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Ginette Morrison
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Science goes underground

Trump's gang is cracking down on climate scientists and their websites at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and elswhere. But people are fighting back! You can now read "rogue Twitter accounts" from these agencies. Scientists are planning a march on Washington. And the Sierra Club has filed Freedom of Information requests to stop the elimination of climate data.

Yesterday Sharon Lerner wrote:

Government Scientists at U.S. Climate Conference Terrified to Speak to Press

While Donald Trump was reviving both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, muzzling federal employees, freezing EPA contracts, and first telling the EPA to remove mentions of climate change from its website — and then reversing course — many of the scientists who work on climate change in federal agencies were meeting just a few miles from the White House to present and discuss their work.

The mood was understandably gloomy at the National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. No one knows what’s going to happen,” one EPA staffer who works on climate issues told me on Tuesday, as she ate her lunch. She had spent much of her time in recent weeks trying to preserve and document the methane-related projects she’s been working on for years. But the prevailing sense was that, Trump’s claims about being an environmentalist notwithstanding, the president is moving forward with his plan to eviscerate environmental protections, particularly those related to climate change, and the EPA itself.

“It’s strange,” the woman said. “People keep walking up to me and giving me hugs.” Like several others I spoke to for this story, she declined to tell me her name out of fear that she might suffer retaliation, including being fired. She was not being paranoid. Already, agency higher ups had warned the EPA staff against talking to the press, or even updating blogs or issuing news releases. “Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press,” said one EPA missive that was shared broadly and ended up in the press. And while the staffer was at the meeting, the EPA’s new brass issued another memo to staff requiring all regional offices to submit a list of external meetings and presentations, noting which might be controversial and why.

The directives have left scientists fearing reprisal for merely mentioning the global crisis that has been at the center of their professional lives for years. It’s the topic “whose name cannot be uttered,” as one Forest Service employee put it to me. A nearby USDA employee offered a series of euphemisms — “extreme weather events, very unusual patterns,” he riffed — before turning serious. “I’m actually scared to talk to you,” he said, turning his hanging name tag inward and backing away from me. The look in his eyes and the tight smiles I received from several federal employees after introducing myself as a reporter reminded me of interviewing scientists in China. My presence inspired fear.

Afraid or not, many federal researchers continued doing their jobs despite the impending doom, presenting research on everything from disease-causing mosquitos to heat waves, decreasing water availability, and toxic algal blooms — all issues that have become dramatically more important as the earth has warmed.

Here's the latest news from the magazine Inside EPA:

Trump EPA To 'Stand Down' For Now On Website Climate Data Removal Plans

EPA is temporarily suspending its plans to remove the main climate change page from the agency's website, amid news reports that the page was slated to be removed Jan. 25, though the Office of General Counsel (OGC) has been tasked with reviewing the implications of removing some material, according to an agency source.

Members of the “beachhead team” -- temporary appointees from the new Trump administration -- “agreed to stand down” on their plans to remove the main climate change page on EPA's website, the source says.

The source had told Inside EPA late Jan. 24 that the page was slated to be removed as soon as Jan.25, adding to mounting concerns from climate scientists and advocates that the administration is preparing to ignore what they consider an urgent global issue. Reuters also reported the website removal plans late Jan. 24.

The agency source tells Inside EPA that OGC will conduct a review of the implications of removing the page, which includes high-profile links to the agency's 2016 Climate Indicators Report on climate impacts, fact sheets on the health impacts of climate change for vulnerable populations, and links to a comprehensive report on domestic climate health impacts showing “every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change.” The page also links to external sources of information including climate data from NASA and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

Inside EPA first reported plans to remove some climate information from the website Jan. 17, and also reported that the agency had begun to remove links and many references to voluntary climate programs put forth by the Obama administration, including the Climate Action Plan, oil and gas methane strategies and others.

Other sources had said the plans called for removing non-regulatory climate initiatives, which would have excluded items such as EPA's greenhouse gas reporting program or other climate regulations, including high-profile Obama EPA rules governing power plant and vehicle GHGs.

However, EPA's main climate change page includes references to the GHG reporting program and other regulatory initiatives under the heading of “What EPA is doing” to address the issue.

'Political Toy'

In a Jan. 25 statement reacting to news of the planned removal of climate information from the agency's website, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune says EPA's “public scientific information is vital to the health and safety of our communities, not a political toy for the fossil fuel industry hacks who have invaded the agency to play with. This purge by the Trump administration leads down an extremely dangerous and dark path, and must stop now.”

Sierra Club recently filed an expanded Freedom of Information Act request with EPA focused largely on climate change data -- and filed similar FOIA requests with the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Geological Survey -- in a bid to halt what is expected to be widespread scrubbing of federal climate data by the new Trump administration.

In addition to already removing some climate data from EPA's site, recent Trump administration arrivals at the agency have directed EPA to freeze grants and contracts; and imposed a gag order on EPA releasing information through its press office, blogs and social media.

In response to questions about the gag order, EPA's press office told Inside EPA, “The EPA fully intends to continue to provide information to the public. A fresh look at public affairs and communications processes is common practice for any new Administration, and a short pause in activities allows for this assessment.”

The Trump transition's “landing team” -- active during the transition period since the election -- has been largely disassembled and replaced by what is known as a “beachhead team” whose members went into departments beginning Jan. 20 under temporary 120-day appointments.

[Note the disgusting military metaphor, as if they're landing and taking over a country.]

The landing team members were volunteers whose duties ended on Inauguration Day, and only three members joined the beachhead team. Landing team members' job was to work with EPA to develop an action plan in preparation for the new administration taking office, while the beachhead team is tasked with organizing and staffing EPA to implement the plan, which has yet to be released or reviewed by EPA Administrator nominee Scott Pruitt.

While the long term plans for the EPA climate site are not entirely clear, such a move would complicate access to recent EPA and other analyses of climate change implications, including explanations of major sources of GHGs and steps both the agency and private individuals can take in response to the issue.

For example, the main page includes a feature, “What are the impacts of climate change where I live?” which offers the ability to select regions of the country to learn about climate impacts.

Also on the front page are links to various other pages that take deeper dives on topics including reducing GHG emissions, adapting to global warming, the causes of climate change, the future of climate change, and “what you can do” in response to the problem.

There's a lot more going on!

You can get a free month-long subscription to Inside EPA and follow the news here:

You can read tweets from "rogue Twitter accounts" - US government workers fighting the censorship of science:

Remember how the EPA workers got a memo saying "“Only send out critical messages"? Well, there are two ways to interpret that!

Sharon Lerner's whole article is here:

The Scientists' March on Washington is being planned here - no date yet:



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"More than 100 billion micrometeorites (MMs) fall to Earth each year. Until now, scientists believed that these particles could only be found in the cleanest environments, such as the Antarctic. In their new paper for Geology, M.J. Genge and colleagues show that, contrary to that expectation, micrometeorites can be recovered from city rooftops (for this example, primarily in Norway) and that, unlike those from the Antarctic, they are the youngest collected to date.
This is not a new proposition. It has been a popular belief among amateur astronomers that such modern-day extraterrestrial dust can be collected on roofs in urban environments. A study from 1941 reported large numbers of magnetic spherules collected in urban areas, but Genge and colleagues cite two studies in the 1950s that asserted that such spherules are artificial.
Despite these studies, write Genge and colleagues, amateur collection projects in built-up areas are common.
Micrometeorites are thought to include materials derived from both asteroids and comets. Although some smaller dust particles survive atmospheric entry without significant heating, reports show that the majority of particles undergo melting during their passage through the atmosphere. According to Genge and colleagues, the most abundant of these, particularly at large sizes, are cosmic spherules (completely melted droplets dominated by quench textures)".

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"Scientists used NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in recent weeks to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud.
"Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here," said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called "Old Soaker," on lower Mount Sharp, Mars.
If this interpretation holds up, these would be the first mud cracks—technically called desiccation cracks—confirmed by the Curiosity mission. They would be evidence that the ancient era when these sediments were deposited included some drying after wetter conditions. Curiosity has found evidence of ancient lakes in older, lower-lying rock layers and also in younger mudstone that is above Old Soaker.
"Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don't look like fractures we've seen previously with Curiosity," Stein said. "It looks like what you'd see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked."
The cracked layer formed more than 3 billion years ago and was subsequently buried by other layers of sediment, all becoming stratified rock. Later, wind erosion stripped away the layers above Old Soaker. Material that had filled the cracks resisted erosion better than the mudstone around it, so the pattern from the cracking now appears as raised ridges".

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"For decades, scientists have theorized that the movement of Earth's tectonic plates is driven largely by negative buoyancy created as they cool. New research, however, shows plate dynamics are driven significantly by the additional force of heat drawn from the Earth's core.
The new findings also challenge the theory that underwater mountain ranges known as mid-ocean ridges are passive boundaries between moving plates. The findings show the East Pacific Rise, the Earth's dominant mid-ocean ridge, is dynamic as heat is transferred.
David B. Rowley, professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, and fellow researchers came to the conclusions by combining observations of the East Pacific Rise with insights from modeling of the mantle flow there. The findings were published Dec. 23 in Science Advances.
"We see strong support for significant deep mantle contributions of heat-to-plate dynamics in the Pacific hemisphere," said Rowley, lead author of the paper. "Heat from the base of the mantle contributes significantly to the strength of the flow of heat in the mantle and to the resultant plate tectonics."
The researchers estimate up to approximately 50 percent of plate dynamics are driven by heat from the Earth's core and as much as 20 terawatts of heat flow between the core and the mantle.
Unlike most other mid-ocean ridges, the East Pacific Rise as a whole has not moved east-west for 50 to 80 million years, even as parts of it have been spreading asymmetrically. These dynamics cannot be explained solely by the subduction—a process whereby one plate moves under another or sinks. Researchers in the new findings attribute the phenomena to buoyancy created by heat arising from deep in the Earth's interior".
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