Air pollution may cause brain damage

The scientists explained that the brain has naturally occurring magnetite particles.

Air pollution is one of the widest spread types of pollution. This is because most of the machines are combustion based that release their by-product to the air. Combustion engines produce many by-products that are harmful to the environment and the human health.

However, after more research scientists from Lancaster University have discovered that nanoscopic magnetite particles may be responsible for neurological diseases. The group of scientists studied samples from over one hundred brains. The collected the brain sample from heavily air-polluted regions such as Mexico and Manchester to fully see the difference.

The scientists explained that the brain has naturally occurring magnetite particles. The particles help link nervous signals. However, in one individual from Mexico City, the researchers discovered that he had 100 percent higher the number of magnetite particles than an average human should have.

“It’s dreadfully shocking. When you study the tissue you see the particles distributed between the cells and when you do a magnetic extraction there are millions of particles, millions in a single gram of brain tissue – that’s a million opportunities to do damage,” said Prof Barbara Maher from Lancaster University.

She explained that the foreign particles could easily be distinct from the natural as they were roundly shaped, signs that they were formed from extreme heat such as combustion. “They are spherical shapes, and they have tiny crystallites around their surfaces, and they occur with other metals like platinum which comes from catalytic converters.” She said.

100-year-old fruitcake found in Antarctica in ‘excellent condition’

Conservators with the Antarctic Heritage Trust, based in New Zealand, recently found the fruitcake in a hut at Cape Adare, the oldest building in Antarctica.

A team excavating Cape Adare in Antarctica, where British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s party took shelter during their 1910-1913 Terra Nova expedition, has stumbled on a century-old fruitcake in such good condition that it looks and smells almost edible.

Conservators with the Antarctic Heritage Trust, based in New Zealand, recently found the fruitcake in a hut at Cape Adare — the oldest building in Antarctica.

Although the tin the cake came in, manufactured by British biscuit company Huntley & Palmers, was in poor condition, the cake itself seemed almost as if it had been bought yesterday.

“With just two weeks to go on the conservation of the Cape Adare artifacts, finding such a perfectly preserved fruitcake in amongst the last handful of unidentified and severely corroded tins was quite a surprise,” said Programme Manager-Artefacts Lizzie Meeks, in a statement. “It’s an ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions, and is still a favorite on modern trips to the Ice.”

Scott and his four-person team arrived at the South Pole in 1912, but all died while returning to their base camp on Cape Evans, according to National Geographic.

Conservators have been excavating artifacts at Cape Adare since 2016. The hut where they found the fruitcake was built by Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink’s team in 1899.

“Fruitcake is not something that people usually get excited about, but this discovery shows what a spectacular environment for historic preservation the Antarctic is,” wrote Stephanie Barczewski, a historian at Clemson University, in an email to National Geographic.

Global warming still likely to harm marine protected areas, study reports

Scientists have found that global warming is still on pace to harm the Earth’s oceans.

Marine protected areas might not save the ocean from global warming after all, according to new research published in Nature Climate Change.

Over the last decade a lot has been done to curb the effects of global warming on Earth’s oceans. For instance, before 2008 there were only four large marine protected areas in the world. Now, there are over 30.

Such reserves work to protect the environment by limiting mining, oil exploration, and fishing. That then moves to help marine life recover. However, while the regions may work over the short term, an international team of researchers found that the regions are unlikely to save the oceans from climate change.

To make the discovery, the team looked at expected emissions under normal conditions where temperatures rise by 8.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, as well as conditions where temperatures only rise by 4.5 degrees Celsius in that same time. In both cases, oceans go through so many shifts that marine life is unlikely to adapt even without the added threat of fishing or oil exploration.

“It’s almost an impossible trade-off,” said lead author John Bruno, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, according to The Atlantic. “The global pattern for deoxygenation is almost the opposite of the warming pattern. You can put [an MPA] in a place that won’t warm, but then there’s going to be less oxygen there, which is at least as big a problem as climate change.”

This shift is concerning, and something that may change or alter conservation efforts in the coming years. The team hopes to further study this idea to better grasp what can be done to protect the largest bodies of water on Earth.

“With warming of this magnitude, we expect to lose many, if not most, animal species from Marine Protected Areas by the turn of the century,” added Bruno, in a statement. “To avoid the worst outcomes, we need to immediately adopt an emission reduction scenario in which emissions peak within the next two decades and then decrease very significantly, replacing fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources like solar and wind.”

Climate impact is evident in the seasons

Footprint of humanity’s climate impact is visible in seasonal patterns around the world.

Scientists have determined that people are responsible for global warming by looking at weather records. They also can dust for fingerprints (ecological footprints) in other places.

A new study led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Ben Santer looked for prints in a new place: the seasonal cycle of temperatures. The perfect tool for analyzing this is the global temperature record satellites produce.

The satellites do not go back quite as far as weather-station records, but the dataset is now long enough to be useful for climate studies. Several groups maintain separate satellite temperature datasets.

A huge amount of work went into all the necessary processing to produce temperature maps. Therefore, the different datasets do not always line up perfectly with each other.

Santer’s study involved using the most recent two versions of three different datasets. Each one tracks different layers of the atmosphere.

One record covers the lower troposphere. The other one covers the middle troposphere that is a little higher.

By tracking the difference between the coldest months and warmest summer months, they were able to see interesting regional patterns. The team averaged together the Northern Hemisphere’s mid-latitude stripe and discovered a larger seasonal temperature swing than in the Southern Hemisphere. The reason for this is there is a much greater area of land.

Nevertheless, this seasonal cycle has also increased significantly since 1979. It is a result of summer temperatures in the atmosphere rising faster than winter temperatures.

 

Global warming might cause insects to eat more crops, study says

Research suggests that global warming might push insects to eat more crops, which will increase crop losses.

A new study suggests that climate warming will increase crop losses for critical food grains due to the increased metabolic rate and population growth of insect pests.

“Climate change will have a negative impact on crops,” said Scott Merrill of the University of Vermont, co-author of the study. “We’re going to see increased pest pressure with climate change.”

The team found that just a 2-degree increase in global temperature averages will cause total crop losses of around 213 million tons for rice, wheat, and maize crops. These losses will stem from increased insect metabolism.

“When the temperature increases, the insects’ metabolism increases so they have to eat more,” Merrill said. “That’s not good for crops.”

However, the connection to population growth is more complicated. Since insects have optimal temperatures for population growth, losses will be highest in temperate regions and less severe in tropics.

“Temperate regions are not at that optimal temperature, so if the temperature increases there, populations will grow faster,” Merrill said. “But insects in the tropics are already close to their optimal temperature, so the populations will actually grow slower. It’s just too hot for them.”

Ultimately, farmers will have to find novel pest management methods, such as adding new crop rotations or boosting pesticide use. However, not all of these strategies will be available to every farmer.

“There are a lot of things richer countries can do to reduce the effect, by increasing pesticide use or expanding integrated pest management strategies,” Merrill said. “But poorer countries that rely on these crops as staple grains will have a harder time.”

The findings were published in Science.

Climate change could make Earth’s ecosystems unrecognizable

A new study suggests that changes in the Earth’s vegetation due to climate change could make some of its ecosystems unrecognizable.

A new study suggests that dramatic changes in the Earth’s vegetation due to climate change could render the planet’s ecosystems unrecognizable.

“We’re already starting to see warning signs of big changes in vegetation across Australia, with declines in the Mountain Ash forests in Victoria and the Pencil Pine forests in Tasmania that are occurring, in large part, due to climate change,” said Simon Haberle from the Australian National University (ANU) Department of Archaeology and Natural History.

“Widespread and rapid changes to ecosystems are likely to have major knock-on effects for nationally important ecosystem services such as biodiversity, carbon storage and recreation,” he added.

“The palaeoecological data that was used for this study can be viewed as natural experiments exploring the response of ecosystems to drivers of change over time scales that can’t be captured by instrumental or historical records,” said Janelle Stevenson, co-author on the paper.

ANU analyzed datasets based on ancient pollen records from numerous sites in Australia and across the Pacific and South East Asia.

“Pollen reflects the changes in landscape and vegetation cover, and the beauty of these ancient pollen records is that they allow us to see these changes over thousands to millions of years,” Stevenson said. “The parts of Earth that had the biggest temperature increases over the time period analysed also had the most substantial changes in vegetation.”

“Our study provides yet another wake-up call that we need to act now to move rapidly towards an emission-free global economy,” she concluded.

The findings were published in Science.

Antarctic snowfall increased over the last two centuries

Researchers have discovered that snowfall in Antarctica has drastically increased.

Antarctica has experienced a 10 percent increase in snowfall over the last 200 years, according to recent research set to be presented at the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria

This new discovery comes from a group of scientists with the British Antarctic Survey, who analyzed Antarctic ice cores and found that the continent accumulated nearly 272 gigatons of water over the last two centuries. Almost all of that extra water came from increased snowfall.

Such information is important because, not only does it alter the current perception of Antarctica’s climate, but it could change current sea level rise models as well.

“There is an urgent need to understand the contribution of Antarctic ice to sea-level rise and we use a number of techniques to determine the balance between snowfall and ice loss,” lead author Elizabeth Thomas, a researcher with the British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement. “When ice loss is not replenished by snowfall then sea level rises.”

Satellite pictures — which often help researchers understand shifting climates — typically only give information going back 20 years or so. As a result, ice core analysis, which are able to track snowfall for several hundred years, are more effective. In this case, they revealed that Antarctica’s surface mass balance drastically shifted from snowfall throughout the twentieth century.

Though the snowfall is everywhere, it mainly concentrated on the Antarctic Peninsula. There, the annual average is 10 percent higher than it was 200 years ago.

This discovery could alter current perceptions of climate change, but the team states the findings do not override any observations of melting or glacial retreat. Even so, they will allow scientists make more accurate sea level rise predictions as time goes on.

“We know that the two major influencers affecting change — the mass gain from snowfall and the mass loss from melting — are acting differently from one another,” added Thomas, according to UPI. “Our new findings take us a step towards improving our knowledge and understanding.”

Scientists discover ‘ticking time bomb’ heated ocean under Arctic

An underwater ocean under the Arctic is a “ticking time bomb” that could spell danger in the future.

Scientists just discovered evidence of a massive “ticking time bomb” in the form of a heated ocean underneath the Arctic Ocean. The reservoir penetrates deep into the polar region and threatens to melt the ice frozen on top.

“We document a striking ocean warming in one of the main basins of the interior Arctic Ocean, the Canadian Basin,” said oceanographer Mary-Louise Timmermans from Yale University.

Timmermans and her team examined temperature data on the Canada Basin from the last 30 years. The findings revealed that the amount of heat in the warmest region of the water had doubled during the period of 1987 to 2017.

The basin is formed from mixed layers of ocean water, with the warmer, saltier water trapped beneath cold, fresh water flowing at the surface. Although this unique dynamic is not new, the rapid heating conditions of the water underneath are concerning.

“Presently this heat is trapped below the surface layer,” Timmermans said. “Should it be mixed up to the surface, there is enough heat to entirely melt the sea-ice pack that covers this region for most of the year.”

“That heat isn’t going to go away,” said oceanographer John Toole from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “Eventually … it’s going have to come up to the surface and it’s going to impact the ice.”

Although it’s not an immediate threat, it could severely impact Arctic ice, and as of now, the ramifications are unclear.

“It remains to be seen how continued sea ice losses will fundamentally change the water column structure and dynamics,” the authors wrote, although they note that excess heat “will give rise to enhanced upward heat fluxes year-round, creating compound effects on the system by slowing winter sea ice growth.”

“We’re seeing more and more open water as the sea ice retreats in the summertime,” Timmermans said. “The Sun is warming up the ocean directly, because it’s no longer covered by sea ice.”

The findings were published in Science Advances.

Scientists discover how to create mineral that can remove CO2 from atmosphere

A team of researchers just discovered a method of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for long-term storage.

Scientists just discovered how to rapidly create magnesite, which is a mineral that can store carbon dioxide (CO2). If it can be created at an industrial scale, it could pave the way to a method of removing CO2 from the atmosphere for long-term storage.

“Our work shows two things. Firstly, we have explained how and how fast magnesite forms naturally,” said project leader Ian Power of Trent University. “This is a process which takes hundreds to thousands of years in nature at Earth’s surface. The second thing we have done is to demonstrate a pathway which speeds this process up dramatically.”

The team was able to prove that magnesite can form within 72 days using polystyrene microspheres as a catalyst. And these microspheres are not changed by the production process, allowing them to be reused.

“Using microspheres means that we were able to speed up magnesite formation by orders of magnitude,” Power said. “This process takes place at room temperature, meaning that magnesite production is extremely energy efficient”

Although it is currently an experimental process, it is a promising discovery that could pave the way for carbon sequestration technology to combat climate change.

“It is really exciting that this group has worked out the mechanism of natural magnesite crystallization at low temperatures, as has been previously observed—but not explained—in weathering of ultramafic rocks,” said Peter Kelemen at Columbia University. “The potential for accelerating the process is also important, potentially offering a benign and relatively inexpensive route to carbon storage, and perhaps even direct CO2 removal from air.”

Corals in deeper waters are stressed too, study says

Contrary to popular belief, corals in deeper waters experience significant thermal stress from ocean warming.

A new study suggests that corals in deeper waters are exposed to episodic thermal stress. Researchers previously believed that corals at a depth of 30 to 150 meters were safer than their shallow-water counterparts. But although the intervals of thermal stress they experience are different than corals at the surface, they still feel the effects of ocean warming.

The team reached their conclusions using almost two decades of data sets that include sea-surface temperature, sea level, and temperature observations that range from the surface to deep in the mesophotic zone. Using their unique approach, they were able to measure and predict the thermal stress of coral reefs at many depths.

“We’re now adding the dimension of depth into the problem where before we were only skimming the surface of what temperature stress meant for corals,” said Travis Schramek, lead author of the study. “We see that the heat-induced stress penetrates all the way into the mesophotic zone during larger bleaching events.”

“A surprising outcome of the study is that the oceanic conditions along the dramatic reef walls that are the boundaries of Palau are very representative of the broader Western Pacific,” said Scripps oceanographer Eric Terrill, senior author of the study. “As a result, we had a surprising amount of success in predicting the vertical structure of the temperature fields that the coral communities would be exposed to, even during El Niño conditions.”

The new insights from the study can help researchers predict the temperature stress on deep corals. Not only that, they can shed light on how the effects contribute to our understanding of the reef system as a whole.

The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters.