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Scientists warn critical ice shelf in Antarctica could shatter within 5 years – CTV News

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As the rapidly heating planet alters the landscape of the Arctic region up north, scientists have discovered disturbing and alarming signs at the southern end of the planet, particularly in one of the ice shelves safeguarding the Antarctic’s so-called “Doomsday glacier.”

Satellite images taken as recently as last month, which researchers presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union Monday, suggest the critical ice shelf keeping together the Thwaites glacier in western Antarctica — an important defence against global sea level rise — could shatter within the next three to five years.

Antarctica’s Thwaites glacier is known as the “Doomsday glacier,” due to the serious risk it poses during its melting process. It has dumped billions of tons of ice into the sea, and its demise could lead to irreversible changes throughout the planet.

The glacier, which equals the size of Florida or Great Britain, already accounts for about 4% of annual global sea level rise, loses roughly 50 billion tons of ice each year, and is becoming highly vulnerable to the climate crisis. The fall of the ice shelf could bring the impending collapse of Antarctica’s critical glacier.

If the Thwaites collapsed, the event could raise sea levels by several feet, researchers say, putting coastal communities as well as low-lying island nations further at risk.

But Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a leader of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, said it will still be decades before the world will see real acceleration and an additional uptick in sea level rise.

“What is attention-getting about Thwaites is that the change will proceed with fairly dramatic, measurable results within the next few decades,” Scambos told CNN.

For now, the glacier is being held back by a critical floating ice shelf.

“What’s most concerning about the recent results is that it’s pointing to a collapse of this ice shelf, this kind of safety band that holds the ice on the land,” Peter Davis, oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey, told CNN. “If we lose this ice shelf, then the glacier will flow into the ocean more quickly, contributing towards sea level rise.”

Warming ocean waters play a key role in driving the rapid deterioration. A 2020 study by the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, which is currently leading ongoing research in the Antarctic, found the ocean floor is deeper than scientists previously thought, with deep passages allowing warm ocean water to melt the underside of the ice.

The observations show the critical ice shelf keeping the Thwaites together is loosening its grip on the underwater mountain, or the seamount, which acts as a reinforcement against the ice river from flowing into the warm ocean. Researchers also found the so-called “ice tongue” of the Thwaites Glacier is simply now a “loose cluster of icebergs,” which no longer influences the stable part of the eastern ice shelf.

Warm water also threatens the so-called “grounding zone,” where the ice meets the seabed. Davis and his team used hot water to drill access holes from the surface of the ice shelf and deep into the ocean cavity underneath. In doing so, they discovered not only are the ocean waters in the grounding line warm, by polar standards, but it is also salty, priming the landscape for further erosion.

Peter Washam, a research associate at Cornell University, who is also involved with the research, said the physical features of the grounding zone shows signs of chaos, such as warm water, rugged ice, and a steep, sloping bottom that allows the water to rapidly melt the ice sheet from below.

“In the coming years, we expect the Thwaites grounding line in the region to slowly retreat up the seabed slope that it currently rests on as the warm ocean eats away at its underside,” Washam told CNN. His team used an underwater vehicle called Icefin that makes it easier to study ice and water around and beneath ice shelves.

The bottom line, according to Davis, is Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is rapidly deteriorating. The warm ocean water is slowly erasing the ice underneath, causing water to flow faster, fracturing more of the ice, and bringing the looming threat of a collapse even closer.

“From the satellite data, we’re seeing these big fractures spreading across the ice shelf surface, essentially weakening the fabric of the ice; kind of a bit like a windscreen crack,” he said. “It’s slowly spreading across the ice shelf and eventually it’s going to fracture into lots of different pieces.”

Scambos said while the process is extremely slow-moving and real impacts won’t be felt until several decades later, it is nearly impossible to stop it.

“This is a geologic process, but happening at almost a human-lifetime scale,” he said. “As a disaster for people alive today, it is extremely slow-moving. The best path is to try to slow the forces that are pushing the ice in this direction.”

And as the ramifications of the climate crisis spread around the globe, the researchers say expanding scientific research to understand changes in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions is critical to planning mitigation strategies such as coastal defences in vulnerable communities.

“We can’t really do anything to stop this from happening,” besides slowing it down, Davis said. “The way that we’ve gone with our carbon emissions so far has caused these changes to occur — and essentially, we’re taking the consequences of what we’ve been emitting over the last couple of decades, if not longer.”

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Researchers at UBCO determine 'smart windows' can disinfect surfaces – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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A new study at the University of British Columbia Okanagan shines a light on how sunlight can be used to disinfect surfaces in your home or workplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified concerns over how buildings might influence the health of the people who live and work in them. There has been some attention paid to ventilation, cleaning and filtration, however, the importance of daylight has been ignored, until now.

The UBCO research shows daylight passing through smart windows results in almost complete disinfection of surfaces within 24 hours while still blocking harmful ultraviolet light.

Dr. Sepideh Pakpour, an assistant professor at UBCO’s School of Engineering tested four strains of hazardous bacteria—methicillin-resistance Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa—using a mini-living lab set-up. The lab used smart windows, which tint based on outdoor light conditions, and traditional windows with blinds. Dr. Pakpour found that, compared to windows with blinds, the smart windows significantly reduce bacterial growth rate. In fact the smart windows blocked more than 99.9 per cent of UV light, but still let in short-wavelength, high-energy daylight which acts as a disinfectant. This shorter wavelength light effectively eliminated contamination on glass, plastic and fabric surfaces.

Traditional window blinds block daylight, therefore, preventing surfaces from being disinfected. Dr. Pakpour noted previous research shows 92 per cent of hospital curtains can get contaminated within a week of being cleaned.

“We know that daylight kills bacteria and fungi,” she says. “But the question is, are there ways to harness that benefit in buildings, while still protecting us from glare and UV radiation? Our findings demonstrate the benefits of smart windows for disinfection, and have implications for infectious disease transmission in laboratories, health-care facilities and the buildings in which we live and work.”

A study from the Harvard Business Review points to natural light and views being among the most sought after by potential employees. Combine that with a push for “healthy buildings” as part of the COVID-19 return to work and employers could benefit from installing smart windows.

“Our buildings need to go beyond sustainable and smart to become healthy and safe environments first and foremost,” says Dr. Rao Mulpuri, Chairman and CEO at View, the company partnering with UBC for this research. “Companies are grappling with how to bring their people back to the office in a safe way. This research provides yet another reason why increased access to natural light needs to be part of the equation.”

Studies have shown that pathogenic bacteria and fungi can survive on inanimate surfaces for prolonged periods, which can lead to disease transmission.

“With the rise of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics are no longer a silver bullet in treating health-care-associated infections, which cause tens of thousands of deaths in the US each year,” says Dr. Tex Kissoon, Vice Chair of the Global Sepsis Alliance, UBC Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair in Acute and Critical Care for Global Child Health. “The potential for daylight to sterilize surfaces and avoid these infections altogether is promising and should be factored into health-care facility design.”

Dr. Pakpour presented her findings Wednesday at the international Healthy Buildings Conference in Amsterdam.

“Our findings demonstrate the benefits of smart windows for disinfection, and have implications for infectious disease transmission in laboratories, health care facilities and the buildings in which we live and work.”

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Asteroid Bigger Than the Tallest Building on Earth Just Flew by Safely: Here's How People Are Reacting to… – Gadgets 360

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An asteroid bigger than the tallest building on Earth safely flew by on January 19. The giant rock, named 7482 (1994 PC1), zipped past our planet, nearly 1.93 million kilometres away. That’s more than five times the distance between Earth and Moon. It has been classified as “potentially hazardous” because of its size and its regular close visits to our planet, and not because it poses any threat to us. The asteroid came closest to Earth at 3:21am IST.

Astronomers say this will remain the closest approach of the asteroid for at least the next 200 years. They added that regular close visits by this asteroid should not lead to fear among people as its trajectory has a margin of error of only 133km.

The rock was travelling at a speed of 19.56kmph, relative to Earth, when it flew by us. The considerable speed with which it was travelling should have enabled amateur astronomers to spot it. It should have appeared as a point of light in the night sky. Earth Sky has shared a video of the asteroid moving rapidly in the sky. It said the video was recorded in Puerto Rico and the asteroid was visible despite a Full Moon on January 18 (local time) since the Moon was at a good distance from the asteroid’s path. See the video below (published by kevinizooropa):

Many people shared their excitement on Twitter at being able to see the asteroid or even after simply knowing that something like this had happened.

“While we were busy surviving another day, another year, another job, an asteroid bigger than Burj Khalifa just passed by…Notice the shooting star, which steals the show. Money and jobs are the biggest distraction to our real growth and finding answers to our existence,” said a user.

Some users have also shared images of the asteroid.

Many just found an opportunity to have a little fun, now that the celestial event passed safely. Check out their reactions below:

The asteroid was discovered by Australian astronomer Robert McNaught in 1994.


For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Scientists study trajectory of meteorite that landed in B.C. in October – Red Deer Advocate

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VANCOUVER — Scientistsstudying a meteorite that landed next to a British Columbia woman’s head last year say it was diverted to that path about 470 million years ago.

The small meteorite broke through a woman’s ceiling in Golden, B.C., in October, landing on her pillow, next to where she had been sleeping moments earlier.

Philip McCausland,a lead researcher mapping the meteorite’s journey, said Monday they know the 4.5-billion-year-old rock collided with something about 470 million years ago, breaking into fragments and changing the trajectory of some of the pieces.

McCausland, who’s an adjunct professor at Western University in London, Ont., said the meteorite is of scientific significance because it will allow scientists to study how material from the asteroid belt arrives on Earth.

“There’s 50,000 to 60,000 identified meteorites now in the world, but most have no context. We don’t know really where they came from,” he said.

“In cases where we have known orbits, where they were observed coming in well enough that we can reconstruct what the orbit was before it hit the Earth’s atmosphere, we can actually (determine) where they came from in the asteroid belt. Golden is one of those,” he said, referring to the location of where the meteorite landed.

Researchers determined the meteorite is an L chondrite, one of the most commonly found types of meteorites to fall to Earth. Despite this, he said only about five L chondrites have known orbits.

He said the Canadian team is now working with scientists in Switzerland, the U.K., U.S. and Italy to learn more about the meteorite and its path to Golden.

“We know we’re still going to get something interesting out of this,” McCausland said. “We actually do want to get a good handle on how things get delivered from the asteroid belt, and this is a useful part of putting that together.”

Most of the meteorite has been returned to Ruth Hamilton, the woman who had the close call, and McCausland said it’s up to her to decide what to do with it.

Whether she decides to keep, sell or donate the rock, he said there is cultural significance of the rock to Canada. If she sells it to an international buyer, she would be required to go through the exportation process, he said.

Hamilton said she hasn’t yet made up her mind on what to do with the meteor. It’s currently sitting in a safety deposit box.

“I don’t have any plans for it right now, but once they’re done analyzing it, I’ll get all the documentation that proves it’s a meteorite,” she said. “It’s going to be officially named the Golden Meteorite.”

Before her roof is permanently repaired this spring, Hamilton said she intends to remove the section where the meteorite crashed through to keep it preserved alongside the rock.

McCausland said the research will likely conclude in May, and the scientists will then publish their work in an academic journal.

“Whenever something like this happens, I like to tell people it could happen to any of us; anyone can find a meteorite. It’s unlikely one will crash through your roof, but it can happen,” McCausland said. “It’s nature and, if anything, it’s a reminder that we’re part of something bigger.”

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