Monday, November 16, 2015

How can Arabian Desert have a river of ice?

My Family Has Been Hit by Extreme Weather. Has Yours?

[Huffington Post] Three years ago, Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on my hometown of Long Beach, New York--destroying the first floor of my brother's house along with dozens of homes and obliterating our two-mile boardwalk. In a nearby town my sister and her neighbors were without electricity for days. Many families suffered far worse; more than 140 in all were killed by the storm, and New York State alone racked up more than $40 billion in damage.
My family is not unique. Every year, weather-related disasters like Sandy injure or kill hundreds of Americans and cause billions of dollars in losses. And scientists say that warmer temperatures are now making some of these extreme weather events worse - including drought like the historic one still ravaging California, or intense rainstorms like those that flooded South Carolina last month.
This fall, we at Environment America, along with researchers from the Frontier Group, have been crunching the numbers and gathering stories from across the country to find out the impact of storms, floods, drought, wildfires, and other weather-related disasters on average Americans. The results - revealed in an online, interactive map -- are staggering.
Ninety-six percent of Americans live in counties hit by at least one weather-related disaster in the last five years. Since September 2010, weather-related disasters were declared in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C. And 40 million people live in counties recently affected by five or more disasters. Read More

Did a missing trace element trigger mass extinctions?

[Cosmos Magazine] An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and volcanic eruptions triggered “the Great Dying” at the end of the Permian. But the cause of our planet’s other three mass extinctions is a mystery. Could something as prosaic as dietary deficiency be to blame?
Palaeontologist John Long from Adelaide’s Flinders University thinks a selenium shortage crippled life on Earth at the end of the Triassic, Ordovician and Devonian periods. He and his colleagues published their work in Gondwana Research in November.
The study sprang from a hunt for minerals. Geologist Ross Large from the University of Tasmania was relying on the fact that the trace element selenium is often found near nickel and copper ore deposits. Large meticulously analysed trace elements in 4,000 samples of ocean sediments laid down over the past 560 million years.
Having amassed such a vast dataset, Large offered Long a look at it. The palaeontologist immediately noticed something intriguing: selenium levels plummeted just ahead of the three mysterious mass extinctions.
Selenium is an essential element for all forms of cellular life: it helps cells mop up damaging molecules called free radicals. Along with other essential trace elements, selenium enters rivers and seas when the Earth’s tectonic plates are active. As the plates grind into each other, mountain ranges rise. And as the mountains erode, sand and dust rich in trace elements into rivers and oceans, and marine organisms flourish.
But in periods where landmasses are drifting apart – such as 200 million years ago, when the vast supercontinent Pangaea was breaking up – selenium levels can collapse. Read More

The Melting Arctic is like Discovering a New Africa

[CNBC] Governments and the private sector are positioning to develop the Arctic, where the wealth of resources is akin to a "new Africa," according to Iceland's president.
The melting of the Arctic is an ongoing phenomenon: In October, about 7.7 million square kilometers (about 3 million square miles) of Arctic sea ice remained, around 1.2 million square kilometers less than the average from 1981-2010, according to calculations by Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis that was published by researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
One effect of the melting ice has been newly opened sea passages and fresh access to resources.
"Until 20 or so years ago, (the Arctic) was completely unknown and unmarked territory," Iceland's President Olafur Grimsson told an Arctic Circle Forum in Singapore on Thursday. "It is as if Africa suddenly appeared on our radar screen."
Grimsson cited resources that included rare metals and minerals, oil and gas, as well as "extraordinarily rich" renewable energy sources such as geothermal and wind power.
Developing the Arctic to access these resources "doesn't only have grave consequences," he said, noting that shipping companies had found new, faster sea routes through the area. Grimsson cited Cosco's trial Northern sea journey a couple years ago with a container ship, which was able to travel from Singapore to Rotterdam in 10 fewer days than the normal route, saving on fuel and other costs.
China's state-owned Cosco announced last month that it would begin a regular route through the Arctic Ocean to Europe.

Major investors are already eyeing the Arctic.
"The average economic annual rate of growth in the Arctic region is the highest in the world relative to any country or any economy," Scott Minerd, a managing partner at Guggenheim Partners, said at the forum. Guggenheim manages more than $240 billion.
"For investors, there is an opportunity here to take advantage of the impact of climate change," he said. Read More