First global portrait of greenhouse gases emerges from pole-to-pole flights

September 25, 2011

Hyderabad: A three-year series of research flights from the Arctic to the Antarctic has successfully produced an unprecedented portrait of greenhouse gases and particles in the atmosphere. The far-reaching field project, known as HIPPO, is enabling researchers to generate the first detailed mapping of the global distribution of gases and particles that affect Earth’s climate.
The series of flights, which ended recently, mark an important milestone as scientists work toward targeting both the sources of greenhouse gases and the natural processes that draw the gases back out of the atmosphere.
“Tracking carbon dioxide and other gases with only surface measurements has been like snorkeling with a really foggy mask,” says Britton Stephens, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and one of the project’s principal investigators. “Finally, HIPPO is giving us a clear view of what’s really out there.”
“With HIPPO, we now have views of whole slices of the atmosphere,” says Steven Wofsy, HIPPO principal investigator and atmospheric and environmental professor at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We’ve been quite surprised by the abundance of certain atmospheric components and the locations where they are most common.”
The three-year campaign has relied on the powerful capabilities of a specially equipped Gulfstream V aircraft, owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by NCAR. The research jet, known as the High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER), has a range of about 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers). It is outfitted with a suite of specially designed instruments to sample a broad range of atmospheric constituents.
The flights have helped scientists compile extraordinary detail about the atmosphere. The research team has studied air samples at different latitudes during various seasons from altitudes of 500 feet (150 meters) above Earth’s surface up to as high as 45,000 feet (13,750 meters), into the lower stratosphere.
HIPPO, which stands for HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations, brings together scientists from organizations across the nation, including NCAR, Harvard University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of Miami, and Princeton University. NSF, which is NCAR’s sponsor, and NOAA are funding the project.
Surprises on the way to a global picture:
The first of the five HIPPO missions began in January 2009. Two subsequent missions were launched in 2010, and two in 2011. The final mission comes to an end on September 9, as the aircraft returns from the Arctic to Anchorage and then to its home base at NCAR’s Research Aviation Facility near Boulder.
Each of the missions took the research team from Colorado to Alaska and the Arctic Circle, then south over the Pacific to New Zealand and near Antarctica. The flights took place at different times of year, resulting in a range of seasonal snapshots of concentrations of greenhouse gases. The researches was designed to help answer such questions as why atmospheric levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have tripled since the Industrial Age and are on the rise again after leveling off in the 1990s.
Scientists also studied how logging and regrowth in northern boreal forests and tropical rain forests are affecting levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Such research will provide a baseline against which to evaluate the success of efforts to curb CO2 emissions and to enhance natural CO2 uptake and storage. The team measured a total of over 80 gases and particles in the atmosphere.
One of HIPPO’s most significant accomplishments has been quantifying the seasonal amounts of CO2 taken up and released by land plants and the oceans. Those measurements will help scientists produce more accurate estimates of the annual cycle of carbon dioxide in and out of the atmosphere and how the increasing amount of this gas is influenced by both the natural world and society.
The team also found that black carbon particles—emitted by diesel engines, industrial processes, and fires—are more widely distributed in the atmosphere than previously thought. Such particles can affect climate in various ways, such as directly absorbing solar radiation, influencing the formation of clouds or enhancing melt rates when they are deposited on ice or snow.
“What we didn’t anticipate were the very high levels of black carbon we observed in plumes of air sweeping over the central Pacific toward the U.S. West Coast,” says NOAA scientist Ryan Spackman, a member of the HIPPO research team. “Levels were comparable with those measured in megacities such as Houston or Los Angeles. This suggests that western Pacific sources of black carbon are significant and that atmospheric transport of the material is efficient.”
Researchers were also surprised to find larger-than-expected concentrations of nitrous oxide high in the tropical atmosphere. The finding has significant environmental implications because the gas both traps heat and contributes to the thinning of the ozone layer. Nitrous oxide levels have been increasing for decades in part because of the intensive use of nitrogen fertilizer for agriculture. The abundance of the gas high in the tropical atmosphere may be a sign that storms are carrying it aloft from sources in Southeast Asia.
Balancing the carbon budget:
The task of understanding how carbon cycles through the Earth system, known as “balancing the carbon budget,” is gaining urgency as policy makers discuss strategies to limit greenhouse gases. Some countries or regions could be rewarded with carbon credits for taking steps such as preserving forests believed to absorb carbon dioxide.
“Carbon markets and emission offset projects are moving ahead, but we still have imperfect knowledge of where human-emitted carbon dioxide is ending up,” NCAR’s Stephens says.
Before HIPPO, scientists primarily used ground stations to determine the distribution of sources of atmospheric CO2 and “sinks” that reabsorb some of the gas back into the land and oceans. But ground stations can be separated by thousands of miles, which hinders the ability to measure CO2 in specific locations. To estimate how the gas is distributed vertically, scientists have had to rely on computer models, which will now be improved with HIPPO data.
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Scientists to study microbes in space environ

May 2, 2009

A reusable space capsule being retrieved from the oceanA reusable space capsule being retrieved from the ocean

Bangalore, May 2-2k9: In its first set of biological experiments, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will send bacteria cells into space — and bring them back — in the second Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-2) scheduled for launch this year-end.

Two life science experiments, using E.coli and photosynthetic bacteria, will help us understand cell division, genomics (genetic changes) and proteomics (changes in proteins) in microgravity conditions, said Kamanio Chattopadhyay, national coordinator of the Indian Microgravity Programme, who is coordinating scientific experiments for the mission.

In the first experiment, an E.coli cell would be grown in a bio-reactor and brought back to the earth to carry out genomic studies.

“When the experiment is recovered, we will explore why microgravity alters the growth of cells.” The experiment could be seen as a prelude to ISRO’s manned space mission slated for 2015, he said.

“We know that astronauts experience physiological changes when they go into space, the most common being bone loss. NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] has done experiments to prove that microgravity impacts genes. We need to understand this phenomenon better.”

The payload would be developed in collaboration with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.

In the other experiment, photosynthetic bacteria would be cultured to study the effect of microgravity on photosynthesis. Much like plants, cynobacteria carry out photosynthesis. This experiment would be developed jointly by CCMB, ISRO and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The effect of space radiation and microgravity on seeds — of rice and medicinal plants — would be the subject of a third experiment developed by the Pune and Kerala universities. Using a dosimeter, the experiment would measure levels of radiation exposure on the seeds.

The satellite would also have a materials science experiment onboard to study the role of gravity on melting and sintering of metal powder. Developed by the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, this payload would use a model copper-tin alloy as the subject.

The experiments would remain in orbit for 10 days, said Dr. Chattopadhyay. “While SRE-1 [launched in 2007] proved we had mastered technology for safe vehicle re-entry, SRE-2 will focus on life science experiments in microgravity.” SRE-1 was launched on January 10, 2007 and it successfully re-entered the earth’s atmosphere 12 days later.//EOM//(Courtesy: PTI)
Photo Caption:Coast Guard men recover the Indian Space Research Organisation’s 550-kg recoverable space capsule SRE-1 that splashed down in the Bay of Bengal near Chennai in January 2007 after 12 days in space.




//EOM//

All About Dogs and their Genes

May 6, 2007

Gene makes racing dogs fast, study finds

   By Maggie Fox

WASHINGTON, May 2-2k7 (Reuters) A gene that helps control muscle development makes all the difference between an elite racing dog and a freak that is put down at birth, scientists reported.

   Racing whippets that carried one copy of the mutated gene were among the fastest runners, but those that carried two copies became unattractively bulky and were usually destroyed by breeders, the researchers said yesterday.

   The next step may be to look for this gene in human athletes to see if it helps explain what makes some competitors excel, said Dr Elaine Ostrander of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who led the study.

   The gene controls a muscle protein called myostatin.
   ”Our work is the first to link athletic performance to a
mutation in the myostatin gene and could have implications for competitive sports in dogs, horses and possibly even humans,” Ostrander said.

   Ostrander’s team has been studying dogs to find the genes for various traits and just last month reported that a gene called IGF1 was responsible for making small dogs small.

   They believe this has implications for differences in human size, as well.    While studying whippets, a small, very thin racing breed, they noticed ones that were big and bulky called ”bully” whippets.

   ”They were very, very heavily muscled,” Ostrander said. ”We were really struck by their remarkable physical appearance.”

   But breeders do not like them. ”The bottom line is, these dogs are not given a chance. When they are born, breeders in this community will describe their appearance as grotesque,” she said. Such whippets are usually put down immediately.

   The dogs resembled a breed of Belgian blue cattle and certain pigs, and Ostrander’s team knew that in livestock this muscling came from a mutation in the myostatin gene.    ”The same turns out to be true in whippets,” she said.

   GORGEOUS DOGS
   Ostrander’s team then looked at the parents of the mutant
whippets. ”They were absolutely gorgeous dogs,” she said.
   Well-muscled and sleek, they lacked the anorexic  appearance of most racing whippets, Ostrander said. It turned out the parents each had just one copy of the mutated genes, while their ”bully” offspring carried two copies.
   When they learned one of these parents was called ”Fast Eddie,” Ostrander’s team knew what to look for next.

   ”We wanted to know whether or not this was something that could explain racing speed,” she said. So her team visited a dog track and got DNA samples from the dogs.

   Racing whippets are classified as A, B, C or D, with A racers
being the fastest, Ostrander said.    They found the mutation in 12 of 41 dogs graded A or B racers, and in just one of the 43 dogs in the slowest racing grades, the researchers report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS  Genetics.

   The gene, called MSTN, affects ”fast-twitch” muscle, which is linked to sprinting ability.    Tests of greyhounds, close relatives of whippets, did not find the gene, and Ostrander noted that in cattle with the mutation the lungs are abnormally small.

   She believes the gene may affect lung size and thus stamina, which would not matter for whippets, which run a short course. But this would be devastating to a greyhound bred to run longer  distances.

   Checks of other dog breeds such as Rottweilers, bulldogs and bull terriers found no evidence of the mutation.//eom//

Nature-friendly hybrid rice variety developed

November 26, 2006

Bangalore, Nov 26 (UNI) In what could be a major boon to the farmers, scientists at the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS), Bangalore, have developed a nature-friendly hybrid variety of rice, which not only consumes substantially less water but can also take Indian farmers to the Credit Emission Reduction (CER) trade at the international arena.

  A team of agricultural scientists from the Department of Genetic and Plant Breeding of the UAS have developed ‘Aerobic Rice’ uuccessfully cross breeding a local variety and IR64 variety procured from the Institute of International Rice Research, Philippines.

  Aerobic rice consumed half the amount of water, had longer rots than the conventional variety that helped better absorption of water and facilitated better air ventilation. This special character of the new variety prevented the process of methanogenesis, in which green house gases were released due to decomposition of organic matter.

  Dr H E Shashidhar, Professor and Head, Department of Genetics and  Plant Breeding, informed UNI that usually methane was produced during flooded rice cultivation by the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter in the soil, but the new variety’s lengthy roots, three times more than the conventional crop, helped to prevent the  process of methanogenesis without oxygen. It did not need flooding
of water at any stage, thereby avoiding the release of methane into the atmosphere.

  He said cultivation of paddy contributed to about 20 to 25 per cent of methane gases emitted into the atmosphere. The intensive use of Aerobic rice variety prevented the release of greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide. While the conventional rice crop needed about 5,000 litres per kg, the new variety needed only half of it.

Mr.Shashidhar said the UAS scientists were currently engaged in conducting field trials of the new variety at six places –Bangalore, Chhattisgarh, Cuttack, Faizalabad, Coimbatore and Hazaribagh and would be commercially made available next year. The UAS had developed six varieties of Aerobic rice, which could be sown directly in the field and needed no transplantation. The new variety gave yield on par with the traditional varieties and would be ready for harvesting between 120 and 130 days.

  He said that after developing the new variety, scientists were now involved in exploration of drawing carbon credits and entering the over 100 billion US Dollar CER Trade at the global level.

Entering CER trade involved a laborious exercise and a dedicated mechanism needed to be created for the purpose. The department had approached the Union Environment and Forests Ministry to take the process forward and get the Carbon Credit Certificates for contributing to reduction in emission of greenhouses gases, which caused global warming, he added.

  He said Indian farmers, facing a crisis now, would not only
benefit from the use of the new variety, but could also earn foreign xchange by selling carbon credit certificates for contributing to eduction in global warming. ”Concerted efforts by NGOs, Government agencies and the farming community can go a long way in achieving the goal.” //EOM//
Posted by Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna

It is our Indian Halwa

November 26, 2006

By   Archana Devraj

Kochi(India),Nov 24,2k6: After ‘basmati rice’ and ‘Darjeeling tea’, it is the turn of the famous ‘Kozhikode Halwa’ from Kerala to seek protection under the Geographical Indications(GI) status, which grants legal recognition to a particular region’s claim to a locally produced product.

The Kerala Government is seriously considering moving an application with the GI Registry, Chennai, to grant the GI status to the ‘Kozhikode Halwa’, a speciality sweet-meat made in the northern district of Kozhikode, senior district officials told UNI here.

”The proposal is under the serious consideration of the Government and the application regarding this will be moved after a month-long ‘Malabar Shopping Festival’ concludes on January 20,” they said.

In fact, one of the main events of the month-long fiesta, to be held in Kozhikode, is a ‘halwa festival’.

”We want to create a buzz around the Kozhikode halwa and then move the application for GI status after the festival concludes,” Kozhikode District Collector A Jayathilak said.

A known delicacy of Kozhikode, the black or brown coloured ‘halwa’, made of flour, ghee, molasses and nuts, is one of the hot selling items on the city’s famous ‘Sweet-meat Street’ (SM Street).

Stating that Kozhikode had been associated with the ‘halwa’ for more than 200 years, Dr Jayathilak said that there were families which had been involved in its making for generations.

He said ”there might be so-called halwas being produced all over the place now. But, the sweet-meat is traditionally a delicacy from Kozhikode and we would like the world to recognise this.”

Getting the GI status would be a big step-up for the ‘humble halwa’, putting it in the big league of international branding. Besides ensuring quality control and promoting its export potential, acquisition of the GI status for the ‘Kozhikode Halwa’ could also work wonders for putting Kozhikode on the tourism map of Kerala, he added.

In fact, with almost every second shop on the SM Street stocking the delicacy and hundreds of units engaged in its manufacture, the District Industries Centre has also taken up the ‘halwa units’ for development under the ”industrial cluster” approach of the State Government.

According to available information, the Kerala Government had sanctioned Rs 16 lakh some time ago to develop a food cluster in Kozhikode district. The Olavanna area in the district had been identified for the ‘halwa cluster’, where the units could share the raw material and marketing channels besides setting up common effluent treatment plants.

In fact, a common brand name under which the ‘Kozhikode Halwa’ could be exported was also being explored, officials said.

A Consortium had already been registered under the name of ”Kozhikode Halwa Consortium Pvt. Ltd.’ by 38 local ‘halwa’ manufacturers. The main purpose of the consortium was to standardise the product and upgrade the manufacturing technology.

”An MoU for technical assistance has been signed by the State Government with the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, for ensuring product standardisation and quality control,” the officials added.

As a WTO member country and signatory to TRIPS, India had passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999.

Under the Act, goods such as agri-foods, natural products, food, industrial designs and handicrafts, were generally linked to a specific region and were considered to be the common inheritance of the people of the area, who have developed it down the ages. The law protects these traditional practitioners or producers against misappropriation and unfair competition.

While the Act does not provide for individual ownership, any association of producers or any organisation or authority representing the interest of the producers can apply for registration in accordance with the provision of the Act.//eom//

Posted by Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna 

Computerised Rice Grading-Boon to Exporters

November 9, 2006

 Chandigarh, Nov 8 (UNI) The tedious, laborious and error-prone  system of rice-grading would soon be a thing of past with the path-breaking computerised classification system developed by scientists here.  
   The server-based analytical instrument with complete ‘knowledge and data’ could provide world-class sample testing over the internet, leading to ‘uniform procurement specifications and testing’, which would also be a boon for exporters.
   The device, developed by Central Scientific Instruments
Organisation (CSIO) here, ”could provide transparency in the
procurement process and could be useful for food procuring and marketing agencies, rice shellers, grain marchants and exporters,” the CSIO Director Dr Pawan Kapur told UNI.
   The rice grading, which would take into account the colour, shape  and size of each grain, would be most useful in meeting the export  requirements which seek absolute rice dimensions and accumulative stringent percentages in broken and undesirable items.
   Project Head, Dr H K Sardana said the system meets export or superior quality requirements, including the moisture test. It could detect undesirable elements like foreign matter, broken, damaged, discoloured, chalky and red grains and could differentiate between various varieties mixed together.
   In addition, the system could provide grain-wise measurements and histogram, he said.
   Moreover, the whole process of classification of rice sample
takes only one or two minutes in comparision to hours that it takes  to manually and visually check the grains as per BIS standards.
   The system could be customised to suit export requirements and BIS standards including annual relaxations applicable to farmers during adverse weather conditions.  
   About the other benefits of the sorting machines, he explained that it could work even at sheller’s level for inspection while milling.
   A prototype unit of the system was successfully tested by
Markfed, as per the standard requirements of the BIS and FCI, Mr Sardana said.
   For remote sample submission,  people living even in remote areas could be connected to the system through internet and could submit the sample at their scanner for obtaining certified statistical
report.
   The new system would also turn out to be much cost-effective as BIS, as a central agency, could provide the on-line grading service to distant clients, he said. //EOM//

Pozted by: Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna.

DNA Barcoding of Indigenous Fish Species

November 9, 2006

Lucknow, Nov 8 (UNI) National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBFGR), Lucknow has undertaken an ambitious and advanced programme of developing DNA bar coding of indigenous fish species.
   The project will greatly help in the identification of fish
species, patenting of marine fauna and specialised research thereon.
   NBFGR has been recognised as a nodal organization under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi for undertaking advanced research programmes on exotic fish and quarantine.
   Bureau Director W S Lakra informed that the DNA bar coding of about 50 fish species had already been developed and research was on for other several varieties.
   Dr Lakra was addressing the nine-day ‘Symposium and Training Programme on Fish Biotechnology’, which was inaugurated yesterday.
   Leading Australian marine scientist Dr R D Ward — who is also Co-Chairman, Global Programme, DNA Bar Coding of Fish — emphasised its importance towards the documentation, characterisation and conservation of aquatic bio-diversity.
   Further, Dr Lakra informed regarding the recent development of  vital diagnostic tools such as monoclonal antibiotics, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), DNA finger printing and gene probes etc.
   He stressed the need for developing such diagnostic tools for all the major fish diseases, that cause huge economic losses to farmers.
   Lucknow Biotechnology Park Director P K Seth said fish were  good indicators of water quality. ”Marine biotechnology has tremendous potential towards improving production of food and ornamental fish, besides production of pharmaceuticals from fish.
   National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) Director Rakesh Tuli emphasised the need to undertake intensive research on production of transgenic fish with respect to improvement of economically important traits and production of stress-resistant fish.
   Fish and aquatic fauna constitute nearly 20 per cent — at Rs 7,200 crore — of India’s total agricultural exports annually.
   The annual fish production currently stands at 64 lakh tonnes, Dr S Ayyappan, Deputy Director General (Fisheries), ICAR had told UNI in an earlier interview.
   The per capita consumption of fish in India is 9 kgs/per year compared to 12 kgs/per year globally. The country stands second in aqua-culture and third overall in fish production in the world.
   ”India is home to about 2,400 fish species. Fisheries can play a vital role in maintaining the ‘food and nutritional’ security of the country,” Dr Ayyappan, who is also the Chief Executive, National Fisheries Development Board, observed.//EOM//

Posted by: Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna

Indian scientists find medicinal plant unseen for 115 years

November 7, 2006

NEW DELHI: Indian scientists working in a tropical forest in the country’s remote northeast have found a rare medicinal plant last seen 115 years ago, a scientific journal reported.

The botanists were working in the Upper Subansiri district of Arunchal Pradesh, an Indian state that borders China, when they found a specimen of “Begonia Tessaricarpa,” according to this month’s issue of Current Science, an Indian journal. The journal did not say when they found the plant.

The herbaceous plant was once regarded as having medicinal properties by the region’s ethnic tribes, and reportedly was used to treat stomach aches and dehydration. It’s juices were also reportedly used to ward off leeches.

The plant was first listed in scientific literature by British scientist C. B. Clarke in 1879 and 1890, but had not been seen since, the journal reported.

“This species is still surviving in a few pockets of Arunachal Pradesh and was found growing in damp rocky places,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Kumar Ambarish of the Botanical Survey of India as saying.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the journal’s report.

Posted by: Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna

Networking for Research on Earthquakes

October 25, 2006

ICTP moots Network of Scientists for Promoting  Collaborative Earthquakes Research

Hyderabad, Oct 23-2k6: The Italy-based Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) is forming a network of scientists from Iran to Indonesia to study the formation of earthquakes and build capacities to respond to calamities caused by earthquake, ICTP Director K R Sreenivasan said today.Mr Sreenivasan, who was here in connection with a collaborative programme with the Central University of Hyderabad, said the network would have scientists from the National Geophysical Research in India and National Aeronautics Laboratory.

The first meeting of the newly formed network of scientists would be held in Italy next month.

The primary task of the network covering Pakistan, Nepal and Malaysia among other countries, was to record the seismic activity and build capacities to respond to calamities, he said, adding that the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics operated under a tripartite agreement between the Government of Italy, two UN agencies-United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).//EOM//

Posted By: Dr.Y.Bala Murali krishna

New Virus Detected in Chillies in India

October 10, 2006

 Ludhiana, Oct 10-2k6: A virus known as ‘begomoviruses’, which reduces the yield, has ‘infected’ the chilli crop in India for the first time.
   The World Vegetable Centre–AVRDC located at Taiwan has detected the presence of this virus in the samples taken from  Ludhiana.
   This virus is believed to be a tentative strain of the chilli
leaf curl virus which is prevalent in Multan in Pakistan.
   The Centre has called upon breeders at Punjab Agricultural
University (PAU) that the presence of the ‘begomoviruses’ needs to be considered for developing chilli cultivars and virus resistant chilli plants.
   PAU’s Department of Vegetable Crops, Head- cum- senior
olericulturist, Dr Daljit Singh today said that chilli is an
vegetable important crop. It is sown on an area of 9882 hectares in Punjab, mainly in the districts of Sangrur, Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Amnritsar and Jalandhar.
   In Punjab. the chilli production is around 15,888 tonnes annually.
   Dr Daljit Singh, who is working in collaboration with the
scientists of AVRDC, said the tomato leaf curl begomoviruses
infecting chillies in India was first noticed in 2004. The results of the analysis done at the World Vegetable Centre in Taiwan have been recently published.
   This is for the first time that this begomoviruses has infected chilli crop in India and it will significantly reduce productivity, he claimed.//eom//