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Simple Science: Climate change, cosmic rays and more

Simple Science simplifies the past week in science news. 

This week in science, we will discuss a new understanding of climate change’s impact on extreme precipitation, which is a cosmic phenomenon that will have you saying, "Oh my God." Thailand's hidden trilobites will also be uncovered. 

Climate change increases rainfall

Researchers at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, or PIK, have found that climate models underestimate climate change's impact on extreme precipitation. 

Extreme precipitation events, defined as large amounts of precipitation over a short period, have grown more frequent. The increase was previously thought to be a result of wind changes but is now believed to be a result of Earth's rising temperature. 

Earth's gradually rising temperature is an aspect of climate change called global warming. Global warming is caused by increased greenhouse emissions in Earth's atmosphere, a result of human activity, notably the burning of fossil fuels. 

PIK's findings show that global warming directly impacts the frequency of extreme precipitation events. 

These weather events can lead to flooding, soil erosion, landslides and crop damage, among other things. There is also an increased risk of a waterborne disease outbreak, which threatens human health and well-being. 

PIK's study found the precipitation increase to be especially significant in tropical and high-altitude regions, which could affect areas such as Northern Canada and Southeast Asia. 

Find out more about PIK's discovery here

Extraterrestrial sources deliver energy to Earth

The Oh-My-God particle made headlines when it was recorded by the University of Utah's Fly's Eye experiment 32 years ago. In 2021, it happened again. Cosmic rays are theoretically impossible, but new instances continue to be observed and baffle scientists. 

Cosmic rays are clusters of high-energy particles moving through space near the speed of light. Frequently, these will break through Earth's atmosphere. These rays originate in outer space and can travel across galaxies. Most of these are low-energy rays, which are difficult to track. 

The “Oh-My-God” particle is the highest-energy cosmic ray ever to be observed and has more power than anything our galaxy can theoretically produce. The ray recorded in 2021, dubbed the Amaterasu particle, was the second highest-energy ray to be recorded. 

Together, researchers from the Telescope Array Project studied the two high-energy cosmic ray events. Their study, published by Science on Nov. 23, found that these events were real and involved physics not yet understood by science. 

Some scientists suggest cosmic rays may come from supernovae but have confirmed that exploded stars are not the only point of production. Cosmic rays are reflections of celestial events that cause the particles to move through the universe at high speeds. However, they all come from completely different sources and have not been identified. 

Whatever the origin of this strange phenomenon, astrophysicists hope to one day solve the case of these cosmic rays. This discovery would potentially reveal a whole new side to the universe's celestial events. 

Read the study here

Thailand reveals trilobites

At 16 miles long and 7 miles wide, Ko Tarutao is the largest island in the Tarutao National Park. Despite its historical significance during times of war, this area remains one of the most untouched areas in Thailand. There, a group of scientists discovered 10 new species of trilobites, according to a study published last month in Papers in Paleontology.

Trilobites first appeared around 521 million years ago, nearly 290 million years before the first dinosaur. These marine arthropods survived for millions of years before being wiped out by the end of the Permian period during a mass extinction event 251 million years ago, which killed around 90% of all species. 

On Ko Tarutao, the trilobite fossils were found in the petrified remnants of an old volcanic eruption that had settled on the seafloor. This unique circumstance produced zirconium, a resilient material that contains uranium. By identifying when the zirconium formed, scientists also determined the age of the fossils, which were about 490 million years old. 

This species' fossils still provide incredible insight for geologists around the world. Some species found at Ko Tarutao have also been found in Australia, suggesting that the two land masses were connected at one point before the continents drifted apart. 

Determining the date of these fossils is significant, as it will reveal information about other areas of the Earth where similar fossils have been found but remain undated. The Ko Tarutao discoveries will help to document one of the most mysterious times in Earth's history. 

Read the full paper here

Other notable news: 

An iceberg is on the move in Antarctica.


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