Environment

Radiation – Chernobyl

Fission reactions appear to be occurring in an inaccessible chamber of Ukraine’s crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which exploded 35 years ago.

Scientists say they don’t know if the slow rise in neutron emissions will fizzle out or increase, forcing them to find ways to prevent another catastrophe. “It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit,” said nuclear chemist Neil Hyatt of the University of Sheffield. He says the new rates of fission are very low and believes they probably will not lead to an explosion. But scientists on the scene say they are not sure since there is no direct way to monitor what is happening inside the sealed and intensely radioactive chamber.

Global Warming

Forest Recovery

Areas of felled forest around the world, collectively the size of France, have regrown naturally during the past 20 years, potentially soaking up more carbon emissions than the United States creates each year.

But the World Wildlife Fund, which led the survey, says far more areas of forests are being lost each year through deforestation than are recovering. “The data show the enormous potential of natural habitats to recover when given the chance to do so,” said John Lotspeich, executive director of Trillion Trees, the coalition group behind the study.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.9 degrees Celsius) in Kufra, Libya.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 111.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 79.4 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Vanishing Glaciers

A new study of the world’s glaciers reveals that they are melting at a faster pace than previously estimated, posing an increasing threat of inundation to coastal communities and low-lying islands around the world.

The research found that other than the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers lost 676 gigatons of ice per year on average between 2000 and 2019. The losses were said to have accelerated sharply during the period as global heating became more acute. Some glaciers have already vanished, with others expected to do so by the end of the century.

This is a particular threat in South Asia, where mountain glaciers are an important source of fresh water to rivers such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus.

Global Warming

New Normal for USA

The U.S. environment agency NOAA issued its latest calculations of what is now the climatic “normal,” which is based on temperature averages from the past three decades.

The previous normals were based on weather data from 1981 to 2010. But because of the unprecedented warmth of the past two decades, evidence of the current climate emergency is clearly evident in the new 1991-2020 calculations.

The average temperature in the 48 contiguous United States for the past 30 years is now almost a half-degree Fahrenheit hotter than between 1981 and 2010.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 113 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) in Birni-N’Konni, Niger.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 102.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 69.4 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

New Lightning Capital?

Florida, especially around the Tampa Bay Area, has long been renowned as the capital of lightning strikes in the United States.

But researchers from the Finland-based environmental monitoring company Vaisala say that Oklahoma has narrowly surpassed the Sunshine State for that distinction. Its research found there were 83.4 lightning events per square kilometer in Oklahoma between 2016 and 2020 compared with 82.8 in Florida. But Vaisala meteorologist Chris Vagasky says with statistics that close, it’s hard to say that one state has truly overtaken the other.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) in Kayes, Mali.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 93.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 69.4 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

Massive DDT Dumping Ground off California Coast

The sea bottom near southern California has been hiding a very dirty secret: decades of discarded chemicals in thousands of barrels. And the toxic debris field is even bigger than anyone expected, containing at least 27,000 drums of DDT and industrial waste, scientists recently discovered.

High concentrations of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, an insecticide that was widely used for pest control during the 1940s and 1950s) were previously detected in ocean sediments between the Los Angeles coast and Catalina Island, in 2011 and 2013. At the time, scientists who searched the seafloor in the area identified 60 barrels (possibly containing DDT or other waste) and found DDT contamination in sediments, but the full extent of the area’s contamination was unknown.

Now, a research expedition presents a clearer picture of the deep-sea dump site. Their findings reveal a stretch of ocean bottom studded with at least 27,000 industrial waste barrels — and possibly as many as 100,000.

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Global Warming

Glaciers are Shrinking

Earth’s glaciers are shrinking, and in the past 20 years, the rate of shrinkage has steadily sped up, according to a new study of nearly every glacier on the planet.

Glaciers mostly lose mass through ice melt, but they also shrink due to other processes, such as sublimation, where water evaporates directly from the ice, and calving, where large chunks of ice break off the edge of a glacier, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). By tracking how quickly glaciers are shrinking, scientists can better predict how quickly sea levels may rise, particularly as climate change drives up average global temperatures.

The team found that, between 2000 and 2019, glaciers collectively lost an average of 293.7 billion tons (267 billion metric tonnes) of mass per year, give or take 17.6 billion tons (16 billion metric tonnes); this accounts for about 21% of the observed sea-level rise in that time frame.

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Environment

Core Discovery

Scientists say they have found evidence of a new, deeper inner core of the planet, which they say could point to an unknown and dramatic event in Earth’s geologic history.

“Traditionally, we’ve been taught the Earth has four main layers: the crust, the mantle, the outer core and the inner core,” said Australian National University geophysicist and lead researcher Joanne Stephenson.

The newly discovered “innermost inner core” was revealed by using a search algorithm to examine decades of seismic data on how different levels of the Earth cause sound waves to slow down.

Global Warming

Whitest White Paint

Painting rooftops with a new type of super-reflective white paint could help reduce the effects of global heating in buildings and curb the need for air conditioning.

Researchers at Purdue University say the paint they made with barium sulphate pigment rather than conventional titanium dioxide does not absorb any UV light and reflects 98% of all sunlight.

Roofs have been painted white for centuries, but traditional paint reflects only about 80-90% of sunlight and still absorbs the warming UV light. While further tests for durability are needed, the developers say the super-white paint could be on the market within two years at a price comparable to conventional products.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45.6 degrees Celsius) in Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 96.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 71.1 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Sea Level Rise Is Killing Trees Along the US Atlantic Coast

Sea level rise is killing trees along the Atlantic coast, creating ‘ghost forests’ that are visible from space.

Throughout coastal North Carolina, evidence of forest die-off is everywhere. Nearly every roadside ditch is lined with dead or dying trees. This flooding is evidence that climate change is altering landscapes along the Atlantic coast. It’s emblematic of environmental changes that also threaten wildlife, ecosystems, and local farms and forestry businesses.

Large patches of trees are dying simultaneously, and saplings aren’t growing to take their place. And it’s not just a local issue: Seawater is raising salt levels in coastal woodlands along the entire Atlantic Coastal Plain, from Maine to Florida. Huge swaths of contiguous forest are dying. They’re now known in the scientific community as “ghost forests.” Rapid sea level rise seems to be outpacing the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter, saltier conditions. Extreme weather events, fueled by climate change, are causing further damage from heavy storms, more frequent hurricanes and drought.

Environment

Plastic Winds

The scattering of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways and atmosphere is now resulting in the “plastification” of the planet, with the debris “spiraling around the globe” in the wind.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that smaller microplastics can remain in the atmosphere for nearly a week, which is long enough for them to be carried across an ocean or a continent. A lot of the airborne particles are from decades-old, broken-down items such as plastic bags, wrappers and bottles.

But the biggest sources are roadways, where the tires of large trucks and other vehicles degrade into tiny bits as they rumble along and are picked up by the wind.