August 21, 2018

    Cables which carry internet might soon be submerged in water
    Yet another victim of rising sea-levels - the internet - short science articles

    Much of the infrastructure responsible for the fast internet of today in the US is due to the thousands of miles of buried fibre optic cable in the coastal regions. However, this critical communication infrastructure might soon be submerged by rising sea levels in the coming 15 years or so. Several of the conduits are already close to sea levels and a fraction of rise in the water levels due to polar ice melting could put several more in the harm's way. Buried fibre optic cables aren't waterproof like the marine cables that transmit information between continents under the ocean. This is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed.

    Read the full story: University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Melting of the West-Antarctic ice sheet is related to the deep ocean's temperature cycle
    Melting of the West-Antarctic ice sheet depends on deep ocean temperature - Earth science news

    Scientists have found that the temperature in the deep ocean is much more variable than previously thought, and shows a cycle of warming and cooling over the 16 years observation period. This cycle was found in the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, and appears to accelerate the melting of the West-Antarctic ice sheet during the warmer phase, while steadying it or even decreasing it during the cooler phases. The temperature cycle could be linked to El Nino in the tropical Pacific Ocean, and should be incorporated in the mathematical models that estimate how much ice will melt, and how much the sea water level will rise now that the Earth is warming up.

    Read the full story: British Antarctic Survey
    Scientific publication: Nature Geoscience

    Melting ice sheets are an underestimated source of silica for the oceans
    Melting ice provides oceans with precious silica nutrients - science news

    Silica is needed by a group of microscopic marine algae called diatoms, who use it to build their glassy cell walls. But where do these essential silica nutrients come from? A new study suggests that glacial meltwater, both in the present and during past ice ages, contains silica that could be useful in sustaining the growth of diatoms in the oceans around ice sheets, which are home to economically important fisheries and marine life. The researchers show that the silica in glacial meltwaters from the Greenland Ice Sheet has a distinctive isotopic signature, different to the that found in other rivers. The study concluded that glaciers and ice sheets are an under-appreciated component of the silica cycle in nature.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Strontium levels in bones from an ancient burial site allow scientists to tell where the builders of Stonehenge came from. Credit: Freesaly, Flickr
    Where the mysterious builders of Stonehenge came from - short science news

    About five thousand years ago, the builders of the mysterious Stonehenge monument buried cremated bodies near Amesbury, U.K. Now, archeologists are investigating this ancient burial site and they think that now they know where those people came from. The burials of 58 individuals were uncovered in 1919. Dating of the remains revealed that the cremations were interred during the earliest stages of the construction of Stonehenge, from 3000 to 2480 B.C.E. The study suggests that 10 of the builders were living most probably west Wales; the remaining 15 bodies investigated were from the region local to Stonehenge. The researchers analyzed Strontium levels in the bones to conclude this.

    Read the full story: Sciencemag
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    China faces a great risk for heat waves that are dangerous for the human life. Credit: MIT
    Deadly heat waves could hit China hard by the end of the century - science news daily

    China holds one of the biggest density of people on Earth, but soon it could become less hospitable due to climate change. A recent study shows that the risk of deadly heat waves is significantly increased because of intensive irrigation in a relatively dry but highly fertile region, known as the North China Plain. The irrigation exposes more water to evaporation, leading to higher humidity in the air than would otherwise be present and exacerbating the physiological stresses of the temperature. Towards the end of the century, the increase in temperatures may push this region towards the boundaries of habitability.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Only 13% of the Earth's oceans are considered to be untouched by human activities
    Almost no more marine wilderness - Earth science news

    Only 13% of the world’s oceans can be considered untouched by human activities, a new study indicates. These "natural" oceans are the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, and the seas around remote islands such as French Polynesia. However, climate change makes the waters at the Poles more readily accessible, so that they are under threat. All other oceans suffer from shipping fleets, all sorts of fishery activities, and sediment runoff along many coastal areas. Scientists warn that urgent international action is needed to preserve the last of the wild oceans.

    Read the full story: University of California – Santa Barbara
    Scientific publication: Current Biology

    Biodiversity is expected to collapse if no proper measures are taken to conserve and protect the tropics
    Global biodiversity collapse expected - Earth science news

    Scientists warn that urgent action is required to halt species loss in the tropics to save biodiversity on Earth. While the tropics cover 40% of our planet, and encompass four important ecosystems (tropical forests, savannas, lake and rivers, and coral reefs), the harbor more than 75% of plant and animals species, and even more than 90% of the world’s birds species. Climate change, over-exploitation, and other human activities are the main causes of extinction, and only concerted action across the globe can halt this otherwise irreversible process. The scientists have called for implementation of sustainable development and effective conservation interventions to restore tropical ecosystems and protect the species living there.

    Read the full story: Lancaster University
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Saharan dust streaming out over the Mediterranean Sea and northeastward to Italy. Credit: NASA
    Sahara dust may not be pleasant, but it is killing storms - science news in brief

    Sahara provides a huge amount of dust (2 to 9 trillion pounds) that is blown by winds all over the world. Now, a new study suggests that the dust creates a temperature inversion which in turn tends to prevent cloud and eventually storm formation. It means that fewer storms and even hurricanes are less likely to strike when the dust is present. So, even if the dust is an annoying presence, especially during the last weeks in Texas and Southern United States, it may provide some benefits after all.

    Read the full story: Texas A&M University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Climate

    The carbon cycle will be closely monitored from space to better estimate climate changes
    Measuring the carbon cycle from space is necessary to better predict climate changes - climate science news

    Monitoring the carbon cycle from space will not only provide us with vital information about the effects of greenhouse gas emission on climate, but also with insight in how climate events, such as El Nino, influence atmospheric carbon dioxide, researchers argue. Such feedback from climate events needs to be taken into account for the estimation of human greenhouse gas emissions will change the climate. The balance between gas emissions and feedback together determine the carbon cycle, including the amount of carbon that is absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial plants (currently about 50% of atmospheric carbon dioxide). This, in total, will ultimately determine what climate will look like in the decades to come. For these reasons, the major space agencies will launch new greenhouse gas monitoring missions in the coming years to find out more about the carbon cycle and climate.

    Read the full story: NASA
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Scientists estimate that deep inside our planet a vast deposit of diamonds could be found
    A quadrillion tones of diamonds are hidden deep in Earth’s interior - science news in brief

    According to a new study, over a quadrillion tones (1016) of diamond may be buried more than 100 miles below the surface of the Earth. The diamonds are scattered within cratonic roots — the oldest and most immovable sections of rock that lie beneath the center of most continental tectonic plates. This shows that the precious mineral may not be as rare as believed, but in fact quite common at a geological scale. The diamonds are located far deeper than any drilling expedition has ever reached, so don’t bet on prices dropping soon.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Advanced Earth and Space Science

    Using the observed climate evolution before the fire season with seasonal forecast allows scientist to predict future wildfires
    Scientists find way to predict wildfires months in advance - science news in short

    A recent study describes a new approach to predict fire risk related to climate changes several months before the fire season. The researchers used variables such as temperature and rain to predict the extension of the burnt area on a global scale. The new model is based on a standardized precipitation index which quantifies the conditions of a lack or excess of rain in a certain place for a specific time gap. Using this model, the ability to predict seasonal fires is significant regarding a great part of the planet, with higher accuracy for extratropical areas.

    Read the full story: University of Barcelona
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Each leaf of the fern Azolla filiculoides is as tiny as a few millimeter, but holds big promise for environment and agriculture. Image: DJ Layton through Wikimedia Commons
    Fern genome sequenced, showing potential for agriculture and carbon dioxide reduction - plant science news

    Scientists have determined what the genome looks like of a tiny fern, Azolla filiculoides. It is an ancient plant, thought to have fixed trillions of tons of carbon dioxide fifteen million years ago and by doing so even helped cooling the Earth. The analysis identified a gene that makes the plant resistant to insects that might have been transferred by bacteria. Also, the genome revealed a relationship with cyanobacteria living on the fern’s leaves that supply the plant with nitrogen. Thus, this tiny fern might be useful to fix carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and act as an insect-resistant fertilizer due to its capacity to fix nitrogen with the aid of cyanobacteria.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: Nature Plants

    Oxygen levels rose and fell several times on early Earth before stabilizing in the Earth's atmosphere
    The rise and fall of oxygen levels on early Earth - Earth science news

    What can nitrogen isotopes and selenium in ancient rocks that were once at the bottom of the sea tell us about oxygen levels on early Earth? For one thing, they show that oxygen levels were not stable in the early life of our planet, but rather came and went before oxygen levels stabilized in the atmosphere at levels as we know them today. Nitrogen isotopes reveal the activity of certain marine microorganisms that use oxygen to form nitrate. Selenium is released from sulfur minerals on land by oxygen. Thus, by analyzing nitrogen isotopes and selenium in rocks of different age, it is possible to determine how abundant oxygen must have been at a certain time. Also, the lack of oxygen during certain periods does not necessarily mean the lack of microorganismal life, and this might be important for the search of life on other planets whose atmosphere does not contain oxygen today.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Low-lying islands such as the Maldives will suffer most from rising sea levels
    Rising sea levels due to global warm could cost us $14 trillion a year in 2100 - climate change science news

    A study led by the UK National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) found that rising sea levels will impact heavily on global economy. The study warns that if we fail to limit global warming to 2 degrees C, the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, costs will be $14 trillion per year by the end of this century. Especially middle-income countries such as China will be affected, while high-income countries have already coastal protection in place, and will therefore suffer less. Tropical regions are expected to see extreme sea water levels more often, while low-lying islands such as the Maldives will get into serious problems. Therefore, scientists recommend to take adequate measures to prevent global warming as much as possible.

    Read the full story: IOP Publishing
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research Letters

    According to old videos of cycling races, trees used to grow leaves and flower later in spring, before 1990
    Archived television video footage used to detect climate change impacts on trees - science news in short

    I always enjoy a good cycling race, but I never imagined videos of such competitions could be used to investigate climate changes. This is exactly what a team of scientists did by analyzing video footage from 1981 to 2016 of the major annual road cycling race in Belgium. They visually estimated how many leaves and flowers were present on the day of the course (usually in early April) and linked their scores to climate data. The ecologists found that the trees had advanced the timing of leafing and flowering in response to recent temperature changes. These shifts were most strongly related to warmer average temperatures in the area, which have increased by 1.5°C since 1980.

    Read the full story: EurekaAlert
    Scientific publication: Methods in Ecology and Evolution

    An alternate solution to 'Gaia puzzle' - short science articles

    Scientists have long questioned why the conditions on Earth remained stable enough for life to evolve for billions of years. The 'Gaia hypothesis' proposed that living things interacted with inorganic processes to keep the planet in which planet could persist in spite of threatening situations like volcanoes and meteorites. However, now researchers propose that this stability occurs due to 'sequential selection' in which life destabilizes the environment is short-lived which further changes until a stable situation occurs which then persists for a long time. This continues to happen till further traits are gained to stabilize the system by a process called 'selection by survival alone'.

    Read the full story: University of Exeter
    Scientific publication: Trends in Ecology and Evolution

    Ediacaran carbonate rocks in China that were deposited at the Ediacaran – Cambrian transition 550 million years ago, revealing Earth's first mass extinction event
    Marine anoxia caused the mass extinction of Earth’s first animals - Earth science news

    Scientists have established that the first wave of mass extinction on our planet, marking the Ediacaran – Cambrian transition more than 500 million years ago, has been caused by a lack of oxygen in the seawater. They base their conclusion on measurements of uranium isotope variations and paleontoligcal data in marine limestone rock that has been deposited during that time in China. Combining these data clearly shows that marine anoxia and disappearance of animals coincided perfectly. There must therefore have been a layer of water without oxygen over the seafloor that caused mass extinction at the end of the Ediacaran period.

    Read the full story: Arizona State University
    Scientific publication: Science Advances

    Collect your plant waste in the future! New enzymes can break it down to make raw materials for sustainable products. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Converting plant waste into sustainable products - Earth science news

    Scientists have discovered a new group of enzymes that act on lignin, one of the main components of plants and playing a central role in the distribution of water throughout the plant. Lignin is hard to digest, but these newly found enzymes appear to do the job efficiently. Now that lignin can be broken down to its basic components, it will become possible to synthesise new materials and chemicals such as nylon, bioplastics, and carbon fibers, from plant wastes.

    Read the full story: University of Portsmouth
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement
    Removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by “electrogeochemistry” - climate change science news

    To meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreements and keep global warming below 2 °C by the end of this century, it is not only necessary to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It is equally important to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists have now evaluated a new process, which uses electricity from renewable sources for electrolysis of saline water to yield hydrogen and oxygen. This is coupled with reactions involving globally abundant minerals to produce a substance that effectively binds carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One advantage of this new process is the relatively low cost in comparison with the process of growing more trees and crops and stock the carbon dioxide underground. Other advantages are that it produces hydrogen that can be used as an energy source, and since the carbon dioxide is converted into bicarbonate, it could make the oceans less acidic. The process works in the laboratory, but needs scaling up before it can be applied.

    Read the full story: University of California – Santa Cruz
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change

    The bedrock below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is rising fast, now that ice is melting away
    West Antarctica on the rise - Earth science news

    With the ice layer thinning, the bedrock below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is rising, and it does so surprisingly fast, with up to 41 mm per year. The fast rise indicates that the Earth Mantle is extremely fluid. Also, this finding implies that 10% more ice has melted off West Antarctica than previously calculated. On the positive side, the fast rising earth may improve the stability of the ice sheet against collapses, researchers say. The results are important to further our understanding of the dynamics of the Earth and ice melting processes in Antarctica.

    Read the full story: Technical University of Denmark
    Scientific publication: Science

    The newly discovered specimen lived in the shallow waters of southern Italy between 70 and 75 million years ago. Credit: Fabio Manucci, via University of Alberta
    New ancient marine lizard discovered in Italy - science news - paleontology

    Paleontologists from the University of Alberta just described a new species of extinct marine lizard that lived in what is now Puglia, Italy, about 70-million years ago. The species was named Primitivus manduriensis, after the local Manduria variety of red wine grape primitivo. The fossil was discovered in what was once a shallow water environment. After it died, the lizard fell to the bottom and was covered in sediment, where it remained largely intact until its discovery. “(The marine lizards) are essentially small, long-bodied animals that look like regular lizards with longer necks and tails,” explained PhD student Ilaria Paparella, lead author of the study. The fossil is significantly younger than others from the same group, extending the time range of their existence by about 15 million years.


    Read the full story: University of Alberta
    Scientific publication: Royal Society Open Science

    Photovoltaic panels and eolic turbines will acount for half of the energy sources used world-wide in 2050
    Energy sources are world-wide for 50% renewable in 2050 - climate change science news

    A new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that 50% of our energy will be renewable, while the use of coal will drop to 11%. Hydroelectric power and nuclear energy will further contribute to greenhouse-gas-free electricity sources. However, the importance of nuclear power is likely to level off soon, while the decreasing costs of solar and wind energy, as well as battery costs, will cause a clear shift in investments. Unfortunately, the report also states that even if coal plants are shut down immediately this will not be enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celcius. New technology to capture carbon as soon as it is made, or to replace the role of gas in the power generation sector, is needed.

    Read the full story: BloombergNEF

    Brain coral seems to benefit from local intervention
    Saving corals from predators limits bleaching - Earth Science News

    Local intervention to make coral reefs more resilient to climate change might work, a new study found. Indeed, reducing the population of coral-eating snails reduced coral bleaching to 50% during the summer. When sea water cools down again in the winter, the corals recovered. Corals that still had to cope with predatory snails showed almost 100% bleaching and did not recover. Scientists say that by removing the predators, corals have less stress and more energy to successfully cope with rising sea water temperatures.

    Read the full story: Duke University
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution

    Some small coral reef communities seem to survive climate change
    Oases of coral reef are thriving while most are dying - Earth science news

    Against all odds, there seem to be small communities of coral reefs that are thriving, while many others are dying, new observations showed. Why these small communities are surviving is not entirely clear and, researchers say, this does not mean that endeavors should be stopped to stop climate change or save one of the Earth’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Rather, the surviving coral offers a glimmer of hope, and might give clues as to what it takes to protect coral reefs and to restore coral life.

    Read the full story: Newcastle University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Applied Ecology

    Invasive plants, often introduced in gardens and agriculture, can overtake and eliminate local species of plants
    Invasive exotic plants can drive native species extinct - science news

    Humans regularly introduce new exotic species of plants in new environments. Many of these species lack natural enemies and can thrive, eventually leading to the elimination of local species, a new study shows. It was previously a matter of debate whether the introduction of exotic plants can lead to native plant extinctions. Given that the replacement of native plants and animals by exotic species occurs incrementally over many generations, and that the majority of species introductions have taken place in the last 200 years and at rapidly increasing rates, it is plausible that most invasion-induced extinctions are yet to occur. One way to reduce the problem is to increase the diversity of species that we use in our gardens and in agriculture.

    Read the full story: University of Southampton
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

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