The Coral Pulse of Life
March 21, 2011 07:30 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Corals are marine organisms living in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps. The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans, which secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton. Coral reefs form some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. They occupy less than one tenth of one percent of the world ocean surface, yet they provide a home for about twenty-five percent of all marine species, including fish, molluscs, worms, and crustaceans. Paradoxically, coral reefs flourish even though they are often surrounded by ocean waters that provide few nutrients. University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science scientist Chris Langdon and colleagues have developed a new tool to monitor coral reef vital signs. By accurately measuring their biological pulse, scientists can better assess how climate change and other ecological threats impact coral reef health worldwide.

News at the North Pole Ozone Layer
March 16, 2011 04:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Unusually low temperatures in the Arctic ozone layer have recently initiated massive ozone depletion. The Arctic appears to be heading for a record loss of this trace gas that protects the Earth's surface against ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This result has been found by measurements carried out by an international network of over 30 ozone sounding stations spread all over the Arctic and Subarctic and coordinated by the Potsdam Research Unit of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association in Germany. In the Arctic the amount lost is more variable year-to-year than in the Antarctic. The greatest declines, up to 30%, are in the winter and spring, when the stratosphere is colder.

Earthquakes Change the Earth
March 15, 2011 01:57 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The March 11, magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan may have shortened the length of each Earth day and shifted its axis. Using a United States Geological Survey estimate for how the fault responsible for the earthquake slipped, research scientist Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., applied a complex model to perform a preliminary theoretical calculation of how the Japan earthquake-the fifth largest since 1900-affected Earth's rotation. His calculations indicate that by changing the distribution of Earth's mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second). There are about 86,400 seconds (86 billion microseconds) in a day, so the impact of the earthquake is quite small. The calculations also show the Japan quake should have shifted the position of Earth's figure axis (the axis about which Earth's mass is balanced) by about 6.5 inches, towards 133 degrees east longitude. The Earth's figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis in space, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph. The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth's mass is balanced.

Study of spiders shows species may be able to adapt to global warming
March 15, 2011 08:49 AM - William McLennan, Ecologist

Species may be able to adapt to gradual increases in temperature preventing the collapse of biological communities in the face of global climate change. The predatory behaviour of spiders is unaffected by increased temperatures, according to research by Yale University, suggesting some species can adapt to global warming.

In the North Atlantic, Oceanic Currents Play a Greater Role in the Absorption of Carbon Than Previously Thought
March 14, 2011 09:12 AM - Editor, Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Mar. 9, 2011) — The ocean traps carbon through two principal mechanisms: a biological pump and a physical pump linked to oceanic currents. A team of researchers from CNRS, IRD, the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, UPMC and UBO (1) have managed to quantify the role of these two pumps in an area of the North Atlantic. Contrary to expectations, the physical pump in this region could be nearly 100 times more powerful on average than the biological pump. By pulling down masses of water cooled and enriched with carbon, ocean circulation thus plays a crucial role in deep carbon sequestration in the North Atlantic.

USGS launches Butterfly and Moth Website
March 13, 2011 08:07 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The United States Geologic Survey, and partners including Montana State University Big Sky Institute, National Biological Information Infrastructure, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, has launched a new website to help us understand, identify, and appreciate the rich diversity of butterflies and moths of North America. The heart of the web site is the Butterflies and Moths of North America database Why should we care about butterflies and moths? Thanks to butterflies, bees, birds, and other animal pollinators, the world's flowering plants are able to reproduce and bear fruit. That very basic capability is at the root of many of the foods we eat. And, not least, pollination adds to the beauty we see around us. Yet today, there is evidence of alarming pollinator population declines worldwide. Fortunately, science investigators of this crucial issue can use data collected and organized in the BAMONA database to monitor the health of our butterfly and moth population.

NASA Study Shows Melting Ice Caps are Largest Contributor to Higher Seas
March 10, 2011 09:22 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The news just seems to be getting worse and worse coming out of the Arctic and Antarctic. The melting of ice is not appearing to let up, and is in fact, getting faster. A new NASA-funded satellite study shows that the two biggest ice sheets on Earth – Greenland and Antarctica – are losing mass at an accelerating rate. This is the longest study ever conducted to analyze changing ice conditions at the poles, spanning nearly 20 years. Researchers concluded that the melting of ice caps has overtaken the melting of mountain glaciers to be the most dominant source of global sea level rise, much sooner than previous forecast models predicted.

2010 Russia heat wave due to natural variability
March 10, 2011 06:33 AM - Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The 2010 Russian heat wave that killed thousands and cut into that country's grain harvest was primarily due to natural variability, not human-spurred climate change, U.S. scientists said on Wednesday. There was plenty of circumstantial evidence pointing to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but close investigation showed this was not a major factor, the scientists said in research published online in Geophysical Research Letters. "It was an off-the-charts intensity event," Randall Dole of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said at a telephone news briefing. "It certainly was the most extreme event we had seen, dating back to at least 1880," when modern weather record-keeping began.

Icelandic Geothermal Energy
March 8, 2011 03:38 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Iceland’s largest energy company is considering construction of the world’s longest underwater electric cable so the nation can sell its vast geothermal and volcanic energy to the European market. By the end of the year, state-owned energy company, Landsvirkjun, will complete a study of building a sub-sea cable that could deliver as much as five terawatt-hours (5 billion kilowatt-hours) annually to Europe, enough electricity to power 1.25 million homes. Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, from volcanic activity, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface.

Ghost Mountains
March 7, 2011 05:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The discovery of numerous large ice structures within Antarctica’s Dome A region, the site of the buried ghost mountains, reveals new understanding about ice sheet growth and movement that is essential for predicting how the ice sheet may change as the Earth’s climate warms. The Gamburtsev Mountain Range is a subglacial mountain range located in Eastern Antarctica. The range was discovered by the 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1958 and is named for Soviet geophysicist Grigoriy A. Gamburtsev. It is approximately (750 miles long, and the mountains are believed to be about 8,900 feet high, although they are completely covered by over 600 meters (2,000 ft) of ice and snow. The Gamburtsev Mountain Range is currently believed to be about the same size as the European Alps.

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