Temperature

A Warm Winter May Prompt a Maple Syrup Shortage

Breakfast lovers, beware: Thanks to an unseasonably warm winter that’s impacting some farmers’ production and quality levels, the price of maple syrup may eventually soar, Food & Wine reports.

February’s balmy temperatures caused crops across the country to start growing early, but syrup makers in the northeast U.S.—particularly Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the state’s top syrup-producing county—were hit particularly hard by the phenomenon, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some of them have produced around half of last year’s syrup yield, because the warmer weather makes it harder for farmers to tell when their sugar and red maple trees should be tapped.

Ideal sap-flowing…

Earth’s mantle may be hotter than thought

Earth's mantle
HOT STUFF Temperatures in Earth’s mantle are higher than previously thought, results from a new experiment suggest.

Temperatures across Earth’s mantle are about 60 degrees Celsius higher than previously thought, a new experiment suggests. Such toasty temperatures would make the mantle runnier than earlier research suggested, a development that could help explain the details of how tectonic plates glide on top of the mantle, geophysicists report in the March 3 Science.

“Scientists have been arguing over the mantle temperature for decades,” says study coauthor Emily Sarafian, a geophysicist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and at MIT. “Scientists will argue over 10 degree changes, so changing it by 60 degrees is quite a large jump.”

The mostly solid mantle sits between Earth’s crust and core and makes up around 84 percent of Earth’s volume. Heat from the mantle fuels volcanic eruptions and drives plate tectonics, but taking the mantle’s temperature is trickier than dropping a thermometer down a hole.

Scientists know from the paths of earthquake waves and from measures of how electrical charge moves through Earth that a boundary in the mantle exists a few dozen kilometers below Earth’s surface. Above that boundary, mantle rock can begin melting on its way up to the surface. By mimicking the extreme conditions in the deep Earth — squeezing and heating bits of mantle that erupt from undersea volcanoes or similar rocks synthesized in the lab — scientist can also determine the melting temperature of mantle rock. Using these two facts, scientists have estimated that temperatures at the boundary depth below Earth’s oceans are around 1314° C to…

5 Big Winter Expenses That Could Freeze Your Budget

You never know what might happen when the snow starts to fall. Everyone should have a three- to six-month emergency fund for unexpected expenses, like when four feet of snow caves your roof in — God forbid, of course. While you can’t control life’s curveballs, you can prepare and perhaps avoid big winter expenses. Here’s how.

1. Broken Heating System

Cranking up the heat helps maintain a comfortable temperature in the home, but extreme cold can push a heating system to the max, causing it to quit on you at the worst time.

A basic service call to diagnose a problem can cost upward of $100 — mine was $95 earlier this winter when my system wasn’t working — and this doesn’t include the cost to fix any broken components. (Luckily mine didn’t require anything out of the ordinary. I got away with just the $95.) If your system is older and needs replacing, however, you’ll have to shell out thousands of dollars for a new one.

There’s no way to predict when a heating system will break, but getting a home warranty can help you deal with this unexpected cost. These plans — which cost about $400 to $500 a year — are like an insurance plan for your home’s major systems. If your appliances — water heater, plumbing, electrical, heating, and AC system — need a repair, give your warranty company a call and they’ll send a technician within their network to fix the problem. You just pay a flat $50 to $75 out-of-pocket service fee. If the technician can’t fix the heating system, your warranty company pays the replacement cost.

There are limitations, so make sure you understand how your plan works. For example, your warranty company may only replace the unit if you can show a record of annual tuneups. As such, it’s important to stay on top of things so you don’t restrict yourself when it comes time to take advantage of the warranty.

2. High Gas Bills

Maintaining a warm, cozy home in the winter often requires turning up the heat. But…

How Does Thermal Imaging Work?

If you’ve ever seen photos or videos where everything is a red and yellow mess, that’s called thermography—more colloquially known as thermal imaging. Here’s how it works.

Thermal imaging is used in all sorts of different scenarios—utility and energy companies use it to see where a house might be losing heat through door and window cracks. Police helicopters use it to locate suspects at night. Weather stations use it to track storms and hurricanes. It’s used in the medical field to diagnose different disorders and diseases. And some home security cameras, like the one on the Ring Doorbell, can use it too.

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What Is Thermal Imaging?

In the most basic of terms, thermal imaging allows you too see an object’s heat radiating off itself. Thermal cameras more or less record the temperature of various objects in the frame, and then assign each temperature a shade of a color, which lets you see how much heat its radiating compared to objects around it.

Colder temperatures are often given a shade of blue, purple, or green, while warmer temperatures can be assigned a shade of red, orange, or yellow. For example, in the image at the top of this post, you’ll notice the person is covered in shades of red, orange, and yellow, while other areas are blue and purple. That’s because she’s radiating more heat than surrounding objects.

Some thermal cameras use a grayscale instead. Police helicopters, for instance, use a greyscale to make suspects stand…

Astronomers Find Seven ‘Earth-Like’ Planets Orbiting a Cool Star

Astronomers say they’ve discovered seven Earth-sized planets in tight orbit around a cool, dim star about 39 light-years from us—and all seven are located in the habitable zone that could potentially host life. This is the first time a planetary system oriented to this kind of star has been detected—and its discovery holds the potential to lead us to a lot more exoplanets. An international team of researchers reported their findings in a letter published today in the journal Nature.

“It’s the first time we have seven planets in this temperate zone … that can be called terrestrial,” lead author Michaël Gillon, of Belgium’s Université de Liège, said in a press briefing. “So many is really, really surprising.”

TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf star that’s 1/80th the brightness of the Sun and similar in size to Jupiter. All seven planets in its system are within 20 percent of the size and mass of Earth, and their density measurements indicate they’re likely of rocky composition. They’re clutched by TRAPPIST-1 in tight orbits—all would fit well within the orbit of Mercury. But unlike in our solar system, where such closeness to a hot star renders life impossible, the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, with its cool celestial heart, could potentially host liquid water and organic molecules.

The first three planets were spotted in early 2016 by some of the same researchers involved in the current findings, including Gillon. As the planets cross in front of the star during their orbits, they cause the star, which emits light in the infrared, to briefly dim. Such transits, or eclipses, provide a common way for astronomers to detect exoplanets.

Using telescopes in Chile, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and Morocco, the researchers followed up on these transit signals multiple times in 2016, most notably in late September with a 20-day, nearly continuous monitoring of the star using the Spitzer Space Telescope, currently located about 145 million miles from us in an Earth-trailing orbit around the Sun. By moving our view off the Earth, researchers were able to detect 34 separate transits. This turned out to be the result of seven planets—six in near-resonant orbit—crossing in front of their home star. (The transit of the seventh was detected only once, so the orbit of this planet, known as TRAPPIST-h, hasn’t been determined yet.)

The planets have relatively narrow surface temperature fluctuations—about 100 degrees—despite their proximity to their home star. (Compare that to Mercury, which has temperature variations of nearly 1200F.) The researchers write that three of the planets—E, F, and G—“could harbor water oceans on their surfaces,…

The World’s First Colour-Changing Hair Dye

Imagine that your hair turns fire engine red once a warm breeze touches your face, and when the AC is blasting, your hair looks as black as ravens. Sounds like magic, right? The good news is, it’s reality.

Lauren Bowker is the owner of a company named The Unseen, and she’s created a never-before-seen hair dye that changes colour depending on the temperature of the surroundings. The hair dye is called FIRE, and is available in multiple colour ranges from bright red to more…

8 Products to Keep You Cozy This Winter

Humans don’t have the luxury of hibernating through the winter. So when the weather outside gets frightful, turn to one of these eight delightful warming products.

This chic-looking device is small, but it packs serious heat: Even on low, it keeps several desks in the mental_floss offices warm. Its dual settings—low for personal spaces, and max for bigger areas—as well as an adjustable thermostat allow users to tailor the temperature to their needs.

Pop these rechargeable insoles in your shoes and never have cold feet again. The insoles—which can be trimmed to fit into your shoes—have three temperature settings and are controlled via Bluetooth using a smartphone app. The battery lasts for 8.5 hours of non-stop use and can be recharged in just two.

3. VASQUE COLDSPARK ULTRADRY BOOTS, $140

You don’t have to choose between warm feet and good traction with these insulated hiking boots from Vasque. Available for both men and women, the Coldspark UltraDry boots feature waterproof coated leather uppers and a rubber outsole molded to take on winter terrain. They perfectly weathered a New York City snowstorm, and we’re excited to pack them for an upcoming trip to Alaska.

4. NAP FOOTED THROW BLANKET, $40

A pocket built into the bottom of this…

Check Out These Cold Weather Activities

When the mercury drops, you might be tempted to stay inside, but what’s the fun in that? Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures may be hard on your heating bill, but there are plenty of fun things to do outside. Just make sure to dress warmly, beware of walking on slippery ice, and take breaks to warm up inside.

1. FROZEN BUBBLES

Bubbles are typically a warm weather activity, but they can be just as fun in freezing temperatures. If it’s cold enough, you can blow soap bubbles and watch them freeze before they pop! Instructables member pi526 has a recipe for homemade bubble liquid, and tips for getting photographs of those neat creations. Depending on the temperature, you might be able to watch ice crystals form while they freeze. Bubbles that come into contact with a surface will freeze if they don’t pop first. They might pop in the process of freezing, which leaves fascinating shapes to study, or they might freeze completely and then break to resemble a broken glass Christmas ornament. Or you might see your bubbles still frozen the next day.

2. BOILING WATER SNOW

The temperature outside has to be pretty cold to make instant snow out of boiling water. If you live where winter temperatures drop way below freezing, you might want to try this. When Yan recorded this video the thermometer read -13°F (-25°C). Bring water to a boil in a pan or coffee cup, and take it outside and throw it in the air. Be sure to throw it away from you, so you don’t get burned. When the rapidly-evaporating water vapor hits the cold air, it turns to snow. It has to be hot…

Ways to Become a Weather Forecaster

Have you ever stared at your weather app in frustration because it’s showing current weather for somewhere dozens of miles from where you live? You’re not alone. Most of us live pretty far from official weather observing stations, which are usually located at airports or National Weather Service offices scattered around the country. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to become an amateur scientist using the smartphone in your pocket or dedicating a tiny part of your yard to science.

1. REPORT WHAT’S HAPPENING TO METEOROLOGISTS.

Weather radar is arguably the best piece of technology we have to predict bad storms, but even this advanced life-saving equipment has its limitations. The greatest restraint is that radar can’t see what precipitation reaches the ground. That’s because a radar dish sends out a beam of energy on a slight angle, and combined with the curvature of the earth, the beam climbs higher off the ground the farther away from the dish it travels.

Since the radar can only see what’s happening a few thousand feet above our heads, mPing is an app that lets you help meteorologists “see” what kind of weather is actually reaching the ground. This free app, available for Apple and Android, lets you use your phone’s location feature to report current conditions to meteorologists in real time. If it starts snowing, filing a report with your mPing app will tell meteorologists when snow showing up on the radar is actually reaching the streets. Alerting them if snow changes to freezing rain will help others by allowing scientists to adjust warnings and forecasts accordingly. You can even report tornadoes, hail, and wind damage.

One little app can let you help advance the science of meteorology, and your reports many even help save lives during a severe weather event.

2. BECOME PART OF A NETWORK OF CITIZEN-RUN WEATHER STATIONS.

Having official weather reporting stations spaced out by dozens of miles across the country is fine for tracking temperature trends or overall wind patterns, but it’s not very useful when you want to keep track of…