Scientists dash to explore Antarctic ecosystem hidden by ice for 120,000 years

February 13, 2018 by  
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Scientists are seeking to explore an underwater area previously covered by an Antarctic ice shelf for 120,000 years. Climate change is affecting every corner of the globe and while its challenges are well known, the dramatic changes also open up new opportunities for exploration. The recent breaking away of a trillion-ton iceberg the size of Delaware from Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf offers scientists a chance to gain a greater understanding of the polar aquatic ecosystem that dwells beneath the ice. Researchers are now in a race against time to study the 2,246 square-mile area before it begins to change. “The calving of [iceberg] A-68 [from the Larsen C Ice Shelf] provides us with a unique opportunity to study marine life as it responds to a dramatic environmental change,” said Kkatrin Linse of the British Antarctica Survey (BAS) in a statement. “It’s important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize.” Two previous efforts to explore newly exposed Antarctic ecosystems in 1995 and 2002 yielded little in terms of studied life. However, both efforts took five to 12 years after an iceberg’s break before studying the area up close. By then, organisms had begun to occupy space in the newly open habitat. Related: Meteorologist warns collapse of two Antarctic glaciers could flood every coastal city on Earth Scientists are set to depart from the Falkland Islands on February 21, then spend three weeks aboard the BAS research vessel RRS James Clark Ross on which the team will gather and study biological samples from organisms, sediments, and water . During their study, the team may encounter such wild Antarctic creatures as the icefish, which creates natural antifreeze within its body to survive in frigid waters, or the bristled marine worm, described by Live Science as “ a Christmas ornament from hell. “ Via Live Science Images via NASA   (1)

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Scientists dash to explore Antarctic ecosystem hidden by ice for 120,000 years

DFA’s flood-proof towers could survive six feet of sea level rise in New York City

February 13, 2018 by  
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New York-based architecture firm DFA just unveiled plans for 19 cylindrical apartment towers that can survive six feet of sea level rise at Manhattan’s Pier 40. The towers are wrapped in lattice facades with lots of vegetation, and they’re designed to address the city’s lack of affordable housing and flood-resistant buildings . The towers would offer apartments as well as recreational and commercial spaces, and they’re designed for a site currently occupied by car parking facilities and a football field. The entire development is expected to function as a floating island in the event of flooding. The living units in the high-rises are set 60 inches above expected storm surge levels. An elevated path flows along the base of the clusters and connects a series of public pavilions . Related: Waterstudio’s Koen Olthuis on FLOAT! “Beyond 2050, as regular flooding begins to engulf the coastline as we know it, the landscape deck transforms into a floating island with new pathways built to connect the evolved wetland ecosystem to Manhattan,” said DFA. The architects designed the complex as a response to construction trends in New York. They describe it as a long-term solution that will “safeguard the city from rapid changes in the environment or protect future generations of people”. + DFA Via Dezeen

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DFA’s flood-proof towers could survive six feet of sea level rise in New York City

The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica

January 17, 2018 by  
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While the US is busy trying to open more precious areas to fishing and drilling , a campaign led by the EU and Greenpeace seeks to protect an area the size of Germany in Antarctica. A nearly 700,000 square-mile area around the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea would become the world’s largest sanctuary if the proposal is accepted, protecting killer and blue whales, seals, penguins and other sea life. The idea for the massive sanctuary was initially put forth by the EU and then backed by Greenpeace. Multiple EU countries support the idea, and the concept will go to conference in October. Not only will the sanctuary be essential for protecting wildlife, it will also go a long way towards mitigating the effects of climate change. Related: Meteorologist warns collapse of two Antarctic glaciers could flood every coastal city on Earth One of the major impacts of protecting this area is that it would eliminate krill fishing within its borders. Krill is a major component of the diet of many animals, from penguins to whales. Countries including Russia, Norway and China are active in the krill fishing industry, which means getting their approval will be essential in the process. Via The Guardian Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica

Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years

January 17, 2018 by  
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Iceland Foods has committed to removing all plastic from its brand-name products within the next five years and replacing it with recyclable materials such as pulp and paper. The UK-based supermarket chain is the first major retailer in the country to commit to a complete elimination of plastic. “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival,” Iceland managing director Richard Walker told the Guardian . “The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.” Iceland acknowledges that it is now practical to make the switch to plastic-free products, thanks to technological advancements in alternative packaging . “There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment,” said Walker. The supermarket chain has already removed plastic straws from its stores and products and will soon switch to paper-based food trays. Related: Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods The move by Iceland has been praised by environmental activists like John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK , who acknowledged the “bold pledge” while pressing “other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge,” according to the Guardian . “Iceland’s commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it,” added Samantha Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England . Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to eliminating all avoidable public waste within the next 25 years. May has also supported anti-plastic policies such as the expansion of a plastic bag tax, encouraging supermarkets to add plastic-free aisles, and funding research and development of plastic alternatives and support for developing countries as they seek to shift to away from plastic and its pollution . Via the Guardian Images via Iceland Foods

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Remarkable bacteria survives extremely harsh conditions by eating nothing but air

December 11, 2017 by  
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Scientists have discovered a strange new bacteria in the Antarctic that can survive the planet’s most extreme conditions just by breathing air. The discovery could help us find alien life in space. Scientists found microbes in Antarctica that exist on a diet of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen, in places where other life forms could never survive. But if life can survive in the extreme temperatures, darkness and strong radiation found in Antarctica, it stands to reason that life could survive in similar conditions in space. Related: Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries “The big question has been how the microbes can survive when there is little water, the soils are very low in organic carbon and there is very little capacity to produce energy from the Sun via photosynthesis during the winter darkness,” said Belinda Ferrari, lead researcher of the University of New South Wales team who made the discovery. Via Science Alert Lead image via Desposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Remarkable bacteria survives extremely harsh conditions by eating nothing but air

New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 degrees F

September 21, 2017 by  
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Imagine having to go months without an adequate supply of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables . Scientists based in Antarctica know this struggle, which is why engineers at the German Aerospace Center (GAC) are building a high-tech, 135-square-foot indoor farm that can grow an abundance of produce — even when temperatures are -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The only way to transport food to McMurdo, the US station where the majority of researchers stay, is by plane or ship. Most of the food that is received is dry or frozen . During the summer, the scientists may receive one shipment of fresh food once a week, according to Atlas Obscura . Fortunately, that is about to change. The Eden-ISS is already under construction and will grow food for all who are stationed at the Neumayer III polar station  on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf. The greenhouse will be in a climate-controlled shipping and produce will be grown utilizing vertical gardening technology. When the farm is complete, between 30 and 50 different species of plants — including leafy greens, peppers, radishes, strawberries, tomatoes and zesty herbs — will be grown on trays or hanging modules. Because of Antarctica’s climate, the plants are fed by LED lights rather than sunlight . This is actually a good thing, as the researchers have tuned the lights to red and blue wavelengths that are optimal for growing produce. Related: Scientists discover nearly 100 unknown volcanoes – in Antarctica Business Insider reports that the Eden-ISS will be completed in October. The infrastructure is ready to go; the engineers are just waiting for the shipment of supplies which will arrive next month. Reportedly, the GAC team grew its first cucumber (which measured 96 grams and was 14 centimeters long) inside Eden-ISS in July. In Bremen, Germany , GAC has already been testing growing produce in a climate-controlled environment. Next month,  GAC scientist Paul Zabel will move to Antarctica and grow produce under 42 LED lamps. Because sub-Arctic regions have experienced an agricultural boon partly due to climate change, the researchers are pumping in excess carbon dioxide to help the plants thrive. The temperature is always set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the GAC team succeeds at building a greenhouse that can grow crops even when it is -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, researchers will be able to use the same system to help astronauts grow food in space. Considering Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — two of the most brilliant minds of our time — are intent on moving humans to the moon or Mars, this technology could come in handy. + DLR German Aerospace Center Via Business Insider Images via DLR German Aerospace Center

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New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 degrees F

New waterproof solar cell generates power even after it gets soaked

September 21, 2017 by  
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A new solar cell could go through the laundry and emerge still working. The photovoltaic cell, developed by Japanese research institution RIKEN and the University of Tokyo , is ultra thin and coated on both sides with waterproof film. The solar cell can be stretched or compressed or washed and continue to function. Researchers in Japan have created a waterproof solar cell able to withstand a wash and keep on generating power. They developed flexible, super thin, organic photovoltaic cells based on PNTz4T, a material they developed in the past. Both sides of the cell were covered with an acrylic-based elastomer that allowed light to reach the cells, but prevented air and water from leaking on to them. Related: This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled The researchers then tested the waterproof solar cells to see if they’d retain efficiency. The initial device had an efficiency of 7.9 percent – per square centimeter it generated a current of 7.86 milliwatts. They soaked the cells in water for two hours and then found the efficiency had decreased by 5.4 percent. They also compressed the device by almost half for 20 cycles, while subjecting it to water, and found it had 80 percent of the initial efficiency. Photovoltaics integrated in textiles in the past have suffered from a lack of energy efficiency , or they weren’t robust and didn’t resist being deformed well, or they weren’t stable over the long-term in water or air – or some combination of those three. This new waterproof cell, that’s able to be compressed, could open up more options for wearables with solar cells. The photovoltaic cells could power sensors that record body temperature and heartbeats or provide early warnings of health issues, according to research group leader Takao Someya. The journal Nature Energy published the research online earlier this week. Via RIKEN Images via RIKEN

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New waterproof solar cell generates power even after it gets soaked

The ozone problem is back with a vengeance

September 19, 2017 by  
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The Montreal Protocol should have nixed the ozone-eating chemicals damaging the ozone layer over Antarctica. 30 years on, atmospheric chemists aren’t so sure.

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The ozone problem is back with a vengeance

Oldest ice core ever dated reveals hidden clues to ancient Earth’s atmosphere

August 21, 2017 by  
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Ice cores hold secrets of what our planet was like millions of years ago, in bubbles preserving greenhouse gases from that time. A Princeton University -led team just revealed the date of ice from the oldest ice core we’ve ever dated, and it’s 2.7 million years old. Breaking the previous record by around 1.7 million years, the ice core could potentially help scientists determine what set off the ice ages . The ice core could help scientists understand more about our planet’s atmosphere millions of years ago. University of California, Berkeley geochemist David Shuster, who wasn’t part of the research, told Science Magazine, “This is the only sample of ancient Earth’s atmosphere that we have access to.” And the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the planet’s atmosphere, according to research on the ice core, may surprise some: they didn’t exceed 300 parts per million. Related: Why scientists are transporting ice from a mountain in Bolivia to Antarctica There are models of our planet’s ancient climate which hinted there would need to be low levels of CO2 to trigger ice ages. But according to Science Magazine, proxies that came from the fossils of animals who dwelt in shallow oceans had hinted at higher CO2 levels. The proxies may need to be re-calibrated if the new ice core dating holds up. Researchers unearthed the ice core from what’s called blue ice in East Antarctica. Science Magazine explained that in blue ice areas, glacial flow has allowed some ancient ice to come up to the surface. As a result, scientists don’t need to drill as deep to obtain old ice core samples in blue ice. The Princeton team hopes to extract still more ice cores from there and geochemist Ed Brook of Oregon State University , who was part of the team, said they could potentially find ice that dates back five million years. Princeton University graduate student Yuzhen Yan presented the research at the Goldschmidt Conference in Paris earlier this month. Scientists from institutions in California and Maine also made contributions. Via Science Magazine Images via Yuzhen Yan, Department of Geosciences

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Oldest ice core ever dated reveals hidden clues to ancient Earth’s atmosphere

Antarctica’s newest iceberg may destabilize the entire ice shelf

August 3, 2017 by  
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For eighteen months, scientists and concerned citizens waited for a giant iceberg to break off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. On July 12, the highly-anticipated event finally occurred . Because the iceberg, named A68, was predominantly submerged in the water before it detached, the event did not dramatically raise sea levels — phenomena which would propel natural disasters. While this is fortunate, it turns out the iceberg saga isn’t over: cracks are spreading towards a location that is paramount to the stability of the remaining ice shelf . For months, satellites have been capturing footage of the region to track the effects of climate change . After A68 broke off the shelf, satellites continued to track its movements. According to new data published by the University of Leeds, the structure has drifted approximately 3.1 miles (5km) away from its initial location. When the event finally took place, Larsen C lost about 10 perfect of its area; at least 11 smaller icebergs — some up to 8 miles (12 km) long — were also formed. NewAtlas reports that as the network of cracks continues to sweep across Larsen C, the number of icebergs will keep increasing. Related: Dubai firm wants to tow icebergs from Antarctica for fresh water Said Anna Hogg, a researcher at the University of Leeds: “The satellite images reveal a lot of continuing action on Larsen C Ice Shelf. We can see that the remaining cracks continue to grow towards a feature called Bawden Ice Rise, which provides important structural support for the remaining ice shelf. If an ice shelf loses contact with the ice rise, either through sustained thinning or a large iceberg calving event, it can prompt a significant acceleration in ice speed, and possibly further destabilization. It looks like the Larsen C story might not be over yet.” As Inhabitat previously reported, A68 is not a direct result of climate change . In fact, the process happens quite naturally during the life cycle of ice shelves. However, it is possible that it is breaking away progressed faster than normal due to changing environmental conditions . “Although floating ice shelves have only a modest impact on of sea-level rise, ice from Antarctica’s interior can discharge into the ocean when they collapse,” said Hilmar Gudmundsson, a researcher from the British Antarctic Survey. “Consequently we will see increase in the ice-sheet contribution to global sea-level rise. With this large calving event, and the availability of satellite technology, we have a fantastic opportunity to watch this natural experiment unfolding before our eyes. We can expect to learn a lot about how ice shelves break up and how the loss of a section of an ice shelf affects the flow of the remaining parts.” The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change . + University of Leeds Via NewAtlas Images via Pixabay

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