Earth Sciences

Ocean Currents in the South Asian Archipelago

The losses of AirAsia QX8501 and Malaysia Airlines MH370 are tragic.  I hope that the relatives may find some comfort in the knowledge that their loved ones will have a lasting monument in improvements in air safety and in improved knowledge of our planet's oceans and climate.

As a direct result of the loss of MH370 a large scale ocean-floor survey was commenced, leading to almost daily discoveries of scientific importance. 

MH370 Operational Search Update—07 January 2015

Could climate change be making flying more unsafe? KamrenB Photography, CC BY

By Todd Lane, University of Melbourne

80 percent of current coal reserves, 50 percent of gas reserves and 33 percent of oil reserves should remain in the ground by 2050 to avoid the 2°C target established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and used as a benchmark by policy makers, according to a new estimate.

So much for that Peak Oil of 1992. We need to worry about Oil Glut instead.

The paper identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused - it's no secret that is China, Russia and the United States, along with 260 billion barrels oil reserves in the Middle East. The Middle East should also leave over 60% of its gas reserves in the ground.


Biofuels have long been studied and, like many alternative fuels, given corporate subsidies by the government, but they haven't made much progress. And that isn't just because subsidies discourage innovation, it is because of biology. Lignin, which helps cell walls thick in plants, is tough.

Plant geneticists have discovered the gene regulatory networks that control cell wall thickening by the synthesis of the cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.  If they can know it, and understand it, they can modify it, and that may mean viable biofuels.


The ice on Greenland formed due to processes in the deep Earth interior of the Arctic, large-scale glaciations that began about 2.7 million years ago. Prior to that, the northern hemisphere was so warm it was mostly without it, and that period lasted for 500 million years.

The big question geologically is why the glaciation of Greenland only developed so recently. 

It's because of the interaction of three tectonic processes. Greenland literally had to be lifted up, so that the mountain peaks reached into sufficiently cold altitudes of the atmosphere. Greenland also needed to move sufficiently far northward, which led to reduced solar irradiation in winter. Then a shift of the Earth axis caused Greenland to move even further northward.


If you hit the ground with a hammer, it creates a micro-earthquake, but it is obviously too small to be detected. The ancient Chinese used to use a drum in the ground to listen for enemy sappers mining underneath their fortifications.

The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, extracts gas and oil from shale rock by injecting a high-pressure water mixture directed at the rock to release the oil and gas trapped inside. Like any geological event, that results in micro-earthquakes much smaller than humans can feel. 


Controlled-release fertilizers are a widely used method of delivering nutrients to nursery container crops. Controlled release is just like it sounds, the fertilizers contain encapsulated solid mineral nutrients that dissolve slowly in water which are released over an extended period of time.

Controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs)
are quite popular, but growers and researchers want ways to decrease fertilizer and irrigation expenses and reduce the impact of nutrient leaching into the environment, so a new study compares CRF placement strategies.


Controlled-release fertilizers are a widely-used method of delivering nutrients to nursery container crops, because they contain encapsulated solid mineral nutrients that dissolve slowly in water, which are then released into substrates over an extended period of time.

Although the use of controlled-release fertilizers is a popular and widely-accepted practice, growers and researchers are always looking for ways to get the same results with decreased fertilizer and irrigation expenses - and less nutrient leaching into the environment. A new study contains recommendations for controlled-release fertilizer placement methods that can address these issues.

In December 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released its highest-resolution geologic map of Mars.

A thin sheet of graphene wrapped around a new multifunctional sulfur electrode that combines an energy storage unit and electron/ion transfer networks could lead to a promising design for rechargeable lithium-sulfur batteries.

Lithium-sulfur batteries are of great commercial interest because they boast theoretical specific energy densities considerably greater than those of their already-well-established cousin, lithium ion batteries. And we clearly need battery improvements, there hasn't been anything substantial for 25 years.