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Climate change creating vast new glacial lakes

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CALGARY — Meltwater from shrinking glaciers is creating vast lakes that could eventually pose an enormous flooding threat, says newly published research.

“Unsurprisingly, we found those lakes are growing,” said Dan Shugar, a geographer at the University of Calgary. “What was surprising was how much.”

The fact that glaciers around the world are shrinking due to climate change is well-established. What hasn’t been so well studied is where all that water is going.

In a paper published Monday in Nature Climate Change, Shugar and his colleagues provide the first global assessment of how much water is contained in so-called glacial lakes and how quickly that volume is increasing.

That assessment wasn’t possible until a few years ago, when computers finally became powerful enough to work through a world’s worth of data and 250,000 satellite images.

Glacial lakes form when meltwater from glaciers is prevented from draining by the ice itself. They form on top, in front, beside or even underneath a glacier.

They are growing at a rapid pace everywhere glaciers are found. Shugar and his colleagues estimate that the amount of water those lakes hold has increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990.

The total volume is calculated to be an almost-unimaginable 158 cubic kilometres of water. That’s a cube of icy cold water almost 5.5 kilometres long, wide and high.

Many glacial lakes are located in thinly inhabited locales such as Greenland. Others are in places like the Himalayas, where they sit alongside villages and communities.

Canadian glacial lakes are swelling as well.

Their volume across the country, including those in the High Arctic, has increased about 20 per cent and they hold about 37 cubic kilometres of water, Shugar said. The lakes in British Columbia and Yukon have increased even more quickly, almost doubling in volume over the last 30 years to 21 cubic kilometres.

They can present a hazard. Because the water is only held back by ice, glacial lakes are prone to sudden events called glacial lake outburst floods.

“In western North America, the risks aren’t as high (as the Himalayas), but they certainly aren’t zero,” said Shugar.

And when they go, they go “absolutely gargantuan,” Shugar said.

In 1996, an outburst flood in Iceland created what was for a couple of days the second-biggest river in the world. A 1930s outburst from the Chong Khumdan glacier in the Karakoram range sent a wall of water, mud and debris nearly 26 metres high down the Indus River for about 1,500 kilometres.

Shugar said he’s not able to tell yet if GLOFs, as they are known, are becoming more frequent.

But he warns that water managers are going to have to keep an eye out for them as climate change continues to melt glaciers and fill lakes.

“Even here in the Rockies we may see increased development of these lakes,” Shugar said.

“This is an evolving hazardous landscape. This is something that needs to be constantly revisited.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2020

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow @row1960 on Twitter

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New Shark Research Tracks Movements of Smooth Hammerheads – DivePhotoGuide.com

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By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, September 21, 2020 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Science Daily

With overfishing driving many hammerhead species closer to the brink of extinction, a team of researchers has been focusing on determining the migration patterns of smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena) in the western Atlantic Ocean in an effort to identify areas and times for management action to help in building back the depleted species.

The team tagged juvenile hammerheads off the US Mid-Atlantic coast using fin-mounted satellite tags and tracked the animals for up to 15 months. The tags reported the sharks’ movement patterns in near real time via a satellite link to the researchers.

“Getting long-term tracks was instrumental in identifying not only clear seasonal travel patterns, but importantly, also the times and areas where the sharks were resident in between their migrations,” said Ryan Logan, first author of the paper published in Frontiers in Marine Science. Logan is a PhD student at Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute and SOSF SRC and the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center (SOSF SRC).

Logan and his coworkers found that the sharks migrate between two seasonally resident areas: coastal waters off New York in the summer and off North Carolina in the winter. Identifying these habitats is vital for ultimately designating the areas as “Essential Fish Habitat”—with the accompanying limitations on fishing and development.

The high-resolution data also revealed that the hammerheads spent a lot of time in the Mid-Atlantic Shark Area (MASA) in the winter, starting in December. The MASA zone is closed to bottom longline fishing between January 1st and July 31st to protect dusky sharks, so beginning the closure of the zone in December would further reduce the fishing mortality of juvenile smooth hammerheads.   

Check out the tracks of various shark species, including smooth hammerheads, at Guy Harvey Research Institute’s dedicated website.

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Venus is a Russian planet — say the Russians – CNN Philippines

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(CNN)— No longer confined to territories here on Earth, Russia has now staked its claim on Venus, saying it is a “Russian planet.”

This week, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space corporation Roscosmos, revealed that the country plans to send its own mission to Venus in addition to “Venera-D,” the planned joint mission with the US, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Rogozin was addressing reporters at the HeliRussia 2020 exhibition, an international expo of the helicopter industry in Moscow.

“Resuming Venus exploration is on our agenda,” he told reporters Tuesday.

“We think that Venus is a Russian planet, so we shouldn’t lag behind,” he said.

“Projects of Venus missions are included in the united government program of Russia’s space exploration for 2021-2030.”

The statement came the day after scientists revealed that a gas on Earth called phosphine had also been detected in the atmosphere of Venus.

Venus is similar in size to Earth and is our closest planetary neighbor, but it spins backward compared to other planets.

The study authored by Cardiff University professor Jane Greaves and her colleagues was published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The discovery of phosphine on Venus elevates it to an area of interest worth exploring in our solar system alongside the ranks of Mars and “water world” moons like Enceladus and Europa, Seager said.

“Our hoped-for impact in the planetary science community is to stimulate more research on Venus itself, research on the possibilities of life in Venus’ atmosphere, and even space missions focused to find signs of life or even life itself in the Venusian atmosphere,” Seager said.

According to the European Space Agency, the Russians do have significant experience when it comes to Venus.

Its website states: “Between 1967-1984 Venusian studies carried out in Russia were at the forefront of international research into this planet.

“Since then, Russia has still preserved its unique expertise in designing and developing landing craft for Venus and continues to define scientific tasks for those craft.”

This story was first published on CNN.com, “Venus is a Russian planet — say the Russians.”

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Florida man survives alligator attack while walking dog, gets 65 stitches – FOX 5 Atlanta

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Florida man out walking his dog was attacked by an alligator and nearly dragged into a canal behind his home.

Mark Johnson, 61, said he was walking along the canal last Sunday in Port. St. Lucie with his 8-year-old golden retriever when he saw a gator turn towards them.

Johnson said his foot got stuck in mud moments before he saw “the lunge” as the alligator grabbed his leg.

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“He starts clamping down pretty tight, and he started to pull, and the next thing I do … I poke [the gator] through the eye,” he told WPLG-TV.

Johnson told Treasure Coast Newspapers that after he stuck his finger in the gator’s eye, the reptile immediately let go and swam away.

After limping home with blood dripping from his leg, Johnson’s wife cleaned the wound and wrapped the leg in a towel before taking him to a hospital.

Johnson said he suffered 12 puncture wounds that required 60 stitches, plus another five to mend the index finger that was cut on the gator’s eye socket.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a trapper captured the gator involved in the attack on Wednesday.

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Officials said the alligator measured 8 feet, 6 inches and weighed nearly 250 pounds. The reptile has since been relocated to an alligator farm.

Johnson said that even though the reptile was trying to drag him into the water, staying calm was what helped him survive.

“You cannot panic,” he told the paper. “I bass fish all the time, too. I’ll reach down and lift up the bass with my hand. I just got lucky.”

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Johnson said when he’s able to walk his dog again, he’ll probably carry some sort of weapon for protection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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