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New Methane Discharge Discovered in Russia's Arctic – Guardian – The Moscow Times

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A new source of methane discharge has been discovered in the Arctic Ocean near eastern Siberia, raising concerns of a “new tipping point” that could speed up the pace of global warming, The Guardian reported Tuesday. 

Scientists found the potent greenhouse gas bubbling from a depth of 350 meters in the Laptev Sea, with surface-level concentrations that vent into the atmosphere between four and eight times the normal amount. One of the six monitoring points showed methane concentrations 400 times higher than expected under the normal air-sea equilibrium.

“The discovery of actively releasing shelf slope hydrates is very important and unknown until now. This is a new page,” said Igor Semiletov, chief scientist onboard the Akademik M. Keldysh research vessel that’s part of a multi-year Russian-Swedish International Siberian Shelf Study expedition.

The discovery is prompting concerns that a new feedback loop that accelerates climate change may have already been triggered. A recent study co-authored by a member of the expedition found that the loop could be activated if the Arctic warms by just a few degrees.

At this moment, there is unlikely to be any major impact on global warming, but the point is that this process has now been triggered,” Swedish scientist and study co-author Örjan Gustafsson told The Guardian from the vessel.

This East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed and the process will be ongoing.” 

The Guardian reported that warm Atlantic currents driven by human-induced climate disruption are the likely cause of the massive methane discharge.  

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as any other place on Earth and The Guardian reported that it is yet to begin freezing for the winter, already surpassing records for the latest date for sea ice formation after melting unusually early this spring. 

This is potentially the third source of methane emissions from the shallower parts of the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea. Semiletov’s expedition released first photos of a massive fountain of methane gas bubbling from the floor of the East Siberian Sea last fall.

The scientists stressed that their findings are considered preliminary until they analyze the data collected on the ground and have their studies peer-reviewed.

The discovery of actively releasing shelf slope hydrates is very important and unknown until now,” Semiletov said. “Potentially they can have serious climate consequences, but we need more study before we can confirm that.

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Dinosaur-era bird with scythe-like beak sheds light on avian diversity – Calgary Sun

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“Amazing, small, delicate, fragile, challenging to study – all at the same time,” said Ohio University anatomy professor Patrick O’Connor, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature.

An illustration depicting the bird Falcatakely forsterae amidst non-avian dinosaurs and other creatures 68 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period in Madagascar. Photo by Illustration by Mark Witton /Handout via REUTERS

“Bird fossils are particularly rare in part because they have such delicate skeletons. Hollow bones aren’t great at surviving the fossilization process,” added paleontologist and study co-author Alan Turner of Stony Brook University in New York.

“Because of this, we need to be aware that we are probably under-sampling the Mesozoic diversity of birds. A newly discovered species like Falcatakely provides a taste of the tantalizing possibility of a greater diversity of form waiting to be discovered,” Turner said.

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Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs about 150 million years ago. Early birds retained many ancestral features including teeth. The Falcatakely fossil has a single conical tooth in the front part of the upper jaw. Falcatakely probably had a small number of teeth in life.

It belonged to an avian group, enantiornithines, that did not survive the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, ending the Cretaceous Period.

“Unlike the earliest birds such as Archaeopteryx, which in many ways still looked dinosaurian with their long tails and unspecialized snouts, enantiornithines like Falcatakely would have looked relatively modern,” Turner said.

It was in the underlying skeletal structure where its differences were more apparent, O’Connor added, with more similarities to dinosaurs like Velociraptor than modern birds.

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Alberta researcher gets award for COVID-19 mask innovation – paNOW

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Rubino, who collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago, was recognized Tuesday with an innovation award from Mitacs. The Canadian not-for-profit organization receives funding from the federal government, most provinces and Yukon to honour researchers from academic institutions.

The reusable, non-washable mask is made of a type of polypropylene, a plastic used in surgical masks, and could be safely worn and handled multiple times without being decontaminated, Rubino said.

The idea is to replace surgical masks often worn by health-care workers who must dispose of them in a few hours, she said, adding the technology could potentially be used for N-95 respirators.

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval. It could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza, Rubino said.

Dr. Catherine Clase, an epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the “exciting” technology would have multiple benefits.

Clase, who is a member of the Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials in the engineering department at McMaster, said there wasn’t much research in personal protective equipment when Rubino began her work.

“It’s going to decrease the footprint for making and distributing and then disposing of every mask,” she said, adding that the mask could also address any supply issues.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recently recommended homemade masks consist of at least three layers, with a middle, removable layer constructed from a non-woven, washable polypropylene fabric to improve filtration.

Conor Ruzycki, an aerosol scientist in the University of Alberta’s mechanical engineering department, said Rubino’s innovation adds to more recent research on masks as COVID-19 cases rise and shortages of face coverings in the health-care system could again become a problem.

Ruzycki, who works in a lab to evaluate infiltration efficiencies of different materials for masks and respirators, is also a member of a physician-led Alberta group Masks4Canada, which is calling for stricter pandemic measures, including a provincewide policy on mandatory masks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

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This rocks! Western University student spots never-before-seen asteroid – London Free Press (Blogs)

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Added Wiegert: “Astronomers around the globe are continuously monitoring near-Earth space for asteroids so this is certainly a feather in Cole’s cap.”

Gregg spotted the asteroid, given the temporary designation ALA2xH, on Nov. 18. Data collected about the asteroid was sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts where they determine if the observation is unique or not.

From there it goes on their near-Earth object confirmation page.

Gregg used a website called Itelescope, which allows the public to access telescopes on the internet.

“A lot of people use them for the pretty astro-photography pictures but they are quite capable of science as well,” Gregg said. “My project is proving that these small telescopes are quite capable of science.”

Despite their efforts, Gregg said they have not spotted the asteroid again “due to weather and unavailability of the telescopes.”

Gregg said he has been fascinated with space since he was camping as a boy and relished looking up at stars in the dark skies. “It sparked my interest.”

After completing his PhD in astronomy he hopes to continue his research and teach, as well.

“I’m interested in asteroids and comets and how they move; how they exist in the solar system and where they come from,” he said. “And how we can learn from our own solar system to understand how other solar systems in the galaxy.”

HRivers@postmedia.com


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