News from a World gone mad

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February 10, 2016

Penguin Disaster As Iceberg Blocks Route To Sea

photo credit: These Adélie penguins are thriving at the edge of the sea ice, but their fellows are dying when trapped too far from the ocean. Annette Turney/Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-14

A penguin apocalypse is unfolding in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, as tens of thousands of birds are cut off from their food supply by a stranded iceberg. The iceberg in question,B09B, has altered the penguins’ frigid environment, resulting in a mass of deaths. The finding is a worrying sign for other penguin colonies confronted with climate change.

When the explorer Douglas Mawson established a base at Cape Denison at the head of Commonwealth Bay in 1912, he complained about the noise of the Adélie penguin colony, estimated to contain 100,000 birds. Considering the location is the windiest place on Earth, the birds must have been loud.

However, Professor Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales recently found numbers around a tenth of that, and many were not even trying to hatch eggs. In Antarctic Science, Turney and his co-authors attribute the difference to the iceberg B09B, grounded offshore, filling the bay with ice. The penguins of Cape Denison now have an almost impossibly long walk to the ocean to feed.

In normal times, the sea ice is driven offshore, leaving gaps into which the penguins can dive to feed. However, powerful winds now sweep down from the Antarctic highlands and freeze the waters of Commonwealth Bay.

The cause of the penguin’s suffering is, as Turney put it to IFLScience, the size of a small country. B09B broke off the Ross Ice Shelf in 1987 and in December 2011 became frozen to the seabed at the mouth of Commonwealth Bay. The sea ice is now blocked, and has built up to form what is called “fast ice,” which is ice fastened to the shore by some blockage.

The paper reports there was still some open water off the glacier a year after the fateful stranding, but by January 2012 “fast ice extended around 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) offshore from Cape Denison.” A long way for penguins to waddle.

It is not clear whether the 5,500 surviving penguins pairs have found rare cracks in the ice to jump through, or if they are journeying all the way to the edge.

What the authors were able to determine was that the surviving birds are not doing well. In December 2013, “Hundreds of abandoned eggs were noted, and the ground was littered with the freeze-dried carcasses of the previous season’s chicks,” they wrote.

One of the few healthy-looking penguins left at Cape Denison. Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014

Turney told IFLScience: “We have no idea how long B09B will stay there. It could move this year, or it could be there for decades to centuries.”

Based on long-abandoned rookeries, “There is some evidence that this might have happened in the past,” Turney added. Nevertheless, the fear is that global warming will cause an increase in iceberg calving, creating situations such as the one at Cape Denison all around Antarctica. Already, Turney noted, it appears that icebergs have become drastically more frequent off the Antarctic Peninsula, the area of the continent most affected by climate change.

Turney said the penguins appear unable to move to new colonies and there is no prospect for rescuing them by carving holes in the ice, as these would rapidly freeze over.

source and more fascinating stories at IFLScience









Intensely Inuit: Photographer captures life in remote Alaska

A four wheeler kicks up dirt driving through the rural Alaska village of Quinhagak.
Courtesy Brian Adams
 Sometimes success begets success, so Anchorage photographer Brian Adams will spend a full year visiting two dozen villages to document the people and places of rural Alaska.

Sound familiar? It should.


Adams’ 2013 book “I Am Alaskan” was a provocative mix of portraiture and fine art that depicts the people who make up the Alaska mosaic. Few of the photos are straightforward portraits. Adams paid as much attention to the settings and backgrounds as he did to the people. Viewers get a sense of both the person and the place. Adams calls it “environmental portrait photography.”

Now he’s taking that effort a step further with help from the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which commissioned Adams after seeing “I Am Alaskan.” Before long, “I Am Inuit” was born.

Kelly Eningowuk of the Alaska arm of the ICC liked the idea of combining Adams’ portraiture approach with the street photography style ofHumans of New York. Humans of New York is a series that includes interviews with everyday New Yorkers, and photographer Brandon Stanton gained a measure of popularity with his series on social media, which has gone on to become something of a nationwide phenomenon.

Taking a cue from Humans of New York, Adams will turn his focus to selected groups of Alaska Native people — Inupiat, Yup’ik, Cup’ik and St. Lawrence Island Yupik — living in remote villages, capturing them in their everyday environment along with quotes from interviews.

“What I’m looking for is usually people in their landscape, their place,” he said. “I’m basically exploring who lives in Alaska and where they choose to live. That’s very interesting to me.”

full story at Alaska Dispatch News







Gravitational waves: Scientists might be about to announce detection of ‘ripples in the fabric of spacetime’

Scientists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) system are to host an event giving an 'update on the search'

Scientists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) system are to host an event giving an ‘update on the search’

Scientists could be about to announce that they have observed gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of spacetime, in a discovery that could completely change our understanding of the universe.

 Gravitational waves were first predicted by Einstein 100 years ago, but have never been directly observed.  If rumours about an announcement this week are true, then they may have been seen in a vindication of Einstein’s theory.

Scientists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) system, which was built to detect the tiny vibrations that passing gravitational waves can give off, are to host an event giving an “update on the search” this week. The event is widely-rumoured to be hosting the announcement that those ripples have been discovered for the first time.

If the waves were detected they would offer a way of looking into the furthest and oldest reaches of the universe. The waves are thrown out from places like black holes from the beginning of time, and studying them could offer an insight into that early and strange universe.

Einstein predicted them a hundred years ago, and work that followed showed that they must exist. But nobody has seen them.

Rumours have been swirling about the detection for weeks. Last month, a scientist away from the project said that it had been confirmed that the waves had been discovered and that an announcement would be forthcoming.

The invitation to the press is vague and offers few hints at what exactly the scientists will announce. It only says that the team will “update the scientific community” and give a “status report”.

“This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Albert Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves,” the release notes. “With interest in this topic piqued by the centennial, the group will discuss their ongoing efforts to observe gravitational waves.”

full story at Belfast Telegraph









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