Wednesday November 20, 2019

Scientists to be Trapped in Ice to Study the Impact of Climate Change on Arctic

"We as scientists, I think, have the obligation to produce the robust scientific basis for political decisions," Rex said

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arctic, climate change
The German Arctic research vessel Polarstern is docked for maintenance in Bremerhaven, Germany, July 3, 2019. VOA

Cranes hoist cargo onto the deck, power tools scream out and workers bustle through the maze of passageways inside the German icebreaker RV Polarstern, preparations for a yearlong voyage that organizers say is unprecedented in scale and ambition.

In a couple of months, the hulking ship will set out for the Arctic packed with supplies and scientific equipment for a mission to explore the planet’s frigid far north. The icebreaker will be the base for scientists from 17 nations studying the impact of climate change on the Arctic and how it could affect the rest of the world.

“So far we have always been locked out of that region and we lack even the basic observations of the climate processes in the central Arctic from winter,” said Markus Rex of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, who will lead the 140 million-euro ($158 million) expedition.

“We are going to change that for the first time,” Rex told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday aboard the Polarstern at its dock in Bremerhaven, Germany.

arctic, climate change
Markus Rex, an atmospheric scientist and leader of the MOSAiC expedition, points to a map, on the bridge of the German Arctic research vessel Polarstern in Bremerhaven, Germany, July 3, 2019. VOA

Scientists plan to sail the ship into the Arctic Ocean, anchor it to a large piece of sea ice and allow the water to freeze around them, effectively trapping themselves in the vast sheet of white that forms over the North Pole each winter.

As temperatures drop and the days get shorter, they’ll race against time to build temporary winter research camps on the ice, allowing them to perform tests that wouldn’t be possible at other times of the year or by satellite sensing.

“We can do a lot with robotics and other things, but in the end, the visual, the manual observation and also the measurement, that’s still what we need,” said Marcel Nicolaus, a German sea ice physicist who will be part of the international mission. “We need to go out, establish that ice camp.”

Dozens of scientists from the United States, China, Russia and other countries will be on board the Polarstern at any one time, rotating every two months as other icebreakers bring fresh supplies and a new batch of eager researchers.

arctic, climate change
Markus Rex, an atmospheric scientist and leader of the MOSAiC expedition, examines equipment loaded onto the German Arctic research vessel Polarstern in Bremerhaven, Germany, on July 3, 2019. VOA

The mission is considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many scientists, even those who are veterans of multiple Arctic expeditions. It is receiving substantial funding from U.S. institutions such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

By combining measurements on the ice with data collected from satellites, scientists hope to improve the increasingly sophisticated computer models they use to predict weather and climate.

The interdisciplinary work spans several fields of science, including physics, chemistry and biology. Its overarching purpose — to answer key questions about global warming — means there’s no time for national rivalry, said Rex. “The different geopolitical interests don’t play a role in our research community,” he said.

The mission’s international collaboration and scope have drawn comparisons with the International Space Station, the most expensive and remote outpost mankind has yet created. “Actually, we’ll be farther away from civilization because the space station is in an orbit only 400 to 500 kilometers high,” Rex said.

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Workers clean the deck after carrying out maintenance on the German Arctic research vessel Polarstern in Bremerhaven, Germany, July 3, 2019. Scientists from 17 nations are preparing for a year-long mission to the central Arctic. Pixabay

Once the Polarstern is carried into the depth of the Arctic night, far off the coast of northern Greenland, the scientists will be on their own, making any emergency evacuation almost impossible. “We’ll be isolated,” Rex said. “No other icebreaker can then reach us because the ice will be too thick.”

While the ship has a fully equipped medical station, the aim is to avoid any calamity on board, said Verena Mohaupt, a logistics expert who has spent months preparing safety measures for the mission.

This includes creating a perimeter fence on the ice that will sound a loud alarm if a polar bear approaches. “We’re going to have to experiment and hope it works,” said Mohaupt.

The MOSAiC mission, which stands for Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, comes about 125 years after Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen first managed to seal his wooden expedition ship, Fram, into the ice during a three-year expedition to the North Pole.

arctic, climate change
The German Arctic research vessel Polarstern is docked for maintenance in Bremerhaven, Germany, July 3, 2019. VOA

Since then, scientific understanding of the role the Arctic plays in the world’s climate has grown, though so has concern about the changes being observed, such as increasingly early sea ice melts.

Scientists now believe the cold cap that forms each year is key to regulating weather patterns and temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere. Anything that disrupts the Arctic will be felt further south, they say.

ALSO READ: Rising Heat from Climate Change Leading to Loss of 80 Million Jobs by 2030

Rex cited the polar vortices that blasted cold air as far as Florida last winter and the early summer heat wave in Europe as prime examples of the impact that a change in the Arctic weather system might entail.

“The dramatic warming of the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” he said, adding that understanding the processes at play in the far north is crucial if world leaders are to make the right decisions to curb climate change. “We as scientists, I think, have the obligation to produce the robust scientific basis for political decisions,” Rex said. (VOA)

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Climate Change Would Affect Health Of Indian Children: Lancet

Climate change would hit health of Indian children hard, says study by Lancet

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Children in India will be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change. Pixabay

Children in India will be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change such as worsening air quality, higher food prices and rise in infectious diseases, warns a new study published in the journal The Lancet.

Climatic suitability for the Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera is rising three per cent a year in India since the early 1980s, said the report.

“With its huge population and high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and malnutrition, few countries are likely to suffer from the health effects of climate change as much as India,” said study co-author Poornima Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India.

“Diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to the one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India, could soon become the norm,” Prabhakaran said.

Through adolescence and into adulthood, a child born today will be breathing more toxic air, driven by the fossil fuels and made worse by rising temperatures.

This is especially damaging to young people as their lungs are still developing, so polluted air takes a great toll, contributing to reduced lung function, worsening asthma, and increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Later in life, a child born today will face increased risk from severe floods, prolonged droughts, and wildfires.

 

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Children in India breathe toxic air and may develop lung diseases. Pixabay

Most countries have experienced an increase in people exposed to wildfires since 2001-2004 with a financial toll per person 48 times larger than flooding.

India alone saw an increase of more than 21 million exposures, and China around 17 million, resulting in direct deaths and respiratory illness as well as loss of homes, said the report.

“Over the past two decades, the Government of India has launched many initiatives and programmes to address a variety of diseases and risk factors. But this report shows that the public health gains achieved over the past 50 years could soon be reversed by the changing climate,” Prabhakaran said.

The “Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change” is a yearly analysis tracking progress across 41 key indicators, demonstrating what action to meet Paris Agreement targets — or business as usual — means for human health.

The project is a collaboration between 120 experts from 35 institutions including the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank, University College London, and Tsinghua University.

For the world to meet its UN climate goals and protect the health of the next generation, the energy landscape will have to change drastically, the report warns.

Also Read- Prince Charles Talks Climate Change in India

Nothing short of a 7.4 per cent year-on-year cut in fossil CO2 emissions from 2019 to 2050 will limit global warming to the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degree Celsius, said the report. If the world follows a business-as-usual pathway, with high carbon emissions and climate change continuing at the current rate, a child born today will face a world on average over 4 degree Celsius warmer by their 71st birthday, threatening their health at every stage of their lives. (IANS)