Expected Questions in Environment & Latest Developments Part 4 (Set 1) (Download PDF)

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Cabinet Approves Umbrella Scheme “Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling: - Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved implementation of umbrella scheme ‘Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling, and Science (O-SMART) ’ during 2017 - 18 to 2019 - 20 at overall cost of Rs. 1623 cr.

  • Scheme covers 16 sub-projects, which address ocean development activities such as services, technology, resources, observations, & science.

  • Services included coastal states & ocean sectors such as shipping, fisheries & offshore industry.

  • 5 lakh fishermen are receiving daily information thru mobile phones about things like allocation of fish potential & local weather conditions in coastal waters.

Benefits of O-SMART Scheme

  • Implementation of scheme will help address issues related to Sustainable Development Goal-14, which emphasizes on conservation of oceans & marine resources.

  • Scheme will provide required scientific & technological background for implementation of various aspects of blue economy.

  • State-of-art early warning systems established under scheme will help in effectively dealing w/ocean disasters such as storm surges & tsunami.

  • Technologies developed under scheme will help in harnessing vast ocean resources of both living & non-living resources from seas across India.

Complex Organics Bubble Up from Ocean-World Enceladus

  • Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveal complex organic molecules originating from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, strengthening idea that this ocean world hosts conditions suitable for life.
  • Team led by Frank Postberg & Nozair Khawaja of University of Heidelberg, Germany, continues to examine makeup of ejected ice & has recently identified fragments of large, complex organic molecules.

Significance of Larger Molecules

  • Earlier Cassini had detected small, relatively common organic molecules at Enceladus that were much smaller.

  • Presence of large complex molecules, along w/liquid water & hydrothermal activity, bolsters hypothesis that ocean of Enceladus may be habitable environment for life.

  • Such large molecules can be created by complex chemical processes, including those related to life, or they can come from primordial material in some meteorites.

  • At Enceladus, they come from hydrothermal activity driving complex chemistry in core of moon.

  • On Enceladus, bubbles of gas, rising thru miles of ocean, could bring up organic material from depths, where they could form thin film floating on ocean surface & in cracks of vents, in interior of moon, beneath its icy shell.

What is Cassini Orbiter (Important)

  • Cassini-Huygens mission is cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) & Italian Space Agency.

  • Continuing studies of Cassini data will help us unravel mysteries of this intriguing ocean world.

  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

  • Cassini spacecraft deliberately plunged into Saturn on 15th Sept. , 2017.

  • JPL designed, developed & assembled Cassini orbiter.

  • Radar instrument was built by JPL & Italian Space Agency, working w/team members from U. S. & several European countries.

Cyclone Monitoring in India

  • Cyclone warning is one of most imp. Functions of IMD & it was 1st service undertaken by Department in 1865 & thus service started before establishment of department in 1875.
  • Project is undertaken for up-gradation of Decision Support System of Tropical Cyclones Warning Services.

Ministry of Earth Sciences/India Meteorological Department has following projects to improve cyclone monitoring & forecasting:

  • Global Ensemble Forecasting System (GEFS) w/resolution of 23 km was adapted from NCEP, NOAA, USA. It is upgraded to resolution of 12 km to provide forecast upto 7 days from 1st June, 2018.

  • Unified Model (UM) & Unified Model Ensemble Prediction System (UMEPS) are adapted from UK Meteorological Office (UKMO), UK, to provide forecast upto 7 days w/12 km resolution from 1st June, 2018.

  • IMD runs cyclone specific Hurricane Weather Research & Forecast (HWRF) Model adapted from NCEP, NOAA, USA w/resolution of 18 km, 6 km, & 2 km for cyclone forecasting.

  • IMD makes use of NWP products prepared by some other operational NWP Centres like, ECMWF (European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting), GFS (NCEP), UKMO (UK Met), JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency).

  • Early Warning Services for Tsunamis are being provided by Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC) at Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Sciences (INCOIS), Hyderabad autonomous body under Ministry of Earth Sciences.

  • For more details about Cyclone warning, visit Monsoon Mission CFS & UM.

Cyclone Mekunu Turns ‘Very Severe’- Strongest Ever to Strike Yemeni Island of Socotra

  • Cyclone Mekunu, hit Yemeni island of Socotra, causing severe flooding & damage triggered heavy showers along western coast of Maharashtra. Konkan region of Maharashtra got few showers in next few days.

Details on Mekunu

  • Mekunu Storm slammed into southwest Oman, packing max. sustained winds of about 110 miles per hour.

  • If storm is strong at landfall, it would match power of high-end Category 2 or low-end Category 3 hurricane.

  • Mekunu was classified as very severe cyclonic storm & packs peak winds of 90 miles per hour.

  • It was very close to or just to west of city of Salalah, Oman’s second-biggest, w/population of about 200,000.

  • Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) issued release indicating that “due to severity of weather conditions, Salalah International Airport was closed for 24 hours.

  • There were high chances of storm gathering energy, & becoming Category 3 system before it makes landfall especially “with sea surface temp. in that region of Arabian Sea b/w 31 & 32 degrees Celsius, & low wind shear (change of wind speed & direction w/height).

  • While Sagar passed right thru Gulf of Aden, & hit Somalia, Mekunu is expected to take very diff. track as it has already made glancing blow across Yemeni island.

  • Why Gulf Stream Ocean Currents are disrupted by Climate Change
  • Serious disruption to Gulf Stream ocean currents that are crucial in controlling global climate must be avoided “at all costs”, senior scientists have warned. Alert follows revelation this week that system is at its weakest ever recorded.

Impact of Weak North Atlantic Ocean Circulation

  • North Atlantic Ocean circulation became disrupted, causing northern section of North America & Europe to experience sudden ice age.

  • As that occurred, tsunami flooded Manhattan & massive storms pounded Tokyo & Los Angeles. It was disaster of epic proportions, which took place within 2 hours of screen time.

What is Gulf Stream?

  • Gulf Stream is powerful current in Atlantic Ocean.

  • It starts in Gulf of Mexico & flows into Atlantic at tip of Florida, accelerating along eastern coastlines of US & Newfoundland.

  • Gulf Stream is western boundary current; its behaviour is determined by North American coastline.

  • 1st mention of Gulf Stream can be traced to 1513 expedition of Juan Ponce de León.

Reason for Weakening of Gulf Stream

  • “Sea-surface fingerprint” shows that it has slowed by about 15 % since middle of 20th century.

  • Fingerprint shows cooling south of Greenland & warmer waters off east coast of US. The “main reason” is rising greenhouse gas emissions. Climate models predict “very specific pattern” of sea surface changes when Gulf Stream system slows down. “Exactly that pattern” is in observational data since about 1870 in Gulf Stream.

  • Other new research this week showed that Greenland’s massive ice cap is melting at fastest rate for at least 450 years. As greenhouse gas levels rise, this brings more precipitation, as well as loss of sea ice in Arctic & melting of glaciers on Greenland.

Supercomputer Reveals Yellowstone’s Magma Transition Zone

  • Computer models helped researchers simulate conditions beneath Yellowstone, North America’s largest super volcano, allowing them to discover zone that controls movement of magma that flows out from Earth’s mantle during eruption.
  • Last caldera forming eruption occurred 630,000 years ago; last large volume of lava surfaced 70,000 years ago.
Image of Yellowstone’s Magma Transition Zone

Image of Yellowstone’s Magma Transition Zone

Image of Yellowstone’s Magma Transition Zone

How Was Transition Zone Found?

  • Study focused on magmatic system behind eruptions, specifically where magma that erupts comes from & where it accumulates.

  • Results, published in Geophysical Research Letters, showed transition zone 3 to 6 miles below surface where cold & rigid rocks of upper crust give way to hot & partially molten rock.

What Are Transition Zones?

  • Transition zone traps rising magmas & causes them to collect & solidify in sill spanning up to 9 miles thick.

  • Mid-crustal sill separates magma bodies. Upper one contains gas-rich rhyolitic magma that can erupt in explosions.

Volcanic Thunder Recorded for the First Time

Now, in new audio clips published in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists are revealing 1st recordings of phenomenon.

  • B/w December 2016 & August 2017, instruments captured sounds from several eruptions.

  • In addition to loud roar of eruptions, lightning strikes that spring from volcanic plumes create loud claps of thunder.

  • Crackling sound was identified using microphones set up to detect eruptions coming from Bogoslof volcano in Alaska’s southwestern Aleutian Islands.

  • Over 8-month period, microphones picked up mixture of eruption booms & lightning cracks.

  • It wasn’t until study published in 2016 that scientists even knew what caused volcanic lightning.

Reason for Volcanic Lightening

  • Volcanic lightning occurs when electricity flows b/w positively & negatively charged particles.

  • Unlike atmospheric lightning, lightning born from volcanoes forms much closer to ground, in plumes of eruption & unlike atmospheric lightning, volcanic lightning doesn’t always move downward.

  • Result is series of jagged bolts of electricity that appear to jump out of volcano’s mouth.

What Are Tropical Cyclones: World Meteorological Organisation Appreciates India Meteorological Dept.

  • Tropical cyclone is intense low pressure area or whirl in atmosphere over tropical or sub-tropical waters, w/organised convection & winds at low levels, circulating either anti-clockwise (in northern hemisphere) or clockwise (in southern hemisphere).
  • From centre of cyclonic storm, pressure increases outwards. Amount of pressure drop in centre & rate at which it increases outwards gives intensity of cyclones & strength of winds.

IMD Classification of Low Pressure Systems in Bay of Bengal & Arabian Sea

  • India Meteorological Department classifies low pressure systems in Bay of Bengal & in Arabian Sea into 7 classes.

  • Low pressure areas w/max. sustained surface winds of speed b/w 31 & 61 km. p. h. (17 to 33 knots) are called tropical depressions.

  • Once winds around low pressure area reach at least 62 km. p. h, it is called tropical cyclone & is assigned name.

  • When wind speed is b/w 89 & 118 km. p. h (48 & 63 kt) it will be Severe Cyclonic Storm (SCS), b/w 119 & 221 km. p. h (64 & 119 kt) it is Very SCS & when exceeds 221 km. p. h (119 knots), cyclone is called Super Cyclonic Storm.

Tropical Cyclones Require Certain Conditions for Formation:

  • Source of warm, moist air derived from tropical oceans w/sea surface temp. normally near to or in excess of 27 °C

  • Winds near ocean surface blowing from diff. directions converging & causing air to rise & storm clouds to form

  • Winds which do not vary greatly w/height - known as low wind shear. This allows storm clouds to rise vertically to high levels;

  • Coriolis force/spin induced by rotation of Earth. Formation mechanisms vary across world, but once cluster of storm clouds starts to rotate, it becomes tropical depression. If it continues to develop it becomes tropical storm, & later cyclone/super cyclone.

Appreciation by World Meteorological Organisation

  • Timely & accurate cyclone advisories by RSMC, New Delhi apart from other preparedness measures could minimise loss of life & property.

  • Advisories & information issued by RSMC New Delhi are appreciated by WMO & countries like Oman, Yemen & Somalia as per e-mail received from WMO.

  • Antarctic Ice Melt: Sea Levels Might Be Rising Faster Than Once Thought
  • Newly discovered ‘positive feedback loop’ results in deeper waters retaining their temperature, while hastening process of glacial melt, which could have negative effect on world’s sea levels.

Highlights:

  • Sea level rise could be happening at a faster rate than previously thought, as scientists have identified a new source of melting ice in Antarctica.

  • Antarctica is one of the many areas that could be melting faster as warm water trapped underneath it accelerates the process Alessandro Silvano

  • Contrary to the scientists initial thoughts, more of the Totten Glacier has been found floating in Antarctica.

  • New study shows that global warming is melting the Totten Glacier fast.

About Totten Glacier

  • Totten Glacier is East Antarctica’s largest outlet of ice to the ocean and has been thinning rapidly for many years.

  • It is approximately 65 km long and 30 km wide and contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by at least 3.5 m.

- Published/Last Modified on: December 5, 2018

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