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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.