America’s Secret Ice Base Won’t Stay Frozen Forever 13m ago

(Source: www.wired.com)

This story originally appeared on Atlas Obscura and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The creation of Camp Century, from the outset, was an audacious scheme. Under the thick ice of Greenland, a scant 800 miles from the North Pole, the US military built a hidden base of ice tunnels, imagined as an extensive network of railway tracks, stretching over 2,500 miles, that would keep 600 nuclear missiles buried under the ice. Construction began in 1959, under cover of a scientific research project, and soon a small installation, powered by a nuclear reactor, nested in the ice sheet.

In the midst of the Cold War, Greenland seemed like a strategic point for the US to stage weapons, ready to attack the USSR. The thick ice sheet, military planners imagined, would provide permanent protection for the base. But after the first tunnels were built, the military discovered that the ice sheet was not as stable as it needed to be: It moved and shifted, destabilizing the tunnels. Within a decade, Camp Century was abandoned.

When siting the secret ice base, the military chose a spot where dry snow kept the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet from melting, and when the base was abandoned its creators expected the remains to stay encased in ice forever. But decades later, conditions have changed, and as a team of researchers reported in a 2016 paper, published in Geophysical Research Letters, the now-melting ice sheet threatens to mobilize the dangerous pollutants left behind.

This hazard-in-waiting is a new kind of environmental threat: In the past, there was little reason to worry about water-borne pollution on an ice sheet 100,000 years old. As Jeff D. Colgan, a professor of political science at Brown University, writes in an article released last week in the journal Global Environmental Politics, Camp Century represents both a second-order environmental threat from climate change and a new path to political conflict.

“We’re starting to get better about dealing with the anticipated problems associated with climate change,” says Colgan. “There are going to be a whole host of unanticipated problems that we never saw coming.”

By the time the base was abandoned in 1967, it had its own library and theater, an infirmary, kitchen and mess hall, a chapel, and two power plants (one nuclear, one run on diesel). When the base closed, key parts of the nuclear power plant were removed, but most of the base’s infrastructure was left behind—the buildings, the railways, the sewage, the diesel fuel, and the low-level radioactive waste. In the 2016 paper, which Colgan worked on as well, the researchers suggested that the radiological waste was less worrisome than the more extensive chemical waste, from diesel fuel and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used to insulate fluids and paints.

Overall, the researchers estimated that 20,000 liters of chemical waste remain at the Camp Century site, along with 24 million liters of “biological waste associated with untreated sewage.” That’s just at Camp Century; the military closed down bases at three other sites in Greenland, too, and it’s unclear how much waste is left there. Over the next few decades, the researchers found, melt water from the ice sheets could mobilize these pollutants, exposing both the wildlife and humans living in Greenland.

Creating these ice-bound military bases required a delicate political negotiation to begin with. The US established its bases in Greenland under agreement with Denmark, which governed the island at the time. (Greenland now has self-rule but is still part of the Kingdom of Denmark.) There were some principles outlined about the two governments’ responsibilities for the bases, but, as Colgan writes in the new paper, the status of American nuclear weapons on Greenland fell into a diplomatic gray area.

The Danish government had taken a stand against nuclear weapons and would never condone a nuclear base on Greenland. But in 1957, an American ambassador, Val Peterson, made an official overture to the Danish prime minister, H.C. Hansen. If—just say—the US had nuclear weapons in Greenland, would the Danish government want to know? Five days later, the prime minister had a response: “I do not think that your remarks give rise to any comments from my side,” he wrote, in a “informal, personal, top secret” paper. The US went ahead with the plan.

There was similar ambiguity around the responsibility for the physical assets of the base. While they remained the property of the United States, the agreement said they could be “disposed of” in Greenland, after input from the Danish government. But it’s not at all clear who’s responsible for dealing with a long-term environmental hazard posed by the waste abandoned there.

This problem—who will pay to clean up environmental waste—is a common one; in the US, the Superfund program assigns responsibility for a polluted site, often across multiple parties associated with it over the years. But in this sort of international agreement between two governments, there’s no parallel process for divvying up blame or costs.

“These agreements are rarely fully specified in what’s written down on paper. There’s no real procedure for addressing disputes,” says Colgan. “If Denmark says, US, you’re responsible, and the US says, no, you’re responsible—we don’t have a good resolution process for that. Climate change is likely to make that kind of problem a lot more common.”

Already, a Greenland politician, who was serving as foreign minister, has lost his job over this issue. After the 2016 paper came out, he started pushing for the US and Denmark to take responsibility for these military hazards; his boss thought he took too aggressive a stance.

But the problem isn’t going to go away, and Colgan emphasizes that these second-order environmental consequences of climate change—which he calls “knock-on effects”—are only going to become more common, creating knotty political disputes. Think, for instance, of the chemical and oil refineries that, damaged by Hurricane Harvey, started dumping waste.

Many of these environmental hazards, though, can be linked to multiple causes; in Greenland, it’s easier to pinpoint the precipitating issue.

“What’s helpful about Camp Century is that, because it’s so isolated, we can be really clear that what’s causing the problem is climate change,” says Colgan. In the 1960s, there was little reason for the US military to imagine that their secret ice-base would cause environmental problems decades in the future. After all, it was encased in ice and should only have been buried deeper into the frozen surface over time.

More Info: www.wired.com

At least 7 people are injured after a Colonial Pipeline explosion in Alabama — RareRare

HELENA, Ala. — At least seven workers were injured Monday when an explosion occurred along the Colonial Pipeline in rural Alabama, not far where it burst last month, authorities said. The explosion sent flames soaring over the forest about a mile west of where the pipeline burst in September, Gov. Robert Bentley said in a…

via At least 7 people are injured after a Colonial Pipeline explosion in Alabama — RareRare

Apollo 16: “We Like Big Rocks”

April 1972: The fifth pair of astronauts to visit the moon were the most enthusiastic geologists, bringing home the largest sample ever collected from the moon.

Apollo 16 launched on April 16, 1972 as the tenth crewed Apollo mission, and the fifth to land on the moon. Astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke Jr. spent 71 hours on the lunar surface They completed 20 hours and 14 minutes of moonwalks during three extra-vehicular activities, including driving 26.7 kilometers (16.6 miles) in their lunar rover around the Descartes and Cayley formations. Along with installing a ultraviolet stellar camera on the surface, the duo collected 95.8 kilograms (209 pounds) of lunar samples. In an echo of geologists everywhere, they couldn’t seem to restrain themselves to just the small samples and collected the most massive lunar sample of any Apollo mission.

Apollo 16:

Big Muley is one hefty rock! Image credit: NASA

Lunar Sample 61016 masses a mighty 11.7 kilograms (26 pounds). The rock bares the nickname “Big Muley,” named for Apollo 16 field geology team leader Bill Muehlberger. Found on the east rim of Plum Crater, researchers suspect it was actually ejected during the impact that formed South Ray crater. The rock is a breccia: a sedimentary rock composed of primary large, angular smaller rock fragments cemented together. The exposed top surface is rounded with a thin patina and micrometeorite zaps; the rest was protected by being buried within the lunar soil. The melted shock fragments within the rock date to 3.97 billion years ago.

Apollo 16:

David White [left] and William Muehlberger [right] admire the largest lunar sample ever returned, Big Muley (sample 61016). Image credit: NASA

While Young and Duke were busy on the surface, Thomas Ke Mattingly II observed the moon; during the return trip to Earth he and Duke ducked outside for a one-hour spacewalk to retrieve film cassettes from the exterior. The crew returned to Earth just over 11 days after launching, splashing down on April 27th.

Apollo 16:

Duke and Mattingly (wearing Young’s striped helmet) spacewalking to inspect the Service Module and retrieve film. Image credit: NASA

The mission wasn’t without its hitches. It was the first Apollo mission to be delayed for technical issues, then a fuel tank was damaged during a routine test in the months leading up to launch, requiring replacement. Once the crew reached Earth orbit, the third stage booster developed an attitude control system problem that required in-flight fiddling to fix. The Lunar Module Orion started shedding paint peeling off the aluminum skin, although the astronauts decided it was cosmetic after closer inspection. Soon after, Mattingly spotted a gimbal lock warning light that the spacecraft wasn’t reporting attitude, so had to reorient the guidance system using the Sun and Moon instead.

Apollo 16:

Lunar Module Orion with Young and Duke on board, heading up to rejoin Mattingly on Casper, their Command Service Module. Image credit: NASA/Thomas K. Mattingly II

The next day, Young and Duke boarded Orion and peeled off for their decent. The lunar module’s engine backup systems malfunctioned, and error that should’ve scrapped the moon landing. Instead, mission controllers determined a workaround, descending to the surface just six hours behind schedule. This squeezed the surface mission schedule, and cut the final moonwalk by a few hours to accede to the demands of both orbital dynamics and sleep.

Apollo 16:

Young and Duke during a simulated traverse in a training area at the Kennedy Space Center. Image credit: NASA

[NASA | NASA | NASA | Lunar Sample 61016 Gallery]

Top image: Duke [left] and Young [right] on a two-day geology training field trip near Los Angeles. Credit: NASA


Contact the author at mika.mckinnon@io9.com or follow her at @MikaMcKinnon.

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Record breaking HEAT is Resulting Wildfire Damage & Destruction

Western Wildfires Update: Record $243 Million Spent Battling Forest Fires Last Week. Courtesy of: http://www.weather.com.   
Good News in Forecast for Firefighters in Northwest

Cooler and wetter weather in the Northwest will be good news for those fighting several wildfires in the region.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed Thursday a record $243 million was spent last week combatting wildfires raging around the country.

The U.S. Forest Service has been forced to borrow funds from forest restoration work, normally used to reduce the risk of wildfires, as it has already spent all the money allotted by Congress for its 12-month budget. Vilsack noted this has happened the past six of 10 years.

Much to his chagrin, Vilsack said the agency will likely be forced to borrow more funds and continue to expect spending $200 million a week battling the blazes.

(MORE: Air Quality Worse in Some Northwestern Towns Than Beijing)

Firefighters have been making more gains on two massive wildfires burning in north-central Washington.

As of late Thursday night, the Okanogan Complex was 60 percent contained but has grown to nearly 150,000 acres. Last week, it became the largest wildfire in state history.

Officials are managing the complex of fires as one fire, including the Chelan Complex. That particular fire was 70 percent contained and had burned more than 93,000 acres as of Thursday night.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters are working on the two big fire complexes that have burned more than 140 residences. Many other residents are still under evacuation notices.

Fire officials say they are both building lines around the fires and mopping up inside their borders.

Wildfires have taken their toll on the Western landscape this year. They’ve reduced entire neighborhoods to ash, forced thousands to evacuate and required a nonstop battle from countless firefighters, some who have come from other countries to help.

And there’s no indication that fire season is letting up at all.

More than 8.2 million acres have burned in U.S. wildfires this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s well above the 10-year average of about 5.57 million acres through Sept. 2. As the Washington Post notes, that’s larger than the total area of Maryland.

There has also been a human toll during this fire season. Five firefighters have been killed in the line of duty this year, according to Wildfire Today. A year ago, there were 10 wildfire-related firefighter deaths, NIFC reported.

There are currently dozens of large wildfires burning across the West; here’s an update on a few of them.

California

A massive Butte fire burned more than 50,000 acres across the counties of Amador and Calaveras near Sacramento.

The blaze has already destroyed 6 structures and was only 10% contained as of September 11. Evacuations were ordered for both counties and over 1,500 fire personnel were dispatched to fight the growing fire.

Officials reported that the steep topography in the area mixed with harsh weather conditions is making the fire grow at an unprecedented rate.

Oregon

Firefighters battling a destructive wildfire near John Day are allowing people who have been evacuated for weeks to return to their homes.

The last evacuation alerts were lifted Wednesday, but residents in several neighborhoods were told to be ready to leave on short notice.

The fire has destroyed 43 homes and burned more than 165 square miles. It is 52 percent contained.

Crews focused Wednesday on containing spot fires that broke out beyond the containment lines during a period of hotter temperatures and lower humidity Tuesday. They were hopeful that cooler, more humid conditions Wednesday would allow firefighters to control the flames and strengthen their containment lines.

Idaho

Fire crews are aggressively working to prevent flames from expanding on a 3-week-old blaze in west-central Idaho that has already burned 143 square miles of dry timber.

More than 900 firefighters are battling the fire, but it was only 30 percent contained. It’s burning in terrain surrounded by large amounts of unburned fuel.

Crews focused their efforts Wednesday on protecting structures along the Salmon River corridor, and rafters were still being stopped and evacuated before entering the fire perimeter.

In northern Idaho, flames crept overnight as close as a mile and a half to the historic Fenn Ranger Station, causing mandatory evacuations.

Idaho currently has 17 large fires, the most in the nation, the National Interagency Fire Center says.

Montana

A firefighter working to battle a wildfire north of Helena has been hospitalized after an ATV crash.

The Helena Independent Record reports that the injured man was adjusting hoses in steep terrain Wednesday at the time of the accident. A nearby firefighter/EMT helped with emergency care before the man was taken to a medical facility in Helena.

A Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spokeswoman declined to comment on how the accident occurred. Officials have not released the injured man’s name.

By Associated Press
Published Sep 11 2015 06:18 PM EDT
via: weather.com

A Dog Escapes the deadly clutches of a Wild Python

A dog has miraculously avoided becoming a huge pythons meal – after his owner whacked it with a leafy branch.

The distressed dog can be seen in the deadly clutches of the python as it begins to constrict its prey to death.

But the heroic owner – who has not been named – quickly grabs a nearby branch and begins hitting the lengthy python with it in Karnataka, India.

And the act works, as the stunned python begins uncoiling and slowly slithers away.

We bring you the weirdest, wackiest and most bizarre stories from around the world. Stay tuned for daily uploads that you simply have to see to believe.  Check here for more information:  Twitter: https://twitter.com/caters_news   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catersnews Website: http://www.catersnews.com

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