The sad reality is that the ice sheets in Antartica are melting, but a group of scientist has proposed an ingenious but costly and rather ambitious solution to the problem — they want to dump tons of “artificial ice.”
A group of three scientists has recently published a study in the journal Science Advances on July 17 and proposes that we should dump 7.4 trillion tons of snow on Antarctica, suggesting that it could “stabilize” the runaway in the region’s glaciers.
Recent studies have revealed that warmer waters are being pushed to the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS), destabilizing it, and speeding up the melting process of the ice sheets and glaciers in Antartica. Because of this “unnatural” rate that the ice in the region is melting, scientists estimate that it would raise sea levels by approximately 10 feet (3 meters) or more. If this happens, many cities will be endangered.
“The associated sea-level rise of more than 3m would pose a serious challenge to highly populated areas including metropolises such as Calcutta, Shanghai, New York City, and Tokyo,” read the abstract of the study.
“The real concern is that many of these glaciers have a reverse bed slope, meaning that as they retreat, it exposes deeper and thicker ice to the ocean,” explains Sue Cook, a glaciologist at the University of Tasmania. “That is a very unstable position, and causes a positive feedback effect which accelerates the retreat (and hence [contributing] to sea-level rise).”
The new geoengineering project lead by Cook and her colleagues proposes to add 7,400 gigatons (7.4 trillion tons) of “artificial snowfall” to reverse the glacier decline. The project aims to simulate real ice and snowfall and if proven successful, could potentially stabilize the temperature in the region, as well as prevent the rapid melting of glaciers.
However, this project needs an “unprecedented effort for humankind,” and estimated costs reach boundaries that make government and institutions think twice before approving it.
According to the researchers, the biggest problem that could be faced by the project is how to pump out an immense amount of water from the ocean to be used for artificial snow. The study suggests constructing a series of 12,000 wind turbines to enable this process to take place and then pumping artificial snow into two glaciers on the West Antarctic coast.
This process alone could significantly cause a two to five-centimeter drop in the water level of the oceans. The mass that will be added to the glacier would be enough to stabilize and correct the drop.
“The other part of simulations reveals a stabilizing ice sheet, which we define as being characterized by grounding line equilibration and a loss in long-term ice volume by less than 5%. Whether stabilization takes place or not depends on whether the amount of added ice is sufficient to stop the previously initiated grounding line retreat,” they added.
But aside from budgetary and technical constraints, the entire project will also take a long time to be completed. Researchers estimate that it could take them at least ten years to completely stabilize the glaciers and solve the WAIS problem.
“Here, we show that the WAIS may be stabilized through mass deposition in coastal regions around Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers. In our numerical simulations, a minimum of 7400 Gt of additional snowfall stabilizes the flow if applied over a short period of 10 years onto the region (−2 mm year−1 sea-level equivalent),” penned by the researchers.
Nonetheless, there is still a lot that needs to be ironed out in the project. The researchers are yet to explain who the project would affect the ecosystem in the West Antartic Ice Sheet, as well as how artificial snow would impact global water and ocean currents.
The researchers believe that there are other ways to mitigate the impacts of global warming and said that their proposal is just one way to do it. They encouraged people to continue their efforts in trying to stabilize the sea levels and fighting against climate change and global warming.
“Even if a geoengineering project such as this were possible, it certainly shouldn’t detract from the other urgent action which is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Cook notes.
Note: All images and diagrams used are taken from the study manuscript
Hawaii space observatories reopen after weeks of shutting down
TMT would be a spectacular instrument for space observation but continues to face protests against its construction
Astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatories can finally return to work after a grueling 4-week pause due to ongoing protests against the construction of a mega observatory called the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).
Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world from base to peak, offers clear views of the night sky because of its dark skies from lack of light pollution, good astronomical seeing, low humidity, high elevation of 4,205 meters (13,796 ft), position above most of the water vapor in the atmosphere, clean air, good weather and low latitude location. All of these characteristics place the mountain top as a nearly ideal location to observe the universe by national and international scientists alike.
Although the 13,800-foot summit is already considered home for thirteen different observatories, Hawaiian locals and elders have been adamant to the construction of TMT, arguing that the land is sacred and putting a colossal of infrastructure over the land tarnishes it.
Over the past four weeks, protesters by the thousands have been flocking and creating a human barricade that literally blocked the access ways to the other observatories on top, forcing astronomers to take a mandatory leave from their work.
Astronomers around the world compete for valuable time on the telescopes, and since the observatories closed, the scientists have canceled over 2,000 hours of observational time, according to an outlet. Additionally, this has been considered as the longest shutdown since the location’s five-decade history.
“It was very far-reaching,” says Sarah Bosman of University College London, who lost 3 nights of time to observe distant galaxies with the twin W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes. “Every area of astronomy was affected by this.”
Fortunately, state authorities brokered the deal with the protesters to allow current astronomers access to the observatories and said that construction of a temporary roadway will be built across hardened lava around the protesters’ camp on the summit access road.
Additionally, law enforcement will give protesters an advanced list of all vehicles going up and down to show that they are not associated with TMT.
Apparently, protesters began to gather on the main road leading up to the observatories on July 15, the week in which construction on the site for TMT was supposed to begin.
Significantly, the protesters who gathered at the base of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island include indigenous Hawaiian elders, or “kupuna” and has swelled dramatically as the controversy sparked support from the online community.
Despite polls suggesting that Hawaiian were in favor of the construction of TMT, the online community has attracted support from significant figures such as actors Dwayne Johnson and Jason Momoa—who both visited the protest site—and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren.
TMT is touted to be a $1.4 billion project that aims to provide one of the biggest lenses in the world attached to an observatory, in order to provide better tools to help astronomers study the universe.
Scientists have been sketching the plans for such an instrument as far back as the 1990s, and a global consortium of scientists led by the U.S. and Canada completed the TMT design in 2009. The TMT project would also be the largest telescope in the Northern Hemisphere.
The telescope would be built with support from Canada, China, India, and Japan; a consortium of U.S. universities and international organizations, which will own and operate TMT like many of the observatories operating on Mauna Kea.
However, every step towards the construction of the observatory was met with legal battles ensued by protesters ever since its groundbreaking ceremony in 2014. After nearly a decade of the legal debacle, Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the construction in August 2018, which prompted protesters to take a more active stand against it.
Manua Kea itself has been a flashpoint for controversy ever since the University of Hawaii opened the first telescope there in 1970. Opponents of TMT continue to push the sacred value of the land and also pointed out the mismanagement of the University of Hawaii on the mountaintop observatories. Protesters have also involved other issues with the construction such as Hawaiian nationalism, self-determination, and land rights.
“TMT should build their observatory in their own ancestral lands, not in mine,” says Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa, a senior professor at the University of Hawaii’s Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. “Imagine if TMT were to put its five-acre monstrosity on top of Notre Dame or the Vatican. How would the French or Italians feel? Would they not protest?”
However, astronomers urge that TMT would be a valuable instrument for human society. It would be able to help astronomers to discover more with what the universe has in store.
“In our lifetime, we could discover life — evidence of life — off the Earth, which would be one of the biggest things [that have] ever happened in science,” says Michael Bolte, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a member of the TMT board.
Asteroid nearly hit Earth, and we barely noticed
It’s as big as the one that wiped out dinosaurs.
A potentially disastrous asteroid merely brushed past Earth, according to a former presidential consultant — noting that the asteroid was massive enough and was similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The warning was delivered by Douglas McKinnon who served in the White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In July, an asteroid 2019 OK, nicknamed “city killer,” was shot within 40,000 miles away from Earth.
Writing in The Hill, McKinnon said: “Thanks to the collective failure of our world leaders, our only defense today against such an event is dumb luck. On this issue, every leader around the world is in gross dereliction of duty to the people they purport to lead.”
Furthermore, McKinnon urged that world leaders should stop turning a blind eye from the potentially deadly risks and not only put their focus and energy with what’s here on the Earth’s surface but also what lies from the beyond.
Scientists failed to detect 2019 OK until it was close to Earth noting that the sun obscured the asteroid. According to McKinnon, NASA has a record of missing asteroids less than 500 feet long.
He claims one of these could “wipe out a city, a region or a small country and kill millions in the process.”
The former Presidential advisor commented: “So far, only the fickle whims of the universe have prevented the unimaginable. But soon our luck could run out, and Earth will be shaken to its core. President Trump and all world leaders should immediately focus on solutions.”
However, scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson says large space rocks, like the 1990 MU, which measures almost 5 miles in diameter, should not phase us. Instead, the American astrophysicist has insisted the public should be more concerned about smaller asteroids that have the potential to sneak under the radar unnoticed.
Appearing on a Joe Rogan podcast last year, Dr. Tyson explained how it is easy to defend Earth against threats we can easily see.
He said: “It’s all about how much timing we have, what you want to do is go out and nudge it. You just have to give it a sideways velocity relative to its path towards Earth. If you do that, the sideways velocity sort of accumulates and the angle grows.”
In other words, Tyson says that to avoid getting hit by an asteroid hurtling towards Earth, all we need to do is go out into space and plan a method that would knock it off its course; big enough that when it nears our planet, it would completely miss.
“If you do that early enough it will miss Earth, but it’s still out there to harm you on another day,” he said. Additionally, we would at least be able to create such a device in 10 years or so.
However, the Harvard University graduate offered more dim prospects for smaller asteroids, arguing that the good thing about asteroids — big enough to wipe out entire species — is that they are large and visible. In consequence, NASA or any other space agency will only detect the relatively smaller, yet city-killing ones too late and would smash right into our planet.
Notably, most of the Earth’s surface is comprised of water, so most probably, it would hit the ocean instead of directly hitting cities. However, that does not technically mean that the human species would completely be out of harm’s way.
Tyson warned in 2008 that in the event where an asteroid crashes into the Pacific Ocean, it would create a hole with a depth of three miles, at which point it explodes, creating an even wider hole in the Pacific in a hole that’s approximately three miles wide.
“Oceans don’t like having holes in them, so this three-mile-high wall does what? It collapses. It falls back into the hole sloshing against itself with such ferocity that it rises high into the atmosphere and falls back down to the ocean, caveating it again,” he said, adding that “this cycle takes about 50 seconds, you can calculate it.”
That result will be a massive tsunami wave outwards from that location that is 50 feet high. “It’s April 12, 2029, and if it threads the keyhole it will hit Earth on April 13, 2036,” Tyson said.
SpaceX Starhopper test launch delayed to August 21
SpaceX Starhopper test flight face delays but a tentative date is set
SpaceX is looking to launch Starhopper — an early test prototype of the company’s Mars-colonizing Starship vehicle — on August 21, based on tweets sent by the company’s founder, Elon Musk.
Starship, once completed, is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle that’s pegged to be a 384-foot giant (117 meters). Upright, it will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. The company aims to use this spacecraft to launch humans to space and to potentially colonize Mars.
At the moment, SpaceX is looking to test a smaller prototype called Starhopper this weekend from its facility in Boca Chica, Texas, near the border city of Brownsville at an altitude of about 650 feet (200 meters).
However, Musk said in a series of tweets that they will be delaying the launch due to permissions that need to be secured from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“Good conversation with [the] head of FAA Space. Need a bit more hazard analysis & should be clear to fly soon,” one of Musk’s tweets read.
Fortunately, Musk’s “soon” apparently means the middle of next week at the earliest. Officials in Cameron County, where Boca Chica lies, announced that Boca Chica Beach and part of State Highway 4 will be closed on August 21 from 2 p.m. to midnight local time to accommodate SpaceX activities.
Cameron County officials also said that August 21 is the “primary date” for the closure, but August 21 and 22 will serve as alternative dates.
So far, Starhopper has already accomplished three test flights, all of them from Boca Chica. Reportedly, there were two brief hops in early April and flew freely for the first time on July 25, on a test flight that had a targeted altitude of 65 feet (20 m).
In terms of the mechanical aspects of Starhopper, it will only have one Raptor engine — enough to make initial results to gauge for the final spacecraft. Meanwhile, Starship will have six Raptor engine, according to Musk and Super Heavy — a giant rocket that will propel Starship from Earth’s atmosphere — will have 35 Raptor engines.
However, these numbers could change as Musk is set to give a Starship design update on August 24. If all goes according to plan, the Starship-Super Heavy duo could begin launching satellites as early as 2021, SpaceX representatives have said.
The spaceflight system already has a mission booked. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa wants SpaceX to carry him and a few other artists to a trip around the moon by 2023.
Significantly, the rocket is set to be a central piece in Musk’s commercial plans in space, as it will also be used to reach Mars and, hopefully, to come back to Earth for reuse.
Approximately, the Starship rockets are expected to launch up to 24 times a year from SpaceX’s current flagship launchpad 39A, the draft of the company’s environmental assessment said.
The rockets will also be integral in NASA’s Artemis mission, which hopes to bring man back and the first woman to the moon by 2024. The 39A launchpad would also support NASA’s future moon missions from the same Kennedy Space Centre site used for the Apollo lunar missions.
Furthermore, there are two sets of Starship vehicles that are being developed by SpaceX. Currently, both Starship spacecraft is being developed by separate teams of SpaceX engineers. One of which in Boca Chica, Texas and Starship Mk2, in Cocoa, Florida.
In the near future, SpaceX hopes to able to perform launches specifically targeting Mars and its endeavors of colonizing the red planet, Paul Wooster, the principal Mars development engineer at SpaceX, said during a speech at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington in May.
He explained that SpaceX’s first launch to Mars would be an uncrewed test to determine the environment of the planet such as the presence of natural resources and build the infrastructure necessary to support the company’s Starship flights to and from Mars; that could include landing pads and refueling stations for the reusable rockets.
Meanwhile, the company also wants to use water ice from the planet’s surface and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere to refuel Starships on Mars, enabling the rockets to return to Earth.
“SpaceX’s intent, Elon’s intent in founding SpaceX was to enable humanity to become a multiplanet species, allowing us to establish cities on Mars” and to inspire people, Wooster said. “So, while some aspects of [Musk’s vision] are an artist’s concept, the vehicle itself is very much in development now.”
Check What’s New:
- Apple iPhone 11 rumored to unveil on September 10
- Kaspersky Antivirus zero-day could ironically allow hackers to track users
- Huawei warns Trump of disrupting the dominance of Apple, Google
- Hawaii space observatories reopen after weeks of shutting down
- ‘Vanda The God’ hacking group claims responsibility for massive healthcare website attacks
- Asteroid nearly hit Earth, and we barely noticed
- SpaceX Starhopper test launch delayed to August 21
- Rocket Lab postponed Electron launch
- The Tesla Roadster sent into space finally made its first orbit around the sun
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