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April 25, 2014

UK announces £200 million polar research ship

UK announces £200 million polar research ship

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Science and technology
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UK Chancellor George Osborne today announced a new £200 million research ship to ply Arctic and Antarctic waters.

Cquote1.svg The new vessel will make Nerc’s entire fleet, ton for ton, the most advanced scientific fleet in the world Cquote2.svg

—Nerc boss Professor Duncan Wingham

“One of the final frontiers in the world where there is still much discovery to be done are the polar oceans” said Osborne, explaining “our two current polar exploration ships are nearing the end of their life and need replacing. So I am delighted that we are investing in a new polar research ship to carry cutting edge British technology to put British scientists at the forefront of research in both the Antarctic and the Arctic oceans”.

The icebreaking ship is to belong to the British Antarctic Survey and is funded from a £7 billion pot earmarked for science over the next six or seven years. Osborne told those gathered at Cambridge‘s Laboratory of Molecular Biology today he had “made it [his] personal priority in government to support [scientific] endeavour.”

RRS James Clark Ross, one of two aging ships currently filling the role.
Image: Tom L-C.

Funding body the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) says the current ships, RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton, are to carry on operating at least until 2020. They were built in 1990 and 1995 respectively; RRS Ernest Shackleton is a leased Norwegian vessel. The new vessel is intended to be able to stay in the field longer and, unlike RRS James Clark Ross, feature a helipad.

Other specifications include the ability to launch unmanned submarines and scientific gliders, devices towed behind ships to gather data, as well as power through 2m (6.6ft) thick ice at three knots.

Osborne also announced the start of consultations on how to spend the rest of the £7 billion. The announcements come shortly after Nerc completed upgrades to ocean-going ‘bluewater’ ships RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook. “The new vessel will make Nerc’s entire fleet, ton for ton, the most advanced scientific fleet in the world” according to Nerc head Professor Duncan Wingham, speaking to the BBC.



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January 27, 2010

Healing ozone layer may contribute to global warming

Healing ozone layer may contribute to global warming

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Climate change

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The ozone hole over Antarctica in September 2006, when it was at its largest recorded size.
Image: NASA.

Scientists from the UK’s University of Leeds and the University of Kuopio in Finland report that the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer over Antarctica may have offset some of the effects of climate change, and that as it heals, warming could accelerate. Their paper is published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The group studied twenty years of records of global weather conditions and wind speeds. They say that beneath the ozone hole, wind speeds are increased, which whips up more sea spray. Salt from this is carried upwards and makes the clouds brighter, reflecting more of the Sun’s radiation. This helps cool the Earth, counteracting the effects of global warming.

The ozone layer in the atmosphere protects life from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, and the discovery of its rapid depletion in the 1980s caused widespread alarm. The Montreal Protocol adopted in 1987 forced countries to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the man-made chemicals thought to be largely responsible for the hole.

Professor Ken Carslaw, of the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, was one of the co-authors of the paper. He warned that as the ozone hole healed, warming in parts of the Southern Hemisphere could accelerate.

“If, as seems likely, these winds die down, rising CO2 emissions could then cause the warming of the southern hemisphere to accelerate, which would have an impact on future climate predictions,” he said

Describing the findings as “unexpected and complex climate feedback”, Professor Carslaw emphasised that this research was not a reason to try and keep the hole open:

Cquote1.svg The ozone hole was potentially a major catastrophe for the planet that was only stopped by the Montreal Protocol, so we can’t go back on that Cquote2.svg

—Professor Ken Carslaw

“You can’t correct two wrongs in that way. The ozone hole was potentially a major catastrophe for the planet that was only stopped by the Montreal Protocol, so we can’t go back on that.”

He said instead that carbon emissions should be cut drastically.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence Programme.

Judith Perlwitz, a resercher at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that the group’s data were sound but she disagreed with some of the paper’s conclusions. Perlwitz claimed that rising temperatures due to global warming would increase wind speeds anyway, leading to the same effects as the ozone hole.

“The question is whether the wind is really going to slow down, and that I doubt,” she said.

According to a World Meteorological Organization report in 2006, it is likely to be at least fifty years before the ozone above Antarctica is back to its pre-1980 state.



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January 26, 2005

Distributed computing climate change model gives bleak results

Distributed computing climate change model gives bleak results

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005 Results published in the science journal Nature suggest previous Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predictions will need to be revised upwards.

Climateprediction.net has released it’s first results, indicating that global temperatures could rise by up to 11° C, even if global carbon dioxide levels are limited to twice those found before the Industrial Revolution; levels that high are expected to be reached in the middle of this century.

The results indicate that carbon dioxide emissions will have an even bigger affect on the global climate than previously thought.

The Climateprediction.net is a distributed computing project. More than 95,000 people around the world have downloaded the software which runs calculations when the user’s computer is idle, releasing computer power greater than that of even the largest supercomputers.

The project is a collaboration between several UK universities and the Met Office, funded by the British Natural Environment Research Council and the Department of Trade and Industry. In the summer of 2004 the project joined forces with the SETI program, with University of California computer scientists developing a version of the SETI software to run climate change models.

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