Reader Information

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just the Facts?: Sea Level Rise Accelerated in Eastern US -- New Species of Lion -- Iceberg That Sank RMS Titanic

‘Hotspot’ Causing Sea Level Rise Acceleration In Eastern US

The sea level of the eastern coast of the United States is accelerating at a much faster rate than the country’s other coasts due to global warming, claim researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

According to Damian Carrington, a reporter with the UK newspaper The Guardian, the sea level rise of the “densely populated” Atlantic coast from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts is increasing at a rate three to four times faster than the rest of the country’s coastal regions.

Likewise, the Associated Press (AP) said, the 600-mile area, which the USGS researchers dub a “hot spot” because of the sea levels, have been rising at a rate up to 400% faster than the global average.

Among the fastest-rising areas are Norfolk, Virginia, where the sea level has increased approximately five inches since 1990, and Philadelphia, which has seen a four-inch rise.

“Many people mistakenly think that the rate of sea level rise is the same everywhere as glaciers and ice caps melt, increasing the volume of ocean water, but other effects can be as large or larger than the so-called ‘eustatic’ rise,” USGS Director Marcia McNutt said in a statement. “As demonstrated in this study, regional oceanographic contributions must be taken into account in planning for what happens to coastal property.”

“Cities in the hotspot, like Norfolk, New York, and Boston already experience damaging floods during relatively low intensity storms,” added Dr. Asbury Sallenger, a USGS oceanographer and the head of the study, which is the subject of a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change. “Ongoing accelerated sea level rise in the hotspot will make coastal cities and surrounding areas increasingly vulnerable to flooding by adding to the height that storm surge and breaking waves reach on the coast.”

While Sallenger told Carrington that this hotspot affect had previously been predicted through computer modeling, the USGS study is the first to use real data to prove that the sea-level acceleration is currently occurring and that scientists can currently detect and monitor it.

The cause, he said, is the warming of dense Arctic water, causing it to sink more slowly and leveling out the so-called “slope” from the fastest-moving water in the mid-Atlantic to the east coast of America. As a result, the sea level in that location increases, and could ultimately add as much as 30% to the global sea level rise.

“We came up with a very clear correlation between the acceleration of sea level rise and rising temperature in the hotspot area. That suggests to me that as long as temperature continues to rise the hotspot will continue to grow,” Sallenger told the Guardian on Sunday. - RedOrbit

Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future

Rising Sea Levels: An Introduction to Cause and Impact

The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate (Science Essentials)


New species of lion discovered at Ethiopian zoo

Naturalists in Africa have long noted that some lions in Ethiopia look a bit different than regular lions, mostly on account of a dark mane that extends from the head, neck, and chest to the belly. They're also smaller and more compact. It wasn't known, however, if they represented a distinct species. But now, a genetic analysis conducted on a group of these lions found only at the Addis Ababa zoo has shown that they are in fact a genetically distinct species — a discovery that has prompted immediate conservation action to preserve them in the wild.

The researchers, an international team led by the University of York, UK, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, compared DNA samples from 15 Addis Ababa zoo lions (eight males and seven females) to breeds found in the wild (six distinct wild groups). Analysis of both the microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA indicated that the zoo lions are genetically distinct compared to their wild brethren.

Consequently, the researchers have declared the lions to be a distinct species. They are urging immediate conservation management actions, including a captive breeding program. The researchers also note that their examination of the genetic diversity of the captive lions showed little effect of inbreeding — which is a good sign.

Unfortunately, the males at the zoo are the only lions known to exist who possess the distinctive mane — a possible indication that the Addis Ababa lion won't be found in the wild. But there is still hope. Wildlife Extra elaborates:

It has previously been suggested that no lions comparable to those at Addis Ababa Zoo still exist in the wild, mainly due to hunting for their mane. However, the researchers say that according to the Ethiopian authorities, lions with a similar appearance to those at Addis Ababa Zoo still exist in the east and north-east of the country, notably in the Babille Elephant Sanctuary near Harar and southwards to Hararghe. These regions, the researchers say, should be prioritised for field surveys.

Professor Hofreiter said: "A key question is which wild population did the zoo lions originate from and whether this wild population still exists; this would obviously make it a priority for conservation. What is clear is that these lions did not originate in the zoo, but come from somewhere in the wild - but not from any of the populations for which comparative data is available." - io9


Aussie police use crematorium to dispose of cannabis

The Environment Protection Authority in Australia is investigating police use of a crematorium to destroy drugs. Police use the Forest Lawn Memorial Park crematorium in Leppington, New South Wales to destroy drugs up to 10 times a year.

Forest Lawn communications manager Karl Wolfenden said both Green Valley and Liverpool police commands had used the facility to destroy illicit substances such as cannabis "for years". "We respond when needed," he said. Police requests are recorded but no fee is charged.

"Each time, the burns have been conducted by police, not Forest Lawn staff, and there are several officers there to supervise," Mr Wolfenden said. "We don't touch the evidence bags or see them opened before they are destroyed." He said news the Environment Protection Authority was investigating the practice came as a surprise.

"We thought we were helping law enforcement and the community," he said. A police spokeswoman said the drugs were destroyed at the crematorium "based on advice that the location was an approved facility". An EPA spokeswoman confirmed police use of crematoriums was being investigated. - Liverpool Leader


The only known photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is up for sale

Good news for people who don’t like their money: The only known photograph taken of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is going up for auction — and it’s expected to fetch over $10,000.

The photo, which has the imaginative title “The Iceberg that Sunk Titanic,” is being sold by American auction house RR Auction. It’s a 9.75×8-inch photograph taken by Captain W. F. Wood, who was onboard the ship S. S. Etonian at the time. A handwritten note on the front of the photo reads:

Copyright. Blueberg taken by Captain W. F. Wood S. S. Etonian on 12/4/12 in Lat 41° 50 N Long 49° 50 W. Titanic struck 14/4/12 and sank in three hours.

According to PetaPixel, there are a number of reasons that have led experts to believe that the photo is legit.

First, it was captured at a location 2-3 days (in iceberg floating time) from where the ship sank. Second, the shape of the iceberg matches the sketches offered by eyewitnesses who survived the disaster, including the lookout who first spotted the ice in the horizon.

Finally, the iceberg’s shape resembles another photo (seen in the 1976 book A Night to Remember) taken from a ship named Prinz Adalbert, which was present in the area during the day after the sinking.

RR Auction notes that the difference in appearance between the two icebergs may be “attributable to the angle of the photographer and the aftermath of impact,” and that all these reasons taken together have allowed “noted Titanic experts to establish this photograph as capturing the iceberg everyone has been talking about for the past century.”

The auction ends on December 16, 2012, so you still have time to add this to your collection. Also be sure to check out the unseen photos from the sinking of the Titanic that only emerged recently. - io9

A Night to Remember

The Loss of the SS. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons

Titanic in Photographs (Titanic Collection)