Geochemical Climate Testing

New test results are providing further evidence that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and Earth's surface temperature are inextricably linked. Nearly thirty-four million years ago, the Earth underwent a transformation from a warm and high-carbon dioxide greenhouse state to a lower-CO2, variable climate of the modern icehouse world. Massive ice sheets grew across the Antarctic continent, major animal groups shifted, and ocean temperatures decreased by up to 5 degrees. Various studies of how this drastic change affected temperatures on land have had mixed results. Some show no appreciable terrestrial climate change; others find cooling of up to 8 degrees and large changes in seasonality. Now, a group of American and British scientists have used a new chemical technique to measure the change in terrestrial temperature associated with this shift in global atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Shooting Asteroids

Asteroids is a video arcade game. The object of the game is to shoot and destroy asteroids and saucers while not colliding with either. Real asteroids are minor planets (small Solar System bodies and dwarf planets) that are not comets, especially those of the inner Solar System. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones. Shyam Bhaskaran of NASA is working a lot with asteroids these days. And also like many of his colleagues, the deep space navigator devotes a great deal of time to crafting, and contemplating, computer-generated 3-D models of these intriguing nomads of the solar system. But while many of his coworkers are calculating asteroids' past, present and future locations in the cosmos, zapping them with the world's most massive radar dishes, or considering how to rendezvous and perhaps even gently nudge an asteroid into lunar orbit, Bhaskaran thinks about how to collide with one.

New Sinking Islands and Lands

The seas do rise and fall over the ages. Lands sink and rise depending on the weather. Dynamic modeling of sea-level rise, which takes storm wind and wave action into account, paints a much graver picture for some low-lying Pacific islands under climate-change scenarios than the passive computer modeling used in earlier research, according to a new report. A team led by research oceanographer Curt Storlazzi of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center compared passive bathtub inundation models with dynamic models for two of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The team studied Midway, a classic atoll with islands on the shallow (2–8 meters or 6–26 feet deep) atoll rim and a deep, central lagoon, and Laysan, which is higher, with a 20–30 meter (65–98 feet) deep rim and an island in the center of the atoll. Together, the two locations exhibit landforms and coastal features common to many Pacific islands.

Solar Natural Gas

Solar power or natural gas power? How about both? Natural gas power plants can use about 20 percent less fuel when the sun is shining by injecting solar energy into natural gas with a new system being developed by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The system converts natural gas and sunlight into a more energy-rich fuel called syngas, which power plants can burn to make electricity.

Arctic Nutrient Balance

The first study of its kind to calculate the amount of nutrients entering and leaving the Arctic Ocean has been carried out by scientists based at the National Oceanography Center, Southampton. Their results, which are published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research, show that there is a mismatch between what goes into the Arctic Ocean and what comes out. This is the first study to look at the transport of dissolved inorganic nutrients nitrate, phosphate and silicate together, all of which are essential for life in the ocean. The study combined measurements of nutrient concentrations with measurements of how much water was transported across the main Arctic gateways – Davis Strait, Fram Strait, the Barents Sea Opening and Bering Strait during the summer of 2005.

Charged Saturnian Rain

There is more interaction than one would think between interplanetary bodies. In this case a new study tracks the "rain" of charged water particles into the atmosphere of Saturn and finds there is more of it and it falls across larger areas of the planet than previously thought. The study, whose observations were funded by NASA and whose analysis was led by the University of Leicester, England, reveals that the rain influences the composition and temperature structure of parts of Saturn's upper atmosphere. The paper appears in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Tyson Foods and Ammonia

Tyson foods is all about chickens. Well that is not quite so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement with Tyson Foods, Inc. and several of its affiliate corporations to address threats of accidental chemical releases after anhydrous ammonia was released during incidents at facilities in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska, resulting in multiple injuries, property damage, and one fatality. Ammonia, in this case is often used for refrigeration systems.

Europa Peroxide

Europa is the sixth closest moon of the planet Jupiter, and the smallest of its four Galilean satellites, but still one of the largest moons in the Solar System. Europa has emerged as one of the top locations in the Solar System in terms of potential habitability and the possibility of hosting extraterrestrial life. Life could exist in its under-ice ocean, perhaps subsisting in an environment similar to Earth's deep-ocean hydrothermal vents. A new paper led by a NASA researcher shows that hydrogen peroxide is abundant across much of the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The authors argue that if the peroxide on the surface of Europa mixes into the ocean below, it could be an important energy supply for simple forms of life, if life were to exist there. The paper was published online recently in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Agricultural NOx

NOx. such as nitric oxide, comes from many sources. It is a misconception that it is only the result of combustion devices. There are natural sources such as thunderstorms and ordinary plant life. Changes in agricultural practices could reduce soil emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and the atmospheric pollutant nitric oxide, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Davis. "Agriculture is the main source of nitrous oxide globally, so this study is a starting point to help us understand how to manage and control it," said UC Davis professor of soil biogeochemistry William Horwath, whose lab conducted the study.

Extreme Algal Bloom

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae (typically microscopic) in an aquatic system. Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments. Typically, only one or a small number of phytoplankton species are involved, and some blooms may be recognized by discoloration of the water resulting from the high density of pigmented cells. Algal bloom concentrations may reach millions of cells per milliliter. Algal blooms are often green, but they can also be other colors such as yellow-brown or red, depending on the species of algae. A 2011 record-breaking algae bloom in Lake Erie was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures, scientists have discovered. The Carnegie researchers also predict that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience extreme blooms.