NASA is evaluating New Zealand wool technology

A New Zealand-developed, wool-based filter technology is one of several filter systems being evaluated by NASA to protect astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on upcoming deep-space exploration missions.

Designed by Auckland based wool innovators Lanaco, the HelixTM filter is sourced from the company’s purpose bred AstinoTM sheep and is being tested for use in Orion’s emergency life-support system in the event of on-board fires.

The Helix filter could be used as a pre-filter layer for emergency personal equipment and cabin air systems, preventing clogging in other filter layers by removing thick contaminants like molten plastic.

Shaun Tan, Lanaco Head of Technology, recently returned from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston and is confident that the Helix filter can deliver on NASA’s requirements.

“In the case of the Orion life-support system, the Helix filter is being tested for particle loading capacity, breathability, flame resistance and the ability to function even if exposed to Orion’s water-based fire extinguisher systems,” says Dr Tan.

“The Helix filter is currently used in protective equipment in high contaminant situations like construction and mining, but firefighting in space represents a new challenge for our R&D team.” 

Lanaco’s wool-filter technology made headlines in 2017 following the launch of anti-pollution face masks now popular in several Asian and Indian mega-cities.

Lanaco CEO Nick Davenport says that recent successes demonstrate the versatility and effectiveness of wool-based air filtration.

“Wool is an outstanding fibre. Its electrostatic properties catch small harmful particles, its protein structure captures gases and harmful toxins and yet the fibre is bacteria and flame resistant. We believe in wool as a sustainable, innovative solution to combat air-pollution,” says Mr Davenport.

“The Lanaco story is one of New Zealand high-country farmers producing the world’s greatest natural fibre to protect people from poor quality air. To now be playing a role in supporting deep space exploration is a testament to the farmers, scientists and manufacturers that have pushed Lanaco to the forefront of filter technology.”

Source: Lanaco

Nasa figures show February was the hottest month on record

A dramatic surge in the Earth’s surface temperatures took place in February, resulting in  the biggest month-on-month rise in global warming on record, according to the latest figures released by Nasa.

As global temperatures rise well above their seasonal averages, especially in the northern hemisphere, the sea ice in the Arctic continues its overall downward trajectory with a new record monthly low for a February.

Some of the temperature rise has been put down to the large El Nino event currently coming to an end in the Pacific Ocean, according to a report in The Independent (see here). But scientists repeated their warnings that the global climate system is now being strongly influenced by human emissions of greenhouse gases, especially by the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

Nasa confirmed that February 2016 was not only the warmest month ever measured globally, at 1.35C above the long-term average, but that it was more than 0.2C warmer than January 2016, which itself had held the previous monthly temperature record.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre reported that the sea ice in the Arctic in February had once again failed to reform completely, leaving large patches of open ocean which in previous years had been topped with ice.

The extent of the sea ice in February was the lowest in the satellite record going back to the 1970s, for the second month in a row. This suggests a new record for winter sea ice will be reached in March – underling how higher temperatures are affecting both Arctic winters as well as summers.


Click HERE for larger annotated version of the graphic

European researchers, under the Copernicus Climate Service, using a slightly different method of analysing the surface temperature data than Nasa, also found that February 2016 was by far the warmest month on record.

It found for instance that February was more than 5C above the 1981-2010 average for the month over a region stretching from Finland to Greece and extending eastwards to western Siberia, Kazakhstan and the northern part of the Middle East. In parts of north-west Russia and the Barents Sea, temperatures peaked at more than 10C above average.

Average global temperature rises to new record high

The global average temperature last year was the hottest ever by the widest margin on record, according to data from the US space agency, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 Celsius) above the 20th century average, surpassing 2014’s previous record by 0.29 F (0.16 C).

This was the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century, the agencies said in a summary of their annual report.

The Scientific American reports: 

“2015 was remarkable even in the context of the larger, long-term warming trend,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The sharp increase in 2015 was driven in part by El Niño, a natural weather cycle in the Pacific that warms the ocean surface every two to seven years. But scientists say human activities – notably burning fossil fuels – were the main driver behind the rise.

“We would not have seen the record warming without the long-term trend,” Schmidt said.

The latest El Niño started in late 2015 and will last until spring 2016. It is among the strongest ever recorded but Schmidt and others say the weather phenomenon played just a supporting role in the earth’s temperature rise.

The 2015 data underscore the urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to hold temperature increases to well below 2 degrees C, the target agreed to by more than 190 countries at climate talks in Paris last month.

Schmidt said the fact that the world is now halfway to the UN goal has led many scientists to argue that even that target is too high and more stringent goals are needed.

The summary can be found here.


Research in US clarifies the health costs of air pollution from agriculture

Ammonia pollution from agricultural sources poses larger health costs than previously estimated, according to NASA-funded research.

Harvard University researchers Fabien Paulot and Daniel Jacob used computer models, including a NASA model of chemical reactions in the atmosphere, to better represent how ammonia interacts in the atmosphere to form harmful particulate matter.

The improved simulation helped the scientists narrow in on the estimated health costs from air pollution associated with food produced for export – a growing sector of agriculture and a source of trade surplus.

A media release can be found here.

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