ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
David Holland grew up playing ice hockey in St. John’s.
Today, the New York University (NYU) professor and researcher is spending Christmas on a different kind of ice — Antarctica.
He’s studying the effect of ocean temperatures on Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier.
According to Holland, the glacier is “the most important place on Earth to study sea level change.”
“That’s the most rapidly changing glacier now on Earth, and it contains a lot of ice that, if it accelerates — which it seems to be doing — would have a significant change in sea level of a metre or more.”
Holland spoke with The Telegram by satellite phone from the remote marine ice sheet.
With a team of 24 people, he will drill a kilometre-deep hole through the Florida-sized glacier, then install an instrument to collect ocean temperature and other data.
“We’re going to explore a part of the planet that nobody’s ever seen before, and make observations that nobody’s ever made before, and on top of all that is the science, which is really interesting, which is: will sea level change big time in this century, or not?
“And our team have a really good crack at answering that over the next few years, and so that’s really important because people make a lot of noise about sea level change, and how it’s going to change the world. Well, we need to be aware of that, but let’s not get ahead of the science — let’s make sure the science is out front and guiding this.”
The research expedition is on a tight timeline, worsened already by a month of weather delays at the start of the trip in November. The group has to leave with the U.S. Air Force on Feb. 1, or else they won’t be able to leave at all when stormy winter weather sets in.
Race to collect data
The melting of the glacier is visible from space.
“I’m standing on the surface, but the surface is dropping by metres and metres every year,” said Holland.
“It’s the equivalent of if Newfoundland every year was like a metre or several metres lower. You’d notice it.”
He said the theory is that warm water is moving underneath the ice, melting the glacier from the bottom. However, they need to actually observe that.
While Antarctica is far from Newfoundland, Holland said melting there could affect low-lying places such as Placentia, as well as the hundreds of millions of people around the world who live in low-lying areas. Over this century, he said such areas could see water levels rise by a metre.
“What we are detecting now is that there looks like a trend over the last 100 years whereby this piece of Antarctica is melting more, and that is not sustainable. The ice sheet should be in balance — shouldn’t be melting more than it’s gaining by snow. … And what happens here comes quickly to the shorelines of the entire globe.”
If they are successful in installing the equipment before their deadline, Holland will be able to collect the required data to build more accurate climate models and sea level projections.
While Holland is in Antarctica, his wife and colleague, Denise Holland, is also working on the project from their homes in St. John’s and New York.
She is also employed by NYU as the field logistics, outreach and media officer with the CSLC.
“I think it’s just this love of chasing the data, and helping David do that. That’s why I do it,” she said.
“We’re a team, and I like to help support him in whatever he needs to do to get the data for the answers.”
Arctic sea ice at record low October levels: Danish institute – Hurriyet Daily News
Diminishing sea ice comes as a reminder about how the Arctic is hit particularly hard by global warming.
Since the 1990s, warming has been twice as fast in the Arctic, compared to the rest of the world, as a phenomena dubbed “Arctic amplification,” causes air, ice and water to interact in a reinforcing manner.
“The October Arctic sea ice extent is going to be the lowest on record and the sea ice growth rate is slower than normal,” Rasmus Tonboe, a scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), told AFP, noting that the record was unequaled for at least 40 years.
According to preliminary satellite data used by the institute, sea ice surface area was at 6.5 million square kilometers (2.5 million square miles) on 27 October.
Every year, some of the ice formed in the Arctic waters melts in the summer.
It usually reaches a low point of about five million square kilometers, but then re-forms to cover about 15 million square kilometers in winter. Warmer temperatures are now reducing both the summer and winter extent of the ice.
Satellite data has been collected to monitor the ice precisely since 1979, and the trend towards a reduction is clear.
For the month of October, measurements show an 8.2 percent downward trend in ice over the last 10 years.
Already in September, researchers noted the second-lowest extent of sea ice recorded in the Arctic, though not quite hitting the low levels recorded in 2012.
But warmer-than-normal seawater slowed the formation of new ice in October.
Water temperatures in the eastern part of the Arctic, north of Siberia, were two to four degrees warmer than normal, and in Baffin Bay, it was one to two degrees warmer, DMI said in a statement.
The institute said this was following a trend observed in recent years, which was described as a “vicious spiral.”
“It’s a trend we’ve been seeing the past years, with a longer open water season making the sun warm the sea for a longer time, resulting in shorter winters so the ice doesn’t grow as thick as it used to,” Tonboe said.
Since the melting ice is already in the ocean it does not directly contribute to the rise in sea levels.
But as the ice disappears sunlight “gets absorbed in the ocean, helping to further warm the Earth,” Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist at NASA, told AFP in September.
Thus, with less ice reflecting sunlight, oceans are heated directly.
Over the last 40 years, the Arctic has also become more of a strategic interest to world powers.
Less ice in certain areas opened up new maritime routes, which are destined to play a larger role in international trade, meaning a larger financial stake for Arctic state actors.
The region is also estimated to house 13 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas deposits.
Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said on Oct. 27 that under current levels of atmospheric CO2 – roughly 400 parts per million – the melting of Arctic sea ice would raise global temperatures by 0.2C.
That’s on top of the 1.5C of warming our current emissions levels have rendered all but inevitable, and the safer cap on global warming aimed for in the Paris climate accord.
City of Vernon extends temporary patio permits for a full year – Vernon News – Castanet.net
The City of Vernon is extending temporary measures so businesses can use outdoor spaces in response to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city created a temporary outdoor commercial use program this past summer, allowing businesses to expand patios into parking lots, sidewalks and parking stalls, so customers and staff could continue practising physical distancing.
With the extension, businesses can continue using the spaces in the downtown business improvement area until next fall. They will also be able to use single, on-street parking stalls to create pop-up patios or for retail uses during the warmer months, from March 1 to Oct. 31, 2021.
Businesses with liquor licences will be pre-approved to have licences extended into the temporary spaces.
“Through the temporary outdoor commercial use program, the city is helping our community maintain physical distancing,” Mayor Victor Cumming said in a press release. “This program extension will also help businesses continue to adapt as we head into the colder months and plan ahead for spring and summer.”
For information on the guidelines, visit vernon.ca/covid-19/.
NASA spacecraft collects up to 4.5 pounds of asteroid to be sent to Earth – Global News
A NASA spacecraft tucked more than two pounds of asteroid samples into a capsule for return to Earth after losing some of its precious loot because of a jammed lid, scientists said Thursday.
They won’t know the precise amount of the cosmic haul from asteroid Bennu, more than 200 million miles (322 million kilometres) away, until the capsule parachutes into the Utah desert in 2023.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do” to get the samples back safely, said lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.
The spacecraft Osiris-Rex won’t depart Bennu’s neighbourhood until March at the earliest, when the asteroid and Earth are properly aligned.
Osiris-Rex collected so much material from Bennu’s rough surface on Oct. 20 that rocks got wedged in the rim of the container and jammed it open. Some of the samples were seen escaping into space, so flight controllers moved up the crucial stowing operation.
NASA spacecraft gets sample from nearby asteroid Bennu
Based on images, scientists believe Osiris-Rex grabbed 4 1/2 pounds (2 kilograms) of rubble, a full load. The minimum requirement had been 2 ounces (60 grams) — a handful or two.
“Just imagine a sack of flour at the grocery store,” Lauretta said of the initial haul.
But tens of grams of material were lost following the successful touch-and-go maneuver and again this week when the spacecraft’s robot arm moved to put the samples inside the capsule.
“Even though my heart breaks for the loss of sample, it turned out to be a pretty cool science experiment and we’re learning a lot,” Lauretta told reporters.
While collecting the samples, the container on the end of the robot arm pressed down nine to 19 inches (24 to 48 centimetres) during the six seconds of contact, indicating a sandy and flaky interior beneath the rough surface, Lauretta said.
The slow, tedious stowing operation took 36 hours. After each successful step, flight controllers cheered, saving the biggest and loudest response when the lid on the capsule finally was closed and latched, sealing the samples inside.
Space Talk: Asteroid mining
It will be September 2023 — seven years after Osiris-Rex rocketed from Cape Canaveral — before the samples arrive here.
Rich in carbon, the solar-orbiting Bennu is believed to hold the preserved building blocks of the solar system. Scientists said the remnants can help explain how our solar system’s planets formed billions of years ago and how life on Earth came to be. The samples also can help improve our odds, they said, if a doomsday rock heads our way.
Bennu — a black, roundish rock bigger than New York’s Empire State Building — could come dangerously close to Earth late in the next decade. The odds of a strike are 1-in-2,700. The good news is that while packing a punch, it won’t wipe out the home planet.
Japan, meanwhile, has retrieved samples from other asteroids twice in the past two decades, although just tiny amounts. The second batch is due to arrive in December.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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