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Climate change is behind the scale and impact of recent wildfires in the western US, scientists say.
France’s COVID-19 resurgence is palpable in the buzzing biology lab of this public hospital in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. More than 1 million of France’s 67 million people took a virus test over the past week, putting labs like this under growing strain.
What if you could get an accurate weather report as much as three weeks in advance? In some parts of the world, that could soon be possible.Right now, forecasters can reliably predict the weather in most parts of the United States up to eight days in advance, according to the American Meteorological Society. In recent years, research has shown that improving technology could make weather forecasts accurate 15 days ahead of time. And recent research published by Falko Judt, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, found that there's even more unlocked potential in the tropics.Judt ran a series of simulations using a global weather model. As expected, the model's ability to make accurate weather predictions dissipated after about two weeks for the polar and middle-latitude regions, which encompass most of the U.S. But for the tropics, the model showed almost no dissipation, even after 20 days. This suggests that forecasters will one day be able to accurately predict tropical weather as much as three weeks ahead of time -- and potentially even further in advance.In general, tropical weather phenomena are subtler and less variable, so they "have intrinsically longer predictability," Judt said. For example, New York might have warm weather the day before a blizzard, but the Amazon rainforest is never quite so capricious.In the Amazon, "you could have a day that rains a lot and then two weeks later a dry spell of 10 days, but the temperature variation will just be a couple of degrees."But even if there is a lot of uniformity in tropical weather, that is not the same as predictability."A stopped clock is very predictable," said Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If a clock stops at five minutes past noon, you can say it's going to be at five minutes past noon forever, and you'd be right. But we wouldn't call that a very skillful prediction."Weather prediction is challenging in the tropics in part because existing forecasting models aren't well-suited to their most common weather phenomena."In the tropics, most of the weather is in the form of showers and thunderstorms, which are much smaller than a typical weather system in the middle latitudes," Judt said. "These smaller showers and thunderstorms are more difficult to simulate with our current weather prediction models."By the same token, there's less readily available data to put into these models. The U.S. and other countries in the middle latitudes have hundreds of weather stations. But there are far fewer stations in the tropics because so much of that territory is covered by oceans. Also, many tropical countries lack the necessary funding to collect data via weather balloons, planes, drones and other costly devices.Not being able to accurately predict the weather in the tropics, especially rain, has an outsized impact on the people who live there. Many make their living from farming, Judt said, and "it's very difficult to plant crops and harvest when you don't know when it will rain, how much it will rain and how long it will rain for."The tropics are also prone to extreme storms where "it just pours for hours and hours," Judt said. Accurate weather predictions made further in advance would better prepare communities and help prevent property damage, injuries and deaths resulting from flooding.Judt's findings, and those of scientists at Penn State University and the University of Munich published in recent years, test the limits of a theory introduced in 1969 by Ed Lorenz, a prolific MIT mathematician and meteorologist. He theorized that tiny disturbances in the atmosphere can build up and have vast impacts over time -- a phenomenon now known as the butterfly effect. This effect, he wrote, seems to ensure that predicting the weather more than two to three weeks ahead of time will always be mathematically impossible.Scientists today call this roadblock the predictability horizon, a point of no return for weather forecasting. Anything beyond it is not much better than a random guess."Science has painted a fence around what it can do in a very spectacular way," said Emanuel, who worked alongside Lorenz for more than three decades. No matter how much data you have or how powerful your computers are, he said, eventually your ability to improve "slows down and grinds to a halt."Still, things have improved over the past few decades, narrowing the gap between the aspirational and actual predictability of weather. Eugenia Kalnay, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park who studies the predictability of weather, says the advent of weather satellites has revolutionized forecasting in the tropics."In the '90s, we had almost no satellite observations in the southern hemisphere," she said. "Since then, the number and quality of satellite observations has increased substantially," so our ability to make accurate forecasts in the Southern Hemisphere is almost as good as in the Northern Hemisphere.Additionally, the global weather models that are now in development can simulate showers and thunderstorms, Judt said, whereas existing models cannot. This, coupled with a series of weather satellites set to launch over the next few years, should translate to longer lead times for tropical forecasts."We should see an improvement in tropical weather prediction in the next 10 years," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
NASA wants to get astronauts on the moon by 2024. Before that, the agency must make sure its spacesuits work.
Noise pollution from boats and oil drilling can interfere with orcas' ability to communicate, and drive them toward dangerously rocky shorelines.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins told The Associated Press on Friday that she plans to cast her next vote from space – more than 200 miles above Earth. Rubins is just outside Moscow in Star City, Russia, preparing with two cosmonauts for a mid-October launch and a six-month stay at the International Space Station. “I think it’s really important for everybody to vote,” Rubins said.
China’s lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted. “This is an immense achievement in the sense that now we have a data set which we can use to benchmark our radiation" and better understand the potential risk to people on the moon, said Thomas Berger, a physicist with the German Space Agency's medicine institute. Astronauts would get 200 to 1,000 times more radiation on the moon than what we experience on Earth — or five to 10 times more than passengers on a trans-Atlantic airline flight, noted Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber of Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany.
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Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp in its year-long lawsuit had accused the Air Force of unfairly awarding development contracts to Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and other competitors for new rocket systems in 2018. Judge Otis D. Wright II gave the parties a week-long window to change his mind before entering judgment.
In a run-down residential compound in Kampala, Vanessa Nakate thrusts her fist in the air as she rallies 30 young demonstrators to defend their planet against climate change. "What do we want?" she shouts, to a ragged chorus of "climate justice". The youngest protester, two-year-old Manvir Ssozi, sucks his thumb as he flaps a placard that reads: "Money will be ... useless on a dead planet."
On the open expanses of Chile's high-altitude Atacama desert, bright stars pierce an ink-black firmament, a lure for stargazers looking for wonder and astronomers seeking signs of life on distant planets. Chile's arid northern deserts have attracted massive investment in telescopes in recent years and the country is home to nearly half the world's astronomical observatories. Now, under threat from light pollution coming from urban sprawl and development, Chile's environmental defenders are starting a fight to keep the skies dark, with legal muscle and new protections.
ABOARD 'ARCTIC SUNRISE' (Reuters) - Jailed in Russia in 2013 for trying to halt oil drilling in the Arctic, a disillusioned Paul Ruzycki switched to working on cargo ships for a while before the words of Greta Thunberg inspired him to return to his life as a climate activist. The grizzled 55-year-old is now ice navigator on board a Greenpeace ship in the Arctic, and painfully aware of how much more fragile the environment he has devoted much of his life to protecting has become in the three decades he has sailed the globe with the group. "I used to say to my friends back home, go up and see the Arctic before it's gone, but I think that joke is turning out to be a reality," he told Reuters TV from the Arctic Sunrise, where he is helping gather data on biodiversity and the impact of global warming.
European countries are seeing cases surge and, in some cases, the highest number of new cases since the outbreak first began.
ABOARD 'ARCTIC SUNRISE' (Reuters) - Jailed in Russia in 2013 for trying to halt oil drilling in the Arctic, a disillusioned Paul Ruzycki switched to working on cargo ships for a while before the words of Greta Thunberg inspired him to return to his life as a climate activist. The grizzled 55-year-old is now ice navigator on board a Greenpeace ship in the Arctic, and painfully aware of how much more fragile the environment he has devoted much of his life to protecting has become in the three decades he has sailed the globe with the group. "I used to say to my friends back home, go up and see the Arctic before it's gone, but I think that joke is turning out to be a reality," he told Reuters TV from the Arctic Sunrise, where he is helping gather data on biodiversity and the impact of global warming.
Over 80% of people in Britain are not adhering to self-isolation guidelines when they have COVID-19 symptoms or had contact with someone who has tested positive, a study has found. A majority were also unable to identify the symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The research raises major questions about the effectiveness of England's Test and Trace programme as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks to keep a lid on rising infection numbers with new restrictions.