As Extreme Weather Turns Deadly in the UK, Climate Activists Are Forced to Cancel Meeting
Britain has been battered by back-to-back major storms in consecutive weekends, which flooded streets, submerged rail lines, and canceled flights. The most recent storm, Dennis, forced a group of young climate activists to cancel their first ever national conference, as CBS News reported.
"There's a bleak irony in our being beaten back by climate change," 15-year-old Sophia Coningham from London said in a statement released by the UK Student Climate Network via Greenpeace UK, as CBS News reported. "We are now living in an age of climate storms - where the most extreme weather of the last century is becoming the norm in this one."
On Tuesday, CBS News reported that storm Dennis had turned deadly:
One woman is believed to have died in the flooding caused by Dennis, the second major storm to hit the United Kingdom in two weeks. Two men reportedly drowned in the ocean as high winds churned up huge waves over the weekend, and another man was killed after falling into a river in Wales, Britain's LBC radio news reported.
The UK Student Climate Network had scheduled Sunday's event to take place in Strattfordshire in the middle of England. However, police advised the group to cancel the event since travel to and from the event was unsafe, according to the Independent. The group said that heavy rain made the roads impassable.
"This kind of last-minute cancellation is particularly difficult for young people without the financial resources to travel across the country whenever we choose," Conningham said, as the Independent reported. "We are now living in an age of climate storms - where the most extreme weather of the last century is becoming the norm in this one."
"This is an emergency that's now being felt across the world - from Staffordshire to Sri Lanka," she added.
CBS News reported that the UK government's Environment Agency had issued a record 634 flood warnings on Sunday alone. More than 200 flood warnings remain in place across the UK, including nine severe - or "danger to life" – warnings, as the BBC reported.
Storm Dennis slammed areas that were still recovering from last week's storm, Ciara. Dennis hit with winds reaching 91 miles per hour. It doused England, Scotland and Wales with more than half a month's rain in just one afternoon, as The New York Times reported.
The government released emergency funds to help people recover from the storms.
"We'll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme," British Environment Secretary George Eustice said, as CBS News reported. He added that authorities had "done everything that we can do with a significant sum of money, and there's more to come."
Michael Byrne, a climate scientist at the at the University of St. Andrews in Edinburgh told the Independent that increased precipitation is a predictable byproduct of a warming world.
"When you warm the planet, the atmosphere holds more water. In many parts of the world, including the UK, rising temperatures go hand in hand with more rain," he said. "These storms are nothing new, going back 100 years, but, because we are now more than 1C warmer as a whole versus pre-industrial times, every degree means 7 percent more water in the atmosphere and more rain in these heavy rain events."
"When they come, they bring more rain, 100 per cent for certain, because of climate change," Byrnes added.
Byrnes' statement backs the findings of a study published in Nature last summer which found that hurricanes were dropping more rain. The scientists also predicted that future warming could increase rainfall totals for the most extreme hurricanes and tropical cyclones by up to 30 percent.
As for the climate activists whose meeting was canceled because of extreme weather, the storm just provided more evidence of the urgent need for action.
"The longer we wait to take the action we need, the harder it will be, and the bigger the risk of it being too late," Coningham said as CBS News reported.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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