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The Lead

Climate change, air pollution will combine to curb food supplies

July 28, 2014 9:18 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution. A new study shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

Highest-precision measurement made of water on an exoplanet

July 24, 2014 10:02 am | News | Comments

The discovery of water vapor in the atmospheres of...

Study: Global warming “pause” reflects natural fluctuation

July 22, 2014 9:06 am | News | Comments

According to recent research from McGill Univ.,...

New method for extracting radioactive elements from air, water

July 21, 2014 8:21 am | by Univ. of Liverpool Univ. News | News | Comments

Scientists have successfully tested a material that can extract atoms of rare or dangerous...

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Figuring out methane’s role in the climate puzzle

July 10, 2014 8:30 am | News | Comments

The U.S. may be on the verge of an economy driven by methane, the primary component of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal and is undergoing a production boom. It has poised the country as a top fuel producer globally, but recent research is casting serious doubts over just how climate friendly it is, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).

Study: Kudzu can release soil carbon, accelerate global warming

July 2, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

Scientists are shedding new light on how invasion by exotic plant species affects the ability of soil to store greenhouse gases. New research shows that invasive plants can accelerate the greenhouse effect by releasing carbon stored in soil into the atmosphere. Since soil stores more carbon than both the atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation combined, agricultural land management could dramatically affect carbon storage.

New NASA model gives glimpse into invisible world of electric asteroids

June 25, 2014 10:48 pm | News | Comments

Space may appear empty, a soundless vacuum. But it's not an absolute void. It flows with electric activity that is not visible to our eyes. NASA is developing plans to send humans to an asteroid, and wants to know more about the electrical environment explorers will encounter there. A new computer model can now predict and visualize the interaction between the solar wind, solar radiation and the surface of asteroids in unprecedented detail.

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If global warming is real, why was it so cold and snowy last winter?

June 13, 2014 10:23 am | by Greta Guest, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

More Americans view global warming by what they see outside their windows and not scientific evidence, according to a Univ. of Michigan survey. While a majority of Americans still believe that global warming is occurring, the cold and snowy winter of 2014 created more disbelievers, according to the National Surveys on Energy and Environment.

How much fertilizer is too much for Earth's climate?

June 11, 2014 8:53 am | News | Comments

A study published by Michigan State Univ. researchers this week concludes that helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen can combat climate change. The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs.

NIST: The clumping density of many things seems to be a standard

June 11, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

Particles of soot floating through the air and comets hurtling through space have at least one thing in common: 0.36. That, reports a research group at NIST, is the measure of how dense they will get under normal conditions, and it’s a value that seems to be constant for similar aggregates across an impressively wide size range from nanometers to tens of meters. NIST hopes the results will aid climate researchers.

PerkinElmer launches new real-time air quality sensor network

June 10, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

PerkinElmer, Inc., has announced the launch of Elm, an innovative air monitoring service providing local air quality analysis for individuals, smart cities and sustainable communities. The Elm service enables the visualization and understanding of relevant real-time air quality detail, providing data that can be immediately accessed, both online and on mobile devices.

Cleaning the air with roof tiles

June 4, 2014 3:08 pm | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

A team of students in California have created a roof tile coating that, when applied to an average-sized residential roof, breaks down the same amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxides per year as a car driven 11,000 miles. The inexpensive titanium dioxide-based coating removes up to 97% of smog-causing nitrogen oxides.

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Solving the puzzle of ice age climates

June 3, 2014 9:12 am | by Genevieve Wanucha, Oceans at MIT | News | Comments

The paleoclimate record for the last ice age tells of a cold Earth whose northern continents were covered by vast ice sheets. Chemical traces from plankton fossils in deep-sea sediments reveal rearranged ocean water masses, as well as extended sea ice coverage off Antarctica. Air bubbles in ice cores show that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was far below levels seen before the Industrial Revolution.

Obama rolls out rule to cut power plant pollution

June 2, 2014 11:58 am | by Dina Cappiello and Josh Lederman, Associated Press | News | Comments

The U.S. government rolled out a plan Monday to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% by 2030, a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce the pollution linked to global warming. The rule, expected to be final next year, sets in motion one of the most significant actions on global warming in U.S. history.

“Smoking gun” evidence for theory that Saturn’s collapsing magnetic tail causes auroras

May 19, 2014 9:47 am | News | Comments

Researcher in the U.K. has recently shown that Saturn’s auroras are caused by the same phenomenon which leads to dramatic auroral displays on Earth. The finding originates in stunning new images of Saturn’s auroras as the planet’s magnetic field is battered by charged particles from the Sun.

Study: Emissions from forests influence first stage of cloud formation

May 16, 2014 8:03 am | News | Comments

Clouds are the largest source of uncertainty in present climate models. Much of the uncertainty surrounding clouds' effect on climate stems from the complexity of cloud formation. New research from scientists at the Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets (CLOUD) experiment at CERN sheds light on new-particle formation, which is the very first step of cloud formation and a critical component of climate models.

Writing is on the wall for air pollution thanks to air-cleansing poem

May 15, 2014 12:23 pm | News | Comments

A poet and a scientist at the Univ. of Sheffield in the U.K. have collaborated to create a catalytic poem called “In Praise of Air”. The poem is printed on material containing a formula invented at the university which is capable of removing nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere. According to its developers, the cheap technology could also be applied to billboards and advertisements alongside congested roads to cut pollution.

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Solar wind ion analyzer to look at key player in Mars atmosphere loss

May 15, 2014 9:49 am | by Claire Saravia, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

This past November, NASA launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission. One instrument aboard the spacecraft will study ions, a special component of the Martian atmosphere, to help solve the mystery of why the planet has been losing its atmosphere over billions of years.

As carbon dioxide levels rise, some crop nutrients will fall

May 8, 2014 8:08 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers have some bad news for future farmers and eaters: As carbon dioxide levels rise this century, some grains and legumes will become significantly less nutritious than they are today. The findings are reported in Nature. Eight institutions, from Australia, Israel, Japan and the U.S., contributed to the analysis.

Sprites form at plasma irregularities in the lower ionosphere

May 7, 2014 9:46 am | News | Comments

Sprites are an optical phenomenon that occur above thunderstorms, about 37 to 56 miles above the Earth. Atmospheric sprites have been known for nearly a century, but their origins were a mystery. Now, a team of researchers has evidence that sprites form at plasma irregularities and may be useful in remote sensing of the lower ionosphere.

Ozone levels drop 20% with switch from ethanol to gasoline

April 29, 2014 9:35 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ. study by an economist and a chemist reports that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to mostly switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.

How to count methane emissions

April 28, 2014 7:29 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In formulating policies to address greenhouse gas emissions, or evaluating the potential impact of different energy technologies on global climate change, one of the thorniest issues is how to account for the very distinctive characteristics of various different gases. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, as well as a significant byproduct of using natural gas. But a direct comparison between methane and carbon dioxide is complicated.

Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet

April 17, 2014 2:56 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, a newly found planet is the most Earth-like planet yet detected. Astronomers say the distant, rocky world is similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life. The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

April 15, 2014 3:17 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by a team of astronomers. In fact, sometimes it helps because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them, are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

An Arctic ozone hole? Not quite

April 15, 2014 11:06 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers and the public have wondered whether we might someday see a similarly extreme depletion of ozone over the Arctic. But a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study finds some cause for optimism: Ozone levels in the Arctic haven’t yet sunk to the extreme lows seen in Antarctica, because international efforts to limit ozone-depleting chemicals have been successful.

A few “problem wells” source of greenhouse gas

April 15, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

High levels of the greenhouse gas methane were found above shale gas wells at a production point not thought to be an important emissions source, according to a study jointly led by Purdue and Cornell universities. The findings could have implications for the evaluation of the environmental impacts from natural gas production.

Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain

April 11, 2014 11:29 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

The rise and fall of acid rain is a global experiment whose results are preserved in the geologic record. By analyzing samples from the Greenland ice sheet, Univ. of Washington atmospheric scientists found clear evidence of the U.S. Clean Air Act. They also discovered a link between air acidity and how nitrogen is preserved in layers of snow.

Artificial cooling tricky topic for climate panel

April 10, 2014 5:19 pm | by Karl Ritter, Associated Press | News | Comments

The U.N.'s expert panel on climate change is under pressure this week as it considers whether geoengineering should be part of the tool-kit that governments use to keep global warming in check. Drafts leaked before the conference only mentioned one of the proposed options, removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it underground. But some countries support solar radiation management as well.  

Landscape “transition zones” may influence where tornadoes strike

April 7, 2014 5:53 pm | News | Comments

An examination of more than 60 years of Indiana tornado climatology data from the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center has shown that a majority of tornado touchdowns occurred near areas where dramatically different landscapes meet, such as where a city fades into farmland or a forest meets a plain. According to researchers, forecasters may need to pay closer attention to these "transition zones" to understand tornado risks.

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