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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.
US Marine Corps and Kyocera Team Up to Produce Solar Power
March 15, 2011 09:46 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
San Diego County in southern California holds one of the United States Marine Corps' largest bases, Camp Pendleton. It is the major West Coast base and serves to train expeditionary forces and is a prime amphibious training base. It was established in 1942 to train marines for combat in World War II and soon became a permanent installation. A new chapter has now been written in the camp's rich history of training America's elite warriors. Camp Pendleton is now a producer of renewable energy.
Emperor Penguin Colony
March 14, 2011 05:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Scientists at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have recently described the loss of a small colony of emperor penguins on an island off the West Antarctic Peninsula. The loss is attributed to reduced sea ice, which provides an important nesting substrate for the penguins as well as an important foraging habitat. Reporting in the February edition of the scientific journal PLoS ONE researchers from BAS and Scott Polar Research Institute say that this is the first time the disappearance of an emperor penguin colony has been documented. The Emperor Penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica. The male and female are similar in plumage and size, reaching 48 inches in height and weighing anywhere from 49 to 99 pounds. The dorsal side and head are black and sharply delineated from the white belly, pale-yellow breast and bright-yellow ear patches. Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
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.
March 11, 2011 01:45 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The mysterious collapse of honey-bee colonies is becoming a global phenomenon. Declines in managed bee colonies, seen increasingly in Europe and the US in the past decade, are also now being observed in China and Japan and there are the first signs of African collapses from Egypt, according to the report from the United Nations. Beekeepers in Western countries have been reporting slow declines of stocks for many years, apparently due to impaired protein production, changes in agricultural practice, or unpredictable weather. In early 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30-70% of hives) of European honey bee colonies occurred in the U.S. and Québec; such a decline seems unprecedented in recent history. This has been dubbed Colony collapse disorder (CCD); it is unclear whether this is simply an accelerated phase of the general decline due to more adverse conditions in 2006, or a novel phenomenon. More than a dozen factors, ranging from declines in flowering plants and the use of memory-damaging insecticides to the world-wide spread of pests and air pollution, may be behind the emerging decline of bee colonies across many parts of the globe.
A Really Old Bird with Chicks
March 10, 2011 03:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
How old can a bird live in the wild? And how long can they breed successfully. Records are sparse of course. A Laysan albatross named Wisdom, is at least 60 years old and was spotted in February 2011 raising a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Islands. The bird has sported and worn out 5 bird bands since she was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in 1956 as she incubated an egg. Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least 5 years old then since this is the earliest age at which these birds breed, though they more typically breed at 8 or 9 after an involved courtship lasting several years. This means, of course, that Wisdom is more likely to be in her early sixties. While no bander goes out to study the maximum lifespan of a species as the only reason for their banding, every bander can contribute to this information. The information on life span is collected every time a banded bird is reported. The maximum longevity record cannot be longer than the time span that researchers have been studying that species, and the lifespan of the bands used on birds was shorter than the lifespan of the birds for some species. Most banders that are working on species with long lifespans are using a harder metal band that will last as long as the bird lives.
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.
The Speed of a Moth
March 9, 2011 04:41 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Which is faster? A small moth or a songbird? The answer does surprise. A study published in March 2011 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers at Rothamsted Research, and the universities of Lund (Sweden), Greenwich and York, reports the surprising finding that night-flying moths are able to match their songbird counterparts for travel speed and direction during their annual migrations but they use quite different strategies to do so - information that adds to our understanding of the lifestyle of such insects, which are important for maintaining biodiversity and food security. This new international study of moth migration over the UK, and songbird migration over Sweden, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Swedish Research Council, shows that songbirds (mainly Willow Warblers) and moths (Silver Y moths) have very similar migration speeds — between 30 kilometers and 65 kilometers per hour — and both travel approximately northwards in the spring and southwards in the autumn.
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.