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El Niño cycle has a big effect on a major greenhouse gas

September 27, 2013 7:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Scientists in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Global Change Science have developed a highly detailed model that simulates levels of nitrous oxide emissions in different regions and ecosystems of the world. Based on local soil temperature and moisture content, some of the simulations were able to reproduce actual nitrous oxide measurements. From their simulations, the researchers discovered a surprising pattern.

China’s synthetic natural gas plants will have heavy environmental toll

September 26, 2013 9:01 am | News | Comments

Coal-powered synthetic natural gas plants being planned in China would produce seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional natural gas plants, and use up to 100 times the water as shale gas production, according to a new study by Duke Univ. researchers. These environmental costs have been largely neglected in the drive to meet the nation’s growing energy needs, the researchers say.

A unique look into the Sun’s chromosphere

September 25, 2013 12:54 pm | News | Comments

Three months after the flight of the balloon-borne solar observatory Sunrise, scientists in Germany now present unique insights into the central layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, the chromosphere. The Sunrise data provide the first high-resolution images of this region, lying between the Sun’s visible surface and the corona, in ultraviolet light.

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What 95% certainty of warming means to scientists

September 24, 2013 1:44 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill. They'll even put a number on how certain they are about climate change. But that number isn't 100%. It's 95%. And for some non-scientists, that's just not good enough.

NASA rover finds no hint of methane in Mars air

September 20, 2013 12:55 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover hasn't discovered any signs of methane in the atmosphere of Mars, a finding that does not bode well for the possibility that microbes capable of producing the gas could be living below the planet's surface, scientists said Thursday. On Earth, most of the gas is a byproduct of life, spewed when animals digest or plants decay.

Human activity affects vertical structure of atmospheric temperature

September 18, 2013 7:45 am | News | Comments

Human influences have directly impacted the latitude/altitude pattern of atmospheric temperature. That is the conclusion of a new report by scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and six other scientific institutions. The research compares multiple satellite records of atmospheric temperature change with results from a large, multimodel archive of simulations.

Solar boat reaches Paris after crossing Atlantic

September 12, 2013 7:53 am | by Greg Keller, Associated Press | News | Comments

The world's largest solar-powered boat has docked on the banks of the Seine River, its final port of call after a three-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to study how the Gulf Stream and climate change could influence each other. Starting from Miami, Univ. of Geneva scientists sailed across the Atlantic, taking water and air measurements that should allow them to better understand the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere.

How soot forced the end of the Little Ice Age

September 4, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

Coal soot shrank the Alpine glaciers in mid-19th-century Europe, according to new findings that show how black carbon alone, even without warmer temperatures, can affect ice and snow cover. The research provides insights into when the so-called Little Ice Age ended and why European glaciers began to retreat decades before global temperatures rose.

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Sandy's “freaky” path may be less likely in future

September 3, 2013 8:17 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Global warming may further lessen the likelihood of the freak atmospheric steering currents that last year shoved Superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey, a new study says. But the study's authors said the once-in-700-years path was only one factor in the $50 billion storm. They say other variables such as sea level rise and stronger storms will worsen with global warming and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by models.

Around the world in four days: Tracking Chelyabinsk meteor plume

August 15, 2013 12:50 pm | by Kathryn Hansen, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

A meteor weighing 10,000 metric tons exploded 14 miles above Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. Unlike similar past events, this time scientists had the sensitive instruments on the Suomi NPP satellite to deliver unprecedented data and help them track and study the meteor plume for months.

NASA eyes Mars as launch preparation begins

August 13, 2013 1:00 pm | by Steven Siceloff, NASA's Kennedy Space Center | News | Comments

A recent arrival to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft will have quite a different approach than that taken by recent probes dispatched to the Red Planet. Instead of rolling about on the surface looking for clues to the planet's hidden heritage, MAVEN will orbit high above the surface so it can sample the upper atmosphere for signs of what changed over the eons and why.

Climate benefit for cutting soot, methane smaller than previous estimates

August 13, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

Cutting the amount of short-lived, climate-warming emissions such as soot and methane in our skies won't limit global warming as much as previous studies have suggested, a new analysis shows. The study also found a comprehensive climate policy (including methane) would produce more climate benefits by 2050 than if soot and methane were reduced alone.

“Fire towers” in space watch for wildfires on the rise

August 12, 2013 3:29 pm | by Rani Gran, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Hot, dry and windy weather played a major role in recent destructive wildfires, and fire scientists have observed those conditions becoming more prevalent across the United States. For more than a decade, instruments on Terra and Aqua, two of NASA’s flagship Earth-observing satellites, have scanned the surface of our planet for fires and have had a major impact on what scientists know about fire’s role on Earth.

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Seasonal carbon dioxide range expanding

August 9, 2013 12:50 pm | News | Comments

A multi-year airborne survey of atmospheric chemistry has revealed that the range of seasonal carbon dioxide, which plants take up in spring and summer and release in fall and winter, is expanding as more is added to Earth's atmosphere. According to scientists who conducted the study, northern hemisphere land-based ecosystems are "taking deeper breaths.”

Report: Climate change is impacting California

August 8, 2013 3:15 am | by ALICIA CHANG - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Coastal waters off California are getting more acidic. Fall-run chinook salmon populations to the Sacramento River are on the decline. Conifer forests on the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada have moved to higher elevations over the past half century. That's just a snapshot of how climate change is affecting California's natural resources, a report released Thursday found.

NOAA report card for 2012's climate: More warming

August 7, 2013 8:04 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A new massive federal study says the world in 2012 sweltered with continued signs of climate change. Rising sea levels, snowmelt, heat buildup in the oceans, and melting Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheets, all broke or nearly broke records, but temperatures only sneaked into the top 10.

New Doppler radar takes flight on this summer’s HS3 mission

August 1, 2013 4:30 pm | by Ellen Gray, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

The Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, mission will fly this year to investigate Atlantic Ocean hurricanes. It will carry a new type of dual-frequency conical-scanning Doppler radar that sports a new shape: Most aircraft carrying Doppler radar look like they’ve grown a tail, developed a dorsal fin, or sprouted a giant pancake on their backs. But the unmanned Global Hawk carries will carry the radar under its belly as it flies above hurricanes.

Scientists look into Earth’s “Deep Time” to predict climate change effects

August 1, 2013 4:15 pm | News | Comments

Climate change alters the way in which species interact with one another—a reality that applies not just to today or to the future, but also to the past, according to a recent study which analyzed information about past episodes of rapid climate change from Earth's history. The researchers hope to use this finding to help predict future changes to our planet's ecosystems.

Sediment behind dams makes them “hot spots” for emissions

July 31, 2013 9:42 pm | News | Comments

With the “green” reputation of large hydroelectric dams already in question, scientists are reporting that millions of smaller dams on rivers around the world make an important contribution to the greenhouse gases linked to global climate change. Their study shows that more methane than previously believed bubbles out of the water behind small dams.

Planetary “runaway greenhouse” more easily triggered, research shows

July 31, 2013 8:10 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

In the runaway greenhouse stage, a planet absorbs more solar energy than it can give off to retain equilibrium. As a result, the world overheats, boiling its oceans and filling its atmosphere with steam, which leaves the planet glowing-hot and forever uninhabitable, as Venus is now. Recent research shows this scenario might be more easily reached than previously thought.

Radio waves carry news of climate change

July 30, 2013 1:16 pm | News | Comments

The ionosphere, one of the regions of the upper atmosphere, plays an important role in global communications. Now, researchers have discovered that the radio waves reflecting back to Earth from the ionosphere offer valuable news on climate change as well.

Team creates first above-ground carbon density map for whole country

July 23, 2013 8:36 am | News | Comments

Researchers have for the first time mapped the above ground carbon density of an entire country in high fidelity. They integrated field data with satellite imagery and high-resolution airborne LiDAR data to map the vegetation and to quantify carbon stocks throughout the Republic of Panama. Carbon stocks are now reported locally in areas as small as a hectare (2.5 acres).

Curiosity rover confirms Martian air is mostly CO2

July 22, 2013 9:20 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The measurements by the most advanced spacecraft to land on the red planet closely match what the twin Viking landers detected in the late 1970s and what scientists have gleaned from Martian meteorites. Mars' atmosphere is overwhelmingly dominated by carbon dioxide, unlike Earth's air, which is a mix of nitrogen and oxygen. But Curiosity’s measurements did yield one small surprise.

How Mars’ atmosphere got so thin

July 22, 2013 9:01 am | News | Comments

New findings from NASA's Curiosity rover provide clues to how Mars lost its original atmosphere, which scientists believe was much thicker than the one left today. The beauty of these measurements lies in the fact that these are the first really high-precision measurements of the composition of Mars' atmosphere.

For Obama's climate plan, devil is in the details

July 15, 2013 10:24 pm | by Josh Lederman, Associated Press | News | Comments

Three weeks after giving an ambitious speech to outline his climate change proposal, President Obama begins the arduous task of executing it. His plan is a complicated mix of rulemaking and federal permitting that's tough to encapsulate in a neat sales pitch—and may be even tougher to put into action.

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