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How a change in climate wiped out the 'Siberian unicorn

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How a change in climate wiped out the 'Siberian unicorn' An artist’s impression of Siberian unicorns (Elasmotherium) walking in the steppe grass on a cloudy day. Shutterstock/ElenartsKieren Mitchell, University of Adelaide; Adrian Lister, Natural History Museum; Alan Cooper, University of Adelaide, and Chris Turney, UNSWA mysterious shaggy giant species of rhinoceros – named the Siberian unicorn due to its enormous single horn – turns out to have survived in western Russia until just 36,000 years ago, according to research published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution. This extinction date means that the Siberian unicorn’s final days were shared with early modern humans and Neanderthals.Previously, little was known about the creature thought to have become extinct more than 200,000 years ago. But genetic analysis and radiocarbon dating have begun to reveal many aspects of how it lived, and when it died out. A key finding is that the Siberian unicorn did not…

Will 2018 be the year of climate action? Victorian London's 'Great Stink' sewer crisis might tell us

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Will 2018 be the year of climate action? Victorian London's 'Great Stink' sewer crisis might tell usChris Turney, UNSWIn the late 19th century, the irrepressible Mark Twain is reputed to have said in a speech:Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.He’s said to have borrowed that quote from a friend, but if Twain were alive today he would no doubt have more to say on the subject. In a time when we are becoming increasingly accustomed to extremes in the climate system, the events of this year have risen above the background noise of political turmoil to dominate the global headlines. While global leadership in dealing with climate change may be depressingly limited, I can’t help but wonder if 2018 will be the year our global tribe feels threatened enough to act. Encouragingly, there may be a historical (and largely unknown) precedent for tackling climate change: Victoria London’s handling of the “Great Stink”, where growth had turned the River Th…

Anthropocene began in 1965, according to signs left in the world's 'loneliest tree'

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Anthropocene began in 1965, according to signs left in the world's 'loneliest tree'Pavla Fenwick, Author providedChris Turney, UNSW; Jonathan Palmer, UNSW, and Mark Maslin, UCLOn Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean, some 400 miles south of New Zealand, is a single Sitka spruce. More than 170 miles from any other tree, it is often credited as the “world’s loneliest tree”. Planted in the early 20th century by Lord Ranfurly, governor of New Zealand, the tree’s wood has recorded the radiocarbon produced by above ground atomic bomb tests – and its annual layers show a peak in 1965, just after the tests were banned. The tree therefore gives us a potential marker for the start of the Anthropocene.But why 1965? The 1960s is a decade forever associated with the hippie movement and the birth of the modern environmentalism, a sun-blushed age in which the Apollo moon landings gave us the iconic image of a fragile planet framed against a desolate lunar surface. It was also a time whe…

Why remote Antarctica is so important in a warming world

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Why remote Antarctica is so important in a warming worldChris Fogwill, Keele University; Chris Turney, UNSW, and Zoe Robinson, Keele UniversityEver since the ancient Greeks speculated a continent must exist in the south polar regions to balance those in the north, Antarctica has been popularly described as remote and extreme. Over the past two centuries, these factors have combined to create, in the human psyche, an almost mythical land – an idea reinforced by tales of heroism and adventure from the Edwardian golden age of “heroic exploration” and pioneers such as Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton. Recent research, however, is casting new light on the importance of the southernmost continent, overturning centuries of misunderstanding and highlighting the role of Antarctica in how our planet works and the role it may play in a future, warmer world.Heroic exploration, 1913.wikiWhat was once thought to be a largely unchanging mass of snow and ice is anything but.…

Revenge served cold: was Scott of the Antarctic sabotaged by his angry deputy?

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Revenge served cold: was Scott of the Antarctic sabotaged by his angry deputy? Scott and his team at the geographic South Pole, January 18, 1912. National Library of AustraliaChris Turney, UNSWOn February 11, 1913, the world woke to the headline “Death of Captain Scott. Lost with four comrades. The Pole reached. Disaster on the return”. A keenly anticipated, privately funded scientific venture “off the map” had turned to tragedy. Previous reports had described the polar party of the British Antarctic Expedition striking out confidently just 2.5º latitude from their objective: the geographic South Pole. The journals and letters recovered from the bodies, however, told a tale of heartbreak and desperation: the explorers were shattered to find themselves beaten to the pole by Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen, and weakened terribly during their journey back to base. Of the five men in Captain Robert F. Scott’s party, Petty Officer Edgar Evans was the first to die, while desc…

Telling Stories for Science: Shackleton Style

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ThegreatAmericanscientistCarlSaganonceremarked ‘Ifweteachonlythefindingsandproductsofscience nomatterhowusefulandinspiringtheymaybewithoutcommunicatingitscriticalmethod, howcanthe