West Antarctica’s bedrock is rising, providing some protection to melting ice

June 22, 2018 by  
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It seems that most news concerning Antarctica’s ice sheets is bad news, with two of the world’s fastest melting glaciers shrinking away in the continent’s western region. Fortunately, this same region is also home to an unusual geological feature that may provide some relief to the effects of climate change. In a new study published in the journal Science , researchers examined how the Earth’s surface seems to expand when heavy objects, such as glaciers , are no longer present and pushing down on the ground. According to data gathered from GPS sensors, the land beneath the Amundsen Sea Embayment in western Antarctica is rising at a rate of about two inches per year, one of the fastest rising rates ever recorded. As is often the case, the discovery of western Antarctica’s rising bedrock was made somewhat by chance. “[Study co-author] Terry Wilson and colleagues were extremely wise and lucky,” study co-author Valentina Barletta told Earther . “They had the really, really good idea [to place those sensors] with very few indication[s] that there might have been something special.” The researchers concluded that the land beneath the Amundsen Sea Embayment springs back because of a relatively fluid mantle beneath the surface, which is more capable of responding to changes above. Related: Scientists uncover giant canyons under the ice in Antarctica “This study shows this region of Antarctica has a very short memory,” Antarctica researcher Matt King told Earther, likening the local geological phenomenon to memory foam. Understanding the impact that rebounding land can have enables researchers to more accurately assess ice loss, the measurement of which has been incomplete due to a lack of knowledge about rising rock. The study also provides some hope to those who live in coastal areas, which may benefit from the potential slowing of melting ice by its rising higher than the warmer water . Via Earther Image via Depositphotos

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West Antarctica’s bedrock is rising, providing some protection to melting ice

Scientists uncover giant canyons under the ice in Antarctica

May 29, 2018 by  
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Researchers have discovered three large canyons frozen beneath the ice of Antarctica , each of which is hundreds of kilometers in length. The canyons, which move through tall mountains that lie beneath the snowy surface of the southernmost continent, were discovered through radar and may serve a key function in Antarctic ice flow. “These troughs channelize ice from the center of the continent, taking it toward the coast,” study co-author Kate Winter told the BBC . “Therefore, if climate conditions change in Antarctica, we might expect the ice in these troughs to flow a lot faster toward the sea. That makes them really important, and we simply didn’t know they existed before now.” The three canyons are the Patuxent Trough, the Offset Rift Basin and the Foundation Trough, the largest of the three, which is more than 350 kilometers long and 35 kilometers wide. The bottom of the Foundation Trough is buried beneath two kilometers of ice. All three canyons are located beneath and across the high ice ridge known as the ice divide that runs from the South Pole toward West Australia. This divide is similar to other continental divides, such as those found in North America , in which water, or ice, flows toward different bodies of water based on which side of the divide it falls. Related: Scientists dash to explore Antarctic ecosystem hidden by ice for 120,000 years These newly-discovered canyons have altered scientists’ understanding of Antarctica’s future in a warming climate . “People had called this area a bottleneck,” study co-author Tom Jordan said . “The thought was that if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to collapse, then ice could flood out from the east. But the mountains we’ve found effectively put a plug in that bottleneck.” The data, much of which was unobtainable through satellite imagery, was gathered using radar and sensors attached to planes that surveyed the continent from above. “Remarkably, the South Pole region is one of the least understood frontiers in the whole of Antarctica,” researcher Fausto Ferraccioli said. “Our new aerogeophysical data will … enable new research into the geological processes that created the mountains and basins before the Antarctic ice sheet itself was born.” + PolarGAP Project Via BBC Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Scientists uncover giant canyons under the ice in Antarctica

New evidence shows humans survived massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago

March 13, 2018 by  
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In a newly published study , scientists reveal evidence that groups of humans survived a massive volcanic eruption at the Toba caldera, a supervolcano in Sumatra. “It is possible that people moved out of terrestrial locations and into this more productive coastal zone,” study co-author Curtis Marean told Inverse . “Think of it as a refuge.” Inland wildlife, plants and fungus faced a greater disruptive impact than those located closer to the coast, a key fact that enabled savvy human communities to survive the decade-long volcanic winter and endure the centuries-long consequences of the massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago. The Toba eruption was so powerful that shards of tephra, the rock debris projected from a volcanic event, managed to reach as far as South Africa , nearly 5,600 miles from the Toba caldera. “Glass shards are a form of tephra that preserve a record of the chemical composition of the lava erupted during the eruption. The shapes and sizes of the shards also provide information about the nature of the eruption,” study author  Gene Smith told Inverse . “We can tell quite a bit about a volcanic eruption by studying products ejected from the volcano.” Related: Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s super-volcano The researchers observed that the global impact of the Toba eruption encouraged communities to move to coastal areas, which were less affected by the eruption. The flexibility and attentiveness of these early human communities is worth noting, as modern society may not be quite as dynamic in the face of such an event. “Hunter-gatherer economies are very resilient, but I don’t think the complex modern economies are,” said Smith. “A Toba-like event is a civilization killer for us. Perhaps our study will waken people up to the potential of volcanic catastrophe.” Via Inverse Images via Depositphotos ,  Smith et al. and  Dr. Jayne Wilkins

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Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

March 13, 2018 by  
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Self- flying taxis could zip through the skies of New Zealand if Kitty Hawk has anything to do about it. Financed by Google co-founder Larry Page, the company has reached an agreement with the country to test the planes for an official certification process, according to The New York Times — and aim for a commercial network in three years. Kitty Hawk could beat Uber in building a network of electric self-flying taxis. They’ve found a collaborator in New Zealand; prime minister Jacinda Ardern told The New York Times, “We’ve got an ambitious target in New Zealand of being net carbon zero by 2050 …exciting projects like this are part of how we make that happen.” Related: Google co-founder Larry Page secretly invested over $100M in two flying car startups Kitty Hawk’s vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, called Cora , will have a range of around 62 miles to start . 12 independent lift fans power the taxi so it can take off and land much like a helicopter , and doesn’t require a runway. With a 36-foot wingspan, the aircraft flies between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground at around 110 miles per hour. Two passengers can ride inside, and The New York Times said the company is developing an app enabling travelers to call a self-flying taxi. The publication said Kitty Hawk doesn’t intend to sell their VTOL planes, but rather operate the commercial network. Kitty Hawk is based in California, and a company called Zephyr Airworks is their operator in New Zealand. The project went by the code name Zee.Aero for a while, which Kitty Hawk said was the name of their Cora team during the development stage. The New York Times pointed out nearly every prediction about how fast air taxis would take to the skies has been wrong — it remains to be seen if Kitty Hawk will be able to deliver. + Kitty Hawk + Cora Via The New York Times Images via Kitty Hawk

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Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

The Indian city of Diu is 100% powered by the sun

March 13, 2018 by  
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The city of Diu has become India ‘s first and only municipality that receives all of its energy needs from solar power. Located in the southern region of the Indian state of Gujarat, Diu is governed directly by the Indian federal government, which has prioritized the growth of solar energy throughout the country. In only three years of focused development, Diu has installed enough solar capacity to serve the energy needs of the city’s nearly 22,000 residents. It is also in competition to be selected as a finalist in Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘s Smart Cities Mission initiative, in which 100 cities across India will receive funding and support to become more sustainable and livable. In previous years, residents of Diu received their power from the Gujarat state grid system, through which electricity was lost. Today, the locally-owned and operated power systems transport energy much more efficiently. Despite a land area of only 42 square kilometers, Diu is taking full advantage of its limited land resources. Solar power plants have been built on 50 acres throughout the city, which produces a capacity of 13 megawatts, 10 of which are from ground-based systems while 3 megawatts are sourced from rooftop systems . This is more than enough to meet Diu’s peak power demand of 7 megawatts. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals The switch to solar has also proven to be economically advantageous for consumers in Diu, as monthly electric bills have fallen by around twelve percent since the new energy system has been operating. To cope with nighttime power needs, Diu may transfer surplus energy to the larger grid, then source energy as needed when the sun is not shining. Diu is only one example of India’s solar push. Much further south, the Kochi International Airport holds the distinct honor of being the world’s first solar-powered airport . Via Clean Technica and Times of India Images via Depositphotos and  Flickr/poida.smith  

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The Indian city of Diu is 100% powered by the sun

Geologists discover bacteria that turns small bits of gold into solid nuggets

January 22, 2018 by  
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Geologists in Queensland, Australia have discovered a unique type of bacteria that forges small bits of gold into solid nuggets. The discovery could allow mining companies to reprocess previously undesirable gold into market-ready products, and transform the ways in which gold-containing electronics are disposed. “In electronic waste, there’s a lot of gold,” University of Adelaide associate professor Frank Reith told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) . “We need a technique without impact to health or community or environment to [recover] the noble metals that are in everyone’s smart phone or computer.” Current techniques to do so are not nearly as sustainable as they need to be, but that could change if the bacteria proves an effective scalable tool. In 2016, electronic waste, which includes disposed phones , computers, and televisions, contained $84 billion worth of recoverable materials, including $29 billion worth of gold. Reith and his team are collaborating with New Zealand -based Mint to craft a solution to this problem that utilizes the special gold-molding bacteria. “We’re working with electronic waste as a feedstock, and are piloting a process that uses microbes as a method of purifying precious metals from the mix of other metals that old circuit boards contain,” Mint chief strategy officer Dr Ollie Crush told ABC . Related: This jewelry is made with upcycled gold from Dell computers The bacteria works by filtering out other metals and piecing together gold nuggets, one grain at a time. The process of recycling gold could take between 17 and 58 years, which, in geological time, is no time at all. The process would need to be sped up considerably for it to be more widely applied throughout the world. However, the promise of capturing what otherwise would be lost wealth is enticing. “If you can make a recoverable resource from those parts, then you’re adding to the bottom line of any mine,” said Reith. Via ABC Images via Depositphotos and University of Adelaide

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Geologists discover bacteria that turns small bits of gold into solid nuggets

Gorgeous staggered timber home offers panoramic views of Idaho’s wilderness

January 22, 2018 by  
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This unique property in Idaho offers panoramic views  of Clearwater River Canyon, and it’s the perfect getaway for those who enjoy spending time outdoors. Built into a hillside overlooking the river, the Clearwater Canyon House has a stepped silhouette that follows the curve of the land and a wrap-around timber deck. Sound good? You can nab it from Sotheby’s for $649,000. The building sits on 46 acres overlooking the Clearwater River, an area with rich wildlife.   Mule and white-tailed deer, over 100 types of birds, including eagles and geese, salmon and steelhead are just some of the species that inhabit the region. The property offers opportunities to engage in a variety of outdoor recreational activities, including canoeing, fishing, hiking, hunting, rafting, and swimming. Related: Portable Bridge Home Cantilevers Over a Flood Plain in Idaho The form of the house follows the topography of the terrain. Its timber-lined interior was designed using the same approach and, through the presence of several large openings, blurs the line between the inside and outside. A wrap-around timber deck strengthens this approach and offers stunning views of the canyon. Amenities include the main house, which functions as a studio, guest house , shop and a wine cellar. + Sotheby’s International Realty Via Uncrate Photos via Sotheby’s International Realty

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‘World’s first floating kitchen’ is a food truck for the seas

January 22, 2018 by  
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Hungry jet skiers or boaters could soon be able to cruise up to a floating kitchen in Dubai and order food. Aquatic Architects Design Studio (AADS) came up with Aqua Pod , dubbed the world’s first floating kitchen – and Gulf News said it will be coming to the city later this month. Aqua Pod takes the idea of a food truck to the water. The floating structure will make it easy for those in marine crafts to grab a snack. AADS founder Ahmad Yousuf told Gulf News there are two potential ordering systems: in one, a delivery jet ski from the Aqua Pod passes out flags to boats or yachts , and boaters raise their flag to make an order. The delivery jet ski will take orders and deliver food. In the second scheme, people can jet right up to Aqua Pod to place an order – although that system would only work for smaller crafts. Related: Floating Solar Orchid Pods Could Bring Pop-Up Restaurants to Singapore’s Waterfront What food will Aqua Pod offer? Burgers, to start. Yousuf said their client went with burgers because it’s an easy meal to eat, although they might expand the menu to include pizza or desserts depending on how successful the concept is. Electricity will power the floating kitchen. But won’t it leave a lot of litter in its wake? Yousuf told Gulf News the pod “has a built-in system that allows it to collect any trash in the sea. So even if someone makes an order from us and then throws that trash into the sea – which is out of our control – the Aqua Pod can take in all that waste into one of its tanks, which is then discharged afterwards.” The Aqua Pod can easily move around, floating to where the demand is. Yousuf told Gulf News it will start operating in Jumeirah, and reach areas like “Al Sufouh Beach, Kite Beach, and the Palm Lagoon one and two.” + Aquatic Architects Design Studio Via Gulf News Images via Aquatic Architects Design Studio and Christoph Schulz on Unsplash

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Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot

January 2, 2018 by  
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Scientists at the University of Illinois have constructed a new theory on how the hotspot beneath Yellowstone National Park ‘s supervolcano gets its heat. “A robust result from these models is that the heat source behind the extensive inland volcanism actually originated from the shallow oceanic mantle to the west of the Pacific Northwest coast,” said Lijun Liu, lead researcher and geology professor. Liu’s team monitored seismic waves that reverberate after an earthquake to create an X-ray-like map of subterranean activity. Using the intense processing power of a supercomputer to analyze the data, the team constructed models of various geologic outcomes and determined that the most likely explanation is that Yellowstone’s heat originates from the tectonic Pacific Coast. The conclusion drawn by the research team at the University of Illinois contradicts alternative, previously accepted theories on the roots of Yellowstone’s heat. “This directly challenges the traditional view that most of the heat came from the plume below Yellowstone,” said Liu. Known as mantle plume theory, the broadly accepted explanation for Yellowstone’s heat contends that much volcanic activity in North America has been caused by the slow stretching of the continent. This movement then results in a thinner, more easily breakable crust in certain regions, such as Yellowstone, that are far from areas of traditional tectonic-volcanic activity. In this scenario, Yellowstone’s shallow magma reservoir is fed by a much deeper mantle plume, from which heat is able to escape due to the thinner crust. Related: Two giant volcanic eruptions formed Yellowstone’s iconic caldera Liu believes that the plume below Yellowstone matters less than the westward movement of the hot Pacific mantle. Although his theory may be incomplete, so too is the conventional mantle plume theory. “If the vast body of mantle plume research has done nothing else, it has revealed the difficulties inherent in trying to plumb the depths of Earth’s interior ,” wrote Sarah Platt in Earth Magazine . “Reaching to a depth of 1,800 miles, the mantle cannot be sampled by fieldwork; it must be remotely sensed and modeled.” This lack of certainty has provoked a healthy debate that may lead to unexpected places. “Controversy in science is a good thing,” said Michael Poland, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge, according to Independent Record . “That’s when we learn.” Via Independent Record Images via DepositPhotos ( 1 ,2) 

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Gorgeous lakeside home takes cues from Pacific Northwest midcentury modernism

January 2, 2018 by  
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The tradition of midcentury modernism in the Pacific Northwest lives on in the handsome West Mercer Residence nestled along the shores of Lake Washington. SKL Architects designed this cedar-clad abode and worked closely with local craftspeople to create the custom 5,500-square-foot home with enviable views framed through large expanses of glass. California may be considered the stronghold of midcentury modernism in the West, but the design movement also crept up to the Pacific Northwest led by the likes of architects William Fletcher and Paul Kirk. Taking cues from the neighborhood, the West Mercer Residence continues the “tradition of mid-century Pacific Northwest modernism.” The three-story home is wrapped in native cedar that contrasts beautifully with black steel, rock, and cement. Full-height windows blur the line between the indoors and outdoors, as does the series of steps that lead down the grassy slope towards the lakeshore. SKL Architects was tasked to design a home that would replace a small, cluttered one with a more spacious abode accommodating a busy family with young children. “The house can be imagined as two bars of space, one public and one private, which are connected by a central double height volume,” wrote the architects. “The design emphasizes the seamless connection between internal and external spaces. The house is oriented towards the lake, so that water and light are present throughout the house. Floor and wall materials are continuous from indoors to outside, blurring the delineation of the two spaces.” Related: Gorgeous copper-clad home celebrates craft in the Pacific Northwest The large communal areas are mostly placed on the main level, while the comparatively smaller bedrooms are located above on the upper floor and the secondary rooms tucked below on the lower level. Local craftsmanship is visible throughout the home from the bronze and leather front door to a custom steel chandelier that can be raised and lowered. + SKL Architects Images by Tim Bies

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