Earth

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is among the healthiest coral reef ecosystems in the tropical Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, according to a new NOAA report.

An experimental atomic clock based on ytterbium atoms is about four times more accurate than it was several years ago, giving it a precision comparable to that of the NIST-F1 cesium fountain clock, the nation's civilian time standard, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report in Physical Review Letters.*

Menlo Park, Calif.—Water is familiar to everyone—it shapes our bodies and our planet. But despite this abundance, the molecular structure of water has remained a mystery, with the substance exhibiting many strange properties that are still poorly understood. Recent work at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and several universities in Sweden and Japan, however, is shedding new light on water's molecular idiosyncrasies, offering insight into its strange bulk properties.

LIVERMORE, Calif. – When it comes to using climate models to assess the causes of the increased amount of moisture in the atmosphere, it doesn't much matter if one model is better than the other.

They all come to the same conclusion: Humans are warming the planet, and this warming is increasing the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere.

"Imagine you're a water molecule in a glass of ice water, and you're floating right on the boundary of the ice and the water," proposes Emory University physicist Eric Weeks. "So how do you know if you're a solid or a liquid?"

Weeks' lab recently captured the first images of what's actually happening in this fuzzy area of the crystal/liquid interface. The lab's data, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), make the waves between the two states of matter visible for the first time.

The discovery of an unknown hitherto chemical compound in the atmosphere may help to explain how and when clouds are formed. The discovery of the so called dihydroxyepoxides (an aerosol-precursor), is reported in this week's issue of Science by a team comprising of researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Copenhagen.

Professor Henrik Kjærgaard from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen calls the new compounds a missing link in the formation of clouds.

A new material developed at the University of Virginia – an oxygen nanosensor that couples a light-emitting dye with a biopolymer – simplifies the imaging of oxygen-deficient regions of tumors. Such tumors are associated with increased cancer aggressiveness and are particularly difficult to treat.

Oxygen nanosensors are powerful new research tools that one day may also be used for the diagnosis and detection of diseases and for planning treatment strategies.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US, have performed sophisticated laser measurements to detect the subtle effects of one of nature's most elusive forces - the "weak interaction". Their work, which reveals the largest effect of the weak interaction ever observed in an atom, is reported in Physical Review Letters and highlighted in the August 10th issue of APS's on-line journal Physics (physics.aps.org).

Menlo Park, Calif.—The Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will receive $21.8 million in new funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funding will catalyze instrumentation construction and improvements at the laboratory's two light source research facilities, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL).

NASA satellite imagery has helped forecasters watch Hurricane Felicia run into cooler waters and increasing wind shear, two things that have taken her strength "down a peg or two." Felicia will continue to weaken further over the weekend as she heads to Hawaii where landfall isn't expected until late Monday or early Tuesday.

The latest satellite image from NASA's Aqua satellite shows the giant Typhoon Morakot's center about to cross Taiwan. Morakot has already caused problems in Taiwan on its approach and has proven deadly in the Philippines.

Tasmania's east coast is recording its highest-ever winter water temperatures of more than 13ºC – up to 1.5ºC above normal – due to a strengthening of an ocean current originating north of Australia.

Satellites have given oceanographers an insight into a remarkable phenomenon. It is a significant extension of the Leeuwin Current curling around the southern tip of Tasmania and reaching as far north as St Helens.

Keeping certain poisonous houseplants, such as Dieffenbachia (dumbcane), Philodendron, peace lily, and pothos, away from pets is common knowledge, but the reason is not. For houseplants like these, the problem may not just be a poison, but the presence of tiny crystals throughout the plant.

When Alaska's Kasatochi Volcano erupted on Aug. 7, 2008, it virtually sterilized Kasatochi Island, covering the small Aleutian island with a layer of ash and other volcanic material several meters thick. The eruption also provided a rare research opportunity: the chance to see how an ecosystem develops from the very first species to colonize the island.

PASADENA, Calif.—A previously unrecognized player in the process by which gases produced by trees and other plants become aerosols—microscopically small particles in the atmosphere—has been discovered by a research team led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Their research on the creation and effects of these chemicals, called epoxides, is being featured in this week's issue of the journal Science.