Doubling Electricity Production by Storing it!

Pumped Hydro Storage

Paper: The value of CO2-Bulk energy storage with wind in transmission-constrained electric power systems

Authors: Jonathan D. Ogland-Hand, Jeffrey M. Bielicki, Benjamin M. Adams, Ebony S. Nelson, Thomas A. Buscheck, Martin O. Saar, Ramteen Sioshansi

Some storage solutions give back more than we put in

Energy is lost when batteries charge. This is the case for most energy storage solutions – we get out less than we put in. Some storage solutions, however, give back more than we put in, such as hydro-power dams. In these dams, energy is stored as elevated water (potential energy), and rivers add more water (more energy). An international team of researchers recently described an underground storage solution which could more than double the electricity put in and also help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

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Mysterious methane on Mars

Featuring image: northern rim of Gale Crater viewed by Curiosity. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, public domain (CC0)

Paper: Day-night differences in Mars methane suggest nighttime containment at Gale crater

Authors: C. R. Webster, P. R. Mahaffy, J. Pla-Garcia, S. C. R. Rafkin, J. E. Moores, S. K. Atreya, G. J. Flesch, C. A. Malespin, S. M. Teinturier, H. Kalucha, C. L. Smith, D. Viúdez-Moreiras and A. R. Vasavada

Methane is a gas often connected to life on Earth. NASA’s Mars rover reported the detection of methane, but discrepancies with other missions puzzled researchers. Is there methane on Mars or not? A new study tries to answer this question in a windy way.

Methane is a possible biosignature for extraterrestrial life and therefore, one of the goals of the Mars rover Curiosity was to search for methane. Curiosity was able to detect varying amounts of this gas over the years, but the existence of methane in the Martian atmosphere could not be confirmed by analysis from satellites. Now, Christopher Webster and his group were able to explain the variations as well as the discrepancy between ground-based and satellite analysis by developing a detailed model of the wind systems at Gale crater.

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Mysteries of the deep (and bumpy) seafloor

Featured image: Elevation map of a seamount in the central Pacific, shown in a persepctive view. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (public domain).

Paper: Fluid-rich subducting topography generates anomalous forearc porosity
Authors: Christine Chesley, Samer Naif, Kerry Key, Dan Bassett

Open any geology textbook, and you’re guaranteed to find a cartoon of a subduction zone showing how an incoming oceanic plate dives down beneath another tectonic plate (either continent or ocean) on its way back into Earth’s deep interior. These simple sketches typically show the top of the incoming plate as a smooth, gently curved line meeting and joining another smooth line at the base of the overriding plate – and that’s not exactly wrong, given the enormous scale of a subduction zone compared to the smallness of the drawing. But if you zoom in far enough on oceanic tectonic plates, the seafloor is often rough and bumpy. What happens, then, when rough seafloor heads into a subduction zone?

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The Search for Life on Mars Begins on Earth

Self portrait of NASA's Curiosity rover. Curiosity is currently climbing Moount Sharp, which can be seen rising on the right-hand side of the image, seeking signs that Mars have been a habitable planet in the past.

Article: Fatty Acid Preservation in Modern and Relict Hot-Spring Deposits in Iceland, with Implications for Organics Detection on Mars

Authors: Williams, Amy J., Kathleen L. Craft, Maëva Millan, Sarah Stewart Johnson, Christine A. Knudson, Marisol Juarez Rivera, Amy C. McAdam, Dominique Tobler, and John Roma Skok.

The quest to find signs of life on Mars is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. For some researchers, the quest is a chemical one. A search for the biomolecular remains of life that may have lived when Mars was warmer and wetter billions of years ago. However, finding and recognizing molecular fossils is no easy task, even for a rover as sophisticated as Curiosity. Now, new research from Dr. Amy Williams and her colleagues provides fresh insights into where Mars rovers should look for these fossils, what the signatures may look like, and a simple procedure for how to detect them.

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Landscapes get depressed too: limestone depressions pattern a wetland landscape

Aerial view of the Big Cypress National Preserve

Feature Image: Limestone depressions cover the landscape in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, USA. (C) Google.

Article: Competition Among Limestone Depressions Leads to Self‐Organized Regular Patterning on a Flat Landscape
Dong, X., Murray, A. B., & Heffernan, J. B.

Patterns are abundant in nature, from evenly spaced termite mounds and vegetation patches to repeating series of ridges and valleys to sand dunes. The questions of why these patterns are so uniform and why they are found in disparate settings has been the subject of intense scientific interest over the last decades. Mathematical tools have given scientists the ability to study these “complex systems,” where behavior of the whole system emerges from interactions between smaller parts. While many different systems have been studied, recently researchers from the Duke University and the University of California at Davis investigated a patterned landscape with mysterious origins: the large, evenly spaced depressions in limestone bedrock that cover nearly 3000 square kilometers of the Big Cypress National Preserve in the Florida Everglades.

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Saving sandbars in the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon sand bar

Featured image: A sandbar along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Photo by the author. CC-BY-SA.

Paper: A morphodynamic model to evaluate long-term sandbar rebuilding using controlled floods in the Grand Canyon

Authors: Erich R. Mueller and Paul E. Grams

Journal: Geophysical Research Letters

The Grand Canyon is famous for its stark, bare-bedrock landscapes. But those who make the hike, mule ride, or raft trip into its depths are rewarded with a different view: the green, inviting banks of the Colorado River where ancestral Puebloans once grew corn and where rafters now collect overturned boats between rapids. The Canyon owes its bucolic river-bottom landscape to an unsung hero: sand deposited during large floods that creates hospitable habitat for plants and aquatic animals. Since the building of Glen Canyon Dam just upstream in the 1950s, the Grand Canyon has been starved of sand, damaging its fragile ecosystems. Now, a new study quantifies how controlled floods could help restore sandbars to the Grand Canyon.

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Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) Drowns Villages Along Its Path In The Central Himalayas

Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) Drowns Villages Along Its Path In The Central Himalayas

Featured Image: Gori Ganga River near Munisiari, Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand from Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Paper: Lake Evolution, Hydrodynamic Outburst Flood Modeling and Sensitivity Analysis in the Central Himalaya: A Case Study

Authors: Ashim Sattar, Ajanta Goswami, Anil. V. Kulkarni and Adam Emmer

What could be worse than waking up one morning to find yourself drowning in water? People living in the Himalayan terrain experience this fear every time flash floods occur in the valleys. Glacial retreat induced by climate change led to the formation and evolution of glacial lakes in the Himalayan region. The emerging threats possessed by these lakes result in the incidence of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) which wash away villages along its path. One such incident took place in June 2013 in Kedarnath Valley in Uttarakhand, India with a death toll of as many as five to six thousand people. This eventually led to the strong need for risk assessment and management related to the occurrences of such GLOF events.

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