New study reveals plastic pollution in the Antarctic is 5x worse than expected

June 19, 2017 by  
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We know about plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean , and even in the Arctic Ocean . But scientists thought the Antarctic was relatively free of that particular type of pollution until a recent study from the University of Hull , Científica del Sur University , and the British Antarctic Survey . Researchers discovered the levels of microplastics in the area are much greater than expected. Microplastic levels in the Antarctic are five times greater than anticipated, according to the international team. Microplastics are those tiny particles less than five millimeters in diameter found in personal care items like toothpaste and shampoo, but they can also come from clothing fibers or be created as larger pieces of plastic in the ocean break down. Related: One of the world’s most remote islands is also the most polluted The researchers found the plastic around the Antarctic continent and in the Southern Ocean , which is around 8.5 million square miles large. They think plastic originating outside the area may be coming in over the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which scientists in the past considered nearly impassible. University of Hull scientist Catherine Waller, lead author on a study published this year in Science of the Total Environment , said the ecosystem of the Antarctic is very fragile, and the area was thought to be isolated. It’s populated with krill that might eat the microplastics, and in turn be consumed by larger marine mammals like whales . Co-author Claire Waluda of the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement, “We have monitored the presence of large plastic items in Antarctica for over 30 years. While we know that bigger pieces of plastic can be ingested by seabirds or cause entanglements in seals, the effects of microplastics on marine animals in the Southern Ocean are as yet unknown.” The scientists called for urgent international monitoring of the plastic in the Antarctic. Via British Antarctic Survey Images via Catherine Waller and Claire Waluda

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New study reveals plastic pollution in the Antarctic is 5x worse than expected

Scientists report enormous Texas-sized melting in Antarctica

June 16, 2017 by  
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A recent snowmelt event in West Antarctica could provide scientists with more information to understand how climate change will alter our world. A team of 14 scientists from American and Australian institutions documented widespread melting that happened in 2016, precipitated largely by warm winds from El Niño . An unusually hot summer didn’t help either. We have evidence warm waters are melting ice shelves in Antarctica, but this event was one of the first instances where researchers were able to document how warm air could induce melting from the skies. An area of West Antarctica more than double the size of California partially melted in January 2016. The Ross Ice Shelf’s surface had a sheet of meltwater that remained for up to 15 days in some locations. And as luck would have it, researchers had just deployed instruments to measure the environment just before the melt event happened. Dan Lubin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said, “These atmospheric measurements will help geophysical scientists develop better physical models for projecting how the Antarctic ice sheet might respond to a changing climate and influence sea level rise .” Related: Massive chunk of Antarctic ice shelf likely to break away soon Warm air from El Niño influenced the mass melting. Such melt event usually happen when westerly winds are weak, but scientists say this event was unique because the westerly winds were strong during the melt event. Without those winds the melting might have been even worse. David Bromwich, geography professor at The Ohio State University , said in a statement, “…because we expect stronger, more frequent El Niños in the future with a warming climate, we can expect more major surface melt events in West Antarctica.” If melting happens more often, the ice sheet would deteriorate faster, he said. The journal Nature Communications published the research online this week. Via The Ohio State University and The Washington Post Images via Colin Jenkinson, Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Julien Nicolas, The Ohio State University

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Scientists report enormous Texas-sized melting in Antarctica

London could be getting its first ultra-green, tidal-powered school

June 16, 2017 by  
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London-based Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture just unveiled plans for what could become London’s greenest building – a tidal powered school situated on the banks of the Thames River. The five-story building would be entirely powered by energy harvested from a series of large turbines built underneath the waterway. According to the proposal, the school’s location is key to the tidal power project. Currently, the proposed site is being used as a city trash collection center where boats pick up and transport the city’s refuse to a landfill outside of the city. However, this exact site happens to be located on the narrowest section of the Thames – the point in the river with the highest velocity of tidal surge. Related: Is tidal power finally coming of age? “As far west as Teddington, the power of the coastal tides is felt twice daily along the Thames, with a rise and fall of as much seven metres of water,” said Wayne Head, one of the studio’s two directors. “The movement of water due to tides represents an untapped source of power that it’s high time London harnessed for good,” he told Dezeen . “The site is located directly at the narrowest section of the Thames – meaning that the velocity of the tidal flow at this point will be the highest in the river. The plan is to capture this four-times daily energy through submerged tidal turbines as the primary means to supply the building with carbon neutral power.” The proposal, which will be built to meet the Passivhaus standard as well as the BEEAM Outstanding rating, calls for using the building’s natural environment of clean air and cooler temperatures to create a pleasant microclimate on the interior. The school would also be installed with a number of carbon monitoring systems that would help the occupants limit their carbon footprint as much as possible. Additionally, the various renewable materials used in the structure would be left exposed to serve as an example for future architecture projects. Although the proposal is at its very early stages, the architect envisions the carbon neutral project as not only the city’s greenest building, but also a beacon for future of sustainable architecture in the city, “The Thames Tidal Powered School is potentially London’s greenest public building,” he said. “The design is conceived as an exemplar of low embodied energy and carbon construction technologies, using natural and bio-renewable materials sourced through local supply chains.” + Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture Via Dezeen Renderings by Forbes Massie

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London could be getting its first ultra-green, tidal-powered school

Gorgeous Japanese-inspired reading nook breathes new life into a Frank Gehry-designed home

June 16, 2017 by  
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A slice of reading heaven has been inserted into this Frank Gehry -designed home in Los Angeles’ Sawtelle Japantown. Local studio Dan Brunn Architecture gutted and renovated the 1970s house named Hide Out with a minimalist aesthetic that pays homage to Gehry’s original design. Commissioned by a pair of art collectors, the stylish home disrupts its art gallery-like feel with large walnut surfaces that add warmth and even carve out an enviable reading nook by the garden. Formerly owned by the Janss Family, the 3,600-square-foot Hide Out house was overhauled to create an open-air area on the first floor for displaying the work of the new owner, artist James Jean. Since the Janss Family discarded some of Gehry’s signature details in the original construction of the home, Dan Brunn Architecture used the renovation as an opportunity to bring back those lost architectural details. In addition to the oversized rectangular skylight in the center of the home—the only major architectural detail from Gehry’s design that the Janss retained—the architects added dynamic shapes and a simple material palette typical of Gehry’s style in the 1970s and 1980s. The renovated Hide Out features a simple material palette of walnut , concrete, and glass and is filled with natural light from the rectangular skylight and new glazed openings. White walls and pale concrete floors are broken up by eye-catching walnut surfaces, such as the handcrafted and beautifully sculptural walnut staircase at the heart of the home. The open-plan layout is decorated with minimal furnishings to keep focus on the art. Related: How Frank Gehry’s provocative designs go from concept to reality In reference to the home’s surroundings in the Little Osaka neighborhood, the architects drew inspiration from Japanese design for multiple aspects of the home, including furnishing. The reclaimed timber coffee table, for instance, was custom made with traditional Japanese joinery. Traditional Japanese tearooms provided inspiration for an inserted walnut volume that functions as a reading nook, meeting space, or meditation room. The room overlooks a garden planted with traditional Japanese species of bamboo, gingko, and maple. + Dan Brunn Architecture Via Dezeen Images © Brandon Shigeta

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Gorgeous Japanese-inspired reading nook breathes new life into a Frank Gehry-designed home

Fractured Antarctic ice sheet will create the largest iceberg ever recorded

June 1, 2017 by  
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Due to global warming and rising temperatures, glaciers are slowly melting – and, in some cases, breaking apart. A massive 8-mile crack is steadily growing along Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf – and when it splits, the resulting iceberg will be around 1,930 square miles (5,000 square kilometers) in size. That’s as big as Delaware – making it quite possibly the largest iceberg ever recorded. CNN reports that because the ice shelf’s direction has changed, it is breaking away from the rift at a fast pace. Adrian Luckman, lead researcher in UK-based research team Project MIDAS, said: “The rift tip appears to have turned significantly towards the ice front, indicating that the time of calving (breaking away) is probably very close. There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely.” When the gargantuan formation does fully break away from the rift, “the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area,” wrote Luckman. The resulting event “will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.” Researchers are concerned the rift’s change of direction and the sheer size of the iceberg will result in problems. For instance, Poul Christoffersen of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge is concerned that the whole ice shelf will disintegrate as a result of the event. “The ice shelf can and probably will undergo a rapid collapse,” he told the press. “And this isn’t a slow process — it can happen in a day or two.” Related: Dubai firm wants to tow icebergs from Antarctica for fresh water Researchers are also concerned that climate change is resulting in larger iceberg formations and thinner ice shelves around Antarctica. Said Christofferson, “The ice shelves that are collapsing are getting bigger and bigger.” When glaciers melt and break apart, sea levels rise – which results in increased flooding and natural disasters . Christofferson added, “We need to make sure that we curtail our emissions of carbon dioxide so that we don’t destabilize the big ice shelves. If we go on with business as usual, we are playing with potential changes in sea levels that will affect millions and millions of people.” Via CNN Images via Wikimedia Commons , Wikipedia

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Fractured Antarctic ice sheet will create the largest iceberg ever recorded

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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Scientists discover Antarctica is covered in rivers

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

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