Scientists discover Antarctica is covered in rivers

April 20, 2017 by  
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For decades, scientists have known that summertime brings liquid meltwater to Antarctica’s ice sheets. But until now, they’ve had no idea just how extensive the continent’s network of rivers, streams, ponds, and waterfalls really is. A new analysis by scientists at  Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that warmer months cause far more extensive melting than previously thought. That could be a problem as global temperatures continue to rise. Surface water can damage the ice shelves , weakening them and causing them to collapse into the ocean. Some of the channels identified in this survey allow meltwater to run harmlessly off into the sea, but in other areas, standing water can be a huge problem. In 2002, more than 2,000 lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf drained through the ice into the ocean below, causing the entire area to rapidly disintegrate. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc The presence of water on the frozen continent does not yet appear to be the cause of widespread problems—but there’s also the possibility that warmer temperatures are causing sub-surface ice melt. Unfortunately, that phenomenon has been researched in far less detail, so it’s unclear exactly what effect it will have on the ice and rising sea levels in the future. Via Phys.org Images via NASA and Wikimedia Commons

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Why scientists are transporting ice from a mountain in Bolivia to Antarctica

March 14, 2017 by  
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As climate change imperils glaciers , scientists are scrambling to build a library of ice archives. Ice stores climate data from the past, but if it melts, that valuable information could be lost. A project called Protecting Ice Memory aims to extract ice from the Illimani Mountain in Bolivia and preserve it in Antarctica . The Illimani glacier’s ice can help scientists reconstruct 18,000 years of records. Rising temperatures – especially in the wake of the last El Niño – endanger that data, so in May, a team plans to scale the mountain to obtain three cores, two of which will be sent to a cave at the Concordia Research Station in Antarctica, where annual temperatures are currently around negative 65.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if temperatures warm a few degrees, the samples should be safe in this natural freezer. Related: 50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault It won’t be easy. The Illimani glacier is almost four miles above sea level. The summit isn’t accessible by helicopter, so the scientists must go up on foot. The team will camp partway up Illimani for a few weeks to acclimatize. Then local porters will tote their 4,500 pounds of equipment to the summit, and it will take another few weeks to install all that equipment. It will take two to four days to extract each one of the three ice cores. Then they’ll need to walk back down the mountain to ship the samples out – two to Antarctica and one to France to study. Patrick Ginot, a Protecting Ice Memory leader, told Fast Co.Exist, “We’re really close to losing the site. It’s really an emergency to extract the ice cores before another warm event will happen…The logistics are complicated to bring it to South Antarctica, but once it’s there, it’s safe.” Protecting Ice Memory has already gathered ice from the Col du Dôme glacier in the Alps’ Mount Blanc. The researchers will collaborate with an international team to obtain ice cores from other locations around the world and develop a library of ice archives possessing dozens of samples for future researchers. Via Fast Co.Exist Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Why scientists are transporting ice from a mountain in Bolivia to Antarctica

Antarctica just hit a record high temperature of 63.5F

March 2, 2017 by  
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Climate change is already ravaging the Antarctic Peninsula, which the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) described as one of the fastest warming regions on Earth. In a recent statement, the organization announced the area has witnessed record high temperatures. The Argentine Research Base Esperanza, which rests on the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip, hit 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit on March 24, 2015. WMO identified three subregions in Antarctica, and listed the high temperature record for each. The Antarctic Region, or all the land under the 60th parallel south, saw a balmy temperature of 67.6 degrees Fahrenheit back in January 1982. It’s the Antarctic continent, or “the main continental landmass and adjoining islands” as defined by WMO that saw the recent hot temperature of 63.5 degrees. The Antarctic Plateau, which is land higher than 8,202 feet, saw a record temperature of 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit in December 1980. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc WMO said the average annual temperature is around 14 degrees Fahrenheit along the coast of Antarctica, and negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit at the interior’s highest regions. But parts of Antarctica have already heated up nearly three degrees Celsius, or 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in just the past 50 years. According to the organization, “Some 87 percent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years.” Around 90 percent of the planet’s fresh water is in Antarctica, frozen as ice. Should all that ice melt, sea levels would spike by around 200 feet, so even extremes around the edges of the region concern scientists. The recently released data highlights the dire need for continued climate change research . Polar expert Michael Sparrow, of the World Climate Research Program co-sponsored by WMO, said in the statement, “The Antarctic and the Arctic are poorly covered in terms of weather observations and forecasts, even though both play an important role in driving climate and ocean patterns and in sea level rise. Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers.” Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Antarctica just hit a record high temperature of 63.5F

Massive chunk of Antarctic ice shelf likely to break away soon

January 6, 2017 by  
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The 70-mile-long rift in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf that had scientists fretting last year is close to breaking away. Nothing but about 12 miles of ice is keeping the iceberg from calving—an event scientists say is “inevitable.” If or when the massive chunk does float away, it will be one of the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded. Scientists of United Kingdom-based Project Midas called attention to the Larsen C rift last year, but in December the rift’s growth drastically sped up. Larsen C is around 1,148 feet thick, and is one of the most major ice shelves in the north of Antarctica. The whole shelf might break up in the future should the iceberg break off soon, which at this point seems highly likely. Project Midas project leader Adrian Luckman told the BBC, “If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed…it’s so close to calving that I think it’s inevitable.” Related: 70-mile crack in Antarctic ice shelf could create Delaware-sized iceberg The iceberg would be about 5,000 square kilometers, or around 2,000 square miles, large. The probable event follows the 1995 collapse of the Larsen A ice shelf, and the 2002 break-up of the Larsen B shelf. The rift in Larsen C has been around for decades, according to scientists, and is not a climate but a geographical event. But climate change could have hastened the Larsen C rift’s downfall, although the scientists told the BBC they don’t possess direct evidence for that hunch. The iceberg itself probably won’t increase sea levels , but if the remaining ice shelf breaks up in the future, pushing glaciers into the ocean, there’s a high probability sea levels will rise. Project Midas said in an article : “When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.” + Project Midas Via the BBC Images via NASA/John Sonntag and © MIDAS Project, A. Luckman, Swansea University

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Massive chunk of Antarctic ice shelf likely to break away soon

70-mile crack in Antarctic ice shelf could create Delaware-sized iceberg

December 7, 2016 by  
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A deep, 70-mile long crack in the Antarctic ice shelf could lead to major problems as it grows. The rift threatens the Larsen C ice shelf, the continent’s fourth largest, which has been under close observation since its neighbor, Larsen B, collapsed due to a similar crack in 2002. The growing rift, photographed by NASA’s IceBridge mission on November 10, will force the relocation of a British research station in the near term, and could have even more severe consequences down the road. Antarctica’s ice shelves are constantly changing, responding to even the most minuscule of temperature shifts. This 70-mile long rift in the Larsen C ice shelf could lead to its demise, though. The fracture measures more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep. NASA reports that the crack extends completely through the ice shelf but does not (yet) go all the way across it. Once the crack grows to that extent, an enormous portion of the ice shelf will calve off into the ocean, producing “an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware.” That’s approximately 2,491 square miles or between nine and 12 percent of the total area of the ice shelf. Related: Antarctic ice shelf twice the size of Manhattan is about to break free The ramifications of this enormous rift are numerous. Among the most immediate concerns is the safety of British Antarctic Survey ’s Halley VI research station, which is currently situated about 4.3 miles from the crack. BAS announced today the station will be moved in order to avoid becoming cut off from the rest of the ice shelf when the crack finally cuts across the entire shelf. Although moving a research station is no small feat, the team is optimistic and even “excited by the challenge,” as Tim Stockings, BAS director of operations, said in a statement . The station has been in its current location since 2012, and Stockings insists that it will remain operational with minimal disruption during the move. NASA’s Operation IceBridge will continue to monitor the growth of the rift, as part of its larger objective to collect data on changing polar land and sea ice, in keeping with previous measurements. The mission is currently funded through 2019. Via The Guardian Images via NASA and British Antarctic Survey

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Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc

October 26, 2016 by  
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As climate change fuels the melting of Antarctic glaciers , scientists have expressed grave concern. The UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and US National Science Foundation (NSF) will spend up to $25 million to research the colossal Thwaites Glacier, part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which could dramatically accelerate sea level rise around the world if it melts. If the whole ice sheet goes, scientists warn global sea levels could rise by as much as nine feet.

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Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc

50 scientists launch groundbreaking mission to circumnavigate Antarctica

October 18, 2016 by  
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In a first-of-its-kind expedition , more than 50 researchers hailing from 30 countries are joining forces on a journey to circumnavigate Antarctica . Their goal? To measure pollution and signs of climate change across the continent. The team will set off from Cape Town on the Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov on December 20, 2016 with a planned return of March 18 next year. The researchers involved hail from a variety of disciplines, including oceanography, biology, and climatology. The journey is treacherous and the conditions hostile, but it will help scientists better understand the effect humankind is having on the Southern Ocean. Not only will the Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition (ACE) study the main land mass, but it’s also the first attempt to study all the major islands in the surrounding ocean . While there’s been a good amount of recent research about the Arctic and the changes occurring as the northern ice cap melts, the southern pole is vastly less understood. Related: Burning all of Earth’s fossil fuels would completely melt Antarctica Though the project began with over 90 proposals for potential research ideas, in the end, only 22 were accepted. The adopted projects include measuring the effects of plastic pollution on the food chain and measuring the role phytoplankton plays in regulating the climate. The organization behind the expedition is the newly formed Swiss Polar Institute , a joint venture between a number of Swiss research and educational institutions that aims to “enhance international relations and collaboration between countries, as well as to spark the interest of a new generation of young scientists in polar research.” Via Phys Images via Andreas Kambanis  

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The world’s oldest panda in captivity dead at 38

October 18, 2016 by  
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Last Sunday, the world’s oldest panda in captivity passed away. Jia Jia spent her final day at Hong Kong ’s Ocean Park, which was home for the last 17 years of her life. At 38, she had far surpassed the natural life expectancy for pandas , becoming a kind of national celebrity and making her death that much harder for locals to bear. Jia Jia first came to Hong Kong in 1999. She and her mate An An, now 30 years old, created a widespread sensation upon their arrival. An An is currently the second oldest male panda in captivity. Pandas typically do not live past the age of 20 in the wild, and maybe a few years more than that when under human care. Ocean Park officials say her longevity is a testament to the devoted care she received there. Related: World’s oldest panda celebrates with cake and bamboo. Happy Birthday Jia Jia! Like any human who lived long enough to be 114 (Jia Jia’s age in human years), she began to succumb to physical maladies typical in old age. High blood pressure, arthritis, and cataracts were among the ailments that plagued her in her final years. Jia Jia had also suddenly lost weight and her appetite, prompting veterinarians to make the decision to ease her suffering and euthanize her early this week. Ocean Park chairman Leo Kung said, “(She) was a member of our family who spent 17 wonderful years with the Hong Kong people, and she will be deeply missed.” Rest in peace, Jia Jia. Via CNN Images via Wikimedia , Pixabay

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Stunning geodesic domes from Romania can handle earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale

October 18, 2016 by  
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“Geodesic domes are extremely strong for their weight due to their omni triangulated surface that provides an inherently stable structure,” according to Remus Gall, the lead project manager at Biodomes. The company adds that their domes have “a natural resistance to external factors like earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale, winds up to 320 km/h due to the aerodynamic shape and loads up to 20 tonnes per point of structure.” Related: 5 great reasons to build a geodesic dome home Geodesic domes also boast a series of environmental benefits. “The spherical design results in highly efficient and effective air circulation in both summer and winter,” according to the company. With a lower surface area than conventional homes, domes are also “less susceptible to temperature changes,” making them cheaper to heat and cool. And because their shape mirrors the sun’s path, they benefit from significant natural lighting and solar gain throughout the day – a plus in winter. In summer, magnetic shades reduce thermal loads. These domes are incredibly versatile – they can be used as a greenhouse , an eco-home, as a recreational space, indoor pool or even an observatory. The images in the gallery depict the Pollux model which is 16-feet in diameter and 8-feet tall. For now the company is restricted to European installations, but it might be worth contacting them if you’re outside of Europe – maybe they can offer you some ideas if this is the way you want to go. + Biodome Systems SRL

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Stunning geodesic domes from Romania can handle earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale

Antarctica’s only luxury camp for tourists is 100% powered by wind and solar

October 12, 2016 by  
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The camp’s dome cabins, originally designed by Ryan Ashworth, were recently refurbished after being worn down by the harsh Antarctic conditions. Guests pay around $70,000 per person for a seven, eight, or eleven day adventure , during which they’ll spend the nights cozied up in one of the camp’s igloo-shaped cabins, situated on a 200-foot ice fall at the edge of the Shirmacher Oasis in Queen Maud Land, near the Antarctic coast closest to Cape Town, South Africa. Constructed from sturdy fiberglass, each of the six private cabins includes sleeping accommodations, a desk, and private wash area with a composting toilet. Because there is no plumbing, a composting toilet allows the camp operators to pack out all human waste at the end of each adventure, further reducing its ecological impact. Related: Why the discovery of an enormous subglacial lake in Antarctica is especially exciting One of the camp’s communal cabins holds a lush lounge space filled with comfortable couches, occasional tables, and a wood-burning stove for heat. A second shared pod is home to the dining room, where a large round table invites all of the camp’s guest to eat (and drink) together. Finally, a shower room rounds out the camp. Restricting shower facilities to one pod, rather than private showers in each cabin, helps reduce water consumption and is more energy efficient, both important factors for a temporary, remote camp run completely by renewable energy. On top of gourmet meals, sightseeing, and making new friends, the adventure also includes face time with some of the local wildlife, the majestic Emperor penguins living a 2.5-hour flight west of the camp. Additionally, visitors embark on a journey to the geographic South Pole , which requires a seven-hour flight (stopping once to refuel). Guests also spend their days climbing mountains, checking out blue ice caves, and taking in the expansive views while bundled up in expedition-grade gear (which, by the way, visitors must supply for themselves). Camp Whichaway was founded by a trio of adventure lovers, who “wondered why only scientists and the odd polar explorer ever got to see the real Antarctica,” according to the back story on their website. Founder Patrick Woodhead, who led the first east-to-west traverse of Antarctica in 2002, was stuck in a tent waiting out a brutal storm in 2006 with his pals when they devised a plan for a luxury eco camp that would let a few more visitors experience the awe-inspiring beauty and devastating climate of the remote continent. Camp Whichaway opened shortly thereafter, offering a unique getaway for family trips, proposals and weddings, or the ultimate adventure quest for anyone who can afford to embark into the wildest place on Earth. + Camp Whichaway Via Wallpaper Images via Camp Whichaway

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