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  • richardmitnick 10:40 am on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , ,   

    From U Washington: “Crystals form through a variety of paths, with implications for biological, materials and environmental research” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    August 3, 2015
    News and Information

    Crystals play an important role in the formation of substances from skeletons and shells to soils and semiconductor materials. But many aspects of their formation are shrouded in mystery. Scientists have long worked to understand how crystals grow into complex shapes. Now, an international group of researchers has shown how nature uses a variety of pathways to grow crystals beyond the classical, one-piece-at-a-time route.

    “Because crystallization is a ubiquitous phenomenon across a wide range of scientific disciplines, a shift in the picture of how this process occurs has far-reaching consequences,” said James De Yoreo, a materials scientist and physicist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and affiliate UW professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering.

    These conclusions, published July 31 in Science with De Yoreo as lead author, have implications for decades-old questions in crystal formation, such as how animals and plants form minerals into shapes that have no relation to their original crystal symmetry or why some contaminants are so difficult to remove from stream sediments and groundwater.

    1
    An artist’s rendition of the early crystallization process of calcium carbonate. Adam F. Wallace/University of Delaware/David J. Carey

    Their findings crystalized during discussions among 15 scientists from diverse fields such as geochemistry, physics, biology and the earth and materials sciences. At their home institutions, these researchers conduct experiments, investigate animal skeletons, study soils and streams or use computer simulations to visualize how particles can form and attach. They met for a three-day workshop in Berkeley, California, that was sponsored by the Council on Geosciences from the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

    “Researchers across all disciplines have made observations of skeletons and laboratory-grown crystals that cannot be explained by traditional theories,” said senior author Patricia Dove, a professor of geosciences at Virginia Tech. “We show how these crystals can be built up into complex structures by attaching particles — as nanocrystals, clusters, or droplets — that become organized into complex shapes. Many scientists have contributed to identifying these particles and pathways to becoming a crystal — our challenge was to put together a framework to understand them.”

    In animal and laboratory systems alike, the crystal formation process begins by constructing their constituent particles. These can be small molecules, clusters, droplets or nanocrystals. These particles are unstable and begin to combine with each other, nearby crystals and other surfaces. For example, nanocrystals prefer to orient themselves along the same direction as a larger crystal before attaching, much like adding Legos. In contrast, amorphous conglomerates can simply aggregate. Their atoms later become organized by “doing the wave” through the mass to rearrange into a single crystal.

    “Because we largely show a community consensus on this topic, the study has the potential to define the directions of future research on crystallization,” said De Yoreo.

    2
    Aragonite crystals forming on calcium carbonate.Pacific Northwest National Laboratory/James De Yoreo

    The authors say much work remains to understand the forces that cause these particles to move and combine. It is one of the driving forces behind new research.

    “Particle pathways are tricky because they can form what appear to be crystals with the traditional faceted surfaces or they can have completely unexpected shapes and chemical compositions,” said Dove. “Our group synthesized the evidence to show these pathways to growing a crystal become possible because of interplays between of thermodynamic and kinetic factors.”

    The implications of these discussions span diverse scientific fields. By understanding how animals form crystals into working structures such as shells, teeth and bones, scientists will have a bigger and better toolbox to interpret crystals formed in nature. These insights may also help design novel materials and explain unusual mineral patterns in rocks. In addition, knowledge of how pollutants are transported or trapped in the minerals of sediments has implications for environmental management of water and soil.

    “How we think about the ways to crystallization impacts how we interpret natural crystallization processes in geochemical and biological environments, as well as how we design and control synthetic crystal growth processes,” said De Yoreo. “I was surprised at how widespread a phenomenon particle-mediated crystallization is and how easily one can create a unified picture that captures its many styles.”

    The work was supported by the Council on Geosciences of the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Science. All co-authors and their affiliations are listed on the paper.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:27 am on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From U Washington: “UW to invest $37 million in nanofabrication lab critical to researchers, start-ups” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    August 3, 2015
    Jennifer Langston

    1
    UW students taking a microfabrication class get hands-on training in cleanroom laboratory techniques at the Washington Nanofabrication Facility.University of Washington

    For start-up companies looking to make chips with nanoscale features for sequencing DNA or wafers for industrial barcode printing, the equipment costs to fabricate those parts could easily devour every last dollar of seed funding.

    The same goes for grant-funded researchers designing quantum information devices or micro-scale sensors to measure cell movement— which is where the Washington Nanofabrication Facility comes in.

    The WNF makes things that aren’t practical, economical or possible to fabricate at commercial foundries — inconceivably tiny parts, chips made from unconventional materials that industrial factories won’t touch, devices that probe the boundaries of our universe. Part of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, the lab on the University of Washington campus is the largest publicly accessible nanofabrication facility north of Berkeley and west of Minneapolis.

    To serve growing demand for nanofabrication services, the UW Board of Regents has approved spending up to $37 million to renovate the facility, which is housed in Fluke Hall. The overhaul, scheduled to begin in November, will upgrade basic building systems and roughly double the amount of highly-specialized fabrication space that academics and entrepreneurs increasingly rely on to build innovative devices.

    The “fab lab” in Fluke Hall — currently used by 48 UW faculty members and 134 students — has supported $32 million in UW research grant funding this year. A third of its 223 users are with commercial companies, which range from multinational corporations to UW spinouts to minority-owned local start-ups. Regional demand for nanofabrication services is growing rapidly, with WNF revenues nearly tripling in the last four years.

    “The Washington Nanofabrication Facility is vital to my existence,” said Jevne Branden Micheau-Cunningham, who launched a new company called FLEXFORGE six months ago. He’s using WNF equipment and expertise to manufacture nanoscale electronics with applications in the automotive, aerospace and medical devices industries.

    “It allows entrepreneurs such as myself to flesh out ideas and bring products to life — the costs to get up and running on my own would have been prohibitive,” said Micheau-Cunningham. “Nanofabrication is also a pretty specific thing, and they’ve really looked over my shoulder throughout the process.”

    The WNF houses nearly 100 different pieces of equipment that perform everything from electron beam lithography and atomic layer deposition to plasma etching and wafer bonding. User fees paid by academic and non-university clients are invested back into the facility. Applications for the devices those tools enable range from tissue engineering and silicon photonics to semiconductor technologies and basic scientific research.

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    The WNF houses equipment used in nanofabrication, from simple microscopes to this tool that deposits dielectric materials at low temperatures.SPTS Technologies

    “Fabrication is basically a repetitive sequence of steps where we add or subtract material to create the microsystems and devices that people ask for,” said WNF associate director Michael Khbeis. “A lot of companies don’t have fabrication experts, so we also do a lot of design assistance and handholding to take an idea or concept and engineer a process and turn it into a prototype.”

    The UW assumed ownership of the nonprofit nanofabrication facility in 2011, which was formerly run by the Washington Department of Commerce. Through private donations, grants, UW funding and corporate gifts, the lab has invested in excess of $8 million over the last four years to modernize tools and equipment.

    But the infrastructure in Fluke Hall, built in 1988, needs upgrades to meet basic safety and environmental standards and the highly specialized needs of nanofabrication users. The renovation, which will be done in three phases over 14 months to minimize downtime, will allow the lab to better control temperature, humidity and air quality inside the “clean room,” where unwelcome fluctuations can poison an entire production line.

    “One dust speck can damage a device if it’s in the wrong place, so this renovation will make a major difference,” said WNF director Karl Böhringer, a UW professor of electrical engineering and of bioengineering. “The other advantage will be having more space — usage and revenues have increased, and we are bursting at the seams.”

    3
    These flexible microposts are used for rapid blood analysis by Stasys, a biomedical spin-off that developed their technology at the UW and received a microfabrication commercialization grant.University of Washington

    By helping fledgling companies realize prototypes and develop scalable production processes, the WNF plays an important role in the region’s innovation ecosystem. With funding from the Washington Research Foundation, the lab has awarded $140,000 in Microfabrication Commercialization Grants that help bridge the gap from academic or applied research to commercialization of micro-fabricated devices. So far, those grants have supported two UW spin-out companies.

    The nanofabrication lab also offers an undergraduate research program for students who spend up to three years learning how to calibrate and operate the highly sensitive and specialized equipment. This summer’s program will include 20 UW undergrads, up from three in 2011.

    The electronics industry workforce that spurred the development of personal computers and mobile devices is aging and retiring; nationwide there is a shortage of engineers entering the workforce to backfill essential positions and skillsets. By training students in real-world challenges, the WNF’s workforce development mission supports the future success of the U.S. tech industry.

    “When they leave here, they’re highly sought-after in the semiconductor and electronics and aerospace worlds,” Khbeis said. “Every one of our students has multiple offers, and those companies are extremely happy to get them.”

    For more information, contact Khbeis and Böhringer at wnf-info@coral.engr.washington.edu.

    See the full article here.

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    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:23 am on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From phys.org: “End-of-century Manhattan climate index to resemble Oklahoma City today” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    August 4, 2015
    Carnegie Institution for Science

    1
    View from Midtown Manhattan, facing south toward Lower Manhattan

    Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions will alter the way that Americans heat and cool their homes. By the end of this century, the number of days each year that heating and air conditioning are used will decrease in the Northern states, as winters get warmer, and increase in Southern states, as summers get hotter, according to a new study from a high school student, Yana Petri, working with Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira. It is published by Scientific Reports.

    “Changes in outdoor temperatures have a substantial impact on energy use inside,” Caldeira explained. “So as the climate changes due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the amount of energy we use to keep our homes comfortable will also change.”

    Using results from established climate models, Petri, under Caldeira’s supervision, calculated the changes in the number of days over the last 30 years when U.S. temperatures were low enough to require heating or high enough to require air conditioning in order to achieve a comfort level of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. She also calculated projections for future days when heating or air conditioning would be required to maintain the same comfort level if current trends in greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked.

    Looking forward toward the end of this century, her calculations found that Washington state will have the smallest increase in air conditioning-required days and southern Texas will have the largest increase. Likewise, upper North Dakota, Minnesota, and Maine would have the largest decrease in heating-required days and southern Florida would have the smallest decrease.

    Petri then took this inquiry one step further and looked at a sum of heating-required days and cooling-required days in different regions both in the past and in future projection, to get a sense of changes in the overall thermal comfort of different areas.

    “No previous study has looked at climate model projections and tried to develop an index of overall thermal comfort, which is quite an achievement,” Caldeira said.

    Today, the city with the minimum combined number of heating- and cooling-required days, in other words the place with the most-optimal outdoor comfort level, is San Diego. But the model projected that in the same future time frame, 2080-2099, the climate would shift so that San Francisco would take its place as the city with the most-comfortable temperatures.

    Other changes predicted by the model are that the amount of heating and cooling required in New York City in the future will be similar to that used in Oklahoma City today. By this same measure, Seattle is projected to resemble present day San Jose, and Denver to become more like Raleigh, NC, is today.

    See the full article here.

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:12 am on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Discovery: “Hopes Dim for Reversing Ocean Warming: Study” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Aug 3, 2015
    AFP

    1
    2

    Technology to drain heat-trapping CO2 from the atmosphere may slow global warming, but will not reverse climate damage to the ocean on any meaningful timescale, according to research published Monday.

    A new NASA study has revealed that the ocean abyss has not warmed in the past few years. What does this mean for global warming?

    At the same time, a second study reported, even the most aggressive timetable for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions will need a big boost from largely untested carbon removal schemes to cap warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

    Above that threshold, say scientists, the risk of climate calamity rises sharply. Earth is currently on a 4 Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) trajectory.

    Both studies, coming months before 195 nations meet in Paris in a bid to forge a climate pact, conclude that deep, swift cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are crucial.

    Planetary-scale technical fixes — sometimes called geo-engineering — have often been invoked as a fallback solution in the fight against climate change.

    But with CO2 emissions still rising, along with the global thermostat, many scientists are starting to take a hard look at which ones might be feasible.

    Research has shown that extracting massive quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere, through intensive reforestation programs or carbon-scrubbing technology, would in theory help cool the planet.

    But up to now, little was known about the long-term potential for these measures for restoring oceans, rendered overly acidic after two centuries of absorbing CO2.

    Increased acidification has already ravaged coral, and several kinds of micro-organisms essential to the ocean food chain, with impacts going all the way up to humans.

    Scientists led by Sabine Mathesius of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, used computer models to test different carbon-reduction scenarios, looking in each case at the impact on acidity, water temperatures and oxygen levels.

    If humanity waited a century before sucking massive amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere, they concluded, it would still take centuries, maybe even a thousand years, before the ocean would catch up.

    In the meantime, they researchers say, corals will have disappeared, many marine species will have gone extinct and the ocean would be rife with dead spots.

    “We show that in a business-as-usual scenario, even massive deployment of CO2 removal schemes cannot reverse the substantial impacts on the marine environment — at least not within many centuries,” Mathesius said.

    Even in a scenario in which large-scale carbon removal begins in 2050 — assuming such technology is available — the ocean does not fare well.

    “Immediate and ambitious action to reduce CO2 emissions is the most reliable strategy for avoiding dangerous climate change, ocean acidification, and large-scale threats to marine ecosystems,” the researchers concluded.

    Scientists commenting on the study said it should sound an alarm.

    “The threat of ocean acidification alone justifies dramatic and rapid reduction of CO2 emissions,” said Nick Riley, a research associate at the British Geological Survey (BGS).

    The second study, led by Thomas Gasser of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, near Paris, uses state-of-the-art models to measure the trade-off between reducing emissions and carbon-removing technologies.

    They show that even if nations strike a deal in Paris adhering to the most aggressive CO2-slashing pathway outlined by UN scientists, it may not be enough to keep Earth on a 2 C trajectory.

    “Our results suggest that negative emissions” — the use of carbon removing technology — “are needed even in the case of very high mitigation rates.”

    To have a chance of meeting the 2 C target, 0.5 to 3.0 gigatonnes of carbon — up to a third of total annual CO2 emissions today from industry — would need to be extracted every year starting more or less immediately, they calculate.

    The study exposes “an elephant in the room,” Riley said. ”The target to keep warming within the 2 C rise is looking increasingly unattainable.”

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:47 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Apple Computers, Applied Research & Technology, Computer worms,   

    From WIRED: “Researchers Create First Firmware Worm That Attacks Macs” 

    Wired logo

    Wired

    08.03.15
    Kim Zetter

    1
    Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

    The common wisdom when it comes to PCs and Apple computers is that the latter are much more secure. Particularly when it comes to firmware, people have assumed that Apple systems are locked down in ways that PCs aren’t.

    It turns out this isn’t true. Two researchers have found that several known vulnerabilities affecting the firmware of all the top PC makers can also hit the firmware of MACs. What’s more, the researchers have designed a proof-of-concept worm for the first time that would allow a firmware attack to spread automatically from MacBook to MacBook, without the need for them to be networked.

    The attack raises the stakes considerably for system defenders since it would allow someone to remotely target machines—including air-gapped ones—in a way that wouldn’t be detected by security scanners and would give an attacker a persistent foothold on a system even through firmware and operating system updates. Firmware updates require the assistance of a machine’s existing firmware to install, so any malware in the firmware could block new updates from being installed or simply write itself to a new update as it’s installed.

    The only way to eliminate malware embedded in a computer’s main firmware would be to re-flash the chip that contains the firmware.

    “[The attack is] really hard to detect, it’s really hard to get rid of, and it’s really hard to protect against something that’s running inside the firmware,” says Xeno Kovah, one of the researchers who designed the worm. “For most users that’s really a throw-your-machine-away kind of situation. Most people and organizations don’t have the wherewithal to physically open up their machine and electrically reprogram the chip.”

    It’s the kind of attack intelligence agencies like the NSA covet. In fact, documents released by Edward Snowden, and research conducted by Kaspersky Lab, have shown that the NSA has already developed sophisticated techniques for hacking firmware.

    The Mac firmware research was conducted by Kovah, owner of LegbaCore, a firmware security consultancy, and Trammell Hudson, a security engineer with Two Sigma Investments. They’ll be discussing their findings on August 6 at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

    A computer’s core firmware—also referred to at times as the BIOS, UEFI or EFI—is the software that boots a computer and launches its operating system. It can be infected with malware because most hardware makers don’t cryptographically sign the firmware embedded in their systems, or their firmware updates, and don’t include any authentication functions that would prevent any but legitimate signed firmware from being installed.

    Firmware is a particularly valuable place to hide malware on a machine because it operates at a level below the level where antivirus and other security products operate and therefore does not generally get scanned by these products, leaving malware that infects the firmware unmolested. There’s also no easy way for users to manually examine the firmware themselves to determine if it’s been altered. And because firmware remains untouched if the operating system is wiped and re-installed, malware infecting the firmware can maintain a persistent hold on a system throughout attempts to disinfect the computer. If a victim, thinking his or her computer is infected, wipes the computer’s operating system and reinstalls it to eliminate malicious code, the malicious firmware code will remain intact.

    5 Firmware Vulnerabilities in Macs

    Last year, Kovah and his partner at Legbacore, Corey Kallenberg, uncovered a series of firmware vulnerabilities that affected 80 percent of PCs they examined, including ones from Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and HP. Although hardware makers implement some protections to make it difficult for someone to modify their firmware, the vulnerabilities the researchers found allowed them to bypass these and reflash the BIOS to plant malicious code in it.

    Kovah, along with Hudson, then decided to see if the same vulnerabilities applied to Apple firmware and found that untrusted code could indeed be written to the MacBook boot flash firmware. “It turns out almost all of the attacks we found on PCs are also applicable to Macs,” says Kovah.

    They looked at six vulnerabilities and found that five of them affected Mac firmware. The vulnerabilities are applicable to so many PCs and Macs because hardware makers tend to all use some of the same firmware code.

    “Most of these firmwares are built from the same reference implementations, so when someone finds a bug in one that affects Lenovo laptops, there’s a really good chance it’s going to affect the Dells and HPs,” says Kovah. “What we also found is that there is really a high likelihood that the vulnerability will also affect Macbooks. Because Apple is using a similar EFI firmware.”

    In the case of at least one vulnerability, there were specific protections that Apple could have implemented to prevent someone from updating the Mac code but didn’t.

    “People hear about attacks on PCs and they assume that Apple firmware is better,” Kovah says. “So we’re trying to make it clear that any time you hear about EFI firmware attacks, it’s pretty much all x86 [computers].”

    They notified Apple of the vulnerabilities, and the company has already fully patched one and partially patched another. But three of the vulnerabilities remain unpatched.
    Thunderstrike 2: Stealth Firmware Worm for Macs

    Using these vulnerabilities, the researchers then designed a worm they dubbed Thunderstrike 2 that can spread between MacBooks undetected. It can remain hidden because it never touches the computer’s operating system or file system. “It only ever lives in firmware, and consequently no [scanners] are actually looking at that level,” says Kovah.

    The attack infects the firmware in just seconds and can also be done remotely.

    There have been examples of firmware worms in the past—but they spread between things like home office routers and also involved infecting the Linux operating system on the routers. Thunderstrike 2, however, is designed to spread by infecting what’s known as the option ROM on peripheral devices.

    An attacker could first remotely compromise the boot flash firmware on a MacBook by delivering the attack code via a phishing email and malicious web site. That malware would then be on the lookout for any peripherals connected to the computer that contain option ROM, such as an Apple Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter, and infect the firmware on those. The worm would then spread to any other computer to which the adapter gets connected.

    When another machine is booted with this worm-infected device inserted, the machine firmware loads the option ROM from the infected device, triggering the worm to initiate a process that writes its malicious code to the boot flash firmware on the machine. If a new device is subsequently plugged into the computer and contains option ROM, the worm will write itself to that device as well and use it to spread.

    One way to randomly infect machines would be to sell infected Ethernet adapters on eBay or infect them in a factory.

    “People are unaware that these small cheap devices can actually infect their firmware,” says Kovah. “You could get a worm started all around the world that’s spreading very low and slow. If people don’t have awareness that attacks can be happening at this level then they’re going to have their guard down and an attack will be able to completely subvert their system.”

    In a demo video Kovah and Hudson showed WIRED, they used an Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter, but an attacker could also infect the option ROM on an external SSD or on a RAID controller.

    No security products currently check the option ROM on Ethernet adapters and other devices, so attackers could move their worm between machines without fear of being caught. They plan to release some tools at their talk that will allow users to check the option ROM on their devices, but the tools aren’t able to check the boot flash firmware on machines.

    The attack scenario they demonstrated is ideal for targeting air-gapped systems that can’t be infected through network connections.

    “Let’s say you’re running a uranium refining centrifuge plant and you don’t have it connected to any networks, but people bring laptops into it and perhaps they share Ethernet adapters or external SSDs to bring data in and out,” Kovah notes. “Those SSDs have option ROMs that could potentially carry this sort of infection. Perhaps because it’s a secure environment they don’t use WiFi, so they have Ethernet adapters. Those adapters also have option ROMs that can carry this malicious firmware.”

    He likens it to how Stuxnet spread to Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz via infected USB sticks. But in that case, the attack relied on zero-day attacks against the Windows operating system to spread. As a result, it left traces in the OS where defenders might be able to find them.

    “Stuxnet sat around as a kernel driver on Windows file systems most of the time, so basically it existed in very readily available, forensically-inspectable places that everybody knows how to check. And that was its Achille’s heel,” Kovah says. But malware embedded in firmware would be a different story since firmware inspection is a vicious circle: the firmware itself controls the ability of the OS to see what’s in the firmware, thus a firmware-level worm or malware could hide by intercepting the operating system’s attempts to look for it. Kovah and colleagues showed how firmware malware could lie like this at a talk they gave in 2012. “[The malware] could trap those requests and just serve up clean copies [of code]… or hide in system management mode where the OS isn’t even allowed to look,” he says.

    Hardware makers could guard against firmware attacks if they cryptographically signed their firmware and firmware updates and added authentication capabilities to hardware devices to verify these signatures. They could also add a write-protect switch to prevent unauthorized parties from flashing the firmware.

    Although these measures would guard against low-level hackers subverting the firmware, well-resourced nation-state attackers could still steal a hardware maker’s master key to sign their malicious code and bypass these protections.

    Therefore, an additional countermeasure would involve hardware vendors giving users the ability to easily read their machine’s firmware to determine if it has changed since installation. If vendors provided a checksum of the firmware and firmware updates they distribute, users could periodically check to see if what’s installed on their machine differs from the checksums. A checksum is a cryptographic representation of data that is created by running the data through an algorithm to produce a unique identifier composed of letters and numbers. Each checksum is supposed to be unique so that if anything changes in the dataset, it will produce a different checksum.

    But hardware makers aren’t implementing these changes because it would require re-architecting systems, and in the absence of users demanding more security for their firmware, hardware makers aren’t likely to make the changes on their own.

    “Some vendors like Dell and Lenovo have been very active in trying to rapidly remove vulnerabilities from their firmware,” Kovah notes. “Most other vendors, including Apple as we are showing here, have not. We use our research to help raise awareness of firmware attacks, and show customers that they need to hold their vendors accountable for better firmware security.”

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 2:21 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From NYU: NYU Scientists bring order, and color, to microparticles” 

    NYU BLOC

    New York University

    August 3, 2015
    No Writer Credit

    1
    A team of New York University scientists has developed a technique that prompts microparticles to form ordered structures in a variety of materials. The advance offers a method to potentially improve the makeup and color of optical materials used in computer screens along with other consumer products. (c) iStock/dolphfyn

    A team of New York University scientists has developed a technique that prompts microparticles to form ordered structures in a variety of materials. The advance, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) as an “Editors’ Choice” article, offers a method to potentially improve the makeup and color of optical materials used in computer screens along with other consumer products.

    The work is centered on enhancing the arrangement of colloids—small particles suspended within a fluid medium. Colloidal dispersions are composed of such everyday items such as paint, milk, gelatin, glass, and porcelain, but their potential to create new materials remains largely untapped.

    Notably, DNA-coated colloids offer particular promise because they can be linked together, with DNA serving as the glue to form a range of new colloidal structures. However, previous attempts have produced uneven results, with these particles attaching to each other in ways that produce chaotic or inflexible configurations.

    The NYU team developed a new method to apply DNA coating to colloids so that they crystallize—or form new compounds—in an orderly manner. Specifically, it employed a synthetic strategy—click chemistry—introduced more than a decade ago that is a highly efficient way of attaching DNA. Here, scientists initiated a chemical reaction that allows molecular components to stick together in a particular fashion—a process some have compared to connecting Legos.

    In a previous paper, published earlier this year in the journal Nature Communications, the research team outlined the successful execution of this technique. However, the method, at that point, could manipulate only one type of particle. In the JACS study, the research team shows the procedure can handle five additional types of materials—and in different combinations.

    The advance, the scientists say, is akin to a builder having the capacity to construct a house using glass, metal, brick, and concrete—rather than only wood.

    “If you want to program and create structures at microscopic levels, you need to have the ability for a particle to move around and find its optimal position,” explains David Pine, a professor of physics at NYU and chair of the Chemical and Bioengineering Department at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. “Our research shows that this be done and be achieved with multiple materials, all resulting in several different types of compounds.”

    The work was conducted by researchers at NYU’s Molecular Design Institute and Center for Soft Matter Research and at South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University. The paper’s other authors were: Yufeng Wang of the Center for Soft Matter Research and Molecular Design Institute; Yu Wang and Xiaolong Zheng of the Molecular Design Institute; Etienne Ducrot of the Center for Soft Matter Research; Myung-Goo Lee and Gi-Ra Yi of Sungkyunkwan University’s School of Chemical Engineering; and Marcus Weck of the Molecular Design Institute.

    The research was supported, in part, by grants from the U.S. Army Research Office (W911NF- 510 10-1-0518), the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2014S1A2A2028608), and by the National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) Program (DMR-0820341).

    NYU’s center is one of 24 MRSECs in the country. These NSF-backed centers support interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary materials research to address fundamental problems in science and engineering.

    For more on the NYU MRSEC, click here.

    See the full article here..

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    NYU Campus

    More than 175 years ago, Albert Gallatin, the distinguished statesman who served as secretary of the treasury under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, declared his intention to establish “in this immense and fast-growing city … a system of rational and practical education fitting for all and graciously opened to all.” Founded in 1831, New York University is now one of the largest private universities in the United States. Of the more than 3,000 colleges and universities in America, New York University is one of only 60 member institutions of the distinguished Association of American Universities.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:32 am on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From ASU: “ASU researchers demonstrate the world’s first white lasers” 

    ASU Bloc

    ASU

    July 28, 2015

    Sharon Keeler, sharon.keeler@asu.edu
    480-727-5618
    Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

    1
    This schematic illustrates the novel nanosheet with three parallel segments created by the researchers, each supporting laser action in one of three elementary colors. The device is capable of lasing in any visible color, completely tunable from red, green to blue, or any color in between. When the total field is collected, a white color emerges.
    Photo by: ASU/Nature Nanotechnology

    More luminous and energy efficient than LEDs, white lasers look to be the future in lighting and light-based wireless communication

    While lasers were invented in 1960 and are commonly used in many applications, one characteristic of the technology has proven unattainable. No one has been able to create a laser that beams white light.

    Researchers at Arizona State University have solved the puzzle. They have proven that semiconductor lasers are capable of emitting over the full visible color spectrum, which is necessary to produce a white laser.

    The researchers have created a novel nanosheet – a thin layer of semiconductor that measures roughly one-fifth of the thickness of human hair in size with a thickness that is roughly one-thousandth of the thickness of human hair – with three parallel segments, each supporting laser action in one of three elementary colors. The device is capable of lasing in any visible color, completely tunable from red, green to blue, or any color in between. When the total field is collected, a white color emerges.

    The researchers, engineers in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, published their findings in the July 27 advance online publication of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Cun-Zheng Ning, professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, authored the paper, A monolithic white laser, with his doctoral students Fan Fan, Sunay Turkdogan, Zhicheng Liu and David Shelhammer. Turkdogan and Liu completed their doctorates after this research.

    The technological advance puts lasers one step closer to being a mainstream light source and potential replacement or alternative to light emitting diodes (LEDs). Lasers are brighter, more energy efficient, and can potentially provide more accurate and vivid colors for displays like computer screens and televisions. Ning’s group has already shown that their structures could cover as much as 70 percent more colors than the current display industry standard.

    Another important application could be in the future of visible light communication in which the same room lighting systems could be used for both illumination and communication. The technology under development is called Li-Fi for light-based wireless communication, as opposed to the more prevailing Wi-Fi using radio waves. Li-Fi could be more than 10 times faster than current Wi-Fi, and white laser Li-Fi could be 10 to 100 times faster than LED based Li-Fi currently still under development.

    “The concept of white lasers first seems counterintuitive because the light from a typical laser contains exactly one color, a specific wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum, rather than a broad-range of different wavelengths. White light is typically viewed as a complete mixture of all of the wavelengths of the visible spectrum,” said Ning, who also spent extended time at Tsinghua University in China during several years of the research.

    In typical LED-based lighting, a blue LED is coated with phosphor materials to convert a portion of the blue light to green, yellow and red light. This mixture of colored light will be perceived by humans as white light and can therefore be used for general illumination.

    Sandia National Labs in 2011 produced high-quality white light from four separate large lasers. The researchers showed that the human eye is as comfortable with white light generated by diode lasers as with that produced by LEDs, inspiring others to advance the technology.

    “While this pioneering proof-of-concept demonstration is impressive, those independent lasers cannot be used for room lighting or in displays,” Ning said. “A single tiny piece of semiconductor material emitting laser light in all colors or in white is desired.”

    Semiconductors, usually a solid chemical element or compound arranged into crystals, are widely used for computer chips or for light generation in telecommunication systems. They have interesting optical properties and are used to make lasers and LEDs because they can emit light of a specific color when a voltage is applied to them. The most preferred light emitting material for semiconductors is indium gallium nitride, though other materials such as cadmium sulfide and cadmium selenide also are used for emitting visible colors.

    The main challenge, the researchers noted, lies in the way light emitting semiconductor materials are grown and how they work to emit light of different colors. Typically a given semiconductor emits light of a single color – blue, green or red – that is determined by a unique atomic structure and energy bandgap.

    The “lattice constant” represents the distance between the atoms. To produce all possible wavelengths in the visible spectral range you need several semiconductors of very different lattice constants and energy bandgaps.

    “Our goal is to achieve a single semiconductor piece capable of laser operation in the three fundamental lasing colors. The piece should be small enough, so that people can perceive only one overall mixed color, instead of three individual colors,” said Fan. “But it was not easy.”

    “The key obstacle is an issue called lattice mismatch, or the lattice constant being too different for the various materials required,” Liu said. “We have not been able to grow different semiconductor crystals together in high enough quality, using traditional techniques, if their lattice constants are too different.”

    The most desired solution, according to Ning, would be to have a single semiconductor structure that emits all needed colors. He and his graduate students turned to nanotechnology to achieve their milestone.

    The key is that at nanometer scale larger mismatches can be better tolerated than in traditional growth techniques for bulk materials. High quality crystals can be grown even with large mismatch of different lattice constants.

    Recognizing this unique possibility early on, Ning’s group started pursuing the distinctive properties of nanomaterials, such as nanowires or nanosheets, more than 10 years ago. He and his students have been researching various nanomaterials to see how far they could push the limit of advantages of nanomaterials to explore the high crystal quality growth of very dissimilar materials.

    Six years ago, under U.S. Army Research Office funding, they demonstrated that one could indeed grow nanowire materials in a wide range of energy bandgaps so that color tunable lasing from red to green can be achieved on a single substrate of about one centimeter long. Later on they realized simultaneous laser operation in green and red from a single semiconductor nanosheet or nanowires. These achievements triggered Ning’s thought to push the envelope further to see if a single white laser is ever possible.

    Blue, necessary to produce white, proved to be a greater challenge with its wide energy bandgap and very different material properties.

    “We have struggled for almost two years to grow blue emitting materials in nanosheet form, which is required to demonstrate eventual white lasers, ” said Turkdogan, who is now assistant professor at University of Yalova in Turkey.

    After exhaustive research, the group finally came up with a strategy to create the required shape first, and then convert the materials into the right alloy contents to emit the blue color. Turkdogan said, “To the best of our knowledge, our unique growth strategy is the first demonstration of an interesting growth process called dual ion exchange process that enabled the needed structure.”

    This strategy of decoupling structural shapes and composition represents a major change of strategy and an important breakthrough that finally made it possible to grow a single piece of structure containing three segments of different semiconductors emitting all needed colors and the white lasers possible. Turkdogan said that, “this is not the case, typically, in the material growth where shapes and compositions are achieved simultaneously.”

    While this first proof of concept is important, significant obstacles remain to make such white lasers applicable for real-life lighting or display applications. One of crucial next steps is to achieve the similar white lasers under the drive of a battery. For the present demonstration, the researchers had to use a laser light to pump electrons to emit light. This experimental effort demonstrates the key first material requirement and will lay the groundwork for the eventual white lasers under electrical operation.

    See the full article here.

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    ASU is the largest public university by enrollment in the United States.[11] Founded in 1885 as the Territorial Normal School at Tempe, the school underwent a series of changes in name and curriculum. In 1945 it was placed under control of the Arizona Board of Regents and was renamed Arizona State College.[12][13][14] A 1958 statewide ballot measure gave the university its present name.
    ASU is classified as a research university with very high research activity (RU/VH) by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, one of 78 U.S. public universities with that designation. Since 2005 ASU has been ranked among the Top 50 research universities, public and private, in the U.S. based on research output, innovation, development, research expenditures, number of awarded patents and awarded research grant proposals. The Center for Measuring University Performance currently ranks ASU 31st among top U.S. public research universities.[15]

    ASU awards bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 16 colleges and schools on five locations: the original Tempe campus, the West campus in northwest Phoenix, the Polytechnic campus in eastern Mesa, the Downtown Phoenix campus and the Colleges at Lake Havasu City. ASU’s “Online campus” offers 41 undergraduate degrees, 37 graduate degrees and 14 graduate or undergraduate certificates, earning ASU a Top 10 rating for Best Online Programs.[16] ASU also offers international academic program partnerships in Mexico, Europe and China. ASU is accredited as a single institution by The Higher Learning Commission.

    ASU Tempe Campus
    ASU Tempe Campus

    See the full article here.

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:01 am on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Applied Research & Technology,   

    From NASA Earth: “Algae Bloom in Lake Erie” 

    NASA Earth Observatory

    NASA Earth Observatory

    July 31, 2015

    1
    acquired July 28, 2015
    2
    acquired July 28, 2015

    On July 28, 2015, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured these images of algal blooms around the Great Lakes.

    NASA LandSat8 OLI
    OLI

    NASA LandSat 8
    Landsat 8

    The bloom is visible as swirls of green in western Lake Erie (top) and in Lake St. Clair (bottom).

    Earlier in July, NOAA scientists predicted that the 2015 season for harmful algal blooms would be severe in western Lake Erie. The season runs through summer and peaks in September. Blooms in this basin thrive when there is an abundance of nutrients (many from agricultural runoff) and sunlight, as well as warm water temperatures.

    Harmful algal blooms can affect the safety of water for recreation, as well as for consumption (as was the case in Toledo, Ohio, and southeast Michigan during a 2014 bloom). On July 30, 2015, drinking water was reported to be safe in these areas.

    References and Related Reading
    The Detroit News (2015, July 28) Toxic Lake Erie algae spotted but drinking water safe. Accessed July 31, 2015.
    NASA Earth Observatory (2014, August 5) Algae Bloom on Lake Erie.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2015, July 9) NOAA, partners predict severe harmful algal bloom for Lake Erie. Accessed July 31, 2015.
    USA Today (2015, July 30) Another toxic algae outbreak feared for Lake Erie. Accessed July 31, 2015.

    NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

    Instrument(s):
    Landsat 8 – OLI

    See the full article here..

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    The Earth Observatory’s mission is to share with the public the images, stories, and discoveries about climate and the environment that emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and climate models. The Earth Observatory staff is supported by the Climate and Radiation Laboratory, and the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:41 pm on August 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From phys.org: “From cameras to computers, new material could change how we work and play” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    August 2, 2015
    Northeastern University

    1
    An artistic rendering of novel magnetism in 2D-BNCO sheets, the new material Swastik Kar and Srinivas Sridhar created.

    Serendipity has as much a place in science as in love. That’s what Northeastern physicists Swastik Kar and Srinivas Sridhar found during their four-year project to modify graphene, a stronger-than-steel infinitesimally thin lattice of tightly packed carbon atoms. Primarily funded by the Army Research Laboratory and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the researchers were charged with imbuing the decade-old material with thermal sensitivity for use in infrared imaging devices such as night-vision goggles for the military.

    What they unearthed, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, was so much more: an entirely new material spun out of boron, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen that shows evidence of magnetic, optical, and electrical properties as well as DARPA’s sought-after thermal ones. Its potential applications run the gamut: from 20-megapixel arrays for cellphone cameras to photo detectors to atomically thin transistors that when multiplied by the billions could fuel computers.

    “We had to start from scratch and build everything,” says Kar, an assistant professor of physics in the College of Science. “We were on a journey, creating a new path, a new direction of research.”

    The pair was familiar with “alloys,” controlled combinations of elements that resulted in materials with properties that surpassed graphene’s—for example, the addition of boron and nitrogen to graphene’s carbon to connote the conductivity necessary to produce an electrical insulator. But no one had ever thought of choosing oxygen to add to the mix.

    What led the Northeastern researchers to do so?

    “Well, we didn’t choose oxygen,” says Kar, smiling broadly. “Oxygen chose us.”

    Oxygen, of course, is everywhere. Indeed, Kar and Sridhar spent a lot of time trying to get rid of the oxygen seeping into their brew, worried that it would contaminate the “pure” material they were seeking to develop.

    “That’s where the Aha! moment happened for us,” says Kar. “We realized we could not ignore the role that oxygen plays in the way these elements mix together.”

    “So instead of trying to remove oxygen, we thought: Let’s control its introduction,” adds Sridhar, the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Physics and director of Northeastern’s Electronic Materials Research Institute.

    Oxygen, it turned out, was behaving in the reaction chamber in a way the scientists had never anticipated: It was determining how the other elements—the boron, carbon, and nitrogen—combined in a solid, crystal form, while also inserting itself into the lattice. The trace amounts of oxygen were, metaphorically, “etching away” some of the patches of carbon, explains Kar, making room for the boron and nitrogen to fill the gaps.

    “It was as if the oxygen was controlling the geometric structure,” says Sridhar.

    They named the new material, sensibly, 2D-BNCO, representing the four elements in the mix and the two-dimensionality of the super-thin lightweight material, and set about characterizing and manufacturing it, to ensure it was both reproducible and scalable. That meant investigating the myriad permutations of the four ingredients, holding three constant while varying the measurement of the remaining one, and vice versa, multiple times over.

    After each trial, they analyzed the structure and the functional properties of the product— electrical, optical—using electron microscopes and spectroscopic tools, and collaborated with computational physicists, who created models of the structures to see if the configurations would be feasible in the real world.

    Next they will examine the new material’s mechanical properties and begin to experimentally validate the magnetic ones conferred, surprisingly, by the intermingling of these four nonmagnetic elements. “You begin to see very quickly how complicated that process is,” says Kar.

    Helping with that complexity were collaborators from around the globe. In addition to Northeastern associate research scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students, contributors included researchers in government, industry, and academia from the United States, Mexico, and India.

    “There is still a long way to go but there are clear indications that we can tune the electrical properties of these materials,” says Sridhar. “And if we find the right combination, we will very likely get to that point where we reach the thermal sensitivity that DARPA was initially looking for as well as many as-yet unforeseen applications.”

    See the full article here.

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:52 am on August 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From live science- “Drought Toll: California Now Missing 1 Year’s Worth of Rain” 

    Livescience

    July 31, 2015
    Andrea Thompson

    Temp 0
    California’s accumulated precipitation debt from 2012 to 2014 shown as a percent change from the 17-year average using the TRMM mission’s multi-satellite observations. Credit: Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

    The amount of rain that California has missed out on since the beginning of its record-setting drought in 2012 is about the same amount it would see, on average, in a single year, a new study has concluded.

    The study’s researchers pin the reason for the lack of rains, as others have, on the absence of the intense rainstorms ushered in by so-called atmospheric rivers, the ribbons of very moist air that can funnel water vapor from the tropics to California during its winter rainy season.

    Overall, the study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, found that California experiences multi-year dry periods, like the current one, and then periods where rains can vary by 30 percent from year to year. Those wet and dry years typically cancel each other out.

    The El Niño-Southern Oscillation, one phase of which has ushered in some of the state’s wettest years, only accounts for about 6 percent of overall precipitation variability, the researchers found.

    Drought began creeping across the California landscape in 2012 and has continued to mushroom year after year as winter rains and snows were much diminished. The atmospheric rivers that normally funnel in moisture-laden air were thwarted by a persistent area of high pressure that blocked them from reaching California. This winter, precipitation that did manage to fall mostly did so as rains thanks to record-high temperatures linked to extremely warm waters off the coast, leaving the snowpack at record low levels.

    The new study looked at satellite measurements of rainfall from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission(TRMM) satellite, as well as a recreated climate record that used both observations and model data to gauge how much California’s annual precipitation varied and how much it was in the hole after four years of drought.

    The researchers found that in an average year, the state sees about 20 inches of rain; it turns out that’s also about the amount of missing rain since 2012.

    To dig out of the drought in just one winter, the state would have to see 200 percent of its normal yearly rain, to cover both that year’s rain and make up the missing amount.

    That wet a winter isn’t very likely happen, Daniel Swain, a PhD student at Stanford University, said in an email. And if it did occur, it would mean major flooding, he added. Swain wasn’t involved with the new research.

    The study also looked at another recent dry period, from 1986 to 1994, and found a 27.5-inch precipitation deficit over that period. While that was overall greater than the current drought, the per year rain deficit is much higher this time around, Swain pointed out.

    Added to that, “temperatures in CA during the current drought have been warmer than during any previous drought on record, which has greatly amplified the effect of the precipitation deficits,” and helped fuel the wildfires currently flaring up around the state, Swain said.

    Many are hoping the current El Niño will make a serious dent in the drought, as it looks to become a strong event, and those are associated with higher odds of increased winter rains over at least parts of the state.

    The study found that the whole El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle only accounts for about 6 percent of the variation in yearly California precipitation. That cycle encompasses not just strong El Niños, but weak ones, as well as neutral and La Niña conditions, and when separated out “very strong events (like the El Niño currently underway) exert a far greater influence upon California climate than weak ones,” Swain said. So this year’s El Niño could play a major role in what precipitation California sees.

    What’s important this year, Swain said, is where the precipitation falls and how much of it falls as snow to build back up the snowpack that keeps water flowing into reservoirs come the warm, dry days of summer.

    See the full article here.

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