A team of scientists has discovered an unexpected disruption in one of the most repeatable atmospheric patterns
The normal flow of air high up in the atmosphere over the equator, known as the quasi-biennial oscillation, was seen to break down earlier this year. These stratospheric winds are found high above the tropics, their direction and strength changes in a regular two- to three-year cycle which provides forecasters with an indication of the weather to expect in Northern Europe. Westerly winds are known to increase the chance of warm and wet conditions, while easterlies bring drier and colder weather.
Scientists from NCAS at the University of Oxford and the Met Office were part of an international team that observed the unusual behaviour in February, noticing a reversal of the expected pattern in the winds. This same team then identified the reason why.
The quasi-biennial oscillation is a regular feature of the climate system. On average, these equatorial eastward and westward winds alternate every 28 to 29 months, making them very predictable in the long term. The team’s findings published in Science this week, show that this unexpected change in wind direction was caused by atmospheric waves in the Northern Hemisphere.
Dr Scott Osprey, an NCAS scientist at the University of Oxford, said: “The recent disruption in the quasi-biennial oscillation was not predicted, not even one month ahead. If we can get to the bottom of why the normal pattern was affected in this way, we could develop more confidence in our future seasonal forecasts.”
Prof Adam Scaife, Head of Long-range Forecasting at the Met Office and Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Exeter, said: “This unexpected disruption to the climate system switches the cycling of the quasi-biennial oscillation forever. And this is important as it is one of the factors that will influence the coming winter.”
A return to more typical behaviour within the next year is forecast, though scientists believe that the quasi-biennial oscillation could become more susceptible to similar disruptions as the climate warms.
Later this month international research groups will meet in Oxford to discuss the origins and implications of this event.
The University of Exeter is a public research university located in South West England, United Kingdom.
The university was founded and received its Royal Charter in 1955, although its predecessor institutions, the Royal Albert Memorial College and the University College of the South West of England, were established in 1900 and 1922 respectively. In post-nominals, the University of Exeter is abbreviated as Exon. (from the Latin Exoniensis), and is the suffix given to honorary and academic degrees from the university.
The university has three campuses: Streatham; St Luke’s (both of which are in Exeter); and Tremough in Cornwall. The university is centred in the city of Exeter, Devon, where it is the principal higher education institution. Streatham is the largest campus containing many of the university’s administrative buildings, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country. The Tremough campus is maintained in conjunction with Falmouth University under the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative.
The University of Exeter has been named The Sunday Times University of the Year 2013 and was the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2007. Exeter has maintained a top ten position in the National Student Survey since the survey was launched in 2005. In 2011, it was regarded as one of the top 12 elite universities in the United Kingdom, and has been consistently ranked as one of the top 10 UK universities in recent years.
Exeter University is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-oriented UK universities. The university is also a member of Universities UK, the European University Association, and the Association of Commonwealth Universities and is an accredited institution of the Association of MBAs (AMBA).
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The spread of a disease that is decimating global bee populations is manmade, and driven by European honeybee populations, new research has concluded.
A study led by the University of Exeter and UC Berkeley and published in the journal Science found that the European honeybee Apis mellifera is overwhelmingly the source of cases of the Deformed Wing Virus infecting hives worldwide. The finding suggests that the pandemic is manmade rather than naturally occurring, with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollination driving the spread.
Although separately they are not major threats to bee populations, when the Varroa mite carries the disease, the combination is deadly, and has wiped out millions of honeybees over recent decades. Varroa feed on bee larvae while the Deformed Wing Virus kills off bees, a devastating double blow to colonies. The situation is adding to fears over the future of global bee populations, with major implications for biodiversity, agricultural biosecurity, global economies, and human health.
The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and supported by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship. It involved collaborators from the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, Salford and UC Berkeley, as well as ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
Lead author Dr Lena Wilfert, of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation, on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “This is the first study to conclude that Europe is the backbone of the global spread of the bee killing combination of Deformed Wing Virus and Varroa. This demonstrates that the spread of this combination is largely manmade – if the spread was naturally occurring, we would expect to see transmission between countries that are close to each other, but we found that, for example, the New Zealand virus population originated in Europe. This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease. We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry Varroa or not. It’s also really important that beekeepers at all levels take steps to control Varroa in their hives, as this viral disease can also affect wild pollinators.”
Researchers analysed sequence data of Deformed Wing Virus samples across the globe from honeybees and Varroa mites, as well as the occurrence of Varroa. They used the information to reconstruct the spread of Deformed Wing Virus and found that the epidemic largely spread from Europe to North America, Australia and New Zealand. They found some two-way movement between Europe and Asia, but none between Asia and Australasia, despite their closer proximity. The team also looked at samples from other species suspected of transmitting the disease, including different species of honeybee, mite and bumblebees, but concluded that the European honeybee was the key transmitter.
Professor Roger Butlin, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Our study has found that the deformed wing virus is a major threat to honeybee populations across the world and this epidemic has been driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies.
“Domesticated honeybee colonies are hugely important for our agriculture systems, but this study shows the risks of moving animals and plants around the world. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers.”
Senior author Professor Mike Boots of Exeter and UC Berkeley concluded: “The key insight of our work is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is manmade not natural. It’s therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems.”
Ground-breaking research has successfully created the world’s first truly electronic textile, using the wonder material Graphene
An international team of scientists, including Professor Monica Craciun from the University of Exeter, have pioneered a new technique to embed transparent, flexible graphene electrodes into fibres commonly associated with the textile industry.
The discovery could revolutionise the creation of wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players, which are lightweight, durable and easily transportable.
The international collaborative research, which includes experts from the Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, the Institute for Systems Engineering and Computers, Microsystems and Nanotechnology (INESC-MN) in Lisbon, the Universities of Lisbon and Aveiro in Portugal and the Belgian Textile Research Centre (CenTexBel), is published in the leading scientific journal Scientific Reports.
Professor Craciun, co-author of the research said: “This is a pivotal point in the future of wearable electronic devices. The potential has been there for a number of years, and transparent and flexible electrodes are already widely used in plastics and glass, for example. But this is the first example of a textile electrode being truly embedded in a yarn. The possibilities for its use are endless, including textile GPS systems, to biomedical monitoring, personal security or even communication tools for those who are sensory impaired. The only limits are really within our own imagination.”
At just one atom thick, graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity. It is very flexible and is one of the strongest known materials. The race has been on for scientists and engineers to adapt graphene for the use in wearable electronic devices in recent years.
This new research has identified that ‘monolayer graphene’, which has exceptional electrical, mechanical and optical properties, make it a highly attractive proposition as a transparent electrode for applications in wearable electronics. In this work graphene was created by a growth method called chemical vapour deposition (CVD) onto copper foil, using a state-of-the-art nanoCVD system recently developed by Moorfield.
The collaborative team established a technique to transfer graphene from the copper foils to a polypropylene fibre already commonly used in the textile industry.
Dr Helena Alves who led the research team from INESC-MN and the University of Aveiro said: “The concept of wearable technology is emerging, but so far having fully textile-embedded transparent and flexible technology is currently non-existing. Therefore, the development of processes and engineering for the integration of graphene in textiles would give rise to a new universe of commercial applications. “
Dr Ana Neves, Associate Research Fellow in Prof Craciun’s team from Exeter’s Engineering Department and former postdoctoral researcher at INESC added: “We are surrounded by fabrics, the carpet floors in our homes or offices, the seats in our cars, and obviously all our garments and clothing accessories. The incorporation of electronic devices on fabrics would certainly be a game-changer in modern technology.
“All electronic devices need wiring, so the first issue to be address in this strategy is the development of conducting textile fibres while keeping the same aspect, comfort and lightness. The methodology that we have developed to prepare transparent and conductive textile fibres by coating them with graphene will now open way to the integration of electronic devices on these textile fibres.”
Dr Isabel De Schrijver,an expert of smart textiles fromCenTexBel said: “Successful manufacturing of wearable electronics has the potential for a disruptive technology with a wide array of potential new applications. We are very excited about the potential of this breakthrough and look forward to seeing where it can take the electronics industry in the future.”
Professor Saverio Russo, co-author and also from the University of Exeter, added: “This breakthrough will also nurture the birth of novel and transformative research directions benefitting a wide range of sectors ranging from defence to health care. “