Sabtu, 24 Oktober 2020

Daily briefing: Alarming delay in the annual freeze of Arctic sea ice - Nature.com

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NATURE BRIEFING
Sea ice in Siberia has not yet started freezing, how to map the ‘magnificently complicated’ brain and why COVID outbreaks look set to worsen this winter.

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Neurons in the right superior lateral protocerebrum of Drosophila

Tracing connections, such as those in this section of the fruit-fly brain, could uncover links between neural architecture, biology and disease.Credit: FlyEM at HHMI/Google Research

Artificial intelligence and improved microscopy make it feasible to mapping the ‘connectome’ — the neural wiring of the brain — at ever-higher resolution feasible. In September, researchers working on Drosophila fruit flies reported the largest reconstruction so far: 25,000 neurons in the hemibrain, a tiny cube of tissue representing 40% of the fly’s brain. Next, scientists are targeting the mouse: a project with a data set on the scale of an exabyte (one billion gigabytes). These are not mere exercises in big biology — researchers hope to tap these data sets to learn how experiences are stored in the brain, with potential insights into autism, schizophrenia and other ‘connectopathies’.

Nature | 11 min read

Growing evidence suggests that there will be bigger COVID-19 outbreaks in winter, on the basis of what is known about how the virus spreads and how people behave in colder months. Laboratory experiments have revealed that SARS-CoV-2 favours cold, dry conditions, particularly out of direct sunlight. And during winter, people will more often interact indoors in places with poor ventilation. But overall, seasonal variability is “a small drop in the pan” compared with the main driver of increased spread, which is that so many people are vulnerable to infection — so people in places that are going into summer shouldn’t be complacent either. “By far the biggest factor that will affect the size of an outbreak will be control measures such as social distancing and mask wearing,” says epidemiologist Rachel Baker.

Nature | 5 min read

A prototype super-white paint is so reflective that it can cool a surface down to below the surrounding air temperature. The paint harnesses a natural heat-shedding effect known as passive radiative cooling. The paint absorbs and then emits infrared energy at specific wavelengths, which pass straight through the atmosphere and into space — effectively linking it to an inexhaustible heat sink. During tests in Indiana, the paint cooled a sample to 10 ℃ below the ambient temperature at night and at least 1.7 ℃ below at high noon.

New Scientist | 2 min read

Go deeper into radiative cooling materials with Nature’s in-depth feature (from 2019)

Reference: Cell Reports Physical Science paper

Arctic sea ice in Siberia’s Laptev Sea has not yet started freezing in late October, the latest date since records began. Climate scientists say the delay is due to a period of protracted warm temperatures in northern Russia and balmy Atlantic currents pushing into the region. Ice formed at the Laptev Sea drifts westward, carrying nutrients across the Arctic. Delays could mean fewer nutrients for Arctic plankton, and reduced capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The Guardian | 4 min read

Features & opinion

Quanta has reimagined how to represent the standard model of particle physics in a delightfully clear 3D graphic. Everything’s there, from amusingly named quarks to spin, handedness and charge. Plus, the authors walk you through how the theory builds up the picture in simple steps.

Quanta | 8 min read

The Nobel Prize does not reflect how science is done, argues writer and historian of science Joshua Roebke — “it merely hardens the fiction of individual genius”. Using examples from biology and physics, Roebke unpicks the fiction of the ‘great man of science’ and suggests a broader focus on other contributors who might be more deserving of our adulation. “Science is great despite some of the wretched men who helped make it,” he writes. “It would be even greater if we reckoned with its racist and misogynist past, reclaimed its forgotten players, and acknowledged how science is collectively done.”

Undark | 6 min read

Material scientists have discovered what makes the diabolical ironclad beetle (Phloeodes diabolicus) so strong that it can survive being run over by a car. They talk to the Nature Podcast about what makes this amazing creature almost uncrushable and how it could inspire stronger materials. Plus, the first human challenge trial to test a COVID-19 vaccine and how southern elephant seals helped to identify supercooled seawater.

Nature Podcast | 38 min listen

The Nature Podcast has been shortlisted for a Lovie Award! If you’re a fan of the show, you can help it win a People’s Lovie by voting here.

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Where I work

Audrey Teh poses for a portrait in an artificially lit room surrounded by seedlings growing in pots

Audrey Teh is a molecular immunologist at St George’s Hospital, University of London.Credit: Leonora Saunders for Nature

Molecular immunologist Audrey Teh works in a greenhouse lab on top of a London hospital, where she grows tobacco plants to produce antibodies for drug development. After losing 90% of the plants during the pandemic lockdown between March and June, Teh’s experiments are back up and running. “Tobacco has a horrible health legacy,” notes Teh. “It would be nice to reform this plant’s image by engineering it to produce cancer treatments.” (Nature | 3 min read)

Quote of the day

Happy mole day! At 6:02 on 23 October, we can all have a little think about Avogadro’s number, 6.02 × 1023. (TedEd | 4 min video)

This week, our penguin explorer is ensconced in the snowy terraces of Ein Kerem, Israel. Can you find Leif Penguinson?The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.

This newsletter is always evolving — tell us what you think! Please send your feedback to briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty

An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.

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October 24, 2020 at 02:47PM
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Daily briefing: Alarming delay in the annual freeze of Arctic sea ice - Nature.com

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Jumat, 23 Oktober 2020

Arctic Sea Ice Has Still Not Formed in Siberia — the Latest Date on Record - Yale Environment 360

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For the first time since records began, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing in late October. The delayed annual freeze in the Laptev Sea has been caused by freakishly protracted warmth in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters, say climate scientists who warn of possible knock-on effects across the polar region.

Ocean temperatures in the area recently climbed to more than 5 degrees Celsius above average, following a record breaking heatwave and the unusually early decline of last winter’s sea ice.

The trapped heat takes a long time to dissipate into the atmosphere, even at this time of the year when the sun creeps above the horizon for little more than an hour or two each day.

Graphs of sea-ice extent in the Laptev Sea, which usually show a healthy seasonal pulse, appear to have flat-lined. As a result, there is a record amount of open sea in the Arctic.

“The lack of freeze-up so far this fall is unprecedented in the Siberian Arctic region,” said Zachary Labe, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University. He says this is in line with the expected impact of human-driven climate change.

“2020 is another year that is consistent with a rapidly changing Arctic. Without a systematic reduction in greenhouse gases, the likelihood of our first ‘ice-free’ summer will continue to increase by the mid-21st century,” he wrote in an email to The Guardian.

This year’s Siberian heatwave was made at least 600 times more likely by industrial and agricultural emissions, according to an earlier study.

The warmer air temperature is not the only factor slowing the formation of ice. Climate change is also pushing more balmy Atlantic currents into the Arctic and breaking up the usual stratification between warm deep waters and the cool surface. This also makes it difficult for ice to form.

“This continues a streak of very low extents. The last 14 years, 2007 to 2020, are the lowest 14 years in the satellite record starting in 1979,” said Walt Meier, senior research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. He said much of the old ice in the Arctic is now disappearing, leaving thinner seasonal ice. Overall the average thickness is half what it was in the 1980s.

The downward trend is likely to continue until the Arctic has its first ice-free summer, said Meier. The data and models suggest this will occur between 2030 and 2050. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” he added.

Scientists are concerned the delayed freeze could amplify feedbacks that accelerate the decline of the ice cap. It is already well known that a smaller ice sheet means less of a white area to reflect the sun’s heat back into space. But this is not the only reason the Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the global average.

The Laptev Sea is known as the birthplace of ice, which forms along the coast there in early winter, then drifts westward carrying nutrients across the Arctic, before breaking up in the spring in the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard. If ice forms late in the Laptev, it will be thinner and thus more likely to melt before it reaches the Fram Strait. This could mean fewer nutrients for Arctic plankton, which will then have a reduced capacity to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

More open sea also means more turbulence in the upper layer of the Arctic ocean, which draws up more warm water from the depths.

Stefan Hendricks, a sea ice physics specialist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, said the sea ice trends are grim but not surprising. “It is more frustrating than shocking. This has been forecast for a long time, but there has been little substantial response by decision-makers.”

—Jonathan Watts, The Guardian

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October 23, 2020 at 11:02PM
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Death of sea life off Russia peninsula 'caused by algae' - Phys.org

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Russia's branch of Greenpeace said they would not rule out any theories until they received the final results of their own probe
Russia's branch of Greenpeace said they would not rule out any theories until they received the final results of their own probes

Blooming algae was behind a recent mass death of sea animals that saw octopuses and seals wash up on the shore off a Russian peninsula, scientists said on Friday in the final conclusion to their probe.

Locals in Kamchatka, a volcanic peninsula in Russia's Far East, raised the alarm in September after the animals were found dead and surfers complained of stinging eyes.

Scientists later said that up to 95 percent of living along the seabed in the affected area had died.

Environmental campaigners said they were conducting their own inquiries and were not yet able to confirm the official probe's findings.

Andrei Adrianov, vice president of Russia's Academy of Sciences, announced the probe's conclusions on Friday, saying the mass death was due to the effects of toxins from single-cell algae.

Speaking at the same meeting, Svetlana Radionova of environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor said her agency conducted over 5,000 tests.

She said the agency did not see a way the situation could have been caused by humans.

In a separate criminal probe, investigators announced they had eliminated and as possible causes.

They added that the previously reported high levels of phenol and were "not critical" and had been observed in the bay for decades.

Environment Minister Dmitry Kobylkin said the situation in Kamchatka was improving.

But Russia's branch of Greenpeace said they would not rule out any theories until they received the final results of their own probes.

Greenpeace's Yelena Sakirko told AFP that could have affected the algae—for example, if sewage or phosphates from washing powder and fertiliser leaked into the water.

Sakirko also said scientists were concerned that the incident could affect the food chains in the region, causing long-term damage to wildlife.

The World Wildlife Fund said its experts were likewise unable to make any conclusions yet.

"Unfortunately, public data available today does not fully prove any version of the ecological crisis off the coast of Kamchatka," it said.

Russia has been hit by a string of environmental disasters this year.

Just weeks after the Kamchatka incident, an oil spill covering 35,000 square metres was reported in the waters of the port city of Nakhodka in Russia's far east.

The most devastating incident took place in May, when some 20,000 tonnes of diesel leaked from a fuel tank into nearby rivers in the Siberian Arctic.


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Kamchatka marine life death caused by algae: Russian scientist

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October 23, 2020 at 09:41PM
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Florida could see a sea turtle baby boom—thanks to pandemic - National Geographic

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October 22, 2020 at 11:32PM
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Kamis, 22 Oktober 2020

Multiple small quakes, including one measuring 4.0, rattle Salton Sea area - KABC-TV

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NILAND, Calif. (KABC) -- A cluster of small earthquakes, the largest measuring magnitude 4.0, rattled the Salton Sea area Thursday afternoon.

The quake measuring 4.0 hit at 1:59 p.m. at the southeast edge of the Salton Sea, near Niland.


The USGS observed at least a dozen smaller quakes in the area, including at least two measuring 3.3.

The area is prone to earthquakes and less than a month ago experienced a swarm of hundreds of quakes over a period of days.


There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

RELATED: Earthquake swarm continues to rattle Salton Sea area

RELATED: Earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones answers your questions

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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October 23, 2020 at 04:25AM
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Carmel-By-The-Sea: The perfect weekend wine escape - San Francisco Chronicle

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Lined with cobblestone streets and storybook cottages tucked under cypress trees, Carmel-by-the-Sea twinkles with the quaint kind of charm that makes it a landing spot for honeymooners, retirees and tourists. It’s also now a destination for wine tasting, with more than a dozen tasting rooms within walking distance of one another. Many are tucked into the secret courtyards within many of the small city’s blocks.

Don’t expect any commercial wineries within this seaside hamlet. The focus is on Monterey County, particularly the Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco, with occasional influence from the Santa Cruz Mountains and elsewhere.

As one would expect from a tourist town, there are abundant options for lodging and activities at different price points, and the food scene is particularly interesting. Lately, the buzz has been about 7th & Dolores, a surf-and-turf restaurant as sophisticated as any you’ll find in San Francisco. –Matt Kettmann

1. Taste Morgan

After starting his eponymous winery more than 35 years ago, Dan Morgan Lee still produces wines high-quality wines.  In 1996 and 2003, The San Francisco Chronicle named it Winery of the Year, and in 2005, Lee introduced a second wine label that explored alternative varietals. The wines, themselves, range from the Cote du Crow Rhone red blend to Albarino.

2. Hahn — Carmel

Nicolaus “Nicky” Hahn, who struck it rich in international finance, snapped up vineyards in Monterey County but quickly learned the region’s reputation was lukewarm. Today, each vintage of the Hahn SLH series of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is designed to showcase the Santa Lucia Highlands. The Hahn Carmel-by-the-Sea tasting room gives off a sleek, urban feel, with redwood paneled walls, flashy metal lighting and modernist photographs of wine-growing and winemaking. Their new sparkling wine project is worth trying, if available.
 
3. Scheid Vineyards

Al Sheid was an investment banker who used wine grapes as a tax shelter. Now, the winery has about 4,300 acres of grapes along the Salinas Valley. The family started its own label in the early ’90s, and the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay remain popular varieties. Of the 30 wines Scheid makes, there’s something for every palate — from zippy Gewurztraminer to rich red blends. Flights here change every four to six weeks and are organized by white or red, but you’ll be able to mix them if you ask nicely.
 
4. Scratch Wines

If you want to know what a female powerhouse in the wine industry looks like, look no further. Monterey County’s well-known winemaker Sabrine Rodems is the face behind the brand, which focuses on small batches of Riesling, Grenache, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Because Scratch doesn’t make a lot of wines, you’ll often taste everything in the current lineup. Try it all.
 

5. Caraccioli

Sparkling wine is the core of this four-generation operation. At the tasting room, nestled on Dolores Street, sample a flight of bubbles as you view works from well-known artists and listen to the crashing Pacific waves.

6. Albatross Ridge

The winery recently moved its tasting room to a different location in Carmel-by-the-Sea location. The father-son team of Brad and Garrett Bowlus produces stunning quality Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The zesty pink sparkler Petillant Naturel is also worth a try.

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October 23, 2020 at 05:58AM
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Saving the rarest for last, sea turtle season ends – Coastal Observer - Coastal Observer

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There were only three green sea turtle nests on the South Carolina coast this year, and Pawleys Island had one of them.

Volunteers with the Pawleys chapter of the S.C. United Turtle Enthusiasts closed out their 2020 season on Saturday with an inventory of the green nest.

“The hatchlings are cute,” said Mary Schneider, head of the chapter. “Loggerheads are just brown all over. The greens are dark on top and white on the bottom. Their little flippers look like they’ve walked in paint because they’re white around the edges.”

Of the 131 eggs, 110 had hatched, nine didn’t develop, five hatchlings were excavated and released and two hatchlings did not survive. There were also five eggs that had not hatched. They were reburied.

Loggerheads stopped nesting on Pawleys at the end of July, but the green arrived Aug. 8.

Green sea turtles have longer flippers than loggerheads and therefore throw sand farther when digging. So the nests are very distinctive.

“It was a thrill, an absolute thrill,” Schneider said. “When I walked up and saw that crawl, I knew immediately it was a green. They make such a big mess.”

Schneider has been volunteering with the chapter for 26 years and it was only the fourth green nest on the island during that time.

Diana Eastman removes hatched shells from the nest.

The green was the highlight of an otherwise “mediocre” season, Schneider said. After 39 nests last year, there were only 14 this year.

“We had such an amazing season last year, I knew it wasn’t going to be like that because turtles nest every two or three years,” Schneider said. “Our expectations cannot be for 30-plus nests every season.”

The DeBordieu/Hobcaw chapter of SCUTE also closed out its season this week with inventories of the last of its 75 nests.

“It was lower results than we would have liked to have seen,” said Betsy Brabson, head of the chapter.

For the first time in seven years DeBordieu/Hobcaw SCUTE had an infertile nest, which means none of the 111 eggs produced hatchlings. 

Volunteers “dug in and started seeing brown eggs,” Brabson said. “That’s when they realized that none of them had hatched.”

One egg was still sent the state Department of Natural Resources which documents and tracks turtle DNA, to see if the turtle had nested in the past.

“This just shows the wonderful aspects of collecting these eggs. The volunteers hated it at first but the information we get is so amazing,” Brabson said. “We know these turtles.”

DNR, which oversees sea turtle nesting and SCUTE volunteers, did not allow inventories to be public this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, inventories have attracted dozens of people all crowded into a small area.

Schneider said it was a lost opportunity to educate people about protecting sea turtles.

“Our major responsibilities is to protect the sea turtles,” Schneider said. “How we also protect the sea turtles is to let people know what they can do to help the sea turtles. That’s the education we would do at inventories.”

DeBordieu’s SCUTE volunteers hosted a virtual 5K fundraiser this month for the Sea Turtle Care Center at the S.C. Aquarium. It raised $5,500.

Brabson said the care center had to cut its staff by 25 percent when the aquarium closed during the pandemic, which raised the possibility that it wouldn’t be able to help stranded or sick turtles.

“It’s a great facility and now it’s the centerpiece of the aquarium,” Brabson said. “The thought of a turtle out there that we just had to leave to die would kill us all.”

The aquarium is trying to raise $1.6 million by March, the beginning of the 2021 sea turtle season.

The state recorded 5,559 nests this year. Cape Island near the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge had the most with 1,125.

“Overall for the state, it was one of our better seasons,” Brabson said.

Huntington Beach State Park had 23 nests, North Litchfield had five and Litchfield by the Sea had two.

Last year, was a record-setting year in South Carolina for sea turtle nests with 8,797.

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October 22, 2020 at 06:01PM
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The 'Caspian Sea Monster' rises from the grave - CNN

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(CNN) — Beached on the western shores of the Caspian Sea, it looks like a colossal aquatic beast -- a bizarre creation more at home in the deep than above the waves. It certainly doesn't look like something that could ever fly.

But fly it did -- albeit a long time ago.

After lying dormant for more than three decades, the Caspian Sea Monster has been on the move again. One of the most eye-catching flying machines ever built, it's completing what could be its final journey.

In July of this year after 14 hours at sea, a flotilla of three tugs and two escort vessels maneuvered slowly along the shores of the Caspian Sea to deliver their bulky special cargo to its destination, a stretch of coast near Russia's southernmost point.

It's here, next to the ancient city of Derbent, in Russia's republic of Dagestan, that the 380-ton "Lun-class Ekranoplan" has found its new, and most likely definitive, home.

The last of its breed to sail the waters of the Caspian, "Lun" was abandoned after the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union, condemned to rust away at Kaspiysk naval base, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) up the coast from Derbent.

But before it could fade into oblivion, it's been rescued thanks to plans to make it a tourist attraction right at a time when this unusual travel concept could be poised to make a comeback.

Speed and stealth

The 380-ton "Lun-class Ekraonoplan" has moved for the first time in 30 years.

The 380-ton "Lun-class Ekraonoplan" has moved for the first time in 30 years.

Musa Salgereyev/TASS/Getty Images

Ground Effect Vehicles, also known as "ekranoplans," are a sort of hybrid between airplanes and ships. They move over water without actually touching it.

The International Maritime Organization classifies them as ships, but, in fact, they derive their unique high-speed capabilities from the fact that they skim the surface of the water at a height of between one and five meters (three to 16 feet).

They take advantage of an aerodynamic principle called "ground effect."

This combination of speed and stealth -- their proximity to the surface while flying makes them difficult to detect by radar -- got the attention of the Soviet military, which experimented with several variants of the concept during the Cold War.

Their deployment on the vast inland body of water between the Soviet Union and Iran led to them acquiring the nickname "Caspian Sea Monster."

The "Lun" ekranoplan was one of the last designs to come out of the Soviet ground effect vehicle program. Longer than an Airbus A380 superjumbo and almost as tall, despite its size and weight, the Lun was capable of reaching speeds of up to 550 kilometers per hour (340 mph) thanks to eight powerful turbofans located on its stubby wings.

This formidable machine was even able to take off and land in stormy conditions, with waves of up to two and a half meters. Its intended mission was to conduct lightning sea-borne attacks with the six anti-ship missiles it carried in launch tubes placed at the top of its hull.

Star attraction

I love it when an ekranoplan comes together.

I love it when an ekranoplan comes together.

Musa Salgereyev/TASS/Getty Images

The ekranoplan that has been moved to Derbent is the only one of its class ever completed and entered service in 1987.

A second Lun, unarmed and assigned to rescue and supply missions, was at an advanced state of completion when, in the early 1990s, the whole program was canceled and the existing Lun withdrawn from service.

After 30-plus years of inaction, getting this sea beast back on the move was no easy task, requiring the assistance of rubber pontoons and a carefully coordinated choreography involving several vessels.

"Lun" will be the star of Derbent's planned Patriot Park, a military museum and theme park that will display different sorts of Soviet and Russian military equipment.

Construction of the park is expected to start later in 2020. For the time being, Lun will sit alone on the beach.

It looks set to become a new highlight for visitors to Derbent. The city claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Russian territory. Its citadel and historical center have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

Second wave

The sea beast was powered by eight powerful turbofans.

The sea beast was powered by eight powerful turbofans.

Denis Abramov/Sputnik/AP

"Lun" will add to the attractions of a region that, up until the coronavirus pandemic, had seen a number of initiatives to open it up to tourism, including the launch of cruise itineraries in the Caspian Sea.

When it opens, Derbent's Patriot Park won't be the only Russian museum exhibiting an ekranoplan. A much smaller Orlyonok-class ekranoplan can be found at the Russian Navy Museum in Moscow.

While ground effect vehicles fell out of favor in the past few decades, the concept has been experiencing a resurgence of late

Developers in Singapore, the United States, China and Russia are working on different projects that aim to bring ekranoplans back to life, although with rather more peaceful purposes.

widget works

Singapore-based Wigetworks is hoping to create a modern version of the ekranoplan.

Courtesy Wiget Works

One of them is Singapore-based Wigetworks, whose AirFish 8 prototype builds upon groundwork done by German engineers Hanno Fischer and Alexander Lippisch during the Cold War.

Wigetworks acquired the patents and intellectual property rights and have set about trying to improve and update those earlier designs to create a modern ground effect vehicle.

Also in Asia, Chinese ekranoplan Xiangzhou 1 flew for the first time in 2017, although little is known about this project.

Delivery drones

flying ship company

The Flying Ship Company is developing an unmanned ground effect vehicle.

Courtesy Flying Ship Company

In the United States, The Flying Ship Company, a startup backed by private investors, is working on an unmanned ground effect vehicle to move cargo at high speed. Think unmanned delivery drones but over water.

The project is at its early stages, although founder and CEO Bill Peterson tells CNN his team is planning to bring this project to fruition within a seven-year timeframe.

And Russia, home of the ekranoplan, hasn't given up on the concept.

Several projects have been touted during the past few years, although none has managed to make it past the design stage yet.

Beriev, a maker of jet-powered amphibious aircraft, came up with the Be-2500 concept, and, more recently, it has been reported by Russian media that a new-generation military ekranoplan, tentatively named "Orlan," was under consideration.

Another, privately funded, project has sprung out of Nizhny Novgorod, an industrial city on the banks of the Volga River closely connected with the origins of ekranoplan technology. RDC Aqualines, which has also offices in Singapore, is developing its own line of commercial ekranoplans able to carry three, eight and 12 passengers, and might possibly expand to more.

Its designs have caught the eye of a group of entrepreneurs which aims to establish a fast link across the Gulf of Finland, connecting Helsinki to the Estonian capital, Tallinn, in about 30 minutes.

It might be that soon you won't need to visit a museum to spot an ekranoplan, after all.

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October 22, 2020 at 05:04PM
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Alarm as Arctic sea ice not yet freezing at latest date on record - The Guardian

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For the first time since records began, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing in late October.

The delayed annual freeze in the Laptev Sea has been caused by freakishly protracted warmth in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters, say climate scientists who warn of possible knock-on effects across the polar region.

Ocean temperatures in the area recently climbed to more than 5C above average, following a record breaking heatwave and the unusually early decline of last winter’s sea ice.

The trapped heat takes a long time to dissipate into the atmosphere, even at this time of the year when the sun creeps above the horizon for little more than an hour or two each day.

Graphs of sea-ice extent in the Laptev Sea, which usually show a healthy seasonal pulse, appear to have flat-lined. As a result, there is a record amount of open sea in the Arctic.

Graph

“The lack of freeze-up so far this fall is unprecedented in the Siberian Arctic region,” said Zachary Labe, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University. He says this is in line with the expected impact of human-driven climate change.

“2020 is another year that is consistent with a rapidly changing Arctic. Without a systematic reduction in greenhouse gases, the likelihood of our first ‘ice-free’ summer will continue to increase by the mid-21st century,’ he wrote in an email to the Guardian.

This year’s Siberian heatwave was made at least 600 times more likely by industrial and agricultural emissions, according to an earlier study.

The warmer air temperature is not the only factor slowing the formation of ice. Climate change is also pushing more balmy Atlantic currents into the Arctic and breaking up the usual stratification between warm deep waters and the cool surface. This also makes it difficult for ice to form.

“This continues a streak of very low extents. The last 14 years, 2007 to 2020, are the lowest 14 years in the satellite record starting in 1979,” said Walt Meier, senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. He said much of the old ice in the Arctic is now disappearing, leaving thinner seasonal ice. Overall the average thickness is half what it was in the 1980s.

The downward trend is likely to continue until the Arctic has its first ice-free summer, said Meier. The data and models suggest this will occur between 2030 and 2050. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” he added.

Scientists are concerned the delayed freeze could amplify feedbacks that accelerate the decline of the ice cap. It is already well known that a smaller ice sheet means less of a white area to reflect the sun’s heat back into space. But this is not the only reason the Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the global average.

The Laptev Sea is known as the birthplace of ice, which forms along the coast there in early winter, then drifts westward carrying nutrients across the Arctic, before breaking up in the spring in the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard. If ice forms late in the Laptev, it will be thinner and thus more likely to melt before it reaches the Fram Strait. This could mean fewer nutrients for Arctic plankton, which will then have a reduced capacity to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

More open sea also means more turbulence in the upper layer of the Arctic ocean, which draws up more warm water from the depths.

Dr Stefan Hendricks, a sea ice physics specialist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, said the sea ice trends are grim but not surprising. “It is more frustrating than shocking. This has been forecast for a long time, but there has been little substantial response by decision-makers.”

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Rabu, 21 Oktober 2020

US, Japan, Australia team up for naval exercises in South China Sea - NavyTimes.com

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The guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain linked up with the Royal Australian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force in the South China Sea to conduct naval exercises on Monday.

The exercises, which signify the fifth time this year that the U.S. has conducted exercises in the 7th Fleet’s area of operations with Australia and Japan, aim to enhance the ability of forces to work together and maintain maritime security and readiness, the U.S. Navy said.

Specifically, JMSDF’s destroyer JS Kirisame and the Australian Royal Navy’s frigate HMAS Arunta teamed up with the McCain to carry out surface, subsurface, and air defense exercises and other training events.

“By operating with our close allies in this way, here in the South China Sea, we promote transparency, the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, all principles that underpin security and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific, so that all nations in the region may benefit,” Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, commanding officer of the McCain, said in a news release.

Royal Australian Navy Cmdr. Troy Duggan, commanding officer of the HMAS Arunta, and JMSDF Capt. Yokota Kazushi, commander of JMSDF Escort Division 8, also stressed the value of the trilateral exercises.

“This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations,” Duggan said in a Navy news release. “Operating with our partners is essential for building and maintaining high levels of interoperability, and contributes to our shared commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.”

All three nations are set to participate in naval exercises known as Malabar sponsored by India next month, Reuters reports.

The U.S. Navy convened in the 7th Fleet area of operations with JMSDF and the Royal Australian Navy during exercise Sea Dragon in February and Exercise Pacific Vanguard last month. The three nations also came together for a trilateral exercise with the Reagan Carrier Strike Group in July, and a multinational group sail with the guided-missile destroyer Barry last month.

Additionally, the McCain, Carrier Air Wing 5, the guided-missile cruiser Antietam and the guided-missile destroyer Halsey joined the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group earlier this month in the South China Sea as the strike group carried out flight operations, maritime strike exercises and training between surface and air units.

The Reagan has visited the South China Sea’s waters a total of three times during its 2020 deployment, Navy Times previously reported.

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Newly discovered gene may give 'sea pickles' their glow: Finding could be first bioluminescent gene identified in a chordate, may be common across tree of life - Science Daily

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A new study describes a bioluminescent gene that could be the reason that so-called "sea pickles," or pyrosomes, an underwater free-floating colony of thousands of tiny animals, reverberate in blue-green light. If confirmed, the finding would be the first bioluminescent gene identified from a chordate -- the group that includes all vertebrates as well as a couple types of invertebrates: sea squirts (including pyrosomes) and lancelets. The research is published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

"We know that throughout the tree of life, there are many hundreds of organisms that can produce light and that they do it for a variety of reasons," said co-author Michael Tessler, an assistant professor at St. Francis College who conducted the research while he was a postdoctoral researcher at the American Museum of Natural History. "Our work suggests that there is a common gene shared among at least some animals that, with a few small changes, could be responsible for this bioluminescence. A baseline gene like this could help explain how many of these very different organisms, like a brittle star and the sea pickle, ended up with the same ability to glow."

The idea for this study arose in 2017 when co-author David Gruber, a Museum research associate and a Presidential Professor at Baruch College, was off the coast of Brazil testing a new collecting tool outfitted to a submersible: squishy robotic hands meant to gently grab delicate sea creatures. The expedition team, which included Museum Curator John Sparks and was funded by the Dalio Family Foundation and OceanX, collected a selection of sausage-sized pyrosomes (Pyrosoma atlanticum).

These gelatinous colonies are made of hundreds of tiny animals called zooids -- each with a heart and a brain -- that work together to move, eat, and breathe. The name pyrosome, which in Greek translates as "fire-body," is derived from their unique bioluminescent displays, which, unlike many bioluminescent animals, can be triggered by light. While pyrosomes attracted the attention of naturalists in the 17th and 18th centuries, many of the most basic facts about their bioluminescence remain elusive.

"Understanding the biochemical pathway for pyrosome bioluminescence is of particular interest because as a chordate, these animals are much more closely related to vertebrates -- and to us as humans -- than many of the more traditional bioluminescent creatures that might come to mind, things like jellyfish or fireflies," Gruber said.

Like other bioluminescent organisms, pyrosomes rely on a chemical reaction between a substrate (luciferin) and a gene (luciferase) to produce light. The researchers found that mixing a common type of luciferin, called coelenterazine, with Pyrosoma atlanticum resulted in bioluminescence. To further investigate the inner workings of this reaction, they sequenced the RNA of the pyrosomes collected in Brazil as well as from additional specimens found in a large bloom off of Vancouver Island in Canada.

The researchers discovered a gene that matches a luciferase often used in biotechnology that is found in sea pansies, a relative of jellyfish, anemones, and corals. They confirmed that the newly discovered pyrosome gene does, indeed, produce light by expressing it in a bacterial colony and adding coelenterazine.

"Being a part of this study felt like being a part of a century-old mystery novel as to how the pyrosome glows in the dark," said Jean Gaffney, a co-author and assistant professor at Baruch College. "I have never worked with a species that was seemingly so alien, but as a chordate is strikingly similar to us."

A similar gene was recently predicted from a bioluminescent brittle star, indicating that these types of luciferases may have evolved convergently from a baseline gene.

"This study advances the debate about pyrosome bioluminescence," Tessler said. "We provide justification for the idea that this animal produces its own light and it might be able to do so because of a pattern of evolution that as repeated throughout the animal tree of life."

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RRS Sir David Attenborough departs for sea trials - BBC News

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A

new polar research ship, named after the presenter and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, has left a shipyard in Birkenhead to test scientific equipment and conduct sea trials.

When it finally enters service, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will look at how climate change is affecting Antarctica and its surrounding waters.

Aboard the ship will be Boaty McBoatface, the robotic submarine named in honour of an online poll that suggested the cheeky name for the polar ship.

Video Journalist: Laura Foster

Read more: Attenborough polar ship leaves construction yard

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Japan's Suga opposes actions that boost tension in South China Sea - Reuters

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Japan opposes any actions that escalate tension in the East and South China Seas, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday, but added that Tokyo was not aiming at an “Asian NATO” to contain any specific country.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

Suga was wrapping up a four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia, his first overseas since taking office last month, as part of Japan’s efforts to bolster ties with key Southeast Asian nations amid concerns about China’s growing assertiveness there.

“Japan is opposed to any actions that escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” Suga told a news conference in the Indonesian capital.

“Let me stress anew the importance of all the countries concerning the South China Sea issues not resorting to force or coercion, but working toward peaceful resolutions of the disputes based on international law.”

The trip follows this month’s meeting in Tokyo of the “Quad”, an informal grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the United States that Washington sees as a bulwark against China’s growing regional influence.

China has denounced the grouping of the four democracies as a “mini-NATO” aimed at containing its development.

“Our response in the South China Sea is not aimed at any one country,” Suga said, when asked if Japan wanted to create an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Suga must balance Japan’s deep economic ties with China against security concerns, including Beijing’s growing push to assert claims over disputed East China Sea isles.

Some in his ruling party want to see a harder line, after ties warmed under his predecessor, Shinzo Abe.

“Japan is determined to defend its territory, territorial waters and air space,” Suga said, adding that Japan also opposed actions that raised tension in the East China Sea.

Several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have territorial disputes with China in the vital South China Sea, but are wary of alienating the group’s major economic partner and getting entangled in an intense confrontation between Washington and Beijing.

But some welcome Japan’s greater engagement in the region.

Suga agreed with President Joko Widodo on Tuesday to speed talks on the export of Japanese defence gear and technology to Indonesia and have their defence and foreign ministers meet soon.

A day earlier, the Japanese leader and Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc also agreed in principle on a military equipment and technology export pact.

(This story changes day of the week to Wednesday, not Monday in paragraph 1.)

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and ELaine Lies in Tokyo, Adi Kurniawan and Heru Asprihanto in Jakarta; writing by Linda Sieg in Tokyo,; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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Brrrr! 'Supercooled' waters make nearby Antarctic seas seem balmy - Nature.com

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Aerial view of ice pack - Ross Sea, Antarctica.

The Ross Sea (pictured) in Antarctica contains waters that are liquid even though they are colder than seawater's freezing point. Credit: DeAgostini/Getty

Ocean sciences

Elephant seals help to show that tongues of ultra-frigid seawater are relatively common in the Southern Ocean.

The Southern Ocean is riddled with supercooled stretches of liquid water that are colder than the freezing point.

Seawater generally freezes below –1.85 °C, but the icy waters around Antarctica can remain liquid even below that temperature. The subsurface melting of ice shelves can generate supercooled water, as can sea-ice formation. But the extent of supercooling around Antarctica has been unknown.

Alexander Haumann at Princeton University in New Jersey and his colleagues used data collected from research ships, autonomous floats and sensor-wearing Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) to identify regions of the ocean where supercooling was occurring. They found that up to 5.8% of the analysed water profiles from the Southern Ocean had temperatures below the ocean’s surface freezing point, a far greater prevalence than expected.

In almost one-quarter of the profiles that showed supercooling due to sea-ice formation, the ultra-chilly water penetrated into the depths of the ocean. Such supercooled plumes could represent an important pathway for heat loss in the deep ocean that is currently not represented in climate models, the authors say.

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Canada's Suncor considers selling North Sea oil and gas fields - WorldOil

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By Laura Hurst and Dinesh Nair on 10/21/2020

(Bloomberg) --Canada’s Suncor Energy Inc. is exploring the sale of a handful of oil and gas fields in the North Sea, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Suncor is studying divesting the 30,000-barrel-a-day Golden Eagle Area on the UK side of the sea, the people said. Its 26.69% stake could be valued at about $400 million, one of them said. It’s also interested in selling smaller assets on the Norwegian side, valued at an estimated $100 million, another person said.

After a slow start to the year as the coronavirus crisis disrupted plans across the industry, asset-sale activity in the North Sea has picked up in the second half. Exxon Mobil Corp. has begun a process to divest its UK fields and Eni SpA is seeking to sell a production vessel in Norway. Chrysaor Holdings Ltd. this month bought independent oil explorer Premier Oil Plc in a reverse takeover.

Suncor hasn’t started a formal sales process, but is engaging with potential buyers that have shown interest in the fields, one of the people said.

Suncor didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Calgary-based company is also considering selling its 40% stake in the Rosebank venture west of Shetland, one of the people said. The project, operated by Norway’s Equinor ASA, is one of the U.K.’s largest undeveloped fields.

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Destroyer Ross treks into the Barents Sea's arctic waters — again - NavyTimes.com

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The guided-missile destroyer Ross headed back into the Barents Sea on Monday.

Despite decades of avoiding the contentious Arctic waters between Russia and Norway, four U.S. Navy ships and a U.K. Royal Navy ship completed a maritime operation in the Barents Sea in May — marking the first time the service said a U.S. Navy surface ship has done so since the mid-1980s.

And Monday marked yet another occasion when the Navy sailed into those very waters.

“This Barents Sea mission marks a significant milestone, clearly demonstrating our dynamic ability to operate anywhere in the world,” Cmdr. John D. John, the commanding officer of the Ross, said in a Navy news release. “These operations demonstrate the commitment of our crew to transatlantic stability and security.”

The recent operation coincides with Russia’s Navy conducting anti-submarine warfare drills in the Barents Sea, Russian state-run outlet TASS reported Oct. 20.

Bryan Clark, a former U.S. submarine officer who is currently a senior fellow with The Hudson Institute, told Defense News earlier this year that Russia views the Barents Sea and other surrounding waters as “a free zone for Russian submarine operations.”

"By putting some ships up there, we’re telling them: ‘Well, no, this is not a free zone [for] submarine operations — these are international waters,’ " Clark said. “It would be a little like if the Russians deployed a bunch of anti-submarine warfare frigates in the [Virginia Capes Operating Area off Norfolk, Virginia].”

“We couldn’t do anything about it, but it would put us on notice that we maybe needed to be a little more careful,” he said.

(Photo credit: MC2 Tyler Thompson/U.S. Navy)

Meanwhile, U.S. Navy destroyers have trekked into the Barents Sea this year a total of three times this year.

Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers Donald Cook, Porter and Roosevelt, supported by the Supply-class fast combat support ship Supply, joined the Royal Navy’s Type 23 Duke-class frigate HMS Kent in May, according to the U.S. Navy.

Additionally, the U.S. Navy, led by the U.K., headed into the Barents Sea again in September to conduct maritime security operations. The Ross, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland, the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Tidespring Tide-class replenishment tanker, and the Royal Norwegian frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl participated in the training in that instance, the U.S. Navy said.

“The realistic and relevant training we are conducting here in the Barents cannot be replicated anywhere else,” John said in September, according to a Navy news release. “This proves we can operate anywhere in the region with our allies.”

Earlier this month, the Ross participated in multilateral training called Exercise Joint Warrior, a bi-annual exercise spearheaded by the U.K. in the Atlantic Ocean. It involved more than 6,000 service members from allied nations including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal.

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Japan's Suga opposes actions that boost tension in South China Sea - Reuters

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Japan opposes any actions that escalate tension in the East and South China Seas, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday, but added that Tokyo was not aiming at an “Asian NATO” to contain any specific country.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

Suga was wrapping up a four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia, his first overseas since taking office last month, as part of Japan’s efforts to bolster ties with key Southeast Asian nations amid concerns about China’s growing assertiveness there.

“Japan is opposed to any actions that escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” Suga told a news conference in the Indonesian capital.

“Let me stress anew the importance of all the countries concerning the South China Sea issues not resorting to force or coercion, but working toward peaceful resolutions of the disputes based on international law.”

The trip follows this month’s meeting in Tokyo of the “Quad”, an informal grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the United States that Washington sees as a bulwark against China’s growing regional influence.

China has denounced the grouping of the four democracies as a “mini-NATO” aimed at containing its development.

“Our response in the South China Sea is not aimed at any one country,” Suga said, when asked if Japan wanted to create an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Suga must balance Japan’s deep economic ties with China against security concerns, including Beijing’s growing push to assert claims over disputed East China Sea isles.

Some in his ruling party want to see a harder line, after ties warmed under his predecessor, Shinzo Abe.

“Japan is determined to defend its territory, territorial waters and air space,” Suga said, adding that Japan also opposed actions that raised tension in the East China Sea.

Several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have territorial disputes with China in the vital South China Sea, but are wary of alienating the group’s major economic partner and getting entangled in an intense confrontation between Washington and Beijing.

But some welcome Japan’s greater engagement in the region.

Suga agreed with President Joko Widodo on Tuesday to speed talks on the export of Japanese defence gear and technology to Indonesia and have their defence and foreign ministers meet soon.

A day earlier, the Japanese leader and Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc also agreed in principle on a military equipment and technology export pact.

(This story has been refiled to correct day of the week to Wednesday, not Monday in paragraph 1)

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and ELaine Lies in Tokyo, Adi Kurniawan and Heru Asprihanto in Jakarta; writing by Linda Sieg in Tokyo,; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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Reflections by the Sea: Sea Spray - The Coastland Times - The Coastland Times

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By Betsy Ore Glass

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

My heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. 

– Psalm 28:7 NIV

The first time I ever remember vacationing at the beach, our family rented a modest cottage just a few steps from the shore. Most cottages had names and this one was called “Sea Spray” by the hand painted sign that hung by the door. I was a youngster and had never heard the term “sea spray” before and wondered what it meant. It wasn’t long before I found out. It’s the fine spray that the wind blows from the ocean to the shore, bringing with it salt residue from the sea. The windows to our little place had to be washed daily if we were to enjoy any view. The windshield of our car was filmy with the haze of sea spray. Some people call it salt spray. It becomes a fact of life to contend with if you are at the ocean for any length of time. The old-timers just shrug it off, just like they do about the sand in their shoes . . . when they wear them!

God’s protection and covering over us is his shield, just like the sea spray covers everything at the beach. God provides his armor to equip us. Ephesians 6:15 says, “To be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God.”  One part of the full armor of God is the shield of faith. It protects us from the flaming arrows of the evil one. As believers we are not immune to temptation and doubt. This is not God’s work and that is why we have his armor to defend ourselves in spiritual battle. Each day we should ask for God’s full armor to be upon us to protect us throughout the day. We’ll feel ready to meet the struggles that may lie ahead. We are blessed that God gives us these tools to stand firm in the Spirit.

Betsy Ore Glass has long-standing ties to the Outer Banks. From Virginia Beach, her family bought a vacation cottage in the 60s and her love of the area began. Later in the 90s, Betsy and her husband bought a weekend cottage and introduced the area to their children. Then Betsy’s parents retired to KDH where the family gathered often. Reach her at betsyglass1@gmail.com or read additional Reflections at www.betsyoreglass.com.

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Selasa, 20 Oktober 2020

Rare white sea turtle found on South Carolina beach - KLTV

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The town says the hatchling is believed to have a genetic condition called leucism, which causes animals to have reduced pigmentation. The condition is described as extremely rare, but it’s unclear exactly how often such turtles are found in the wild.

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King tides, boosted by sea-level rise, are flooding communities along the East Coast - Washington Post

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But there was no storm to be found. In fact, many places enjoyed pleasant weather and sunshine. Yet coastal flood advisories plastered the coast, forcing road closures and flooding properties.

The culprit? King tides. A name informally attached to extra-high tides spurred by astronomical alignments, king tides often reach their peak in the fall. Decades ago, their impact was minimal. But added to the background of climate-driven sea-level rise, nowadays they are routinely problematic.

“I think of this like a stacking of phenomena,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer with NOAA specializing in sea-level rise and flooding issues. “We didn’t flood 30 or 40 years ago, but since then … sea levels have been a half-foot to a foot higher.”

The rise in water has left thousands of homes and businesses vulnerable to sunny-day flooding, disrupting daily life and undermining property values in some areas.

As greenhouse gases resulting from human activity continue to accumulate in the atmosphere and warm the climate, sea-level rise and coastal inundation will only continue to grow with time, even on sunny days.

What are king tides and why are they greatest in the fall?

October is typically the worst month for king tide flooding, with some of the highest water levels of the year.

King tides are the highest tides that occur and are easily predictable based on the orbits of the sun and the moon. Both celestial bodies exert a gravitational pull on the oceans, helping generate tides. The closer either body, the greater the tide.

Earth is closest to the sun in January, by a margin of more than 3.1 million miles compared with June. That increases tides in the months leading up to and around the new year.

High tides are then maximized when the moon reaches its closest point to Earth in its orbit, known as perigee, which occurred Friday.

Local weather plays a role in tides, too, and tends to enhance them in the fall. Along the East Coast, one of the biggest influences on tides is the Bermuda High, a high-pressure system anchored west of the Azores over the open Atlantic. Winds swirl in a clockwise pattern around it.

During the summer, flow around the Bermuda High brings heat and humidity to the Gulf and East Coasts and soupy conditions to the eastern United States. But during the winter, the Bermuda High shifts farther south and east, its influence on local winds dwindling. The onshore flow it generates is maximized in the summer and reaches a minimum during winter.

That means that the overlap of onshore winds and sun/moon-enhanced tides is greatest during the fall, particularly in the months of September, October and November. The tides are usually the most severe in October, having the most propensity for widespread impact. Waters are also still warm from summertime, and “thermal expansion” makes sea levels just a tad higher.

King tides flooding the East Coast

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, king tide flooding was rampant up and down the East Coast, despite otherwise tepid weather.

In Key West, Fla., the National Weather Service warned that “flooded roads will probably be a mixture of rain and salt water” after heavy downpours moved through the area. The office posted a photo to Twitter showing the overnight flooding.

Miami, Jacksonville, Charleston and Wilmington, N.C., were all included in coastal flood advisories Tuesday.

Some roads were cut off in Mount Pleasant, S.C., while intersections were flooded in Charleston. Just last month, Charleston suffered a similar episode of king tide flooding, which hit much of the downtown area and medical district.

The shoreline flanking Washington, D.C., was placed under a coastal flood advisory Monday as well, while in Queens, N.Y., water bubbled up out of street drains on submerged streets.

In Boston, minor splashover was forecast and did occur, but issues were minimal since high pressure overhead suppressed the surge. Localized flooding was also noted farther to the north in northern New England.

Supercharged tides because of sea-level rise

King tides are a natural phenomenon, but added to the background of rising seas, their impact and disruptive potential is growing exponentially. In Miami, for example, a roughly six-inch increase in sea level since 1996 has led to a twelvefold spike in action-tier flooding.

Sweet, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted that the sea level isn’t just rising — the rate of rise is accelerating.

In 2019, “what we found was that 90 percent of the tide gauges that we analyzed on the East Coast or Gulf Coast [had] highest all-time sea levels,” Sweet said. “In many instances we were one or two inches higher than we were at the last record sea level. Sea levels are stacking up, and even when you have a garden variety [assortment] of processes, now it can mean flooding in the streets when the same phenomenon was happening [without flooding] 30 or 40 years ago.”

One of the challenges with communicating sea level rise is that the impacts associated with it are nonlinear. In other words, even if sea level were to rise at a constant rate, the amount of flooding coastal communities experience would jump far more quickly.

“At 75 percent of these East and Gulf Coast locations, [flooding is] now accelerating on an annual basis,” Sweet said. “That’s a very important notion to understand. And once infrastructure becomes compromised, once [those impacts are] noticed, the change is going to be quick rather than a slow process.”

It’s an issue already taking a toll on coastal communities, many of which are scrambling to plan for the future.

“As sea levels continue to rise, the flooding will become less storm surge flooding and more tidal flooding,” Sweet said. “Then it becomes an elevation game. Already communities are using data to see where they are exposed, and when they have opportunities to relocate critical infrastructure using the types of data we collect to make sound decisions.”

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