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

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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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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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