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Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows



Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.

The extent to which fossil fuel emissions, as opposed to natural sources, are responsible for the rising methane levels has long been a matter of scientific debate. Methane seeps from the ocean bed, for instance, and also spews from land formations called mud volcanoes.

To shed light on the mystery, researchers at Rochester’s Department of Earth and Environmental Studies examined ice cores from Greenland, as well as data from Antarctica stretching back to about 1750, before the industrial revolution.

They found that methane emissions from natural phenomena were far smaller than estimates used to calculate global emissions. That means fossil-fuel emissions from human activity — namely the production and burning of fossil fuels — were underestimated by 25 to 40 percent, the researchers said.

The scientists were helped in their analysis by different isotopes found in methane emissions from natural sources, compared to emissions from the production of fossil fuels. Isotopes are versions of an element that have very slight differences, allowing the researchers to differentiate between them.

Daniel J. Jacob, professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University, also described the findings as significant. Current estimates of methane from geological sources “were widely considered too high by atmospheric modelers such as myself,” he wrote in an email.

But he took issue with the suggestion that emissions from fossil fuel production were larger than previously estimated. Fossil fuel emissions are “based on fuel production rates, number of facilities, and direct measurements if available. The natural geological source is irrelevant for these estimates,” he said.

The disagreement reflects an overall discrepancy between what are called “bottom-up” measurements of emissions, those from individual oil and gas sites, as opposed to “top-down” calculations like the ones carried out by the Rochester researchers. “Bottom-up” measurements can be unreliable because of a lack of data from individual oil and gas sites. With “top-down” measurements, on the other hand, the exact source of emissions can be hard to pin down.

The findings come as oil and gas companies face increased pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to address rising concerns about climate change.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is of particular concern, because it can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. On top of fossil fuel production, livestock, landfills and other sources linked to human activity also emit methane.

Last week, the British oil giant BP set an ambitious climate change goal, saying it aimed to eliminate or offset by 2050 all planet-warming emissions from its oil and gas production, as well as emissions caused by the burning of the oil and gas it pumps from the ground. The company provided few details on how it would achieve that feat, however.

Adding to climate concerns, the Trump administration is moving forward with a plan that effectively eliminates requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency’s own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than a million homes for a year.

Dr. Petrenko, one of the Rochester study’s authors, said that the huge undertaking of studying giant ice cores meant the study relied on a small sampling of data. “These measurements are incredibly difficult. So getting more data to help confirm our results would be very valuable,” he said. “That means there’s quite a bit more research to be done.”

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How to find food for takeout and delivery




Google Maps

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Google Maps received a full redesign in February. Now, as coronvirus keeps most folks indoors, it’s adding another new feature. Now, you can easily find restaurants nearby that provide takeout and delivery options.

Where Google Maps previously said let people click to quickly find restaurants and coffee shops, users will now see options for takeout and delivery in the app.

Normally, people may have used Google Maps to find new restaurants nearby. But now, it may help restaurants stay in business by pointing folks to places where they can get still buy food.

It might help restaurants that are suffering from a lack of visitors due to lockdown restrictions that prevent them from serving people inside. And, since Google Maps links you directly to a restaurant, you may be saving yourself (or the restaurant) from fees associated with delivery services. Unfortunately, many restaurants in hard-hit places like New York City have already had to lay off staff, however.

All you have to do is open the app on iPhone or Android. Then, at the top of the screen, you’ll see the two new default buttons for takeout and delivery. If you tap “takeout,” you’ll see restaurants that Google knows will let you pick up outside of the restaurant. If you tap “delivery,” you’ll see restaurants that can bring your food to your home.

Google Maps

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Some restaurants have links to their websites where you can place an order directly. Others, like the national sandwich chain Subway, let you order through third-party companies include Postmates and DoorDash.


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Humboldt Squids Glows to Communicate in the Dark | Science




The deep sea is vast, empty and dark—not an ideal place for animals to communicate via visual signals. Yet the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus giga), a social species that lives in groups of hundreds of individuals, can communicate visually at depths of 600 feet or more.

Cephalopods including squid, octopus and cuttlefish are known for a stunning array of visual displays. These marine creatures possess pigment cells called chromatophores surrounded by muscles that expand and contract, allowing for a wide variety of colorful patterns. While researchers understood these abilities, a question remained regarding just how deep-sea cephalopods might make these displays visible in their dark, deep environment.

New research by Ben Burford of Stanford University and Bruce Robison of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) suggests that the Humboldt squid uses bioluminescent light organs known as photophores to backlight their visual displays. Much like an e-reader that layers text over a lighting layer, the Humboldt squid layers chromatophores on top of photophores to make their displays easier to see in the dark. (The Humboldt squid, and the current of the same name it is native to, is named after Alexander von Humboldt, an influential naturalist and the subject of a forthcoming exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

A Humboldt squid displays a “countershading” pattern on its body (dark on top, light underneath) 500 meters below the surface of Monterey Bay.


Many deep-sea creatures use bioluminescence for defense, camouflage and predatory behaviors. One famous example is the anglerfish and its luminescent lure. Some creatures present bioluminescent displays that are sex- and species-specific, allowing them to identify others within their species and gender. Lead author Burford found that the Humboldt squid’s use of bioluminescence is unique.

“Humboldt squids have small aggregations of luminescent tissue—little dots sprinkled throughout their muscles,” Burford says. “Instead of projecting light outwards, what these photophores do is radiate light within the body tissue. They make the whole animal glow.”

The research team looked to link behaviors associated with chromatophores to places on the squid’s body where the photophores congregate. “They have some subtle behaviors, like a darkened edge of their fins, dark strips along their arms, or a dark spot between their eyes on the top of their head,” Burford said. “If those behaviors are subtle then maybe to boost their visibility their photophores are aggregated.” This is what was observed in some cases: Denser clusters of photophores under parts of the squid’s skin corresponded with these subtle behaviors. Based on the evidence that the photophores were not evenly distributed throughout the body, Burford and Robison believe that behaviors and the concentrations are linked.

Using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), the research team observed the squid in action, watching as groups of these four-foot-tall creatures foraged in the deep sea. As this group of Humboldt squids pursued their prey, they displayed a behavior called “flickering” across their bodies. Humboldt squids are aggressive predators, and because they live in groups, the chase can become frenzied. Yet the researchers noted that the large squids appeared to be somewhat coordinated during the chase, never bumping into each other and rarely competing for the same prey. This suggests that the flickering behavior and other visual cues allow for cooperative hunting.

“It’s like turn signaling in traffic,” Burford says. “Driving is dangerous, being a Humboldt squid in a group is dangerous and you’ve got to signal to tell people what you’re going to do and that they shouldn’t mess with you while you’re doing it.”

Flickering has been seen in shallow-water studies of this species when the squids are spawning. The fact that such behavior is seen in group dynamics suggests to scientists that these social squids may be using it and other behaviors for specific purposes.

This illustration shows some of the body patterns used by Humboldt squid in Monterey Bay.
According to MBARI: “This illustration shows some of the body patterns used by Humboldt squid in Monterey Bay. These patterns were documented by scientists using video from remotely operated vehicles.”

(MBARI / Ben Burford)

The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth, and these types of discoveries demonstrate still more exciting discoveries are yet to come. For example, researchers had previously identified 28 pigmentation patterns in the Humboldt squid. Burford and Robison have been working to contextualize the meanings of each.

“We found that it’s possible that those 28 elements of their repertoire have specific meanings,” Burford says. “But it seems like they can combine them in different ways and those combinations could also have meanings. And that should sound familiar because it’s like letters in the alphabet.”


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Anick Jesdanun, longtime AP technology writer, dies at 51




He ran marathons on every continent, including Antarctica — 83 of them in all, many followed by a visit to an obscure craft brewery. Last year, he watched 365 movies — most of them in theaters. And Anick Jesdanun made sure — always — that when millions of people read his coverage of the internet and its ripples, they got all the facts and the context they needed.

Jesdanun, 51, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, died in New York City on Thursday of coronavirus-related complications, his family said.

For more than two decades, Jesdanun helped generations of readers understand the emerging internet and its impact on the world. And while his work may have been about screens and computers and virtual networks, Jesdanun’s large life was about the world and exploring all of the corners of it that he could, virtual and physical alike.

“Before people knew the internet was full of falsehoods, he was the guy who said, `We’d better check that,’” said his colleague, AP technology writer Michael Liedtke.

Jesdanun, known as Nick, was the first AP reporter to be given the “internet writer” byline two decades ago, when the world was less than 10 years into using the network widely.

His early work focused on how the internet was changing everything: dating, reading, photography, democracy, access to health care. In 2000, he wrote about how internet-connected devices would be tracking our locations — something that was still years in the future.

By example, conversation and hands-on editing, Jesdanun, working from a desk renowned for its messiness, taught a generation of AP journalists how to cover technology in ways that were understandable and accessible but unparalleled in their depth.

“Nick was the steady bulwark of AP’s tech team for two decades,” said Frank Bajak, AP’s first technology editor. “He had the deepest institutional memory of AP’s tech coverage and patiently educated dozens of novice colleagues in all things digital.”

As the internet grew and its pitfalls become more evident, Jesdanun wrote about everything from Facebook’s privacy travails to government regulations. He also found time to cover things closer to his heart, one of which appeared under this headline in February: “How to binge on Oscar movies in cinemas for cheap.”

“There’s still no substitute for a movie theater,” he wrote in a first-person story last year.

Quick with a smile, Jesdanun sometimes let his sillier side loose in AP’s “Tech Tests.” These often included video shorts in which he would run new gadgets through the paces (and occasionally give his nieces cameo roles). When the iPhone’s face-recognition model came out in 2017, he filmed a mostly deadpan video of him trying to stump it with everything from a Santa beard to a fake nose and mustache.

While Jesdanun could seem reserved to those who didn’t know him, his colleagues talked of an embrace of the world that he carried into his work and that ensured his technology journalism was grounded in what people cared about.

“His depth of knowledge was unmatched,” said his boss, current AP technology editor David Hamilton.

And tech writer Mae Anderson, whose office desk was by Jesdanun’s, remembered how they’d visit tech industry events and Jesdanun wouldn’t relent until his sources produced the information he was looking for.

“He always kept asking questions and pressing people to answer questions,” she said, “much past the point I ever would. And it made the subsequent stories much better.”

Jesdanun’s running, which he embraced “later in life,” was part of that commitment to engaging with his surroundings, said his cousin, Risa Harms.

“It was a life force for him, a way for him to see the world and to meet people,” she said. “He’s a doer. He’s not somebody who felt comfortable being a recreational tourist. He visited a place and wanted to have something to do there. So he did a marathon.”

She added: “I feel fairly confident that there was nothing on his bucket list. There was nothing he wanted to do that he didn’t have a chance to do.”

Jesdanun, a Pittsburgh native who grew up in New Jersey, was a 1991 graduate of Swarthmore College. He worked in AP bureaus in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Washington before moving to New York. When he left Philadelphia for Harrisburg in 1993, he sublet his apartment to a colleague and left behind only a few pieces of furniture and, hanging from the ceiling, a glittering disco ball.

“Do what you want with the rest,” Jesdanun told his tenant, “but the disco ball stays.”

Barbara Ortutay, an AP tech writer and Jesdanun’s close friend, spent countless nights over the past 15 years hanging out with him at outdoor philharmonic concerts and movies around New York City. He was serious about photography and “was always documenting everything,” she said.

“He loved Chinese pork buns and always bought some for the rest of us in the office,” Ortutay said Friday. “One of our last texts was about pork buns, and I thought he’d turned a corner because he said he wanted one.”

Jesdanun is survived by his parents, Adisak and Orabhin Jesdanun; a brother, Gary Jesdanun; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. The AP, the only employer Jesdanun ever worked for, is planning a virtual memorial service at some point to give colleagues and friends the opportunity — in an undesired but perhaps appropriate forum — to remember its first internet writer.

“Nick was a kind and gentle colleague who was deeply admired by everyone he worked with,” said AP deputy managing editor Sarah Nordgren, who oversees technology news. “He loved the AP and his work, and it showed every day.”


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