Enn Original News
June 15, 2011 02:26 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Nature's fury reached new extremes in the U.S. during the spring of 2011, as a punishing flooding and rainfall brought the greatest flood in recorded history to the Lower Mississippi River, an astonishingly deadly tornado season, the worst drought in Texas history, and the worst fire season in recorded history. There's never been a spring this extreme for combined wet and dry extremes in the U.S. since record keeping began over a century ago as shown by statistics released last week by the National Climatic Data Center. One other results is the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone is predicted to be larger than average this year, due to extreme flooding of the Mississippi River this spring, according to an annual forecast by a team of NOAA-supported scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan. The forecast is based on Mississippi River nutrient inputs compiled annually by the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles. The largest hypoxic zone measured to date occurred in 2002 and encompassed more than 8,400 square miles.
New from BBC Earth: The circus comes to town
June 14, 2011 12:06 PM - Mark Flowers, Producer/Director Rivers/Urban team, BBC Earth
Traveling to the farthest corners of the world, it is not just the remarkable environments that can prove a little hard to capture. When Rivers Producer/Director Mark Flowers met the children from the North-East Indian root tree villages, he hadn't bargained on having to make himself the center of attention. But sometimes it's the little extra's that make an experience unforgettable. The most heart-stealing and downright soul- enhancing benefit of working on a Human Planet shoot is the children we encounter while we are filming. It's unbelievably refreshing to step outside of a regulated, fast-paced and impersonal modern, urban society and meet people who live in a more open, communal and for me personally, a far more "Human" way. The children we met during our trip to film living root bridges in one of the most remote areas of North-East India were fantastic — cheeky, smart and funny. To the young people who live in isolated hill villages in the rainforests of Meghalaya, the arrival of a gangly bunch of giant, pale-skinned strangers, brandishing weird black boxes, screens and cables, was the most surprising thing to happen in a long while. The circus had come to town! Within minutes of us stepping out of the cars, there were bright eyes at the windows and small hands waving from the homes we passed. High pitched "hellos" echoed all around while tiny toddlers stood dumb struck for a few seconds in doorways and then exploded into howls. Dogs barked and sulky, caged cuckoos crooned from dark corners.
The Wetness of Water
June 14, 2011 08:13 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Water is amazing. It occupies about 2/3rds of the Earth's surface. It is the basis of life in many ways. It interacts with the atmosphere as a major cleanser of sorts. So how does it do it? Some water molecules split the difference between gas and liquid, a study in Nature shows. Air and water meet over most of the earth’s surface, but exactly where one ends and the other begins turns out to be a surprisingly subtle question. A new study in Nature narrows the boundary to just one quarter of water molecules in the uppermost layer — those that happen to have one hydrogen atom in water and the other vibrating freely above.
Measuring Ruminant Emissions Through Biomarkers Found in Stool
June 13, 2011 10:08 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Livestock is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases. The ruminant digestive system creates ample amounts of methane which is released into the atmosphere. It is difficult to measure the amount of methane produced by cows because unlike emission stacks, ruminant exhaust cannot be controlled or monitored. However, researchers from the University of Bristol and the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research Centre in Ireland have made the connection between methane production and a certain chemical found in the stool of cows, sheep, and other animals. This link may be used to more accurately estimate methane emissions by animals and assess their contribution to global warming.
The Waste of Heat
June 13, 2011 07:08 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
No system is 100% effective. There is always some energy wasted. One of the more common examples is the automobile engine which gets quite hot. Some of the waste is recovered by heating the car for example. With the completion of a successful prototype, engineers at Oregon State University have made a major step toward addressing one of the leading problems in energy use around the world today — the waste of half or more of the energy produced by cars, factories and power plants. New technology is being developed at the university to capture and use the low-to-medium grade waste heat that’s now going out the exhaust pipe of millions of automobiles, diesel generators, or being wasted by factories and electrical utilities. The new systems now being perfected at the university should be able to use much of that waste heat either in cooling or the production of electricity.
Natural Gas Green Role
June 10, 2011 01:34 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Some people believe that all energy related problems can be resolved with renewable sources such as solar power or wind power. Maybe in the long term future this will be so. However, in the short term what is the best option for those fuels (energy sources) that we have? MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has issued a report that states that natural gas will play a leading role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions over the next several decades, largely by replacing older, inefficient coal plants with highly efficient combined-cycle gas generation. That’s the conclusion reached by a comprehensive study of the future of natural gas conducted by an MIT study group comprised of 30 MIT faculty members, researchers, and graduate students. The findings, summarized in an 83-page report, were presented to lawmakers and senior administration officials this week in Washington. The two-year study, managed by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), examined the scale of U.S. natural gas reserves and the potential of this fuel to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Based on the work of the multidisciplinary team, with advice from a board of 16 leaders from industry, government and environmental groups, the report examines the future of natural gas through 2050 from the perspectives of technology, economics, politics, national security and the environment.
Court Rules France Not Doing Enough to Protect Its Hamsters
June 10, 2011 10:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
When the subject of hamsters comes up, most people would think about the cute furry pets that run on wheels and roll around in clear plastic balls. But in Europe, there is an endemic species of wild hamsters. Much like mice, they live a very fragile existence, always on the lookout for predators. Now, that predator has come in the form of the French, who are driving them toward extinction.
The Fight Against Mosquitoes
June 9, 2011 01:05 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Mosquitoes are not very popular with human beings. They suck your blood and can cause infections. Many ways have been devised to limit their attacks. Female mosquitoes are efficient carriers of deadly diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever, resulting each year in several million deaths and hundreds of millions of cases. To find human hosts to bite and spread disease, these mosquitoes use exhaled carbon dioxide as a vital cue. A disruption of the carbon dioxide detection machinery of mosquitoes, which would help control the spread of diseases they transmit, has therefore been a long sought-after goal. Anandasankar Ray, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside, and colleagues report that they have identified in the lab and in semi-field trials in Africa three classes of volatile odor molecules that can severely impair, if not completely disrupt, the mosquitoes' carbon dioxide detection machinery.
A Medium Solar Flare
June 8, 2011 04:25 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection on June 7, 2011. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface. A solar flare is a sudden brightening observed over the Sun surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release of up a sixth of the total energy output of the Sun each second. Solar flares strongly influence the local space weather in the vicinity of the Earth. They can produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind, known as a solar proton event, or coronal mass ejection. These particles can impact the Earth's magnetosphere and cause a geomagnetic storm. A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a disturbance in the interplanetary medium. A geomagnetic storm is a major component of space weather and provides the input for many other components of space weather, and present radiation hazards to spacecraft, astronauts and cosmonauts. The current flare event is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. The flare event should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the it arrives.
Revelry by the River: Solar One Expands Influence in New York City
June 8, 2011 10:52 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Solar One, a non-profit organization in New York City affiliated with the Community Environmental Center, celebrated their successful fundraising and outreach programs last night at Sotheby's on the Upper East Side. The Environmental News Network, a media partner of Solar One, was present for the event known as Revelry by the River. Members of the organization were honored for their tireless efforts, and funds were raised through a silent auction. Overall, the night was a smashing success for all, ensuring Solar One will be influential as New York City strives to become more sustainable.