BREAKING NEWS: West Antarctica Mantle Plume Piercing Through Lithosphere Rising at Surprisingly Rapid Rate

The Earth is rising in one part of Antarctica at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, as ice rapidly disappears and weight is lifted off the surface, a new international study has found.

The findings, reported in the scientific journal Science, have surprising and positive implications for the survival of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which scientists had previously thought could be doomed because of the effects of climate change.

The unexpectedly fast rate of the rising Earth may markedly increase the stability of the ice sheet against catastrophic collapse due to ice loss, scientists say. In other words, due to the natural cyclical events of geophysics correction, the West Antarctic mantle plume has increased its activity bringing viscous rocks closer to the surface.

Moreover, the rapid rise of the Earth in this area also affects gravity measurements, which implies that up to 10 percent more ice has disappeared in this part of Antarctica than previously assumed.

Researchers led by scientists at The Ohio State University used a series of six GPS stations (part of the POLENET-ANET array) attached to bedrock around the Amundsen Sea Embayment to measure its rise in response to thinning ice.

The “uplift rate” was measured at up to 41 millimeters (1.6 inches) a year, said Terry Wilson, one of the leaders of the study and a professor emeritus of Earth sciences at Ohio State.

In contrast, places like Iceland and Alaska, which have what are considered rapid uplift rates, generally are measured rising 20 to 30 millimeters a year. “The rate of uplift we found is unusual and very surprising. It’s a game changer,” Wilson said.

I would suggest events such as this is a continued sign of a geomagnetic shift. In these ‘late/early’ stage, magnetic north will bounce around for a few decades – perhaps dropping close to the equator – then in the laten years, perhaps 50 years from now, a full flip could occur.

And it is only going to get faster. The researchers estimate that in 100 years, uplift rates at the GPS sites will be 2.5 to 3.5 times more rapid than currently observed.

“These results provide an important contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of the Earth’s bedrock, along with the thinning of ice in Antarctica. The large amount of water stored in Antarctica has implications for the whole planet,” said lead study author Valentina R. Barletta, who started this work at Ohio State and now is a postdoctoral researcher at the National Space Institute (DTU Space) at the Technical University of Denmark.

While modeling studies have shown that bedrock uplift could theoretically protect WAIS from collapse, it was believed that the process would take too long to have practical effects.

“We previously thought uplift would occur over thousands of years at a very slow rate, not enough to have a stabilizing effect on the ice sheet. Our results suggest the stabilizing effect may only take decades,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the rapid rise of the bedrock in this part of Antarctica suggests the geology underneath Antarctica is different from what scientists had previously believed.

Underneath the solid upper layer of Earth is a hotter and more fluid layer of rock called the mantle. Exactly how hot and fluid the mantle is varies across the planet.

The rapid uplift around the Amundsen Sea Embayment suggests the mantle in this area is hotter and more fluid (or, as scientists say, it has lower viscosity) than expected, according to Barletta.

Barletta ran a variety of computer models using scenarios of ice loss through time in the area to explain how such rapid uplift could be occurring today.

The results of Barletta’s models showed that the GPS findings today could best be explained by having a low-viscosity mantle, Wilson said.

These new measurements of Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA), the scientific term for uplift due to ice sheet unloading, are an important part of a wider story about the fate of the Antarctic ice sheets, said Doug Kowalewski, the Antarctic Earth Sciences program director in the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP).

The problem is that much of this area of Antarctica is below sea level. Relatively warm ocean water has flowed in underneath the bottom of the ice sheet, causing thinning and moving the grounding line – where the water, ice and solid Earth meet – further inland.

Another feedback is lowering sea levels. Massive ice sheets along the ocean have their own gravitational pull and raise the sea level near them. But as the ice thins and retreats, the gravitational pull lessens and the sea level near the coast goes down.

“The lowering of the sea level, the rising of pinning points and the decrease of the inland slope due to the uplift of the bedrock are all feedbacks that can stabilize the ice sheet,” Wilson said.

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NEW STUDY: Can We Protect the Brain From Cosmic Radiation?

Although this new study is focused space travel and the damage cosmic rays can impose on the human brain, it is important to reflect upon the current trend of a diminishing strength of Earth’s magnetic field allowing a significant increase of cosmic rays.

Another factor is the predicted lessening of solar cycle strengths – perhaps over the next 100 years. When there is a lower number of sunspots, there will be fewer solar storms such as solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and coronal holes. It is the stronger solar winds which deflect galactic cosmic rays. There is a considerable scientific argument which propose cosmic ray radiation is more harmful to Earth and humans than solar storm events.

As we prepare to enter a new era of space travel, we must find ways of averting health risks posed by the cosmic environment. Deep space radiation, in particular, is known to impair cognitive function. Have researchers found a way to undo that damage?

This is the eve of sending astronauts to explore deep space, colonizing and terraforming other planets, and planning for space tourism. One main threat comes from cosmic radiation, which can harm the central nervous system, altering cognitive function and leading to symptoms similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease.

With their colonizing missions to Mars planned for as soon as the 2030s, NASA – as well as private companies interested in space travel concepts – have been looking into effective ways of protecting astronauts from the harms of radiation.

So far, researchers have focused mainly on how to enhance spacecrafts and protective outfits for outer space travelers to fend off this strong radiation. Now, however, investigators from the University of California, San Francisco – led by Susanna Rosi – have started developing a treatment that might offset the neuro-degeneration triggered by cosmic rays.

The results of their experiments, which they carried out on mouse models, are now published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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JUST IN: The True Power of the Solar Wind

New research from the Vienna University of Technology, now show that previous models of our solar system which is continuously being bombarded by particles hurled away from the Sun, is incomplete. The effects of solar wind bombardment are in some cases much more drastic than previously thought. These findings are important for the ESA mission BepiColombo, Europe’s first Mercury mission. The results have now been published in the planetology journal ‘Icarus’.

“The solar wind consists of charged particles — mainly hydrogen and helium ions, but heavier atoms up to iron also play a role,” explains Prof. Friedrich Aumayr from the Institute of Applied Physics at TU Wien. These particles hit the surface rocks at a speed of 400 to 800 km per second and the impact can eject numerous other atoms. These particles can rise high before they fall back to the surface, creating an “exosphere” around the Moon or Mercury — an extremely thin atmosphere of atoms sputtered from the surface rocks by solar wind bombardment.

This exosphere is of great interest for space research because its composition allows scientists to deduce the chemical composition of the rock surface — and it is much easier to analyze the exosphere than to land a spacecraft on the surface.

However, this requires a precise understanding of the effects of the solar wind on the rock surfaces, and this is precisely where decisive gaps in knowledge still exist. Therefore, the TU Wien investigated the effect of ion bombardment on wollastonite, a typical moon rock. “Up to now it was assumed that the kinetic energy of the fast particles is primarily responsible for atomization of the rock surface,” says Paul Szabo, PhD student in Friedrich Aumayr’s team and first author of the current publication. “But this is only half the truth: we were able to show that the high electrical charge of the particles plays a decisive role. It is the reason that the particles on the surface can do much more damage than previously thought.”

When the particles of the solar wind are multiply charged, i.e. when they lack several electrons, they carry a large amount of energy which is released in a flash on impact. “If this is not taken into account, the effects of the solar wind on various rocks are misjudged,” says Paul Szabo. Therefore, it is not possible to draw exact conclusions about the surface rocks with an incorrect model from the composition of the exosphere.

Protons make up by far the largest part of the solar wind, and so it was previously thought that they had the strongest influence on the rock. But as it turns out, helium actually plays the main role because, unlike protons, it can be charged twice as positively. And the contribution of heavier ions with an even greater electrical charge must not be neglected either. A cooperation of different research groups was necessary for these findings: High-precision measurements were carried out with a specifically developed microbalance at the Institute of Applied Physics.

At the Vienna Scientific Cluster VSC-3 complex computer simulations with codes developed for nuclear fusion research were carried out in order to be able to interpret the results correctly. The Analytical Instrumentation Center and the Institute for Chemical Technologies and Analytics of the TU Vienna also made important contributions.

Researchers Find New Way to Estimate Magma Beneath Yellowstone Supervolcano

Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho have found a new way to estimate how fast magma is recharging beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano. While their findings offer no help in predicting if the volcano will erupt, they can now get a better understanding of a key factor – a pool of basalt magma recharging the system – in how it works.

“It is the coal in the furnace that’s heating things up,” said Peter Larson, a professor in the Washington State University School of the Environment. “It’s heating up the boiler. The boiler is what explodes. This tells us what is heating the boiler.”

Some 640,000 years have passed since the volcano’s last major eruption. But it can be “super,” having produced one of the largest known blasts on Earth and spewing more than 2,000 times as much ash as Mount St. Helens did in 1980.

A major element in the volcano’s power is the explosive, silica-rich rhyolite that break’s through the Earth’s crust during an eruption. Larson and his colleagues focused on the plume of basalt magma heating the rhyolite from below.

“This gives us an idea of how much magma is recharging the volcano every year,” said Larson, whose findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Geosphere.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the researchers “spiked” several hot springs in Yellowstone National Park with deuterium, a stable hydrogen isotope. The researchers used the length of time needed for deuterium concentrations to return to background levels and the temperature of the hot springs to calculate the amount of water and heat flowing out of the springs. Using deuterium for estimating heat flow is safe for the environment and has no visual impact to distract from the park visitors’ experience.

The team found that previous studies underestimated the amount of water coursing through the springs and the amount of heat leaving the springs. The data also allowed the team to estimate the amount of magma entering the supervolcano from the mantle.

The study also has implications for geothermal energy, helping inform how heat is transported to the Earth’s surface from molten rock.

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BREAKING NEWS: Guatemala’s Volcano Of Fire Emits Another Hot Sediment Flow

Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire released a flow of burning sediment and rock Saturday, causing authorities to order new preventative evacuations almost a week after the initial eruption left at least 110 people dead and about 200 missing.

Guatemala’s seismology and vulcanology institute said the new lahar—a flow of mud, debris, water and pyroclastic material—was fed by rains and tore down trees as it swept through ravines and gullies.

Later Saturday, a rise in the Panaleon river caused by the new outflow led authorities to evacuate 72 people from the community of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa.

Institute director Eddy Sanchez said the risks from the Volcano of Fire are not over even though its activity has been decreasing. He said the last time it erupted it took two and a half weeks for the volcano to return to normal.

Official search efforts for the missing were suspended for the third straight day Saturday amid dangerous conditions. But in places like San Miguel Los Lotes families and volunteers continued the search.

More than 4,000 people remained in shelters after last Sunday’s eruption, where aid has begun arriving along with complaints about how it is being distributed.

Authorities in Guatemalan have already launched an investigation into the official response to the crises.

In Guatemala City, meanwhile, about 1,000 people blew whistles and carried torches and banners in a protest against the official handling of the tragedy.