Subduction zone earthquakes off Oregon, Washington more frequent than previous estimates

A new analysis suggests that massive earthquakes on northern sections of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, affecting areas of the Pacific Northwest that are more heavily populated, are somewhat more frequent than has been believed in the past.The chance of one occurring within the next 50 years is also slightly higher than previously estimated.The findings, published this week in the journal Marine Geology, are based on data that is far more detailed and comprehensive than anything prior to this. It used measurements from 195 core samples containing submarine landslide deposits caused by subduction zone earthquakes, instead of only about a dozen such samples in past research.

NASA Satellite Reveals How Much Saharan Dust Feeds Amazon's Plants

What connects Earth's largest, hottest desert to its largest tropical rain forest?The Sahara Desert is a near-uninterrupted brown band of sand and scrub across the northern third of Africa. The Amazon rain forest is a dense green mass of humid jungle that covers northeast South America. But after strong winds sweep across the Sahara, a tan cloud rises in the air, stretches between the continents, and ties together the desert and the jungle. It’s dust. And lots of it.For the first time, a NASA satellite has quantified in three dimensions how much dust makes this trans-Atlantic journey. Scientists have not only measured the volume of dust, they have also calculated how much phosphorus – remnant in Saharan sands from part of the desert’s past as a lake bed – gets carried across the ocean from one of the planet’s most desolate places to one of its most fertile.

Hot 'new' material found to exist in nature

One of the hottest new materials is a class of porous solids known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. These man-made materials were introduced in the 1990s, and researchers around the world are working on ways to use them as molecular sponges for applications such as hydrogen storage, carbon sequestration, or photovoltaics.Now, a surprising discovery by scientists in Canada and Russia reveals that MOFs also exist in nature -- albeit in the form of rare minerals found so far only in Siberian coal mines.The finding, published in the journal Science Advances, "completely changes the normal view of these highly popular materials as solely artificial, 'designer' solids," says senior author Tomislav Friščić, an associate professor of chemistry at McGill University in Montreal. "This raises the possibility that there might be other, more abundant, MOF minerals out there."

Cornell scientists convert carbon dioxide, create electricity

While the human race will always leave its carbon footprint on the Earth, it must continue to find ways to lessen the impact of its fossil fuel consumption."Carbon capture" technologies - chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere - is one approach. In a recent study, Cornell University researchers disclose a novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas and converting it to a useful product - while producing electrical energy.Lynden Archer, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering, and doctoral student Wajdi Al Sadat have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester the carbon dioxide and produce electricity.

Abu Dhabi project uses sand to store solar power

Researchers in Abu Dhabi are testing a pilot device that can store solar energy in sand to improve the efficiency of power plants and provide energy at night.The technology, developed at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, uses gravity to drain sand from a higher basin into a lower one, heating up the sand grains with solar power during the transition. In the lower basin, the energy can be stored and withdrawn at low cost to provide extra energy if needed, for example during peak hours and at night-time."Two pilot models of the system have been tested in an effort to prove its efficiency and applicability on a large scale in big projects,” says Nicolas Calvet, an assistant professor at the Masdar institute’s department of mechanical engineering.   

EPA On Board to Develop Emission Rules for Aircraft

The end of last month brought big news in the battle to rein in climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from airplanes pose a threat to human health and the environment and therefore are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.The Act was originally passed in 1970 to combat air pollution in the form of airborne lead and mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates, and ground-level ozone — to name a few. It was updated in 1990 to include emissions that threaten the ozone layer, and again in 2009 to deal with emissions known to contribute to climate change.This announcement now clears the way for the EPA to develop rules to regulate aircraft emissions, much as the agency has done for emissions from cars and trucks. Aircraft are responsible for roughly 12 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, or a little over 3 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions.

First evidence of sleep in flight

For the first time, researchers have discovered that birds can sleep in flight. Together with an international team of colleagues, Niels Rattenborg from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen measured the brain activity of frigatebirds and found that they sleep in flight with either one cerebral hemisphere at a time or both hemispheres simultaneously. Despite being able to engage in all types of sleep in flight, the birds slept less than an hour a day, a mere fraction of the time spent sleeping on land. How frigatebirds are able to perform adaptively on such little sleep remains a mystery.

Do eco-friendly wines taste better?

t’s time to toast environmentally friendly grapes. A new UCLA study shows that eco-certified wine tastes better — and making the choice even easier, earlier research shows it’s often cheaper, too.Though consumers remain reluctant to spend more on wine from organic grapes, the new study from UCLA researchers shows that in blind taste-tests professional wine reviewers give eco-certified wines higher ratings than regular wines.

Giant forest fires exterminate spotted owls

As climate changes and wildfires get larger, hotter and more frequent, how should public lands in the American West be managed to protect endangered creatures that, like the spotted owl, rely on fire-prone old-growth forests?Could periodic forest thinning and prescribed burns intended to prevent dangerous “megafires” help conserve owls in the long run? Or are those benefits outweighed by their short-term harm to owls? The answer depends in part on just how big and bad the fires are, according to a new study.In a report published Aug. 1 that may help quiet a long-simmering dispute about the wisdom of using forest thinning and prescribed burns to reduce the “fuel load” and intensity of subsequent fires, a University of Wisconsin—Madison research group has documented an exodus of owls following the fierce, 99,000 acre King Fire in California in 2014.

Antarctic sea ice may be a source of mercury in Southern Ocean fish and birds

New research has found methylmercury – a potent neurotoxin – in sea ice in the Southern Ocean.Published today in the journal Nature Microbiology, the results are the first to show that sea-ice bacteria can change mercury into methylmercury, a more toxic form that can contaminate the marine environment, including fish and birds.If ingested, methylmercury can travel to the brain, causing developmental and physical problems in foetuses, infants and children.