Tag Archives: water

Satellite Data Reveals Colorado River Basin Losing Groundwater At Alarming Rate

The Colorado River Basin provides water to 40 million Americans and 4 million acres of farmland in seven western states. Unfortunately, recent analysis has revealed that over the last nine years, the groundwater from the basin is disappearing much more quickly than was predicted. The collaborative study was led by Jay Famiglietti of Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the paper was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Information regarding the amount of water lost was collected via NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite between December 2004 and November 2013. The data suggests that droughts have contributed to a loss of 64.8?km3 of freshwater. Disturbingly, over 75% of that loss appears to have come from groundwater sources, meaning it is getting depleted at an unprecedented and alarming rate.

“We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” lead author Stephanie Castle said in a press release. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”

Unfortunately, a lack of consistent record keeping has made tracking water levels difficult. Water levels above ground are regulated at the federal level by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and are well-documented. Groundwater sources are managed at the state level, and there are not uniform policies in place and the records are not complete.

“There’s only one way to put together a very large-area study like this, and that is with  satellites,” Famiglietti explained. “There’s just not enough information available from well data to put together a consistent, basin-wide picture.”

GRACE is able to track the differences in groundwater volumes based on changes in mass, which slightly alters the gravitational attraction in that region. These numbers were compared with the Bureau of Reclamation’s data on above ground water sources, allowing the researchers to determine the fluctuation of groundwater volume over time.

”The Colorado River Basin is the water lifeline of the western United States,” said Famiglietti. “With Lake Mead at its lowest level ever, we wanted to explore whether the basin, like most other regions around the world, was relying on groundwater to make up for the limited surface-water supply. We found a surprisingly high and long-term reliance on groundwater to bridge the gap between supply and demand.”

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the region and set a record last month for the lowest water level since it was filled in 1937. Increasing scarcity of resources could lead to massive revisions of water allocation as soon as April 2016.

“Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico,” Famiglietti said.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/satellite-data-reveals-colorado-river-basin-losing-groundwater-alarming-rate

Agile Water Jetpack Allows User To Fly 30 Feet And Swim Like A Dolphin

Swimming can be a slow and tedious sport, but with Franky Zapata’s new Flyboard you won’t have to anymore. The French jet skiier created the water jetpack system which gives the user amazing aquatic agility. The jetpack only costs around €4,900.

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2011/12/07/agile-water-jetpack-allows-user-to-fly-30-feet-and-swim-like-a-dolphin/

New Evidence Suggests Water On The Moon Comes From Solar Wind

New analysis of rock samples collected off the moon’s surface five decades ago shows how water in lunar minerals was generated by the bombardment of particles from solar wind — and not by meteorite or comet impacts. The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. 

The Apollo missions of the 1970s painted a bone-dry picture of our moon, New Scientist explains, but back in 2009, researchers discovered hints of water clinging to lunar soil across the moon’s surface. The first detection was made by India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe, and then data from NASA’s Cassini orbiter and Deep Impact spacecraft helped verify the likely presence of small amounts of water and hydroxyl molecules on the moon. 

To find the source of the water, Alice Stephant and François Robert from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris measured the ratio of hydrogen and deuterium in lunar soil samples collected during the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions. Water in the solar system naturally contains tiny amounts of heavy hydrogen or deuterium, Chemistry World explains, so measuring the proportions of the two isotopes could help researchers identify the origin of the water. 

The possible sources they investigated include water-rich meteorites, comet impacts, and solar wind — the plasma stream of energized protons and electrons flowing out from the sun. Since the amount of deuterium quantities present depend on distances to the sun and the actions of cosmic rays, each source would give a different D/H ratio.

They found that most of the water from the surface of the soil grains comes from solar wind. “We see that there is higher water content when the ratio is lower,” Stephant says, which the duo interpreted as a signature of solar wind implantation. Protons from the solar wind combined with oxygen on the moon to generate water. Meanwhile, the contribution from meteorites and comets is negligible; The grains contained, on average, only about 15 percent water from these other sources. 

Image: Apollo 17 Gallery, MSFC History Office, NASA

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/solar-wind-wafted-makings-water-moon

Woman Swims With Great White Shark

To promote their new HD HERO2 camera, Go Pro Camera teamed up with veteran freediver Ocean Ramsey for some jaw-dropping underwater footage.

Incredibly, she swims with one of the largest fish in the sea, the Great White Shark, all under the lens of the Hero2. 

Now, the video has already collected over 390,000 views over the weekend, and is further covered by EpicTV, NYDailyNews, and GMAYahoo.

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/02/18/woman-swims-with-great-white-shark/

Herschel detects that Ceres has large amounts of water

Ceres has always been believed to have an icy, rocky surface and now new evidence finally confirms that this is true. Scientists using the Herschel Space Telescope have detected ice on the surface and water vapor in the dwarf planet’s atmosphere. The study was led by Michael Küppers of the ESA and the results were published in Nature.

Ceres is the largest and roundest body within the main asteroid belt which exists between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. First discovered in 1801, Ceres was classified as a planet. It would later be reclassified as the first named asteroid by Sir William Herschel. In 2006, the meeting of the International Astronomical Union voted on specific definitions for different planetary bodies, resulting in yet another reclassification of Ceres, this time as a dwarf planet. This was the same meeting that reclassified Pluto to dwarf planet status as well. Ceres has only about 1% of the mass of the moon with an estimated surface area about the size of Argentina.

Though Ceres has always been believed to have ice on the surface, it has never actually been shown before. The researchers used the Herschel Space Telescope to study radiation deflecting off of Ceres and found that the wavelength indicated the presence of water vapor. Not only does the dwarf planet have ice, it has a lot of it. Researchers believe that surrounding its rocky core is a mantle of ice so thick, it could very well hold more water than Earth does.

The plumes of water vapor are a bit of a mystery to the astronomers and has raised a lot of questions about how they appear. It could be that part of the dwarf planet’s orbit brings it slightly closer to the sun, which warms up the ice and then vents off as steam, though there could be radioactivity within the core that causes the sublimated water to be expelled. Water vapor does not appear to be venting all the time and the amount coming out does not seem to be held constant. The vents do not appear sporadically and appear to be restricted to two separate areas. At maximum, the vents were observed to release about 6 kilograms (13.2 pounds) of water per second. 

In 2007, NASA launched the Dawn space probe with a mission of studying Ceres and Vesta, a large asteroid. Dawn will study the geology, chemical composition, and atmospheres of these two proto-planets in order to better understand planetary formation. The spacecraft is expected to rendezvous with the dwarf planet in February of 2015. This is incredibly good timing, as scientists won’t really have to wait long to take up close measurements and follow up with these preliminary observations. Information collected from Dawn will help researchers understand how water was distributed throughout the solar system, and how it ended up on a planet capable of retaining it as a liquid: the prerequisite for life as we know it.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/herschel-detects-ceres-has-large-amounts-water

Scientists Discover A Species of Desert Plant That Obtains Water From Rock

Scientists recently discovered that a certain plant, Helianthemum squamatum, is able to extract up to 90% of its fluid requirements from crystallization water trapped in gypsum rock. It is currently the only known plant species able to do this and the finding represents a completely new kind of water source for life. The research was published on August 18 in Nature Communications.

The team of researchers, led by plant biologists Dr. Sara Palacio of the Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología in Spain and Dr. Juan Pedro Ferrio of the University of Lleida, exploited the different isotopic compositions of hydrogen and oxygen between gypsum water and free soil water. By examining the isotopic composition of the sap water of H. squamatum, the researchers could then infer what proportion of gypsum crystallization water contributes to plant survival. The top 10 centimeters of the soil was sampled for free soil water.

The researchers found that in summertime, 70% to 90% of the sap water resembled the composition of gypsum cystallization water. The authors shot down hypotheses that the sap water obtained water from the soil and underwent isotopic changes to resemble gypsum crystallization water.

Gypsum an extremely soft mineral. It’s found in arid regions in Africa, Western and Central Asia. Its role at sustaining life was hinted at as far back as the early 19th century, when it was considered a fertilizer and a source of sulfur for plant growth. According to Neomatica, approximately 20% of gypsum’s weight is water, though this amount changes as the aridity of the environment changes. The high percentage of water by weight, and the fact that plants are often observed growing on top, has seriously suggested gypsum’s larger role in sustaining life.

The researchers involved in the H. squamatum discovery suggest their findings may impact the field of astrobiology. Gypsum is plentiful on other planets. It is conceivable that if life exists on other planets without traditional sources of water, they could have evolved to use crystallized water in rock instead.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/desert-plant-derives-90-water-intake-gypsum-rock

Water found on extrasolar ‘hot Jupiter’

 
Scientists have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of the planet tau Boötis b, which orbits a star named tau Boötis, and their new technique could help us find more planets with water outside of our solar system. 
 
This planet belongs to a class of relatively common extrasolar planets known as “hot Jupiters,” called such because they are massive exoplanets that orbit very close to its parent star. Unlike our Jupiter, which is pretty cold and takes 12 years to orbit around the Sun, tau Boötis b orbits its star every 3.3 days, and its proximity to the star heats it up to extreme temps. In those conditions, water exists as high temperature steam. 
 
Before this, scientists have only detected water on a handful of planets outside of our solar system, and that’s because the main ways of doing so require very specific circumstances. “When a planet transits — or passes in orbit in front of — its host star, we can use information from this event to detect water vapor and other atmospheric compounds,” study researcher Alexandra Lockwood from Caltech says in a press release. “Alternatively, if the planet is sufficiently far away from its host star, we can also learn about a planet’s atmosphere by imaging it.” Most extrasolar planets don’t fit these criteria. 
 
So, Lockwood and collaborators from around the country developed a new technique to study the atmosphere of non-transiting exoplanets — specifically hot Jupiters, which are too close to their star to separate the planet’s light from that of the star. With tau Boötis, the infrared radiation from the star is more than 10,000 times greater than that of the planet.
 
They adapted a method called radial velocity technique, which uses the Doppler Effect to detect exoplanets. It’s traditionally used in the visible region of the spectrum, but the team expanded the technique into the infrared. Then they added further analysis of the light’s spectrum; since every compound emits a different wavelength of light, researchers can use the unique “light signatures” to analyze molecules making up the planet’s atmosphere. 
 
Using data of tau Boötis b from the Near Infrared Echelle Spectrograph at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the researchers compared the molecular signature of water to the light spectrum emitted by the exoplanet, confirming that the exotic planet’s atmosphere includes water vapor.
 
“The information we get from the spectrograph is like listening to an orchestra performance; you hear all of the music together, but if you listen carefully, you can pick out a trumpet or a violin or a cello, and you know that those instruments are present,” Lockwood explains. “With the telescope, you see all of the light together, but the spectrograph allows you to pick out different pieces; like this wavelength of light means that there is sodium, or this one means that there’s water.”
 
In addition to studying atmospheric composition, the method allows researchers to analyze the mass of planets. That’s how they discovered that tau Boötis b is six times more massive than Jupiter. Hot damn. 
 
The work was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters earlier last week. 
 
 
Image: David Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics via NRL
 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/water-found-extrasolar-%E2%80%98hot-jupiter%E2%80%99

Seal Pups Adorably Climb Onto Floating Surfboard

Waterproof camera specialist and nature enthusiast Ethan Janson mounted his GoPro camera on an old windsurf board, and let it float in the waters at Puget Sound, Washington.

When  he retrieved his camera, he discovered adorable footage of newly weaned harbor seal pups trying their best to climb onto the slippery, wet surfboard. 

Now, the video from last weekend is going viral, and is featured on TheWeatherChannel, LaughingSquid, DailyPicksAndFlicks, and MostWatchedDaily.  

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/03/12/seal-pups-adorably-climb-onto-floating-surfboard/

Evidence For Ancient Wet Martian Environment Hints At Habitats For Life

Mars wasnt always so dry and barren the large fluvial features on its surface betray a past brimming with flowing water. Along with clear evidence of liquid, salty water patches still existing today, evidence of ancient mega-tsunamis has also recently been uncovered. If these were generated by huge impacts, then there had to have been a sizable ocean residing on the surface once upon a time.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research reveals that ironand calcium-rich carbonate-bearing rocks are fairly widespread on Mars.Carbonate rocks on Earth, such as limestone, form in aquatic, primarily marine environments that contain dissolved carbon. If deposits of Martian carbonates really are as commonplace as this study implies, then the ancient environment on Mars was certainly anything but dry.

Identification of these ancient carbonates and clays on Mars represents a window into history when the climate on Mars was very different from the cold and dry desert of today, Janice Bishop, a researcher at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute and co-author of the paper, said in a statement.

Wind-formed geological units overlie ancient carbonate-rich rocks (bottom right), excavated up to the surface by impact events. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Recent advances in scientists understanding of the physical characteristics of geological units mean that the uppermost layers of a planet, be that our own or one of our neighbors, can be analyzed and classified visually without having to visit the surface directly. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) contains an instrument designed to do exactly that: the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), which uses infrared emissions to identify mineralogical compositions of rocks.

Taking command of this instrument, the team of researchers focused its gaze on the Huygens basin, a massive impact crater 456kilometers(283miles) in diameter. The gargantuan depression is pockmarked with plenty of younger craters, many of which were suspected to be ideal sites for finding carbonates.When they were initially formed, its likely that the energetic impact would have managed to excavate some buried carbonates up to the surface.

Indeed, the spectral fingerprints of carbonate-bearing rocks werefound in the rims of several craters within the Huygens basin, some of which were previously buried at depths of around 5 kilometers (3miles). Additional carbonate outcrops were found scattered across other parts of the Red Planet, adding credence to the idea that much of the planet once experienced a complex, surface-level hydrogeological system.

This excavation depth indicates that they are fairly ancient, which hints at a wetter past for the region. In fact, the researchers conclude that they date back to the Noachian period, which roughly dates from 4.1 to 3.7 billion years ago, a time period corresponding to a chapter of frequent, powerful impacts in the inner Solar System known as the Late Heavy Bombardment.

The Huygens basin on Mars.The image in the top right shows elevation, with blue being low and red being high. NASA

This period also corresponds to the approximate age of the earliest life on Earth. As far as we know, where there is water, there is life it doesnt necessarily require sunlight so could these carbonates have formed in aquatic environments that also hosted life around the same time?

Sadly, researchers have yet to detect any signs of fossilized or contemporary microbial life on Mars, but anywhere that liquid water exists or once existed aids them in their search for it.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/ancient-wet-martian-environment-revealed-widespread-excavated-carbonate-rocks