They have a catchy name. They’re called “attack’ems”.
It’s a play on an acronym, ATACMS, which itself stands for Army Tactical Missile System.
To you and me it’s a long-range missile.
It has a range of about 180 miles, it’s guided, it can be fired from Ukraine’s existing fleet of missile launch systems and President Zelenskyy’s battlefield commanders have been asking for it for some time.
Sources here in Washington have confirmed to me that America will provide a small number of the ATACMS to Ukraine soon.
Used tactically, they could hit Russian supply lines and command/control locations in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine already has Storm Shadow cruise missiles which have a longer range than the ATACMS. But these must be launched from fighter jets. They require good weather and a capable air force. Ukraine is short of fighter jets.
The ATACMS can be launched from the ground in all weather at a point closest to the frontline beyond which the target is. This is tactically advantageous.
America had a number of concerns about supplying the ATACMS to Ukraine.
First, the enduring concern over how Russia would respond to ever-more sophisticated Western weaponry on the battlefield, especially if the weapons were capable of striking within Russia itself.
Given the positions of the current frontline and the range of the ATACMS, it would be a push for them to hit Russian territory.
The second particular concern with the ATACMS is supply. It’s understood that the American stock of the missile is not at a level which makes US officials feel entirely comfortable about handing a whole load of them over to Ukraine.
Some dormant variants of the weapon may be more available, and we know too that an order was given in the last ‘National Defence Authorisation Act’ to procure and produce nearly 2000 more ATACMS – perhaps to backfill supply given to Ukraine.
There is an interesting dichotomy emerging in American politics when it comes to Ukraine.
On the left, among Democratic Party politicians, there is overwhelming support for continued financial and material support for Ukraine.
The dichotomy lies on the right. Some within the Republican Party, a vocal minority deeply aligned with Donald Trump, oppose all funding for Ukraine which they inaccurately say comes in the form of ‘blank cheques’.
Others, from the more traditional core of the Republican Party, argue that the battlefield stalemate and the concerns of the Trumpian caucus could all have been avoided if President Biden provided all the weaponry needed much earlier.
But of course, we’ll never know how President Putin would have responded if the West had laid all their weapons on for Ukraine to use at the start of this bloody war.
Vast scale of methane leaks from fossil fuel production and landfill sites exposed
The vast scale of methane leaks from fossil fuel production and landfill sites has been exposed by analysis carried out exclusively for Sky News.
Around 1,300 “super-emitters” of the potent greenhouse gas have been identified so far in 2023 by the monitoring company Kayrros, which uses satellites to detect plumes of the gas.
It looks for non-natural sources of methane – primarily gas wells, pipelines, coal mines and landfill sites.
According to the data, the largest oil and gas source was on the Cheleken Peninsula in Turkmenistan, where a leak from one facility is estimated to have peaked at 333 tonnes per hour in August.
At that rate the hourly release of methane was equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from a car driving around 38,000 miles.
Another leak, from a blown-out drilling well in Kazakhstan, released between 21 and 56 tonnes of the methane every hour for 153 days between June and November.
Coal is also a problem with one facility in Shanxi, China, peaking at around 181 tonnes an hour last February.
And the methane release from buried waste at a landfill site in Dhaka city in Bangladesh peaked at 822 tonnes an hour in April.
Antoine Rostand, co-founder of Kayrros, told Sky News being able to observe emissions from space means there is no hiding.
“Previously we could measure the amount of methane in the atmosphere, but now we really know exactly where it’s coming from,” he said.
“Which country, which company, which assets are emitting methane in the atmosphere.”
Kayrros’s data shows Turkmenistan had higher methane emissions than any other nation, followed by the United States, India, Russia and Pakistan.
Methane is the natural gas burned by boilers and other appliances in people’s homes.
But if it is released without being burned, often during maintenance on pipelines, it acts as a heat “bomb” in the atmosphere.
The gas causes 80 times more global warming as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
But it also represents a huge opportunity for bending the curve on rising temperatures. Because it only persists in the atmosphere for around a decade rather than several centuries, as in the case of carbon dioxide, turning off the tap on emissions would have a rapid impact.
The United States has announced new rules for fossil fuel companies requiring them to monitor and fix leaks, which should reduce methane emissions by 58 million tonnes between 2024 and 2038.
Mr Rostand said the rules are overdue.
“The have the technology, they have the money, they know exactly what to do,” he said.
“They’re almost lacking any kind of overall regulation.
“A lot of players are doing a bit but some are not. And this is where regulation plays, because then it will put every single producer on an equal footing.”
So far 150 countries have signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, a commitment to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.
If it is achieved it could reduce the global average temperature by 0.2C and prevent 255,000 premature deaths from extreme heat, according to the Pledge text.
The Kayrros data reveals there are no methane leaks in Europe, but Mr Rostand said the UK and other countries should put more pressure on suppliers of imported natural gas to stop releasing it into the atmosphere.
“It’s really a complete waste, because companies can sell it,” he said.
“It has an economic value, it’s easy to fix. It’s the elephant in the room, the low hanging fruit.”
Mount Marapi volcano eruption in Indonesia leaves at least 23 dead, officials say
Rescuers racing to find hikers missing after a deadly volcano eruption in Indonesia have found more bodies, raising the number of confirmed and presumed dead to 23.
More than 50 climbers were rescued after Sunday’s eruption before search operations were temporarily halted on Monday as Mount Marapi started spewing smoke and ash again.
About 75 people were heading up the 2,891m (9,485 ft) volcano at the time of the eruption.
The bodies of five climbers were discovered near the eruption site, and a further 18 are presumed dead, said Edi Mardianto, deputy police chief in West Sumatra province, on Tuesday.
“We expect they are no longer alive,” he said.
“The team will evacuate and take them to the hospital tomorrow or today to be identified.”
A video released by West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency showed rescuers evacuating an injured climber on a stretcher off the mountain and into a waiting ambulance to be taken to hospital.
The volcano erupted in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province and video showed thick columns of ash reaching up to two miles high, blanketing nearby roads and villages.
Mount Marapi is one of the region’s most active volcanoes and also erupted between January and February.
Its sudden eruptions are difficult to detect because the source is shallow and near the peak, and they are not caused by deep movement of magma, which sets off tremors that register on seismic monitors.
Its most deadly eruption was in April 1979, when 60 people were killed.
It has been at the third highest of four alert levels since 2011 – indicating above-normal volcanic activity, prohibiting climbers and villagers within 1.8 miles of the peak, according to Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.
Climbers have only been allowed below the danger zone, registering at two command posts or online.
However, local officials acknowledged many people may have climbed higher than permitted and residents also could have been in the area, making the number of people stranded by the eruption impossible to confirm.
Mount Marapi is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” – an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
Munich Airport forced to close after freezing rain and wintry weather hits Germany
Munich Airport has been forced to close again after being hit by extreme wintry weather, making safe flights “impossible”.
Freezing rain hit the German city, forcing the airport to temporarily cancel or postpone all flights on Tuesday morning.
It said there would be no take-offs or landings from 6am until midday in its announcement on Monday night, adding expected precipitation would make safe flights “impossible”.
The country’s second-biggest airport also warned the majority of flights scheduled for later in the day may face cancellations for safety reasons.
The airport said ice on its runways and apron – where aircraft are stationed – was “extreme”, adding that there was “a thick layer of ice as smooth as glass”.
It urged passengers to contact their airline before travelling to find out the flight’s status and to avoid rebooking at the airport due to “insufficient capacity available”.
The suspensions come after all flights at the airport were grounded on Saturday as heavy snowfall blanketed the city and the southern state of Bavaria.
Adverse weather wreaked chaos in the state with car collisions reported and train connections affected.
Two people died in a crash between a car and a tractor in Upper Bavaria, reportedly due to frozen rain on the road’s surface.
Meanwhile, the A99 motorway near Munich was closed in both directions after 13 vehicles were reportedly involved in a mass accident.
Train operator Deutsche Bahn said there would be disruption in the Munich area for several days.
Germany’s neighbours Austria and Switzerland have also experienced heavy snowfall affecting public transport, raising concerns about possible avalanches.
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