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Winners of the 2020 Science Photographer of the Year competition revealed


A shocking picture of the North Pole surrounded by melted sea ice has been awarded the top prize in the 2020 Science Photographer of the Year competition.

The competition, run by the Royal Photographic Society, celebrates the remarkable stories behind scientific exploration and application. 

The winning image reveals the alarming rate of global warming as the world’s most northerly tip is surrounded by water, not ice, due to soaring temperatures. 

The winner for the ‘General Science’ category was a digital reconstruction of the SS Thistlegorm shipwreck, a British World War Two merchant ship that sunk in 1941 and is now at the bottom the the Red Sea. 

The under-18 competition for the climate change category was won by a Chinese 11-year-old who snapped a stunning image of Apollo’s Emissary, one of the largest solar power stations in western China.

A photo titled ‘Rainbow Shadow Selfie’ won the climate change competition for youngsters and reveals a spectrum of light streaked across the silhouette of the 12-year-old photographer’s silhouette. 

A shocking picture of the North Pole surrounded by melted ice has been awarded top prize in a photography competition for climate change images. Sue Flood's image of the North Pole won top prize because it hammers home the appalling impact carbon emissions are having on the world we live in. The image itself shows a small post signifying geographic north, at 90° latitude, surrounded by sea water, not ice, which would be expected at Earth's most northerly tip

A shocking picture of the North Pole surrounded by melted ice has been awarded top prize in a photography competition for climate change images. Sue Flood’s image of the North Pole won top prize because it hammers home the appalling impact carbon emissions are having on the world we live in. The image itself shows a small post signifying geographic north, at 90° latitude, surrounded by sea water, not ice, which would be expected at Earth’s most northerly tip

The winner for the adult 'General Science' category was a digital reconstruction of the SS Thistlegorm shipwreck, a British World War Two merchant ship sunk in 1941 and now at the bottom the the Red Sea. Simon Brown is the photographer behind the 'general science' victor and says the reconstruction of the shipwreck took a total of 15,005 frames to create. Each was adjusted to give a straight down view, before being tagged with GPS data and merged with the others

The winner for the adult ‘General Science’ category was a digital reconstruction of the SS Thistlegorm shipwreck, a British World War Two merchant ship sunk in 1941 and now at the bottom the the Red Sea. Simon Brown is the photographer behind the ‘general science’ victor and says the reconstruction of the shipwreck took a total of 15,005 frames to create. Each was adjusted to give a straight down view, before being tagged with GPS data and merged with the others

The under-18 competition for the climate change category was won by Chinese 11-year-old Raymond Zhang who snapped a stunning image of Apollo's Emissary, one of the largest solar power stations in western China. The power station contains 12,000 mirrors which reflect sunlight toward a central tower to heat a sodium nitrate salt which in turn makes steam via a heat exchanger which turns turbines to power generators. The station is so effective at producing heat it can continue to pump out electricity throughout the night, saving up to 350,000 tonnes of CO2 emission per year

The under-18 competition for the climate change category was won by Chinese 11-year-old Raymond Zhang who snapped a stunning image of Apollo’s Emissary, one of the largest solar power stations in western China. The power station contains 12,000 mirrors which reflect sunlight toward a central tower to heat a sodium nitrate salt which in turn makes steam via a heat exchanger which turns turbines to power generators. The station is so effective at producing heat it can continue to pump out electricity throughout the night, saving up to 350,000 tonnes of CO2 emission per year

Katy Appleton, 12, won the Young Science Photographer of the Year in the general category which shows a spectrum of light cast on a wall after passing through a prism. It also overlaps with Katy's own shadow. 'I was very excited and surprised when I found out that my image had won,' Katy said

Katy Appleton, 12, won the Young Science Photographer of the Year in the general category which shows a spectrum of light cast on a wall after passing through a prism. It also overlaps with Katy’s own shadow. ‘I was very excited and surprised when I found out that my image had won,’ Katy said

2020 ties with 2016 as the world’s hottest year on record 

Last year tied 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded globally, according to official data gathered by the EU. 

In 2020, temperatures globally were an average of 1.25°C (2.25F) higher than in pre-industrial times, climate agency Copernicus said last month.

Data also shows 2020 was the hottest 12 months ever in Europe driven by an anomalously warm start to the year, with December 2019 to February 2020 beating the previous record for those months, set in 2016, by 1.4°C.

The 12-month average for Europe reveals it was a total of 0.4°C (0.72F) warmer than in 2019, the previous record holder to 1.6°C (2.88F) above the average temperature between 1981-2010.

The Arctic is one region which was particularly badly affected with temperatures in some Arctic locations reaching more than 6°C (11F) above the average temperature between 1850 and 1900. 

The grim records also confirm 2010-2020 as the hottest decade ever recorded. 

Global warming driven by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are the driving force behind the continued surge in annual temperatures. 

Sue Flood’s image of the North Pole won the top climate change prize because it hammers home the appalling impact carbon emissions are having on the world we live in.

The image itself shows a small post signifying geographic north, at 90° latitude, surrounded by sea water, not ice, which would be expected at Earth’s most northerly tip. 

This year is the first time the competition has featured a climate change category as it is the leading theme of the Manchester Science Festival which the photography competition headlines. 

Originally planned to be shown at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the four winning images will be displayed alongside 75 other selected entries to the competition virtually. It is live today and will be viewable here until May 2.  

The Royal Photographic Society’s competition celebrates the remarkable stories behind scientific exploration and application.

Dr Michael Pritchard, a director at the Royal Photographic Society, said: ‘This year’s Science Photographer of the Year is more relevant than ever before in documenting how science and climate change are impacting all our lives.

‘The selected images are striking and will make us think more about the world around us.’

The awards, which are weighted equally, aim to depict science’s impact on our everyday lives and illustrate how photography helps record and explain global issues and scientific events. 

Ms Flood said: ‘I’m very proud that my photo has been selected. Climate change is real and polar ice is melting at an alarming rate, posing a serious threat to wildlife and humans worldwide.

‘I hope that many people will see the photograph and that it helps convey the need for urgent action on climate change – by individuals, companies and governments.’

Pictured, an entry from Mateus Morbeck which shows a forest fire blazing on a mountain plateau in Brazil. The Amazonas and Pantanall regions of Brazil experienced 44,000 fires between January and August of 2020, destroying more than 6,000 square km — an area roughly the same size as the entire county of Devon

Pictured, an entry from Mateus Morbeck which shows a forest fire blazing on a mountain plateau in Brazil. The Amazonas and Pantanall regions of Brazil experienced 44,000 fires between January and August of 2020, destroying more than 6,000 square km — an area roughly the same size as the entire county of Devon 

This photomicrograph from Jose Manuel Martinez Lopez captures a look at the tiny lenses which are inside a solar cell. Each cell is just 0.8mm across and their function is to focus rays of the light from the sun to increase its energy in a specific location to make more electricity. A photomicrograph is an image captured through a microscope

This photomicrograph from Jose Manuel Martinez Lopez captures a look at the tiny lenses which are inside a solar cell. Each cell is just 0.8mm across and their function is to focus rays of the light from the sun to increase its energy in a specific location to make more electricity. A photomicrograph is an image captured through a microscope 

This beautiful photo by Don Komarechka captures the process of a soap bubble freezing. A soap bubble has a layer of water trapped between two filmy layers of soap. The water has a higher freezing point than the soap and therefore freezes sooner, leading to suspended crystallisation and perfect crystals forming between the soapy layers

This beautiful photo by Don Komarechka captures the process of a soap bubble freezing. A soap bubble has a layer of water trapped between two filmy layers of soap. The water has a higher freezing point than the soap and therefore freezes sooner, leading to suspended crystallisation and perfect crystals forming between the soapy layers 

Titled 'Hidden Pearl of Croatia', this image was taken by Bruno Fantulin provides a wonderful look at the night sky in the European country. It shows the Church of the Ascension of the Lord built in 1940 in the city of Cetina perched atop a hill. The water in the foreground is the River Cetina and the background is dominated by a stunning view of the Milky Way. Although the Milky Way is a spiral, it appears in the sky as a band because of Earth's position inside it

Titled ‘Hidden Pearl of Croatia’, this image was taken by Bruno Fantulin provides a wonderful look at the night sky in the European country. It shows the Church of the Ascension of the Lord built in 1940 in the city of Cetina perched atop a hill. The water in the foreground is the River Cetina and the background is dominated by a stunning view of the Milky Way. Although the Milky Way is a spiral, it appears in the sky as a band because of Earth’s position inside it

Simon Brown is the photographer behind the ‘general science’ victor and says the reconstruction of the shipwreck is a culmination of 15,005 frames.

Each was adjusted to give a straight down view, before being tagged with GPS data and merged with the others.

The ship is a well-known recreational dive site, and is slowly becoming part of the local coral reef.

Mr Brown said: ‘Combining art with science is a perfect creative storm where data and visual interpretation come together and present a view of the world in a completely new way.

‘When entering the competition I thought a single image derived from 15,000 separate frames might be interesting but never for one moment did I think winning was possible.

‘To receive such good news was a very pleasant surprise indeed and the recognition is humbly yet gratefully  welcomed.’

This photo by Dr Hakan Kvarnstrom captures a stunning view of a colony of toxic algae. These are formed when excess fertiliser from farmland drips into waterways such as rivers. The concentration of chemicals and warm temperatures of the water due to global warming leads to blooms forming. As well as being toxic if ingested by wildlife, they suck oxygen out of the water and therefore kill fish. Scientists are studying it because the algae is held together by oil which keeps it together and want to use this as fuel

This photo by Dr Hakan Kvarnstrom captures a stunning view of a colony of toxic algae. These are formed when excess fertiliser from farmland drips into waterways such as rivers. The concentration of chemicals and warm temperatures of the water due to global warming leads to blooms forming. As well as being toxic if ingested by wildlife, they suck oxygen out of the water and therefore kill fish. Scientists are studying it because the algae is held together by oil which keeps it together and want to use this as fuel 

This image of a polar bear, titled 'On thin ice', was taken by Sue Flood, whose other image of the north pole won the climate category. This photo shows the predator stranded on a small piece of sea ice. Normally, they use sea ice to hunt and feed, but with this dwindling they are forced to swim to the mainland, where they are less effective at hunting seals

This image of a polar bear, titled ‘On thin ice’, was taken by Sue Flood, whose other image of the north pole won the climate category. This photo shows the predator stranded on a small piece of sea ice. Normally, they use sea ice to hunt and feed, but with this dwindling they are forced to swim to the mainland, where they are less effective at hunting seals 

This sunset photo of the Marcona wind farm in Peru captures a live look at what is possible humanity's greatest hope for ditching fossil fuels — wind power. This photo from David Martin huamani Bedoya shows the 11 turbines which were first built in 2011 and combined create 32 megawatts of electricity

This sunset photo of the Marcona wind farm in Peru captures a live look at what is possible humanity’s greatest hope for ditching fossil fuels — wind power. This photo from David Martin huamani Bedoya shows the 11 turbines which were first built in 2011 and combined create 32 megawatts of electricity 

Raymond Zhang, 11, from China was the only one of the four winners to live outside the UK and won the youth award in the climate change category for his snap of a huge solar power station in his native country. 

The power station contains 12,000 mirrors which reflect sunlight towards a central tower to heat a sodium nitrate salt which in turn makes steam via a heat exchanger which turns turbines to power generators. 

The station is so effective at producing heat it can continue to pump out electricity throughout the night, saving up to 350,000 tonnes of CO2 emission per year. 

Raymond said of his victory: ‘I am very excited about winning and hope that more young people like me can start to pay more attention to climate changes.’ 

Katy Appleton, 12, won the Young Science Photographer of the Year in the general category which shows a spectrum of light cast on a wall after passing through a prism. It also overlaps with Katy’s own shadow. 

‘I was very excited and surprised when I found out that my image had won,’ Katy said. 

‘It is a very simple image and I think that this shows that anyone can take part in science photography, no matter their age or how much equipment they have.’ 

This image from Jonathan Brett captures the moment world renowned surgeon Professor Robert MacLaren from UCL conducts pioneering surgery on a patient. A new scanner was used to guide the procedure to treat a form of incurable blindness and involved injecting a virus into a patient's eye which inserted a working copy of a faulty gene into the DNA of the patient

This image from Jonathan Brett captures the moment world renowned surgeon Professor Robert MacLaren from UCL conducts pioneering surgery on a patient. A new scanner was used to guide the procedure to treat a form of incurable blindness and involved injecting a virus into a patient’s eye which inserted a working copy of a faulty gene into the DNA of the patient 

This photo from Peter Dazely, aptly titled 'Black Tulip', is an X-ray image of a black tulip. However, the nature of the X-rays, first discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895 and now most commonly used to diagnose medical issues such as broken bones, means the image is in greyscale. X-rays are increasingly being used as a form of detailed non-invasive and non-destructive forms of investigation. This photo provides the viewer with a look through the petals and at the plants reproductive organs

This photo from Peter Dazely, aptly titled ‘Black Tulip’, is an X-ray image of a black tulip. However, the nature of the X-rays, first discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895 and now most commonly used to diagnose medical issues such as broken bones, means the image is in greyscale. X-rays are increasingly being used as a form of detailed non-invasive and non-destructive forms of investigation. This photo provides the viewer with a look through the petals and at the plants reproductive organs



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