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Updated: 49 min 58 sec ago
Solar scientists have long theorized that at the heart of the great solar explosions, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), lie twisted kinks of magnetic fields known as a flux rope. But until now, no one knew when or where they formed.
Last July, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured flux rope in the very act of formation.
The image above (click to enlarge) was processed to highlight the edges of each magnetic loop, thus making the structure more apparent. The video below describes flux rope formation in more detail.
Image and Video Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO
A meteor exploded over Russia’s Urals region at 9:20 AM local time, lighting up the morning sky with a fireball and bright trail of debris as shock waves shook buildings, smashed windows, set off car alarms, and disrupted mobile phone service.
More than 500 persons have sought treatment for injuries, mostly from broken glass and minor concussions. More than 100 have reportedly been hospitalized.
As many as 300 structures may have been damaged.
Early estimates suggest the meteor, traveling at 54,000 kph (33,000 mph), weighed approximately 10 tons and began to break apart at an altitude of 30-55 km. Up to nine explosions and shockwaves resulted as the meteor passed over several major cities, including Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg and Tyumen.
On the ground in Chelyabinsk, police have reported three possible impact sites, and Russian military sources claim to have discovered a 6-meter crater.
This morning’s meteor arrived hours before asteroid 2012 DA14 is scheduled to make an unusually close encounter with Earth, but experts at the European Space Agency have confirmed that the two events are unrelated.
Discovered during last year’s flyby by astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey program in southern Spain, the asteroid is estimated to be about 45 meters in diameter with a mass of about 190,000 metric tons. At its nearest point — set to occur at 2:24 p.m. EST (19:24 UTC) – it will pass about 27,700 km (17,200 miles) above the Earth’s surface.
Although the object will pass beneath the orbits of geosynchronous satellites circling 35,800 km (22,200 mi) above the equator), it will still be well above the International Space Station and the majority of satellites.
Traveling at a speed of 17,400 mph (7.8 km/s) relative to Earth in a south-to-north direction, the asteroid will be too faint to be seen with the naked eye, but should be visible with a good set of binoculars or a small telescope.
The best viewing location during the closest approach will be Indonesia, where the asteroid will be seen to move at a rate of almost 1 degree per minute against the background of the night sky. Skywatchers in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia should also be able to see the asteroid near the time of its closest approach.
At the time of its discovery in 2012, the asteroid had just passed by Earth at a distance about seven times farther than Earth is to the moon. Since then, DA14′s orbital period around the sun has been about 368 days, which is very similar to Earth’s.
This year’s flyby is the closest the asteroid will come for at least three decades, but Friday’s encounter with Earth’s gravity will shorten its orbital period to about 317 days; thus future close approaches will follow a different pattern.
On average, astronomers expect an object of this size to get this close to Earth about once every 40 years. An actual collision with Earth by an object of this size would be expected much less frequently — or about once every 1,200 years, on average.Streaming Coverage of the Flyby
NASA plans to provide live, streaming coverage of the flyby at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv and http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2. The half-hour broadcast, beginning at 2 PM EST will include commentary, animations and, weather permitting, views of the asteroid from observatories in Australia.
In addition, near real-time imagery of the asteroid before and after its closest approach will be streamed beginning sometime around noon EST and continuing through the afternoon at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2.
A 3-hour Ustream feed of the flyby from a telescope at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will be available beginning at 9 PM EST. To watch the feed and ask researchers questions about the flyby via Twitter, visit http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc.
To learn more about asteroids and near-Earth objects, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch.
Less than 24 hours after Barack Obama issued the strongest statement of any U.S. President on climate change, 48 prominent environmentalists, civil rights activists and community leaders demonstrated in front of the White House to express their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and support for U.S. action on climate change.
As expected, the choreographed act of civil disobedience led to dozens of arrests when some participants chained themselves to the fence outside the presidential mansion, and others refused to disperse when asked by police.
Among the demonstrators were such notables as Michael Brune, Bill McKibben, Julian Bond, James Hansen, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Maria Gunnoe, Adam Werbach, Andre Carothers, Phil Radford, Connor Kennedy, Daryl Hannah and others representing various environmental organizations and interests.
“The threat to our planet’s climate is both grave and urgent,” said civil rights activist Julian Bond. “Although President Obama has declared his own determination to act, much that is within his power to accomplish remains undone, and the decision to allow the construction of a pipeline to carry millions of barrels of the most-polluting oil on Earth from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. is in his hands. I am proud today to stand before my fellow citizens and declare, ‘I am willing to go to jail to stop this wrong.’ The environmental crisis we face today demands nothing less.”
Although Obama did not mention the controversial and highly partisan pipeline by name in last month’s Inaugural Address or Tuesday’s State of the Union address, environmental groups wasted no time in letting him know they regard his rejection of the project as the first of many tests by which they intend to judge his commitment to renewable energy and reducing the carbon emissions that fuel manmade climate change.
Obama has twice before rejected the northern pipeline extension, which would have crossed environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska and the Ogalala Aquifer that provides water to much of the American midwest. Given that the latest, revised route bypasses most of those areas, the President no longer has the objections of Nebraskans to fall back on.
This time, Obama and his newly-sworn-in Secretary of State, John Kerry, will have to decide on the relative merits of bringing environmentally dirty oil from Canada’s tar sands through the U.S., only to be sold on world markets.
Kerry has a long record of supporting the environment and addressing climate change, and because the pipeline crosses an international border, will carry significant weight in the administration’s final decision.
Obama, for all his recent rhetoric, previously approved the pipeline’s southern extension from storage facilities in Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries and ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Construction on the southern leg is currently underway.
Today’s protest was telegraphed by various announcements over the past several weeks, including an article yesterday in which Bond, and Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, put forth their case for today’s action in the context of past civil disobedience conducted in the pursuit of civil rights and racial equality.
Today’s demonstration will be followed by a Forward on Climate rally set for February 17, also in Washington, and which organizers hope will be the largest climate rally on record.Participants in Today’s Demonstration
- Abbi Kleinschmidt
- Farmer whose land would be crossed by the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska.
- Adam Werbach
- Co-founder of the sharing site yerdle.com. Founded the Sierra Student Coalition and was elected president of the Sierra Club at age 23.
- Allison Chin
- President of the Sierra Club Board of Directors
- Andre Carothers
- Chairman of the Board, Rainforest Action Network
- Julian Bond
- Co-founder, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Former Executive Director of NAACP.
- Betsy Taylor
- President of Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions; chair of the 350 Action Fund; founder and former President of 1 Sky.
- Bill McKibben
- Author, activist, and co-founder of 350.org
- Bob Haas
- Professor of poetry and poetics at the University of California, Berkeley, and former poet laureate of the United States
- Bobby Kennedy
- Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council; Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper; President of Waterkeeper Alliance.
- Brenda Hillman
- Olivia C. Filippi Professor of Poetry, St. Mary’s College in California
- Cherri Foytlin
- Mother of six and the wife of an oil worker in Rayne, LA. Co-founded Gulf Change, blogs for Bridge The Gulf Project, and walked 1,243 miles from New Orleans to D.C. to call for action to stop the BP oil disaster.
- Pete Nichols
- National Director of Waterkeeper Alliance
- Danny Kennedy
- President and Co-founder, Sungevity
- Daryl Hannah
- Actress and activist
- Eileen Flanagan
- Quaker leader representing the Earth Quaker Action Team, which advocates for a just and sustainable economy through nonviolent direct action.
- Ellie Cohen
- President and CEO of PRBO Conservation Science.
- Erich Pica
- President, Friends of the Earth
- Farhad Ebrahimi
- Founder and trustee chair of the Chorus Foundation, whose mission is to end the extraction, export, and use of fossil fuels in the United States.
- James Hansen
- Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University
- Jacklyn Gil
- Junior at Brandeis University studying Peace & Justice studies.
- Jennifer Krill
- Executive Director, Earthworks
- Jerry Hightower
- Texas landowner, fighting a land grab by TransCanada for the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Jessica Roff
- Anti-fracking, climate justice and food justice activist from New York City; Full-time core organizer of Occupy Sandy in the Rockaways following the superstorm.
- Jim Tarnick
- Nebraska farmer, rancher, whose home would be just 50 feet from the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Joe Uehlein
- Founding President and Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability; former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department; former director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns
- Juliet Schor
- Professor of Sociology at Boston College; winner of the 2011 Herman Daly Award from the US Society for Ecological Economics; and author, most recently of True Wealth: how and why millions of Americans are creating a time-rich, ecologically-light, small-scale, high-satisfaction economy.
- Luis Garden Acosta
- American pioneer for community driven, human rights activism. Founder and President of El Puente, a Brooklyn based, community/youth development organization.
- Maura Cowley
- Executive Director, Energy Action Coalition
- Michael Kieschnick
- CEO, president and co-founder of CREDO/Working Assets, dedicated to changing the world through progressive philanthropy and political activism
- Mike Brune
- Executive Director, The Sierra Club
- Mike Tidwell
- Founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Author, filmmaker, and regular commentator on global warming issues for WAMU (NPR) in D.C.
- Pamela Smith
- Co-founder and managing member of Regeneration, LLC.
- Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
- American sustainability advocate; CEO of the anti-poverty organization Green For All.
- Phil Radford
- Executive Director, Greenpeace USA
- Randy Johnson
- Cattle buyer, and leader in the campaign in Nebraska to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Rev. Jim Antal
- Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ; lifelong environmentalist, organizer and activist to stop climate change.
- Reverend Lennox Yearwood
- President of the Hip Hop Caucus, and leader in the anti-war, environmental and social justice movements.
- Rick Bass
- Former petroleum geologist and wildlife biologist. Author of 30 books of fiction and nonfiction, including, most recently, In My Home There is No More Sorrow: Ten Days in Rwanda, and A Thousand Deer.
- Steve Kretzmann
- Founder and Executive Director, Oil Change International
- Susan Luebbe
- Nebraska rancher, currently in litigation with the State of Nebraska to defend the state’s waterways and resources from reckless pipeline development.
- Maria Gunnoe
- Boone County, WV Organizer with Organized Voices Empowering Communities (OVEC). 2009 Goldman Prize winner; 2012 Wallenberg Medal recipient.
- Yudith Nieto
- Worked with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services; currently working with the Tar Sands Blockade to organize direct actions and advocate for her community.
Energiewende. Literally, it means energy turn. And since the turn of the millenium, Germany has decided to turn toward renewable sources for generating electricity in a big, big way. By shutting down its dirty power plants and weaning itself from fossil fuels now, the country aims to generate nearly all its electricity from renewables by 2050.
As recently as 2000, Germany produced less electricity from renewable sources than the U.S. A short 12 years later, Germany’s use of renewable energy had tripled, and by 2012 it was producing more than twice as much as the U.S. By 2040, Germany is projected to produce 65% of its electricity from renewables — 4 times the expected U.S. rate.
Contributing to Germany’s rapid progress is the fact that Germany has no oil or natural gas reserves of its own, but there’s far more than energy independence at play.
Unlike the U.S., Germany has no mainstream political movement that denies man’s influence on climate change, and nearly two-thirds of its citizens support a turn toward renewables.
Instead of mandating a top-down solution, the government has encouraged private sector investment, such that homeowners, farmers and small businesses can sell the renewable energy they generate and buy it back at a profit.
For all its successes, Germany’s approach is not without problems. The country is burning more dirty, soft coal than ever to generate electricity on windless and cloudy days. The surcharge required to support buy-back profits has increased energy costs by about two-thirds, and the nation is desperately in need of a smart grid.
Nevertheless, all major political parties and the citizenry remain convinced that generating power from renewable sources is the wave of the future, and together, they are determined to seize it.
In the video, courtesy of PBS, correspondent Rick Karr reports for Need To Know.
Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) confirmed yesterday that as many as 11,000 elephants have been slaughtered by poachers in Gabon’s Minkebe National Park, effectively reducing its elephant population to a third of what it was in 2004. The majority of killings are believed to have occurred in the last five years as prices for legal and illegal ivory have spiked.
Located in the northeast corner of Gabon, the park has no permanent human inhabitants and almost no infrastructure, making access difficult. But the same inaccessibility that has served to protect the region also makes it difficult to detect and apprehend poachers who frequently cross into Gabon from neighboring Cameroon.
Until recently, Gabon’s elephant herds were believed to be less impacted by poaching than those in other parts of Africa, where according to the Born Free Foundation, an estimated 31,800 individuals were lost to poaching last year. However, Gabon’s National Park Agency (ANPN) reported an uptick of poaching in recent years, including the 2011 slaughter of 27 elephants in a protected area just outside of the capital.
In June 2011, a significant increase in human activity in the Minkebe National Park and its buffer zone was detected. A small camp of 300 artisanal gold miners had expanded to over 5,000 miners, poachers, and arms and drugs dealers. Park authorities estimated that 50-100 elephants were being killed daily as a result of increases in demand for ivory from the Far East and resulting price hike.
A series of recent surveys, conducted by WCS, WWF, and Gabon’s ANPN, reveal that the slaughter has been much greater than previously thought.
Since the survey results were announced, Gabon has stepped up its anti-poaching efforts. President Ali Bongo Ondimba announced that Gabon will pass new legislation to further dissuade commercial ivory poachers even more by increasing prison terms to a minimum of three years for ivory poachers and 15 years for poaching and ivory trafficking involving organized crime. Speaking in a cabinet meeting, the president urgently called for a strong, coordinated, and decisive response to this national emergency from all of the security and wildlife management services.
Lee White, head of ANPN said: “Over the last three years we have deployed 400 additional parks staff, 120 soldiers and 30 gendarmes in our fight to stop illegal killing of elephants for the black market ivory trade. Despite our efforts we continue to lose elephants every day. If we do not turn the situation around quickly the future of the elephant in Africa is doomed. These new results illustrate starkly just how dramatic the situation has become. Our actions over the coming decade will determine whether these iconic species survive.”
Richard Ruggiero, Chief of the Branch of the Near East, South Asia and Africa, Division of International Conservation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said: “We are working closely with the Gabonese authorities, who are showing true leadership, but this is a global problem and will require a global solution.”
Mike Fay, the WCS explorer who played a key role in convincing the late Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba to create a network of 13 national parks in 2002, said: “Conservation efforts in the Minkebe region have failed to react to the growing pressure of ivory poaching with tragic results. We need rethink how we do business and to act decisively if we are to save the elephant.”
Gabon is home to an estimated 40,000 forest elephants – more than the rest of Africa combined. Minkebe National Park is recognized as a critical site for conservation by the IUCN, and has been proposed as a World Heritage Site.
Located at the equator along the Atlantic coast of central Africa, Gabon has an extensive system of rainforests that cover 85% of the land, and is known for its conservation efforts.
In 2002, President Omar Bongo Ondimba established Gabon as an important ecotourism destination by designating roughly 10% of the country to its national park system. With a total of 13 parks, Gabon has one of the highest proportions of natural parkland of any country in the world.
Humans share 98.7 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees. But while humans and the common chimpanzee can be violent, another chimp species — bonobos — are given to making love instead of war.
How did two such similar species, the bonobo and the common chimpanzee, evolve so differently? And what might they teach us about our own human nature, considering that we share traits of both?
Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica
Republished under Creative Commons License
Mexico City plans to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The Mexican effort challenges a key tenet of U.S. clean water policy: that water far underground can be intentionally polluted because it will never be used.
U.S. environmental regulators have long assumed that reservoirs located thousands of feet underground will be too expensive to tap. So even as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up, American scientists and policy-makers often exempt these deep aquifers from clean water protections and allow energy and mining companies to inject pollutants directly into them.
As ProPublica has reported in an ongoing investigation about America’s management of its underground water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued more than 1,500 permits for companies to pollute such aquifers in some of the driest regions. Frequently, the reason was that the water lies too deep to be worth protecting.
But Mexico City’s plans to tap its newly discovered aquifer suggest that America is poisoning wells it might need in the future.
Indeed, by the standard often applied in the U.S., American regulators could have allowed companies to pump pollutants into the aquifer beneath Mexico City.
For example, in eastern Wyoming, an analysis showed that it would cost half a million dollars to construct a water well into deep, but high-quality aquifer reserves. That, plus an untested assumption that all the deep layers below it could only contain poor-quality water, led regulators to allow a uranium mine to inject more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste every day into the underground reservoirs.
But south of the border, worsening water shortages have forced authorities to look ever deeper for drinking water.
Today in Mexico City, the world’s third-largest metropolis, the depletion of shallow reservoirs is causing the ground to sink in, iconic buildings to teeter, and underground infrastructure to crumble. The discovery of the previously unmapped deep reservoir could mean that water won’t have to be rationed or piped into Mexico City from hundreds of miles away.
According to the Times report, Mexican authorities have already drilled an exploratory well into the aquifer and are working to determine the exact size of the reservoir. They are prepared to spend as much as $40 million to pump and treat the deeper water, which they say could supply some of Mexico City’s 20 million people for as long as a century.
Scientists point to what’s happening in Mexico City as a harbinger of a world in which people will pay more and dig deeper to tap reserves of the one natural resource human beings simply cannot survive without.
“Around the world people are increasingly doing things that 50 years ago nobody would have said they’d do,” said Mike Wireman, a hydrogeologist with the EPA who also works with the World Bank on global water supply issues.
Wireman points to new research in Europe finding water reservoirs several miles beneath the surface — far deeper than even the aquifer beneath Mexico City — and says U.S. policy has been slow to adapt to this new understanding.
“Depth in and of itself does not guarantee anything — it does not guarantee you won’t use it in the future, and it does not guarantee that that it is not” a source of drinking water, he said.
If Mexico City’s search for water seems extreme, it is not unusual. In aquifers Denver relies on, drinking water levels have dropped more than 300 feet. Texas rationed some water use last summer in the midst of a record-breaking drought. And Nevada — realizing that the water levels in one of the nation’s largest reservoirs may soon drop below the intake pipes — is building a drain hole to sap every last drop from the bottom.
“Water is limited, so they are really hustling to find other types of water,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It’s kind of a grim future, there’s no two ways about it.”
In a parched world, Mexico City is sending a message: Deep, unknown potential sources of drinking water matter, and the U.S. pollutes them at its peril.
At a produce market in Bejing, customers exchange their recyclables and kitchen waste for credits toward the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables.