Massive Hole Discovered in Antarctic Ice

Scientists have discovered a gigantic hole that has reappeared in the Antarctic ice. It is about the size of the Netherlands and is located around the Weddell Sea.

In the 1970s climatologists found a similar hole at almost the same spot. At that time  they didn’t have the observation equipment that they have now, so they couldn’t study the hole closely enough. After a few years it disappeared . Last year, the hole came up again.

Researchers cannot explain how the hole emerged.  One theory is  that warmer salt water from deep under the Antarctic ice sheet  may have come up and mixed with cold water near the surface, thus , melting the ice sheet above.  Normally a thick layer of ice covers Antarctica at the end of the  southern winter. Scientists also claim that it may be connected to climate change and global warming.

Such a hole in the ice is called a polynya.  Although not totally uncommon, it is strange that the hole in the Antarctic ice has appeared very far from its edge . Usually such holes are found in coastal regions.

Climatologists are not sure whether the hole will have an impact on the water temperature in the world’s oceans. If warmer water continues to surface to the top of the hole it may stay there for a longer period of time because it would then be difficult for ice layers to form.

Severe weather conditions during the Antarctic winter make it difficult to find holes in the ice . This is the second time in two years that such a hole has emerged , although last year’s was not that big.

 

Antarctic Ice Shelf
Antarctic Ice Shelf

Words

  • although = while
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • climatologist = person who studies the weather and how it changes the climate on earth
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • disappear = go away
  • discover = to find something that has not been there before
  • edge = the part of an object that is furthest from the centre
  • emerge = come out  from somewhere
  • equipment = the tools or machines you need to do something
  • gigantic = huge; very big
  • global warming = the increase in the temperature of the atmosphere
  • ice sheet = area of thick ice that covers the North and South Poles
  • impact = influence, change
  • layer = material or substance between two other things
  • reappear = to come again, after it has gone away for some time
  • researcher = a person who studies a subject in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • severe = bad, extreme
  • similar = almost the same
  • size = how big something is
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • thus = therefore; that is why
  • uncommon = unusual, strange

Thailand Bans Smoking on Beaches

The government of Thailand has announced that smoking on tourist beaches will not be allowed any more. Those who do not obey the new law must pay a fine of up to $3850 or risk going to prison for a year.

The ban will affect 20 tourist beaches.  Authorities in Thailand have been coping with the problem of cigarette butts being thrown away and polluting the country’s wonderful beaches.

Tourism officials say, however, that there will be places further inland where tourists  will be allowed to smoke.

The ban was proclaimed  after authorities collected over 140,000 cigarette butts  on a 2.5 km long stretch of beach on Phuket Island – 30% of all the total waste found near the coast.

Tourism makes up about 10% of the Thailand’s income. About 35 million people visit the country’s beaches every year.

Phuket Beach
Phuket Beach

Words

  • affect = here: where the new law is put into effect
  • announce = to say in public
  • authorities = organisation or government department that has the power to make decisions
  • ban = law that forbids something
  • cigarette butt = part of a cigarette that remains when someone has finished smoking
  • cope = deal with
  • income = the money a country gets for services and products
  • inland = farther away from the beaches
  • obey = follow, respect
  • official = person who is in a high position
  • pollute = to make dirty
  • prison = building where you keep people as a punishment because they have done something wrong
  • proclaim = to say officially that something exists
  • stretch = area of land
  • waste = unwanted materials that are left over

Africa’s Great Green Wall

Africa’s Great Green Wall is a project to create a natural wall of trees across Africa. The wall will stretch across Africa south of the Sahara desert  from the Atlantic Ocean to the Horn of Africa. When finished the 8,000 km long and 15 km wide Great Green Wall will be the largest man-made structure  on earth.

The project started in 2007 in an attempt to fight desertification, permanent drought  and food shortages in countries of the Sahel zone, one of the poorest regions in the world.

However, the building of the wall is not moving forward fast enough. Up to now, only 15% of the trees have already been planted, mainly in Senegal.  The ambitious project will cost over $4 billion. 21 African countries, the World Bank, the FAO and the French government have committed themselves to financing the natural wall.

The Great Green Wall will run through an area, in which the dry season can last up to 10 months a year. Experts claim that by 2025 a large part of the  fertile land in the region could be lost if nothing is done to save it. In addition, the wall is expected to provide food for 20 million Africans and  also bind millions of tons of carbon dioxide.

 

The Sahel Zone
The Sahel Zone

 

Words

  • ambitious =  good but difficult to do
  • bind = here: to make it stay in the ground and not let it escape into the atmosphere
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals breathe out  or when carbon is burned in the air
  • claim = to say that something is true, even if you cannot prove it
  • commit = here: to say that you will do something
  • desert = land where it is always dry and where there are few plants and a lot of rocks and sand
  • desertification = when farmland changes into desert
  • drought = long period of dry weather when there is not enough water for plants and animals to live
  • FAO = Food and Agriculture Organisation = organisation in the United Nations that helps produce food and gives it to poor people around the world
  • fertile = here: land that is good enough to produce food
  • mainly = mostly
  • move forward = to make progress; here: to continue building
  • permanent = existing for a long time
  • provide = give
  • Sahel zone = dry area of land between the Sahara desert and tropical Africa
  • shortage = not enough of something
  • stretch = reach from one place to another
  • structure = object that has been built

 

2011 Tsunami Drives Marine Animals to US Coast

The 2011 tsunami , which led to the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, has swept thousands of sea creatures across the Pacific Ocean to the  US coast. In the past 6 years scientists have found mussels, starfish, crabs  and other marine animals washed up on the American Pacific coast. Marine biologists expect that there are even more species to arrive in the future.

The giant waves caused by the tsunami in Japan  were almost 40 metres  tall and washed objects into the open sea.  In 2012, scientists found debris together with living creatures on them near the Alaskan coast as well as in Hawaii. They were sea animals that have never before been seen there.

Scientists are surprised that marine species have been able to survive over such a long period in such bad conditions. However, most species travelled on plastic or glass objects, things that do not decompose and stay the same for many years. On the other hand, animals that travelled on wooden objects did not make the long journey across the Pacific, because wood lasts only for a short time.

Because the debris moved slowly across the ocean the animals had time to get used to their new surroundings as they travelled the 4,000 mile journey across the Pacific.

With so much plastic and other garbage swimming in the world’s oceans, the danger of marine animals being washed up on foreign coasts has never been greater.

Experts are not sure what effect these new species may have on the local environment. Such invasive species may change the ecosystem of the area  they arrive at. They might transport new diseases or kill off existing species . In any case, it will take a decade or more to see the results.

 

Starfish found off the Pacific coast
Starfish found off the Pacific coast

Words

  • crab= sea animal with a hard shell , five legs on each side and two large claws
  • creature = animal; living thing
  • debris = garbage, waste
  • decade = ten years
  • decompose = to break down into many smaller parts
  • disease = illness
  • ecosystem = the animals and plants in a certain area and they way they live together
  • effect = result ; change caused by an event
  • foreign = another country
  • garbage = waste; things people throw away
  • however = but
  • invasive species = plant or animal that does not grow naturally in an area but has come there from somewhere else
  • journey = trip
  • local environment = the world around the place that you live in
  • marine species = animals and plants that live in the ocean
  • mussel = small sea animal with a soft body  that can be eaten and a black shell that is split into two parts
  • nuclear catastrophe = here: an atomic power plant explodes and sends dangerous radioactive waves into the atmosphere
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • starfish = flat sea animal that has five arms and looks like a star
  • surroundings = the place or natural area around a person or animal
  • survive = live on after a dangerous situation
  • sweep – swept = to push something away
  • tsunami = very large waves, most of the time cause by an earthquake in or near the sea.

 

 

Diesel Cars Cause Thousands of Premature Deaths in Europe

According to a new report, diesel cars have caused  thousands of premature deaths in Europe in the past few years. These deaths could have been avoided if countries had met anti-pollution standards. The recently published paper comes almost two years after the Volkswagen scandal, in which the German car maker was caught cheating  on emission tests.

Europe is a continent with  about a hundred million diesel-driven vehicles, almost twice as many as  in all the other countries of the world  combined. Years ago governments and car makers encouraged consumers to buy diesel cars because they were cheaper, used less fuel and produced less carbon dioxide. Many governments also offered tax reductions if people bought diesel cars. What has not been known until now is that diesel cars produce more nitrogen oxides, which may cause lung diseases.

Italy, Germany and France were the countries that recorded the most premature deaths from diesel-polluted vehicles. Especially diesel trucks that drive in densely populated areas contribute to the high level of pollution.

The Volkswagen scandal also shown that emission tests are not accurate and that in some cases diesel vehicles emit up to 4 times more substances than they do when tested in a lab.

Since the scandal broke , governments in Europe and elsewhere have been trying to get people to buy more  petrol-driven cars. They have become more efficient than diesel vehicles and the difference in prices are not not as high any more.

diesel-powered car
Diesel powered car – Image by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • accurate = detailed; exact
  • anti-pollution standards = laws that are made to keep pollution levels in a country low
  • avoid = stop ; not happen
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animal or people breathe out or when carbon is burned in the air
  • cheat = here: to trick people and not tell them the truth
  • combined = together
  • contribute = to help make something happen
  • densely populated = when many people live in a small area
  • efficient = if something works well
  • emission test = testing how much gas or dirty substances are sent into the air
  • emit = send into the atmosphere
  • encourage = to say that people should do something
  • especially = above all
  • fuel = liquid used to produce energy and make a car drive
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • nitrogen oxide = combination of nitrogen and oxygen
  • paper = report
  • petrol-driven = run with normal petrol, not diesel
  • premature = something that happens before the natural time
  • record = write down information
  • substance = material
  • tax reduction = to pay less tax than you normally would
  • vehicle = machine with an engine that is used to transport people or products

 

 

Largest and Smallest Animals At Risk of Becoming Extinct

Researchers have found out that the size of an animal is important when it comes to extinction. Scientists have determined that the biggest and the smallest animals are more at risk of dying out than medium-sized animals.

Heavy animals are mostly endangered by hunting and poaching while the smallest creatures may die out because their living area is being polluted. Among the most endangered animals are elephants, lions and rhinos. Public awareness is large  and campaigns to save such animals have been around for a long time. It is the smallest species that get the least attention. Especially fish and frogs are in danger of dying out.

The species that are most at risk have a weight of over 1 kilogram. They are in danger of being killed because we need food, skin and other items.

According to the study, animals that are becoming extinct affect large ecosystems, like  forests, deserts and oceans.

 

The common frog - an endangered species
The common frog – an endangered species – Image by Richard Bartz

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • affect = to change a situation or a place
  • attention = to listen, look at or think carefully about something
  • campaign = actions that lead to solving a special problem
  • determine = to find out the facts about something
  • ecosystem =all the animals and plants that live in a certain area and how they live together
  • extinction = when a plant or animal stops existing
  • least = less than anything else
  • poaching = to catch or shoot wild animals illegally
  • pollute = to make something dirty and unusable
  • public awareness = most people know that a problem exists
  • researcher = person who studies a subject in order to find out something new about it.
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science
  • skin = the outer part of a person or an animal’s body
  • size = how big something is
  • species = group of animals that are similar and can have babies with each other
  • weight = how heavy something is