The Arctic is experiencing its version of a heatwave: climate extremes to continue in 2017

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that 2016 was the warmest year on record, and early indications suggest 2017 will be much the same.

In the WMO’s annual statement on the State of the Global Climate, the organisation claimed that provisional data suggests the year-on-year rise in global temperatures will continue into 2017, with the Arctic already experiencing the “Polar equivalent of a heatwave” at least three times this winter, and Antarctic sea ice being recorded at record low levels.

“We are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said World Climate Research programme director, David Carlson.

Image courtesy of WMO

According to the WMO, warming in 2016 was boosted by strong El Niño conditions, a phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and has a global impact on weather patterns.

The El Niño event contributed to global sea levels rising, while at the same time the very warm ocean temperatures contributed to significant coral bleaching and death, which had an impact on marine food chains, ecosystems and fisheries.

Global sea ice extent also dropped more than 4 million square kilometres below average last November, an unprecedented anomaly for that month.

“This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year.”

The WMO report also revealed that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per million in 2015 – the latest year for which WMO global figures are available.

Having passed that symbolic benchmark, the level of carbon dioxide will not drop for many generations because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

Taalas pointed out that the influence of human activities on the climate system continues to become more and more evident with many noteworthy extreme events occurring in 2016.

Severe droughts have brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America, while Hurricane Matthew caused widespread suffering in Haiti as the first category 4 storm to make landfall since 1963. Heavy rains and floods also affected eastern and southern Asia.

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark. It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies,” said Taalas.

“Continued investment in climate research and observations is vital if our scientific knowledge is to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change,” added Taalas.

The WMO’s annual statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016 will be presented to UN member states and climate experts at a high-level action event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda in New York on 23 March, and is available to view here.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC