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Just How Fast Are Polar Ice Caps Melting?

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Today, polar ice caps are melting six times faster than they did in the 1990s. Paired with the 2019 Arctic heatwave, this melting rate may produce disastrous outcomes. Notably, the disappearing polar ice caps will accelerate global warming, cause widespread coastal flooding, and contribute to rising sea levels.

How Fast Are Polar Ice Caps Melting?

Scientists have confirmed that polar ice caps are melting at unprecedented and dangerous rates. Since the 1990s, the speed of ice loss as increased sixfold — with a sevenfold increase in Greenland.

In a more proximate scale, ice loss has tripled in speed in the past five years alone.

Attributed in part to rising average temperatures, the poles are experiencing the brunt of global warming. Known as polar amplification, the effects of increased solar radiation are most pronounced in polar regions. Where the average global temperature may increase slightly over time, the poles oftentimes experience steeper temperature spikes.

Due to rising average temperatures, the poles are experiencing the brunt of global warming. The Antarctic Circle is being disproportionately affected.

This is certainly the case for the Antarctic Circle. Recent temperatures have reached records in the region, amounting to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.33 °C) this winter.

And the headline-making 2019 Arctic heatwave certainly did not help. But these heatwaves are only becoming more intense and frequent as global warming continues.

“What was highly unusual in the recent past is becoming the new normal. The Arctic is far more sensitive to warming now than even a few decades ago,” said geography professor Luke Trusel of Pennsylvania State University.

The Danger of Melting Ice on Coastal Towns

With recent data finding that 2019 broke a record for ice loss, time is running out for coastal communities. Already, many cities and towns have explored alternatives to diffuse rising sea levels — many to no avail.

Yet regardless of how you spin it, polar ice caps are melting much too fast for communities to adjust. In the 1990s, towns became accustomed to a much slower rising sea level rate. In this decade, the globe lost about 81 billion tons of ice each year.

But now, that number averages around 475 billion tons, 60% of which stemming from Greenland’s ice mass. Accordingly, coasts spanning the Atlantic Ocean face a unique challenge. How will they adapt to rising sea levels?

Communities Should Actively Prepare for Melting Polar Ice Caps

The answer is not readily available, but nonetheless, communities should prepare for the worst.

“These are not unlikely events or small impacts,” professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds stated. Rather, he anticipates that these impacts “are happening and will be devastating for coastal communities.”

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Coastal communities like those in Miami and London are starting to see the ramifications of rising sea levels.
Coastal communities like those in Miami and London are starting to see the ramifications of rising sea levels. Photo Credit: BenGrantham

The first step for front-line, coastal communities may be to recognize that the fast pace at which polar ice caps melt present a crisis beyond the arctic and Antarctic circles. Rising sea levels will threaten coastal communities across the globe, where even minute changes in sea level can flood or engulf entire cities.

Already, cities such as Miami and London have experienced preemptive flooding. Scientists expect this flooding to worsen over time, becoming both more frequent and more encompassing. And as climate change may also lengthen hurricane season, coastal towns may experience even more deadly flooding every year.

The IPCC is Worried About Arctic Ice Loss

The current rate of polar ice cap loss is tracking as a worst-case scenario according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). In essence, the polar ice caps are depleting at an irreversible pace. At this rate, governments may not be able to prevent the complete loss of arctic ice.

What’s worse, scientists have already observed that melting ice will cause a dramatic rise in global sea levels. And according to the IPCC, rising sea levels may be the culprit of the most dangerous symptoms of climate change.

Coastal communities are disproportionately at risk as polar ice caps continue to melt.
Coastal communities are disproportionately at risk as polar ice caps continue to melt.

The scientists behind the IPCC’s recent statement attest that the future may be grave for coastal communities. Currently, the organization predicts that, without immediate action on carbon emissions, 400 million people will be exposed to coastal flooding every year by 2100.

Luckily, this number can be offset to a degree. The key is to shut down the culprit behind ice loss: global warming. But in order to achieve that, we must also scale down on carbon emissions — very, very soon.

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ISS is viewable in the Toronto night sky this week – The Loop

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For those in the Greater Toronto Area desperate for something to do this week, it might be time to dust off the telescope.

According to NASA’s SkyWatch website, the International Space Station will be viewable in the night sky this week as it flies between the area and the moon.

NASA’s data shows the ISS is scheduled to fly directly over downtown Toronto every night this week, with two passes on Thursday and Saturday. The space station will also be viewable in Toronto on Monday and Wednesday next week.

The areas surrounding Toronto, such as Pickering, Brampton and Burlington will also be able to view the station, although not as frequently and at slightly different times of night.  

NASA said the station will look like an airplane moving across the sky, except it doesn’t have flashing lights and will be moving considerably faster than an aircraft.

Stargazers will have to be ready, however, as the space station is only expected to be viewable for a couple of minutes each night.

For a list of exactly when the ISS will be visible, click here.

More on this story from CTVNews.ca

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Watch NASA's James Webb Space Telescope unfold its golden mirror for the 1st time (video) – Space.com

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NASA’s next great observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, has fully deployed its primary mirror for the first time, marking another milestone on its journey to space.

Before all work on the next-generation instrument, which is scheduled to launch in 2021, was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technicians and engineers at the agency were going through a series of tests with the telescope before it’s sent to French Guiana for liftoff aboard an Ariane 5 rocket

Recently, in one of these tests, the space telescope successfully extended and unfolded its entire 21 foot 4-inch (6.5 meters) primary mirror (the largest mirror of its kind that NASA has ever built). The mirror opened up into the same configuration that it will once the telescope is in space.

Related: Building the James Webb Space Telescope (gallery)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has successfully deployed its giant primary mirror for the first time. It will launch in 2021.  (Image credit: Chris Gunn/NASA)

During the test, Webb’s mirror was hooked up to specialized gravity-offsetting equipment that simulated the zero-gravity environment in space. So, not only did the mirror deploy as designed, it did so in a space-like environment, demonstrating its readiness. Engineers and technicians will deploy Webb’s primary mirror only one more time before it’s shipped off to its launch site. 

Passing this test “is another significant milestone showing Webb will deploy properly in space. This is a great achievement and an inspiring image for the entire team,” Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement

Webb’s primary mirror is a critical piece of the instrument. A telescope’s sensitivity is directly related to the size of its mirror, which determines how much light the telescope can collect from the objects it observes. So, Webb’s mirror has to be really big in order for the instrument to be as powerful as possible. Webb’s mirror is so big that it cannot fit inside of a rocket while fully extended, so it needs to fold up in order to be transported to space. So it’s ability to fold up and then unfurl, ready to get to work, is crucial.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still very much underway, the regular workflow at NASA has been interrupted. Recently, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that all NASA employees who are not considered essential mission personnel would be working remotely for the time being. 

For now, the Webb team from Northrop Grumman is still continuing integration and testing work in California, though they have shifted to reducing the number of people working at a given time, according to the statement. After the deployable tower assembly is set up in April, integration and testing will be fully stopped as a significant amount of NASA personnel are required for those operations. 

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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ISS is viewable in the Toronto night sky this week – CTV News

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TORONTO —
For those in the Greater Toronto Area desperate for something to do this week, it might be time to dust off the telescope.

According to NASA’s SkyWatch website, the International Space Station will be viewable in the night sky this week as it flies between the area and the moon.

NASA’s data shows the ISS is scheduled to fly directly over downtown Toronto every night this week, with two passes on Thursday and Saturday. The space station will also be viewable in Toronto on Monday and Wednesday next week.

The areas surrounding Toronto, such as Pickering, Brampton and Burlington will also be able to view the station, although not as frequently and at slightly different times of night.  

Stargazers will have to be ready, however, as the space station is only expected to be viewable for a couple of minutes each night.

For a list of exactly when the ISS will be visible, click here.

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