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Rain in Australia
July 7, 2011 04:43 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Decreasing autumn and winter rainfall over southern Australia has been attributed to a 50-year decrease in the average intensity of storms in the region — a trend which is forecast to continue for another 50 years. In an address to the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics conference in Melbourne, CSIRO climate scientist, Dr Jorgen Frederiksen, said these changes are due to reductions in the strength of the mid-latitude jet stream and changes in atmospheric temperatures. The jet stream comprises fast moving westerly winds in the upper atmosphere. A long, severe drought, the worst on record is being experienced in many parts of Australia. As of November 2006, the late-winter to mid-spring rainfalls had failed. The average rainfall in the state of South Australia was the lowest since 1900. Across Victoria and the Murray-Darling Basin the season was the second driest since 1900. New South Wales' rainfall was boosted by above normal falls along the north coast of the state, however the state average rainfall for the season is the third driest since 1900. The situation has been worsened by temperatures being the highest on record since the 1950s.
How Hot Was It Long Ago
July 7, 2011 07:48 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The question seems simple enough: What happens to the Earth’s temperature when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase? It has happened in the past. The answer is elusive. However, clues are hidden in the fossil record. A new study by researchers from Syracuse and Yale universities provides a much clearer picture of the Earth’s temperature approximately 50 million years ago when CO2 concentrations were higher than today. The results may shed light on what to expect in the future if CO2 levels keep rising. The study which for the first time compared multiple geochemical and temperature proxies to determine mean annual and seasonal temperatures, is published online in the journal Geology, the premier publication of the Geological Society of America, and will be published in print on August 1.
July 6, 2011 07:54 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The sun and the solar system's rocky inner planets, including the Earth, may have formed differently than previously thought, according to UCLA scientists and colleagues analyzing samples returned by NASA's Genesis mission. The data from Genesis, which collected material from the solar wind blowing from the sun, reveal differences between the sun and planets with regard to oxygen and nitrogen, two of the most abundant elements in our solar system, the researchers report in two studies in the June 24 issue of the journal Science. And although the differences are slight, the research could help determine how our solar system evolved.
July 5, 2011 07:49 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Kelp has a high rate of growth and its decay is quite efficient in yielding methane, as well as sugars that can be converted to ethanol. It has been proposed that large open-ocean kelp farms could serve as a source of renewable energy. Unlike some biofuels such as corn ethanol, kelp energy avoids "food vs fuel" issues and does not require irrigation. Seaweed may prove a viable future biofuel especially if harvested in summer. However the suitability of its chemical composition varies on a seasonal basis. Harvesting the kelp in July when carbohydrate levels are at their highest would ensure optimal sugar release for biofuel production.
4th of July Parades, Fireworks, and Waste
July 4, 2011 09:48 AM - TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
It's not the Fourth of July without a parade and fireworks — plus lots of trash and some not-so-healthy toxins and pollutants. Rhode Island prides itself on hosting the oldest parade in the nation. The Bristol tradition draws some 100,000 spectators, who leave behind about 64 tons of trash, according to the Department of Public Works. Progress has been made in recent years to control waste by requiring vendors to haul out their own garbage. Stapling paper yard-waste bags to trees and telephone poles along the parade route also has encouraged spectators to help with the clean up of bottles, cups, balloons and other debris. "We flood the parade route with those bags and it's a huge help," said Jim Sylvester of Bristol's DPW. None of the waste, however, is sorted for recyclables. It's not well known, or at least not well publicized, that fireworks — from sparklers to professional displays — leave behind a fair amount of waste, while releasing noxious gases and heavy metals.
Red Wine and Exercise
July 1, 2011 11:09 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Wine has its proponents as well its opponents. Long-term spaceflight induces hypokinesia and hypodynamia, which results in a number of significant physiological alterations, such as muscle atrophy, force reduction, insulin resistance, substrate use shift from fats to carbohydrates, and bone loss. Resveratrol, a natural polyphenol, could be used as a nutritional countermeasure to prevent muscle metabolic and bone adaptions according to a new study. A chemical in red wine called resveratrol has been shown to have both cardioprotective and chemoprotective effects in animal studies. Low doses of resveratrol in the diet of middle-aged mice has a widespread influence on the genetic levers of aging and may confer special protection on the heart. Specifically, low doses of resveratrol mimic the effects of what is known as caloric restriction - diets with 20—30 percent fewer calories than a typical diet. Resveratrol is produced naturally by grape skins in response to fungal infection, including exposure to yeast during fermentation. As white wine has minimal contact with grape skins during this process, it generally contains lower levels of the chemical. Other beneficial compounds in wine include other polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavonoids.
Motion Affer Effect
June 30, 2011 02:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The motion after-effect is a visual illusion experienced after viewing a moving visual stimulus for a time (seconds to minutes) with stationary eyes, and then fixating a stationary stimulus. The stationary stimulus appears to move in the opposite direction to the original (physically moving) stimulus. The motion aftereffect is believed to be the result of motion adaptation. For example, if one looks at a waterfall for about a minute and then looks at the stationary rocks at the side of the waterfall, these rocks appear to be moving upwards slightly. The illusory upwards movement is the motion aftereffect. This particular motion aftereffect is also known as the waterfall illusion. Why does it happen, though? Is it because we are consciously aware that the background is moving in one direction, causing our brains to shift their frame of reference so that we can ignore this motion? Or is it an automatic, subconscious response? Davis Glasser, a doctoral student in the University of Rochester's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences thinks he has found the answer. The results of a study done by Glasser, along with his advisor, Professor Duje Tadin, and colleagues James Tsui and Christopher Pack of the Montreal Neurological Institute, is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their paper, the scientists show that humans experience the Motion Aftereffect even if the motion that they see in the background is so brief that they can't even tell whether it is heading to the right or the left.
Diabetes: A Global Epidemic?
June 29, 2011 10:01 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
According to a major international study which analyzed global data on diabetes since 1980, the prevalence of diabetes has gone up or at best remained unchanged in every part of the world for the last 30 years. The number of people with the disease has more than doubled during that period to 347 million adults. The increase can be attributed to population growth, aging, and to an overall higher prevalence.
Cook Inlet Oil
June 29, 2011 08:01 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Cook Inlet stretches 180 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage in south-central Alaska. Cook Inlet branches into the Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm at its northern end, almost surrounding Anchorage. The watershed covers about 100,000 kmÂ² of southern Alaska, east of the Aleutian Range and south of the Alaska Range, receiving water from its tributaries the Knik River, the Little Susitna River, and the Susitna and Matanuska rivers. The watershed includes the drainage areas of Mount McKinley. Within the watershed there are several national parks and the active volcano Mount Redoubt, along with three other historically active volcanoes. Approximately 400,000 people live within the Cook Inlet watershed. Before the growth of Anchorage, Knik was the destination for most marine traffic in upper Cook Inlet. The Cook Inlet Region of Alaska contains an estimated mean of 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, about 600 million barrels of oil, and 46 million barrels of natural gas liquids, according to a new assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This estimate is of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources, and includes both unconventional and conventional resources. These gas estimates are significantly more than the last USGS assessment of southern Alaska in 1995, in which a mean of 2.14 trillion cubic feet of gas was estimated. This increase in the undiscovered resource is attributed to new geologic information and data.
El Nino and Southern Oscillation in 2010
June 28, 2011 03:09 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Worldwide, 2010 was one of the two warmest years on record according to the 2010 State of the Climate report, which NOAA released today. The peer-reviewed report, issued in coordination with the American Meteorological Society, was compiled by 368 scientists from 45 countries. It provides a detailed, yearly update on global climate indicators, notable climate events and other climate information from every continent. This year’s report tracks 41 climate indicators ”• four more than last year ”• including temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, precipitation, greenhouse gases, humidity, cloud cover, ocean temperature and salinity, sea ice, glaciers, and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets that allow scientists to identify overall trends.