Arctic sea-ice extent and volume are declining rapidly. Several studies project that the Arctic Ocean may become seasonally ice-free by the year 2040 or even earlier. Putting this into perspective requires information on the history of Arctic sea-ice conditions through the geologic past. This information can be provided by proxy records from the Arctic Ocean floor and from the surrounding coasts. Although existing records are far from complete, they indicate that sea ice became a feature of the Arctic by 47 Ma, following a pronounced decline in atmospheric pCO2 after the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Optimum, and consistently covered at least part of the Arctic Ocean for no less than the last 13–14 million years. Ice was apparently most widespread during the last 2–3 million years, in accordance with Earth’s overall cooler climate. Nevertheless, episodes of considerably reduced sea ice or even seasonally ice-free conditions occurred during warmer periods linked to orbital variations. The last low-ice event related to orbital forcing (high insolation) was in the early Holocene, after which the northern high latitudes cooled overall, with some superimposed shorter-term (multidecadal to millennial-scale) and lower-magnitude variability. The current reduction in Arctic ice cover started in the late 19th century, consistent with the rapidly warming climate, and became very pronounced over the last three decades. This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities.
The annual QS World University Rankings released this week reveal that after two consecutive years in fifth place, Oxford’s new position at number six in the world equals its position of 2010.Cambridge remains the highest ranked UK university in third position, with University College London (UCL) in fourth, Imperial in fifth, and Oxford in sixth place. Edinburgh is placed at 17th, up from 21st last year, whilst King’s College London has risen from 26th to its current position at 19th. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) retains its position at number one.Graduates of Oxford and Cambridge are also held to be the most employable in the world, as a poll of 27,000 global graduate employers illustrates.“Clearly the prestige of a UK degree is recognised by employers around the world, and the brand-name value of Oxbridge has so far survived any negative publicity following the tuition fee hikes and student protests,” observed the head of research at QS, Ben Sowter.“As the UK and governments around the world move towards the ‘student pays’ model on higher education funding, employability is increasingly crucial to graduates.”Oxford and Cambridge also feature strongly in the QS World University Rankings by subject.Oxford is ranked the top university in the world to study English Language and Literature, Philosophy, Modern Languages and Geography, whilst Cambridge leads for History, Linguistics, and Maths.Overall, Oxford and Cambridge are ranked in the top ten for 15 and 27 subjects respectively, whilst Imperial gains top rankings for ten, LSE for seven, and UCL for three subjects.The number of UK universities in the top twenty for at least one subject is “far in excess of the total achieved by any other country apart from the United States”, according to John O’Leary of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board.However, Mr O’Leary warned that, “The UK invests below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average in higher education, so it is unrealistic to expect its universities to continue to punch above their weight indefinitely.”Indeed, universities minister David Willetts stated that, “We are not complacent, and know we must work hard to remain the best.“Our reforms to undergraduate finance have put universities on a sustainable financial footing and sharpened incentives to deliver a world-class student experience.”The success of UK universities in the rankings is welcome news to current students. Keble law student Andrew Hall commented, “That six British universities are ranked amongst the best in the world, despite the age-old reputation of America’s Ivy League as superior, just goes to show that a system politicians are so keen to meddle with does not need fixing.”
With many areas of the state receiving more than eight inches of rain during the month, July was another abnormally wet and cool month in Georgia. The summer rains have filled the state’s drinking water reservoir, but have caused flooding, increased stormwater runoff problems and delayed agricultural work.June was the third wettest on record in Georgia. The statewide combination of June-plus-July rainfall is unlikely to break the record for wet summer months in Georgia — which was set in June and July 1916 with 18.92 inches — but this will most likely be ranked in the top wettest summers in the last 100 years. The number of July days with measurable rain was up to 50 percent higher than normal across the state. For most stations in Georgia, July ranked within the top 10 years for the number of rainy days. Rains negatively affect ag industryThe persistent rain caused severe saturation of soils, leading to delays in agricultural fieldwork and construction. Almost daily, showers kept farmers from entering the fields to apply fertilizer and pesticides, as well as from harvesting crops. Hay quality was reduced since it had to be harvested so late after maturity and could not dry well. Application of pesticides by airplane was used in some fields where feasible. Some crop diseases were seen across the state, but less than expected considering the poor field-working conditions and lack of chemical applications. Wet soil conditions also put stress on soybean and peanut crops due to lack of air in the soil. Drier weather the last week of the month had farmers scrambling to catch up on fieldwork where they could. Off the farm, the frequent rains and heavy downpours caused flash flooding. High water levels led to development of ponds in many low-lying areas during the month of July. In late July, more than 5,000 fish were killed in a tributary of the Savannah River. Officials claimed that low oxygen levels in the water were to blame for the fish kill. A surge in organic material levels washed into the river by heavy rains during the month reduced to the amount of oxygen in the river to the point where fish could not survive. Record-breaking rainfallThe rains also filled reservoirs to record levels, forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from reservoirs on the Savannah River, which reached their highest levels since 1964. The rainfall experienced in July was second only to September, 2004, when Hurricane Ivan and Tropical Storms Jeanne and Francis inundated the basins. This year, the combination of high reservoir levels and large releases caused temporary closures to many recreational areas, including beaches and boat ramps. Water rose onto River Street in Savannah as a result of the releases combined with higher than usual tides. The highest monthly total precipitation observed at a National Weather Service station was 12.32 inches in Savannah (6.72 inches above normal) and the lowest was in Brunswick at 6.31 inches (2.23 above normal). Atlanta received 8.48 inches (3.21 above normal); Athens received 9.19 inches (4.72 above normal); Columbus received 8.81 inches (4.05 above normal); Alma received 6.98 inches (1.65 above normal); Macon received 6.99 inches (2.04 above normal); and Augusta received 9.05 inches (4.72 above normal). Columbus had its eighth wettest July in 66 years. Athens and Savannah had their ninth wettest Julys in 157 and 143 years, respectively. Savannah set a daily maximum precipitation record of 2.55 inches on July 13, surpassing the old record of 2.36 inches set in 1895. The highest single-day rainfall from Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network stations was 5.71 inches near LaGrange in Troup County on July 4. An observer on Tybee Island in Chatham County reported 5.38 inches on July 13. The highest monthly total rainfall was 24.66 inches, observed near Dillard in Rabun County, followed by 20.35 inches measured north of Cochran in Bleckley County. Cooler temperatures recordedThe frequent rain and cloudy conditions led to an average temperature more than two degrees below normal for July. In Atlanta the monthly average temperature was 77.5 degrees F (2.7 degrees below normal); Athens was 77.8 degrees (2.8 below normal); Columbus was 80.1 degrees (2.4 below normal); Macon was 79.3 degrees (2.5 below normal); Savannah was 81.1 degrees (1.5 below normal); Brunswick was 81.2 degrees (1.6 below normal); Alma was 80.5 degrees (1.5 below normal); and Augusta was 79.5 degrees (2.1 below normal). No temperature records were set in July in Georgia.
Munster will be looking for a win to keep them top of Pool 1, while victory for the French side in Limerick would send them to the summit.Tommy O’ Donnell and Dave Foley both start for the home side.Clonmel’s Foley is wary of the threat that today’s opponents possess Kick-off in Limerick is at half-past five.There’s a late kick-off at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, where Ulster will play host to the Scarlets in a Pool 3 contest that kicks-off at 7:45.Elsewhere, Connacht are also back in action in the European Challenge Cup.Pat Lam’s side will be looking to pick-up their second win of their Pool 2 campaign as they host Bayonne at The Sportsground.Kick-off in Galway is at 5pm.Turning to Division 2A of the Ulster Bank League;Cashel are away to Old Wesley, while Nenagh Ormond are also on the road- they face a trip to Seapoint.Both games kick off at 2:30.