Quick Hits: October 2019

New rules could limit climbers on Everest

Nepali officials have proposed new safety rules on Mt. Everest that would prohibit inexperienced climbers from attempting to summit the world’s tallest mountain. The rule would require would-be climbers to prove that they have summited another major peak before they are issued a permit to climb Everest. Tourism companies would also have to have at least three years of experience leading high-altitude expeditions before they could lead climbers up Everest. “Everest cannot be climbed just based on one’s wishes,” Nepal’s tourism minister said at a news conference. “We are testing their health condition and climbing skills before issuing climbing permits.” The new rules have been under consideration for several months and are expected to go before Nepal’s Parliament before the next climbing season.

Tardigrades may be the toughest creatures on the planet (and the moon, too).

After a crash landing, tardigrades may be alive on the moon

When Israel’s robotic lunar lander, Beresheet, crash-landed on the moon in April, it was carrying a box of tardigrades. Tardigrades, it turns out, are micro-animals that have been found everywhere from the tops of mountains to the deep sea. They are considered to be extremely hardy and resilient and capable of surviving in space.  While the box of tardigrades on board Beresheet was dehydrated, those associated with the mission believe the animals are likely to have survived the crash, though they would need to be “brought back to life” before they truly made the moon their new home. Coming back to life from a dehydrated state is not out of the question for the tardigrade, however. Tardigrades can survive without water for 10 years and can withstand temperatures over 300 degrees Fahrenheit. One tardigrade is even known to have survived being frozen for 30 years. 

71-year-old sets age-group world record with half marathon time of 1:37:07

Breaking records is a common occurrence in Jeannie Rice’s world. The 71-year-old runner, who resides part-time in Ohio and part-time in Florida, holds the age group world record for the marathon, completing the Chicago marathon last October in a time of 3:27:50.  Rice recently added another record to that list, setting the age group world record in the half marathon at the Akron Half Marathon last weekend, when she crossed the finish line in an impressive 1:37:07, averaging a 7:25-mile pace throughout the entire 13.1-mile race. The grandmother of two reportedly trains 50 to 60 miles per week and has now set her sights on breaking her own world records. “If I can break my own world record it’d be great,” Rice told Runners World. “… I set a goal like that so I don’t give up, so I can continue to train hard and tough.” 

Microplastics found in Arctic snow

The first study to look at microplastics in snow has discovered the small pieces of plastic in Arctic snow. While microplastics have long been found in the Arctic, this study attempted to identify how the microplastics ended up in the snow to begin with. Researchers found significant microplastics in the “smallest size range” in the Arctic, indicating “significant contamination of the atmosphere.” Varnish and rubber were both found in the Arctic snow samples, as was polyethylene, which is found in grocery bags and children’s toys, and polyamide, which is used to make synthetic fabrics and carpets. The study concluded that the microplastics were carried to the Arctic by air and wind currents, but that more research is needed to understand the health effects of airborne microplastics. 

July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded

Are we starting to sound like a broken record here? June 2019 made headlines for being the hottest June ever recorded, but that was nothing compared to what followed. July 2019, it turns out, has officially been deemed the hottest month on record ever, narrowly edging out July 2016 by about 0.07 degrees. The troubling title is measured by feeding temperature readings from weather balloons, satellites, buoys, and other sources into a computer model. Notably, the record heat comes without the influence of El Nino, which adds heat to the ocean and increases temperatures across the globe. July 2016, for example, was an El Nino year. “While we don’t expect every year to set a new record, the fact that it’s happening every few years is a clear sign of a warming climate,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist with Berkeley Earth, told the Washington Post. 

Trump administration legalizes toxic cyanide bombs to kill wildlife

In a nod of support to some ranchers and farmers, the Trump administration has reauthorized the use of cyanide bombs to kill wildlife. The bombs are spring-loaded traps containing sodium cyanide and are meant to kill nuisance animals that attack the livestock of private ranchers and farmers, including foxes, bears, coyotes, and birds. Environmental activists warn that the poison used in the bombs can contaminate the environment and have untended victims, such as other wildlife, pets and people. According to Wildlife Services data, the poison bombs killed 6,579 animals, primarily coyotes and foxes, in 2018, down from 13,232 animals the previous year. Hundreds of the deaths were of non-target animals such as raccoons, skunks and bear. 

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