Tag: science

Venezuela’s Humboldt Glacier Is Melting and Will Be Gone in the Coming Years

Glaciers don’t normally make the headline news. But that was before Venezuela’s last glacier is close to disappearing for good, according to a recent report. The country’s Humboldt Glacier in the Andes Mountains is melting at a rapid rate, and it’ll soon be gone before scientists can study the ice particles.

What does this recent report reveal about science?

Plenty Of Ice For Everyone

When Carsten Braun, a geography professor at Westfield State University, visited the Venezuelan Andes in 2009, he was amazed at the glaciers found in the Pico Humboldt, the country’s second-highest mountain peak. He measured the Humboldt Glacier with a GPS, knowing he would one day want his scientific recordings.

Well, he had no idea that day has finally arrived. Braun has visited the glacier several times since 2009, but now he has noticed drastic and upsetting changes in the glacier’s size.

It’s Shrinking

On a recent trip, Braun noticed the glacier is shrinking at a remarkable rate. He noted it looked like “draping a pancake over a slope.” The glacier is now a thin piece of ice no more than 65 feet thick. It would only take someone just one mile to walk around the glacier’s entire circumference.

But why exactly is the glacier shrinking and how soon will it be completely gone?

Sensitive To Climate Change

Climate change is occurring. That is a scientific fact. The debate that rages on to this day stems from those who do not understand the science behind the warming temperatures, melting ice sheets, increased severity of extreme weather events, and so on, while science has shown time and time again that these changes are due to manmade burning of fossil fuels releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere at a rate that is unprecedented in the history of our planet.

Venezuela has found itself nestled between this debate. Scientists are comparing the country’s glaciers to others, including ones found in China and Tanzania. But Venezuela’s Humboldt Glacier will be the first one to completely disappear for good due to the drastic changes in the climate’s heat. Glaciers are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than other environments.

Braun reported, “What we’re seeing now is maybe the last gasp of the Humboldt Glacier.”

Scientists expect the glacier to melt away in the next decade or two.

Why We Should Be Concerned

For the average person, losing a glacier probably isn’t a big deal. We have other glaciers, don’t we? Why are we concerned about Venezuela’s glacier?

Glaciers are more important than what you think. While their contribution to sea-level rise isn’t that significant, glaciers are a critical source of water— for drinking, hydropower, and agriculture purposes. It would be a drastic impact on our environment if we were to lose this valuable resource.

According to researchers, glaciers have been rapidly shrinking in size since the 1970s. Glaciers may have been stronger 30 years ago, but now the majority of them, Venezuela’s Humboldt included, have numerous cracks and meltwater.

“It looks sick,” said Maximiliano Bezada, a former geomorphology professor. “It will die very soon.”

Currently, Humboldt is vulnerable and at its smallest size ever reported. It will disappear very soon, that is an accepted fact. If scientists aren’t watching, the glacier will vanish right before their eyes.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

MORE: This problem isn’t exclusive to the warm, tropical regions close to the Equator. Glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate even at the coldest place on Earth.

Missing Antarctic Lakes Leave Scientists Baffled

A group of lakes suspected to exist beneath the Antarctic ice has mysteriously vanished. Scientists studying the patterns of ice movement in the area are left scratching their heads. The absence of the lakes makes explaining glacial behavior much more difficult, but scientists are determined to find answers.

Empty Pockets

According to satellite imagery used to track ice movement, scientists believed there to be a series of lakes hidden under the glaciers in East Antarctica. The data suggested the presence of four larger lakes and 11 smaller ones, but new radar imaging suggests otherwise. Only one of the suspected larger lakes appears to have any liquid in it, while the majority of the other ice chambers seem to be empty.

The glacier moving over the top of these empty pockets is called Recovery Glacier. Recovery is a calm glacier, meaning its movements are consistent and it isn’t undergoing any drastic changes at the moment. Scientists have taken an interest in this particular glacier because it has the potential to shift its nature in response to climate change. To better understand those changes, however, glaciologists need to know more about the mystery lakes below its mass.

The Power To Move The Earth

Glacial movement is typically lateral, that is, they tend to flow like rivers in one general direction unless their path is interrupted. Recovery Glacier flows from the Shackleton Range Mountains of inland Eastern Antarctica out to the Filchner Ice Shelf, which stops at the Weddell Sea. Vertical motion is what sticks out to scientists.

In other areas across the continent, the vertical movement of ice has been linked to the presence of underground lakes. In addition to holding vital clues about our planet’s climate history and helping us better understand where it might go in the future, each of these lakes is an isolated ecosystem. Studying them can help scientists better understand how life can survive under extreme conditions, which provides valuable information toward finding extraterrestrial life.

A Puzzling Conundrum

With the information from radar scans of the area underneath Recovery Glacier revealing nothing where scientists expected to find water, the vertical movement of the ice in the area is suddenly far more baffling. If there isn’t any water present in the chambers below the ice, glaciologists aren’t sure what could be causing the ground to rise and fall. To understand the impact of climate change on the glacier, scientists need to uncover precisely what those chambers hold.

Radar is a preferred method of learning what’s under the Antarctic ice, but its readings can be confounded by changes in the consistency of the ice. To determine what is truly going on, scientists plan to study the area using explosives. Detonating minor charges and analyzing the way the sound travels through the ground can reveal more accurately what’s beneath their feet. The current theory is that the empty pockets beneath Recovery Glacier fill and drain in a cycle. The next set of tests will hopefully provide answers.

While scientists are busy studying the structures under the ice in Antarctica, the continent’s underwater glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.

We Have A Clearer Picture Of Newborn Earth Thanks To A 4 Billion Year-Old Rock

Many scientists paint a picture of the Earth as a pretty nasty place when it was born. A swirling storm of space dust came together in the cosmos, and the resulting planet was thought of as a literal hellscape.

But some recent research puts this grim vision of the early Earth in question. And the answers might be found in costume jewelry.

Most Think The Earth Was Volatile And Inhospitable

Scientific evidence shows that the planet did not develop its vast oceans, majestic mountain ranges, and lush wildlife overnight.

Earth is 4.5 billion years old. It had to take many baby steps first before it became the verdant planet we experience today.

This “primordial stew” eventually hosted life, but the theory was that happened only after a billion year cooling off period.

Rather than seas of water covering the globe, early Earth featured molten lava oceans. The heat and generally destructive power of lava meant that early biological life was practically impossible.

Until recently, many in the scientific community saw this rough developmental stage of our planet as a fairly lengthy period.

The Best Documentation Of The Young Planet Comes From a Crystal

How did scientists develop their concepts of early Earth? Mostly through guesswork.

Since the planet is made of rock, it naturally followed that the heat resulting from the planetary creation would create the massive lava flows. And there was little basis to question these reasonable hypotheses.

It’s not as if we had any way to record what happened. That is, until scientists realized that certain billion-years-old rocks did an excellent job of recording history.

Zircon, which many know as the crystal used in knock-off diamond rings, is one of the oldest things on the planet.

Some samples date to 4.4 billion years ago, only slightly younger than the earth itself.

This practically indestructible rock also records scientific events. Sure, the recordings are only readable by scientists, but the lessons they tell are illuminating about Earth’s early origins.

The Gemstone’s Chemical Fingerprint Tells A Compelling Story

The language of zircon is chemistry. Each sample of this crystal is like a small time capsule.

Scientists recently found a large deposit of this 4 billion-year-old stuff and found evidence of early biochemical reactions that date back to the zircon’s creation.

These biochemical reactions are the fingerprints of early life.

On top of this, the chemical trail of breadcrumbs shows evidence of water (and lots of it) billions of years ago.

So, rather than a fireball planet covered with lava, primordial Earth was wet and full of early life forms.

This finding does not disprove the early lava theory but rather shortens the window of time for this early stage of the planet.

It also opens up new inquiries into other ways to extract data about ancient Earth. Now that we know we can look at chemistry and its traces as a decipherable language, there are practically no limits to what can be explored and discovered.

Scientists Say Earth Has An 8th Continent The Size Of India Lurking Underwater

Just when we started to feel like we had the world all figured out, scientists now believe there may be an 8th continent lurking out there. How could previous generations of researchers possibly have missed it, especially considering that its roughly the size of India?

Things are a bit easier to understand when you realize that most of its hiding underwater.

Earth’s Lost Continent

As it turns out, the idea of the 8th continent has actually been around for a few decades. It wasn’t until last year, however, that papers published by GSA Today really set out to make a case for it.

Dubbed “Zealandia,” just 6% of the continent exists above sea level, most in the form of the islands of New Zealand and New Caledonia.

Some scientists estimate that the now-sunken continent struck out on its own somewhere between 60- 85 million years ago. Before that, its closest continental cohorts seem to have been Austrailia and Antarctica.

Scientist Nick Mortimer explained to Live Science that part of what caused Zealandia to ultimately take a dive was land stretching that took place upon its separation.

As it set out to claim its independence, its continental crust became more thinned out than the thicker crusts of continents which float.

Zealandia’s Long Lost Past

Researchers believe that 100 million years ago, Austrailia, Antarctica, and Zealandia all once made up the same mega-continent before they went their separate ways.

Scientists believe that even after Zealandia had made its break and sank, some of its landscape may have undergone some changes. They believe this may have been instituted by the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” which is notorious for its high levels of volcanic activity and earthquakes.

National Science Foundation

Such conditions quite possibly caused the continent to buckle somewhere between 40- 50 million years ago. Regardless, Zealandia is still elevated enough from the ocean floor and separate enough from Austrailia to make a solid argument for its existence as a continent in its own right.

Recent Research Reveals New Clues To Zealandia’s History

Perhaps unsurprisingly, until recently very little was known about the 96% of Zealandia which exists underwater. Back in 2017, an international research team set out on a mission to see what they could dig up concerning the continent and its history.

National Science Foundation

By drilling beneath thousands of feet of water, they ended up with over 8,000 ft. of rock and sediment that yielded several clues.

Among them were pollen from land-dwelling plants which suggested that now -sunken parts of the continent once existed far enough above sea level to support life. They also came up with shell fossils which have led them to believe that before it was as thoroughly submerged as it is today, parts of Zealandia were once covered by far more shallow seas.

Not only has such research given scientists clues about the history of Earth’s long-lost continent, but it may also give them information about ancient migration patterns. By being able to reconstruct shallow waters and once solid masses of land, the new information could help scientists in understanding how various plants and animal life dispersed into various regions.