Enn Original News

Automated Vehicles and the Future of Fuel Efficiency
October 25, 2011 09:15 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Cars these days are becoming more and more like computers on wheels. Many car enthusiasts long for the days of simpler designs where they can figure out exactly what's going on under the hood. With all the advanced electronics in newer vehicles, trying to fix them yourself has become a daunting task. However, as more sophisticated electronics are added, cars will gradually become smarter, to the point where they may even drive themselves. Automated vehicles, while most likely not adopted by everyone, will probably make the road safer and more convenient for some "drivers". Plus, according to a new research study, they will have the extra benefit of increasing fuel efficiency.

Life on the Moons of the Solar System
October 24, 2011 07:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Earth has plenty of life. Where else may it lie in the solar system? Some hope for Mars which is on the edge of the solar system Goldilocks zone. Others believe it lies on on of the other moons such as Titan, Enceladus or Europa. Ten times thicker than Earth's, Titan's atmosphere extends nearly 370 miles above its frigid surface. It's a literal chemical factory, where nitrogen and methane are zapped by the sun's ultraviolet rays and transformed into organic molecules, some of which descend to the moon's surface while others rise up above the clouds, creating a bluish high-level haze of hydrocarbons. Strange lakes and rivers of methane have been found on its surface.

How Drowned Plants Survive
October 24, 2011 08:21 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Your front lawn is under water. Your farm landscape cannot be seen except as an expanse of water. How can plants not drown? As countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and parts of the United States and United Kingdom have fallen victim to catastrophic flooding in recent years, tolerance of crops to partial or complete submergence is a key target for global food security. Starved of oxygen, crops cannot survive a flood for long periods of time, leading to drastic reductions in yields for farmers.

Simultaneous Warming of Northern and Southern Hemispheres
October 21, 2011 02:36 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

In true global warming, the whole worlds warms up. A common argument against global warming is that the climate has always varied in any particular place or time. For this argument to be true if it warms up one place, some place it cools down on average. However, Svante Björck, a climate researcher at Lund University in Sweden, has now shown that global warming, i.e. simultaneous warming events in the northern and southern hemispheres, have not occurred in the past 20,000 years, which is as far back as it is possible to analyze with sufficient precision to compare with modern developments. Svante Björck’s study thus goes 14,000 years further back in time than previous studies have done. He eventually claims that the current global warming trend is unique in this time frame.

Future Migrations in an Environmentally Uncertain World
October 21, 2011 01:39 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

There are several major forces at play in today's world. Two forces involved with the migrations of people include globalization and mass exodus from the countryside to cities. Another major force, climate change, is playing an ever greater role, affecting societies with extreme droughts, floods, and other dangers. How will future migrations be affected by this force? A new report by a team of experts including Prof. David Thomas and Prof. Stefan Dercon of Oxford University believes that the challenges associated with migrations and environmental change are underestimated. The report concludes that many will emigrate from environmentally vulnerable places, but some may be trapped, and others may actually move closer to the danger.

Water and the Evolution of Planetary Systems
October 21, 2011 10:35 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Using data from the Herschel Space Observatory, astronomers have detected for the first time cold water vapor enveloping a dusty disk around a young star. The findings suggest that this disk, which is poised to develop into a solar system, contains great quantities of water, suggesting that water-covered planets like Earth may be common in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions.

Deep Sea Volcanic Action
October 20, 2011 03:50 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Submarine volcanoes are underwater fissures in the Earth's surface from which magma can erupt. They are estimated to account for 75% of annual magma output. The vast majority are located near areas of tectonic plate movement, known as ocean ridges. Although most are located in the depths of seas and oceans, some also exist in shallow water, which can spew material into the air during an eruption. Hydrothermal vents, sites of abundant biological activity, are commonly found near submarine volcanoes. The first scientists to witness exploding rock and molten lava from a deep sea volcano, seen during a 2009 expedition, report that the eruption was near a tear in the Earth's crust that is mimicking the birth of a subduction zone. Scientists on the expedition collected boninite, a rare, chemically distinct lava that accompanies the formation of Earth's subduction zones.

CMAQ
October 20, 2011 10:34 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Air modeling is an important science for predicting the impact of air quality changes. There are numerous conservative models available to fit many different circumstances. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released a new version of its Community Multi-scale Air Quality model (CMAQ) that uses up-to-the minute meteorology and air chemistry data to determine how weather conditions affect pollution, and how pollution can affect and change weather. Version 5.0 of CMAQ allows scientists to analyze air quality at smaller, finer-resolution settings for individual towns and cities, and model air quality for the entire northern hemisphere. Currently, scientists use CMAQ to estimate air quality levels at the regional and national scales.

Book Review: Curious Critters
October 19, 2011 08:43 PM - Maddie Perlman-Gabel

When picking up an animal themed children book one expects to see either fuzzy pictures of cute kittens and ducklings or cartoonish creatures participating in human behaviors. David FitzSimmons takes a different approach to animals in his book "Curious Critters", which won a 2011 Moonbeam Children's Book Award. Instead of going soft and fuzzy or cartoonish, FitzSimmons takes beautifully detailed photographs of some of the strange, yet common creatures that can be found in North America. All of the photos in "Curious Critters" are set against a white backdrop which highlights the colors, textures, and shapes that might not normally be noticed. Each photo is accompanied by a short story where the animals do more then just ask about their mothers, instead talking about their habits and the environment they live in.

The Effect of Urban Heat Islands
October 19, 2011 11:30 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Cities are centers of human and industrial activity. They are also considered commonly centers of urban warmth or heat. Jacobson and Ten Hoeve are authors of a paper describing the research that will be published in Journal of Climate. The paper is available online now. The study modeled climate response from 2005 to 2025. Some global warming skeptics have claimed that the urban heat island effect is so strong that it has been skewing temperature measurements that show that global warming is happening. They have argued that urban areas are a larger contributor to global warming than the greenhouse gases produced by human activity, and thus drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases are not needed. "This study shows that the urban heat island effect is a relatively minor contributor to warming, contrary to what climate skeptics have claimed," Jacobson said. "Greenhouse gases and particulate black carbon cause far more warming." Prior to Jacobson's study, claims about the importance of heat island to global warming could not be addressed directly. The few previous modeling studies by other researchers that had examined the effect of urban heat islands on regional scales did not calculate global impacts.

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