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  • richardmitnick 9:57 am on January 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers Have Found Signs of Another Planet at Proxima Centauri- And It's Huge", , , , , Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Science Alert   

    From Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica via Science Alert: “Astronomers Have Found Signs of Another Planet at Proxima Centauri, And It’s Huge” 

    From Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica



    Science Alert

    16 JAN 2020

    (Lorenzo Santinelli)

    Proxima Centauri is our nearest neighbouring star; it’s just 4.2 light-years away. It has one planet [?Proxima Centauri forms a third member of the Alpha Centauri system, being identified as component Alpha Centauri C, and is 2.18° to the southwest of the Alpha Centauri AB pair] that astronomers know of, a potentially habitable world called Proxima b.

    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima 27, February 2012. Skatebiker

    But in a new study, researchers from Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics report that they have observed changes in the star’s activity that indicate it could have another planet. They dubbed the world Proxima c in their paper, which was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

    The potential new planet seems to be a super-Earth – the term for a planet with a mass larger than Earth but significantly smaller than the ice giant Neptune.

    “Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to the sun, and this detection would make it the closest planetary system to us,” astronomer Mario Damasso, the paper’s lead author, told Business Insider in an email.

    Proxima c (if it exists) is probably not habitable – given its distance from its star, the planet is probably freezing or shrouded in a suffocating hydrogen-helium atmosphere. But its proximity to us could offer a unique opportunity to study another star system.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Institute for Astrophysics (Italian: Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, or INAF) is an Italian research institute in astronomy and astrophysics, founded in 1999. INAF funds and operates twenty separate research facilities, which in turn employ scientists, engineers and technical staff. The research they perform covers most areas of astronomy, ranging from planetary science to cosmology.

    INAF is the most important Italian research body for the universe’s study. It promotes, realizes and coordinates research activities in the field of astronomy and astrophysics, cooperating with universities and public-private organizations at national and international level. The Institute designs and develops innovative technologies and advanced instruments for the cosmos exploration. It also promotes the scientific culture dissemination by projects for the education system and, more in general, for the society.

    INAF coordinates the activities of twenty research units, nineteen in Italy and one in Spain:

    Bologna Observatory
    Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica cosmica di Bologna
    Istituto di Radioastronomia di Bologna
    Cagliari Observatory
    Catania Observatory
    Arcetri Observatory (Florence)
    Brera Observatory (Milan)
    Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica cosmica di Milano
    Capodimonte Observatory (Naples)
    Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova
    Palermo Observatory
    Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica cosmica di Palermo
    Rome Observatory
    Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica cosmica di Roma
    Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario di Roma
    Collurania-Teramo Observatory
    Turin Observatory
    Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario di Torino
    Trieste Observatory
    Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (Canary Islands, Spain)
    Sardinia Radio Telescope (San Basilio, Sardinia)
    Noto Radio Observatory (Noto, Sicily)

    International partnerships

    The European Southern Observatory (Italy has been an ESO member since 1982)
    The astronomical observatories located in Canary Islands (Teide Observatory and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory)
    The Large Binocular Telescope, in partnership with the United States and Germany
    The Very Long Baseline Interferometry consortium
    The European Space Agency (ESA)
    National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA-USA)

  • richardmitnick 10:22 am on January 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Science Alert   

    From Science Alert: “This Intense Infographic Breaks Down The Biggest Climate News of 2019” 


    From Science Alert

    2 JAN 2020


    It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with climate news these days. Every week there’s another story on deforestation, coral bleaching, heat records being smashed… and then smashed again a few months later.

    Which is why sometimes it’s good to pull back and reflect on the big picture. And no surprises here: in 2019, for the most part, that picture was bleak.

    But for all the overwhelmingly bad news, there were also some really powerful and momentous moments of action and progress that are worth remembering.

    Each week at ScienceAlert we wrap up the biggest science news story of the past seven days in an infographic shared across our social platforms – if you’re not familiar with This Week in Science, you can check out the back catalogue here.

    This weekly picture was our way of cutting through the noise and showing what science had achieved in just seven short days, in a format people could easily share with their friends.

    When making our special end of year wrap-up version, we couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of the ‘most important’ and world-shifting announcements in 2019 were to do with climate science. We’re not the first to remark this, but it really was a turning point for climate change – in both the positive and negative sense of the word.

    To make sure these huge, literally world-changing stories don’t get lost in the fake news and Twitter shouting matches of the past year, we created a special climate-themed This Year in Science.

    Here are the climate stories we felt were the most note-worthy of the past 12 months:


    Human-Caused Climate Change Reached ‘Gold Standard’

    Atmospheric CO2 Exceeded 415 ppm For The First Time in Human History

    Millions of People Rose Up For The Global Climate Strike

    More Than 11,000 Scientists Officially Declared a Global Climate Emergency

    Scientist Warned Several Tipping Points That Could Unleash a Planetary Emergency Are Now Active

    It’s Official: We Just Had The Hottest Decade in Recorded History

    Scientists and many others around the world are working hard to help us out of this mess and we’ll be here to keep you updated on whatever 2020 has to bring. Happy new year, science fans.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 10:02 am on January 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Strange Black Hole Is Shooting Out Wobbly Jets Because It's Dragging Spacetime", A most peculiar black hole. It's called V404 Cygni., , , , , , Science Alert   

    From International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research via Science Alert: “A Strange Black Hole Is Shooting Out Wobbly Jets Because It’s Dragging Spacetime” 

    ICRAR Logo
    From International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research



    Science Alert

    1 JAN 2020


    Some 7,800 light-years away, in the constellation of Cygnus, lies a most peculiar black hole. It’s called V404 Cygni, and in 2015, telescopes around the world stared in wonder as it woke from dormancy to devour material from a star over the course of a week.

    The research was published in Nature.

    That one event provided such a wealth of information that astronomers are still analysing it. And they have just discovered an amazing occurrence: relativistic jets wobbling so fast their change in direction can be seen in mere minutes.

    And, as they do so, they puff out high-speed clouds of plasma.

    “This is one of the most extraordinary black hole systems I’ve ever come across,” said astrophysicist James Miller-Jones of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) at Curtin University in Australia back in April.

    V404 Cygni is a binary microquasar system consisting of a black hole about nine times the mass of the Sun and a companion star, an early red giant slightly smaller than the Sun.

    The black hole is slowly devouring the red giant; the material siphoned away from the star is orbiting the black hole in the form of an accretion disc, a bit like water circling a drain. The closest regions of the disc are incredibly dense and hot, and extremely radiant; and, as the black hole feeds, it shoots out powerful jets of plasma, presumably from its poles.

    Scientists don’t know the precise mechanism behind jet production. They think material from the innermost rim of the accretion disc is funnelled along the black hole’s magnetic field lines, which act as a synchrotron to accelerate the particles before launching them at tremendous velocities.

    But V404 Cygni’s wobbly jets, shooting out in different directions at different times, on such rapidly changing timescales, and at velocities up to 60 percent of the speed of light, are in a class of their own.

    “We think the disc of material and the black hole are misaligned,” Miller-Jones said. “This appears to be causing the inner part of the disc to wobble like a spinning top and fire jets out in different directions as it changes orientation.”

    It’s a bit like a spinning top that starts to wobble as it’s slowing down, the researchers said. This change in the rotational axis of a spinning body is called precession. In this particular instance, we have a handy explanation for it courtesy of Albert Einstein.

    In his theory of general relativity, Einstein predicted an effect called frame-dragging. As it spins, a rotating black hole’s gravitational field is so intense that it essentially drags spacetime with it.

    In the case of V404 Cygni, the accretion disc is about 10 million kilometres (6.2 million miles) across. The misalignment of the black hole’s rotational axis with the accretion disc has warped the inner few thousand kilometres of said disc.

    The frame-dragging effect then pulls the warped part of the disc along with the black hole’s rotation, which sends the jet careening off in all directions. In addition, that inner section of the accretion disc is puffed up like a solid doughnut that also precesses.

    “This is the only mechanism we can think of that can explain the rapid precession we see in V404 Cygni,” Miller-Jones said.

    It’s so fast that the usual method radio telescopes use for imaging space were practically useless. Usually, these devices rely on long exposures, observing a region for several hours at a time, moving across the sky to track their target. But in this case, the method produced images too blurred to be of use.

    So the team had to use a different method, taking 103 separate images with exposure times of just 70 seconds and stitching them together to create a movie – and sure enough, there were the wibbly wobbly spacetimey jets.

    “We were gobsmacked by what we saw in this system – it was completely unexpected,” said physicist Greg Sivakoff of the University of Alberta.

    “Finding this astronomical first has deepened our understanding of how black holes and galaxy formation can work. It tells us a little more about that big question: ‘How did we get here?'”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition
    ICRAR is an equal joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with funding support from the State Government of Western Australia. The Centre’s headquarters are located at UWA, with research nodes at both UWA and the Curtin Institute for Radio Astronomy (CIRA).
    ICRAR has strong support from the government of Australia and is working closely with industry and the astronomy community, including CSIRO and the Australian Telescope National Facility, <a
    ICRAR is:

    Playing a key role in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, the world's biggest ground-based telescope array.

    Attracting some of the world’s leading researchers in radio astronomy, who will also contribute to national and international scientific and technical programs for SKA and ASKAP.
    Creating a collaborative environment for scientists and engineers to engage and work with industry to produce studies, prototypes and systems linked to the overall scientific success of the SKA, MWA and ASKAP.

    Murchison Widefield Array,SKA Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO)

    A Small part of the Murchison Widefield Array

    Enhancing Australia’s position in the international SKA program by contributing to the development process for the SKA in scientific, technological and operational areas.
    Promoting scientific, technical, commercial and educational opportunities through public outreach, educational material, training students and collaborative developments with national and international educational organisations.
    Establishing and maintaining a pool of emerging and top-level scientists and technologists in the disciplines related to radio astronomy through appointments and training.
    Making world-class contributions to SKA science, with emphasis on the signature science themes associated with surveys for neutral hydrogen and variable (transient) radio sources.
    Making world-class contributions to SKA capability with respect to developments in the areas of Data Intensive Science and support for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.

  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on December 31, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Called Arcosanti the city was envisioned by Italian architect Paolo Soleri., , Science Alert,   

    From Science Alert: “There’s an Unfinished ‘City of The Future’ Tucked Away in The Arizona Desert” 


    From Science Alert

    31 DEC 2019

    (Google Maps)

    There’s a giant contradiction in the middle of the Arizona desert: an experimental city designed for thousands that now contains only a few dozen inhabitants.

    For nearly five decades, a group called the Cosanti Foundation has been working to build a city that would inspire a new future of urban design. Today, the project is only 5 percent complete.

    Called Arcosanti, the city was envisioned by Italian architect Paolo Soleri, whose dream was to create an advanced urban laboratory where everyday activities could be powered by Earth’s natural resources.

    Soleri dubbed his vision an “urban implosion” – referring to design that would promote density and reduce sprawl by eliminating cars and roads. (Ironically, the easiest way to reach the development in the Sonoran Desert is by car.)

    Instead of light bulbs, rooms would be illuminated by the sun’s natural rays, and instead of air conditioning, vegetation would provide natural shade.

    A view of Arcosanti in 2011. (Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket/Getty Images)

    But as construction on Acrosanti has languished, other cities and designers have started to surpass Soleri’s ideas.

    Nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are developing cities with pneumatic trash tubes, robot workers, drone taxis, and solar-powered skywalks. Malaysia is looking to build a city with self-watering plants and self-repairing windows. If Alphabet’s planned community in Toronto comes to fruition, it could feature heated roadways for driverless vehicles and underground sensors.

    Compared to these projects, Arcosanti’s low-lying, half-domed structures and sand-coloured facades now look like parts of an outdated hippie village.

    But Soleri’s ideas are far from outdated. The architect was an early proponent of local food sourcing, solar energy, and walkable neighbourhoods – concepts that are now considered paragons of urban design.

    With an inclusive vision and the right funding, these concepts still have the potential to help address issues like climate change and overcrowding.

    The pitfalls of expensive ideas and cheap labour

    By the time Soleri envisioned Arcosanti in the late 1960s, he had garnered acclaim as a protegee of Frank Lloyd Wright and an inductee to the Museum of Modern Art. He and his wife had also founded the Cosanti Foundation, a non-profit organisation that owns the land where Arcosanti now sits.

    By 1970, Soleri was breaking ground on the first Acrosanti structures, which he described in his book, The City in the Image of Man.”

    The land for Arcosanti was purchased with a loan, but the labour was free. Soleri had accrued a following of students, architects, journalists, filmmakers, and others who volunteered to help bring his vision to life. Soleri lived on the premises and often worked beside them, laying the groundwork for his utopia wearing a T-shirt and swim trunks.

    But many of the architect’s concepts turned out to be expensive and difficult to finance. Funding waned, and the site’s construction slowed. In time, Soleri’s original following began to dwindle as well.

    “The original people working there either got frustrated and left, or stayed there and got older and settled into their cosy, Soleri-designed apartments to live a pleasant, hippy-dream life,” wrote James McGirk, a former attendee of an Arcosanti workshop.

    A view of the Foundry Apse. (Yuki Yanagimoto)

    Opinions about Soleri’s character vary – some people described him as generous and self-effacing, while others said he was arrogant and close-fisted. But most accounts seem to agree that he was unwilling to compromise about his vision.

    By the time Soleri died in 2013, a new building hadn’t been completed at Arcosanti for almost 25 years.

    A few months before the architect’s death, Vice writer Jamie Lee Curtis Taete stayed overnight at an Arcosanti apartment. Taete described the environment as “creepy” and reported that he found curtain-less windows, doors without locks, and a note written on his mirror: “I’m waiting for the lizards to reveal themselves, and tell us they created hell … ‘it’s not here and now but it will be, unless you bow down to ME!'”

    But Taete also described a harmonious group of hard-working residents, much like the ones that first settled there in the 1970s.

    Most of Arcosanti’s 80 residents – they call themselves “Arconauts” – earn minimum wage working for the Cosanti Foundation, which keeps the city running. Residents are required to put in 40 weekly hours of on-site work in areas like grounds maintenance, construction, or administration.

    Some handle the archive, where they restore and catalogue Soleri’s old drawings and models, while others work in the town’s cafe or gallery.

    Still others work for Cosanti Originals Inc., which operates the site’s foundry. Much of the city’s current funding comes from the sale of bronze bells produced on-site.

    In exchange for a weekly US$75 fee, residents are awarded a food discount and unlimited access to housing, utilities, and facilities like a swimming pool and music library.

    Residents also have the option to participate in weekly philosophical discussions, parties, and workshops, and it’s common to find local pets running around.

    “The rule is we can have 12 cats and eight dogs,” Tim Bell, Arcosanti’s director of community engagement, told Business Insider.

    Arcosanti has an on-site foundry that produces bronze bells. (Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket/Getty Images)

    The life of an Arconaut hasn’t changed much in 50 years

    Bell, whose work involves raising funds for the site, has a dog of his own. He has lived in Arcosanti for about a year, though the development first entered his radar in 2015, when he read about it in The New York Times.

    “I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it before because the town that my parents moved to in Arizona is really very close to where our site is,” Bell said. He first visited Arcosanti in 2017.

    “It was unlike anything I’d ever seen,” he said.

    Eventually, Bell pursued the formal process of becoming an Arconaut. To live at Arcosanti, one must submit a letter of intent to the community council and complete a multi-week workshop, which includes assisting with building renovations and infrastructure upgrades.

    Bell met his wife at Arcosanti, and they now live with other residents in a four-bedroom apartment with two living rooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and balcony. Every unit “has upsides and downsides,” he said; the longer a person has lived at Arcosanti, the more priority they get in the city’s housing pool.

    “It’s kind of the only version of equity that we’ve got,” Bell added.

    True to Soleri’s vision, some residents at Arcosanti live without heaters, relying instead on a solar greenhouse that releases hot air into their apartments through a trap door. Though cars aren’t exactly off-limits, the city’s compact nature encourages people to walk, thereby reducing their environmental footprint.

    But Arcosanti is a far cry from a sustainable utopia. Its olive trees provide little respite from the desert heat and residents reportedly still buy food from the grocery store (though some grow their own fruit and slaughter their own chickens).

    The city might never be able to support the 5,000 residents that were originally supposed to live there, but that goal that doesn’t concern Arconauts much anymore.

    Bell estimated that about half of Arcosanti’s population is “semi-transient,” meaning they’re likely to stay for about six months to five years. Around 30 percent are “semi-permanent,” he said, meaning they will live there for about five to 15 years. Bell deemed rest “lifers” – those who have been with the project since the beginning and will stick around indefinitely.

    He said he’ll likely stay at Arcosanti as long as he’s useful to the project and its mission.

    Arcosanti’s Form festival in 2016. (Hanne Sue Kirsch)

    Arcosanti’s annual Form music festival helps to maintain the town’s notoriety. The festival, which began in 2014, bills itself as a three-day “creative retreat” that includes yoga, art installations, and a lineup of electronic and indie-rock musicians.

    This year’s event, held last month, featured artists like Skrillex and Florence + The Machine.

    Like the city itself, the festival is a pared-down version of a formerly grand vision.

    Shortly after the city broke ground, it began hosting themed festivals that garnered the same young, progressive crowd that lives there today.

    More than 10,000 people attended the Arcosanti festival in 1987, which featured headliners like Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash and Todd Rundgren. But that year, a grass fire in the parking lot wound up damaging around 200 cars, and a string of lawsuits from vehicle owners followed.

    So today’s Form festival is kept relatively small. The guest list is capped at 2,000, and many attendees submit an application explaining how they might contribute to the festival’s creative and collaborative environment. The rest of the crowd consists of Arconauts or friends of performers and organisers.

    In addition to that festival, Arcosanti hosts frequent guided tours and community events, including smaller concerts and art exhibits. The city also partners with local universities to provide short residencies for students interested in “arcology” – Soleri’s term for dense architecture with a low impact on the environment.

    Bell said the community is “refocusing” its mission on conferences and retreats, so more programs and events are likely in store.

    Arcosanti in the shade. (Tomiaki Tamura)

    ‘I don’t think Arcosanti is the city of the future’

    Even as the site’s visionary, Soleri doesn’t come up much in conversation now, Bell said.

    “Most of the people who live on this site now are below the age of 30 – people who didn’t even really know Soleri,” he said.

    In 2017, Soleri’s daughter, Daniela, published an op-ed in which she described her father as sexually abusive, likening him to Hollywood figures like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.

    “He was a fierce narcissist, capable only of seeing others in terms of their role in his world,” she wrote.

    Daniela grew up at Arcosanti and previously served on the board of her father’s foundation. Arcosanti’s website now features a #MeToo tab, and the page contains a statement of support for Soleri’s daughter.

    “Her decision to speak out about her father’s behaviour towards her helps us confront Paolo Soleri’s flaws, and compels us to reconsider his legacy,” the statement says.

    But that legacy had already begun to shift prior to the allegations, Bell said.

    In the sixties and seventies, he noted, it became somewhat common for people to see innovative or alternative thinkers as gurus or messiahs (though Soleri rejected those monikers). As late as the 90s, Bell said, people settled in Arcosanti just to be close to Soleri.

    Today, that dynamic has changed.

    “I think something that we understand as a generation, as millennials, is that everything is collaborative,” Bell said. “Nothing gets done by one single person.”

    He added that Arcosanti residents are well aware that no single city or development solve every problem within our society.

    “Soleri gave us a map and we followed that map to the edges,” Bell said. “I don’t think Arcosanti is the city of the future. … There are a lot of places doing really innovative work.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 7:53 am on December 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Here Are 6 Reasons Climate Scientists Are Hopeful, And You Should Be, Dénes Csala- lecturer in energy system dynamics at Lancaster University, Hannah Cloke-professor of hydrology at University of Reading, Heather Alberro- associate lecturer in political ecology at Nottingham Trent University, Marc Hudson- researcher in sustainable consumption at University of Manchester, Mark Maslin- professor of earth system science at UCL, Richard Hodgkins- senior lecturer in physical geography at Loughborough University, Science Alert, , Too"   

    From The Conversation via Science Alert: “Here Are 6 Reasons Climate Scientists Are Hopeful, And You Should Be, Too” 

    From The Conversation



    Science Alert

    30 DEC 2019

    (Miguel Bruna/Unsplash)

    The climate breakdown continues. Over the past year, The Conversation has covered fires in the Amazon, melting glaciers in the Andes and Greenland, record CO₂ emissions, and temperatures so hot they’re pushing the human body to its thermal limits. Even the big UN climate talks were largely disappointing. But climate researchers have not given up hope.

    We asked a few Conversation authors to highlight some more positive stories from 2019.

    Costa Rica offers us a viable climate future

    Heather Alberro, associate lecturer in political ecology, Nottingham Trent University

    After decades of climate talks, including the recent COP25 in Madrid, emissions have only continued to rise. Indeed, a recent UN report noted that a fivefold increase in current national climate change mitigation efforts would be needed to meet the 1.5℃ limit on warming by 2030.

    With the radical transformations needed in our global transport, housing, agricultural and energy systems in order to help mitigate looming climate and ecological breakdown, it can be easy to lose hope.

    However, countries like Costa Rica offer us promising examples of the “possible”. The Central American nation has implemented a refreshingly ambitious plan to completely decarbonise its economy by 2050.

    In the lead-up to this, last year with its economy still growing at 3 percent, Costa Rica was able to derive 98 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Such an example demonstrates that with sufficient political will, it is possible to meet the daunting challenges ahead.

    Financial investors are cooling on fossil fuels

    Richard Hodgkins, senior lecturer in physical geography, Loughborough University

    Movements such as 350.org have long argued for fossil fuel divestment, but they have recently been joined by institutional investors such as Climate Action 100+, which is using the influence of its US$35 trillion of managed funds, arguing that minimising climate breakdown risks and maximising renewables’ growth opportunities are a fiduciary duty.

    Moody’s credit-rating agency recently flagged ExxonMobil for falling revenues despite rising expenditure, noting:

    “The negative outlook also reflects the emerging threat to oil and gas companies’ profitability […] from growing efforts by many nations to mitigate the impacts of climate change through tax and regulatory policies.”

    A more adverse financial environment for fossil fuel companies reduces the likelihood of new development in business frontier regions such as the Arctic, and indeed, major investment bank Goldman Sachs has declared that it “will decline any financing transaction that directly supports new upstream Arctic oil exploration or development”.

    We are getting much better at forecasting disaster

    Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology, University of Reading

    In March and April 2019, two enormous tropical cyclones hit the south-east coast of Africa, killing more than 600 people and leaving nearly 2 million people in desperate need of emergency aid.

    There isn’t much that is positive about that, and there’s nothing new about cyclones.

    But this time scientists were able to provide the first early warning of the impending flood disaster by linking together accurate medium-range forecasts of the cyclone with the best ever simulations of flood risk.

    This meant that the UK government, for example, set about working with aid agencies in the region to start delivering emergency supplies to the area that would flood, all before Cyclone Kenneth had even gathered pace in the Indian Ocean.

    We know that the risk of dangerous floods is increasing as the climate continues to change. Even with ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gases, we must deal with the impact of a warmer more chaotic world.

    We will have to continue using the best available science to prepare ourselves for whatever is likely to come over the horizon.

    Local authorities across the world are declaring a ‘climate emergency’

    Marc Hudson, researcher in sustainable consumption, University of Manchester

    More than 1,200 local authorities around the world declared a “climate emergency” in 2019. I think there are two obvious dangers: first, it invites authoritarian responses (stop breeding! Stop criticising our plans for geoengineering!). And second, an “emergency” declaration may simply be a greenwash followed by business-as-usual.

    In Manchester, where I live and research, the City Council is greenwashing. A nice declaration in July was followed by more flights for staff (to places just a few hours away by train), and further car parks and roads.

    The deadline for a “bring zero-carbon date forward?” report has been ignored.

    But these civic declarations have also kicked off a wave of civic activism, as campaigners have found city councils easier to hold to account than national governments. I’m part of an activist group called “Climate Emergency Manchester” – we inform citizens and lobby councillors.

    We’ve assessed progress so far, based on Freedom of Information Act requests, and produced a “what could be done?” report. As the council falls further behind on its promises, we will be stepping up our activity, trying to pressure it to do the right thing.

    Radical climate policy goes mainstream

    Dénes Csala, lecturer in energy system dynamics, Lancaster University

    Before the 2019 UK general election, I compared the Conservative and Labour election manifestos, from a climate and energy perspective. Although the party with the clearly weaker plan won eventually, I am still stubborn enough to be hopeful with regard to the future of political action on climate change.

    For the first time, in a major economy, a leading party’s manifesto had at its core climate action, transport electrification and full energy system decarbonisation, all on a timescale compatible with IPCC directives to avoid catastrophic climate change.

    This means the discussion that has been cooking at the highest levels since the 2015 Paris Agreement has started to boil down into tangible policies.

    Young people are on the march!

    Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science, UCL

    In 2019, public awareness of climate change rose sharply, driven by the schools strikes, Extinction Rebellion, high impact IPCC reports, improved media coverage, a BBC One climate change documentary and the UK and other governments declaring a climate emergency.

    Two recent polls suggest that over 75 percent of Americans accept humans have caused climate change.

    Empowerment of the first truly globalised generation has catalysed this new urgency. Young people can access knowledge at the click of a button. They know climate change science is real and see through the deniers’ lies because this generation does not access traditional media – in fact, they bypass it.

    The awareness and concern regarding climate change will continue to grow. Next year will be an even bigger year as the UK will chair the UN climate change negotiations in Glasgow – and expectations are running high.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Conversation launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

  • richardmitnick 6:03 am on December 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Aliens Could Have Explored The Galaxy And Visited Earth Already Scientists Say", Science Alert,   

    From University of Rochester via Science Alert: “Aliens Could Have Explored The Galaxy And Visited Earth Already, Scientists Say” 

    From University of Rochester



    Science Alert

    The Milky Way could be teeming with interstellar alien civilizations, according to a new study. We just don’t know about it because they haven’t paid us a visit in 10 million years.


    Milky Way NASA/JPL-Caltech /ESO R. Hurt. The bar is visible in this image

    The study, published last month in The Astronomical Journal, posits that intelligent extraterrestrial life could be taking its time to explore the galaxy, harnessing star systems’ movement to make star-hopping easier.

    The work is a new response to a question known as the Fermi Paradox, which asks why we haven’t detected signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

    The paradox was first posed by physicist Enrico Fermi, who famously asked: “Where is everybody?”

    Fermi was questioning the feasibility of travel between stars, but since then, his query has come to represent doubts about the very existence of extraterrestrials.

    Astrophysicist Michael Hart explored the question formally when he argued in a 1975 paper that there has been plenty of time for intelligent life to colonise the Milky Way in the 13.6 billion years since the galaxy first formed, yet we’ve heard nothing from them.

    Hart concluded that there must be no other advanced civilizations in our galaxy.

    The new study offers a different perspective on the question: Maybe aliens are just taking their time and being strategic, the authors suggest.

    “If you don’t account for motion of stars when you try to solve this problem, you’re basically left with one of two solutions,” Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback, a computational scientist and the study’s lead author, told Business Insider.

    “Either nobody leaves their planet, or we are in fact the only technological civilisation in the galaxy.”

    Stars (and the planets around them) orbit the centre of the galaxy on different paths at different speeds. As they do, they occasionally pass each other, Carroll-Nellenback pointed out. So aliens could be waiting for their next destination to come closer to them, his study says.

    In that case, civilizations would take longer to spread across the stars than Hart estimated. So they may not have reached us yet ⁠- or maybe they did, long before humans evolved.

    A new idea about interstellar travel

    Researchers have sought to answer the Fermi Paradox in a number of ways – studies have investigated the possibility that all alien life forms in oceans below a planet’s surface, and posited that civilizations may get undone by their unsustainability before accomplishing any interstellar travel.

    There’s also the “zoo hypothesis“, which imagines that Milky Way societies have decided not to contact us for the same reasons that we have nature preserves or maintain protections for some uncontacted indigenous peoples.

    A 2018 Oxford University study [Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A; 4 supplements], meanwhile, suggested that there’s a roughly 2-in-5 chance we’re alone in our galaxy and a 1-in-3 chance we’re alone in the entire cosmos.

    But the authors of the newest study point out that previous research hasn’t accounted for a crucial fact of our galaxy: It moves. Just as planets orbit stars, star systems orbit the galactic centre. Our Solar System, for example, orbits the galaxy every 230 million years.

    If civilizations arise in star systems far away from the others (like our own, which is in the backwaters of the galaxy), they could make the trip shorter by waiting until their orbital path brings them closer to a habitable star system, the study says.

    Then once settled in that new system, the aliens could wait again for an optimal travel distance to make another hop, and so on.

    In this scenario, aliens aren’t jet-setting across the galaxy. They’re just waiting long enough for their star to get close to another star with a habitable planet.

    “If long enough is a billion years, well then that’s one solution to the Fermi paradox,” Carroll-Nellenback said. “Habitable worlds are so rare that you have to wait longer than any civilisation is expected to last before another one comes in range.”

    The Milky Way could be full of settled star systems

    To explore the scenarios in which aliens could exist, the researchers used numerical models to simulate a civilisation’s spread across the galaxy.

    They factored in a variety of possibilities for a hypothetical civilisation’s proximity to new star systems, the range and speed of its interstellar probes, and the launch rate of those probes.

    The research team did not attempt to guess at aliens’ motivations or politics – a tendency that some astronomers view as a pitfall in other Fermi Paradox solutions.

    “We tried to come up with a model that would involve the fewest assumptions about sociology that we could,” Carroll-Nellenback said.

    Still, part of the problem with modelling the galactic spread of alien civilizations is that we’re only working with one data point: ourselves. So all our predictions are based on our own behaviour.

    But even with this limitation, the researchers found that the Milky Way could be filled with settled star systems that we don’t know about. That still held true when they used conservative estimates of the speed and frequency of aliens’ interstellar travel.

    “Every system could be habitable and could be settled, but they wouldn’t visit us because they’re not close enough,” Carroll-Nellenback said, though he added that just because that’s possible doesn’t make it likely.

    So far, we’ve detected about 4,000 planets outside our Solar System and none have been shown to host life. But we haven’t looked that hard: There are at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, and even more planets.

    One recent study [The Astronomical Journal] estimated that up to 10 billion of those planets could be Earth-like.

    So the study authors wrote that concluding that none of those planets hold life would be like looking at a pool-sized amount of ocean water and finding no dolphins, then deciding that the entire ocean has no dolphins.

    Aliens may have visited Earth in the past

    Another key element in debates about alien life is what Hart called “Fact A”: There are no interstellar visitors on Earth now, and there is no evidence of past visits.

    But that doesn’t mean they were never here, the authors of the new study say.

    If an alien civilisation came to Earth millions of years ago (the Earth is 4.5 billion years old), there might be no remaining signs of their visit, the authors wrote. They pointed to previous research [Acta Astrpmautica]suggesting that we may not be able to detect evidence of past alien visits.

    It’s even possible that aliens have passed near Earth since we’ve been here, but decided not to visit. The paper calls this the “Aurora effect”, named for Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel Aurora.

    What’s more, aliens might not want to visit a planet that already has life, the authors said. To assume that they would, they added, would be a “naive projection” of a human tendency to equate expansion with conquest.

    The study accounted for all of these considerations – the calculations assumed that alien civilizations would only settle a fraction of the habitable worlds they encountered. Still, the researchers said, if there are enough habitable worlds, aliens could easily have spread across the galaxy by now.

    There’s still much more to learn

    For now, the researchers don’t think we should get discouraged by any perceived silence from the universe.

    “It doesn’t mean that we’re alone,” Carroll-Nellenback said.

    “It just means that habitable planets are probably rare and hard to get to.”

    In the next few years, our ability to detect and observe other potentially habitable planets is expected to improve dramatically as new telescopes get built and launched into space.

    The Kepler telescope made leaps and bounds in the search for planets that might host life in our galaxy. In Earth’s orbit today, the Hubble Space Telescope and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) are continuing the search.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope, and K2 March 7, 2009 until November 15, 2018

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets

    NASA is also building the James Webb Space Telescope, which may be able to see as far through space and time as the Big Bang. It’s slated to launch in 2021.

    Of course, what would really improve scientists’ ability to estimate the probability that we’re alone in the universe would be more data on the speed or ranges of interstellar probes. A better sense of how long hypothetical alien civilizations last would be useful, too.

    “We’re in desperate need of some data points,” Carroll-Nellenback said.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Rochester Campus

    The University of Rochester is one of the country’s top-tier research universities. Our 158 buildings house more than 200 academic majors, more than 2,000 faculty and instructional staff, and some 10,500 students—approximately half of whom are women.

    Learning at the University of Rochester is also on a very personal scale. Rochester remains one of the smallest and most collegiate among top research universities, with smaller classes, a low 10:1 student to teacher ratio, and increased interactions with faculty.

  • richardmitnick 8:45 am on December 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "This New Type of 'Quantum Camouflage' Can Hide Heat Signatures From Infrared Vision", , , , , Science Alert, Thermal radiation   

    From Purdue University via Science Alert: “This New Type of ‘Quantum Camouflage’ Can Hide Heat Signatures From Infrared Vision” 



    Science Alert

    18 DEC 2019

    (Erin Easterling/Purdue University)

    A unique material that appears to decouple an object’s temperature from the amount of thermal radiation it produces could provide a new way of hiding from infrared cameras (not to mention bloodthirsty aliens equipped with infrared vision).

    Thermal radiation is emitted by basically everything with a temperature above absolute zero, and the hotter things get, generally speaking, the brighter they glow in wavelengths of light.

    However, a new discovery presents a surprising exception to these enduring principles of physics, thanks to the strange properties of a quantum material called samarium nickel oxide.

    In new research, scientists found that samarium nickel oxide bucks the thermal trend exhibited by nearly all solid matter, in that it doesn’t necessarily glow brighter just because it’s heated up.

    “Typically, when you heat or cool a material, the electrical resistance changes slowly,” explains materials engineer Shriram Ramanathan from Purdue University.

    “But for samarium nickel oxide, resistance changes in an unconventional manner from an insulating to a conducting state, which keeps its thermal light emission properties nearly the same for a certain temperature range.”

    Since infrared cameras work on the principle of detecting thermal radiation, a material like this that can mask an object’s heat signature could go some way to camouflaging the object, effectively making it invisible in terms of heat.

    The new study hasn’t gotten us quite there yet, but the researchers say that what they’re learning about samarium nickel oxide could get us to that point one day, in addition to figuring out other ways of manipulating thermal signatures to increase object visibility too, not just reduce it.

    “We demonstrate a coating that emits the same amount of thermal radiation irrespective of temperature, within a temperature range of about 30°C,” the team writes in new paper [PNAS].

    “This is the first time that temperature-independent thermal radiation has been demonstrated, and has substantial implications for infrared camouflage, privacy shielding, and radiative heat transfer.”

    In experiments, the researchers heated a number of sample materials to temperatures between 100 to 140°C, and measured their thermal radiation in long-wave infrared.

    Wafers composed of sapphire, fused silica, and a carbon nanotube forest all showed significant differences in their thermal emissions as they were heated to higher temperatures, but wafers coated with a film of the samarium nickel oxide material basically remained unchanged regardless of the increase in heat.

    (Shahsafi et al., PNAS, 2019)

    In the image above the samarium nickel oxide tests are marked as ZDTE, short for zero-differential thermal emitters (ZDTE): materials that can break down the conventional one-to-one mapping between an object’s temperature and its thermally emitted power.

    As the image shows, samarium nickel oxide largely succeeds as a ZDTE in that limited temperature range. Note that the little bright flecks in the ZDTE rows show portions of the sapphire wafer not coated in the quantum material, as a means of illustrating the thermal emission contrast between the treated and non-treated wafer.

    There’s a lot more work to be done before we can realistically exploit this to stealthily sneak undetected past infrared cameras, but as the research team points out, the possibilities are massive.

    “The ability to decouple temperature and thermal radiation with our simple design enables new approaches to conceal heat signatures over large areas, for example for wearable personal privacy technologies, and also has implications for thermal management in space,” the authors write [PNAS].

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Purdue University is a public research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. The university was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology, and agriculture in his name. The first classes were held on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students.

    The main campus in West Lafayette offers more than 200 majors for undergraduates, over 69 masters and doctoral programs, and professional degrees in pharmacy and veterinary medicine. In addition, Purdue has 18 intercollegiate sports teams and more than 900 student organizations. Purdue is a member of the Big Ten Conference and enrolls the second largest student body of any university in Indiana, as well as the fourth largest foreign student population of any university in the United States.

  • richardmitnick 8:00 am on December 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Earth's Magnetic North Pole Keeps Moving Towards Siberia at a Mysteriously Fast Pace", , , , Science Alert   

    From NOAA via Science Alert: “Earth’s Magnetic North Pole Keeps Moving Towards Siberia at a Mysteriously Fast Pace” 

    From NOAA



    Science Alert

    18 DEC 2019


    Our planet is restless, and its poles are wandering. Of course, the geographic north pole is in the same place it always was, but its magnetic counterpart – indicated by the N on any compass – is roaming towards Siberia at record-breaking speeds that scientists don’t fully comprehend.

    It’s worth stating that while the pace is remarkable, the movement itself isn’t. The magnetic north pole is never truly stationary, owing to fluctuations in the flow of molten iron within the core of our planet, which affect how Earth’s magnetic field behaves.

    “Since its first formal discovery in 1831, the north magnetic pole has travelled around 1,400 miles (2,250 km),” the NOAA’s National Centres for Environmental Information (NCEI) explains on its website.

    The latest version of the World Magnetic Model (WMM), one of the key tools developed to model the change in Earth’s magnetic field, has been released. Developed by NCEI and the British Geological Survey, with support from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the WMM is a representation of the planet’s magnetic field that gives compasses dependable accuracy.

    The WMM now includes “Blackout Zones” around the magnetic poles, as defined by the strength of the horizontal field. Between 2000 and 6000 nanotesla (nT) horizontal field strength is the “Caution Zone” where compasses may start to become prone to errors. The area around the pole between 2000 and 0nT is the “Unreliable Zone” where compasses may become inaccurate.

    Smartphone and consumer electronics companies rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate compass apps, maps, and GPS services. The WMM is the also the standard navigation tool for the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Defense, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and more.

    A new and updated version of the WMM is released every five years. The latest WMM2020 model will extend to 2025.

    “This wandering has been generally quite slow, allowing scientists to keep track of its position fairly easily.”

    That slow wander has quickened of late. In recent decades, the magnetic north pole accelerated to an average speed of 55 kilometres (34 miles) per year.

    The most recent data suggest its movement towards Russia may have slowed down to about 40 kilometres (25 miles) annually, but even so, compared to theoretical measurements going back hundreds of years, this is a phenomenon scientists have never witnessed before.

    “The movement since the 1990s is much faster than at any time for at least four centuries,” geomagnetic specialist Ciaran Beggan from the British Geological Survey (BGS) told FT.

    “We really don’t know much about the changes in the core that’s driving it.”

    While researchers can’t fully explain the core fluctuations affecting the north pole’s extreme restlessness, they can map Earth’s magnetic field and calculate its rate of change over time, which helps us to predict how it may be distributed in the future.

    That system produces what is called the World Magnetic Model (WMM): a representation of the field that powers everything from navigational tools like GPS to mapping services and consumer compass apps, not to mention systems used by NASA, the FAA, and the military, among other institutions.

    Despite is importance, the WMM’s powers of foresight – like the magnetic north pole itself – are not set in stone, and the readings need to be updated every five years to keep the model accurate.

    “Provided that suitable satellite magnetic observations are available, the prediction of the WMM is highly accurate on its release date and then subsequently deteriorates towards the end of the five-year epoch, when it has to be updated with revised values of the model coefficients,” the NCEI explains.

    That’s the point we’re up to now, with the bodies that maintain the WMM – the NCEI and the BGS – having finally updated the model last week.

    The refresh actually comes a whole year ahead of schedule due to the unusual speed with which the magnetic north pole has been drifting, meaning that the WMM’s predictions have deteriorated faster than usual this cycle, despite the recent slowdown.

    While the speed fluctuations seem crazy, it’s actually a more moderate range of pole movement than has happened in Earth’s history: when the magnetic poles move far enough out of position, they can actually flip, something that happens every few hundreds of thousands of years.

    In the meantime, the new WMM data is good until 2025, and rest assured, no imminent flipping is predicted for now.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them.

    From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product. NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it

  • richardmitnick 8:07 am on December 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Strange Sun Effects Have Been Detected by World's Highest Weather Stations on Everest", , , , Science Alert   

    From National Geographics via Science Alert: “Strange Sun Effects Have Been Detected by World’s Highest Weather Stations on Everest” 

    National Geographic

    From National Geographics



    Science Alert

    16 DEC 2019

    (Adisorn Fineday Chutikunakorn/Getty Images/Moment)

    Data from a network of newly installed weather stations atop Mount Everest shows that the mountain experiences some of the most intense sunlight on the planet.
    As alpine mountaineers are all too aware, the sun can be brutally fierce atop snow-capped peaks.

    Preliminary data from the weather stations on Mount Everest suggests this effect is amplified to an astounding degree at the top of the world, creating what could be some of the most intense illumination anywhere on Earth’s surface.

    This epic lighting does more than give hikers nasty sunburns. In a warming world, it might be hastening ice melt atop the world’s highest mountains and impacting glaciers in ways scientists do not fully understand.

    Presented at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco on Friday, the data is among the first scientific results to emerge from the National Geographic Society’s and Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition to Everest, a multidisciplinary effort to study climate change atop the world’s tallest mountain.

    As part of the field excursion last spring, researchers installed a network of five automatic weather stations at elevations of up to 27,600 feet (8,412 meters), which includes the two highest weather stations on the planet.

    These stations are helping to fill a critical gap in our understanding of high alpine meteorology and climate: Before their installation, the highest operating weather station the researchers knew of sat atop nearby Mera Peak, at a paltry altitude of about 21,000 feet (6,400 meters).

    “There’s still a lot of ice in the Himalayas above that altitude,” said Tom Matthews, a climate scientist at Loughborough University in Britain and the meteorology co-lead for the expedition. “It’s a monumental data gap.”

    All five stations are collecting data on air temperature, pressure, relative humidity and wind speed. Every station except for the highest one is outfitted with a net radiometer, an instrument that measures incoming and outgoing radiation, and the lower stations also carry rain gauges and present weather sensors.

    Every day, the solar-powered stations beam their data via satellite links so that it can be uploaded in near-real time to the National Geographic Society’s Perpetual Planet website. As of this week, the data is also being shared on social media by an Everest weather Twitter bot.

    One of the key motivations behind the weather-station network is to better understand the amount of energy available to melt snow and ice in high alpine environments.

    As Matthews explained, the highest Himalayan peaks get incredibly sunny both because there is less atmosphere to attenuate the light and because of their near-equatorial latitude.

    While Everest hikers experience this viscerally, becoming overheated when the air temperature is close to freezing, solar radiation often is not accounted for when scientists model ice loss, Matthews said. Without available data, scientists may assume ice melt is driven solely by the air temperature.

    But early returns from the new weather-station network suggest the sun is a truly dazzling force atop Everest, and its ice-melting power needs to be considered.

    In some cases, Matthews said, the stations have registered levels of solar radiation equal to or exceeding the solar constant – that is, the amount of sunlight scientists expect to see at the outermost limits of Earth’s atmosphere.

    The researchers suspect this unearthly luminescence is the result of sunlight getting ping-ponged around by snow and ice as it falls on Everest’s frozen spires.

    “It’s like a microwave, basically,” Matthews said.

    The data has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But if the findings hold up, Matthews says it could mean there is significant melt occurring hundreds of feet above the point where air temperatures drop below freezing.

    Extrapolated across High Mountain Asia, “there could be thousands of square kilometers experiencing melt that we didn’t know about,” he said.

    It is helpful to have more direct observations of weather at these extreme elevations, said Surendra Adhikari, an Earth scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who was not involved in the new research.

    While scientists have long understood that solar heating plays a role in glacial melting and that the effect increases with altitude, “we don’t have a good idea of the size of that amplification,” he said.

    At very high altitudes, much of the meltwater produced by the sun is likely refreezing in place as it percolates into the snow. But that it still an important process to account for, said Joseph Shea, an alpine scientist with the University of Northern British Columbia Faculty Association who also was not involved in the analysis.

    As this water refreezes, it releases heat energy and fills in air pockets, causing the surrounding snow and ice to become warmer and denser.

    This may be impacting the long-term evolution of alpine glaciers in ways that are not being captured by models.

    “If you’re modeling melt, you want to account for all of these energy influxes,” Shea said. “It’s really hard to do when we don’t have data.”

    Sorting out the various processes driving ice loss in the Himalayas has never been more urgent. These glaciers, whose water nourishes lands home to over a billion people, are receding at an alarming rate as global temperatures rise.

    The region is often referred to as the “Third Pole”, because of the huge volume of ice present there.

    A groundbreaking report published earlier this year concluded that glaciers across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region could shrink in size by a third even if the ambitious 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7 degrees) global warming target is reached.

    In addition to sunlight, the weather station data will provide critical insight into how much and when precipitation is falling on the mountains, as well as the role of the Asian monsoon, which is also affected by climate change.

    With a few years’ worth of data, Matthews and his colleagues are hoping to be able to say more about how the timing and intensity of monsoon precipitation impacts Earth’s highest glaciers.

    Before any of that can happen, however, the weather stations will face their biggest test yet: a winter atop Mount Everest. Matthews said he expects to see temperatures at the higher stations plunge below minus-40 degrees in the coming weeks and months.

    Because the depths of winter also bring the fiercest winds of the year, a new world record wind chill “is on the cards,” he said.

    The weather stations are drilled into the bedrock and rated to withstand winds of nearly 240 mph (386 km/h). There is a small concern that there could be faster winds at such lofty heights, but the main worry is wind blowing rocks that would disable critical instrumentation or a solar panel.

    “The big concern is really strong winds that do things to the station we can’t plan for,” Matthews said.

    So far, all stations are holding up well. “The sensors seem to be functioning fine,” he said. “But this is the moment of truth season.”

    See the full article here .


    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 12:21 pm on December 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "We Finally Know Where That Giant Mass of Pumice Drifting Towards Australia Came From", , GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Science Alert,   

    From GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel via Science Alert: “We Finally Know Where That Giant Mass of Pumice Drifting Towards Australia Came From” 

    From From GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel



    Science Alert

    10 DEC 2019

    (NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens)

    A vast raft of floating volcanic rock that appeared in the Pacific Ocean a few months ago has now been traced to an origin.

    This ‘raft’ of lightweight pumice was produced by the eruption of an underwater volcano 50 kilometres (31 miles) off the coast of the Tongan island of Vava’u – around where it was spotted in satellite imagery on August 8.

    It was satellite imagery that helped an international team of geologists identify the source of the floating rock. On August 6, ESA’s Sentinel-2 satellite captured two clear circular eruption plumes on the surface of the ocean.

    ESA/Sentinel 2

    These smoke rings were located directly above a submarine volcano on the Tofua volcanic arc, a chain of volcanoes on the edge of a tectonic plate that’s moving underneath the plate next to it. The previously unnamed volcano has now been labelled Volcano F by the researchers.

    The team also collected data from seismic monitoring stations, which measure the grumbling movements in Earth’s crust. Volcanic activity is usually accompanied by seismic activity.

    (Brandl et al., J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res., 2019)

    “Unfortunately, the density of such stations in the region is very low,” said geologist Philipp Brandl of GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany. “There were only two stations that recorded seismic signals of a volcanic eruption. However, their data is consistent with Volcano F as the origin.”

    Using multibeam sonar, the team had previously surveyed the seafloor around the volcano during December 2018 and January 2019. Those data revealed a large central volcanic caldera measuring roughly 8 by 6 kilometres (nearly 5 by 3.7 miles), with a floor 700 metres (2,290 feet) below the surface.

    The top of the caldera cone was just 35 metres from the surface in 2004.


    The rock is itself is a highly porous, low-density stone called pumice. It’s created during volcanic eruptions, when extremely hot, pressurised molten rock is violently spewed from a volcano, and then rapidly cooled and depressurised. This causes a frothing effect in the lava, which captures bubbles of volcanic gas as it cools.

    Vast amounts of pumice can be created in volcanic eruptions. The pumice raft produced by Volcano F initially spanned 136.7 square kilometres (52.8 square miles, about three-quarters of the size of Washington DC), although it subsequently fluctuated a little. The estimated minimum volume of the pumice is 8.2 million to 41 million cubic metres.

    Sailing through the pumice

    Because it has a lower density than water, it floats. The pumice raft is currently drifting towards the north-eastern coast of Australia, home to the Great Barrier Reef. This is exciting to scientists, because the raft is likely to seed the reef with new life, picked up in its travels.

    “Based on past pumice raft events we have studied over the last 20 years, it’s going to bring new healthy corals and other reef dwellers to the Great Barrier Reef,” said geologist Scott Bryan of the Queensland University of Technology in August.

    The discovery that Volcano F produced the pumice is another piece of the puzzle. Although it was only just named, the volcano was actually discovered in 2001, after it disgorged a vast amount of pumice during a September eruption.

    It took about a year, but that pumice raft did eventually reach the east coast of Australia in October 2002, with rocks covered in algae, barnacles, worms and coral that had made the floating rocks their home (pictured below) as they slowly closed the thousands of kilometres between the volcano and the reef.

    (Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network/Smithsonian Institution)

    The debris from this year’s eruption is expected to arrive much more quickly; based on its speed, the raft should be hitting the Great Barrier Reef in late January and early February.

    Because of this apparent importance to marine ecology, and because Volcano F seems very active, the researchers say that it warrants further scientific attention. They hope that, when it makes landfall, they’ll be able to collect some samples to study the geochemistry of the pumice.

    The research has been published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel

    GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel is a world-wide leading institute of marine research. We investigate chemical, physical, biological and geological processes of the seafloor, oceans and ocean margins and their interactions with the atmosphere. We also bridge the gap between basic and applied science in several areas. With this broad spectrum of research initiatives GEOMAR is globally unique. The GEOMAR is a foundation under public law jointly funded by the German federal (90%) and Schleswig-Holstein state (10%) governments. GEOMAR has a staff of approximately 1,000 (2018) individuals and an annual budget of ~80 Million Euros.

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