Sci/tech

Britain brings back the battery-powered train
January 13, 2015 08:14 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

The first battery-powered train to run on Britain’s rail network in more than half a century is to enter passenger service this week. The pioneering engine marks an important milestone in the project to demonstrate the viability of an eco-friendly battery-powered train for the twenty-first century.

Why is the water found on comet Comet 67P/Churyumov—Gerasimenko so different from Earth water?
January 11, 2015 08:00 AM - European Space Agency

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has found the water vapour from its target comet to be significantly different to that found on Earth. The discovery fuels the debate on the origin of our planet’s oceans.

The measurements were made in the month following the spacecraft’s arrival at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 6 August. It is one of the most anticipated early results of the mission, because the origin of Earth’s water is still an open question.

One of the leading hypotheses on Earth’s formation is that it was so hot when it formed 4.6 billion years ago that any original water content should have boiled off. But, today, two thirds of the surface is covered in water, so where did it come from?

Seychelles fossils illuminate temperature/ocean level relationships
January 9, 2015 05:39 PM - University of Florida via ScienceDaily

The balmy islands of Seychelles couldn't feel farther from Antarctica, but their fossil corals could reveal much about the fate of polar ice sheets.

About 125,000 years ago, the average global temperature was only slightly warmer, but sea levels rose high enough to submerge the locations of many of today's coastal cities. Understanding what caused seas to rise then could shed light on how to protect those cities today.

Global Warming "hiatus" connected to volcanic eruptions
January 9, 2015 02:36 PM - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The “warming hiatus” that has occurred over the last 15 years has been caused in part by small volcanic eruptions. Scientists have long known that volcanoes cool the atmosphere because of the sulfur dioxide that is expelled during eruptions. Droplets of sulfuric acid that form when the gas combines with oxygen in the upper atmosphere can persist for many months, reflecting sunlight away from Earth and lowering temperatures at the surface and in the lower atmosphere. Previous research suggested that early 21st-century eruptions might explain up to a third of the recent warming hiatus.

Which fossil fuels must remain in the ground to limit global warming?
January 8, 2015 08:58 AM - University College London

A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. The study funded by the UK Energy Research Centre and published in Nature today, also identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused and so sets out the regions that stand to lose most from achieving the 2°C goal.

Study reveals new method to estimate the global impacts of dams
January 7, 2015 04:08 PM - McGill University

When dams are built they have an impact not only on the flow of water in the river, but also on the people who live downstream and on the surrounding ecosystems. By placing data from close to 6,500 existing large dams on a highly precise map of the world’s rivers, an international team led by McGill University researchers has created a new method to estimate the global impacts of dams on river flow and fragmentation.

Most Earth-like Planet Revealed
January 7, 2015 02:17 PM - Daniel Clery, Science/AAAS

Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler satellite have boosted the tally of known or suspected planets beyond our solar system to more than 4000, they reported here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Most are inhospitable—too big, too hot, or too cold for any conceivable life form. But another team seeking to verify Kepler candidates announced here today that they had identified eight new potentially habitable planets, including some close to Earth in size and situation. “We’ve significantly increased the list of verified small planets in the habitable zone,” says Douglas Caldwell of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

Global Warming History Repeats Itself
January 5, 2015 02:21 PM - David Bond, The Ecologist

The Earth's current warming is looking similar to what took place 55 million years ago, writes David Bond. And if it works out that way, the news is good: we may avoid a mass extinction. On the other hand, the poles will melt away completely, and it will take hundreds of thousands of years for Earth to get back to 'normal'. It is often said that humans have caused the Earth to warm at an unprecedented rate. However researchers have discovered another period, some 55m years ago, when massive volcanic eruptions pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere that the planet warmed at what geologists would think of as breakneck speed. The good news is that most plants and animals survived the warm spell. The planet has experienced several mass extinctions - and this wasn't one of them. But there's a catch: even after carbon levels returned to their previous levels, the climate took 200,000 years to return to normal.

Could life thrive on an aquaplanet?
January 1, 2015 10:29 AM - MIT News

Nearly 2,000 planets beyond our solar system have been identified to date. Whether any of these exoplanets are hospitable to life depends on a number of criteria. Among these, scientists have thought, is a planet’s obliquity — the angle of its axis relative to its orbit around a star.

Earth, for instance, has a relatively low obliquity, rotating around an axis that is nearly perpendicular to the plane of its orbit around the sun. Scientists suspect, however, that exoplanets may exhibit a host of obliquities, resembling anything from a vertical spinning top to a horizontal rotisserie. The more extreme the tilt, the less habitable a planet may be — or so the thinking has gone.

Renewables Dominate New US Electrical Generating Capacity
December 24, 2014 10:01 AM - Clean Techies Staff, Clean Techies

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, wind energy and solar power combined provided over 70 percent (71.82%) of the 873 megawatts (MW) of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service in November 2014. Specifically, three wind farms came on line last month, accounting for 333-MW of new generation in service. These included Stella Wind Farm’s 182-MW Panhandle Wind Farm Phase II expansion in Texas and the 150-MW Origin Wind Energy project in Oklahoma. New wind generating capacity this year thus far has more than doubled that for the same period in 2013 (2,525-MW vs. 1,112-MW).

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