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Coronavirus simulation: Kids in back corner of class were safest. Why? - Business Insider - Business Insider
In a simulation of coronavirus spread in a classroom, students seated in the back corners of the room were safest.
In a simulation of coronavirus spread in a socially distanced classroom, the back corners of the room were the safest spots. Researchers at the University of New Mexico simulated the path of small and large particles in a computer model of a classroom setting, published today in Physics of Fluids. They found that the distribution of aerosol particles — airborne viral particles smaller than one micron, which can float further than six feet — was not uniform. As such, where students sit relative to air-conditioning outlets matters. Students seated in corners also benefit from not being surrounded by all sides, Khaled Talaat, co-author of the study, told Business Insider. Those seated in the middle of the classroom, on the other hand, were most likely to transmit particles to others, so Talaat recommended getting rid of the middle seat entirely. The study also found that opening windows, in addition to air conditioning, increased the amount of particles cleared from the room. Additionally, installing desk shields helped divert the path of any remaining particles. Up to 50% of smaller particles exited the classroom via the air conditioning, while larger particles deposited on the ground, on desks, and on surfaces throughout the room. "I'd recommend that people sanitize their hands, even without coming into contact with other people's belongings, " Khaled Talaat, co-author of the study, told Business Insider. "Particles can travel from one person to another person's belongings, like to your desk and even to your t-shirt, so by just touching yourself, you can be putting yourself at risk." Aerosols re-concentrate near AC outlets The air conditioning configuration modeled in the study — which is standard for an average classroom, Talaat said — had inlets located in the corners and center and outlets around the edge of the room. The corners were the safest spots because they were farthest from the outlets, where aerosol-sized particles are found at higher concentrations. "Initially, when somebody exhales aerosols, this aerosol is sort of concentrated," Talaat said. "It then disperses in the room and the concentration decreases. But, it re-concentrates again at the outlets of the air conditioning." Many air conditioning systems recycle the air they take in, so if the filtering system isn't top-notch, some particles will be re-expelled into the room via AC outlets. You can tell the difference between AC inlets and outlets based on whether air is flowing in or out, and schools should have them clearly labeled, Talaat said. The back corners were slightly safer than front corners because people typically exhale aerosols facing forward, sending more particles towards the front of the room. Still, the differences between front and back corners was very small, Talaat said. Opening windows increases the amount of particles that leave the classroom by 40% Open windows allow some particles to leave the classroom entirely, instead of exiting via the air conditioning system. Without the windows open, anywhere from 24 to 50% of particles leave the classroom through the air conditioning. Opening the windows increases the fraction of particles that exit the classroom by about 40%, Talaat said, clearing a total of about 69% of aerosolized particles from the classroom in their model. "The challenge with opening windows is that obviously there are some cold cities right where it's not really a feasible measure to open the windows," Talaat said. If you can't open the windows, good ventilation via air conditioning is especially important. Siddartha Verma, an assistant professor of fluid mechanics at Florida Atlantic University who was not affiliated with the study, also stressed the importance of ventilation. "It is essential to remove aerosolized droplets as quickly as possible," Verma wrote in an email to Business Insider. "The aerosolized droplets accumulate over time (even from just talking and breathing), and can stay suspended for several hours, which also poses a hazard to classes that may follow in the same room." Glass shields can redirect airflow As for the particles not cleared by AC and open windows, glass shields can help redirect their path to avoid transmitting virus particles between students. "They don't stop the particles directly, but what we see is that they affect the local airflow field near the source and change the trajectory of the particles," Talaat said. The glass screens employed in the model were about 70 centimeters, or 27.5 inches high, so they would reach about a foot above a student's head when seated. They extended across the full width of the desk. The effectiveness of shields depends on the student's positioning relative to the air conditioning source, but overall, the combination of screens and distancing reduced aerosol transmission by about 92% — good enough that Talaat recommended glass screens be installed in classrooms this year. Loading Something is loading.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will vote from space in November election - Business Insider - Business Insider
"It's really important for everybody to vote, and if we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground too," Kate Rubins told AP.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins plans to vote from space during the upcoming general election. Rubins told The Associated Press on Friday that astronauts cast votes from the orbit because they "feel that it's very important." "It's critical to participate in our democracy," she said. "We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space, and so we fill out a form and we vote via absentee ballot, and I plan on doing that in November." Rubins is in Star City, Russia, the AP reported, where she is getting ready for a mid-October launch to the International Space Station. She will spend six months there. Most American astronauts live in Houston, Texas, the AP said. The state's law permits them to use a secure electronic ballot to cast a vote, which Mission Control sends to the county clerk, once it's completed. "I think it's really important for everybody to vote, and if we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground too," Rubins said. Rubins and her fellow astronaut Shane Kimbrough voted from space during the 2016 presidential election, per AP.
Theory suggests aurora borealis and solar storm affected Titanic crash - Business Insider - Business Insider
Strong northern lights can indicate huge bursts of energy from the sun — solar storms — that interfere with magnetic, electric, and radio technology.
As water flooded the belly of the RMS Titanic, a stunning display danced in the sky above the sinking ship. "There was no moon, but the aurora borealis glimmered like moonbeams shooting up from the northern horizon," James Bisset, second officer on the nearby vessel Carpathia, later wrote. The Carpathia responded to the Titanic's SOS signal on April 14, 1912, after the ship struck an iceberg. As it approached the lifeboats, the sky was still shimmering. "The peculiar atmospheric conditions of visibility intensified as we approached the icefield with the greenish beams of the aurora borealis shimmering and confusing the horizon ahead of us to the northwards," Bisset wrote. Survivors of the RMS Titanic in one of the ship's collapsible lifeboats, just before being picked up by the Carpathia, April 15, 1912. Universal History Archive/Getty Images Now, a researcher thinks that display may be indicate another force at play in the ship's demise: a storm in space that wreaked magnetic chaos on Earth. The aurora appears when electrically charged particles from the sun wash over the Earth. Our planet's magnetic field channels these particles to the poles, where they interact with gases in the atmosphere to create dazzling ribbons of pink and green light. Earth's magnetic field channels charged particles from the sun towards the poles. NASA Goddard's Conceptual Image Lab/K. Kim Mila Zinkova, an independent weather researcher, thinks the aurora on the night the Titanic sank could have come from an episode of intense solar activity — a geomagnetic storm. Such storms can interfere with magnetic and electric technology on Earth. So Zinkova thinks it's possible that a solar storm may have swayed compasses, steering the Titanic towards doom. She describes the theory in a paper published last month in the Royal Meteorological Society's journal, Weather. Other experts say the theory is unlikely, though it is possible that space weather may have hindered efforts to rescue the ship's passengers. A big space storm on the night the Titanic sank is unlikely The sun blows out a coronal mass ejection, a type of eruption that can cause a major storm on Earth, February 24, 2015. NASA/GSFC Lawrence Beesley, a passenger on the Titanic, mistook the aurora for the light of dawn as he awaited rescue on one of the lifeboats. "The soft light increased for a time, and died away a little; glowed again, and then remained stationary for some minutes," he wrote in his account of the disaster. "'The northern lights!' It suddenly came to me, and so it was: Presently the light arched fanwise across the northern sky, with faint streamers reaching towards the Pole star." Despite the brightness of that aurora, however, geomagnetic data from the night show only a small burst of activity in Earth's magnetic field. That could account for the aurora that survivors and rescuers saw, but it was "not enough to count as a storm," according to Mike Hapgood, a space-weather consultant at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. What's more, the small burst came right around the time that the Titanic struck the iceberg. Zinkova's theory would only be plausible if there had been a geomagnetic storm well before the ship crashed. "The bottom line is that the timing is wrong to consider space weather as a cause of the collision with the iceberg. The space weather event occurred after the collision," Hapgood told Business Insider. A small burst of geomagnetic activity came just as the Titanic was hitting the famous iceberg, around 3 a.m. UTC. But it wasn't big enough to qualify as a geomagnetic storm. Mike Hapgood, STFC/RAL Space But one facet of Zinkova's theory may be true: Geomagnetic activity could have interfered with radio communications after the shipwreck. There, Hapgood said, space weather may have had "some small effects." That could explain why the nearby vessel La Provence never received the Titanic's SOS signal, and why the Titanic couldn't receive the Mount Temple's response to its cries for help. NASA spacecraft could help predict dangerous geomagnetic storms in the future Even if there had been a major geomagnetic storm the night the Titanic sank, it likely would not have been enough to tip the scales. "Chances are that a slight change in compass headings would not have prevented the disaster," Stephen Frazee, a trustee on the board of the Titanic International Society, told Business Insider. Instead, historians mostly attribute the Titanic's demise to Captain E.J. Smith's decision to sail at full speed through icy waters that night. Other contributing factors include the lookouts' lack of binoculars and a radio operator's failure to relay another ship's ice warning to the captain. However, geomagnetic storms have wreaked havoc on critical infrastructure and exacerbated other disasters in the past. Two such storms cut off emergency radio communications for a total of 11 hours following Hurricane Irma in 2017. And a geomagnetic storm in 1989 knocked out Quebec's power for about nine hours. (Electric currents from solar storms can travel down Earth's pipelines and power lines.) Even the possibility that the same forces might have played a role in the Titanic disaster, Zinkova wrote, shows that "predicting space weather is as important as forecasting meteorological weather." An artist's impression of the Solar Orbiter observing an eruption on the sun. ESA/AOES But dangerous solar storms are nearly impossible to foresee. The sun can send billions of tons of material hurtling towards Earth, and the charged particles can reach the planet in under half an hour. Scientists hope new spacecraft could improve their understanding of these events, though. In February, NASA and the European Space Agency launched the Solar Orbiter to capture data about eruptions on the sun's surface. NASA's Parker Solar Probe is also zooming around the sun. It's designed to measure solar eruptions as they happen, tracing the flow of material from the sun to the Earth in real-time. The information these spacecraft are collecting could one day help scientists forecast geomagnetic storms before they happen.
HBO dominated the Emmys with most wins, beating Netflix - Business Insider - Business Insider
HBO beat Netflix in total wins, but the streaming giant was essential for the success of comedy favorite, "Schitt's Creek."
HBO is still the Emmys champion. The premium cable network dominated TV's biggest night on Sunday with wins for best drama series for "Succession" and best limited series for "Watchmen," which was the most awarded series this year with 11 total trophies. Netflix had dethroned HBO in total nominations this year with 160 to HBO's 107, a sign of the size of Netflix's library (as of June, it had more than 670 original TV shows, according the streaming search engine Reelgood). But HBO ultimately picked up 30 total wins — the most of any network — which included the Creative Arts Emmys that were handed out ahead of Sunday's main telecast. Netflix followed with 21 total wins, only two of which were awarded on Sunday. HBO bested Netflix last year, as well, picking up 34 wins compared to Netflix's 27. In 2018, they tied with 23 wins each. HBO's dominance shows that it's still a major player in the awards race as its parent company, WarnerMedia, undergoes a major shakeup and prioritizes its flagship streaming platform, HBO Max, which launched in May. HBO's programming chief, Casey Bloys, was handed the additional responsibilities of overseeing content for Max, TBS, TNT, and TruTV in August after Max's content chief, Kevin Reilly, was ousted as part of a significant restructuring. "Schitt's Creek" Pop But while Netflix didn't win any major series awards, it was essential in introducing Pop TV's "Schitt's Creek" to a wider audience. The series swept the comedy categories on Sunday, picking up trophies for best comedy series, writing, directing, and all four acting awards. It's the first drama or comedy to sweep the acting awards and the most awarded comedy ever in a single year. Eugene Levy, the show's cocreator and star, even thanked Netflix in his acceptance speech after it won the best comedy trophy. "Schitt's Creek" isn't the first series to get the "Netflix bump." A notable example is "Breaking Bad," which saw its ratings increase after streaming on Netflix. Creator Vince Gilligan credited Netflix for the show's success. "I think Netflix kept us on the air," Gilligan told reporters at the Emmys in 2013 after the series won best drama series. "I don't think our show would have even lasted beyond season two. It's a new era in television, and we've been very fortunate to reap the benefits." One of the biggest losers at this year's Emmys was Amazon Prime Video, which won just four total awards compared to last year's 15. On the streaming front, Prime Video was bested by newcomer Disney Plus, which took home eight prizes thanks largely to the "Star Wars" series, "The Mandalorian."
Russia's top space official tried to claim that the planet Venus belongs to the Kremlin - Business Insider - Business Insider
The head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, also said the country plans to send its own mission to Venus.
The head of the Russian space agency has staked the country's claim on Venus, saying this week that it is a "Russian planet." Dmitry Rogozin, who is the director general of Russian space corporation Roscosmos, revealed that the country plans to send its own mission to Venus. This would be on top of an already-proposed joint venture with the United States called "Venera-D" that would include sending an uncrewed space mission to the planet in either 2026 or 2031. Speaking to reporters at an international helicopter exhibition in Moscow on Tuesday, Rogozin said: "Our country was the first and only one to successfully land on Venus. The spacecraft gathered information about the planet — it is like hell over there," according to The Times. "Resuming Venus exploration is on our agenda. We think that Venus is a Russian planet, so we shouldn't lag behind," he added, CNN reported. Rogozin's comments come days after new research suggested that a gas on Earth called phosphine had also been detected in the atmosphere of Venus, meaning the planet's clouds could be harboring microbial life. In the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, Cardiff University professor Jane Greaves and her team said that their discovery makes Venus a new area of interest. "Our hoped-for impact in the planetary science community is to stimulate more research on Venus itself, research on the possibilities of life in Venus' atmosphere, and even space missions focused to find signs of life or even life itself in the Venusian atmosphere," Seager said, according to CNN. Venus is the second furthest planet from the Sun and is considered one of the hottest in our solar system. The planet's atmosphere is made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide and is the second brightest object in the night sky, after the moon. The Soviet Union became the first country to successfully land a spacecraft on Venus in 1970. The Venera 7 was one of many probes to be sent to the planet and became the first to transmit data from there back to Earth. Although it made a successful soft landing, it melted within seconds. Its successor Venera 9 — also launched by the Russians — took the first and only image of the Venusian surface from the ground-level perspective in 1975. The country plans to send its own mission to Venus between 2021 and 2030, Rogozin said, according to CNN.
Peanut allergy: Pioneering study offers hope to sufferers - Business Insider - Business Insider
The idea is not that those with peanut allergies will be able to eat the nuts freely, but that the severity of their reactions could be reduced.
A pioneering new study is offering new hope to peanut allergy sufferers. It may be possible to reduce the severity of allergic reactions to peanuts, research published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health suggests. Peanut allergy is the leading cause of food-related anaphylaxis, the report states, with 6.1 million people suffering from the allergy in the US. The number of sufferers has soared in recent decades, too, with a 2017 study suggesting prevalence in children had risen 21% since 2010. The new study involved a trial, called the Artemis trial, undertaken at hospitals across Europe. 175 children with peanut allergies aged 4 to 17 took part in the research, which saw them given either increasing amounts of peanut allergen protein or a placebo every day. Those who took the peanut protein were given a slightly higher dose every two weeks for six months, after which point the same dose was maintained for three months. The researchers found that 58% of children who'd taken the peanut protein could tolerate at least three to four peanuts by the end of the trial. It compared to just 2% of those given the placebo. The researchers concluded that the treatment "led to rapid desensitization to peanut protein." The research does not suggest peanut allergy sufferers will soon be able to eat peanut butter by the spoonful, however the researchers hope it could mean less severe reactions from accidental exposure to the nuts. One participant, James Redman, 12, told The Times that he can now tolerate up to seven peanuts after previously suffering severe reactions to any peanut traces. "Taking part in the study was the greatest opportunity of my life," he said. "The nurses and doctors were really caring and great fun. I didn't mind the taste of the peanut protein as I got to mix it with chocolate pudding which was great. "I really hope the study leads to a treatment so that other children with a peanut allergy can benefit." Read more: The FDA approved its first drug to treat children's peanut allergies Why so many Americans are allergic to peanuts The major causes of fall allergies and how to relieve your symptoms
Earth Lost a 'Staggering' 28 Trillion Tonnes of Ice in Just 23 Years - ScienceAlert
The melting glaciers and ice sheets could cause sea levels to rise dramatically, possibly reaching a meter (3 feet) by the end of the century.
A "staggering" 28 trillion tonnes of ice has disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994, a group of UK scientists has found. Scientists from Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London analyzed satellite surveys of glaciers, mountains, and ice sheets between 1994 and 2017 to identify the impact of global warming. Their review paper was published in the journal Cryosphere Discussions. Describing the ice loss as "staggering," the group found that melting glaciers and ice sheets could cause sea levels to rise dramatically, possibly reaching a meter (3 feet) by the end of the century. "To put that in context, every centimeter of sea-level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands," Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University's Center for Polar Observation and Modelling, told the Guardian. The dramatic loss of ice could have other severe consequences, including major disruption to the biological health of Arctic and Antarctic waters and reducing the planet's ability to reflect solar radiation back into space. The findings match the worst-case-scenario predictions outlined by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientists have confirmed. "In the past researchers have studied individual areas – such as the Antarctic or Greenland – where ice is melting. But this is the first time anyone has looked at all the ice that is disappearing from the entire planet," said Shepherd, according to the Guardian. "What we have found has stunned us." "There can be little doubt that the vast majority of Earth's ice loss is a direct consequence of climate warming," the group wrote. The findings come a week after researchers at Ohio State University discovered that Greenland's ice sheet might have passed a point of no return. According to the researchers, snowfall that replenishes the country's glaciers each year can no longer keep up with the pace of ice melt, which means that the Greenland ice sheet will continue to lose ice even if global temperatures stop rising. The Greenland ice sheet is the world's second-largest ice body. "What we've found is that the ice that's discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that's accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet," Michalea King, lead author and researcher at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said in a press release. According to a NASA study, 2010-2019 was the hottest decade ever recorded.
A car-sized asteroid called 2020 QG nearly hit Earth on Sunday - Business Insider - Business Insider
The asteroid, known as 2020 GQ or ZTF0DxQ, flew so close to Earth that it's now the closest known encounter that didn't hit our planet.
A car-sized asteroid flew within about 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) of Earth on Sunday. That's a remarkably close shave — the closest ever recorded, in fact, according to asteroid trackers and a catalog compiled by Sormano Astronomical Observatory in Italy. Because of its size, the space rock likely wouldn't have posed any danger to people on the ground had it struck our planet. But the close call is worrisome nonetheless, since astronomers had no idea the asteroid existed until after it passed by. "The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the sun," Paul Chodas, the director of NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told Business Insider. "We didn't see it coming." Instead, the Palomar Observatory in California first detected the space rock about six hours after it flew by Earth. Chodas confirmed the record-breaking nature of the event: "Yesterday's close approach is closest on record, if you discount a few known asteroids that have actually impacted our planet," he said. NASA knows about only a fraction of near-Earth objects (NEOs) like this one. Many do not cross any telescope's line of sight, and several potentially dangerous asteroids have snuck up on scientists in recent years. If the wrong one slipped through the gaps in our NEO-surveillance systems, it could kill tens of thousands of people. 2020 QG flew over the Southern Hemisphere This recent near-Earth asteroid was initially called ZTF0DxQ but is now formally known to astronomers as 2020 QG. Business Insider first learned about it from Tony Dunn, the creator of the website orbitsimulator.com. "Newly-discovered asteroid ZTF0DxQ passed less than 1/4 Earth diameter yesterday, making it the closest-known flyby that didn't hit our planet," Dunn tweeted on Monday. He shared the animation below, republished here with permission. The sped-up simulation shows the approximate orbital path of 2020 QG as it careened by at a speed of about 7.7 miles per second (12.4 kilometers per second) or about 27,600 mph. Early observations suggest the space rock flew over the Southern Hemisphere just after 4 a.m. Universal Time (midnight ET) on Sunday. The animation above shows 2020 QG flying over the Southern Ocean near Antarctica. However, the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center calculated a slightly different trajectory. The group's rendering (shown at the beginning of this story), suggests the asteroid flew over the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles east of Australia. Not dangerous, but definitely not welcome As far as space rocks go, 2020 QG wasn't too dangerous. Telescope observations suggest the object is between 6 feet (2 meters) and 18 feet (5.5 meters) wide — somewhere between the size of a small car and an extended-cab pickup truck. But even if it was on the largest end of that spectrum and made of dense iron (most asteroids are rocky), only small pieces of such an asteroid may have reached the ground, according to the "Impact Earth" simulator from Purdue University and Imperial College London. Such an asteroid would have exploded in the atmosphere, creating a brilliant fireball and unleashing an airburst equivalent to detonating a couple dozen kilotons of TNT. That's about the same as one of the atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan in 1945. But the airburst would have happened about 2 or 3 miles above the ground, so it wouldn't have sounded any louder than heavy traffic to people on the ground. This doesn't make the asteroid's discovery much less unnerving, though — it does not take a huge space rock to create a big problem. A simulation of a 66-foot-wide (20-meter-wide) asteroid burning up in Earth's atmosphere. Darrel Robertson/NASA Ames Take, for example, the roughly 66-foot-wide (20-meter) asteroid that exploded without warning over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013. That space rock created a superbolide event, unleashing an airburst equivalent to 500 kilotons of TNT — about 30 Hiroshima nuclear bombs' worth of energy. The explosion, which began about 12 miles (20 kilometers) above Earth, triggered a blast wave that shattered windows in six Russian cities and injured about 1,500 people. And in July 2019, a 427-foot (130-meter) asteroid called 2019 OK passed within 45,000 miles (72,400 kilometers) of our planet, or less than 20% of the distance between Earth and the moon. Astronomers detected that rock less than a week before its closest approach, leading one scientist to tell The Washington Post that the asteroid essentially appeared "out of nowhere." In an unlikely direct hit to a city, such a wayward space rock might kill tens of thousands of people. NASA is actively scanning the skies for such threats, as Congress has required it to do since 2005. However, the agency is mandated to detect only 90% of "city killer" space rocks larger than about 460 feet (140 meters) in diameter. In May 2019, NASA said it had found less than half of the estimated 25,000 objects of that size or larger. And of course, that doesn't count smaller rocks such as the Chelyabinsk and 2019 OK asteroids. Objects that come from the direction of the sun, meanwhile — like 2020 QG — are notoriously difficult to spot. "There's not much we can do about detecting inbound asteroids coming from the sunward direction, as asteroids are detected using optical telescopes only (like ZTF), and we can only search for them in the night sky," Chodas said. "The idea is that we discover them on one of their prior passages by our planet, and then make predictions years and decades in advance to see whether they have any possibility of impacting." NASA has a plan to address these gaps in its asteroid-hunting program. The agency is in the early stages of developing a space telescope that could detect asteroids and comets coming from the sun's direction. NASA's 2020 budget allotted nearly $36 million for that telescope, called the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission. If funding continues, it could launch as early as 2025. This story has been updated with new information.
Photographer Captures Eerie And Majestic Sky 'Jellyfish' During a Storm - ScienceAlert
A thunderstorm can sometimes birth a rarely seen phenomenon in Earth's atmosphere: red space lightning called sprites that look like jellyfish.
If you've ever looked up during a thunderstorm and glimpsed a red jellyfish sitting high in the sky, you weren't hallucinating. These tentacle-like spurts of red lightning are called sprites. They're ultrafast bursts of electricity that crackle through the upper regions of the atmosphere — between 37 and 50 miles up in the sky — and move towards space, according to the European Space Agency. The phenomenon is a rare sighting: It lasts just tenths of a second and can be hard to see from the ground since it's generally obscured by storm clouds. But Stephen Hummel, a dark-skies specialist at the McDonald Observatory, captured a spectacular image of one of these sprites on July 2 (shown above) from a ridge on Mount Locke in Texas. "Sprites usually appear to the eye as very brief, dim, grey structures. You need to be looking for them to spot them, and oftentimes I am not certain I actually saw one until I check the camera footage to confirm," Hummel told Business Insider. On the night he snapped this photo, he'd recorded 4 1/2 hours of footage before capturing the sprite on film. "Overall I've probably recorded close to 70 hours' worth of footage and stills this year, and caught about 70 sprites," he said, adding that half of those were in a single storm. Jellyfish sprites can be seen glimpsed from space Davis Sentman, a professor of physics at the University of Alaska who died in 2011, proposed the name "sprite" for this type of weather phenomenon. He said the name was "well suited to describe their appearance," since the word evokes the lightning's fairy-like, fleeting nature. Some sprites, like the one Hummel photographed, are jellyfish-shaped. Others are just vertical columns of red light with tendrils snaking down: these are called carrot sprites. Jellyfish sprites can be enormous — the one Hummel photographed was "probably around 30 miles long and 30 miles tall," he said. Some can be seen from more than 300 miles away. They occur because when lightning strikes the ground, it tends to release positive electrical energy that needs to be balanced out by equal and oppositely charged energy elsewhere in the sky. So sprites are the electrical discharges that balance the equation. "The more powerful the storm and the more lightning it produces, the more likely it is to produce a sprite," Hummel said. While similar to regular lightning, which shoots between electrically charged air, clouds, and the ground, sprites happen much farther from Earth's surface. Astronauts sometimes spot them from the International Space Station. Astronauts glimpse a red lightning sprite below the white light of an active thunderstorm from aboard the International Space Station, August 2015. NASA As a sprite sparks, it turns red because of nitrogen floating high in Earth's atmosphere. The gas gets excited by the burst of electricity and emits a red glow. —Paul M Smith (@PaulMSmithPhoto) April 21, 2019 Since the sprites' discovery in 1989, scientists have spotted them over every continent except Antarctica. Dave Mosher contributed reporting to this story.
Greenland's Melting Ice Sheet Has 'Passed The Point of No Return', Scientists Say - ScienceAlert
Rising temperatures have driven Greenland's glaciers past a critical tipping point, where snowfall can no longer replenish melting ice.
Greenland's ice sheet may have hit a tipping point that sets it on an irreversible path to completely disappearing. Snowfall that normally replenishes Greenland's glaciers each year can no longer keep up with the pace of ice melt, according to researchers at Ohio State University. That means that the Greenland ice sheet — the world's second-largest ice body — would continue to lose ice even if global temperatures stop rising. In their study, published Thursday in the journal Nature, the scientists reviewed 40 years of monthly satellite data from more than 200 large glaciers that are draining into the ocean across Greenland. "What we've found is that the ice that's discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that's accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet," Michalea King, the study's lead author and researcher at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said in a press release. Complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet could raise sea levels 23 feet by the year 3000. If that happens, the ocean would swallow coastal cities across the globe. Greenland's ice is already the world's largest single contributor to sea-level rise. In just the next 80 years, its current melt rate would add another 2.75 inches to global sea levels, according to a study published in December. Satellite image shows meltwater ponding on the surface of the ice sheet in northwest Greenland near the sheet’s edge on Monday, July 30, 2019. While the heat wave broke in Western Europe after a few days, extreme temperatures shifted north and caused massive ice melts in Greenland and the Arctic. NASA via Associated Press "Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into a constant state of loss," Ian Howat, a glaciologist and co-author on the paper, said in the release. "Even if the climate were to stay the same or even get a little colder, the ice sheet would still be losing mass." But this is just one of many climate-change tipping points that human activity might bring about. There is still time to avoid irreversible pathways to other calamities. The amount of ice Greenland loses each year has steadily increased in the last two decades. Before 2000, the researchers found, the ice sheet had an equal chance of gaining or losing mass each year. But in the climate of the last 20 years, it will only gain mass one in every 100 years, the researchers found. Greenland dumped an unprecedented amount of ice and water into the ocean during the summer of 2019, when a heat wave from Europe washed over the island. The ice sheet lost 55 billion tons of water over five days — enough to cover the state of Florida in almost five inches of water. Ice melt formed whitewaters in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 1, 2019. Caspar Haarloev from "Into the Ice" documentary via Reuters Melt brings about more melt, as water pooling across the ice sheet absorbs more sunlight and further heats everything around it. That's why tipping points like Greenland's accelerate ice loss so much. Rising global temperatures and certain human activities can bring about tipping points in other parts of the world, too. In the Arctic, ice melt is exposing permafrost — frozen soil that releases powerful greenhouse gases when it thaws. If warming thaws enough permafrost, the gases released will trap heat faster than humans' fossil-fuel emissions. In the Amazon rainforest, humans have been cutting and burning trees for years, allowing moisture to escape the ecosystem. Enough deforestation could trigger a process called "dieback," in which the rainforest would dry up, burn, and become a savanna-like landscape, releasing up to 140 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Last year, leading rainforest scientists warned that the Amazon is "teetering on the edge" of that threshold. The four stages of land management on a big cattle farm in the Brazilian Amazon: clear land where the forest has recently been burned and grass will be grown (foreground), a pasture waiting for the cattle (right), forest being burned to make pasture (background), and native forest which will soon undergo the same (left). Ricardo Funari/Getty Still, scientists say that switching to less carbon-intensive forms of energy, like solar power, and reducing unsustainable logging and mining can help us avoid those disasters. Even for the Greenland ice sheet, the future holds more tipping points — degrees of collapse that will accelerate the glaciers' melt even more. Limiting global warming could delay those tipping points and give the world more time to prepare. "We've passed the point of no return, but there's obviously more to come," Howat told CNN. "Rather than being a single tipping point in which we've gone from a happy ice sheet to a rapidly collapsing ice sheet, it's more of a staircase where we've fallen off the first step but there's many more steps to go down into the pit."