SkyNews: Earth ‘has been lucky’ to support life for 3 billion years, study says

Saturday 2 January 2021 11:37, UK

A mass climate evolution experiment suggests most planets would not have supported life for as long as Earth has.

By Russell Hope, news reporter 

A mass simulation experiment suggests most planets would not have been able to cope with changes to their climate while still supporting life for the three billion years Earth has, scientists have said.

Researchers at the University of Southampton put 100,000 randomly generated planets through the effects of climateevolution 100 times each.

Just 8,700, less than 10%, stayed the course at least once, according to the study, which was published in the Nature journal Communications Earth and Environment.

And almost all of these (8,000) completed the span fewer than 50 times out of 100, while more than half (about 4,500) were successful fewer than 10 times out of 100.Advertisement

Professor Toby Tyrrell, a specialist in Earth system science, said the results suggested chance is a major factor in determining whether planets, such as Earth, can continue to nurture life over billions of years.

He said: “A continuously stable and habitable climate on Earth is quite puzzling. Our neighbours, Mars and Venus, do not have habitable temperatures, even though Mars once did.

“Earth not only has a habitable temperature today, but has kept this at all times across three to four billion years – an extraordinary span of geological time.

“We can now understand that Earth stayed suitable for life for so long due, at least in part, to luck.

“For instance, if a slightly larger asteroid had hit Earth, or had done so at a different time, then Earth may have lost its habitability altogether.

“To put it another way, if an intelligent observer had been present on the early Earth as life first evolved, and was able to calculate the chances of the planet staying habitable for the next several billion years, the calculation may well have revealed very poor odds.”

He said that these poor odds mean that the chances of finding inhabitable “twin Earths” elsewhere in the universe are also very slim.

Reuters: Pompeii’s ruins yield scalded bodies of rich man and slave

ROME (Reuters) – Archaeologists have discovered the exceptionally well-preserved remains of two men scalded to death by the volcanic eruption that destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD, the Italian culture ministry said on Saturday.

One was probably a man of high status, aged between 30 and 40, who still bore traces of a woollen cloak under his neck.

The second, probably aged 18 to 23, was dressed in a tunic and had a number of crushed vertebrae, indicating that he had been a slave who did heavy labour.

The remains were found in Civita Giuliana, 700 metres northwest of the centre of ancient Pompeii, in an underground chamber in the area of a large villa being excavated.

The men’s teeth and bones were preserved, and the voids left by their soft tissues were filled with plaster that was left to harden and then excavated to show the outline of their bodies.

“These two victims were perhaps seeking refuge when they were swept away by the pyroclastic current at about 9 in the morning,” said Massimo Osanna, director of the archeological site. “It is a death by thermal shock, as also demonstrated by their clenched feet and hands.”

In a statement, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the find underlined Pompeii’s status as “an incredible place for research and study”.

Pompeii, 23 km (14 miles) southeast of Naples, was home to about 13,000 people when the eruption buried it under under ash, pumice pebbles and dust, freezing it in time.

The remains were not discovered until the 16th century and organised excavations began around 1750. However, more recently, attention has focused on arresting the decay or collapse of the exposed ruins.

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Kevin Liffey

NYTimes: Burning Fossil Fuels Helped Drive Earth’s Most Massive Extinction

Massive volcanic eruptions ignited oil and coal deposits in Siberia in the events that led to the Permian-Triassic “Great Dying” event.

By Lucas Joel
Nov. 18, 2020





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Paleontologists call it the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, but it has another name: “the Great Dying.” It happened about 252 million years ago, and, over the course of just tens of thousands of years, 96 percent of all life in the oceans and, perhaps, roughly 70 percent of all land life vanished forever.
The smoking gun was ancient volcanism in what is today Siberia, where volcanoes disgorged enough magma and lava over about a million years to cover an amount of land equivalent to a third or even half of the surface area of the United States.
But volcanism on its own didn’t cause the extinction. The Great Dying was fueled, two separate teams of scientists report in two recent papers, by extensive oil and coal deposits that the Siberian magma blazed through, leading to combustion that released greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.
“There was lots of oil, coal and carbonates formed before the extinction underground near the Siberian volcanism,” said Kunio Kaiho, a geochemist at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and the lead author of one of the studies, published this month in Geology, which presented evidence for the burning of ancient fossil fuels by magma. “We discovered two volcanic combustion events coinciding with the end-Permian land extinction and marine extinction.”


The findings solidify the Great Dying as one of the best examples that we have from Earth’s history of what a changing climate can do to life on our planet.
Dr. Kaiho and his team retrieved samples from rock deposits in south China and northern Italy that formed around the time of the extinction, and they detected spikes of a molecule called coronene. That substance, Dr. Kaiho explained, is produced only when fossil fuels combust at extremely high temperatures — like those you might find in magma.

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One potential issue with coronene, says Henrik Svenson, a geologist at the University of Oslo who was not involved in the work, is that it forms only at temperatures exceeding 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, and to reach such temperatures, the fossil fuels would have had to be enveloped inside the magma, not just sitting next to it.










Image


The coronene, which was detected in fossil shells, forms only in extremely high temperatures, like those you’d find in magma, the researchers say.
The coronene, which was detected in fossil shells, forms only in extremely high temperatures, like those you’d find in magma, the researchers say.Credit…Renato Posenato, Ferrara University
But the team’s findings are backed up by a Nature Geoscience study published last month that presents chemical evidence for the acidification of the oceans after the fossil fuel combustion and greenhouse gas release.


As the planet warmed, the oceans absorbed more and more carbon dioxide. This caused waters to acidify to the point that organisms like corals would have dissolved, explained Hana Jurikova, a biogeochemist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who led the study. Dr. Jurikova and her team discovered spikes of the element boron — a proxy for acidity levels — in fossil brachiopod shells found in rocks in Italy that stretch across the extinction boundary.
“For the first time, we’re able to explain what caused the extinction,” Dr. Jurikova said. “If you just increase the temperature, organisms often find a way to cope. But the problem is if you really change temperature and acidification, and maybe nutrients, that’s when your organisms will not be able to adapt.” Today, with sea-surface temperatures on the rise, the oceans are acidifying, and some shelled animals are already showing signs of their shells dissolving.
Dr. Svenson thinks the next step for geologists is field work in Siberia to get a handle on whether ancient magma interacted with the fossil fuel deposits as the new studies imply.
“A lot of this we simply do not know,” Dr. Svenson said.
While you may be tempted to draw an analogy between the Great Dying and today’s warming climate, there are significant differences. For one, the greenhouse gases emitted during the Permian-Triassic events were far greater than anything humans have produced. Also, the volcanoes released carbon dioxide 252 million years ago at a rate much slower than humans emit it today.
“The amount of carbon released to the atmosphere per year from the Siberian traps, it was still 14 times lower than the rate we have at the moment,” Dr. Jurikova said. “So, the amount of carbon we’re burning per year at the moment is much higher than during the largest extinction. I mean, that’s incredible, right?”



Huffpost: 2020 Is Proving Another Disastrous Year For Our Earth’s Climate

The year already has been marked by rising global temperatures, Arctic ice melts and intensifying wildfires and storms.

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By Nina Golgowski

Record-breaking heat, melting ice caps, raging wildfires and a particularly grim hurricane forecast may have taken a backseat in news cycles dominated by politics and a health pandemic, but that doesn’t mean these climate phenomena have gone away.

The year still has more than four months to go, but 2020 already has proven itself to be another eventful one in terms of natural disasters, rising global temperatures and threatening environmental outlooks.

Here’s a look at just some of the anomalies we’ve faced so far in 2020. 

Record-Breaking Heat

The year is expected to rank among the five warmest on record for the planet, according to a July report by a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration office, which said a 75% chance exists it ends up being the hottest or second hottest.

Mountains nearly devoid of snow stand behind a road and a polar bear warning sign during a summer heatwave on Svalbard archip
Mountains nearly devoid of snow stand behind a road and a polar bear warning sign during a summer heatwave on Svalbard archipelago on July 29 near Longyearbyen, Norway.

During the first seven months of the year, the Earth’s global land and ocean surface temperature set its second-highest heat record. The temperature of 58.79 degrees Fahrenheit (14.88 Celsius) was only .007 of a degree less than the record set in 2016.

July also saw the global temperature rise 1.66 degrees Fahrenheit (0.92 of a degree Celcius) above the 20th-century average, tying it with 2016 as the second-hottest July on record. It was just .02-degree short of 2019′s record rise in July of 1.71-degree Fahrenheit (0.95 of a degree Celcius).

The Northern Hemisphere, meanwhile, saw the highest ever recorded combined land and ocean surface average temperature in July, with the mercury rising 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit (1.18 degree Celcius) above average. This combined temperature surpassed July 2019 by 0.14 of a degree Fahrenheit (0.08 of a degree Celcius).

Global land and ocean temperature anomalies in July.
Global land and ocean temperature anomalies in July.

“The six warmest Julys on record have occurred in the last six years, consistent with our warming climate,” NOAA reported.

Throughout the U.S., heat records have been smashed, including in Florida, California, parts of New England, West Virginia.

Temperatures in Death Valley, California, were recorded hitting 130 degrees Fahrenheit last Sunday. If verified, this would be the highest temperature recorded on Earth since at least 1913.  https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=glowgow&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1278163744850423810&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffpost.com%2Fentry%2F2020-another-disastrous-year-for-our-earth_n_5f3d8b59c5b66346157fd6e2&siteScreenName=HuffPostGreen&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=550px

Loss Of Sea Ice

Unfortunately, all this heat affects more than just air conditioner sales.

July set a new record low for Arctic sea ice for the month ―120,000 square miles below the previous record low mark for July set in 2019, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). And the figure for this July was 840,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average. 

The ice loss was attributed to above-average air temperatures and extensive melt pond development, which reduces the ice surface’s ability to reflect light and consequently allows more of the sun’s energy to be absorbed, the NSIDC said.

News of the record lows came as researchers announced that Canada’s last fully intact Arctic ice shelf had collapsed.

The 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf in Nunavut, Canada, lost more than 40% of its area, or 31 square miles, over two days in late July.

Canada’s ice shelves were a sheet spanning approximately 3,475-square miles when discovered by polar explorer Robert Peary in 1902, according to NSIDC.By 2000, it had been reduced to just 405 square miles, the BBC reported.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=glowgow&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1290740808170307584&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffpost.com%2Fentry%2F2020-another-disastrous-year-for-our-earth_n_5f3d8b59c5b66346157fd6e2&siteScreenName=HuffPostGreen&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=550px

“This drastic decline in ice shelves is clearly related to climate change,” University of Ottawa glaciology professor Luke Copland said in a statement. “This summer has been up to 5°C (41 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average over the period from 1981 to 2010, and the region has been warming at two to three times the global rate. The Milne and other ice shelves in Canada are simply not viable any longer and will disappear in the coming decades.”

The St. Patrick Bay ice caps, also in Nunavut, completely vanished last month. The caps were reduced to only five percent of their former area between 1959-2015 and then rapidly deteriorated after an especially warm summer in 2015, according to NSIDC and NASA imagery.

“We’ve long known that as climate change takes hold, the effects would be especially pronounced in the Arctic,” said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze, who conducted research on the St. Patrick Bay ice caps as a graduate student in 1982. “But the death of those two little caps that I once knew so well has made climate change very personal. All that’s left are some photographs and a lot of memories.”

This map from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration identifies some of the most significant weather and climate eve
This map from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration identifies some of the most significant weather and climate events that have occurred so far this year.

California’s Raging Wildfires

Amid heat waves and dry lightning strikes, California is again dealing with a massive wildfire crisis that state officials say has consumed more than 422,000 acres of land, destroyed nearly 300 structures and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. 

As of this past week, the state’s largest fire ― designated as the SCU Lightning Complex ― had torched nearly 140,000 acres as it burned east of San Jose. That’s nearly double the size of last year’s largest blaze, the Kincade fire, which burned more than 77,700 acres across Sonoma County.

The state’s fire season has lengthened by about 75 days and has seen an increase in larger fires in recent years, according to state officials, who blame warmer spring and summer temperatures, earlier spring snowmelt and more intense dry seasons for the vegetation’s increased fire susceptibility.

Flames from the wildfire designated as the LNU Lightning Complex are seen around Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California on
Flames from the wildfire designated as the LNU Lightning Complex are seen around Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California on Wednesday. Fire crews across the region have scrambled to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes.

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“The fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year,” California’s Department of Forestry & Fire Protection reported last year. “Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend.”

Half of California’s 20 most destructive wildfires have occurred within the last 10 years; the state’s most destructive and deadliest, the Camp Fire, occurred in 2018.

“This is not the last, quote end quote, ‘record-breaking’ historic heat dome and experience that we will have in the state, or in this region or in our nation or in our hemisphere in our lifetime,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said at a press conference Tuesday. “This is exactly what so many scientists have predicted for decades.”

One 2015 study found that fire seasons, globally, have lengthened as well.

A charred tricycle was about all that was left standing Thursday inside a burnt-to-the-ground home in Bonny Doon, California.
A charred tricycle was about all that was left standing Thursday inside a burnt-to-the-ground home in Bonny Doon, California. Half of California’s 20 most-destructive wildfires have occurred within the last 10 years.

An ‘Extremely Active’ Hurricane Season

Forecasters have predicted an above-average season for hurricanes this year, possibly one of the busiest on record.

In just the first two months of the hurricane season ― which runs from June 1-Nov. 30 ― a record-setting nine named storms occurred. That’s seven more than the average number through early August, according to NOAA.

NOAA earlier this month updated its outlook for this year to forecast between 19 and 25 named storms, seven to 11 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes of Category 3 or stronger. That’s up from the 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes it predicted in May.

The agency never before has forecast up to 25 named storms.

“This year, we expect more, stronger and longer-lived storms than average,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

NOAA’s predicted Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, which measures the combined intensity and duration of all named storms during the season, also “extends well above NOAA’s threshold for an extremely active season,” he said. 

Reasons for the extreme activity include above-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean, as well as an enhanced West African monsoon, NOAA said.

Tropical Storm Isaias

Tropical storm Isaias, the ninth named storm of this season, initially made landfall in North Carolina on Aug. 3 as a Category 1 storm before traveling up the Atlantic coast, weakening along the way.

A Philadelphia police officer rushes to help a stranded motorist during Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4. The storm spawned to
A Philadelphia police officer rushes to help a stranded motorist during Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4. The storm spawned tornadoes and dumped rain during an inland march up the East Coast after making landfall as a hurricane along the North Carolina coast. It was NOAA’s ninth-named storm so far this year, an unusually high number. 

The storm brought flash flooding and tornadoes, and it downed trees and powerlines. At least nine people were killed and millions were left without power. New York City utility company Con Ed reported more outages from Isaias than any other storm except 2012′s Superstorm Sandy. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont governor declared a state of emergency after more than 700,000 of the state’s residents were left without electricity for several days.

Iowa’s Derecho

Earlier this month, a rare storm known as a derecho tore across the Midwest, with hurricane-force winds topping 100 mph. The storm killed at least three people in Iowa, destroyed or extensively damaged about 8,200 homes, and destroyed a third of the state’s cropland, Gov. Kim Reynolds said.

Ten days after the storm hit, nearly 19,000 people in Iowa remained without power.

Reynolds filed an expedited presidential major disaster declaration while estimating that the damage amounted to nearly $4 billion.

Damaged grain bins are shown at the Heartland Co-Op grain elevator on Aug. 11, in Luther, Iowa, after a powerful derecho batt
Damaged grain bins are shown at the Heartland Co-Op grain elevator on Aug. 11, in Luther, Iowa, after a powerful derecho battered the region. An estimated 8,200 homes were destroyed or extensively damaged.

The storm was the result of unstable, extremely moist air that had lingered over the northern plains for days before forming into the powerful weather formation.

Tornadoes

Though April is typically not one of the worst months for tornadoes, this year proved an exception. 

More than 350 tornadoes were reported in the U.S. during the month, the second-highest number of twisters ever for an April, according to preliminary numbers by the National Weather Service, whose records date back to 1970. These storms killed 40 people, making April the deadliest tornado month since 41 people died in May 2013.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=glowgow&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1256242896111636482&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffpost.com%2Fentry%2F2020-another-disastrous-year-for-our-earth_n_5f3d8b59c5b66346157fd6e2&siteScreenName=HuffPostGreen&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=550px

May and June, in contrast, saw the fewest number of tornadoes for that period, with both months seeing a combined total of just 249 tornadoes, according to the NWS. That’s despite May and June typically averaging the most number of tornadoes in the U.S., at least over the last 20 years, according to Weather.com.

Weather systems over the Southeast in May and June were blamed for preventing moisture, necessary for storm development, from traveling to the Great Plains region that is known as Tornado Alley.

“It was one unfavorable pattern after another,” Jeff Frame, a teaching associate professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, told CNN. “It’s rare to see something like this.”

NYTimes: Konrad Steffen, Who Sounded Alarm on Greenland Ice, Dies at 68

Screenshot 2020-08-14 at 12.24.54

Credit…William Colgan/CIRES – GEUS

A renowned researcher on rising sea levels, he died after falling into the kind of crevasse that warming has created. “It looks like climate change actually claimed him as a victim,” a colleague said.

Konrad Steffen, an Arctic scientist whose work showed that climate change is melting Greenland’s vast ice sheet with increasing speed, died on Saturday in an accident near a research station he created there 30 years ago. He was 68.

Police investigators said he had fallen into a crevasse in the ice and drowned in the deep water below.

A fellow scientist at the station, Jason Box, said the crevasse, or large crack, was a known hazard. But he added that high winds and recent snowfall had made visibility poor and landmarks harder to spot.

The small group at the site — christened Swiss Camp by Dr. Steffen — was installing new equipment when he walked off to perform another task. Over the next few hours, Dr. Box said, they assumed that Dr. Steffen had gone back to his tent for a nap. But when they finished their work he was nowhere to be found.

Ryan R. Neely III, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds who studied under Dr. Steffen, said that not long ago crevasses in the area where Dr. Steffen was working “were unheard-of,” but that they had begun emerging with the stresses on the ice sheet created by warming.

“In the end,” he said, “it looks like climate change actually claimed him as a victim.”

Dr. Neely called his old mentor (“Koni” to his friends) a “larger than life explorer-scientist that you typically only get the chance to read about.”

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Understanding Greenland’s ice sheet is crucial to understanding climate change and sea level rise. Current projections say that if the planet warms by two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial times, average sea levels will rise by more than two feet, and 32 million to 80 million people will be exposed to coastal flooding.

Greenland’s ice sheet, more than a mile thick, is the second largest mass of freshwater ice on the planet, after Antarctica. It is already a major contributor to the sea level rise.

GUARDIAN: I feel fine: fans of world-ending films ‘coping better with pandemic’ Researchers say apocalyptic movies prepare people for Covid-19 and make them more resilient

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 23.32.24

 

Science editor
Published onWed 1 Jul 2020 19.05 BST

For those of you who whiled away hours on the sofa watching society crumble in the face of marauding zombies, deadly aliens and infectious diseases – it’s time to reap the rewards.

Psychologists have found evidence that fans of apocalyptic movies – where global order is upturned – may be more resilient and better prepared to deal with the coronavirus pandemic than the rest of us.

The bleak scenarios thrown up by films such as Contagion, from panic buying and isolation to fear of others and fake claims of miracle cures, appeared to help viewers take the outbreak in their stride and work out how best to handle the crisis.

“If it’s a good movie, it pulls you in and you take the perspective of the characters, so you are unintentionally rehearsing the scenarios,” said Coltan Scrivner, a psychologist who specialises in morbid curiosity at the University of Chicago. “We think people are learning vicariously. It’s like, with the exception of the toilet paper shortage, they pretty much knew what to buy.”

The researchers questioned 310 volunteers on their movie preferences and viewing histories before asking them how prepared they felt going into the pandemic and what levels of anxiety, depression, irritability and sleepless they had experienced.

LiveScience: Viking ‘treasure’ of rare artefacts revealed on a long-lost mountain trail

Screenshot 2020-05-18 at 11.39.41

Another dog to add to the big story-PtL

Mitten found at Lendbreen, made from different pieces of woven fabric. Radiocarbon-dated to the ninth century.

Mitten found at Lendbreen, made from different pieces of woven fabric. Radiocarbon-dated to the ninth century.
(Image: © Antiquity Publications Ltd/Photo: Johan Wildhagen, Palookaville)

Archaeologists recently documented a rare treasure trove of Viking Age objects littering a long-forgotten mountain pass, including the remains of a dog wearing its collar and leash.

As climate change melts Norway’s glaciers, pockets of history hidden for centuries or millennia are finally seeing the light of day. Melting along a high-altitude trail in the Lendbreen glacier has revealed hundreds of artifacts dating to the Viking Age, the Roman Iron Age and even the Bronze Age.

Remarkably well-preserved items littered the winding path, including clothing and shoes, a variety of tools and riding gear, and animal bones and dung. They offer clues about daily life, and hint at the challenges and importance of mountain travel in this region, according to a new study published online April 16 in the journal Antiquity.

“A lost mountain pass is a dream discovery for us glacial archaeologists,” lead study author Lars Pilø, co-director of the Glacier Archaeology Program (GAP), said in a statement. A collaboration between the Innlandet County Council and the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo in Norway, GAP recovers and identifies historical artifacts exposed by disappearing Norwegian glaciers.

The ice patch at the Lendbreen site extends from about 5,500 to 6,300 feet (1,690 to 1,920 meters) above sea level, and the mountain pass rises to nearly 6,500 feet (1,973 m) above sea level, researchers reported. Melt at Lendbreen in 2011 revealed the first evidence of the long-hidden trail, with cairns (human-made piles of stone) marking the route and a shelter at the highest point.

In the new study, scientists documented discoveries that appeared between 2011 and 2015, preserved by the dry, frozen climate and protected by layers of ice (before being exposed). Among the objects were shoes made of hide; a woven mitten and more than 50 pieces of fabric; a walking stick inscribed with runes; a wood-handled knife; horseshoes and sled pieces; and bones from pack horses.

“The preservation of the objects emerging from the ice is just stunning,” study co-author Espen Finstad, an archaeologist with the Department of Cultural Heritage in Lillehammer, Norway, said in the statement.

Wooden bit for goat kids or lambs to prevent them suckling their mother, as the milk was processed for human consumption. Found in the pass area at Lendbreen and made from juniper, this specimen is radiocarbon-dated to the 11th century A.D.

Wooden bit for goat kids or lambs to prevent them suckling their mother, as the milk was processed for human consumption. Found in the pass area at Lendbreen and made from juniper, this specimen is radiocarbon-dated to the 11th century A.D. (Image credit: Antiquity Publications Ltd/Photo: Espen Finstad, secretsoftheice.com)

Dead animals and broken tools were likely abandoned along the path by the travelers, while tools in good condition may have simply been lost, according to the study. The presence of usable clothing among the discarded objects is more puzzling, but these items may have been thrown away by people who were suffering from severe hypothermia, which can cause irrational behavior, the researchers wrote.

Carbon dating of approximately 60 objects indicated that the pass was actively used from around A.D. 300 to A.D. 1500. Some objects, such as a ski and an arrow, dated to the Bronze Age (1750 B.C. to 500 B.C.), and several artifacts were even older. But the items that were most abundant dated to around A.D. 1000 — the Viking Age — suggesting that the mountain pass was busiest during this period.

Related: Photos: Vikings accessorized with tiny metal dragons

Distaff — a stick for wool-spinning — from the pass at Lendbreen, made from birch and radiocarbon-dated to approximately A.D. 800. A similar distaff has been found in the Viking ship burial at the Oseberg farm in Norway.

Distaff — a stick for wool-spinning — from the pass at Lendbreen, made from birch and radiocarbon-dated to approximately A.D. 800. A similar distaff has been found in the Viking ship burial at the Oseberg farm in Norway. (Image credit: Antiquity Publications Ltd/Photo: Espen Finstad, secretsoftheice.com )

Unlike many other ancient mountain passes that are known from the Alps and the Himalayas, this route was likely busiest when snow and ice were abundant, as the route would have been difficult for pack animals and sleds to navigate when rocks were bare, according to the study.

By sifting through the objects, scientists reconstructed how people used the path and how that changed over time. What was once a high-traffic roadway during the Viking Age waned in popularity and was all but abandoned by the 16th century, possibly due to climate change-related melting, economic upheaval and the arrival of pandemics from Europe, the researchers wrote.

Another substantial melt event at Lendbreen in 2019 revealed even more intriguing artifacts that are yet to be scientifically described, including the leashed dog remains, “and a wooden box with the lid still on,” Finstad said.

Nat Geographic: These charts show how coronavirus has ‘quieted’ the world

Screenshot 2020-04-14 at 11.51.28

These charts show how coronavirus has ‘quieted’ the world

see Link on image for the full set of charts.

As people stopped commuting and traveling, the Earth’s surface vibrated less—and seismologists tracked the change.

PUBLISHED

The sound of silence, around the globe

Lecocq initially analyzed data from stations in his home city of Brussels just to show his family and friends the seismic impacts of staying home. He posted the data on Twitter alongside others who noticed similar patterns. The charts sparked the interest of scientists around the world who began tracking noise reductions in numerous places, including cities of Switzerland, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, China, Nepal, the United States, New Zealand, and more.

“We keep it looooooow!!” a cheery Lecocq wrote on Twitter this week as the reduction in noise persisted in Brussels. He says the phenomenon may be unprecedented: “I think it’s the first time that such a thing happened at a global scale.”

Though scientists have noted a definite drop in human activity, it’s tough to draw conclusions about how well social distancing is working from seismic data alone, Lecocq says. The magnitude of the change depends on many factors, including population density and nearby industrial activity. Even the position of a seismometer within a city can influence the size of the lull. In Brussels, seismic activity since the advent of COVID-19 is about 30 to 50 percent lower than average—similar to declines during the Christmas holidays. In Nepal, the seismic plots of some cities show a stunning 80 percent drop.

Observations that began out of curiosity might prove valuable to seismology research in other ways. “Having a lower level of background noise is just like being in a quieter room,” says environmental seismologist Celeste Labedz, a PhD student at the California Institute of Technology. “We can hear more sounds.”

The heightened stillness during self-quarantine could allow seismologists to detect faint or distant earthquakes they previously could have missed. The quiet might also help scientists study the natural buzzes of our planet, such as the rush of river waters, that fall into a similar frequency band as human activity, Labedz says.

One team of scientists is examining the noise reduction itself, by studying seismic noise recorded on a fiber optic network underneath Palo Alto, California. Unlike the single point of measurement from a seismometer, a fiber optic network can measure noise in hundreds of locations, says seismologist Nate Lindsey of Stanford University, who is analyzing these changes.

One early conclusion of the analysis: Lindsey and colleagues found that even when freeway traffic abated, noise persisted near a local hospital. The fiber optic network data is so precise that researchers can spot individual cars passing by. Studying traffic at such a fine scale could help officials manage the movement of people in future crises, says Stanford seismologist Siyuan Yuan, who is collaborating with Lindsey.

On April 1, Lecocq put out a call to researchers to help assemble the masses of seismic data into a paper. Within just two days, he recruited 26 volunteers. The study will not address the efficiency of social distancing, but will give other scientists easy access to analyze the unprecedented global quieting.

For seismologists, the work serves as a welcome distraction from the uncertainty of the pandemic. “We all have something pretty big on our minds at the moment, so it’s nice that there’s something going on that’s in our expertise that we can do right now,” Labedz says. “It makes us feel busy in a positive and helpful way.”

 

the Guardian: Nightingales at risk due to shorter wings caused by climate crisis

a nightingale singing
The changing climate is affecting migratory birds such as nightingales. Photograph: FLPA/Michael Durham/Rex/Shutterstock

 

Migration to European breeding grounds from Africa is harder due to evolutionary changes

The nightingale was feted by John Keats as a “light-winged Dryad of the trees”. But the much-celebrated small bird with a beautiful song may be increasingly endangered because its wings are getting shorter.

The nightingale makes an epic journey from sub-Saharan Africa to breed in Europe each summer but there are barely 7,000 nesting pairs left in England.

Spanish researchers examining wing sizes of two nightingale populations in central Spain have found that the average wing length relative to their body size has fallen over the past two decades. Shorter-winged birds were found to be less likely to return to their breeding grounds after their first trip to Africa.

According to a new study published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, natural selection driven by climate change is causing the birds to evolve with shorter wings.

In recent decades, the timing of spring has shifted in central Spain and summer droughts have become longer and more intense, leaving the nightingales a shorter window in which to raise their young.

Scientists believe that there is a suite of adaptations that make the nightingales effective migratory birds including a long wingspan, a larger clutch size and a shorter lifespan, which are controlled by a set of linked genes. This means that selective pressure on one trait also affects the other features.

If the pressure of drought is leading the most successful birds to lay smaller clutches of eggs, with fewer young to feed, then it could be causing these nightingales to also lose the other linked traits that make them such effective migrants. This is an example of “maladaptation” where species’ responses to cope with changing conditions end up causing them harm.

“There is much evidence that climate change is having an effect on migratory birds, changing their arrival and laying dates and their physical features over the last few decades,” said lead author Carolina Remacha of Complutense University of Madrid.

“If we are to fully understand how bird populations adapt to new environments in order to help them tackle the challenges of a rapidly changing world, it is important to call attention to the potential problems of maladaptive change.”

NYT: The Fires Are Out, but Australia’s Climate Disasters Aren’t Over

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RAINBOW FLAT, Australia — Standing in thick mud between burned trees and a concrete slab where his house had been, Peter Ruprecht admitted that he was not sure how or when to rebuild.

He was still dizzied by what Australia’s increasingly volatile climate had already delivered: first a drought, then a devastating bush fire, then a foot of rain from a tropical storm.

“It’s unstoppable,” said Mr. Ruprecht, a former dairy farmer. “We speak about the warmth of Mother Nature, but nature can also be vicious and wild and unforgiving.”

Australia’s hellish fire season has eased, but its people are facing more than a single crisis. With floods destroying homes not far from where infernos recently raged, they are confronting a cycle of what scientists call “compound extremes”: one climate disaster intensifying the next.

ImagePeter Ruprecht at a new dam on his property in Rainbow Flat, where fires destroyed his home. He and his wife dug two reservoirs to help protect them from future fires.

Warmer temperatures do more than just dry out the land. They also heat up the atmosphere, which means clouds hold more moisture for longer periods of time. So droughts get worse, giving way to fires, then to crushing rains that the land is too dry to absorb.

One result of that multiplier effect for Australia — a global bellwether for climate change’s effects — is that rebuilding after a disaster becomes far more complicated. Many Australians in disaster zones complain that their government, after dismissing climate change for years, has yet to outline recovery plans that are clear and that take future threats into account.

At the same time, the economic costs of a changing climate are skyrocketing. Philip Lowe, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, warned recently that Australia was already paying a price, and that it would only go up.

“Addressing climate change isn’t something that is any responsibility of the Reserve Bank of Australia, but what we do have a responsibility to do is to understand the economic and the financial implication of climate change,” he said. “The economic implications are profound.”

 

Tourism has already taken a major hit. In the longer term, Australia should expect agricultural output and property values to suffer, according to a recent study by the Climate Council, an independent advocacy group. It said property losses related to climate change could reach 571 billion Australian dollars ($384 billion) by 2030, and 770 billion ($510 billion) by 2100.

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Black Head Beach on the coast of New South Wales north of Sydney, Australia, during a swell caused by a cyclone this month.

The insurance industry is already scrambling to adjust. The drenching storms of the past month led to a rush of damage claims and left tens of thousands of homes without electricity, prompting insurers to declare a catastrophe for the sixth time in five months. Such declarations, which speed up payouts, have become more frequent and more costly in recent decades.

Now, more disasters are threatening to overlap.

In Conjola Park south of Sydney, where fires over the New Year holiday destroyed 89 homes, the lake recently flooded, causing still more damage. Up and down Australia’s east coast, trees killed by drought, charred by flame and toppled by thunderstorms have crushed cars and homes.

Neither insurers nor residents are sure which disaster to blame. One thing that’s clear is that the stacking crises put people at risk and multiply their anxieties.

“I don’t like going anywhere,” said Karen Couzins, who lives in Nattai, about 95 miles southwest of Sydney. School has been canceled because of blocked roads, and simply getting groceries has become dangerous, she said.

 

Tim McNamara, a cattle farm owner,  with his dogs in Black Head. 

 

“The trees are just falling across roads all over the place,” Ms. Couzins said. “I’ve just come back from a drive on the road. I saw a car with the front end all damaged; a tree fell on their car.”

The extremes have been especially severe north of Sydney, where Mr. Ruprecht and his wife are living in a converted metal shed, for now.

First came the drought, which wore on for years, leaving farms and forests dusty, brown and brittle. When the fires arrived in October and November, before summer had even officially started, anyone with knowledge of the bush knew there would be months of pain and struggle.

“It was a bomb ready to go off,” said Ian McMullen, 56, a third-generation timber owner, who estimates that he lost a half-million Australian dollars to the fires.

He was sitting on a bench near the shore in Hallidays Point, talking to a friend from childhood, Tim McNamara, who owns a nearby cattle farm. They said they had been discussing climate change even before I arrived, because they could not help it.

In front of them, huge waves rose like muddy mountains, the usually clean water full of ash and debris from the fires. Cyclone Uesi had weakened before drifting so far south, but its mere appearance pointed to yet another climate trend: the drift of tropical weather into areas where it had not been before.

 

An area of Conjola Park badly affected by the New Year fire.

Up the road, in a shop for local artists, 63-year-old Jenny Dayment said, “Change is certainly happening all around us.” She cited little things, like rising humidity and shifts in the bird population.

After so many years of people praying for rain, the recent downpours have been bittersweet, Mrs. Dayment said. Even as they have turned the ground green again, they have brought the ominous crack of falling trees.

“Maybe we’ll get some normalcy back in our day-to-day routines,” she said. “But people are going to be wary for a very long time. I don’t think we can ever be the same.”

Her daughter’s house had burned to the ground, she said. She pulled up a photo of what was left: a fireplace surrounded by crumpled chaos. Her daughter was not sure what to do next; she and her husband were thinking about buying temporary container housing.

 

Riley Fletcher, 12, walking on the ruins of his family’s home in Conjola Park. He was wearing a mask to protect himself from asbestos.

The Ruprechts also cannot decide on the next step. Mr. Ruprecht said the biggest challenge had been “the absence of structure in government.”

“Most inhabitants of first-world countries view themselves as being quite resilient,” he said. “This has tested that.”

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Like many others in areas affected by climate-induced extremes, the Ruprechts have listened carefully to federal and local officials, but they hear mixed signals. Sometimes there are hints of “don’t rebuild, it’s too dangerous”; at other times, moving quickly and keeping the economy humming seems to be the priority.

“It’s really affected our confidence to rebuild,” Mr. Ruprecht said. “Without some sort of vision and leadership, we’re not quite sure what to do.”

Kangaroos at Lake Conjola on Feb 16. Extreme rainfall in recent weeks flooded the lake.

Scientists say Australia should have been better prepared, because what is happening has long been predicted.

In 2015, to take one example among many, the country’s Academy of Science declared that “for Australia, a warmer future will likely mean that extreme precipitation is more intense and more frequent, interspersed with longer dry spells.”

“We’ve been writing about climate change being a stress multiplier for many years,” said Lesley Hughes, a climate scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney. “It’s absolutely been foreseen that our climate is becoming more variable and more severe.”

Lucinda Fischer, 32, the Ruprechts’ daughter, said the government was “kind of the blind leading the blind.” The only way forward, she said, is for the public to get more involved, and for officials to step back and assess what went wrong, and what needs to happen next time.

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“It’s not a question of if we’re going to have another disaster,” she said. “It’s when, and how we’re going to deal with it then.”

 

Outside the Lake Conjola Community Center, where a meeting was held to help residents affected by the bush fire.