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Melting Ice In Western Antarctica Decreases Earth’s Gravity

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antarcticaThe Western portion of Antarctica has melted so much over the past few years that Earth’s gravity is weaker than it used to be. I’m just going to leave that here and let it sink in for a second.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has special satellites that it uses to measure variations in Earth’s gravitational field. Basically, the mission involves sending up two satellites that remain in orbit near one another. Because of their proximity, slight changes between their positions signify changes in gravity, which computer programs then interpret. From 2009-2013, the ESA conducted the “Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer” (GOCE) mission, which gave scientists thorough and accurate gravitational measurements on an unprecedented level. The program was able to map the predictable variations due to the planet’s rotation and other geological shifts, but the most recently measured shift is much more substantial than that.

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Caribbean Coral Reefs May Only Have A Couple Decades Left

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dead reefI went snorkeling in Belize with a lifelong resident of Caye Caulker. This guy, who actually screened people before allowing them on his boat and denied the trip to anyone he deemed unworthy, had an uncanny relationship with the sea creatures of the Caribbean. He once rescued a baby shark that got too close to shore, and said that shark would visit him frequently when he dove. I didn’t believe him until I saw it — he slipped into the water and sharks flocked to him. He wrestled with them as though they were dogs; he put a stingray on his stomach and floated on his back. He had photos of fish he saw again and again, who he referred to as his family. No water experience I’ve ever had, including scuba diving, has held a candle to that one. While on the boat headed toward shore, he lamented about the state of the reefs. In his 70 years diving in the Caribbean, he said he’d noticed a drastic change in the coral reefs — they were bleached and dying, and he was terrified about what would happen to the whole ecosystem. He had reason to worry — recent surveys indicate that 80% of the Caribbean’s coral reef cover has died over the past 50 years. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that only 1/6th of the coral cover remains in the Caribbean, and that those are likely to disappear in the next 20 years.

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Launch Of NASA’s Climate Satellite Delayed

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NASA-OCO2-satellite-carbon-tracking-460x250While debating climate change with a denier can be like delving into a circular debate about religion or abortion, scientists will continue to amass evidence that yes, humans are drastically altering the Earth’s ecosystem in frightening ways. This is part of the reason that NASA has developed the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2), which measures carbon dioxide emissions from space. The satellite is the agency’s first dedicated to studying atmospheric C02, providing scientists with global measurements of CO2 levels and cycles. It’s a great idea, although its launch, which was scheduled for 2:56 AM today, was delayed due to equipment failure.


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British Airways Will Power Flights With Trash

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BritishAirLast year’s report by the International Panel for Climate Change
was so dire that it caused meteorologist Eric Holthaus to burst into tears. Anyone who has read this report, or any of the myriad scientific findings suggesting that humans keep digging themselves, and the planet, into a deeper and deeper hole, can probably relate to what Holthaus was feeling. Realizing that planes are one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, Holthaus Tweeted again a couple minutes later:

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El Nino Could Make Another Appearance Later This Year

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el ninoAfter this brutal, seemingly endless winter, we better be in for a summer of sunny days and warm temperatures. I know I’m deluding myself, Boston summers are humid and swampy, but a girl can dream, right? That is, until scientists had to go and announce that El Nino might return this year. All I ask is that my perfect summer not be compromised.

El Nino, the warm phase (La Nina is the cool phase), is a recurring weather pattern associated with warmer ocean temperatures, particularly in the Pacific. The results are often dramatic, and include everything from floods to droughts. Generally, surface pressure rises around Australia, Indonesia, and the Indian Ocean, while air pressure falls over the central and eastern Pacific. South Pacific trade winds are affected. They move east and/or decrease, and as the warm water moves from west to east, the western Pacific experiences drought and the eastern Pacific sees a huge increase in rainfall—as well as mudslides and all of those fun rain-related events. All of this also impacts fishing, among other trades.

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What The World Will Look Like in 100 Quintillion Years

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Tomorrow's WorldOther than time travelers, no one can tell what the future holds, but that doesn’t stop people from speculating. BBC Future has really outdone itself when it comes to prognostication. Last year they predicted what would happen over the next 150, placing events and developments on a scale from most to least likely. To compile the list, they amassed dozens of predictions made by scientists, bloggers, and other pundits. They consulted Ladbrokes, a British betting firm, to come up with the odds of these predictions actually happening, though I’m not entirely sure how they come up with the exact numbers.

According to this graphic, the BBC thinks that we’ll be able to pay $100 for the sequencing of our genomes during this calendar year, and that scientists will create the first immortal mouse by next year. They also envision Facebook being overtaken as the biggest social network by 2016. Interesting. A bunch of the predictions also have to do with climate change. We’ll be able to log-on directly from our brains in 25 years, and we’ll have a base on Mars within 50 years. None of these calculations are too difficult to imagine, but that’s because this timeline is relatively modest. Not so for BBC Future’s new timeline. These folks are nothing if not ambitious, and in their new timeline, they look forward 100 quintillion years. Not familiar with that number? That’s 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 years in the future.