Helheim Glacier, Aug 20 (AP/UNB) — This is where Earth's refrigerator door is left open, where glaciers dwindle and seas begin to rise.
New York University air and ocean scientist David Holland, who is tracking what's happening in Greenland from both above and below, calls it "the end of the planet." He is referring to geography more than the future. Yet in many ways this place is where the planet's warmer and watery future is being written.
It is so warm here, just inside the Arctic Circle, that on an August day, coats are left on the ground and Holland and colleagues work on the watery melting ice without gloves. In one of the closest towns, Kulusuk, the morning temperature reached a shirtsleeve 52 degrees Fahrenheit (10.7 degrees Celsius).
The ice Holland is standing on is thousands of years old. It will be gone within a year or two, adding yet more water to rising seas worldwide.
Summer this year is hitting Greenland hard with record-shattering heat and extreme melt. By the end of the summer, about 440 billion tons (400 billion metric tons) of ice — maybe more — will have melted or calved off Greenland's giant ice sheet, scientists estimate. That's enough water to flood Pennsylvania or the country of Greece about a foot (35 centimeters) deep.
In just the five days from July 31 to Aug. 3, more than 58 billion tons (53 billion metric tons) melted from the surface. That's over 40 billion tons more than the average for this time of year. And that 58 billion tons doesn't even count the huge calving events or the warm water eating away at the glaciers from below, which may be a huge factor.
And one of the places hit hardest this hot Greenland summer is here on the southeastern edge of the giant frozen island: Helheim, one of Greenland's fastest-retreating glaciers, has shrunk about 6 miles (10 kilometers) since scientists came here in 2005.
Several scientists, such as NASA oceanographer Josh Willis, who is also in Greenland, studying melting ice from above, said what's happening is a combination of man-made climate change and natural but weird weather patterns. Glaciers here do shrink in the summer and grow in the winter, but nothing like this year.
Summit Station, a research camp nearly 2 miles high (3,200 meters) and far north, warmed to above freezing twice this year for a record total of 16.5 hours. Before this year, that station was above zero for only 6.5 hours in 2012, once in 1889 and also in the Middle Ages.
This year is coming near but not quite passing the extreme summer of 2012 — Greenland's worst year in modern history for melting, scientists report.
"If you look at climate model projections, we can expect to see larger areas of the ice sheet experiencing melt for longer durations of the year and greater mass loss going forward," said University of Georgia ice scientist Tom Mote. "There's every reason to believe that years that look like this will become more common."
A NASA satellite found that Greenland's ice sheet lost about 255 billion metric tons of ice a year between 2003 and 2016, with the loss rate generally getting worse over that period. Nearly all of the 28 Greenland glaciers that Danish climate scientist Ruth Mottram measured are retreating, especially Helheim.
At Helheim, the ice, snow and water seem to go on and on, sandwiched by bare dirt mountains that now show no signs of ice but get covered in the winter. The only thing that gives a sense of scale is the helicopter carrying Holland and his team. It's dwarfed by the landscape, an almost imperceptible red speck against the ice cliffs where Helheim stops and its remnants begin.
Those ice cliffs are somewhere between 225 feet (70 meters) and 328 feet (100 meters) high. Just next to them are Helheim's remnants — sea ice, snow and icebergs — forming a mostly white expanse, with a mishmash of shapes and textures. Frequently water pools amid that white, glimmering a near-fluorescent blue that resembles windshield wiper fluid or Kool-Aid.
As pilot Martin Norregaard tries to land his helicopter on the broken-up part of what used to be glacier — a mush called a melange — he looks for ice specked with dirt, a sign that it's firm enough for the chopper to set down on. Pure white ice could conceal a deep crevasse that leads to a cold and deadly plunge.
Holland and team climb out to install radar and GPS to track the ice movement and help explain why salty, warm, once-tropical water attacking the glacier's "underbelly" has been bubbling to the surface
"It takes a really long time to grow an ice sheet, thousands and thousands of years, but they can be broken up or destroyed quite rapidly," Holland said.
Holland, like NASA's Willis, suspects that warm, salty water that comes in part from the Gulf Stream in North America is playing a bigger role than previously thought in melting Greenland's ice. And if that's the case, that's probably bad news for the planet, because it means faster and more melting and higher sea level rise. Willis said that by the year 2100, Greenland alone could cause 3 or 4 feet (more than 1 meter) of sea level rise.
So it's crucial to know how much of a role the air above and the water below play.
"What we want for this is an ice sheet forecast," Holland said.
In this remote landscape, sound travels easily for miles. Every several minutes there's a faint rumbling that sounds like thunder, but it's not. It's ice cracking.
In tiny Kulusuk, about a 40-minute helicopter ride away, Mugu Utuaq says the winter that used to last as much as 10 months when he was a boy can now be as short as five months. That matters to him because as the fourth-ranked dogsledder in Greenland, he has 23 dogs and needs to race them.
They can't race in the summer, but they still have to eat. So Utuaq and friends go whale hunting with rifles in small boats. If they succeed, which this day they didn't, the dogs can eat whale.
"People are getting rid of their dogs because there's no season," said Yewlin, who goes by one name. He used to run a sled dog team for tourists at a hotel in neighboring Tasiilaq, but they no longer can do that.
Yes, the melting glaciers, less ice and warmer weather are noticeable and much different from his childhood, said Kulusuk Mayor Justus Paulsen, 58. Sure, it means more fuel is needed for boats to get around, but that's OK, he said.
"We like it because we like to have a summer," Paulsen said.
But Holland looks out at Helheim glacier from his base camp and sees the bigger picture. And it's not good, he said. Not for here. Not for Earth as a whole.
"It's kind of nice to have a planet with glaciers around," Holland said.
Dhaka, Aug 20 (AP/UNB) - How do you create a space conducive to creative thinking?
A number of recent books explore the working environments of creative people in search of hints and inspiration.
"They're not highly produced spaces. They are spaces that reflect the real lives of people," says Ted Vadakan, co-author with Angie Myung of the new "Creative Spaces: People, Homes, and Studios to Inspire" (Chronicle Books). They talked with 23 creative people in a range of disciplines.
"One common thread we found is that things were in a state of progress," Vadakan says. "Things often felt sort of unfinished, in the midst of changing. ... The space changes over time as they grow and change and explore."
Put another way, he says, "many creative spaces feel like a continuous work in progress. That was very enlightening to me. It's easy to be critical of ourselves. But we realized that everyone is in that state of constant change and work in progress. They're always trying to be their better selves."
In addition to being comfortable with change, many of the people profiled in the book embraced imperfection, Vadakan said.
"I don't mind dirt and rust, and I like things that don't look spanking new, because it adds a little bit more character," creative director and graphic designer David Irvin says in the book. His elegant but comfortable modern home features a mix of different woods, from teak to plywood.
An abundance of plant life is also a common feature in creative spaces, as are displays of eclectic objects that trigger ideas or memories.
"If you have things that inspire you, like a large bulletin board with inspiring photos, or shelves with inspiring objects, whether natural objects or things that someone has made, it can really help the creative process," says Lorna Aragon, home editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine.
"Having natural elements in your space is also crucial. Bring some of the outdoors in. A view of greenery is important, if that's possible, or bring plants into your space," she says.
Creative spaces also should be orderly, Aragon says, with lots of natural light if possible.
"Clutter does not help you to focus. You want your space to have some order," she says. "And lighting — natural light if at all possible — is very important. It helps productivity and improves moods."
There also should be room to move around and space to create.
For desks, "Size is everything. It's frustrating to work at a desk that is too shallow, but you can equally go too deep — if you're working on a computer or laptop, for example, the ideal distance between your eyes and the screen is only an arm's length," writes Sally Coulthard in "Studio: Creative Spaces for Creative People" (Jacqui Small, London, 2017).
For colors, Aragon favors a light touch.
"I think neutrals are always good because they're not a distraction, but soft blues and greens also are supposed to help with productivity," she says.
Aside from these general themes, creative spaces are as individual and wide-ranging as the minds inhabiting them.
"In a lot of ways, each of these creatives infused their own style and personality in their spaces, and then they allow the spaces to change and grow along with them," Vadakan says.
Los Angeles, Aug 20 (AP/UNB) — Like many urban singles, the mountain lion P-22 lives a solitary life in a too-small habitat. And he has a hard time finding a mate in the big city.
Famous for traveling across two freeways and making a huge Los Angeles park his home, the lonesome big cat has become a symbol of the shrinking genetic diversity of wild animals that must remain all but trapped by sprawling development or risk becoming roadkill.
Hoping to fend off the extinction of mountain lions and other species that require room to roam, transportation officials and conservationists will build a mostly privately funded wildlife crossing over a major Southern California highway. It will give big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safe route to open space and better access to food and potential mates.
The span along U.S. 101 will only be the second animal overpass in a state where tunnels are more common. Officials say it will be the first of its kind near a major metropolis and the largest in the world, stretching 200 feet (61 meters) above 10 lanes of busy highway and a feeder road just 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of downtown LA.
"When the freeway went in, it cut off an ecosystem. We're just now seeing impacts of that," Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation told The Associated Press.
Scientists tracking mountain lions fitted with GPS collars found roadways are largely trapping animals in the Santa Monica Mountains, which run along the Malibu coast and across the middle of Los Angeles to Griffith Park, where P-22 settled.
"They can't get out of here to get dates, and cats can't get in to get dates. ... For those of us in LA, having a romance prospect quashed by traffic is something we can all relate to," Pratt said.
The result of that isolation, researchers say, is imminent genetic collapse for mountain lions. Habitat loss has driven the populations to inbreeding that could lead to extinction within 15 years unless the big cats regularly connect with other populations to increase their diversity, according to a study published this year by the University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Davis; and the National Park Service.
The $87 million bridge last month entered its final design phase. It's on track for groundbreaking within two years and completion by 2023, according to engineer Sheik Moinuddin, project manager with the California Department of Transportation. Construction will take place mostly at night and won't require any lengthy shutdowns of the 101 freeway, officials said.
Moinuddin said Caltrans considers it a "special" project that the agency hopes will inspire others like it across the state.
One of the reasons it's special is that 80% of the money to build it will come from private sources, Pratt said. She's in charge of fundraising and is using P-22 — "the Brad Pitt of the cougar world" — as the poster cat for the campaign.
"He is world famous, handsome, everybody loves him," she said about the cougar that's been photographed in his park home with the Hollywood sign as a backdrop.
Despite being the face of the project, P-22 is unlikely to use the bridge because he's confined to the park many miles away. But many of his relatives could benefit, Pratt said.
More than $13.5 in private funding has already been raised, Pratt said. Officials are considering offering naming rights to the bridge if an entity or individual — perhaps a Hollywood studio or star — ponies up a significant donation, she said.
The remaining 20% will come from public funds already allocated toward conservation projects, officials said.
Some 300,000 cars a day travel that stretch of the 101 in Agoura Hills, a small city surrounded by a patchwork of protected wildland that the new crossing will connect. Residents regularly spot tarantulas, coyotes and bobcats in their yards and enjoy a short walk to hiking and biking trails that offer sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
Drivers on the busy freeway in the Liberty Canyon area might do a double-take as they speed under a bridge 165 feet (50 meters) wide with brush and trees growing on top, seamlessly joining hillsides on both sides of the lanes.
"And who knows, you might see an animal peeking over as it's crossing," Pratt said.
From the perspective of that animal meandering to or from the Santa Monica Mountains, the topography will hopefully be indistinguishable from the scenery on either side, said architect Clark Stevens. His design will total about 8 acres of landscape — of which the bridge top occupies about an acre.
He's working with biologists and engineers to design berms and hollows with high edges that will block sound and light from the lanes below.
"Ideally the animals will never know they're on a bridge," said Stevens, with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains. "It's landscape flowing over a freeway. It's putting back a piece of the ecosystem that was lost."
Wildlife crossings — bridges and tunnels — are common in western Europe and Canada. A famous one in Banff National Park in Alberta spans the Trans-Canada Highway and is frequently used by bears, moose and elk. The first one in California opened with little fanfare last October near Temecula, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of San Diego.
The Los Angeles-area bridge has enjoyed nearly universal support, unusual for a public works project. The draft environmental impact document received nearly 9,000 comments — with only 15 opposed, according to the NWF.
Agoura Hills resident Fran Pavley, a retired state senator, said one of her neighbors was initially concerned about cost.
"He came on board after learning it would be funded privately," she said.
Stevens said he's encouraged by Caltrans' devotion to the project and its promise to consider more like it.
"Every hole in the freeway ought to be exploited. It's a game of odds," he said. "The more options animals have, the better off they'll be."
Geneva, Aug 17 (AP/UNB) — From guitars to traditional medicines and from tusk to tail, mankind's exploitation of the planet's fauna and flora is putting some of them at risk of extinction. Representatives of some 180 nations are meeting in Geneva to agree on protections for vulnerable species, taking up issues including the trade in ivory and the demand for shark fin soup.
The World Wildlife Conference on trade in endangered species, known as CITES, which takes place every three years, aims to make sure that global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants doesn't jeopardize their survival.
The conference opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 28, with key decisions expected to be finalized in the last two days. It had originally been due to take place in Colombo in May and June, but was moved to Geneva after a series of terror attacks in the Sri Lankan capital.
Three months ago, the first comprehensive U.N. report on biodiversity warned that extinction is looming for over 1 million species of plants and animals. There are growing concerns that policymakers aren't acting quickly enough to stop it.
"Business as usual is no longer an option ... The rate of wildlife extinction is accelerating," said CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero in her opening remarks to the conference.
"The assessment confirms that nature's dangerous decline is unprecedented," Higuero said.
The meeting also comes just days after the Trump administration announced plans to water down the U.S. Endangered Species Act — a message that could echo among attendees at the CITES conference, even if the U.S. move is more about domestic policy than international trade.
Alain Berset, head of the home affairs department of host Switzerland, noted that sustainable management of threatened species "of course requires taking into account the interests and the needs of the countries where these species live."
CITES bans trade in some products entirely, while permitting international trade in other species provided it doesn't hurt their numbers in the wild.
Demand is diverse for animal and plant products, prized for their medicinal properties or as pets, culinary delicacies, and products for knitwear and handbags — among many other uses.
Customs officials around the world know to be on the lookout for the CITES logo on shipments of plants and animals across borders: It amounts to a highly respected seal of approval that trade in such species is legitimate.
The meeting's agenda contains 56 proposals to change — mostly strengthen — the level of protection among vulnerable or endangered species. But some argue that protections should be downgraded because the relevant populations have stabilized or even increased. Officials say the decisions are to be based on science, not political or other considerations.
"The new wildlife trade rules ... cover an array of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, trees and other plants. Twenty listing proposals are inspired by concern over the growing appetite of the exotic pet trade for charismatic amphibians and reptiles," CITES says.
Africa is facing an internal debate about elephants and ivory.
Zambia — which argues its population of wild African elephants is large and stable, at about 27,000 — wants to "downlist" that population to allow for ivory stockpile sales and exports of hunting trophies, hides and leathers. A few other countries in southern Africa want another rule on elephants eased. But 10 other countries — all but one African — want total protection for elephants from any international ivory trade.
Israel is even proposing tougher regulations on the legal trade of mammoth ivory, hoping to undercut illegal traffickers of elephant tusk who sneakily try to pass it off as "ice ivory" — ivory that comes from mammoth tusks.
Elephant and mammoth tusks can be almost indistinguishable to the untrained eye, and the mammoth ivory trade has become a booming business. Conference attendees will have to determine whether products from a long-extinct species can or should be covered by CITES.
Advocacy group Avaaz says one key question is whether Japan, home to the world's largest legal ivory market, will join other countries committed to closing their ivory trade.
"Japan's ivory market is fueling the international illegal ivory trade," Avaaz campaigner Andy Legon said in an e-mail. "And with elephants facing extinction, China, the U.S., Hong Kong SAR, Singapore and others have recently committed to closing their ivory markets."
Flora, arguably a less glamorous subject than animal life, also gets spots on the agenda. One proposal, for example, would exempt musical instruments from trade restrictions on a type of rosewood that's prized by guitar makers.
Also on the agenda are sharks. Some researchers say commercial demand for shark fins — largely driven by the Chinese appetite for shark fin soup — is decimating populations.
Sharks are getting some support in high places, including from retired basketball all-star Yao Ming, who led China's Olympic team three times. Yao became a WildAid ambassador in 2006 when he signed a pledge to give up shark fin soup and has since appeared in numerous ads calling for diners to skip the luxury soup to save sharks.
WildAid, an environmental group, also says Yao was instrumental in bringing about China's ivory ban two years ago.
Luke Warwick of the Wildlife Conservation Society said dried shark fin can command up to $1,000 per kilogram, and listing more shark species to the CITES list would be just one of several measures needed to help vulnerable populations of the predators of the deep.
"You've got this huge, unsustainable global trade in shark fin and huge parts of it, 80%, are not regulated, with millions of animals dying," he told a Geneva news conference this week. "We're watching them disappear before our eyes."
Dr. Abdulla Naseer, the Maldives' environment minister, said his island nation supports three proposals to protect 18 species of sharks and rays, namely the mako shark, white-spotted wedgefish and giant guitarfish.
"We would be ensuring future trade is sustainable ... before it's too late," he said. "We want to see the oceans protected for future generations."
Denver, Aug 17 (AP/UNB) — Colorado tightened its air quality regulations on Friday, requiring that at least 5% of the vehicles sold in the state by 2023 emit zero pollution.
The state Air Quality Control Commission, which passed the rule on an 8-1 vote, said the requirement applies to auto manufacturers, not buyers. It's intended to boost the number of electric vehicles in a state struggling to control ozone pollution in its most heavily populated area.
The minimum rises to 6.23% in 2025.
Colorado is the 11th state to adopt zero-emission standards, according to Green Car Reports, which tracks developments in low-pollution vehicles.
Two auto industry groups, Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, applauded the rule. They said they had been working with Colorado officials on how to structure the requirement.
John Bozzella, president of Global Automakers, said Colorado had adopted an innovative policy by collaborating with manufacturers.
Environmental groups also welcomed the standards, but the Colorado Freedom to Drive Coalition called them costly and ineffective.
"We believe commissioners did a disservice to all Coloradans, but especially Coloradans of modest means," coalition spokeswoman Sara Almerri said.
Regulators said the zero-emission standard is aimed at reducing ozone and greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis directed the Air Quality Control Commission to set a zero-emissions standard shortly after he took office in January. In a statement Friday, he said the new rule was "only the beginning" of the state's work to reduce air pollution.
Excessive ground-level ozone has plagued Colorado's urban areas for years. Ozone is the main component of smog and can aggravate asthma and contribute to early deaths from respiratory disease. It's created from pollution emitted by vehicles, the oil and gas industry and other sources.
Ozone alerts have frequently flashed on signs over Denver freeways this summer, asking drivers to reduce car trips.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Denver and the northern Colorado urban corridor failed to meet federal ozone standards and said the state must come up with a new plan to clean up the air.
The state is also rewriting air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry.