Snow is turning green in Antarctica -- and climate change will make it worse - CNN
Green snow created by blooming algae in the Antarctic Peninsula is likely to spread as temperatures increase as a result of climate change, researchers have said, after creating the first large-scale map of the organisms and their movements.
(CNN)Green snow created by blooming algae in the Antarctic Peninsula is likely to spread as temperatures increase as a result of climate change, researchers have said, after creating the first large-scale map of the organisms and their movements. Satellite data gathered between 2017 and 2019, combined with on-the-ground measurements over two summers in Antarctica, allowed scientists to map the microscopic algae as they bloomed across the snow of the Antarctic Peninsula. Warming temperatures could create more "habitable" environments for the algae, which need wet snow to grow in, researchers told CNN. Green snow alga is microscopic when measured individually, but when the organisms grow simultaneously, they turn the snow bright green, and can even be spotted from space, researchers said in a study published in the Nature Communications journal on Wednesday. Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey used European Space Agency satellite data with measurements from Antarctica's Ryder Bay, Adelaide Island, the Fildes Peninsula and King George Island. Patches of green snow algae can be found along the Antarctic coastline, usually in "warmer" areas, where average temperatures are a little above zero degrees Celsius during the Southern Hemisphere's summer months of November to February. The Antarctic Peninsula is the part of the region that has experienced the most rapid warming in the latter part of the last century, researchers say. Scientists identified 1,679 separate blooms of green algae on the snow surface, covering an area of 1.9 km2 -- which equates to a carbon sink of around 479 tons per year. A carbon sink is a reservoir that absorbs more carbon than it releases. Researchers believe the organisms will expand as global temperatures increase. "As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae," Dr Andrew Gray, lead author of the paper, and a researcher at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement. He told CNN that rising temperatures would create more "habitable" environments for the algae. However, while an increase in snow melt could lead to more algae growing, Gray told CNN that the distribution of the organisms is heavily linked to bird populations, whose excrement acts as a fertilizer to accelerate growth. As bird -- particularly penguin -- populations are affected by warming temperatures, "the snow algae could lose sources of nutrients to grow," he said. An increase in the blooms could also lead to further snow melt, he said. "It's very dark -- a green snow algal bloom will reflect about 45% of light hitting it whereas fresh snow will reflect about 80% of the light hitting it, so it will increase the rate of snow melt in a localized area," he explained. Researchers found that almost two thirds of the blooms were on small, low lying islands, and said that as the Antarctic Peninsula warms due to rising global temperatures, these islands could lose their summer snow cover and algae -- although in terms of mass the majority of snow algae is found in areas where they can spread to higher ground when snow melts.
The sun is experiencing a less active phase called 'solar minimum,' but it won't cause an ice age - CNN
In a solar minimum, the sun is much quieter, meaning less sunspots and energy.
(CNN)At the center of our solar system, the sun is a constant force keeping planets in orbit, providing Earth with just the right amount of light and warmth for life and even governing our daily schedules. While we're used to the sun rising and setting each day, the sun itself is incredibly dynamic. And just like us, it goes through phases and changes. Over time, those changes in our star have become more predictable. Currently, it's going through a less activephase, called a solar minimum. The sun experiences regular 11-year intervals including energetic peaks of activity, followed by low points. During the peak, the sun showcases more sunspots and solar flares. In a solar minimum, the sun is much quieter, meaning less sunspots and energy. Scientists at NASA say we're currently in a "Grand Solar Minimum." The last time this occurred was between 1650 and 1715, during what's known as the Little Ice Age in Earth's Northern Hemisphere, "when combination of cooling from volcanic aerosols and low solar activity produced lower surface temperatures," according to NASA's Global Climate Change blog. But this solar minimum won't spark another ice age, they say. And that's likely due to climate change. "The warming caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from the human burning of fossil fuels is six times greater than the possible decades-long cooling from a prolonged Grand Solar Minimum," they wrote. "Even if a Grand Solar Minimum were to last a century, global temperatures would continue to warm. Because more factors than just variations in the Sun's output change global temperatures on Earth, the most dominant of those today being the warming coming from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions." Scientists have known this solar minimum was coming because it's a regular aspect of the sun's cycle. Sunspots were peaking in 2014, with low points beginning in 2019, according to NASA. The sun is also responsible for what's known as space weather, sending particles and cosmic rays streaming across our solar system. The sun's strongly magnetized sunspots release solar flares, which can send X-rays and ultraviolet radiation hurtling toward Earth. Even when the sun is quiet during the solar minimum, it can be active in other ways, like coronal holes that open in the sun's atmosphere and send out blazing streams of energized particles flying through the solar system on rapid solar wind. Much like solar flares, these streams of particles during a solar minimum can disrupt the communication and GPS we rely on from satellites. "We see these holes throughout the solar cycle, but during solar minimum, they can last for a long time six months or more," said Dean Pesnell, project scientist of the Solar Dynamics Observatory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in a 2017 NASA blog post. More highly energetic particles called galactic cosmic rays can reach Earth, specifically its upper atmosphere, during a solar minimum. These are created by explosions across our Milky Way galaxy, like supernovae. "During solar minimum, the sun's magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from these cosmic rays," Pesnell said. "This can pose an increased threat to astronauts traveling through space." This week, the NASA Sun & Space account shared this on Twitter amid concerns about the solar minimum. "The Sun goes through regular cycles of high & low activity. This cycle affects the frequency of space weather events, but it doesn't have a major effect on Earth's climate even an extended minimum wouldn't have a significant effect on global temperature." This solar minimum ends solar cycle 24. Early predictions estimated the peak of solar cycle 25 will occur in July 2025, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The solar cycle forecast is based on a NOAA and NASA co-chaired international panel. They agree that solar cycle 25 will be similar to cycle 24. In August 2018, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe to draw closer to the sun than any satellite before. It's a unique opportunity to study "the star in our backyard," as NASA Heliophysics Division Director Nicola Fox is fond of saying. And it's witnessing the sun during solar minimum up close. The probe was designed to help answer fundamental questions about the solar wind that streams out from the sun, flinging energetic particles across the solar system. Its instruments may also provide insight about why the sun's corona, the outer atmosphere of the star, is so much hotter than the actual surface. The corona is 1 million kelvins, while the surface is around 6,000 kelvins. Understanding the solar wind and the blazing heat of the corona are key. They both play a role in space weather and solar storms, and understanding the solar wind could enable better prediction of space weather. Solar wind and the corona's temperature also impact ejections of mass from the corona, which could impact the global power grid and telecommunications on Earth, as well as our astronauts on the International Space Station. The energized and accelerated particles streaming away from the sun in the solar wind are also responsible for the northern and southern lights we see on Earth. Some of the first results from the probe's early passes around the sun have already proved intriguing. During its first close encounter with the sun, the Parker Solar Probe essentially kept itself suspended over a hole in the corona for a week, watching solar wind particles streaming along the line of the sun's magnetic field and out into space. "It's amazing even at solar minimum conditions, the Sun produces many more tiny energetic particle events than we ever thought," said David McComas, principal investigator for the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun suite, or ISIS, at Princeton University in New Jersey, in a statement when the first results released. "These measurements will help us unravel the sources, acceleration and transport of solar energetic particles and ultimately better protect satellites and astronauts in the future." Over the course of the probe's seven-year mission, its orbit will shrink, bringing it closer and closer to the sun over the course of 21 approaches. The probe will orbit within 3.9 million miles of the sun's surface in 2024, closer to the star than Mercury. Although that sounds far, researchers equate this to the probe sitting on the four-yard line of a football field and the sun being the end zone.
Everything you need to know about a mysterious illness that could be linked to coronavirus in children - CNN International
A mysterious illness that's affecting children and could be linked to the coronavirus has left officials alarmed and searching for answers as infections increase.
'So many more deaths than we could have ever imagined.' This is how America's largest city deals with its dead - CNN
In his final moments, Ananda Mooliya reassured his wife and two sons that he was fine, though they could hear his labored breathing from the next room, over the sound of the TV.
New York (CNN)In his final moments, Ananda Mooliya reassured his wife and two sons that he was fine, though they could hear his labored breathing from the next room, over the sound of the TV. His wife, Rajni Attavar, made soup for him. Mooliya struggled out of bed. With the help of eldest son, Amith, the 56-year-old subway station agent made his way to a kitchen chair in their Corona, Queens, home. Sweat beaded on his face. His mouth was open. "I wiped his face," Attavar recalled through tears. "Then I called out his name. He didn't respond." She sprinkled water on his head. Amith checked his father's weakening pulse. His younger son, Akshay Mooliya, 16, called 911. EMTs arrived and, for about 10 minutes, aided his breathing with a respiratory device. They then covered him with a white blanket on the kitchen floor. It was April 8 at 9:37 p.m., according to his death certificate. Immediate cause of death was listed as "Recent Influenza-Like Illness (Possible COVID-19)." Several hours would pass before his body was lifted off the floor and taken to a morgue -- andnearly three weeks before his cremation, family members said. "I was the last person in the family to see his face before he died," Amith, 21, recalled. "I didn't even say goodbye." The handling of Mooliya's body isn't unusual in these times. The corononavirus death toll has overwhelmed health care workers, morgues, funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries. Body bags pile up across the city that became epicenter of the pandemic. On the day Mooliya died, there were 799 Covid-19 deaths in the state of New York, a one-day high. To date, the state has recorded more than 24,000 deaths, most of them in New York City. Among the many ways life has changed is how America's largest city deals with its dead. Though the city doubled to about 2,000 its capacity to store bodies, funeral homes are still turning down cremations because they can't hold onto the bodies. A Brooklyn crematory oven broke down under the sheer volume of corpses. Cremations are delayed to mid May and beyond. Bodies rest in refrigerated trailers in funeral home parking lots. Burials are backed up. "So many more deaths than we could have ever imagined," said Joe Sherman, the fourth-generation owner of Sherman's Flatbush Memorial Chapel in Brooklyn. "I'm doing this 43 years. I've never seen anything like it." Two funeral homes take desperate measures The grim struggle to keep up with death was highlighted on Wednesday, when four trucks with as many as 60 decomposing bodies were discovered on a busy street outside a Brooklyn funeral home. A passerby saw fluids dripping from the trucks. The overwhelmed funeral home ran out of space for bodies, which were awaiting cremation, according to a law enforcement source. It brought in trucks for storage. At least one truck lacked refrigeration, with body bags on ice, one source said. "It's such a sad situation and so disrespectful to the families," Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN Friday. "That was an avoidable situation... There were lots of ways that the funeral home could have turned to us for help. But they stayed silent. That's a rarity. Overwhelmingly, even with the horrible strain and the emotional strain, funeral homes have really stood by the families in the city and served them." The New York State Department of Health has suspended the license of the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home. Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker called its actions "appalling, disrespectful to the families of the deceased, and completely unacceptable." CNN sought comment from the funeral home multiple times. On Wednesday, someone identifying himself as its owner declined comment. On Thursday night, 18 bodies were found at an "overwhelmed" funeral home in New Jersey, State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan told reporters. Mourners are forced to play a waiting game After Mooliya's body was picked up from the kitchen floor, his family learned that it would be nearly three weeks before the Indian immigrant's body could be cremated. In Hindu tradition, bodies are typically cremated a day or two after death, Amith Mooliya said. His father, a devout man who prayed before and after his subway station shifts, was cremated on April 27. The family did not attend the cremation ceremony because of distancing guidelines. "I lit a candle and put his photo in a frame on a table," said his son, a chemistry major at Brooklyn College. "We prayed for his soul. That was all we could really do." A strained death care industry has made mourning harder. "Every day I remember," Attavar, 50, said of the day her husband died. "I can't sleep. I never saw his face like that. He was the strong one. I never saw him that weak. He took care of us." That Mooliya was with family in the end provided some solace. The contagion has taken many others without loved ones at their side. "At least he was not far away from us," Attavar said. "He was home. I think that was his comfort. That he passed in the house." Funeral directors prioritize the living Dan Wright, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 813, whose 500 members include funeral directors and cemetery workers, said the high number of deaths has slowed the back end of the system, the cemeteries and crematories. "Obviously we can't be burying people in the dark," he said. And social distancing has altered the way people bid loved ones farewell. "Funerals are basically about gathering together and celebrating somebody's life and saying goodbye," Wright said. "These things have been impossible to do. Funerals directors ... have been reduced to becoming policemen to prevent people from getting together, standing too close, hugging each other." Sherman, the Brooklyn funeral home owner, said protecting clients and workers is a priority -- ensuring distancing and providing sufficient personal protective equipment. "In dealing with this pandemic our main concern is the living," he said. There are no face-to-face meetings with grieving families. All business is handled online or over the phone. "We don't want people in the building," Sherman said. The number of funerals Sherman handles tripled in recent weeks. His business and the memorial home that shares the building with it last week had about 100 calls. His funeral home alone has been doing about 30 deaths a week. Three weeks ago, Sherman said, he brought in a refrigerated container with space for an additional 30 bodies. "I'm turning down cremations unless its people that have prepaid them or people I know," he said. "Cremations are one month out here in Brooklyn. I don't want to be storing bodies here that long." A cremation oven broke down because of the volume Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, started as a grass cutter in 1972. Now he's closing in on five decades there. "The volume of burials for us all at one time is overwhelming," he said. "The volume of cremations is something we've never seen." Cremations at Green-Wood have jumped from as many as 70 to 130 per week, Moyland said. Burials more than doubled to a dozen each day. "And if we had the capacity we would be doing more," he said of cremations. "People are sending bodies out of state, out of the city. We're booked through the middle of May when six weeks ago you could just call up and say, 'I'm coming in tomorrow or, even sometimes, I'm coming in an hour.' Now, sadly, you need an appointment." Except for burials, cremations and custodial services, all other work has stopped. "We're not doing any tree maintenance," he said. "We're not doing much lawn maintenance. We're not doing any monument preservation. It's all hands on deck." One of five cremation ovens -- which burn up to 1,800 degrees for 18 hours a day -- broke from overuse, Moyland said. "When we started going longer hours the chamber's brick wall basically just gave way," he said. Moylan sometimes watches burials from his office. "We try to keep burials as close to a traditional burial as we can," he said. "We had a Covid victim and there were our guys in Hazmat suits and the family staying on the road away from the casket. Someone said a few prayers. They got back in their cars. Then I realized there were more cars of people who didn't come out." 'He worked so hard all his life' In Corona, Queens, Rajni Attavar and her sons celebrate Mooliya's life by telling his story. He arrived in New York in the mid-1990s from Heroor village in Karnataka, India, where he taught chemistry at a university. He managed several chain drug stores. He was a security guard and worked five years as a subway station agent. Mooliya had two online consultations with a doctor the days before his died. His eldest son said his father was told he didn't need to be tested. Take Tylenol and stay hydrated, he was instructed. "He worked so hard all his life," Attavar cried. "No vacations. He was the smartest man. He went through a lot in his life. I didn't know it was going to end up so bad for him." CNN's Claudia Morales contributed to this report.