BREAKING NEWS: Volcanoes Responsible for Climate Change Through Much of Earth’s History

A new study in the April 22 edition of the journal ‘Science’, reveals that volcanic activity associated with the plate-tectonic movement of continents may be responsible for climatic shifts from hot to cold throughout much of Earth’s history. The study, led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences, addresses why Earth has fluctuated from periods when the planet was covered in ice to times when polar regions were ice-free.

volcanic arc

Lead researcher Ryan McKenzie said the team found that periods when volcanoes along continental arcs were more active coincided with warmer trends over the past 720 million years. Conversely, periods when continental arc volcanoes were less active coincided with colder, or cooling trends.

For this study, researchers looked at the uranium-lead crystallization ages of the mineral zircon, which is largely created during continental volcanic arc activity. They looked at data for roughly 120,000 zircon grains from thousands of samples across the globe.

zircon and mantle

Zircon is often associated with mantle plumes. If the zircon Hf model age is very close to its formation age (zircon U–Pb) – the magma could be subsequent of a depleted mantle plume. On the other hand, if the zircon Hf model age is older than its formation age, it can be concluded that the magma was derived from enriched mantle sources or was contaminated by crustal materials.

“We’re looking at changes in zircon production on various continents throughout Earth’s history and seeing how the changes correspond with the various cooling and warming trends,” McKenzie said. “Ultimately, we find that during intervals of high zircon production we have warming trends, and as zircon production diminishes, we see a shift into our cooling trends.”

equation-mantle plumes

New Equation:
Increase Charged Particles → Decreased Magnetic Field → Increase Outer Core Convection → Increase of Mantle Plumes → Increase in Earthquake and Volcanoes → Cools Mantle and Outer Core → Return of Outer Core Convection (Mitch Battros – July 2012)

One question unanswered in recent climate change debates, is what caused the fluctuations in CO2 observed in the geologic record. Other theories have suggested that geological forces such as mountain building have, at different times in the planet’s history, introduced large amounts of new material to the Earth’s surface, and weathering of that material has drawn CO2 out of the atmosphere.

warming-cooling-trends4

Using nearly 200 published studies and their own fieldwork and data, researchers created a global database to reconstruct the volcanic history of continental margins over the past 720 million years.

“We studied sedimentary basins next to former volcanic arcs, which were eroded away over hundreds of millions of years,” said co-author Brian Horton, a professor in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences. “The distinguishing part of our study is that we looked at a very long geologic record – 720 million years – through multiple warming and cooling trends.”

The cooling periods tended to correlate with the assembly of Earth’s supercontinents, which was a time of diminished continental volcanism, Horton said. The warming periods correlated with continental breakup, a time of enhanced continental volcanism.

Earth-Like Planet May Exist in Nearby Star System

An Earth-like planet may be lurking in a star system located just 16 light years away, according to a new research. The star, named Gliese 832, was recently investigated by a team of astronomers searching for additional exoplanets that may be residing between the two currently known alien worlds in this system. A paper detailing the finding was published online on Apr. 15 in the arXiv journal.

earth like planet

Gliese 832 is a red dwarf and has just under half the mass and radius of our Sun. The star is orbited by a giant Jupiter-like exoplanet designated Gliese 832b and by a super-Earth mass planet Gliese 832c. The gas giant, with a mass of 0.64 Jupiter masses, is orbiting the star at a distance of 3.53 AU, while the other planet is potentially a rocky world, around five times more massive than the Earth, residing very close its host star—about 0.16 AU.

Now, a team of astronomers, led by Suman Satyal of the University of Texas at Arlington, has reanalyzed the available data on this nearby planetary system hoping to find more extrasolar worlds that may be located in a vast space between the two known planets. The researchers have conducted numerical simulations to check the possibility of existence of other celestial bodies around the red dwarf.

Gliese 832b and Gliese 832c were discovered by the radial velocity technique, from which the scientists extracted the orbital parameters by using the best-fit solutions. These parameters were used as the initial conditions for starting their simulations.

“We also used the integrated data from the time evolution of orbital parameters to generate the synthetic radial velocity curves of the known and the Earth-like planets in the system. Moreover, based on the maximum amplitude of the radial velocity curve obtained from the observation of the inner planet, the approximate mass and distance from the star for the Earth-like planet were computed using the radial velocity signature of the Keplerian motion,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

The team’s computations revealed that an additional Earth-like planet with a dynamically stable configuration may be residing at a distance ranging from 0.25 to 2.0 AU from the star. According to the measurements, this hypothetical alien world would probably be more massive than our planet with a mass between one to 15 Earth’s masses.

“We obtained several radial velocity curves for varying masses and distances for the middle planet,” the astronomers noted.

For instance, if the planet is located around one AU from the star, it has an upper mass limit of ten Earth masses and a generated radial velocity signal of 1.4 m/s. A planet with about the mass of the Earth at the same location would have radial velocity signal of only 0.14 m/s, thus much smaller.

In general, the existence of this possible planet is supported by long-term orbital stability of the system, orbital dynamics and the synthetic radial velocity signal analysis.

The scientists emphasized that their main goal was to provide a general idea to the observers of where and what to look for in this system. They concluded that a significantly large number of radial velocity observations, transit method studies, as well as the direct imaging are still needed to confirm the presence of possible new planets in the Gliese 832 system.

NASA Missions Measure Solar Flare Electromagnetic Phenomenon

Solar flares are intense bursts of light from the Sun. They are created when complicated magnetic fields suddenly and explosively rearrange themselves, converting magnetic energy into light through a process called magnetic reconnection – at least, that’s the theory, because the signatures of this process are hard to detect. But during a December 2013 solar flare, three solar observatories captured the most comprehensive observations of an electromagnetic phenomenon called a current sheet, strengthening the evidence that this understanding of solar flares is correct.

eclectromagnetic sheet

These eruptions on the Sun eject radiation in all directions. The strongest solar flares can impact the ionized part of Earth’s atmosphere – the ionosphere – and interfere with our communications systems, like radio and GPS, and also disrupt onboard satellite electronics. Additionally, high-energy particles – including electrons, protons and heavier ions – are accelerated by solar flares.

Unlike other space weather events, solar flares travel at the speed of light, meaning we get no warning that they’re coming. So scientists want to pin down the processes that create solar flares – and even some day predict them before our communications can be interrupted.

Image converted using ifftoany

“The existence of a current sheet is crucial in all our models of solar flares,” said James McAteer, an astrophysicist at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and an author of a study on the December 2013 event, published on April 19, 2016, in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “So these observations make us much more comfortable that our models are good.”

And better models lead to better forecasting, said Michael Kirk, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who was not involved in the study. “These complementary observations allowed unprecedented measurements of magnetic reconnection in three dimensions,” Kirk said. “This will help refine how we model and predict the evolution of solar flares.”

A current sheet is a very fast, very flat flow of electrically-charged material, defined in part by its extreme thinness compared to its length and width. Current sheets form when two oppositely-aligned magnetic fields come in close contact, creating very high magnetic pressure. Electric current flowing through this high-pressure area is squeezed, compressing it down to a very fast and thin sheet. It’s a bit like putting your thumb over the opening of a water hose – the water, or, in this case, the electrical current, is forced out of a tiny opening much, much faster. This configuration of magnetic fields is unstable, meaning that
the same conditions that create current sheets are also ripe for magnetic reconnection.

“Magnetic reconnection happens at the interface of oppositely-aligned magnetic fields,” said Chunming Zhu, a space scientist at New Mexico State University and lead author on the study. “The magnetic fields break and reconnect, leading to a transformation of the magnetic energy into heat and light, producing a solar flare.”

Because current sheets are so closely associated with magnetic reconnection, observing a current sheet in such detail backs up the idea that magnetic reconnection is the force behind solar flares.

“You have to be watching at the right time, at the right angle, with the right instruments to see a current sheet,” said McAteer. “It’s hard to get all those ducks in a row.”

This isn’t the first time scientists have observed a current sheet during a solar flare, but this study is unique in that several measurements of the current sheet – such as speed, temperature, density and size – were observed from more than one angle or derived from more than method.

This multi-faceted view of the December 2013 flare was made possible by the wealth of instruments aboard three solar-watching missions: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO – which has a unique viewing angle on the far side of the Sun – and Hinode, which is a collaboration between the space agencies of Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Even when scientists think they’ve spotted something that might be a current sheet in solar data, they can’t be certain without ticking off a long list of attributes. Since this current sheet was so well-observed, the team was able to confirm that its temperature, density, and size over the course of the event were consistent with a current sheet.

As scientists work up a better picture of how current sheets and magnetic reconnection lead to solar eruptions, they’ll be able to produce better models of the complex physics happening there – providing us with ever more insight on how our closest star affects space all around us.

This research was funded by a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to James McAteer.

JUST IN: New High-Energy Sources of Gamma and Cosmic Rays Discovered

A new sky map using the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-Ray Observatory shows many new gamma ray sources within our own Milky Way galaxy. HAWC gives us a new way to see the high-energy sky. “This new data from HAWC shows the galaxy in unprecedented detail, revealing new high-energy sources and previously unseen details about existing sources.” said Jordan Goodman, professor of physics at the University of Maryland.

gamma ray burst233

Today, scientists operating HAWC released a new survey of the sky made from the highest energy gamma rays ever observed. The new sky map, which uses data collected since the observatory began running at full capacity last March, offers a deeper understanding of high-energy processes taking place in our galaxy and beyond.

In a region of the Milky Way where researchers previously identified a single gamma ray source named TeV J1930+188, HAWC identified several hot spots, indicating that the region is more complicated than previously thought.

new_equation 2012_m

New Equation:
Increase Charged Particles  and Decreasing Magnetic Field → Increase Outer Core Convection → Increase of Mantle Plumes → Increase in Earthquake and Volcanoes → Cools Mantle and Outer Core → Return of Outer Core Convection (Mitch Battros – July 2012)

“Studying these objects at the highest energies can reveal the mechanism by which they produce gamma rays and possibly help us unravel the hundred-year-old mystery of the origin of high-energy cosmic rays that bombard Earth from space,” said Goodman.

HAWC_graphic02_m

HAWC-located 13,500 feet above sea level on the slopes of Mexico’s Volcán Sierra Negra-contains 300 detector tanks, each holding 50,000 gallons of ultrapure water with four light sensors anchored to the floor. When gamma rays or cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere they set off a cascade of charged particles, and when these particles reach the water in HAWC’s detectors, they produce a cone-shaped flash of light known as Cherenkov radiation. The effect is much like a sonic boom produced by a supersonic jet, because the particles are traveling slightly faster than the speed of light in water when they enter the detectors.

HAWC Gamma-ray Observatory

Because HAWC observes 24 hours per day and year-round with a wide field-of-view and large area, the observatory boasts a higher energy reach for extended objects. In addition, HAWC can uniquely monitor for gamma ray flares by sources in our galaxy and other active galaxies, such as Markarian 421 and Markarian 501.

Shifting Jet Stream and Ocean Currents Cause of Extreme Weather

Disastrous floods in the Balkans two years ago are likely linked to the temporary slowdown of portions of Earth’s jet stream. Jet Stream patterns circling the globe in the form of large oscillating waves between the Equator and the North Pole, along with shifting ocean currents have caused extreme weather events over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia that poured out record amounts of rain.

shifing jet stream and ocean currents_m

The study adds evidence that planetary wave resonance is a key mechanism for causing extreme weather event. Further, the scientists showed that extreme rainfall events are strongly increasing in certain geological areas, in this case over the Balkans.

“We were surprised to see how long the weather system that led to this recent flooding stayed over the region,” says Lisa Stadtherr from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead-author of the study to be published in Science Advances. “Day after day the rain was soaking the soil until it was saturated, which lead to the flooding that reportedly caused several dozen casualties and 3.5 billion Euro of damages.”

equation 1998

Equation:
Sunspots → Solar Flares (charged particles) → Magnetic Field Shift → Shifting Ocean and Jet Stream Currents → Extreme Weather and Human Disruption (mitch battros 1998)

While the mean daily rainfall in the Balkans has increased only a little since 1950, the intensity of the strongest rainfall events rose by one third, the scientists found. In May 2014, daily rainfall amounts were locally bigger than ever before in the observed period. The frequency of such potentially devastating extremes in the Balkans, though they are still rare, doubled over the past sixty years.

convergence_zone

There was a similar situation in 1977 in Germany, resulting in the “Elbe” flooding. “This is worrisome because we’re seeing increasing extreme rainfall in many parts of the globe,” says co-author and PIK project head Dim Coumou. “The changes over the Balkan are substantially larger than those expected from simple warming of the air.” Regional temperatures rose by one degree since the middle of the past century, and the increased water holding capacity of warmer air intensifies heavy rainfall by about 7 percent per degree of warming. “Yet the observed rainfall changes in the Balkans are roughly five times that much – hence other factors must have come into play.”

This mechanism has first been put forward by PIK scientist Vladimir Petoukhov only a few years ago, opening a new branch of research; he is co-author of the present study. The scientists produced a video to explain the mechanism which might be a decisive factor for creating extreme weather events in summer in general. (actually by Mitch Battros in 1998)

equation 1998

“Our findings provide more evidence that planetary waves cause extreme weather events,” says co-author Stefan Rahmstorf, chair of PIK’s research team. “When such atmospheric waves start to oscillate this can have serious impacts for people on the ground. I am concerned this current climate cycle may be creating conditions more favorable for this kind of fluctuation.”

 

The Flyboard Air Hoverboard

When you post video of your new jet powered hoverboard, and half the world thinks it has to be fake, you know you’ve got something good. But Frank Zapata’s Flyboard Air is no hoax, it’s the real deal. How does one know? All you gotta do is ask him.

 Flyboard-zapata-720

These days, with millions of astute viewers scrutizing every physical detail, the easiest way to make a convincing video that gets all the physics of something like a jetpack flight right, is to first make the jetpack. What’s the hardest part of making a magic flying carpet you might ask? “The power is there”, says Frank, “and has been for some time, the trick is controlling it.” In other words, the technical challenge is building a responsive interface that integrates the control capabilities of the human nervous system and musculature with that of your machine.

Where the response time of a man-sized electric fan propulsion system may be around a second, a turbine of a similar power output would have a minimum lag of about three seconds. That’s one of the reasons, if not the main reason that turbine powered cars never really took off. But the ear doesn’t lie. If your craft sounds more like a hummingbird than a fighter jet, you can expect it to behave more like one in a strong headwind.

So how do you tame four microturbines putting out a total 160 kg of thrust? Controlling the power output of each turbine separately, like a quadrotor does, would be a difficult prospect. Even with thrust vectoring, which adds a whole extra layer of complexity, there are still basic stability issues. The Flyboard Air design sports two electric fans which control the yaw. Command the yaw, and bodyweight can get you a good bit further. It is probably worth pointing out at this point that if each turbine has its own electric starter motor, already we are up to six auxiliary motors on one craft. In theory, one could bleed off some bypass air from the turbines to power the control fans, but again, the power available from bypass would depend on turbine RPM.

With the current design, Frank says that he can take off and land on three turbines. However, if one turbine experiences an unplanned power loss in mid-flight, he notes that landing becomes rather tricky. One way to add symmetry and simplify the control of the machine would be to spin half of the turbines in the opposite direction. For anyone who might casually underestimate the stability issues involved in changing the direction of any rotating body with significant moment of ineritia there is a handy fix:

Grab an angle grinder that has a decent sized grinding wheel on it and turn it on. Now quickly rotate it upside down. The strong reaction force you feel compelling your arm to move in a totally unexpected direction can be quite surprising. If Frank switched to counter rotating turbines he estimates that he could see at least an additional 5-6% gain in performance.

Landings present unique challenges to many jetpack designs. In a platform style machine there is a significant ground effect that would blow hot exhaust gas back up to the inlets of the turbines. Despite their power turbines are fickle when it comes to thermodynamics conditions. Variables like inlet gas pressure, temperature, and humidity all critically effect performance. That’s probably why the video shows landings taking place on metal grates that don’t block the exhaust. For other kinds of designs, like the quad-turbine wing pack of famed jetman Yves Rossy, there simply is no landing—flight ends when the parachute is deployed.

But there is no reason why a VTOL style landing could not be acheived with a winged design, especially now that the power is there. Adding aerodynamic flight surfaces to platform designs like the Flyboard Air is also a possibility which remains to be explored. As described elsewhere, turbojet packs seem to have the advantage over bulky turbofan or even reciprocating engine powered ducted fan designs like the Martin jetpack.

Although Glen Martin’s design has been spun off into a chinese owned corporate venture, Glen has more recently resigned himself from the effort altogether. His fellow Aussies, who dramatically buzzed the statue of Liberty last year with a turbine jetpack dubbed the JB-9 may still be in the game, although we haven’t heard much from them.

The Flyboard Air, on the other hand, has the backing of Frank’s own successful business Zapata Racing, based in Marseille, France. Having birthed an entire industry of successful water jet powered boards and skies which fly above the surface of the water, we can look forward to a new line of innovative products from them.

BREAKING NEWS: Ecuador 7.8 Mag. Earthquake – Death Toll Jumps to 233; More Than 1,500 Wounded

The catastrophic earthquake that destroyed buildings in Ecuador on Saturday became far more devastating Sunday, when the death toll rose to 233 — and it’s expected to rise.

sign27

Another 1,500 people were injured, said Ricardo Peñaherrera of Ecuador’s national emergency management office.

“It was the worst experience of my life,” survivor Jose Meregildo said Sunday about the tremors that violently shook his house in Guayaquil, 300 miles away from the quake’s epicenter.

ecuador-earthquake

“Everybody in my neighborhood was screaming saying it was going to be the end of the world. Residents remain on the streets for fear of aftershocks in Pedernales on April 17.

ecuador-quake04-17-2016

People make their way through debris from a collapsed building in Pedernales on Sunday, April 17. A magnitude-7.8 quake struck off Ecuador’s central coast on Saturday, April 16, flattening buildings and buckling highways. It’s the deadliest quake to strike the South

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Saturday night as it buckled homes and knocked out power in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city, authorities said. Emergency officials recovered one body from the scene of a bridge collapse there.

ecuador-quake-04

“Many highways are in bad shape, especially in the mountainous area because it has been raining recently due to (the) El Niño weather phenomenon.”

Vice President Jorge Glas had said earlier the death toll is expected to rise.

A state of emergency is in effect for six provinces — Guayas, Manabi, Santo Domingo, Los Rios, Esmeraldas and Galapagos. Authorities urged those who left their homes in coastal areas to return after a tsunami alert was lifted.

During his Sunday prayer, Pope Francis asked for those present to pray for the people affected by the earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.

“Last night a violent earthquake hit Ecuador, causing numerous victims and great damages,” Francis said. “Let’s pray for those populations, and for those of Japan, where as well there has been some earthquakes in the last days. The help of God and of the brothers give them strength and support.”

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