- Southern Ocean winds strongest in 1,000 years: study
- Beijing launches armed police patrol force
- Questions remain as China remembers 6 years since quake
Posted: 11 May 2014 10:57 PM PDT
SYDNEY, May 12, 2014 (AFP) - Winds in the wild Southern Ocean are blowing at their strongest in a millennia as climate change shifts weather patterns, leaving Antarctica colder and Australia facing more droughts, a study showed Monday.
Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were strengthening the winds, already dubbed the "Roaring Forties" for their ferocity, and pushing them further south towards Antarctica, researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) said.
"The Southern Ocean winds are now stronger than at any other time in the past 1,000 years," said the study's lead researcher Nerilie Abram of an ocean notorious for having some of the fiercest winds and largest waves on the planet.
"The strengthening of these winds has been particularly prominent over the past 70 years, and by combining our observations with climate models we can clearly link this to rising greenhouse gas levels."
The new research, which was published in the Nature Climate Change journal, explains why Antarctica is not warming as much as other continents.
The westerly winds, which do not touch the eastern parts of Antarctica but circle in the ocean around it, were trapping more of the cold air over the area as they strengthened, with the world's southernmost continent "stealing more of Australia's rainfall", Abram said.
"This is why Antarctica has bucked the trend. Every other continent is warming, and the Arctic is warming fastest of anywhere on earth," she said.
The study's authors analysed ice cores from Antarctica, along with data from tree rings and lakes in South America, using the southern hemisphere's most powerful supercomputer "Raijin", which is based at the ANU.
The research helped to explain why the westerlies were further cooling already cold parts of the continent even as they were also driving "exceptionally quicker" warming in the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts out into their path, Abram said.
The strengthening westerlies drive up the temperature at the peninsula - the only part of the Antarctica that is hit by the wind - through the warm, moist air they carry from the Southern Ocean.
This has made the peninsula the fastest-warming place in the southern hemisphere, with scientists concerned about the stability of the ice sheets and sea level rises in the region.
The shift in the westerlies - approximately 200 kilometres in the 20th century - was driven by human emissions of carbon dioxide, said research fellow Steven Phipps of the University of New South Wales, who worked on the climate modelling used in the study.
From the 1970s, the shift was exacerbated by the expanding ozone hole caused by human emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Phipps added.
"Even for a mid-range climate scenario, the trend is going to continue in the 21st century," Phipps said, adding that southern Australia was likely to experience more dry winters.
Posted: 11 May 2014 10:52 PM PDT
BEIJING, May 12, 2014 (AFP) - Beijing launched armed police patrols Monday to handle violent incidents in the capital, city authorities said, three weeks ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown and after a series of attacks on civilians.
The armed division, which has 150 vehicles, aims to "strike on terrorist and violent crimes in a rapid and effective way", the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) said on its verified account on Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
The patrols were being deployed in the face of "the current severe and complicated situation of anti-terrorism," it said.
The Chinese government is on alert after a series of dramatic attacks it blames on militants from far western Xinjiang, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority.
A fiery vehicle crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square - the symbolic heart of the Chinese state - last October was followed by a horrific knife assault in March at a railway station in the southern city of Kunming, which left 29 dead and 143 wounded.
Two weeks ago, assailants using knives and explosive devices attached to their bodies attacked a train station in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, leaving three dead - including two alleged attackers - and 79 wounded.
The Beijing PSB said each patrol vehicle will have an armed team of at least two police officers and one auxiliary on every shift, who will arrive on the scene within three minutes of a report.
They will park at main roads, crowded venues and unspecified "key areas" - possibly a reference to politically sensitive sites such as Tiananmen Square - and set up checkpoints, it said, adding: "They will respond immediately whenever an emergency takes place."
State-run media posted pictures of black Hummer-like vehicles online.
The announcement came three weeks ahead of the sensitive June 4 anniversary of the brutal suppression of huge anti-government protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, when hundreds - by some estimates, thousands - were killed.
Authorities routinely round up outspoken critics of the Communist Party in the weeks before key events and police have recently detained prominent former journalist Gao Yu, celebrated human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and other activists.
Posted: 11 May 2014 10:19 PM PDT
BEIJING, May 12, 2014 (AFP) - Six years after a huge earthquake killed tens of thousands of people in China, questions over poor building work and corruption were still being asked on Monday's anniversary, as online posters remembered the dead.
More than 80,000 were left dead or missing when a 8.0 magnitude tremor struck Sichuan on the afternoon of May 12 2008, including 5,335 school pupils.
The disaster provoked widespread grief in China, but also outrage after it emerged 7,000 schools were badly damaged in the southwestern province, triggering accusations of shoddy construction, corner-cutting and possible corruption, especially as many other buildings nearby held firm.
The aftermath of the earthquake saw the rise to prominence as a government critic of artist Ai Weiwei, who organised a citizens' probe into the school collapses. The campaign led to him being badly beaten by police when he tried to testify in support of an activist who had investigated the issue.
"The earthquake was a natural disaster, but we still have to call into question, wasn't the death of more than 5,000 students in relation to a man-made disaster?" said Liu Xiaoyuan, Ai's lawyer, in an online posting Monday.
Many campaigners and parents are still seeking answers on how the quake destroyed so many schools when it struck during afternoon classes. They have become known as "tofu schools" in China, likening their structural instability to the popular soft bean curd dish.
"Apart from the officials and experts who don't believe that the school buildings had problems, how many others would believe the collapse of the buildings was unrelated to 'tofu construction'?" Liu added on his verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
Elsewhere on the hugely popular forum, many posted messages remembering the casualties of a disaster.
"May the dead rest in peace, and the living remain strong," said one post.
"We should continue to grieve, but also ensure that help is provided to those who continue to be affected," said another.
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