Enn Original News

Greenland glaciers found to be melting on the fast track
December 8, 2015 05:21 AM - Columbia University via EurekAlert

"Two things are happening," said study co-author William D'Andrea, a paleoclimatologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "One is you have a very gradual decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting high latitudes in the summer. If that were the only thing happening, we would expect these glaciers to very slowly be creeping forward, forward, forward. But then we come along and start burning fossil fuels and adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and glaciers that would still be growing start to melt back because summer temperatures are warmer."

Glaciers are dynamic and heavy. As a glacier moves, it grinds the bedrock beneath, creating silt that the glacier's meltwater washes into the lake below. The larger the glacier, the more bedrock it grinds away. Scientists can take sediment cores from the bottom of glacier-fed lakes to see how much silt and organic material settled over time, along with other indicators of a changing climate. They can then use radiocarbon dating to determine when more or less silt was deposited.

Equity and Emission Trading in China, a new analysis by MIT
December 7, 2015 01:29 PM - MIT Sloan School of Management

As representatives from more than 190 countries convene in France for the second week to address ways to slow global warming, an MIT-led team has published a paper outlining a set of options for incorporating equity considerations in a national Emissions Trading System (ETS) for China that could reduce carbon emissions while minimizing economic impact on poorer or less-developed regions.

The paper, “Equity and Emission Trading in China,” published in the journal Climatic Change, outlines a sophisticated menu aimed at Chinese policymakers showing how the burden of reducing carbon emissions could be shared or divided across the country’s provinces under a market-based carbon pricing system.

“Emission trading systems have been shown to be highly effective when they are allowed to work, but one of the toughest challenges involves how to distribute the cost,” said lead author Valerie Karplus, Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “We compare alternative schemes for allocating emissions rights that can effectively de-couple who pays for reductions from where the reductions actually occur.”

 

COP21 enters critical phase today
December 7, 2015 08:00 AM - World Wildlife Foundation

Government ministers arrive in Paris today as climate talks enter their second week. The ministers add high-level influence to the climate negotiations and can help unlock critical elements of a new climate deal.

“It’s going to be quite a sprint for ministers to secure a strong deal by Friday,” said Tasneem Essop, head of WWF’s delegation to the COP21 climate talks. “The French presidency now has the responsibility to take us to the finish line.”

Are you smarter than a fruit fly?
December 5, 2015 08:13 AM - Northwestern University

Northwestern University neuroscientists now can read the mind of a fly. They have developed a clever new tool that lights up active conversations between neurons during a behavior or sensory experience, such as smelling a banana. Mapping the pattern of individual neural connections could provide insights into the computational processes that underlie the workings of the human brain. 

In a study focused on three of the fruit fly’s sensory systems, the researchers used fluorescent molecules of different colors to tag neurons in the brain to see which connections were active during a sensory experience that happened hours earlier. 

NASA captures image of faintest galaxy ever seen
December 4, 2015 07:40 AM - JPL NASA

Astronomers harnessing the combined power of NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have found the faintest object ever seen in the early universe. It existed about 400 million years after the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago.

The team has nicknamed the object Tayna, which means "first-born" in Aymara, a language spoken in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America.

Though Hubble and Spitzer have detected other galaxies that are record-breakers for distance, this object represents a smaller, fainter class of newly forming galaxies that until now had largely evaded detection. These very dim objects may be more representative of the early universe, and offer new insight on the formation and evolution of the first galaxies.

We need to use Nitrogen fertilizers more efficiently
November 30, 2015 11:33 AM - B. Rose Huber, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

The global population is expected to increase by two to three billion people by 2050, a projection raising serious concerns about sustainable development, biodiversity and food security, but new research led by Princeton University shows that more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizers may address both environmental issues and crop production.

Today, more than half of the world's population is nourished by food grown with fertilizers containing synthetic nitrogen, which is needed to produce high crop yields. Plants take the nitrogen they need to grow, and the excess is left in the ground, water and air. This results in significant emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse and ozone-depleting gas, and other forms of nitrogen pollution, including chemical over-enrichment of lakes and rivers and contamination of drinking water. 

Earth's first ecosystems were more complex than previously thought
November 28, 2015 06:44 AM - Universtity of Bristol

Computer simulations have allowed scientists to work out how a puzzling 555-million-year-old organism with no known modern relatives fed, revealing that some of the first large, complex organisms on Earth formed ecosystems that were much more complex than previously thought.

The international team of researchers from Canada, the UK and the USA, including Dr Imran Rahman from the University of Bristol, studied fossils of an extinct organism called Tribrachidium, which lived in the oceans some 555 million years ago.  Using a computer modelling approach called computational fluid dynamics, they were able to show that Tribrachidium fed by collecting particles suspended in water.  This is called suspension feeding and it had not previously been documented in organisms from this period of time.

New DOW weedkiller issues
November 26, 2015 08:40 AM - Dan Charles, NPR

Dow AgroSciences, which sells seeds and pesticides to farmers, made contradictory claims to different parts of the U.S. government about its latest herbicide. The Environmental Protection Agency just found out, and now wants to cancel Dow's legal right to sell the product.

The herbicide, which the company calls Enlist Duo, is a mixture of two chemicals that farmers have used separately for many years: glyphosate (also known as Roundup) and 2,4-D. It's Dow's answer to the growing problem of weeds that are resistant to glyphosate, which has become the weed-killing weapon of choice for farmers across the country.

The new formulation is intended to work hand-in-hand with a new generation of corn and soybean seeds that are genetically engineered to tolerate sprays of both herbicides.

NASA finds answer to why Mars' atmosphere doesn't have more carbon
November 25, 2015 07:47 AM - JPL NASA

Mars is blanketed by a thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere -- one that is far too thin to keep water from freezing or quickly evaporating. However, geological evidence has led scientists to conclude that ancient Mars was once a warmer, wetter place than it is today. To produce a more temperate climate, several researchers have suggested that the planet was once shrouded in a much thicker carbon dioxide atmosphere. For decades that left the question, "Where did all the carbon go?"

The solar wind stripped away much of Mars' ancient atmosphere and is still removing tons of it every day. But scientists have been puzzled by why they haven't found more carbon -- in the form of carbonate -- captured into Martian rocks. They have also sought to explain the ratio of heavier and lighter carbons in the modern Martian atmosphere.

Something not to worry about, the Earth's magnetic field flipping
November 24, 2015 12:10 PM - Jennifer Chu, MIT News

The intensity of Earth’s geomagnetic field has been dropping for the past 200 years, at a rate that some scientists suspect may cause the field to bottom out in 2,000 years, temporarily leaving the planet unprotected against damaging charged particles from the sun. This drop in intensity is associated with periodic geomagnetic field reversals, in which the Earth’s North and South magnetic poles flip polarity, and it could last for several thousand years before returning to a stable, shielding intensity.

With a weakened geomagnetic field, increased solar radiation might damage electronics — from individual pacemakers to entire power grids — and could induce genetic mutations. A reversal may also affect the navigation of animals that use Earth’s magnetic field as an internal compass.

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