Dutch couple to drive a solar-powered, 3D-printed vehicle to the South Pole

October 30, 2018 by  
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In a bid to promote zero-waste lifestyles, Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde of Clean2Antarctica will soon embark on a thrilling adventure to one of the coldest places on Earth — Antarctica. The Dutch couple will drive from their base camp on the southernmost continent to the South Pole in a solar-powered vehicle — called the Solar Voyager — built from upcycled, 3D-printed plastic components. The expedition is expected to take 30 days and will kick off in less than a month on Nov. 28, 2018. Weighing in at 1,485 kilograms with a length of 16 meters, the Solar Voyager was mainly built from specially engineered,  3D-printed hexagonal blocks, called HexCores, made from industrially recycled PET filament that lock together into a honeycomb-like structure. Forty 3D printers were used to transform approximately 200 kilograms of plastic into the chassis of the Solar Voyager, which is held together with 3D-printed knobs that can withstand below freezing temperatures. The vehicle consists of a cab large enough for two people and two trailers on eight netted tires. Mounted on the trailers are 10 bifacial solar panels with 325-Watt peak for powering the Solar Voyager’s engine. Each panel measures nearly 19 square feet and weighs about 25 kilograms. In case of emergencies, the vehicle will be equipped with two 60-kilogram batteries with a total power of 10 kWh. The couple has also included infrared windows for absorbing sunlight and vacuum solar tubes that melt snow. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica “If driving to the South Pole on solar power was our ultimate goal, we would still be proud of our mission because no one has ever done it before and the technology we developed can become a prototype for Antarctic research drones,” the couple said. “However, it’s not about technology but about starting experiments and discovering what’s possible with waste. To reach a circular society, we need to start doing things differently. Our expedition is an example how far you can get when you simply start doing things differently instead of talking about abstract solutions.” The expedition is expected to begin November 28 starting from Union Glacier, Antarctica. The Solar Voyager will be followed by a support group of three people for filming purposes. + Clean2Antarctica Images via Clean2Antarctica

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Dutch couple to drive a solar-powered, 3D-printed vehicle to the South Pole

A breakup in the Arctic’s strongest sea ice is recorded for the first time ever

August 22, 2018 by  
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The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic zone north of Greenland is splitting in a never-before-seen event. The waters found there are so cold, they have been frozen for as long as records exist — even during summer months. For the second time this year, the frozen waters cracked open to reveal the sea beneath them in an event that scientists are calling “scary.” The ice found in the Arctic area north of Greenland is usually compact and unbreakable as a result of the Transpolar Drift Stream, which pushes ice from Siberia across the Arctic Sea, where it packs up on the coastline. The breaking sea ice is a result of a climate-change-driven heatwave that caused abnormal spikes in temperatures both this month and in February 2018. Related: Previously stable zones of Antarctica are now falling victim to climate change This phenomenon has never been recorded before and is said to be caused by warm winds striking the ice pileup on the Arctic coastline. “The ice there has nowhere else to go, so it piles up,” said Walt Meier from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center . “On average, it’s over four meters thick and can be piled up into ridges 20 meters thick or more. This thick, compacted ice is generally not easily moved around.” However, 2018 is seeing the lowest ever recorded sea ice volume since 1979, according to satellite data. “Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile.” Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute said. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here.” Related: Migratory barnacle geese threatened by rapidly rising Arctic temperatures The event is proving worrisome for climate scientists who explain that the longer the patches of water remain open, the easier it will be for the sea ice to be pushed away from the coast and melt. “The thinning is reaching even the coldest part of the Arctic with the thickest ice,” Meier said. “So it’s a pretty dramatic indication of the transformation of the Arctic sea ice and Arctic climate.” Via The Guardian Image via U.S. Geological Survey

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A breakup in the Arctic’s strongest sea ice is recorded for the first time ever

About 90% of world’s largest king penguin colony has mysteriously disappeared

July 31, 2018 by  
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Recent satellite images and a new study show that only 200,000 of the two million king penguins who lived on the French island of Île aux Cochons in 1982 still remain. The drastic disappearance of these penguins is a puzzling occurrence that scientists are still trying to piece together, but they are looking at climate change as the likely culprit. The remote Île aux Cochons lies halfway between the tip of Africa and Antarctica and is home to the largest colony of king penguins in the world. Henri Weimerskirch, ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize, France , first witnessed this colony in the early 1980s and plans to return to the island in early 2019 after three decades of satellite images revealed the population collapse. “It is completely unexpected, and particularly significant since this colony represented nearly one third of the king penguins in the world,” Weimerskirch said. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is still listing the conservation effort for these creatures under the “least concern” status despite the recent decline in numbers. As for what happened to hundreds of thousands of mated pairs of king penguins, there are several possibilities that Weimerskirch and his colleagues are juggling. The most likely causes are climate change and resulting El Niño weather events, competition for food and avian cholera. Scientists have not been able to examine the penguins for indications leading to a singular cause, but chances are that the factors are intermingled and aggravated by each other. Competition, which can be worsened by climate change, leads to a lack of food, resulting in struggles that are “amplified and can trigger an unprecedented rapid and drastic drop in numbers,” according to Weimerskirch. Another possible factor in the penguins’ decline could be an incident similar to the El Niño event that decimated the Emperor penguin population in Terre Adélie by 50 percent in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, avian cholera has impacted birds on nearby islands, and could be the problem on Île aux Cochons. The news is particularly daunting for the king penguins, because they only lay one egg at a time when nesting. The penguins carry the egg around on their feet, and the mates take turns every few weeks protecting and incubating the chick until it is hatched. This process takes over two months. Because the penguins do not nest year-round, and with food becoming scarcer and scarcer, a rapid rebound in population does not seem likely. + Antarctic Science Via The Guardian,   IUCN and Cool Antarctica Image via Liam Quinn

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About 90% of world’s largest king penguin colony has mysteriously disappeared

Scientists harvest the first ever Antarctic vegetables

April 5, 2018 by  
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Fresh, local produce might have seemed like an impossibility in Antarctica — until now. The experimental greenhouse EDEN-ISS at Alfred Wegener Institute ‘s Neumayer-Station III recently harvested their first crops: 18 cucumbers, 70 radishes, and nearly eight pounds of lettuce. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) described this achievement as the “first harvested Antarctic salad.” The EDEN-ISS indoor farm serves two purposes: first, to provide fresh produce for the Neumayer-Station III’s wintering crew. Second, to act as a test run for growing food in harsh climates, not just on Earth, but for missions to the Moon and Mars in the future. Scientists planted the seeds in the middle of February, and the first harvest was a success. Related: Arctic town grows fresh produce in shipping container vertical garden There’s no soil necessary in this indoor garden , where scientists grow plants with a closed water cycle and optimized light. DLR engineer Paul Zabel, one of the few people on Earth who can now add ‘Antarctic gardener’ to their resume, said they had to overcome some unexpected issues like minor system failures and the “strongest storm for more than a year,” but he was able to solve the problems and harvested the first crops. EDEN-ISS is around 1,312 feet away from Neumayer-Station III, and DLR said Zabel spends around three to four hours a day in the greenhouse . He’s also able to communicate with a DLR Institute for Space Systems control center, located in Bremen, which can remotely monitor plant growth — and can monitor it entirely on stormy days when Zabel can’t make it to the farm. DRL said this “bridging is possible for up to three days.” Scientists wintering at the station had used up their vegetables from their last delivery near February’s end, so they welcomed fresh produce from EDEN-ISS. Station manager Bernhard Gropp said in DLR’s statement, “It was special to have the first fresh salad of the Antarctic…it tasted as if we had harvested it fresh in the garden.” + EDEN-ISS + German Aerospace Center Images via DLR and DLR German Aerospace Center on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 )

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Scientists harvest the first ever Antarctic vegetables

Developing nations want to dim the sun using a giant chemical sunshade

April 5, 2018 by  
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Scientists around the world want to create a giant sunshade in the sky to help reverse  climate change . “Solar engineering” involves spraying tiny reflective particles into the atmosphere to cool the Earth by reflecting and filtering incoming sunlight. The idea is controversial because no one knows what consequences we may suffer from altering the atmosphere, but some developing nations are ramping up research efforts and they want developed nations to do the same.  Poorer countries stand to suffer the most from climate change, and they argue that geoengineering may be less dangerous for them than the impacts of global warming. In a high-profile experiment, researchers at Harvard University have been studying what they’ve called the “stratospheric controlled perturbation effect” thanks to the launch of an observation balloon over ten miles into the air in order to study the effect of controlled sprays of water molecules on cloud cover reflectivity. Scientists from Bangladesh, Brazil , China, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, and Thailand have now joined the debate in a new study published in Nature , arguing that if there is to be geoengineering, developing countries must lead the way. “ Solar geoengineering is outlandish and unsettling,” the scientists wrote. “It invokes technologies that are redolent of science fiction – jets lacing the stratosphere with sunlight-blocking particles, and fleets of ships spraying seawater into low-lying clouds to make them whiter and brighter to reflect sunlight. Yet, if such approaches could be realized technically and politically, they could slow, stop or even reverse the rise in global temperatures within one or two years.” Related: Scientists have a plan to cool the Earth with a sprinkle of salt The scientists do not approach geoengineering lightly. “The technique is controversial, and rightly so,” they wrote. “It is too early to know what its effects would be: it could be very helpful or very harmful. Developing countries have most to gain or lose. In our view, they must maintain their climate leadership and play a central part in research and discussions around solar geoengineering .” Lead author Atiq Rahman emphasized that the scientists are not taking a stand that geoengineering will necessarily work, only that it should be researched in collaboration with those most affected by climate change. “Developing countries must be in a position to make up their own minds. Local scientists, in collaboration with others, need to conduct research that is sensitive to regional concerns and conditions,” the authors wrote. “Clearly [geoengineering] could be dangerous, but we need to know whether, for countries like Bangladesh , it would be more or less risky than passing the 1.5C warming goal,” Rahman said. “This matters greatly to people from developing countries and our voices need to be heard.” Via The Guardian Images via NASA/ISS and Depositphotos  ( 2 )

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Developing nations want to dim the sun using a giant chemical sunshade

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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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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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

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