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Climate Change Could Open Up ‘Rivers in The Sky’ Over East Asia

Climate Change Could Open Up ‘Rivers in The Sky’ Over East Asia

We know that the climate crisis is already having a profound effect on global weather systems, altering temperatures, rainfall, wind patterns, and more – and a new study predicts likely deluges over the mountainous parts of East Asia in the future.

The pouring rain will be brought on by atmospheric rivers, scientists predict. These narrow corridors of concentrated moisture can quickly cause flooding when they hit a barrier such as a mountain range, releasing vast amounts of water in a short space of time.

According to the researchers’ models, rainfall events in East Asia will be more frequent and more severe in the coming decades as the planet warms up. More water will be transported through the air, and more precipitation will land on the ground.

“We find that both the atmospheric river-related water vapor transport and rainfall intensify over the southern and western slopes of mountains over East Asia in a warmer climate,” write the researchers in their published paper.

“Atmospheric rivers will bring unprecedented extreme rainfall over East Asia under global warming.”

Generally speaking, atmospheric rivers pick up moisture from warmer areas and deposit it over colder regions. Their movements are controlled by changes in wind and temperature – just the sort of changes that climate change can bring about.

When it comes to regions such as Japan, Taiwan, northeastern China, and the Korean Peninsula, the rainfall could reach record-breaking levels, the study reports. Most rain will land on the southwestern slopes of the Japanese Alps.

To reach their conclusions, the scientists ran simulations based on meteorological data collected from 1951 to 2010, modeling that data out to the year 2090 and assuming an increase in temperature in line with the more extreme scenarios of climate change.

“We used high-resolution global atmospheric circulation model simulations as well as regional climate model downscaling simulations,” says environmental scientist Yoichi Kamae from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

""A radar scan showing atmospheric river movement. (Y. Kamae et al., Geophysical Review Letters, 2022)

There has been plenty of previous research into these atmospheric rivers, but it’s still not fully clear how these bands of moisture will change as the climate does – especially as their behavior is determined by topological features as well as the movements of warmer and cooler air.

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Extreme weather events – including powerful heat waves and devastating floods – are now the new normal, says the World Meteorological Organisation.

For some regions, increased rainfall will be a benefit; for others, extreme weather conditions could cause dangerous, life-threatening flooding. This is just the latest link between climate change and an increasing frequency of extreme weather events.

The researchers say that the modeling could also apply to other areas where atmospheric rivers might develop. While a lot of uncertainty remains, it seems probable from this and other studies that certain parts of the globe are going to see a lot more rainfall in the coming decades.

“Our findings are likely also applicable to other regions of the mid-latitudes where interactions between atmospheric rivers and steep mountains play a major role in precipitation, such as in western North America and Europe,” says Kamae.

“These regions may also experience more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events as the climate warms.”

The research has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.


David Nield at Science Alert

Shell’s massive carbon capture facility in Canada emits far more than it captures

Shell’s massive carbon capture facility in Canada emits far more than it captures

The “Quest” plant in Alberta, Canada, owned by oil giant Shell, has previously been touted as a “thriving example” of how CCS is working to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

One of the only facilities in the world that uses carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) to reduce the emissions of hydrogen production has been found to emit far more greenhouse gas emissions than it captures.

The Quest plant in Alberta, Canada, owned by oil giant Shell and designed to capture carbon emissions from oil sands operations and safely store them underground, has previously been touted as a “thriving example” of how CCS is working to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

However, an investigation by watchdog group Global Witness, published last week, showed that while 5 million tons of carbon dioxide had been prevented from escaping into the atmosphere at the plant since 2015, it also released 7.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases over the same period.

The investigation noted that, per year, that’s the equivalent carbon footprint of 1.2 million gasoline cars.

It means just 48% of the plant’s carbon emissions were captured, according to the report. That’s far short of the 90% carbon capture rate promised by the industry for these types of projects in general.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for Shell told CNBC via email that Global Witness’ analysis was “simply wrong” and stressed that the Quest facility was designed to capture around a third of carbon dioxide emissions.

Energy transition

Proponents of CCS believe these technologies will play an important role in meeting global energy and climate goals. And using CCS alongside hydrogen production, which is sometimes referred to as “blue hydrogen” or “fossil hydrogen,” has been pushed by the oil and gas industry as a potential solution to the energy transition.

Climate researchers, campaigners and environmental advocacy groups have repeatedly admonished CCS as a climate solution, however, arguing that not only do these technologies have a history of failure, but backing these projects prolongs our reliance on the fossil fuel industry and distracts from a much-needed pivot to renewable alternatives.

“Oil and gas companies’ promotion of fossil hydrogen is a fig leaf for them to carry on with their toxic practices – the extraction and burning of fossil fuels,” Dominic Eagleton, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness, said in a statement.

“The single best way for companies like Shell to help tackle the climate crisis is to phase out all fossil fuel operations, rather than find ways to hide their climate-wrecking activity behind false solutions.”

The burning of fossil fuels such as oil and gas is the chief driver of the climate emergency and researchers have repeatedly stressed that the best weapon to tackle rising global temperatures is to cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.

Yet, even as politicians and business leaders publicly acknowledge the necessity of transitioning to renewable alternatives, current policy trends show that our reliance on fossil fuels is not likely to go away — or even decline — any time soon.

‘Demonstration project’

Shell’s Quest CCS facility opened in late 2015 near Edmonton, Alberta and is part of the group’s Scotford complex, where hydrogen is produced for use in refining oil sands bitumen (a type of petroleum deposit). The Quest plant does not cover the emissions for the entire facility.

“Our Quest facility was designed some years ago as a demonstration project to prove the underlying CCS concept, while capturing around a third of CO2 emissions. It is not a hydrogen production facility,” the Shell spokesperson said.

“The hydrogen projects we’re planning – like Polaris – will use a new technology that captures more than 90% of emissions. Global Witness are comparing apples with pears.”

Shell announced plans in July last year to build a large-scale CCS project called Polaris at its Scotford refinery and chemicals plant. The initial phase is expected to start operations in the middle of the decade subject to an investment decision by the company next year.

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Court instructs company to stop tests along Wild Coast after concerns raised about wildlife and lack of consultation


The world’s biggest carbon-capture plant – which sucks carbon dioxide out of the air – just opened. A UN report says carbon capture technology is necessary if the world wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. But many experts think the tech is too expensive and not scalable in the next few decades.

A ‘serious blow’ to fossil hydrogen

Global Witness said its findings are likely to deliver a “serious blow” to fossil hydrogen proponents pushing for more public funds to support its use, noting that $654 million of the $1 billion costs of Shell’s Quest facility stemmed from Canadian government subsidies.

Eagleton described the analysis as “yet another nail in the coffin” for claims made by the oil and gas industry that fossil hydrogen is climate-friendly.

“Governments cannot let the wool be pulled over their eyes to invest vital public funds in projects that will not deliver what’s needed to avert climate disaster. Instead, they should use that money to end our reliance on fossil fuels and direct it towards renewable alternatives,” Eagleton said.

Commenting on the report, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said via Twitter on Saturday: “This is exactly what happens when people in power care more about their reputation and imagery than to actually reduce emissions.”


Sam Meredith at CNBC

Scientists find there are 70% fewer pollinators, due to air pollution

Scientists find there are 70% fewer pollinators, due to air pollution

Air pollution significantly reduces pollination by confusing butterflies and bees, lessening their ability to sniff out crops and wildflowers

Insects provide pollination of important food crops and native wildflowers, but researchers sought to understand how air pollution affects different pollinating insect species, of which, some rely on scent above all other senses.

Scientists studying air pollutants from both urban and rural environments found that there are up to 70% fewer pollinators, up to 90% less flower visits, and an overall 31% in pollination reduction in test plants when there were several common ground-level air pollutants present – including diesel exhaust pollutants and ozone.

Common air pollutants are diminishing the insect’s pollination by inhibiting them from sniffing out the crops and wildflowers that depend on them. Pollination supports around 8% of the total value of agricultural food production worldwide and is a huge contributor to food security and the economy.

The study, published in Environmental Pollution, highlights the negative impact of common air pollutants on pollination in the natural environment. The researchers theorise that the pollutants react with and change the scents of flowers, making them harder to find.

Diesel fumes can alter floral odours

Pollution could contribute to the continual decline of pollinating insects, by making it harder for them to locate their food (pollen and nectar), and previous laboratory studies have shown that diesel fumes can alter floral odours.

The study used a purpose-built fumigation facility to regulate levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) – present in diesel exhaust fumes – and ozone in an open field environment. The researchers observed the effects these pollutants had on the pollination of black mustard plants by free-flying, locally-occurring, pollinating insects over the course of two summer field seasons.

The study only used pollution concentrations below maximum average levels, equating to 40-50% of the limits currently defined as safe for the environment by US law. These concentrations of pollution are minor in comparison, with the far higher levels of pollution that occur around the world due to breaches of regulations.

In 2019, outside of London, an analysis revealed illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide were recorded in local authorities in large areas of northern England, including Cheshire and Gateshead, and south England, including Wiltshire, Chichester and rural areas such as the New Forest.

“The impacts we found in the field were much more dramatic than we had expected.”

Dr Robbie Girling, Associate Professor in Agroecology at the University of Reading, who led the project, said: “We knew from our previous lab studies that diesel exhaust can have negative effects on insect pollinators, but the impacts we found in the field were much more dramatic than we had expected.”

Dr James Ryalls, a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow at the University of Reading, who conducted the study, added: “The findings are worrying because these pollutants are commonly found in the air many of us breathe every day. We know that these pollutants are bad for our health, and the significant reductions we saw in pollinator numbers and activity shows that there are also clear implications for the natural ecosystems we depend on.”

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70% of all crop species depend on pollination

The analysis of data exposed there were 62-70% fewer pollinator visits to the plants located in polluted air.

This decrease was seen in numerous pollinator groups – particularly bees, moths, hoverflies and butterflies – and based on seed yield and other factors, there were also 83-90% fewer flower visits by these insects, and ultimately a 14-31% reduction in pollination.

Researchers predict that these findings will have wide ranging implications as insect pollination delivers hundreds of billions of pounds worth of economic value every year. It supports around 8% of the total value of agricultural food production worldwide, with 70% of all crop species – including apples, strawberries and cocoa – relying on it.

Dr Christian Pfrang, Reader in Atmospheric Science at the University of Birmingham and a co-author on the study, said: “This truly cross-disciplinary work demonstrated very clearly how atmospheric pollutants negatively impact on pollination with direct consequences for food production as well as the resilience of our natural environment.”

Scientists from the University of Reading, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the University of Birmingham are continuing studies into the effects of air pollution on insect health and their interactions with the environment.


Open Access Government

Harder than concrete but much more ecological: ByFusion turn tons of non-recyclable plastic into building blocks

Harder than concrete but much more ecological: ByFusion turn tons of non-recyclable plastic into building blocks

As much as we fight against single-use plastics, millions of tons continue to be produced. Some are reused, but there is a large amount of plastic that cannot be recycled. Fortunately, there are some solutions to reuse this huge amount of material.

That’s what Los Angeles-based company ByFusion does. Through a vaporization and compression process, they shape the plastics into blocks that they call ByBlocks and can be used for construction as they have a resistance as high as concrete.

More than 100 tons of plastic have already been turned into blocks

Byfusion plastic blocks

ByFusion blocks are strong enough to be used in any type of construction. We talk from houses to bus stops, passing through walls and other types of barriers. Its base size is 16 x 8 x 8 inches, which is about 40 x 20 x 20 centimeters .

As described by the company, the blocks are lighter than their equivalent in cement. Approximately 4.5 kilos less. But they claim they are just as durable.

The true innovation of this company is not the blocks, but the machine that allows them to be compacted. These machines are called Blockers. Blockers can turn tons of plastic into blocks without the need to classify or clean them.

ByFusion currently has one of these machines installed at its headquarters with the capacity to process up to 450 tons of plastic per year. The intention is to have up to 12 of these machines before the end of the year. To date, the company claims that it has already compacted 103 tons of non-recyclable plastic.

House made of plastic blocks

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The Dutch studio’s limited-edition collection titled The Elements, showcasing wave-like 3D encoded beach furniture, is digitally manufactured from 80 per cent recycled plastic.

This company intends to distribute its machines on a large scale so that companies and municipalities can reuse all the non-recyclable plastic.

Among the uses that have been given to these blocks is the construction of a house. Of course, as part of these plastics can be susceptible to sunlight, the company explains that they must be covered with resistant paint designed for exteriors.

In the creation process, no type of glue or addition is incorporated. If we have 20 kilos of garbage, the material will be enough to make 20 kilos of blocks. An ingenious solution that can be an interesting patch to take advantage of all those plastics that should disappear, but unfortunately they are still very present.



California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines

California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines

Renewable diesel is touted as a cleaner-burning fuel, but a recent study has shown the fuel falls short on one measure of reducing pollution from new truck engines – giving pause to California regulators who support increased production.

The state, the largest vehicle market in the country, has aggressively moved to curtail fossil fuel emissions from all vehicles while also encouraging production of renewable diesel – seen as key for reducing emissions in hard-to-electrify sources like trucking.

The efforts are part of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a rule designed to decrease the carbon intensity of the state’s transportation fuel.

Renewable diesel lowers greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based diesel. The fuel has also been promoted as a way to cut emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a harmful pollutant that contributes to ozone deterioration and causes respiratory problems.

However, engines made more recently emit more NOx when running on renewable diesel, especially when blended with 35% biodiesel or more, compared with conventional diesel, according to a study released by California Air Resources Board (CARB) in November.

Trucks arrive to pick up containers at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

That could affect the way regulators revise the LCFS, which spurred investment in renewable diesel, made from fats and vegetable oils.

State regulators are considering changes to the LCFS that align with a 2022 goal to bring various California regions into compliance with national air quality standards. The study means regulators could have to consider whether renewable diesel increases emissions in areas with worse air quality.

CARB said it has “identified several questions about the study results” that require further evaluation, and will be accepting public comment on the study until the end of January.

Regulators did not respond to a request for comment.

Heavy-duty vehicles are one of the largest contributors to NOx emissions – a precursor of ozone and particulate matter formation. Improved emissions control technology has helped NOx emissions fall by 60% between 1990 and 2019 nationwide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A fuel nozzle from a bio diesel fuel pump is seen in this photo illustration taken at a filling station in San Diego, California January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Companies and regulators had previously purported that renewable diesel reduced NOx emissions by 10%, citing the results of earlier studies that examined the fuel’s performance in older engines.

But trucks with newer engines that ran renewable diesel did not meaningfully lower NOx emissions, according to the study. While these new technology diesel engines, or ‘NTDE’ engines, are present in only 43% of the state’s commercial vehicle registrations, they account for more than 75% of the miles traveled among the state’s heavy-duty fleet.

“CARB threw caution to the wind and opened the door to renewable diesel’s unlimited use without having properly studied NOx emissions impact in NTDEs,” said Pat McDuff, chief executive officer at Glendale-based California Fueling, in a public comment submitted in January.

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He urged California regulators to reverse regulatory changes that prohibit his company from selling fuel additives meant to decrease NOx emissions in biodiesel.

The state is trying to bring 19 regions into compliance with air quality standards enacted in 2015. In two regions – the south coast and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin – CARB has targeted lowering NOx emissions as one way of improving air quality. In 2020 regulators adopted a new regulation to reduce NOx emissions 90% by 2027.

Renewable diesel generally cuts greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, said Tristan Brown, associate professor of energy resource economics at SUNY and advisor on New York’s Climate Action Council.

Brown noted most biodiesel blending in the United States is 20% or less. “The real question is what amount of NOx is emitted by NTDE engines at volumes of 10% and 20% biodiesel blend levels, and that is not reported by the study,” Brown said.


Laura Sanicola via Reuters

Giant canyon discovered underneath Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica, revealing history behind rising sea levels

Giant canyon discovered underneath Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica, revealing history behind rising sea levels

Australian Antarctic expeditioners have discovered an enormous, 2-kilometre-deep canyon underneath a glacier that may make it more vulnerable to warming oceans.

The discovery also indicates the Vanderford Glacier in East Antarctica once extended 60km further than it currently does and had a significant role in rising sea levels.

Voyage leader Lloyd Symons said the canyon extended at least 3.5km underneath the glacier, which might be influencing how quickly the ice was melting.

“The fact that there is such a deep canyon beneath this glacier would perhaps allow the possibility for warming waters to get underneath the glacier,” Mr Symons told the ABC.

“One of the issues for Antarctic glaciers at the moment is them being eaten away from underneath by warming waters coming down from the north.”

The Southern Ocean circulates warming waters from around the world, pushing them deep towards Antarctica where they lap against the colder ice.

Large glacier in Antarctica sits in sea
The Vanderford Glacier is slowly sliding into a warming Southern Ocean, contributing to rising sea levels.(ABC News: Henry Belot)

“If there is a deep channel underneath this glacier, then it’s possible that may not bode well for the Vanderford Glacier, but that, of course, requires further study,” Mr Symons said.

Satellite data from NASA indicates the surface height of the Vanderford Glacier has shrunk by about two metres since 2008.

East Antarctica has long been considered to be less affected by climate change than West Antarctica, which is below South America.

But recent studies of NASA satellite images indicate that is beginning to change, particularly around Vincennes Bay where the Vanderford Glacier ends.

A 3d image of a sectino of antarctica showing a long canyon in the middle in green
A 3D model of the canyon found under the Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica.(Supplied)

Trench indicates where glacier once stood

The 60km trench extending away from the glacier is likely to indicate where it once stood before melting.

“This immense canyon that we have found really just gives us a very clear indication of just how big this glacier was perhaps tens of thousands of years ago,” Mr Symons said.

The discovery was made by Australia’s new icebreaking ship, Nuyina, while testing cold water systems near the glacier and Australia’s largest research station, Casey.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley described the discovery as “stunning” and early proof that Nuyina’s acoustic technology was world leading.

“The Nuyina is demonstrating that Australia has opened the door to new levels of polar research that will help us unlock secrets of Southern Ocean maritime ecosystems, strengthen our reach inland and our understanding of the world’s climate,” Ms Ley said.

Large ship seen from above.
Expeditioners on Australia’s new icebreaking ship, Nuyina, made the discovery.(Australian Antarctic Division/Flying Focus)

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Floyd Howard was one of the acoustics officers who mapped the canyon over a 24-hour period.

“We were using the multi-beam echosounders to map the ocean floor as we were in an area with limited charts,” Mr Howard said.

“The multi-beam sends out sound that bounces off the seabed and then it listens to the echoes — like a bat or a dolphin — and measures how long they take to return back to the ship.

“You would expect there to be a glacial trough in front of the glacier from when sea levels were lower, but we didn’t expect it to be so deep and so spectacular.”

The findings will now be shared with glaciologists and climate scientists who will be able to determine the impact this canyon is having on the glacier.


Henry Belot at ABC News

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

An oil spill on the Peruvian coast caused by the waves from an eruption of an undersea volcano in the South Pacific nation of Tonga prompted dozens of fishermen to protest Tuesday outside the South American country’s main oil refinery.

The men gathered outside the refinery in the province of Callao near Lima’s capital. Peru’s environment minister, Rubén Ramírez, told reporters that authorities estimate 6,000 barrels of oil were spilled in the area rich in marine biodiversity.

Under the eyes of police, the fishermen carried a large Peruvian flag, fishing nets and signs that read “no to ecological crime,” “economically affected families” and “Repsol killer of marine fauna,” which referred to the Spain-based company that manages La Pampilla refinery, which processes around 117,000 oil barrels a day, according its website. They demanded to speak with company representatives, but no executive had approached them.

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

Image 1 of 9

A cyclist shows his oil-covered hands after stopping to put them into the polluted water on Cavero beach in Ventanilla, Callao, Peru, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, after high waves attributed to the eruption of an undersea volcano in Tonga caused an oil spill. The Peruvian Civil Defense Institute said in a press release that a ship was loading oil into La Pampilla refinery on the Pacific coast on Sunday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

The company did not immediately returned an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“There is a massacre of all the hydrobiological biodiversity,” said Roberto Espinoza, leader of the local fishermen. “In the midst of a pandemic, having the sea that feeds us, for not having a contingency plan, they have just destroyed a base of biodiversity.”

An Italian-flagged ship was loading oil into La Pampilla on Saturday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. Repsol in a statement Sunday said the spill occurred “due to the violence of the waves.”

The eruption caused waves that crossed the Pacific. In Peru, two people drowned off a beach and there were reports of minor damage from New Zealand to Santa Cruz, California.

On Tuesday, northwest of the facility, on Cavero beach, the waves covered the sand with a shiny black liquid, along with small dead crustaceans. Fifty workers from companies that work for Repsol inside the refinery removed the oil-stained sand with shovels and piled it up on a small promontory.

Juan Carlos Riveros, biologist and scientific director in Peru of Oceana – an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans – said that the species most affected by the spill include guano birds, seagulls, terns, tendrils, sea lions and dolphins.

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“The spill also affects the main source of work for artisanal fishermen, since access to their traditional fishing areas is restricted or the target species become contaminated or die,” Riveros said. “In the short term, mistrust is generated about the quality and the consumption of fishing is discouraged, with which prices fall and income is reduced.”

Peru’s environmental assessment and enforcement agency estimates that some 18,000 square meters of beach on Peru’s Pacific coast have been affected by the spill.

In a statement, the Peruvian agency said Repsol “has not adopted immediate measures in order to prevent cumulative or more serious damage that affects the soil, water, flora, fauna and hydrobiological resources.” An AP reporter on Monday observed workers dressed in white suits collecting the spilled oil with plastic bottles cut in half.

José Llacuachaqui, another local fisherman leader, who was watching the cleanup, said the workers were only collecting the oil that reached the sand, but not the crude that was in the seawater.

“That is preying, killing, all the eggs, all the marine species,” he said.


Franklin Briceno via Associated Press

Sahara Desert Experienced Snow For the 4th Time in 42 Years!

Sahara Desert Experienced Snow For the 4th Time in 42 Years!

The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world. It is considered to be one of the harshest environments on the planet that covers 3.6 million square miles (9.4 million square kilometers) or almost one-third of the African continent and about the size of the US, including Hawaii and Alaska.

The Sahara is most famous for its sand dune fields, which are often depicted in movies. It reaches almost 600 feet (183 meters) high but only covers 15% of the entire desert, according to Live Science. But it also has mountains, plateaus, sand- and gravel-covered plains, and many more.

With the scorching hot temperature in the desert, who would have thought that it would rain snow in one of the driest places on Earth? But it did happen over the past decades and is reportedly happening for the fourth time in 42 years this time. Although this seems to be astonishing, experts claim that the snowfall is unprecedented.

Rare Snowfall Leaves Unique Patterns on Sahara’s Sand Dunes

Last January 19, the Sahara desert was reportedly covered with snow. The snow was spotted outside the town of Ain Sefra northwest of Algeria wherein it created a unique pattern on the sand dunes. Local photographer Karim Boucheta took the photos of the sand dunes streaked with crystal ice and the unusual weather in the Sahara desert that have made headlines around the world.

The dusting marks on the sand dunes is the fourth tie that the desert experienced snow in 42 years, with previous occurrences recorded in the years 1979, 2016, and 2018. Unlike this year’s rare snowfall, previous snowfalls were a lot thicker and heavier. For instance, the 2016 blizzard dumped over 3 feet (1meter) in selected regions, while the 2018 snowfall left15 inches (40 centimeters) of snow.

According to NASA, the Sahara Desert is more likely to experience snowfall at higher altitudes, like the Atlas Mountains. The American space agency said that the 2018 snow dump was even visible from space. They added that the Moroccan side of the Atlas Mountains also saw some snowfalls in 2015 and 2012.

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Why Did It Snow In the Sahara Desert?

Ain Sefra is located near the border of Algeria and Morocco. It sits about 3,800 feet (1,000 meters) above sea levels and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains. During the summer season, the region’s temperature is usually 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

However, Sky News reported that this January it averaged on by about 57 F (14 C). The night before the recent ethereal display of frost in the Sahara Desert, the temperature was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius).

According to Paul Deanno Books, for any place to receive snowfall, it needs to have two weather factors: cold air and moisture. These factors are short in supply in Africa but not in Ain Sefra, which makes snow unusual but not impossible.

That means cold plus precipitation could result in snow even in the world’s driest place, which happened again for the fourth time in 42 years.


Erika P. at The Science Times

Could the Red Sea’s heat-resilient corals help restore the world’s dying reefs?

Could the Red Sea’s heat-resilient corals help restore the world’s dying reefs?

Corals in the Gulf of Aqaba have a unique evolutionary history that could help them survive the climate crisis. Scientists even hope to breed their resilience into other reefs.

Beneath the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern tip of the Red Sea, lies a bustling city of colorful corals. At sunrise, fish emerge from their coral shelters, joining eels, turtles and octopuses to swim through these teeming waters. 

This vibrant scene is untouched by the mass bleaching that has plagued reefs elsewhere. Most corals can only survive within a narrow temperature range. As oceans get warmer, stressed corals evict their energy-producing algae and lose their color. When corals bleach and die, entire ecosystems can collapse with them. 

Corals, like these on the Great Barrier Reef, have already succumbed to warming waters, leaving a ghostly underwater landscape bleached of once-vibrant life

A recent study found that 14% of the world’s coral reefs were lost in less than a decade. Ravaged by global heating, pollution and habitat destruction, global coral reef cover has halved since the 1950s. Experts predict that up to 90% of corals could perish in the coming decades. 

But some hope is emerging from the northern shores of the Red Sea, as Aqaba’s corals appear unaffected by steadily warming waters. 

“We found that the corals in Aqaba could withstand temperatures far above the summer maximum of 27 degrees [Celsius],”  (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) said Maoz Fine, a marine biology professor who led research on coral heat-resilience at The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel.

Map of the location of Gulf of Aqaba

Hope from the Red Sea 

Fine and his team designed an aquarium system to simulate future conditions in the Red Sea and ran experiments on what makes the corals in Aqaba so resilient. 

While most corals will bleach within a degree or two above their normal range, experiments showed that Aqaba’s corals could endure temperatures up to six degrees Celsius higher than the maximum summer temperature they’re usually exposed to. 

“We tested about 20 different species of corals, and all of them showed high tolerance to thermal stress,” said Fine. “Despite rising temperatures, the corals never bleached.”

This resilience to heat is thought to be a product of how corals migrated into the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean during the last Ice Age, some 20,000 years ago.

To reach the Gulf of Aqaba, corals had to pass through the Gulf of Aden and the southern part of the Red Sea, where water temperatures are much higher. Over generations, larvae of surviving corals moved north and populated areas with significantly lower water temperatures, but they retained their heat resilience.  

The ‘Red Sea Simulator’ allows scientist to study Aqaba’s uniqely heat-resistant corals

“These corals were selected for high temperatures, but they live in temperatures about six degrees below their bleaching threshold,” said Fine. 

Although corals in other regions are adapted to warmer waters, Fine said no other corals have such a large gap between the maximum temperatures of the waters they live in and their bleaching thresholds. “This is one of the few places we know where corals will be able to survive global warming,” he said.

As coral reefs face mass destruction across the globe due to rising temperatures, researchers and conservationists hope the Gulf of Aqaba could become a refuge for the world’s remaining corals. 

Could Aqaba’s corals help other reefs? 

“Aqaba’s corals could be a source to repopulate reefs if corals die everywhere else,” according to Manuel Aranda, a marine biologist at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. 

The problem, Aranda said, is scale. 

“The Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy. We can’t plant reefs the way we spread seeds on land,” he said, since coral plantation requires divers to go into the water and manually fix coral fragments grown in nurseries. 

Coral plantations are too costly and time-consuming, and species introductions are often very challenging. But Aranda is part of a research group at KAUST that is working to identify heat-resilient corals and cross-breed them with coral populations elsewhere to increase their heat tolerance.

Corals support a rich diversity of marine life that’s acutely vulnerable to climate change

“Usually, it takes many generations for corals to adapt,” said Aranda. But the planet is warming faster than this process of adaptation. He hopes to speed up genetic exchanges to give corals a chance of keeping up with rising temperatures: “We hope that with cross-breeding, we don’t have to plant corals, they will reproduce themselves.” 

But this method still takes time and Fine isn’t convinced it will work on a large-scale. He believes the focus should be on identifying and preserving resilient reefs, rather than trying to grow corals elsewhere. 

“What we can offer is knowledge, understanding which genes were selected down south when entering the Red Sea and what that means for thermal resilience,” Fine said.  

‘We owe it to future generations’

About 25% of all marine species live in and around coral reefs, making them among the most diverse habitats in the world. 

“The Gulf of Aqaba has a very diverse ecosystem,” said Jordanian conservationist Ehab Eid. “In Jordan, we have identified 157 species of hard corals and there are over 500 species of fish. More than half of them depend on the corals.”

In addition to providing vital habitats for marine life, coral reefs also provide food and medicines, protect shorelines, and secure the livelihoods of over 500 million people worldwide. 

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Corals are the foundation species of tropical reefs worldwide, but stresses ranging from overfishing to pollution to warming oceans are killing corals and degrading the critical ecosystem services they provide.


A “game changing” 20-year effort suggests that even severely depleted marine ecosystems can be brought back to life.

Despite their resilience to high temperatures, Aqaba’s corals are vulnerable to pollution and unsustainable urban coastal development, putting at risk the livelihoods of the many people in Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt who depend on fishing and tourism in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Fishermen in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, whose catch depends on the coral ecosystem, say fisheries aren’t as plentiful as they used to be

“The corals are essential for fish here,” said Ibrahim Riady, who has worked as a fisherman in the Jordanian city of Aqaba for over two decades. “Our livelihoods depend on them.” He and other local fishermen said their catches had declined over the last decades. 

Scientists are calling for the reef to be protected to ensure the gulf can serve as a refuge for corals that, if they survive local threats, could revive reefs elsewhere. “The Gulf of Aqaba might be one of the last reefs standing at the end of the century,” said Eid. “It’s a treasure. We owe it to future generations to preserve it.”


Marta Vidal at DW

Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms

Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms

A dangerous winter storm brought significant snowfall, strong thunderstorms and blustery winds to the northeastern U.S. on a holiday Monday.

The storm system dropped a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow in parts of New York state, Ohio and Pennsylvania Sunday night through Monday morning after pummeling parts of the Southeast on Sunday.

“We’ve had a very strong area of low pressure that’s kind of moved up the coast, with pretty heavy snowfall accumulations from Tennessee, North Carolina all the way into the northeast,” said meteorologist Marc Chenard at the weather service’s headquarters in College Park, Maryland.

Forecasters in Buffalo, New York, said almost 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow fell by 1 p.m. Monday. The city advised people not to travel if they didn’t need to on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while some surrounding towns instituted a travel ban.

“WOW! (Latest) snow measurement at 1 AM was 4.6 inches in the last hour at the Buffalo Airport!” the National Weather Service in Buffalo tweeted overnight. “And tack on another 4 inches in the last hour ending at 2 AM! Total so far since late Sun evening – 10.2 inches.”


Image 1 of 13

Snow, a four-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier runs through the snow with his companion, Marlin Rayney from Wilkinsburg in tow during his morning walk/run along Braddock Avenue Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Weather service meteorologist Alexa Maines said 15 inches (38 centimeters) or more of snow were reported in Cleveland, Ohio, and 25 inches (63 centimeters) in parts of Ashtabula County in the northeast corner of the state.

Power outages affected tens of thousands of customers in the northeast, and hundreds of flights were canceled. Many COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites had to close down.

New York City got less than an inch of snow, which was washed away by rain overnight. The weather service said spotty showers and snow showers might continue through Monday night.

Forecasters said wind gusts in New York City could top out around 45 mph (72 kph), and around 60 mph (97 kph) on Long Island.

Sleet and rain were the main threats for much of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Periods of snowfall transitioned to rain overnight. NWS meteorologists in Boston said wind gusts could reach 70 mph (113 kph).

The howling winds spread a fire that destroyed a motel and two other structures in coastal Salisbury, Massachusetts, early Monday.

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Extreme weather events – including powerful heat waves and devastating floods – are now the new normal, says the World Meteorological Organisation.

Lightning bolts descend from dark clouds in northern Alaska. Lightning tracker Vaisala reported a significant uptick in far-northern Arctic lightning in 2021.


As extreme weather wreaked havoc across the globe in 2021, a stunning change was happening in the far northern Arctic, largely out of sight but detectable by a network of sensors. Lightning increased significantly in the region around the North Pole, which scientists say is a clear sign of how the climate crisis is altering global weather.

The storm brought similar conditions Sunday to the Southeast, where thousands were still without power Monday.

Multiple states reported heavy snowfall, and two people died Sunday in North Carolina when their car drove off the road. The roof of a dormitory partially collapsed in the state at Brevard College, with officials saying it broke under the weight of snow. There were no injuries.

Severe thunderstorms in Florida spun up a tornado with 118 mph (190 kph) winds, destroying 30 mobile homes and majorly damaging 51 more. Three minor injuries were reported.

Wet roadways in the South were expected to refreeze Monday, creating icy conditions for motorists.

Plow trucks were scattered along roads and highways up the East Coast, working to clear the way for travelers. Some crashes were reported in the early morning hours, including an ambulance involved in a wreck on Interstate 279 in Pittsburgh, KDKA-TV reported. It was unclear whether anyone was injured.


Julie Walker & Karen Matthews via Associated Press