NASA discovers massive hole melted away under Antarctic glacier

❝ A gigantic cavity – two-thirds the area of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall – growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is one of several disturbing discoveries reported in a new NASA-led study of the disintegrating glacier. The findings highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers’ undersides in calculating how fast global sea levels will rise in response to climate change.

❝ Researchers expected to find some gaps between ice and bedrock at Thwaites’ bottom where ocean water could flow in and melt the glacier from below. The size and explosive growth rate of the newfound hole, however, surprised them. It’s big enough to have contained 14 billion tons of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years…

❝ About the size of Florida, Thwaites Glacier is currently responsible for approximately 4 percent of global sea level rise. It holds enough ice to raise the world ocean a little over 2 feet (65 centimeters) and backstops neighboring glaciers that would raise sea levels an additional 8 feet (2.4 meters) if all the ice were lost.

RTFA. Nice of the French and Germans to help us out with this research. Our government thinks we need more aircraft carriers and the beginnings of a whole new project to redesign rifles for the whole US Army.

Seals occupy California beach as a result of Trump’s Shutdown


Click to enlargeJohn Dell’Osso/AP

❝ Across the nation this week, returning federal workers slogged through backlogs of voicemails, sifted through bursting email inboxes and tried to remember the name of the childhood pet at the beginning of their log-in passwords.

At Drakes Beach, part of the Point Reyes National Seashore, employees had a much bigger problem. Literally. Some of the elephant seal squatters weigh as much as a car.

Before the shutdown — Park officials…used a decidedly low-tech method to enforce an armistice between the mammal species: They waved blue tarps to annoy the seals away from the areas most popular with Homo sapiens.

But the federal government apparently does not regard the tarp-wavers as essential federal employees, so the workers who did it were among the 800,000 furloughed.

❝ During that time, according to the Chronicle, high tides and storms battered the seals’ normal habitat.

So the seals showed up at the suddenly deserted Drakes Beach, and they brought friends and apparently family, too. Seals give birth during winter, and the unoccupied Drakes Beach appears to be an excellent place to raise pups.

Hilarious. Unintended consequences abound throughout the administration of our first fake president.

Melting glaciers reveal Canadian land hidden for 40,000 years


Southern Baffin IslandKike Calvo/AP

Melting ice is exposing hidden landscapes in the Canadian Arctic that haven’t been seen in more than 40,000 years, new research published in Nature Communications reveals.

Unsurprisingly, the study suggests climate change is the driving force behind this record-breaking glacial retreat and with Arctic temps rising at increasing speed thanks to strong positive feedback loops in the polar regions, we can expect things to heat up even quicker in the near future. According to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Canadian Arctic may be seeing its warmest century in as many as 115,000 years…

❝ Simon Pendleton and colleagues’ research is based on plants collected at the edge of ice caps on Baffin Island, the fifth-largest island in the world. The landscape is dominated by deeply incised fjords and high-elevation, low-relief plateaus. The latter conserves lichens and moss in their original position in the ice for periods of time lasting thousands of years — a little like a cryogenic chamber.

RTFA to learn why scientists like Pendleton have to be hot on the spot to gather samples of vegetation as it becomes exposed.

Blood Moon Tonight


Click to enlarge

❝ The viewing circumstances for the eclipse of the full moon tonight will be as good as they can get for much of the United States and Canada. The eastern side of the continent has the best view, but the spectacle of the moon completely immersed in Earth’s shadow will be readily visible from coast to coast. The duration of totality will be longer than normal, too: It will last 1 hour and 2 minutes.

❝ The total phase of the eclipse will be visible from the Western Hemisphere, Europe and the western part of Africa, as well as the northernmost portions of Russia. In all, assuming good weather conditions, this shady little drama will have a potential viewing audience of some 2.8 billion people.

Everyone in our wee Santa Fe County Compound is reminded to remind me to get my butt outside to check this out, tonight.

Corporate Pledge to End Plastic Waste Just a Drop in Polluted Oceans


Shutterstock/Mohamed Abdulraheem

❝…Chemical companies are beginning to get alarmed…Their solution: A public pledge by the new Alliance to End Plastic Waste to spend $1 billion over five years to clean up marine debris, improve recycling and develop new technologies to reduce pollution. That may sound like a lot of green, but the Alliance is made up of 28 companies that make plastics, packaging and consumer products, which averages out to each company spending just over $7 million on the effort each year.

❝ So is $1.5 billion over five years likely to fulfill Bob Patel’s goal to “end plastic waste”? Not even close, according to an Ocean Conservancy report that estimated it would cost $5 billion a year for a package of initiatives to reduce the global leakage of plastics into the ocean by 45 percent in the next six years. Even that plan wouldn’t see the trash flow ending until 2035.

❝ Oceana, another U.S.-based conservancy group, said the alliance is trying to justify ever-increasing plastics production rather than committing to cut output.

“Plastic-filled bellies of marine birds, sea turtles and fish tell us that this has gone way too far,” Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s chief policy officer, said in a statement. “It’s time for those responsible for the problem to stop dreaming and start reducing.”

Window dressing never encourages any social response other than reducing consumer activism. A taste of dedication doesn’t match up against a serious attitude for profits and hogwash.

Giant ice disc rotating in the Presumpscot River in Maine

❝ A disk of ice roughly 100 yards across that formed on the Presumpscot River and was slowly rotating and gaining size Monday had Westbrook buzzing almost as much as when city police spotted a giant snake eating a beaver in roughly the same location in June 2016.

Nothing ever came of those mysterious snake sightings – the reptile was dubbed “Wessie” by locals – but the sight of an alien-looking circle of ice stuck in the river had some people wondering about that section of the river’s knack for producing weird events.

And little ice discs in the Housatonic River in Connecticut

❝ Cliff Bates was hiking the Appalachian Trail in Northwest Connecticut with his dog in 9-degree weather Jan. 1 when he saw slowly-rotating discs of ice on the Housatonic River that resembled UFO saucers…

“It was just down there in the gorge…it was this kind of weird triangle and the ice chunks slowly circled inside that but never really left it,” Bates said…

❝ The discs are found in the cold climates of North America and Europe, Ryan Hanrahan, chief meteorologist for NBC Connecticut, said the past two weeks are the longest stretch on record of consecutive subfreezing temperatures. Given the extreme cold, he said it’s not a surprise to see things like the ice discs across the state.

Along with being rare, they are a more recently-documented phenomenon. Gil Simmons, chief meteorologist for WTNH said research has been ongoing for only 100 years, trying to understand the occurrence…

Read both articles – especially the second – which seems to explain how and why the discs rotate. At least in a laboratory. 🙂

This shows how far the “100th Meridian” has shifted since 1980


YaleE360/Katie Peek

Climate change works in mysterious ways; it isn’t limited to wildfires and melting ice. Today’s climate exhibit: The 100th Meridian — the famous dividing line that separates America’s wet East from the dry West — has migrated 140 miles east since 1980…

❝ The shift is the result of rising temperatures drying out parts of the northern plains and less rain falling further south, YaleEnvironment360 reports. This could be due to natural variability — changes caused by nonhuman forces — but the migration aligns with what researchers tell us to expect from global warming.

Ayup…