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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Wildfires and record temperatures in Siberia

From the Editorial Board of the Financial Times – 26.6.20

Siberia is one of the coldest inhabited places in the world. But a few days ago, the small Russian town of Verkhoyansk recorded a temperature of 38°C. It was a record high temperature locally and, probably also, for the Arctic Circle. What made the heatwave all the more alarming, however, is that we have been warned that, if the Siberian permafrost were to melt, huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane would be released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.

This year, much of Siberia has been experiencing unusual heat. In May, surface temperatures in parts of the vast Russian region were up to 10°C above average. The immediate consequences have been the melting of ice and snow, outbreaks of large wildfires and a thawing permafrost. The high temperatures, together with above-average heat elsewhere, ensured that May 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest May on record.

permafrost

Map showing the large area of permafrost in Siberia (dark blue)

 

siberian heat wave

Map showing the area of the 2020 Siberian heat wave

The central aim of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate is to keep global warming well below 2°C. Combating climate change is a global effort but the evidence that any concerted action is being taken is slim. There are concerns that the world’s two largest polluters, China and the US, will both fail to curb their emissions. In the US, President Donald Trump’s administration is preparing to withdraw formally from the Paris accord in November. China is already showing signs that the need to stimulate its economy after the coronavirus pandemic is proving greater than a desire to use more low-carbon energy sources. The country is approving plans for new coal power plant capacity at the fastest rate since 2015.

Europe is proving the exception. Here, the European Commission has put climate programmes at the heart of its €1.85tn economic recovery effort. The problem is that a “green” Europe alone will not be enough to combat climate change. Just over 9 per cent of world emissions come from Europe, compared with China’s share of more than 24 per cent. Given what is at stake, the size of the challenge should not be a deterrent for action. There is some scope for optimism. The scale of the energy transition taking place among the oil majors — BP being the latest example — is testament to the progress being made at the sharp end of the climate debate.

There is also evidence that investing in climate change does not have to come at the expense of sustainable economic growth. A recent analysis conducted by the International Energy Agency, together with the IMF, outlined a broad shift to clean power and new investments in areas such as electric vehicles. The plan, which would cost $1tn annually, would create 9m jobs a year and help to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by 4.5bn tonnes once implemented. Policymakers should not ignore the warnings, or the opportunity. Decisions made today will determine not just the future of Siberia but that of the rest of the planet.



 


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Nuclear Fallout From Chernobyl and Fukushima Disasters are Stored In Melting Glaciers

This report by Ted Ranosa was published a year ago in the Tech Times:

https://www.techtimes.com/articles/241378/20190412/nuclear-fallout-from-chernobyl-fukushima-disasters-stored-in-melting-glaciers-are-ticking-time-bomb.htm

glacier

Irradiated glaciers from the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters threaten the environment as they could release their stored radiation particles at any moment.

In a study presented at the European Geosciences Union’s General Assembly, researchers discussed how ice and snow in glaciated areas can capture fallout from nuclear accidents and store them for long periods of time.

However, these glaciers are starting to melt at a rapid pace as a result of climate change. They are now at risk of releasing their contaminants into the environment, which could poison humans and wildlife alike.

Chernobyl

Chernobyl

Nuclear Fallout In Glaciers

Dr. Caroline Clason, an expert on physical geography from the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom, led an international team of researchers in examining the effects of nuclear radiation on glaciers.

They focused their work on particles known as fallout radionuclides, which are the byproducts of nuclear weapons testings and accidents. These contaminants are often stored in ice surface sediments called cryoconite.

Clason and her colleagues traveled to different sites around the world, such as Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Antarctica. The FRNs detected in these environments have orders of magnitude that are higher than those found in non-glaciated areas.

The team’s discovery underscores the role of glaciers, particularly the interaction between cryoconite and meltwater, in collecting contaminants in the atmosphere from various human activities.

The researchers also found that FRN buildup is not restricted to areas directly affected by nuclear activity such as in Chernobyl and Fukushima. This highlights the impacts of nuclear fallout and other atmospheric pollutants on the entire planet.

Clason said previous studies on nuclear accidents mainly focused on their impacts on humans and ecosystems in non-glaciated areas. However, evidence suggest that cryoconite on glaciers are more adept at collecting and storing dangerous levels of FRNs.

While high concentrations of FRNs have already been detected in the past, not much is known about how they could potentially impact the environment yet. This is something that Clason and her colleagues have been trying to explore in their research.

“Our collaborative work is beginning to address this because it is clearly important for the pro-glacial environment and downstream communities to understand any unseen threats they might face in the future,” Clason said.

Effects Of Radiation Exposure

The high levels of radiation produced after a nuclear disaster can cause long-lasting effects on human health. The longer the body is exposed to the energy, the more cells and tissues are damaged.

One of the most visible health effects of radiation is hair loss (Alopecia), which often occurs when people are exposed to 200 rems or higher.

The brain is also susceptible to damaging from nuclear exposure. Radiation with 5,000 rems or higher can destroy small blood vessels and nerve cells, resulting in seizures and even immediate death in extreme cases.

High amounts of radioactive iodine can seriously damage the thyroid and other cells related to the gland. However, when used properly and in controlled doses, radioiodine can help treat thyroid cancer.

People exposed to 100 rems of radiation may experience a lowering of their lymphocyte cell counts. This leaves them more vulnerable to various infections.

Data from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombing suggest that symptoms of this form of radiation sickness can last up to 10 years, and can increase the risk of developing lymphoma and leukemia.



 


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Melting Greenland ice ‘could leave 400 million homeless by the end of the century’

Scientists have warned that coasts could be swamped by regular floods by the end of the century.  This is because the Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than originally predicted.  Calculations suggest that up to 400,000 million people could be left homeless as a result, 40 million more than that predicted by the IPCC.

Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice since 1990. The figures from this latest research are similar to the IPCC’s worst case scenario.

GreenlandIcemelt

A team of 96 polar scientists from 50 international organisations contributed to the new findings published in Nature.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07617-1

Analysis indicated rise in air and ocean temperatures caused the surface ice to melt and increased glacial flow.

According to the researchers, Greenland stores enough water to raise global sea levels by six metres and knowing how much of this ice is lost is key to understanding the effects and impact of climate change.



Another report from Danish scientists was published last June, which estimated that 2019 could be the year of record high temperatures in the Arctic (2012 having been the previous high).

On June 12 2019, the day before the photograph below was taken, the closest weather station, in Qaanaaq, registered temperatures of 17.3 degrees Celsius (63.1 Fahrenheit), just 0.3 points lower than the previous record set on June 30, 2012.

“There was a dry winter and then warm air, clear skies and sun — all preconditions for an early melting,” Ruth Mottram explained. She is a climatologist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

While researching oceanographic moorings and a weather station, Steffen Olsen snapped a picture of his sled dogs pushing through a fjord, the sea ice submerged under several centimetres of meltwater.

Sled dogs wade through standing water on the sea ice during an expedition in northwestern Greenland, whose ice sheet may have completely melted within the next millennium if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, a study has found (AFP Photo/Steffen Olsen)

Locals who accompanied Olsen’s expedition didn’t expect the sea ice to start melting that early. They usually take that route because the ice is very thick, but they had to turn back because the water was too deep for them to advance.

See further details at:

https://news.yahoo.com/arctic-could-face-another-scorching-annus-horribilis-062144315.html;_ylt=AwrXnCJi1wldRlcAEhDQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTEyYmQzYmV0BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjc2MDlfMQRzZWMDc3I-?guccounter=1



 


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Five new islands discovered as the Arctic ice melts

A Russian naval expedition has discovered five Arctic islands as climate change melts glaciers and reveals landforms previously hidden under ice.

Ranging in size from 900 to 54,500 square metres, the five tiny islands are located in the cove of Vize off the northeastern shore of Novaya Zemlya, which divides the Barents and Kara seas in the Arctic ocean, a defence ministry statement said.

A student Marina Migunova first spotted the islands in 2016 while analysing satellite imagery for her final coursework at a naval university. But new geographic points are added to maps and other navigational documents only after specialists visit them and perform a topographic survey, the defence ministry said.
The islands were previously concealed under the Nansen glacier, also known as the Vylka, which is part of Europe’s largest ice cap covering much of Novaya Zemlya’s northern island.

Arctic islands

The retreat of Arctic ice amid rising air and ocean temperatures has been unveiling unknown landforms. In 2015-18, the hydrographic service observed more than 30 islands, capes and bays near Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land for the first time through satellite monitoring. More are expected to be found.

A US study last year concluded that the ice loss by glaciers on Franz Josef Land had doubled between 2011 and 2015.

Melting ice has increasingly stranded polar bears on land, contributing to incidents like the “polar bear invasion” of a military town on Novaya Zemlya this year.

Coastal erosion is also speeding up as permafrost soil thaws and summertime wave action increases.

President Vladimir Putin said at an Arctic conference in April that Russian data showed the region was warming not two but four times faster than the rest of the world.

In response, his country has been expanding its presence in the Arctic, opening military bases and building nuclear icebreakers to promote shipping along the northern sea route.