1000-Year-Old Artefacts and Trading Pass Found Under Melting Ice

These days, the news is hard to listen to. We are living through unprecedented and scary times right now. Both the coronavirus and climate change are at the forefront of our minds and front pages. It’s important to keep up with everything that’s going on, but I felt that right now we could all use something a bit different. What I found still evokes the thoughts of climate change. But at least it gives us a look into something a bit different from pure science for a change. 

A bunch of artefacts were found in a mountain pass in Lendbreen, Norway. In 2011, as the ice patch there melted back due to climate change, a woolen tunic was found that dated back to the third or fourth century. Since the ice has retreated a lot more in the past few years, many more well-preserved artefacts were found.

Carbon dating showed that most of these artefacts dated back to the time of the Vikings, about 1000 years ago. It also showed that the pass was used by farmers and travelers for a thousand years, starting around AD 200-300 and ending around the time of the Black Death in the 1300s. The archaeologists say that the story that the objects make together is what is truly remarkable about them. Some of the interesting finds included woolen mittens, reindeer pelts and dairy products that were being carried by farmers and traders. There was even a snowshoe made for horses, a Bronze Age ski, and arrows that still had their feathers intact! 

A horse snowshoe found during 2019 fieldwork at Lendbreen. Photograph: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice.com

Reading this article, I was surprised to learn of a few new jobs I have never heard of. The Glacier Archaeology Program is one of many programs worldwide dedicated to studying what melting glaciers leave in their wake. Some glacial archaeologists from this group described this archaeological find as a dream. A medieval and environmental archaeologist, however, said that it was also a “poignant and evocative reminder of climate change”.

It’s interesting that there are entire programs dedicated to this type of archaeology which depends on climate change to persist. Learning about these artefacts almost perfectly preserved for a thousand years is so interesting. However, I would much rather have them stay preserved in the ice for another thousand. This particular glacier has almost completely retreated due to lots of melting in 2019. It seems that these archaeologists won’t be finding many more artifacts any time soon thanks to climate change.

Read More Here:

‘Spectacular’ artefacts found as Norway ice patch melts

Warming Climate in Norway Reveals Relics of Ancient Viking Trade Route

Climate Change and Coral Reefs: Could Brightening the Clouds Be the Key to Saving Our Seas?

I’m an environmental geology major with a marine science and policy minor, so I love the oceans and coral reefs. I’ve spent quite a bit of time learning about corals over the past couple of years, from taking classes about them (coral reef ecology seminar–you should totally try it) to interning at one of the leading coral reef research institutes that you’ve probably heard little about. Suffice to say, I’m pretty excited about corals. But living in today’s world, being excited about corals also means you’re constantly fearful for them. Just this past winter in 2020 (summer in the Southern Hemisphere), the Great Barrier Reef in Australia experienced its third devastating bleaching event in five years. 

You’ve probably heard some statistics in the past few years of the GBR and coral reefs around the world bleaching, but what does that really mean? Corals are animals which have a symbiotic relationship with tiny algae that live within their tissues. While corals can feed at night using stingers, they only get about 10% of their food this way. The other 90% is from the photosynthesis of the algae within their tissues. These algae have different colors, but corals do not. Under their thin layers of tissue where the algae lives, they are stark white. When temperatures rise, or some other sort of nuisance hurts the corals, they expel the algae. Thus, they “bleach” since they no longer have the algae to give them color.

Corals are able to regain new algae if the environmental conditions around them go back to normal. But with climate change today, that is very unlikely. Without their main food source, corals are likely to die. This is why it’s so important to prevent bleaching from happening.

One of the many different types of research going on at the Hawai’i institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) at the University of Manoa a few summers ago. This 3D image uses fluorescence to show the different parts of a tiny coral polyp and how they work together. The turquoise bits are the algae within the coral’s tissues. Other work going on there includes the breeding of heat-resistant corals and algae to create super corals, and the creation of a bank of all species of coral eggs and sperm for the future if some or all die out. From the Gates Lab.

There are many factors about a coral’s environment that can cause bleaching, but temperature is one of the most pertinent. A 1.5-degree C average change in temperature as predicted by the IPCC for the future may not seem like a big difference to humans. To a coral, however, a 1.5-degree C is like our body temperatures raising a few degrees. When our average body temperatures rise a few degrees, we have a fever and we’re sick. Imagine corals living like that every day soon. They won’t be able to survive. 

This is an image of a coral from the Great Barrier Reef that was bleached this year in the mass bleaching event. Photograph: JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY AUSTRALIA/AFP via Getty Images

Scientists of course are working their hardest around the world to be able to stop corals from bleaching and dying. The Australian government produced a 150-million-dollar research and development program earlier this week. The plan hopes to aid the resilience to future warming by researching 43 different ideas.

These 43 ideas were originally culled from a whopping 160 different research plans, and will be further decreased as certain research efforts prove better. The ideas can be broken down into seven categories that roughly fall under three main categories. The first category aims to shade the corals to prevent further warming and bleaching. The second hopes to rebuild and stabilize their structures. The third is to help them adapt to warming temperatures and regrow corals in areas of need. I’ve heard of many of these ideas before, but one is quite new and interesting to me: the idea of “shading” corals by the process of “cloud brightening”.

Cloud brightening  is the process of spraying trillions of tiny salt crystals into the air above the ocean. This will mimic natural salt spray and in turn cause the formation of small cloud droplets that reflect light. This could lower ocean temperatures just enough to keep corals from bleaching. It is particularly interesting because it can be used when forecasts predict the oncoming of major heat that will cause bleaching.

The following video from The Guardian shows a bit more about cloud brightening.

 

However cool this type of technology and research is, experts agree that none of it will matter if emissions as they stand now are not drastically reduced. Never mind the 1.5 degrees C that the IPCC predicts between 2030-2050; corals may not be able to survive past 1.2 degrees C. The way the world stands now, technologies like cloud brightening can only hold off the inevitable from happening sooner.

Read more here:

Artificial fog and breeding coral: study picks best Great Barrier Reef rescue ideas

Rebuild it, shade it, breed it: three tactics to buy time for the Great Barrier Reef

Scientists trial cloud brightening equipment to shade and cool Great Barrier Reef

Coronavirus Models Aren’t Wrong. That Would Be the Climate Deniers

After reading everything last week about climate change deniers, I was interested to learn more. Sure enough, a relevant article quickly popped up. It described that climate change deniers are not only saying that coronavirus models are not accurate. They’re comparing these models to climate change models which they claim were also not accurate.

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised after reading those other articles this past week, but I am concerned about how the public sees models. Some climate change deniers who are higher up might not understand the science. Or they could actually know how the models work, and could be using a normal person’s ignorance to insight a push back on the quarantines happening around the country. Either way, it’s very important to flesh out what these models are actually saying based on what experts tell us. We shouldn’t listen to conservatives with a motive for opening up the country quicker than it should be. 

The death toll projections in the past few weeks expected the US to surpass somewhere around 100,000+ Americans, yet the models changed this past week. The most-used model projected us to have around 60,000 or some odd deaths. While this is a significant jump in numbers, it’s to be expected; the reason that models change is due to the parameters put into them. Since people have been social distancing and self-quarantining, and state and federal laws have become more strict in the past few weeks, our outlook is a bit better. Thus, the model changed to reflect those changes. The original death toll prediction was if we kept our actions as they were. Since we changed many of them, the model’s outcome changed. In other words, the model worked like it was supposed to—to warn us of what was to come if we didn’t act collectively. 

Statistical models, like this one forecasting health-care demand in Austin, vary widely in projecting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. (Jon Elswick/AP)

Many conservative pundits related this “model fail” to that of climate change. Patrick Moore, for example, said “it seems like the computer models for the corona virus pandemic are about as accurate as the computer models that have failed so miserably on global warming,”. He is also the chairman of the CO2 Coalition which believes that we need to burn more fossil fuels to save the planet. The tag line on their website is “Carbon dioxide is essential for life. Learn the facts about the vital role that CO2 plays in our environment”.

More conservatives showed just where their concerns lie when they said that they are spending lots of money for these faulty numbers, and that if less people die from COVID-19 than from the flu this year, the medical community “will look like even bigger fools than the #ClimateChange establishment”. Again we see conservatives and climate change deniers spinning the truth to favor big oil and the money lining their pockets, instead of facing the truth and the human toll we are and will experience from both of these issues if we don’t listen to experts and their models. 

Models are not perfect, of course. Simple models base infection rates off of humans randomly bumping into each other like molecules. This is unlike the rather scattered social circles that we truly have. Early models can be skewed greatly if there have been too many deaths in one particular area. While models may not seem accurate a lot of the time, we have to take away the important message. If we don’t do anything, the outcomes will not be good. 

One article from The Washington Post used a good analogy between modeling and weather apps. There are many parameters that can go into a weather forecast, and those forecasts may sometimes be wrong. But if you see rain all day on the forecast, you should bring an umbrella or you’ll probably get wet. These models may change daily or even hourly with the new parameters that are put into them. But the bottom line is that we need to prepare for the worst to try to get the best outcome. The drop in expected deaths is thanks to models’ and experts’ warnings. We don’t need models to be perfect to see that we need to act to stop the worst from happening, no matter what conservative pundits are feeding us.

 

Learn More Here:

Climate Science Deniers Turn to Attacking Coronavirus Models

Virus models predict possible outcomes. We can fight to stop the worst ones.

The Earth Is Not Healing Itself, and Humans Are Not the Virus

By now you may have heard of stories concerning COVID-19 and climate change, suggesting that the virus has been good for our planet. One such tweet went viral, showing the Venice canals clearing up since people are not around to pollute them due to quarantine. 

This may seem like a positive, but another, darker tweet appeared a day later. This tweet, shown below, suggests that “Coronavirus is the Earth’s vaccine. We’re the virus”. 

While many people agreed with this twitter user, causing the tweet to go viral, the tweet became a meme after some folks realized the eco-facist nature of these tweets. A stream of memes ensued, attempting to show those that supported the original tweet just how ridiculous and ignorant it was. Even the author of the article showcasing those memes didn’t seem to understand their true meaning, stating “people have been posting photos and videos of animals flourishing in our new less-human, and thus less-toxic, environment”, and “but by all accounts, nature is healing. And though we may be the virus, we’re a hilarious one”. Humans are not the virus, and this whole ordeal is no joke. 

An article by UN News put it well when it stated that positive impacts on the world are temporary, particularly in light of the economic and human impact the virus is having on the world. Scripps Institute of Oceanography also noted that for carbon dioxide levels to truly be impacted, fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10 percent around the world for a year. 

If anything, the fact that the coronavirus hit the world so strongly only shows that the world is nowhere near “healed”. With climate change and its contributors, the chances of more zoonotic diseases (those carried by animals and given to humans) like the coronavirus only increase.

Changes in temperature, humidity & seasonality directly affect the survival of microbes in the environment; & evidence suggests that disease epidemics will become more frequent, as the climate continues to change. UN Environment Programme.

Coronavirus will most likely clear up in the summer, or by next year. When it does, the world will most likely go back to the way it was, perhaps at double the speed to make up for lost time and money. But we most likely won’t be forgetting the virus and its global impacts any time soon.

We will have a real opportunity to enact systemic changes in our country and around the world after all of this is over. We finally have the world’s ears, because we have to listen to one another at a time like this. Will we make the move towards real, systemic changes to our systems of healthcare, transportation, energy, policy, and more? Will we band together as a world to truly change our future here on this planet, particularly for those most at risk of the effects of climate change? Or will we continue with our everyone-for-themselves mentality that we hold so dear in this country? Only time will tell. 

Though almost nothing is sure right now, a few things are: the Earth is NOT healing itself, and humans are NOT the virus.

 

Read more below!

The Coronavirus Meme About “Nature Is Healing” Is So Damn Funny

First Person: COVID-19 is not a silver lining for the climate, says UN Environment chief

COVID-19 and climate change: What can we learn about saving lives?

Lions, Tigers, Corona, Oh My!

After all of the devastating news we’ve been hearing over the past couple of weeks about COVID-19, seeing countless news stories about a tiger at the Bronx Zoo getting the virus a few days ago had my head spinning.

Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, that the zoo said on April 5, 2020 has tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen in an undated handout photo provided by the Bronx zoo in New York.

My first thought, like many people apparently, was why was a tiger being administered a coronavirus test while so many people are unable to get tested? So I did a bit of research. It turns out that while many people were asking the same question as I was, the truth is that the test used on the tiger was only available at a vet’s office, for use on tigers. But while we need not worry about that, this has seemed to bring up peoples’ fears that their pets could become infected or transmit the disease, too.

While a few dogs, cats, and other big cats in the Bronx Zoo have been infected with the virus, it is more surprising that more pets aren’t infected considering the number of people who are sick at home. The fact that this hasn’t happened, the article states, probably means that animals such as cats and dogs aren’t generally susceptible to COVID-19, and thus won’t catch or spread it to humans.

Further evidence from multiple studies has suggested this as well. A study of feral cats in Wuhan suggested that the cats showed signs of exposure to the virus, but tested perfectly healthy, even after a large exposure to the virus. The virus was also found to reproduce poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks.

Though there is no evidence of pets passing the virus to humans, it is still suggested that we treat our animals like another member of the household. Keep distance from your pets as you would with other household members.

Fido and Mittens may not be passing on the virus to any of you family members anytime soon, but organizations concerned with health and animal welfare are still concerned that this will mean a spike in abandoning pets. Italy and a few other countries have already seen a spike in abandoned animals on the streets. Sadly, though, this could be for any number of reasons such as not being able to provide for them in the current state of the world, since many people have been fired from their job and may no longer be able to pay for their animals.

Still, these organizations warn not to get rid of your pets. Lately, we have seen animal shelters completely cleaned out due to folks staying at home. While this is some nice news, I worry that it is only a matter of time before many folks are not able to take care of their pets due to any number of reasons, or get sick of their pets when the quarantine comes to an end.

Riverside County Animal Services shelter is empty. Photo by Riverside County Animal Services.

The Bronx Zoo tigers and lions are going to make a full recovery after mild cases of COVID. Though this is some good news to hear, my concern lies more with the people who may not be able to care for their animals, and who cannot seek medical care as quickly and efficiently as these tigers can. It seems that tigers still have better access to healthcare than humans when it comes to COVID-19 these days.

Learn more here!