Tag Archives: environmental impact

Saving the Great Plains water supply

Significant portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest bodies of water in the United States, are at risk of drying up if it continues to be drained at its current rate.

In the current issue of Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Michigan State University scientists are proposing alternatives that will halt and hopefully reverse the unsustainable use of water drawdown in the aquifer. The body of water, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, spans from Texas to South Dakota and drives much of the region’s economy. (more…)

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Establishing World-Class Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring in Okinawa

Enduring two typhoons over a three-week period in August, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) researchers, working in partnership with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), have successfully deployed an OceanCube Observatory System in waters off Motobu Peninsula, Japan — a biodiversity hotspot that is home to ecologically significant coral reefs. The observatory system enables real-time monitoring of temperature, salinity, and other chemical, biological and physical data critical to understanding the health of and changes in the coral reef ecosystem.

Okinawa is situated at the northernmost end of the border between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. The coral reefs there support the highest diversity of endemic species, plants and animals in the world. These coral reefs are also economically valuable, generating as much as 3 trillion yen ($30 billion) globally, and 250 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in Japan. (more…)

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Experts Team Up on Tsunami Resilience in California

While scientists can’t predict when a great earthquake producing a pan-Pacific tsunami will occur, thanks to new tools being developed by federal and state officials, scientists can now offer more accurate insight into the likely impacts when tsunamis occur. This knowledge can lead officials and the public to reduce the risk of the future tsunamis that will impact California.

What are the potential economic impacts? Which marinas could be destroyed? Who needs to be prepared for evacuations? A newly published report looks at these factors and more. (more…)

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Engineers Improve Recycling System in Hydraulic Fracturing to Save Water and Energy

AUSTIN, Texas — Chemical engineers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed high-efficiency, durable filters to improve mobile water recycling systems used in hydraulic fracturing, the oil and gas drilling process known as fracking. The filters may significantly reduce the amount of water and energy that fracking requires.

Professor Benny Freeman and his research team in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering completed a study that shows their membrane-based filtration system improves the efficiency of treating and safely reusing water used for fracking at drill sites. The study shows that the team’s filter can produce up to 50 percent more water for reuse compared with other filtration systems, greatly reducing demand for fresh water. In addition to producing a higher volume of purified water, the new filter system also operates at lower pressure than traditional systems, meaning significant energy savings. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Membrane Science. (more…)

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The New Face of Mining: Women Carving Out a Place in Surging Industry

The UA department of mining and geological engineering, one of only 14 U.S. schools offering mining engineering degrees and only a handful with its own student mine, is dedicated to helping fill the industry pipeline, and that includes ensuring female engineers continue to gain ground in a surging industry.

They roam the remotest corners of the world, scale the highest mountains and descend deep into the Earth.

They go places few women have ever gone. They are not afraid of getting dirty, or of much else for that matter, certainly not adversity or a good challenge. And they know, better than most, how and when to take a joke. (more…)

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NASA Radar Penetrates Thick, Thin of Gulf Oil Spill

PASADENA, Calif. – Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have developed a method to use a specialized NASA 3-D imaging radar to characterize the oil in oil spills, such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The research can be used to improve response operations during future marine oil spills.

Caltech graduate student Brent Minchew and JPL researchers Cathleen Jones and Ben Holt analyzed NASA radar imagery collected over the main slick of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on June 22 and June 23, 2010. The data were acquired by the JPL-developed Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) during the first of its three deployments over the spill area between June 2010 and July 2012. The UAVSAR was carried in a pod mounted beneath a NASA C-20A piloted aircraft, a version of the Gulfstream III business jet, based at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. The researchers demonstrated, for the first time, that a radar system like UAVSAR can be used to characterize the oil within a slick, distinguishing very thin films like oil sheen from more damaging thick oil emulsions. (more…)

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How Silver Turns People Blue

Ingesting silver — in antimicrobial health tonics or for extensive medical treatments involving silver — can cause argyria, condition in which the skin turns grayish-blue. Brown researchers have discovered how that happens. The process is similar to developing black-and-white photographs, and it’s not just the silver.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Researchers from Brown University have shown for the first time how ingesting too much silver can cause argyria, a rare condition in which patients’ skin turns a striking shade of grayish blue.

“It’s the first conceptual model giving the whole picture of how one develops this condition,” said Robert Hurt, professor of engineering at Brown and part of the research team. “What’s interesting here is that the particles someone ingests aren’t the particles that ultimately cause the disorder.” (more…)

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Wind Power’s Potential

UD-Stanford team calculates maximum global energy potential from wind

Wind turbines could power half the world’s future energy demands with minimal environmental impact, according to new research published by University of Delaware and Stanford University scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers arrived at the determination by calculating the maximum theoretical potential of wind power worldwide, taking into account the effects that numerous wind turbines would have on surface temperatures, water vapor, atmospheric circulations and other climatic considerations.

“Wind power is very safe from the climate point of view,” said Cristina Archer, associate professor of geography and physical ocean science and engineering at UD. (more…)

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