Death By Ice Melt


When fretting over the future effects of climate change, one may be worrying about just how hot it will get, how many coastal cities and islands will be lost to rising oceans or the massive loss of life through drought and famine. But what about mystery diseases? Yep. Add one more thing to your climate change related anxiety list. Mystery diseases.

You see, frozen in the Arctic and Antarctic tundra and ice sheets are pathogens that have been imprisoned for more than a millennia. And climate change is going to bring about the big thaw that will set them free. Many of them have never before been encountered by modern man. Remember what happened when Europeans introduced strange pathogens to indigenous peoples in their invasive travels? Yeah, without natural resistance, those native populations were decimated with disease.

So what exactly is lurking in the permafrost and ice?

–   Example:   August, 2016, remote Siberian tundra region of the Yamal Peninsula, a 12-year-old boy dies and 20 other people hospitalized with anthrax infections.

Now, a conspiracy theorist would point the finger at the Russian government, accusing it of using these poor folk as guinea pigs in bio-terror weapons research. The reality is, as determined by medical researchers, that the anthrax was a 75-year-old reindeer strain.

A quarter of a century ago the dead reindeer were covered with permafrost where they died. The heatwave that occurred in the area in 2016 exposed the contaminated corpses. The soil was then contaminated, thus the grassland being currently grazed upon was contaminated as well. The pathogens also washed into natural water supplies during periods of rainfall.

Final result? About 2,000 head of local reindeer grazed on the infected grassland. They, in turn, infected their human herds-people. This is the future of mystery disease due to climate change. Especially since there are more than a million reindeer carcasses infected with anthrax in Arctic regions that are buried close to the surface because you can’t dig deep graves in frozen ground.

In addition to anthrax, scientists also suspect strange varieties of influenza will be released. In Alaska, there have been discovered intact viruses of Spanish flu dating back to 1918. What else might be buried in shallow graves in frozen ground around the world? Corpses infected with active strains of smallpox and bubonic plague.

One Siberian town has a mass grave containing about 40% of its population that died in a smallpox epidemic in the 1890s. Already the permafrost layer is melting and washing away. Not only will this lead to contamination in the old town’s immediate area but any part of civilization the waters of the nearby Kolyma River contact will also be in danger of infection.

And pathogens can live longer than a couple of hundred years. Back in 2005 NASA researchers were successful in resurrecting bacteria removed from a frozen Alaskan pond. The microbes were 32,000 years old.

In 2007 scientists brought back to life bacteria that was 8 million years old and another sample that was 100,000 years old. They retrieved them from a glacier in Antarctica.
But do they have the strength to be virulent after a period of dormancy that long? For the answer, just refer to the findings of French evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix Marseille University. In 2014 Claverie resurrected two viruses from Siberia’s permafrost that were 30,000 years old. Once alive again, they quickly took on infectious status. Claverie’s conclusion:

“… these ancient layers could be exposed… If viable virions are still there, this could spell disaster.”

The most dangerous virions are called  “giant viruses”. These are the ones that can survive being buried in ice, dormant for eons, and become active again. It’s because, unlike a regular virus, a giant virus has a tough genetic make-up that can survive outside a host cell. Think of it like the virus having a protective shield around its DNA that prevents biochemical degradation.

And it gets worse. It’s not just ice melt we modern day humans have to worry about. Crystals, as old as 50,000 years, dug out of a Mexican mine were found to harbor microbial bacteria, a bacteria that has not seen the surface of the earth for over 4 million years. Studies have determined that this particular bacteria is resistant to 70% of current commonly used antibiotics. Great. The gringa says, “Stop all that digging!”

How does a super-bacteria like that come about? Well, there’s not much for it to eat in a cave, isolated from water, light, etc. To survive, an organism has to be ruthless in competition with other organisms for whatever means are available for nutrition.

What the heck is being done about this? Well, the gringa would like to provide some measure of relief. This all means that the diseases that riddled Neanderthals, our ancestors, may all come back to haunt us. But thanks to scientists like Claverie the diseases our ancient ancestors suffered from are being discovered and vaccines are being created.

Sources:

BBC

PNAS

Image Credit: BBC

Video Credit: Seeker

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Are Space Aliens Transporting Through Light Streams?


There is an amazing light phenomena even more fantastic than the legendary Aurora Borealis. This particular play of light in Earth’s atmosphere is reminiscent of the special effects used by Star Trek producers to “beam” people willy-nilly to their destination of choice. For night owls and insomniacs in the farthest reaches of the Northern Hemisphere, they got to bear witness to an event that surely had some UFOlogists wondering if a mass alien abduction event was taking place.

real-aurora-borealis-wallpaper-1

 

What created these prismatic columns of light on the early morning horizon? Were space aliens zapping unsuspecting sleepers to heavenly laboratories for an exploratory prod and a poke then returning them to their beds unaware of what had happened? Sorry to crush any enthusiasm for fantastic explanations. The truth is that these were simply pillars of light, actually quite ordinary once you understand the science, despite their very extraordinary appearance.

When temperatures plunge in lower latitudes of Earth’s polar regions, there is enough moisture in the air for ice crystals to form. As light reflects off of these crystals, prismatic columns in every hue of the rainbow, blue, orange, red and white, can be seen vividly against the grayish backdrop of an arctic or sub-arctic sky. The most recent event was documented by amateur and professional photographers and videographers in Canada. The phenomena lasted for hours on January 6, allowing plenty of time for those lucky (or unfortunate, depending on how you view insomnia) enough to be awake at nearly 2am.

Source: Live Science

Image Credits: API NY

From Behind The Pen

Wild Sound Movies

Video Credit: Timmy Joe YouTube Channel

Is A UEP Coming From A UFO?


“What is a UEP?” the gringa’s dear readers ask. That would be an Unidentified Eerie Ping. And it’s being heard up north in places like the Canadian Arctic, specifically from the seafloor of the northern territories. If you think this might be just UFOlogists gone crazy, Canada’s Department of National Defense has been on the job trying to find out just what the heck it is. They have been listening to the strange pinging sound in the Fury and Hecla Strait. What are some possibilities other than marine space aliens with biological sonar equipment navigating cold, Arctic waters? Well, about the only thing it could be, that we know of, would be submarines, maybe.

The military patrolled the area by aircraft for more than an hour. They found a big, fat nothing. They decided not to waste anymore time or taxpayer money trying to solve the mystery. That tells the gringa that they actually do know what it is, that it is not a threat and none of our business (which would mean an ally’s submarine or profitable corporation). Or they know what it is and it is so scary they don’t want the public to panic so, again, it’s none of our business (in other words, aquatic space aliens).

The gringa can’t imagine Canadian defense ministers being unconcerned. After all, the pinging is so real and so significant that it seems to be scaring animals away. Representatives for the indigenous people of that area reported that they expect their hunting season to be adversely affected. Bowhead whales, bearded and ringed seals are all avoiding the area. Those of the Inuit hunting culture prefer to point the finger at wildlife protection groups like Greenpeace, claiming they are scaring away vulnerable sea life from known hunting grounds.

Other locals suspect a nearby mining operation but they deny they have any submerged oceanic equipment. What the heck could it be?

Boaters claim it can be heard through the hulls of their boats. What is the most frustrating is that the gringa has watched about a dozen videos reporting on the phenomena and not a single one had an audio of the sound. What’s up with that?

The gringa finally decided to settle on a video with an audio recording of the “Windsor Hum”, another mysterious sound phenomena that happened in Canada. It turned out to be a steel mill. The gringa thinks if the government is unconcerned about the strange underwater noises, it’s most likely they are trying to protect something they consider to be in the best interest of the country’s economy, like a mining company.

Sources:  www.livescience.com

Time Magazine

The Weather Network

Image credit: www.dailygalaxy.com

 

Just 15 Years Away


Despite the fact that climate change has been woefully lacking as a topic during this presidential campaign season, that doesn’t mean that it is not happening. Since arctic sea ice has been monitored by satellite, the scientists managing the data claim it has reached a record low. Speaking from Colorado headquarters, researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center explain it like this: In 2012 the arctic ice had a 1.31 million square mile area considered a “low point”. This area has expanded to more than 1.6 million square miles today. Although some years have been better than others over the past decade, the overall trend is that our Arctic ice is shrinking and growing thinner, less dense.

The experts believe this is a point of no return. As Obama is promising to get NASA to Mars by the 2030s, the gringa finds it interesting that he should choose that decade. That is the exact decade scientists are predicting that the Arctic will have an ice-free summer.

What would our world look like with an Arctic region that has no ice during summer months? Well, we could all say good-bye to polar bears, ivory gulls and ringed seals in the wild. The jet stream would also be affected which would result in changes in weather patterns all over the world. For those living in equatorial regions, the hurricanes and typhoons would only increase in intensity.

Arctic ice is critical to maintaining the natural ecosystem and food chain of the entire planet. Climate change doesn’t just threaten the balance of this system with an upset. It threatens to destroy it altogether. That means a ripple effect around the world will be felt as the loss of critical natural resources wreaks havoc with economies, health and longstanding cultural lifestyles dependent on their natural resources. Although one may think it will be isolated to the individual communities of the Arctic, you would be mistaken. It will affect every community on our planet.

When climate change scientists and politicians claim that climate change is the greatest threat to national security, they are NOT kidding. They are not just saying that to avoid talking about other issues. Heck, as controversial as climate change is with deniers of the science, why would a politician choose THAT subject as a convenient diversion from another subject?

The Arctic is the air conditioner for planet Earth. If we lose our air conditioner, our world can no longer regulate its seasons and temperatures as it has. Will the Earth explode or cease to exist? No, of course not. But life as we know it will end. The seasons we have come to know, snow at Christmas and sandals during Summer, will change. Some regions may simply be battered with storms as their only season. Other parts of the globe may be perpetually hot with a season of unlivable “hotness”. Some of the foods we are accustomed to eat will no longer thrive anywhere on a much hotter planet.

As sea ice disappears the Earth loses a filter for the sun’s light and heat. Things begin to warm up, including our oceans. As those enormous bodies of water warm, more moisture evaporates into the air. That means lots more ammo for storm systems. So what we can expect in a world without Arctic ice in summer is a warmer world with outrageously wild storms raging around the world. Many coastal communities may disappear altogether from the devastating affects of rising seas or, as is the case in much of Haiti, simply wiped off the map.

The only advice the gringa can give you is to hold on to your hat, accept that we are in for one wild ride, and develop a compassionate heart willing to make room for many people who will be in desperate need because they live in the wrong place at the wrong time. Heck, being only about 50 miles from the Gulf Coast, the gringa may be one of those people. If the gringa and the Caveman, with our brood in tow, ever show up knocking on the door of one of our dear readers after a massive hurricane, I promise to keep you entertained and enthralled with stories as compensation for your generosity.

Sources:

www.cbsnews.com

seaworldcares.com

 

Image Credit: www.npolar.no

 

Climate Change, Laundry & A/C


Many people interested in climate change may think this is a new phenomena brought on by global population expansion, increased use of technology, higher agricultural demands ravaging the Earth’s ecosystems and increased usage of fossil fuels. The truth is this has been going on for about two hundred years. Yep, since the beginning of the industrial era.

When factories began firing up their furnaces in the early 1800s, long before fossil fuels had really made their mark, the continents and oceans of the Earth began warming. Scientists can detect changes that far back as they study ice samples from the Arctic. And it’s not only ice cores that reveal this tragic timeline. Australian researchers have pored over 500 years’ worth of data collected from tree rings and coral in addition to the ice core studies.

The gringa thinks it’s safe to say that scientists from 200 years ago were probably laughed at by their peers for doing such silly and useless things as recording climate temperature measurements. I’m sure they never dreamed that today they would be considered pioneering heroes. Without their foresight and dedication we would not know just how long we humans have been spitting in the face of the one and only planet we can call home.

As early as 1830 increased greenhouse emissions were already causing the temperatures of tropical seas to creep upward. The Northern Hemisphere began to experience higher than average climate temperatures around the same time. At first, the scientists of that era thought this was a natural cycle. They believed that after a period of volatility upon Earth where volcanic ash and dust particles had caused global cooling effects that it was only natural for things to bounce back the other direction.

They had no idea that what had happened millennia ago was not the catalyst. They were clueless that they were witnessing the onset of a human induced global catastrophe that would culminate hundreds of years later. No one was sounding any alarm bell. The factories were being erected as fast as manufacturers had the cash to expand. As industry grew, individual wealth grew. It soon became every person’s dream to own a car and zip about willy-nilly just for the sake of being seen. Little has changed since 1830. Even though we know we are killing our planet (and, hence, ourselves), industry still expands and consumers are still obsessed with consuming and being seen with their latest procurement so that everyone knows they have “arrived”.

In such a state of smug self-satisfaction we humans do not like to be reminded that we should, rather, trade in that latest state-of-the-art washing machine for a non-electric hand-crank model. It is beneath an ambitious individual’s self-worth to be expected to toss out an electric dryer and opt for grandma’s tried and true method of wringing out the wet laundry and hanging it out on the line. As for surviving without air conditioning and heating, surely you jest. Oh, yeah, sure, previous generations got by but certainly such a primitive lifestyle should not be expected by an advanced civilization like this current generation of humans. After all, with global warming who can survive such temperatures? Oh, but you see, your air conditioning is also contributing to the problem that you want relief from. We seem to be caught in a catch 22. Whatever shall we do?

So, who wants to join the gringa in the slow, very ungraceful transition to an off the grid lifestyle? Are there enough people in the world for such sacrifices to even matter? The gringa can’t say. I only know that on Tuesday my non-electric hand-crank washing machine arrived and I have committed to not replacing my slowly dying electric dryer with an equivalent. The caveman thinks I’m mad but I kindly remind him that he is, after all, a caveman. Such lifestyle changes should suit him perfectly.

I still don’t know what to do about air conditioning. When I’m home alone I am quite happy with 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I can even manage to handle 85 with the right incentives, no clothes and plenty of ice water and a splash of beer. Despite living in the incredibly warm climate of the Texas Gulf Coast, I, personally, can get by with using the A/C only during the hottest parts of the afternoon in June, July and August. But whenever the caveman or one of our demanding, unruly, but adorable children or grandchildren are here, they scream, “Do you even have the air conditioner ON?!”

I implore them to embrace nudity as an alternative but so far the gringa has gotten no support for a shift toward nude living as another aspect of living off the grid. I mean, after all, it would also create less demand in the laundry area, thus providing further conservation of water and energy.

I mean, doesn’t the dear reader see the strong correlation between climate change, laundry, and air conditioning? Perhaps that is the solution. If people living in warm climates would simply go nude, or at least opt for bikinis or sheer Romanesque body drapes, think of all of the textile and clothing factories that would no longer be necessary, close down and no longer contribute to human induced climate change. Think of all of those dresses and jeans and pajamas no longer contributing to fossil fuel emissions when shipping and trucking of apparel is no longer needed.

I do believe the gringa is on to something. Nudity could very well save the world. Unless, of course, you live in Siberia. But winter wear is a subject for another post.

Source: europe.newsweek.com

Image Credit: tse4.mm.bing.net

 

 

The Eastward Wobble, The Dance of the Earth


In April of this year NASA released findings related to the Earth’s melting ice sheets. Often when the gringa things about climate change, warming temperatures and melting ice sheets, the only thing I consider is how sea levels will rise. It never occurred to me that ice sheet disintegration may result in a more wobbly world.

Think about the traditional children’s toy, the spinning top. It’s a bit like our world. As it slows its spin it begins to wobble. As ice sheets melt and the balance of Earth begins to shift, we will, indeed, experience a global wobble. Scientists officially define this as a “periodic wobble and drift of the poles”. All the gringa wants to know is, “What exactly does this mean for me? Am I going to fall on my patootie trying to walk to my car?”

NASA asserts that over the past sixteen years Antarctica and Greenland, combined, have averaged about 400 billion tons of ice loss annually. Before the year 2000, as Earth spun on its axis it had a gentle drift toward Canada (westward). Because of ice loss, now the drift is about 75 degrees in the opposite direction, eastward. This happens because as ice converts to water and moves elsewhere, the distribution of Earth’s mass changes. What this means exactly is that the location of the North and South poles will change. In other words, Earth’s axis is relocating.

Now, the traditional location of Earth’s North Pole may have to be renamed to the Northeastern Pole. Earth’s axis is like an invisible pin stuck through the Earth from North to South. The Earth spins on the tip of the pin, rotating with a slight wobble that is normal. However, if the geographic location of the Poles change, complete topographical and satellite telemetry systems have to be adjusted to accommodate this change. For the average person, this means that your GPS is going to deliver you to the wrong place!

Scientists have long known that the Poles shift by a few centimeters from time to time as a part of Earth’s natural climate adjustment cycles. But what we are dealing with now is much more dramatic. Experts estimate that the shift is averaging about ten centimeters Eastward annually. Our great-great-grandchildren may have to adjust Christmas stories to have Santa Claus living in Russia or Norway.

Although scientists understand that as ice continues to melt the Earth will adjust by shifting its axis to the place where it has lost mass, even their best predictions are really just a guess. This is an extremely complex problem. It’s not just melting ice sheets that affect the process but also loss of groundwater in above ground reservoirs and underground aquifers (which underground aquifers cannot be accurately measured) as well as glacier melt and glacier movement. Many glaciers float about the ocean as they please.

The Earth’s ice and water storage formula affects polar drift. Yet many of the variables in the formula cannot be measured or can change their individual affect. So, scientists are left scratching their heads, doing the best with what they’ve got, and hazarding their best guess on what humanity can expect.

Ice melt is not the only thing that can bump the North Pole to a different location. Enormous earthquakes and devastating tsunamis can do the job as well. Indonesia’s great earthquake moved the North Pole eastward by about 2.5 centimeters and also lengthened Earth’s day cycle by 2.68 microseconds. No wonder I’ve been so tired lately! The gringa is filled with wonder at how humans remain at the mercy of nature despite all of our technological advances.

Sources: www.nasa.gov

news.nationalgeographic.com

Image Credit:  www.worldatlas.com

 

 

How Climate Change Affects Vacation Priorities


So, when the climate change poop hits the fan, who is going to be in for the worst ride? What parts of the world should I vacation at now because they will be uninhabitable in the future? Exactly where will be the safest place for the gringa and the caveman to diddle away their golden years?

Well, we better get busy and visit all the beach hotspots that are alive and kicking right now. With sea levels rising, the coastal cabanas of today will be reef material tomorrow. And, considering that climate change creates erratic and extreme weather patterns such as: heavy rain here, drought there, devastating tornadoes everywhere; well, there is no uniform model of what’s going to change where or when. The only concrete expectation right now is what models predict about low elevation islands and coastal beachlands. They are pretty much going to be history, some maybe within my lifetime.

Other areas scientists expect to change dramatically are regions that have a delicate ecosystem balance and are already experiencing hyper-sensitivity to environmental stressors. These areas include:

  • Arctic, specifically the tundra region
  • Boreal forest belt – This is the conifer forest that stretches across North America, particularly dense in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tropical Rainforest
  • Alpine regions
  • Steppes of Asia and the Americas
  • Prairies of Asia and the Americas
  • Deciduous forests of South America and Australia

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. The permafrost layer is melting. Glaciers are getting smaller and sea ice is disintegrating. The wildlife of the Arctic will probably be a loss to the world. They depend on a habitat that is going to grow too warm to support their needs. The indigenous people of this region will experience a loss of their culture that is strongly dependent on the wildlife and natural geography. The humans will have the adaptation advantage that the wildlife and fauna do not have. But the loss of their culture is still something to mourn over.

The boreal forests of North America are important carbon sponges for the earth. What will a degree or two warmer mean? As temperatures warm the center of the United States, the boreal forest will shift northward. Predictive models sees the United States losing its boreal forest as it relocates to Canada and Alaska. So, we won’t lose them, they will relocate. That’s good news in the aspect that at least the Earth will retain a critical carbon filter.

Researchers in tropical rainforests mark trees and track them for years, measuring them to see how they are responding to climate change. A group in the Bolivian Andes are studying a swath of diverse trees and plants that thrive in a limited temperature range. As temperatures rise, so do the trees. New, baby trees are growing uphill. Just as the North American model predicted a forest migration, the same is expected of the tropical rainforests. They will abandon the lowland jungle regions and migrate up the mountainsides, seeking cooler temperatures.

Alpine regions are going to experience the same forest creeping phenomena. As glaciers continue to recede, alpine plants will continue to move upwards looking for cooler temperatures and water. However, eventually, when all the glacier water has melted and run off or evaporated, this critical component of the annual water budget will be gone forever. Plants and trees dependent upon it will eventually be extinct. So Alpine ecosystems will not only migrate, they will migrate to a slow death.

The upside of forest migration is that the Earth is trying to compensate and save herself. The downside is that the migration process is slower than the warming process. This means there will still be catastrophic loss of tropical rainforest and alpine habitat. This will affect the wildlife dependent on these ecosystems as well as their indigenous people.

Experts predict the possibility of losing over half of the steppe habitats due to the effects of climate change. They are not modeling a migration of fauna, but a loss. Steppes are critical grazing areas. As the steppes experience habitat loss, growing smaller, overgrazing occurs on the remaining areas. The effects then are coupled: climate change related drought and overgrazing. Things look dire for the future of the steppes and the animals and shepherds and ranchers who depend on them. The steppes could become the Earth’s future Sahara’s.

Unlike a conifer boreal forest or tropical rainforest that are green year round, a deciduous forest becomes barren in the winter season as the trees lose their leaves. Deciduous forests exist in tropical and temperate climates. Climate change models predict warmer winters affecting deciduous forests. This could lead to tree loss from pests and disease. In regions where devastating drought occurs, there will be higher tree loss. When a tree dies in the forest it also becomes fuel. In regions experiencing drought related tree loss, the dry conditions and increased fuel of more dead trees makes conditions ripe for voracious wildfires. So, if the drought or the bugs don’t wipe out the deciduous forests, the wildfires probably will.

The gringa thinks the list of vacation priorities should go something like this:

  • Arctic expedition
  • Steppe pack-mule trip
  • Deciduous and Alpine forest camp outs
  • Beach parties around the world
  • Tropical rainforest excursion
  • Bigfoot safari in the boreal forests of the Pacific Northwest

I don’t think climate change is going to sound the death knell for planet Earth and mankind. The gringa does believe it will be the end of many species of animals and plants that are with us today. It is also highly likely that entire cultures will be wiped out when they lose the habitats they rely upon. And usually species loss does not mean a gaping hole is left behind. Usually, another species fills the gap or a species evolves and adapts. So, the key word to focus on is “change”. It’s climate “change” not climate “loss”. But the change is as significant as the past disappearances of entire civilizations such as the Maya or entire animal classes like the dinosaurs.

At this point, I believe the consensus among scientists is that we have passed the tipping point. There is no going back and “fixing” things. We simply have to ride the lightning and deal with it. So, if a person is able and so inclined, they need to enjoy the world as we know it today and document it for the children of the future.

 

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit: http://www.notenoughgood.com