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  • richardmitnick 12:24 pm on December 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , natgeo.com   

    From National Geographics: “7 Stunning Natural Wonders in Australia” 

    National Geographic

    From National Geographics

    October 9, 2017

    1
    Great Barrier Reef. Photograph by Andrew Watson, Getty Images

    The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981. CNN labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Queensland National Trust named it a state icon of Queensland.

    A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism. Other environmental pressures on the reef and its ecosystem include runoff, climate change accompanied by mass coral bleaching, dumping of dredging sludge and cyclic population outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish. According to a study published in October 2012 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985.

    The Great Barrier Reef has long been known to and used by the Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and is an important part of local groups’ cultures and spirituality. The reef is a very popular destination for tourists, especially in the Whitsunday Islands and Cairns regions. Tourism is an important economic activity for the region, generating over AUD$3 billion per year. In November 2014, Google launched Google Underwater Street View in 3D of the Great Barrier Reef.

    A March 2016 report stated that coral bleaching was more widespread than previously thought, seriously affecting the northern parts of the reef as a result of warming ocean temperatures. In October 2016, Outside published an obituary for the reef; the article was criticized for being premature and hindering efforts to bolster the resilience of the reef. In March 2017, the journal Nature published a paper showing that huge sections of an 800-kilometre (500 mi) stretch in the northern part of the reef had died in the course of 2016 due to high water temperatures, an event that the authors put down to the effects of global climate change. The percentage of baby corals being born on the Great Barrier Reef dropped drastically in 2018 and scientists are describing it as the early stage of a “huge natural selection event unfolding”. Many of the mature breeding adults died in the bleaching events of 2016–17 leading to low coral birth rates. The types of corals that reproduced also changed, leading to a “long-term reorganisation of the reef ecosystem if the trend continues.

    The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (section 54) demands every five years an Outlook Report on the Reef’s health, pressures, and future. The last report was published in 2019.

    NEW SOUTH WALES

    2
    https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g528988-d11824986-r586538502-Greenback_Fishing_Scenic_Charters-Lord_Howe_Island.html

    Lord Howe Island is a tiny dot in the Tasman Sea, roughly a third of the way between Australia and New Zealand. Look for massive basalt mountains that rise straight up out of the ocean, with craggy cliffs covered with greenery for a definite South Pacific feel. The hiking is tremendous and often quite strenuous. You also can explore dramatic cliffs with whirling seabirds that rise on furious currents of air. Take a boat out to see Ball’s Pyramid, a 6.4-million-year-old shard of razor-sharp rock that rises straight out of the ocean.

    NORTHERN TERRITORY

    3
    Tolmer Falls is one of many waterfalls and watering holes found in Litchfield National Park.
    Photograph by Stoneography, Getty Images

    Fast-flowing, towering waterfalls and rich, red rock canyons that look like northern Arizona or southern Utah make up Litchfield National Park. Located a short drive south of the capital of Darwin, Litchfield features lush watering holes where you can take a dip and admire ribbons of water tumbling over cliffs lined with deep green trees and orange-red rock. The park offers a series of great hikes that take you through glorious woodlands and past creeks and on to lovely pools and waterfalls.

    TASMANIA

    4
    The beaches and verdant hikes around Wineglass Bay are well worth the effort of getting there. Photograph by Getty Images

    Take a breathtaking mountain hike surrounded by peaks of pink granite, combined with one of Australia’s prettiest white-sand beaches, in Freycinet National Park. Freycinet offers some of Tasmania’s most rewarding hikes, with trails for just about every ability. The short trek to the Wineglass Bay lookout isn’t an easy one, but the views are well worth the effort.

    QUEENSLAND

    5
    The sands of Whitehaven Beach swirl and move with the tide around this stunning island in the Whitsundays. Photograph by Andrew Watson, Getty Images

    The Whitsundays are some of the most beautiful islands on the planet, with swirling, white sand and waves of blue-green water that swirl around into wavy patterns that mesmerize visitors. The islands (there are 74 of them, all in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef) are great for walking and exploring. You’ll find lonely, deserted beaches and some of Australia’s oldest archaeological sites. But the best way to appreciate the majesty of the blue bays and brilliant white sandbars is by plane.

    WESTERN AUSTRALIA

    6
    This distinctive orange “beehive” is one of many remarkable features in the Bungle Bungle Range. Photograph by Steve Waters, Getty Images

    The Bungle Bungles (also known as Purnululu) not only have an awesome name, but they’re one of the most remarkable features on the continent: massive rocks with black and orange stripes that rise like giant knobs from the surrounding outback in the far northwestern part of the state. Indigenous peoples have lived here for centuries, but hardly any non-indigenous folks knew about the region until the 1980s. There are wonderful walks to see hidden gorges and pools. It’s open only in the dry season, usually April to November.

    VICTORIA

    7
    These eye-grabbing rock formations make up the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road. Photograph by Kat Clay, Getty Images

    The Twelve Apostles is a magnificent rock formation found on the Great Ocean Road that has been pummelled by rain, wind, and furious ocean waves for millions of years. The constant attack has worn away sections of the limestone cliffs, leaving towering rock formations offshore that march along the coast in a dramatic golden fashion.

    SOUTH AUSTRALIA

    8
    North of Adelaide lay the colorful rock walls of Flinders Range as well as surrounding indigenous cultures to explore.
    Photograph by Colin Monteath, Getty Images

    The Flinders Ranges are just a few hours’ drive north of Adelaide. You’ll find towering rock walls with wide bands of pale white and ochre-colored rocks that positively glow in the light of sunrise and sunset, as well as spectacular gorges carved out over 800 million years. You’ll also get to experience indigenous culture that dates back 45,000 years. A scenic flight is a great way to see the area, or try a four-wheel-drive tour to experience the terrain on an up-close basis.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:17 am on July 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , natgeo.com   

    From National Geographics: “How artificial intelligence can tackle climate change” 

    National Geographic

    From National Geographics

    July 18, 2019
    Jackie Snow

    1
    Steam and smoke rise from the cooling towers and chimneys of a power plant. Artificial intelligence is being used to prove the case that plants that burn carbon-based fuels aren’t profitable. natgeo.com

    The biggest challenge on the planet might benefit from machine learning to help with solutions. Here are a just a few.

    Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the planet. It will need every solution possible, including technology like artificial intelligence (AI).

    Seeing a chance to help the cause, some of the biggest names in AI and machine learning—a discipline within the field—recently published a paper called Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning The paper, which was discussed at a workshop during a major AI conference in June, was a “call to arms” to bring researchers together, said David Rolnick, a University of Pennsylvania postdoctoral fellow and one of the authors.

    “It’s surprising how many problems machine learning can meaningfully contribute to,” says Rolnick, who also helped organize the June workshop.

    The paper offers up 13 areas where machine learning can be deployed, including energy production, CO2 removal, education, solar geoengineering, and finance. Within these fields, the possibilities include more energy-efficient buildings, creating new low-carbon materials, better monitoring of deforestation, and greener transportation. However, despite the potential, Rolnick points out that this is early days and AI can’t solve everything.

    “AI is not a silver bullet,” he says.

    And though it might not be a perfect solution, it is bringing new insights into the problem. Here are three ways machine learning can help combat climate change.

    Better climate predictions

    This push builds on the work already done by climate informatics, a discipline created in 2011 that sits at the intersection of data science and climate science. Climate informatics covers a range of topics: from improving prediction of extreme events such as hurricanes, paleoclimatology, like reconstructing past climate conditions using data collected from things like ice cores, climate downscaling, or using large-scale models to predict weather on a hyper-local level, and the socio-economic impacts of weather and climate.

    AI can also unlock new insights from the massive amounts of complex climate simulations generated by the field of climate modeling, which has come a long way since the first system was created at Princeton in the 1960s. Of the dozens of models that have since come into existence, all represent atmosphere, oceans, land, cryosphere, or ice. But, even with agreement on basic scientific assumptions, Claire Monteleoni, a computer science professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and a co-founder of climate informatics, points out that while the models generally agree in the short term, differences emerge when it comes to long-term forecasts.

    “There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Monteleoni said. “They don’t even agree on how precipitation will change in the future.”

    One project Monteleoni worked on uses machine learning algorithms to combine the predictions of the approximately 30 climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Better predictions can help officials make informed climate policy, allow governments to prepare for change, and potentially uncover areas that could reverse some effects of climate change.

    Showing the effects of extreme weather

    Some homeowners have already experienced the effects of a changing environment. For others, it might seem less tangible. To make it more realistic for more people, researchers from Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), Microsoft, and ConscientAI Labs used GANs, a type of AI, to simulate what homes are likely to look like after being damaged by rising sea levels and more intense storms.

    “Our goal is not to convince people climate change is real, it’s to get people who do believe it is real to do more about that,” said Victor Schmidt, a co-author of the paper and Ph.D. candidate at MILA.

    So far, MILA researchers have met with Montreal city officials and NGOs eager to use the tool. Future plans include releasing an app to show individuals what their neighborhoods and homes might look like in the future with different climate change outcomes. But the app will need more data, and Schmidt said they eventually want to let people upload photos of floods and forest fires to improve the algorithm.

    “We want to empower these communities to help,” he said.

    Measuring where carbon is coming from

    Carbon Tracker is an independent financial think-tank working toward the UN goal of preventing new coal plants from being built by 2020. By monitoring coal plant emissions with satellite imagery, Carbon Tracker can use the data it gathers to convince the finance industry that carbon plants aren’t profitable.

    A grant from Google is expanding the nonprofit’s satellite imagery efforts to include gas-powered plants’ emissions and get a better sense of where air pollution is coming from. While there are continuous monitoring systems near power plants that can measure CO2 emissions more directly, they do not have global reach.

    “This can be used worldwide in places that aren’t monitoring,” said Durand D’souza, a data scientist at Carbon Tracker. “And we don’t have to ask permission.”

    AI can automate the analysis of images of power plants to get regular updates on emissions. It also introduces new ways to measure a plant’s impact, by crunching numbers of nearby infrastructure and electricity use. That’s handy for gas-powered plants that don’t have the easy-to-measure plumes that coal-powered plants have.

    Carbon Tracker will now crunch emissions for 4,000 to 5,000 power plants, getting much more information than currently available, and make it public. In the future, if a carbon tax passes, remote sensing Carbon Tracker’s could help put a price on emissions and pinpoint those responsible for it.

    “Machine learning is going to help a lot in this field,” D’souza said.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:28 pm on December 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Huge Bubble of Hot Rock May Be Rising Under New England, natgeo.com,   

    From natgeo.com: “Huge Bubble of Hot Rock May Be Rising Under New England” 

    National Geographic

    National Geographics

    December 5, 2017
    Erin Blakemore

    1
    Colorful forests fill the landscape in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Photograph by Berthold Steinhilber, laif, Redux

    At first glance, New England doesn’t seem like a hotbed of geologic activity. The region doesn’t have any rumbling volcanoes. Earthquakes are almost unheard of. And its mountains are mere hills compared to ranges like the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada in the western U.S.

    But don’t underestimate what’s going on beneath the surface: It turns out this idyllic pocket of the northeastern U.S. may sit atop a rising mass of warm rock—a smaller, slower version of the magma pockets under well-known volcanic zones.

    The findings, recently published in the journal Geology, suggest that New England may not be so immune to abrupt geological change.

    A team of researchers at Rutgers University and Yale University made this surprising discovery using an advanced array of seismic sensors, which show what lies in the otherwise hidden rock below our feet.

    “Ten years ago, this would not have been possible,” says study coauthor Vadim Levin, a professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s department of Earth and planetary sciences.

    “Now, all of a sudden, we have a much better eye to see inside the Earth.”

    Rising Rock

    Inside our planet, heat from the volatile core makes its way up through the mantle—the hot, high-pressure zone that lies below the planet’s crust. That heat causes the crust’s tectonic plates to slip and slide around. Where those plates collide or divide is where we most often see mountains, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

    The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in 1996, USGS.

    Since we can’t see that deep into the planet, geologists use seismic vibrations caused by earthquakes to visualize the features within rock. Sensing how fast seismic ripples move, for instance, provides details about the structure and temperature of Earth’s mantle.

    In this case, Levin’s team studied data from EarthScope, a National Science Foundation program that deploys hundreds of geophysical instruments across the United States. The project’s Transportable Array, a temporary network of seismic sensors, made its way around the country starting in 2007. The array picked up readings from small earthquakes and observed the motions of seismic waves in various regions.

    The team piggybacked off previous research showing a relatively hot spot beneath New England’s upper mantle. Using data from EarthScope, they then observed a localized plume of warm rock beneath central Vermont, western New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts—and found geologic evidence that it’s on the move.

    Less dense areas are where the rock is hotter, and seismic waves move more slowly. That’s what the team saw under New England. They also observed wave patterns that suggest deformations in the rock itself.

    Normal plate motion leaves the geologic equivalent of skid marks in its wake, which seismic sensors can detect. In this region, however, the skid marks were gone—erased by the upward movement of warmer rock.

    Shifting Perspectives

    New England residents don’t need to panic. The upwelling is likely tens of millions of years old, which would make it a relatively recent development in geological terms, and it’s moving very slowly. For now, it certainly hasn’t gotten close enough to the surface to shape New England’s geography or create a volcano.

    “Maybe it didn’t have time yet, or maybe it is too small and will never make it,” says Levin. “Come back in 50 million years, and we’ll see what happens.”

    Instead, the discovery is a sign that it may be time to rethink the region’s geology.

    The big takeaway from this paper is that Earth’s structure is even more intricate and dynamic than anyone realized, says Meghan S. Miller, a structural seismologist and associate professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences who was not involved in the project.

    “I think that kind of sounds simple and obvious in retrospect, but the Transportable Array data has allowed us to visualize how complex Earth’s structure really is,” she says.

    The find also helps put the planet in perspective, says Levin. New England has traditionally been considered a place of little geologic change, but EarthScope data suggests that the subsurface reality is anything but stagnant.

    “People think of mountains and lakes and geology as forever—there’s a general sense that Earth is a permanent thing,” says Levin. “Well, it’s not.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:56 pm on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , natgeo.com, SASSEPHOTO, See the Awesome March of the Milky Way Across the Night Sky,   

    From natgeo.com: “See the Awesome March of the Milky Way Across the Night Sky” 

    National Geographic

    National Geographics

    15 May 2017
    Nadia Drake

    A photographer captures rare views of the galaxy as it spirals over southern Australia.

    1
    High overhead, the Milky Way galaxy twists itself into a whirling pinwheel, its glittering stars and dense, dark clouds weaving spirals on the sky.

    At least, that’s the view photographer Christian Sasse revealed when he shared this image of the nighttime sky over southern Australia. Seen from Earth’s vantage point in one arm of the Milky Way, our galaxy appears to dive through the cosmos, its curling spine anchored to the sky by the southern celestial pole — one of the points around which the stars and all their minions appear to wander as Earth spins on its axis.

    2
    Time: 10 minutes
    PHOTOGRAPH BY SASSEPHOTO

    3
    Time: 120 minutes
    PHOTOGRAPH BY SASSEPHOTO

    Sasse made the image he shared on Twitter from a series of 30-second-long exposures, each taken 50 minutes apart, over 10 hours on April 28. He stacked those photographs using Startrails software and then edited the final composite image using Photoshop.

    “The southern sky is fascinating in so many ways,” says Sasse, who set up his gear near one of the telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales.

    5
    Siding Spring, near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia

    AAO 1.2m UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia

    ANU Skymapper telescope, a fully automated 1.35 m (4.4 ft) wide-angle optical telescope, at Siding Spring Observatory , near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia

    Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia

    “I remember hearing the dome roaring deeply all night whenever the telescope moved from object to object.”

    Based in Vancouver, Sasse had travelled to Australia to visit a friend. He rented a small camper van, decked out its interior with the gadgets he’d need to capture both wildlife and the glorious southern sky, and headed out to a spot where “the skies are pristine and you can be all on your own at night … often accompanied by curious kangaroos.”

    Indeed, some of the most notable treasures in the immediate cosmic neighborhood are visible primarily in the south: Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own, the bright star grouping known as the Southern Cross, a dark blotch called the Coalsack Nebula, small satellite galaxies known as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and the glowing backbone of the Milky Way.

    “In the Northern hemisphere, I tend to look South, and in the Southern hemisphere — well, I also look South,” says Sasse, who captured those curiosities in the great looping footprint he constructed.

    Photographers often use a similar technique to create images depicting stars tracing circles around the celestial poles. Sasse initially did the same thing, stitching together roughly 1,250 images from the same night. But when he smeared the stars into circles, Sasse saw that our home galaxy had vanished, taking with it some of the most striking textures in the sky.

    So he experimented with layering images taken at different intervals (see gallery), and was astounded by the result.

    “What appeared were circular patterns with intrinsic beauty. Each feature of the Milky Way has its own distinct pattern, and details became finer the closer one moved to the pole,” Sasse says. “The Milky Way is creating this incredible pattern all the time, and the way we freeze it is the way we like it.”

    I’ve been looking at the heavens all my life, and that great, milky spiral is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before — it reminds me of a galactic mandala, a demonstration of celestial geometry, an accidental fractal, a rippling kaleidoscope of stars.

    “I have a fascination with light patterns in nature — iridescence of birds and fish, feather structure of eagles, anything that changes with small angles such as diffraction and reflection,” says Sasse, who has a doctorate in optics.

    To me, it evokes a sense of awe and appreciation for the intricate patterns hiding in the skies, and a restless yearning to throw myself onto grass still warmed by the southern sun, snuggle in for a few hours, and stare into the twinkling tapestry that twirls overhead.

    PHOTOGRAPHY BY SASSEPHOTO

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

     
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