Explorers discover huge ‘lost’ cave with 3 floors & giant hall in Antarctica (PHOTOS)

Polar explorers have discovered a monumental “lost” ice cave with three floors, a giant hall, 200 meters of walkways, several lakes and a river hidden in Antarctica.

The mysterious cave was found on Galindez Island, where explorers from the Ukranian Antarctic Expedition (UAE) are based. There was a known entrance to the cave opposite the island’s shore station, however several years ago the opening was blocked when a glacier shifted into the ocean.

The team searched tirelessly to find another entrance into the cave. After several unsuccessful attempts, they found an opening at an old British base – only to discover that the cave is actually three times larger than the team previously thought.

READ MORE: 118yo painting discovered in mint condition in Antarctica (PHOTO)

On the bottom floor of the magnificent cavern the team found a frozen lake and a giant hall that is almost as high as a four-storey building (12 meters), eight meters wide and a whopping 30 meters long. Over the cave’s three floors and about 200 meters of walkways, the team also discovered an ice river and a bird’s feather in an ice block some 20 meters (65ft) below the surface.

Vintage film reveals Antarctic glaciers are melting faster than thought

We can learn a lot about the future from the past, and now environmental scientists have found a way to look further back in time in more detail than ever before. By studying vintage film containing radar data of Antarctica gathered throughout the 1970s, the team found that the ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier is melting even faster than we thought.

About the size of Florida, Thwaites Glacier lies on the western coast of Antarctica and is a key piece of the continent’s structure. It stands between the ocean and other glaciers, so it’s thought that if Thwaites falls others will soon follow.

And sadly, this is among the places climate change has hit the hardest. A recent study showed that almost a quarter of glacier ice in West Antarctica has become unstable, with ice loss happening five times faster now than it was in the 1990s. Thwaites Glacier in particularly vulnerable, after another survey discovered a huge cavity eating away at the ice from underneath.

But this is all based on modern data, gathered between 1992 and 2017. To make the most accurate predictions for the future, it’s important to cast the net as far back in time as possible. And now, scientists from Stanford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh have widened the window back to the early 1970s.

Dustin Schroeder (front) and art historian Jessica Daniel, preparing the film for digitizationDustin Schroeder (front) and art historian Jessica Daniel, preparing the film for digitization.

The team has digitized old film reels of data gathered between 1971 and 1979. This data was the result of around 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of flights across Antarctica during that decade, using ice-penetrating radar to examine the structure of the ice and the landscape beneath it.

By comparing the measurements taken back then to those gathered more recently, the team was able to get a sense of how much had changed in the intervening 40 to 50 years.

“By having this record, we can now see these areas where the ice shelf is getting thinnest and could break through,” says Dustin Schroeder, lead author of the study. “This is a pretty hard-to-get-to area and we’re really lucky that they happened to fly across this ice shelf.”

The researchers found that the old data was surprisingly detailed, allowing them to identify features like ash layers from past volcanic eruptions, and channels underneath the ice sheet where water is eroding the ice.

In particular, one of these channels was found to have remained fairly stable over the last 40 years – Thwaites, on the other hand, appears to have lost even more ice than previously thought, shrinking by up to a third between 1978 and 2009. And because the stable channel provides a good baseline comparison, the researchers can be more sure about the results.

https://assets.newatlas.com/dims4/default/37cf035/2147483647/strip/true/crop/705x470+0+0/resize/840x560!/quality/90/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fassets.newatlas.com%2F53%2Fba%2Faa7b97c948aeabde7acb4e6fd666%2Fantarctic-reel-1.jpgSeveral hundred rolls of vintage film were condensed into 75 before being digitized.

“The fact that we were able to have one ice shelf where we can say, ‘Look, it’s pretty much stable. And here, there’s significant change’ – that gives us more confidence in the results about Thwaites,” says Schroeder.

This study helps fill in more details about the environmental history of Antarctica, and how climate change is affecting it. Unfortunately, as usual it’s not great news.

Widespread aspirin use despite few benefits, high risks

Medical consensus once supported daily use of low dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke in people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). But in 2018, three major clinical trials cast doubt on that conventional wisdom, finding few benefits and consistent bleeding risks associated with daily aspirin use. Taken together, the findings led the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to change clinical practice guidelines earlier this year, recommending against the routine use of aspirin in people older than 70 years or people with increased bleeding risk who do not have existing cardiovascular disease.

Aspirin use is widespread among groups at risk for harm including older adults and adults with peptic ulcers -- painful sores in the lining of the stomach that are prone to bleeding that affect about one in ten people. In a research report published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) report on the extent to which Americans 40 years old and above use aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

"Although prior American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines recommended aspirin only in persons without elevated bleeding risk, the 2019 guidelines now explicitly recommend against aspirin use among those over the age of 70 who do not have existing heart disease or stroke," said senior author Christina C. Wee, MD, MPH, a general internist and researcher at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Our findings suggest that a substantial portion of adults may be taking aspirin without their physician's advice and potentially without their knowledge."

Using data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a nationally representative survey of U.S. households conducted before the release of the new guidelines, Wee and colleagues characterized aspirin use for primary prevention of CVD. The team found that about a quarter of adults aged 40 years or older without cardiovascular disease -- approximately 29 million people -- reported taking daily aspirin for prevention of heart disease. Of these, some 6.6 million people did so without a physician's recommendation.

Concerningly, nearly half of adults 70 years and older without a history of heart disease or stroke reported taking aspirin daily. The authors noted that a history of peptic ulcer disease -- another contraindication for the routine use of aspirin -- was not significantly associated with lower aspirin use as one would have expected.

"Our findings show a tremendous need for health care practitioners to ask their patients about ongoing aspirin use and to advise them about the importance of balancing the benefits and harms, especially among older adults and those with prior peptic ulcer disease," said lead author Colin O'Brien, MD, a senior internal medicine resident at BIDMC and fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Coauthor, Stephen Juraschek, MD, PhD, a primary care physician at BIDMC, cautions that "these findings are applicable to adults who do not have a history of cardiovascular disease or stroke. If you are currently taking aspirin, discuss it with your doctor to see if it is still needed for you."

Juraschek, who is also an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, is supported by grant K23HL135273 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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Cancer tissue-freezing approach may help more breast cancer patients in lower income countries

A new reusable device created by the Johns Hopkins University can help women with breast cancer in lower income countries by using carbon dioxide, a widely available and affordable gas, to power a cancer tissue-freezing probe instead of industry-standard argon.

A study detailing the tool's success in animals was published this month in PLOS One.

"Innovation in cancer care doesn't always mean you have to create an entirely new treatment, sometimes it means radically innovating on proven therapies such that they're redesigned to be accessible to the majority of the world's population," says Bailey Surtees, a recent Johns Hopkins University biomedical engineering graduate and the study's first author.

"This project is a remarkable example of success from the Biomedical Engineering Design Program," says Nicholas Durr, an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins and the study's senior author. "This team of undergraduates has been so successful because they created a practical solution for the problem after really understanding the constraints that needed to be met to be impactful."

The largest cause of cancer-related mortality for women across the globe, breast cancer disproportionately affects women in lower-income countries due to lack of treatment. While the survival rate for women in the United States is greater than 90%, they are significantly lower at 64%, 46% and 12% in Saudi Arabia, Uganda and The Gambia, respectively.

"Instead of saying 'She has breast cancer," the locals we met while conducting focus groups for our research said 'She has death,' because breast cancer is often considered an automatic death sentence in these communities," adds Surtees.

In lower-income countries, the main barriers to treating breast cancer are inadequate treatment options -- with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation being impractical or too expensive -- and long travel times to regional hospitals where efficient treatment is available. Even if a woman is able to travel to a hospital for treatment, she may not be seen and recovery times will keep her out of work for an additional few weeks.

Killing cancerous tissue with cold, or cryoablation, is preferable to surgically removing tumors in these countries because it eliminates the need for a sterile operating room and anesthesia, thus making it possible to local clinics to perform the procedure. It's also minimally invasive, thereby reducing complications such as pain, bleeding and extended recovery time.

Current cryoablation technologies, however, are too expensive, with a single treatment costing upwards of $10,000, and are dependent on argon gas, which typically isn't available in lower-income countries, to form the tissue-killing ice crystals.

With these barriers in mind, the student-led research team, named Kubanda (which means "cold" in Zulu), wanted to create a tissue-freezing tool that uses carbon dioxide, which is already widely available in most rural areas thanks to the popularity of carbonated drinks.

The research team tested their tool in three experiments to ensure it could remain cold enough in conditions similar to the human breast and successfully kill tumor tissue.

In the first experiment, the team used the tool on jars of ultrasound gel, which thermodynamically mimics human breast tissue, to determine whether it could successfully reach standard freezing temperatures killing tissue and form consistent iceballs. In all trials, the device formed large enough iceballs and reached temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius, which meets standard freezing temperatures for tissue death for similar devices in the United States.

For the second experiment, the team treated 9 rats with 10 mammary tumors. Afterwards, they looked at the tissue under a microscope and confirmed that the tool successfully killed 85% or more tissue for all tumors.

Finally, the team tested the tool's ability to reach temperatures cold enough for tissue destruction in the normal liver of a pig, which has a temperature similar to a human breast. The device was successfully able to stay cold enough during the entire experiment to kill the target tissue.

"When we started the project, experts in the area told us it was impossible to ablate meaningful tissue volumes with carbon dioxide. This mindset may have come from both the momentum of the field and also from not thinking about the importance of driving down the cost of this treatment," says Durr.

While the results are promising, the device still requires additional experiments before it's ready for commercial use. Mainly, the research team's next steps are to ensure it can consistently kill cancer tissue under the same heat conditions as human breast tissue.

In the near future, the team hopes to continue testing their device for human use, and expand its use to pets.

Other authors on this paper include Sean Young, Yixin Hu, Guannan Wang, Evelyn McChesney, Grace Kuroki, Pascal Acree, Serena Thomas, Tara Blair, Shivam Rastogi, Dara L. Kraitchman, Clifford Weiss, Saraswati Sukumar and Susan C. Harvey, all of Johns Hopkins.

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Ancient Saharan seaway shows how Earth's climate and creatures can undergo extreme change

A new paper to be published in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History integrates 20 years of research by a diverse scientific team and describes the ancient Trans-Saharan Seaway of Africa that existed 50 to 100 million years ago in the region of the current Sahara Desert. Led by Maureen O'Leary, Professor of Anatomical Sciences at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, the paper is a comprehensive synthesis and contains the first reconstructions of extinct aquatic species in their habitats along the seaway and places in context massive climate and sea level changes that can occur on Earth.

The region now holding the Sahara Desert was once under water, in striking contrast to the present-day arid environment. This dramatic difference in climate over time is recorded in the rock and fossil record of West Africa during a time range that extends through the Cretaceous-Paleogene (KPg) boundary. West Africa was bisected by a shallow saltwater body that poured onto continental crust during a time of high global sea level. The Bulletin paper involves an assessment and continued analysis of three expeditions led by Professor O'Leary (1999, 2003, and 2008) within rock exposures in the Sahara Desert in Mali, and subsequently the laboratory work of the fossil finds in the region.

"Fossils found on the expeditions indicate that the sea supported some of the largest sea snakes and catfish that ever lived, extinct fishes that were giants compared to their modern day relatives, mollusk-crushing fishes, tropical invertebrates, long-snouted crocodilians, early mammals and mangrove forests," explained Professor O'Leary, who is also a Research Associate in the Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History. "Because the seaway changed in size and geography frequently, we propose that it may have resulted in 'islands of water' that stimulated species gigantism."

The paper contains the first reconstructions of ancient relatives of elephants and large apex predators such as sharks, crocodilians and sea snakes.

"With our analysis and new technologies, such as a computer-aided map of the seaway, our work is an important step toward increasing our understanding of the KPg boundary event, the time of non-avian dinosaur extinction," said Professor O'Leary.

She and colleagues point out that the paper places in context climate and sea level changes that can occur on Earth.

For example, scientists currently predict that global warming will result in the sea rising two meters by the end of the 21st century. The study in the Bulletin describes how, in the Late Cretaceous, the time under study, sea level rise far exceeded that which is predicted by human-induced climate change. In the Late Cretaceous sea level was 300m higher than present -- 40 percent of current land was under water, which is very different from today. This information underscores the dynamic nature of Earth.

Professor O'Leary explained that scientists do not have detailed stratigraphic terrestrial/near shore sections with fossils on every continent to examine exactly how the KPg boundary unfolded globally. There is only one good nearshore or terrestrial section with vertebrate fossils in the western United States. The expeditions in Mali, she added, created a new section, which is imperfect, missing some of the earliest Paleogene yet contributes to a better understanding of global events 50 to 100 million years ago.

The expeditions spanning 20 years involved Professor O'Leary and numerous colleagues internationally to excavate the fossils and conduct the research. The collaborative research team consists of paleontologists and geologists from the United States, Australia and Mali.

"Few paleontologists had worked the region, given its remoteness and scorching 125 degree F temperatures. The shifting sand dunes made it difficult to find rocky outcrops, and worse still, a flash rain storm flooded the roadways making navigation nearly impossible," said Leif Tapanila, PhD, Professor of Geosciences at Idaho State University and a co-author of the paper. "These expeditions could not have succeeded without the experience of local Malian drivers and guides, and I was amazed by the quality and diversity of marine fossils we found in the Sahara Desert."

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Oceans are the ‘lungs of the Earth’

The United Nations calls oceans as the “lungs of the Earth” as they generate most of the oxygen we breathe. Oceans produce oxygen through marine plants, such as phytoplankton, kelp and algal planktons. These plants produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis.

Containing 97 percent of the world’s water, oceans are home to millions of marine species that provide humans with at least a sixth of the animal protein they eat, as well as ingredients for our medicines.

But benefits from oceans go beyond air, food and water. Oceans cover 70 percent of the world’s surface, and transport heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce climate-change impacts. 

Aside from these life-supporting products and services, oceans provide wondrous recreational areas and limitless inspiration to millions of people. Clearly, oceans play an essential role for life on earth.

Asean oceans: among the world’s richest marine ecosystems

The 10 Asean member-states—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—house a third of the world’s coral reefs, mangrove and seagrass areas.

According to Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, executive director of Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), nine out of 10 Asean countries are endowed with extensive coastlines, and all 10 Asean member-states have a total of 173,000 kilometers of shorelines.

Indonesia and the Philippines are recognized as among those having the most coral reef areas in the world. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are three of the six countries bordering the Coral Triangle, which is home to 75 percent of the world’s reef-building corals.

Overall, the Asean region hosts a third of the world’s coastal and marine habitats, which include coral reefs, mangroves, estuaries, sandy and rocky beaches, seagrass and seaweed beds, and other soft bottom communities.

These habitats and their resident species provide various forms of ecosystem services, such as breeding, nursing and feeding grounds for marine plants and animals, as well as resources important to livelihoods of coastal communities. 

Lim enumerated the regulatory ecosystem services derived from marine and coastal ecosystems: carbon sequestration and storage in mangrove tree trunks and roots, seagrass, seaweeds, and other algae; climate regulation; sediment protection; and shoreline retention to buffer coastal areas from storm surges.

According to the Asean Biodiversity Outlook 2, a publication of the ACB, coastal habitats maintain nutrient cycles and provide media for the exchange of genetic materials. These habitats provide cultural services in the form of recreation and tourism, education, research and places of worship.

There are various estimates of the monetary value of coastal habitats in the region. Coral reefs generate and may constitute a significant percentage of national economies, where such habitats occur in large scale, and where industries—such as coral reef-related tourism, fisheries, live fish aquarium, and shell craft industries thrive.

Coral reef-related tourism relies on water and habitat quality, the type and quality of services offered, and accessibility factors. The Asean Biodiversity Outlook 2 reported that potential annual economic value of coral reefs in the Asean region arising from fisheries, shoreline protection, tourism, recreation, and aesthetic values is estimated at $12.7 billion.

Clearly, resources from the oceans of the Asean region not only provide life-sustaining and economic benefits for some 650 Asean residents but also contribute to global sustainable development.

Behind the richness are the threats

Behind the richness of Asean’s oceans are the threats. The integrity of the world’s oceans, including in the Asean region, is threatened by marine debris and other forms of pollution; overfishing and use of destructive fishing practices; and coral bleaching, as well as other impacts from climate change. 

According to the Asean’s Population Reference Bureau, close to 500 million people will be living in or near coastal and marine areas in the Asean region by 2050.

Indonesia and the Philippines were identified by the Reefs at Risk Revisited Report as two countries that have tens of millions of coastal people living within 30 kilometers of reefs.

Considering that the Asean is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, its nearshore ecosystems have become more vulnerable to habitat change from overexploitation, sedimentation, pollution, coastal development, ineffective governance, and collateral damage from coastal tourism and climate change.

Plastic: Oceans’ enemy No. 1

Human activities present the biggest threat to oceans as more than 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities and wastes, specifically plastics.

A surge in single-use plastics has led to a global environmental catastrophe. The UN has reported that 13 million tons of plastic leak into the oceans every year, killing 100,000 marine animals annually, among other damages.

While most plastics are expected to remain intact for decades or centuries after use, those that do erode end up as microplastics, consumed by fish and other marine wildlife, quickly making their way into the global food chain.

In a presentation during the celebration of the International Day for Biodiversity held in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 2, Dr. Suchana Chavanich, a faculty member of the Department of Marine Science, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, said that 39 percent of plastic wastes go to open ocean waters; 33.7 percent settle in coastline and sea floor; 26.8 percent remain in coastal ocean waters; and 0.5 percent float on the waters.

Chavanich reported that a study conducted by the Chulalongkorn University found microplastics in 93 percent of bottled water.

Another threat to marine life is illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

According to a European Union report, the estimated global value of IUU fishing is around $11 billion to $22 billion per year. Between 11 million tons and 26 million tons of fish are caught illegally a year, accounting for at least 15 percent of the world’s catches. IUU unsustainably affects the world’s fish stocks.

Asean nations unite to protect the oceans

The 10 Asean member-states, supported by the Asean Centre for Biodiversity, recognize that protecting the Asean region’s oceans has a global significance, as benefits go beyond the borders of Southeast Asia.

Thus, they are working together to ensure that the region’s marine and coastal biodiversity and ecosystems are conserved, protected and sustainably used.

During the Special Asean Ministerial Meeting on Marine Debris held on March 5 in Bangkok, Thailand, the ministers responsible for natural resources, environment and marine affairs affirmed the Asean’s commitment to conserve the region’s marine environment and strengthen regional cooperation in addressing marine debris issues.

The ministers expressed their full support to advance partnerships for sustainability, as well as to promote synergy within the framework of Asean partnership, in particular to combat marine debris in the region.

During the 34th Asean Summit held in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 22, the heads of the 10 Asean member-states adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris, reiterating the commitment of the 10 Asean member-states in protecting and conserving the region’s rich marine resources.

The Bangkok Declaration called for collaborative actions to prevent and significantly reduce marine debris, particularly from land-based activities; recommended an integrated land-to-sea approach to prevent and reduce marine debris; and called for the strengthening of national laws and regulations, as well as enhancing regional and international cooperation, including on relevant policy dialogue and information sharing.

The declaration also promoted mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem conservation as it called for coordination among Asean sectoral bodies to effectively address the multidimensional and far-reaching negative effects, as well as sources of marine debris pollution; and encouraged private-sector engagement and investment in preventing and reducing marine debris, including partnerships between public and private sector through various mechanisms and incentives.

The Bangkok Declaration called for the strengthening of research capacity and application of scientific knowledge to combat marine debris; accelerating advocacy and actions to increase public awareness and participation; and enhancing education for behavioral change toward preventing and reducing marine debris.

Marine debris is a transboundary issue that requires integrated regional cooperation. Without immediate action, marine debris pollution would negatively impact marine biodiversity, environment, health, society and economy. Marine debris threatens the health and cleanliness of oceans and their resources which are key to the sustenance and livelihood of hundreds of millions of people, including Asean residents.

Protecting and conserving oceans: a shared responsibility

Lim said saving our oceans is not the sole turf of governments, marine scientists, conservationists and environmentalists. She recommends the following actions that individuals can take to protect and conserve the world’s rich marine heritage:

  • Learn about the wealth of diverse and beautiful ocean creatures and habitats, how our daily actions affect them, and how we are all interconnected.
  • Mind our carbon footprint and reduce energy use.
  • Buy sustainably sourced seafoods.
  • Properly dispose wastes, especially hazardous materials.
  • Use fewer plastics or reusable ones and dispose them properly.
  • Join coastal cleanup activities.
  • Plant native species of mangrove trees.
  • Report illegal activities that are harmful to marine life.
  • Support organizations working to protect our oceans.
  • Influence change in our homes, schools and communities.

“Conservation is a shared responsibility. By working together, we can protect our shared oceans. Let us keep in mind that oceans are our life,” Lim said.

Gigantic ‘potentially hazardous asteroid’ due to speed past Earth this week

A huge asteroid three times as long as a football field is set to speed by Earth on Thursday. The “potentially hazardous asteroid” is projected to whizz by our planet at over 25,400 mph (40,800 kph).

Asteroid ‘2008 KV2’ is estimated to measure 1,082 feet (330 meters) across and will be just 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers) from Earth when it flies by. 

The gigantic space rock is considered a Near Earth Object (NEO) and the center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for studying such close encounters considers 2008 KV2 to be a “potentially hazardous asteroid” because of its size and its relative proximity to our planet, passing within 0.045 astronomical units (AU) of Earth. One AU is about the distance between the Earth and the Sun. 

Also on rt.com The golden asteroid that could make everyone on Earth a billionaire...

As indicated in its name, the asteroid was first discovered in 2008 and scientists began to calculate how often to expect it to come near our planet. It orbits the Sun, like Earth, but doesn’t always get so close. It’s expected to pass Earth again in 2021.

How trees affect the weather

Nature, said Ralph Waldo Emerson, is no spendthrift. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

New research led by University of Utah biologists William Anderegg, Anna Trugman and David Bowling find that some plants and trees are prolific spendthrifts in drought conditions -- "spending" precious soil water to cool themselves and, in the process, making droughts more intense. The findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We show that the actual physiology of the plants matters," Anderegg says. "How trees take up, transport and evaporate water can influence societally important extreme events, like severe droughts, that can affect people and cities."

Functional traits

Anderegg studies how tree traits affect how well forests can handle hot and dry conditions. Some plants and trees, he's found, possess an internal plumbing system that slows down the movement of water, helping the plants to minimize water loss when it's hot and dry. But other plants have a system more suited for transporting large quantities of water vapor into the air -- larger openings on leaves, more capacity to move water within the organism. Anderegg's past work has looked at how those traits determine how well trees and forests can weather droughts. But this study asks a different question: How do those traits affect the drought itself?

"We've known for a long time that plants can affect the atmosphere and can affect weather," Anderegg says. Plants and forests draw water out of the soil and exhale it into the atmosphere, affecting the balance of water and heat at our planet's surface, which fundamentally controls the weather. In some cases, like in the Amazon rainforest, all of that water vapor can jumpstart precipitation. Even deforestation can affect downwind weather by leaving regions drier than before.

Anderegg and his colleagues used information from 40 sites around the world, in sites ranging from Canada to Australia. At each site, instruments collected data on the flows of heat, water and carbon in and out of the air, as well as what tree species were prevalent around the instrumentation. Comparing that data with a database of tree traits allowed the researchers to draw conclusions about what traits were correlated with more droughts becoming more intense.

Two traits stuck out: maximum leaf gas exchange rate and water transport. The first trait is the rate at which leaves can pump water vapor into the air. The second describes how much water the tree can move to the leaves. The results showed that in cool regions, plants and trees slowed down their water use in response to declining soil moisture. But in hot climates, some plants and trees with high water transport and leaf gas exchange rates cranked up the AC, so to speak, when the soil got dry, losing more and more water in an effort to carry out photosynthesis and stay cool while depleting the soil moisture that was left.

"You end up getting to these conditions that are hotter and drier much faster with those plants than with other plants," Anderegg says.

More drought to come

It's true that hot and dry regions tend to have more plants and trees that are adapted to dry conditions. But regardless of the climate some species with water-intensive traits, such as oaks in a Mediterranean climate, can still exacerbate a drought.

Anderegg says that understanding the relationship between a tree's traits and drought conditions helps climate scientists and local leaders to plan for future drought effects on communities.

"Failing to account for this key physiology of plants would give us less accurate predictions for what climate change is going to mean for drought in a lot of regions," he says.

Drought is always on Anderegg's mind, even during the recent wet spring. "Just because we're having a good water year in the U.S. and in Utah this year doesn't get us off the hook," he says. "We need to remember that we're going to see a lot more droughts in the future."

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