Environment

La Niña Emerges

Sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Pacific have cooled to the point in recent weeks that weather agencies have officially recognized the phenomenon as a new La Niña. The opposite of an El Niño, La Niña also develops about every three to five years with its own set of weather disruptions, including the chance of more and stronger tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin.

It also can bring wetter weather to northern Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, along with drier weather for western South America and cooler-than-normal temperatures for western Africa. NOAA predicts the new La Niña has a 75% chance of persisting into next year.

Environment

Plastic Soils

New research finds that microplastic pollution is causing harm to the tiny creatures living in the ground. Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, scientists say the assault is occurring in soil-dwelling mites, larvae and other creatures that are crucial to the fertility of the land. They play an important role in recycling carbon and nitrogen, and they break down organic material.

Plots contaminated with microplastics saw a reduction of those creatures of between 15% and 62%, the scientists said.

Environment

Arctic Polluters

An increasing number of polluting ships are now sailing across the Siberian coastal stretch of the Arctic Ocean because of the more open waters that have resulted from record melting sea ice.

An analysis by Reuters found that traffic through the icy waters’ busiest routes along the coast of Siberia increased 58% between 2016 and 2019. Those ships are carrying iron ore, oil, liquified natural gas and other fuels. Reuters says that the COVID pandemic has not slowed the trend, with 935 voyages being documented in the first half of 2020, compared with 855 in the same period last year.

Environment

Overshoot Day

Scientists designated Aug. 22 this year as Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humans have used all of the ecological resources the planet can produce in an entire year. While the date had been getting earlier and earlier as consumption grew, the drop in what has been taking from nature this year during the worldwide pandemic has pushed it back by more than three weeks. Using data compiled by the United Nations, the Global Footprint Network, which determines Earth Overshoot Day, found that humans began consuming more than the Earth can provide without being replenished about the year 1970.

Environment

Indian Ocean Oil Pollution

Wildlife experts say it could take decades for the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to recover from the 1,000 metric tons of oil that spilled into its pristine waters from a grounded and off-course Japanese tanker. The vessel rammed into a reef and begin spilling oil faster than local volunteers and crews, some wading without protective gear, could halt its spread. But it was a losing battle for a country where tourism and fishing drive the economy. Its reefs, endangered animals and plants, mangrove forests and lagoons have already suffered a massive poisonous shock, according to Mauritian environmental scientist Adam Moolna.

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Environment

Vast, Growing Anomaly in Earth’s Magnetic Field

NASA is actively monitoring a strange anomaly in Earth’s magnetic field: a giant region of lower magnetic intensity in the skies above the planet, stretching out between South America and southwest Africa.

This vast, developing phenomenon, called the South Atlantic Anomaly, has intrigued and concerned scientists for years, and perhaps none more so than NASA researchers. The space agency’s satellites and spacecraft are particularly vulnerable to the weakened magnetic field strength within the anomaly, and the resulting exposure to charged particles from the Sun.

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Environment

Weakening Current

The strength of the Florida Current, which marks the beginning of the Gulf Stream, has weakened in force to the lowest level of the past 110 years, according to new research.

The current flows between Florida and Cuba before becoming the Gulf Stream near the Bahamas.

While precise measurements of the current go back to only the early 1980s, scientists say they were able to determine its past strength by how it affected coastal sea levels in the region.

The study confirms earlier findings that show the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is slowing down due to climate change. That complex of currents wields a key warming influence across the Atlantic to much of northern Europe.

Environment

Arctic wildfires emit more CO2 in two months than whole of 2019

In total, smoke from the wildfires was covering an area of about 3.6 million sqkm on Wednesday – more than a third of the area of Canada

Smoke from massive fires in the Arctic has blanketed nearby cities and could travel thousands of kilometers to other parts of the world, raising concerns among scientists about poor air quality and exacerbated global warming.

Out-of-control wildfires north of the Arctic Circle have released more dangerous greenhouse gases in two months than all of the fires last year combined, the Independent reports.

Environment

Global Quiet

The plunge in human activities worldwide in recent months due to the pandemic has brought the longest and most pronounced quiet period of seismic noise in recorded history. An international team of scientists write in the journal Science that the relative quiet has allowed them to detect previously concealed earthquake signals, which could help us more accurately tell the difference in the future between man-made and natural seismic noise. The typically quiet periods around Christmas, New Year’s and the Chinese New Year have been eclipsed by the decline of industrial production, transport and service industries brought on by COVID-19.

Environment

Lingering Radioactivity

Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdowns blanketed snow and ice around the Northern Hemisphere with a thin layer of light radioactivity dubbed the Fukushima Layer. The nuclear disaster was triggered by a massive thrust earthquake that spawned a devastating tsunami, which knocked out the nuclear plant’s main cooling system. The resulting meltdowns contaminated groundwater around the plant and spewed radioactive particles into the atmosphere. It was thought that the airborne radiation would have faded by now. But scientists writing in Environmental Research Letters say the thawing and melting of glaciers around the hemisphere has made the radioactivity more concentrated, creating a lingering layer of contamination.

Environment

Russian Methane Leaks

Satellite data have detected massive plumes of methane gas leaking from Russia’s Yamal pipeline, which carries natural gas from Siberia to Europe. The Paris-based Kayrros energy consultancy said one leak was gushing 93 metric tons of methane each hour, with the same greenhouse gas effect as the exhaust of 15,000 cars in the United States during a full year.

Radiation Mystery

Russia has denied it is responsible for a cloud of radioactive particles detected at monitoring stations across northern Europe. Officials in Finland, Norway and Sweden say that one of the isotopes, Iodine 131, does not occur in nature and is created by nuclear fission. Cobalt, ruthenium and cesium were also detected in Finland. hile the amount of the radiation is considered tiny and not dangerous, its presence has led some experts to believe it may be from the testing of Russia’s new cruise missiles, which are said to be propelled by onboard nuclear power plants.

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Environment

Plastic Reaches Antarctica

Scientists have found for the first time evidence that plastic has entered the food chain in the Antarctic. Researchers write in the journal Biology Letters that bits of polystyrene were discovered in the guts of tiny organisms known as springtails, living in the soil not covered by ice on King George Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Extensive scientific research, along with an airport, military facilities and visiting tourists, make it what the researchers call one of the most contaminated regions of the Antarctic. The authors of the report said they believe the springtails inadvertently consumed the plastic fragments while grazing on their usual food.

Environment

Siberia’s record-breaking heat wave

The extreme record-breaking heat that has baked Siberia for several months should serve as an “incredibly loud alarm bell” of the need to adapt to climate change, say researchers.

Thawing permafrost leading to the Norilsk oil spill – one of the worst in Russia’s history – “zombie fires” resurrected from blazes last year and dramatic levels of snowmelt are among the consequences.

The temperatures, while mostly still cold by the standards of someone living in London or New York, have been unprecedented.

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Environment

Heat Record North of Arctic Circle

A small town in Siberia reached a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, which, if verified, would mark the hottest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle.

Temperatures have jumped in recent months to levels rarely seen in the Russian region, and it’s a sign of a broader trend of human-caused climate change that’s transforming weather patterns in the Arctic Circle.

The town of Verkhoyansk is one of the coldest towns on Earth — temperatures dropped to nearly 60 degrees below zero there this past November — and the average June high temperature is 68 degrees.

The 100.4 reading in Verkhoyansk, which sits farther north than Fairbanks, Alaska, would be the northernmost 100-degree reading ever observed.

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Environment

Mini Forests

A patchwork of small but dense forests is emerging across Europe thanks to a Japanese botanist who has also planted tiny forests in Japan and Malaysia.

Akira Miyawaki’s projects use saplings of native varieties, adapted to local conditions, to cover sites as small as a tennis court and in patches of roadside.

The method typically uses 30 or more species at a time and is said to grow forests 10 times faster, 30 times denser and 100 times more biodiverse than those planted in conventional ways.

Besides the ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere to combat global warming, the mini forests provide better food and shelter for a diversity of creatures, such as insects, snails and amphibians.