Global warming doubles Arctic coastal erosion
In addition to the melting polar ice caps and thawing permafrost, climate change is claiming another victim in the Arctic – the coastline.
Over the last 52 years, Alaska’s northeastern coastline has seen its rate of erosion double, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters. The shoreline eroded at a rate of 6.8 meters per year between 1955 and 1979. Over the next 23 years, that rate increased by 23 percent. Between 2002 and 2007 alone, the rate jumped to 13.6 meters per year.
Arctic coastlines are especially vulnerable to erosion because their sediments are often held together by ice. In addition, the disappearance of sea ice and storms intensifying due to global warming will compound risks to Arctic coastlines. The deterioration will likely impact local ecosystems, indigenous communities and oil and natural gas exploration.
Computer virus adapts to security measures
Creators of a malicious software program released last fall have come out with a new version able to circumvent the defense measures of computer security groups.
The new version, called Conficker B , is an attempt by cybercriminals to communicate with the 12 million computers previously infected with the Conficker code. The code was created to establish a network of infected computers, called a botnet, which downloads attack codes to steal passwords or send spam e-mail.
The software has reportedly spread faster that any other malicious program in the last five years and preys on several weaknesses in Microsoft Windows.
Computer security teams were able to reverse engineer the botnet software and preemptively freeze new Internet addresses before they became infected. This next generation of Conficker B isn’t able to update already infected computers, but instead must start the process of spreading the program over again.
Microsoft and other companies have offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the software’s creators.
NASA to search for Earth-like planets
NASA’s newest spacecraft, Kepler, will launch on Mar. 5 to search for Earth-like “exoplanets,” which lie in habitable zones of distant solar systems.
The mission will take three and a half years and cost $591 million. Astronomers are hoping to find planets resembling Earth in “habitable zones” of the solar system that have the potential to support life. The more Earth-like planets they find, the more likely it is that life exists outside our galaxy.
The spacecraft will follow Earth’s orbit around the sun as it examines other galaxies using a powerful telescope and highly sensitive camera. It will study more than 100,000 stars between 30 and 1,000 light years away.
Astronomers first discovered exoplanets in 1995. Of the 335 that have since been identified, most of them are “gas giants” larger than Jupiter. Others are “ice giants” that orbit so far from their suns that they’re eternally frozen. The rest are called “super earths” that are 10 times the size of Earth with gravity likely too powerful to support life.
ALYSOUN BONDE compiles Science Scene and can be reached at email@example.com.