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  • richardmitnick 3:18 pm on September 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ecology,   

    “8 DOE labs collaborating on climate change project” 

    Labs to help accelerate development of state-of-the-science earth system models.

    world

    High performance computing will be used to develop and apply the most complete climate and Earth system model to address the most challenging and demanding climate change issues.

    Eight Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, are combining forces with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, four academic institutions and one private-sector company in the new effort. Other participating national laboratories include Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia.

    The project, called Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy, or ACME, is designed to accelerate the development and application of fully coupled, state-of-the-science Earth system models for scientific and energy applications. The plan is to exploit advanced software and new High Performance Computing machines as they become available.

    The initial focus will be on three climate change science drivers and corresponding questions to be answered during the project’s initial phase:

    (Water Cycle) How do the hydrological cycle and water resources interact with the climate system on local to global scales? How will more realistic portrayals of features important to the water cycle (resolution, clouds, aerosols, snowpack, river routing, land use) affect river flow and associated freshwater supplies at the watershed scale?
    (Biogeochemistry) How do biogeochemical cycles interact with global climate change? How do carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles regulate climate system feedbacks, and how sensitive are these feedbacks to model structural uncertainty?
    (Cryosphere Systems) How do rapid changes in cryospheric systems, or areas of the earth where water exists as ice or snow, interact with the climate system? Could a dynamical instability in the Antarctic Ice Sheet be triggered within the next 40 years?

    Over a planned 10-year span, the project aim is to conduct simulations and modeling on the most sophisticated HPC machines as they become available, i.e., 100-plus petaflop machines and eventually exascale supercomputers. The team initially will use U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Leadership Computing Facilities at Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories.

    The model will also be optimized for deployment on the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), which is located at Berkeley Lab.

    “We need a new paradigm for how to develop and apply climate models to answer critical questions regarding the implications of our past and future energy choices for society and the environment,” says Bill Collins, ACME’s Chief Scientist and head of the Earth Sciences Division’s Climate Sciences Department at Berkeley lab.

    “To address this critical need, ACME is designed to accelerate our progress towards actionable climate projections to help the nation anticipate, adapt to, and ultimately mitigate the potential risks of global climate change,” Collins adds.

    Berkeley Lab scientist Bill Collins is the ACME Chief Scientist, with duties to lead the overall scientific direction of the project. He is working with the rest of the team to ensure that ACME can fully exploit the world-leading computers deployed by the Department of Energy.

    To address the water cycle, the Project Plan states that changes in river flow over the last 40 years have been dominated primarily by land management, water management and climate change associated with aerosol forcing. During the next 40 years, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a business as usual scenario will produce changes to river flow.

    “A goal of ACME is to simulate the changes in the hydrological cycle, with a specific focus on precipitation and surface water in orographically complex regions such as the western United States and the headwaters of the Amazon,” the report states.

    To address biogeochemistry, ACME researchers will examine how more complete treatments of nutrient cycles affect carbon–climate system feedbacks, with a focus on tropical systems; and investigate the influence of alternative model structures for below-ground reaction networks on global-scale biogeochemistry–climate feedbacks.

    For cyrosphere, the team will examine the near-term risks of initiating the dynamic instability and onset of the collapse of the Antarctic Ice Sheet due to rapid melting by warming waters adjacent to the ice sheet grounding lines.

    The experiment would be the first fully coupled global simulation to include dynamic ice shelf–ocean interactions for addressing the potential instability associated with grounding line dynamics in marine ice sheets around Antarctica.

    Other Berkeley Lab researchers involved in the program leadership include Will Riley, an expert in the terrestrial carbon cycle and co-leader of the Biogeochemical Experiment Task Team. Hans Johansen, a computational fluid dynamicist, is co-leader of the Computational Performance Task Team.

    Initial funding for the effort has been provided by DOE’s Office of Science.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 7:31 am on August 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Ecology,   

    From M.I.T.- “Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself” 


    MIT News

    August 24, 2014
    Audrey Resutek | Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

    Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution.

    But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? MIT researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.

    scales
    Illustration: Christine Daniloff/MIT

    “Carbon-reduction policies significantly improve air quality,” says Noelle Selin, an assistant professor of engineering systems and atmospheric chemistry at MIT, and co-author of a study published today in Nature Climate Change. “In fact, policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions improve air quality by a similar amount as policies specifically targeting air pollution.”

    Selin and colleagues compared the health benefits to the economic costs of three climate policies: a clean-energy standard, a transportation policy, and a cap-and-trade program. The three were designed to resemble proposed U.S. climate policies, with the clean-energy standard requiring emissions reductions from power plants similar to those proposed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

    Health savings constant across policies

    The researchers found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost to implement a transportation policy, but up to to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program. The difference depended largely on the costs of the policies, as the savings — in the form of avoided medical care and saved sick days — remained roughly constant: Policies aimed at specific sources of air pollution, such as power plants and vehicles, did not lead to substantially larger benefits than cheaper policies, such as a cap-and-trade approach.

    Savings from health benefits dwarf the estimated $14 billion cost of a cap-and-trade program. At the other end of the spectrum, a transportation policy with rigid fuel-economy requirements is the most expensive policy, costing more than $1 trillion in 2006 dollars, with health benefits recouping only a quarter of those costs. The price tag of a clean energy standard fell between the costs of the two other policies, with associated health benefits just edging out costs, at $247 billion versus $208 billion.

    “If cost-benefit analyses of climate policies don’t include the significant health benefits from healthier air, they dramatically underestimate the benefits of these policies,” says lead author Tammy Thompson, now at Colorado State University, who conducted the research as a postdoc in Selin’s group.

    Most detailed assessment to date

    The study is the most detailed assessment to date of the interwoven effects of climate policy on the economy, air pollution, and the cost of health problems related to air pollution. The MIT group paid especially close attention to how changes in emissions caused by policy translate into improvements in local and regional air quality, using comprehensive models of both the economy and the atmosphere.

    In addition to carbon dioxide, burning fossil fuels releases a host of other chemicals into the atmosphere. Some of these substances interact to form ground-level ozone, as well as fine particulate matter. The researchers modeled where and when these chemical reactions occurred, and where the resulting pollutants ended up — in cities where many people would come into contact with them, or in less populated areas.

    The researchers projected the health effects of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, two of the biggest health offenders related to fossil-fuel emissions. Both pollutants can cause asthma attacks and heart and lung disease, and can lead to premature death.

    In 2011, 231 counties in the U.S. exceeded the EPA’s regulatory standards for ozone, the main component of smog. Standards for fine particulate matter — airborne particles small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs and even absorbed into the bloodstream — were exceeded in 118 counties.

    While cutting carbon dioxide from current levels in the U.S. will result in savings from better air quality, pollution-related benefits decline as carbon policies become more stringent. Selin cautions that after a certain point, most of the health benefits have already been reaped, and additional emissions reductions won’t translate into greater improvements.

    “While air-pollution benefits can help motivate carbon policies today, these carbon policies are just the first step,” Selin says. “To manage climate change, we’ll have to make carbon cuts that go beyond the initial reductions that lead to the largest air-pollution benefits.”

    The study shows that climate policies can also have significant local benefits not related to their impact on climate, says Gregory Nemet, a professor of public affairs and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who was not involved in the study.

    “A particularly notable aspect of this study is that even though several recent studies have shown large co-benefits, this study finds large co-benefits in the U.S., where air quality is assumed to be high relative to other countries,” Nemet says. “Now that states are on the hook to come up with plans to meet federal emissions targets by 2016, you can bet they will take a close look at these results.”

    This research was supported by funding from the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results program.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 6:52 pm on August 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ecology, , Volcanos   

    From BBC: “Iceland volcano: Eruption under ice-cap sparks red alert” 

    BBC

    23 August 2014

    Iceland has issued a red alert to aviation after indications of a possible eruption under the country’s biggest glacier, the Vattnajokull.

    icecap
    Vatnajökull, Iceland Ice cap

    The Icelandic Met Office warned that a small eruption had taken place under the Dyngjujokull ice cap.

    cap
    Dyngjujokull ice cap

    Seismic activity is continuing at the Bardarbunga volcano, about 30km away.

    volcano
    Map of Iceland showing the location of Bárðarbunga.

    Airspace over the site has been closed, but all Icelandic airports currently remain open, authorities say. A Europe-wide alert has also been upgraded.

    European air safety agency Eurocontrol said it would produce a forecast of likely ash behaviour every six hours.

    Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in 2010, producing ash that severely disrupted air travel.

    vol
    Eyjafjallajokull on map of Iceland

    The red alert is the highest warning on the country’s five-point scale.
    Flooding threat

    The Icelandic Met Office said a team of scientists was flying across the region on Saturday afternoon to monitor seismic activity.

    “The eruption is considered a minor event at this point,” police said in a statement.

    “Because of pressure from the glacier cap, it is uncertain whether the eruption will stay sub-glacial or not.”

    sign
    Warning sign on the road to the Bardarbunga volcano (20 August) On Wednesday several hundred people were evacuated from the volcano area

    eruption
    Eyjafjallajokull eruption (18 April 2010) The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in April 2010 caused the largest closure of European airspace since World War Two, with losses estimated at between 1.5bn and 2.5bn euros (£1.3-2.2bn).

    The Met Office later issued an update saying that tremor levels had decreased during the afternoon but that earthquake activity was continuing.

    Virgin Atlantic said it had rerouted a flight from London to San Francisco away from the volcano as a precautionary measure.

    It said its other flights “continue to operate as normal”.

    British Airways said it was keeping the situation “under close observation”, but that its flights were continuing to operate normally for now.

    The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said there would be no impact on flights unless there was an actual eruption.

    Bardarbunga and Dyngjujokull are part of a large volcano system hidden beneath the 500-metre (0.31-mile) thick Vatnajokull glacier in central Iceland.

    Authorities have previously warned that any eruption could result in flooding north of the glacier.

    On Wednesday, authorities evacuated several hundred people from the area over fears of an eruption.

    The region, located more than 300km (190 miles) from the capital Reykjavik, has no permanent residents but sits within a national park popular with tourists.

    The move came after geologists reported that about 300 earthquakes had been detected in the area since midnight on Tuesday.

    Criticism following the strictly enforced shutdown resulted in the CAA relaxing its rules to allow planes to fly in areas with a low density of volcanic ash.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 2:29 pm on August 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Ecology,   

    From NASA: “Ozone-Depleting Compound Persists, NASA Research Shows “ 

    NASA

    NASA

    August 20, 2014
    Steve Cole
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0918
    stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

    Kathryn Hansen
    Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    301-286-1046
    kathryn.h.hansen@nasa.gov

    NASA research shows Earth’s atmosphere contains an unexpectedly large amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown source decades after the compound was banned worldwide.

    ball
    Satellites observed the largest ozone hole over Antarctica in 2006. Purple and blue represent areas of low ozone concentrations in the atmosphere; yellow and red are areas of higher concentrations. Image Credit: NASA

    Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons that destroy ozone and contribute to the ozone hole over Antarctica. Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012.

    However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect.

    “We are not supposed to be seeing this at all,” said Qing Liang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study. “It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources.”

    As of 2008, CCl4 accounted for about 11 percent of chlorine available for ozone depletion, which is not enough to alter the decreasing trend of ozone-depleting substances. Still, scientists and regulators want to know the source of the unexplained emissions.

    For almost a decade, scientists have debated why the observed levels of CCl4 in the atmosphere have declined slower than expectations, which are based on what is known about how the compound is destroyed by solar radiation and other natural processes.

    “Is there a physical CCl4 loss process we don’t understand, or are there emission sources that go unreported or are not identified?” Liang said.

    With zero CCl4 emissions reported between 2007-2012, atmospheric concentrations of the compound should have declined at an expected rate of 4 percent per year. Observations from the ground showed atmospheric concentrations were only declining by 1 percent per year.

    To investigate the discrepancy, Liang and colleagues used NASA’s 3-D GEOS Chemistry Climate Model and data from global networks of ground-based observations. The CCl4 measurements used in the study were made by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Earth System Research Laboratory and NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Model simulations of global atmospheric chemistry and the losses of CCl4 due to interactions with soil and the oceans pointed to an unidentified ongoing current source of CCl4. The results produced the first quantitative estimate of average global CCl4 emissions from 2000-2012.

    In addition to unexplained sources of CCl4, the model results showed the chemical stays in the atmosphere 40 percent longer than previously thought. The research was published online in the Aug. 18 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

    “People believe the emissions of ozone-depleting substances have stopped because of the Montreal Protocol,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and a co-author of the study. “Unfortunately, there is still a major source of CCl4 out in the world.”

    NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

    See the full article, with video, here.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble,
    Chandra, Spitzer ]and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

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  • richardmitnick 2:19 pm on August 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ecology   

    From Astrobiology: “Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost” 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Aug 22, 2014
    Source: University of Michigan
    Bernie DeGroat, (734) 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu

    Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost
    Aug 22, 2014

    image
    Headwaters of the Sagavanirktok River, North Slope of the Brooks Range, Arctic Alaska. Image credit: George W. Kling

    Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists.

    To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

    But in a study scheduled for online publication in Science on Aug. 21, University of Michigan researchers show for the first time that sunlight, not microbial activity, dominates the production of carbon dioxide in Arctic inland waters.

    “Our results suggest that sunlight, rather than biological processes, controls the fate of carbon released from thawing permafrost soils into Arctic surface waters,” said aquatic geochemist Rose Cory, first author of the Science paper and an assistant professor in the U-M Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
    woman
    University of Michigan aquatic geochemist Rose M. Cory collects water from the Sagavanirktok River, Arctic Alaska. Image credit: George W. Kling

    Last year, the same team reported in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences that recently exposed carbon from thawed Alaskan permafrost is extremely sensitive to sunlight and can quickly be converted to carbon dioxide. Taken together, the two studies suggest that “we’re likely to see more carbon dioxide released from thawing permafrost than people had previously believed,” Cory said.

    “We’re able to say that because we now know that sunlight plays a key role and that carbon released from thawing permafrost is readily converted to carbon dioxide once it’s exposed to sunlight,” she said.

    Worldwide, permafrost soils contain twice the amount of carbon that’s in the atmosphere. So thawing permafrost is a special concern for climate modelers trying to predict the timing and extent of future warming due to the ongoing buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    But soil carbon does not instantly turn into carbon dioxide gas when permafrost thaws. It must be dissolved in water and chemically processed before it gets released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Until now, scientists believed that bacteria were largely responsible for converting dissolved organic carbon into carbon dioxide gas in Arctic streams, lakes and rivers.

    river
    The Sagavanirktok River on the North Slope of Arctic Alaska. Image credit: George W. Kling

    To test that assumption, Cory and her colleagues analyzed water samples collected from 135 lakes and 73 rivers on the North Slope of Alaska over a three-year period. They compared the levels of sunlight-induced carbon processing—also called photodegradation, photochemical oxidation or photochemical processing—to carbon conversion due to bacterial respiration.

    They found that photodegradation of carbon exceeded bacterial respiration by up to 19-fold, accounting for 70-to-95 percent of the carbon processed in Arctic lakes and rivers. They determined that photochemical processing of soil carbon accounts for about one-third of all the carbon dioxide released from surface waters in the Arctic.

    “Carbon in thawing permafrost soils may have global impacts on climate change, yet controls on its processing and fate have been poorly understood,” said study co-author George Kling, a professor in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “Our study shows that photochemical processing of soil carbon is an important, newly measured component of the Arctic carbon budget.”

    In last year’s PNAS paper, Cory and her colleagues reported on places in the Alaskan Arctic where permafrost is melting and is causing the overlying land surface to collapse, forming erosional holes and landslides and exposing long-buried soils.

    spring
    Spring breakup of ice on the Kuparuk River, Alaska’s North Slope. Image credit: George W. Kling

    Sunlight—and especially ultraviolet radiation, the wavelengths that cause sunburn—can degrade organic soil carbon directly to carbon dioxide gas. It can also alter the carbon to make it a better food for bacteria, which respire it to carbon dioxide in much the same way that people respire carbon in food and exhale carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

    In PNAS, the team reported that sunlight increases bacterial conversion of exposed soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas by at least 40 percent compared to carbon that remains in the dark.

    One reason scientists are so interested in all of this is that the thawing of Arctic permafrost creates the potential for what’s called a positive feedback loop: As the Earth warms due to the human-caused release of heat-trapping gases, frozen soils thaw and release carbon dioxide. The added carbon dioxide accelerates Earth’s warming, which speeds the thawing of Arctic soils and releases even more carbon dioxide.

    Understanding how permafrost carbon is converted into carbon dioxide and incorporating photochemical processing into climate models “is critical for predictions of how the Arctic C [carbon] cycle will respond to and perhaps amplify climate change,” the authors of the Science paper conclude.

    See the full article here.
    Astrobiology Magazine is a NASA-sponsored online popular science magazine. Our stories profile the latest and most exciting news across the wide and interdisciplinary field of astrobiology — the study of life in the universe. In addition to original content, Astrobiology Magazine also runs content from non-NASA sources in order to provide our readers with a broad knowledge of developments in astrobiology, and from institutions both nationally and internationally. Publication of press-releases or other out-sourced content does not signify endorsement or affiliation of any kind.
    Established in the year 2000, Astrobiology Magazine now has a vast archive of stories covering a broad array of topics.

    NASA

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  • richardmitnick 1:52 pm on January 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Ecology,   

    From Berkeley Lab: “Hitting the Sweet Spot for Advanced Biofuel Technologies” 


    Berkeley Lab

    January 25, 2013
    Lynn Yarris

    Earth’s atmosphere and the American economy would greatly benefit from the commercial development of clean, green and renewable domestic biofuels. Advanced biofuels, capable of a gallon-for-gallon replacement of petroleum-based fuels, are by definition, capable of exploiting common engine designs and using today’s fuel distribution infrastructures. Studies show advanced biofuels have a carbon life cycle that produces low or net-zero green house gases. Helping to commercialize advanced biofuels is the primary mission of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU), the West Coast’s only state-of-the-art facility providing industry-scale test beds for laboratory discoveries in advanced biofuels research.

    abpdu

    unit

    ‘At ABPDU we can fill an important niche when it comes to the commercialization of advanced biofuel technologies,’ says James Gardner, the ABPDU’s Operations Manager. ‘There’s a term in the fuels world called the Valley of Death, where something that looks fantastic at the research scale, fails to pass through the gauntlet of scale-up testing that allows it to go on to the commercial scale. We can help nascent technologies navigate this valley and lower the barriers to market entry by providing a pilot plant that is very flexible and open-ended.’

    gard
    James Gardner

    Read a news release about the ABPDU opening here.”

    And, see the full current article here. Our problems of inefficient use of resources and a deteriorating environment for ourselves and our children are not going to go away until we research them away.

    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

    doeseal
    cal

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  • richardmitnick 11:44 am on November 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Ecology, ,   

    From Berkeley Lab: “Genome-scale Network of Rice Genes to Speed the Development of Biofuel Crops” 


    Berkeley Lab

    Joint BioEnergy Institute Researchers Create RiceNet for Predicting Genetic Functions in Rice

    “The first genome-scale model for predicting the functions of genes and gene networks in a grass species has been developed by an international team of researches that includes scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Called RiceNet, this systems-level model of rice gene interactions should help speed the development of new crops for the production of advanced biofuels, as well as help boost the production and improve the quality of one of the world’s most important food staples.

    ‘With RiceNet, instead of working on one gene at a time based on data from a single experimental set, we can predict the function of entire networks of genes, as well as entire genetic pathways that regulate a particular biological process,’ says Pamela Ronald, a plant geneticist who holds joint appointments with JBEI, where she directs the grass genetics program, and with the University of California (UC) Davis, where she is a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and at The Genome Center. “RiceNet represents a systems biology approach that draws from diverse and large datasets for rice and other organisms.”

    i1
    This graphic is a full-size view of a RiceNet layout, color-coded to indicate the likelihood of network links; red for higher and blue for lower likelihood scores. (Image from Ronald, et. al)

    See the full article here.

    This is not the first attempt by the scientific community to bring the world better rice. A project atWorld Community Grid , Nutritious Rice for the World was concerned with this subject, but not for biofuels. Rather, it was an attempt to find varieties of rice which did a better job of improving the diet of a large portion of the world’s population.

    i2

    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

    i1
    i2

     
  • richardmitnick 10:18 am on December 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Ecology, , , , , , , , ,   

    From MIT News:”Building a list of Earth candidates” 

    Building a list of Earth candidates

    i1

    There are several topics in Particle Physics and Cosmology which are gaining real momentum. First, of course, is the search for the Higgs Boson, at FerrmiLab via the Tevatron, and now also and with greater probability of success at Cern via the LHC. Second would be the search for Dark Matter and Dark Energy. But, not far behind is the search for planets which might have an environment which would support life. The SETI Institute, aided and ably abetted by the BOINC project SETI@home. These guys are going about the process sort of in reverse. If they can find evidence of intelligent life in the universe, why then, we will know that there is/are planets we must locate.

    So, after that preamble, here is a taste of Morgan’s article.

    Morgan Bettex, MIT News Office
    December 14, 2010

    The possibility of discovering a planet that is small, cool, rocky, orbiting a sunlike star and able to host life — an Earth twin, in other words — has made the search for planets outside of our solar system, or exoplanets, one of the hottest research areas in physical science. This three-part series explores MIT researchers’ roles in the quest to find an Earth twin and the effort to make sense of the 500 exoplanets that have been discovered since 1995.

    “In September, researchers announced the discovery of Gliese 581g, a rocky planet with a mass that is just three to four times that of Earth. If the discovery is confirmed with independent data, it could be the closest that planetary scientists have come to finding a planet outside the solar system that resembles our own. Although other planets with nearly the same mass as Earth have been discovered, Gliese 581g is the smallest planet that is also in the “Goldilocks zone,” or at a distance from its host star to make the planet’s temperature cool enough for liquid water to exist on its surface. Astronomers discovered Gliese 581g using two Earth-based telescopes to observe the movements of the planet’s host star that are caused by gravitational tugs from orbiting bodies. Based on these slight tugs, the researchers were able to estimate the planet’s mass…

    “It’s highly likely that a planet that is smaller and even more Earthlike than Gliese 581g will be discovered by Kepler, a NASA satellite that is observing 150,000 stars with the goal of detecting Earth-sized planets located in or near the Goldilocks zone. But although Kepler has delivered promising data to date — data that several MIT researchers are analyzing — the satellite is looking at only a narrow field of the sky. MIT faculty, researchers and students are working on several satellites to complement Kepler’s efforts and scan much more of the sky.

    i3
    Kepler in the womb

    i5
    What does what on Kepler

    You should read the full article here. Morgan is a very good writer, and there is a lot to learn.

    And, hey, think about what you might be able to contrribute to this search. Visit BOINC, download and install the little piece of software that make BOINC go, and attach to the SETI@home project. While you are at BOINC, look at some of the other very worthwhile projects at august institutions and universities around our own little globe. You might find some of them very attractive. There are about 275,000 “crunchers” in the world, a very small number in a world with about one billion computers. We need all of the help that we can get. Visit also the SETI Institute. There really is a lot going on here.

    i5

    If you have gone this far, then, I beseech you, visit a very important member of the BOINC family of projects, World Community Grid (WCG). BOINC calls it one project, but actually, WCG. powered by IBM, is the mother ship for eight vital projects with an emphasis on fighting diseases such as AIDS, Cancer, Dengue Fever, and Muscular Dystrophy. There are also projects in Clean Energy and Clean Water, and the iconic Human Proteome Folding project, now in its second phase.

    All of this work goes on in the background on your computer. It never ever interferes with what you are actively doing like work, or listening to music, or watching video, shopping, etc.

    Give us a shot. And, keep following MIT News for the latest news in the search for the possibilities of life on other planets.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:22 pm on October 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ecology,   

    Morris Bullock, Metals, and the Environment 

    Dr. Morris Bullock is the environment’s friend. So, he is your friend and my friend.
    mb
    Dr. Morris Bullock

    Dr. Bullock is at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

    There are guys and women out there, research scientists, doing amazing work in our national laboratories and major research institution and universities. This work is generally in the public domain, so they are never going to get rich. Most will never get a Nobel Prize. But, we should know about them and their work. We owe them our gratitude.

    Here is the first paragraph of the bio page on Morris Bullock:

    “Morris Bullock is the Director of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center. He is a Laboratory Fellow, he is currently located in the Catalysis Sciences Group in the Chemical and Materials Sciences Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. From 1985-2006, he was in the Chemistry Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory (Long Island, New York).”

    The subtitle of the October article about Dr Bullock is “Kicking the Precious Metal Habit“.
    Its hard to say what the journal or website it titled, so here is a link.

    Dr Bullock edited the book Catalysis without Precious Metals.
    book

    The book “…is written for chemists in industry and academia. The 306-page hardcover book summarizes recent progress in the field, pointing to how new catalysts may ultimately supplant precious metals in some types of reactions. Also, the book goes on to highlight the remaining chemical challenges and areas in need of further study. The book was written by experts from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and China…”

    “Rare and expensive, precious metals such as platinum, rhodium and palladium are used extensively as catalysts on a large scale in preparing pharmaceutical and agricultural chemicals, as well as for applications in energy sciences. For example, platinum catalysts effectively break the H-H bond of hydrogen in clean, efficient fuel cells. However, the need for platinum limits fuel cells from contributing as effectively to the global energy solution.”

    “…[Dr Bullock's ] research focuses on reactivity of metal hydrides, including the transfer of protons, hydrides, and hydrogen atoms. He has also made substantial contributions to developing molecular catalysts that create and use hydrogen as fuel. Bullock currently serves as the Director of the multi-million dollar Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis.

    cma

    So, Dr. Bullock saves our environment, and he saves us money. I want my platinum to be in a watch on my wrist. Palladium? The nibs of some of my favorite fountain pens – I collect fountain pens – are made of palladium.

    Maybe Dr. Bullock is a Seahawks fan. Maybe Pete Carroll will bring him some luck.

     
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