Location of El Niño linked to Indonesian fires

Scientists in the US and Taiwan have shown that the occurrence of fires in Indonesia is linked to the location, not the strength, of El Niño weather events.

The study, which examined Pacific El Niños over nearly two decades, revealed that El Niños generating sea-surface temperature anomalies over the eastern Pacific are more likely to result in fires than those generating anomalies over the central Pacific.

“We suggest that projecting the location of El Niño events might be more important than projecting their strength for fire management in southern Borneo,” said Min-Hui Lo of the National Taiwan University in Taipei. […]

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Cine-MRI tracks heart motion

Researchers in France and China have adapted a technique from video processing in computer vision to study regional motion in cine-MRI. The technique, which involves the extraction of intensity parameters such as local magnitude, phase and orientation, could help in the diagnosis of patients with heart failure.

Regular MRI allows clinicians to observe tissue inside the body, but as it does not record information in real time it is poorly suited to study moving organs, such as the heart. To get around this limitation, cine-MRI takes sequential images of the heart during the cardiac cycle using an electrocardiogram as a trigger; the patient is also asked to hold his or her breath so that additional movement is not generated by inhaling or exhaling. The result is a two-dimensional film of a slice of the heart during a beating cycle. […]

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Cine-MRI tracks heart motion

Researchers in France and China have adapted a technique from video processing in computer vision to study regional motion in cine-MRI. The technique, which involves the extraction of intensity parameters such as local magnitude, phase and orientation, could help in the diagnosis of patients with heart failure (Phys. Med. Biol.61 8640).

Regular MRI allows clinicians to observe tissue inside the body, but as it does not record information in real time it is poorly suited to study moving organs, such as the heart. To get around this limitation, cine-MRI takes sequential images of the heart during the cardiac cycle using an electrocardiogram as a trigger; the patient is also asked to hold his or her breath so that additional movement is not generated by inhaling or exhaling. The result is a two-dimensional film of a slice of the heart during a beating cycle. […]

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Warming has little effect on maize yields

High temperatures are not a sizeable direct cause of lowered maize yields, but a lack of water is. That’s the conclusion of a US study that attempted to disentangle the effects of temperature and water stress in previously reported yield losses.

“Our study indicates that so long as the crop had sufficient water, the high air temperatures experienced during the study period were not reducing maize yields,” said Elizabeth Carter of Cornell University, US.

More maize is produced than any other crop worldwide, and demand is expected to rise in the developing world by 50% by the middle of the century. Over the same period, average global temperatures are expected to increase by some 2°C. […]

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Waking up to the cosmic dawn

Across Europe, some 10 000 antennas stand courtly, like squat flag poles. They may not look like much, but they are in a sense an incredibly powerful time machine.
Known collectively as the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), the antennas are receiving radio signals that have travelled billions of years to get here, from the depths of the cosmos. That means they are looking billions of years into the past, when the universe was almost featureless – and when planets, stars or galaxies didn’t exist.

Because light travels at a finite speed, all telescopes look into the past to some extent. But astrophysicist Professor Dominik Schwarz of Bielefeld University in Germany, who helped to plan the telescope, said the ‘cosmic dawn cannot be seen with any other instrument’. […]

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Crossing Europe on the hydrogen highway

From Bergen in Norway to Bolzano in Italy, specialised refuelling stations mean that drivers of hydrogen-powered cars can now travel right across Europe.
Hyundai, Toyota and Honda have all developed – and commercialised – cars powered by hydrogen gas. While there are just a handful on Europe’s roads at the moment, that’s all about to change because of a concerted effort to put hydrogen technology into the fast lane.

Hydrogen works in a ‘fuel cell’ to generate electricity, which can drive a car’s wheels via an electric motor, emitting nothing but water vapour in the process.

‘Our activities aim to improve accessibility and interoperability of stations,’ explained Dolly Oladini, the assistant project manager for HyFIVE, one of a group of research projects that are working collectively to deploy thousands of hydrogen vehicles across Europe, and set up dozens of refuelling stations. […]

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Traded water pollution rising faster than total footprint

Globalization is the driving force behind a thriving “virtual trade” in grey water – fresh water needed to dilute pollution to local standards – according to researchers in China.

Grey water embodied in global imports and exports has risen faster than the world’s overall grey water footprint, the team found. From 1995 to 2009, the EU and US effectively outsourced water pollution by importing goods requiring lots of grey water. Meanwhile, China in particular suffered from water scarcity by generating pollution in the production of goods for export.

The researchers believe that more attention should be paid to virtual trades in grey water. “It’s important to focus on the water scarcity caused not only by the decrease of quantity, but also by the degradation of quality,” said Can Wang of Tsinghua University in Beijing. “International transfers of embodied pollution through bilateral trade, driven by globalization, could aggravate the uneven distribution of water resources on the planet.” […]

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Going clean

Crack a simple chemical reaction and we don’t have to kick our addition to fossil fuels

SCARRED landscapes, billowing smoke, seabirds wrinsc_20161008-800x1052thing in liquorice gloop: there’s no denying fossil fuels have an image problem. That’s before we even start to factor in the grave risk continuing to burn them poses to Earth’s climate. But what’s the alternative? Nuclear is expensive, renewables are unreliable, and we are a long way from making batteries that could power our fuel-hungry lifestyles. Realistically, we are going to be reliant on fossil fuels for a while yet.

What we need is a way to exploit them without emitting any planet-warming carbon dioxide. Alberto Abánades thinks he has the answer. He isn’t a PR man for the fossil fuel industry, and nor does he have anything to do with various schemes to capture and bury carbon emissions after the event. He and his research team think they have cracked the problem using chemistry alone. By simply changing the way we liberate the energy trapped inside natural gas molecules, we can have all the benefits of fossil fuels – and none of the guilt. Too good to be true? […]

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