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Complete Archive (organized by chapter for each book)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
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Latest News and Updates:

2018-04-18. Diamonds in a Meteorite May Be a Lost Planet’s Fragments.

posted Apr 20, 2018, 4:00 PM by Alan Gould

By Nicholas St. Fleur, The New York Times. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: In 2008, chunks of space rock crashed in the deserts of Sudan. Diamonds discovered inside one of the recovered meteorites may have come from a destroyed planet that orbited our sun billions of years ago, scientists said on Tuesday. If confirmed, they say, it would be the first time anyone has recovered fragments from one of our solar system’s so-called “lost” planets. ... Dr. Gillet’s colleague Farhang Nabiei made the discovery while taking high-resolution images of a meteorite that had landed ...about a decade ago. The space rock is classified as ureilite, a type of rare meteorite that has embedded within it several different types of minerals. And inside this one, they found diamonds. The nano-sized gems were ...far from crystal clear. They were riddled with tiny imperfections, called inclusions, made of chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfides. ...“What for a jeweler is an imperfection becomes for me something that is very useful because it tells me about the history of the diamond,” said Dr. Gillet. “It has a chemistry which has no equivalent in the solar system today, in terms of planets,” he said. ...because the chemistry of the inclusions did not match what is known on planets in today’s solar system, they think the diamonds came from a protoplanet that existed between 4.54 and 4.57 billion years ago....

2018-04-16. Thin film converts heat from electronics into energy.

posted Apr 20, 2018, 3:57 PM by Alan Gould

By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: Yearly 70 percent of the energy produced in the United States each year is wasted as heat. Much of that heat is less than 100 degrees Celsius and emanates from things like computers, cars or large industrial processes. Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a thin-film system that can be applied to sources of waste heat like these to produce energy at levels unprecedented for this kind of technology. The thin-film system uses a process called pyroelectric energy conversion, which the engineers’ new study demonstrates is well suited for tapping into waste-heat energy supplies below 100 degrees Celsius, called low-quality waste heat. ...The new results suggest that this nanoscopic thin-film technology might be particularly attractive for installing on and harvesting waste heat from high-speed electronics but could have a large scope of applications. ...The research will be published April 16 in the journal Nature Materials. The research was supported, in part, by grants from the Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation....

2018-04-11. EDF Announces Satellite Mission to Locate and Measure Methane Emissions.

posted Apr 20, 2018, 3:54 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 20, 2018, 4:02 PM ]

By Environmental Defense Fund. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3. Excerpt: New TED Talk ...about plans to develop and launch a new satellite purpose-built to identify and measure methane emissions from human-made sources worldwide, starting with the oil and gas industry. Data from MethaneSAT is intended to give both countries and companies robust data to spot problem areas, identify savings opportunities, and measure their progress over time. ...“Cutting methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry is the single fastest thing we can do to help put the brakes on climate change right now, even as we continue to attack the carbon dioxide emissions most people are more familiar with,” Krupp said. ...It was 1978 when NASA’s Nimbus-7 satellite was first launched. It was that satellite that verified the hole in the ozone layer, and sparked a movement that led to one of the greatest environmental success stories humanity has ever achieved. Our new MethaneSAT will... [provide] global high-resolution coverage of methane emissions. As a single-purpose platform, it will be quicker and less expensive to launch than the complex multifunction satellites built by government space agencies, so we can get data sooner. And we will use that data to give industry, investors, and regulators an essential tool to spot problem areas, identify reductions, and measure progress....

2018-04-11. New technology could wean the battery world off cobalt.

posted Apr 20, 2018, 3:51 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 20, 2018, 3:52 PM ]

By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: Lithium-based batteries use more than 50 percent of all cobalt produced in the world. These batteries are in your cell phone, laptop and maybe even your car. About 50 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo, where it’s largely mined by hand, in some instances by children. But now, a research team led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, has opened the door to using other metals in lithium-based batteries, and have built cathodes with 50 percent more lithium-storage capacity than conventional materials. ...The study will be published in the April 12 edition of the journal Nature. ...In today’s lithium-based batteries, lithium ions are stored in cathodes (the negatively charged electrode), which are layered structures. Cobalt is crucial to maintaining this layered structure. When a battery is charged, lithium ions are pulled from the cathode into the other side of the battery cell, the anode. The absence of lithium in the cathode leaves a lot of space. Most metal ions would flock into that space, which would cause the cathode to lose its structure. But cobalt is one of the few elements that won’t move around, making it critical to the battery industry. In 2014, Ceder’s lab discovered a way that cathodes can maintain a high energy density without these layers, a concept called disordered rock salts. The new study shows how manganese can work within this concept, which is a promising step away from cobalt dependence because manganese is found in dirt, making it a cheap element....

2018-04-13. Diablo Canyon’s dismantling.

posted Apr 13, 2018, 4:15 PM by Alan Gould

By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. For GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: A nuclear power plant doesn’t just shut down. It gets taken apart piece by piece, until almost nothing remains. The process requires billions of dollars, hundreds of workers and more than a decade to complete. It’s a fate Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is now planning for California’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, set to close in 2025. Every step must be carefully scripted. Fuel rods full of uranium pellets are pulled from the reactor, cooled in pools of water laced with boric acid, then transferred to giant concrete casks. Deep in the heart of the plant, metal components made radioactive by decades of use must be disassembled or carved into chunks — often by remote-controlled tools. The hazardous scrap gets hauled to four specially designed landfills scattered across the country, with some machinery buried in concrete sarcophagi. ...It’s a process likely to be repeated often in the coming years as more nuclear plant operators decide to shut down their facilities, which have been undercut by cheap electricity from natural gas plants....

2018-04-10. The Benefits and Vulnerabilities of a Warming Europe.

posted Apr 13, 2018, 3:54 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 13, 2018, 3:55 PM ]

By Alexandra Branscombe, AGU-Eos. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Europe is a continent with a wide range of ecosystems, climates, attractions, and different countries that draws tourists in both winter and summer seasons. Skiers enjoy winter sports in the Alps, and summer vacationers make their way to the Mediterranean coast. These tourist attractions are just some of the economic sectors that could be threatened in a warming and changing climate, prompting scientists around Europe to band together to evaluate the continent’s environmental vulnerabilities. Scientists from seven research institutions collaborated to investigate how Europe would change with a rise in global surface temperatures of between 1.5°C and 2°C. Their results show a range of impacts that will influence human health, energy demands, and travel in the coming decades. In a new paper, Jacob et al. used a greenhouse gas concentration trajectory from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to complete impact studies on the effects of climate change. Impact studies were done in the areas of electricity demand, summer and winter tourism, and ecosystem production to help guide policy makers to set goals for mitigating climate change. ...Overall, the results show that the United Kingdom, Ireland, western Europe, and the Mediterranean region will experience an increased number of heat waves. ...warmer summers could deter tourists in the southernmost regions of Spain, Greece, and Italy. ...Summer tourism in parts of Western Europe may be favored by climate change....

2018-04-05. History of Mars’s Water, Seen Through the Lens of Gale Crater.

posted Apr 6, 2018, 9:14 PM by Alan Gould

By Ramin Skibba, AGU-Eos. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: Past research indicates that the Red Planet may have been a very different world more than 3 billion years ago, with warmer weather, flowing rivers, lakes, and possibly even oceans of liquid water. These conditions would have been much more hospitable to nascent life-forms, if they existed. However, recent research is uncovering a different story. “There have been two competing viewpoints about the Martian climate at this time: the traditional warm-and-wet view and the view that Mars was always cold and icy,” explained Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna, a Mars-focused planetary scientist at the University of Arizona. Now, enter a third scenario: Billions of years ago, “Mars never really experienced a temperate Earth-like climate,” Andrews-Hanna added. Instead, a body of recent evidence points to an arid early Mars with pockets of wet patches....

2018-04-04. An Aurora of a Different Color.

posted Apr 6, 2018, 9:12 PM by Alan Gould

By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, AGU-Eos. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 5. Excerpt: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (STEVE) paints a green and purple streak across the sky from the bottom left to top right in the image above. In this image, this rare aurora-like event is crisscrossed by the dusty band of the Milky Way, which curves from the top left to bottom right. STEVE, captured, in this instance, last year at Childs Lake in Manitoba, Canada, is not an aurora in the traditional sense: Instead of the oval-shaped, blue/green glow of more common types of auroras, STEVE appears as a thin, purple streak dangling a wavy, green picket fence structure. STEVEs always appear at the same time as normal auroras, but they occur at lower latitudes, in an area of the atmosphere called the subauroral zone. ...New insight into the origin and behavior of this rare atmospheric event became possible when, in 2016, a team of amateur and professional scientists used ground- and space-based cameras to image STEVE and a simultaneous normal aurora. By combining all of the available images, the team discovered that STEVEs and auroras form from a similar process—charged particles interacting with Earth’s magnetic field—but the particles that create STEVEs travel along magnetic field lines much closer to Earth than those that make ordinary auroras. That’s why STEVEs occur at lower latitudes than auroras....

2018-03-30. Are We Prepared for the Next Mega Eruption?

posted Apr 6, 2018, 9:10 PM by Alan Gould

By Fabio Florindo, AGU-Eos. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2. Excerpt: In April 1815, Mount Tambora, on the Indonesian island of Sambawa, experienced a colossal eruption, with a rating of 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). Tens of thousands of people died, about 100 cubic kilometers of rock blasted into the air, and the resulting sulfate aerosol in the upper atmosphere led to drastic weather changes in North America and Europe, causing food shortages. The following year, 1816, is known as the “Year without a Summer” due to the major climate abnormalities, and proved to be inspirational for art and literature (for example, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, J.M.W. Turner). A previous VEI 7 eruption in the region, of the Indonesian volcano Samalas at Mount Rinjani in 1257 CE was implicated in the onset of a centuries-long cold period between the 14th and the 19th century called the Little Ice Age. Fortunately, the recurrence frequency of VEI 7 eruptions somewhere in the world is between one and two per thousand years, but this should not cause complacence in preparing for future events. Volcanologist Chris Newhall, with co-authors Stephen Self and Alan Robock, have recently published a paper in Geosphere exploring the potential consequences of the next VEI 7 eruption....

2018-03-30. Five Weird Archives That Scientists Use to Study Past Climates.

posted Apr 6, 2018, 9:08 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 6, 2018, 9:11 PM ]

By JoAnna Wendel and Mohi Kumar, AGU-Eos. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7. Excerpt: It’s no secret that Earth scientists are obsessed with the past—what did our planet look like, how did its mountains and valleys evolve, where did it rain or dry up? For that last question, scientists can turn to proxies that reflect whether the climate was hot, cold, dry, or wet. Ratios of heavy and light isotopes, especially those of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, often serve as those proxies. Scientists measure these ratios in the layers of many different natural archives, such as ice cores, cave formations, tree rings, corals, and even ocean and lake sediments. But even though these materials have been integral to our understanding of the past, they have their limits—for example, you can’t find corals in all parts of all oceans, and they aren’t on land. Long-lived trees aren’t necessarily found everywhere. You can’t take an ice core in a desert. As a result, evidence for climate fluctuations on local and regional scales is lacking around the world. To solve this puzzle, scientists get creative. They’re examining nature for whatever they can find that lays down layer after layer over a large chunk of time in relatively undisturbed environments. And in the process, they’ve stumbled on some new, intriguing archives. Here are five of the weirdest ones we’ve found. Bat Guano: Smelly but Useful. ...Roman Aqueducts. ...Snail Shells. ...Whale Earwax. ...Sponge....

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