More climate change effects

Something is happening to the floating sea ice of the Arctic; scientists are finding that Arctic sea ice is getting younger and thinner, which is set to continue in March, when US research reveals the winter maximum, and September, when it reveals the summer minimum, making it more vulnerable to a catastrophic and unprecedented break-up.

Nasa researchers have found that the thicker multi-year ice, which has survived several summer melt seasons, is being rapidly replaced by thinner one-year ice formed over a single winter. This change makes the polar region increasingly vulnerable to storms that could smash their way through the final remnants of thinner, one-year sea ice, making a completely ice-free summer in the Arctic increasingly likely.

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Driverless cars

Uber has launched a  driverless car service in Pittsburgh. However, for the time being a human driver will also be present.

Genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika?

Genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys as early as this spring, an official said, after voters in Monroe County, Florida, approved the experiment. This could be the first time a genetically modified animal is released into the wild in the United States.

The male mosquitoes modified by Oxitec are designed to control Aedes aegypti mosquito populations by mating with wild females, and passing a gene to their offspring that stops them from reaching maturity. Only male mosquitoes are to be released (one out of every 1,000 could be female). Male mosquitoes do not bite.

The mosquitoes are meant to undermine the same mosquitoes that spread Zika.

Extraordinarily hot Arctic

The Arctic is experiencing extraordinarily hot sea surface and air temperatures, which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the north pole next year.

Danish and US researchers monitoring satellites and Arctic weather stations are surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard-of 20C higher than normal for the time of year. In addition, sea temperatures averaging nearly 4C higher than usual in October and November.

Let’s hope the new president elect is taking serious notice.

 

DNA editing partially restores sight

Blind animals have had their vision partially restored using a revolutionary DNA editing technique that scientists say could in future be applied to a range of devastating genetic diseases.

The study shows that a gene editing tool called Crispr can be used to replace faulty genes with working versions in the cells of adults – in this case adult rats.

Previously, the powerful procedure, in which strands of DNA are snipped out and replaced, had been used only in dividing cells but the latest advance paves the way for Crispr to be used to treat a range of incurable illnesses, such as muscular dystrophy, haemophilia and cystic fibrosis, by overwriting faulty genes.

Super Moon

Did you see the super moon yesterday?  Probably not as it was a cloudy evening. Perhaps you saw it on Sunday, if not there is still a chance to see it tonight but it might still be cloudy south of the M4.

Trump and Climate Change

This is worth reading, from Oliver Milman, US Environment Correspondent

Obama’s climate legacy is set to be torn apart by Trump once he enters the White House. Contentious oil pipelines such as Keystone and Dakota Access will likely be approved. Clean energy funding will be slashed. The world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter will look to prop up coal, rather than renewables, to power its future.

This could prove catastrophic for the world’s climate, as well as international diplomacy, as American leadership is transformed into an excuse to slack off in cutting emissions. Already, the 2C threshold looks in severe peril. 8 November could be the day when tens of millions of people were condemned to an unlivable environment. A Trump u-turn on this matter, at least, would be welcomed by those most at risk.

 

Our Individual Contribution to Global Warming

Research, published in the journal Science, analysed the declining extent of Arctic sea ice from 1953 to 2015 and found it tracked the emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel burning and other human activities. The relationship fits well with the underlying physics.

As a result, it is possible to calculate how much Arctic sea ice is lost as a result of an individual’s emissions. The average annual emissions of a citizen of the 35 rich nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is 10 tonnes per year, leading to 30 sq m of ice being lost. Citizens of the US, Canada and Australia have a higher carbon footprint – about 16 tonnes – each causing almost 50 sq m of ice loss per year. In the UK, the average emissions are 7.5 tonnes per year, meaning 22.5 sq m of ice loss.

So we should all do our best to reduce our carbon footprint, every little helps.

Dangers of smoking

People who smoke a pack of cigarettes each day for a year develop on average 150 extra mutations in their DNA in every lung cell, and nearly 100 more DNA mutations than usual in each cell of the voice box, researchers found. More still build up in the mouth, bladder, liver and other organs. Some 70 chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer, some damaging DNA directly or changing the ways cells function, but the more mutations in the DNA, the more likely the cell could turn cancerous.

 

Mars lander failure

The European Space agency has released new images of its doomed Mars lander, which is thought to have disintegrated after hitting the planet’s surface at high speed – rather than touching down gently as planned.

The images show that the craft touched down well within its target landing zone, but that something went catastrophically wrong during the descent. It is thought that the thrusters that slow the craft down only fired for 3-4 seconds rather than the 30 they were required to.