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Ozone hole over the Antarctic is one of the largest and deepest in recent years

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ozone hole over the antarctic is one of the largest and deepest in recent years

The ozone hole over the Antarctic has reached its 2020 peak and is one of the largest holes of recent years. 

Ozone depletion over the frozen continent was first spotted in 1985 and over the last 35 years various measures have been introduced to try and shrink the hole. 

Every August, at the start of the Antarctic Spring, the ozone hole begins to grow and reaches its peak around October. 

For 2020, researchers say the hole has now reached its maximum size and it is ‘definitely in the upper part of the pack of the last fifteen years or so’, experts say.

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The ozone hole over the Antarctic has reached its 2020 peak and is one of the largest holes of recent years. Pictured left, a computer generated image and right, a satellite image of the hole (blue)

The ozone hole over the Antarctic has reached its 2020 peak and is one of the largest holes of recent years. Pictured left, a computer generated image and right, a satellite image of the hole (blue)

The ozone hole over the Antarctic has reached its 2020 peak and is one of the largest holes of recent years. Pictured left, a computer generated image and right, a satellite image of the hole (blue)

This graph records daily measurements for the size of the ozone hole for 2020 (yellow) and other years. It shows that this year's hole is one of the biggest of the last decade

This graph records daily measurements for the size of the ozone hole for 2020 (yellow) and other years. It shows that this year's hole is one of the biggest of the last decade

This graph records daily measurements for the size of the ozone hole for 2020 (yellow) and other years. It shows that this year’s hole is one of the biggest of the last decade

Researchers from the European Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) use satellite data to track the hole daily. 

‘There is much variability in how far ozone hole events develop each year,’ says Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of CAMS.

‘The 2020 ozone hole resembles the one from 2018, which also was a quite large hole, and is definitely in the upper part of the pack of the last fifteen years or so.

‘With the sunlight returning to the South Pole in the last weeks, we saw continued ozone depletion over the area.’

He adds that the 2019 ozone hole was unusually small, and that normal service has been resumed this year with a relatively large level of ozone depletion. 

Despite the gaping hole, experts are confident that since the restrictions on ozone-destroying halocarbons was introduced via the Montreal Protocol in 1987, the hole has slowly been recovering. 

Ozone depletion relies on extremely cold temperatures as only at -78°C can a specific type of cloud, called polar stratospheric clouds, form. Therefore, the colder the temperature in the stratosphere over Antarctica, the bigger the ozone hole. This graph shows that 2020 (yellow) is one of the coldest years, on average, above the frozen continent

Ozone depletion relies on extremely cold temperatures as only at -78°C can a specific type of cloud, called polar stratospheric clouds, form. Therefore, the colder the temperature in the stratosphere over Antarctica, the bigger the ozone hole. This graph shows that 2020 (yellow) is one of the coldest years, on average, above the frozen continent

Ozone depletion relies on extremely cold temperatures as only at -78°C can a specific type of cloud, called polar stratospheric clouds, form. Therefore, the colder the temperature in the stratosphere over Antarctica, the bigger the ozone hole. This graph shows that 2020 (yellow) is one of the coldest years, on average, above the frozen continent 

Ozone depletion over the frozen continent was first spotted in 1985 and over the last 35 years various measures have been introduced to try and reduce the hole. Every August, at the start of the Antarctic Spring, the ozone hole begins to grow and reaches its peak around October

Ozone depletion over the frozen continent was first spotted in 1985 and over the last 35 years various measures have been introduced to try and reduce the hole. Every August, at the start of the Antarctic Spring, the ozone hole begins to grow and reaches its peak around October

Ozone depletion over the frozen continent was first spotted in 1985 and over the last 35 years various measures have been introduced to try and reduce the hole. Every August, at the start of the Antarctic Spring, the ozone hole begins to grow and reaches its peak around October

Ozone layer erosion 360 million years ago led to a mass extinction event 

A mass extinction 360 million years ago that killed off many of the Earth’s plants and freshwater animals was caused by ozone layer erosion and it could happen again.

Scientists from the University of Southampton found evidence that it was high levels of ultraviolet radiation that destroyed the ancient forest ecosystem.  

This newly discovered extinction mechanism was caused by changes in the Earth’s temperatures and climate cycle – this led to the deadly ozone breakdown. 

Study authors warn that we could face a similar scenario as we head towards similar global temperatures that existed 359 million years ago due to climate change.

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‘After the unusually small and short-lived ozone hole in 2019, which was driven by special meteorological conditions, we are registering a rather large one again this year, which confirms that we need to continue enforcing the Montreal Protocol banning emissions of ozone depleting chemicals.’ 

At this time of year, Antarctica enters into its summertime and the temperatures in the stratosphere begin to rise. 

As this happens, the mechanism which depletes ozone and creates the hole slows down and eventually grinds to a halt, stopping the hole from growing any more.  

Ozone depletion relies on extremely cold temperatures as only at -78°C can a specific type of cloud, called polar stratospheric clouds, form. 

These frigid clouds contain ice crystals which turn inert chemicals into reactive compounds, ravaging the ozone. 

The chemicals in question are substances that contain chlorine and bromine which become chemically active in the frigid vortex swirling above the south pole. 

These were produced in huge numbers at the end of the 20th century when halocarbons such as CFCs and HCFCs were regularly used as coolants.

Ozone is a compound made of three oxygen atoms that occurs naturally in trace amounts high up in the atmosphere. 

It is toxic to humans when ingested, but at its lofty altitude up to ten miles above Earth’s surface, it actually protects us from the harmful ultraviolet rays spewed out by the sun. 

‘CAMS is continuously monitoring the ozone layer to provide information on the extent and magnitude of the ozone hole each year as it develops and recovers’, adds Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of CAMS.

‘We are providing forecasts of stratospheric ozone concentrations up to five days in advance. 

‘And, we also keep an eye on the amount of UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, which also depends on clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Scientists discover cheese is so smelly because it helps microbes ‘talk’ to the bacteria

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scientists discover cheese is so smelly because it helps microbes talk to the bacteria

Many of us can be put off a Stinking Bishop or a gooey Gorgonzola by its strong whiff.

Scientists, however, have found why that smell is so vital – it helps microbes ‘talk’ to the bacteria that ripen cheese.

Researchers at Tufts University in the US discovered the bacteria respond to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind and released into the air, giving the delicious flavours found on cheese boards. 

Scientists at Tufts University in the U.S. found the bacteria responds to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind before it released into the air. (Stock image)

Scientists at Tufts University in the U.S. found the bacteria responds to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind before it released into the air. (Stock image)

Scientists at Tufts University in the U.S. found the bacteria responds to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind before it released into the air. (Stock image)

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour so the experts say discovering how to control the microbial ecosystem is a breakthrough in the art of cheese-making.

‘Humans have appreciated the diverse aromas of cheeses for hundreds of years, but how these aromas impact the biology of the cheese microbiome had not been studied,’ said Benjamin Wolfe, professor of biology and one of the authors of the study – published in Environmental Microbiology.

‘Our latest findings show that cheese microbes can use these aromas to dramatically change their biology and the findings’ importance extends beyond cheese-making to other fields as well.’

As bacteria and fungi grow on ripening cheeses, they secrete enzymes that break down amino acids to produce compounds that contribute to the flavour and aroma of cheese. 

They are the reason why camembert, stilton and limburger have their signature smells.

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour, according to experts. (Stock image)

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour, according to experts. (Stock image)

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour, according to experts. (Stock image)

The researchers found VOCs don’t just contribute to the taste and texture of cheese, but also provide a way for fungi to communicate with and ‘feed’ bacteria in the cheese microbiome.

‘The bacteria are able to actually eat what we perceive as smells,’ said Casey Cosetta, who co-authored the study. ‘With VOCs, the fungi are really providing a useful assist to the bacteria to help them thrive.’

Cheese expert Steve Parker, author of British Cheese On Toast, warned not everything can be perfected in a lab, saying cheesemakers believe the environment in the dairy and the maturing room and the moulds and yeasts in there is what gives a cheese ‘unique characteristics’.       

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Birth control hormone is making its way into streams and hindering fish’s ability to reproduce

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birth control hormone is making its way into streams and hindering fishs ability to reproduce

Water polluted with even tiny amounts of human hormones can impact marine life, according to a new study that found freshwater fish exposed to estrogen produced fewer offspring.

Synthetic estrogen from oral contraceptives has been found in waterways near sewage treatment plants.

Biologists looking to see if those hormones affect fish exposed them to trace amounts of a synthetic version of Ethinylestradiol, used in most birth control pills.

They found less than a tenth of the concentration of Ethinylestradiol found in some streams was enough to lead to smaller populations and fewer male offsprings.

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Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

According to a study in the journal Aquatic Toxicology, fish exposed to even 5 nanograms per liter of synthetic Ethinylestradiol produced fewer offspring than those that weren’t and gave birth to more females than males.

Ethinylestradiol has been found in streams at levels higher than 60 nanograms per liter.

In addition to birth control, it’s used as menopausal hormone therapy, to prevent osteoporosis and as a palliative treatment for breast cancer.

Our bodies generally only absorb a small amount of the medication we ingest, the rest – up to 90 percent – gets flushed down the toilet when we go to the bathroom.

'When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,' said biologist Latonya Jackson (right)

'When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,' said biologist Latonya Jackson (right)

‘When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,’ said biologist Latonya Jackson (right) 

‘Our wastewater treatment systems are good at removing a lot of things, but they weren’t designed to remove pharmaceuticals,’ said lead author Latonya Jackson, a biologist at the University of Cincinnati. ‘So when women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants.’

For her experiments, Jackson used least killifish, a relative of the guppy.

Killifish are common, tiny and easy to catch, making them easy to study without taking up a lot of space.

They’re a popular target for predators, which they make up for by giving birth frequently, about every 28 days.

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants 

They’re also rare for fish in that they have a placenta and give birth to live young.

Jackson’s team found that chronic exposure to Ethinylestradiol led to smaller populations and a gender ratio of more females than males.

Next she’ll be working with the Environmental Protection Agency to see if the hormones affected the genetics of the fish’s offspring.

Around 15 million women regularly take birth-control pills in the US alone, most of them using Ethinylestradiol. 

‘Our wastewater treatment systems are good at removing a lot of things, but they weren’t designed to remove pharmaceuticals,’ Jackson said. ‘So when women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants.’ 

While a 2010 study found birth-control pills accounted for less than one percent of the estrogen found in US drinking water, local water systems don’t test for Ethinylestradiol.

And estrogen enters the waterways from other sources, like livestock and dairy products. 

Previous studies have found estrogen in rivers and lakes leads male fish to develop ovaries and other female characteristics. 

A 2015 study from Washington State University found a link between Ethinylestradiol and the growing decline in sperm counts, which have plummeted up to 38 percent in a decade. 

‘There’s every reason to believe that estrogen and the pharmaceutical compounds that we’re ingesting in micro-quantities are having an effect,’ activist Seth Siegel told Business Insider.

‘Why wouldn’t it be possible that a newborn or fetus, or a 3-year-old getting an irregular dosage, might not see some effect on their brain function or brain development?’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Reckless tourists get too close to a herd of bison Yellowstone Park, sparking a stampede

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reckless tourists get too close to a herd of bison yellowstone park sparking a stampede

Tourists in Yellowstone National Park caused a dangerous stampede by getting too close to a herd of bison. 

The giant creatures were caught on video approaching a river before breaking into a stampede that kicked up dust and threatened to steamroll right over bystanders.

A witness said tourists kept inching closer to the herd, despite their grunting and hoof-stomping – and warnings from others to get away.

According to Yellowstone guidelines, park visitors should remain 25 yards from bison at all times.

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Tourists near a river in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Tourists near a river in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Tourists near a river in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Lisa Stewart filmed the scene near Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, where a cluster of tourists had gathered near a river.

At first she assumed it was a wolf sighting, but she soon realized the foolhardy visitors were approaching a herd of buffalo.

‘The people saw them and started walking closer and closer toward the bison,’ Stewart told USA Today.

The animals ‘kept getting more agitated by the minute,’ she added, grunting and stomping the ground with their hooves as they moved down the hill.

Eventually they broke into a stampede, only narrowly avoiding the onlookers as they galloped into the water to join the herd on the other side of the river.

Bystanders warned the tourists to get out of the way, Stewart said, and told them how stupid they were for walking toward the massive beasts.

‘You only see about four to six people on the video, but there were more in the same spot the bison came running from,’ she recalled. ‘It was amazing that they didn’t heed the warning of grunting, snorting and stomping feet!’ 

Stewart said she stopped filming, afraid someone was hurt, and was actually shaking a bit from fear.

‘I could feel the earth rumbling under my feet when it was happening,’ she told USA Today. ‘It was one of those moments your stomach turns over at the split moment you think disaster is about to happen.’ 

There are just under 5,000 bison living in Yellowstone National Park, the largest population on public land. 

It’s not unusual for visitors to see them, though such violent encounters are rarer. 

Last month, KTMF reporter Rachel Louise Just filmed dozens of bison stampeding through traffic in the park.

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Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

The incident happened the weekend of September 17, but Just shared it on YouTube last week.

‘Bison are my favorite animal so this was one of the coolest things I’ve EVER seen!’ she tweeted. ‘No idea what prompted the stampede but WOW.’ 

According to the National Park Service website, bison cause more injuries than any other animal in Yellowstone.

They’re agile, unpredictable and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. 

Since Yellowstone lifted its coronavirus lockdown in May, two people have been injured by bison, including a woman who was knocked to the ground the second day the park was reopened. 

Also known as American buffalo, bison are the largest land-dwelling mammals in North America, with bulls weighing up to 2,000 pounds and cows about half that.

Before the arrival of Europeans, there were an estimated 30 to 60 million bison in North America.

By the turn of the 20th century, hunting and targeting killing nearly wiped them out, leaving barely 2,000 on the continent.

Eventually a dedicated effort helped restore their numbers, though Yellowstone is the only place in the US where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

Because they’re genetically pure, and not hybrids, the park’s herds behave like their ancient ancestors, according to the NPS, ‘congregating during the breeding season to compete for mates, as well as migration and exploration that result in the use of new habitat areas.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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