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Southern Skies Benefit from a Rare Climate-Diplomacy Success – Financial Post

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(Bloomberg) — Diplomacy can fix large-scale harm done to the planet by industrial pollution. 

That’s the conclusion of new research published today in the journal Nature showing how skies above the Southern Hemisphere have recovered since a 1987 treaty banned chemicals that eat away at the atmosphere’s protective layer. 

The ozone layer sits in the Earth’s stratosphere, the second lowest atmospheric layer. Made up of ozone gas–O₃, as opposed to the O₂ we breathe–it shields living things from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Beginning in the 1960s, industrial chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)–pervasive in refrigeration, personal-care aerosol sprays, and insulating materials–reached the atmosphere, and their highly reactive chlorine began to destroy ozone, creating a massive hole. In the spring especially, concentrated pockets of cold air break down atmospheric CFCs, releasing chlorine that’s then activated by the energy of the sun.

The ozone hole not only let through UV radiation, it also changed major features of how heat and moisture circulate in the Southern Hemisphere. UV rays cause the ozone layer to heat up, therefore less ozone means less heating. The springtime stratosphere cooled by as much as 7° Celsius through the 1990s, throwing off the temperature balance between Antarctica and mid-latitude areas of the Earth and pushing the southern jet stream about 2° of latitude closer to the South Pole. The result was warming in Patagonia, New Zealand, and the Antarctic Peninsula, dryness in Tasmania and New Zealand, and changes to the Southern Ocean’s temperature, currents, and salinity levels.

Over the last 15 years, the ozone hole has shrunk by about 20%, which scientists credited to the 1987 Montreal Protocol. But the authors of the new paper, led by Antara Banerjee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory, say their study is the first to attribute a return of pre-pollution atmospheric behavior to the same treaty.

They used computer modeling to run simulations of atmospheric forces using data collected from 1980 to 2017, which showed a halt in the jet stream’s southward march beginning around 2000. To show the effects of the CFC ban specifically, however, the scientists first had to tease out the effects of many other factors, including greenhouse gas pollution, from the data. They found that the CFCs were far and away the biggest factor in the poleward shift. What happens next is less clear. With CFCs declining and carbon dioxide continuing to rise, there’s concern that the CO₂ could resume pushing the jet stream toward the pole, but they can’t say for sure because no one knows much CO₂ humans will eventually emit.

The effort to fix the ozone layer has faced setbacks. In recent years, scientists have documented an unexpected rise in emissions of CFCs, which has been interpreted as the start of illegal chemical production in China. Last week, a team of MIT-led researchers showed that existing stocks of CFCs embedded in equipment and materials sold legally before the full moratorium went into effect are a roadblock to faster ozone recovery.

In commentary on the paper also published in Nature, Alexey Karpechko of the Finnish Meteorological Institute wrote that the lesson of Montreal is widely applicable. “This is an object lesson in how the international community should react to global environmental challenges,” he said. “Restricting dangerous emissions and changing business practices is also the way to combat global warming caused by greenhouse gases.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg.com

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PHOTOS: Here are some of Kelowna's best photos of last night's Pink Full Moon – KelownaNow

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Last night’s Pink Full Moon was a hit, with people across the Okanagan and beyond capturing the sight on camera.

The full moon was also a supermoon – the brightest supermoon of the year – making it an even more exciting celestial event.

Here are just a few of the photos that Kelowna residents shared with us!


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ISS Crew Blasts Off From Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome Despite Virus-Hit Build-Up – The Moscow Times

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A three-man crew docked successfully at the International Space Station Thursday, leaving behind a planet overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Soyuz MS-16 capsule “docked successfully” in a statement on its website.

Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and NASA’s Chris Cassidy reached the ISS at 1413 GMT, just over six hours after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where COVID-19 caused changes to pre-launch protocol.

Usually the departing crew faces questions from a large press pack before being waved off by family and friends.

Neither was possible this time round because of travel restrictions imposed over the virus, although the crew did respond to emailed questions from journalists in a Wednesday press conference.

Cassidy, 50, admitted the crew had been affected by their families not being unable to be in Baikonur, Russia’s space hub in neighboring Kazakhstan, for their blastoff to the ISS. 

“But we understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis,” Cassidy said. 

Astronauts routinely go into quarantine ahead of space missions and give a final press conference at Baikonur from behind a glass wall to protect them from infection.

That process began even earlier than usual last month as the trio and their reserve crew hunkered down in Russia’s Star City training centre outside Moscow, eschewing traditional pre-launch rituals and visits to the capital.  

The next crew to return to Earth from the ISS will be flying to their home countries on April 17 via Baikonur, rather than Karaganda in central Kazakhstan as usual, as part of new travel measures related to the pandemic. 

Tips on self-isolation

The ISS typically carries up to six people at a time and has a livable space of 388 cubic meters (13,700 cubic feet) — larger than a six-bedroom house according to NASA.

Those dimensions will sound enviable to many residents of Earth, more than half of whom are on various forms of lockdown as governments respond to Covid-19 with drastic measures.

In recent weeks, astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS and on Earth have been sharing tips on coping with self-isolation.

In a piece for the New York Times last month, NASA’s Scott Kelly said his biggest miss during almost a year in space was nature — “the color green, the smell of fresh dirt and the feel of warm sun on my face.”

During his time aboard the ISS he “binge-watched ‘Game of Thrones’ — twice” and enjoyed frequent movie nights with crewmates, he wrote. 

Two-time cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy has become the face of a 10-week challenge that will see participants post videos of themselves completing physical exercises as part of a competition aimed at both youth and adults. 

The initiative that Roscosmos is backing aims “to support people in a situation of isolation, instil a healthy lifestyle and thoughts through regular sports, without going out in public places,” Ryazanskiy said in a video promoting the “Cosmos Training” challenge.

The launch of Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy marks the first time a manned mission has used a Soyuz-2.1a booster to reach orbit, after Roscosmos stopped using the Soyuz-FG rocket last year. 

The newer boosters have been used in unmanned launches since 2004. 

The upgraded rocket relies on a digital flight control system rather than the analogue equipment used in prior Soyuz models.

Russia and Baikonur have enjoyed a near decade-long monopoly on manned missions to the ISS since NASA wound up its Space Shuttle program in 2011. 

But that may change as early as next month when Elon Musk’s SpaceX could be ready to launch a two-man crew to the orbital lab, NASA said in March. 

NASA said that the tech entrepreneur’s company and the space agency are targeting “mid-to-late May” for a test launch that will transport NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. 

The International Space Station — a rare example of cooperation between Russia and the West — has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

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Tuesday's super pink moon lit up the Okanagan night sky – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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If you’ve had your fill of COVID-19 news for the time being the moon put on quite a show last night.

This photo sent to us by Dale Sitar shows the super pink moon in all its glory Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s full moon was the biggest, brightest supermoon of 2020 and the second of three supermoons this year. April’s supermoon came the closest to our planet – and thus appeared the largest. 

Turns out we are currently in the midst of a series of supermoons according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the first happened on March 9, April’s was Tuesday night and the last occurs on May 7, 2020.

April’s full moon is called the “Pink Moon” as it’s the first to occur after the March equinox and heralds the appearance of the “moss pink,” or wild creeping phlox—one of the early spring flowers.

Historically, full moon names were used to track the seasons and, for this reason, often relate closely to nature. The moon names that we use today stem from Native American and Colonial-era sources. Traditionally, each full moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, rather than just the full moon itself.

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