Conservation & Environment

3-million-year-old landscape found intact deep below Greenland ice sheet

Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 @ 8:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A three-million-year-old landscape has been discovered, hiding 10,000 feet under the Greenland ice sheet. The ice sheet, covering 80 percent of the country, has been in place since before the first true humans walked the face of the Earth.

Paul Bierman, a geologist at the University of Vermont, led a study of ancient soil, entombed in ice. Greenland’s tundra areas are nearly perfectly preserved in the frozen landscape.

Ice usually acts as an erosive agent, radically changing areas undergoing a deep freeze. In this instance, ice froze soil, keeping it in nearly the same shape as it was long ago.

Researchers studied an ice core measuring 10,000 feet long to identify climatic conditions millions of years in the past. Of special interest to the team was the bottom 42 feet of the sample. It was around three million years ago when ice began to cover most of Greenland. Bierman and his team examined concentrations of carbon, nitrogen and beryllium-10, which provided the firmest evidence the area was once alive with life.

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Drunken Trees: Dramatic Signs of Climate Change

Posted by on Apr 20, 2014 @ 10:09 am in Conservation | 2 comments

Sarah James, an Alaska Native elder, says global warming is radically changing her homeland. Even the forests no longer grow straight. Melting ground has caused trees to tilt or fall.

“Because permafrost melts, it causes a lot of erosion,” says James, who lives in Arctic Village, a small Native American village in northeastern Alaska. “A lot of trees can’t stand up straight. If the erosion gets worse, everything goes with it.”

Permafrost is permanently frozen ground. But climate change has caused much of that ground to melt at an unprecedented rate. The ground buckles and sinks, causing trees to list at extreme angles.

Sometimes the trees survive the stress and continue growing, uprighting themselves to vertical. Other times they collapse or drown from rising water tables as subterranean ice melts. Because such trees seem to stagger across the landscape, people often call them “drunken trees.”

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Three Gulf Coast victories scored since the BP spill

Posted by on Apr 19, 2014 @ 11:53 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

You will hear a lot of gloomy reports about the state of the Gulf Coast as we approach the fourth-year commemoration of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster on April 20. And that’s fair. BP deserves little cheer in the face of widespread health problems across the Gulf, for both humans and marine animals, and the disappearance of entire fishing communities. Despite what BP is telling us, it ain’t all good. But it ain’t all bad, either.

Gulf Coast communities from the Florida Panhandle to Texas’s right shoulder had been through a few disaster rodeos before the BP spill. They’ve survived hurricanes named for just about every letter of the alphabet. And they’ve endured careless and reckless decisions from every level of government, way more than one time too many.

Given those past experiences, residents and activists along the Gulf corralled together after the BP disaster to make sure their most immediate concerns would be heard this time around. Region-wide networks like the Gulf Future Coalition and the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health were formed immediately after the spill to harness the expertise of Gulf citizens who often historically were excluded from recovery processes.

These projects gave Gulf residents the opportunity not only to frame the Gulf recovery narrative, but also to influence government-led recovery plans.

The result has been three demonstrable victories…


Largest Ever Water Reservoir Discovered in Space

Posted by on Apr 19, 2014 @ 9:42 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Astronomers have found a massive water vapor cloud floating around a black hole in the universe, making it the largest discovery of water anywhere. The reservoir is gigantic, holding 140 trillion times the mass of water in the Earth’s oceans, and resides 10 billion light years away.

Since astronomers expected water vapor to be present even in the early universe, the discovery of water is not itself a surprise, the Carnegie Institution, one of the groups behind the findings, said.

The water cloud was found to be in the central regions of a faraway quasar. Quasars contain massive black holes that are steadily consuming a surrounding disk of gas and dust; as it eats, the quasar spews out amounts of energy, the institution said in its statement.

The quasar where the gigantic water reservoir is located is some 12 billion years old, only 1.6 billion years younger than the Big Bang. It is older than the formation of most of the stars in the disk of the Milky Way galaxy.

The discovery was part of a larger study of the quasar named APM 08279+5255, where the black hole is 20 billion times greater than the Sun. There, researchers found water vapor around the black hole extending hundreds of light-years in size.

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