For the past 15,000 years, a glacier on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau of China has hosted a party for some unusual guests: an ensemble of frozen viruses, many of them unknown to modern science.
Scientists recently broke up this party after taking a look at two ice cores from this Tibetan glacier, revealing the existence of 28 never-before-seen virus groups.
Investigating these mysterious viruses could help scientists on two fronts: For one, these stowaways can teach researchers which viruses thrived in different climates and environments over time, the researchers wrote in a paper posted on the bioRxiv database on Jan. 7.
Related: Photographic Proof of Climate Change: Time-Lapse Images of Retreated Glaciers
"However, in a worst-case scenario, this ice melt [from climate change] could release pathogens into the environment," the researchers wrote in the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed. If this happens, it's best to know as much about these viruses as possible, the researchers wrote.
Studying ancient glacial microbes can be challenging. That's because it's extremely easy to contaminate ice core samples with modern-day bacteria. So, the researchers created a new protocol for ultraclean microbial and viral sampling.
In this case, the two ice core samples from the Guliya ice cap on the Tibetan Plateau were collected in 1992 and 2015. However, at those times, there weren't any special measures taken to avoid microbial contamination during the core drilling, handling or transport.
In other words, the exterior of these ice cores was contaminated. But the insides were still pristine, the researchers wrote in the study. To access the inner part of the cores, the researchers set up shop in a cold room — the thermometer was set at 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 5 degrees Celsius) — and used a sterilized band saw to cut away 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) of ice from the outer layer. Then, the researchers washed the ice cores with ethanol to melt another 0.2 inches of ice. Finally, they washed the next 0.2 inches away with sterile water.
After all of this work (shaving off about 0.6 inches, or 1.5 cm of ice), the researchers reached an uncontaminated layer that they could study. This method held up even during tests in which the researchers covered the outer layer of the ice with other bacteria and viruses.
The experiment revealed 33 groups of virus genuses (also known as genera) in the ice cores. Of these, 28 were previously unknown to science, the researchers said. "The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores," the researchers wrote in the study, "presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition."
It's no surprise that the glacier held these mysterious viruses for so long, researchers said.
"We are very far from sampling the entire diversity of viruses on Earth," Chantal Abergel, a researcher in environmental virology at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, who wasn't involved with the study, told Vice.
As human-made climate change melts glaciers the world over, these viral archives could be lost, the researchers noted. Research into ancient viruses "provides a first window into viral genomes and their ecology from glacier ice," the researchers wrote in the study, "and emphasizes their likely impact on abundant microbial groups [today]."
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Originally published on Live Science.(opens in new tab)
I'm somewhat surprised that a science journal made such an assumptive toward the bottom of this article in that they stated the glacier met was due to human activity. I'm not a climate denier but the statement just rang hollow with me as the causal factors for this statement are still under discussion worldwide and you can find a wide variety of experts willing to take sides for and against this assertion. I would suggest a modification to this statement be made.
'Wide variety of experts'? The only type of expert that applies here are those who's fields derive from physics or chemistry, and 97% of those experts say it's due to excess carbon being dumped into the air by human processes. I'm an expert at programming, that doesn't mean my opinion on climate change accounts for jack because my specialty doesn't derive from chemistry and physics, in those areas I'm merely an educated layman. Also, no one is going to edit the article without actual proof, which does not include this mysterious 'wide variety of experts'.
For every molecule of CO2 that volcanoes emit over the course of a year humans release 60 over a year. There has never been a volcano in recorded human history that has produced more CO2 than modern humans create in month, let alone a year, let alone 'all of human existence'. Of course, you don't remember the name, because it doesn't exist, and figments of imagination are easily forgotten.
Here's an article to set you straight, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) one the leading government bodies studying global climate change, and employer of some of the world's preeminent climate scientists:
What the article said is entirely valid. There is an undeniable anthropogenic component to climate change. The extent of that is open to debate, but human activity has a disturbingly large negative impact.
Agreed. Not to mention whether it's "human-made" or not doesn't seem relevant in this particular case. I'm not a denier either, but I don't like seeing journalistic bias of any kind, even the lightest and most innocent, especially these days. We all just gotta be a little more careful is all. (Well, ok, that's not "all", but that's for another thread entirely!)
So your supposed liberal conspiracy seems to have jumped the political fence and been taken up by pretty much everyone on the bloody planet regardless of their politics. Under such circumstances, the most reasonable assumption is that they are operating based on facts, not dumping hundreds of billions of dollars of their combined national currencies into fighting off dragons, sea serpents and other imaginary beasties.
Lastly, the funny thing about facts is that they aren't like quantum particles that are dependent on your observation to exist. They don't require your assent or belief in them to exist or to be facts, i'e., to be the truth, an accurate statement about the world around us. So when you start off announcing, quite proudly it would seem, that you don't believe in climate change, as if the subject at hand was UFOs or Bigfoot, you are calling your credibility into question far more than you are the credibility of the literal mountain of evidence that tells us that, yes, Virginia, there is climate change.