Connect with us

Science

The largest ozone layer hole over Arctic has CLOSED in huge boost to environment – Express.co.uk

Published

on


The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) said that it was tracking the record-sized hole on April 6, with researchers saying that it had been caused by unusually low temperatures above the North Pole. Scientists at the time predicted that the hole would close in a matter of weeks, and that appears to be what has just happened.

The area has been affected by a strong polar vortex which has now split, allowing “ozone-rich air into the Arctic, closely matching last week’s forecast”.

Scientists were also quick to note that despite evidence that air quality has improved significantly in some areas of the world due to coronavirus lockdowns, a lack of human activity is not what has caused this particular ozone layer restoration.

CAMS said on Twitter: “Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns probably had nothing to do with this.

“It’s been driven by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex, and isn’t related to air quality changes.”

The ozone layer, also called the ozonosphere, is a region of the Earth’s upper atmosphere said to be between nine and 22 miles high.

It plays an important part in protecting life on Earth because it blocks a lot of harmful solar radiation – including some UV rays – from hitting the ground.

If such solar radiation was not blocked by the ozone layer, it could “injure or kill most living things,” according to Britannica.

Some depletion in the ozone layer is associated with human activity, such as the release of chlorine and bromine into the atmosphere.

READ MORE: Air pollution warning: Half of US is breathing unhealthy polluted air

But the CAMS noted: “However, in 2020 the Arctic polar vortex has been exceptionally strong and long-lived.”

“Furthermore, temperatures in the Arctic stratosphere were low enough for several months at the start of 2020 to allow the formation of PSCs, resulting in large ozone losses over the Arctic.”

PSCs refer to polar stratospheric clouds, which play an important part in the chemical reactions involving man-made chemicals that cause ozone depletion.

CNN reports that the hole in the Antarctic is more typically caused by human activity than the one that formed over the Arctic.

But there is good news there as well. In October 2019, NASA reported that the ozone layer above Antarctica was the smallest it has been since 1982.

The hole fell to less than 3.9 million square miles through September and October, despite hitting a peak of 6.3 million square miles earlier in the year.

However, Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said: “It’s important to recognise that what we’re seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures.

“It’s not a sign that atmosphere ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.”

Indeed, recovery will be a slow process. Scientists expect the Antarctic ozone hole to recover back to 1980 levels by around 2070.

Atmospheric levels of man-made ozone-depleting substances have slowly decreased since the year 2000 because of international regulation, NASA says.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

SpaceX's astronaut launch is a boost for the International Space Station – Nature.com

Published

on


Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley wearing space suits and helmets touch control panels during a flight simulation

Astronauts Robert Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley will carry out spacewalks to help install a new platform for science experiments on the International Space Station.Credit: SpaceX

On 30 May, tens of millions of space enthusiasts were glued to their screens as SpaceX’s Dragon capsule soared into the air above Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. The following day, as the capsule docked with the International Space Station (ISS), some 422 kilometres above China’s border with Mongolia, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley made history as the first astronauts to ride a commercial craft into orbit.

This development — a decade in the planning — is undoubtedly an achievement for NASA, and for Space X and its reusable rockets. But it is equally a boost for space science and innovation, and especially the enduring value of global cooperation in space research and technology. Amid the jubilation, this aspect of the achievement should be highlighted more.

For NASA, the launch means, among other things, some more money in the bank. Since 2011, when the agency retired the Space Shuttle, NASA has paid Russia up to US$90 million per person to ferry crews to the ISS aboard the Soyuz craft. Seats on the SpaceX capsule are around two-thirds of this cost, which means that NASA can channel the savings into other priorities, including its ambition to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024.

The weekend’s launch also consolidates the position of SpaceX, a company that has mushroomed from start-up to major aerospace player in 18 years. Corporations have been entwined with national space agencies from early on — Grumman (now Northrop Grumman) famously designed and built the lunar module that carried the Apollo astronauts to the Moon’s surface. More recently, other companies have flown humans to space. Virgin Galactic, founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has pulled off sub-orbital flights and is planning to offer short trips for passengers to experience a few minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth. But SpaceX has succeeded at the more ambitious goal of carrying people all the way into orbit.

The company has achieved this through nimbleness, an outstanding team of engineers and product designers, and the determination of its founder, Elon Musk. Musk — who is never far from controversy — has had a hand in disrupting two established industries, first as one of the early developers of online payment systems such as PayPal, and later as chief executive of Tesla, the electric-vehicle manufacturer. But few thought he would succeed when he announced his intention to compete with much larger and more-established corporations in space technology. Arguably, SpaceX’s most important innovation has been to engineer the Falcon rocket so that it can be reused after launch. Once it has jettisoned its payload, the Falcon returns to Earth and lands, vertically, which other rockets do not do.

Although attention is understandably focused on the launch and docking, the reason for the SpaceX mission to the ISS should not be forgotten — the astronauts’ mission is ultimately in the service of science and international research cooperation. Behnken and Hurley will take part in installing a new hardware platform called Bartolomeo, designed by the European Space Agency and Airbus to enable the ISS to host extra science experiments from teams from all over the world.

When big launches grab everyone’s attention, it is hard for research to get a hearing. Earlier this year, two NASA astronauts, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, completed a challenging upgrade of a fundamental physics experiment on the station, the Cold Atom Laboratory — doing in zero gravity what physicists on Earth might have struggled to do. And, last month, the agency’s Human Research Program announced plans for extended flights to the ISS, designed to simulate the effects on the human body of a journey to Mars.

A global endeavour

It’s unfortunate that those following the weekend’s events did not see or hear much about the ISS’s research contributions, or the fact that astronauts have visited the space station from 19 nations — among them Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan. They did, however, see SpaceX and NASA promote the #LaunchAmerica hashtag, and they heard NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine say: “It’s been nine years since we’ve launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”

New space launches — regardless of their country of origin — are often accompanied by a heavy display of national symbols. But it would have been much more powerful, and more uplifting, had the launch also recognized the contributions made by other nations, including Russia, which has been reliably carrying astronauts to the ISS all this time.

From Yuri Gagarin’s orbit of Earth in 1961 to the Moon landings of 1969, space has always been an arena of fierce superpower competition — and newer players, not least China, have since come onto the scene. But, in space research, such competition has not prevented nations from cooperating, and that needs to be recognized and celebrated.

There is plenty of opportunity to do so. SpaceX will make its next run to the ISS as early as August. Bridenstine and Musk should use this next mission to demonstrate that space exploration and research are global. At the very least, they should find a new hashtag — something that will resonate with the millions around the world who watched the weekend’s launch with awe, and will inspire them to join the next generation of researchers, engineers and astronauts.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Fermenting ferns? Rare dinosaur stomach fossil opens door to ancient world – Weyburn Review

Published

on


Fresh ferns, loaded with spores, lightly dusted with leaves and twigs and perfectly seasoned with locally sourced charcoal.

Sound good? It did to an ankylosaur about 110 million years ago, as evidenced by amazingly complete fossils of what was certainly the tank-like dinosaur’s last meal.

article continues below

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Caleb Brown, a curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and co-author of a paper published Tuesday on what is one of probably only three fossilized dinosaur stomachs discovered.

“We can start recontructing the life histories and ecologies of these animals.”

The dining dinosaur was first unearthed in 2011 in a northern Alberta Suncor oilsands mine, where many excavators have learned to look for fossils as they dig. When this one turned up, a crew from the Tyrrell followed shortly afterward.

It was an amazingly well-preserved ankylosaur from the early Cretaceous period. Low but large — the species could reach eight metres long and weigh eight tonnes — the fossil took two weeks to remove.

It then took 5 1/2 years for technician Mark Mitchell to clean and prepare it, which is why the species now bears the Latin name markmitchelli. The restored specimen, complete with body armour and outer skin, was remarkable enough for a 2017 National Geographic magazine feature.

But for paleontologists, the fun was just starting. They began looking at a fossilized structure that co-author Jim Basinger of the University of Saskatchewan described as looking like a “squashed basketball.”

It was in the right place for a stomach and it held gastroliths, small stones dinosaurs used to help digest their food, much as some birds do today.

“There’s a great mess of them and they’re quite distinctive,” said Basinger.

The scientists eventually compiled 16 pieces of evidence that the squashed basketball was, in fact, a stomach.

“It’s unquestionable,” Basinger said.

There are only two other fossilized stomachs in the world that scientists are this sure about. Neither opens doors to the past the way this one does.

About 80 per cent of this last meal was a particular species of ferns. The fossils are so well preserved their spores identify them.

There are bits of other plants and twigs so immaculate that their growth rings are being used to estimate weather at the time. And there is charcoal from burned woody material.

Brown points out ferns aren’t that nutritious. A beast this size would need digestion capable of getting the most from them.

That means this dinosaur may have fermented its food, much like many animals today.

“All big herbivores today use some form of fermentation,” Brown said. “For this animal, it was almost certainly fermenting those ferns.”

Which raises other interesting questions: How much fermented fern does it take to move an eight-tonne lizard? How much energy might it need? Where might that much fodder be found?

The charcoal provides a clue. It probably came from an ancient forest fire where ferns would have been abundant in the first flush of new growth, much as they are today.

“(The dinosaur) was taking advantage of a charred landscape,” Basinger said. Many modern animals do the same, chowing down on tender, nutritious and low-hanging new growth that follows the flames.

More than just reassembling skeletons, modern paleontology is starting to rebuild ecosystems that haven’t existed for millions and millions of years.

“That’s something we can start playing with,” Brown said.

The fossils tell individual stories, too.

Basinger said, given the undigested contents of its stomach, this ankylosaur died quickly. It was surrounded by marine fossils, and researchers believe it slipped or fell into a large river, where it drowned and was swept out to sea.

“Whatever happened to the poor dinosaur, it would have happened pretty fast after it had eaten.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020

— Follow at @row1960 on Twitter

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Fermenting ferns? Rare dinosaur stomach fossil opens door to ancient world – Lethbridge News Now

Published

on


The dining dinosaur was first unearthed in 2011 in a northern Alberta Suncor oilsands mine, where many excavators have learned to look for fossils as they dig. When this one turned up, a crew from the Tyrrell followed shortly afterward.

It was an amazingly well-preserved ankylosaur from the early Cretaceous period. Low but large — the species could reach eight metres long and weigh eight tonnes — the fossil took two weeks to remove.

It then took 5 1/2 years for technician Mark Mitchell to clean and prepare it, which is why the species now bears the Latin name markmitchelli. The restored specimen, complete with body armour and outer skin, was remarkable enough for a 2017 National Geographic magazine feature.  

But for paleontologists, the fun was just starting. They began looking at a fossilized structure that co-author Jim Basinger of the University of Saskatchewan described as looking like a “squashed basketball.”

It was in the right place for a stomach and it held gastroliths, small stones dinosaurs used to help digest their food, much as some birds do today.

“There’s a great mess of them and they’re quite distinctive,” said Basinger.

The scientists eventually compiled 16 pieces of evidence that the squashed basketball was, in fact, a stomach.  

“It’s unquestionable,” Basinger said.

There are only two other fossilized stomachs in the world that scientists are this sure about. Neither opens doors to the past the way this one does.

About 80 per cent of this last meal was a particular species of ferns. The fossils are so well preserved their spores identify them.

There are bits of other plants and twigs so immaculate that their growth rings are being used to estimate weather at the time. And there is charcoal from burned woody material.

Brown points out ferns aren’t that nutritious. A beast this size would need digestion capable of getting the most from them.

That means this dinosaur may have fermented its food, much like many animals today.

“All big herbivores today use some form of fermentation,” Brown said. “For this animal, it was almost certainly fermenting those ferns.”

Which raises other interesting questions: How much fermented fern does it take to move an eight-tonne lizard? How much energy might it need? Where might that much fodder be found?

The charcoal provides a clue. It probably came from an ancient forest fire where ferns would have been abundant in the first flush of new growth, much as they are today.

“(The dinosaur) was taking advantage of a charred landscape,” Basinger said. Many modern animals do the same, chowing down on tender, nutritious and low-hanging new growth that follows the flames.

More than just reassembling skeletons, modern paleontology is starting to rebuild ecosystems that haven’t existed for millions and millions of years.

“That’s something we can start playing with,” Brown said. 

The fossils tell individual stories, too.

Basinger said, given the undigested contents of its stomach, this ankylosaur died quickly. It was surrounded by marine fossils, and researchers believe it slipped or fell into a large river, where it drowned and was swept out to sea.

“Whatever happened to the poor dinosaur, it would have happened pretty fast after it had eaten.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020

— Follow at @row1960 on Twitter

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending