Everest glaciers are melting at a dizzying pace according to satellite photos

The glaciers of Everest, considered the highest mountain in the world, are melting at a much faster rate than ever before: this is what an article published in Live Science suggests, citing declassified photos taken by spy satellites.

These are images taken over several decades through which it is possible to see and calculate the melting of the ice even in the long term. It is these images that show that, from 1962 to 2018, the glaciers on the sides of the mountain were “significantly” reduced. Among other things, the topic was also the subject of a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

These are more than 800,000 photos taken by the C.I.A. in the context of the Cold War, later declassified in 1995. Among the various regions of the world photographed by satellites, there is also that of the Himalayas. The researchers analyzed these photos and compared them with other (unclassified) satellite photos of the following years or images taken by airplanes and calculated the loss relative to the mass of ice from the 60s until today.

The comparison is merciless: the glaciers seem to retreat in a visible way and then expose the underlying rock, something that is well calculable from above. The first significant signs of ice reduction began in the 1960s: since 1962 the rate of glacier loss has been about 20 cm per year.

Over the last few decades, moreover, the same ice loss seems to have accelerated, an acceleration that would have started in the early 1980s. Among the various damages that could be caused by the loss of ice on Everest is that related to the freshwater supply in the surrounding region.


Fuels created with carbon dioxide, solar energy and modified cyanobacteria

Fossil fuels could soon be replaced by a product made with solar energy, carbon dioxide and water: this is the purpose undertaken by a group of researchers from the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

The process involves the use of appropriately modified cyanobacteria, thanks to which it is possible to produce butanol using solar energy but without resorting to solar cells. The sector related to the use of modified bacteria to produce different chemicals using carbon dioxide and solar energy is emerging more and more powerfully and more and more laboratories around the world are experimenting with new methods and new combinations to make the process more and more efficient.

Even the same production of butanol with this process had already been identified by past research but in the study carried out by the researchers of the Swedish Institute the production, according to the same statement published on the website of the Swedish University, is significantly higher.

Butanol can be used as a fuel, for example for traveling vehicles, and is considered a fourth-generation biofuel. It is a carbon-neutral fuel whose creation is totally sustainable since only solar energy, carbon dioxide and water are needed.

The procedure uses cyanobacteria, the most efficient photosynthetic organisms, to capture the energy of the sun.


Carnivorous ancestor of today’s short-tailed opossum identified

The short-tailed possums, a genus of marsupials classified as Monodelphis of which today there are 24 species, are fairly peaceful animals, slightly larger than a mouse, widespread especially in South America.

Now a new study, published in the Journal of Mammalian Evolution, confirms the existence of a ferocious direct relative of this animal that lived about 4 million years ago in the same areas of South America. We speak of Sparassocynus, a carnivorous relative of Monodelphis, whose remains have been found for more than a century even if its evolution has never been well studied, at least until this new study.

The research, conducted by Robin Beck, a researcher at the University of Salford, and by Matías Taglioretti, a paleontologist at the Museo Municipal de Ciencias Naturales “Lorenzo Scaglia” in Argentina, has identified several proofs that Sparassocynus is one of the ancestors of the today’s short-tailed opossums. In particular the scientists analyzed the remains of the skull, remains found near some cliffs along the Atlantic coast of Argentina.

It is an individual not fully grown as it still has traces of milk teeth. The researchers analyzed different characteristics comparing them with the evidence taken from the DNA of today’s short-tailed opossums and showed that this animal is closely related to today’s short-quota opossums. It was a carnivore that probably ate other rodents and small vertebrates and was larger than today’s short-tailed opossums about five times.

Today’s opossums are much more “quiet” animals and eat only small insects. The Sparassocynus survived in areas of South America up to 2.5 million years ago and is possibly extinct due to the arrival of the weasels from North America.