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A snow covered crater on Mauna Kea, Hawaii

A crater on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a 4,200-metre-tall volcanic peak that shelters patches of frozen soil on its slopes even in the summer. Credit: Getty

Climate sciences

Why a palm-fringed Pacific island harbours pools of ice

Hawaiian peaks host icy pockets year-round, but the cold spots are at risk from climate change.

The island of Hawaii is renowned for its tropical climate, but the stony deserts on two of its volcanoes support unlikely patches of permanent ice.

Norbert Schörghofer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu and his colleagues gathered weather data from sites near the barren, rocky summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s tallest volcanoes. Measurements at a crater high on Mauna Kea yielded the coldest temperature ever reported for the Hawaiian Islands: -20.3°C.

The researchers found that, despite the area’s relatively mild air temperatures, pools of exceptionally cold air sometimes form in the craters during still nights. This cold air is trapped between rocks, helping to preserve patches of ice and frozen soil in the craters.

Similar pooling and trapping of cold night air may also help to maintain ponds of ice found deep inside two caves on Mauna Loa. Evaporation of ice from the ponds’ surfaces removes significant amounts of latent heat. But the ice ponds are showing signs of thawing and will probably vanish as the climate warms.

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Camera-trap image of Dendrohyrax interfluvialis

Some tree hyraxes scream in the night, but the newly identified Dendrohyrax interfluvialis (above, camera-trap image) utters a complex series of squawks, rattles and barks. Credit: J. F. Oates et al./Zool. J. Linn. Soc.


A bark in the dark reveals a hidden hyrax

Its neighbours scream, but a new species of tree hyrax — a cousin of the elephant — unleashes a rattling bark.
Plastic and other debris floats underwater in blue water

Plastic detritus from snacks and meals floats in the Red Sea. Marine sampling shows that food waste accounts for nearly 90% of plastic pollution at some locales. Credit: Andrey Nekrasov/Barcroft Media/Getty

Ocean sciences

Humanity’s fast-food habit is filling the ocean with plastic

Food bags, drink bottles and similar items account for the biggest share of plastic waste near the shore.
Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles.

An artist’s impression of ‘entangled’ particles, which share properties even at a distance. Entangled photons can be used to help secure a multi-party video meeting. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

Quantum information

Quantum keys dial up tamper-proof conference calls

A new experiment efficiently distributes the highly secure keys to four parties instead of the typical two.
Farmers harvest pineapples in a field.

Workers harvest pineapples in Lingao County, China. Less than one-third of the money spent on food eaten at home reaches farmers. Credit: Yuan Chen/VCG/Getty


Poor harvest: farmers earn a pitiful fraction of the money spent on food

The bulk of consumer food spending around the world ends up in the coffers of distributors, processors and other parties beyond the farm gate.
A woman wearing a protective face mask splashes her hands in a jet of water

A pedestrian seeks relief from searing temperatures in Spain, where a high proportion of heat-related deaths have been linked to climate change. Credit: SALAS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Climate change

More than one-third of heat deaths blamed on climate change

Warming resulting from human activities accounts for a high percentage of heat-related deaths, especially in southern Asia and South America.
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