Friday, September 10, 2010

Cyprus researchers reveal shape-shifting aircraft - Researchers in Cyprus have developed an unmanned aircraft able to withstand severe weather conditions by changing shape, filling a safety void in rescue operations frequently hampered by extreme weather. The project, currently under development on the east Mediterranean island, aims to build a small, affordable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which can be deployed with minimal risk to remote locations, guided from the ground.
"In severe weather this UAV can stay airborne whereas many other UAVs cannot."
The amphibious aircraft, which can be deployed for search and rescue, forest fire monitoring and border control, is expected to be commercially available in 2011. It can adjust its shape according to wind gusts, with an advanced version of the prototype also allowing for its wings to morph, or twist, based on flight phase and weather patterns.
The UAV, known as an ASARP (Airborne Search and Rescue Platform), deploys aeroservoelastic trim tabs on its wings which vibrate at certain frequencies to counteract the impact of wind gusts. "All of this happens automatically. There is a PID controller on board the aircraft which takes readings from the sensors which pick up the vertical motion in real time and return the signal straight back to the trim tabs for the ailerons to correct the motions of the aircraft." At the moment, the twin-cylinder engine ASARP can feed back images to a control center on the ground within a range of 4.5 miles. Should it move beyond that point, it automatically resumes its collated data feed once back within range.
The aircraft, which can be transported in boxes and assembled in 30 minutes, has a wingspan of 5 meters (yards), a fuselage length of around 4 meters, and a full payload of 70-75 kg (154-165 lb) with fuel. It is affordable -- most of its avionics were created in-house using commercially available equipment. The team is now applying other research ideas to the prototype, including morphing wings, which would make the response of the aircraft in heavy weather conditions even more efficient. The ASARP would not alleviate all potential threats to flying in bad weather, but does remove the risk to some crews working in such conditions. (photo)

A pair of robotic eyes in the sky could help forecasters predict volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landslides. NASA is designing a pair of robotic probes to keep tabs on how the planet is changing and to help forecasters predict natural disasters. One spacecraft will use radar to look for telltale signs of imminent disaster as it precisely measures small deformations in Earth's surface over time. Scientists hope to be able to zero in on regions that may be in danger so residents can prepare. Volcanoes, for example, expand like a balloon when the pressure inside them increases. "By using radar, we hope to be able to predict the stresses building up in the volcano and hopefully provide a warning of the hazard that is developing." Scientists also expect to be able to see deformations in fault zones, areas where water has been depleted beneath Earth's crust, and landslides.
The second DESDynI satellite will be equipped with an optical remote sensing tool called LIDAR - Light Detection And Ranging - that will pulse laser light on Earth and measure the time it takes for the reflected signals to return. The technique is good for measuring the density of a forest, for example, as the light bouncing off the tops of trees will have a different return signal than light reflecting off bare ground. Scientists hope to use the information to figure out how carbon is cycling through the planet's ecosystem -- information that is important for understanding global climate change. The third element of the mission involves monitoring the planet's ice sheets, which are particularly vulnerable to global climate change.
DESDynI is one of four Earth science missions recommended by the National Research Council. A mission concept review is expected to occur early next year. The launches would take place in October 2017.

**We all do stupid things, but the ones we tend to regret
are the ones we should see coming
because their lights are flashing and sirens blaring
and it's noon on a cloudless day.**
Carolyn Hax

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
9/9/20 -

NEW ZEALAND authorities delayed plans to lift no-go zones in quake-hit Christchurch Friday after major aftershocks again rattled the country's second largest city. Christchurch's mayor had hoped to open the city centre for the first time since last weekend's 7.0-magnitude earthquake but fresh tremors early Friday measuring up to magnitude 4.5 temporarily scuppered the plan. The city of 340,000 will remain under a state of emergency until Wednesday following the main tremor on Saturday, which caused damage estimated at four billion dollars (2.7 billion US). 300 people made homeless by the tremor remained in welfare centres. "Authorities are focusing on restoring loss of sewerage services, addressing housing needs, provision of psychological services, ensuring negative business impacts are (minimised) and setting up recovery structures."

A magnitude-6.1 earthquake has hit the same part of Chile that suffered a catastrophic quake in February. The new temblor has caused alarm but no reported damage or injuries. It struck the regions of Maule, BioBio and Araucani — just where the earlier magnitude-8.8 quake caused the most damage. The new quake struck at 3:28 a.m. (3:28 a.m. EDT; 0728 GMT) Thursday and it was centered about 22 miles (35 kilometers) south of the hard-hit regional capital of Concepcion.


New research shows the size and shape of Yellowstone's plume - Much of Yellowstone National Park sits atop one of the world’s largest volcanoes -- a supervolcano responsible for several eruptions in Earth's history. New research using cutting-edge technology shows that an enormous plume almost 400 miles underground, battling daily with the Earth's tectonic plates, is responsible for the many geothermal features that make Yellowstone one of the most unique places on the planet.
Over the last decade a massive seismology (earthquake) project has been mounted in the Yellowstone region, part of the Earthscope USArray, a coordinated effort across North America to measure earthquake activity with a dense grid of ultra-sensitive seismographs. The measurements taken by the seismographs spot the seismic waves created by tremors deep within the mantle. For the first time, data has been accumulating that allows scientists to build a picture (like a 3-D model) of activity occurring deep within the Earth underneath Yellowstone (about 372 miles deep). The most recent paper confirms earlier seismic studies identifying the Yellowstone plume. In addition the study makes a connection between the Yellowstone plume and the movement of tectonic plates. In their new model, the Yellowstone plume rises from the mantle and encounters (in what is now Oregon) the relatively small and young Juan de Fuca tectonic plate as it slides under the North American plate between Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Because the Juan de Fuca plate is young and not yet hardened, the plume was able to break through -- in effect cleaving the plate into segments. The paper suggests the breakup of the Juan de Fuca plate may have had profound effect on the rate of movement for all plates in the Pacific Northwest. In any case, the rough shape of the Yellowstone plume and some of its characteristics have been described. While the plume remains fixed over a location in the mantle, the plates above continue to move, especially the North American plate, which slides to the southwest over the plume. This accounts for the chain of eruption sites and upwelling of lava from Oregon to Wyoming.
The Yellowstone plume is at the moment not particularly hot, especially compared to plumes believed to underlie Iceland and Hawaii. This suggests that the Yellowstone super-volcano may miss its routine of erupting about every 600,000 years. The last eruption destroyed an area the size of Wyoming and spewed ash as far as the Caribbean – not to mention that it probably changed the climate and resulted in the die-off of many species. (illustration/map)

Tropical depression/storm IGOR was 1448 nmi S of Lajes, Azores.
Typhoon MERANTI was 165 nmi WSW of Taipei, Taiwan.

Tropical storm Malou dumped heavy rains in Tokyo and the surrounding areas on Wednesday. Some places received RECORD RAINFALL of four inches an hour. Heavy rains swelled rivers, some which burst their banks and flooded residential areas and destroyed bridges. Two men believed to be living in shacks near a major river, were trapped and had to be rescued, as the rising waters surrounded them. In other areas, the rainfall overwhelmed the sewage system which also flooded streets. So far there have been no reports of injuries. The storm had been the ninth typhoon of the season in the northeastern Pacific but the first to hit land northwest of Tokyo. It also brought the capital its first rain in a month, helping alleviate what had been THE LONGEST AND HOTTEST HEAT WAVE IN ITS HISTORY.

TAIWAN - Most parts of the country had to prepare for torrential rain and the possibility of landslides as Tropical Storm moved north in the Taiwan Straits, the Central Weather Bureau said Thursday. Llocated 110 kilometers south-southwest of Penghu Thursday evening, Meranti was moving North at a speed of 17 kilometers per hou. Sea warnings covered most of the Taiwan Straits, the Bashi Channel and waters off the north coast. Abundant rainfall was already being recorded Thursday in Hualien and Taitung on the east coast and in Kaohsiung and Pingtung in the South. Taitung County ordered the evacuation of five villages. Shipping links between Kinmen and China would be suspended at least for Friday.

The climate phenomenon La Niña is strengthening, increasing the likelihood that an active hurricane season could get even busier. The update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday comes as Texas residents clean up from the deluge of Tropical Storm Hermine.
La Niña is marked by a cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean and was reported to be developing a month ago.
It strengthened during August and appears likely to last at least through early 2011. "La Niña can contribute to increased Atlantic hurricane activity by decreasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean." Wind shear is a sharp difference in wind speed at different levels in the atmosphere. A strong wind shear reduces hurricanes by breaking up their ability to rise into the air, while less shear means they can climb and strengthen. La Niña's cooling of the tropical Pacific is the opposite of El Niño, which is marked by unusually warm water in that region. Each can take place every few years, usually with neutral conditions in between. Both can affect climate worldwide.


Rising life expectancies and improved health means the population is ageing more slowly and the burden not be as dramatic as feared, scientists say. The current method of measuring ageing has been based on misleading information. "These indicators, which are used worldwide to determine health care and retirement costs, are based on chronological age and in many instances consider people as being old when they reach age 65 or even earlier." But this measure is now out of date, say the authors of the study, because people live longer and someone at age 65 is not an old person anymore. The same problem occurs if policy-makers use the old-age dependency ratio as an indicator of the burden of ageing on health care costs. Most health care costs occur in the last few years of life and these years happen at ever later ages as life expectancies increase. A new dependency measure is based on disabilities that reflect the relationship between those who need care and those who are capable of giving it. Their study shows that when ageing is measured based on this ratio, the speed of ageing is reduced by four-fifths compared to the conventional old-age dependency ratio.
"Slow and predictable changes in pension age justified by an increased number of years of healthy life at older ages may be more politically acceptable than large, abrupt changes justified on the basis of budget stringency." In the UK, the normal pension age is scheduled to rise from 65 to 68 by 2044. And in Germany it is expected to rise from 65 to 67 by 2031, with the US retirement age increasing to 67 in 2027. Population ageing will be the source of many challenges in the future. "But there is not reason to exaggerate those challenges through mismeasurement."
"Increasing longevity and improved health care mean many older people are able to make a very positive and important contribution to our society. At the same time, it's important to remember that while life expectancy is increasing, people are living with disabilities for longer than before and a huge gap in life expectancy remains between rich and poor people."