TIME climate change

Antarctica May Have Just Set a Record for Its Hottest Day Ever

Antarctica
Getty Images Emperor penguins on an ice edge in Antarctica.

The continent appears to have hit 63.5 F for the first time thanks to global warming

You may want to consider balmy Antarctica for your next Spring Break. Weather bloggers at Weather Underground report that the continent likely hit a record-breaking high of 63.5 F (17.5 C) on Tuesday.

Antarctica has been heating up in recent years, thanks to global warming. The region’s temperature has risen an average of about 5 F (2.8 C) in the last half century, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Studies have also documented melting ice along Antarctica’s coasts.

Tuesday’s record is all the more impressive considering that it was set just one day after Antarctica had reached a new high of 63.3 F (17.4 C) on Monday. Prior to those two record-setting days, the hottest the continent had ever gotten was 62.8 F (17.1 C) on April 24, 1961.

But the record is not yet official. The reading was logged on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which may not be considered part of the continent in weather record keeping. The World Meteorological Organization is expected to examine whether the area was indeed in Antarctica or whether it is technically located in Argentina.

Read Next: The Antarctic’s Floating Ice Shelves Are Melting At an Alarming Rate

[Weather Underground]

TIME climate change

People Across the Globe Switch Off Their Lights for Earth Hour

AUSTRALIA-ENVIRONMENT-ENERGY-EARTH HOUR
Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images Fireworks fade as lights go out on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House to signal the start of the Earth Hour environmental campaign, among the first landmarks around the world to dim their lights for the event on March 28, 2015.

From Australia to Austin, global citizens send a message about climate change

Seven thousand cities in 162 countries across the globe are turning off their lights for Earth Hour this year. Each city will dim their skyline beginning at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.

Earth Hour started in 2007 as a World Wildlife Fund event in Australia and has grown to become a global message that citizens across the world must work together to fight climate change. Some of the world’s best-known landmarks will go dark this year, including the the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the United Nations building in New York City and the Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro.

This year’s earth hour takes on extra significance ahead of the UN meeting on climate change in Paris scheduled for December.

Read next: Antarctica May Have Just Set a Record for Its Hottest Day Ever

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME A Year In Space

Liftoff! A Year in Space Begins

Scott Kelly and his crewmates take off for the International Space Station

You’d think you’d have trouble deciding how to spend your last day on Earth if you were about to leave it for a year. But the fact is, you’d have nothing to decide at all. Every bit of it would be planned for you—literally second by second—as it was today for cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and astronaut Scott Kelly, in advance of their liftoff at 1:42:57 AM local time. Kornienko and Kelly are set to be aboard the International Space Station for the full year; Padalko will be there for six months.

The three men were instructed to nap until nine hours before launch, or precisely 4:42:57 PM in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the Russian launch facilities are located. They left their quarters exactly one hour later, at 5:52:57 PM, settled into the space center ready-rooms and began their pre-flight preparations at 6:52:57. And on the day would tick.

For the families, all those hours were a much more ambling business—time they had to contrive to fill on their own. As Kelly was getting his final hours of mandated terrestrial sleep, his daughters, Samantha and Charlotte, 20 and 11, his partner Amiko Kauderer and his twin brother Mark—a retired astronaut—visited Baikonur’s outdoor market in a hunt for spices Kauderer and the girls wanted to take home. Mark, who had arrived in Baikonur yesterday still wearing his characteristic mustache—the only thing that allows most people to distinguish between him and Scott—had shaved it off this morning.

“Do I look like my brother now?” he asked, and then added mischievously, “Maybe I am…”

Kauderer, who works as a NASA public affairs officer and has witnessed her share of launches as well as her share of spouses steeling themselves—at least outwardly—for the experience, carried herself with the same apparent calm. So did the girls, who have seen their father fly off to space three times before. As for what Scott himself was feeling, Mark was reasonably sure it was nothing terribly special.

“He’s been through this routine four times already,” he said. “Actually, when you count the times you don’t launch, it’s probably six or seven.”

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

That routine pressed on today regardless of what Scott might or might not have been feeling. At 7:52 PM, the crew, still clad in Earth-appropriate jumpsuits, left the ready-rooms for the 100-yard walk to the buses that would take them to the suit-up building. A rousing Russian song played over loudspeakers, while crowds were kept behind rope lines, both to prevent a crush and protect the astronauts who, though walking without surgical masks, were still under medical quarantine.

Once they were sealed inside their bus, however, the lines collapsed and the crowd surged forward. A child was lifted to touch the window. Padalko pressed both of his hands on the glass while a woman reached up and pressed hers opposite. In Russia—if not in the U.S.—cosmonauts are every bit the cultural phenomena they were half a century ago.

No one outside of flight technicians saw the crew again for another two hours—until they had been suited up and the families were brought in for a final goodbye—the men leaving the Earth on one side of a glass and the loved ones staying behind on the other, communicating via microphones. “Poka, poka”—Russian for “bye-bye”—Padalko’s daughters called to him again and again.

Mark, who made two visits to the space station on his shuttle flights, was less sentimental in bidding farewell to his brother. “I left some old T-shirts up in the gym,” he said. “Want to bring them down for me?”

“You look good without that mustache,” Scott answered.

“Yeah, I’ll probably grow it back on the flight home. I miss it already.”

Scott’s exchanges with Amiko, Charlotte and Samantha were less playful, more tender, and afterwards, when Roscosmos officials declared the five minutes allotted for the visit over, Amiko gathered the girls in a hug. “We have to hold it together,” she says. “That’s our job, to hold it together and to help him.”

Finally, family, media and space officials left the suit-up building and walked to the parking lot just outside. The crew emerged a few minutes later to a fusillade of camera flashes and walked to three designated spots painted on the asphalt. American, Russian and Kazakh flags fluttered behind them and Roscosmos officials stood before them, bidding them a final goodbye. Padalko, the commander, stood in the middle during the little ceremony, and he occupies the middle seat in the spacecraft as well. A Soyuz veteran, he has joked that he could fly the craft with nothing but a pair of cabbages in the seats on either side of him.

Maybe. But if he meant that in the months and years he was training for this flight, there was no sign of it on the night he left. The crew, who would depend on one another for their lives tonight, boarded their bus, drove to the pad and climbed into their spacecraft. Two and a half hours later, at the designated second, their Soyuz rocket’s 20 engines lit and they left Kazakhstan—and the planet—behind them.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME space

Astronaut Scott Kelly Takes Off for International Space Station

A fiery display marks the start of a remarkable mission

It took Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gannady Padalka less than nine minutes to drive to work on Saturday. That’s the easy part. The hard part is that Padalka won’t punch out for six months; for Kornienko and Kelly, it will be a year.

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

Their office, of course, is the International Space Station (ISS). And their drive began at 3:42 p.m. ET Friday, or 1:42 a.m. Saturday in Kazakhstan, where their Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, en route to space. The 510-second sprint to low-Earth orbit will be followed by a six-hour chase, in which the Soyuz will slowly gain ground on the station, finally docking at about the same time people in Kazakhstan will be arriving at their decidedly more prosaic places of business.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME climate change

The Antarctic’s Floating Ice Shelves Are Melting At an Alarming Rate

AUSTRALIA-ANTARCTICA-ENVIROMENT
Australian Antarctic Division—AFP/Getty Images The Totten Glacier, pictured here, is the most rapidly thinning glacier in East Antarctica.

The rate is also accelerating over time

Some of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves are up to 18% thinner than they were two decades ago, according to a new study shedding light on climate change.

Science Daily reports that researchers at the UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography examined satellite data from the past two decades and discovered that ice shelves are thinning at precipitous rates, which are accelerating over time.

In 1994 to 2003, Antarctica’s total ice shelf volume – the ice shelf area multiplied by thickness – underwent minimal change. Then thinning began, with the last few years pointing to the highest rate of change.

“Eighteen percent over the course of eighteen years is really a substantial change,” researcher Fernando Paolo told Science Daily. “Overall, we show not only the total ice shelf volume is decreasing, but we see an acceleration in the last decade.”

The ice shelf shrinkage is indirectly linked to rising sea levels, and current volume reduction rates have scientists projecting that half the volume of ice shelves in western Antarctica may be lost in 200 years.

[Science Daily]

TIME health

Watch a GMO Advocate Claim a Weed Killer Is Safe to Drink but Then Refuse to Drink It

'I'm not stupid'

Correction appended: March 27, 2015.

In an interview with the French television station Canal Plus, an advocate for genetically modified foods said Roundup, a weedkiller that is manufactured by chemical giant Monsanto, is safe for human consumption but refused to drink the herbicide when offered a glass by an interviewer.

Patrick Moore says he leads a campaign in support of “golden rice,” a genetically modified grain that contains high amounts of vitamin A. In the interview, which Moore says he believed would focus on “golden rice,” he says the active ingredient in the herbicide, glyphosate, is not causing cancer rates in Argentina to increase.

“You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” he said.

But when the reporter told him that they had prepared a glass and invited Moore to drink it, he refused, saying “I’m not stupid.”

“So, it’s dangerous?” the interviewer asked.

“It’s not dangerous to humans,” Moore replied.

He insisted that people “try to commit suicide” by drinking Roundup but “fail regularly.” Moore then walked out of the interview.

Last Friday, the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified the widely used herbicide as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Correction: The original version of this story identified Moore as a paid lobbyist for Monsanto. In a statement published Friday, Monsanto said Moore “is not and never has been a paid lobbyist for Monsanto.”

Read next: What Experts Got Wrong About Viagra

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME A Year In Space

How—and Why—Russian Rockets Get Blessed

A Russian orthodox priest blesses the Soyuz Rocket, staff and members of the media two days before its launch.  The Rocket will carry American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka to the International Space Station.
Philip Scott Andrews for TIME A Russian orthodox priest blesses the Soyuz Rocket, staff and members of the media two days before its launch. The Rocket will carry American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka to the International Space Station.

A ritual unheard of in the Soviet days precedes the launch of a one-year space station mission

God didn’t have much role in rocketry during the days of the old Soviet Union. The officially atheist state was a creature of economics, politics, industry, ideology. But religion? Not so much.

The barricades to faith fell along with the Berlin Wall and religion now thrives in Russia and the cities and nations of the old empire. That includes Baikonur, where cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and astronaut Scott Kelly will take off in the early hours of March 28 for a long-duration stay aboard the International Space Station—and where less than 37 hours before launch, three Russian Orthodox priests arrived to perform a blessing of the Soyuz rocket that will carry the men.

It was sunny at the launch pad and, at 37° F (2.7° C), far more comfortable than the 18° F (-7.7° C) of the pre-dawn rollout of the Soyuz the day before. The priests arrived along with a large entourage of officials from Energiya, the company that built the rocket. The holy men chanted prayers for the rocket and the lead priest splashed the Energiya group with holy water. Then he did the same to the small crowd of gathered media. He took two questions from the Russian press, and within 20 minutes, the ceremony was over.

The priests looked small next to the 15-story tower of machinery they were blessing, and minds of different faiths—or of no faith at all—can differ about whether the ceremony offers any divine protection. But within sight of the Soyuz pad is the Soviets’ one-time lunar pad, where, on July 3, 1969, the massive N1 rocket that was supposed to take cosmonauts to the moon, erupted in the largest non-nuclear blast in history, spelling the end of Soviet lunar ambitions.

Terrible things can happen when people dare to fly to space. It’s in the nature of human beings to make such presumptuous journeys anyway. And it’s in our nature too to seek a little safety and comfort before we do.

Read next: A Year in Orbit Starts in Kazakhstan

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Research

Here’s Why Drug-Resistant Bacteria Could Spread Globally

Escherichia coli bacteria by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
Scimat Scimat—Photo Researchers RM/Getty Images Escherichia coli bacteria by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

Two genes responsible for building up drug-resistance can easily be shared between a family of bacteria

Common bacteria could be on the verge of becoming antibiotic-resistant super bugs, according to a new study.

Resistance to antibiotics is in danger of spreading globally among the type of bacteria that’s associated with causing infections in hospitals, reports the Science Daily.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that two genes that help build up this resistance to a particularly strong class of antibiotics called carbapenems can be shared fairly easily between a family of bacteria.

“Carbapenems are one of our last resorts for treating bacterial infections, what we use when nothing else works,” said senior author Gautam Dantas.

The study was based on incidents at two Los Angeles hospitals where several patients became infected with drug-resistant bacteria that had contaminated medical equipment.

Researchers studied a family of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae. While not all of these bacteria cause illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae as one of the three most urgent threats among emerging forms of antibiotic-resistant disease.

The team compared the genomes of carbapenems-resistant bacteria that had been isolated in the U.S. to those from bacteria isolated in Pakistan, expecting them to be genetically different. But what they found was the two resistant genes could be shared easily between bacteria from the two geographic regions.

“Our findings also suggest it’s going to get easier for strains of these bacteria that are not yet resistant to pick up a gene that lets them survive carbapenem treatment,” Dantas said.

As drug-resistant forms of Enterobacteriaceae become more widespread, he adds, “the odds will increase that we’ll pass one of these superbugs on to a friend with a weakened immune system who can really be hurt by them.”

[Science Daily]

Read next: Study Links Widely Used Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Environment

Americans Don’t Care That Much About the Environment, Poll Shows

Rain drops on green leaf
Getty Images

Americans concerns near record lows

Americans care less about environmental issues now than they have in the past—and they’re no more worried about global warming than they were decades ago, a new poll shows.

The Gallup survey released on Wednesday shows Americans were more concerned about the environment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but interested dropped off in the early 2000s. Since then it’s remained close to historic lows. And when it comes to global warming specifically, Americans are no more worried now than they were in 1989.

In the recent survey, which questioned 1,025 U.S. adults in early March, Americans reported feeling the most concerned about drinking polluted water and least worried about global warming. In 1989, 35% of the men and women surveyed said they cared a great deal about climate change, but only 32% said the same thing in 2015. Even when it came to polluted water, just 55% of Americans reported caring a great deal, down from 65% in 1990.

Gallup notes that the state of the economy could play a roll in how concerned Americans are about the environment. Americans tend to give environmental concerns a higher priority when the economy is doing well, Gallup says.

TIME space

Rocket Bound for Space Station Rolls Out in the Kazakh Steppes

The Russian Soyuz that will carry Scott Kelly to space for a year has its coming-out party in the frigid pre-dawn

All activity stops in the vicinity of a Soyuz rocket after the dog walks. The dog will walk on a lot of occasions, but especially the day the rocket rolls out to the pad. The two kilometer (1.25 mi.) trip takes more than two hours to complete, with the rocket lying on a flat-bed rail car and the train chugging no faster than 5 km/h, (3 mph) making multiple stops along the way.

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

At one point en route, the rail line crosses a road, and even on the locked-down, sealed-off grounds of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, that calls for special security—a bomb-sniffing dog to check the crossing when the train is still at least half a kilometer away. If you’re on the wrong side of the track after that, you’re out of luck. Nothing at all moves until the rocket crawls past, making its exceedingly slow way to the pad—preparatory to making its exceedingly fast way to space a couple of days later.

Like everything else in the Russian space program, the rollout proceeds according to ritual—determined by the needs of both the very breakable machines and the very superstitious people who build and fly them. Before dawn on March 25, the Soyuz set to carry astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Gennady Pedalka and Mikhail Kornienko to the International Space Station—with Kelly and Kornienko scheduled to spend a year aloft—emerged slowly from its hangar.

Factoring in the wind chill, it was 18º F (-8º C) in the Kazakh steppe, with the engine pulling the Soyuz the only thing anywhere emitting any heat—and not much at that. The Soyuz emerges business end first, which is to say bottom end first, and that’s a good way to meet it. It takes 20 engines bundled in five clusters to produce the thrust the rocket will need to muscle itself off the ground. The top of the rocket where the crew rides ride is the prettier end—painted white and decorated with a Russian flag and the Roscosmos logo—but the men will never get to space in the first place without the fire the engines provide.

The route to the launch pad is lined by technicians, security officers and other personnel, including a Russian Orthodox priest, who will bless the rocket and the crew the following day. Amiko Kauderer, Kelly’s significant other, is here as well and while she’s plenty inured to the idea of space flight—this will be Kelly’s fourth time aloft—she is as struck by the sheer physicality of the rocket as anyone else.

“Isn’t it gorgeous?” she says. “My guy’s got a hot ride.”

The most prominent people not in attendance are the crewmen themselves, and that’s not only because they’re in pre-flight medical quarantine. “It’s T-minus 64 hours,” says astronaut Mike Fincke, who has himself launched twice from Baikonur and today is serving the traditional role of astronaut escort to a fellow astronaut’s family—in this case Kauderer and Kelly’s two daughters, Samantha, 20, and Charlotte, 11. “The crew has a lot of other things to do, but it’s also part of the tradition and superstition for them to stay away. It’s like not seeing the bride before the wedding.”

When the Soyuz reaches the pad, it still must be stood upright, a process that was once called its erection, until everyone just got tired of the jokes—especially after the Americans began flying out of the old Soviet space port. Now the term is “verticalizing.”

Whatever it’s called, it’s a slow exercise and even with the sun up, the air is bitter. “Someone text Uncle Mark and tell him to bring some hand warmers,” says Charlotte. Uncle Mark, of course, is Kelly’s twin brother, also an astronaut, also with four missions on his manifest—though all of his were made from the decidedly more temperate Cape Canaveral.

It’s only when the rocket is finally raised, briefly standing alone on the pad before it’s caged in its gantry, that the thrill—and the brazenness—of what it will do in 64 hours seems real. Cosmonauts and astronauts have been flying into space since Yuri Gagarin took off from the very same pad on April 12, 1961, and it has never been less than a hellishly dangerous business—putting human beings inside a massive machine filled with explosive fuel and, effectively, lighting a match. The fact that things have gone right far more often than they’ve gone wrong does not make every new attempt any easier or more certain.

“I have lots of mixed emotions, when you realize he’s going to be on top of that,” says Kauderer. “To quote Scott, ‘It’s about to get real.'”

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com