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Making oxygen before life

October 3, 2014 9:17 am | News | Comments

Over the past 40 years, researchers have thought that there must have been a small amount of oxygen in the atmosphere of early Earth to help give rise to plant life. But oxygen reacts aggressively with other compounds and disappears without a continuous source, so where did this abiotic, or “non-life”, oxygen come from? Chemists in California have now shown how ultraviolet light can split carbon dioxide to form oxygen in one step.

Adding natural uncertainty improves mathematical models

September 30, 2014 1:11 pm | News | Comments

Mathematicians from Brown Univ. have introduced a new element of uncertainty into an equation used to describe the behavior of fluid flows. Ironically, allowing uncertainty into a mathematical equation that models fluid flows makes the equation much more capable of correctly reflecting the natural world, including the formation, strength, and position of air masses and fronts in the atmosphere.

California drought linked to climate change

September 30, 2014 9:42 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, according to Stanford Univ. scientists. The team used a combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean was likely to form from modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

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NASA finds clear skies and water vapor on exoplanet

September 26, 2014 8:42 am | News | Comments

Astronomers using data from NASA's space telescopes Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

Technology tracks tiniest pollutants in real time

September 26, 2014 8:23 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers may soon have a better idea of how tiny particles of pollution are formed in the atmosphere. These particles, called aerosols, are hazardous to human health and contribute to climate change, but researchers know little about how their properties are shaped by chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Unraveling this chemistry could someday lead to more effective policies to protect human health and the Earth’s climate.

NASA's Maven spacecraft enters Mars orbit

September 22, 2014 10:26 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The robotic explorer Maven successfully slipped into orbit around Mars late Sunday night. Now the real work begins for the $671 million mission, the first dedicated to studying the Martian upper atmosphere and the latest step in NASA's bid to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s. Researchers hope to learn where all the red planet's water went, along with the carbon dioxide that once comprised an atmosphere thick enough to hold moist clouds.

Advanced molecular “sieves” could be used for carbon capture

September 18, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed advanced molecular synthetic membranes, or “sieves”, which could be used to filter carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The sieves were made by heating microporous polymers using low levels of oxygen which, produces a tougher and far more selective membrane that is still relatively flexible.

The ozone hole has stabilized, but some questions remain

September 11, 2014 4:50 pm | News | Comments

The production and consumption of chemical substances threatening the ozone layer has been regulated since 1987 in the Montreal Protocol. Eight international expert reports have since been published, the most recent of which was presented on Sept. 10 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Model calculations reveal that by 2050 the ozone layer may return to its 1980 levels.

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Study links polar vortex chills to melting sea ice

September 3, 2014 9:02 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Remember the polar vortex, the huge mass of Arctic air that can plunge much of the U.S. into the deep freeze? You might have to get used to it. A new study says that as the world gets warmer, parts of North America, Europe and Asia could see more frequent and stronger visits of that cold air. Researchers say that's because of shrinking ice in the seas off Russia.

Study: Existing power plants will spew 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide during use

August 26, 2014 4:33 pm | News | Comments

According to Univ. of California Irvine and Princeton Univ. scientists, existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas. The findings are the first to quantify how quickly these "committed" emissions are growing.

Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself

August 25, 2014 7:44 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution. But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions?

Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost

August 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists. To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

Exporting coal to Asia could slash emissions

August 20, 2014 9:26 am | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Under the right scenario, exporting U.S. coal to power plants in South Korea could lead to a 21% drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning the fossil fuel at plants in the U.S., according to a new Duke Univ.-led study. For the reduction to occur, U.S. plants would need to replace the exported coal with natural gas. And in South Korea, the imported coal must replace other coal as the power source.

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9/11 dust cloud may have caused widespread pregnancy issues

August 15, 2014 9:00 am | News | Comments

Previous research into the health impacts of in utero exposure to the 9/11 dust cloud on birth outcomes has shown little evidence of consistent effects. But according to a new paper pregnant women living near the World Trade Center during 9/11 experienced higher-than-normal negative birth outcomes. These mothers were more likely to give birth prematurely and deliver babies with low birth weights.

Three radars are better than one

August 14, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Putting three radars on a plane to measure rainfall may seem like overkill. But for the Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment field campaign in North Carolina recently, more definitely was better. The system is specifically designed to measure rain in difficult-to-forecast mountain regions, where a wide range of frequencies to need be covered so that researchers can detect the more than 30 varieties of rainfall.

New research links tornado strength, frequency to climate change

August 7, 2014 9:24 am | by Kathleen Haughney, Florida State Univ. | News | Comments

A Florida State Univ. geography professor has shown that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States. though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. Instead of one or two forming on a given day in an area, there might be three or four occurring.

Scientists uncover combustion mechanism to better predict warming by wildfires

August 5, 2014 11:02 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have uncovered key attributes of so-called “brown carbon” from wildfires, airborne atmospheric particles that may have influenced current climate models that failed to take the material’s warming effects into account. The work was described by a collaborative team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon Univ. and the Univ. of Montana in Nature Geosciences.

Study of aerosols stands to improve climate models

August 4, 2014 9:12 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Aerosols, tiny particles in the atmosphere, play a significant role in Earth's climate, scattering and absorbing incoming sunlight and affecting the formation and properties of clouds. Currently, the effect that these aerosols have on clouds represents the largest uncertainty among all influences on climate change.

Lead pollution beat explorers to South Pole, persists today

July 29, 2014 9:25 am | by Justin Broglio, Desert Research Institute | News | Comments

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole in December 1911. More than 100 years later, an international team of scientists that includes a NASA researcher has proven that air pollution from industrial activities arrived to the planet’s southern pole long before any human.

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 three exoplanets includes the most precise measurement of any chemical in a planet outside the solar system, and has major implications for planet formation and the search for water on Earth-like habitable exoplanets in future. These results show just how challenging it could be to detect water on Earth-like exoplanets in our search for potential life elsewhere.

Study: Global warming “pause” reflects natural fluctuation

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

According to recent research from McGill Univ., statistical analysis of average global temperatures between 1998 and 2013 shows that the slowdown in global warming during this period is consistent with natural variations in temperature. The study concludes that a natural cooling fluctuation during this period largely masked the warming effects of a continued increase in man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

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 elements such as radon from the air. Gases such as radon, xenon and krypton all occur naturally in the air but in minute quantities—typically less than one part per million. As a result they are expensive to extract for use in industries such as lighting or medicine and, in the case of radon, the gas can accumulate in buildings.

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.

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