Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — For several days this month, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

Continue reading

Science gets a chance to show the way

<i>Illustration: Simon Letch</i>Sydney Morning Herald, Opinion, July 15 2012.

EVERY so often a discovery is made which piques the public’s interest in science once more. A single proof captures the imagination by the significance and the scale of the advance. This week’s news that physicists had proved with near certainty the existence of the Higgs boson is such a point in the history of science.

The scale of the experiment matches the scale of the intellectual leap achieved. A huge apparatus, 27 kilometres in circumference, buried 100 metres below the French-Swiss border near Geneva, accelerated particles in a near-perfect vacuum to speeds just below that of light and measured the effect of their collisions. Minute variations in energy released prove the existence of the Higgs boson, which had been postulated in theory by Peter Higgs in 1964 to explain the mass of elementary particles. Continue reading