Enn Original News
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.
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.
Commentary: U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill To Weaken EPA Clean Air Rules
October 19, 2011 01:55 PM - Dominick DalSanto, Baghouse.com
Two bills are currently working they way through the U.S. Congress in an attempt to stay activation of new air pollution regulations propagated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, namely additions to the NESHAP, Cement MACT, and Boiler MACT standards scheduled to take effect in the next few months. The new regulations will require most facilities to install updated dust collection systems to meet more stringent emissions levels. The pair of bills, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, are part of a larger effort by conservatives to curtail the so-called "aggressive" agenda of the EPA. Several different EPA rule sets are covered by the bill, but the main three are the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), Boiler MACTs (Maximum Available Control Technology), and Cement MACTs which covers emissions from the manufacture of cement. The standards are either new, or updates to existing EPA regulations. The EPA NESHAPs cover the six basic air pollutants the EPA regulates, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter e.g. dusts smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), lead, and ozone. These rules were recently revised to include stricter limits.
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.
October 19, 2011 09:35 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
In 2005 the Cassini spacecraft performed several close flybys of Enceladus, revealing the moon's surface and environment in greater detail. In particular, the probe discovered a water-rich plume venting from the moon's south polar region. This discovery, along with the presence of escaping internal heat and very few (if any) impact craters in the south polar region, shows that Enceladus is geologically active today. Moons in the extensive satellite systems of gas giants often become trapped in orbital resonances that lead to forced libration or orbital eccentricity; proximity to the planet can then lead to tidal heating of the satellite's interior, offering a possible explanation for the activity. NASA's Cassini mission will take advantage of the position of two of the three stars in Orion's belt when the spacecraft flies by Saturn's moon Enceladus on Wed., Oct. 19. As the hot, bright stars pass behind the moon's icy jets, Cassini's ultraviolet imaging spectrograph will acquire a two-dimensional view of these dramatic plumes of water vapor and icy material erupting from the moon's southern polar region. This flyby is the mission's first-ever opportunity to probe the jets with two stars simultaneously, a dual stellar occultation.
A New World Map
October 18, 2011 12:50 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The world is constantly changing. Not only the names of cities and states but the very height of mountains and continental drift dislocations. NASA and Japan released a significantly improved version of the most complete digital topographic map of Earth on Monday, produced with detailed measurements from NASA's Terra spacecraft. The map, known as a global digital elevation model, was created from images collected by the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, or ASTER, instrument aboard Terra. So-called stereo-pair images are produced by merging two slightly offset two-dimensional images to create the three-dimensional effect of depth. The first version of the map was released by NASA and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in June 2009.
Shenyang, a Major Chinese Industrial City, Turns Green
October 18, 2011 09:53 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Shenyang is a large city in Northeastern China, not far from the border with North Korea. It is a centrally important industrial city with a population of 8 million that is currently leading the charge for environmentally-friendly practices in urban China. It was at one point heavily polluted with perpetual gray skies and black soot in the air. It was home to some of the country's largest iron and steel plants with a forest of smokestacks and chimneys. The city has undergone a massive transformation by reducing its air pollution, expanding green spaces, and implementing stricter environmental policies.
25 Years of Toxic Right to Know
October 18, 2011 09:52 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
On the 25th anniversary of the law that created the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson was joined by New Jersey Senators Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez to celebrate improved transparency and environmental quality since the legislation passed in 1986. TRI was established through legislation authored by Senator Lautenberg and signed into law as part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The measure requires owners of facilities to report annually on the amount of toxic chemicals that have been released into the air, water or land. These facilities are also required to report how they dispose of chemicals that are not released into the environment.