Scientists race to analyze Austria’s rapidly disappearing glaciers

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 23, 2019   •   483

Scientists are racing to read a rapidly melting archive of climate data going back thousands of years – the inside of Austria’s glaciers, which are falling victim to climate change.

Glaciers are threatened the world over as the average global temperature continues to rise, a phenomenon that is likely to be described in even more vivid detail than before in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week.

But glaciers in Austria, on the eastern edge of the Alps, are particularly sensitive to climate change and have been shrinking even more rapidly than most, making it all the more urgent to examine their contents before they disappear, Andrea Fischer, a scientist conducting that work, said.

Fischer, part of the research team from the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research in Innsbruck, is analysing a layer of ice at the top of the Weisseespitze, a peak more than 3,500 metres high.

At the top of this mountain, Fischer and her colleagues have drilled to the bottom of the comparatively undisturbed glacier to extract samples of its ice, which is being analysed for information on the local climate thousands of years ago.

Fischer believes the ice could be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, with the extracted samples being sent for lab testing to date them.

The lower layers are more densely packed than those at the top, meaning that one metre of ice could include thousands of years of data.

“At Weisseespitze several metres of ice disappeared, the ice there is just a few metres thick. So, in a few years, this peak will be totally without ice,” Fischer said.

While analysis of other materials, such as tree trunks, can provide information on the air temperature in summer, glaciers’ ice is a rare source of information on precipitation, she said.

The team’s challenge is to take current data on how the climate is changing and compare how the climate changed over it previous centuries and millennia to determine how exceptional or usual the current process is. (REUTERS)

(Production: Lisi Niesner, Suzana Sabljic, Boki Babic)

Climate emergency remains as urgent as ever amid COVID-19 pandemic—Cimatu

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 23, 2020

Climate change still remains as urgent as ever amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu.

“It is like the COVID-19 emergency, just in slow motion and much graver,” Cimatu said on Wednesday (July 22).

The DENR also said climate change have a multiplier effect which would lead to other problems, from ecosystem stability to food production and human conflict.

“Deforestation disrupts weather patterns and the water cycle, contributes to climate change, and destroys the habitats of important species. Chemicals and waste are polluting the air, soil and water, killing millions each year,” the department said in a statement.

Cimatu said major environmental protection programs like solid waste management, reforestation and biodiversity conservation, must be consistent with the overall response to COVID-19, future pandemics and climate crisis.

“The government—through the Cabinet Cluster on CCAM-DRR—will prioritize actions and investments that will reduce long-term health impacts and increase our resilience and adaptive capacity to both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change,” he said.

Locusts swarm across parts of India, attacking agricultural lands

UNTV News   •   May 26, 2020

Huge swarms of locusts took over the skies of Northern and Central India on Monday (May 25) and Sunday (May 24), affecting agricultural lands.

The pests were mostly seen across large states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

On Sunday, actions were taken in the city of Mandsaur, in central India, to contain the swarm by spraying pesticides.

One of the deadliest pests for farms produce, locusts are known to destroy crops and vegetables, and whatever they find in their way, in search of food.

Animals also get affected by eating the same leaves as the locusts and can suffer from diarrhoea.

Locust swarms are not new in East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. But climate scientists say erratic weather linked to climate change has created ideal conditions for the insects to surge in numbers not seen in a quarter of a century.

If allowed to breed unchecked in favourable conditions, locusts can form huge swarms that can strip trees and crops over vast areas. (Reuters)

(Production: ANI, Hanna Rantala, Gabriela Boccaccio)

Austria reopens thousands of shops in first loosening of lockdown

UNTV News   •   April 14, 2020

Thousands of shops across Austria reopened on Tuesday (April 14) as the landlocked country becomes one of the first in Europe to loosen its coronavirus lockdown, but the government is still telling the nation it is “not out of the woods” yet.

Austria acted early in its outbreak to close schools, bars, theatres, restaurants, non-essential shops and other gathering places roughly four weeks ago. It has told the public to stay home and work from there if possible.

It has fared relatively well so far, having reported 368 deaths in total, fewer than some larger European countries have been suffering each day. The daily increase in confirmed cases is in low single digits in percentage terms and hospitalisations have stabilised.

Last week, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz outlined a step-by-step plan to reopen parts of the economy, starting with shops of up to 400 square metres (4,300 square feet) — roughly twice the playing area of a singles tennis court — as well as all home-improvement and garden centres on Tuesday.

They are due to be followed by shopping centres, larger shops and hairdressers from May 1. Restaurants and hotels could reopen progressively from mid-May. (Reuters)

(Production: Matteo Witt, Michele Sani and Elena Gyldenkerne)

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