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Is natural gas a solution to mitigating climate change?

February 11, 2014 8:18 am | by Cynthia Eller, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Methane, a key greenhouse gas, has more than doubled in volume in Earth's atmosphere since 1750. Its increase is believed to be a leading contributor to climate change. But where is the methane coming from? Research by a California Institute of Technology atmospheric chemist suggests that losses of natural gas—our "cleanest" fossil fuel—into the atmosphere may be a larger source than previously recognized.

Key photosynthetic substance present on Earth before atmospheric oxygen

February 7, 2014 11:19 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers led by Virginia Tech and Univ. of California, Berkeley, scientists has discovered that a regulatory process that turns on photosynthesis in plants at daybreak likely developed on Earth in ancient, methane-producing microbes 2.5 billion years ago, long before oxygen became available. The research opens new scientific areas in the fields of evolutionary biology and microbiology.

Forest emissions, wildfires explain why ancient Earth was so hot

February 6, 2014 8:53 am | by Kevin Dennehy , Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The release of volatile organic compounds from Earth’s forests and smoke from wildfires 3 million years ago had a far greater impact on global warming than ancient atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a new Yale Univ. study finds. The research provides evidence that dynamic atmospheric chemistry played an important role in past warm climates, underscoring the complexity of climate change and the relevance of natural components.

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World temperature records available via Google Earth

February 5, 2014 1:04 pm | News | Comments

Climate researchers in the U.K. have made the world's temperature records available via Google Earth. The new format allows users to scroll around the world, zoom in on 6,000 weather stations, and view monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data more easily than ever before. Users can drill down to see some 20,000 graphs—some of which show temperature records dating back to 1850.

Compact device has sensitive nose for greenhouse gas

January 22, 2014 7:46 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created a highly sensitive portable sensor to test the air for the most damaging greenhouse gases. The device uses a thumbnail-sized quantum cascade laser (QCL) as well as tuning forks that cost no more than a dime to detect very small amounts of nitrous oxide and methane.

Made in China for us: Air pollution as well as exports

January 20, 2014 7:19 pm | News | Comments

Chinese air pollution blowing across the Pacific Ocean is often caused by the manufacturing of goods for export to the U.S. and Europe, according to a new study that is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the American West Coast is from the production in China of cellphones, televisions and other consumer items imported here and elsewhere. The blowback causes an extra day per year of ozone smog in Los Angeles.

Soil microbes alter DNA in response to warming

January 16, 2014 2:47 pm | News | Comments

Scientists studying grasslands in Oklahoma have discovered that an increase of 2 C in the air temperature above the soil creates significant changes to the microbial ecosystem underground. Compared to a control group with no warming, plants in the warmer plots grew faster and higher, which put more carbon into the soil. The microbial ecosystem responded by altering its DNA to enhance the ability to handle the excess carbon.

U.S. carbon pollution up in 2013

January 14, 2014 11:40 am | by Matthew Daly, Associated Press | News | Comments

Energy-related carbon dioxide pollution grew by 2% last year after declining several years in a row, a government report says. The increase was largely due to a small boost in coal consumption by the electric power industry, according to the study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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High levels of molecular chlorine found in Arctic atmosphere

January 13, 2014 4:09 pm | News | Comments

Scientists studying the atmosphere above Barrow, Alaska, have discovered unprecedented levels of molecular chlorine in the air, a new study reports. Molecular chlorine, from sea salt released by melting sea ice, reacts with sunlight to produce chlorine atoms. These chlorine atoms are highly reactive and can oxidize many constituents of the atmosphere including methane and elemental mercury.

Scientists: Americans are becoming weather wimps

January 10, 2014 8:58 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

As the world warms, the United States is getting fewer bitter cold spells like the one that gripped much of the nation this week. So when a deep freeze strikes, scientists say, it seems more unprecedented than it really is.

Scientists to study Pacific Ocean’s “global chimney”

January 8, 2014 11:42 am | News | Comments

Although few people live in the Western tropical Pacific Ocean region, the remote waters there affect billions of people by shaping climate and air chemistry worldwide. Next week, scientists will head to the region to better understand its influence on the atmosphere—including how that influence may change in coming decades if storms over the Pacific become more powerful with rising global temperatures.

New compounds discovered that are hundreds of times more mutagenic

January 6, 2014 12:28 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have discovered novel compounds produced by certain types of chemical reactions, such as those found in grilling meat, that are hundreds of times more mutagenic than their parent compounds which are known carcinogens. These compounds were not previously known to exist, and raise additional concerns about the health impacts of heavily polluted urban air or dietary exposure.

Hack the planet? Geoengineering research, ethics, governance explored

December 18, 2013 7:54 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A dozen research papers in a recent special issue of the journal Climate Change are devoted to the topic of geoengineering. They include the most detailed description yet of the proposed Oxford Principles to govern geoengineering research, as well as surveys on the technical hurdles, ethics and regulatory issues related to deliberately manipulating the planet’s climate.

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Cold dis-comfort: Antarctica set record of -135.8

December 10, 2013 1:44 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A new look at NASA satellite data revealed that Earth set a new record for coldest temperature recorded. It happened in August 2010 when it hit -135.8 degrees. Then on July 31 of this year, it came close again: -135.3 degrees. That’s about 50 degrees colder than anything ever seen in Alaska or Siberia.

Chemists discover long-lived greenhouse gas

December 10, 2013 12:15 pm | by Kim Luke, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Scientists from the Univ. of Toronto have discovered a novel chemical lurking in the atmosphere that appears to be a long-lived greenhouse gas (LLGHG). The chemical—perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA)—is the most radiatively efficient chemical found to date, breaking all other chemical records for its potential to affect climate.

Geoengineering approaches to reduce climate change unlikely to succeed

December 5, 2013 10:01 am | News | Comments

Two German researchers have used a simple energy balance analysis to explain how the Earth’s water cycle responds differently to heating by sunlight than it does to warming due to a stronger atmospheric greenhouse effect. This difference, their work shows,  implies that reflecting sunlight to reduce temperatures may have unwanted effects on the Earth’s rainfall patterns.

Study: Ocean crust lavas could store many centuries of industrial carbon dioxide

December 4, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

At high pressures and low temperatures, such as those in the deep oceans, carbon dioxide occurs as a liquid that is denser than seawater. Researchers in England have identified regions beneath the oceans where the igneous rocks of the upper ocean crust could safely store very large volumes of carbon dioxide.

Hubble traces subtle signals of water on hazy worlds

December 4, 2013 8:07 am | News | Comments

Using the powerful­ eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets. The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.

Unusual greenhouse gases may have raised ancient Martian temperature

November 27, 2013 11:36 am | by Anne Danahy, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

The presence of molecular hydrogen, in addition to carbon dioxide and water, could have created a greenhouse effect on Mars 3.8 billion years ago that pushed temperatures high enough to allow for liquid water. This is according to a team of researchers who believe this is the only way for giant canyons like Nanedi Valles could have formed.

Study: U.S. spewing 50% more methane than EPA says

November 26, 2013 11:37 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The United States is spewing 50% more methane—a potent heat-trapping gas—than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It means methane, which doesn’t stay in the air long but is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide,  may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say.

The lingering clouds

November 26, 2013 8:14 am | News | Comments

A new study reveals how pollution causes thunderstorms to leave behind larger, deeper, longer lasting clouds. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the results solve a long-standing debate and reveal how pollution plays into climate warming. The work can also provide a gauge for the accuracy of weather and climate models.

A possible cause of the end-Permian mass extinction: Lemon juice?

November 25, 2013 11:05 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Rain as acidic as undiluted lemon juice may have played a part in killing off plants and organisms around the world during the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history. About 252 million years ago, the end of the Permian period brought about a worldwide collapse known as the Great Dying, during which a vast majority of species went extinct. The cause of such a massive extinction is a matter of scientific debate.

Even if emissions stop, carbon dioxide could warm Earth for centuries

November 25, 2013 8:29 am | by Morgan Kelly, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

According to recent Princeton Univ.-led research that simulated an emissions-free Earth, the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere could continue to warm our planet for hundreds of years, even if emission came to a sudden halt. The study suggests that it might take a lot less carbon than previously thought to reach the global temperature scientists deem unsafe.

Pre-industrial rise in methane gas had natural and anthropogenic causes

November 22, 2013 9:15 am | News | Comments

For years scientists have intensely argued over whether increases of potent methane gas concentrations in the atmosphere, from about 5,000 years ago to the start of the industrial revolution, were triggered by natural causes or human activities. A new study suggests the increase in methane likely was caused by both.

Scientists brave Old Man Winter to dig out secrets of lake-effect snows

November 19, 2013 7:15 am | News | Comments

Rare anywhere, thundersnow is sometimes heard during the lake-effect snowstorms of the Great Lakes. The interaction of clouds and ice pellets inside these storms generates a charge, with lightning and thunder the result. But how to catch thundersnow in action? Doppler-on-Wheels, a system used for other types of storms, will try to find them this winter.

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