Enn Original News

The Once Prolific Dugong
March 9, 2012 11:46 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The dugong is a large marine mammal which, together with the manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. Smithsonian scientists have discovered that this was not always the case. According to the fossil record of these marine mammals, which dates back 50 million years ago, it was more common to find three, or possibly more, different species of seacows living together in one locality at one time. This suggests that the environment and food sources for ancient seacows were also different than today. The team's findings are published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Reflecting on the Winter that Never Was
March 9, 2012 09:22 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

In a couple weeks, the northern hemisphere will be entering the spring season, and now is a good time to reflect on this winter. For some, it feels like spring has already been here, and soon summer will be approaching. That is because for many Americans, it was the winter that never was. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it was not the warmest winter in recent history, but it does rank pretty high. Furthermore, this winter will be marked for its amazing lack of snowfall, especially when compared with last year. The following are some highlights from around the nation.

Solar Power in Poor Rural Areas
March 8, 2012 03:12 PM - Editor, ENN

Solar power works best of course where the sun is brightest. However, another major factor is the capital cost for a solar installation. If your are poor, you cannot get started easily. One of the big opportunities positive climate action has presented the developing world is the chance to leapfrog a generation of energy technology straight into clean, green generation without the intervening capital intensive and dirtier aspects of energy technology. A British company thinks it has a potential and intriguing solution. Cambridge-based Eight19, named after the eight minutes and 19 seconds it takes light form the sun to reach earth, has developed this technology, and the business plan to tackle these challenges.

Gorilla Genome
March 8, 2012 02:41 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The human genome is stored on 23 chromosome pairs and in the small mitochondrial DNA. Twenty-two of the 23 chromosomes belong to autosomal chromosome pairs, while the remaining pair is sex determinative. But that is human, what about one of our close relatives, the gorilla? Researchers announce today that they have completed the genome sequence for the gorilla - the last genus of the living great apes to have its genome decoded. While confirming that our closest relative is the chimpanzee, the team show that much of the human genome more closely resembles the gorilla than it does the chimpanzee genome. This is the first time scientists have been able to compare the genomes of all four living great apes: humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. This study provides a unique perspective on our own origins and is an important resource for research into human evolution and biology, as well as for gorilla biology and conservation.

Overfishing the Mediterranean
March 8, 2012 09:37 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The Mediterranean Sea has played host to some of the greatest civilizations that the world has ever seen. Today, it remains a hub of commerce and travel, connecting different parts of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. After the Suez Canal, it became the primary trading route to Asia. Over the years, millions of people have lived on its shores and exploited its resources. A new study recently released has found that after centuries of exploitation, the Mediterranean Sea is running out of resources. Many formerly healthy ecosystems have been wiped out.

The Future Environmental Impact
March 7, 2012 04:15 PM - Editor, ENN

As the developing nations change and their populations ask for amenities, energy and environmental issues will increase. As populations across the world grow, new research out of MIT shows the rising influence of large or developing countries in shaping our future global challenges. MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change's 2012 Energy and Climate Outlook report projects that energy use could double by 2050. China alone could go from having about 50 million cars and trucks on the road to having about 300 million in less than 40 years. Fast-growing G20 nations — including Russia, Brazil, Mexico, China, India and other developing Asian countries — could put four times more vehicles on the road by 2050 than they have today.

Farms or Industry Pollution?
March 7, 2012 07:35 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

What to do when everything cannot be done at the same time? In present day Europe farm pollution as opposed to industrial pollution is gaining more attention and effort. While factories were once the big concern, more attention is focusing on pollution from farming, which accounts for more than half of land use in the EU and is overall the biggest consumer of water. Industrial releases once dominated the attention such as the sludge that broke through containment walls in the Hungarian town of Ajka in October 2010, the immediate concern was the safety of hundreds of nearby residents. In the end 10 people died from exposure and the toxic muck spilled into waterways, including the Danube, prompting alarms downstream. These spills are relatively rare and industrial pollution in many European rivers has declined since the 1960s. Tougher treatment laws, international cooperation and EU policies like the 2000 Water Framework Directive and 2006 Groundwater Directive are credited with the improvements.

Norwegian Wood: It is Good
March 6, 2012 10:46 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

It is true that some of the best lumber comes from Scandinavia. The wood there is strong and highly durable, having to survive the harsh conditions of the northern winter. A new study from the University of Copenhagen has hammered the point home even further. It stated that some Scandinavian evergreens actually survived the spectacularly harsh conditions of the last Ice Age while the entire region was blanketed with a massive sheet of ice. Much of today's Scandinavian forests are populated by tree migrants from southern and eastern Europe which arrived after the temperatures warmed. However, there remains a large contingent of the original Scandinavian trees that survived against all odds.

Abu Dhabi bets on anti-dust solar panels
March 6, 2012 10:10 AM - Rehab Abd Almohsen, SciDevNet

Abu Dhabi is teaming up with a global electronics company to develop better coatings for solar panels to make them cheaper and easier to keep clean in desert conditions. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region stands to benefit from concentrated solar power (CSP) — a technology that uses lenses or mirrors to focus large amounts of sunlight onto a small area. This light is converted to heat, which generates electricity. In 2009, a joint study by the International Energy Agency's SolarPACES group, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and Greenpeace International concluded that CSP could generate up to a quarter of the world's energy needs by 2050. But harsh desert conditions in parts of the MENA region generate large amounts of airborne dust which collects on the solar panels used in CSP systems, reducing their efficiency. They need regular cleaning, which consumes large amounts of water. Bodo Becker, operations manager at Flagsol, which developed Egypt's first solar-thermal plant, Kuraymat, said this is a serious issue at his facility. "If we leave dust to accumulate for just one month, the output of the solar panels decreases by about 35 per cent," he said, adding that the facility uses nearly 40,000 litres of water every day.

D.C. Circuit Hears Challenges to EPA Climate Regulations
March 5, 2012 10:45 AM - Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, Sive Paget & Riesel, P.C.

On February 28 and 29, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a series of challenges to the [EPA's] regulation of [GHGs] under the Clean Air Act, far-reaching litigation spanning dozens of parties and at least four separate rules. Decisions from the panel of Judges David Sentelle, David Tatel and Janice Rogers Brown are expected later this year. The rare, two-day argument began with a challenge to EPA's December 7, 2009 finding that emissions of six GHGs, including carbon dioxide, "may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare." This "endangerment finding" is the cornerstone of all subsequent action by EPA.

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