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Northern Lights add eerie glow to Halloween following massive solar flare – Sky News

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A solar flare hit Earth on Halloween, treating stargazers to an eerie display of the Northern Lights.

As charged particles from the star collided with the planet’s magnetosphere, they created a beautiful and spooky green and orange aurora.

Astronomers, photographers, and delighted amateurs captured dozens of pictures and videos of the show and shared them on social media, including pictures from Northumberland in England.

Andrew Douglas, who often shares pictures of the Farne Island off England’s northeastern coast, took pictures of the Northern Lights as they danced near the horizon.

The flare – officially known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) – left the sun on Thursday and comes as we enter a period of increased solar activity.

Although it was an X1-class flare – the strongest there is – the CME “was much slower and waker than expected” according to the UK’s Met Office.

Michael Charnick, an American meteorologist visiting Iceland, captured a Halloween picture using just his iPhone 13.

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There are concerns that some flares could be so powerful they might interrupt electronic systems on the surface of the Earth.

Recently an alert was published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warning the geomagnetic storm could cause power grid fluctuations with voltage alarms at higher latitudes, where the Earth is more exposed.

Thomas Klein, a freelance journalist currently trying to build a wooden cabin in Swedish Lapland, shared several more pictures of the lights appears almost directly overhead.

NOAA added that satellites may be impacted too and could exhibit “orientation irregularities” meaning ground control would have to redirect them, as well as anything in low-Earth orbit experiencing increased drag.

Comedian Paul Black, who recently performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, captured four pictures using an iPhone 12 Pro’s timelapse feature.

The geomagnetic storm NOAA issued the warning about was only expected to reach category G2, which is moderately strong according to the agency.

In the end that storm and this X1-class flare did not cause major disruption, but such disruption has been caused in the past.

Space weather experts reference the Carrington Event, believed to be the largest solar storm ever recorded, which hit Earth in 1859.

The Carrington Event left an aurora visible across the sky, even in latitudes much closer to the equator, and was described in contemporary reports as even brighter than the light of a full moon.

It caused the failure of telegraph systems all across Europe and North America, and a similar storm today could cause trillions of dollars in damage globally.

Solar activity has been observed rising and falling naturally every 11 years, although not quite like clockwork, and astronomers believe we are now in the early years of a new busy period.

A new family of sunspots, discovered on the surface of our star last year, unleashed the biggest solar flare that scientists have seen since 2017.

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Scientists in Chile discover fossils from dinosaur with 'unique' tail – TRT World

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The new species has something never seen before on any animal: seven pairs of “blades” laid out sideways like a slicing weapon.

The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms, producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur.
(AFP)

Scientist have announced that fossils found in Chile are from a strange-looking dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon.

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers.

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists, during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

“That was the main surprise,” Vargas added. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

The osteoderms – structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail.

Biogeographic link

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two metres (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore. 

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the southern hemisphere but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.

READ MORE:
‘Hell Heron’: England’s Isle of Wight home to two new dinosaurs species

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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Arctic could see more rain than snow in 30 years, study suggests – Eye on the Arctic

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In this Aug. 2005 file photo, an iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland, near the Arctic Circle. A new report says the Arctic will be dominated by rain, rather than snow, sometime between 2050 and 2080. (John McConnico/AP Photo)

Increased rain detrimental to foraging Arctic mammals like caribou, reindeer, muskox

There could be more rainfall than snow in the Arctic in as little as 30 years because of the world’s changing climate, according to a new study that predicts the transition will happen decades earlier than previously anticipated.

The change is expected to happen sometime between 2050 and 2080, says research led by the University of Manitoba and published in the journal Nature Communications. Previously, the transition to a rain-dominated Arctic was expected to happen somewhere between 2070 and 2090.

Lead author Michelle McCrystall, a postdoctoral fellow at the university’s Centre for Earth Observation Science, said more than 50 per cent of precipitation in the Arctic falling as rain instead of snow will have “global implications” and a “very direct impact” on Indigenous people throughout the Arctic.

The biggest precipitation changes, she added, will happen during the fall. Predominant snowfall and snow precipitation is still expected in the winter months, even by the end of the century.

Some regions will make the transition earlier than others, she explained, based on their temperatures and proximity to the North Pole.

The study’s projections stem from an aggregation of data from around the world.

McCrystall said the 2050 to 2080 range in which the transition could happen reflects the variability of all the data that was used, but the average points to it happening, more specifically, around the year 2070.

Animal starvation

McCrystall said more rain in the Arctic would also lead to more rain-on-snow events — when rain falls onto an existing snowpack and freezes, forming ice layers either on the snow or within it — which would be “very damaging” for foraging mammals like reindeer, caribou and muskox.

Because of that ice, foraging animals will have a harder time reaching the grassland that lies beneath it.

“It can cause a huge starvation and die off in a lot of these populations,” she said.

Mark Serreze, a co-author of the study and the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., said in a statement “the Arctic is changing so fast that Arctic wildlife might not be able to adapt.

“It’s not just a problem for the reindeer, caribou and muskox, but for the people of the North that depend on them as well.”

The mounted head of a muskox looks out over two Arctic exhibits at the Military Museums in Calgary in Feb. 2016. Foraging animals, like muskox, will have trouble reaching food sources below layers of ice in the snow caused by more frequent rain in the Arctic, said McCrystall. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Kent Moore, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Toronto, who is outside of the research team, told CBC News that rain-on-snow events would also cause “incredible” stress on hairy animals like muskox.

“If it rains and then it freezes, then they get a kind of frozen ice on their body, and that can be very, very stressful for them. They can lose heat more rapidly.”

Transition likely to happen in our lifetime, study predicts

Moore said he’s not surprised the Arctic will see more rainfall in the future, but he is surprised when the researchers predict the transition to more rain than snow is going to happen.

“A couple of decades is pretty significant,” he said. “Animals have to adapt quick, but we also have to adapt quicker. And that’s always a challenge, that adaptation,” he said.

Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, who is also not one of the study’s authors, said a difference of a few decades means that this transition is more likely to happen in the lifespan of current generations.

“It becomes, for a lot of people, not something that maybe my children or grandchildren will see, but something I may very well live to see,” he said, adding that he, too, was not surprised by the new prediction.

Rising sea levels, thawing permafrost

Meier and McCrystall both said an increase in Arctic rainfall would contribute to rising sea levels, particularly because it will cause more glaciers along the coast of Greenland to fall into the water.

Rain fell on the summit of Greenland — a location where precipitation has previously always fallen as snow or ice — for the first time on record this year.

In this Aug. 2019 file photo, large icebergs float away as the sun rises near Kulusuk, Greenland. McCrystall said warmer temperatures and more rainfall in the Arctic means that more glaciers along the coast of Greenland will fall into the water. (Felipe Dana/The Associated Press)

The rain could also lead to permafrost thaw, said McCrystall.

“With more warming and more rainfall, that kind of percolates through the soil and will allow the soil to warm up,” she said. Permafrost stores carbon, she pointed out, and if it thaws “you’ll get a lot more greenhouse gases that will be emitted into the atmosphere.”

McCrystall said that increase in carbon creates a negative impact, because carbon emissions contribute to the further warming of the atmosphere.

“Changes that happen in the Arctic don’t really stay within the Arctic,” she said.

Though she doesn’t see her research as a call to action, McCrystall wants to see people putting more pressure on politicians to make tangible changes that will have big impacts in the fight against climate change.

The research team, which also included members from University College London, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Lapland and the University of Exeter, said that if the world is able to remain below 1.5 C of global warming, the transition to a rainfall-dominated precipitation might not happen in some Arctic regions.

But, if the world remains on its current trajectory, the transition is likely.

Related stories from around the North: 

CanadaOctober saw ‘extraordinary, record-setting heat’ in parts of Arctic Canada, CBC News

Finland: Cold weather perfect to pioneer electric aviation says Finnair, Yle News

GreenlandGreenland to join Paris climate agreement, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Deep freeze in Arctic Europe sends power prices soaring, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia’s Arctic coast warmest since records started says weather service, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden aims to be ‘role model and bridge builder’ on climate change, Radio Sweden

United States: Author Q&A – Welp: Climate Change and Arctic Identities, Eye on the Arctic

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New dinosaur species from Chile had a unique slashing tail – Toronto Star

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Fossils found in Chile are from a strange-looking dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon, scientists reported Wednesday.

Some dinosaurs had spiked tails they could use as stabbing weapons and others had tails with clubs. The new species, described in a study in the journal Nature, has something never seen before on any animal: seven pairs of “blades” laid out sideways like a slicing weapon used by ancient Aztec warriors, said lead author Alex Vargas.

“It’s a really unusual weapon,” said Vargas, a University of Chile paleontologist. “Books on prehistoric animals for kids need to update and put this weird tail in there. … It just looks crazy.”

The plant-eating critter had a combination of traits from different species that initially sent paleontologists down the wrong path. The back end, including its tail weapon, seemed similar to a stegosaurus, so the researchers named it stegouros elengassen.

After Vargas and his team examined the pieces of skull and did five different DNA analyses, they concluded it was only distantly related to the stegosaurus. Instead, it was a rare southern hemisphere member of the tank-like ankylosaur family of dinosaurs. (Though the stegouros name stuck and can be easily confused with the more well-known stegosaurus.)

Vargas called it “the lost family branch of the ankylosaur.“

The fossil is from about 72 million to 75 million years ago and appears to be an adult based on the way bones are fused, Vargas said. It was found with its front end flat on its belly and the back end angled down to a lower level, almost as if caught in quicksand, Vargas said.

From bird-like snout to tail tip, stegouros stretched about six feet (two meters) but would only come up to the thighs of humans, Vargas said.

The tail was probably for defense against large predators, which were also likely turned off by armor-like bones jutting out that made stegouros “chewy,” Vargas said.

Not only is this “a really bizarre tail,” but it is from far southern Chile, “a region that hasn’t yielded these types of animals before,” said Macalester College biologist Kristi Curry Rogers, who wasn’t part of the study.

“We’re just scratching the surface when it comes to a comprehensive understanding of dinosaur diversity,” Rogers said. “Stegourus reminds us that if we look in the right places at the right times, there is so much more still to discover.”

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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