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Warm Arctic sets record for summer sea ice melt

August 28, 2012 4:50 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported Monday that the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to 1.58 million square miles and is likely to melt more in the coming weeks. That breaks the old record of 1.61 million square miles set in 2007. Data center scientist Ted Scambos said the melt can be blamed mostly on global warming from man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.

Researchers reproduce plasma loops to help understand solar physics

August 21, 2012 6:18 am | News | Comments

Sunny skies reign supreme in one California Institute of Technology laboratory, which has recreated so-called plasma loops that emanate from the sun’s surface. Considered to be possible precursors to solar flares, which release sometimes damaging radiation, these loops may be used to serve as a warning system for massive flares.

Experiment would test cloud geoengineering as way to slow warming

August 20, 2012 10:59 am | News | Comments

Even though it sounds like science fiction, researchers are taking a second look at a controversial idea that uses futuristic ships to shoot salt water high into the sky over the oceans, creating clouds that reflect sunlight and thus counter global warming. The point of the paper is to encourage more scientists to consider the idea of marine cloud brightening and even poke holes in it.

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Modeling reveals climatic impacts of megapolitan expansion

August 13, 2012 9:12 am | News | Comments

In the first study to attempt to quantify the impact of rapidly expanding megapolitan areas on regional climate, a team of researchers from Arizona State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research has established that local maximum summertime warming resulting from projected expansion of the urban Sun Corridor could approach 4 C.

Are methane hydrates dissolving?

August 13, 2012 8:57 am | News | Comments

The average temperature of oceans is rising along with the temperatures in the atmosphere, raising concern that ice-like compounds called methane hydrates could dissolve this powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. An expedition to Spitsbergen in the high Arctic could help answer this question.

Study: Skin-aging radicals also age naturally-formed particles

August 10, 2012 3:54 am | by Jocelyn Duffy | News | Comments

Pine trees give off gases that react with airborne chemicals, creating tiny, invisible particles that muddy the air. New research shows that the biogenic particles formed from pine tree emissions are more chemically dynamic than previously thought. A study has generated the first experimental evidence that such compounds are chemically transformed by free radicals, the same compounds that age our skin, after they are first formed in the atmosphere.

Discovered: New atmospheric compound tied to climate change

August 9, 2012 3:39 am | News | Comments

An international research team led by the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Helsinki has discovered a surprising new chemical compound in Earth's atmosphere that reacts with sulfur dioxide to form sulfuric acid, which is known to have significant impacts on climate and health.

Researchers unlock secret of the rare twinned rainbow

August 7, 2012 6:25 am | News | Comments

Scientists have yet to fully unravel the mysteries of rainbows, but an international team of scientists have used simulations of these natural wonders to unlock the secret to a rare optical phenomenon known as the twinned rainbow. Unlike the more common double-rainbow, which consists of two separate and concentric rainbow arcs, the elusive twinned rainbow appears as two rainbows arcs that split from a single base rainbow.

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New study links current events to climate change

August 6, 2012 6:59 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The relentless, weather-gone-crazy type of heat that has blistered the United States and other parts of the world in recent years is so rare that it can't be anything but man-made global warming, says a new analysis from NASA’s James Hansen. In a departure from most climate research, which is based on modeling, the new study relies on statistics.

Vaporizing the Earth to help find Earth-like planets

August 3, 2012 7:50 am | by Diana Lutz | News | Comments

In science fiction novels, evil overlords and hostile aliens often threaten to vaporize the Earth. Now, scientists are not content just to talk about vaporizing the Earth. They want to understand what it would be like if it happened. Why? Because such knowledge helps them determine the atmospheric composition of exoplanets.

Simulated: Worldwide increase of air pollution

August 3, 2012 5:00 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Europe have recently completed a study of global pollution levels by simulating the atmosphere using the chemical atmospheric model EMAC. The research is the first include all five major air pollutants known to negatively impact human health: nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter smaller than 2.5-?m. China, India, and the Middle East are shown to be especially at risk.

When the world burned less

August 2, 2012 10:08 am | News | Comments

In the years after Columbus’ voyage, burning of New World forests and fields diminished significantly, and some have claimed the decimation of native populations by European diseases are to blame. But a new study suggests global cooling resulted in fewer fires because both preceded Columbus in many regions worldwide. In effect, the researchers report, they have found a link between climate and fire.

Earth still absorbing carbon dioxide even as emissions rise

August 1, 2012 11:40 am | News | Comments

Despite sharp increases in carbon dioxide emissions by humans in recent decades that are warming the planet, Earth’s vegetation and oceans continue to soak up about half of them, according to a new study which showed global carbon dioxide uptake by Earth’s sinks essentially doubled from 1960 to 2010.

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X-rays pave way for low cost, large scale carbon capture

August 1, 2012 4:17 am | News | Comments

Current techniques for post-combustion carbon capture filter out carbon dioxide from a power plant’s flue gases as they travel up a chimney. These methods can prevent 80 to 90% of a power plant’s carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, but researchers in the U.K. are trying to improve on that, using their nation’s synchrotron to determine the mechanism for the use of calcium oxide-based material as carbon dioxide sorbents.

Airborne pollutants lead a double life

July 31, 2012 5:09 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia have provided visual evidence that atmospheric particles separate into distinct chemical compositions during their life cycle. They confirmed experimentally that changes in relative humidity can separate the organic and inorganic material in individual atmospheric particles into distinct liquid phases, much like oil separates from water.

How carbon is stored in the Southern Ocean

July 30, 2012 10:04 am | by Huw Morgan | News | Comments

The Southern Ocean is an important carbon sink. Around 40% of the annual global carbon dioxide emissions absorbed by the world’s oceans enter through this region. A team of British and Australian scientists has recently discovered how this carbon is drawn down from the surface of the Southern Ocean to the deep waters beneath.

Unexpected ozone loss observed above United States

July 27, 2012 4:45 am | News | Comments

A team of Harvard University scientists announced the discovery of serious and wholly unexpected ozone loss over the United States in summer. The finding is startling because the complex atmospheric chemistry that destroys ozone has previously been thought to occur only at very cold temperatures over polar regions where there is very little threat to humans.

Newfound gene may help bacteria survive in extreme environments

July 26, 2012 4:22 am | News | Comments

In the days following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, methane-eating bacteria bloomed in the Gulf of Mexico, feasting on the methane that gushed, along with oil, from the damaged well. The sudden influx of microbes was a scientific curiosity: Prior to the oil spill, scientists had observed relatively few signs of methane-eating microbes in the area. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a bacterial gene that may explain this sudden influx of methane-eating bacteria.

Skydiver Fearless Felix jumps from 18 miles up

July 25, 2012 5:21 pm | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

On Wednesday, Felix Baumgartner took another stratospheric leap, this time from an altitude of more than 18 miles—an estimated 96,640 feet, nearly three times higher than cruising jetliners. He landed safely near Roswell, N.M. His top speed was an estimated 536 mph, said Brian Utley, an official observer on site.

NASA: Strange and sudden massive melt in Greenland

July 24, 2012 3:36 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, and Maria-José Viñas, NASA Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

Not long after news of a major iceberg break near the massive Petermann Glacier broke, scientists with NASA say there's been a freak event in Greenland this month: Nearly every part of the massive ice sheet that blankets the island suddenly started melting. The melting area went from 40% of the ice sheet to 97%. Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past 30 years was about 55%.

How pre-eruption collisions affect what exist a volcano

July 23, 2012 7:10 am | News | Comments

Recent volcanic eruptions have demonstrated our continued vulnerability to ash dispersal, which can disrupt the aviation industry and cause billions of dollars in economic loss. Volcanic particle size is determined by the initial fragmentation process, when bubbly magma deep in the volcano changes into gas-particle flows. Recent laboratory experiments and computer simulations of this particle breakup, known as granular disruption, sheds light on the type of fragmentation likely to produce fine-grained ash.

Fool's gold found to regulate oxygen

July 23, 2012 5:51 am | News | Comments

As sulfur cycles through Earth's atmosphere, oceans, and land, it undergoes chemical changes that are often coupled to changes in other such elements as carbon and oxygen. Although this affects the concentration of free oxygen, sulfur has traditionally been portrayed as a secondary factor in regulating atmospheric oxygen, with most of the heavy lifting done by carbon. However, new findings suggest that sulfur's role may have been underestimated.

Tiny “Firefly” satellite may solve mystery about lightning

July 20, 2012 10:46 am | by Cheryl Dybas, NSF | News | Comments

CubeSats are fully-instrumented satellites the size of a half-gallon milk carton. Several are in orbit around the Earth, including Firefly, a CubeSat is designed to help solve the mystery of a phenomenon that's linked with lightning: terrestrial gamma rays, or TGFs. By using its small but powerful instrumentation,Its designers hope that Firefly will provide the first direct evidence for a relationship between lightning and TGFs.

New carbon accounting method to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use

July 18, 2012 7:27 pm | News | Comments

In 2011, corn was planted on more than 92 million acres in the U.S. Because corn is a nitrogen-loving plant, farmers must use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to their fields every year to achieve their crop target. However, nitrogen is hard to contain and can negatively affect the environment. Researchers have come up with a solution, however, and it’s tied to the relationship between nitrates and nitrous oxide emissions.

Technique helps forecasters see past clouds

July 11, 2012 3:50 am | by Gary Galluzzo | News | Comments

Until now, scientists who study air pollution using satellite imagery have been limited by weather. Clouds, in particular, provide much less information than a sunny day. A new method has been developd to help satellites "see" through the clouds and better estimate the concentration of pollutants, such as soot.

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