Physics Today Daily Edition
Washington Post: One of the most notable effects of rising global temperatures has been the loss of Arctic ice. A new study suggests that ice loss is causing the polar vortex to shift, which could lead to longer winters in North America. Over the past three decades of warming, the vortex has weakened and moved toward Europe and Asia during February. A weakening vortex is more likely to fracture and allow extremely cold air to flow south from the Arctic, as happened several times over the past two winters. The vortex's shift in position during mid to late winter means that the fractures are more likely to continue into early spring, the researchers say, and pour cold Arctic air across North America.
Charleston Gazette–Mail: The Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia is home to the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope as well as three smaller radio telescopes and a radio burst spectrometer. However, Green Bank was recently dropped from the National Radio Astronomy system, and NSF has cut its funding. On 19 October, NSF filed notice that it is evaluating what to do with the facility. The possibilities include continuing operation of the observatory with mixed NSF and secondary funding, continuing operation with NSF funding only, converting the site into a technology and education park, mothballing the facility for potential future use, or dismantling it.
NPR: For several years NASA has been operating an asteroid tracking system called Sentry, which is identifying and tracking all near-Earth objects (NEOs) in the solar system that pass through Earth's orbit and are large enough to wipe out a major city. Now the agency is testing a similar system called Scout, which is designed to identify and track NEOs smaller than the 140 m diameter that is Sentry's threshold. NASA has contracts with multiple telescopes around the globe to scan the skies for such objects. When one is detected, Scout makes a rough calculation of the object's apparent path. If there is a chance of impact with Earth, the system calls for other telescopes to make follow-up observations. On 25 October the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System in Hawaii spotted an NEO, which Scout determined would pass Earth at a distance of around 500 000 km. Subsequent observations confirmed the calculation and allowed for an estimate of the diameter. On 30 October the small asteroid passed Earth without incident.
BBC: On 26 October two earthquakes, one magnitude 5.5 and the other magnitude 6.1, struck two hours apart near the town of Visso, Italy. In August a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed nearly 300 people in Amatrice, just 70 km away. Damage and injury reports from yesterday's quakes suggest that the damage was not as severe. The first quake occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 9 km, with an epicenter 7 km southwest of Visso. The second quake struck 2 km north of the town at a depth of 10 km. Mario Tozzi of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics says it's likely the two earthquakes were aftershocks of the August quake.