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Record Radiation in South America
July 11, 2014 09:00 AM - Winfield Winter, ENN
Astrobiologists from the United States and Germany recorded the highest known level of solar UV radiation to reach Earth's surface. This was around 10 years ago. On December 29, 2003, the UV Index (UVI) peaked, reaching the blistering number of 43.3 over the Andes Mountains in Bolivia. To put this in context, a beachgoer in the United States would expect a UVI of 8 or 9 on a summer day. Even with an 8 or a 9, one may not escape the day without sunburn. Nonetheless, it has taken scientists 10 years to detail a report of this data while taking into account all of the variables and anomalies monitored from an international network of dosimeters — or Eldonets (European Light Dosimeter Network) — that measure UV radiation worldwide. This system is comprised of more than 100 stations across 5 continents to account for variation in the atmosphere above each station.
SAR11 and Methane
July 8, 2014 08:07 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
With the focus on reducing carbon emissions, we often forget about methane — another greenhouse gas that is way more powerful as an atmospheric pollutant than carbon dioxide. Methane emissions can come from industry, agriculture, and waste management activities, but can also be emitted from a number of natural sources. One newly discovered natural source: SAR11.
Choosing the Right Path: How Air Travel Affects Climate Change
June 26, 2014 10:40 AM - Winfield Winter, ENN
It has been well documented that one negative of air travel — besides the food — is the emission of CO2 from jet engines. But what about contrails? Dr. Emma Irvine, Professor Keith Shine, and Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading have linked contrails to global climate change in a study published in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters. According to their report, contrails may have a greater radiative forcing (the capacity for an agent to enact climate change via warming) than CO2.
The economic risks of climate change
June 24, 2014 12:38 PM - Rutgers University
New independent report identifies challenges facing U.S. businesses and policymakers; describes strategies to avoid significant, unequally-spread economic disruptions. The American economy faces major risks from climate change, including damaging coastal storms, growing heat-related mortality, and declining labor productivity, according to an independent report released today by business, education and political leaders.
New study challenges theory that emperor penguins return to same area each year
June 20, 2014 02:09 PM - Allison Winter, ENN
Philopatry is the tendency of an organism to stay in, or return to its home area. Many animal species are considered philopatric because they often return to their birthplace year after year to breed. Revisiting the same site is advantageous because nests and courtship areas have already been established while competition from other animals is largely non-existent due to territoriality. Researchers have long thought that emperor penguins were a prime example of this phenomenon, however a new study shows that this species may be adapting to changing environments and may not necessarily be faithful to previous nesting locations.
Soccer Under The Sun
June 20, 2014 08:00 AM - Winfield Winter, ENN
The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is underway and off to a bright start. For the first time in the tournament's history, matches will be held in stadiums powered by solar energy. Footballers from the 32 nations represented may curse the sun and the swelter it brings, but Yingli Solar, the world's largest solar panel manufacturer and a FIFA World Cup Sponsor, has captured an opportunity on the world's biggest stage. Yingli Solar estimates its solar panels to generate more than 1MW per year and clean electricity for 25 years or more. The iconic Estádio do Maracanã that witnessed Pelé's 1000th career goal and much of Brazil's rich footballing history is one of the two sites that received this modern upgrade. This Rio de Janeiro landmark that opened in 1950 now boasts 1,500 Yingli Solar panels with the capability to produce 550MWh of clean electricity per year.
"Tuning" the silk: How spiders use vibrations to learn about their prey, mates, and web
June 18, 2014 01:36 PM - Allison Winter, ENN
The fine craftsmanship of a spider's web helps these eight-legged arachnids catch their prey. But these silk-threaded designs can tell a spider a lot more than what they will be having for dinner. The spider that sits in the middle of its web monitors the silk threads for vibrations. And according to a new discovery by researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Strathclyde, and Sheffield the frequencies of these vibrations carry specific information about the prey, mates, and even the structural integrity of the web.
Are fruit flies smarter than we thought?
June 18, 2014 11:34 AM - University of Oxford
Oxford University neuroscientists have shown that fruit flies take longer to make more difficult decisions. In experiments asking fruit flies to distinguish between ever closer concentrations of an odour, the researchers found that the flies don't act instinctively or impulsively. Instead they appear to accumulate information before committing to a choice. Gathering information before making a decision has been considered a sign of higher intelligence, like that shown by primates and humans.
Are we close to bringing back supersonic travel?
June 18, 2014 07:06 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Remember the Concorde? The supersonic passenger jet that flew from 1969 to almost 2000. It was not cost effective for the airlines, and extravagantly expensive for passengers. It was also cramped. The luxury was being able to fly from New York to London in about 3 hours! The Concorde had a big problem, the sonic boom it created when flying at supersonic speed. This led to governments restricting where it could fly supersonically and was a major factor in it not being economical to continue flying. That and a very advanced airframe that was getting old. The return of supersonic passenger travel may be coming closer to reality thanks to NASA’s efforts to define a new standard for low sonic booms. Several NASA aeronautics researchers will present their work in Atlanta this week at Aviation 2014, an annual event of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. They will share with the global aviation community the progress they are making in overcoming some of the biggest hurdles to supersonic passenger travel.
Penguin populations may have benefited from historic climate warming
June 13, 2014 09:10 AM - Editor, ENN
While penguins have adapted to extremely cold weather, harsh winters are still difficult for populations especially when it comes to breeding and finding food. So with warming climates on the horizon, are penguin populations going to be better off? Not necessarily. However, a new study does reveal that penguin populations over the last 30,000 years have benefitted in some ways from climate warming and retreating ice. An international team, led by scientists from the University of Southampton and Oxford University, has used a genetic technique to estimate when current genetic diversity arose in penguins and to recreate past population sizes.