Climate Change changing Earth’s axis
- A study published in Geophysical Research Letters of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) says that due to the significant melting of glaciers because of global temperature rise, our planet’s axis of rotation has been moving more than usual since the 1990s.
- While this change is not expected to affect daily life, it can change the length of the day by a few milliseconds.
How the Earth’s axis shifts
- The Earth’s axis of rotation is the line along which it spins around itself as it revolves around the Sun.
- The points on which the axis intersects the planet’s surface are the geographical north and south poles.
- The location of the poles is not fixed, however, as the axis moves due to changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet.
- Thus, the poles move when the axis moves, and the movement is called “polar motion”.
- According to NASA, data from the 20th century shows that the spin axis drifted about 10 centimetres per year. It means over a century, polar motion exceeds 10 metres.
- Generally, polar motion is caused by changes in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, oceans, or solid Earth.
- But now, climate change is adding to the degree with which the poles wander.
Findings of study
- Since the 1990s, climate change has caused billions of tonnes of glacial ice to melt into oceans. This has caused the Earth’s poles to move in new directions.
- North pole has shifted in a new eastward direction since the 1990s, because of changes in the hydrosphere (meaning the way in which water is stored on Earth).
- From 1995 to 2020, the average speed of drift was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995. Also, in the last four decades, the poles moved by about 4 metres in distance.
Causes for increased polar motion
- The faster ice melting under global warming was the most likely cause of the directional change of the polar drift in the 1990s.
- The other possible causes are (terrestrial water storage) change in non‐glacial regions due to climate change and unsustainable consumption of groundwater for irrigation and other anthropogenic activities.
- Groundwater depletion also adds to the phenomenon. As millions of tonnes of water from below the land is pumped out every year for drinking, industries or agriculture, most of it eventually joins the sea, thus redistributing the planet’s mass.
Source: Indian Express
Deepak’s Wood snake – ‘Xylophisdeepaki’
- A tiny snake of just 20 cm length with iridescent scales has been discovered in Western Ghats.
- The species is named in honour of Indian herpetologist Deepak Veerappan for his contribution in erecting a new subfamily Xylophiinae to accommodate wood snakes.
- The new ﬁnd increases the total number of currently recognised wood snakes to ﬁve species.
About the snake
- It is an endemic species of Tamil Nadu and has been sighted in a few locations in the southern part of the Western Ghats.
- This new species is found in the drier regions and in lower altitudes around Agasthyamalai hills. The other Xylophis were reported from cold higher altitudes, of 1,700 m and above, in the Nilgiris and the Anaimalai.
- The species had a broader oﬀwhite collar and more ventral scales. It is a close relative to X. captaini.
- Its close relative, Captain’s wood snake, is known from the western slopes of the Western Ghats in the Kerala.
About Wood snakes
- Wood snakes are harmless, subfossorial and often found while digging soil in farms and under the logs in the
Western Ghat forests.
- They feed on earthworms and possibly other invertebrates.Interestingly, their close relatives are found in northeast
India and South east Asia and are known to be arboreal.
Source: The Hindu
State Disaster Response Fund
- The Centre has released the ﬁrst instalment of the State Disaster
Response Fund (SDRF) to the States. It is in the wake of the second wave of COVID19 that has claimed thousands of lives since April.
- Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, at the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Aﬀairs, has released in advance of the normal schedule the ﬁrst instalment of the Central share of SDRF for 2021-22 to all the States.
- Normally, the ﬁrst instalment is released in June as per the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
- SDRF has been constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
- The SDRF is the primary fund available with the State governments as part of their response to notiﬁed disasters to meet expenditure on immediate relief to victims.
- The Centre contributes 75% of the allocation for general category States and Union Territories and 90% for special category States (north eastern, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and J&K).
- The annual Central contribution is released in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
Source: The Hindu
Fire safety Norms in India
- Over the past year, there have been deadly ﬁres in hospital buildings, including those treating COVID19 patients. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says 330 people died in commercial building ﬁres in 2019, while fatalities for residential or dwelling buildings were at 6,329.
- Electrical faults are cited as the leading cause of ﬁres.
- State governments are widely criticised for being lax with building safety laws and for failing to equip public buildings with modern technology.
- Hospitals come under the institutional category. Hospital ICUs (intensive care units) are a great ﬁre risk because they are oxygensuﬀused, and need to meet high standards.
· Part 4 of the National Building Code (NBC) deals with Fire and Life Safety.
· NBC provides speciﬁcations and guidelines for design and materials that reduce the threat of destructive ﬁres.
· Under the Code, all existing and new buildings are classiﬁed by nature of use, such as residential, educational, institutional, assembly (like cinemas and auditoria), business, mercantile, industrial, storage and hazardo
· Hospitals come under the institutional category.
National Building Code
- NBC recommends the location of buildings by type of use in speciﬁc zones to ensure that industrial and hazardous structures do not coexist with residential, institutional, oﬃce and business buildings.
- It speciﬁes, among other things, the technical requirements for special buildings, high rises, educational and institutional buildings higher than 9 metres, and those with an area of over 300 square metres.
- It drills down into the speciﬁcs of ﬁre resistance based on the materials used.
- Technologies to sound alerts in case of a ﬁre and also to ﬁght it are expected to be incorporated into buildings.
- However, in case of practical diﬃculty or to avoid unnecessary hardship, without sacriﬁcing reasonable safety, local head, ﬁre services may consider exemptions from the Code
Do State governments follow the Code?
- National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
- The NDMA has also stipulated requirements for ﬁre safety in public buildings, including hospitals, which incorporate elements of the NBC, besides design guidelines on maintaining minimum open safety space, protected exit mechanisms, dedicated staircases, and crucial drills to carry out evacuations.
- However, reports in the wake of recent ﬁre accidents indicate that the authorities have been unable to keep up with inspection requirements for thousands of building.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
· The NDMA has also stipulated requirements for ﬁre safety in public buildings, including hospitals, which incorporate elements of the NBC, besides design guidelines on maintaining minimum open safety space, protected exit mechanisms, dedicated staircases, and crucial drills to carry out evacuations.
- Obtaining an NOC [noobjectioncertiﬁcate] from the ﬁre department, given in form H3 for hospitals that are between 15 metres and 24 metres high, requires furnishing exhaustive information on design and infrastructure.
- The rules prescribe ﬁre fighting equipment and installations that meet “Indian Standards”, but do not contain a direct reference to the NBC.
Tamil Nadu’s form for a ﬁre licence, required under the Fire Service Act read with municipal law, is even broader, and no reference is found for compliance with the Code.
- In December 2020, Supreme Court directed all States to carry out ﬁre safety audits of dedicated COVID19 hospitals.
- It has become evident that State forces lack the manpower to inspect and ensure compliance with safety codes, including the NBC, where it is mandatory.
- One option is to make heavy ﬁre liability insurance compulsory for all public buildings, which would oﬀer protection to occupants and visitors and bring about external inspection of safety.
Source: The Hindu
- The U.S. State Department has approved the proposed sale of six P8I patrol aircraft and related equipment to India.
- The deal is estimated to cost $2.42 billion.
- The possible sale through the Foreign Military Sale route and requires that the U.S. Congress be notified, a process that was completed on Friday. Lawmakers have a statutory 30 days to raise any objections. In November 2019, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, approved the procurement of the long range maritime surveillance aircraft manufactured by Boeing.
The possible sale through the Foreign Military Sale route and requires that the U.S. Congress be notified, a process that was completed on Friday. Lawmakers have a statutory 30 days to raise any objections
P81 in Indian Navy
- The P-8 is designed to conduct long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The P-8s also has a bomb bay that can drop sonobuoys and torpedoes, as well as hardpoints on its wings for anti-ship missiles.
- The P8I is based on the Boeing 737 commercial aircraft and India was its ﬁrst international customer.
- The Indian Navy bought eight P-8I aircraft in 2009 and contracted for four more aircraft in 2016.
- The aircraft are part of the 312A Naval Air Squadron based at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.
- With India having signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) foundational agreement with the U.S., the six aircraft will come ﬁtted with encrypted systems.