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Oblique view of the Himalayas on the border of Sikkim, India, and eastern Nepal, captured Dec. 20, 1975, by a KH-9 Hexagon spy satellite. Photo: National Reconnaissance Office/U.S. Geological Survey
A new study on central Himalayan glaciers in India, China, Nepal and Bhutan finds that this region has been losing ice during the 21st century at twice the rate it did during the previous 25 years. This trend was likely driven by increasing air temperatures, the study, published in Science Advances, finds.
Why it matters: This region is home to so much ice that it's sometimes referred to as Earth's "Third Pole." Runoff from ice melt nourishes some of the most populous nations on Earth, and the fate of these glaciers are thus intertwined with the ability of this region to sustain high population growth and avert conflict over increasingly stressed water supplies.
This study provides some of the clearest evidence yet that air temperature is a main control knob for glacial melt in the Himalayas, which was not previously known.
“Even glaciers in the highest mountains of the world are responding to global air temperature increases driven by the combustion of fossil fuels.”— Joseph Shea, University of Northern British Columbia, who was not involved in the study, in a statement
What they did: The study analyzed 650 Himalayan glaciers along a 1,243-mile transect of the mountain range, representing 55% of the region's total ice volume.
What they found: Of the total ice mass that existed in the study area in 1975, 87% of it still was present in 2000. Only 72% was present just 16 years later.
Context: A separate study, published last month in the journal Nature, found that the meltwater coming off the glaciers high in the Himalayas is 1.6 times greater than the rate needed to keep the glaciers in balance with snowfall.
But, but, but: The study notes that there are uncertainties involved in what is driving increased ice loss in the 1,243-mile region.
As measles spreads and U.S. public officials try to prevent the disease from becoming endemic in the U.S. again, a debate is heating up nationally over whether to mandate vaccines or tighten laws that allow for more individual choice, Eileen Drage O'Reilly writes.
Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios instead of mandating vaccines, it's time now for states to tighten their exemptions — "the flexibility has gone too far."
Driving the news: Trust in government and in the health care system tend to be linked to people believing that vaccines are safe, according to Imran Khan, head of public engagement at Wellcome, a global charitable foundation. Kahn discussed Wellcome's major Global Monitor Report on a panel Wednesday.
Fauci said philosophical and religious exemptions need a "good look."
Go deeper: Read the rest of Eileen's story.
An illustration of two potentially habitable planets orbiting a small, cool star only 12.5 light-years away from Earth. Image: University of Göttingen, Institute for Astrophysics
This week, scientists announced the discovery of two potentially habitable planets orbiting a small, cool star only 12.5 light-years away, reports Axios' Miriam Kramer.
What they found: Researchers using the CARMENES instrument in Spain found the planets orbiting Teegarden’s star, which is only about 8% of the mass of our Sun.
Why it matters: Discoveries like this one help to paint a picture of a galaxy teeming with exoplanets (worlds that orbit stars other than a sun).
Details: CARMENES found the planets using a method of exoplanet discovery known as radial velocity, which looks for small wobbles in a star produced by a planet’s gravity as it orbits.
Background: So far, scientists have discovered about 4,000 exoplanets orbiting stars near and far.
But, but, but: Some scientists are skeptical that small, red dwarf stars are capable of hosting planets that could support life. This is because these small stars tend to be temperamental.
While Teegarden’s star is on the quiet side, other red dwarfs regularly shoot off massive flares, possibly destroying any chance for life on worlds orbiting them.
Assembled plastic objects found on the U.K. coast, 1994–2019. Photo: Steve McPherson
Our violent Sun (Miriam Kramer)
Listen to Apollo 11 in real time (Miriam Kramer)
With antibiotic resistance growing, WHO promotes monitoring tool (Eileen Drage O'Reilly)
An English springer spaniel named Twiglet poses. Photo: Getty Images
When soap bubbles freeze, beautiful crystals tend to swarm around their inner perimeter, like a snow globe, until the bubble is entirely full of these jagged-shaped formations.
In a study published this week, scientists investigated soap bubble freezing in a lab setting for the first time, with a particular focus on heat transfer processes.
Why it matters: As the New York Times notes, the study's findings could have "applications for flash freezing food, creating tastier ice cream or even developing antifreeze materials."
While observations of soap bubbles freezing have been made for centuries, and are popular on YouTube, scientists have had an incomplete understanding of how these snow globe-like formations actually occur.
What they found: When bubbles came into contact with an icy surface inside a walk-in freezer, water flowed upward from the base of the bubble.
Between the lines: The study found that soap bubbles that come into contact with a frozen surface, yet are surrounded by milder air, tended to discourage the formation of ice crystals throughout the bubbles. They failed to freeze completely.
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