(TMU) — The massive ozone hole that formed over the North Pole has finally closed, scientists have announced.
Researchers from the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) who were tracking the record-breaking ozone hole over the Arctic tweeted last Thursday:
“The unprecedented 2020 Northern Hemisphere ozone hole has come to an end.”
The hole, which was the single largest such ozone hole ever detected in the arctic, first opened in late March as unusual wind conditions trapped frigid air over the North Pole for several consecutive weeks.
However, scientists took pains to point out that the closing of the hole has nothing to do with drop in emissions recorded across the world as a result of lockdown measures meant to curb the coronavirus.
On Twitter, the group wrote:
“COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns probably had nothing to do with this.
“It’s been driven by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex, and isn’t related to air quality changes.”
Live Science reports that a polar vortex is comprised of powerful winds that create a circular cage of cold air that leads to the formation of high-altitude clouds in the region. The clouds mixed with harmful human-made chemicals such as chlorine and bromine, which migrated into the stratosphere and accumulated inside the vortex.
The unprecedented 2020 northern hemisphere #OzoneHole has come to an end. The #PolarVortex split, allowing #ozone-rich air into the Arctic, closely matching last week's forecast from the #CopernicusAtmosphere Monitoring Service.
— Copernicus ECMWF (@CopernicusECMWF) April 23, 2020
The chemicals then ate away at surrounding gases, thinning the ozone layer and forming a huge hole approximately three times the size of Greenland in the atmosphere, according to a European Space Agency (ESA) statement.
The ozone layer is the layer in the Earth’s stratosphere that is responsible for absorbing the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the Sun, effectively filtering out radiation that causes skin cancer among humans, destroys crops, and disrupts marine ecosystems among other devastating effects on the planet.
The ozone layer has faced decades of degradation thanks to the use of harmful chemical compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons, halons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and other organic and synthetic (human-made) ozone-depleting compounds that are commonly used in refrigerators, aerosols, and a range of industrial processes.
The startling decline of the ozone layer became such a dire matter of concern that in 1987, governments agreed to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty meant to phase out the production and use of ozone-depleting chemicals.
However, ozone holes have continued to form annually in the Antarctic due to a failure to sufficiently check the amount of human-made chemicals that continue to make their way into the stratosphere. Scientists believe that this will remain a seasonal phenomenon in the future.
In October, the ozone hole shrank to its smallest size ever recorded, mainly due to the unusually hot climate conditions above Antarctica caused by global warming.
In the Arctic, polar vortexes tend to be far weaker, which means that the conditions which eat away at ozone gases aren’t typically found—hence the “unprecedented” nature of this ozone hole.
According to a 2018 study by the World Meteorological Organization, the southern ozone hole has been shrinking at a rate of 1 percent to 3 percent per decade since 2000, meaning that it won’t heal entirely until about 2050. Credit is also due to the Montreal Protocol for the apparent healing of the ozone layer.
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.