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Channels below the surface found to mask Antarctic ice retreat

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Scientists at Durham University have discovered that Antarctic ice sheet retreat can briefly stop during extended phases of global warming, making it appear like glaciers are not decreasing at all.

The team found that the make-up and movement of below-ice channels hold significant influence on the activities of much of the ice. This action, it says, can hide signs of ice sheet retreat.

The results of the new research led by Durham University in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, the University of Cambridge, and the British Antarctic Survey were published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. The Natural Environment Research Council financially supported the research.

The publication comes just a couple of months after a study found that large volumes of methane could be locked beneath ice-covered regions of Antarctica, and could be released into the atmosphere as the ice retreats.

According to the report, the findings provide the first simulation of past ice sheet retreat and collapse over a 10,000 year period in Antarctica, and shed new light on what makes ice stable or unstable and will consequently help refine predictions of future ice behaviour and global sea level rise.

Our research shows that the physical shape of the channels is a more important factor in controlling ice stability than was previously realised”, explained Dr Stewart Jamieson, a glaciologist at the department of geography at Durham University, and lead author of the report.

Channel width can have a major effect on ice flow, and determines how fast retreat, and therefore sea level rise, can happen.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the difficulty in predicting future sea level rise, with the aim to analyse the interactions between evolving ice sheets, oceans, sea level and climate. Significant efforts have been made over the last decade to develop computer models and collect data in order to reduce uncertainties and understand the potential impacts under scenarios of future climate change.

Although climatic and oceanic changes are crucial drivers of ice loss, the recently published research shows that the landscape below the ice has a significant impact on the speed of any retreat.

Our results suggest that, during an overall phase of retreat, an ice stream can appear almost stable when in fact, in the longer-term, the opposite may be the case”, continued Jamieson.

Getting a clearer picture of the landscape beneath the ice is crucial if future predictions of change in the ice sheets and sea level are to be improved.”

Marine-based ice streams are the fast flowing arteries of ice sheets, draining roughly 90% of the ice that reaches the sea. Flowing through large channels, the ice can move thousands of metres in a single year.

According to the scientists, the unpredictable nature of ice streams makes forecasting ice sheet retreat extremely difficult. Accelerating ice streams can even cause a rise in sea levels.

Ice streams are like taps filling a bath, but the problem here is that we do not know if something is suddenly going to turn them up or even turn them off”, explained Dr Chris Stokes, co-author of the report.

Over the last 20 years, Satellite imagery has aided our knowledge of ice sheet stability, revealing that many ice streams are getting thinner and retreating due to oceanic and climatic warming. The new research shows that ice behaviour can be successfully simulated in areas where ice streams meet the sea.

The researchers looked at the landscape of the seafloor in Marguerite Bay, located in the Antarctic Peninsula, and discovered that, during a rapid phase of recession 13,000 years ago, retreat paused many times.

Using a specially designed computer model, they found the same pattern could be reproduced in a series of simulations. These simulations showed that the ice dragged on the sides of the channel more where it was narrow was causing retreat to slow, and, in places, temporarily stop for decades to centuries before retreat continued.

Many ice streams are found in channels with beds that are below sea level and that deepen inland. Current theory suggests that ice loss can increase rapidly in deeper water, but the new findings show that channel width plays a crucial role also, and that narrow bottlenecks in the landscape beneath the ice can cause retreat to slow down.

We can see from our simulations and from new maps of the ocean floor that these bottlenecks occur in the same place as pauses or slowdowns in past ice retreat”, described Dr Andreas Vieli, a member of the geography department at Durham University.

This means we should look more closely at the shape of the bed underneath Greenland and Antarctica to better understand how ice might retreat in the future.”

Dr Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, from the British Antarctic Survey, which is currently under threat of closure, added to this viewpoint, saying, “Knowledge of the factors influencing stability and retreat of ice streams is of particular concern because significant portions of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are currently losing mass that contributes significantly to sea level rise.

Our model results help to explain the apparently time-transgressive retreat of ice streams around Antarctica following the last ice age.”

The researchers conclude that understanding ice stream behaviour, as well as the rate of mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers, is essential to future forecasts and calculations of global warming.

Further reading:

Government attacked on proposed cuts to British Antarctic Survey

To tackle the melting Arctic is to tackle climate change itself

MPs publish report urging Arctic oil drilling halt

Arctic sea ice continues its worrying decline

Arctic ice reaches record low with more melting expected

Joseph Iddison is a master's student at the University of Leicester. Having graduated from the same institution in July 2013 in English, Joseph will start the global environmental change course in September.

Environment

5 Eco-friendly Appliance Maintenance Tips

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Eco-friendly Appliance
Shutterstock Photos - By Punyhong | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/punyhong

Modern day society is becoming ever more conscious about the effects of human consumption on the environment & the planet.

As a collective, more people are considering taking action to positively counteract their environmental footprint. This is accomplished by cutting down on water consumption, recycling and switching from plastic to more sustainable materials. Although most people forget about the additional things that can be done at home to improve your individual eco footprint.

Appliances, for example, can be overlooked when it comes to helping the environment, despite the fact they are items which are found in every household, and if they are not maintained effectively they can be detrimental to the environment. The longer an appliance is used, the less of an impact it has on the environment, so it is essential for you to keep them well maintained.

If you’re considering becoming more eco-conscious, here are 5 handy appliance maintenance tips to help you.

Don’t Forget to Disconnect From Power First

General maintenance of all your appliances start with disconnecting them from power; microwaves, washing machines and ovens all use residual energy when plugged in, so it’s essential to unplug them.

Disconnecting the plugs can help keep them in their best condition, as it ensures no electrical current is running through them whilst they are supposed to be out of use. Additionally, this can help you save on energy bills. By doing this you are minimising your energy footprint.

Here we break down 4 tips to keep the most popular household appliances maintained.

Eco-Friendly Oven Maintenance

Ovens generally require very little maintenance, although it is essential to stay on top of cleaning.

A simple task to make sure you don’t have any issues in the future is to check the oven door has a tight seal. To do this ensure the oven is cold, open the oven door and use your hands to locate the rubber seal. You can now feel for any tears or breaks. If any have occurred simply replace the seal. More oven tips can be read here.

Eco-Friendly Refrigerator Maintenance

When keeping a fridge in good condition, don’t forget about exterior maintenance. Refrigerator coils, although an external fixture, can cause damage when overlooked.

Refrigerator coils can be found either at the front or rear of a fridge (check you user manual if you are unsure of its location). These tend to accumulate various sources of dust and dirt over a substantial time-period, which clog refrigerator coils, causing the refrigerator to have to work twice as hard to stay cool. An easy tip to solve this is to periodically use a vacuum to get rid of any loose dirt.

Eco-Friendly Washing Machine Maintenance

Most people tend to remember the basics tasks for maintaining a washing machine, such as not to overload the machine, not to slam the door and to ensure the washing machine is on a solid and level platform.

In addition, it is necessary to routinely do a maintenance wash for your washing machine. This means running an empty wash on the highest temperature setting and letting it complete a full wash to erase any build up and residue. You should repeat this task at least once a month.

Try to schedule this task around your bulk wash load times to save on water consumption.

This will help keep your washing machine in peak working condition.

Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

Dishwasher maintenance can be simple if implemented after every wash cycle.

To keep your best dishwasher hygiene standards, scrape away excess food whilst making sure to keep the filter at the bottom of the cavity empty between cycles. This simple task can be highly effective at preventing food build up from occurring in your dishwasher.

If you need additional tips or tasks you, can reference your manufacturer’s guidebook to check for a full breakdown. You can also head to Service Force’s extensive database of repair and maintenance manuals – including extensive troubleshooting guides for all of the critical appliance maintenance procedures.

In conclusion, you can save both money and energy by keeping your appliances in peak condition. The steps outlined in this guide will help us all preserve the environment and reduce industrial waste from discarded appliances.

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Environment

Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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