October 14, 2015 by Hannah Hickey
Warming ocean temperatures a third of a mile below the surface, in a dark ocean in areas with little marine life, might attract scant attention. But this is precisely the depth where frozen pockets of methane ‘ice’ transition from a dormant solid to a powerful greenhouse gas.
New University of Washington research suggests that subsurface warming could be causing more methane gas to bubble up off the Washington and Oregon coast.
The study, to appear in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, shows that of 168 bubble plumes observed within the past decade, a disproportionate number were seen at a critical depth for the stability of methane hydrates.
“We see an unusually high number of bubble plumes at the depth where methane hydrate would decompose if seawater has warmed,” said lead author H. Paul Johnson, a UW professor of oceanography. “So it is not likely to be just emitted from the sediments; this appears to be coming from the decomposition of methane that has been frozen for thousands of years.”
Methane has contributed to sudden swings in Earth’s climate in the past. It is unknown what role it might contribute to contemporary climate change, although recent studies have reported warming-related methane emissions in Arctic permafrost and off the Atlantic coast.
October 8th, 2015 @ 2:00 am by
An exotic, swirling object with the sci-fi name of a “magnetic skyrmion” could be the future of nanoelectronics and memory storage. Physicists at UC Davis and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have now succeeded in making magnetic skyrmions, formerly found at temperatures close to absolute zero, at room temperature.
“This is a potentially new way to store information, and the energy costs are expected to be extremely low,” said Kai Liu, professor of physics at UC Davis and corresponding author of a paper on the work, published in the journal Nature Communications Oct. 8.
Skyrmions were originally described over 50 years ago as a type of hypothetical particle in nuclear physics. Actual magnetic skyrmions were discovered only in 2009, as chiral patterns of magnetic moments — think of a moment as a tiny compass needle — in materials close to absolute zero temperature, in the presence of a strong magnetic field.
The availability of stable magnetic skyrmions at room temperature opens up new studies on their properties and potential development in electronic devices, such as nonvolatile magnetic memory storage.