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Airborne pods seek to trace nuclear bomb’s origins

January 10, 2013 9:11 am | News | Comments

If a nuclear device were to unexpectedly detonate anywhere on Earth, the ensuing effort to find out who made the weapon probably would be led by aircraft rapidly collecting airborne radioactive particles for analysis. Relatively inexpensive UAVs—equipped with radiation sensors and specialized debris-samplers—could fly right down the throat of telltale radiation over a broad range of altitudes without exposing a human crew to hazards. A Sandia National Laboratories-developed airborne particulate-collection system demonstrated those kinds of capabilities.

Study: Major cuts to surging carbon dioxide emissions needed now

January 7, 2013 9:43 am | News | Comments

Halting climate change will require "a fundamental and disruptive overhaul of the global energy system" to eradicate harmful carbon dioxide emissions, not just stabilize them, according to new findings by University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) and other scientists.

Climate poll: Science doubters say world is warming

December 16, 2012 11:28 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Results from a new Associated Press-GfK poll is showing that a growing majority of Americans think global warming is occurring. The poll found 4 out of every 5 Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it. That's up from 73% when the same question was asked in 2009.

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New forecast system helps transoceanic flights avoid storms

December 12, 2012 9:00 am | News | Comments

A new NASA-funded prototype system developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research now is providing weather forecasts that can help flights avoid major storms as they travel over remote ocean regions. The eight-hour forecasts of potentially dangerous atmospheric conditions are designed for pilots, air traffic controllers and others involved in transoceanic flights.

Energy experts say drilling can be made cleaner

December 11, 2012 8:46 am | by Kevin Begos and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

In the Colorado mountains, a spike in air pollution has been linked to a boom in oil and gas drilling. About 800 miles away on the plains of north Texas, there's a drilling boom, too, but some air pollution levels have declined. Opponents of drilling point to Colorado and say it's dangerous. Companies point to Texas and say drilling is safe.

Researchers turn harmful greenhouse gas into tool for making pharmaceuticals

December 7, 2012 8:22 am | News | Comments

A team of chemists at the University of Southern California has developed a way to transform a hitherto useless ozone-destroying greenhouse gas that is the byproduct of Teflon and manufacture and transform it into reagents for producing pharmaceuticals. The method is now being patented.

California's nitrous oxide emissions nearly triple current estimates

December 5, 2012 12:09 pm | News | Comments

Using a new method for estimating greenhouse gases that combines atmospheric measurements with model predictions, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have found that the level of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, in California may be 2.5 to 3 times greater than the current inventory. At that level, total nitrous oxide emissions would account for about 8% of California's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon pollution up to 2 million pounds a second

December 2, 2012 10:44 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose again last year by 3%. China was the biggest contributor to the increase, with only the U.S. and Germany decreasing their output among the top 10 polluters. Some scientists say it's now unlikely that global warming can be limited to a couple of degrees, which is an international goal.

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Airborne particles smuggle pollutants to far reaches of globe

November 16, 2012 9:47 am | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Even though pollution from fossil fuel burning and forest fires should decay long before it travels to Arctic regions, it nevertheless has been shown to successfully complete this lofty journey. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have used SPLAT II, an instrument that can characterize millions of particles one-by-one, to determine what happens to these airborne particles over their lifetimes.

Scientists unravel the mystery of marine methane oxidation

November 13, 2012 10:39 am | News | Comments

Vast amounts of methane are stored under the ocean floor, and anaerobic oxidation of methane coupled to sulfate respiration prevents the release of this gas. Though discovered decades ago, the mechanism for how microorganisms performed this reaction has remained a mystery. According to recent findings, a single microorganism can do this on its own, and does not need to be carried out in collaboration with a bacterium as previously thought.

A strange diet for methane-consuming microorganisms

November 6, 2012 12:36 pm | News | Comments

To keep cellular systems running all cells need fuel. For certain ocean-dwelling microorganisms, methane can be such a fuel. But researchers studying these creatures had previously assumed that the methane they consumed was used as a carbon source. However, recent studies have surprisingly shown that is not the case and will force scientists to reevaluate the microorganisms’ role in inactivating environmental methane.

Scientists look at climate change, the superstorm

October 31, 2012 9:43 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

For more than a dozen years, climate scientists have been warning about the risk for big storms and serious flooding in New York. A 2000 federal report about global warming's effect on the United States warned specifically of that possibility. Still, they say it's unfair to blame climate change for Sandy and the destruction it left behind. We cannot yet conclusively link a single storm to global warming, and any connection is not as clear and simple as environmental activists might contend.

Satellite data reveals power of solar wind

October 25, 2012 12:28 pm | by Karen C. Fox, NASA | News | Comments

A new study based on data from European Space Agency’s Cluster mission shows that it is easier for the solar wind to penetrate Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, than had previously been thought. Scientists have, for the first time, directly observed the presence of certain waves that show Earth’s atmosphere behaving more like a sieve than a barrier.

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Opposite behaviors? Arctic sea ice shrinks while Antarctic ice grows

October 24, 2012 8:15 am | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA | News | Comments

A new NASA study shows that from 1978 to 2010 the total extent of sea ice surrounding Antarctica in the Southern Ocean grew by roughly 6,600 square miles every year, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. However, this growth rate is not nearly as large as the decrease in the Arctic, which has scientists questioning the reasons for the growth. Atmospheric circulation may be one cause.

Jelly-like atmospheric particles resist chemical aging

October 16, 2012 4:46 pm | News | Comments

Atmospheric chemists at Harvard University have found that when it comes to secondary organic material (SOM) in the atmosphere, there are two distinct breeds: liquids and jellies. Their experiments, using particle of a-pinene SOM and adipic acid, have shown that a drop in humidity can send these common aerosols into a jelly-like phase, in which they resist chemical aging almost entirely.

Earth’s brief polarity reversal linked to other extreme events

October 16, 2012 12:45 pm | News | Comments

For the first time, three separately found extreme Earth events have been compared by researchers who now believe they may be linked. About 41,000 years ago, a complete and rapid reversal of the geomagnetic field occurred, lasting for just a few hundred years. Around the same time, a super volcano erupted and major climate changes occurred.

Experts: Global warming means more Antarctic ice

October 10, 2012 5:59 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

While the North Pole has been losing sea ice over the years, the water nearest the South Pole has been gaining it. Antarctic sea ice hit a record 7.51 million square miles in September, just days after reports of the biggest loss of Arctic sea ice on record. Climate change skeptics have seized on this example, but scientists say the skeptics are misinterpreting what's happening and why.

Sea-level study shows signs of things to come

October 2, 2012 3:34 am | News | Comments

Our greenhouse gas emissions up to now have triggered an irreversible warming of the Earth that will cause sea levels to rise for thousands of years to come, new research has show. The results come from a study which sought to model sea-level changes over millennial timescales, taking into account all of the Earth's land ice and the warming of the oceans.

Yearlong climate study launches

October 1, 2012 9:50 am | News | Comments

A Horizon Lines container ship outfitted with meteorological and atmospheric instruments installed by scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory will begin taking data for a yearlong mission aimed at improving the representation of clouds in climate models.

Global Hawk gets to the heart of what makes hurricanes tick

September 26, 2012 5:58 am | by Robert Gutro | News | Comments

NASA’s Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) investigation is a five-year mission to better understand the processes that underlie hurricane intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. The Global Hawk is a key part of that effort, and its flights into the hurricane’s environment allow several highly-advanced, autonomously operated instruments to gauge everything from wind speed to cloud structures.

Computer model identifies candidate refrigerants to combat global warming

September 19, 2012 5:26 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have developed a new computational method for identifying candidate refrigerant fluids with low global warming potential—the tendency to trap heat in the atmosphere for many decades—as well as other desirable performance and safety features. The NIST effort is the most extensive systematic search for a new class of refrigerants that meet the latest concerns about climate change.

Study estimates increasing rate of extreme rainfall with global warming

September 17, 2012 10:03 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Global warming is expected to intensify extreme precipitation, but the rate at which it does so in the tropics has remained unclear. Now, a new study has given an estimate based on model simulations and observations: With every 1 C rise in temperature, the study finds, tropical regions will see 10% heavier rainfall extremes, with possible impacts for flooding in populous regions.

Study: Tradeoffs needed in battling urban heat island effects

September 11, 2012 4:15 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers from Arizona State University have found that warming resulting from megapolitan expansion is seasonally dependent, with greatest warming occurring during summer and least during winter. Painting the roofs of buildings white can combat this effect, but not without consequences for the region’s hydroclimate.

Methane source discovered in the underbrush

September 7, 2012 9:46 am | News | Comments

Some six years ago scientific textbooks had to be updated because of the surprising discovery made by a research group in Germany led by Frank Keppler that plants produce methane in an oxygen-rich environment. It had been previously thought that biogenic methane could only be formed during the decomposition of organic material under strictly anoxic conditions. Now, Keppler’s group has now made another fascinating new observation: Fungi produce methane.

Study: More carbon dioxide leads to less clouds

September 5, 2012 4:36 am | News | Comments

It is common knowledge that the warmer the air, the more water can evaporate. Researchers in Europe have now established that this is not always the case: Although an increase in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide makes the climate warmer, it also allows less water to evaporate. This finding has informed a set of new calculations for climate modeling.

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