Precisely where greenhouse gases are produced and absorbed is a question that has vexed scientists for years. As of last Friday, they now have a clearer picture of the global distribution of these gases in the atmosphere. And they have HIPPO to thank.
HIPPO stands for HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations. It’s the name given to a series of research flights that mapped global greenhouse gas concentrations from the Arctic to the Antarctic. The research team included scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Harvard University.
The scientists tested for 80 different particles and greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide.
Their data collection method improved upon that of existing ground stations—namely the global tall-tower network operated by NOAA. The airborne method could pinpoint the concentrations of gases in higher definition. The jet’s altitude ranged from 500 to 45,000 feet, which also let scientists figure out the vertical distributions of these gases.
The new data have informed scientists more precisely about the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. For example, black carbon particles—emitted by diesel engines, smokestacks and fires—are much more prevalent and widely distributed than previously thought.
The HIPPO project began in 2009. It was co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NOAA. Last Friday marked the landing of the project’s fifth and final mission.
Results from the HIPPO project will provide baseline measurements of global greenhouse gases. They’ll also allow scientists to improve atmospheric models for future predictions.
A common South Asian spice called curcumin may help ease the effects of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases according to a recent study. Curcumin is derived from tumeric and is the main ingredient in most curry powders.
Two key factors are linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. First, DNA in the brain is damaged by reactive oxygen species--a byproduct of the cells' natural metabolism process. Second, the affected regions of the brain have unusually high levels of iron and copper. Scientists at the University of Texas medical branch at Galveston recently discovered a link between these two factors.
The effect is a "double whammy" according to Muralidhar Hegde, a postdoctoral fellow and the lead author of the new study, which was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
The excess of iron and copper produces more reactive oxygen species, which attack DNA, causing cell damage. DNA has enzymes to repair the damage these oxygen molecules cause, but excessive amounts of iron and copper inhibit the repair enzymes from doing their job. It is this traffic jam of damage and disrepair that is thought to lead to neurodegenerative disorders.
One solution is to protect the enzymes from the iron and copper. The scientists found that curcumin may be a possible solution.
Tired of the age-old nature-versus-nurture debate? So are teachers and researchers of ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It turns out that the academic performance of ADHD students is actually determined by a complex combination of nature and nurture.
A recent study found that for children with ADHD, some skills, such as reading, are largely determined by genetics. But in the case of math skills, a child’s home and school environment tend to play a bigger role.
At this point, the researchers can’t explain why.
Lee Thompson, a professor of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University led the study. He and his colleagues looked specifically at two symptoms associated with ADHD: inattention and hyperactivity.
270 pairs of 10-year-old twins were assessed. Some had signs of severe ADHD, while others showed few or none of the condition’s typical behaviors.
The researchers evaluated the children’s overall behavior, attention and activity. To measure the relationship between ADHD symptoms and academic abilities, they then looked at similarities between children’s skills and their respective genetic and environmental influences.
This was the first ADHD behavioral study that looked at genetic and environmental factors alike. This means both parents and teachers have their work cut out for them—just equally so.
The study was published this week in Psychological Science.
Between 2005 and 2009, Colorado used 1.5 million gallons of fracking fluid. That puts the state at number two in the nation according to a report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This has raised concerns about what chemicals are in the fluid, and if they affect drinking water.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, pumps chemicals into oil reservoirs to increase the recovery rate. A nationwide investigation of 14 major oil and gas companies recently found that most fracking fluid contains a number of chemicals--some of them harmless, like gelatin, and some of them harmful, like carcinogenic benzene.
Authorities can demand disclosure of these chemicals, and some companies voluntarily submit the information to a statewide online database. The chemical contents of fracking fluids, though, are not public record.
State regulators have questions about how these chemicals may be affecting drinking water. Local environmental groups, along with House representatives, are now seeking disclosure requirements on fracking fluids in order to answer these questions.
Antibiotic resistance is no longer limited to hasty prescriptions or hand soaps.
In New Delhi, India, antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in water used for drinking, washing, and cooking.
Researchers from Cardiff University tested the public water supply in India’s capital city. What Timothy Walsh and his colleagues found were bacteria known as “superbugs.”
These super species of bacteria contain a gene that makes them resistant to antibiotics. The gene’s secret weapon is an enzyme called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1.
Bacteria that contain this enzyme are dangerous because the infections they cause, including cholera and dysentery, cannot be treated with antibiotics. In fact, Walsh says the only medication that can treat these resistant bacteria has toxic effects in humans.
The gene that produces NDM-1 was initially discovered in 2008, but its presence in New Delhi’s water supply indicates that the gene is spreading. The researchers found the gene in 14 different species of bacteria in New Delhi. It had not previously been seen in 11 of those species.
Newspapers have now reported the presence of the resistant bacteria in India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Japan and Brazil.
The results of the study were published in the online edition of the Lancet Infectious Disease Journal last Thursday.
Solar cells in the future may be more efficient, thanks to scientists at the Colorado School of Mines.
Physicist Mark Lusk and his colleagues used high-performance computers to show that tiny light-absorbing particles, called quantum dots, can use the sun’s energy to generate more electricity in solar cells and produce less unnecessary heat.
The work supports a controversial idea called multiple exciton generation. In solar cells, electrons obtain energy by absorbing a solar photon. The multiple exciton theory hypothesizes that a single energized electron could then transfer its energy to two or more electrons.
If the theory proves true we’ll be able to get more electricity out of the solar cell.
Lusk and his colleagues determined that quantum dots make this multiple exciton process more effective. They found that the quantum dots could be tuned to the wavelength – or color – of the incoming solar radiation. So a solar cell could be made of a collection of different sizes of quantum dots to harvest the rainbow of colors in the sun.
Experimentalists are now working to validate these computer simulations in the laboratory so they may be applied to solar cells. The results of the School of Mines study were published in the April issue of ACS Nano.
If someone is caught camping in a restricted area of Montezuma County’s national forests, he doesn’t need to worry. Sheriff Spruell has told his deputies not to cite citizens for violating this or other regulations which he views as illegitimate.
As part of a 2005 federal mandate for travel management, the Forest Service is closing roads and trails in the San Juan National Forest. But local conservatives—the sheriff included— are fighting the closures, saying the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction over forest lands.
Many of the roads being closed were originally built for logging or mining. Others are the result of ATV’s veering off established trails. These now-popular r have seen significant use since then.
Dissenters have been protesting at the local Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices over the past few weeks. Many cite an 1866 law, which they say gives local authorities jurisdiction over roadways. Others say the protesters are misinformed.
The road closure issue is one part of a larger debate about local versus federal jurisdiction of forest lands in the southwestern corner of Colorado.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but for some city dwellers it’s hard to get apples in the first place.
“Urban food deserts” are cropping up because local grocery stores are either too far away or too expensive. This is in partly due to suburban migration. As people leave city centers, grocery stores go with them. Meanwhile, as city property gets more expensive, the remaining grocery stores tend to target urban-dwellers with higher incomes, making fresh foods less affordable. To track these trends, professors from Michigan State University in Lansing set out to map their city’s “food deserts.”
Professors Phil Howard and Kirk Goldsberry used GIS or Geographic Information Systems technology to collect data on store locations as well as the selection and prices of healthy foods. They compiled this information to create a visual representation of food access issues in Michigan’s capital city, calling it, “a nutritional CAT scan at the urban scale.”
They found that less than 4 percent of Lansing’s population lives within a 10-minute walk of a supermarket. Having a car helps, but it increases the cost of getting to the healthy food. And such challenges may not be unique to Lansing—the authors warn that urban food deserts are increasing throughout the United States.
A study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that outbreaks of mad cow disease in Europe have triggered a chain of events in the past 40 years that ultimately benefitted grassland birds here in North America.
Here’s how it happened. After European outbreaks of mad cow disease, Europe imported cattle from North America. That meant North America had fewer cattle. Ranchers needed less cattle feed, so farmers harvested less hay. As cities and farms have displaced huge swaths of native prairie, hayfields have become critical habitat for grassland birds -- especially unmowed hayfields.
The Ontario scientists who conducted the study looked at data from 1966 to 2007, and they say the benefits to birds from living in unmowed hayfields didn’t show up right away. But three years after the increase in standing hayfields, 85 percent of grassland bird species had higher populations.
The scientists say their study demonstrates that socioeconomic issues in one region of the world may have profound effects on biodiversity in another. Here in the U-S, as agricultural conservation easements face the budget chopping block, this Mad Cow study may prove to be a cautionary tale for our grassland birds, for many of those easements that might not get funded involve land full of unmowed hay.
Scientists are now looking at a little-known pollutant that has big implications for Colorado air quality
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a study Tuesday to test nitryl chloride levels in the Front Range’s atmosphere.
This little known pollutant originates from salts, and was therefore thought to be most common near the ocean’s salty waters.
But in 2008, large quantities of the compound were discovered by accident in the air above Boulder. Scientists were testing instruments built to measure nitryl chloride when they found that levels here were comparable to those on the coasts.
The concentration is particularly high in the winter, when there is less mixing in the atmosphere.
Nitryl chloride forms at night, when pollutants from vehicles and power plants combine with chlorine in the air.
In the morning, the sun hits the nitryl chloride and breaks it down. This kickstarts a chain reaction that eventually produces smog and greenhouse gases like ozone and methane. Nitryl chloride is therefore thought to be an important precursor to climate change.
A 1,000-foot tower, built for weather studies in the 70’s, will now serve as the home base for a month-long study of this pollutant. Thirty researchers will take turns spending the night on top of the tower, kept company by more than a ton of testing equipment.