Thousands flee after Philippine volcano erupts

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Taal volcano exploded early Saturday morning.

Thousands of people fled their homes near a Philippine volcano Saturday after an eruption sent ash and steam hundreds of metres into the sky.

Taal volcano, which sits in a picturesque lake south of Manila, exploded with a “short-lived” burst at 7:22 am (2322 GMT), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in a statement.

It warned further eruptions were possible, which it said could trigger dangerous, fast-moving volcanic flows of gas, ash and debris, as well as a tsunami.

Residents in five fishing and farming settlements around the lake were ordered to leave their homes, in the third mass evacuation in as many years around one of the country’s most .

“It rained mud,” said Cornelia Pesigan, 25, who sought shelter at a school outside the seven-kilometre (4.3-mile) ““.

“It smelled really bad and I had difficulty breathing,” the mother-of-two added.

The initial was followed by “nearly continuous phreatomagmatic activity” that sent plumes stretching 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) into the air, the seismological agency said, raising the alert level from two to three on a scale of zero to five.

A phreatomagmatic eruption happens when molten rock comes into contact with underground or , said Princess Cosalan, a scientist at the agency, likening it to pouring “water on a hot pan”.

Cosalan told AFP that ash and steam emissions had quietened in the hours after the initial burst, but said the institute’s on-site sensors continued to detect volcanic earthquakes and another eruption was “possible”.

Taal volcano sits in a picturesque lake in Batangas province in the Philippines.

The agency’s chief, Renato Solidum, said the activity was weaker than in January 2020, when Taal shot ash 15 kilometres high and spewed red-hot lava, crushing scores of homes, killing livestock and sending tens of thousands into shelters.

“There is no threat beyond the… five villages,” Solidum said.

More than 12,000 people live in the most , according to the latest available official data.

Police have been deployed to stop people entering the high-risk zones, while aviation authorities warned airlines and pilots of potential hazards from in the atmosphere.

The Philippines is hit periodically by eruptions and earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”—a zone of intense seismic activity.

Access to the volcano island, which was once home to a community of thousands, has been prohibited since the 2020 eruption.

Last July, the seismological agency raised the alert level to three after Taal burst to life again.

It belched for several days, creating a thick haze over the capital and surrounding provinces.

The alert level was lowered back to two before Saturday’s eruption.



© 2022 AFP

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Thousands flee after Philippine volcano erupts (2022, March 26)
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Russia-West scientific collaboration a casualty of Ukraine war

Russia-West scientific collaboration that bloomed in the aftermath of the Cold War has been quickly scrapped.

For neuroscience researcher Boris, “everything fell apart” a month ago, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent decades-long scientific cooperation with the West crashing back to Earth.

In response to sanctions and moral outrage at Moscow’s war, scientific institutes around the world swiftly cut off ties with Russia, including the European Space Agency, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and leading US university MIT.

International scientific collaboration that had long symbolised the world coming together in the aftermath of the Cold War—particularly in space—suddenly had to be scrapped, sending many projects back to the .

When the European Space Agency’s director general Josef Aschbacher announced the end of cooperation with Russia, he called it an “agonising decision”.

The decision spelled a long postponement for the ExoMars mission, which had planned to use a Russian rocket to put a European rover on Mars later this year to drill for .

Aschbacher said a launch was no longer possible until at least 2026—and that the ESA could now look to NASA for help.

It was as a huge blow for the thousands of scientists in Europe and Russia who had been working on the project for years—and came after ExoMars had already been postponed for two years by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Europe’s Rosalind Franklin will no longer take a ride on a Russian rocket this year to search for life on Mars.

‘Cut off from the world’

For Boris, an American of Russian origin living in France who did want to give his surname, 10 years of work was lost overnight when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

He said he had founded a research centre in Russia to create “a unique cross-border model in the field of neuroscience”, in which Russian students could travel to different laboratories across Europe.

He told AFP the project has not been officially cancelled, but “everything is blocked,” in part because PhD students in Russia can no longer pay for their work due to financial sanctions.

Other students have fled Russia after being threatened with being arrested for protesting against the war.

“We talk to each other every day via Skype or Zoom… but we are lost, the war is beyond us,” said Boris, whose parents left the USSR in the 1980s as Russia waged war on Afghanistan.

“For students who have not experienced the Soviet era, it is unimaginable to live in a country cut off from the world. They were truly European in their minds.”

Nearly 8,000 Russian scientists and academics signed an open letter earlier this month condemning the war after the International Congress of Mathematicians scheduled to be held in Saint Petersburg in July was called off.

“The many years spent strengthening Russia’s reputation as a leading centre of mathematics have been completely scuppered,” the letter said, calling Russia “the military aggressor and, accordingly, a rogue state”.

The influential Russian Academy of Sciences has “called for a cessation of hostilities and urged foreign researchers to avoid a breakdown in scientific relations”

‘Complete boycott’ demand

The influential Russian Academy of Sciences has “called for a cessation of hostilities and addressed foreign researchers to avoid a breakdown in scientific relations,” said Carole Sigman, a researcher at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research—which has also suspended collaboration with Russia.

She said there had been an influx of requests for visas from Russian scientists to come to France—as well as scientists from Ukraine and Belarus.

Several professors from renowned US universities including Harvard and Cambridge have called on “science and technology communities to avoid shunning all Russian scientists for the actions of the Russian government”.

While condemning Russia’s “brutal, unprovoked war”, the professors said in an published in the Science journal on Thursday that shutting down all interactions with Russian scientists “would be a serious setback to a variety of Western and global interests and values”.

But for many Ukrainian scientists plunged into war, the world cutting off research collaboration with Russia is essential.

Maksym Strikha, a physicist from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, told Nature earlier this month that “there should be a complete boycott of the Russian academic community. No cooperation”.



© 2022 AFP

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Russia-West scientific collaboration a casualty of Ukraine war (2022, March 26)
retrieved 27 March 2022
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Chemists cook up way to remove microplastics using okra

Okra is used as a thickening agent in many cuisines.

Extracts of okra and other slimy plants commonly used in cooking can help remove dangerous microplastics from wastewater, scientists said Tuesday.

The new research was presented at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society, and offers an alternative to the currently used in that can themselves pose risks to health.

“In order to go ahead and remove microplastic or any other type of materials, we should be using which are non-toxic,” lead investigator Rajani Srinivasan, of Tarleton State University, said in an explainer video.

Okra is used as a thickening agent in many cuisines, such as Gumbo, a stew from Louisiana. It’s also a staple of cuisine in South Asia, where it’s called bhindi.

Srinivasan’s past research had examined how the goo from okra and other plants could remove textile-based pollutants from water and even microorganisms, and she wanted to see if that would equally apply to microplastics.

Ingested microplastics—defined as pieces five millimeters or smaller—have been shown to harm fish in several ways, from disrupting their reproductive systems to stunting growth and causing .

The source of microplastics is the estimated eight billion tons of plastic produced since the 1950s, less than 10 percent of which has been recycled.

The rest eventually breaks down and is today found in every corner of the globe, from oceans and waterways to the air and soil, as well as our food.

It is feared there could be on humans, though more research is needed. Microplastics can also be carcinogenic and mutagenic, meaning they can potentially increase risks of cancer and DNA mutations.

Typical wastewater treatment removes microplastics in two steps.

First, those that float are skimmed off the top of the water. These however account for only a small fraction, and the rest are removed using flocculants, or sticky chemicals that attract microplastics into larger clumps.

The clumps sink to the bottom and can then be separated from the water.

The problem is that these synthetic flocculants, such as polyacrylamide, can break down into .

So, Srinivasan and colleagues set about investigating how extracts of supermarket-bought okra, aloe, cactus, and fenugreek, tamarind and psyllium would perform.

They tested chains of carbohydrates, known as polysaccharides, from the individual plants, as well as in combination, on various -contaminated water, examining before and after microscopic images to determine how many particles had been removed.

They found that polysaccharides from okra paired with those from fenugreek could best remove microplastics from , while polysaccharides from paired with tamarind worked best in freshwater samples.

Overall, the plant-based polysaccharides worked just as well or better than polyacrylamide. Crucially, the plant-based chemicals are both non-toxic and can be used in existing treatment plants.

Ultimately, said Srinivasan, she hopes to scale up and commercialize the process, enabling greater access to clean and safer drinking water.



© 2022 AFP

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Chemists cook up way to remove microplastics using okra (2022, March 26)
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Study shows advances in street lighting are reducing the efficacy of coastal species’ camouflage

An illustration of how a Littornid snail loses the benefit of camouflage making it more visible under broad spectrum lighting (right). Credit: University of Plymouth

Species that rely on darkness to forage and feed are losing the gift of camouflage thanks to advances in the lighting used to illuminate the world’s cities and coastlines, a study has shown.

The worldwide proliferation of energy efficient broad lighting has the potential to disrupt an array of visually guided .

New research has demonstrated that these new lighting technologies can significantly improve a predator’s ability to discriminate prey species against a natural background.

The magnitude of this effect varies depending on an organism’s color, meaning certain color variations may be at greater risk.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was conducted by researchers at the University of Plymouth and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML).

It is one of the first to examine the potential for artificial light at night (ALAN) to affect the camouflage mechanisms of coastal species.

Oak McMahon, who led the research while studying for an MSc in Applied Marine Science and is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Plymouth, said: “This study clearly indicates that new lighting technologies will increase the conspicuousness of by reducing the efficacy of their camouflage. Our findings revealed that species of Littorinid snails found commonly on our coastlines will remain camouflaged when illuminated by older style lighting. However, when illuminated by modern broad spectrum lighting, they are clearly visible to predators and at far greater long-term risk as a result.”

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, this is the latest research by the University and PML to highlight the growing levels of ALAN and its impacts on coastal environments.

For this study, scientists used a well-established model to determine the conspicuousness of three distinct color morphs of Littorinid snail found commonly along the world’s coastlines.

Street lighting creates an artificial glow in the night sky above Plymouth and the surrounding areas. Credit: Thomas Davies, University of Plymouth

They compared how the species appeared to three common coastal predators when illuminated by different forms of lighting. This included 20th century narrow spectrum Low Pressure Sodium (LPS) lighting, three types of modern broad spectrum lighting—High Pressure Sodium (HPS); Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs); and Metal Halide (MH) – and the provided by the sun and moon.

Under LPS lighting, all snails were effectively camouflaged. However, when illuminated by LEDs, MH, the sun or the moon, yellow snails were significantly more visible compared to brown and olive ones in the majority of cases.

Dr. Thomas Davies, Lecturer in Marine Conservation at the University of Plymouth and the study’s senior author, said: “As technologies develop, there has been a shift from narrow spectrum to lighting that enables us to live and travel in a safe, secure manner. However, estimates suggest that a quarter of the planet between the Arctic Circle and Antarctica is now being affected by night-time light pollution. Some predictions say that LED bulbs will account for 85% of the global street lighting market in around five years, and our study highlights that such advances will have repercussions for humans and animals alike now and in the future.”

Dr. Tim Smyth, PML Head of Science for Marine Biogeochemistry and Observations and co-author on the research, added: “The ability to light our environment around the clock has transformed the urban landscapes over the past century and has ushered in what some call the Urbanocene. The shift from the orange glow over cities, typical of my youth in the 1970s and 80s, has now shifted much more towards energy efficient wide spectrum LEDs which even enables us humans to correctly perceive color. This work shows that this advancement has additional ramifications for the , which is having to adapt at an increasing rate to the artificial changes we are making to the environment. We need to learn to adapt our technologies to avoid the worst consequences of their adoption.”

What can be done to reduce the impact of artificial lighting on our coastlines

With estimates indicating that 23% of the world’s surface, between the planet’s , are affected by ALAN—and a rate of increase of 2.2% between 2012 and 2016—the need to address the situation is pressing to say the least.

In the study, the researchers highlight a variety of mitigation methods available to planners and environmental managers when considering its ecological impacts.

These include reducing the amount of light used, shielding lights to reduce their effects on the surrounding environment, employing part-night lighting during times of peak demand, and manipulating the spectra of lighting to minimize ecological impacts.

The researchers highlight that while it may seem intuitive to suggest using narrow spectrum lighting to avoid these impacts, the effects of ALAN extend beyond those seen on camouflage and that all parts of the visual spectrum will likely have some ecological impact.



More information:
Oak McMahon et al, Broad spectrum artificial light at night increases the conspicuousness of camouflaged prey, Journal of Applied Ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.14146

Citation:
Study shows advances in street lighting are reducing the efficacy of coastal species’ camouflage (2022, March 26)
retrieved 27 March 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-03-advances-street-efficacy-coastal-species.html

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