Friday, July 29, 2016

MH370: Missing jet 'could be further north'

This animation shows how the floating debris from the MH370 aircraft could have spread, from the day of the crash up until May 2016.
The location of the debris at the various times is calculated using a computer model based on oceanographic data and the location of the five confirmed debris found to date (indicated by red dots, used to weight the outcomes of multiple simulations)

From BBC by Jonathan Amos

The crashed remains from the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could be as much as 500km further north than the current search area, say scientists in Italy.
Their assessment is based on the location of confirmed debris items and computer modelling that incorporates ocean and weather data.
They say this has allowed them to determine where the plane most likely hit the water and where future aircraft fragments might wash up.
The MH370 search will soon be halted.
Authorities have agreed that "in the absence of new credible evidence" the effort to find the plane on the ocean floor west of Australia will be suspended once a zone covering 120,000 square km has been fully surveyed.
That could happen in the next few weeks.
A team led by Eric Jansen, from the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change in Italy, is the latest to try its hand at using modelling to identify the impact site.
The approach relies on two years of high-resolution data that describe the currents and wind conditions across the Indian and Southern oceans.
Multiple simulations were used to predict where objects might drift given different starting points.
These forecasts were then analysed and the greatest weight given to those tracks that best matched the locations of known MH370 debris items.
These are the parts of the Boeing 777, such as an engine cowling and wing flap, that have since washed up on the beaches of Africa and Indian-ocean islands.

 A number of items from the plane have washed up on beaches
To improve their simulation, the researchers used the locations of the five confirmed debris found to date: two in Mozambique and one each in RĂ©union, South Africa and Rodrigues Island (Mauritius).

The conclusion is that main wreckage of the plane is likely to be in the wide search area between 28 degrees South and 35 degrees South that was designated by crash investigators.
However, only the southern end of this zone - a priority segment between 32 degrees South and 35 degrees South - is currently being surveyed by underwater cameras and detectors.
This still leaves a swathe of ocean floor to the north where Dr Jansen and colleagues say MH370 could possibly be resting today undiscovered.

 The results suggest the plane could be on the ocean floor to the north of the underwater search area 
To find out how MH370 debris drifted since the crash, the researchers ran a computer model that used oceanographic data from the EU Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service, including data of global surface currents and winds over the past two years.
(Jensen et Al)

One of the advantages of the type of model produced by the team is that its solutions can be updated as more debris is found.
"We use the location where debris is found to create a ranking of the different simulations. So, the simulations that cause debris in all of the locations where this material was found - we rank those higher; and the ones that are not as good at predicting the locations of the debris - we rank them lower. And then we combine the result. This has the benefit that if new debris is found we only have to repeat the ranking, which is very fast, while the simulations of drift over two years take several hours."

An animation of the debris pathways originating from Location 11.
The tracks of particles over a ten day time window are shown.
 Animation courtesy of the University of Western Australia.

This means also that should more debris come to light, the model will refine its solution for where in the ocean the missing jet is most likely to be found.
And given that the underwater search is about to be suspended, Dr Jansen says perhaps greater effort should now be directed towards finding more washed-up debris.
It is an endeavour that would be low-cost, he argues, but would very much aid the type of research he does, while at the same time possibly yielding additional information on the state of the aircraft in its final moments.
Such inferences can be gleaned by examining materials for tell-tale damage.
Dr Jansen and colleagues have published their research in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 passengers and crew.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Researchers just discovered the world’s deepest underwater sinkhole in the South China Sea

A view of the newly named Sansha Yongle Blue Hole in Xisha Islands in Sansha City, South China’s Hainan Province, July 24, 2016.
The almost vertical blue hole, located at 16°31'30" N / 111°46'05" E, measures 130 meters in diameter at the top entrance and 36 meters at the bottom, and is not connected with the ocean.
It’s said to be the deepest blue hole in the world.
Photo: China News Service
From The Washington Post by Katie Mettler

As local fishermen tell it, the deep blue “Dragon Hole” in the Paracel Islands, called the “eye” of the South China Sea, is where the Monkey King in “Journey to the West” acquired his famous golden cudgel.
The mythical tale was published in the 16th century and is among the four great classical novels of Chinese literature.

Plunging 300.89 meters in the sea, it's named "Sansha Yongle Dragon Hole",
surpassing the current record of 202 meters, state-run Xinhua news agency reported

Last week, the Dragon Hole earned a new claim to fame.
After nearly a year of exploration, Chinese researchers have determined that the underwater sinkhole is likely the world’s deepest, reaching about 987 feet below the surface and surpassing the previous record holder, Dean’s Blue Hole near the Bahamas, by more than 300 feet, Xinhua News Agency reported.

inside the Nine-dash line...
The hole was found near the Paracel islans called as Xisha Islands by China.
The islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.
China has continued to assert its claim over all but most of the South China Sea even after this month's verdict by the international tribunal appointed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration which has struck down its claims of nine-dash line based on historic rights.

Blue holes are named as such for their rich, dark blue coloring, a stark contrast to the otherwise aqua waters that surround them.
Best described as underwater caves, these striking and beautiful formations open up with underwater entrances and extend below sea level, mirroring the appearance of a sinkhole.

Sansha Yongle Blue Hole in Xisha Islands
in the Paracels islands
(NGA chart view in the GeoGarage platform)

 The new deepest blue hole in the world measures 130 meters in diameter at the top entrance
and 36 meters at the bottom, and is not connected with the ocean

Researchers with the Sansha Ship Course Research Institute for Coral Protection began exploring Dragon Hole, known as Longdong, in August 2015 and completed the project last month, Xinhua reported.
It measures about 426 feet wide and is almost deep enough to hold the entire Eiffel Tower.

The research team used a Video Ray Pro 4 underwater robot to explore the sinkhole, reported CCTV News, where they discovered more than 20 species of fish and marine life near the surface of the vertical cave.
Researchers told the television station that after about 330 feet, the water is oxygen free and likely unable to support life.
On July 24, CCTV reported that the Sansha city government had officially named the sinkhole the Sansha Yongle Blue Hole.
The city said it has drafted plans to continue to protect and study the blue hole.
“We will strive to protect the natural legacy left by the Earth,” Xu Zhifei, vice mayor of Sansha City, told Xinhua.

 Researchers investigate the newly named Sansha Yongle Blue Hole

Across the globe, blue holes have been the source of magnificent discovery.
Last year, the Guardian reported that a study conducted by scientists from Rice University and Louisiana State University found that sediment samples from the ancient Great Blue Hole in Belize confirmed the theory that “drought and climate conditions pushed the Mayans from a regional power to a smattering of rival survivors and finally a virtually lost civilization.”
Divers flock to the Great Blue Hole, surrounded by shallow, lagoon waters and a coral island. According to Atlas Obscura, this underwater cave was made famous by one particular diver, explorer Jacques Cousteau, who in 1971 declared the site one of the top 10 best places for diving in the world.
Cousteau sailed on his ship, Calypso, to investigate the hole’s depths and discovered huge stalactites and stalagmites below the surface, Atlas Obscura reported.
Cousteau also confirmed that the sinkhole had formed when a limestone cave formation collapsed after the glacial period.

Dean’s Blue Hole, located near Long Island in the Bahamas, was previously considered the world’s deepest underwater sinkhole.
Also a top location for divers, Dean’s Blue Hole has a diameter of about 82 to 115 feet on the surface, reports Atlas Obscura, but widens to about 330 feet as it deepens.
According to the publication, water there is very clear with visibility as far as 115 feet down.

Maximum depths in other blue holes scattered throughout the Bahamas and other parts of the world hover around 360 feet, but Dean’s Blue Hole extends far beyond at 663 feet deep.
The newly discovered Dragon Hole is even more exceptional, reaching depths of almost 1,000 feet.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Clouds shifting toward Poles with climate change

One Year on Earth – Seen From 1 Million Miles 
On July 20, 2015, NASA released to the world the first image of the sunlit side of Earth captured by the space agency's EPIC camera on NOAA's DSCOVR satellite.
The camera has now recorded a full year of life on Earth from its orbit at Lagrange point 1, approximately 1 million miles from Earth, where it is balanced between the gravity of our home planet and the sun. 

 From Seeker by Patrick J Kiger

Behavior matches climate models, but that's not necessarily good news.

Over the last three decades, global cloud patterns have changed, and mid-latitude storm tracks--the paths that cyclones travel in the Northern and Southern hemispheres--have been drifting toward our planet's poles, according to a new study published in Nature.

The changes, documented by researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, Riverside and Colorado State University match those predicted by climate model simulations, and they've probably had added to global warming that is causing climate change.

Joel Norris, a climate researcher at Scripps, called the study "the first credible demonstration that cloud changes we expect from climate models and theory are currently happening."

EPIC : North Pole
 EPIC : South Pole

Those findings are good news for scientists who for years have struggled to model the role of clouds in climate change.
But as Veerabhadran Ramanathan of Scripps, who was not involved in the study, told Science magazine, that's not such good news for the planet and its inhabitants.
The movement of clouds toward the polls is "problematic for our future" and makes efforts to slow warming more urgent, he said.

Clouds play an important role in climate change models because they both reflect solar radiation back into space (the albedo effect) and restrict the escape of heat into space.
But calculating how those processes balance one another has been difficult, in part because clouds themselves are influenced by climate change, even as they influence it.

 Bands of clouds at different latitudes.
Credit : NASA

Another problem, according to the Science article, is that researchers have been compelled to use data from satellites that were not set up to look at clouds.
Geostationary satellites, for example, look directly down at the Earth's surface, rather than using the slanted view that would make it easier to detect clouds.
To overcome those problems, Norris and his colleagues performed corrections that accounted for those imperfections in cloud data, and then studied the results for clear-term patterns.

In addition to the drift in storm tracks, the scientists also confirmed that subtropical dry regions are expanding, and that the tops of the tallest clouds are getting taller.
All of these changes can worsen global warming.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Diving enthusiasts could be used to measure ocean temperatures

A diver compares the performance of recreational dive computers
worn by scuba divers with scientific instruments.
Photograph: NFSD/SAMS

From The Guardian by Damian Carrington

Decompression computers worn by recreational and commercial divers provides accurate data, study shows

Millions of holidaying scuba divers are able to become citizen scientists and take vital measurements of ocean temperatures, which are being driven up by climate change.

More than 90% of the heat trapped by global warming goes into oceans, where it drives hurricanes and disrupts fish stocks.
Satellites can measure surface temperature when there are no clouds, but getting data from below the surface is much harder and more expensive. 
(a) Screenshot of the ‘diveintoscience’ interface, where simple query tools and summary data are displayed on the left sidebar calculated for the area displayed on the map.
(b) Locations of temperature data stored on the “diveintoscience” portal. In map pane a, the circle represents the location of the dive, the size of the circle relates to the number of dives and the colour of the circle represents the average temperature. 
The screenshot (a) was taken from the ‘diveintoscience’ portal, with both maps (a) and (b) generated using the ggplot2 and maps functions of R (version 3.2.2), which uses publicly available coastline coordinates from the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center.

A flotilla of 3,000 diving robot buoys provides measurements, but millions of recreational and commercial divers around the world could also play a role.
A study, published in Science Reports on Friday, shows that measurements taken from the decompression computers often worn by divers can provide accurate data on ocean temperatures.

Scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) in Scotland took a range of decompression computers on dives alongside scientific instruments, and showed that the results tallied.
The scientists have already collected more than 7,500 dive records from around the world via the Dive Into Science website. 

Kieran Hyder at Cefas, who led the citizen science project, said: “To undertake a global science programme that could generate this information would be hugely expensive, but there are millions of sport and commercial dives every year.
Making use of just a small fraction of those dives will greatly increase our knowledge of what is happening worldwide.
“The potential of scuba divers to contribute to ocean monitoring is huge and I believe that this study demonstrates only the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

The new data is particularly valuable in highly changeable coastal environments, where many dives occur, as well as in areas that are rarely sampled by other methods.
According to the Dive Into Science project, which is funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: “This extra data could prove crucial in the efforts to understand and predict the effects of our changing climate.”

Other researchers have investigated the ability of tagging marine creatures to provide temperature and other data.
The creatures could include penguins and seals and the latter could be especially useful due to their deep dives.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The mysterious case of the drug-smuggling fishermen

Maritime data is often flawed.
Will the existence of "damaged data" help overturn a verdict
in a drug smuggling case against five fishermen?
Actually, the vessel was fitted with an Olex navigational aid that tracked and recorded its movements. It is unlikely that any actual drug- running ship would have made carried such a system, because it provided an accurate record of exactly where it had been.

From BBC by

In 2011, a group of men from the Isle of Wight was given a combined 104-year prison sentence for masterminding a £53m drug smuggling operation.
Does new evidence suggest they were innocent?
A new lawyer, Emily Bolton, is working on their case and believes that may be the case.

"It's like living in a ridiculous police drama," Sue Beere says.
Her husband Jonathan Beere is serving 24 years in a high-security prison in the Midlands, convicted of organising a complex operation to smuggle a quarter of a tonne of cocaine into the UK.
She vividly remembers the day police came to arrest him in January 2011: "They literally came through the door in the morning... a troop of men."

All she could think was that they had made "some stupid mistake" over his identity, and found the wrong man.
She says local police stopped to comfort her young son, saying: "Don't cry nipper, be brave, daddy will be home tonight."
But Jonathan Beere has not been back home since that day, and has so far served five years in jail.

Two of the other men, skipper Jamie Green and Zoran Dresic, also received 24-year sentences, while Daniel Payne received 18 years and Scott Birtwistle 14. They had been charged with conspiring to import Class A drugs.
Now a new lawyer, Emily Bolton, is working on their case.
She founded the Innocence Project New Orleans in the US, which has so far freed 25 prisoners, and has recently set up a new charity in the UK - the Centre for Criminal Appeals - to specialise in miscarriage of justice investigations.

Electronic navigation records (middle & right) show Green’s boat was never where the prosecution claimed it was (left) – cruising in the wake of the container ship Oriane in the Channel, to collect drugs thrown overboard

What happened in the Channel?

On 29 May 2010, a small fishing boat - the Galwad-Y-Mor - left the Isle of Wight on what the crew claim was a routine trip to catch lobster and crab in the Channel.

photo : TrawlerPhotos

That night, a large drugs operation led by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) - known as Operation Disorient - was taking place, involving surveillance planes, a Border Agency patrol boat and police lookouts along the coast.
The authorities had intelligence that cocaine was being smuggled to Europe from South America on giant cargo ships, such as the container vessel MSC Oriane - which was one of nine from Brazil that appeared to be of particular interest.
At about midnight, the ship and the fishing boat briefly came close together - though exactly how close is disputed. The ship went on towards the European mainland, and the Galwad continued home, past Freshwater Bay - the western tip of the Isle of Wight.
The next day, at this same bay, a member of the public spotted 11 sacks tangled around a buoy - each packed with a pure form of cocaine.
The prosecution's case was that the sacks were pushed off the side of the container ship for the fishermen to retrieve from the sea, before taking them to the bay to hide or be picked up by another vessel.

MSC Oriane

But Ms Bolton disputes this.
"What the police are alleging [is that the Galwad] was able to pinpoint and locate 11 bags of cocaine in the English Channel, in shipping lanes, in the middle of the night in a storm," she says.
"We think we now have the evidence proving this simply couldn't have taken place."

Navigational data

At the trial, the prosecution relied on navigational data taken from on-board computers on the two vessels, which purported to show that - around midnight - the Galwad crossed the Oriane's wake. There would have been a short window for the 11 sacks of cocaine to be transferred to the fishing boat.
However, Ms Bolton says the prosecution's expert witness left out key plot points and used damaged data.

Her new analysis suggests the paths of the boats were never closer than 100m from one another, and that the sea's drift would have taken the drugs away from the fishermen's boat.
"If that intersection between the vessels never took place, there is no case," she says.

The men's fishing boat, the Galwad, has not seen the sea for years

The prosecution also points to a series of calls made to and from the satellite phone on the Galwad while it was in the Channel, suggesting someone on shore was co-ordinating the drugs drop. The defence said the timing was a coincidence and someone was just checking on the health of one of the other fishermen who was seasick - a migrant from Eastern Europe.
No traces of cocaine were ever found on the fishing boat, despite it being searched with specialised equipment.
The container ship, the Oriane, was also searched when it next touched British shores a few days later, but no trace of drugs was ever found. No-one on the Oriane was arrested.

Cliff-top surveillance

The Galwad spent 18 hours sailing back to its home port of Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. On the way it stopped for about an hour in Freshwater Bay - its crew say to fish for mackerel.
That evening, the first arrests were made.
At this point though, the drugs had not been discovered.
This happened the following day, when a member of the public called to say he had spotted 11 multicoloured bags floating in Freshwater Bay.
This timeframe, Ms Bolton says, was crucial.
At the time the fishing boat was said to have hidden the drugs in Freshwater Bay, two officers from Hampshire police were watching from the cliff tops as part of the police operation.
In the officers' logs before the drugs were found, they recorded someone on the fishing boat throwing six or seven items overboard at intervals - which the fishermen say could have been rubbish bags full of old bait.
But the next day, after the drugs were discovered, the police lookouts changed the official log - as they are allowed to do - to clarify what they saw.
In the new version they reported 10 to 12 items the size of a holdall, tied together in a line and deployed from the boat followed by a red floating buoy - a description that almost exactly matched the drugs that were picked up by the police boat.

 Freshwater Bay, where the drugs were found

The two police surveillance officers then told different accounts in court.
One said he was convinced of the significance of the holdalls at the time; the other said he thought little of it until after the drugs were found the next day.
As a result, the new defence team claims the accounts cannot be relied upon.
"These are officers that are trained to get the details right every single time - and we are not talking about small details," Ms Bolton explains.
"We are talking about big changes, about what they saw and also where they saw it from."

Police footage

At trial, both police lookouts were adamant they had seen 10 to 12 sacks thrown off the fishing boat along with a buoy.
After making the first log entry, they said they had seen extra bags thrown off the boat, so the amended version was the full picture of everything they had recorded that day.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission did look into the case and, though it found inconsistencies in the officers' evidence, decided it was not enough to show they had fabricated their accounts.
Complaints against the two officers were dismissed.
Hampshire Police also said they had no ongoing complaints relating to this investigation.

Fresh appeal?

Soca, now rebranded as the National Crime Agency (NCA), said at the time that the operation had stopped a huge amount of cocaine from reaching the streets of the UK.
Ms Bolton's new evidence has been passed to the criminal cases review commission, which will decide if the five men can launch a fresh appeal.
She believes there was a motive for Soca to implicate the five men.

  The view from Cowes, Isle of Wight

"At this stage in the investigation it appears Operation Disorient really needed to get a result. They had committed a lot of resources to this investigation and needed someone to be responsible, and they started focusing on the fishing boat.
"From then on, they interpreted all evidence that came before them as pointing to guilt, and meanwhile ignored or didn't seek other evidence which pointed in the opposite direction."
The NCA said it could not comment while that investigation was ongoing.
Hampshire Police said: "It would not be appropriate to comment on operational matters led by another agency [the NCA]."

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Stable flight - foiling's holy grail

"The key to speed in the America's Cup is stable flight," says Sir Ben Ainslie.
So how does Land Rover BAR achieve foiling's holy grail? 

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