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Fri, 23 Jul 2021
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Decline Of Roman And Byzantine Empires 1,400 Years Ago May Have Been Driven By Climate Change

polished cross-section stalagmite from Soreq Cave near Jerusalem
© University of Wisconsin-Madison
Growth bands are visible in a polished cross-section of a stalagmite from Soreq Cave near Jerusalem, Israel. Stalagmites form from calcite and other minerals deposited by water in caves and contain chemical signatures of the climate and other physical conditions that existed as the formation grew. Geochemical analysis of a similar stalagmite from the same cave has revealed that large climate changes in the Eastern Mediterranean 1,400 years ago, including increasingly dry weather from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D., may have contributed to the downfall of the Roman and Byzantine Empires in the region.
The decline of the Roman and Byzantine Empires in the Eastern Mediterranean more than 1,400 years ago may have been driven by unfavorable climate changes.

Based on chemical signatures in a piece of calcite from a cave near Jerusalem, a team of American and Israeli geologists pieced together a detailed record of the area's climate from roughly 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D. Their analysis, to be reported in an upcoming issue of the journal Quaternary Research, reveals increasingly dry weather from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D. that coincided with the fall of both Roman and Byzantine rule in the region.

The researchers, led by University of Wisconsin-Madison geology graduate student Ian Orland and professor John Valley, reconstructed the high-resolution climate record based on geochemical analysis of a stalagmite from Soreq Cave, located in the Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve near Jerusalem.

Fish

California's Deep Sea Secrets: New Species Found, Human Impact Revealed

whale shark
© University of California - San Diego
A whale shark photographed by Octavio Aburto-Oropeza during 2008 expedition to Gulf of California aboard DeepSee submersible.
Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego returning from research expeditions in Mexico have captured unprecedented details of vibrant sea life and ecosystems in the Gulf of California, including documentations of new species and marine animals previously never seen alive.

Yet the expeditions, which included surveys at unexplored depths, have revealed disturbing declines in sea-life populations and evidence that human impacts have stretched down deeply in the gulf.

In one expedition, researchers Exequiel Ezcurra (adjunct professor at Scripps Oceanography and former provost of the San Diego Natural History Museum), Brad Erisman (Scripps postdoctoral researcher) and Octavio Aburto-Oropeza (graduate student researcher) traveled on a three-person submarine to explore marine life in the Gulf of California's deep-sea reefs and around undersea mountains called seamounts.

Satellite

Hunt for oil slicks boosted by free satellite images

Natural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico can be seen in satellite
© Hu
Natural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico can be seen in satellite (MODIS) pictures when the Sun is highlighting the polluted waters.
Natural oil oozing out from the seabed makes up nearly half of the oil that spills into the oceans. Now, a new technique that uses freely available satellite imagery can precisely locate and monitor every natural seep on Earth.

Detecting natural oil slicks is useful for several reasons. For starters, geologists use them as starting points for finding marine stores of fossil fuels. In addition, the seeps give rise to unique seafloor ecosystems that live off the hydrocarbons. The specially adapted plants and animals could inspire new ways of controlling the damage caused by oil spills.

It is important to track seeps because the oil can eventually disintegrate, causing carbon to enter the atmosphere - possibly influencing climate change, says John Amos, director of environmental awareness organisation SkyTruth and former NASA scientist.

Info

Canadian tar plan threatens millions of birds

Continued development could kill 100 million migratory birds

Canada's plans to mine more of its oil sands have just sunk deeper into the political mire. A new report saying that millions of migratory birds are at risk adds to a mass of criticism of the damage caused by exploiting the oil sands.

The thick tarry deposit in northern Alberta is the world's second-largest oil reserve after Saudi Arabia, but separating the useable oil from the gunk takes three times as much energy as pumping conventional oil. This alone makes it some of the "dirtiest" oil on the planet.

This week, a report by the US Natural Resources Defense Council says that continued development of the area could kill 100 million migratory birds over the next 50 years, mainly by destroying their habitat.

Info

Jealous dogs don't play ball

A sulky dog
© stock.xchng
A sulky dog might just feel unfairly.
A dog might be a man's best friend, but only if it is being treated fairly. When a dog thinks it's getting a raw deal in comparison to other dogs, it doesn't shy away from expressing its envy.

Until now, such overt dislike of unfairness had only been demonstrated in primates, but some scientists have suspected that other species that live cooperatively could also be sensitive to fair play - or a lack of one.

To test this theory, Friederike Range and her colleagues at the University of Vienna, Austria, asked 43 trained dogs to extend their paw to a human in various situations.

The animals performed the trick almost at every request, regardless of whether they were given a reward or not; as well as when working alone or alongside another dog.

Bizarro Earth

Powerful earthquake rocks Timor Leste

An earthquake of 6.2 magnitude hit off Timor Leste's coast Saturday, with no reports of injuries or damage, the U.S. geological agency said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck 160 km northwest of the capital, Dili at a depth of 408.3 km beneath the Banda Sea at 6:55 pm (1055 GMT).

Telephone

Noisy oceans 'threaten sea life'

Increasing noise pollution in the world's oceans is threatening the survival of whales
whale

Some whales show damage suggesting they surfaced too quickly, experts say
and dolphins, a UN-backed conference has heard.


Experts say the noises sea creatures use to communicate are being drowned out by noises from commercial shipping, new military sonar and climate change.

They become disoriented, cannot find mates or food and behave differently, scientists say.

Butterfly

Harbour seals' decline 'alarming'

Harbour seals, or common seals, are familiar faces along coastlines across
seal

Drowning, not waving - harbour seal numbers have halved in some areas
the northern hemisphere.


But they are now vanishing in the UK at an alarming rate, warn scientists from St Andrews University.

Numbers have halved in the hardest hit area, the Orkney Islands, since 2001 - falling almost 10% each year.

Better Earth

Glimmer of hope for rare monkey

A new sub-population of a Critically Endangered species of monkey has been recorded in north-western Vietnam.

Biologists from Fauna and Flora International said they had found up to 20 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys in a remote forest.

The team said the new group offered a ray of hope because it included three infants, suggesting that the monkeys were breeding and increasing in number.

Bizarro Earth

The behemoth that wouldn't stop growing

Have you noticed that we describe the market and economy as if they were living entities? The market is showing signs of stress. The economy is healthy. The economy is on life support.

Sometimes, we act as if the economy is larger than life. In the past, people trembled in fear of dragons, demons, gods, and monsters, sacrificing anything - virgins, money, newborn babies - to appease them. We know now that those fears were superstitious imaginings, but we have replaced them with a new behemoth: the economy.

Even stranger, economists believe this behemoth can grow forever. Indeed, the measure of how well a government or corporation is doing is its record of economic growth. But our home - the biosphere, or zone of air, water, and land where all life exists - is finite and fixed. It can't grow. And nothing within such a world can grow indefinitely. In focusing on constant growth, we fail to ask the important questions. What is an economy for? Am I happier with all this stuff? How much is enough?

Comment: The 'brain damage" is more correctly defined as pyschopathy. Psychopaths have no sense of long-term consequences. They're hard-wired to pay attention only to their own desires and goals, without considering the wider ramifications of those goals.