Number of Known Black Holes Expected to Double in Two Years

Researchers from the University of Waterloo have developed a method that will detect roughly 10 black holes per year, doubling the number currently known within two years, and it will likely unlock the history of black holes in a little more than a decade.

blackhole_event_horizon_scienceofcycles

Avery Broderick, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, and Mansour Karami, a PhD student also from the Faculty of Science, worked with colleagues in the United States and Iran to come up with the method that has implications for the emerging field of gravitational wave astronomy and the way in which we search for black holes and other dark objects in space. It was published this week in The Astrophysical Journal.

“Within the next 10 years, there will be sufficient accumulated data on enough black holes that researchers can statistically analyze their properties as a population,” said Broderick, also an associate faculty member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. “This information will allow us to study stellar mass black holes at various stages that often extend billions of years.”

Black holes absorb all light and matter and emit zero radiation, making them impossible to image, let alone detect against the black background of space. Although very little is known about the inner workings of black holes, we do know they play an integral part in the lifecycle of stars and regulate the growth of galaxies. The first direct proof of their existence was announced earlier this year by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) when it detected gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes merging into one.

“We don’t yet know how rare these events are and how many black holes are generally distributed across the galaxy,” said Broderick. “For the first time we’ll be placing all the amazing dynamical physics that LIGO sees into a larger astronomical context.”

Broderick and his colleagues propose a bolder approach to detecting and studying black holes, not as single entities, but in large numbers as a system by combining two standard astrophysical tools in use today: microlensing and radio wave interferometry.

Gravitational microlensing occurs when a dark object such as a black hole passes between us and another light source, such as a star. The star’s light bends around the object’s gravitational field to reach Earth, making the background star appear much brighter, not darker as in an eclipse. Even the largest telescopes that observe microlensing events in visible light have a limited resolution, telling astronomers very little about the object that passed by. Instead of using visible light, Broderick and his team propose using radio waves to take multiple snapshots of the microlensing event in real time.

“When you look at the same event using a radio telescope – interferometry – you can actually resolve more than one image. That’s what gives us the power to extract all kinds of parameters, like the object’s mass, distance and velocity,” said Karami, a doctoral student in astrophysics at Waterloo.

Taking a series of radio images over time and turning them into a movie of the event will allow them to extract another level of information about the black hole itself.

Precursor to Earth’s Magnetic Field Reversal

According to scientists’ best estimates, the Earth’s magnetic field is now weakening around 10 times faster than previously predicted, losing approximately 5% of its strength every decade. This finding indicates a magnetic pole reversal could be coming sooner rather than later.

 The geomagnetic dipole has decreased by nearly 6% per century since first measured by Gauss in the 1840s. This too is 10-20 times faster than the “Ohmic” decay rate. (The process by which the passage of an electric current through a conductor releases heat). The causes of this rapid decrease in Gauss stability, is the proliferation of reverse magnetic field on the core-mantle boundary. This has occurred especially beneath the South Atlantic with the transference of heat energy in a horizontal stream of the magnetic field from high to low latitudes.

The weakening of Earth’s magnetic field has two fundamental points. First: A weakened magnetic field allows charged particle events such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CME), to produce enhanced consequences to extreme weather events that include earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes etc.

galactic_cosmic_rays_sun_magnetic_field_earths_core_scienceofcycles-com_m

Second: The second major consequence of a weakened magnetic field is its identification as the ‘precursor’ to a magnetic pole shift. It is estimated that Earth’s magnetic field reverses every few thousand years at low latitudes and every 10,000 years at high latitudes. It is believed we are far enough along the cycle that many living today will witness the bouncing back and forth of magnetic north as it swings reaching latitudes below 30°. Magnetic north can also move east and west longitudes.

Precursor First – Then Full Magnetic Flip
Individual magnetic reversal records show a remarkable degree of repeatability, including dipole collapse, rapid polarity change, and fast dipole intensity recovery stages. This is to say historical magnetic field reversals indicate that during the period of Earth’s magnetic field reduction, it will be in flux for several years before a full magnetic flip will incur. At this stage of magnetic minimization close to zero point, the magnetic field may have multiple swings north and south across the equator, additionally with large excursions of geomagnetic polar flux in east and west longitudes.

shifting_magnetic_pole

The final stage of reversal is when the dipole intensity partially recovers. An example of this phenomena would be magnetic north suddenly dropping down to at or below the equator, then rapidly snapping back to say and briefly exceeds the surface non-dipole intensity, which in turn is followed by a very rapid dipole intensity collapse, final reversal, and recovery of the dipole intensity in the new polarity position. The final latitudes and longitude positions are unknown. However, historical records indicate north will be south – and south will be north – but at what degrees North-South-East-West is anyone’s guess.

When the poles flip, having a compass that points South instead of North does not seem like too big of a deal to humans, but there is a question of what will happen other animals. Certain migratory animals like sea turtles and birds use the magnetic field in order to orient themselves. A reversal of the poles could interfere with their ability to do so.

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Satellite Observations of Magnetic Fields to Measure Ocean Temperatures

A surprising feature of the tides could help, however. Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are developing a new way to use satellite observations of magnetic fields to measure heat stored in the ocean.

swarm_m_scienceofcycles

“If you’re concerned about understanding global warming, or Earth’s energy balance, a big unknown is what’s going into the ocean,” said Robert Tyler, a research scientist at Goddard. “We know the surfaces of the oceans are heating up, but we don’t have a good handle on how much heat is being stored deep in the ocean.”

Despite the significance of ocean heat to Earth’s climate, it remains a variable that has substantial uncertainty when scientists measure it globally. Current measurements are made mainly by Argo floats, but these do not provide complete coverage in time or space. If it is successful, this new method could be the first to provide global ocean heat measurements, integrated over all depths, using satellite observations.

Tyler’s method depends on several geophysical features of the ocean. Seawater is a good electrical conductor, so as saltwater sloshes around the ocean basins it causes slight fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field lines. The ocean flow attempts to drag the field lines around, Tyler said. The resulting magnetic fluctuations are relatively small, but have been detected from an increasing number of events including swells, eddies, tsunamis and tides.

“The recent launch of the European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites, and their magnetic survey, are providing unprecedented observational data of the magnetic fluctuations,” Tyler said. “With this comes new opportunities.”

Researchers know where and when the tides are moving ocean water, and with the high-resolution data from the Swarm satellites, they can pick out the magnetic fluctuations due to these regular ocean movements.

That’s where another geophysical feature comes in. The magnetic fluctuations of the tides depend on the electrical conductivity of the water- and the electrical conductivity of the water depends on its temperature.

For Tyler, the question then is: “By monitoring these magnetic fluctuations, can we monitor the ocean temperature?”

At the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco this week, Tyler and collaborator Terence Sabaka, also at Goddard, presented the first results. They provide a key proof-of-concept of the method by demonstrating that global ocean heat content can be recovered from “noise-free” ocean tidal magnetic signals generated by a computer model. When they try to do this with the “noisy” observed signals, it does not yet provide the accuracy needed to monitor changes in the heat content.

But, Tyler said, there is much room for improvement in how the data are processed and modeled, and the Swarm satellites continue to collect magnetic data. This is a first attempt at using satellite magnetic data to monitor ocean heat, he said, and there is still much more to be done before the technique could successfully resolve this key variable. For example, by identifying fluctuations caused by other ocean movements, like eddies or other tidal components, scientists can extract even more information and get more refined measurements of ocean heat content and how it’s changing.

More than 90 percent of the excess heat in the Earth system goes into the ocean, said Tim Boyer, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Scientists currently monitor ocean heat with shipboard measurements and Argo floats. While these measurements and others have seen a steady increase in heat since 1955, researchers still need more complete information, he said.

“Even with the massive effort with the Argo floats, we still don’t have as much coverage of the ocean as we would really like in order to lower the uncertainties,” Boyer said. “If you’re able to measure global ocean heat content directly and completely from satellites, that would be fantastic.”

Changing ocean temperatures have impacts that stretch across the globe. In Antarctica, floating sections of the ice sheet are retreating in ways that can’t be explained only by changes in atmospheric temperatures, said Catherine Walker, an ice scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

She and her colleagues studied glaciers in Antarctica that lose an average of 6.5 to 13 feet (2 to 4 meters) of elevation per year. They looked at different options to explain the variability in melting – surrounding sea ice, winds, salinity, air temperatures – and what correlated most was influxes of warmer ocean water.

“These big influxes of warm water come onto the continental shelf in some years and affect the rate at which ice melts,” Walker said. She and her colleagues are presenting the research at the AGU meeting.

Walker’s team has identified an area on the Antarctic Peninsula where warmer waters may have infiltrated inland, under the ice shelf – which could have impacts on sea level rise.

Float and ship measurements around Antarctica are scarce, but deep water temperature measurements can be achieved using tagged seals. That has its drawbacks, however: “It’s random, and we can’t control where they go,” Walker said. Satellite measurements of ocean heat content and temperatures would be very useful for the Southern Ocean, she added.

Ocean temperatures also impact life in the ocean – from microscopic phytoplankton on up the food chain. Different phytoplankton thrive at different temperatures and need different nutrients.

“Increased stratification in the ocean due to increased heating is going to lead to winners and losers within the phytoplankton communities,” said Stephanie Schollaert Uz, a scientist at Goddard.

In research presented this week at AGU, she took a look 50 years back. Using temperature, sea level and other physical properties of the ocean, she generated a history of phytoplankton extent in the tropical Pacific Ocean, between 1958 and 2008. Looking over those five decades, she found that phytoplankton extent varied between years and decades. Most notably, during El Niño years, water currents and temperatures prevented phytoplankton communities from reaching as far west in the Pacific as they typically do.

Digging further into the data, she found that where the El Niño was centered has an impact on phytoplankton. When the warmer waters of El Niño are centered over the Eastern Pacific, it suppresses nutrients across the basin, and therefore depresses phytoplankton growth more so than a central Pacific El Niño.

“For the first time, we have a basin-wide view of the impact on biology of interannual and decadal forcing by many El Niño events over 50 years,” Uz said.

As ocean temperatures impact processes across the Earth system, from climate to biodiversity, Tyler will continue to improve this novel magnetic remote sensing technique, to improve our future understanding of the planet.

Breakup of Supercontinent Cooled Mantle and Thinned Crust

The thinning is related to the cooling of Earth’s interior prompted by the splitting of the supercontinent Pangaea, which broke up into the continents that we have today, said Harm Van Avendonk, the lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at The University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. The findings, published in Nature Geosciences on Dec. 12, shed light on how mantle plumes and plate tectonics has influenced the cooling of the Earth’s mantle throughout geologic history.

mantle_plume_page

The mantle is the very hot, but mostly solid, layer of rock between the Earth’s crust and core. Magma from the mantle forms oceanic crust when it rises from the mantle to the surface at spreading centers and cools into the rock that forms the very bottom of the seafloor. The Earth’s mantle has been cooling almost from its creation.

“It’s important to note the Earth seems to be cooling a lot faster now than it has been over its lifetime,” Van Avendonk said. “The current rate of mantle plumes allows Earth to cool much more efficiently than it did in the past.”

earth-composition

The research that led to the connection between the splitting of the supercontinent and crust thickness started when Van Avendock and Ph.D. student Jennifer Harding, a study co-author, noticed an unexpected trend when studying existing data from young and old seafloor. They analyzed 234 measurements of crustal thickness from around the world and found that, on a global scale, the oldest ocean crust examined – 170 million year old rock created in the Jurassic – is about one mile thicker than the crust that’s being produced today.

The link between crust thickness and age prompted two possible explanations – both related to the fact that hotter mantle tends to make more magma. Mantle plumes could have thickened the old crust by covering it in layers of lava at a later time. Or, the mantle was hotter in the Jurassic than it is now.

The finding that splitting up Pangea cooled the mantle is important because it gives a more nuanced view of the mantle temperature that influences tectonics on Earth.

New Study Shows Ice ages Connected to Earth’s Tilt

Over the last two and a half million years the Earth has undergone more than 50 major ice ages, each having a profound effect on our planet’s climate. But what causes them and how do we predict when the next big ice age will hit?

precession5

About 40 years ago, scientists realized that ice ages were driven by changes in the Earth’s orbit. But, as I recently argued in Nature, it’s not that simple. Scientists are still trying to understand how such wobbles interact with the climate system, particularly greenhouse gases, to push the planet in to or out of an ice age.

During the last ice age, only 21,000 years ago, there was nearly continuous ice across North America from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. At its deepest over the Hudson Bay, it was over two miles thick and reached as far south as what would now be New York and Cincinnati. In Europe, there were two major ice sheets: the British ice sheet which reached as far south as what would now be Norfolk, and the Scandinavian ice sheet that extended all the way from Norway to the Ural mountains in Russia.

greenland-ice-sheet

In the Southern Hemisphere there were significant ice sheets on Patagonia, South Africa, southern Australia and New Zealand. So much water was locked up in these ice sheets that the global sea level dropped by over 125 meters – around ten meters lower than the height of the London Eye. In comparison if all the ice on Antarctica and Greenland melted today it would only raise sea level by 70 meters.

So what caused these great ice ages? In 1941, Milutin Milankovitch suggested that wobbles in the Earth’s orbit changed the distribution of solar energy on the planet’s surface, driving the ice age cycles. He believed that the amount of incoming solar radiation (insulation) just south of the Arctic Circle, at latitude 65°N, was essential. Here, insulation can vary by as much as 25%. When there was less insulation during the summer months, the average temperature would be slightly lower and some of the ice in this region could survive and build up – eventually producing an ice sheet.

But it wasn’t until 30 years later that three scientists used long-term climate records from analyzing marine sediments to put this to the test. Jim Hays used fossil assemblages to estimate past sea surface temperatures. Nick Shackleton calculated changes in past global ice volume by measuring oxygen isotopes (atoms with different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus) in calcium carbon fossil in marine sediments. John Imbrie used time-series analysis to statistically compare the timing and cycles in the sea surface temperature and global ice volume records with patterns of the Earth’s orbit.

In December 1976 they published a landmark climate paper in Science, showing that climate records contained the same cycles as the three parameters that vary the Earth’s orbit: eccentricity, obliquity and precession. Eccentricity describes the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, varying from nearly a circle to an ellipse with a period of about 96,000 years. Obliquity is the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation with respect to the plane of its orbit, which changes with a period of about 41,000 years. Precession refers to the fact that both Earth’s rotational axis and orbital path precess (rotate) over time – the combined effects of these two components and the eccentricity produce an approximately 21,000-year cycle.

The researchers also found that these parameters have different effects at different places on our globe. Obliquity has a strong influence at high latitudes, whereas precession has a notable impact on tropical seasons. For example precession has been linked to the rise and fall of the African rift valley lakes and so may have even influenced the evolution of our ancestors. Evidence for such “orbital forcing” of climate has now been found as far back as 1.4 billion years ago.

Beyond wobbles
However, the scientists realized that there were limitations and challenges of their research – many of which remain today. In particular, they recognized that variations in the Earth’s orbit did not cause the ice age cycles per se – they rather paced them. A certain orbit of the Earth can be associated with many different climates. The one we have today is in fact similar to the one we had during the most intense part of the last ice age.

Small changes in insulation driven by changes in the Earth’s orbit can push the planet into or out of an ice age through the planet’s “climate feedback” mechanisms. For example when summer solar radiation in reduced it allows some ice to remain after the winter. This white ice reflects more sunlight, which cools the area further and allows more ice to build up, which reflects even more sunlight and so forth. Therefore, the researchers’ next step was to understand the relative importance of ice sheet, ocean and atmospheric feedbacks.

(PART III) Magnetic Pole Reversal Coming Sooner Than You Think

According to scientists’ best estimates, the Earth’s magnetic field is now weakening around 10 times faster than previously predicted, losing approximately 5% of its strength every decade. This finding indicates a magnetic pole reversal could be coming sooner rather than later.

magnetic_pole_reversal

 The geomagnetic dipole has decreased by nearly 6% per century since first measured by Gauss in the 1840s. This too is 10-20 times faster than the “Ohmic” decay rate. (The process by which the passage of an electric current through a conductor releases heat). The causes of this rapid decrease in Gauss stability, is the proliferation of reverse magnetic field on the core-mantle boundary. This has occurred especially beneath the South Atlantic with the transference of heat energy in a horizontal stream of the magnetic field from high to low latitudes.

The weakening of Earth’s magnetic field has two fundamental points. First: A weakened magnetic field allows charged particle events such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CME), to produce enhanced consequences to extreme weather events that include earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes etc.

galactic_cosmic_rays_sun_magnetic_field_earths_core_scienceofcycles-com_m

Second: The second major consequence of a weakened magnetic field is its identification as the ‘precursor’ to a magnetic pole shift. It is estimated that Earth’s magnetic field reverses every few thousand years at low latitudes and every 10,000 years at high latitudes. It is believed we are far enough along the cycle that many living today will witness the bouncing back and forth of magnetic north and it swings reaching latitudes below 30°. Magnetic north can also move east and west longitudes.

Precursor First – Then Full Magnetic Flip
Individual magnetic reversal records show a remarkable degree of repeatability, including dipole collapse, rapid polarity change, and fast dipole intensity recovery stages. This is to say historical magnetic field reversals indicate that during the period of Earth’s magnetic field reduction, it will be in flux for several years before a full magnetic flip will incur. At this stage of magnetic minimization close to zero point, the magnetic field may have multiple swings north and south across the equator, additionally with large excursions of geomagnetic polar flux in east and west longitudes.

shifting_magnetic_pole

The final stage of reversal is when the dipole intensity partially recovers. An example of this phenomena would be magnetic north suddenly dropping down to at or below the equator, then rapidly snapping back to say and briefly exceeds the surface non-dipole intensity, which in turn is followed by a very rapid dipole intensity collapse, final reversal, and recovery of the dipole intensity in the new polarity position. The final latitudes and longitude positions are unknown. However, historical records indicate north will be south – and south will be north – but at what degrees North-South-East-West is anyone’s guess.

When the poles flip, having a compass that points South instead of North does not seem like too big of a deal to humans, but there is a question of what will happen other animals. Certain migratory animals like sea turtles and birds use the magnetic field in order to orient themselves. A reversal of the poles could interfere with their ability to do so.

partial_extinction

Another concern about the reversal is that the weakening of the magnetic field, which precedes the flipping event, will mean that it will not be able to adequately shield us from the Sun’s radiation. Although there is no direct evidence in the fossil record of a “mass” extinction correlating with a field reversal or an influx of radiation, records show there have been selective extinctions. Additionally, there is concern of what could happen to power grids, satellites and effects on weather patterns.

The question is not ‘will there be a magnetic pole reversal’, but at what phase are we currently in? I would suggest we are in the last phases. There are many of you who will be able to witness a magnetic reversal firsthand, what transpires over the next 50 to 60 years. Unfortunately, I will not be one of them but my kids will be; and they have been instructed to take good notes and photos to pass on to their kids.

(PART II) The Causes of Heating and Cooling of Earth’s Core and Climate Change

Ongoing studies supported by the NSF (National Science Foundation) indicate a connection between submarine troughs (rifts), Earth’s mantle, and Earth’s outer core. Furthermore, new research indicates the shifting of magnetic flux via Earth’s magnetic field, has a direct and symbiotic relationship to Earth’s outer core, mantle, lithosphere, and crust.

milankovitch_cycles33_scienceofcycles

As a living entity, Earth fights for its survival. If internal or external events begin to throw Earth out of balance i.e. orbital, tilt, or magnetic alignment – it begins to correct itself. When oceanic tectonic subductions occur, it cools the mantle and outer core. To balance this shift in temperatures, the Earth’s core increases heat and as a result releases what is known as “mantle plumes”. These plumes filled with super-heated liquid rock float up to the ocean bottom surface.

galactic_cosmic_rays_sun_magnetic_field_earth_s_core_scienceofcycles-com_m

This action both cools the outer core and heats the oceans. As a result of heated oceans, we get tropical storms and various forms of extreme weather. When troughs, subduction zones, and rifts shift, as a result of convection, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes occur.

This is to say, during solar maximum it was believed the solar radiation was creating super-heated hydrogen and oxygen atoms and thus generating a super-heated Meso/Thermosphere. In like, it was believed solar minimum would spawn the cooling of H and O atoms thus cooling this region.

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shifting_magnetic_pole_and_weakening_scienceofcycles-com_m

What makes this all work is the Earth’s magnetic field. Right now the magnetic field is weakening significantly. This will continue until it reaches zero point, at which time there will be a full magnetic reversal. Until this time, we will witness magnetic north bouncing in the northern hemisphere. Closer to the moments of a full reversal, we will see magnetic north drop down to/then below the equator.

As a result of a weakened magnetic field, larger amounts of radiation via charged particles such as solar flares, coronal mass ejections, gamma rays, and galactic cosmic rays – are more abundantly reaching Earth’s atmosphere and having a heightened reaction with Earth’s core layers. This is what causes looped reaction. Radiation heats the core layers, the outer core reacts by producing ‘mantle plumes’, which causes crustal fracturing, which then causes earthquakes, volcanoes, heated oceans – all of which cools the outer core.

What this adds up to is the natural cyclical mechanics identifying a coming magnetic reversal. We can expect to see the aurora borealis to shine its wonderment waves in the skies more often, and we can expect them to come further south with each coming few years. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will need to double its staff over the next five decades, as they play “catch the bouncing ball” having to re-calibrate instruments more and more often as they vector in true-north as all GPS and Compass’s do their best to stay on target.

There Needs to be a Part – III  COMING NEXT WEEK: “Magnetic Pole Reversal Happens All The (Geologic) Time”


I’ve been away from the family on a few occasions working with my Emergency Management Team dealing with a few natural disasters. Unfortunately, this dips into my regular ability to earn income. As most of you know I have two wonderful girls ages 8 and 4, and I’m feeling a bit guilty for not preparing to make sure they have a wonderful Christmas with toys and gifts under the tree.

sophia_alexa_santa_2016_

In my part-time volunteer work with EMO, when duty calls, I answer. It’s part of what I do on my chosen journey.

By you helping with keeping Science of Cycles up and running, on this occasion in kind of a indirect way, you will place a gift under the tree.     Cheers, Mitch


_science-of-cycles-and-earth-changes-tv-banner_mHelp keep ‘Science of Cycles’ alive and free. Your support is needed to keep this unique and valuable resource. Make your pledge using the drop-down menu under “Science of Cycles Community Support” on the page when you – CLICK HERE –