The world’s largest radio telescope begins operations in China


Liu Xu/Xinhua

❝ The world’s largest radio telescope began searching for signals from stars and galaxies and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life Sunday in a project demonstrating China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige…

Measuring 500 meters in diameter, the radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years and $180 million to complete and surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize.

❝ The official Xinhua News Agency said hundreds of astronomers and enthusiasts watched the launch of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in the county of Pingtang.

Researchers quoted by state media said FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life…

Installation of the 4,450-panel structure, nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, started in 2011 and was completed in July…

❝ The radio telescope has double the sensitivity of the Arecibo Observatory, and five to 10 times the surveying speed…

China has also completed the construction of tourist facilities such as an observation deck on a nearby mountain…Such facilities can be a draw for visitors — the one in Puerto Rico draws about 90,000 visitors and some 200 scientists each year.

There is something I’d love to visit. Wish I could drive there in my old pickup truck. I will not countenance the TSA crappola.

A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming — in 20 seconds!

❝ A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming practices — in 20 seconds! Of course, there are scores of variables when it comes to sustainable farming, but this little video shows the huge difference between no-till and conventional farming:

no-till-v-conventional
Click to access video and the complete article

❝ The video starts on a no-till field — one that isn’t ever plowed. Instead of tilling, or turning over the soil to kill weeds, farmers plant directly into the thatch of grasses and usually use an application of herbicide to knock down weeds. When farmers leave fields bare, like in the other field, soil washes away and local waters are polluted.

Some farmers on this silly little planet continue to grow no till-crops decades after the invention of machines that increase profits. And also require tons of added and otherwise unnecessary chemicals to produce those crops.

NASA finds August 2016 tied July 2016 for hottest month ever recorded


Click to enlarge

❝ August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies…

❝ Although the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tied with July 2016 for the warmest month ever recorded…

“Monthly rankings, which vary by only a few hundredths of a degree, are inherently fragile,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We stress that the long-term trends are the most important for understanding the ongoing changes that are affecting our planet.”

The record warm August continued a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set new monthly high-temperature records.

❝ The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations. The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because previous observations didn’t cover enough of the planet.

Nothing like having a clear idea of how human beings are screwing up the planet.

Well, actually a small number of human beings. Like 1%.

Signal from distant star an invitation from LinkedIn

❝ Astronomers have confirmed the existence of semi-intelligent alien life with the discovery of an interstellar LinkedIn message.

The invite came from a star in the Hercules constellation and included a request to swap notes on ‘new and exciting ways’ of using Powerpoint.

❝ Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said: “This proves that we are not alone in the universe but we will probably spend a lot of time pretending we are.

“I’d always dreamt that first contact would be a sublime moment of consciousness meeting consciousness across the inky void of space but instead I’m going to have to pretend I haven’t checked my telescope for messages.”

❝ The race is now on to develop a spam filter for messages from distant planets to avoid other alien civilisations thinking humans are an easy touch and bombarding Earth with special offers for Wowcher and 38 Degrees petitions to sign.

Everyone tries to recreate The Onion. Not a bad job on this one – albeit aimed mostly at geeks.

And it did make me smile.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Earth approaches climate change – on a visual record – even if politicians see nothing


Click to enlarge

Scientists are getting better at producing visualizations that make climate change, a pretty heady topic, simple enough to take in at a glance. This image charts global temperature changes each year since 1850, using the period from 1961 to 1990 as a baseline. The color scale ranges from dark blue (-2.5 degrees C) to dark red (+2.5 degrees C).

It was created by climate scientist Ed Hawkins…

Evidence-based data and analysis is key to scientific understanding. Then there are those who care not for science or understanding. They rely on conditioned-responses from decades of earnest dedication to reality TV and pronouncements from prominent people.

Same as it ever was.

Massive amounts of carbon are locked away in permafrost — for how much longer?


Click to enlargeUniversity of Laval

Researchers have confirmed the widespread release of ancient carbon from melting Arctic permafrost in what could be the lit fuse on a climate-change bomb.

A paper published this week in Nature Geoscience has released the first measurements of greenhouse gases from permafrost under Arctic lakes. But while the study confirms those gases locked away in ice for thousands of years are seeping free, it concludes the amounts are not yet large.

Scientists have long known that permafrost contains vast quantities of carbon in dead plants and other organic material, about twice as much as the entire atmosphere. Now, that permafrost is melting more quickly as the Arctic warms up faster than anywhere else on Earth…

Researchers looked at lakes in Alaska and Siberia, as well as data from Canada. They used aerial photographs and other information to measure how the area had changed over the last 60 years.

They found that, across the Arctic, the amount of gas being released from a lake was directly related to its expansion. The more permafrost was melted around the water’s edge, the bigger the lake became, and the more greenhouse gases were released.

The team captured some of those gases and subjected them to radiocarbon dating. They found the gases had been generated from carbon stored for anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 years…

Models suggest that over the next 90 years, greenhouse gas releases from permafrost will be 100 times higher than the levels Walter Anthony measured.

That hasn’t begun to happen, yet. No accelerated rate. No “explosion”, yet.

Devotees of philosophical and political systems embracing sophistry will welcome the news. Sit around doing nothing, whining about folks who see a need for responsible action.

Know-nothings, especially the Congressional flavor, won’t even be that concerned.

OTOH, folks who comprehend the predictive aspect of scientific research will continue the fight to mobilize political and social response to climate change.

Marine heatwaves are causing unprecedented climate chaos

Oz mangrove die-off
Click to enlargeNorm Duke/James Cook University

Mangrove die-off from diminished rainfall, increasing temperatures – Australia

First seabirds started falling out of the sky, washing up on beaches from California to Canada…Then emaciated and dehydrated sea lion pups began showing up, stranded and on the brink of death…A surge in dead whales was reported in the same region, and that was followed by the largest toxic algal bloom in history seen along the Californian coast. Mixed among all that there were population booms of several marine species that normally aren’t seen surging in the same year.

Plague, famine, pestilence and death was sweeping the northern Pacific Ocean between 2014 and 2015.

This chaos was caused by a single massive heatwave, unlike anything ever seen before. But it was not the sort of heatwave we are used to thinking about, where the air gets thick with warmth. This occurred in the ocean, where the effects are normally hidden from view.

Nicknamed “the blob”, it was arguably the biggest marine heatwave ever seen. It may have been the worst but wide-scale disruption from marine heatwaves is increasingly being seen all around the globe, with regions such as Australia seemingly being hit with more than their fair share…

It was in the study of a marine heatwave in south-west Australia that the term was coined just five years ago. In a report that still used the term “marine heatwave” in scare quotes, scientists from the West Australian department of fisheries found the heatwave off the state’s coast was “a major temperature anomaly superimposed on the underlying long-term ocean-warming trend”.

That year, the researchers found, Western Australia had an unprecedented surge of hot water along its coast. Surface temperatures were up to 5C higher than the usual seasonal temperature. The pool of warm water stretched more than 1,500km from Ningaloo to the southern tip of the continent at Cape Leeuwin, and it extended more than 200km offshore. Unlike a terrestrial heatwave that will normally last a couple of weeks at most, this persisted for more than 10 weeks.

…Five years later the full impact of that marine heatwave have are beginning to be more fully understood.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – still hasn’t been through a complete gamut of peer review – but, keep your brain cells up-to-date on some of the latest findings on climate change. You need to know especially since many of our politicians fear that happening.

Climate scientists predict accelerating sea level rise

One of the great things about science is that it allows you to make predictions. Three top climate scientists just made a very bold prediction regarding sea level rise; we should know in a few years if they are correct…

For instance, the oceans are rising. We know that’s indisputable. Measurements taken from physical gauges and from satellites confirm sea level rise. The cause of the rise is more complex…

The three ways we know sea levels are rising are from physical tide gauges, from satellites that measure the water height, and from satellites that measure where ice is stored across the globe. While tide gauge measurements go back many years, they only measure water levels at their location. Many tide gauges have to be in place to get an accurate sense of what is happening globally.

Satellites, on the other hand, are much more capable of taking global measurements. The problem with satellites is they have only been taking measurements since approximately 1993 (not nearly as long as tide gauges). So scientists try to combine these two measurements to get a long-term and global picture of what is really happening.

A very recent paper published in Nature has evaluated the history of sea level rise, and what they find is really interesting…Using satellite data, the authors found little evidence of an acceleration. However, they show that this is because the satellites began measuring in 1993, right after a large volcanic eruption (Mount Pinatubo). This eruption temporarily reduced global warming because particles from the eruption blocked sunlight. Just by coincidence, the timing of the satellites and the eruption has affected the water rise so that it appears to be linear. Had the eruption not occurred, the rate would have increased.

This allows the scientists to make a prediction:

barring another major volcanic eruption, a detectable acceleration is likely to emerge from the noise of internal climate variability in the coming decade.

This means that the authors will be able to statistically observe an increase, even though the Earth experiences natural changes that may mask any increase.

…Dr. Fasullo…told me:

This article shows that the acceleration of sea level rise is real and ongoing. It is also an example of how climate models can play a key role in both the interpretation of observations and the prediction of near-future climate.

While only time will tell if they are right, I’d put my money on the scientists.

I’ll second that emotion.

Scotland blows away the competition – joins select club of nations hitting interval with peak renewables at/over 100%

On Sunday, Scotland produced 106% of its electricity needs -over a 24 hour period – via wind farms. Scotland joins a select group of countries that have had peak moments (or days/months/forever) when their electricity needs comes from non-polluting renewable energy. Iceland runs completely on hydroelectric and geothermal, Costa Rica ran for 75 straight days in 2015, Portugal ran for four days, Denmark generated 140% of their demand, Germany broke 95% for a few moments and there are many other countries with wonderful clean energy achievements. With places like Hawaii aiming for 100%, Rhode Island building its first off shore wind farm and the US Department of energy readying the mainland’s grid to be able to handle 100% – we will see reports like this proliferate in the future.

…Turbines spread across the land and in the ocean surrounding Scotland provided 39,545 megawatt-hours of electricity to the National Grid on Sunday while the country’s total power consumption for homes, business and industry was 37,202 MWh. Scotland’s goal of generating 50% of their annual electricity from renewables is on pace to happen a full year early. Scotland also has a goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2020, but it might only get to 87% per some reports. Still – 87% over the course of a year is a powerful value and will probably mean 100% will arrive before 2025.

Full credit to folks like Brian Wilson who led the political side of the fight for renewable energy, especially wind power… when he was energy minister. He’s officially retired, now. Other folks get the headline battles – nowadays. Doesn’t lessen the credit he deserves.