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Scientists Have Announced a Plan to 'Refreeze' the Arctic - and It's Wild

17 February 2017 - 11:15 AM

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Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with temperatures near the North Pole hitting an unheard-of 20°C (36°F) warmer than average last year, things in the Arctic are undeniably grim right now.
But rather than sit by and watch as the sea ice disappears from the region at an unprecedented rate, scientists have hatched a crazy plan to 'refreeze' the Arctic, by installing some 10 million wind-powered pumps over the ice cap to spray sea water over the surface and replenish the sea ice.
"Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning fossil fuels," lead researcher and Arizona State University physicist, Steven Desch, told The Guardian. 
"It's a good idea, but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic's sea ice from disappearing."
A new paper outlining the team's plan to 'refreeze' the Arctic estimates that 10 million wind-powered pumps could add an extra metre of sea ice onto the region's current layer, which would help protect it from the globe's rapidly increasing temperatures.
"Thicker ice would mean longer-lasting ice," he says. "In turn, that would mean the danger of all sea ice disappearing from the Arctic in summer would be reduced significantly."
The idea is to erect millions of wind-powered pumps around the Arctic region, which would disperse sea water onto the icy surface to freeze as an extra layer and thicken up the ice cap. 
The team predicts that pumping 1.3 metres of water on the surface will result in the ice being thicker by 1 metre (3.2 feet). In other words, that's 7.5 kg per second of water (16.5 pounds), or 27 metric tonnes per hour.
"It is noteworthy that half of the Arctic sea ice currently has a mean annual thickness of only 1.5 metre [4.9 feet]," they report. "Adding 1 metre of ice in the course of one winter is a significant change."
They also note that adding 1 metre will be like pushing time back by 17 years.
"Implementation over the entire Arctic in the early 2030s - in one year adding 1 metre of ice - would reset the clock to the present day, instead of the largely ice-free summer state one expects by the 2030," they conclude.
But how many pumps would you need? That's when the numbers get mind-boggling:
"The area of the Arctic Ocean is about 107 km2 [3.8 million miles2]. If the wind-powered pumps are to be distributed across 10 percent of that area, this would necessitate about 10 million wind-powered pumps; if distributed across the entire Arctic, about 100 million would be needed. 
[I]t would require a wind turbine with blades on order 6 metres in diameter [19 feet], with weight on the order of 4,000 kg of steel [8,818 pounds]. To keep this afloat would require the buoy contain a roughly equal weight of steel. As a round number, we estimate about 10,000 kg of steel [22,046 pounds] would be required per device."
They add that to build a fleet of 10 million pumps, it would require roughly 10 million tons of steel per year. If you wanted to deploy pumps over the entire Arctic, you'd need 100 million tons of steel per year.
For comparison, the US currently produces about 80 million tons of steel annually, and world production of steel is 1,600 million.
Yep, it's just... wow.
This isn't the first time that researchers have seriously considered 'geoengineering' the Arctic in response to human-caused warming. 
Previous proposals have included artificially whitening the Arctic by dispersing bright aerosol particles over the ice to help reflect solar radiation back into space, or creating artificial clouds above the region that would prevent the heat from getting to the surface in the first place - something that NASA is about to do to investigate aurorae.
This new project has an estimated price tag of around US$500 billion, which means multiple governments around the world would have to commit funds to pay for the astronomical costs of setting up what is essentially a giant air-conditioning system around the Arctic.
But with the region warming faster than anywhere else on the planet right now, and political efforts to decrease CO2 emissions so far proving ineffective, the risk is we'll lose much of the Arctic's summer sea ice in the next couple of decades.
And that will have untold effects not just on the local ecosystems, but the world at large.
Not only would we lose already dwindling species like polar bears and Arctic cod, but if all that ice disappears, we'll lose one of the biggest mechanisms Earth has for reflecting solar radiation back into space.
As Mark Fischetti reports for Scientific American, the difference between Arctic temperatures and those seen across the midlatitudes of North America, Europe, and Asia last 2016 was the smallest in recorded history. 
And that appears to be triggering extreme weather near the equator, such as heat waves, droughts, and heavy snowfalls, by causing big swings in the jet stream - ribbons of very strong winds that move weather systems around the globe.
"The records [for the Arctic] are astounding because there are so many of them. The extra warming that is happening up in the Arctic - the 'Arctic amplification' - has been the greatest we've ever seen," Jennifer Francis from the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University told Fischetti.
"What we think is happening is that amplification is favouring these very wavy patterns in the jet stream. When those waves get large, we tend to see very persistent weather patterns across midlatitudes."
Extreme events that are being investigated for their connection to the Arctic messing with the jet stream are the California drought, recent 'snowmageddon' winters in the US and Siberia, and extreme flooding in the UK.
We're not just headed for some unprecedented and difficult-to-predict weather fluctuations - we're already living with them. 
Desch argues that current government plans to curb the effects of climate change aren't going to be near enough to save the Arctic, because it's already warming twice as fast as climate models predicted only a few years ago.
"The situation is causing grave concern," Julienne Stroeve from University College London, who isn't involved in the project, told Robin McKie at The Guardian. 
"It is now much more dire than even our worst case scenarios originally suggested."
Let's be real here - this project is so big, it's never going to happen in its current form. But maybe it's time humans considered taking a risk and tried something crazy - because we're starting to see just how dangerous it's going to be to stick to the status quo.
The project has been outlined in Earth's Future.

Source: http://www.scienceal...c-and-it-s-wild

NATO allies must increase spending or US will ‘moderate its commitment’ – Defense Sec....

15 February 2017 - 09:29 AM

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US Defense Secretary James Mattis delivered an ultimatum to NATO allies during a visit to Europe – increase their military spending, or see America “moderate its commitment” to the alliance.
“I owe it to you all to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States, and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms,” Mattis said.
“America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defense.”
“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of western values,” Mattis said. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do. Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened.”

The remarks were delivered during a closed-doors meeting with NATO defense ministers in Brussels, and provided to reporters traveling with the new Pentagon chief.
Meanwhile, a company from the 3rd Armored Combat Team from Fort Carson, Colorado has arrived in Bulgaria. The 120 US troops will be based in Novo Selo, the Bulgarian defense ministry said. Their deployment is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the biggest US troop surge in Europe since the Cold War aimed at demonstrating alliance unity in face of purported “Russian aggression.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Mattis referred to NATO as “a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community” and reiterated President Donald Trump’s “strong support” for the alliance.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump has criticized NATO as “obsolete” and singled out the lack of military spending as proof that the US was “paying disproportionately” to maintain the alliance.
“I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved,” Trump told the Washington Post in March 2016. “NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe – but we’re spending a lot of money.”
In an interview to the New York Times in July 2016, Trump said there were “many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us,” referring to NATO allies whose military spending fell below the 2 percent of GDP.
Currently only four European NATO members –UK, Estonia, Poland and Greece – spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on the military. Major alliance members such as France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Canada would all need to boost their military spending to meet the benchmark, set by the Obama administration.

Source: https://www.rt.com/u...rease-spending/


Unknown toxin injures 68 people, triggers evacuation & closure of Hamburg airport

12 February 2017 - 09:09 AM

Hamburg airport was evacuated and closed after at least 68 people reported suffering breathing problems after inhaling an “unknown substance.” Pepper spray could have

caused the evacuation, according to firefighters spokesman.
Medics treated 68 passengers for toxin inhalation at the airport, of which nine were transferred to a hospital, DPA reported, citing the fire brigade.
It all started with people complaining of breathing difficulties after being exposed to unidentified unpleasant odors at the airport in Hamburg on Sunday morning, Hamburger Morgenpost reported.

Terminal 1 and 2 were then evacuated and hundreds of passengers had to wait outside at almost below zero temperatures.
A pepper spray or a similar substance is most likely behind the incident, a spokesman for the firefighters said, noting that a refill cartridge had been found which could have caused the health problems, DPA reported. The substance was then presumably spread through the building by the air-conditioning system.
The possibility of a terrorist attack has been ruled out, the spokesman added.

The firebrigade that responded to the call set up first aid posts for those who had inhaled the substance.
Flights were canceled for more than an hour because of the emergency, Hamburg airport said on Twitter.
The roads leading to the airport were temporarily closed, as well as the S-Bahn railways, according to DPA.
Hamburg airport “has come back to normal,” RT’s Ilya Petrenko reported from outside one of the terminals.
Air traffic resumed at around 2pm local time (13:00 GMT).

Source + video / photo's: https://www.rt.com/n...ured-substance/

Dutch police say seize materials to make one billion Ecstasy pills

10 February 2017 - 11:01 AM

( fun fact: this is just 10 minutes driving from my place :P )

Dutch police said they seized enough materials to make a billion Ecstasy pills in a truck near the border with Belgium on Thursday.
The haul, which included 100 canisters of hydrogen, 15 tons of caustic soda and 3,000 liters of other chemicals, was worth several hundred thousand euros on its own, the force said on Twitter.
Officers said they found it in the village of Rilland, in the southern province of Zeeland, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Rotterdam and 40 km north of Antwerp.
Police say drugs pass through both ports and the Netherlands is known as one of the world's major manufacturing centers for Ecstasy.
Police did not give an estimate of the street value of the drug or say if anyone was arrested.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source + video: http://www.reuters.c...SKBN15O2UG?il=0

Violent storms batter France and Spain

05 February 2017 - 11:11 AM

Stormy conditions bring electricity supply lines in southwest France and cause damage in parts of Spain.

A series of progressively violent storms has finally broken out of the Atlantic, leaving hundreds of thousands without power in parts of France and causing damage in Spain.
Intense circulations, prompted by the jetstream high in the atmosphere, have whipped up the waves, battering the coasts of Portugal, northern Spain and France. 

Meteo France on Saturday reported wind speeds of up to 148 kilometres an hour on the coast and warned that in some places they could reach 160km/h.
Even in the Mediterranean island of Corsica, across the northern cape, gusts were registered at 155km/h on Saturday night.
The stormy conditions brought down electricity supply lines in southwest France, leaving more than 250,000 homes without power.
Before dawn on Sunday, the wind increased again in Asturias, northwest Spain, with gusts of 143km/h. Santander, further along the coast, also felt the storm coming with winds up to 104km/h.

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Source + more photo's: http://www.aljazeera...5091706981.html