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Italy’s Matera promotes less-known World Heritage Sites

Posted on Oct 8, 2013 | Comments Off on Italy’s Matera promotes less-known World Heritage Sites

matera_-_i_sassi

Matera, one of the most remarkable sights iTravelTree has seen in Southern Italy is endeavouring to promote both itself and other, often overlooked, UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Matera is a world-renowned city for its almost prehistoric-like human shelters entangled on a hillside and named “I Sassi” (the stones). I Sassi shelters were evacuated for many years until UNESCO included it in its list of World Heritage sites. It is the first city in the South Italian region to enjoy said privilege – a bliss for the city that began to revive its “dormant treasure,” owing it to newcomers – artists of various cultures pioneering the Sassi renaissance.

Back in the 70s, I Sassi was an ideal location for a number of movie films. Among these, P.P.Pasolini (Il Vangelo secondo Matteo), King David (starring Richard Gere), and La Passione di Cristo by Mel Gibson. The latest generation of film directors have also contributed to further spread the image of this biblical-age portion of the city of Matera.

The Chamber of Commerce of Matera recently decided to create a network called Mirabilia. It includes UNESCO minor cities, “deliberately” excluding those already universally known, in order to promote them in a coordinated manner to Italian and foreign tourists. “In Italy we have a variety of traditions unique in the world, and every UNESCO World Heritage site, especially the minor ones, have a particular characteristic that distinguishes themselves from others,” said Angelo Tortorelli, President of Mirabilia. “Our project is to unite them all, enhancing the value and importance of each respective territory,” he added.

The Chamber of Commerce’s vision is to create a cooperation synonymous of strength and to break up the competition existing among territories.

“In this case, Union Camere’s idea is to create the force – our idea,” says Vito Signati, Director of the Chamber of Commerce of Matera. He added that it is to propose tourism off the beaten path, tourism with a soul. This year the project has been expanded as compared to last year and incorporates nine cities, namely: Brindisi, La Spezia, Genova, L’Aquila, Matera, Perugia, Salerno, Udine, and Vicenza.

“By connecting areas which have a common historical, cultural, and economic life, we wish to propose them to the attention of the domestic and international tourism consumer, with the objective to decentralize and extend their seasonality,” Signati said.

The final aim is to promote the services offered by each territory for the creation of custom-made package tours connecting the Mirabilia destinations. The new itineraries will be proposed for short and long weekends as well as one-week tours.

The handling of this very new (for Italy) type of tour packages has been assigned to Caldana Tour Operator, selected by Mirabilia for its high reliability and deep experience in the field. However, the mandate is not of exclusivity and is open to new applicants.

“The initiative will be presented in Moscow on October 11 to the local travel trade at the Italian Embassy venue, the Rimini travel mart, “TTG Incontri,” being held from October 17-19 and November 5 at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London. The highlight of the 2013 edition presentation will end in Matera on November 25 to 27 in connection with the “Cultural Tourism Fair.”

For more information, go to www.mirabilianetwork.eu

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The Arctic – Two Sides of the Same Story Pt 1

Posted on Oct 6, 2013 | Comments Off on The Arctic – Two Sides of the Same Story Pt 1

Figure

Fig 1.

Figure 1. A geography of the Arctic. (The International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean, courtesy of Martin Jakobsson.)

The Arctic shifts to a new normal

Martin O. Jeffries, James E. Overland, and Donald K. Perovich

October 2013, page 35

On 5 September 1980, when the Arctic sea-ice cover reached its minimum extent for the year, it blanketed much of the Arctic Ocean and choked the inter-island channels of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. Not only did ice extend over 7.5 million square kilometers, almost equal in area to the contiguous 48 US states, but it was an old, and thus thick, ice cover: 62% was multiyear sea ice—that which survives one or more summer melt seasons—and 38% was first-year sea ice. The age and thickness of the ice made it resilient to atmospheric and oceanic forcing, such as solar radiation, storms, and air and water temperatures. Consequently, the seasonal cycle of winter advance and summer retreat was thought to be in a near steady state.
The extensive, thick ice cover that persisted through the end of the summer was considered normal at the time and for many years afterwards. It was expected of a region generally perceived to be cold, hostile, and isolated from the rest of the world, a zone of Cold War confrontation yet of little immediate consequence to most people. Northern residents would rightly have disagreed with that characterization, and multinational corporations were finding and profitably exploiting large energy and mineral reserves. The Prudhoe Bay oil field in northernmost Alaska had been producing for three years—and continues to do so—and the Polaris mine on Little Cornwallis Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was to begin 22 years of lead and zinc production in 1981. And scientists continued to visit, almost exclusively in the summer—rather like migratory birds—to conduct fieldwork. (See figure 1 for a map of the region.)
In October 1980 Syukuro Manabe and Ronald Stouffer (both then working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) reported the results of a numerical experiment on the sensitivity of global climate to a quadrupling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.1 The consequences for the Arctic were profound. Their model projected an asymmetric seasonal surface air-temperature response—greater winter warming than summer warming in the Arctic itself, and greater winter and annual warming in the Arctic than at lower latitudes. It also projected a large decline in sea-ice extent and thickness.
Whereas Manabe and Stouffer’s simulation quadrupled the atmospheric CO2 concentrations in its artificial world, the actual increase to date has been much lower. At Barrow in northernmost Alaska, for example, the mean CO2concentration of 385 ppm in September 2012 was only 15% higher than the 331 ppm of September 1980. And yet profound changes in surface air temperature, sea ice, and numerous other environmental conditions have occurred in the Arctic.

Retreating sea ice

On 16 September 2012, the minimum extent of sea ice was 3.4 million square kilometers, the lowest since satellite observations began in 1979 and 55% less coverage than existed in September 1980, as shown in figure 2. In September 2012 there was little sea ice in the inter-island channels of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago, and in the Arctic basin the summer ice edge was distant from the Alaskan and Eurasian coasts. The 2012 ice cover was also younger and thinner, with 58% of it less than a year old. A thin ice cover is less resilient and more prone to melting and retreat in summer than a thick one. It is also more translucent and thus allows greater light transmission into the underlying ocean. One consequence is a rise in what’s known as primary production—that is, photosynthesis by algae and phytoplankton—in the water below the ice and in previously ice-covered waters.
Figure

Fig 2.

Figure 2. The decline in areal extent of Arctic sea ice has been mapped daily since 1979 by satellites using passive microwave sensors. (a) Between September 1980, when the summer minimum was 7.5 million square kilometers, and September 2012, when there were 3.4 million square kilometers of ice, the end of summer ice extent has shrunk by 55%. (b)Minimum (September) and maximum (March) ice-extent anomalies for each year are plotted beginning in 1979, when satellite observations began. Each data point represents the departure of the measured ice extent in March and September each year from the average of those months over the reference period 1979–2012. (Data are from the Sea Ice Index, National Snow and Ice Data Center; see http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index. Walt Meier provided the plot.)
The minimum extent of sea ice is currently declining by an average of 91 600 km2 per year, roughly equivalent to the area of Maine, or −13.0% per decade relative to the 1979–2000 average. The maximum extent, typically recorded in March, is also declining, though at a slower rate of −2.6% per decade, and in March 2013 sea ice more than a year old made up only 30% of the ice cover. The shift to a younger, thinner ice cover is due to dynamic and thermodynamic processes, but determining the relative contribution of each remains a difficult research problem (see the article by Ron Kwok and Norbert Untersteiner in Physics TodayApril 2011, page 36).
The decline in summer sea-ice extent has attracted growing media attention since 2007, when a precipitous drop shook the scientific community. That drop was followed by yet another to a new low in the summer of 2012. Indeed, the six years from 2007 through 2012 have seen the lowest ice extents in the satellite record (see figure 2b). The marked downward trend experienced in those years suggests a shift to a new normal for sea ice. Profound change is not limited to sea ice, though. A new normal is evident throughout the Arctic environment—in the atmosphere, in the ocean, and on land.

What else is changing

Global warming produces a larger effect in the Arctic than it does in midlatitudes, as shown in figure 3 and as predicted by Manabe and Stouffer.1 (Incidentally, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was the first, in 1896, to quantify the contribution of CO2 to the greenhouse effect and to suggest greater warming in the Arctic than at lower latitudes.) Arctic air temperature increased in all seasons during the period 2000–09, with the greatest warming in autumn and winter.2Mean annual temperature in the Arctic is now 1.5 °C higher than the 1971–2000 average; that’s more than double the warming at lower latitudes during the same period.3
Figure

Fig 3.

Figure 3. Annual near-surface air temperature changes in the Northern Hemisphere are mapped as the average temperature measured between 2001 and 2012 relative to the average temperature for the 30-year baseline period 1971–2000. Arctic temperature changes of +2–3 °C, compared with the more modest rise of +0.5–1 °C in midlatitude regions, exemplify Arctic amplification of global climate change. Higher temperatures in all parts of the Arctic indicate a response to global change rather than to natural regional variability. (Data are from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado:http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd.)
As the sea ice has retreated, it has exposed an ever-growing area of open water to solar radiation, and ocean heating each summer has increased due to the large difference in albedo—the fraction of solar irradiance reflected by the surface—between ice and water.4 Consequently, August sea-surface temperatures are now as much as 3 °C higher than their 1982–2006 average, and the upper-ocean heat content has increased by as much as 25% in the Canada Basin’s Beaufort Gyre, compared with its content in the 1970s. The Beaufort Gyre is also the region of the greatest freshwater accumulation in the Arctic Ocean, up about 25% since the 1970s, a rise that has strengthened the stratification of the upper ocean and deepened the halocline.3
The halocline is the upper-ocean layer in which a strong salinity gradient and near-freezing temperatures maintain the water column’s stability, which keeps apart the cold surface waters and sea ice above from the warmer Pacific and Atlantic waters below. In the Canada Basin, the halocline lies at depths of 50–150 m, just above Pacific water that enters the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait,3 where oceanic fluxes of heat and freshwater have increased by some 50% since 2001.
Sea ice is integral to the marine ecosystem, and its decline has biological consequences. Satellite measurements, shown in figure 4, reveal a roughly 20% overall increase in ocean primary production between 1998 and 2009, mostly on the Eurasian side of the Arctic Ocean due to increases in the extent and duration of open water.5 Unexpectedly massive under-ice phytoplankton blooms, found in July 2011 to extend at least 150 km into consolidated pack ice in the Chukchi Sea, suggest that previous estimates of annual primary production might be 10 times too low in waters where such under-ice blooms occur.6 The blooms might benefit from sea-ice melt ponds acting as skylights that channel solar radiation to the water below the ice.
Figure

Fig 4.

Figure 4. The maximum Normalized Difference Vegetation Index(MaxNDVI) is a measure of vegetation greenness observed from space. It is also a proxy for aboveground biomass at the peak of the growing season. Shown here is the change it underwent from 1982 to 2011 and, with the same color bar, the change in total annual primary production—a measure of photosynthesis by algae and phytoplankton in units of grams of carbon per square meter per year—over the period 1998–2009 in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent waters. (Adapted from ref. 3, prepared by Karen Frey and Uma Bhatt.)
In the Canada Basin, by contrast, the strengthening of upper-ocean stratification and deepening of the halocline may be limiting primary production. Coupled with the uptake of atmospheric CO2, the reduced primary production probably accounts for the acidification of surface waters in the Canada Basin.7
Researchers looking at the other end of the biota size scale find that the loss of sea-ice habitat is negatively affecting certain marine mammals. Walruses, for instance, have increasingly limited access to summer sea-ice cover where they normally rest while feeding in shallow continental-shelf waters near the coasts of Russia and Alaska; instead, they are going ashore in large numbers along the Chukchi coasts of Russia and Alaska, farther from the feeding grounds. There is also evidence for the migration of mollusk, crab, and fish species northward through the Bering Strait. A shift to an ecosystem whose food web is spread throughout the water column rather than localized on the sea bottom of the Chukchi Sea8 would favor species such as bowhead, fin, humpback, minke, and blue whales, while bottom feeders, such as walruses, bearded seals, and diving ducks, would be disadvantaged.
On land, snow-cover duration is declining in North America and Eurasia, primarily due to earlier spring melt, which reduces the land surface albedo.9,10 As terrestrial snow cover and sea ice have retreated and the sea surface has warmed, tundra greenness and aboveground biomass (see figure 4), particularly shrubs, have increased.
Change is also occurring belowground. A steady increase in permafrost temperature on the North Slope of Alaska exemplifies a circumpolar trend that has been evident since the mid-20th century.3 What’s more, the warming has coincided with observations of large fluxes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere from terrestrial and offshore sources. Reassuringly, though, evidence to date indicates that natural methane emissions in the Arctic have not risen significantly in the past decade.11
Glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland ice sheet are rapidly losing mass (see figure 5), a worrisome trend given their potential role in sea-level rise. On the Greenland ice sheet, the area and duration of melting have been increasing, and the surface albedo has been decreasing7 since satellite observations of the two effects began in 1979 and 2000, respectively. Strong advection of warm air from the south in recent summers has contributed to the extensive surface melting and mass losses from the Greenland ice sheet and Canadian Arctic glaciers and ice caps.3
Figure

Fig 5.

Figure 5. The Greenland ice sheet and glaciers and ice caps in the Gulf of Alaska region and the high Canadian Arctic have been losing mass, by melting and iceberg calving, since GRACE satellite observations began more than 10 years ago. Mass loss, in gigatons, from the Greenland ice sheet is accelerating and is currently almost three times the combined total loss from the Alaskan and Canadian sources. The seasonal cycle of winter snow accumulation and summer melting is evident in the oscillations recorded from each region. (Adapted from ref. 7, prepared by Marco Tedesco and Gabe Wolken.)

Sources of Arctic amplification

Manabe and Stouffer did not use the term, but the strong, all-season temperature response in the Arctic to CO2-induced global warming is now commonly referred to as Arctic amplification. As mentioned earlier, the actual increase in Earth’s atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gas levels since 1980 is a small fraction of that used in the Manabe–Stouffer model. The disparity raises the question of what drives the amplification. The short answer is modest external forcing from midlatitudes combined with multiple positive feedbacks within the Arctic system itself; for more details, see the accounts by Mark Serreze and Roger Barry2 and by Julienne Stroeve and her coauthors.4
The spatial synthesis of atmospheric data, known as reanalysis fields, offers evidence that the poleward transport of energy in the troposphere leads to higher Arctic air temperatures at the surface, particularly in winter. Satellite measurements indicate that the heat flux into the Arctic is accompanied by an increase in cloud cover and water vapor. Clouds amplify the effects of surface warming by augmenting the net downward long-wave radiation flux and the greenhouse effect of water vapor (see the article by Bjorn Stevens and Sandrine Bony in Physics TodayJune 2013, page 29), particularly in winter and spring. Model studies indicate that the warming might be further enhanced by the rise in atmospheric concentrations of carbon aerosols, known as black carbon or soot, which also absorb solar radiation. Black carbon deposition might be reducing the albedo and thus accelerating the melting of sea ice and of snow and ice on land.
The poleward transport of atmospheric heat and moisture causes local changes in the sea-ice cover and other Arctic-specific variables. Higher air temperatures at the surface reduce winter sea-ice growth rates; the thinner cover is then more vulnerable to melting in spring. Areas of dark (low-albedo), radiation-absorbing open water, in turn, lead to further melting. The increase in the ocean’s heat content inevitably delays the autumn freeze.
Ponds of meltwater that accumulate on the sea ice absorb an increasing amount of solar radiation as they grow larger, which leads to further melting over the course of a summer. The albedo effect also applies to glaciers and snow on land. On the Greenland ice sheet, for example, the decreasing albedo of the ice surface promotes further melting and runoff, an effect enhanced by a decline in summer snowfall. On land, atmospheric warming leads to earlier snow melt in late spring and exposure of the darker land surface. That exposure, in turn, further warms the surface and the atmosphere above it.
The transport of Atlantic and Pacific waters also provides heat to the Arctic. However, those water masses flow many tens of meters below the surface, and the processes by which the heat would reach the surface of the highly stratified upper-ocean water column remain to be determined. A new upper-ocean feature is the so-called near-surface temperature maximum. Originating from solar warming in summer, the NSTM is residual heat that has survived autumn cooling and has the potential to melt ice in the subsequent winter and reduce the maximum ice thickness.
The combination of external forces and regional feedbacks doesn’t alter only the Arctic environment. Interestingly, growing evidence suggests that changes in the Arctic have their own effects at lower latitudes, as outlined in the box onpage 37.

Socioeconomic consequences

The Arctic Ocean and adjacent subarctic seas supply food for indigenous peoples whose culture and traditional way of life are affected by the prevalence of open water. They now must travel farther offshore—over more unstable ice or through increasingly rough seas—to hunt mammals that live in icy habitats. The wave action on thawing and vulnerable shorelines accelerates the coastal erosion and is affecting village, archaeological, and sacred sites. In Alaska, the estimated cost of relocating a single village farther inland is on the order of $100 million.
Roads, railways, runways, pipelines, harbors, and homes are all vulnerable to effects of warming in permafrost-rich regions. Yet the demand for new construction and its impact on residents and the environment will only rise with the predicted increase in oil, gas, and mineral extraction efforts. Recognizing a growing interest in an Arctic Ocean fishery, the US declared a moratorium on commercial fishing in its Arctic waters in 2009, citing the need to learn more about fish stocks and the ecosystem.
Maritime transportation, including cruise-ship traffic and summertime trans-Arctic shipping that takes advantage of the shorter distance between Europe and Asia, is also expected to rise. The prospect of increased vessel traffic and natural resource extraction indicates the need for other types of supporting infrastructure and capabilities—for instance, maritime domain awareness, oil-spill prevention and response, search and rescue, and communications—in a region where they are severely limited. Some people predict that global competition for natural resources will lead to confrontation, instability, and militarization. Others doubt such consequences in a region where governance is considered to be strong.

Whither the Arctic?

The Arctic environment is highly sensitive to increases in global mean temperatures and ultimately to the continuing increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. That sensitivity is manifest as large and persistent physical and biological shifts relative to previous observations and suggests a new normal for the Arctic environmental system.
For all the evidence of system-wide environmental change, the Arctic remains a data-sparse region. Observations are far from comprehensive; the infrastructure required to make them—for instance, weather stations, stream gauges, and snow courses—is often threatened with diminishment or outright shutdown, and open data access has yet to be universally adopted. As a result, opportunities to detect change will remain limited, as will our understanding of the processes behind it and our ability to forecast the future. Those are all problems that frustrate public and private planners, managers, and policymakers who must make decisions based on the Arctic’s new normal environmental state.
For example, it’s been known for years that the observed rate of sea-ice retreat exceeds the rate simulated using climate models. And despite a great deal of effort that has gone into improving the models in preparation for the fifth assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the spread among the current generation of models remains large,12 as shown in figure 6.
Figure

Fig 6.

Figure 6. Sea-ice extent is declining faster than models predict.The large spread of ±1 standard deviation (SD; gray) in 84 predictions of ice extent from 36 different current models underscores the uncertainty about the future state of the ice cover and the need to improve our understanding of air-ice-ocean processes and their representation in the models. These and similar results form the basis for the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The black curve plots observational data dating back to 1953 from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The yellow and blue curves are the mean and median of the model results, respectively. (Adapted from ref. 13.)
Indeed, an extrapolation of the trend in sea-ice volume estimates suggests that nearly ice-free Arctic summers could become the norm as soon as a decade or so.13 By contrast, models that form the basis for AR5 predict that won’t happen until mid century (roughly 2060, according to the median line in figure 6). The gap is relevant for policymakers: The observation-based estimate lends an urgency to the issue of responding to climate change; the model-projected estimates do not. Many Arctic scientists consider that although the models provide qualitative support for Arctic amplification and future sea-ice loss, they have limited value for quantitative projections. Model deficiencies in ocean circulation, cloud physics, atmospheric dynamics, and albedo parameterization—details that go beyond sea-ice physics per se—all contribute to the spread among model predictions.
Therefore, improving observations, understanding, and models of sea-ice, ocean and atmospheric processes, interactions, and feedbacks are among the numerous goals identified for immediate action in the US Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) research plan.14 Released in February 2013, the five-year plan focuses on seven broad research themes most likely to benefit from better communication and coordination among federal agencies and from partnerships with the State of Alaska, local communities, indigenous organizations, nongovernmental groups, and the academic community. The IARPC plan has grown in significance with the release by the Obama administration in May 2013 of its National Strategy for the Arctic Region, which stresses the need to increase understanding of the Arctic through research that will support decision making informed by the best available scientific information.
The IARPC plan and the National Strategy also emphasize the need for the US to work with international partners. Such cooperation is exemplified by the Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO), which consists of six biological “hot spots” that extend from the northern Bering Sea through the Chukchi Sea to the western Beaufort Sea. The DBO sites are maintained by the Pacific Arctic Group of six countries—Canada, China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the US—all of which have agreed to make and share a standard set of biophysical measurements whenever one of their research vessels enters a hot spot. Another consortium, International Arctic Systems for Observing the Atmosphere (IASOA), which promotes data access and coordinated atmospheric observations of, among other things, greenhouse gases, clouds, energy fluxes, pollutants, and aerosols, also exemplifies good observing practice and data policy.
The DBO and IASOA contribute to Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON), a joint activity of the Arctic Council (the representatives of eight Arctic countries and indigenous peoples) and the nongovernmental International Arctic Science Committee of 21 national member organizations. The goal of SAON is to encourage partnerships and synergies among observation and data networks and to promote the sharing and synthesis of data and information.
In 1980 much Arctic science was motivated by Cold War confrontation as the US and the Soviet Union faced each other across the Arctic Ocean. Then, even at the end of the summer, the Arctic Ocean remained a largely ice-covered barrier. Today the motivation for Arctic science and the geopolitical situation have changed. The retreat of the sea ice and opening of the Arctic Ocean, their role in Arctic amplification of global warming and its impact on lower latitudes, and the socioeconomic and geopolitical ramifications of the new normal in the Arctic are feeding the need for international collaboration in policy as much as in science.

Box. Arctic amplification and lower-latitude weather

Due to positive feedback, a modest rise in temperature at Earth’s midlatitudes leads to a greater temperature rise in the Arctic. But such amplification in the Arctic can, in turn, affect the weather at lower latitudes. For instance, record winter snowfalls and low temperatures recently experienced in Earth’s midlatitudes are thought to arise in part from the heating in autumn and early winter of the Arctic troposphere—the lower roughly 10 km of its atmosphere. The weather extremes are driven by changes in wind patterns caused by the warming temperatures over areas of the Arctic Ocean free of sea ice. The winds enhance the southerly transfer of relatively colder Arctic air masses.15 Some researchers argue that such Arctic forcing, while controversial, increases the north–south amplitude of the polar jet stream and reduces its wind speed.16
The result is slower-moving weather systems in midlatitude regions and a higher probability of extreme events, such as cold spells and heat waves, flooding and drought, and Greenland ice-sheet melting.16 The eastern US, northern Europe, and far-eastern Asia seem particularly prone to such Arctic influences. Although the increased forcing from the Arctic is well documented, the processes that link Arctic forcing to the more chaotic atmospheric flow in midlatitudes are more speculative. Mechanisms for Arctic amplification and potential weather effects in lower latitudes have been documented in recent scientific articles, and they remain a major area of Arctic climate research.
Martin Jeffries is an Arctic science advisor at the US Arctic Research Commission in Arlington, Virginia, and a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. James Overland is a research oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, and an adjunct professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. Don Perovich is a geophysicist at the US Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and an adjunct professor of engineering at Dartmouth College, both in Hanover, New Hampshire.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We thank the US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Naval Research, NASA, and NSF for their continuing support. Jim Maslanik and Mark Tschudi provided the sea-ice age data. Lori Bruhwiler provided the September 2012 atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration value for Barrow, Alaska.
This article first appeared in:
http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v66/i10/p35_s1?bypassSSO=1&goback=%2Egde_2878181_member_278003718

References

  1. S. Manabe, R. J. Stouffer, J. Geophys. Res. 85, 5529 (1980).
  2. M. C. Serreze, R. G. Barry, Global Planet. Change 77, 85 (2011).
  3. M. O. Jeffries, J. Richter-Menge, J. E. Overland, eds., Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012, http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/report12.
  4. J. C. Stroeve et al., Climatic Change 110, 1005 (2012).
  5. K. R. Arrigo, G. van Dijken, J. Geophys. Res. [Oceans] 116, C09011 (2011).
  6. K. R. Arrigo et al., Science 336, 1408 (2012).
  7. M. O. Jeffries, J. Richter-Menge, eds., Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 94, S111 (2013).
  8. J. Grebmeier et al., Science 311, 1461 (2006).
  9. M. G. Flanner et al., Nat. Geosci. 4, 151 (2011).
  10. C. Derksen, R. Brown, Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L19504 (2012).
  11. E. Dlugokencky, L. Bruhwiler, Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, S130 (2012).
  12. R. Knutti, J. Sedláček, Nat. Climate Change 3, 369 (2012).
  13. J. Overland, M. Wang, Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 2097 (2013).
  14. National Science and Technology Council, Arctic Research Plan FY2013–2017, NSTC, Washington, DC (2013).
  15. J. E. Overland, K. R. Wood, M. Wang, Polar Res. 30, 15787 (2011).
  16. J. A. Francis, S. J. Vavrus, Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L06801 (2012).
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Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Posted on Oct 4, 2013 | Comments Off on Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Orville, Wilbur and Me

You too can fly a Wright aircraft.

  • By Phil Scott
replicaA replica is now available for flying just a few miles from where the Wrights experimented. Above: Our writer enjoys a few moments of stable flight.
It’s offered by www.wrightexperience.com

The Wright brothers never trudged up these dunes barefoot.Bruce Weaver, Andy Torrington, and I are struggling to carry a glider up a sandy winding trail in Nags Head, North Carolina. A near-exact reproduction of a 1902 Wright aircraft, the glider rests on a four-wheel dolly with balloon tires. Andy is pulling and steering, Bruce is pushing, and I’m trying to keep tree branches from snagging the flexing wings while tip-toeing on hot sand spiked with underbrush. Barefoot is the best way to get up a hill of sand, but as the sun torches the tops of my feet, I start to appreciate the Wrights’ formality. When they conducted their flying experiments a fewmiles north, they wore shoes (not to mention wool suits and ties).

The glider weighs around 120 pounds, but it feels heavier, and it’s bulky—302 square feet of yellowing cotton wings built just like the original: the same ash and spruce frame and weather-beaten, cross-stitched fabric. Constructed in 2003 by The Wright Experience, a group run by renowned Wright scholar/replica builder Ken Hyde, it’s the closest the team could get to the original. Sure, they used multiple twisted wires because the original single-strand hard wire breaks too quickly, and they added a harness rigged to hold you in when you hit the sand. You’re going to hit a lot of sand.

Complete accuracy is impossible: Of the original, only a wingtip bow exists. The brothers famously never left plans, only the patent drawings. (It was the glider, not the powered 1903 Flyer, that first achieved the three-axis control that the brothers patented.) “There are some sketches and notes in their papers, in their notebooks,” Hyde says, adding: “Luckily, the brothers took a lot of good photos.”

Hyde and The Wright Experience built this glider for the Discovery of Flight Foundation, which used it to train pilots for a flight planned in a replica Flyer for December 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight. (That attempt failed.) Once the glider had served its mission, the foundation, like the Wright brothers, stashed the craft in a hangar.

Last year Paul Glenshaw, the executive director of the foundation, and his son visited Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, which offers instruction in a variety of hang-gliders. Glenshaw sat down with the school’s manager, and along with The Wright Experience, they worked out an agreement in which the school would use the replica to teach gliding on the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Glenshaw says he wanted people to connect with the Wright brothers’ accomplishment, and Hyde says Kitty Hawk Kites was the right group to show what the glider can do: “They know the winds and they know the weather.”

For $349, Kitty Hawk Kites offers a four-hour flight lesson in the glider, with up to five students per lesson. The company has started with one lesson a week. So far, 35 pilots have flown the Wright glider. (“Pilots” may be a misnomer: No experience in airplanes or gliders is necessary.)

When I first arrived at Jockey’s Ridge, Bruce, the clean-cut recreation manager, and assistant recreation manager Andy took me to the school’s hangar. The glider was up on a rack. “It looks fragile but it takes a beating,” Bruce said. “It flexes, it creaks, but it bounces back into shape. It’s tougher than it looks.”

“How safe is it?” I asked.

“I think it’s very safe,” said Bruce.

Well, no one died in the Wrights’ glider, I thought.

Bruce, Andy, and I made the long haul up Jockey’s Ridge. Andy, a happy guy with long, thinning red hair, was wearing the Kitty Hawk Kites uniform: bare feet, shorts, and a T-shirt.

Up on the Jockey’s Ridge peak, the wheat-color biplane got curious looks from nearby students in starter hang gliders. Bruce and Andy lifted the glider off the dolly and set to work connecting control wires to control surfaces. I put on the helmet that the two give fliers.

Bruce explained the canard—the forward elevator. It’s operated by twisting a one-by-four bar of ash that is mounted horizontally between the two skids, at about the pilot’s chest level. Its ends are wrapped in wax string, the duct tape of the day, to keep the wood from splintering. The bar is linked to the elevator with window sash chains that are routed around wooden pulleys bolted inside the frame. Bruce said it was my job to control pitch: “When flying it, try to make small movements. The canard may flutter—the springs dampen it. Don’t over-control it.”

To lift off, he said, “hop until your foot doesn’t touch the ground, then get it across the bar. On landing, just belly in and keep your feet up. The glider is built so when it comes in to land, it doesn’t want to nose up and stall. It wants to belly-land instead of dive into the ground—which is handy.”

In the open space in the lower wing, I got on my knees. Andy hooked my harness to the glider, had me lie prone in the cradle, and told me to hook the top part of one foot over a rectangular chunk of wood near the trailing edge. We were pointed directly in what little wind there was.

At Bruce’s signal we lifted the glider off the dune. In a 10- to 15-mph wind gust, it does weigh less, but not much. I gripped each end of the swiveling bar and held the elevator level, grinding my naked elbows onto the sandy skids.

The next gust lifted the glider; Bruce asked if I was ready.

I took a deep breath and said yes.

Bruce and Andy started hauling ass down the slope, holding the tow-lines that were attached to the ends of the wing. The glider tried to lift off, and it looked like we had enough speed to let me pull my other leg up and hook my toes over the bar.

It’s flying…. I’m flying…on my stomach behind that famous football-shaped elevator…

Without much altitude or warning, it nosed down. I rolled the ash bar back, which didn’t help the airspeed at all. The glider sort of slammed into the dune.

“Are you okay?” Bruce asked. He was sprawled out on the sand just beyond the wingtip.

“Yeah. Are you okay?” I said.

He leapt to his feet and showered me with positive reinforcement, then told me I’d violated the over-control rule. He and Andy lifted the glider, and Bruce told me to hold the elevator up to get the wings to sail us to the dune top.

Waiting for another weak gust, we sat in the wing’s shadow and guzzled the bottled water we’d packed. Bruce recounted that they’d gotten in some 300-foot glides. “The beauty of it is, if it rains, you get 25 percent more distance because that fabric shrinks up and it’s not nearly as porous. There’s a point where it gets too much, but rain is your friend with that glider.”

We launched again.

I’m flying…. I’m flying…. The left wing dipped, and reflexively I shoved my hip left. The tip stabbed the sand and the glider spiraled. The Wrights called it “well-digging.”

The wind changed direction and picked up to a steady 20 mph, so we hauled the glider from the dune’s relatively shallow east side to the south face’s deeper, wider sand valley. Bruce pointed to a weathered yellow house on the next ridge and told me to point the elevator there. We three lifted the glider—really, we just stopped holding it down—and I got situated: I slid my hips onto the cradle, using my bare feet to push against that aft horizontal bar, elbows clenching my ribcage and holding up my upper body in a sort of yoga pose, both hands gripping the ends of the elevator control bar. I felt like Orville, in the glass-plate photos I’ve seen of him in the glider.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

They ran forward and played out a few feet of line while the glider instantly gripped the wind. I held the glider level, and the ground dropped away. I’m flying…I’m flying…I’m really flying this #*%& glider…

I held the elevator steady, kept the wings level, and glanced down. We were still flying straight and they were running down the white dune backward, maybe 20 feet below. While the Wrights had no altimeter on board, that was likely their average altitude as well—though their pal George Spratt estimated that on one glide, they reached 60 feet. While the glider soared, I tried to spot the yellow house. Mostly I allowed the glider to do what it wanted to do. Don’t over-control.

It plunged, spraying sand and jarring my teeth a little.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

The next flight started out as a repeat of the first, but this time, once I was airborne, the glider dipped left and I got busy sliding the cradle right, but over-corrected; now the right wing dipped, and I slid just a little to the left, all while concentrating on holding the elevator level. We were in no danger of well-digging—then, well, the remaining few seconds played out same as before, though the landing went smoother. We didn’t measure the distance, but I may have flown as far as 200 feet. The Wrights made it farther—between September and October 1902, they made between 700 and 1,000 glides, flying from 200 and 400 feet, though their longest flight was 622.5 feet.

On October 23, 1902, Orville Wright wrote to his sister Katharine: “Day before yesterday we had a wind of 16 meters per second or about 30 miles per hour, and glided in it without any trouble. That was the highest wind a gliding machine was ever in, so that we now hold all the records! The largest machine we handled in any kind [of weather, made the longest dis]tance glide (American), the longest time in the air, the smallest angle of descent, and the highest wind!!!”

One hundred and ten years later, strapped to an identical aircraft on the same breezy dunes, I started feeling the excitement Orville had. “The sense of connection with the Wright brothers is the overriding sensation I get while flying the glider,” Andy said. “Knowing that the Wright brothers at one point felt exactly what I felt while flying the glider is pretty amazing.” I knew what he meant. After each landing I was torn between wanting to run to my backpack for a quick swig of water, and run back to prepare for the quickest takeoff possible. Each time I realized that my tongue was sticking to the top of my mouth, I thought: There will always be time for water later, when the wind dies down.

 

article originally appeared in:

http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/Orville-Wilburand-Me-162924306.html?c=y&story=fullstory

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Why Airports Are Tracking Your Smartphone Use While You Wait for Flights

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Why Airports Are Tracking Your Smartphone Use While You Wait for Flights

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More airports are monitoring data from passengers’ cell phones use as part of the quest to improve operations.

Looking to get ‘smart’ about how they manage passenger flow, the airports in Toronto and Copenhagen, among others, track the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals on passengers’ smartphones as they move throughout the airport.

The data is valuable to airports for its potential to help eliminate passenger traffic bottlenecks and determine staffing needs.

But it also offers value to passengers, the providers say. The input will help to shorten their wait times, for one thing. And in the cases of airports like Copenhagen, which offers an app it developed in concert with its tracking program, the data will give travelers useful information about their own trips. WIth advance notice that security waits are extra long, for instance, a flyer can make the decision to forego a pre-flight coffee in favor of hustling to get in line.

Perhaps most important to airports’ financial interests, the results of passenger tracking will reveal where and how airport customers spend money amid the multi-billion dollar industry of airport concessions.

The programs could even help determine where those dollars are spent, as concessions companies advertise promotions through the apps that they develop alongside tracking programs.

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The Burden of Fake Reviews

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 | Comments Off on The Burden of Fake Reviews

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One of the quiet plagues of online commerce has been the shadowy firms that some businesses pay to write glowing reviews on sites like Yelp, Citysearch, Google and Yahoo. On Monday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced agreements with 19 of the bogus review companies to stop the practice and pay $350,000 in fines.

The issue is not unique to New York, however. Paid reviews manipulate shopping behavior across the Web. The question is whether any amount of fines and cease-and-desist agreements can put a dent in the problem.

“It’s a classic false advertising case. People who read online reviews reasonably assume that the reviews were written by actual customers,” says Jeff Rabkin, California’s special assistant attorney general for law and technology. “It’s an old-time fraud emerging in a new marketplace.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office is looking into the problem of fraudulent reviews, but a spokesman would not provide specifics.

The rise of customer reviews on sites like San Francisco-based Yelp has also given rise to a cottage industry of bogus reviewers, paid to write glowing copy about a product or service they may know next to nothing about. Some of the bogus review writers are located overseas in Asia or elsewhere. Some are single-person operations pounding away on a home computer.

Trusted advertising

Surveys paint a disconcerting picture of their impact. An April 2012 study from Nielsen found online reviews were the second most trusted form of advertising after word-of-mouth by family and friends. Yet the technology research firmGartner estimates that by 2014, some 15 percent of online reviews will be fake.And a 2011 study from Harvard Business School found that a one-star increase in a Yelp rating increased a restaurant’s revenue up to 9 percent.

Being tricked into buying a lousy sandwich is not the end of the world. But reviews of doctors, lawyers, mechanics and construction companies influence important transactions. Can the fake reviews be stopped?

The Federal Trade Commission released new guidelines in March trying to address all the new ways consumers get information about purchases. Under the guidelines, if someone is compensated for writing a review of a business, they must disclose the relationship.

Finding the fakes

Yelp tries to snuff out the phonies with clever algorithms that detect suspect testimonials by combing the language and the users’ habits as they submit reviews. Over 42 million reviews across tens of millions of businesses exist on Yelp, yet the company’s algorithms detect about 25 percent of them as bogus and don’t display them to consumers, according to Vince Sollitto, Yelp’s vice president of communications.

Sollitto says there’s a give and take, however. Sometimes Yelp’s algorithms will accidentally flag real reviews as fake and upset business owners.

“Ironically, we get some flak for that,” he says. “That’s the price we have to pay.”

Fraud detection is competitive and, accordingly, Yelp doesn’t share information about fraudulent users with other websites and services. That makes business sense. At the same time, if firms shared more data about fake reviewers, it might help everyone sniff them out.

Anonymity a problem

Indeed, the anonymity of the Web compounds the problem. While traditional reviewers like Zagat’s and Fodor’s may only consult on a few opinions when judging a business, they are brands people feel they can trust. Crowdsourced opinions employ thousands of reviews, most by unknown reviewers, leaving consumers struggling to weed out the phony ones.

Perhaps the easiest way to validate reviewers would be through social-network sign-ons. Fakers wanting to create false reviews would have to create real-looking profiles on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, complete with many friends, messages and photos — an arduous task.

Facebook has dabbled in these waters, offering a service that requires a Facebook log-in to comment on articles so people think twice about what they say.

But that isn’t a perfect solution. Not everyone is comfortable on Facebook, and others may still feel fine writing glowing phony reviews under their social network IDs.

For now, consumers can try taking the average sentiment of a dozen reviews, if not more. The fakers might still get through. But there are enough real voices out there to drown out the phonies if digital shoppers take the time to listen to them.

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Iceland bares its secrets

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Iceland bares its secrets

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REYKJAVIK, Iceland – This week Iceland will launch a new tourism campaign to inspire travelers to seek out the country’s undiscovered treasures.

Share the Secret is a new campaign by Inspired by Iceland, the country’s tourism promotional effort. The campaign will draw on local knowledge to reveal some of the country’s hidden treasures by encouraging Icelanders to share their secrets and offer visitors the opportunity to discover unique experiences around the country.

The campaign will cover a wide variety of themes from Icelandic nature and culture, with secrets and insider tips from locals and Icelandic experts shared on food, design, music, shopping and adventure across all the Inspired by Iceland platforms. Icelanders will share personal favourites and travel tips with visitors online, via social media (#icelandsecret) and through experiential activity, offering a more intimate experience of their much beloved homeland to tourists. Using both physical and digital secrets the campaign will bring to life some of Iceland’s greatest wonders.

The campaign will encourage travellers to arrive with a spirit of adventure, to go further and do more, and will ask Icelanders and previous visitors to Iceland to share their best kept secrets of the country; be it their favourite record store, secret family recipe, or a spot by the lake with the very best view of the Northern Lights.

The website http://www.inspiredbyiceland.com will become a hub for secrets, with Icelanders and tourists sharing secret places and activities on an interactive map and blog. Fans and visitors on social media will be encouraged to contribute their own secrets and experiences via Facebook and Twitter, which will be shared across all platforms.

Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir, Director for Tourism & Creative Industries at Promote Iceland, comments, “This year we want to encourage Icelanders and visitors alike to share with others just what makes the country so magical. We want to highlight the undiscovered side of Iceland and show that Iceland is a place of adventure and discovery and we are hoping that travellers will be inspired to come and seek out the secrets of others and leave with their own to share.”

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Kruger NP Goes Flat Screen

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Kruger NP Goes Flat Screen

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The Kruger National Park has installed flat screen television screens to enhance information dissemination to tourists in the park.

The screens have been installed and are already in use at the gate and camp receptions. Making use of text, images, audio and video, the screens will present visitors with content such as updates on the developments of the park, park rules and regulations, emergencies like road closures, park events and campaigns, scientific research and other projects, rare animal sightings and more.

“The expectations from the public are changing, they want the speed on access to information; they want prompt delivery of the answer, rather than guidance or instruction. We were looking at introducing the kind of communication and marketing tool which would afford us a chance to communicate in an interactive way with our tourists, when Anglo American responded positively,” indicated Mabasa.

The screens were donated by Anglo American and Phillip Fourie, Head of Safety and Sustainable Development, for Anglo American’s thermal coal business at Paul Kruger Gate, presented them to the park.

“Anglo American believes that the impact of mining should be positive and to the benefit of South Africa, its people and the environment. We look forward to a successful partnership with Kruger National Park,” he said.

“Like broadcast media, these TV screens will allow us to disseminate information on time; allowing tourists to respond by either making follow-ups with our front office staff or contacting the relevant park officials for more information,” concluded Mabasa.

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Africa’s size in perspective

Posted on Sep 27, 2013 | Comments Off on Africa’s size in perspective

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Travellers to Africa are often surprised that many friends regard the Dark Continent as an homogenous destination, whereas you’ll be grilled for specifics if travelling to the US, or even Italy. This graphic by Kai Krause, a computer-graphics guru shows just how much of the world would fit into the huge African continent.

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