Scientists are braving Arctic winters to study carbon frozen in soil.
They keep finding surprises — all of them bad.
Nala Rogers, Staff Writer
(Inside Science) — It was dusk when Nikita Zimov limped to the icy riverbank and its lifesaving supply of driftwood. He had pushed himself hard the last few exhausting miles, knowing that he would freeze to death if he didn’t find firewood before dark. He built a fire and huddled by the flames, trying to dry his sodden clothes as snow continued to fall. He peeled off one boot to expose his throbbing toe, and saw that the nail was bruised and broken from a day spent struggling across the tundra.
If it were summer, he’d have taken a boat upriver to his destination — a patch of Siberian tundra where instruments monitored the flow of greenhouse gases between air and soil…
Arvind Kumar, a chest surgeon at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, has a ringside view of the toll that northern India’s deteriorating air quality is taking on its residents. When he started practising 30 years ago, some 80 to 90 per cent of his lung cancer patients were smokers, mostly men, aged typically in their 50s or 60s.
But in the past six years, half of Dr Kumar’s lung cancer patients have been non-smokers, about 40 per cent of them women. Patients are younger too, with 8 per cent in their 30s and 40s.
To Dr Kumar, the dramatic shift in the profiles of lung cancer patients has a clear cause: air fouled by dirty diesel exhaust fumes, construction dust, rising industrial emissions and crop burning, which has created heavy loads of harmful pollutants in the air.
Alexandra S. Levine
It was unseasonably warm on Jan. 12, 1888, as Minnie Freeman made her way to a school in rural Nebraska, where she was a teacher.
Temperatures had been climbing well into the 40s that month, a respite from the bitter cold that usually gripped the prairie in the dead of winter.
Shortly after she arrived, the students, whose ages were about 5 to 15 — shuffled into the tiny Midvale School and the lesson began. By noon, a light morning frost had melted, and the sky seemed to be clearing.
“It’s a pretty tough old time,” says Coonabarabran farmer Ambrose Doolan. “But if you’re working with your family and everyone is looking out for each other, you count your blessings.” In the central-west region of New South Wales, farmers continue to battle a crippling drought that many locals are calling the worst since 1902. In Warrumbungle shire, where sharp peaks fall away to once fertile farmland, the small town of Coonabarabran is running out of water.
Yadav Bhavanth grows vegetables on family land in the south-central Indian state of Telangana. On this small farm in a drought-prone region, his crop production—and income—depend heavily on seasonal rainfall.
In 2015 and 2016, water shortages threatened his crops. And when the rains came, they were often so heavy that they damaged even the hardier plants, causing disease or infestation.
When Simon Leather was a student in the 1970s, he took a summer job as a postman and delivered mail to the villages of Kirk Hammerton and Green Hammerton in North Yorkshire. He recalls his early morning walks through its lanes, past the porches of houses on his round. At virtually every home, he saw the same picture: windows plastered with tiger moths that had been attracted by lights the previous night and were still clinging to the glass. “It was quite a sight,” says Leather, who is now a professor of entomology at Harper Adams University in Shropshire.
But it is not a vision that he has experienced in recent years. Those tiger moths have almost disappeared. “You hardly see any, although there used to be thousands in summer and that was just a couple of villages.”