May 30, 2017

Thawing Arctic peatlands could release potent greenhouse gas

Tarmo Virtanen, University of Helsinki

Scientists have long predicted that rapidly warming temperatures in the Arctic could unleash huge amounts of carbon trapped beneath the permafrost. It's one of the tipping points in Earth's climate system that scientists are tracking closely. Now, researchers say thawing in the Arctic could also release significant amounts of nitrous oxide, an even more powerful greenhouse gas trapped below the permafrost, a new study finds.

Why it matters: Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. But, despite the fact that more than 67 billion tons of nitrogen are stored in the Arctic permafrost, nearly all of the research on the impacts in the Arctic have focused on carbon releases. Vegetation and water can decrease the amount of nitrous oxide released to varying degrees, but this new study shows that up to a quarter of the Arctic could see significant releases of the gas along with carbon dioxide.

How they did it: Finnish scientists collected 16 samples of peat from Finland's Lapland region and slowly warmed them from underneath to simulate thawing in the lab.

The results: There was a fivefold increase in nitrous oxide emissions from samples of bare peat compared to the amount released when only the surface thaws, which happens seasonally. When plants or lichen were growing on top of a sample, emissions decreased by 90% and they were entirely suppressed in wet samples.

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New York is latest state to delay primary due to coronavirus

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New York — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. — has moved its presidential primary to June 23, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday.

Why it matters: 23 other states and the District of Columbia haven't held primaries yet. The White House is recommending, for now, that Americans practice social distancing and gather in groups of no more than 10 people — while many states have issued stay-at-home orders.

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 622,450 — Total deaths: 28,794 — Total recoveries: 135,779.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 105,573 — Total deaths: 1,711 — Total recoveries: 895.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is reportedly considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill to provide businesses and U.S. workers economic relief.
  4. State updates: A group of Midwestern swing voters that supported President Trump's handling of the coronavirus less than two weeks ago is balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter. Alaska is latest state to issue stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month.
  5. World updates: Italy reported 969 coronavirus deaths on Friday, the country's deadliest day. In Spain, over 1,300 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancing.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — areas congruent with the New York metro area. The White House has advised those who travel from the metro area to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The big picture: With 105,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

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