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Whale songs and war: The less talked-about climate change impacts





Near Antarctica, whales are singing in deeper tones to cut through the noise of melting icebergs. In California, a big college football rivalry game was postponed until Saturday because of smoky air from wildfires. And Alaskan shellfish were struck by an outbreak of warm water bacteria.

That’s global warming in action.

Climate change is more than heat waves, hurricanes, floods, droughts, sea level rise, melting ice and ever-increasing temperatures.

Sometimes global warming has a hand — directly or indirectly — in something quirky, such as the pitch change in five baleen whale populations in the Southern Ocean. It can be annoying, such as having to reschedule the Big Game between California and Stanford, or seeing plants bloom too early in the spring.

This Jan. 6, 2010 photo shows a fin whale, foreground, and tabular drifting iceberg near Antarctica. Climate Change is more than rising thermometers, wildfires, droughts and storms; it even has a hand in altering whale songs, flowering plants and civil war. (Jean-Yves Royer/CNRS-UBO-IUEM Geosciences Ocean via AP)

More often the influence of climate change is ominous, like oceans becoming more acidic and eating away at clam shells and coral reefs, which already got bleached by warmer waters.

Or even out-of-place and dangerous, like the Vibrio bacteria outbreak in Alaska or once-tropical, disease-carrying mosquitoes arriving in Canada.

It could be a bit unexpected, like a study linking warmer climate to a rise in winter crimes in the United States. Northeastern University criminologist James Fox says that actually makes sense because more people outside means more opportunity for foul play.

And climate change has altered global politics. Numerous studies have said it was a factor in record-setting drought in Syria — one of several causes of the country’s civil war that triggered a massive refugee crisis.

In this June 5, 2014 file photo a man rides a bicycle through a part of Homs, Syria, devastated by the country’s civil war. Numerous studies have said climate change was a factor in record-setting drought in Syria- one of several causes of the country’s civil war that triggered a massive refugee crisis. (Dusan Vranic/The Associated Press)

The military calls this a multiplier effect. Problems combine, pile up and worsen each other. Climate change does that, even in matters of national security, said Richard Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University.

“Climate change didn’t cause the Syrian civil war” but in a place that’s unhappy, a drought arrives, farmers move to an overcrowded city and problems multiply and lead to war, Alley said. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Conflict over climate change impacts is not confined to Syria, says University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Renee McPherson. It also applies to thousands of Nigerians “killed in conflicts between farmers and cattle herders who are competing for diminishing water supplies and fertile lands,” she said.

“It’s like a domino effect,” said University of Hawaii geographer Camilo Mora. “You go three steps backward and you realize that climate change was part of the equations.”

Mora scoured scientific literature to see how often global warming influenced some of society’s ills and came up with 467 examples. Australian underground electrical transmission wires, for example, short-circuited because of heat and planes were grounded in Arizona because hotter air is thinner, making take-offs and landings more difficult.

“The laundry list of cases is just mind-blowing,” Mora said.

Messing with timing of nature

A changing planet has messed with the timing of nature.

“There are hundreds of changes of the flowering of plants, the leafing out of trees, the migrations of birds” that can be attributed to climate change, said Boston University biologist Richard Primack. 

And when that happens, sometimes it creates “mismatches.”

In Europe, for instance, oak trees now leaf earlier. Caterpillars hatch and eat leaves earlier. But birds migrate based on hours of daylight while insects emerge according to temperature, said climate scientist Jennifer Francis of the Woods Hole Research Center.

So the birds show up late for dinner and may have little to eat.

And in maple trees, the “whiplash” between cold and hot weather is “screwing up the sap flow,” Francis said. 

A study found the weather changes, including drier conditions, and more nitrogen from human activities are stunting maple growth, which can affect syrup production. 

Global warming has changed how some male whales attract females.

Jean-Yves Royer, a geophysicist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, and colleagues compared male baleen whale songs from 2002 to 2015 and found the sound frequency changed in areas where icebergs melt due to warmer water and air. When icebergs melt, that’s the loudest sound around, he said.

So the whales deepen their song, Royer said, to penetrate through the sound of melting ice.


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla





Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm





Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover





KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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