The government’s clean air plan largely ignores traffic pollution
The government has published its new Clean Air Strategy, intended to improve air quality and the catastrophic impact of nitrous dioxide pollution on health with new restrictions on wood stoves, open fires and agriculture.
The UK, and England in particular, has some of the worst nitrogen dioxide pollution in Europe, largely due to vehicles, but instead of introducing new nationwide measures to reduce diesel emissions, the new plan refers back to a woefully inadequate 2017 policy for tackling roadside nitrogen oxide pollution, which makes it largely the responsibility of local authorities.
The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting faster than we thought
The East Antarctic Ice Sheet has been long presumed to be among the most stable parts of Antarctica, but a new study analysing 40 years of satellite data indicates that it may have begun to melt at an increasing rate (Science). Over the last 40 years, Antarctic ice melt has added 13.8 milimetres to sea levels, but the new research found that, unexpectedly, 30 per cent of that sea level rise contribution case from East, rather than West, Antarctica.
Magnetic north is moving, but a US government shutdown hinders updates
The location of Earth’s magnetic north pole typically moves 15km per year, but over the last 30 years, that rate of movement has been around 55km per year, requiring regular updates to all kinds of navigation systems (Gizmodo). Unfortunately, the US government is currently shut down until the country’s president and Congress can agree on a new spending plan, and that means that a scheduled five-yearly update to the World Magnetic Model, due out today, has not been published.
Scientists are home-brewing lava to crack deadly volcanic mysteries
A couple of minutes before 21:00 on December 22, a section of the Indonesian volcano Anak Krakatau collapsed into the sea, triggering a tsunami that struck without warning half an hour later, killing hundreds of people (WIRED). Most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, so we don’t have a detailed understanding of how volcanic eruptions interact with the oceans, but scientists are working to change that with computer models, state-of-the-art submarines and home-brewed lava.
US police can’t force people to unlock phones with face or fingerprint en mass
A judge in the USA has ruled that the police cannot get a warrant to enter a house, seize all electronic devices and force the people present to try to unlock them using biometric sign-ins (Ars Technica). This ruling does not affect forced phone unlocking at airports, where a legal loophole about the status of US borders is widely used to demand access to travellers’ electronic devices when they enter the country.