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Record-breaking Arctic heat was made 600 times more likely by human-induced climate change. Plus, the closest photo of the Sun ever taken and what it’s like to lead the development of a front-running COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

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Miniature flares, dubbed ‘campfires’, captured by the Solar Orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager.

Miniature flares, dubbed ‘campfires’, captured by the Solar Orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager.

Credit: ESA

The closest image ever taken of the Sun shows the corona teeming with thousands of miniature solar flares. The flares are millions or billions of times smaller than those that can be seen from Earth, and scientists aren’t yet sure how the two phenomena are related. The pictures are the first released from the Solar Orbiter satellite mission, led by the European Space Agency. “When the first images came in, my first thought was this is not possible, it can’t be that good,” says David Berghmans, principal investigator for the orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager instrument. “It was much better than we dared to hope for.”

Nature | 5 min read

Researchers are warning that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan need to move faster to resolve a long-running dispute over the building of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam. Ethiopia is reported to have begun filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, on the Blue Nile river, which it says is an ‘existential necessity’. Ethiopia’s citizens are anticipating electric power, a boost for industry and new jobs. By contrast, Egypt’s government calls the dam an ‘existential threat’. It is concerned that the dam will reduce its water supplies, particularly during times of drought. “One nation’s need for electricity is pinned to another nation’s need for water,” says Mohamed Fouad, a member of the Egyptian parliament.

Nature | 5 min read

Map showing the Nile and the location of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Map showing the Nile and the location of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

A map of the early Universe has reinforced a long-running conundrum in astronomy over how fast the cosmos is expanding. The data support previous estimates of the Universe’s age, geometry and evolution. But the findings clash with measurements of how fast galaxies are flying apart from each other. They predict that the Universe should be expanding at a significantly slower pace than is currently observed.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: arXiv preprint 1 & arXiv preprint 2

The devastating heat wave between January and June 2020 in the Arctic was made at least 600 times more likely as a result of human-induced climate change. An international team of climate scientists, led by the UK Met Office, analysed the prolonged high average temperatures over 6 months and the record-breaking high of 38 ℃ recorded in Verkhoyansk on 20 June. “We found in both cases that this event would have effectively been impossible without human-induced climate change,” say researchers.

BBC | 5 min read

Reference: World Weather Attribution report

COVID-19 coronavirus update

Life at the vaccine vanguard

Vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert is leading the development of one of the front-running vaccine candidates for COVID-19. It is based on chimpanzee adenovirus and is being tested in collaboration with pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, UK. At the moment, the project offers Gilbert little respite: her days start at 4 a.m., and her 21-year-old triplets (all studying biochemistry) all took part in the trials.

Bloomberg Businessweek | 18 min read

Inside Europe’s stumbling response

In February, European Union member states donated 56 tonnes of supplies, including masks and gloves, to China, where nearly 2,500 had died of COVID-19. But when Italy asked the European Commission for masks in late February, there were no supplies to give. The coronavirus has threatened European solidarity, as countries have chosen protectionism over cooperation, reveals an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism | 20 min read

The COVID-19 studies being left undone

Many studies needed to quell this and future pandemics are not being done, and the chance is ebbing away, argues global-health researcher Trudie Lang. In May, her team was part of a collaboration that surveyed and consulted more than 4,000 researchers in 130 countries about what studies were most needed. “The gaps that came up were familiar from my experience fighting Ebola and Zika,” says Lang. “Community health care, case detection and public communications.”

Nature | 5 min read

Quote of the day

Effectively debunking flat-Earth conspiracy theories requires a recognition of the complex reasons why people believe them, says philosopher Nikk Effingham in this guide for the physics community. (Physics World | 15 min read)

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty

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