Earth three-peats hottest year record

❝ Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, with scientists mostly blaming man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino that’s now gone.

Two U.S. agencies and international weather groups reported Wednesday that last year was the warmest on record. They measure global temperatures in slightly different ways, and came up with a range of increases, from minuscule to what top American climate scientists described as substantial.

They’re “all singing the same song even if they are hitting different notes along the way. The pattern is very clear,” said Deke Arndt of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…

“This is clearly a record,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. “We are now no longer only looking at something that only scientists can see, but is apparent to people in our daily lives.”

❝ Temperature records go back to 1880. This is the fifth time in a dozen years that the globe has set a new annual heat record. Records have been set in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010 and 2005…

Schmidt said his calculations show most of the record heat was from heat-trapping gases from the burning of oil, coal and gas. Only about 12 percent was due to El Nino, which is a periodic warming of parts of the Pacific that change weather globally, he said. Arndt put the El Nino factor closer to a quarter or a third…

❝ The effects are more than just records, but actually hurt people and the environment, said Oklahoma University meteorology professor Jason Furtado. They’re “harmful on several levels, including human welfare, ecology, economics, and even geopolitics,” he said.

I’ll second that emotion.

Move the date back on the first humans in North America — another 10,000 years!


Click to enlargeBourgeon et al

❝ The timing of the first entry of humans into North America across the Bering Strait has now been set back 10,000 years.

This has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt by Ariane Burke, a professor in Université de Montréal’s Department of Anthropology, and her doctoral student Lauriane Bourgeon, with the contribution of Dr. Thomas Higham, Deputy Director of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

Their findings were published in early January in the open-access journal PLoS One.

❝ The earliest settlement date of North America, until now estimated at 14,000 years Before Present (BP) according to the earliest dated archaeological sites, is now estimated at 24,000 BP, at the height of the last ice age or Last Glacial Maximum.

❝ The researchers made their discovery using artifacts from the Bluefish Caves, located on the banks of the Bluefish River in northern Yukon near the Alaska border. The site was excavated by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars between 1977 and 1987. Based on radiocarbon dating of animal bones, the researcher made the bold hypothesis that human settlement in the region dated as far back as 30,000 BP…

To set the record straight, Bourgeon examined the approximate 36,000 bone fragments culled from the site and preserved at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau — an enormous undertaking that took her two years to complete. Comprehensive analysis of certain pieces at UdeM’s Ecomorphology and Paleoanthropology Laboratory revealed undeniable traces of human activity in 15 bones. Around 20 other fragments also showed probable traces of the same type of activity.

“Series of straight, V-shaped lines on the surface of the bones were made by stone tools used to skin animals,” said Burke. “These are indisputable cut-marks created by humans.”

❝ Bourgeon submitted the bones to further radiocarbon dating. The oldest fragment, a horse mandible showing the marks of a stone tool apparently used to remove the tongue, was radiocarbon-dated at 19,650 years, which is equivalent to between 23,000 and 24,000 cal BP (calibrated years Before Present).

“Our discovery confirms previous analyses and demonstrates that this is the earliest known site of human settlement in Canada,” said Burke. It shows that Eastern Beringia was inhabited during the last ice age.”…

The Beringians of Bluefish Caves were therefore among the ancestors of people who, at the end of the last ice age, colonized the entire continent along the coast to South America.

Bravo. If I was a young ‘un, again – this would be high on the list of work I’d love to be doing.

Phwooosh!

❝ An asteroid roughly the size of a 10-story building gave Earth a particularly close pass Monday morning.

Asteroid 2017 AG13 came within half the distance from Earth to the moon as it buzzed by early Monday morning at 4:47 a.m. PT. The fly-by happened shortly after scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey first discovered the space rock on Saturday…

…In real terms, Earth had well over a 100,000-mile (161,000 kilometer) buffer of distance.

❝ 2017 AG13 isn’t so big it would have meant an extinction-level event had it been a direct hit. But if a good size chunk of it made it through Earth’s upper atmosphere near a populated area, there might have been damage like we saw in 2013 when a bolide collided with the atmosphere over the Russian city Chelyabinsk. In that event, a fireball streaked over the city, releasing 500 kilotons of energy as it ran up against some serious resistance from Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, blowing out windows all over town in the process.

❝ The asteroid is about 11 to 34 meters across, according to the Slooh Observatory, and moving very fast relative to Earth at 16 kilometers per second. That speed, coupled with 2017 AG13’s dim brightness level, made it difficult to spot with telescopes.

Cue theme from Twilight Zone.

Milestone: In 2016, wind generated more power than coal in the UK

❝ During most years since the industrial revolution, the UK has relied on coal to produce the lion’s share of its energy (in the past 10, gas has been top some years, and coal others). But in just three years the dominance of the most polluting energy source has declined to such an extent that full-year figures for 2016 show it was overtaken by wind power for total power generation…

❝ The change is momentous, and by no means accidental. European policy has mandated for the closing or retrofitting of many coal plants, with the UK recently announcing all its plants would close by 2025. Some plants, like the UK’s Drax, the biggest coal power station in Europe, have responded by moving to the burning of wood — which has its own issues. The replacement of coal with cleaner ways of generating power is a key part of the global effort to fight climate change.

❝ In most countries with large populations, renewables still can’t provide enough constant “baseload” power to allow them to replace older technologies. Many countries, the UK included, are therefore moving heavily from coal to gas. Gas is still a fossil fuel, but it’s much less damaging to the environment than coal, so planners hoping to deploy more renewables can use it as a “bridge” to an even cleaner future. Other countries, like France, have invested heavily in nuclear as a means to move away from emissions-heavy power…

❝ And for its part, China is investing massively in renewable energy. It’s still heavily reliant on coal power, but it overtook all other countries to become the biggest spender on renewable technology in 2014, and recently pledged to spend $361 billion on the technologies by 2020.

Advancing such progress in the United States will come to a halt for the next four years – as far as federal projects and the Trumpublicans are concerned. That doesn’t mean a halt to progress. Cities, states and individuals will continue to demonstrate good sense – both in terms of environment and common $ense.

This is Iceland

this-is-iceland
Click the image to visit the site

❝ I am one of the many people who are in love with the sparse, hypnotic and majestic landscape of Iceland and its wonderful people. In case, you need more convincing, check out this website and some stunning photographs. Then pack your bags and go visit. It might be cold in winters, but still stark and amazing. Iceland haunts me!

Om Malik

Living by a busy road increases your eventual risk of dementia

❝ Living near a high-traffic road may cause more mental health problems than just sleep deprivation, according to Canadian researchers.

In a population-based cohort in Ontario, dementia, but not Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis was more common in people who lived close to a major road than those who lived further away from the road, reported Hong Chen, MD, of Public Health Ontario…and colleagues.

❝ According to Chen, “increasing population growth and continuing urbanization globally has placed many people close to heavy traffic. With the widespread exposure to traffic and growing population with dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure can pose an enormous public health burden.

“Quantitatively speaking, our study estimated that 7%-11% of dementia cases in patients who live near major roads were attributable to traffic exposure alone,” he explained…

❝ In an accompanying editorial, Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas…of the University of Montana in Missoula, and Rodolfo Villarreal-Ríos, of the Universidad del Valle de México in Mexico City, wrote that the study “opens up a crucial global health concern for millions of people.”

❝ Additionally, the researchers concluded that exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter was also linked to higher dementia incidence, but did not account for the full effect…

He also suggested that changes in transportation emissions and land use policies may help to prevent dementia and improve public health.

Living in healthful surroundings with reduced pollution and noise seems like a standard easy to understand for most human beings. Perhaps our populist blather-meisters really are extra-terrestrial aliens in disguise. 🙂

Lunar farside


Click to enlargeNASA/GSFC/ASU/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Tidally locked in synchronous rotation, the Moon always presents its familiar nearside to denizens of planet Earth. From lunar orbit, the Moon’s farside can become familiar, though. In fact this sharp picture, a mosaic from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s wide angle camera, is centered on the lunar farside. Part of a global mosaic of over 15,000 images acquired between November 2009 and February 2011, the highest resolution version shows features at a scale of 100 meters per pixel.

Surprisingly, the rough and battered surface of the farside looks very different from the nearside covered with smooth dark lunar maria. The likely explanation is that the farside crust is thicker, making it harder for molten material from the interior to flow to the surface and form the smooth maria.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Footprints of our early ancestors


Click to enlargeRaffaello Pellizzon

Footprints made by early humans millions of years ago have been uncovered in Tanzania close to where similar tracks were found in the 1970s.

The impressions were made when some of our distant relatives walked together across wet volcanic ash.

❝ Their makers, most likely Australopithecus afarensis, appear to have had a wide range of body sizes.

Scientists say this gives clues to how this ancient species of human lived…

The fossil of “Lucy”, a young adult female who lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago, is perhaps the most famous individual…

❝ “This novel evidence, taken as a whole with the previous findings, portrays several early hominins moving as a group through the landscape following a volcanic eruption and subsequent rainfall. But there is more,” said lead researcher Prof Giorgio Manzi, director of the archaeological project in Tanzania.

“The footprints of one of the new individuals are astonishingly larger than anyone else’s in the group, suggesting that he was a large male member of the species.

“In fact, the 165cm stature indicated by his footprints makes him the largest Australopithecus specimen identified to date.”

❝ At 3.66 million years old, they are the oldest documented bipedal footprint trails…

Other prints were found at the site – including those of a giraffe, rhinoceros and prehistoric horses…

Keep on rocking in the real world. Science leads the way.