Hindu Notes from General Studies-01
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Antarctica ice melting increased by 280% in last 16 years
- Yearly loss of ice from Antarctica has increased by an alarming rate of 280% between 2001 and 2017, according to a study which showed that accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch in the last four decades.
- The researchers, were able to discern that between 1979 and 1990, Antarctica shed an average of 40 gigatonnes of ice mass annually.
- From 2009 to 2017, about 252 gigatonnes per year were lost.
- The pace of melting rose dramatically over the four-decade period. From 1979 to 2001, it was an average of 48 gigatonnes annually per decade. The rate jumped 280% to 134 gigatonnes for 2001 to 2017.
- For the study researchers conducted the longest-ever assessment of remaining Antarctic ice mass.
- Techniques used to estimate ice sheet balance included a comparison of snowfall accumulation in interior basins with ice discharge by glaciers at their grounding lines, where ice begins to float in the ocean and detach from the bed.
- One of the key findings of the project is the contribution East Antarctica has made to the total ice mass loss picture in recent decades.
- The sectors losing the most ice mass are adjacent to warm ocean water researchers said.
- As climate warming and ozone depletion send more ocean heat toward those sectors, they will continue to contribute to sea level rise from Antarctica in decades to come.
An open-air lab to study effects of climate change
- In one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, the southernmost part of Chile’s Patagonia region, scientists are studying whales, dolphins and algae in order to help predict how climate change will affect the world’s oceans.
- For the study, four researchers embarked from Punta Arenas for the remote Seno Ballena fjord.
- The fjord produces the kind of conditions that should be seen in other marine systems in the next few decades, when dramatic changes are expected in the environment due to increased carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere and the melting of glaciers.
- The researchers are analysing the chemical, physical and biological variables of the waters, which show lower levels of pH, salinity and calcium, especially in the most shallow areas, as a consequence of climate change.
- The chilly fjord waters provide one of the most productive marine habitats in the world, where sardines and krill can be found in huge numbers.
- But climate change poses a threat to its ecosystem as the melting of a glacier on Santa Ines island and increased rainfall have led to rising levels of freshwater. If that continues, it would have dire consequences for whales as the plankton they feed on could disappear.
- A change in the microalgae could generate changes in the secondary structure (of the marine system) or the animals that feed on these.
- The expedition members are taking samples from eight stations around Seno Ballena to measure the effects of the melting glacier on Santa Ines.
- For now, researchers have noted a slight drop in the number of humpback whales but an increase in other species such as sea lions, which previously were not present in that region, and dolphins.
- They also found a lower concentration of calcium carbonate, something which can affect the shells of marine organisms such as mollusks or krill, a staple of a whale’s diet.
- The crab, a species vital to the economy of the region around the strait, could be affected as it needs calcium to harden its shell.
Water desalination plants harm environment: UN
- Almost 16,000 desalination plants worldwide produce bigger-than-expected flows of highly salty waste water and toxic chemicals that are damaging the environment.
- Desalination plants pump out 142 million cubic metres of salty brine every day, 50% more than previous estimates, to produce 95 million cubic metres of fresh water.
- About 55% of the brine is produced in desalination plants processing seawater in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
- The hyper-salty water is mostly pumped into the sea and, over a year, would be enough to cover the U.S. state of Florida with 1 foot of brine, it said of the fast-growing and energy-intensive technology that benefits many arid regions.
- Brine, water comprising about 5% salt, often includes toxins such as chlorine and copper used in desalination, it said. By contrast, global sea water is about 3.5% salt.
- Waste chemicals accumulate in the environment and can have toxic effects in fish.
- Brine can cut levels of oxygen in seawater near desalination plants with “profound impacts” on shellfish, crabs and other creatures on the seabed, leading to ecological effects observable throughout the food chain.
Hindu Notes from General Studies-02
SC bans transportation of extracted coal lying at various sites in Meghalaya
- The Supreme Court banned the transportation of extracted coal lying at various sites in Meghalaya which has had no success in rescuing 15 miners trapped inside anillegal rat-hole coal mine for almost a month.
- The order was passed by a bench which refused the plea of miners to allow them to transport the extracted coal at various places.
- The bench issued notice to the Meghalaya Government, the Centre and others seeking their response on various issues connected with coal mining in the state.
- The court said that this incident shows that illegal mining continues unabated despite the ban and the state may not be supporting it but has failed to contain illegal mining.
- The NGT had constituted the committee in August 2018 to supervise and look into the issue of environmental restoration plan and other connected matters in Meghalaya.
- The committee was constituted during the hearing of the petition which had sought a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya. It had also taken into account some reports of the state pollution control board.
India to unveil Air Cargo Policy
- India’s first Air Cargo Policy will be unveiled at the two-day Global Aviation Summit starting here on Tuesday.
- Despite registering a double-digit growth for nearly four years in a row, India has remained without a specific policy for air cargo.
- Emphasising that security, safety, convenience and affordability were the key aspects, the aviation vision for 2040 would address all the issues so that India will have sustainable growth in the sector at all times.
- Solutions to critical issues relating to agriculture and manufacturing output and their supplies had been sufficiently explored in the policy which was integrated with logistics.
Uzbekistan President to be Chief Guest at Vibrant Gujarat Summit
- President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev will attend the Vibrant Gujarat international investment summit as a key guest in a first Central Asian country to participate as a country partner in the flagship investment summit of Gujarat.
- The high-level delegation from Uzbekistan includes heads of Investment Committee, Trade Committee, Chamber of Commerce, Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as more than 60 business owners, CEOs of the biggest national and private companies of Uzbekistan.
- During the two day summit, the President will also hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will inaugurate the 9th edition of the summit on January 19th.
- This is the second visit of President Mirziyoyev to India during the last four months. State visit of Uzbekistan’s President in October 2018 opened a new chapter in Uzbek-India relations, including wider trade and investment cooperation.
- During the two day summit, the first meeting of newly formed Uzbekistan Indian Business Council will also be held to pitch the central Asian country as an investment destination for Indian businesses.
- In Uzbekistan, Indian companies are exploring investment opportunities in the sectors like pharmaceutical, textile, education, Information Technology and tourism.
- To attract investments in the pharmaceutical sector, an Uzbek Indian Free Pharmaceutical Zone is being developed in the Andijan region and this project was among 17 agreements that were inked during the Uzbek president’s State visit to India last year.
- In Uzbekistan, 18 free economic zones (FEZ) have been established with a 30-year operational life and the possibility of a subsequent extension. Seven of them have a pharmaceutical focus.
- A country seminar on Uzbekistan will be held with a special focus on Uzbek Indian Free Pharmaceutical Zone in Andijan.
- After the last year’s visit of Uzbekistan President, Vibrant Gujarat Summit is the first platform where both India and Uzbekistan leaders seek to strengthen business and trade ties between the two countries.
- Uzbekistan provides most favored nation (MFN) status to 45 countries, including India. Friendly investment environment is based on a reliable legal frame and a wide range of guarantees and benefits for investors, including tax incentives, providing land and buildings on attractive terms.
Hindu Notes from General Studies-03
Giant pattern discovered in clouds of Venus
- Japanese scientists have identified a giant streak structure among the clouds covering the planet Venus.
- The researchers also revealed the origins of this structure using large-scale climate simulations.
- According to the study, about 60 kilometres (km) above Venus’ surface a speedy east wind circles the planet in about four Earth days (at 360 km/hour), a phenomenon known as atmospheric superrotation.
- The sky of Venus is fully covered by thick clouds of sulphuric acid that are located at a height of 45-70 km, making it hard to observe the planet’s surface from Earth-based telescopes and orbiters circling Venus.
- Surface temperatures reach a scorching 460 degrees Celsius, a harsh environment for any observations by entry probes. Due to these conditions, there are still many unknowns regarding Venus’ atmospheric phenomena.
- To solve the puzzle of Venus’ atmosphere, the Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki began its orbit of Venus in December 2015.
- Optical and ultraviolet rays are blocked by the upper cloud layers, but thanks to infrared technology, dynamic structures of the lower clouds are gradually being revealed.
- Before the Akatsuki mission began, the research team developed a programme called AFES-Venus for calculating simulations of Venus’ atmosphere.
- On Earth, atmospheric phenomena on every scale are researched and predicted using numerical simulations, from the daily weather forecast and typhoon reports to anticipated climate change arising from global warming.
- For Venus, the difficulty of observation makes numerical simulations even more important, but this same issue also makes it hard to confirm the accuracy of the simulations.