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El Nino caused record CO2 spike in 2015-16: NASA

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Washington, Oct 13, 2017: Scientists have found that the impact of the 2015-16 El Nino-related heat and drought occurring in tropical regions of South America, Africa and Indonesia was responsible for the largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration seen in at least 2,000 years.

El Nino is a cyclical warming pattern of ocean circulation in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that can affect weather worldwide.

The findings, published in the journal Science as part of a collection of five research papers, are based on analysis of the first 28 months of data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite.

“These three tropical regions released 2.5 gigatonnes (a billion tonnes) more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011,” said lead author of the study Junjie Liu of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

“OCO-2 data allowed us to quantify how the net exchange of carbon between land and “atmosphere in individual regions is affected during El Nino years,” Liu added.

In 2015 and 2016, OCO-2 recorded atmospheric carbon dioxide increases that were 50 per cent larger than the average increase seen in recent years preceding these observations.

That increase was about three parts per million of carbon dioxide per year — or 6.3 gigatonnes of carbon. In recent years, the average annual increase has been closer to two parts per million of carbon dioxide per year — or four gigatonnes of carbon.

These record increases occurred even though emissions from human activities in 2015-16 are estimated to have remained roughly the same as they were prior to the El Nino.

Using OCO-2 data, Liu’s team analysed how Earth’s land areas contributed to the record atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increases.

The team compared the 2015 findings to those from a reference year — 2011 — using carbon dioxide data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT).

In 2011, weather in the three tropical regions was normal and the amount of carbon absorbed and released by them was in balance.

“Understanding how the carbon cycle in these regions responded to El Nino will enable scientists to improve carbon cycle models, which should lead to improved predictions of how our planet may respond to similar conditions in the future,” said OCO-2 Deputy Project Scientist Annmarie Eldering of JPL.

“The team’s findings imply that if future climate brings more or longer droughts, as the last El Nino did, more carbon dioxide may remain in the atmosphere, leading to a tendency to further warm Earth,” Eldering added.

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Russian presidential election slated for March 18

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Moscow, Dec 15: The Russian Federation Council, or the upper house of parliament, on Friday officially set the country’s presidential election for March 18, 2018.

A resolution to set the date will effectively give a start to the election campaign, chairman of the Federation Council’s Constitutional Legislation Committee Andrei Klishas said in a statement.

President Vladimir Putin, who has declared his intention to participate in the race as an independent candidate, is widely expected to win his fourth term, reports Xinhua news agency.

The latest public opinion poll by government-owned research centre VTSIOM showed that Putin’s approval rating stood at 53.5 per cent as of December 10, up from 53 per cent a week earlier, leaving all possible rivals far behind.

To be registered as an independent presidential candidate, a candidate has to collect at least 300,000 voters’ signatures on his or her behalf by February 1, 2018.

If a candidate wishes to run within the framework of a political party, this party will have to collect no less than 100,000 signatures on the candidate’s behalf.

The election was previously planned for March 11, but later it was postponed to March 18, when the country will celebrate the Day of Incorporation of Crimea.

The peninsula joined Russia in 2014 following a local referendum, which Western countries did not recognise as legitimate.

The law declaring March 18 a national holiday was adopted in 2015.

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Donald Trump should resign, says Kamala Harris

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Washington, Dec 15: Kamala Harris, first Indian-American to serve in the US Senate, has joined a growing group of Democratic senators calling for President Donald Trump to step down amid resurfaced allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I think he should resign in the best interest of the country,” the California Democrat told Politico in an interview on Thursday.

Harris joined six other Democratic senators — Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Mazie Hirono and Ron Wyden — who called for Trump to resign.

The former California Attorney General’s remarks came as Trump faced renewed scrutiny over past accusations of sexual misconduct. At least 16 women have accused him of inappropriate behaviour.

Earlier this week, three of the 16 women renewed their allegations publicly as they detailed their accounts of being groped, fondled and forcibly kissed by Trump before he was elected the US President. They urged Congress to investigate their stories.

Trump inflamed his critics again this week when he said in a tweet that Senator Gillibrand used to “come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions” and that she “would do anything for them”.

Harris, a potential presidential contender in 2020, said Trump’s tweet “was completely inappropriate on every level”.

“First of all, we know he’s not going to resign,” Harris said. “So let’s just be clear about that. But if he were going to make a decision that was in the best interest of the country, I think he should. He should seriously consider it.”

Trump has repeatedly denied accusations of sexual misconduct, taking to Twitter to deride what he called “false accusations and fabricated stories”.

Harris said she believed Trump’s accusers and said that there should be an inquiry into the veracity of their claims.

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Oxford Dictionaries named ‘Youthquake’ Word of the Year

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London, Dec 15: Oxford Dictionaries has declared “Youthquake” as 2017’s Word of the Year, reflecting what it calls a “political awakening” among millennial voters, the media reports on Friday.

It was first coined in the 1960s by Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland, who used it to describe sudden changes in fashion, music and attitudes, reports the BBC.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines youthquake as the “series of radical political and cultural upheavals occurring among students and young people in the 1960s”.

Oxford Dictionaries said late Thursday that its use had seen a recent resurgence, to describe young people driving political change.

Oxford Dictionaries’ Casper Grathwohl said it was “not an obvious choice”.

But he said Youthquake’s use in everyday speech had increased five-fold during 2017.

“In the UK, where it rose to prominence as a descriptor of the impact of the country’s young people on its general election, calls it out as a word on the move,” he said.

Grathwohl said youthquake’s use in Britain peaked during the June general election, after polls delivered a better-than-expected result for the Labour party.

Oxford Dictionaries said the word sounded a note of hope after what it described as a “difficult and divisive year”.

The word of the year is a word, or expression, that Oxford Dictionaries deems has “attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date” and is drawn from newspapers, books, blogs and transcripts of spoken English, the BBC reported.

Last year’s word, “post-truth”, was chosen after the 2016 Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

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