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Dr. Mario Molina, 1995 Nobel Prize Winner Recognized By Google Doodle.



Mario Molina

Dr. Mario Molina, a Mexican chemist who successfully persuaded governments to collaborate to save the planet’s ozone layer, has been recognized by Google Doodle. Molina died of a heart attack in 2020 at 77.

Dr. Molina, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1995, was one of the researchers who discovered how chemicals deplete the Earth’s ozone shield, which is critical for protecting humans, plants, and wildlife from harmful ultraviolet light.

Chemicals in hair spray and refrigerators have been wreaking havoc on the ozone layer, the protective shroud that shields us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, for years. However, it wasn’t until 1974 that people started paying attention.

Mexican scientist Mario Molina published a study that year demonstrating that chlorofluorocarbons, widely used in refrigerator coolants, spray paint, deodorant sprays, and other aerosol products, depleted the ozone layer. The consequences were dire because our planet would be uninhabitable if the ozone layer did not protect us from the sun. His work had an impact on global environmental policy.

On Molina’s 80th birthday, Google created a Doodle to honor his pioneering efforts to combat an environmental disaster.

VOR News
Dr. Mario Molina received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995. He was one of the scientists who discovered how chemicals deplete the Earth’s ozone shield.

Dr. Mario Molina, born on March 19, 1943, in Mexico City, was drawn to science at a young age, converting his home’s bathroom into a makeshift laboratory for his chemistry sets.

“I was already fascinated by science before entering high school,” wrote Dr. Mario Molina in his Nobel biography. “I remember being ecstatic when I first saw paramecia and amoebae through a rather primitive toy microscope.”

After being sent to a Swiss boarding school at 11, Molina returned to Mexico to study chemical engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before receiving a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972.

In 2013, President Obama awarded Molina the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

VOR News
President Barack Obama awarded Dr. Mario Molina the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

A year later, while working with F. Sherwood Rowland of the University of California, Irvine, Molina discovered that CFCs in the upper atmosphere could be broken down by ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine atoms that destroyed ozone molecules.

Their findings were published in the journal Nature in 1974.

Their findings were slammed by CFC-using industries, with one executive claiming that the pair’s theory was “orchestrated by the Ministry of Disinformation of the KGB.” On the other hand, British scientists discovered a massive hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica in 1985.

Because of this discovery, governments worldwide signed the Montreal Protocol in the 1980s to phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances. The agreement has been dubbed “the most successful international effort to combat climate change and environmental degradation” by Science magazine.

In 1995, Molina and Rowland were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Paul J. Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute in Germany. In announcing the award, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated that the researchers “have contributed to our salvation from a global environmental problem that could have catastrophic consequences.”

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China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy




SAN DIEGO — China is to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo, renewing its traditional gesture of friendship with the United States after nearly all of the famed bears on loan to U.U.S.oos were returned as relations between the two countries worsened.

San Diego Zoo officials told The Associated Press that if all licences and other criteria are fulfilled, two male and female bears should arrive by the end of the summer, about five years after the zoo’s last pandas were transferred back to China.

“We’re very excited and hopeful,” said Megan Owen, VP of Wildlife Conservation Science at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “They’ve expressed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to re-initiate panda cooperation starting with the San Diego Zoo.”


China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

The China Wildlife Conservation Association announced Thursday that it has signed cooperation agreements with zoos in Madrid, Washington, D.D.C., and Vienna.

According to the organisation, the relationship will encompass illness prevention and habitat protection research, as well as contributions to the creation of China’s national panda park.

“We look forward to further expanding the research outcomes on the conservation of endangered species such as giant pandas, as well as promoting mutual understanding and friendship among peoples through the new round of international cooperation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated in Beijing.

Fears over the future of so-called panda diplomacy grew last year when the zoos in Washington, D.C., and Memphis, Tennessee, sent their pandas to China, leaving only four pandas in the United States, all at the Atlanta Zoo. That financing agreement will expire later this year.

However, in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed hope that his country will resume sending pandas to the United States after he and President Joe Biden met in Northern California for their first face-to-face encounter in a year and agreed to work to ease tensions.

According to Owen, a panda behaviour expert who has worked in San Diego and China, China is considering a pair that includes a female descendant of Bai Yun and Gao Gao, two of the zoo’s past residents.

Bai Yun was born in captivity in China and spent more than 20 years at the zoo, where she gave birth to six cubs. She and her son were the last pandas at the zoo, and they returned to China in 2019.

Gao Gao was born in the wild in China and resided at the San Diego Zoo from 2003 to 2018 before being returned.

Decades of wild conservation efforts and captive research spared the giant panda species from extinction, boosting its number from less than 1,000 to more than 1,800 in the wild and captivity.


China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

The black-and-white bears have long been associated with the relationship between the United States and China, dating back to 1972, when Beijing donated a pair of pandas to the National Zoo in Washington, D.D.C., ahead of normalising diplomatic relations. China later lent pandas to zoos to assist in breeding cubs and increasing the population.

According to 2022 research by America’s Congressional Research Service, zoos normally pay a $1 million fee yearly for two pandas, with the money going towards China’s conservation efforts.

According to China’s official Xinhua News Agency, the United States, Spain, and Austria were among the first countries to collaborate with China on panda conservation, with 28 pandas born in those countries.

Demands for the return of giant pandas, dubbed China’s “national treasure,” surged among the Chinese public as unverified reports of mistreatment by USU.S.oos inundated Chinese social media.

Many loan agreements were for ten years and were frequently extended much longer. However, last year’s attempts to prolong the agreements or send more pandas failed. China observers claimed that Beijing was progressively withdrawing its pandas from Western countries due to poor diplomatic relations with the United States and other nations.

Then, on November 15, 2023, a week after the National Zoo’s pandas left for China, Xi spoke at a dinner with American business executives in downtown San Francisco, hinting that more pandas would be sent. He stated that the San Diego Zoo and the people of California are “very much looking forward to welcoming pandas back.”

“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas and went to the zoo to see them off,” he said.

Even after it no longer housed pandas, the San Diego Zoo continued collaborating with Chinese colleagues.


China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

According to Owen, China is particularly interested in exchanging information about the zoo’s successful captive panda breeding programme. Giant pandas are difficult to reproduce, partly because the female’s reproductive window is extremely limited, lasting only 48 to 72 hours per year.

Bai Yun’s first child, Hua Mei, was also the first panda born through artificial insemination to live to adulthood outside of China, and she went on to have 12 cubs on her own after being sent to China.

Meanwhile, Bai Yun stayed at the zoo and gave birth to two more girls and three males. Researchers followed her in her den using webcams, providing a better understanding of maternal care behaviour, according to Owen.

“We have a lot of institutional knowledge and capacity from our last cooperative agreement, which we will be able to parlay into this next chapter, as well as training the next generation of panda conservationists,” she said.

Owen said Chinese experts would accompany the bears to San Diego for several months.

She stated that the bears’ return benefits San Diego and the giant panda’s recovery as a species.

“We do talk about panda diplomacy all the time,” Owen said. “Diplomacy is an essential component of conservation in a variety of circumstances…. If we can’t learn to collaborate in often tough conditions or situations beyond the control of conservationists, we won’t succeed.”


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‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada




Even in the depths of Canada’s winter, the embers of last year’s record-breaking wildfire season persist. So-called zombie fires are burning at an unprecedented rate beneath thick layers of snow, increasing concerns about what the upcoming summer will bring.

In winter, people driving on the highway through Fort Nelson, British Columbia (BC), can see and smell the clouds of white smoke rising from the land around them.

Sonja Leverkus, a firefighter and scientist from the small north-eastern British Columbia hamlet, remembers travelling during a snowstorm in November, but the snow didn’t seem white.


‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

Instead, she described it as blueish-grey due to the smoke in the air.

“I’ve never experienced a snowstorm that smelled like smoke,” said Ms. Leverkus, who has lived in northern British Columbia for over 15 years.

She said these plumes remained visible into February, even on extremely cold days when temperatures dropped to -40C (-40F).

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Zombie fires cause the Fort Nelson smoke, sometimes known as overwintering fires.

They are flameless smoulders that burn slowly beneath the surface and are kept alive by an organic soil known as peat moss found in North America’s boreal forests and heavy layers of snow that protect them from the cold.

These flames are not uncommon. Experts estimate that during the last ten years, British Columbia has witnessed an average of five or six that continue to burn over the cold months.

However, in January, the province experienced a historic peak of 106 active zombie fires, raising concerns among fire experts about the implications for the following wildfire season.

Most go out on their own before spring, but 91 are still burning in British Columbia, according to government data, and those that have not been extinguished by March may re-ignite as the snow melts and they are exposed to air.

As a result, scientists have linked them to the early onset of wildfire seasons.

The nearby province of Alberta is also experiencing an increase in these winter fires, with 57 burning as of early February, roughly ten times the five-year normal.

Jennifer Baltzer, a biology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and the Canada Research Chair in Forests and Global Change, said, “This continued smouldering through the winter, I think, is very alarming to see,” especially after last year’s record-breaking wildfire season.

Wildfires in Canada burned about 18 million hectares (44 million acres) of land in 2023, an area roughly the size of Cambodia, greatly exceeding the country’s 10-year average.

The season was one of the worst in recent history, with several firemen killed in the line of duty.
Thousands of people were displaced from their homes, and the impact extended far beyond Canada’s borders when smoke blanketed most of the United States in June.

According to Mike Flannigan, a professor and fire control expert at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, the devastating wildfire season is one of the reasons for the current high number of zombie fires.

The majority of them are fires that could not be completely extinguished by last autumn due to a shortage of resources, he explained.


‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

By the end of the year, officials had recorded more than 2,200 wildfires in British Columbia.
Prof Flannigan also cited the province’s catastrophic drought over the last two years.

According to the province’s drought map, the majority of British Columbia was experiencing moderate to severe drought as of February.

According to Ms Leverkus, the dryness has been as noticeable as the zombie fires.
She noted in the forest last summer that a brook that used to run freely had become “just puddles”.

These drought conditions persisted throughout the winter. The province has received so little snow that one ski resort in BC’s South Cariboo region was forced to close for the rest of the season in early January.

Zombie fires were historically rare, but scientists claim they have become increasingly common in recent years due to a fast-warming environment.

According to Forrest Tower, a fire information officer with BC Fire, officials are now watching them.


‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

He stated that many cannot be extinguished manually because most of the province’s firefighting force is on leave for the off-season. They do not constitute a threat currently, he stated.

However, the primary concern is that the flames may re-ignite if British Columbia receives little snow or rain this spring.

If this occurs, he stated that the province’s seasonal firefighting force might be activated as soon as March or April.

Prof Flannigan stated that it is too early to forecast exactly what the forthcoming fire season will look like in British Columbia, but what the province has witnessed thus far “is quite unusual”.

rof Flannigan stated that “the stage is set for a very active spring” because this is an El Nino year, which means hot and dry weather in western Canada.


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A Volcano In Iceland Is Erupting Again, Spewing Lava And Cutting Heat And Hot Water Supplies




GRINDAVIK, Iceland — A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted for the third time since December on Thursday, spewing lava into the sky, forcing the evacuation of the famed Blue Lagoon geothermal spa and cutting off heat and hot water to thousands of people.

The eruption occurred around 0600 GMT (1 a.m. EST) along a three-kilometre (nearly two-mile) fissure northeast of Mount Sýlingarfell, according to Iceland’s Meteorological Office. A lava flood overtook a supply conduit, cutting off heat and hot water to several settlements on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

The Met Office said that the eruption’s severity had diminished by mid-afternoon, but lava continued to spew from parts of the fissure, and a massive plume of steam rose over a segment of the breach where magma mingled with groundwater.

The eruption site is around 4 kilometres (2½ miles) northeast of Grindavik, a seaside village of 3,800 people evacuated before the previous eruption on December 18. The Meteorological Office stated there was no immediate threat to the town on Thursday.


A Volcano In Iceland Is Erupting Again, Spewing Lava And Cutting Heat And Hot Water Supplies

Civil defence officials said no one was believed to be in Grindavik during the latest eruption. “They weren’t meant to be, and we don’t know about any,” Iceland’s Civil Defence head, Víðir Reynisson, said to national television RUV.

According to the Civil Defence agency, lava entered a pipeline from the Svartsengi geothermal power station that delivers hot water to many villages on the Reykjanes Peninsula for home heating. Authorities urged families to use hot water and power sparingly as workmen raced to install an underground water conduit as a backup. Schools, gymnasiums, and swimming pools were closed due to a lack of heat and water.

The Blue Lagoon thermal spa, constructed using excess water from the power plant, was closed when the eruption began, and all tourists were safely evacuated, according to RUV. A stream of steaming lava later flowed across the spa’s exit road.

There were no reported flight problems at Iceland’s largest airport, Keflavik, although hot water was turned off, according to airport operator Isavia.


A Volcano In Iceland Is Erupting Again, Spewing Lava And Cutting Heat And Hot Water Supplies

The Icelandic Met Office warned earlier this week that an eruption was possible after three weeks of monitoring a buildup of magma, or semi-molten rock, below ground. Hundreds of minor earthquakes had been recorded in the vicinity since Friday, culminating in a burst of severe seismic activity around 30 minutes before the latest eruption began.

The Icelandic coast guard released a dramatic video showing lava fountains leaping over 50 metres (165 feet) into the darkening air. A vapour plume rose around 3 kilometres (1½ miles) above the volcano.

Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hotspot in the North Atlantic, experiences an eruption every four to five years. The most recent disruption was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which blasted massive ash clouds into the stratosphere and resulted in widespread airspace closures across Europe.

Dave McGarvie, a volcanologist who has studied extensively in Iceland, said the “gentle, effusive” eruption is unlikely to hinder aviation because such volcanoes create very little ash.

Grindavik, located about 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, was evacuated in November after the Svartsengi volcanic system erupted after nearly 800 years with a series of earthquakes that produced enormous breaches in the ground north of the town.

The volcano eventually erupted on December 18, spewing lava away from Grindavik. A second eruption, which began on January 14, drove lava towards the settlement. The town’s ground has sunk by up to 1½ metres (4½ feet) due to magma movement, despite defensive walls that had been strengthened since the previous eruption.

No definite deaths have been reported, although a worker is missing after sliding into a rift created by the volcano.

Both prior eruptions lasted only a few days but heralded “a daunting period of upheaval” on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, one of its most densely populated areas.

McGarvie said it is unknown whether Grindavik inhabitants can return permanently.


A Volcano In Iceland Is Erupting Again, Spewing Lava And Cutting Heat And Hot Water Supplies

“I think at the moment there is the resignation, the stoical resignation, that, for the foreseeable future, the town is basically uninhabitable,” he said.

After centuries of silence, “people thought this area was fairly safe.”

“It’s been a bit of a shock that it has come back to life,” he said. “Evidence that we gathered only quite recently is that eruptions could go on for decades, if not centuries, sporadically in this particular peninsula.”


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