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.

Fanatic “honour” crimes against women rising rapidly in the UK


Banaz Mahmod, an ‘honour killing’ victim strangled in 2006

The number of women and girls in the UK suffering violence and intimidation at the hands of their families or communities is increasing rapidly, according to figures revealing the nationwide scale of “honour” abuse for the first time.

Statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act about such violence – which can include threats, abduction, acid attacks, beatings, forced marriage, mutilation and murder – show that in the 12 police force areas for which comparable data was available, reports went up by 47% in just a year.

The figures, shared with the Guardian by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (Ikwro), also reveal that a small number of forces – including four in Scotland – are still not collecting data on how often such violence occurs.

The 39 police forces that gave Ikwro figures recorded 2,823 incidents in 2010…But this is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, campaigners say, as so many incidents go unreported because of victims’ fears of recriminations…

Ikwro’s campaigns officer, Fionnuala Ni Mhurchu, said the increase was probably due partly to better police awareness and to more victims coming forward after coverage of high-profile prosecutions, but that violence itself was also increasing as young people increasingly refused to bow to their families’ demands.

“They’re resisting abuses of their human rights such as forced marriage more and more,” she said. “And as a result they’re being subjected to this kind of violence. We hear from the community that this violence is on the increase.

“These figures are important because they demonstrate this is not a minor problem – it is a serious issue affecting thousands of people a year, many of whom will suffer high levels of abuse before they seek help. We want the government to develop a national strategy on honour-based violence that covers not just policing but also issues such as education and community cohesion…”

Immigrants need to understand they are in a nation where the law of the land has primacy – and will be enforced. No doubt many come from countries where a blind eye is turned to criminal fanatics who abuse young women and men in the name of religion and culture. They must be assured this is not the case in the UK and the US.

I think one of these reasons our immigrant population – especially from theocratic lands in South Asia and the Middle East – suffers these indignities less often in the United States is exactly that they become cause celebre and receive strong legal attention. For whatever reasons, similar efforts in the UK seem to be overdue.

Dynamic, rapid evolution alters experiment! WTF?

When the forces of evolution took over an experimental strain of bacteria, it derailed an experiment Duke and NC State researchers thought they were conducting, but led to something much more profound instead.

The researchers used a colony of mice raised in a large plastic bubble, called an isolator, that was completely sterile, lacking even a single bacterium. They introduced a single type of bacteria into the mouse colony, but it mutated quickly into different types, making new bacteria that were hardier inside of the mice than the original bacterium was.

In some regards, “this is one of the best demonstrations of evolution ever carried out in a laboratory,” said William Parker, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Duke Department of Surgery. “This is the first time the evolution of bacteria has been monitored for a period of years in an incredibly complex environment.”

Parker said the work illustrates the power of evolution in creating diversity and in filling ecological niches. “This study also strengthens the idea that we could harness evolution in the laboratory to develop microbes for use in biotechnology and in medicine,” Parker said.

The results…indicate that “experimental evolution,” or evolution controlled in a laboratory setting, could be used to develop new strains of bacteria for use as probiotic substances, which are living organisms used for intestinal and digestive therapies…

Over the three-year study period, the bacterial population remained diverse and appeared to adapt significantly well to the environment in the digestive tracts of the mice. “The bacteria colonized better in the mice by the end of the experiment than at the beginning,” Parker said, with more than a three-fold increase in the density of bacteria within the gut by the end of the experiment.

Wow. Most researchers are flexible enough to perceive unexpected results for what they are, where they may lead.

Still – it’s rewarding to see how this group let their experiment carry through on its own – adding to evolutionary knowledge at the same time.

Plastics decompose and pollute rapidly in oceans

Though ocean-borne plastic trash has a reputation as an indestructible, immortal environmental villain, scientists announced yesterday that some plastics actually decompose rapidly in the ocean. And, the researchers say, that’s not a good thing.

The team’s new study is the first to show that degrading plastics are leaching potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A into the seas, possibly threatening ocean animals, and us.

Scientists had previously thought plastics broke down only at very high temperatures and over hundreds of years. The researchers behind a new study, however, found that plastic breaks down at cooler temperatures than expected, and within a year of the trash hitting the water.

The Japan-based team collected samples in waters from the U.S., Europe, India, Japan, and elsewhere, said lead researcher Katsuhiko Saido. All the water samples were found to contain derivatives of polystyrene, a common plastic used in disposable cutlery, Styrofoam, and DVD cases, among other things, said Saido, who presented the findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C..

Plastic, he said, should be considered a new source of chemical pollution in the ocean…

The pollutants are likely to be more concentrated in areas heavily littered with plastic debris, such as ocean vortices, which occur where currents meet.

Nothing ever surprises me about the crap human beings dispose of by tossing it into the nearest body of water. Bigger just means a better place to shovel your debris.

I grew up in a family that sustained itself with coastal fishing. Lived through the good and bad patches of fighting pollution – sometimes success forcing a cleanup of the ocean waters where I lived.

You could remove the human-based garbage from the shore every day. It would be back as bad the next day. Human beings will always eat garbage as long as they can’t see it identified on their plate. And it’s easier than doing anything about it.

Studies on the threshold of abrupt climate change

There’s more information available here than the average True Believer will countenance. Here’s just a taste:

Abrupt climate change is a potential menace that hasn’t received much attention. That’s about to change. The U.S. Department of Energy recently launched IMPACTS – Investigation of the Magnitudes and Probabilities of Abrupt Climate Transitions – a program led by William Collins of Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division that brings together six national laboratories to attack the problem of abrupt climate change…

Sparked by the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize that was shared by Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the reality of global warming finally got through to the majority of the world’s population. Most people think of climate change as something that occurs only gradually, however, with average temperature changing two or three degrees Celsius over a century or more; this is the rate at which ‘forcing’ mechanisms operate, such as the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels or widespread changes in land use.

But climate change has occurred with frightening rapidity in the past and will almost certainly do so again. Perhaps the most famous example is the reverse hiccup in a warming trend that began 15,000 years ago and eventually ended the last ice age. Roughly 2,000 years after it started, the warming trend suddenly reversed, and temperatures fell back to near-glacial conditions; Earth stayed cold for over a thousand years, a period called the Younger Dryas (named for an alpine wildflower). Then warming resumed so abruptly that global temperatures shot up 10 °C in just 10 years.
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