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The Lead

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

April 15, 2014 3:17 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by a team of astronomers. In fact, sometimes it helps because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them, are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

An Arctic ozone hole? Not quite

April 15, 2014 11:06 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers and the public have...

A few “problem wells” source of greenhouse gas

April 15, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

High levels of the greenhouse gas methane were found above shale gas wells at a production point...

Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain

April 11, 2014 11:29 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

The rise and fall of acid rain is a global experiment whose results are preserved in the...

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Artificial cooling tricky topic for climate panel

April 10, 2014 5:19 pm | by Karl Ritter, Associated Press | News | Comments

The U.N.'s expert panel on climate change is under pressure this week as it considers whether geoengineering should be part of the tool-kit that governments use to keep global warming in check. Drafts leaked before the conference only mentioned one of the proposed options, removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it underground. But some countries support solar radiation management as well.  

Landscape “transition zones” may influence where tornadoes strike

April 7, 2014 5:53 pm | News | Comments

An examination of more than 60 years of Indiana tornado climatology data from the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center has shown that a majority of tornado touchdowns occurred near areas where dramatically different landscapes meet, such as where a city fades into farmland or a forest meets a plain. According to researchers, forecasters may need to pay closer attention to these "transition zones" to understand tornado risks.

U.S. clean-air efforts stay on target

March 28, 2014 11:28 am | News | Comments

National efforts in the last decade to clear the air of dangerous particulate matter have been so successful that most urban areas have already attained the next benchmark, according to new research by Rice Univ. Atmospheric researchers at Rice studied the state implementation plans from 23 regions mandated by the EPA to reduce particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 um (PM 2.5) to less than 15 micrograms per cubic meter by 2009.

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Lessons offered by emerging carbon trading markets

March 21, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in U.S. federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn't work.

New hypothesis explains why Earth is continually capable of supporting life

March 19, 2014 2:25 pm | News | Comments

An international research team has documented evidence suggesting that part of the reason that the Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars lies with a built-in atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator. Basically, ”fresh” rock exposed by uplift also emits carbon through a chemical weathering process, which replenishes the atmospheric carbon dioxide.

New airborne GPS technology for weather conditions takes flight

March 19, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

In 2010, researchers demonstrated for the first time that atmospheric information could be captured by an airborne GPS device. Now, a new technique led by a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography stands to improve weather models and hurricane forecasting by detecting precise conditions in the atmosphere through a new GPS system. A first-time demonstration using this system has captured key meteorological data from aircraft.

New data confirms: Sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade

March 5, 2014 9:55 am | News | Comments

According to new research, the ice-free season across the Arctic is getting longer by five days per decade. New analysis of satellite data shows the Arctic Ocean absorbing ever more of the sun’s energy in summer, leading to an ever later appearance of sea ice in the autumn. In some regions, autumn freeze-up is occurring up to 11 days per decade later than it used to.

Dimer molecules aid study of exoplanet pressure, hunt for life

March 4, 2014 4:07 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Astronomers at the Univ. of Washington have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule. And if there is life out in space, scientists may one day use this same technique to detect its biosignature, the telltale chemical signs of its presence, in the atmosphere of an alien world.

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Methane leaks from palm oil wastewater are a climate concern

February 27, 2014 2:17 pm | News | Comments

In recent years, palm oil production has come under fire from environmentalists concerned about the deforestation of land in the tropics to make way for new palm plantations. Now there is a new reason to be concerned about palm oil’s environmental impact, according to researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder.

Study: New gas-phase compounds form organic particle ingredients

February 27, 2014 10:51 am | News | Comments

So-called extremely low-volatility organic compounds, which are produced by plants, have been detected for the first time during field and laboratory experiments in Finland and Germany. The results may help to explain discrepancies between observations and theories about how volatile organic compounds produced by vegetation are converted into atmospheric aerosol. This in turn should improve existing climate models.

Scientists study how marine bacteria release cloud-making compound

February 19, 2014 2:30 pm | by Alan Flurry, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Univ. of Georgia (UGA) marine scientists are uncovering the mechanisms that regulate the natural production of an anti-greenhouse gas. A new $2 million National Science Foundation grant will allow the UGA-led research group to further document how genes in ocean microbes transform sulfur into clouds in the Earth's atmosphere.

Study indicates improvements needed in handling methane emissions

February 19, 2014 7:23 am | News | Comments

A new study led by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis says that the total impact of switching to natural gas depends heavily on leakage of methane during the natural gas life cycle, and suggests that more can be done to reduce methane emissions and to improve measurement tools which help inform policy choices.

Researchers warn against abrupt stop to geoengineering method

February 18, 2014 11:03 am | News | Comments

As a range of climate change mitigation scenarios are discussed, Univ. of Washington researchers have found that the injection of sulfate particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and curb the effects of global warming could pose a severe threat if not maintained indefinitely and supported by strict reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Study: Arctic getting darker, making Earth warmer

February 18, 2014 8:39 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The Arctic isn't nearly as bright and white as it used to be because of more ice melting in the ocean, and that's turning out to be a global problem, a new study says. With more dark, open water in the summer, less of the sun's heat is reflected back into space. So the entire Earth is absorbing much more heat than expected.

Satellite video shows movement of major U.S. winter storm

February 12, 2014 5:28 pm | by Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

A new NASA video shows three days of movement, beginning Feb. 10, of a massive winter storm that stretches from the southern U.S. to the northeast. Compiled using NOAA's GOES satellite imagery, the sequence shows snow cover and cloud movements over a true-color image of land and ocean created by data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites.

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.

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.

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.

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