L’actu en Science – 15 août

Salut à tous et à toutes,
cette semaine dans les actualités en science, on couvre les dernières conclusions d’une équipe de chercheurs sur l’augmentation de la fréquence et de l’amplitude des inondations en Europe. Une perspective peu rassurante sur le changement climatique ! En parlant d’amplitude, notre seconde actualité traite du plus grand dinosaure jamais découvert, un représentant de la famille des Titanosaures…

Les crues en Europe sont d’ores et déjà perturbées mais de manière différentes selon les zones. En 1) fonte des neiges précoce, en 2) tempêtes hivernales ultérieures, en 3) saturation précoce des sols et en 4) une augmentation des pluies hivernales (Crédit : Figure 1 de l’article originel)

Le climat se dérègle, les inondations aussi

Le changement climatique ne va pas seulement se traduire par une hausse de la température généralisée mais aura, et a déjà, des conséquences beaucoup plus tangibles. Un dérèglement des inondations met en danger potentiellement un grand nombre de villes ainsi que les ressources agricoles en danger.

Une équipe internationale de chercheurs vient de publier une étude portant sur deux facteurs fondamentaux des inondations: leur périodicité et leur magnitude. En utilisant les données de plus de 4200 stations hydrométriques réparties sur les territoires européens, et datant d’entre 1960 et 2010, elle a pu observé les changements dans la période d’arrivée et dans l’ampleur des crues. Comme l’on pouvait s’en douter, les tendances varient selon la distance à l’océan Atlantique et selon la distance à des chaînes montagneuses. Globalement, il a été conclu que les crues, en moyenne, changeaient de rythme survenant plus tôt ou plus tard selon les endroits. D’autres facteurs étaient à prendre en compte, également, comme la saturation des sols et des aquifères qui généralement aggrave la taille des crues en rejetant le surplus dans les cours d’eau. En clair, les crues vont non seulement être plus difficiles à prédire quant à leur arrivée, elles seront probablement plus dangereuses aussi.

Le grand problème pour nous autres sont les suivants. La plupart des grandes villes ont historiquement été bâties sur des fleuves ou des rivières pour des raisons soit d’approvisionnement, de locomotion ou de défense. Les systèmes anti-crues actuels sont basés sur les observations faites dans le passé alors que les tendances montrent une augmentation des volumes mettant en danger des millions de gens.

La production agricole sera fortement touchée elle aussi. Certains sols seront trop humides à des moments défavorables, les crues éroderont les terrains fragiles voire pourront causer des dommages aux plantations déjà installées. Enfin l’incertitude d’arrivée des crues et donc de remplissage des barrages pourrait avoir des conséquences négatives sur la production hydroélectrique.
.

Réplique d’un squelette de P. mayorum présentée au Muséum Américain d’Histoire Naturelle (Crédit : Mary Altaffer/AP)

Quand les titans parcouraient la Terre

Le Patagotitan mayorum, espèce récemment identifiée en Argentine, serait le plus gros dinosaure jamais découvert. Son nom fait référence non seulement à sa Patagonie natale mais aussi aux titans de la mythologie Grec. Cette référence est plus que méritée, pouvant mesurer jusqu’à 40 mètres de long, il est estimé qu’il pouvait peser jusqu’à 70 tonnes, soit une douzaine d’éléphants d’Afrique mâles.

Les centaines d’ossements retrouvés ayant appartenu à, au moins, six individus ont permis de placer cette espèce au sein de la famille des titanosaures, une clade d’herbivores au long cou déjà connus pour leurs proportions démesurées. Ce qui intrigue les chercheurs, en revanche, sont les conditions environnementales nécessaires à l’émergence d’animaux d’un tel gabarit. L’hypothèse actuelle met en avant une explosion de l’abondance de végétation, base de leur diète. Patagotitan mayorum, présent il y a 100 millions d’années, et sa famille ont bénéficié, semble-t-il, de l’apparition, la diversification et la colonisation très rapides des terres par les Angiospermes, les plantes à fleurs. Cette hypothèse est corroborée par d’autres études notant elles-aussi une drastique augmentation des dimensions chez d’autres espèces émergeant à cette même époque, durant le Crétacé moyen.

 

Si vous avez aimé, n’hésitez pas à nous rejoindre sur Facebook ou sur Twitter !

Explorons le passé, interrogeons le présent et rêvons le futur sur Sci&Fi.
C’était l’Archeo-ranger et le Conteur pour Sci&Fi, transmission terminée…

Références :
Blöschl et al. (2017) Changing climate shifts timing of European floods. Science.
Carballido et al. (2017) A new giant titanosaur sheds light on body mass evolution among sauropod dinosaurs. Proceeding of Royal Society.

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