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Science, News
Since it’s discovery in 1985, the hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic has been a testament to humankind’s detrimental effects on the environment. Now however, there is cause to be hopeful. Atmospheric chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Susan Solomon is surprised to report the gap is shrinking, “I didn’t think it would be this early.” The study led by Solomon was published online by Science, it explains the deterioration of the ozone is original due to the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): chlorine contacting chemicals that built up in the atmosphere through aerosol cans and various other human made products. Scientists identifying the problem lobbied for the Montreal Protocol of 1987, an international agreement to phase out the use of the harmful chemicals. With the combined use of satellite measurements, ground based instruments and weather balloons Solomon and her team determined that since 2000 the hole has shrunk by 4 million square kilometres. Paul Newman, who runs NASA’s Arctic Ozone Watch website is sceptical of Solomon’s findings.  Attributing the reduction of chlorine and bromine as the only factor in the ozone layer mending does not seem plausible to him. Instead citing the shifting climate as a major factor contributing to at least 50% of why the hole is shrinking. Solomon has some vested interest in the studies outcome as she led the initial study in 1986 that identified the stratospheric clouds as chlorine reaction sites and the status reports following the Montreal Protocol. She remains optimistic, “The fact that we’ve made a global choice to do something different and the planet has responded to out choice can’t help but be uplifting,” she says. According to Solomon’s predictions the hole in the ozone will not close completely until 2050 at the earliest.
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Environment
One of the most basic human impulses, to look up and ponder the night sky is becoming compromised for the majority of the world’s population, according to a recent study published in the Journal Science Advances. Using the latest available technology, researchers around the world have collaborated in creating an up-to-date World Atlas illustrating the geographical spread of night sky brightness. Scientists have observed that artificial skyglow is the most visible effects of light pollution – the brightening of the sky cased by street lights, building and other human-made sources. This is inhibiting the naked human eye from observing the Milky Way in highly populated areas. The study shows, “due to light pollution, the Milky Way is not visible to more than one-third of humanity, including 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans.” Combining the data collected from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), Day/Night Band (DNB) new precision charge-coupled device (CCD), brightness measurements and a new database of Sky Quality Meter (SQM) Scientist have managed to create the most accurately up-to-date Atlas on the visible effects of light pollution around the globe. The Atlas demonstrates their findings “found that about 83% of the world’s population and more than 99% of the U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies”.   According to their findings, Singapore is the most light polluted country, where the problem is so prevalent ‘the entire population lives under skies so bright that the eye cannot fully dark-adapt to night vision”. These findings are subject to a number of factors, including but not limited to time of night (this study was conducted at 1am), proximity to geographical landscapes (such as volcanoes), tidal patterns and weather conditions (factoring in the reflective capabilities of snow). In addition scientist also highlight the shift from high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting to white light-emitting diode (LED). The bluer colour temperature of LED lighting is contributing to the problem of light pollution. For those that wish to observe the nights sky unaffected by light pollution there are fewer and fewer land based locations available to contemplate the mysteries of the galaxy.
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Environment
Rising levels of ocean acidification contribute to smaller, misshapen and weaker skeletons in juvenile coral according to a team of scientists from The University of Western Australia – predicting devastating wide spread effects in coral systems by 2100. The UWA research team created ocean conditions based on “business-as-usual” emission scenario testing both increasing water temperature and CO2 levels. In early development, small coral 1mm in diameter are more vulnerable to mechanical damage, overgrowth and predation. The vulnerability of these structures is increased by the added difficulty to calcify under rising CO2 levels. With the use of a 3D-Xray microscopy and scanning election microscopy, the team examined the newly settled coral recruits and observed visual and quantitative differences in skeletal structure. The damage high CO2 levels caused in coral skeletal structures include disruptions of symmetry through misshapen, overgrown walls and deep pitting contributing to a corroded-looking skeletal surface. Severe deformities included gaps and fractures as well as large areas of the skeleton entirely absent. Adult coral calcification have already declined by 14% to 30% world wide in recent years according to multiple studies. Results of the UWA study report that no fractures were observed in the corals grown in low CO2 environments. The paper Ocean acidification causes structural deformities in juvenile coral skeletons by Taryn Foster, James Falter, Malcolm McCulloch and Peta Clode is published in the journal Science Advances. The project was funded by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
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Health
Canadian residents admitted to hospital are more likely to be readmitted within a three-year period – in Canada readmission rates are stable, while in other countries they are falling. “Reducing readmission rates is one of the most feasible ways to improve patient care and reduce health-care costs,” said Jason Sutherland in a statement, an associate professor in the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. Heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia were the three conditions analyzed for the study between 2010 and 2013. Of 18 B.C. hospitals, readmission cost the province $13 million for the three conditions alone. Sutherland analyzed a tactic called “Hospital Readmission Reduction Program” (HRRP), which was implemented in the U.S. to fine hospitals for their readmission rates – creating an incentive to provide better care and increase rehabilitation. Researchers calculated if the HRRP were implemented in B.C., many hospitals would lose less than $40,000, while the largest financial penalty would reach up to $217,000. Although technically possible in B.C., Sutherland believes the impact would be too small to influence hospital protocol, “Canadian health care systems need to be making changes to get more value for health spending and to improve the quality of care patients receive.”
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