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News & Information for Planet Earth
Updated: 1 min 52 sec ago
Steve Baragona, VOA News
The Oregon farmer discovered wheat in his field that survived treatment with the popular weed killer Roundup. Roundup is made by the seed and chemical company Monsanto.
The company has created genetically modified corn, cotton, soybean and canola crops that tolerate Roundup. Monsanto also had field-tested Roundup-tolerant varieties of wheat. The company never had the modified wheat approved or brought the seeds to market. But Michael Firko with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the wheat had passed safety inspections.
“Although there are no wheat varieties that are approved for unrestricted planting, we have no safety concerns related to planting of this transgenic wheat at this time,” said Firko.
Monsanto abandoned the genetically modified wheat project largely because customers in Europe and Asia are especially wary of what are known as GMO crops. The discovery of unapproved wheat in Oregon has already prompted Japan and Korea to suspend some imports, at least temporarily.
“Our customers don’t want it. So we, as wheat producers, don’t want to be producing it,” said Mark Welch, an agricultural economist with Texas A&M University. Though the U.S. is the world’s largest wheat exporter, Welch said this incident could affect that standing in a competitive world marketplace. U.S. farmers are at a disadvantage because production costs are higher here than in competitor countries, he said.
“If we’re going to maintain a place in world markets, we have to primarily do it on two fronts: one on quality, and the other on reliability. And this raises a red flag, of course, when something like this happens,” said Welch.
Right now it is not clear how this happened. U.S. regulators are working to trace where the genetically modified wheat came from. While there is no evidence yet that it has entered the food supply, the USDA is working to make tests available to customers seeking confirmation.
Meanwhile, many farmers are taking a wait-and-see approach. We reached wheat farmer Jerry McReynolds out in his spray truck.
“For me personally as a producer it’s not causing any grief at all. Of course, we don’t know what the whole story is.”
What he does know is that he is in the second year of a serious drought that is reducing his harvest.
“We’ve done all kinds of things to catch water when we do get rain. And we will. Someday. And we’re going to be ready. But right now, it’s tough,” said McReynolds.
Tough growing conditions across the U.S. wheat belt are a big factor weighing on the world grain markets, too. So far they seem to be balancing out concerns about the discovery of unapproved wheat, says Kansas State University economist Dan O’Brien.
“So you’re balancing reduced supply with an issue that, on the demand side, may or may not turn out to be a larger issue in the longer run,” said O’Brien.
Prices on global markets have not changed much since Wednesday’s announcement. But O’Brien cautions that it is still early in the investigation. More surprises could be on the way.
Wisconsin’s 556-megawatt Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station, located 27 miles southeast of Green Bay, permanently shut down yesterday after its owner, Dominion Resources, Inc., was unable to find a buyer for the 39-year old facility.
According to Dominion, the decision was purely economic; Kewaunee could no longer sell its electricity to utilities that could buy it cheaper from power plants fueled by natural gas.
Kewaunee went into service in 1974, but in 2008 was granted a 20-year license extension that would have permitted it to operate through 2033.
The recent boom in U.S. natural gas extraction, brought on by hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), has led to a market glut and a precipitous drop in prices — from about $12 per million BTU (mBTU) in 2008 to about $2 in 2012.
That Kewaunee is privately owned brings some uncertainty to the eventual decommissioning of the plant, since surcharges levied for such purpose are usually available only to publicly owned facilities.
In all, decommissioning is estimated to cost $900 million, and could take as long as 60 years.
Chances are that in the next few days, the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere will exceed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in about 4 million years.
Recently, Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii has been regularly recording daily CO2 levels above 399 ppm, with several hours already exceeding 400.
Considering that carbon levels tend to peak in mid-May, one or more daily averages above 400 in the next few weeks is a near certainty. Yesterday’s reading, May 5, was 399.54 ppm.
While crossing the 400 ppm threshold is largely symbolic, the rate at which atmospheric carbon is increasing is anything but. When Mauna Loa began measuring CO2 in 1958, CO2 was running @ 317 ppm. Unless we begin to seriously slow the rate of greenhouse gas emissions now, we’re on track to surpass 450 ppm within 30 years.
Mauna Loa Observatory, operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, not only has the longest continuous history of monitoring CO2 concentrations, but thanks in part to its location, its measurements are regarded as the baseline standard for atmospheric carbon.
At 11, 335 feet (3,397 m) above sea level, Mauna Loa’s sits above low-level, local pollution and temperature inversion layers. Its location in the mid-Pacific also isolates it from major sources of pollution.
A powerful, 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Iran today at 3:44 p.m. local time (10:44 UTC), about 31 miles (50 km) from the Pakistani border, and 121 miles (195 km) SE of the city of Zahedan.
With the quake centered in a sparsely populated region of mountains, deserts and small villages, the extent of damage remains largely unknown. So far, Iranian television has reported at least 40 deaths but offered few other details; Pakistani news has reported 6 known deaths but hundreds of collapsed mud structures.
It is hoped that casualties and damage will be limited by the relative depth of today’s earthquake, at 51 miles (82 km) beneath the surface.
Shocks were felt across a wide region, shaking buildings and causing evacuations in Qatar, Dubai, Karachi, and 1,500 miles to the east in New Delhi.
Described as the most powerful earthquake to strike Iran in more than 50 years, today’s follows a 6.1 magnitude event on April 9. That quake, centered along Iran’s Persian Gulf coast, was blamed for more than 3 dozen deaths and more than 800 injuries.
The first phase of the London Array, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, became fully operational on April 6, and is expected to produce enough renewable electricity to power nearly half a million homes a year while reducing CO2 emissions by more than 900,000 tons each year.
The London Array is located in the outer Thames Estuary, approximately 20 km. off the coasts of Kent and Essex in waters up to 25 meters deep.
Phase One covers an area of 100 sq.km. and consists of 175 3.6 MW Siemens turbines, two offshore substations and an onshore substation at Cleve Hill near Graveney. Combined, phase one has a combined peak capacity of 630 MW.
Turbines are arranged in a grid aligned to the prevailing southwesterly wind. Spaced 650-1,200 m apart, they are connected to each other and the offshore substations by cables buried in the seabed.
Offshore construction of the London Array began in March 2011 with laying of the first foundation; the last turbine was installed in December 2012.
“It has been a complex operation but I am delighted that the commissioning of the wind farm has now been completed on schedule, despite the worst of the winter weather,” said Project Director Richard Rigg.
If approved, a second phase would raise the project’s capacity to 870 MW.
How often after a Big Energy disaster do we come to learn that the parties to blame were previously cited — sometimes more than once — for the same type of safety violation(s) that caused the latest incident?
Whether it’s a coal mine collapse, a ruptured pipeline, or a leaking oil well, what first appears to be an accident turns out to be an act of negligence that could have — and legally should have — been prevented.
In a segment that aired last Friday, Rachel Maddow discussed the ineffectiveness of government fines when levied against a company such as Exxon Mobil — one that brings in $122 million in profits each day, spent nearly $13 million lobbying Congress last year, and is, quite literally, “too big to care.”
Yet, despite the coverage, the obvious damage, claims and counter-claims, it’s difficult to understand these events in the overall context of pipeline safety without looking at longer time frames. Fortunately, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) maintains a comprehensive database of all pipeline incidents reported in the U.S.
Using data from 1993-2012, we focused on onshore and offshore pipelines carrying hazardous liquids (primarily crude oil and refined petroleum products) that suffered what PHMSA classifies as “significant incidents.” To qualify, a “significant incident” must satisfy one or more of the following criteria:
- a fatality or injury requiring in-patient hospitalization;
- $50,000 or more in total costs, measured in 1984 dollars;
- highly volatile liquid releases of 5 barrels or more, or other liquid releases of 50 barrels or more;
- liquid releases resulting in an unintentional fire or explosion.
Of 5,727 reported incidents during 1993-2012, 2,079 met the PHMSA definition of “significant incidents,” accounting for 99.4% of the total volume spilled.Significant Incidents
Surprisingly, perhaps, the number of significant incidents has declined in recent years, with only one year of the past 10 exceeding the 20-year average.Property Damage
On the other hand, costs related to property damage, including the loss of goods being transported, have increased markedly in the most recent decade. Total property damage over the 20-year period from spills of hazardous liquids amounted to $3.2 billion — with 74% of that occurring from 2003-2012.
The spike in the graph below for 2010 reflects losses due to the Enbridge pipeline spill near Marshall, Michigan — the costliest onshore spill in U.S. history.Volume Spilled vs Volume Recovered
Despite the massive 2010 Enbridge spill, the total volume of hazardous liquids spilled has declined in the most recent decade (1 billion barrels) compared to the previous decade (1.4 billion barrels).
The percentage of oil recovered, however, has declined somewhat, from 41% in 1993-2002 to 38.4% in 2003-2012.Causes
Looking at the causes of significant spills, nearly half were related to pipeline construction, equipment failure, and corrosion, suggesting that better engineering, more rigorous inspections, better monitoring and proper maintenance could go a long way toward reducing significant pipeline failures.
The city of Mannheim, Germany, is about to undertake a pilot project that just might pave the way to the future for zero-emissions and low-noise public transit – electric buses that charge themselves wirelessly while waiting for passengers to get on and off at bus stops.
The project is built upon Bombardier PRIMOVE inductive technology, which uses charging stations embedded beneath the pavement to transfer electricity to receivers built into the bus frame. Charging stations are activated automatically when a bus is present, and deactivated when a bus leaves the stop.
One advantage of the system is that charging buses en-route eliminates the downtime and additional vehicles that would be required if they were charged off-line. Another is that smaller batteries can be used, thus reducing both cost and weight.
During the 12-month demonstration program, 2 electric buses will take over an existing inner city route, providing real-world technical data and consumer feedback for future product development and deployment.
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development has agreed to provide 3.3 million euro to fund the demonstration, which should be operational in the second quarter of 2014.
A similar demonstration of wireless, inductive charging is scheduled to be rolled out later this year on the University of Utah campus.
The National Center for Health Statistics this month released its latest report on U.S. life expectancy and mortality, showing progress in some areas but persistent disparities among ethnic and racial groups, gender, and geographic regions.Life Expectancy
Life expectancy at birth for the overall U.S. population was 78.7 years in 2011 — unchanged from 2010. Across all races and ethnicities, life expectancy for women (81.1) exceeded that for men (76.3) by nearly five years.
Among racial and ethnic groups, Hispanics showed the highest life expectancy (81.4), followed by non-Hispanic whites (78.8) and non-Hispanic blacks (74.8).
The overall age-adjusted mortality rate in 2011 was 740.6 deaths per 100,000 population — and all-time low and 0.9% lower than in 2010.
When compared with the year 2000, 2011 mortality rates have declined across all population groups, whether defined by gender or race/ethnicity. The largest decreases occurred among males, with the greatest mortality reduction (22.6%) among non-Hispanic black males.Mortality Rates by State
Mortality rates across the 50 states and the District of Columbia vary dramatically, from a low of 584.8 deaths per 100,000 population in Hawaii, to a high of 956.2 deaths per 100,000 population in Mississippi.
Generally speaking, states in the southeast had higher mortality rates than states in other regions.Leading Causes of Death
In 2011, five major causes of death (heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and accidents) accounted for 62% of all deaths in the United States; however, causes are distributed differently across different age groups.
For those aged 1–24 years, external causes far outweigh chronic conditions, with accidents, homicide, and suicide representing 64% of all deaths. At the other end of the age spectrum the situation is reversed, with chronic conditions outpacing external causes among those 65 and older.
The infant mortality rate is the ratio of infant deaths (prior to the first birthday) to live births in a given year, and generally regarded as an indicator of the overall health of a population.
The preliminary infant mortality for 2011 was 6.05 infant deaths per 1,000 live births — not significantly different the 2010 rate of 6.15 deaths per 1,000 live births.
When viewed over time, however, a clear trend emerges — between 1990 and 2011, infant mortality in the U.S. dropped 34%.
Professor Hans Rosling offers an entertaining visualization of changes in life expectancy relative to income during the past 200 years. Excerpted from “The Joy of Stats,” presented by the BBC.
For more than two decades prior to the destruction of Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami, nuclear provided roughly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.
But in the wake of the March 2011 disaster, as facilities shut down for scheduled maintenance, operators were required to perform computer-simulated stress tests to confirm their ability to operate safely in the event of another natural disaster. By May 2012, the last of Japan’s 54 nuclear generating reactors had been shut down, and since then, only two have been restarted.
To make up for the loss of nuclear capacity — which last year accounted for only 2% of Japan’s total electricity output — the island nation has become dependent upon fossil fuels for 90% of of its power.
Compared to 2011, combined use of natural gas, oil, and coal was up 21% last year, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) — up 15% — making up most of the difference.
Today, Japan is the world’s largest importer of LNG, second largest importer of coal and the third largest net importer of oil. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan was the world’s third largest producer of nuclear power behind the US and France.
Harnessing the power of ocean winds off the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast came a step closer to reality last week when the Maryland State Legislature approved the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, authorizing a $1.7 billion subsidy over 20 years to kick-start development of a 200-megawatt wind farm projected to be operational in the next 4-7 years.
While bids have yet to be solicited or plans drawn, the offshore facility is expected to include as many as 40 wind turbines located 10-40 miles off the Maryland shore of the 170 mile-long Delmarva Peninsula, home to popular destinations such as Ocean City, and the protected barrier island of Assateague.
Appearing before the State Senate Finance committee last month, Governor Martin O’Malley (D) testified, “Wind is one of Maryland’s two most abundant natural resources. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates we could be generating 10,000 megawatts off the coast of our state alone. That’s enough energy to power every home in Maryland. This bill would get the ball rolling with 200 megawatts.”
Passage of the bill represents a hard-fought victory for O’Malley who, along with environmental and alternative energy groups, has advocated for such legislation for the past three years. Similar measures passed the Maryland House in 2010 and 2011, only to be stalled in the State Senate’s Finance Committee.
In order to secure passage this year, proponents scaled down previous versions of the project by nearly two-thirds, and included measures designed to broaden support.
A $10 million fund aims to assist small and minority businesses in gearing up to participate in the project, and a special task force will investigate the creation of degree programs in offshore wind at Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities.
In response to opposition over the impact of the $1.7 billion subsidy on energy rates, the 2013 bill caps project-related increases in residential bills at $1.50 per month, and increases in commercial rates at 1.5% annually. No project-related increase can go into effect until the wind farm is operational, at which time untilities will be required to purchase 2.5 percent of electricity from wind-generated sources.
Proponents estimate that the project will, over 5 years, create up to 850 jobs during manufacturing and construction, and 160 jobs thereafter in operations and maintenance. The project is also projected to reduce CO2 emissions by 378,000 tons per year, and reduce public health costs by $17 million annually.
Six firms previously expressed interest in bidding for an offshore lease, but whether the scaled-down project as approved will still be attractive to potential developers remains to be seen. A $3.3 million ocean floor survey, already contracted by the state, should add some incentive by providing developers with a clearer picture of how and where wind turbines might be anchored.
Other considerations factoring into the final location and timing of the project include ongoing state and federal inquiries into its potential impacts upon birds, fish, marine mammals and shipping lanes.
With this legislation, Maryland joins several other east coast states with offshore wind projects in development or under consideration, including Massachusetts, Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia. Presently, the U.S. has no operational offshore wind capacity.
Joe DeCapua, VOA News
March 20, 2013
Researchers say that despite progress immunizing African children against disease, vaccination efforts are falling far short of what’s needed. They warn that vaccine supply and cost need urgent attention.
University of Cape Town researchers say there are “failures within the immunization system.”
“Well, there’s a very wide range if you look at African countries in terms of performance of immunization programs. Some are doing very well and others are doing very badly. So this disparity is a very big concern,” said Shingai Machingaidze, associate researcher at the university’s Vaccines for Africa Initiative.
Similar problems exist in developing countries outside Africa, as well.
“For the countries that are not doing so well in terms of their vaccine coverage it means that large numbers of children do not get basic vaccinations before they reach one year. 1.5 million vaccine preventable disease deaths were recorded in 2010,” she said.
Professor Gregory Hussey, director of the Vaccines for Africa Initiative, said that polio, which had been on the verge of eradication, remains entrenched in some places.
“There’s a worldwide move to eradicate polio in the next five to 10 years. The stumbling blocks in Africa are in fact [in] Nigeria where there’s continued transmission of polio because of sub-optimal uptake of polio vaccine,” he said. “And I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that the people refusing to immunize their children for a list of reasons – religious, political, etcetera, etcetera.”
The World Health Organization had said after polio immunization was disrupted in northern Nigeria several years ago, that particular strain of the virus spread all the way to Ethiopia.
Continued outbreaks of measles, Hussey said, are another example of immunization system failure.
“With our porous borders in Africa disease can spread from one place to another place, especially if children are not being immunized properly,” he said.
Hussey said that while various U.N. and international agencies have campaigns advocating immunization, Africa lacked a home-grown program to do so.
“We started this Vaccines for Africa Initiative precisely to try to make people more aware of issues around vaccine and immunization practices. And this includes not only the individuals who are delivering the vaccines, the healthcare workers, but also the policymakers, as well as communities, who should be receiving the vaccines,” he said.
A major obstacle to effective immunization is the cost of vaccines. For example, more countries are starting to introduce vaccines against pneumonia and diarrheal disease – two of the leading killers of young children.
Hussey said, “You’re looking at pushing up the price from a few dollars up to about $58. And that’s way beyond the per capita health expenditure of most countries in Africa, which probably is around about $10 to $20 per person.”
An international public-private partnership, the GAVI Alliance, plays a major role in helping developing countries introduce vaccines. GAVI negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of a vaccine dose. But Hussey warned that cheaper prices for vaccines won’t last forever.
“Once they sort of graduate from GAVI they still will have to purchase those vaccines. So there are a number of countries that are going to graduate in the next year or two and that’s a problem for them,” he said. “Because how to they then fund the supply of those vaccines?”
He said that some countries that can afford the vaccines on their own have not made child health a priority.
The University of Cape Town researchers say, “African leaders must be held accountable for meeting agreed country immunization targets and honoring international commitments.”
Last November, the first International African Vaccinology Conference was held in Cape Town, South Africa where participants adopted the Cape Town Declaration. Among other things it called for strengthening childhood immunization programs; encouraging regional co-operation; strengthening purchasing power by pooling resources and ensuring African governments commit to saving children’s lives.
One of the most interesting scientific developments in recent years has been the discovery of life in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet.
From the waters surrounding deep-sea thermal vents and soils beneath the driest deserts, to deep within rock beneath the ocean floor and the frigid troposphere high above, microorganisms have shown a remarkable ability to survive in the unlikeliest of places.
Now, thanks to an international team of scientists and a specialized underwater robot, we can add the crushing pressures at the bottom of the Mariana Trench to those places where life has been found to thrive.
Located in the western Pacific, the Mariana Trench is nearly 11 km beneath the surface and the deepest known spot on Earth. There, pressures run as high as 15,750 psi, or roughly 1,100 times the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level.
Despite such an inhospitable environment, researchers found a “highly active bacteria community” living in sediments at the bottom of the trench. In fact, these sediments contain nearly 10 times more bacteria than sediments from the surrounding plain at a depth of only 5-6 km.
Deep sea trenches act as hot spots for microbial activity because they receive an unusually high flux of organic matter, made up of dead animals, algae and other microbes, sourced from the surrounding much shallower sea-bottom. It is likely that some of this material becomes dislodged from the shallower depths during earthquakes, which are common in the area. So, even though deep sea trenches like the Mariana Trench only amount to about two percent of the World Ocean area, they have a relatively larger impact on marine carbon balance — and thus on the global carbon cycle, according to lead author Professor Ronnie Glud of the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution at the University of Southern Denmark.
In order to detect the rates of microbial activity at such depths, a specially-designed robot measured the distribution of oxygen in sediments at the sea floor — a challenging but necessary approach since microorganisms that have adapted to such extreme conditions would likely die if brought to the surface for study.
The expedition to the Mariana Trench took place in 2010, and the research appeared online at Nature Geoscience, March 17.
A subsequent expedition has explored the bottom of the Japan Trench (9 km deep), and later this year the team is planning a dive in the world’s second deepest trench — the 10.8 km Kermadec-Tonga Trench near Fiji in the Pacific.
“The deep sea trenches are some of the last remaining ‘white spots’ on the world map. We know very little about what is going on down there or which impact the deep sea trenches have on the global carbon cycle as well as climate regulation. Furthermore, we are very interested in describing and understanding the unique bacterial communities that thrive in these exceptional environments. Data from multiple deep sea trenches will allow us to find out how the general conditions are at extreme depths, but also the specific conditions for each particular trench – that may experience very different deposition regimes. This will contribute to our general understanding of Earth and its development,” says Glud.
Sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks may be associated with 180,000 deaths each year, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association on Tuesday.
Using data from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study, researchers linked intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases and 6,000 cancer deaths worldwide.
Seventy-eight percent of these deaths due to overconsumption of sugary drinks were in low and middle-income countries.
“In the U.S., our research shows that about 25,000 deaths in 2010 were linked to drinking sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Gitanjali M. Singh, Ph.D., co-author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Researchers calculated sugar-sweetened beverage intake around the world by age and sex, by effects of consumption on obesity and diabetes, and by the impact of obesity and diabetes-related deaths.
Of nine world regions, Latin America/Caribbean had the most diabetes deaths (38,000) related to the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in 2010.
East/Central Eurasia had the largest numbers of cardiovascular deaths (11,000) related to sugary beverage consumption in 2010.
Among the world’s 15 most populous countries, Mexico — with one of the highest per-capita consumptions of sugary drinks in the world — had the highest death rate due to these beverages, with 318 deaths per million adults.
Japan, with one of the lowest per-capita consumptions of sugar-sweetened drinks, had the lowest death rate associated with sugary drinks, at about 10 deaths per million adults.
“Because we were focused on deaths due to chronic diseases, our study focused on adults. Future research should assess the amount of sugary beverage consumption in children across the world and how this affects their current and future health,” Singh said.
The American Heart Association recommends adults consume no more than 450 calories per week from sugar-sweetened beverages, based on a 2,000 calorie diet, and offers tips on how Life’s Simple 7™ can help you make better lifestyle choices and eat healthier.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Pledge: I Will If You Will
This year, Earth Hour is on March 23 at 8:30 pm – wherever you are in the world.
This is the hour when the world goes dark, turning off lights as a symbolic gesture to protect the Blue Marble we call home. Since Earth Hour’s inception in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, where 2.2 million Sydneysiders and 2100 businesses turned off their lights for an hour, this movement has spread to include the more than 151 countries and thousands of states, cities, towns and rural communities that have pledged to go dark this year.
In 2012, the I Will If You Will campaign was launched, with more than 200,000 people accepting a challenge at YouTube.com/EarthHour to share what they would be willing to do to save the planet, and what they’d expect done in return. The campaign continues this year, with thousands more committing to help change the world for the better.
The youTube channel is fun to watch, with the pledges ranging from kiteboarding wearing a panda hat if 1,000 people will commit to using reusable tumblers, to an 8th grade class going paperless if 1,000 people commit to planting a tree and a five-year-old Greek boy, who will give up chocolates for a week if 50 people pledge to green their balconies.
There is still time for you to publicly pledge what you will do to help save Mother Earth. Privately, it’s a pledge we can all make at any time, to take steps to help reduce our impact on the planet.
A network of seismographic stations, typically used to study earthquakes and Earth’s deep interior, recorded signals from the blast waves of the meteor that landed near Chelyabinsk, Russia, last month as the waves crossed the United States.
The meteor explosion generated ground motions and air pressure waves in the atmosphere which were picked by seismometers and air pressure sensors.
Ground motions were recorded by the Global Seismic Network (GSN) and the EarthScope Transportable Array (TA). Pressure waves were detected by special sensors that are part of the TA.
Both the GSN and TA are supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
“These recordings of seismic waves through the Earth, and sound waves through the atmosphere, are good examples of how these facilities can help global organizations better monitor earthquakes, clandestine nuclear tests and other threats,” said Greg Anderson, program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences.Incoming! Then Outgoing!
When the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded in the atmosphere at approximately 9.20 a.m. local time, energy from the blast created pressure waves in the atmosphere that moved rapidly outward and around the globe. The blast also spread within the Earth as a seismic wave.
Waves in the ground travel quickly, at about 3.4 kilometers per second. Waves in the atmosphere are much slower, moving at about 0.3 kilometers per second, but can travel great distances.
GSN stations in Russia and Kazakhstan show the ground-traveling wave as a strong, abrupt pulse with a duration of about 30 seconds.
The atmospheric waves, referred to as infrasound, were detected across a range of inaudible frequencies and were observed at great distances on infrasound microphones.
When the infrasound waves reached the eastern United States, having traveled 8.5 hours through the atmosphere across the Arctic from the impact site in Russia, they were recorded at TA stations at the Canadian border. Nearly 12 hours after the blast, the waves reached Florida.
Infrasound sensors at TA stations along the Pacific coast and in Alaska also recorded the blast, but with signatures that were shorter and simpler than those recorded by stations in the mid-continent and along the southeastern seaboard.
The duration of the signals, and the differences between the waveforms in the east and west, scientists believe, are related to the way in which energy travels and bounces on its long path through the atmosphere.EarthScope Transportable Array
The Transportable Array is operated by the IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) Consortium as part of NSF’s EarthScope Project. It consists of 400 stations traversing the United States, recording at each site along the way for two years.
Each of the TA stations was originally equipped with sensitive broadband seismometers for measuring ground motions, but in 2010, NSF awarded the University of California, San Diego, in cooperation with IRIS, funding to add pressure and infrasound sensors.
These special sensors help scientists understand how changes in pressure affect ground motions recorded by the TA’s seismometers and provide a view of regional pressure changes related to weather patterns.
The sensors also record events such as tornadoes, derechos, rocket launches, chemical explosions–and meteor impacts.
The Chelyabinsk meteor is the largest signal recorded to date.
In 2013, the Transportable Array will reach states in the Northeast, completing its traverse of the contiguous United States and southern Canada.
Known as FishMap, the online resource provides search and sort options for location, depth ranges, family, and ecosystem, and generates visual maps with illustrations for each species. Lists can be printed to create simple guides or downloaded to a spreadsheet template for collecting new data.
“Australia’s marine biodiversity is among the richest in world,” says ichthyologist Mr Daniel Gledhill of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship. “FishMap is the only resource of its kind in the world that covers virtually all species of marine fish found in the marine waters of an entire continent.”
FishMap is built upon more than a century of research, as well as the work of museums and research agencies across Australia who contributed underlying data and images.
A group of physicians and medical researchers announced yesterday what appears to be the first functional cure of an infant born with HIV — marking what may be a breakthrough development in how such cases are treated.
The unidentified child, born in rural Mississippi in 2010 and now 2 1/2 years old, was infected through her mother, who had not received prenatal care and was unaware of her own HIV positive status until tested at a hospital during premature labor.
Those results led the hospital to transfer the newborn to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where HIV tests of the 30-hour-old infant were conducted.
But before the child’s positive results were known, pediatrician Dr. Hannah B. Gay began administering an atypically aggressive, 3-drug anti-retroviral regimen.
The infant responded so well that after a month, the virus was no longer detectable, and after 18 months, the mother stopped bringing the child in for treatment.
Yet, when they returned five months later, doctors were surprised to find no signs of the virus.
Whether similar success can be replicated in other cases of newborn HIV remains to be seen, but it does appear that the immune systems of infants are different enough from those of adults that different approaches warrant consideration.