Enn Original News

Space Weather
February 10, 2011 08:17 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Space weather is the concept of changing environmental conditions in near-Earth space. It is distinct from the concept of weather within a planetary atmosphere, and deals with phenomena involving ambient plasma, magnetic fields, radiation and other matter in space. "Space weather" often implicitly means the conditions in near-Earth space within the magnetosphere and ionosphere, but it is also studied in interplanetary (and occasionally interstellar) space. The primary source of these changes is what happens on the Sun. Changes in the near-Earth space environment affect our society. The best known ground-level consequence of space weather is geomagnetically induced currents, or GIC. These are damaging electrical currents that can flow in power grids, pipelines and other conducting networks and cause disruptions and black outs. Eight years ago, the American Meteorological Society tentatively reached out to the space weather community by scheduling a day-and-a-half Space Weather Symposium at its Annual Meeting. That symposium included briefings from operational and research agencies involved with space weather as well as a variety of talks targeting areas of interest common to meteorology and space weather.

Time to Get to Know!
February 9, 2011 10:24 PM - Editor, ENN and Get to Know

The 2011 Canadian Wildlife Federation Robert Bateman Get to Know Contest begins April 10. Renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman invites youth aged 5-18 to go outside and "get to know" their wild neighbors by creating art, writing, digital photography, and video entries. The goal: to engage the power of art to help youth become more connected with nature. Last year, twenty two winners of the Robert Bateman Get to Know Contest attended the Get to Know Art & Nature Camp at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on August 23-27. Hosted by Parks Canada, the kids took part in workshops (led by local artists from Alberta and Montana), discovered local species and ecosystems, and worked on a video project encouraging young people across North America to enter the new video category of the Get to Know Contest.

Fracking Ground Water
February 9, 2011 05:35 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Congress commissioned the Environmental Protection Agency to study hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", after complaints that the process pollutes water. The EPA is slated to make public initial results of the study by the end of next year. Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future and the process known as hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing that vital resource. Fracturing is used by gas producers to stimulate wells and recover natural gas from sources such as coalbeds and shale gas formations. Fracturing is also used for other applications including oil recovery. The study will investigate reported instances of drinking water contamination in three to five sites across the country where fracking has occurred.

Victory for the Jersey Shore: Governor Vetoes Offshore LNG Port
February 9, 2011 09:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

For the past few years, Liberty Natural Gas has been trying to construct an offshore port for the delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The port would be located about 15 miles off the coast of Asbury Park, NJ, and a gas pipeline would be constructed along the sea floor that would deliver an estimated 1.2 cubic feet per day to the region's hungry energy market. However, the project has serious environmental, social, and economic implications which could not be overlooked. The decision has finally been made by Governor Chris Christie: there will be no offshore LNG port off the coast of New Jersey.

Thunder Snow!
February 8, 2011 04:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Thundersnow, also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thunder snowstorm, is a relatively rare kind of thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation instead of rain. It typically falls in regions of strong upward motion within the cold sector of an extratropical cyclone, where the precipitation consists of ice pellets rather than snow. Snowstorms that trigger lightning are rare. Of the roughly 10,000,000 cloud-to-ground lightning flashes observed over the continental United States each year, about 0.1 percent to 0.01 percent are associated with snow, says Walter Petersen, atmospheric physicist with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This thundersnow happened this winter in northern Alabama and was observed first hand by sophisticated lightning mapping station in Huntsville

The Dunes of Mars
February 7, 2011 12:41 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A dune is a hill of sand built by the wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter slip face in the lee of the wind. Dunes can be found in any environment where there is a substantial atmosphere, winds, and dust to be blown. Dunes are common on Mars, and they have also been observed in the equatorial regions of Titan. Sand dunes in a vast area of northern Mars long thought to be frozen in time are changing with both sudden and gradual motions, according to research using images from a NASA orbiter. These dune fields cover an area the size of Texas in a band around the planet at the edge of Mars' north polar cap. The new findings suggest they are among the most active landscapes on Mars. However, few changes in these dark-toned dunes had been previously detected before a campaign of repeated imaging by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Oysters
February 4, 2011 12:29 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of distinct groups of bivalve molluscs which live in marine or brackish habitats. A new, wide-ranging survey that compares the past and present condition of oyster reefs around the world finds that more than 90 percent of former reefs have been lost in most of the bays and ecoregions where the prized molluscs were formerly abundant. In many places, such as the Wadden Sea in Europe and Narragansett Bay, oysters are rated "functionally extinct," with fewer than 1 percent of their former reefs persisting. The declines are in most cases a result of over harvesting of wild populations and disease, often exacerbated by the introduction of non-native species. Oysters have fueled coastal economies for centuries, and were once astoundingly abundant in favored areas.

The Alarming Amazon Droughts of 2005 and 2010
February 4, 2011 08:58 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

When thinking of the wettest place on land, most people think about rainforests such as the Amazon, which can get up to 78 inches of rain per year. All this precipitation supports the Amazon's rich plant life which helps moderate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. It is then quite alarming to learn that the Amazon has suffered two devastating droughts in the last five years. Researchers fear a continuation of this disturbing trend.

Gowanus Canal Superfund Site
February 3, 2011 03:55 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed its investigation of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, N.Y. The investigation confirmed the widespread presence of numerous contaminants in the canal and identified the sources of contamination. The investigation also identified characteristics of the canal that will influence future plans for a cleanup. A companion human and ecological risk assessment found that exposure to the contaminants in the canal poses potential threats to people’s health and the environment. The Gowanus Canal was originally built to allow access for industrial needs by bulkheading and dredging a tidal creek and wetland that had previously been fished for oysters. After its completion in the 1860s, the canal quickly became one of the nation’s busiest industrial waterways, home to heavy industry including gas works, coal yards, cement makers, soap makers, tanneries, paint and ink factories, machine shops, chemical plants, and oil refineries. It was also the repository of untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage, and surface water runoff for decades, causing it to become one of New York’s most polluted waterways. Although much of the industrial activity along the canal has stopped, high contaminant levels remain in the sediments.

Brazil Approves Construction of the Belo Monte Dam Project
February 2, 2011 11:07 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The proposed Belo Monte Dam in northern Brazil would be the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world in terms of electrical output. The dam would be 3.75 miles long and generate over 11,000 megawatts, which could power up to 23 million homes. Government officials say that the dam is an essential step in supplying energy to the nation's growing population. However, the project is rife with environmental conflicts. The project requires the clearing of 588 acres of Amazon jungle, the displacement of over 20,000 indigenous people, flooding a 193 square mile area, and drying up a 62 mile stretch of the Xingu River.

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