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Record Shrinking of Greenland's Ice Sheet Raises Sea Levels
Greenland's kilometers-long ice sheet underwent near-record imbalance last year, scientists have reported on Wednesday.
The ice sheet suffered a net loss of 600 billion tons, which was enough to raise the global watermark 1.5 millimeters, accounting for approximately 40% of total sea-level rise in 2019.
The alarming development was reported in "The Cryosphere," a peer-reviewed journal published by the European Geosciences Union.
Researchers noted that the massive melt was not due only to warm temperatures but also to unusual high-pressure weather systems, which suggested that scientists may be underestimating the threats the ice faces.
The unusual high-pressure weather systems are linked to climate change and they have blocked the formation of clouds, causing unfiltered sunlight to melt the surface of the ice sheet.
Fewer clouds also meant less snow, which researchers found to be some 100 billion tons below the 1980-1999 average.
"These atmospheric conditions are becoming more and more frequent over the past few decades," said lead author Marco Tedesco, a scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
"This is very likely due to the 'waviness' in the jet stream," a powerful, high-altitude ribbon of wind moving from west to east over the polar region, he said.
"We're destroying ice in decades that was built over thousands of years," Tedesco warned.
Greenland's ice sheet is the second largest in the world and it is located high in the Arctic region, where average temperatures have risen 2 degrees Celsius since the mid-19th century, twice the global average.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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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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