Scientists race to analyze Austria’s rapidly disappearing glaciers

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 23, 2019   •   461

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)

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)

UN warns of 3.2C temperature rise despite Paris Agreement

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2019

Geneva – The average global temperature will rise 3.2C by the end of the century even if countries fulfill their commitments to the Paris Agreement on climate change, which sought to limit the increase to under 1.5C above preindustrial levels, according to the United Nations on Tuesday.

“The summary of the findings are bleak,” the UN Environment Programme said in the introduction to its annual Emission Gap Report, which analyses current climate change policies and how they diverge from the kind of measures that need to be adopted to curb global warming.

According to the report, there must be a collective effort to reduce emissions by 7.6 percent a year between 2020 and 2030 to keep global temperatures under 1.5C above preindustrial levels, a fivefold increase in the efforts initially set out by the Paris Agreement.

UNEP’s Executive Director, Inger Anderson, said: “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 percent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade.”

“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.”

According to the report, if current unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions are fully implemented, there was still only a 66 percent chance that warming would be limited to 3.2C by the end of the century.

It concluded that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases increased 1.5 percent annually in the last decade and reached historical levels of 55.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2018.

China was responsible for 13 of those gigatons but the Asian giant, the world’s second-largest economy, is not yet obliged to reduce its emissions in absolute terms as per the Paris Agreement due to its status as a developing country.

Second in regards to emissions was the United States with six gigatons. President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

Emissions must be curbed by 15 gigatons by 2030 to achieve the 2C goal or 32 gigatons to hit the 1.5C target, the report said.

UNEP said that if current trends continued, then global temperatures could rise by 3.9C, although pledges to reduce emissions, such as the European Union’s target to curb them by 40 percent by 2030, could limit it to 3.2C, which is still insufficient.

The UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: “There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”

Recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special reports said there would be dire consequences of inaction if the global temperature rises are not held below the 1.5C target.

The UNEP report on the emissions gap will be used as a template for discussions at the upcoming COP25 meeting in Madrid, conducted under the presidency this year of Chile. EFE-EPA

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