(TMU) — New images from space depicting the extent of Australia’s bushfire crisis have shown the frightful scale of the catastrophe facing not only the country but the entire world.
Over the weekend, incredible satellite photos published by Maxar Technologies and shared by news agencies showed the wildfires raging in different parts of the island continent.
The images were a combination of natural-colored satellite photos and shortwave infrared images looking through the thick smoke and capturing the eerie glow of the fires from space.
In other satellite images, huge plumes of smoke from the bushfire can be seen moving from New Zealand and making its way across the Pacific and into the South American country of Chile.
— Meteo La Serena (@MeteoLaSerena) January 6, 2020
The presence of smoke in South America is a result of westerly winds from the southeast pushing the massive plumes from New Zealand all the way across the Pacific Ocean, according to news.com.au.
The development comes as NASA and NOAA images show that the smoke has created a cloud bigger than the area of the mainland United States.
Esta foto que publicó @SanGasso muestra el Humo de los incendios de #Australia que está ya siendo visible en gran parte de #Chile y lo que se está apreciando también en #LaSerena con el cielo “celeste grisáceo” de hoy. ⚠️ https://t.co/IW7u5Zu4cS pic.twitter.com/bmrJl1qg4k
— Meteo La Serena (@MeteoLaSerena) January 6, 2020
Over 200 fires continue to burn across the country, with upwards of 12.35 million acres being devastated in the blaze. Some 1,500 homes have been lost since the crisis broke out in September, while at least 24 people have been killed and dozens remain missing.
One smoke cloud on the east coast is bigger than the continental United States.
Smoke has traveled to South America in one week, a distance of 12,000 kilometers. pic.twitter.com/kxqvTQsJUg
— Kitty Bhagat 🌹 (@KittyBhagat) January 6, 2020
Rain showers fell Sunday and early Monday across the country’s South Coast, which has been a flashpoint of the fires. Residents of Sydney broke out into spontaneous cheers as the sooty rain fell, while enthusiastic social media users shared video of the downpour.
However, officials warn that the rain and temporary drop in temperatures won’t be capable of putting out the worst blazes before conditions worsen again and temperatures rise later by Thursday, news.com.au reports.
— Ariana ✨VOTE✨ (@arianapez) January 6, 2020
On Monday, New South Wales (NSW) state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said:
“There is no room for complacency.
This morning it is all about recovery, making sure people who have been displaced have somewhere safe.”
However, New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons greeted the changed conditions as a “welcome reprieve,” according to the Daily Express.
ABC reported that a break in emergency-level conditions gave authorities an opportunity to rescue many people and begin large-scale evacuation operations.
Over half a billion wild animals are believed to have been killed by the flames. Entire rare and endangered species may have been wiped out. Over 30,000 koalas are feared to have died in the fires, transforming the beloved national mascot into a symbol of a national and global tragedy.
Morrison has faced fierce criticism for his government’s response—or lack thereof—to the climate crisis and a confused response to the bushfires. On Saturday, reports emerged of firefighters cursing the prime minister and saying that he should “get fucked” and resign.
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.