Connect with us

Science

Seafaring scientists won’t glimpse the sun for 150 days

The German research icebreaker Polarstern. Image: Alfred Wegener Institute / S. Hendricks By Mark Kaufman2019-10-07 11:21:09 -0700 It will be a dark, black winter.  In the heart of the central Arctic, scientists have intentionally lodged their 387-foot-long and over 12,000-ton ship, Polarstern, in a sheet of hardy floating ice, called an ice floe. Their mission,…

Published

on

Seafaring scientists won’t glimpse the sun for 150 days
The German research icebreaker Polarstern.
The German research icebreaker Polarstern.

Image: Alfred Wegener Institute / S. Hendricks

By Mark Kaufman

It will be a dark, black winter. 

In the heart of the central Arctic, scientists have intentionally lodged their 387-foot-long and over 12,000-ton ship, Polarstern, in a sheet of hardy floating ice, called an ice floe. Their mission, MOSAiC (short for Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate), is an unprecedented year-long endeavor to drift through the Arctic seas while investigating the harsh, largely inaccessible Arctic climate. 

The Arctic is the fastest-warming and changing region on Earth, but there’s still great uncertainty about how much the Arctic will heat up in the decades ahead, as the vast region’s climate is dictated by a complex interaction of warming seas, warming atmosphere, and vastly diminished sea ice. MOSAiC seeks to improve scientists’ grasp of this intricate Arctic world — and its future.

“After a brief but intensive search, we’ve found our home for the months to come,” MOSAiC expedition leader Markus Rex said in a statement on Friday.

MOSAiC noted on Monday that the sun has now set over the Polarstern in the high Arctic, and won’t return for around 153 days. By Nov. 12, there won’t be any sunlight at all. 

The sun has set on the MOSAiC expedition. At their current latitude, sunset occurred earlier today. It will not rise again until March 8th (153 days). By Nov 12th, there will be no twilight at all – complete darkness. pic.twitter.com/nbysrAviH1

— UAF MOSAiC (@ArcticMosaic) October 7, 2019

Of critical importance, MOSAiC will observe Arctic water, atmosphere, and ice to study the reality of “Arctic amplification.” There are a number of processes in the Arctic that are speeding up or amplifying warming in the region, and scientists want to better understand how these mechanisms work.

For example, as Arctic sea ice continues to rapidly decline, this means there’s less bright, white ice to reflect sunlight back into space. Instead, there is now more dark water to absorb more heat, which in turn melts even more floating sea ice. It’s a vicious, ongoing cycle. And when the sunlight returns in March, researchers will be able to watch how this process unfolds in real-time. 

“The MOSAiC experiment will provide year-round measurements in the highest northern latitude which will be used to investigate this question of the “Arctic amplification,” Lars Kaleschke, a physicist and sea ice expert at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research told Mashable in September. Kaleschke is a scientist on the expedition. 

More than 400 scientists from 19 nations will participate in the seafaring mission, which the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls the “most ambitious research expedition ever to target the central Arctic.”

The Polarstern, which will soon be frozen inside the ice floe, will be resupplied with both rotating scientists and provisions brought by thick-hulled ice-breaking ships from China, Sweden, and Russia. 

You can follow their intrepid journey through the Arctic here.

Up Next

California fire nips at Reagan presidential library, people and horses flee

Don't Miss

The Glorious Victories of Trans Athletes Are Shaking Up Sports

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Science

Voyager 2 has reached interstellar space — Future Blink

We couldn’t find the page you were looking for. We found all your missing socks.

Published

on

Voyager 2 has reached interstellar space — Future Blink

We couldn’t find the page you were looking for.

We found all your missing socks.

Continue Reading

Science

Shaky California turns on its long-awaited quake alert app

Quakes can’t be predicted. But unassuming Californians can now be alerted that a significant temblor has hit and it’s time to promptly “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” before their world starts shaking. On Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state’s Earthquake Early Warning System, which means Golden State denizens from the northern Redwoods to…

Published

on

Shaky California turns on its long-awaited quake alert app

Quakes can’t be predicted. But unassuming Californians can now be alerted that a significant temblor has hit and it’s time to promptly “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” before their world starts shaking.

On Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state’s Earthquake Early Warning System, which means Golden State denizens from the northern Redwoods to the Salton Sea can be alerted of imminent shaking in two major ways.

The first part of the system is the new, free MyShake app (available on iOS and Android phones) which will notify the app’s users about nearby quakes. The second element is Wireless Emergency Alerts which automatically blasts out text messages (the same way you receive an emergency Amber alert) after a quake has been detected. Both alerts, which can give people seconds to tens of seconds of warning, receive quake information from the U.S. Geological Survey’s innovative, sensor-based, ShakeAlert system.

The new MyShake app, developed at the University of California, Berkeley, is a significant, though still prototypical part of California’s quake warning plan. It works, “but it will improve over time,” Richard Allen, director of UC Berkeley’s Seismological Laboratory, said at a press conference Thursday. “We want every Californian to download the MyShake app,” added Mark Ghilarducci, the director of California’s Office of Emergency Services.

“There’s not really a downside,” John Vidale, a seismologist and professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Southern California, said of the app. “Conceivably it could tell us before the shaking starts,” said Vidale, who was not involved in creating the app but has tested earlier versions of quake alert apps.

What’s more, the app uses smartphone sensors to detect significant earthquakes. 

“In addition to alerting you about impending shaking [MyShake] turns your phone into an earthquake sensor,” noted Wendy Bohon, a geologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. Bohon also had no role in developing California’s early warning system.

As the app’s UC Berkeley creators note online, “Our testing has shown that most modern phones in use today can record earthquakes down to magnitude 5 within 10 km of the epicenter.” (A magnitude 5 is a moderate quake “felt by nearly everyone” and will result in some broken dishes and windows, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.) MyShake’s software will get progressively better at identifying quakes as more people use the app.

For now, text messages will be sent out to Californians who feel quakes with an intensity as low as 4.5, a light quake felt by many people indoors. But the MyShake app will send alerts at even lower quake intensities of 3, said UC Berkeley’s Allen. This will match the current alert thresholds of the separate ShakeAlertLA app, released in January exclusively for Los Angeles denizens. The app angered many Angelenos in July when they felt a level 3 quake but didn’t receive alerts. At the time, the L.A. app was set to notify users of shaking intensities of 4 or higher. 

Finding the best alert levels for both text and app systems will require tweaking. “It will not be static,” Governor Newsom said. And there’ll certainly be ample opportunity for finding the ideal alert thresholds, as there will be plenty more quakes

Quake destruction in Northridge in 1994.

Quake destruction in Northridge in 1994.

Image: Chuck Jackson / AP / Shutterstock

The big takeaways 

Any “shake alert” received via text or the MyShake app is only a warning, albeit a potentially major warning.

“The most useful thing is to have your head up [figuratively] and know what’s happening,” said Vidale. “We want people to do sensible things.”

That means dropping to your hands and knees, covering your head and neck with an arm (ideally crawling under sturdy furniture if available), and holding on until the shaking stops.

“ShakeAlert can save lives and reduce the chance of injuries by giving people time to take protective actions like ‘Drop, Cover and Hold on’ before shaking from an earthquake arrives,” said Bohon. “It will also potentially give them time to move away from dangerous or hazardous locations.”

But this early warning system comes with a major limitation, emphasized Bohon. If you’re very close to an earthquake’s epicenter, you may not receive an alert before shaking, or violent shaking, begins. “This is because the system needs time to determine the earthquake’s size and likely shaking levels and it also needs time to distribute the alert,” she said. 

Most Californians live in quake country, so they should already have their plans together. “People should be sure to continue to prepare for earthquakes before they happen,” said Bohon. “The few seconds to tens of seconds that ShakeAlert may provide is obviously not enough time to take critical actions like making an earthquake kit, securing heavy furniture to the walls, bolting the home to the foundation, etc.”

When future quakes hit, Californians now have a new tool in their co-existence with a volatile, incessantly moving earth. 

“Should it work well?” asked Bohom. “Hopefully, yes. ShakeAlert is an innovative technology that will improve over time.”

Continue Reading

Science

The 2019 Fat Bear Week champion is in a league of her own

Welcome to Fat Bear Week 2019! Katmai National Park’s bears spent the summer gorging on 4,500-calorie salmon, and they’ve transformed into rotund giants, some over 1,000 pounds. The park is holding its annual playoff-like competition for the fattest of the fat bears (you can vote online between Oct. 2 and Oct. 8), and Mashable will…

Published

on

The 2019 Fat Bear Week champion is in a league of her own

Welcome to Fat Bear Week 2019! Katmai National Park’s bears spent the summer gorging on 4,500-calorie salmon, and they’ve transformed into rotund giants, some over 1,000 pounds. The park is holding its annual playoff-like competition for the fattest of the fat bears (you can vote online between Oct. 2 and Oct. 8), and Mashable will be following the ursine activity. 


Drew Hamilton knew it immediately. 

“Holly is going to win,” he texted me. 

Hamilton, who views bears professionally as an Alaskan bear viewing guide, landed in remote Katmai National and Preserve in late September. He was there to spy the bears before they climbed hills, dug dens, and went into hibernation.

He easily spotted Bear 435 “Holly,” who the park officially announced Tuesday as the winner of the 2019 Fat Bear Week contest. 

“It’s almost like the river got higher when Holly went in the water to catch a fish,” said Hamilton.

“You almost get the sense watching her that she’s getting fatter before your eyes,” he added. 

“It’s almost

Continue Reading

Recent Posts

Title

Categories

Trending