The melting of the “Apocalypse glacier” in Antarctica frightens scientists

May 10, 2021 at 8:58 am,
Updated May 11, 2021, 9:28 a.m.

Reading time: 5 minutes

World Climate

They nickname him the « apocalypse glacier ». For the past ten years, scientists have been observing the Thwaites Glacier, a glacial mass in West Antarctica 120 kilometers wide, 600 kilometers long and up to 3 kilometers thick. Because this giant of ice 192,000 km2 (nearly a third of the area of ​​France) threatens to melt and detach from the ice cap. « Thwaites melting speed almost doubled », explains to Reporterre Gaël Durand, researcher on glacier dynamics at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). In question: hot water flows circulating in submarine channels at the base of the glacier.

For the first time, a team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, observed the underside of the ice giant thanks to an autonomous underwater robot. Their study, published in the journal Science Advances April 9, reveals that the amount of hot water flowing under the glacier is much more than they thought. These currents gradually erode its surface. Scientists had discovered in 2010 the presence of a huge cavity dug by erosion under the glacier. Since then, fourteen billion tonnes of ice have melted. The glacier alone is responsible, according to the study, for 4 % of annual sea level rise.

To understand how currents flowing under the ice mass worked, the team of researchers sent an autonomous underwater robot dubbed « Ran ». The small device made its way under the glacier to measure salinity, oxygen content and water temperature. He also analyzed the strength of the glacier and the topography of the seabed.

Thanks to previous measurements, carried out in 2019, the presence of a network of channels under the glacier was already known. But this is the first time that the readings have been carried out on site, directly from the underside of the glacier. The team of researchers thus succeeded in accurately modeling the heat flows circulating under the ice. In addition to the canals already identified, they discovered a passage of water flow to the east, towards the bay of Pine Island. Until now, scientists believed that this flow was blocked by an underwater ridge.

The underwater robot has finally measured the heat transport in one of the three channels leading the hot water to the Thwaites Glacier from the north. Result: the measured flux value is equivalent to a melting of 75 km3 of ice per year. « The good news is that we are now collecting, for the first time, the data needed to model the dynamics of the Thwaites Glacier, was nevertheless enthusiastic Anna Wåhlin, professor of oceanography at the University of Gothenburg and in charge of the study, in the columns of the Guardian. These data will help us to better calculate the ice melt in the future. With the help of new technologies, we can improve models and reduce the great uncertainty that currently exists around global variations in sea level. »

The fate of the entire western Atlantic ice cap would be sealed within the next five years

For the first time, a team of researchers observed the underside of the ice giant.

« Today, climate forcing [1] disrupts the state of the glacier. But even by reducing this forcing, it can continue to retreat, because it has its own dynamics. The next few years will tell what happens to Thwaites », says Gaël Durand. The results are hardly encouraging. The flow could threaten in the short term the « pin points », the pillars on which the glacier rests. Unstable, the latter could unhook and move away from the earth. The study specifies that its total melting would cause the water level to rise by 65 centimeters and many coastal towns would then be in danger.

Worse yet, its collapse could have spillover effects for other glaciers in the region. « Thwaites and the Pine Island Glacier are the keystone for other glaciers in West Antarctica. They constitute the point of fragility of the area and the place where a potential dismantling of the ice sheet could be initiated. », warns Gaël Durand. The fate of the ice giant and the entire western Atlantic ice cap would be sealed within the next two to five years, as warm water currents could accelerate its melting. In the worst case scenario, that of the melting of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, « a few centuries would suffice to observe a rise in sea level of up to three meters ».

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Asthma: fighting against misconceptions to improve care

Asthma is a chronic disease that requires regular monitoring. It is important to know it well in order to control it and thus avoid being embarrassed in your daily life.

On the occasion of World Asthma Day, which takes place today, Wednesday May 5, the Asthma and Allergies association wants to educate patients and the general public about the characteristics of this chronic disease. To do this, it publishes a list of the most common misconceptions. “That we must fight” : no, it is not because we do not have a crisis that all is well; no, the symptoms will not go away; no, when you feel better, you should not stop your treatment, etc.

Even without symptoms, the disease is there

Asthma affects more than 4 million people in France. ” Effective treatments exist and yet a large majority of people with asthma continue to suffer from symptoms that bother them in their daily life because their asthma is not sufficiently controlled ”, notes the association, which adds: “One of the reasons for this poor control of the disease is the lack of adherence to treatments, that is to say the fact of stopping, suspending or not respecting medical prescriptions. “ Asthma and Allergies emphasizes the importance of medical monitoring: “Your asthma must be controlled, that is to say that your symptoms must be rare and above all they must disturb you as little as possible in your daily life: sleep, work or school activities, physical activities, outings, etc.”. To do this, she encourages patients to consult their doctor but also to ask them questions and to share their feelings. She also recalls that even if you feel better, you should not reduce or stop your DMARD without medical advice, because “Asthma is a chronic inflammatory bronchial disease: it will therefore persist for many years or even life”.

Never without my background treatment

Asthma can be a serious or even fatal condition. The issue of compliance is therefore particularly crucial. To raise awareness of this theme, the Gregory Pariente Foundation (GPFD) published a prevention clip on April 29. Entitled The Teen Who Wasn’t Listening To His Asthma, it is inspired by the true story of young Grégory, 14, who died of an asthma attack while his father was taking him to the emergency room. The objective of this shocking video is to challenge adolescents with asthma on the risks they run if they do not take their medication. In this population, three quarters of deaths are in fact due to poor monitoring of treatment. Therapeutic education is the key to improving these statistics. Medical teams and associations regularly offer courses to young people and their families and remind people that the right thing to do is to always have your emergency kit with you.


AK: EU Commission breaks lance for new genetic engineering

AK demands: Consumers’ freedom of choice must not be jeopardized in any way

Vienna (OTS) In its study on “new genetic engineering processes” published on Thursday, the Commission came to the conclusion that the currently valid EU genetic engineering legislation is not fit for the future. In the study, the Commission sets the course for a watering down of the previous, strict EU genetic engineering regulation. With this, the agricultural and biotech lobby with its wish for a deregulation of the hitherto strict and for the consumers very good regulation has prevailed.

Dangerous game
With the study, the Commission wants to start a process for a new legal framework for genetic engineering. These include, on the one hand, a relaxation of the labeling requirement for genetically modified products (GMOs) and a relaxation of the safety checks. The AK takes a very critical view of this project “For the consumers, the great good of freedom of choice is at risk. The current valid risk assessment for GMOs is intended to protect consumers from possible risks. Loosening up is a dangerous game, ”says Iris Stutzmann, genetic engineering expert at the AK.

Existing EU genetic engineering law does not need any liberalization
The existing EU genetic engineering law serves to protect human health and the environment. It gives consumers the right to freedom of choice when shopping for food, because GMOs must be clearly labeled as such. “This right must not be jeopardized in any way. In the future, too, strict rules and clear labeling will be required for all genetically modified products, including those of the new genetic engineering processes, ”says Iris Strutzmann.

Hardly any studies on new processes
So far, there have been few studies of the new genetic engineering processes with regard to their risks to health and the environment. “With this in mind, it is now not a good time to think about easing security checks,” said the AK expert.

National solidarity required for new genetic engineering
The previous alliance in genetic engineering must continue to be represented by political decision-makers at Brussels level in the future. Foods that are produced with the help of genetic engineering such as the gene scissors CRISPR / Cas may not be approved without labeling and without risk assessment. Consumers want to know what they are eating and whether genetic engineering is used in their food. “The move by the commission also endangers the entire GMO-free food production and organic farming,” said the AK expert.

Demands of the AK
That is why the AK demands, on the one hand, the freedom of choice for consumers: food and feed that are manufactured using new genetic engineering methods must be labeled as genetically modified products in order to ensure the freedom of choice for consumers.
And on the other hand, compliance with the precautionary principle also for products from the new genetic engineering: before a market approval, food and feed must be checked for risks to human health and the environment

Inquiries & contact:

Siniša Puktalović
AK Vienna – Communication
1040, Prinz Eugen Strasse 20-22
T: +43 1 501 65 13810


Breakthrough in climate-friendly air conditioning: the winners of the Global Cooling Prize announced

NEW YORK AND NEW DELHI, Jan. The industry giants presented groundbreaking technologies with five times less impact on the climate than conventional air conditioning systems and plan to bring them to market by 2025.

A global coalition spurred on by the Government of India, Mission Innovation and the Rocky Mountain Institute today announced the winners of the Global Cooling Prize, an international competition to develop super-efficient and climate-friendly solutions for cooling homes. Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. from Zhuhai with partner Tsinghua University; and Daikin with partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd. emerged as the two winners from among eight finalists after breaking the performance limit. The prototypes made by the companies have five times (5X) less climate impact than traditional air conditioners available on the market today. If they were scaled up, such technologies could prevent a cumulative 132 GT emissions of CO2 equivalents by 2050 and reduce global warming by more than 0.5 ° C by the end of the century.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, congratulated the winners of the competition, saying: “An opportunity to transform the refrigeration market is now a reality. Now that this incredible achievement has been recognized and acclaimed, lawmakers must create guidelines and standards to help us bring these technologies to market.”

The eight teams of finalists were led by some of the world’s largest air conditioning manufacturers and promising startups from India, China, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Jules Kortenhorst, Chief Executive Officer of the RMI, emphasized that the success of the initiative rests on the collaboration between governments, industry and civil society organizations. “Let us usher in a new era of collaboration in this critical decade to drive innovation and the discovery of workable solutions in the other sectors that have yet to migrate to low-carbon, efficient and clean technologies.”

The finalists, who together produce well over 20% of the world’s indoor air conditioning units for residential buildings, want to introduce the innovation to the market within the next few years. Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, one of the award winners, and Qingdao Haier Air Conditioner Gen Corp. Ltd, a partner of finalist Transaera Inc., have announced their intention to participate in the COP26 Race to Zero Breakthrough for the refrigeration sector.

The winners will share the US $ 1 million prize pool equally.

Inquiries & contact:

Alexandra Chin, 973-262-0002,
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China has launched the first module of its space station – Space & Astronomy

China has launched the first module of its space station called ‘Tiangong’ or ‘Heavenly Palace’ and according to the plans of the Chinese space agency CNSA, it should be operational by 2022. The goal is to lay the foundations for a human presence permanent in space, following in the footsteps of what the partners of the International Space Station have done, namely the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.

The newly launched module is called ‘Tianhe’ and houses support equipment and provides an environment in which astronauts can live and work. It was launched from Wenchang, Hainan province, on the Long March 5B rocket, according to the images of the state television CCTV. President Xi Jinping remarked that the station is strategic for the “building of a great nation of science and technology”.