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Bizarro Earth

Great fireworks, shame about the toxic fallout

© Stephen Giardina / Alamy
Avoid the green ones.
When those fireworks light up the sky on New Year's Eve, be careful not to breathe in too much smoke. A study of the fallout from a New Year display in Austria shows for the first time that the fireworks can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma because they shoot out harmful aerosols.

Georg Steinhauser and his colleagues at Vienna University of Technology analysed fallen snow before and after a display in the village of Saalbach. Fireworks often contain metal salts to give them colour, such as barium for green flashes and strontium for red. The researchers wanted to find out whether any traces remained, clinging to snowflakes. If they did, it would mean the particles were present in the smoke from the fireworks and could be breathed in by spectators.

"We found huge amounts of barium in the snow," says Steinhauser (Atmospheric Environment, DOI: link). Concentrations were typically 500 times higher than in snow samples taken from the same sites before the display. Barium poisoning is known to constrict the airways, so inhaling it could aggravate asthma symptoms, says Steinhauser.
Info

Giant stinking flower reveals a hot secret

carrion flower
© Jörg Szarzynski
Night-time image of carrion flower with flash photography (left) and (right) with thermal image.
You would think a flower that resembles a 3-metre phallus would have no problems attracting attention, especially if it also stinks like a rotting corpse.

But for the carrion flower, which has the world's largest flowering head, getting noticed by flesh-eating insect pollinators in its jungle home requires yet another amazing adaptation - and one that only came to light thanks to a serendipitous TV recording.

"The film crew was using very strong backlighting and suddenly we saw smoke rising up along the flower's central column. We thought the plant was on fire," says Wilhelm Barthlott from the University of Bonn in Germany.

The 'smoke' turned out to be steam that is puffed out in regular pulses, coinciding with waves of carrion scent. "We had wondered before why one moment the flower would stink like a dead donkey, and a little while later there would be hardly any smell. It never occurred to us that there was cyclic odour production."
Better Earth

Under Frozen Lake in Siberia, Geoscientists Drill For Secrets of Earth's Ancient Climate

© University of Massachusetts Amherst
A bulldozer with payload bound for Lake El'gygytgyn on a previous research foray. For this logistically difficult study, scientists spent 10 years taking test core drill samples, measuring lake ice movement and other key factors in order to maximize the chance for scientific success and personnel safety.
In the next few days, a convoy of bulldozers and trucks will set out from a remote airport in Siberia, heading for a frozen lake 62 miles north of the Arctic Circle, but the trip isn't a holiday visit to the North Pole. Instead, the trucks will deliver core-drilling equipment for a study of sediment and meteorite-impact rocks that should provide the longest time-continuous climate record ever collected in the Arctic.

Once in place next month, the drilling will allow an international team of geoscientists led by Julie Brigham-Grette of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Martin Melles of the University of Cologne, Germany, to burrow back in time, retrieving core samples more than 3 million years old and answering questions about Earth's ancient past.

Almost impossibly remote, Lake El'gygytgyn (pronounced el'geegitgin), 11 miles in diameter, was formed 3.6 million years ago when a monster meteor, more than a half-mile across, slammed into the Earth between the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea. Because this part of the Arctic was never covered by ice sheets or glaciers, it has received a steady drift of sediment - as much as a quarter mile (1,312 feet or 400 meters) deep - since impact. Thus, it offers a continuous depositional record unlike any other in the world, say Brigham-Grette and colleagues, beneath the crater lake that's just over 560 feet deep, equal to the height of the Washington Monument.
Target

5.7 earthquake jolts Indonesia

A tectonic earthquake measured on 5.7 Ritcher Scale on Sunday night hit Nangroe Aceh Darussalam province but did not trigger any tsunamis, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) has said.

BMG's official in Aceh Besar Tri Deni said on Monday that the earthquake's epicenter was 88 kilometer south west of Banda Aceh and was 30 kilo meter above sea level.
Better Earth

Skepticism on climate change

The mail brings an invitation to register for the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change, which convenes on March 8 in New York City. Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank, the conference will host an international lineup of climate scientists and researchers who will focus on four broad areas: climatology, paleoclimatology, the impact of climate change, and climate-change politics and economics.

But if last year's gathering is any indication, the conference is likely to cover the climate-change waterfront. There were dozens of presentations in 2008, including: "Strengths and Weaknesses of Climate Models," "Ecological and Demographic Perspectives on the Status of Polar Bears," and "The Overstated Role of Carbon Dioxide on Climate Change."
Binoculars

Reply to RealClimate's Attacks on the NIPCC Climate Report

On November 28, the global warming alarmist Web site "RealClimate" posted a ridiculously lame attack by Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt against "Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate," the summary for policymakers of the 2008 report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

The NIPCC report was written by S. Fred Singer, Ph.D. and an additional 23 contributors, including some of the most accomplished atmospheric scientists in the world. The paper references approximately 200 published papers and scientific reports in support of its conclusions. It provides strong evidence that human activity is not causing a global warming crisis.

Mann and Schmidt call the NIPCC report "dishonest" and "nonsense," a document "served up" by "S. Fred Singer and his merry band of contrarian luminaries (financed by the notorious 'Heartland Institute')." But instead of critiquing the scientific arguments presented in the NIPCC report, Mann and Schmidt simply dismiss and belittle them and refer readers mostly to their own past blog comments. Time spent following those links reveals a hodgepodge of opinions and superficial comments, a boatload of rhetoric, and very little science--an entirely unsatisfactory way to support such serious charges.
Control Panel

Arctic and Greenland Ice in the News Again - Changes Attributed to Man are Natural

In this story, NASA scientists suggested between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion tons of ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted at an accelerating rate since 2003, in the latest signs of what they say is global warming. Using new satellite technology that measures changes in mass in mountain glaciers and ice sheets, NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke concluded that the losses amounted to enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay 21 times in a paper presented at the AGU conference.

The data reflects findings from NASA colleague Jay Zwally, who uses different satellite technology to observe changing ice volume in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica. In the past five years, Greenland has lost between 150 gigatons and 160 gigatons each year, (one gigaton equals one billion tons) or enough to raise global sea levels about .5 mm per year, said Zwally, who will also present his findings at the conference this week. GRACE measured that mountain glaciers in the Gulf of Alaska lost about 84 gigatons each year, about five times the average annual flow of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, according to Zwally.
Igloo

New storm sweeps in from West, challenges travel

A fierce winter storm blew in from the Pacific, bringing up to 2 feet of snow, icy wind and a nightmare for holiday travelers already stymied by winter's dance across the northern half of the country.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain caused treacherous driving conditions throughout the Pacific Northwest. Sections of two major highways - Interstate 90 in Oregon and Interstate 84 in Washington - were closed late Saturday night, and authorities asked the public to not to drive unless it was an emergency.

"It is extremely dangerous to be on the roads at this time," said Multnomah County Deputy Paul McRedmond, sheriff's spokesman.

Centralia, about 25 miles south of Olympia, had already received 9 inches Saturday night. The Seattle area was predicted to get 4 to 8 inches. Portland and the rest of Oregon's Interstate 5 corridor could get as much as 10 inches.
Snowman

Nasa ducks dive under Greenland ice


The rubber ducks have Dr Behar's email address on them
Ninety bathtub toys were hurled into a drainage hole on the Greenland ice in September - an experiment to see how melt waters find their way to the base of the ice sheet.

It was hoped the ducks would flow along subglacial channels and eventually pop out into the sea. They may still, but nothing has been seen of them so far.

"We haven't heard anything from them yet," said Nasa's Alberto Behar. "If somebody does find one, it will be a great breakthrough for us."

Dr Behar is a robotics expert with the agency at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He has been studying the tubular crevasses that appear on the surface of the Greenland ice known as moulins.

These "plug holes" can drain vast lakes of melt water that settle on the top of the ice during summer months. Scientists would like to know how and to what extent this water can help lubricate the base of the ice sheet, moving it faster towards the ocean.
Bizarro Earth

Nacreous Clouds

For the second time in a week, nacreous clouds have made an appearance over Scandinavia. On Dec. 17th they were sighted over Trondheim, Norway. Yesterday, the clouds came to Kittila, Finland.
Nacreous clouds
© Sauli Koski
Nacreous clouds

"These were our first nacreous clouds of the season," says photographer Sauli Koski. "I could watch them all day!"

Nacreous clouds are located in the stratosphere some 9 to 16 miles high. Their iridescent "mother of pearl" colors come from sunlight striking tiny ice crystals inside the clouds. Very low temperatures near -85o C are required to form the crystals, which is why nacreous clouds are seen mainly during winter over places like Alaska, Iceland and Scandinavia.

Comment: See also: "Mother of Pearl": Nacreous Clouds

Nacreous Cloud Alert

Rare clouds 'could indicate global warming'

CALIPSO Spies Polar Stratospheric Clouds

Beautiful polar stratospheric clouds forming around the Arctic Circle

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