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State will not budge to release funds for Glacier County until repeat audit findings are rectified | New


Failure to resolve significant findings or implement corrective actions must result in the suspension of financial assistance in in accordance with the rules adopted by the ministry pending resolution or compliance.” MCA 2-7-515

Glacier County officials learned a hard lesson on Tuesday, July 20. “Partial progress” isn’t enough when it comes to asking the state of Montana to release the funds it began withholding in 2019.

President Mary Jo Bremner, along with fellow Commissioner John Overcast, CFO Chancy Kittson and County Prosecutor Terryl Matt, traveled to Helena last week for a face-to-face meeting with state officials, hoping to convince them to release $ 675,983.80 on the state of Montana withheld due to repeated audit findings.

“We are not in a position to stop withholding funds for partial progress,” said Misty Ann Giles, director of the Department of Administration (DOA). Giles acknowledged that progress is being made by Glacier County. “I want to applaud you. I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been in years.

“We are happy to see an improvement,” said Branden Beatty, director of the Department of Revenue (DOR), but he was quick to point out that state officials would not release the nearly $ 700,000 in funds he holds.

Two years ago, Mike Manion, deputy director and chief legal counsel of the DOA, wrote to Glacier County officials to inform them: “Given the lack of sufficient progress in resolving and resolving the major issues that the county agreed to resolve in its CAP (Fiscal Year 2015-16 Corrective Action Plan) – and repeating these issues in the FY 2017-18 audit report – the DOA has no other choice than to suspend financial aid.

At last week’s meeting, Bremner told DOA and DOR officials that the county team had “worked tirelessly and successfully … we are not denying the guilt … and there is still a few points to be settled “but the county is having its problems” chief over “and” trying to right the wrongs of the past “.

Bremner said Glacier County saw “remarkable improvement” between the 2019 and 2020 audit and called on the state to “adjust” the “ongoing punishment for residents of Glacier County.”

Tracy Morano of DOR reminded the Glacier County contingency that $ 1.1 million is still owed to the state of Montana by Glacier County. Morano said it was “No. 1 problem that needs to be resolved.

Earlier in the meeting, however, Matt said Glacier County believed they had overpaid DOR.

Six years ago, the state of Montana informed Glacier County commissioners that they had until Friday, July 24, 2015 to make a $ 1 million “deposit” for amounts Glacier County owed to the government. Ministry of Revenue (DOR) at that time.

“We really recognize the significant progress” that has been made under Chancy Kittson’s leadership, said Cheryl Gray of DOA. However, given that the county’s audit for fiscal 2020 still had important and repeated findings, Gray said the state must continue withholding funds from the county.

Kittson told DOA and DOR officials that withholding funds “put us in a situation” where the county had to stop providing certain services. As such, the county is on the defensive and has researched how DOA and DOR apply MCA 2-7-515 to other counties in the state.

Using Stillwater County as an example, Kittson said the county has repeated findings dating back to 2016 and “not $ 1 was withheld. It sounds like disparity.

State officials retorted that no other county in Montana has ever had an audit using “going concern” language. “It really uplifted Glacier County in state action.”

The auditors who performed Glacier County’s audits for fiscal year 2015-16 and fiscal year 2017-18 both concluded that “… the county has a significant negative net cash position in its government funds. These conditions raise substantial doubt about the county’s ability to continue operating.

DOA and DOR officials said their main goal is to help cities, counties, towns, etc. to get on “the road to success” and they are currently working with other counties just like they did it with Glacier County.

Manion pointed out that the state of Montana began withholding funds in 2019 after giving Glacier County officials three years to correct findings from previous audits. Under MCA 2-7-515, state officials could have started retaining much sooner, but instead chose to try to help county officials with training, he reminded attendees.

Manion added that there had been “a lot of correspondence with the county” and that the state would continue to withhold funds based on state law.

Treasurer Don Wilson, who was appointed in June 2018 and subsequently elected to the post, attended the meeting by telephone. “Does the law only apply to Glacier County?” ” He asked.

A summary of audit findings presented by state officials showed that Glacier County had 16 audit findings during the 2013-2014 fiscal year audit; 17 in the 2015-2016 audit, with eight of these repeated findings; 20 audit findings in the 2017-2018 audits, of which 13 are repeated; 16 audit findings in fiscal year 2019, of which 14 are repeated; and eight results in fiscal 2020, seven of which are listed as repeated results.

State officials said they “have no evidence that you have resolved your important findings.”

The three significant findings from the last audit were all listed as “multi-year” findings and related to tax challenges, bank reconciliations and budget authorization overruns in several funds.

Three repeat results and a new “insignificant findings to watch” were also included on the summary, along with a repeated “insignificant” result related to the county’s accounts payable.

DOA officials have said every year when Glacier County submits its corrective action plan, “you say you’re going to do something to fix it and it’s not done.”

During his presentation, Bremner pointed out that Glacier County had reduced its excessive budget spending from $ 1.2 million in 2019 to just over $ 28,000 in fiscal 2020.

Full monthly cash reconciliations dating back to January 2020 are still needed, state officials say. Glacier County’s last accepted reconciliation dates back to December 2019.

According to the state, the monthly cash reconciliations submitted do not include supporting documents, such as bank and investment statements, that are needed to prove the county’s financial position. Documents on some $ 500,000 in disputed taxes held by the state are also needed. “There’s nothing we can do until we get this information from Don.”

Wilson replied that he had provided everything to the state “every month”, adding that he had a “pile of problems” with DOR and the alleged mistakes they had made “but that’s for another time. and another meeting “.

Kittson said the county and its consultants had spent “thousands of dollars and countless hours” trying to correct the situation left behind from a backlog of bank reconciliations.

Beatty offered to meet with Magda Nelson, a consultant hired by the county, and Wilson, in Kalispell, to review the spreadsheets and other documents. Nelson lives and works in Kalispell and does not travel. She spoke several times during the meeting, which was held via the Zoom conference, which allowed relevant members of the public to see or listen to the meeting.

Bremner concluded the meeting by saying county officials need a “clear understanding” of what is needed for the state to stop withholding funds. She assured the DOA and DOR that the county would provide the necessary documents requested, adding that she wanted to move Glacier County “forward and not back”.

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Play Nightclub Hereford owner slams mandatory Covid passports


THE company that owns Play Nightclub Hereford has questioned Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership on plans to force Covid vaccine passports on club gates from September.

Peter Marks, managing director of Rekom UK, which owns 42 nightclubs including channels Pryzm, Eden and Fiction, as well as Blue School Street’s Play, said he felt “totally in disbelief” after hearing Mr. Johnson for clubs later this year.

At a press conference on Monday, the day clubs reopened for the first time in 16 months, Mr Johnson said proof of a negative test aged 18 and over would no longer be considered sufficient to enter nightclubs from September.

Mr Marks said that while he understood the difficulties faced by the government due to its need to “navigate all the icebergs of different factions”, he did not agree with the latest plans.

He added that he feels the clubs have been “crushed” because Mr Johnson “dares not touch the ads” because he understands “how unpopular it would be” with the public.

He told the PA news agency: “What we have here is a government, especially a prime minister, which is driven more by public opinion and opinion polls than I think it is. healthy.

“Sometimes you have to show leadership and I don’t think this man has that. I question his judgment. I think he’s really good at boosting morale, and I’m certainly not anti-Boris in it. itself, but I think it was a terrible error in judgment on his part. ”

Mr Marks has said he will “advocate” to the government that the nightclub industry should not be treated separately from the rest of society and that he wants to work with them to examine how clubs can operate in a society. “Risk assessed and balanced”.

“Highlighting the nightclub industry has no basis other than populist messages and I totally disagree with that,” he said.

“To just say, bang, [and introduce vaccine passports], in the vain hope that nightclubs will be so popular with those under 30 that it will make them shrug their shoulders and get a passport, is delusional.

“We will not accept passports as a condition of entry until we are instructed to do so because it is a suicide note for us.

“If this is enforced, I will not break the law. I would never do that. But the reality is that I will keep drumming until common sense prevails, but that’s because it is. of the populist clap. ”

A government spokesperson said: “This is about protecting people in settings where the virus is most likely to spread, and vaccines are the best possible way to do that.

“The change will not take effect until the end of September, when everyone aged 18 and over has had a chance to get a full vaccine. We continue to urge young people to come forward for their vaccine.

“The NHS Covid Pass is designed to be simple and easy to use and we announced this change more than two months in advance, to warn sites to prepare. ”

Grand Tour: Wild Time of the Solar System


Saturn also has polar aspirations. Like Jupiter, its atmosphere is rich in hydrogen with ice clouds of ammonia. In 2012, the Cassini spacecraft produced vivid photographs of a remarkable hexagonal jet stream – first detected in the 1980s by Voyager probes – taking point-to-point photos around the planet’s north pole.

This was seven years after producing equally remarkable images of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, which is much more interesting to astrobiologists. Rich in nitrogen with a spoonful of methane and ethane, Titan is the only moon in the solar system with clouds and a dense atmosphere – four times heavier than ours. It is also the only world outside of Earth that has liquid on the surface despite temperatures hovering around -300 F (-184 C).

Cassini also detected an underground saltwater ocean, lakes and seas of liquid methane near the poles, and vast expanses of arid dunes surrounding the equator. And when Cassini launched the Huygens probe to the surface of Titan in 2005, the photos revealed a fantastic landscape of hazy haze, river channels and dunes.

With an axial tilt of 27 degrees, Titan has seven and a half seasons and methane storms that would flood polar rivers in summer. NASA’s eight-rotor Dragonfly helicopter will land at Titan’s equator in 2034 in search of life. The dense atmosphere (compared to the ultra-thin air that NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter handles on Mars), should allow it to fly north in a series of jumps covering more than 160 km. Based on Cassini’s seasonal observations, NASA forecasters predict calm weather.

“We think of Titan as a real laboratory where we can see chemistry similar to that of ancient Earth when life settled here,” says astrobiologist Melissa Trainer, associate principal investigator at Dragonfly.

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microbes thrive on pulverized rock under half a mile of Antarctic ice | Smart News


Under 2,500 feet of ice at the South Pole, a 23 square mile unfrozen lake sinks in total darkness beneath this immense mass of ice and snow. What is in this buried lake is even more surprising: life. Microbes thrive in this incredibly inhospitable environment, feeding on chemicals released by crushed rock caused by erosion.

New research from the University of Bristol details how different types of microscopic organisms survive on a previously unknown source of nutrients from ancient sediments. Their results were published this month in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

Finding out how these microbes exist under such extreme conditions may provide clues to scientists looking for life on other planets. Study author Beatriz Gill Olivas, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol, says this research may offer clues as to where to look to explore other worlds.

“Antarctic lakes can be an indicator of extreme environments in other planetary systems,” she told Harry Baker. Live Science. “They offer excellent insight into how microbial life might survive in other environments.”

Olivas leads an international team of scientists studying microbial life in Antarctica’s Whillans Lake, discovered from space in 2007. They used sediment samples taken from the body of water and replicated the environment by laboratory, measuring the various compounds released by pulverized rock. , including methane, ammonium, nitrogen, sulfur and iron.

The team showed that the single-celled organisms of Whillans Lake, namely bacteria and archaea, had abundant nutrients not only to survive but also to thrive, reports Isaac Schultz of Gizmodo. Scientists have found that the body of water contains 54 times the amount of carbon needed to sustain life. Olivas points out that microbes could live throughout the large subglacial lake due to the high levels of compounds essential for life.

“The Whillans Subglacial Lake is part of a large, interconnected hydrologic system, so upstream erosion could represent a potential source of biologically important compounds for this lake and other lakes in the system that could support thriving communities. microbial life, ”she told Schultz.

This study was the first to use sediment samples from the lake. Olivas says the compounds produced in his lab were enough to support both methanotrophs, microbes that depend on methane for carbon and energy, and methanogens, microbes that produce methane.

“Only two previous studies have examined the potential influence of erosion on subglacial energy and nutrient sources, which involved the crushing of largely unaltered rock samples,” she said in a statement. Bristol University Press Release. “This is the first study to use severely weathered ancient marine sediments, but the gas concentrations measured are broadly consistent with previous results.”

While this research helps explain how these microbes survive in Antarctica, it also provides insight into how life might exist elsewhere in the solar system and beyond. Since many planets are frozen in place or experience extreme temperatures, digging in frozen areas could allow scientists to eventually discover alien life.

“We obviously can’t say that these processes will definitely support exoplanetary microbes,” Olivas told Baker. “However, it certainly offers information on how microbes from frozen planets and moons can survive.”

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Russia signs deal with Dubai logistics company to navigate thawing Arctic


ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – A Russian company that seeks to take advantage of climate change in the Far North won key commercial support on Friday when DP World, the massive Dubai-based logistics and ports company, signed an agreement to help to manage operations along sea lanes in the thawed Arctic Ocean.

While climate change has brought disasters to much of the world this summer – floods, fires and heat waves – the Russian project envisions some sort of silver lining in the melting arctic ice in terms of both benefits and reduced costs. additional emissions, as the road shortens the shipping distance between Asia and Europe.

The sea lanes, known as the Northern Sea Route, are already in use. Russia began to ply the waters in the 1930s. But most goods are transported only between Russian ports, or in the case of oil and natural gas from Siberian fields, to export markets.

What’s new is the focus on shipping along the route between Asia and Europe – the business DP World agreed to cooperate on Friday to grow.

The deal, which company executives signed, theatrically, on the deck of a boat circling the canals of St. Petersburg, gives the Russian project a commercial seal of approval from one of the largest logistics companies in the world. Climate change is at the heart of the business.

“What prompted us was that the ice melted,” Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO of DP World, said of his decision to invest in the Russian sea route.

Although ice still obstructs the Northern Sea Route for much of the year, it is now fairly sporadic in the summer that so-called ice-class ships, those whose reinforced hulls allow them to navigate through pack ice, can sail. much of the distance without icebreaker escorts.

As part of the deal, DP World and the Russian company that manages the Northern Sea Route, Rosatom, will design a fleet of ice-class container ships.

The companies will also study the development of Russian ports at both ends of the seaway – in Murmansk and Vladivostok – to handle the transfer of containers from ice-class ships to regular ships. This is necessary so that the more expensive ice class ships only sail in the Far North, and not all the way to the container destination.

“As a company involved in logistics and port operations around the world, this is a unique place where we can offer our expertise,” said Mr. Sulayem. “We are really committed to making it a success. DP World has not disclosed how much it plans to invest.

Climate change has been particularly pronounced in the polar regions of the world. Forest fires, for example, broke out this summer in the tundra of Russia’s far north.

Warming has led to a drastic reduction in sea ice. Melting exposes Russia to new security threats along its northern border, but also creates trade opportunities, including the opening of new sea lanes.

The minimum summer pack ice over the ocean in recent years is about a third lower than the 1980s average when monitoring began, researchers from the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center said last year. The ocean has lost nearly a million square kilometers of ice and is expected to be virtually ice free in summer, including at the North Pole, by mid-century.

Executives from both companies stressed that the shorter route has the potential to reduce emissions from ships.

Shipping time from Busan, South Korea to Amsterdam, for example, is 13 days shorter on the Northern Sea Route than on the Suez Canal. The growing shipping schedule, however, is making it easier to extract oil, natural gas and coal – all of the warming fuels – in the Russian Arctic.

Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear company which is the legally designated operator of infrastructure along the route, has invested in opening up the Arctic Ocean as an alternative to the Suez Canal.

Prior to the signing, Rosatom hosted DP World executives, foreign ambassadors and journalists on a boat trip to St. Petersburg that passed the Baltic shipyard, where four new nuclear icebreakers are under construction. . Each cost around $ 800 million, according to Rosatom.

Far to the north, the company is also dredging ports on Russia’s north coast to accommodate larger ships.

He installed a floating nuclear power plant in a port, Pevek, to provide electricity to facilities on the shore.

And it coordinates investments in aids to navigation, search and rescue capabilities and better ice mapping, according to presentations from company executives and Russian government officials.

Sailing in the thawing Arctic Ocean is “a new activity on a global scale,” said Alexei Likhachev, director of Rosatom.

“In Russia, we are also suffering from climate change, forest fires where they have never happened before, tornadoes and torrential rains where we did not expect,” he said. But that doesn’t mean the country shouldn’t use sea lanes that open up longer during the year as the ice recedes, he said.

The goal of container shipping on the Arctic Ocean, he said, is “to return to the status quo.”

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15,000-year-old viruses found in Tibetan glacier

The viruses are unlike any that have been cataloged by scientists before, according to a study published earlier this week in the journal Microbiome.

A team including climatologists and microbiologists from Ohio State University collected two ice cores from the top of the Guliya ice cap, 22,000 feet above sea level, in western China in 2015.

The ice core was 1,017 feet deep, the study’s lead author, microbiologist Zhiping Zhong told CNN on Thursday. It was then cut into sections three feet long and four inches in diameter.

The team then analyzed the ice and found 33 viruses, at least 28 of which were previously unknown to science and survived because they were frozen.

Viruses likely originated from soil or plants, rather than humans or animals, and would have been adapted to extreme conditions, according to the study. They would not be harmful to humans, the researchers told CNN.

Ice captures the contents of the atmosphere over time, including viruses and microbes, according to the study.

“Ice provides frozen records,” Lonnie Thompson, study co-author, Ohio State professor of earth sciences and senior researcher at the university’s Byrd Polar Research Center, told CNN Thursday.

Relatively little is known about viruses in glaciers, but the field is growing in importance as the world’s ice melts due to climate change.

“It really captures the public’s attention,” said Thompson, who added that the Covid-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of learning about microbial communities.

Co-author Matthew Sullivan, Ohio State professor of microbiology and director of the university’s Center of Microbiome Science, said the methods used in the study allow scientists to assess the rates of evolution of viruses. present in different layers of ice cores.

It could also have advantages in the search for life on Mars, for example.

“Once you’ve developed this new technology, it can help you answer questions in other really tough environments,” Sullivan said.

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WATCH NOW: Disney Parks Aren’t Such a Small World After All | Television



Disney Imagines Vanessa Hunt and Mark LeVine describe the new documentary “Behind the Attraction” detailing the process of creating Disney attractions.

The attractions of Walt Disney World and Disneyland are like icebergs. “You only see maybe two percent of the attraction,” says Brian Volk-Weiss, a Disney producer.

Take it a step further and there is a lot more to discover – the inspirations, the mechanics, the storytelling.

In a new Disney + series, “Behind the Attraction,” these creators – called “Imagineers” – detail how key elements came to be. They talk about the “Walt” years, continue the decades of expansion and end in the future, explaining how Rise of the Resistance, the new “Star Wars” ride and “TRON”, an upcoming attraction, immerse guests in movies.

Walt Disney’s goal with Disneyland was also to put visitors in the middle of the action and be a part of history. The Jungle Cruise, one of the park’s first attractions, was his way of recreating a “real life” adventure. “He wanted to bring guests to Africa with animals,” says Jeanette Lomboy, vice president / director of the site portfolio at Walt Disney Imagineering. “Animal Kingdom is a fulfillment of Walt’s vision of Jungle Cruise.”

In turn, a merry-go-round like Jungle Cruise has inspired a movie: Dwayne Johnson stars in a big-screen edition that borrows from the attraction’s narrative. It hits screens on July 30.

Better yet: Pirates of the Caribbean has launched a whole franchise. During the construction of Shanghai Disneyland, Imagineers stepped in and revamped the ride to reflect the progress of the theme park industry. Now, “it truly is one of the most beautiful rides in the world,” Lomboy says.

Piece of ancient supercontinent discovered beneath New Zealand


As the Californian heat soared outside in the summer of 2018, Rose Turnbull sat in the cool of a windowless basement, sorting out grains of fine sand. A New Zealand-based geologist, Turnbull was in the lab of a colleague at California State University, Northridge, trying to find tiny zircon crystals, which she hoped would help unlock the secrets of the mysterious eighth continent of Zealandia, also known by its Maori name Te Riu-a-Maui.

The task required a trained hand and a little elbow grease, or rather nose grease. Turnbull demonstrates on Zoom, lifting the closed tweezers to the outside of his nose to scoop up some oil, which keeps the kernels from scintillating across the room when plucked.

The crystals came from rocks collected from the islands of New Zealand, which are among the few pieces of the nearly two million square miles of Zealandia that overlook the sea. Recently recognized by scientists, Zealandia is the most submerged continent, the thinnest and youngest ever. Turnbull, who works at the research and advisory group GNS Science in New Zealand, and his colleagues wanted to learn more about the processes that have shaped this unusual landmass.

What they found surprised them: Hidden under the east coast of New Zealand’s South and Stewart Islands, lingers a piece of a billion-year-old supercontinent. The finding suggests that Zealandia may not be as young as it was once thought, which could strengthen the case for its continental status.

“The continents are kind of like icebergs,” says study author Keith Klepeis, a structural geologist at the University of Vermont. “What you see on the surface is not really the full extent of the beast.”

The discovery, described in the journal Geology, can help solve a puzzle that has long puzzled scientists. Most continents contain a core of rock known as a craton, a kind of geological core that is at least a billion years old that acts as a stable base on which the continents are built. Until now, however, the oldest continental crust found on Zealandia has been dated to around 500 million years ago, which is relatively young in geological terms. So if Zealandia is a continent, why did its craton seem to have disappeared?

This new fragment of ancient rock could be part of Zealandia’s missing piece. The discovery “ticks the last box,” says Turnbull. “We are sitting on a continent.”

The work is also part of the larger puzzle of how Zealandia – or any continental crust – was formed, says study author Joshua Schwartz, a granite geologist at California State University, Northridge.

“This layer above the Earth that we call the crust, this thin layer is where all the action of life takes place,” he says. The continental crust is where we live, cultivate, draw water, extract minerals, etc. “Basically our whole life is built on the crust.”

Find the lost continent

Scientists have been tracking Zealandia for decades, but defining it as a continent has proven difficult. “The dirty secret of geology is that there isn’t really a hard and fast definition of a continent,” says Schwartz.

A major element is the composition of the rocks: the seabed around New Zealand is not made up of the magnesium and iron laden rocks that make up most of the oceanic crust. Instead, rocks are silica-rich types, like granite, which are more commonly found in the continental crust. The rocks extend over a large area which is also much thicker and elevated compared to the more typical oceanic crust that surrounds it.

A team of scientists led by Nick Mortimer of New Zealand’s GNS Science made these points and more when they made a compelling case for calling Zealandia a continent in 2017. However, Mortimer and his team mentioned one quirk: the absence of any obvious craton.

“It’s weird,” Klepeis says. The continental crust is more floating than its oceanic counterparts, so it tends to resist the processes that recycle surface rocks back into the mantle. The stable cratonic core of these rocks provides a base from which continents can develop over time, as the slow march of plate tectonics sends island arcs and other landmasses to pile up along their edges.

For example, Schwartz says of his family vacation in New Mexico, “I’m just south of the Wyoming craton.” This area of ​​rock, some of which dates back over 3 billion years, is one of the many cratons that make up the stable interior of North America. The Santa Fe rocks beneath Schwartz’s feet, however, have rejoined the mainland more recently, as a series of islands collided with the ancient coast.

So far, it seemed that Zealandia’s oldest crust had taken shape around 500 million years ago, when the continent formed the edge of the supercontinent Gondwana. Zealandia contains evidence of older rock, including pieces of mantle 2.7 billion years old, but older crust has been elusive.

The new study focuses on 169 samples from New Zealand’s South and Stewart Islands. Some Turnbull and his team had collected from multiple trips to the area, and others from the Country Rock Catalog, so the collection sites stain the southern island pair in their entirety.

Back in the lab, they crushed the rocks and sorted the grains by density and magnetism until all that was left was fine sand composed mostly of zircon crystals. Turnbull then selected thousands of zircons, transferring them to microscope slides, which were then quenched in epoxy and polished before chemical analysis could finally begin.

“It’s a complete process,” says Turnbull.

History in crystals

As the data came in, an unexpected story emerged. The researchers used a method in which they modeled the age not only of the zircons, but also of the bedrock that melted to form them. The ages they recorded revealed that a strip of zircons along the eastern edge of the two southern islands came from underground rocks dating back to 1.3 billion years ago.

At that time, all of the world’s landmasses were heading for a slow-motion collision that would ultimately form the supercontinent named Rodinia. According to the team, this global crush and split likely generated pockets of magma that would become the very ancient rock slab that now lurks deep beneath New Zealand, a cratonic fragment that Zealandia later built upon.

The zircons also appear to bear marks of the eventual separation of the child Zealandia from its parent supercontinent.

This is because the crystals have low amounts of an isotope of oxygen called O-18. This chemical fingerprint is rare in zircons embedded in granite, as the team discovered. For these rocks to form, “a ton of different things have to come together,” says Juliana Troch, a geochemist specializing in magma generation at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

A key ingredient is heat, which helps imprint O-18 signatures from the percolation of water onto the surrounding rock. According to the team, a scorching mantle plume beneath Rodinia may have weakened parts of its crust, causing it to rupture 750 million years ago and leaving behind O-18 imprints in the zircon bedrock.

The crystals themselves – and the rocks that surround them – would not form until 500 to 100 million years ago, when fiery explosions of volcanism partially melted these pieces of hidden Rodinian crust. The drops of magma slowly rose upward, crystallizing into granites studded with zircon. Tectonic changes eventually brought these tiny time capsules to the surface, where Turnbull and his team accidentally picked them up.

“It’s a classic thing with science,” says Turnbull. “The things that we discovered are things that we didn’t necessarily intend to find out.”

A nascent continent

Oddly enough, while the discovery suggests Zealandia’s crust is much older than previously thought, it is still considerably younger than its mainland cousins. All of today’s major continents (Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, South America and Antarctica) are home to rocks over 3 billion years old. There is currently no hard age limit that defines continents and cratons, but their generally long histories are a testament to the expected strength of these landforms, says Schwartz.

Maybe Zealandia is just a young continent. “You see the process of creating a continent around the [Rodinian] fragment, “he says. Turnbull agrees, adding,” It’s like the birth of a craton. “

However, more work is needed to finalize the picture of Zealandia’s origins. The study’s conclusions come from traces of what lies below and not bits of Rodinia in hand, so there is still some uncertainty in the precise steps that led to the curious chemistries the team found, explains Alex McCoy-West, a geochemist at James Cook University in Australia. .

“It would be great if we actually found this real evidence,” he says.

Still, the work promises to help scientists better understand the dance of Earth’s continents as they waltzed across the planet, periodically combining into supercontinents, then tearing each other apart.

“This study highlights that you can still get pieces of this very ancient history from much, much younger rock,” says Jack Mulder, a geologist at the University of Queensland, who was not on the team. study.

And there is much more to be found within Zealandia’s limits, adds Turnbull. “It just makes you want to keep going out and exploring.”

15,000-year-old viruses found in Tibetan glacier ice – and we don’t know anything about them


The viruses, recovered from two samples of ice cores taken from the Tibetan Plateau, are new species to science, and they are unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Researchers say it could help us shed new light on viral evolution, but concerns are also looming.

Yao Tandong, left, and Lonnie Thompson, right, process an ice core drilled into the Guliya ice cap on the Tibetan Plateau in 2015. The ice contained viruses nearly 15,000 years old, according to a new study. Credit: Lonnie Thompson, Ohio State University.

There are diseases in the ice

In a sense, glaciers are time capsules, preserving information from thousands of years ago. This information may relate to past climate, atmospheric chemistry, or even inhabitants of the past.

“These glaciers formed gradually, and along with the dust and gas, many viruses also settled in this ice,” said Zhi-Ping Zhong, lead author of the study and researcher at Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research. Center that also focuses on microbiology. “Glaciers in western China are not well studied and our goal is to use this information to reflect past environments. And viruses are one of those environments.

Viruses and other microbes can survive for thousands of years frozen in ice. In a new study by researchers at Ohio State University, researchers analyzed ice cores from the Guliya ice cap on the Tibetan Plateau. The carrots, which date back 14,000 years, revealed 33 viruses, 28 of which were completely unknown to science.

Identifying and classifying viruses is more difficult than with other species, and the cataloging process usually takes some time. Yet the viruses would have thrived in cold environments, the researchers believe, based on the genetic analysis.

“These are viruses that would have thrived in extreme environments,” said Matthew Sullivan, study co-author, Ohio State professor of microbiology and director of the Ohio State Center of Microbiome Science. “These viruses have gene signatures that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures for how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions. These aren’t easy signatures to extract, and the method Zhi-Ping developed to decontaminate carrots and study microbes and viruses in ice could help us search for these genetic sequences in other extreme icy environments – Mars, for example, the moon, or closer to home us in the Atacama Desert on Earth.

The researchers were careful to avoid contamination. When studying microbes, it’s always important to make sure that you don’t bring your own microbes into the mix. The researchers therefore first decontaminated the surface of the ice core, then examined the intact parts. This method could also prove useful when looking for microbes on other planets (or satellites).

Growing importance

While this may help us better understand how viruses have evolved and adapted to extreme environments, it is also becoming increasingly important to study viruses and other pathogens frozen in ice.

So far, this is only the third study to identify viruses in glaciers, and it could be useful to conduct more such studies. As temperatures continue to rise due to human-made greenhouse gas emissions, more and more ice will continue to melt, not only from glaciers, but also from ice caps and permafrost. Ice that has remained frozen for thousands of years is about to melt, bringing dormant viruses and bacteria to life.

“We know very little about viruses and microbes in these extreme environments, and what is actually there,” Thompson said. “Documenting and understanding this is extremely important: How do bacteria and viruses react to climate change? What happens when we go from an ice age to a warm period like the one we are experiencing now? “

The study was published in the journal Microbiome.

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Saturn’s moon Enceladus: are methane emissions a sign of life?


A few weeks ago, French astrobiologists Antonin Affholder and Régis Ferrière from the Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University generated tremendous media coverage with a publication in the journal Nature Astronomy. After all, these were possible traces of alien life on Saturn’s ice moon Enceladus. But have scientists really found evidence for the existence of extraterrestrials?

The ice moons of the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn are currently the most promising candidates for alien life in our solar system. Of particular interest is Saturn’s moon Enceladus: NASA’s Cassini space probe has discovered eruptions of water at the south pole of the ice moon. Through the cracks in the ice – the so-called “tiger stripes” – huge fountains of ice and steam flow into the atmosphere of the little moon. Beneath the icy surface, there is apparently a liquid alien ocean full of fascinating elements and connections as well as sufficient energy.

The space probe then flew over these fountains in 2015 during several orbits around the Moon and the Cosmic Dust Sampler (CDA) developed in Germany was able to analyze the composition with its mass spectrometer. The collected “dust” particles then turned out to be grains of ice with an unusual composition. Overall, Cassini and CDA found a relatively high concentration of hydrogen in the form of ice, vapor and liquid water. In addition, there was methane, carbon dioxide and a whole range of salts, including sodium chloride – our earthly table salt. The discovery of silicon compounds, which must have originated from the solid rocky core of the moon, was also unusual. The most likely explanation for fountains and their makeup right now is the hydrothermal systems at the bottom of the ocean, as they also exist on Earth.

Enceladus is completely icy – up to 35 kilometers thick at the equator and less than 5 kilometers at the South Pole. A global ocean stretches between the ice and the solid core, the bottom of which lies about 70 kilometers below the surface. Due to the large temperature gradient in the ocean and at the boundary layer of the ice surface, strong thermal upheavals are likely to occur. The silicon particles are probably generated by hydrothermal activity above 90 ° C in the porous rocky core of the moon, then move closer to the surface due to thermal upheaval and are ultimately rejected by the fountains.

The discovery of methane had transformed the small ice moon with a diameter of only 500 kilometers from an uninspiring ball of ice to one of the hottest candidates for astrobiological exploration in our solar system! Methane is so interesting for the search for extraterrestrial life because it can arise on earth through both non-biological and biological processes. The crucial question now is: was the methane in the Enceladus Ocean produced by living things or was it abiotic?

Direct exploration of such a habitat deep below the surface of another celestial body will likely be impossible in the decades to come, says lead author of this study, Antonin Affholder. This is why he and his colleagues tried a mathematical method here: Bayesian statistics. “We built mathematical models for the explanation of the Cassini data in order to quantify the probability of the different explanatory approaches.”

The researchers therefore examined which of the methane formations could best explain the Cassini data and developed a geophysical model from them. On this basis, they then calculated the probability for the two hypotheses retained, one via life forms and the other without. The production of abiotic methane takes place in the terrestrial oceans under high pressures and temperatures in greenish rocks containing water in particular by what is called serpentinization, for example at the level of hydrothermal vents. However, only to a small extent and slowly, according to Affholder. Much more and more quickly, the microorganisms produce the colorless gas in a process called methanogenesis.

The quantity of methane measured by Cassini cannot be explained by the abiotic formation of methane and is therefore the less probable of the two hypotheses. “Are we to conclude that microbes similar to Earth inhabit the depths of the Enceladus Ocean?” Absolutely not, although that would be fascinating “says Affholder. On the contrary, our study tells another story, namely that of a negative result!”

The aim was to test the plausibility of different hypotheses. Rejecting the less probable hypothesis does not mean that the other explanation, which is a little less unlikely, must then automatically be correct. On the contrary, the facts are simply not sufficient at the moment to answer the question of a possible life in the Enceladus Ocean. It therefore remains the task of future ice moon missions to continue research on the still unknown sources of methane and to discover their origin. Bayesian statistics have in any case proved their worth as a model of weighting of probabilities in the search for traces of extraterrestrial life.

The researchers therefore do not believe in any way in methane-producing aliens in the orbit of Saturn, but rather that the available data is not yet sufficient for a plausible justification. Even though it is a rather dry mathematical work, the subject of the search for life out of the earth has once again thrilled the media and the public. Traces of methane on Mars continue to make headlines for the same reason. Even though, as in the current ESA announcement, only the traces of methane measured by the Trace Gas Orbiter are lower than initially assumed.


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