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Iceberg breaks off in Antarctic from unexpected location

Iceberg breaks off in the Antarctic from an unexpected location

Researchers observed a “loose tooth” of ice dangle from the edge of the Antarctic ice sheet for 20 years, waiting to be detached. However, the wrong portion was observed as a nearby sheet of ice along with the same rift system, larger than its wobbling neighbor has broken off the Amery ice board according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

The massive iceberg known as D28 covering 1,636 square kilometers (632 square miles) with a depth of nearly 210 meters deep (689 feet) is approximately the size of urban Sydney. It is the largest iceberg weighing about 315 billion tonnes formed by the Amery ice shelf in more than fifty years.

Helen Fricker, a researcher from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said that it is the molar compared to a baby tooth. Fricker says that the disintegration of the ice shelf from its edges is a natural phenomenon known as calving. It is to make space for new streams of ice and snow. Each individual ice sheet undergoes a different rate of calving which varies across seasons and takes more than decades to complete since it is an important way to balance masses of ice sheets around the world.

Researchers were unable to predict the location and timeline of calving in this case as all these parameters make it difficult to anticipate from beforehand. Fricker said that they anticipated a huge iceberg would break off between 2010 and 2015 when they first observed a split at the front of the ice board in the early 2000s. The event ultimately occurred after all these years however not at the location predicted by the researchers.

Amery ice shelf produced an iceberg like this covering an area of 9000 square kilometers in 1963. This ice shelf is normally expected to undergo one major calving event every six or seven decades, and so far two have been observed in the cycle. Hence this is not related to the global change of climate, although this is not the situation always.

For example, instead of every six years, the calving rate of Pine Glacier situated in Western Antarctica has accelerated, spreading deeper and shedding huge icebergs in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018 which is clearly not as per its normal timeline.

Sue Cook from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) said that she expects the calving rate to increase because of climate change. She explained that icebergs will start becoming thinner as waters around Antarctica warm-up making them more vulnerable to breaking up.

Iceberg in the Arctic

Architects propose design for submarine to produce icebergs in Arctic

Although it might sound crazy, architects have proposed the design for a submarine which produces icebergs in an attempt to restore the ice caps of Arctic. The team aims to form new glaciers in this technique by bringing together a swift of these vessels that will eventually help to balance arctic eco-system.

Recently, an international contest conducted by the Association of Siamese Architects awarded a second prize to the revolutionary proposal. It is yet to be checked if the idea can be practically implemented.

The Arctic Ocean has lost 95 percent of its oldest ice over the last three decades. This intense melting in association with global warming has created an ecological imbalance in the Arctic. It has damaged the natural food chain of the Arctic forcing fish, seals, wolves, polar bears into ever lesser regions. The team hopes to help the Arctic through their prototype inspired by the similar lines of re-forestation resulting in ‘re-iceberg-isation’ in the Arctic.

The submarine would function by re-freezing Arctic marine water into hexagon-shaped icebergs, each about 2,027 cubic meters (535,477 gallons) eventually gathering together to form new ice floes. The floating submarine would extract some of the salt from the collected marine water in a tank using a method of reverse osmosis making freezing easier. The left-over seawater would be frozen into a hexagon-shape iceberg and released back into the ocean after a month by the use of air turbines.

Group member and Indonesian designer Faris Rajak Kotahatuhaha mentioned the primary objective is to recover the arctic ecosystem which impacts the global climate. It does not control the emissions but it could help ensure affluent habitats and hunting stage. The size of the design would have to be enormous in order to actually avoid further sea-level rise as claimed in a video for the new prototype by the architects.

The actual risk of sea-level rise is not the melting icebergs as they are already floating in the ocean but the melting land ice which flows into the ocean. The newly created icebergs would have to somehow end up on land to make an impact. The newly formed icebergs protect ocean water by reflecting Sun’s energy and blocking absorption but to make a big influence, they need to cover a large area of the arctic ocean.

Atmospheric scientist Michael Mann commented that the model is like attempting to save sandcastle from the waves using a paper cup. There are various questions apart from sea-level about the powering of the submarine and whether adequate wind energy can be collected to freeze their huge swallows of water. It is also to be seen if these vessels are powered by renewable energy. Even now our best solution to control the rise of sea levels is to reduce the emissions.

Purple sea urchin

New research shows why Noah’s ark would not work

A first of a kind study has illuminated that marine species will survive even though in a world where the temperatures are rising and acidity is increasing in the water.

Melissa Pespeni a biologist at the University of Vermont who led the new research has said that moderately sized remnants may have little chance to persist on a climate-changed planet. She led a research which studied the larvae for experiments where the water was made acidic and alkaline. The study has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

Small minorities of urchins were studied and surprisingly they found out a rare variation in DNA which was essential for their survival. When the water was made acidic the variants increased the frequency in water and let the next generation to choose how the proteins function like the shells which are hard but can be easily dissolved to manage the acidity in the cells. Along with these other needed genetic variation helped them survive in acidic conditions or a range of acid levels. The bigger the population, greater is the variation in the species. If we have a smaller population there are lesser chances of having a genetic variation.

Some organisms have the potential to survive the change due to change in physiology and due to the ability of migration but for many others, their only hope lies in evolution and potential changes in their DNA. The purple sea urchins which stretch from the reefs from California to Alaska are a snack for the otters. Due to the huge number of urchins and the wide expanse of the geographical area, urchins are likely survivors of the harsh future of rising temperatures and acidified oceans. The UVM team has written that the genetic mechanisms that allow rapid adaptation to extreme climatic conditions have been rarely explored.

A single generation experiment was started with 25 urchins caught from the wild. Each female of those 25 produced close to 200,000 eggs each out of which 20,000 survived, the DNA samples of this pool was taken for study and research. This large gene pool gave scientists the idea that the urchins could survive in acidic conditions. They can survive these slight changes in pH and can continue to protect them as long as they keep their population large. Discoveries of facts like these have long term implications on their survival and continuity of their species.

air pollution smoke rising from plant tower

Latest estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide shows horrifying future ahead

Human actions have depleted the natural resources of the planet to a great extent. From polluting the atmosphere, depletion of fossil fuels to harming aquatic life, human footprints have been literally everywhere. The price has to be paid by the coming generations.

Calculations by scientists showed that the carbon levels reached an all-time high of more than 415 parts per million in the middle of May. For the second time in the span of two months, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NOAA have bad news to be shared.

The team of researchers recorded the highest monthly average of carbon dioxide above the largest volcano in Hawaii since measurements began 61 years ago. The number is 414.8 parts per million, which has been the greatest of the increase in measurements made every year in May. Researchers at Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory have been recording the values from 1958 and the values have been plotted on a curve known as “Keeling Curve“- after Charles David Keeling who observed a strange trend. The results have been published by The Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

When the measurement began, the average annual increase of carbon dioxide was approximately 0.7 ppm. It increased to 1.5 ppm in the 1990s and in 2000s it had a value of 2.2 ppm. In 2019, both NOAA and Scripps found that this May monthly average – the highest point each year – is 3.5 ppm higher than it was in 2018. So, the annual change in CO2 is now 3.5 ppm per year. While a single reading can be dismissed, this continuous increment cannot be ignored.

Ralph Keeling, director of the CO2 program at Scripps and son of Charles Keeling commented that the human intervention in the earth’s atmosphere can be clearly observed as we focus on the bigger picture. Most of this change is due to the extremely high usage of fossil fuels which has led to search for more greener sources of energy. Climate model projections do not give us the current state of the atmosphere and they tend to overlook the alarming situation of global warming. However, these measurements are real time and give us an overview of our situation and where we are heading to.

Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with the Global Monitoring Division of the NOAA remarked that it is very essential to have the correct, long term measurements of the carbon dioxide levels to get a clear understanding of the changes caused by fossil fuel pollution to our climate.

There have been many proposals on how to tackle the problem of global warming, but without a sharp decline of the carbon dioxide emissions, the proposals are borderline useless.

Rooftop Packaged Units

Using air conditioners for decreasing carbon dioxide levels

Fast Company posted a question stating if air conditioners were the only reason for stopping climatic changes since it kept us all cool and what would have happened if carbon was removed from the air instead of putting it. Adele Peters gave an explanation to this question, she said the air conditioners might be using a lot of electricity by the middle of the century which may lead to an increase in the average global temperature by half a degree.

Charlotte Jee,  Download writer has said that air conditioners use a lot of energy and emit harmful substances which causes rise to the global temperatures and this temperature rise is the main cause of the purchase of this air conditioner which is an irony.

The climate change can also be fixed so why don’t we replace it with the normal air conditioners and save energy and our environment as well. Scientists said that the CO2 capture functionality can be easily added to an air conditioning system and they too are going to show the same result as the HVAC system.

Scientific American has thought of making a machine which captures carbon dioxide and converts it into fuel. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning system help in moving a lot of air and they can be easily replaced by the entire volume of air by five or ten times an hour in an office building. They can also move large volumes of air and can also capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Crowd oil, not crude oil was the title given in the researcher’s paper by Roland Dittmeyer, Michael Klumpp, Paul Kant and Geoffrey Ozin in Nature Communications. They named it as crowd oil since all the people in homes, offices and other private enterprises all over the world together use the air conditioning and ventilation system to catch the CO2 and H2O from the air across the environment and convert it into renewable synthetic oil by chemical processes and crowd oil is the replacement of the non renewable oil based on fossils which is a step towards a circular CO2 economy.

The scientists have also made a dummy model of crowd oil from refineries similar to crowd electricity from solar panels which will allow people to control and manage global warming and the climatic changes instead of depending on the fossil power industrial behemoth. The reviews of the plan were that it’s highly theoretical and lots of challenges have to be faced before executing the plan.


Simplified diagram of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

Changes in ocean ‘conveyor belt’ leading to abrupt climate changes

We are all aware of global warming due to which we experience a lot of changes in the climate. Recently a team of experts found out that there are changes that are happening due to this global warming in the ocean.

Let us now understand as to what are the changes happening in the ocean. In the Atlantic Ocean there lies a giant “conveyor belt” that carries warm water from the tropics into the North Atlantic, where they cool down and sink southwards into the ocean. This circulation pattern is a very important player in the global climate change since it regulates the weather patterns in the Arctic, Europe and across the world.

Today, we have strong evidence that the conveyor belt is slowing down. The scientists are scared that this would cause a dangerous situation to occur like causing climatic changes in Europe and warming the waters of the East Coast of the United States which in return could harm the horticulture.

According to a study done by collaboration between scientist at the Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Norwegian Research Centreit is believed that if this slowing process continues and there is no measure taken in order to stop it, the entire system would become weak and the effects would be worst.

The above study precisely determines the time lags between past changes to the ocean conveyor belt and major climate changes.

Thermohaline Circulation

This map shows the pattern of thermohaline circulation also known as “meridional overturning circulation”. This collection of currents is responsible for the large-scale exchange of water masses in the ocean, including providing oxygen to the deep ocean. The entire circulation pattern takes ~2000 years. (Source: Nasa Earth Observatory)

The team of scientists studied the AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) which is a key section in the ocean current pattern. They zeroed in on a section where water sinks from the surface to the bottom of the North Atlantic and they confirmed that the AMOC started weakening about 400 years before a major cold snap 13,000 years ago and began strengthening again about 400 years before abrupt warming 11,000 years ago.

Francesco Muschitiello from the University of Cambridge and the lead author said, “Our reconstructions indicate that there are clear climate precursors provided by the ocean state—like warning signs, so to speak.

In order to understand whether these changes in the ocean conveyor belt occurred before or after the abrupt climatic shifts that punctuated the last deglaciation in the Northern Hemisphere, the scientist pieced together the data from a sediment core drilled from the bottom of the Norwegian Sea, a lake sediment core from southern Scandinavia, and ice cores from Greenland.

Usually, Carbon-14 is used in order to determine the age of that particular fossil but in oceans, it is not possible to determine as Carbon-14 is formed in the atmosphere and it takes time for it to reach the oceans. That is why Carbon is measured in the nearby lake sediment core and they found out the age of each sediment core.

Now they compared the real age of the marine sediments to the age they were reading from Carbon-14 measurements. Indifference in them gave an estimate of how long it took for Carbon-14 to reach the ocean which means it revealed that how quickly the water was sinking in this area in a process called “deep water formulation” which is essential to keep the AMOC going.

Detailed view of synchronized CO2, climate and ocean circulation records during the Younger Dryas stadial

Detailed view of synchronized CO2, climate and ocean circulation records during the Younger Dryas stadial. Credit: Muschitiello et al., Nature Communications, 2019

The final piece of the puzzle was to analyze ice cores from Greenland, to study changes in temperature and climate over the same time period. Measurements of Beryllium-10 in the ice cores helped the authors precisely link the ice cores to the Carbon-14 records, putting both sets of data on the same timeline. Now they could finally compare the order of events between ocean circulation changes and climatic shifts.

Comparing the data from the three cores revealed that the AMOC weakened in the time leading up to the planet’s last major cold snap, called the Younger Dryas, around 13,000 years ago. The ocean circulation began slowing down about 400 years before the cold snap, but once the climate started changing, temperatures over Greenland plunged quickly by about 6 degrees.

Keeping all that aside, let us stop polluting and let us take preventive measures so as to prevent this slow down of the above-mentioned conveyor belt and to save humanity from its disastrous effect.

Published Research: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09237-3