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Expect more extreme hurricanes on the East Coast due to faster ice melts in Greenland, study says

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Ice is melting in an unexpected region of Greenland at a rate that is unprecedented in the past century, according to a study published Monday, which could lead to rising sea levels and increasingly wild weather on the East Coast.

Scientists found that the ice sheet in southwest Greenland was melting nearly four times faster in 2012 than in 2003, said Michael Bevis, a geophysicist with Ohio State University and co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Greenland ice sheet covers roughly 80 per cent of the island and is the second largest body of ice in the world.

Ice loss in Greenland’s southeast and northwest regions has been well-documented as glaciers have been dissolving into the ocean, contributing to rising sea levels and threatening communities.

The southwest region, on the other hand, doesn’t have many glaciers and its ice sheet wasn’t typically known to contribute to rising sea levels. But now, it may become a major contributor, the study said.

“The degree of melting … is unusual, unprecedented in the last hundred years. You never got four or five years of major melting like this in the 1900s,” said Bevis.

In the past few decades, Bevis said about 280 billion tonnes of ice was lost as meltwater each summer in Greenland. But now, he estimates that number is suddenly “significantly larger” — perhaps up to double.

“Everything’s in agreement that the melting is massively increasing in this century compared to the last.”

The edge of the ice sheet in Greenland, taken from a G-NET station. A GPS antenna is anchored into bedrock to measure changes in ice mass around the coast. (Submitted by Michael Bevis)

Researchers from several international universities and organizations used data from twin satellites launched in 2002 called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). That coupled with data from GPS stations scattered on Greenland’s coast helped measure the changes in ice mass.

What’s going on?

What the study found was the ice loss data correlated with a weather phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation, which affects air temperature.

The “unusual melting” and accelerated ice loss is thanks to the combination of global warming and the oscillation, according to the study.

This is horrifying really.– Michael Bevis, geophysicist

Oscillation is an “erratic” movement of air that happens every few years. It tends to bring warmer air to Greenland, similar to how the El Niño and La Nina weather systems can change water temperatures, explained Bevis.

These oscillation cycles have been happening for thousands of years, yet only now is it affecting the Greenland ice sheet, noted Bevis.

“That’s why it’s so strange,” he said. “Why only now is this cycle controlling the melting?”

The tipping point

Bevis said it’s because global warming allowed air temperatures to reach a “tipping point” where massive melting becomes possible.

With the warmer air temperatures causing lower ice levels, especially in southwest Greenland, the North Atlantic Oscillation “pushes it over the top” and is able to control the melting, said Bevis.

In this July 19, 2011 file photo, pools of melted ice form atop Jakobshavn Glacier, near the edge of the vast Greenland ice sheet. Bevis says global warming allowed the air temperature to reach a ‘tipping point’ where massive melting becomes possible. (Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press)

Bevis said the data shows that there have always been minor fluctuations of ice loss in the last century — but the fluctuations since the early 2000s point to a new behaviour of melting in the area.

Consequences for people on the East Coast

Rising sea levels in Greenland can have serious consequences for people living in East Coast cities.

The real worry now is just how much worse will it get.– Michael Bevis, geophysicist

Provinces on Canada’s East Coast like Newfoundland and Labrador may be affected, Bevis said, but the effects will be bigger in U.S. coastal cities like New York and ones near the Gulf of Mexico, including Miami.

Rising sea levels can cause hurricanes to reach further inland, causing more damage, said Bevis. 

“This is horrifying really,” said Bevis, in reaction to the study’s findings.

“Now, this meltwater is a completely different mechanism,” he said. “And this one is particularly worrying because it seems like it’s going to accelerate indefinitely.”

Bevis said he and his team can’t imagine a way this new melting behaviour can turn back to what it was.

Bevis says the real worry now is ‘just how much worse’ the melting could get. (submitted by Michael Bevis)

“I find it impossible to imagine that it will go back to how it was one or two hundred years [ago],” he said. “As it gets warmer and warmer, this will get worse and worse.”

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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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