When a solar flare filled with charged particles erupts from the sun, its magnetic fields sometimes break a widely accepted rule of physics. The flux-freezing theorem dictates that the magnetic lines of force should flow away in lock-step with the particles, whole and unbroken. Instead, the lines sometimes break apart and quickly reconnect in a way that has mystified astrophysicists.
On Tuesday, the National Weather Service gave the recent Moore, Okla., tornado the top-of-the-scale rating of EF5 for wind speed and breadth, and severity of damage. Wind speeds were estimated at between 200 and 210 mph. Everything had to come together just perfectly to create this killer tornado: wind speed, moisture in the air, temperature, and timing.
A new analysis shows that the nation's land and water resources could likely support the growth of enough algae to produce up to 25 billion gallons of algae-based fuel a year in the United States, one-twelfth of the country's yearly needs. The findings come from an in-depth look at the water resources that would be needed to grow significant amounts of algae in large, specially built shallow ponds.
An international team of researchers may have found what cause a dramatic cooling near the end of the last major Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago. The recently published study, which involved the study of rock melted into carbon spherules, describes evidence of a major cosmic event near the end of the Ice Age. The ensuing climate change forced many species to adapt or die.
Until recently people believed much of the rain forest’s carbon floated down the Amazon River and ended up deep in the ocean. Research showed a decade ago that rivers exhale huge amounts of carbon dioxide, though it left open the question of how that was possible. A new study resolves the conundrum, proving that woody plant matter is almost completely digested by bacteria living in the Amazon River.
According to research taking place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the distortion of the ancient shoreline and flooding surface of the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain are the direct result of fluctuations in topography in the region and could have implications on understanding long-term climate change, according to a new study.
The planets Uranus and Neptune are home to extreme winds blowing at speeds of over 1,000 km/hour, hurricane-like storms as large around as Earth, immense weather systems that last for years, and fast-flowing jet streams. Researchers using a new method for analyzing the gravitational field of these planets have determined an upper limit for the thickness of the atmospheric layer, which limits the depth of stormy weather.
Among its many talents, silver is an antibiotic. Titanium dioxide is known to glom on to certain heavy metals and pollutants. Other materials do the same for salt. In recent years, environmental engineers have sought to disinfect, depollute, and desalinate contaminated water using nanoscale particles of these active materials. Engineers call them nanoscavengers.
Scientists sampling 127 shallow drinking water wells in areas overlying Fayetteville Shale gas production in north-central Arkansas found no evidence of groundwater contamination. The team of scientists at Duke University and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) analyzed the samples for major and trace elements and hydrocarbons, and used isotopic tracers to identify the sources of possible contaminants.
Amid concerns over the potential health effects of existing flame retardants for home furniture, fabrics and other material, are reporting development of an “exceptionally” effective new retardant that appears safer and more environmentally friendly. The key is a nanocoating made with a relatively benign polymer that creates a “gas blanket,” preventing oxygen from fueling a fire.
Sulfur dioxide has been pegged as a significant cooling element in atmospheric climate models because of its ability to form sulfate aerosol particles that reflect sunlight. Recent findings from a team suggest that it is likely most models overestimate the cooling effect of these particles. The reason is a largely disregarded reaction pathway catalyzed by mineral dust within clouds.
Detecting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could soon become far easier with the help of an innovative technique developed by a team at NIST, where scientists have overcome an issue preventing the effective use of lasers to rapidly scan samples. The team says the technique also could work for other jobs that require gas detection, including the search for hidden explosives and monitoring chemical processes in industry and the environment.
Worldwide, hundreds of flights are diverted each year because of volcanic activity. Scientists monitoring Alaska's volcanoes have been forced to shut down stations that provide real-time tracking of eruptions and forgo repairs of seismic equipment amid ongoing federal budget cuts—moves that could mean delays in getting vital information to airline pilots and emergency planners.
The old saying that "what goes up must come down" doesn't apply to carbon dioxide pollution in the air, which just hit an unnerving milestone. The chief greenhouse gas was measured Thursday at 400 parts per million in Hawaii, a monitoring site that sets the world's benchmark. This was last matched about 2 million years ago, or more, and is more than modern humans have ever encountered.
Researchers studying the origin of cirrus clouds have found that these thin, wispy trails of ice crystals are formed primarily on dust particles and some unusual combinations of metal particles—both of which may be influenced by human activities. The findings are important, scientists say, because cirrus clouds cover as much as one-third of the Earth and play an important role in global climate.
A robotic sensor that won an R&D 100 Award in 2009 has been put to use by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Gulf of Maine coastal waters to monitor the way red tides behave. These harmful algal blooms, which generate a potentially fatal toxin, can be a challenge to track or predict. The Environmental Sample Processors have been remotely deployed and should simplify and enhance this effort.
Researchers have cautioned that more work is needed to understand how microorganisms respond to the disinfecting properties of silver nanoparticles, increasingly used in consumer goods and for medical and environmental applications. Although nanosilver has effective antimicrobial properties against certain pathogens, overexposure to silver nanoparticles can cause other potentially harmful organisms to rapidly adapt and flourish.
University of Manchester scientists, writing in Nature Geoscience, have shown that natural emissions and manmade pollutants can both have an unexpected cooling effect on the world’s climate by making clouds brighter. Clouds are made of water droplets, condensed on to tiny particles suspended in the air. When the air is humid enough, the particles swell into cloud droplets.
The growing global demand for energy, combined with a need to reduce emissions and lessen the effects of climate change, has increased focus on cleaner energy sources. But what unintended consequences could these cleaner sources have on the changing climate? Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology now have some answers to that question, using biofuels as a test case.
All forms of life that breathe oxygen—even ones that can't be seen with the naked eye, such as bacteria—must fight oxidants to live. These same oxidants also exist in the environment. But neutralizing environmental oxidants such as superoxide was a worry only for organisms that dwell in sunlight—in habitats that cover a mere 5% of the planet. Now researchers have discovered the first light-independent source of superoxide.
For the first time, researchers from institutions around the country have conducted an identical series of toxicology tests evaluating lung-related health impacts associated with widely used engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). The study provides comparable health risk data from multiple laboratories, which should help regulators develop policies to protect workers and consumers who come into contact with ENMs.
A team from the Smithsonian and the University of Rhode Island has found unsuspected linkages between the oxidation state of iron in volcanic rocks and variations in the chemistry of the deep Earth. Their detailed spectroscopic work has uncovered chemical trends that not only run counter to predictions from recent decades of study, they belie a role for carbon circulating in the deep Earth.
t's a chemical that's been in U.S. households for more than 40 years, from the body wash in your bathroom shower to the knives on your kitchen counter to the bedding in your baby's basinet. But federal health regulators are just now deciding whether triclosan—the germ-killing ingredient found in an estimated 75% of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the U.S.—is ineffective, or worse, harmful.
Asbestos was banned in the many industrialized countries in the 1980s, but the threat lingers on in the ceilings, walls and floors of old buildings and homes. Now a team of researchers in the U.K. has developed and tested the first portable, real-time airborne asbestos detector. The device uses a laser-based light scattering technique to identify harmful fibers.
In an effort to determine if conditions were ever right on Mars to sustain life, a team of scientists has examined a meteorite that formed on the red planet more than a billion years ago. And although this team’s work is not specifically solving the mystery, it is laying the groundwork for future researchers to answer this age-old question.