Magical Mud, Microbes and Methane

Re-enactment of the George Washington – Thomas Paine discovery that the “Will-O’-the Wisp” was a flammable gas on the 225th anniversary, November 5, 2008. Photo courtesy of Robert H. Barth

Re-enactment of the George Washington – Thomas Paine discovery that the “Will-O’-the Wisp” was a flammable gas on the 225th anniversary, November 5, 2008. Photo courtesy of Robert H. Barth

The Revolutionary War had ended and attention now turned to other issues. Debate ensued over the origin of the mysterious marsh blue flame, Will-o’-the-Wisp, which lured unsuspecting travelers to a boggy death near Rocky Hill. George Washington and Thomas Paine argued the origin was a flammable gas. In an experiment on November 5th, 1783, from a scow in the Millstone River, flaming torches were held above the river surface while soldiers probed the mud . . . 231 years later, Professors Douglas Eveleigh, Theodore Chase Jr., Craig Phelps and Lily Young submit a note of acknowledgement to their forebears on how that flash of inspiration from magical mud heralded American science and the study of microbiology. Read more at New Jersey 350.

Could volcanoes help slow global warming?

Volcanic eruptions from Iceland to Alaska may not only be messing with air travel. They could be helping slow global warming. A new study concluded that small volcanic eruptions from 2000 to 2013 may have ejected more of the atmosphere-cooling sulfur dioxide gas into Earth’s upper atmosphere than previously thought, and that they may have made a significant contribution to the slowing of global warming over the past decade and a half…Until now, volcanic eruptions weren’t included in climate projections, since these events are nearly impossible to predict, according to Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who was not involved in the study.

Read the entire article at CBSNews.com »

Small volcanic eruptions could be slowing global warming

Small volcanic eruptions might eject more of an atmosphere-cooling gas into Earth’s upper atmosphere than previously thought, potentially contributing to the recent slowdown in global warming, according to a new study…Climate projections typically don’t include the effect of volcanic eruptions, as these events are nearly impossible to predict, according to Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who was not involved in the study.

Read the entire article at sciencecodex.com »

Rutgers climatologist: Expect a ‘volatile’ winter

What kind of winter will it be? Severe as last year’s, or milder like two previous ones? Can an early snow in Siberia affect weather in Philadelphia, and what impact will El Niño have? Rutgers University’s Global Snow Lab in Piscataway tries to answer those questions, using raw federal data on the snow cover in North America and Eurasia to create maps and long-term climate records to aid forecasting. Bottom line, the winter of 2014-15 will likely be "volatile" across the region, said New Jersey state climatologist David Robinson, director of the snow lab. "I’ve been standoffish until now" to make a prediction.

Read the entire article at Philly.com »

Rutgers remembers naturalist who documented fisher’s re-emergence in N.J.

Rutgers University will dedicate a kiosk at the entrance to a network of nature trails on its Livingston campus Sunday in memory of naturalist and former student Charlie Kontos, who died suddenly in 2010 at the age of 33. Kontos, who was an adjunct professor and PhD candidate at Rutgers, is widely credited with discovering the re-emergence of the fisher in New Jersey when he captured a photograph of one of the small carnivorous mammals in 2006. Before his discovery, the fisher was thought to have left the Garden State long ago.

Read the entire article at NJ.com »