Enn Original News
The Great Extinction
January 6, 2012 11:07 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Some 250 million years ago, the earth suffered the greatest biological crisis in its history. Around 95% of all living species died out--a global catastrophe far greater than the dinosaurs' demise 65 million years ago. How this happened remains a mystery. But there are many competing theories. Now, they have discovered a new culprit likely involved in the annihilation: an influx of mercury into the eco-system. "No one had ever looked to see if mercury was a potential culprit. This was a time of the greatest volcanic activity in Earth's history and we know today that the largest source of mercury comes from volcanic eruptions," says Dr. Steve Grasby of the University of Calgary, co-author of a paper published this month in the journal Geology. "We estimate that the mercury released then could have been up to 30 times greater than today's volcanic activity, making the event truly catastrophic."
EPA Report Identifies Toxic Contamination in Communities Across the Country
January 6, 2012 09:32 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI consists of information on toxic chemical disposals and toxic air emissions, as well as waste management and pollution prevention activities. The EPA report covers neighborhoods all across the United States for the year 2010. Many of the facilities identified in the TRI are regulated by the EPA and state agencies through various programs such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Community-Right-to-Know (CRTK). Total toxic releases for 2010 were higher than the previous two years, but lower than 2007 and 2006.
'No evidence' of links between Pacific earthquakes
January 5, 2012 12:43 PM - María Elena Hurtado, SciDevNet
Scientists have rejected fears that a series of highly destructive large-scale earthquakes in the past few years, in countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, signal an increased global risk of these deadly events. Several vast earthquakes have taken place since 2004 — in Chile, Indonesia and Japan — leading some academics to express concern that they may be linked.
The Perils of Vacuum Cleaners
January 5, 2012 12:24 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
A vacuum cleaner is a device that uses an air pump to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors, and optionally from other surfaces as well. Does not sound so bad does it? Some vacuum cleaners — those basic tools for maintaining a clean indoor environment in homes and offices — actually contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing into the air bacteria and dust that can spread infections and trigger allergies, researchers report in a new study. It appears in the ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology. Lidia Morawska and colleagues explain that previous studies showed that vacuum cleaners can increase levels of very small dust particles and bacteria in indoor spaces, where people spend about 90 percent of their time. In an effort to provide more information about emission rates of bacteria and small dust particles, the scientists tested 21 vacuum cleaners sold in Australia. The vacuums came from 11 manufacturers, included those marketed for household and commercial use, ranged in age from six months to 22 years and cost from less than $100 to almost $800. They looked at the effects that age, brand and other factors had on the amount of small particles and bacteria released into air.
Study: Parasitic Fly to Blame for Honeybee Population Decline
January 5, 2012 09:34 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Populations of honeybee have been in a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral, and scientists are still grasping to find the cause. A new study from the San Francisco State University suggests that one factor may be a parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis, which lays its eggs in the bees' abdomens. The parasitic eggs cause atypical behavior in the bees, causing them to abandon their hives. Like a scene out of Alien, the eggs eventually hatch and the newborn flies burst out of the bee, killing it in the process.
European Carbon Regulation for Airlines Takes Off
January 4, 2012 02:47 PM - Raz Godelnik, Triple Pundit
2012 started with some good news. On Sunday, the European Union began charging all airlines flying into and out of Europe for their carbon emissions. Covering a third of all global flights, this new scheme is one of the widest-reaching measures adopted lately by any country or regional bloc to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Given all the hurdles and protest it faced, the fact that this scheme actually began is not just an incredible accomplishment for the EU, but also a bit of a miracle. The new scheme will make all airlines flying to, from or within the EU liable for their CO2 emissions. They will receive tradable carbon allowances, covering a certain amount of CO2 emitted each year, based on historic data. Carriers that exceed their limit will be able to buy allowances from other carriers that have emitted less than allowed. The EU believes this cap and trade scheme is the fairest way to cope with aviation’s contribution to global warming and incentivize airlines to reduce their footprint, which represents about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions.
Deep Down in the Sea: A Lost World
January 4, 2012 02:26 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Deep down under the sea is another universe of sheer blackness hidden from the sun. Yet a busy blackness in some cases. Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents. The discoveries, made by teams led by the University of Oxford, University of Southampton and British Antarctic Survey (BAS), include new species of yeti crab, starfish, barnacles, sea anemones and an octopus.
Breakthrough Facility to Trap Solar Energy in Molten Salt
January 4, 2012 10:10 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
One of the greatest problems of large scale solar power facilities is that they do not produce electricity at night, and when they do produce power, it is constantly fluctuating with the sun's strength. Under development in the deserts of Tonopah, Nevada is a new technology that will effectively store solar energy in the form of molten salt. When the sun goes down, thermal energy from the salt will be able to produce electricity for eight to ten hours.
Moon Study: Crust to Core
January 3, 2012 01:16 PM - Editor, ENN
NASA's twin spacecraft to study the moon from crust to core have arrived in lunar orbit. Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft are scheduled to be placed in orbit on December 31 and January 1. "Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria anyone in this line of work would ever need," said David Lehman, project manager for GRAIL from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles. NASA's Apollo crews took about three days to travel to the moon. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sept. 10, 2011, the GRAIL spacecraft are taking about 30 times that long and covering more than 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) to get there.
Mercury in the Atmosphere
January 3, 2012 11:21 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Mercury is an extremely toxic material. It is known to emitted to the atmosphere but what happens to the Mercury after that? How is it removed or processed? Humans pump thousands of tons of vapor from the metallic element mercury into the atmosphere each year, and it can remain suspended for long periods before being changed into a form that is easily removed from the atmosphere. New research shows that the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere work to transform elemental mercury into oxidized mercury, which can easily be deposited into aquatic ecosystems and ultimately enter the food chain.