Water, water, anywhere?

Artist's impression of the planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581. (Courtesy: ESO)

Artist’s impression of the planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581. (Courtesy: ESO)

It’s a major discovery: a planet orbiting a red dwarf star some 20.5 light years away with Earth-like qualities, including a radius only 50 per cent larger and a mass about five more than our own planet.

But the potential of the planet to hold liquid water on its surface is what makes the discovery, unveiled Tuesday by the European Southern Observatory in Germany, so intriguing.

Though the planet is 14 times closer to its star than Earth is to our own sun, the star it orbits — the red dwarf Gliese 581 — is smaller and colder than our sun, meaning the planet lies in a potentially ideal temperature zone.

“We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid,” explained Stephane Udry, the lead author of the paper reporting the result, in a statement.

“Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth’s radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky, like our Earth, or covered with oceans,” said Udry, from the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland. Read more

Water conflicts come to the Andes as glaciers melt

Water-conflictsThe people of the Andes mountains have long benefited from melting glacial ice. But as those ice sheets start to disappear, conflicts over the diminishing resource could intensify.

The majestic Illimani mountain just south of La Paz provides a dramatic backdrop to the bustling Bolivian city. But for residents who have long lived in La Paz, the changes on Illimani are striking – the 6,439-meter high peak is covered with much less snow than just one or two decades earlier.

And the transformation on neighboring mountain Chacaltaya is even more dramatic. Not long ago, it was home to the highest ski region in the world at 5,300 meters. But skiers no longer head to the slopes of Chacaltaya because the mountain’s glacier literally disappeared in 2009. Read more

NASA reveals secrets of Antarctic sea ice growing as Arctic ice melts

Antarctic-sea-iceA new NASA study has revealed why Antarctic sea grows as Arctic sea ice melts. According to a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) report, NASA and British Antarctic Survey researchers have announced the first direct evidence that obvious changes to Antarctic sea ice drift caused by changing winds are responsible for observed increases in Antarctic sea ice cover in the past twenty years.

The evidence helps researchers understand how Antarctic sea ice cover has augmented due to climate change, while Arctic sea ice cover has significantly decreased.

Researchers looked at maps generated by the JPL from more than five million individual daily ice-motion measurements. The data reveals long-term changes in sea ice drift around Antarctica. Read more

Has Global Warming Ended?

GW-CartoonThis raises the question of whether or not this recent period of fairly static temperatures represents a termination of the temperature increase that has been occurring for some time and widely considered within the scientific community as resulting from increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Or is it simply a pause that can be explained in other ways or alternatively the natural variation in the secular trend in temperature increases.

It appears to be the more recent years from the following time series prepared jointly by the Climate Research Unit of East Anglica University, UK and the British Met Office Hadley Centre. Read more

Nanomaterials Appearing in Water Run-Off from Surface Treatments

Researchers at TECNALIA recently published a study in the science journal, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, which reveals the emission of nanomaterials caused by water runoff on surfaces containing nanomaterials. These surface treatments are employed in numerous consumption and construction products, so evidences of the presence of engineered nanomaterials are beginning to appear in the environment. Concerns about their toxicity for human or the environment rose in the last years, so further studies are required.

Water-Run-Off-from-Surface-Treatments

The results indicate that all the surface treatments analyzed in this work suffered from a loss of nanomaterials and properties in the surface treatments.

That is why TECNALIA has created a highly specialized technological service which can be adapted to the needs of any company dedicated to surface treatment with nanomaterials who wish to optimize the development of their products, acquiring specific knowledge about the behavior of their products under real operational conditions and/or estimate the loss of functionality and emissions of nanomaterials to the environment. Read more