Scientists build an alien ocean to test NASA submarine

February 12, 2018 by  
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Researchers at Washington State University have constructed a replica of Titan’s oceans to test a NASA submarine for an eventual mission to Saturn’s largest moon. The scientists replicated ocean conditions, including temperatures of -300 degree Fahrenheit and a liquid content of methane and ethane rather than water. They were even able to reproduce the atmospheric cycle predicted to exist on the planet, which features ethane-methane snow and rain. This feature draws heightened interest from scientists, who note Titan’s similarities to Earth in the moon’s lakes, rivers, and clouds. The research team constructed a chamber capable of holding the methane-ethane liquid mixture at very cold temperatures. To test the impact that such an environment would have on a NASA submarine , the team added a two-inch cylindrical cartridge heater that produces approximately the equivalent heat to a submarine. When a machine powered by heat is placed in these conditions, nitrogen bubbles begin to form. The researchers were particularly interested in how these nitrogen bubbles could affect the submarine’s functionality. Related: NASA communicates with spacecraft 13 billion miles from Earth The team found it difficult to document their experiment due to challenging video conditions. They created a device that, under 60 pounds per square inch of pressure, incorporated a boroscope and camera to record images of the hostile sea. “Those aren’t the friendliest conditions,” said research leader Ian Richardson . “You have to come up with creative solutions.” The team managed to capture footage of methane-ethane rain and snow within the chamber. The researchers also discovered that methane and ethane freeze at lower temperatures under Titan’s conditions than expected. “That’s a big deal,’’ said Richardson. “That means you don’t have to worry about icebergs .” Via Washington State University Images via NASA   (1)  and Washington State University

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Scientists build an alien ocean to test NASA submarine

Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales

February 6, 2018 by  
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Microplastics pose a huge threat to aquatic life, particularly large filter feeders such as whale sharks, manta rays, and baleen whales . A new study by an international team of researchers led by the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) and Murdoch University identifies risks faced by these marine giants from an insidious form of plastic pollution known as microplastics. Filter feeders are at particular risk because of their constant sifting through ocean water to capture their micro-plankton prey. These large creatures play an important role in oceanic ecosystems and huge problems in the food chain could arise if they were to become threatened or even extinct due to escalating threats. While much remains unknown about the specific impacts of ingesting microplastics, evidence suggests that plastic ingestion, whether directly or through eating animals that have consumed plastics, can lead to toxicity in fish and birds. The effects on large, filter feeders is even less understood, a knowledge gap that the study authors urgently sought to address. “Understanding the effects of microplastic pollution on filter-feeding megafauna is imperative because nearly half of the mobulid rays, two-thirds of filter-feeding sharks , and over one quarter of baleen whales are listed by the IUCN as globally threatened species and prioritized for conservation,” wrote the study authors . Related: Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste Incorporating a review of data from related research, the new study identifies microplastic “hotspots,” such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Bengal, the Coral Triangle, and the Mediterranean Sea , as areas where filter feeders gather in high numbers likely due to plentiful food sources. This unfortunate confluence of plankton and plastic pollution has led to filter feeders consuming significant amounts of microplastics, with fin whales estimated to consume up to 2,000 plastic particles per day. While a greater understanding of the problem is helpful, this new research also emphasizes the sorely needed action needed to prevent further harm from plastic pollution to ocean life, large and small. Via IFLScience Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales

2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

January 29, 2018 by  
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Last year was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans , according to two scientists at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP/CAS). The increase in ocean heat led to a 1.7-millimeter global sea level rise – and other consequences like “declining ocean oxygen, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting sea ice and ice shelves.” The ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the planet’s “residual heat related to global warming ,” according to the researchers, Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, whose work recently came out as an early online release in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences . While they said the increase in ocean heat content for last year happened in most of the world’s regions, the Atlantic and Southern Oceans displayed more warming than the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to National Geographic , the two scrutinized ocean temperature data from multiple institutions, including the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists started gathering the data during the 1950’s – and in the late 1990’s, ocean temperatures started to take off, per the publication. The IAP ocean analysis reveals “the last five years have been the five warmest years in the ocean.” National Geographic pointed out people visiting the beach probably wouldn’t notice the temperature rise, but a warming ocean could still have damaging impacts. Sea ice coverage and thickness have both taken a hit. And the window to save Earth’s coral reefs is closing quickly . The researchers said in their paper, “The global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming…The human greenhouse gas footprint continues to impact the Earth system.” + Advances in Atmospheric Sciences Via Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences , The Guardian and National Geographic Images via Deposit Photos ,  Ant Rozetzky on Unsplash and Tim Lautensack on Unsplash

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

Will corporate action on ocean plastic make an impact? 6 ways to tell

January 25, 2018 by  
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The supersize problem requires the biggest businesses to take action.

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Will corporate action on ocean plastic make an impact? 6 ways to tell

These 14 businesses are growing money on trees

January 25, 2018 by  
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Restoring degraded and deforested land is becoming a thriving economic opportunity, in the U.S and beyond.

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These 14 businesses are growing money on trees

Environmental programs grow a better prison system

January 25, 2018 by  
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Organizations like Planting Justice reduce recidivism and impact on inmates, taxpayers, communities and the environment.

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Environmental programs grow a better prison system

Dow scrubs up marine plastic

January 23, 2018 by  
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Dow is known for bringing chemical solutions to the market. But it also has a long history of partnering with conservation organizations to find solutions to marine plastic debris.”We’re partnering with Ocean Conservancy to develop scientific information that helps us discover where marine debris can come from and how we keep them out of the ocean,” said Jeff Wooster, sustainability director at Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, about their 30-year relationship. 

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Dow scrubs up marine plastic

How a Girl Scout inspired a health care giant to ditch plastic straws

December 26, 2017 by  
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It started with a single email to Dignity Health.

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How a Girl Scout inspired a health care giant to ditch plastic straws

Sustainability leaders look ahead to 2018

December 26, 2017 by  
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What’s in the viewfinder? Members of the GreenBiz Executive Network weigh in on the near future.

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Sustainability leaders look ahead to 2018

Energy commissioners on the coming decarbonization

December 26, 2017 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Tim Echols of Georgia and Michael Picker of California spark a lively exchange on power.

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Energy commissioners on the coming decarbonization

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