Enn Original News

Titan Seasons
February 24, 2012 11:29 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Ground-based observations have revealed previously seasonal variations in cloud cover. Over the course of Saturn's 30-year orbit, Titan's cloud systems appear to manifest for 25 years, and then fade for four to five years before reappearing again. A set of recent papers, many of which draw on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, reveal new details in the emerging picture of how Saturn's moon Titan shifts with the seasons and even throughout the day. The papers, published in the journal Planetary and Space Science in a special issue titled "Titan through Time", show how this largest moon of Saturn is similar but not so similar to Earth.

Is Shale Gas Good or Bad? Panelists and the Audience at KPMG Summit are Split
February 24, 2012 09:47 AM - Raz Godelnik, Triple Pundit

"Is the emergence of shale gas a positive or negative development with respect to sustainability?" This was one of the most interesting questions discussed on one of the panels at KPMG's Global Summit last week in New York. Given the growth of both interest and dispute around shale gas, is shale gas is a bridge to a sustainable future or a bridge to nowhere? It'’s not that we lack controversial sources of energy, from nuclear energy to ethanol, but none of these resources has the potential to become a substantial resource like shale gas has for better and worse. With so much at stake when it comes to how sustainable the future of energy is going to be, it's no wonder that even at the KPMG summit, shale gas became such a hot topic that the panelists and the crowd seemed to be very passionate about and at the same time split about the answer to the question. First let's look at why this question matters at all. According to KPMG's Energy Survey 2011 there's a growing interest in shale gas and oil: 44 percent of respondents believe these to be the energy sources that will see the most future investment (the corresponding figure was less than 1 percent in 2010). Shale gas will represent 65 percent of US gas production by the 2030s, up from an estimated 43 percent by 2015 according to the survey.

Carbon Sequestration in Illinois
February 23, 2012 11:38 AM - Editor, ENN

Carbon capture and sequestration, refers to technology attempting to prevent release of large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. The process is based on capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources and storing it where it will not enter the atmosphere. One of these methods is to inject it into the ground. Geologists are hoping to learn a great deal about geologic carbon sequestration from injecting 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into sandstone 7,000 feet beneath Decatur, Ill. The Illinois Basin — Decatur Project began its injection, the first million-ton demonstration from an industrial source in the U.S., in November 2011. Over the next three years, the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, hopes to use innovative science and engaging outreach to evaluate the potential of carbon capture and storage techniques.

Illinois Researchers Identify Promising New Biofuel
February 23, 2012 11:24 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Biofuel production has ratcheted up to become a major part of America's energy and agricultural industries. Corn, or maize, is by far the most widely grown crop to be converted into ethanol. However, the dominance of maize in the biofuel industry is not without its pitfalls. Now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have identified a temperate-tropical maize hybrid that can potentially revolutionize biofuels in this country. The maize hybrid has the potential to increase ethanol production for each unit of plant material, and minimize the environmental cost of biofuel production.

Low Levels of Fallout from Fukushima Release
February 23, 2012 10:35 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

There is always concern when something radioactive is released as to what its downwind effects might be. Certainly there are effects at the actual site but thousands of miles away? Fallout from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power facility in Japan was measured in minimal amounts in precipitation in the United States in about 20 percent of 167 sites sampled in a nationwide study released today. The U.S. Geological Survey led the study as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP). Levels measured were similar to measurements made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the immediate days and weeks following the March 2011 incident, which were determined to be well below any level of public health concern at the time by EPA.

What Happens in the Aurora
February 22, 2012 12:32 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere. The charged particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and, on Earth, are directed by the Earth's magnetic field into the atmosphere. A team of scientists on Saturday night launched an instrument-laden, two-stage sounding rocket arcing through shimmering green aurora, 186 miles above the Earth. Instruments on board, including those built at University of New Hampshire's Space Science Center, sampled electric and magnetic fields as well as charged particles in Earth's upper atmosphere (ionosphere) that get sloshed back and forth by a specific form of electromagnetic energy known as Alfven waves.

Phytoplankton Research in Arctic May Help Determine Environmental Accident Impacts
February 22, 2012 10:42 AM - Sara Stefanski, ENN

Today, the 178th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is being held in Vancouver. Marcel Babin, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada's New Arctic Frontier at the Université Laval, is one of the researchers who will be discussing his findings on the effects of environmental changes in the Arctic. The focus of Babin's research is on Arctic micro-organisms and the findings are uncovering how melting sea ice due to environmental changes could be leading to an overall increase in algae levels in Arctic waters. Based on the models that Babin and his team developed, predictions ten years in advance about algae production in the arctic will be possible by the end of this year.

Pretty Pleistocene Flower
February 21, 2012 04:05 PM - Editor, ENN

The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2.6 million to 12,000 years ago that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciation. Not much has survived from that era except as fossils until now. Fruit seeds stored away by squirrels more than 30,000 years ago and found in Siberian permafrost have been regenerated into full flowering plants by scientists in Russia, a new study has revealed. The seeds of the herbaceous Silene stenophylla are far and away the oldest plant tissue to have been brought back to life, according to lead cryologists Svetlana Yashina and David Gilichinsky of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Quiet Clean Mining Revolution
February 21, 2012 10:56 AM - Guest Author, Clean Techies

Few industries have got the black eye, literally and metaphorically, of mining. After centuries of environmental effects ranging from toxic emissions to unsightly tailings ponds, acid mine drainage, massive energy consumption and other impacts, mining is slowly cleaning up its act. Why? Mostly because new clean technologies are increasing industrial efficiencies. They're lowering mining companies' power needs. And they're even helping reduce water requirements, and/or remediating the produced water and mines of years past that are now leaching toxins. And that's translating into cost savings for mining companies, which are being held increasingly accountable for their environmental impacts and are looking for ways to minimize the expenses of both the production phase of their operations, and reclamation.

Republic of Congo Expands National Park to Protect Great Apes
February 21, 2012 10:39 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The Nouabale-Ndoki National Park is a lush rainforest park within the equatorial nation of the Republic of Congo (ROC), not to be confused with the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo to the south and east. The ROC has followed through on its commitments to expand the NNNP by 8 percent, from about 1,500 square miles to about 1,630 square miles. The newly included area holds a unique ecosystem known as the Goualougo Triangle. The Goualougo is a very dense, swampy forest that is home to a nearly pristine and untouched great ape population that was first discovered in 1989 by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientists.

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