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Meteorologists spy clue to heat waves weeks away

October 29, 2013 1:51 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The best prediction meteorologists can accomplish for heat waves is about 10 days. An earlier warning would help cities prepare for the heat wave, arrange to open up cooling centers and check on the elderly. Recent work using statistical data and computer simulations may have revealed a way to predict some killer heat waves up to three weeks in advance.

Gold nanoparticles give an edge in recycling carbon dioxide

October 25, 2013 8:00 am | News | Comments

By tuning gold nanoparticles to just the right size, researchers from Brown Univ. have developed a catalyst that selectively converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, an active carbon molecule that can be used to make alternative fuels and commodity chemicals.

How important are plants on Earth?

October 17, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

Enhanced growth of Earth's leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet's transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers based at Princeton Univ. found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years.

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Study: Climate change will wreak havoc on oceans by 2100

October 17, 2013 8:14 am | News | Comments

A new study looking at the impacts of climate change on the world’s ocean systems concludes that by the year 2100, about 98% of the oceans will be affected by acidification, warming temperatures, low oxygen or lack of biological productivity. These biogeochemical changes triggered by greenhouse gas emissions will not only affect marine habitats and organisms, but will often co-occur in areas that are heavily used by humans.

Without plants, Earth would cook under billions of tons of additional carbon

October 16, 2013 2:19 pm | by Morgan Kelly, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Enhanced growth of Earth's leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet's transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers have found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years.

A clearer look at Martian clouds

October 8, 2013 8:30 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

At first glance, Mars’ clouds might be mistaken for those on Earth. Given what scientists know about the Red Planet’s atmosphere, these clouds likely consist of either carbon dioxide or water-based ice crystals. But it’s difficult to know the precise conditions that give rise to such clouds without sampling directly from a Martian cloud. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have now done the next-best thing.

Global electric circuit model to help scientists understand electricity in the air

October 4, 2013 11:35 am | News | Comments

Electrical currents born from thunderstorms are able to flow through the atmosphere and around the globe, causing a detectable electrification of the air even in places with no thunderstorm activity. But a good understanding of atmospheric conductivity has eluded scientists. Now, a research team in Colorado has developed a global electric circuit model by adding an additional layer to a climate model.

Cassini detects plastic ingredient on Saturn moon

October 1, 2013 1:05 pm | News | Comments

The Cassini spacecraft has found small amounts of propylene, a chemical used to make storage containers and other products, in the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon Titan. The spacecraft’s composite infrared spectrometer located the chemical in Titan’s stratosphere.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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