By CBS NEWS August 23, 2015, 8:16 PM Fast-moving wildfires in West proving unpredictable
While You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean By Emily J. Gertz | Takepart.com4 hours agoView photoWhile You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean Imagine Manhattan buried under a thousand feet of ice. That’s how much of Greenland’sJakobshavn Glacier fell into the Arctic Ocean last week, becoming a 7.8-square-mile iceberg.“As a single event, this is a fairly rare size,” said Twila Moon, an ice sheet scientist at the University of Oregon. But the phenomenon isn’t unusual, she said, because glaciers on Greenland “pulse” seasonally. That means they break off at their edges and retreat inland in summer, and move back toward the ocean in winter.Still, the ongoing retreat of the Jakobshavn Glacier is another sign that climate change is further destabilizing the ice sheet covering Greenland, one of the world’s biggest repositories of freshwater. Even with temperatures in the Arctic rising at nearly twice the global average, scientists have been surprised in recent years by the fast melt rate of Greenland’s land-bound ice, which contributes to sea-level rise.Since the 1990s, the Jakobshavn has failed to regain the ground it loses in summer, and the glacier’s leading edge is now further inland than it has been in 135 years of record-keeping, said Moon.“It is not difficult to say that this continued retreat is in line with what we expect to happen with climate change, with the Jakobshavn as well as the many other glaciers around Greenland the rest of the Arctic,” she added. “Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any glaciologists who were surprised by this event.”RELATED: Watch 30 Years of Arctic Ice Melt in 1 Minute NASA and European Space Agency satellites photographed the ice mass calving off the glacier between Aug. 14 and Aug. 16. The ESA estimated that the iceberg was 4,590 feet thick.The United Nations climate agency has forecast that unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut sharply in the next 35 to 50 years, the ice sheets on both Greenland and West Antarctica will begin to completely collapse, speeding up rates of sea-level rise. Scientists estimate that together, they are losing 300 billion tons of ice annually owing to rising temperatures.“I do think it’s important for people to understand that this not a surprise event,” Moon said. “This is a signal that is consistent with what we expect from climate change. It’s a reminder that we should act, not that we should give up.”Related stories on TakePart:• Who Wins and Who Loses in the Great Arctic Thaw• Can the First Crowdfunded Science Expedition Save Greenland’s Ice?
Particles From The Edge Of Space Shine A Light On FukushimaAUGUST 24, 201512:47 PM ET GEOFF BRUMFIELAn aerial view of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, on March 11.Kyodo/Reuters/LandovIt’s one of the greatest, and most disturbing, questions of the Fukushima disaster: What happened to the nuclear fuel inside the plant? Now physicists are trying to shed some light on the problem using particles from the edge of space.The Fukushima accident was broadcast around the world. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami struck the plant, knocking out cooling in three working reactors. The uranium fuel inside melted down.But nobody’s quite sure where it went.”Right now we don’t know where the fuel is,” says Christopher Morris, a fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.REBUILDING JAPANCrippled Japanese Reactors Face Decades Of WorkA lot of the fuel is probably still in the bottom of the reactors. But some of it may have fallen down into the concrete buildings that house them. Finding the fuel and disposing of it is a critical part of the cleanup, but there’s just no way to look inside and see.”The radiation levels are so extraordinarily high that cameras break rather quickly after they get near the reactor,” Morris says. Debris is also blocking the view.Images From the Reactor A computer simulation (left) shows how muons would image the pill-shaped vessel of the Fukushima Unit 1 reactor. An actual muon image (right) taken across 26 days is considerably fuzzier; but, judging from the lack of shadowing in the center, the nuclear core appears to be gone, engineers say. Better muon detectors might help figure out where it went.Source: TEPCO Morris is a physicist, and he and some other researchers think a subatomic particle called the muon can help. Muons are closely related to electrons, except they’re 200 times heavier. They’re made when particles from deep space collide with the upper atmosphere. From there, the muons shoot down to Earth and become part of the natural radiation we’re exposed to every day.To learn why muons might be useful at Fukushima, NPR conducted an experiment at the Forest Glen subway station outside Washington, D.C. We invited Kara Hoffman, a physicist at the University of Maryland, to bring a portable muon detector, borrowed from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.Even at 20 stories below the surface, the detector picked up muons. Hoffman wasn’t surprised. She works on an experiment carried out 2 miles below ground in Antarctica that regularly detects muons.”One-hundred ninety-six feet is not very much for a muon,” she says.If muons can penetrate a subway tunnel, they can certainly pass through a nuclear reactor. That’s why Morris thinks they can help at Fukushima.”You can make something that looks like an X-ray, so you can take a picture of what’s inside the reactor,” he says.Uranium is extremely dense, so it shows up as a shadow in a muon photograph, just as bones cast shadows that are white in an X-ray.Two Japanese laboratories have already taken some fuzzy muon pictures of two of Fukushima’s reactors.”They don’t see much of a shadow,” Morris says. „That means a lot of the core must be missing from the region where the core was.”The fuel is gone. To figure out where it went, Morris is working with the Japanese firm Toshiba on more powerful muon detectors.The detectors are already built. The next step is to put them near the reactors, though that’s proving more difficult to do than the team thought. The detectors are large and bulky, and it would require a huge team to install them in the hazardous environment around the reactor. Morris says Toshiba is investigating whether it can be done more cheaply with less labor.If they can get it to work, it may finally be possible to learn what’s happened inside Fukushima.
California wine train orders off black women’s book club By ELLEN KNICKMEYER2 hours agoFILE – In this June 2, 2011 file photo, a couple takes pictures at the back of the Napa Valley Wine Train as it makes its way through St. Helena, Calif. Members of a mostly black book club say they believe they were kicked off the train because of their race. The women say they were ordered off the wine train Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Book club member Lisa Renee Johnson said that employees told the women they were laughing and talking too loudly. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Members of a mostly black women’s book club say a luxe Napa Valley wine train kicked them off because of their race.The 11 members of the Sisters on the Reading Edge book club, all but one of whom is African American, say the Napa Valley Wine Train ordered them off Saturday, mid-journey. As debate built Monday on social media under the hashtag #laughingwhileblack, wine train spokesman Sam Singer said train employees had asked the women to either quiet down or get off the wine train and accept a free bus ride back to their starting point.A manager on the train repeatedly told the women they were laughing and talking too loudly, book-club member Lisa Renee Johnson told San Francisco television station KTVU (http://bit.ly/1NwXeMR ).”We didn’t do anything wrong,” said Johnson, who chronicled the episode via cellphone videos. On Facebook, Twitter and Yelp on Monday, defenders of the women posted videos of other, past noisy groups celebrating on the wine train, and they debated the wine train’s action with its supporters.”We still feel this is about race. We were singled out,” Johnson told KTVU.Wine-train employees marched the book club members through six railroad cars before escorting them off the train, the women said.Employees of the Napa Valley Wine Train, which offers food and wine to passengers as they roll to Napa County wineries in updated Pullman cars, had asked the book club members to either be quieter or get off the train, Singer said Monday. „The book club clearly was fun-loving, boisterous and loud enough that it affected the experience of some of the passengers who were in the same car, who complained to staff,” he said.The company refunded the women’s ticket money, Singer said.On average, Singer said, individuals or groups are asked to get off the wine train once a month for one reason or the other. „It’s not a question of bias,” he said.However, a police spokeswoman in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena, which the wine train summoned Saturday, said it was the first time she recalled the wine train seeking police help removing a large group.The 11 women, one of them 83 years old, already were off the train when St. Helena police arrived, police spokeswoman Maria Gonzalez said.Wine train employees had called the police to deal with what they reported were „11 disruptive females,” Gonzalez said.Police arrived at the railway siding and found „there was no crime being committed … nobody was intoxicated, there were no issues.” So officers left, Gonzalez said.In the past, she said, the town’s police had responded to wine-train calls to offload passengers because of domestic incidents on board or for fighting.Johnson did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.
Researchers sample enormous oceanic trash vortex ahead of clean-up proposal By Emmett Berg17 hours agoPlastic items collected during The Ocean Cleanup project are shown during a media opportunity in San …By Emmett Berg SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Researchers returned on Sunday from mapping and sampling a massive swirling cluster of trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as the Dutch-borne crew works to refine a clean-up strategy it will roll out globally.The crew of the Ocean Cleanup, backed by volunteers in sailboats, ventured to areas of the „Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, a swirling mass of human-linked debris spanning hundreds of miles of open sea where plastic outnumbers organisms by factors in the hundreds.The debris, concentrated by circular, clockwise ocean currents within an oblong-shaped „convergence zone”, lies near the Hawaiian Islands, about midway between Japan and the U.S. West Coast. The trash ranges from microscopic pieces of plastic to large chunks.Working for about a month, the group collected samples as small as a grain of sand and as large as discarded fishing nets weighing more than 2,000 pounds. They mapped the area, using aerial balloons and trawling equipment to locate samples, said oceanographer Julia Reisser.”We did three types of surveys in 80 locations, and now we are working on completing an up-to-date estimate of the size of the patch, making a chart of hot spots and publishing our findings by mid-2016,” Reisser said.A storage locker containing plastic garbage collected during The Ocean Cleanup project is opened dur …”There were hundreds of times more plastics in these areas than there were organisms,” she added.The reconnaissance trip is the brainchild of Ocean Cleanup’s 21-year-old founder, Boyan Slat, and backed financially by Salesforce.com’s chief executive Marc Benioff, among other philanthropic and crowdsourcing initiatives which brought in some $2.2 million, according to Ocean Cleanup.The next phase, planned for 2016, is the deployment in Japanese coastal waters of a 2,000-meter scale model of the group’s proposed debris collection system, which researchers believe could extend for 60 miles (96 km).That system will contain floating stationary booms tethered to the ocean floor and linked in a V shape intended to skim and concentrate surface plastics floating on top of ocean currents.Slat, a Dutch inventor who gained attention as a teenager when he developed the floating boom system which uses technology used for anchoring deep sea oil rigs, said the project would be situated in international waters, away from shipping lanes.The cost of the reconnaissance expedition and the debris collection system was not disclosed. Critics say the system is too costly or unlikely to function as designed.(Reporting by Emmett Berg in San Francisco; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Muralikumar Anantharaman)
Massive wildfires have the world’s deepest lake surrounded
Thick blanket of smoke over Siberia on August 24, 2015, with individual fires marked as red dots.IMAGE: NASA WORLD VIEWDozens of large wildfires are burning out of control around Lake Baikal in Siberia, which is the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume and the deepest lake, at more than 5,300 feet deep.Because of the composition of the soil in this part of the world, these fires are spewing unusually high amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming.The region has seen drier and milder than average weather this year, and a combination of natural and manmade fires have led to a cataclysmic scene, with thick smoke seen from space and orange-tinted skies on the ground.SEE ALSO: Washington’s biggest fire in history could burn until it snows this fallIn July, the Lake Baikal area was one of the most unusually mild areas on Earth, according to NASA data as well as information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).Fires have been burning off and on in this area since April, when farmers traditionally burn dried grass to help fertilize the soil. However, this year, many agricultural fires in this region got out of control, killing at least two dozen people and destroying several villages.The smoke even made it across the Pacific Ocean, making for red sunsets in the Pacific Northwest, which is now suffering through it’s own wildfire calamity.July temperature departure from average (1951-1980 baseline), with the Lake Baikal region in the blue circle.IMAGE: NASA GISSAccording to the Siberian Times, there are 36 fires currently burning over 77,000 hectares, which equates to 190,271 acres.If that figure is correct, this would actually be less acreage than the wildfires in Washington State, although based on satellite imagery, there appear to be many more fires than that in Siberia right now, with a far thicket blanket of smoke as well.Siberian fires as well as fires in parts of Alaska release higher amounts of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming emissions than fires in other parts of the U.S. because of the soil composition and presence of permanently frozen soil (permafrost).The peat rich soil around Lake Baikal is especially carbon rich, and soot, or black carbon, from Siberian fires has been tracked to Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet. When soot particles land on ice, they darken the surface and lower the reflectivity of the ice, thereby speeding up melting.According to the newspaper and Instagram, the pictures below were taken by Chono Erdenebayar close to Gremyachinsk, on the shore of Lake Baikal, near the community of Ulan-Ude.The newspaper reported that Mikhail Slipenchuk, the deputy leader of the Russian Parliament’s committee on natural resources and ecology, said the fires are threatening the lake, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. „Fires near the lake’s shores actually kill the water arteries, thus damaging the water balance in the lake,” Slipenchuk said, according to the Times.TOPICS: CLIMATE, LAKE BAIKAL, SIBERIA, WORLD, WILDFIRE
Russia must compensate Dutch over Greenpeace ship: court By Jan Hennop8 hours ago The Hague (AFP) – Russia must compensate the Netherlands over the 2013 seizure of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship during a protest against Arctic oil drilling, an international court ruled on Monday.Related Stories
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) „found that the Netherlands is entitled to compensation with interest for material damage to the Arctic Sunrise” and those who were onboard, the Hague-based body said in a statement.Russian commandoes seized the Dutch-flagged ship in September 2013 and detained the 30 Greenpeace activists and journalists onboard after a protest at an offshore oil rig owned by Russian state oil giant Gazprom.Moscow’s angry response to the protest, during which two Greenpeace activists had tried to scale the drilling platform, sparked an international outcry.The activists — who became known as the „Arctic 30” — were initially accused of piracy, a charge later changed to hooliganism, and detained for two months before being bailed and then benefiting from a Kremlin-backed amnesty.Russia handed the ship itself back last year.- ‘Moscow breached obligations’ –Greenpeace activists stand in front of the Paris headquarters of the Russian company Gazprom on Octo …In October 2013 the Netherlands hauled Moscow before the Hague-based PCA, a 117-nation body set up more than a century ago to arbitrate in disputes between countries, in protest at the seizure of the ship and its crew.The Dutch asked the tribunal to rule that Russia had violated international maritime conventions.It also asked for a ruling that Russia failed to comply with an order by the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which had ordered that Russia promptly release the ship and its crew.Russia did not attend the Hamburg hearing, and did not take part in the PCA’s arbitration either.”Russia had failed to satisfy the ‘promptness’ of the requirements of the ITLOS,” the PCA said in Monday’s ruling.This „amounted to a breach of Russia’s obligations under the convention,” it added.Greenpeace International activist, one of the „Arctic 30,” Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel is r …Russia also has to pay back bail money raised by the Dutch to free the Arctic 30, the PCA said.Findings made by the PCA are binding, but countries are entitled to ask, within a month, for a „correction” of an award — when it believes a mistake was made when working out the costs of compensation, for instance.- ‘Right to demonstrate’ -Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders hailed the PCA’s decision, saying it gave a guarantee to any ship sailing in international waters that it „cannot just be summarily boarded or its crew arrested.””Even if they (the crew) are using their right to demonstrate,” Koenders added.”Freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate are issues of great importance to the Netherlands which we’ll defend.”Greenpeace also welcomed the ruling, saying it set an important precedent.”We hope that this deters other countries from similarly aggressive attempts to stifle dissent, either on land or at sea,” Greenpeace lawyer Daniel Simons said in a statement.The latest PCA ruling is set to further cloud troubled Dutch-Russian relations in the wake of the MH17 air disaster last year.The passenger jet was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014 during heavy fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. All 298 people onboard — the majority of them Dutch — were killed.Dutch investigators earlier this month said they had found fragments „probably” from a Russian-made surface-to-air missile at the crash site, but did not directly point the finger at Moscow.Ukraine and many others in the West have accused the rebels of blowing the Boeing 777 out of the sky, saying they may have used a BUK missile supplied by Russia.Moscow and the rebels deny any responsibility and blame Ukraine’s military.