In climate bid, Obama stares down melting Alaska glacier By JOSH LEDERMAN2 minutes agoAssociated Press VideosObama Stares Down Melting Alaska GlacierPolitics Obama Stares Down Melting Alaska GlacierSEWARD, Alaska (AP) — President Barack Obama stared down a melting glacier in Alaska on Tuesday in a dramatic use of his presidential pulpit to sound the alarm on climate change.Related Stories
From a distance, Exit Glacier appears as a river of white and blue flowing down through the mountains toward lower terrain. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The 2-mile-long chock of solid ice has been retreating at a faster and faster pace in recent years – more than 800 feet since 2008, satellite tracking shows.”This is as good of a signpost of what we’re dealing with when it comes to climate change as just about anything,” Obama said with the iconic glacier at his back.Obama trekked up to the glacier in a carefully choreographed excursion aimed at calling attention to the ways he says human activity is degrading cherished natural wonders. The visit to Kenai Fjords National Park, home to the famed Exit Glacier, formed the apex of Obama’s three-day tour of Alaska, his most concerted campaign yet on climate change.The president, dressed for the elements in a rugged coat and sunglasses, observed how signposts along the hike recorded where the glacier once stood but now only dry land remains.”We want to make sure that our grandkids can see this,” Obama said, describing the glacier as „spectacular.”President Barack Obama looks at Bear Glacier, which has receded 1.8 miles in approximately 100 years …In another presidential photo-op brimming with theatrical potential, Obama stood on the bow of a tour boat in Resurrection Bay in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, staring out at the serene waters and lush mountain vistas in both directions. Photographers and reporters traveling with the president were brought alongside him in a separate boat to capture the moment in living color.Spotted on his voyage: a humpback whale, and seals „hauled out” on a rock jutting out of choppy waters.Obama is counting on Alaska’s exquisite but deteriorating landscape to elicit a sense of urgency for his call to action on climate change. He opened his trip on Monday with a speech painting a doomsday scenario for the world barring urgent steps to cut emissions: entire nations submerged underwater, cities abandoned and refugees fleeing in droves as conflict breaks out across the globe.Exit Glacier has been receding for decades at an alarming rate of 43 feet a year, according to the National Park Service, which has been monitoring its retreat for decades using photography and, more recently, by satellite.Glaciers ebb and flow due to normal fluctuations in the climate, and even without human activity, Exit Glacier would be retreating. But the pace of its retreat has been sped up thanks to heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, said Deborah Kurtz of the Park Service.President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media while on a hike to the Exit Glacier in Seward, …”Climate is the primary driver for the retreat of glaciers and for ice loss,” Kurtz said.The president’s trip has been more about visuals than words, with the White House putting a particular emphasis on trying to get his message across to audiences who don’t follow the news through traditional means. To that end, Obama taped an episode of the NBC reality TV show „Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” putting his survival skills to the test in the national park.Obama’s first glimpse of a glacier on the trip came as Marine One whisked him about 45 minutes south of Anchorage to tiny Seward. As he flew past snow-capped peaks and sprawling forests, the sheet of ice emerged, snaking its way through mountains toward a teal-tinged lake.His itinerary also includes the first presidential visit to the Alaska Arctic, which comes amid concerns that the U.S. has ceded influence to Russia in strategic Arctic waters. Melting sea ice has been making way for shipping routes that never existed before, but the U.S. only has two working icebreakers, compared to 40 in Russia’s fleet — with another 11 on the way.As he arrived for the boat tour, Obama said he was asking Congress to speed up construction of an additional icebreaker and plan for even more. Yet he offered few details about the timeline or costs, and the White House declined to elaborate.President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media while on a hike to the Exit Glacier in Seward, …”These icebreakers are an example of something that we need to get online now,” Obama said. „They can’t wait.”Although Obama’s trip hasn’t entailed new policy prescriptions or federal efforts to slow global warming, Obama has said the U.S. is doing its part by pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions up to 28 percent over the next decade. Obama set that target as America’s commitment to a pending global climate treaty that Obama hopes will be a capstone to his environmental legacy.Despite his efforts, the U.S. isn’t a shining example when it comes to greenhouse gases. Each American emits more than twice as much carbon dioxide as a Chinese and 10 times that of someone from India, Energy Department figures show. China, the U.S. and India are the world’s top three polluters._AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report._Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
Tampa, Dubai increasingly vulnerable to rare, dangerous ‘grey swan’ storms Cities such as Tampa and Dubai will become increasingly vulnerable to rare, global-warming-fueled superstorms in the future, according to a new study.Scientists have dubbed such phenomena „grey swan” storms. The name is meant as a comparison to the term „black swan,” which are unpredicted events that have a major impact. Although „grey swans” are highly unlikely, they can still be predicted with some level of confidence, researchers said in the study published Monday.The study, which looked at tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons), said the likelihood of the „grey swans” will increase due to man-made climate change, as warmer seawater will up the chances of the storms forming. Such storms need water of at least 80 degrees to develop.The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change and was led by Ning Lin of Princeton and Kerry Emmanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a noted hurricane expert.Researchers used computer models and past storm records to make their predictions of how often these big storms might hit.In Tampa, one of these huge „grey swans” could bring storm surges of up to 36 feet by 2100, dwarfing previous storm surges endured during hurricanes decades ago. As a comparison, the storm surge during Hurricane Katrina was 33 feet, the highest on record in the U.S.Global warming could also cause the storms to form in the Persian Gulf, swamping cities such as Dubai, where tropical cyclones have never been seen before. Unimaginable wind speeds of 257 mph were also modeled in the study in the Persian Gulf.”We are considering extreme cases,” Lin said in a statement. „These are relevant for policy making and planning, especially for critical infrastructure and nuclear power plants.”One expert not involved in the study, Christopher Landsea of the National Hurricane Center, was skeptical. „Nearly all of the projections for intensity change published previously are for only 0-5% stronger,” Landsea told Inside Climate News. „Their conclusions of hurricane intensity and climate change are thus about 20 times larger than the consensus.”The other city researchers examined for the study was Cairns, Australia, where they say storm surges of up to 18 feet might be possible.Toward the end of this century, the possibility of storm surges of eight to 11 meters (26 to 36 feet) increases significantly in cities such as Tampa. The color bar at the right is in meters. (Photo: Ning Lin, Kerry Emanuel)(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
A ‘gray swan’ hurricane could be worse than anything we’ve ever seen
‘Bizarre,’ Human-Size Sea Scorpion Found in Ancient Meteorite Crater By Laura Geggel11 hours ago About 460 million years ago, a sea scorpion about the size of an adult human swam around in the prehistoric waters that covered modern-day Iowa, likely dining on bivalves and squishy eel-like creatures, a new study finds.The ancient sea scorpions are eurypterids, a type of arthropod that is closely related to modern arachnids and horseshoe crabs. The findings — which include at least 20 specimens — are the oldest eurypterid fossils on record by about 9 million years, said study lead researcher James Lamsdell, a postdoctoral associate of paleontology at Yale University.The findings are also the largest known eurypterids from the Ordovician period, which began approximately 488 million years ago and ended 443.7 million years ago. The sea creatures measured up to 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) long. [See Images of the Ancient Sea Scorpion]Researchers dubbed the newfound species Pentecopterus decorahensis, named for Greek warships (penteconter) and the Greek word for wings (pterus) because the sea scorpion was likely a top predator that sped through the water, the researchers said. The species name also honors the Iowa city of Decorah, where the fossils were uncovered.”The best way to describe this animal is bizarre,” Lamsdell told Live Science. „For a long time, I had trouble being sure that this was one species because there are so many strange things about it.”Paddle-shaped limbsThis illustration shows two adult sea scorpions that lived during the Ordovician period about 460 mi …An analysis showed that P. decorahensis hadspecialized limbs that developed as it aged. Its rear limbs are shaped like paddles with joints that appear to be locked in, suggesting that the predator used them as paddles to swim or dig, the researchers said.Its second and third pairs of limbs were likely angled forward, which suggests they helped the ancient arthropod grab prey. Moreover, the three back pairs of limbs are shorter than the front pair, indicating that P. decorahensis walked on six legs instead of eight.Interestingly, juveniles had different spines on their legs than adults did.”It looks like the juveniles would have behaved more like horseshoe crabs, sort of walked around on the seafloor, grubbing in the mud, just eating worms or whatever they could find,” Lamsdell said.With age, their back legs shrank and probably helped the eurypterids balance while swimming. The front legs grew, as did the sharp spines growing on them, „and they could have been used for catching larger prey,” Lamsdell said.The Iowa Geological Survey discovered the fossils during a mapping project of the Upper Iowa River. …Like other arthropods, P. decorahensis probably molted as it aged. Researchers speculate that eurypterids molted „en masse, and accumulations of molts have been reported from a number of sheltered, marginal marine environments,” the researchers wrote in the study. Perhaps the specimens found in Iowa are molted skin, they said. [Skin Shedders: A Gallery of Creatures That Molt]Even so, the fossils provide exquisite detail, showing scales, follicles and stiff bristles that once covered the animals. For instance, its rear limbs are covered with dense bristles. Horseshoe crabs have similar bristles that expand the surface area of its paddles as it swims, butP. decorahensis’ smaller bristles suggest they may have been sensory in nature, the researchers said.Meteorite pockmark Workers with the Iowa Geological Survey uncovered the fossils in the Upper Iowa River during a mapping survey.The fossils were found at the bottom of a meteorite impact crater, a scar left from when Earth was battered about 470 million years ago, Lamsdell said. The so-called Ordovician meteor event left a „series of pockmarks” across the United States, and predated the newfound eurypterid fossils by several million years, he added.Researchers found more than 150 fossil fragments from the site — an 88.5-foot-thick (27 m) formation in northeastern Iowa known as Winneshiek Shale. The fossils are also well preserved, and can be peeled off the rock and studied under a microscope.”It really looks like an animal that has just shed its skin,” Lamsdell said. „I’ve never seen anything like this before.”The new study is „exciting material,” said Roy Plotnick, a professor of paleontology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who was not involved in the study.”To find something as well preserved as this is pretty exciting, especially given that it’s old and yet has features of more advanced forms,” Plotnick said. „That tells us that somewhere in even older rocks should be even more ancestral forms to find.”The study was published online Monday (Aug. 31) in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook &Google+. Original article on Live Science.
Three new crewmembers will blast off toward the International Space Station late tonight (Sept. 1) and you can watch the liftoff live online.Cosmonaut Sergei Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency are scheduled to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 12:37 a.m. EDT (0437 GMT/10:37 a.m. Baikonur time). NASA will begin live coverage of the launch at 11:45 p.m. EDT (0345 GMT) and you can watch the broadcast on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.The astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the station on Friday, Sept. 4, at 3:24 a.m. EDT (0724 GMT). NASA will also provide live coverage of that event.The arrival of the three new crewmembers will bring the total crew count on the station to nine. This is the first time nine crewmembers have been on board the orbiting laboratory simultaneously since November 2013, according to a statement from NASA.Mogensen and Aimbetov will serve short-duration stints, returning to Earth on Sept. 12, along with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who is already on the station. Volkov will stay on the station for six months, joining American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko in the second half of their yearlong mission, the longest mission ever completed aboard the International Space Station.Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield.Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.