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EU

CO2 Researchers Are Now Hacking Photosynthesis (chicagotribune.com) 100

Remember that story about the "artificial leaf" solar cells? Long-time Slashdot reader managerialslime quotes the Chicago Tribune: University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have developed a way to mimic plants' ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, a way to decrease the amounts of harmful gas in the atmosphere and produce clean energy. The artificial leaf essentially recycles carbon dioxide. And it's powered entirely by the sun, mimicking the real photosynthesis process.
But meanwhile, in Germany: Biochemists led by Tobias Erb at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology...have developed a new, super-efficient method for living organisms to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. Plants, algae, and other organisms turn CO2 into fuel. Erb and his colleagues reengineered this process, making it about 25 percent more energy efficient and potentially up to two or three times faster... Erb hopes that one day the CETCH cycle could be genetically engineered into living organisms, helping them more rapidly reduce atmospheric CO2 while producing useful materials.
The researchers created their new CO2-transforming cycle using 11 carefully chosen enzymes.
The Almighty Buck

Elon Musk: Tesla's Solar Roof Will Cost Less Than a Traditional Roof (bloomberg.com) 428

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: After Tesla shareholders approved the acquisition of SolarCity, the new company is now an unequivocal sun-to-vehicle energy firm. And Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk didn't take long to make his first big announcement as head of this new enterprise. Minutes after shareholders approved the deal -- about 85 percent of them voted yes -- Musk told the crowd that he had just returned from a meeting with his new solar engineering team. Tesla's new solar roof product, he proclaimed, will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof -- even before savings from the power bill. "Electricity," Musk said, "is just a bonus." If Musk's claims prove true, this could be a real turning point in the evolution of solar power. The rooftop shingles he unveiled just a few weeks ago are something to behold: They're made of textured glass and are virtually indistinguishable from high-end roofing products. They also transform light into power for your home and your electric car. "So the basic proposition will be: Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and -- by the way -- generates electricity?" Musk said. "Why would you get anything else?" Much of the cost savings Musk is anticipating comes from shipping the materials. Traditional roofing materials are brittle, heavy, and bulky. Shipping costs are high, as is the quantity lost to breakage. The new tempered-glass roof tiles, engineered in Tesla's new automotive and solar glass division, weigh as little as a fifth of current products and are considerably easier to ship, Musk said.
The Military

Royal Navy Giving Up Anti-Ship Missiles, Will Rely On Cannons For Naval Combat (telegraph.co.uk) 432

cold fjord writes: It will soon be a bit more difficult for Britain's Royal Navy to rule the waves as it gives up anti-ship missiles as a result of budget cuts. That will force the Royal Navy to go "old school" and rely upon naval gunfire for ship-to-ship combat. Cannon fire as the primary means of ship-to-ship combat has been largely obsolete since the 1950s following the invention of guided missiles in World War 2. Prior to that, cannon fire had been the primary means of naval combat for hundreds of years. Although the Royal Navy ranged up to 16" guns on battleships, the largest gun currently in active service is a 4.5" gun. That will leave the Royal Navy unable to engage targets beyond approximately 17 miles / 27 km, whereas Harpoon missiles provide an 80 mile / 130 m range. The loss of anti-ship missile capability will begin in 2018 and may last for 10 years for warships, and 2 years for helicopters. The Sun quotes a naval insider who said: "It's like Nelson saying, 'don't worry, I don't need canons, we've got muskets.'" The loss of missile capability heaps more misfortune upon a naval force that recently has seen its available frontline combat force drop to an unprecedented 24 warships.
Power

Las Vegas Gets "Kinetic Tiles" That Power Lights With Foot Traffic (arstechnica.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: A New York-based startup called EnGoPlanet has installed four streetlights in a plaza off the Las Vegas Strip that are powered exclusively by solar and kinetic energy. The installations aren't mere streetlights though -- they also power a variety of environmental monitors, support video surveillance, and, for the masses, offer USB ports for device charging.

The streetlights are topped by a solar panel crest, and have "kinetic tiles" on the ground below them. These panels reportedly can generate 4 to 8 watts from people walking on them, depending on the pressure of the step. The renewable energy is then collected by a battery for use at night. The solar-plus-kinetic energy design is useful on those rare Vegas days without too much sun -- as long as there is still plenty of foot traffic.

Java

Java's Open Sourcing Still Controversial Ten Years Later (infoworld.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Sun Microsystems officially open-sourced Java on November 13, 2006... "The source code for Java was available to all from the first day it was released in 1995," says [Java creator James] Gosling, who is now chief architect at Liquid Robotics. "What we wanted out of that was for the community to help with security analysis, bug reporting, performance enhancement, understanding corner cases, and a whole lot more. It was very successful." Java's original license, Gosling says, allowed people to use the source code internally but not redistribute. "It wasn't 'open' enough for the 'open source' crowd," he says... While Gosling has taken Oracle to task for its handling of Java at times, he sees the [2006] open-sourcing as beneficial. "It's one of the most heavily scrutinized and solid bodies of software you'll find. Community participation was vitally important..."

A former Oracle Java evangelist, however, sees the open source move as watered down. "Sun didn't open-source Java per se," says Reza Rahman, who has led a recent protest against Oracle's handling of enterprise Java. "What they did was to open-source the JDK under a modified GPL license. In particular, the Java SE and Java EE TCKs [Technology Compatibility Kits] remain closed source."

Rahman adds that "Without open-sourcing the JDK, I don't think Java would be where it is today."
Earth

Atlas V Rocket Launches Sharp-Eyed Earth-Observing Satellite (space.com) 19

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: A super-powerful Earth-observing spacecraft has finally taken to the skies, nearly two months after a wildfire nixed its first launch attempt. The WorldView-4 satellite lifted off today (Nov. 11) at 1:30 p.m. EST (10:30 a.m. local time; 1830 GMT), riding a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base to a near sun-synchronous, pole-to-pole orbit. In addition, seven tiny cubesats were onboard in a "ridesharing" initiative. All of the cubesats manifested for the WorldView-4 mission are sponsored by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency in charge of the United States' spy satellites, and are unclassified technology-demonstration programs. The Atlas-V that lofted WorldView-4 today had been scheduled to launch NASA's InSight Mars lander earlier this year, before issues with one of InSight's instruments delayed the Red Planet probe's liftoff until 2018. WorldView-4 is a multispectral, high-resolution commercial imaging satellite owned and operated by DigitalGlobe of Westminster, Colorado, and built by the aerospace company Lockheed Martin. Its mission is to provide high-resolution color imagery to commercial, government and international customers. Once in operation, WorldView-4 has a global capacity to image 260,000 square miles (680,000 square kilometers) per day. You can watch the launch video here via United Launch Alliance.
Earth

Earth's Plants Are Countering Some of the Effects of Climate Change (economist.com) 186

A new study published in Nature Communications has found that Earth's plant life between 2002 and 2014 has absorbed so much carbon dioxide that the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere has slowed down, despite humans pumping out more CO2 than ever before. The study also found that between 1982 and 2009, "about 18m square kilometers of new vegetation had sprouted on Earth's surface, an area roughly twice the size of the United States." The Economist reports: In 2014 humans pumped about 35.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air. That figure has been climbing sharply since the middle of the 20th century, when only about 6 billion tons a year were emitted. As a consequence, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising too, from about 311 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to just over 400 in 2015. Yet the rate at which it is rising seems to have slowed since the turn of the century. According to Dr Keenan, between 1959 and 1989 the rate at which CO2 levels were growing rose from 0.75ppm per year to 1.86. Since 2002, though, it has barely budged. In other words, although humans are pumping out more CO2 than ever, less of it than you might expect is lingering in the air. Filling the atmosphere with CO2 is a bit like filling a bath without a plug: the level will rise only if more water is coming out of the taps than is escaping down the drain. Climate scientists call the processes which remove CO2 from the air "sinks." The oceans are one such sink. Photosynthesis by plants is another: carbon dioxide is converted, with the help of water and light energy from the sun, into sugars, which are used to make more plant matter, locking the carbon away in wood and leaves. Towards the end of the 20th century around 50% of the CO2 emitted by humans each year was removed from the atmosphere this way. Now that number seems closer to 60%. Earth's carbon sinks seem to have become more effective, but the precise details are still unclear. Using a mix of ground and atmospheric observations, satellite measurements and computer modeling, Dr Keenan and his colleagues have concluded that faster-growing land plants are the chief reason. That makes sense: as CO2 concentrations rise, photosynthesis speeds up. Studies conducted in greenhouses have found that plants can photosynthesis up to 40% faster when concentrations of CO2 are between 475 and 600ppm.
Earth

November 14th Supermoon Will Be Biggest In 68 Years (nationalgeographic.com) 53

On Monday, November 14th, you may be able to see the biggest and closest supermoon Earth has seen since 1948. A "supermoon" is a full moon that "coincides with the lunar orb's closest approach to Earth, or perigee." National Geographic explains how you can experience one of the best lunar spectacles in decades: This month, the moon officially reaches perigee at 6:21 a.m. ET (11:23 UT) on November 14, when it will be just 221,524 miles from our planet, as measured from the center of both Earth and the moon. The moon reaches its full phase only two and a half hours later, at 8:52 a.m. ET (13:52 UT) on November 14. Earth hasn't been buzzed this close by a full moon since January 26, 1948, when our lunar companion was a mere 30 miles closer than this month's supermoon. Enjoy the sky show while it lasts, because the full moon won't get this close to us again until November 25, 2034. And the absolute closest full moon to Earth this century will occur on December 6, 2052, when our celestial neighbor will be just 221,472 miles away. Globally, the best time to catch this sky event is just after your local sunset on November 14, as the silvery orb rises in the east. For North Americans, the lunar disk will appear to be nearly equally full and impressive on the nights of November 13 and 14, so if you get clouded out on the first night, you'll have another chance to catch the epic sky show. The best view will be in the early morning close to dawn, as the moon sets in the west before the sun rises in the east. By the numbers, the November full moon will appear to be 7 percent larger than average and nearly 15 percent brighter.
Australia

Australia To Play Strategic Role in Biggest Ever Search For Extra-Terrestrial Life (abc.net.au) 25

Australia's role in the biggest ever search for alien life has officially begun, with the Parkes Telescope in central west NSW set to play a strategic part in the 10-year journey. From a report on ABC:The $100 million Breakthrough Listen initiative has been underway in the United States for about nine months. Overnight, the telescope -- affectionately known as the Dish -- achieved first light with an observation of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the nearest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri. According to CSIRO program director John Reynolds, that so-called "exo-Earth" would be a good place to start looking for other life forms. "Alpha Centauri, or its little companion, Proxima Centauri, is actually the closest star to Earth -- it's only 4.3 light years away," Dr Reynolds said. "Just this year a planet was discovered around Proxima Centauri -- it's called an exo-Earth because it has some of the properties of Earth."
Earth

Slashdot Asks: Is It Time To Dump Time Zones In Favor of Coordinated Universal Time? (nytimes.com) 598

Last Sunday, those of us in North America, Europe and some areas of the Middle East rolled back the clock an hour in accordance with Daylight Savings Time (DST). The tradition -- first imposed in Germany 100 years ago -- has been around for so long that many of us fail to question its significance. What is the importance of Daylight Savings Time? Is it still relevant in today's world? Is it time to dump time zones in general? James Gleick makes the case via the New York Times for switching to Coordinated Universal Time, or U.T.C.: When it's noon in Greenwich, Britain, let it be 12 everywhere. No more resetting the clocks. No more wondering what time it is in Peoria or Petropavlovsk. Our biological clocks can stay with the sun, as they have from the dawn of history. Only the numerals will change, and they have always been arbitrary. Some mental adjustment will be necessary at first. Every place will learn a new relationship with the hours. New York (with its longitudinal companions) will be the place where people breakfast at noon, where the sun reaches its zenith around 4 p.m., and where people start dinner close to midnight. ("Midnight" will come to seem a quaint word for the zero hour, where the sun still shines.) In Sydney, the sun will set around 7 a.m., but the Australians can handle it; after all, their winter comes in June. The question has been posed before, but given the timeliness of Daylight Savings Time, we think the question may evoke some new, heartfelt attitudes and beliefs: Is it time to dump time zones in favor of Coordinated Universal Time?
Space

New Paper Explores The Prospects For Life Around M-Class Stars (arxiv.org) 69

Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor summarizes the significance of a new paper describing "The Habitability of Planets Orbiting M-Dwarf Stars": Although Star Trek had a minor smattering of "M-class planets" -- a designation that tells one nothing of substance -- "M-class star" is a much more meaningful designation of color, with two size classes, the dwarfs and the red giants... an M-dwarf of 1/10 the mass of the Sun will burn for around 1000 times the time that the Sun does... Therefore, if humanity ever meets an alien species, the odds of them coming from an M-dwarf [system] are already high. If humanity ever meets an alien species that has been around a billion years longer than us and has technology we can't even dream of, then the odds of it coming from an M-dwarf are overwhelmingly high.
This new paper offers "a comprehensive picture of the current knowledge of M-dwarf planet occurrence and habitability," pointing out that most of these stars are apparently orbited by planets packed closely together, with "a paucity of Jupiter-mass planets and the presence of multiple rocky planets." And more importantly, roughly a third of those rocky planets are orbiting in a "habitable zone" -- far enough away from their stars to support liquid water.
NASA

World's Largest Space Telescope Is Complete, Expected To Launch In 2018 (space.com) 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: After more than 20 years of construction, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is complete and, following in-depth testing, the largest-ever space telescope is expected to launch within two years, NASA officials announced today (Nov. 2). NASA Administrator Charles Bolden hosted a news conference to announce the milestone this morning at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, overlooking the 18 large mirrors that will collect infrared light, sheltered behind a tennis-court-size sun shield. JWST is considered the successor to NASA's iconic Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope will be much more powerful than even Hubble for two main reasons, Mather said at the conference. First, it will be the biggest telescope mirror to fly in space. "You can see this beautiful, gold telescope is seven times the collecting area of the Hubble telescope," Mather said. And second, it is designed to collect infrared light, which Hubble is not very sensitive to. Earth's atmosphere glows in the infrared, so such measurements can't be made from the ground. Hubble emits its own heat, which would obscure infrared readings. JWST will run close to absolute zero in temperature and rest at a point in space called the Lagrange Point 2, which is directly behind Earth from the sun's perspective. That way, Earth can shield the telescope from the sun's infrared emission, and the sun shield can protect the telescope from both bodies' heat. The telescope's infrared view will pierce through obscuring cosmic dust to reveal the universe's first galaxies and spy on newly forming planetary systems. It also will be sensitive enough to analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets that pass in front of their stars, perhaps to search for signs of life, Mather said. The telescope would be able to see a bumblebee a moon's distance away, he added -- both in reflected light and in the body heat the bee emitted. Its mirrors are so smooth that if you stretched the array to the size of the U.S., the hills and valleys of irregularity would be only a few inches high, Mather said.
Space

Mysterious Star Pulses May Be Alien Signals, Study Claims (iop.org) 128

"Strange pulses of cosmic light might be signals from hundreds of different alien civilizations -- or just the latest false alarm in the tortuous search for E.T.," reports Space.com. Slashdot reader Okian Warrior shares this excerpt from the paper which argues that the signals "cannot be caused by instrumental or data analysis effects." Finally, we consider the possibility, predicted in a previous published paper, that the signals are caused by light pulses generated by extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to makes us aware of their existence. We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an ETI signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis. The fact that they are only found in a very small fraction of stars within a narrow spectral range centered near the spectral type of the Sun is also in agreement with the ETI hypothesis.
The researchers add that "at this stage, this hypothesis needs to be confirmed with further work," and Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at SETI, tells Space.com that "If I were a betting guy, I'd bet this is an artifact of the way they processed their data."
Google

Oracle Will Officially Appeal Its 'Fair Use' Loss Against Google (arstechnica.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The massive Oracle v. Google litigation has entered a new phase, as Oracle filed papers (PDF) yesterday saying it will appeal its loss on "fair use" grounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. For a brief recap of the case: after Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems and acquired the rights to Java, it sued Google in 2010, saying that Google infringed copyrights and patents related to Java. The case went to trial in 2012. Oracle initially lost but had part of its case revived on appeal. The sole issue in the second trial was whether Google infringed the APIs in Java, which the appeals court held are copyrighted. In May, a jury found in Google's favor after a second trial, stating that Google's use of the APIs was protected by "fair use." Oracle's appeal is no surprise, but it will be a long shot. The four-factor "fair use" test is a fairly subjective one, and Oracle lawyers will have to argue that the jury's unanimous finding must be overturned. There are various ways a jury could arrive at the conclusion that Google was protected by fair use. The case will go back to the Federal Circuit, the same appeals court that decided APIs could be copyrighted in the first place. That decision overruled U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the lower court judge, and was extremely controversial in the developer community. However, the same decision that insisted APIs can be copyrighted clearly held the door open to the idea that "fair use" might apply. Unless Oracle pulls off a stunning move on appeal, its massive legal expenditures in this case will be for naught.
Space

Curious Tilt of the Sun Traced To Undiscovered Planet (spacedaily.com) 232

An anonymous reader writes: Planet Nine - the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system that was predicted by the work of Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016 -- appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study. The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the Sun is tilted slightly. "Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," says Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a study announcing the discovery. All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the Sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the Sun -- giving the appearance that the Sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. "It's such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don't talk about it," says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy.
Space

Venus May Have Been the First Habitable Planet In Our Solar System, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 125

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Venus is often referred to as Earth's evil twin, but conditions on the planet were not always so hellish, according to research that suggests it may have been the first place in the solar system to have become habitable. The study, due to be presented this week at the at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Pasadena, concludes that at a time when primitive bacteria were emerging on Earth, Venus may have had a balmy climate and vast oceans up to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) deep. Michael Way, who led the work at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, said: "If you lived three billion years ago at a low latitude and low elevation the surface temperatures would not have been that different from that of a place in the tropics on Earth," he said. Crucially, if the calculations are correct the oceans may have remained until 715m years ago -- a long enough period of climate stability for microbial life to have plausibly sprung up. "The oceans of ancient Venus would have had more constant temperatures, and if life begins in the oceans -- something which we are not certain of on Earth -- then this would be a good starting place," said Way. With an average surface temperature of 462C (864F), Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system today, thanks to its proximity to the sun and its impenetrable carbon dioxide atmosphere, 90 times denser than Earth's. At some point in the planet's history this led to a runaway greenhouse effect. Way and colleagues simulated the Venusian climate at various time points between 2.9 billion and 715 million years ago, employing similar models to those used to predict future climate change on Earth. The scientists fed some basic assumptions into the model, including the presence of water, the intensity of the sunlight and how fast Venus was rotating. In this virtual version, 2.9 billion years ago Venus had an average surface temperature of 11C (52F) and this only increased to an average of 15C (59F) by 715m years ago, as the sun became more powerful. Details of the study are also published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Math

Maths Becomes Biology's Magic Number (bbc.com) 75

In the middle of a discussion about the pros and cons of statins, Sir Rory Collins, the head of clinical trials at Oxford University, noted that If you want a career in medicine these days you're better off studying mathematics or computing than biology. A report on BBC adds: It is a nice one-liner, but I didn't think much more about it until a few days later, when I found myself sitting in a press conference to mark the launch of a new initiative on cancer. Rubbing shoulders on the panel with the director of the Institute of Cancer Research, Professor Paul Workman, was a scientist I didn't recognise, but it soon became clear this was exactly what Sir Rory had had in mind. Dr Andrea Sottoriva is an astrophysicist. He has spent much of his career searching for Neutrinos -- the elusive sub-atomic particles created by the fusion of elements in stars like our sun -- at the bottom of the ocean, and analysing the results of atom smashing experiments with the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Geneva. "My background is in computer science, particularly as it applies to particle physics," he told me when we met at the ICR's laboratories in Sutton. So why cancer? The answer can be summed up in two words: big data. What Dr Sottoriva brings to the fight against cancer is the expertise in mathematical modelling needed to mine the vast treasure trove of data the information revolution has brought to medicine. "The exciting thing is that we can apply all the new analytical techniques we've developed in physics to biology," he says. "So we have all these new quantitative technologies that allow us to process an enormous amount of data, and all of a sudden we can start to apply that to implement the paradigm of physics in biology."
Earth

Poland Builds a Solar-Powered Bike Path That Glows Blue At Night (techcrunch.com) 104

Poland recently unveiled a new solar-powered bike path in the town of Pruszkow that is built with "light-emitting material" that gets its power from the sun. While the bike path has the potential to glow multiple different colors, the path in Prusczkow glows a cool blue for up to 10 hours in the dark. TechCrunch reports: The company that made it, TPA sp. z o.o, is an engineering firm focused on future tech. They expect this sort of road to be useful in larger projects -- highways, say -- but for now they're limiting it to bike paths until they can test the material in the wild. They said that this type of path may be installed in Warsaw soon and that it can glow multiple colors. The lane uses luminophores -- chemicals that "ingest" light -- to keep the bike path nicely lit at night. They chose blue to "match the Mazurian landscape" where lakes abound. You can read a bit more at Gazeta Wyborcza if your Polish isn't too rusty or you can just bask in the cold beauty of a glowing bike lane in deepest Poland.
NASA

Rosetta Spacecraft Prepares To Land On Comet, Solve Lingering Mysteries (sciencemag.org) 40

sciencehabit writes from a report via Science Magazine: All good things must come to an end, and so it will be tomorrow when the Rosetta spacecraft makes its planned soft landing onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the culmination of 2 years of close-up studies. Solar power has waned as 67P's orbit takes it and Rosetta farther from the sun, and so the mission team decided to go on a last data-gathering descent before the lights go out. This last data grab is a bonus after a mission that is already changing theorists' views about how comets and planets arose early in the solar system. Several Rosetta observations suggest that comets form not from jolting mergers of larger cometesimals, meters to kilometers across, but rather from the gentle coalescence of clouds of pebbles. And the detection of a single, feather-light, millimeter-sized particle -- preserved since the birth of the solar system -- should further the view of a quiet birth. The report concludes: "A slew of instruments will keep gathering data as Rosetta approaches the surface at the speed of a gentle stroll. For team members whose instruments have already been turned off to conserve power, the ending is bittersweet -- but their work is far from over. Most instrument teams have only examined their own data, and are just now thinking about combining data sets. "We've just started collaborating with other teams," [Holger Sierks of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, chief of Rosetta's main camera,] says. "This is the beginning of the story, not the end."
NASA

NASA: Arctic Sea Ice 2nd-Lowest On Record (earthsky.org) 206

An anonymous reader quotes a report from EarthSky: NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said on September 15, 2016 that summertime Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual minimum on September 10. With fall approaching and temperatures in the Arctic dropping, it's unlikely more ice will melt, and so the 2016 Arctic sea ice minimum extent will likely be tied with 2007 for the second-lowest yearly minimum in the satellite record. Satellite data showed this year's minimum at 1.60 million square miles (4.14 million square km). NASA said in a statement: "Since satellites began monitoring sea ice in 1978, researchers have observed a steep decline in the average extent of Arctic sea ice for every month of the year [...] The sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas helps regulate the planet's temperature, influences the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, and impacts Arctic communities and ecosystems. Arctic sea ice shrinks every year during the spring and summer until it reaches its minimum yearly extent. Sea ice regrows during the frigid fall and winter months, when the sun is below the horizon in the Arctic." The NASA/NSIDC statement explained why the melt of Arctic sea ice surprised scientists in 2016. For one thing, it changed pace several times: "The melt season began with a record low yearly maximum extent in March and a rapid ice loss through May. But in June and July, low atmospheric pressures and cloudy skies slowed down the melt. Then, after two large storms went across the Arctic basin in August, sea ice melt picked up speed through early September." NASA posted an animation on YouTube that "shows the evolution of the Arctic sea ice cover from its wintertime maximum extent, which was reached on Mar. 24, 2016, and was the lowest on record for the second year in a row, to its apparent yearly minimum, which occurred on Sept. 10, 2016, and is the second lowest in the satellite era."

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