Surferbird News-links, 62nd Edition

Old Ship at the South Pole, by j4p4n,

Old Ship at the South Pole, by j4p4n,

Exploring Antarctica's caves, rivers and volcanoes; the ozone layer and climate change; pink chocolate; backyard chickens; vitamins B-6 and B-12; electric vehicles—Jaguar, the Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen; furniture made from trash; gender and the brain; thrift store shopping and so much more.

Greetings! In today's Surferbird News-links, we're leaving hurricanes behind, for now, and heading down to Antarctica to explore caves, volcanoes, rivers and possibly even new life forms—all under the ice. In addition, we'll go back in time, 18,000 years, to peek into a former hole in Antarctica's ozone layer. But wait; there's even more. I don't want to spoil it for you, though, so grab your warmest gear, coffee beans, a grinder and climb on board! You do know you have to share those coffee beans, don't you?

New Posts

I have two new poems to share: one about romancing a squirrel, and another that wrestles with trees, costumes, soul, memories and stuff, if you're interested. But of course you are! The first one is funny—the second one, not so much.


I would have delighted in meeting these sea sheep ( when I visited Scotland, thirty-two years ago. One of the most interesting facts about them, though, is that they eat seaweed. In addition to that, they sleep at high tide and eat at low tide. Sea sheep seem like real characters! Just look at those faces.


volcanoes below Antarctica's ice sheet, (

Scientist discovered 91 volcanoes two kilometers below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, in addition to the 47 they already knew about. And although geologists don't know much about their past activity, future eruptions could destabilize the ice sheet by causing it to melt from underneath. What's also interesting, however, is that the most active volcanic regions on Earth are in areas where glaciers have recently retreated. Scientists think that pressure from glacial ice prevents volcanoes from erupting. Rest assured, geologists will be carefully monitoring volcanic activity in this region.

volcanic eruptions on Antarctica, approximately 18,000 years ago, dramatically shifted climate in the Southern Hemisphere, (

Approximately 18,000 years ago, the Southern Hemisphere warmed dramatically, and scientists attribute this to a 192-year stretch of volcanic eruptions in Antarctica. These eruptions emitted copious amounts of ozone-destroying halogens, such as bromine, chloride and iodine, which caused a large hole to form in the ozone layer. This compares similarly to the origins of the present-day ozone hole above Antarctica. But unlike the one from the past, the current hole was caused by humans releasing CFCs (a chemical group that also contains halogens) into the atmosphere. 

Based on current research, scientists think this former ozone hole caused Antarctica's westerly winds to shift. As a result, changes in ocean circulation and the way water and gases move between the ocean's surface and deeper waters (ventilation) triggered glacial melt in the Southern Hemisphere. It's interesting to note that during this time, Earth's orbit gradually shifted closer to the sun, too. But this would have caused slower glacial melt instead of the dramatic changes scientists observed by studying Antarctic ice cores. This has important implications for monitoring the current Antarctic ozone hole and its potential to alter climate.

melting ice on Antarctica has huge implications for climate across all of Earth, (

The take-home message from this piece is that melting Antarctic ice can warm Pacific tropical waters, altering wind patterns. This, in turn, can be a catalyst for the Northern Atlantic to also warm. So a climatic event in one hemisphere can affect climate in the other. Scientists know this from studying Greenland and Antarctic ice cores along with a preserved New Zealand kauri tree, dating back 29,000 to 31,000 years. 

But one additional concept I'd like to introduce, although I know I've already bored you to death, is Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) events. These are huge Northern Atlantic temperature swings, which occurred over the last 90,000 years. In some instances, "temperatures rose by 16°C in just a few decades or even years." But's what's fascinating is that when scientists compared ice cores from Greenland to those from Antarctica, they found an inverse relationship with regard to warming: When the north warmed, the south cooled. And the reverse was also true. Earth's climate systems are, indeed, captivating! Perhaps, I missed my calling.

Under the ice In Antarctica, scientists discovered a river, (

They did, along with a fossilized river system and subglacial lakes. This discovery lowers the probability that the Ross Sea Ice Sheet is as stable as scientists thought. 

caves below the ice in Antarctica, (

Scientists discovered under-the-ice caves near Mount Erebus on Ross Island that are warm enough to support life. Soil samples from these caves provide DNA evidence of algae, mosses and small animals. But what's even more interesting is that these caves might also contain undiscovered species. 

antarctic sea ice declined rapidly in 2016, (

Unlike the Arctic, where winter sea ice has been steadily decreasing, in Antarctica, it's been increasing. But that was until last year when sea ice dramatically declined. This is due to a combination of factors—not attributed to climate change. According to the article, the Southern Ocean "will be one of the last places on Earth to experience global warming." Scientists' best estimate of Antarctic ice decline is sometime in the next ten years. It's important to stress, though, that due to yearly changes in the global climate system, it's difficult to predict exactly when this transition from increasing winter ice to declining ice will begin.

how will more ice-free land in antarctica affect plants and animals?, (

Most Antarctic plants and animals live in ice-free areas. But these ice-free zones are expected to increase by a quarter during this century. On the Antarctic Peninsula, ice-free islands could eventually connect, bringing together species that were once isolated. How will this affect local ecosystems and food webs? Another point to consider, though, is that as temperatures warm and the amount of ice-free land increases, so does the risk of non-native species ousting local ones because the climate will be less extreme and, also, attract more human visitors. In light of this, putting in place security measures, such as inspecting and cleaning all belongings and equipment brought into Antarctica, can help preserve native species and habitats. 

The effects of 1°C of warming in the ocean around Antarctica, (

Scientist invented a way to heat small parts of the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean, 1°C and 2°C, respectively, to test the effects of warmer waters on ocean life. The results noted a remarkable change from 1°C of warming, including a decrease in biodiversity. One species of bryozoan grew so fast that it "ended up dominating the study area within two months." The results, however, were less consistent with 2°C of warming. Scientists plan to conduct similar experiments in other regions, too.

using drones to monitor the health of mosses on Antarctica, (

Mosses display sensitivity to even small changes in their environment. But in order to study Antarctic mosses, scientists have to trek through challenging terrain, often disturbing local habitats. Drones have not only made the job more efficient, but have also collected more detailed data than satellites could—all while protecting the environment. This short video, below, features the flight of one of these drones, and it's worth watching for the music and scenery, alone. 

Green technology and renewable energy

a map for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, (

According to this article in Pacific Standard, the 139 countries most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions could completely switch to renewable energy by 2050. But the caveat is that they'll need more than just a carbon tax to get the job done, if we want to prevent a 2°C rise in global temperatures. Yet, if we can accomplish this, the benefits are astounding and include 24 million new jobs, four to seven million lives saved from deaths attributable to air pollution and $20 trillion savings in annual health-care costs. I'm searching for leaders who will follow through on this all-important mission. Any ideas? Don't make me run for office!

U.S. cut solar costs by 75 percent—much sooner than expected, (

Yes, we did—despite this administration's antagonistic views on renewable energy. And it happened this year, instead of 2020, which was the original goal set by the Obama administration. Momentum is a beautiful thing. Keep moving forward, no matter what.

can autonomous vehicles and bicycles share the road?, (

Steve Hanley gives us something to consider when planning future cities, in this piece from Clean Technica. Perhaps we need to reimagine our cities for people instead of cars because bicycles and autonomous vehicles don't seem to mix well, at least for now. And it would be tragic, in my opinion, if urban areas banned bicycles because of that. What if cities allowed only pedestrians and bicycles in urban centers? That sounds a lot less stressful than dodging cars! 

Thinking about buying an electric car? Here's a good resource, (

I can't afford to buy an electric car. But it doesn't matter because I don't have access to a charging station. If you're in that situation, too, try to find a way to drive less and take comfort in the fact that it takes a lot of energy and water to manufacture a new car. I suspect you already knew that, and I'm at risk of being a nuisance. Having an administration that doesn't embrace or support clean transportation is frustrating. But I digress. For those of you in the market for an electric vehicle, you'll be pleased to learn they're becoming more affordable. Take a look at this guide to see if one has your name on it. And when you're done with it, mail it to me. I'm sure a regular postage stamp will do. I'll be waiting.

The most beautiful Jaguar I've ever seen, and it's electric, (

Car enthusiasts will appreciate this elegant Jaguar, modeled after the 1968 E-type. An interesting fact about the E-type Zero is that it's 100 pounds lighter than its predecessor—with zero emissions—in addition to being gorgeous.  

Volkswagen to go electric, (

By 2030, Volkswagen plans to make an electric version of all its models available to consumers. I'm not a car person, but even I got a kick out of the electric Volkswagen bus called the ID Buzz. Does it remind you of something? For more information on the ID Buzz, including a short video, CNN Tech has an interesting piece about it, here

Information and specs of new Nissan Leaf, (

What are the pros and cons of the 2018 Nissan Leaf? I'm sorry, but I'm done reading and writing about cars for this edition of Surferbird News-links. For someone who doesn't even like cars, I deserve a reward for such excellent reporting! You don't need to respond to that. But all kidding aside, this looks like a thorough review for serious electric car enthusiasts.

food and farming

Backyard chickens and salmonella, (

If you raise backyard chickens or have thought about doing so, you might want to read this article because they are responsible for ten recent outbreaks of salmonella poisoning across the U.S. But the problem isn't the chickens; rather, it's the lackadaisical approach of backyard hobbyists. You can take safety measures, however, to prevent salmonella poisoning and still enjoy the benefits of fresh eggs. 

If you've been losing sleep over acrylamide in your coffee, you can probably rest easy, (

Were you even worried about acrylamide in your coffee? I wasn't. This article, however, explains the origins of the Proposition 65 warning and its relationship to coffee. But a lot of other foods contain acrylamide too—foods that humans have enjoyed for eons. And, probably, most of these don't increase your risk of cancer. I plan to enjoy my four-cups-a-day habit for a long time.

there's a new kind of chocolate in town, and it's pink, (

The color of pink chocolate derives from the Ruby cacao bean, yielding an all natural chocolate that is both fruity and smooth. Though it's not available to consumers, yet, the response from taste-testers has been positive. 

Health and home

Health risks from large doses of vitamins B6 and B12, (

These are the types of studies I find fascinating because they point to the body's need for just the right amount of vitamins and minerals in order to maintain good health. Because of possible cancer risks, this study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center suggests that unless you have a deficiency, it's probably best not to take megadoses of either vitamin B6 or vitamin B12. Both too little and too much can lead to cancer development. A possible reason "is that B vitamins all contribute enzymes and coenzymes to a metabolic pathway that breaks down folate in order to make the bases that comprise DNA." This same pathway also regulates gene expression. The article contains more details for those of you interested in vitamin-B supplementation. 

Hope for those with peanut allergies, (

A study done by researchers in Australia found that a combination of probiotics and oral immunotherapy relieved peanut allergy symptoms in two thirds of study participants. This remained true even four years after they completed the therapy. I wonder if one day, soon, we'll be able to treat other food allergies this way. I certainly hope so because I miss fried eggs, and I suspect that some of you miss eating certain foods, too!

an excellent guide to thrift store shopping, (

One way to help slow planet warming is to stop buying so much stuff because of the natural resources and fuel-thirsty transportation involved in producing and shipping them. For example, textiles often contain petroleum-based synthetics or conventionally-grown cotton, which uses a lot of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. And cotton is shipped back and forth across the globe numerous times.

But thrift store shopping can reduce our carbon footprint by repurposing goods. And, better yet, this article from Treehugger provides tips on how to do that without wasting money. It also features a video from a sustainable lifestyle website, My Green Closet. Now that I live in a city where I feel comfortable getting around, thrift store shopping will become my new hobby— yet, only when I need something. But if this doesn't work for you, the alternative is to buy less and purchase goods that will last.

deodorant in glass jars: schmidt's, (

Shortly after moving, I ran out of my Chagrin Valley deodorant—packaged in cardboard. Drats! I couldn't wait for an order to arrive. I needed a replacement, like, yesterday. But all was not lost because I discovered Schmidt's Natural Deodorant at a local grocery store. And it's packaged in recyclable glass. To find a Schmidt's retailer near you, enter your zip code in the store locator box on their website. By doing so, I learned that even my local Target sells Schmidt's. But you can also order online. When you go to the Schmidt's homepage, above, at first you'll only see deodorant packaged in plastic, and you might wonder what the heck I was thinking. The glass options are near the bottom of the page under the store link. But the most important point I'd like to make about Schmidt's is that it works. 

A line of furniture made from 100 percent trash, (

Now you're talking! I'm thrilled to learn about Pentatonic, a company that makes furniture and glassware out of trash. Here's a short video, which explains the company's vision and features examples of their furniture. It's modern, yet elegant and substantial. 


More on gender and perceived brain differences, (

Men and women have very different brains, at least that's what most research has led us to believe. But this article presents data on the similarities between male and female brains and how we shouldn't even be talking about female brains and male brains. One of the studies "demonstrated how characteristics of certain neurons in animal brains could change from male to female, or vice versa when exposed to a stressor for 15 minutes." Also, studies suggesting that girls and boys need different parenting and educational styles because of how their brains are wired are flawed, according to one of the scientists interviewed. 

There's far too much in this piece for me to hash through. But for those of you interested in gender studies, it contains a wealth of information along with engaging videos, too.  And the first one is short! These ideas are especially relevant if you have children or work with children so that we don't set them up for self-limiting behaviors—for both girls and boys. One thing is certain, though: The article will challenge your beliefs about male and female brains, even if you were already a feminist. 


Please note: To understand today's earworm rant, you'll have to listen to at least part of the song. Otherwise, you won't make the connection. Here goes.

It really is all on you—and me, communities, countries and governments across the globe. Find something to change in your everyday life that helps slow climate change and become obsessive about that one thing. Then, add another. And you don't even need to install solar panels or drive an electric car to have an impact. Fly less, buy less, drive less, or see if there's a renewable energy program in your community. My homework this week is to add my apartment's utilities to my Arcadia Power account. The house we rent in the Bay Area is already part of their program. Will our efforts do any good? I don't know, but we need to try while we still have the chance. Ha! I can't help you with romance. But maybe Steve Winwood can.         Laura