertiliser use in Brazil and across the Amazon, beginning at the start of the decade, though the association isn’t yet clear-cut.

    While the researchers aren’t ready to say exactly what’s causing the bloom, they feel confident it’s not going away any time soon.

    “The evidence for nutrient enrichment is preliminary and based on limited field data and other environmental data, and we need more research to confirm this hypothesis,” says study leader and oceanographer Chuanmin Hu, from the University of South Florida.

    “On the other hand, based on the last 20 years of data, I can say that the belt is very likely to be a new normal.”

    So what does this mammoth bloom mean for our oceans? Unfortunately we don’t know enough to say just yet.

    Seaweed blooms like this aren’t necessarily bad for the ocean: sargassum provides habitats for turtles, crabs, fish and birds, while also producing oxygen for marine life to live off through the process of photosynthesis.

    But too much of the algae can cause problems, in terms of restricting the movement and breathing of certain marine species, especially around coastal regions. After it dies, the sargassum can choke corals and seagrass if there’s too much of it in the water.

    Rotting sargassum on the beach also gives off a rotten egg smell thanks to the hydrogen sulphide it releases, and that means an unpleasant experience for locals and tourists, as well as potential impacts on health (for those with asthma, for example).

    (Brian Cousin/Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute)

    The size of the blooms now peak between April and July before slowly dissipating, but some seeds that get left over in the winter then go on to contribute to larger swathes of sargassum the next summer.

    “The ocean’s chemistry must have changed in order for the blooms to get so out of hand,” says Hu. “They are probably here to stay.”

    Many factors play into sargassum growth, including the salinity and temperature of the water, and as yet the scientists don’t have direct readings for nutrient levels for all the years covered by the study – in some cases it’s been estimated based on other signals.

    In 2011 the bloom was particularly widespread, and we’re still seeing the momentum for that now. As well as more nutrients being discharged from the Amazon river, the researchers say, an upwelling or rising in the sea level off West Africa also contributed more nutrients (lifted up from deeper water to the surface).

    Ultimately that led to the enormous bloom that was recorded last summer and detailed in this new study. Now they know the extent of it, the researchers want to further investigate its causes and possible consequences – on precipitation, ocean currents, human activity and more.

    “We hope this provides a framework for improved understanding and response to this emerging phenomenon,” says Hu. “We need a lot more follow-on work.”

    The research has been published in Science.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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