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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.

Giant channels discovered beneath Antarctic ice shelf

October 7, 2013 2:38 am | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered huge ice channels beneath a floating ice shelf in Antarctica. At 250 m high, the channels are almost as tall as the Eiffel tower and stretch hundreds of kilometers along the ice shelf. The channels are likely to influence the stability of the ice shelf and their discovery will help researchers understand how the ice will respond to changing environmental conditions.

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.

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What the death of a spruce tree means

October 3, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Examining a long-lived forest, researchers have found that Black Spruce trees, which dominate the northern forests of North America, succumb about five years after being weakened by environmental stresses. Without rejuvenating fire, the dead trees aren't being replaced by new ones. The result will help researchers better understand how climate change affects the health of forests, and how forests affect the severity of climate change.

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.

Study: Methane leaks from gas drilling not huge

September 17, 2013 1:02 pm | by Kevin Begos and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

According to research published this week drilling and fracking for natural gas don't seem to spew immense amounts of the greenhouse gas methane into the air, as has been feared. The study, mostly funded by energy interests,  doesn't address other fracking concerns about potential air and water pollution, but does generally with government estimates.

Study: Carbon dioxide-hungry microbes could short-circuit marine foodweb

September 13, 2013 12:28 pm | News | Comments

Do the smallest plankton organisms determine the future of the ocean? A five-week long field experiment shows that pico- and nanophytoplankton benefit from higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the water, causing an imbalance in the food web. In addition, the carbon export to the deep ocean and the production of the climate-cooling gas dimethyl sulfide are diminished—two important functions for the global climate.

Artificial “lung” removes carbon dioxide from smokestack

September 9, 2013 10:42 am | News | Comments

The amazingly efficient lungs of birds and the swim bladders of fish have become the inspiration for a new filtering system to remove carbon dioxide from electric power station smokestacks before the main greenhouse gas can billow into the atmosphere and contribute to global climate change. A report on the new technology was presented Monday at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

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Researchers solve 30-year-old puzzle in chemistry

September 4, 2013 1:58 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In all the centuries that humans have studied chemical reactions, just 36 basic types of reactions have been found. Now, thanks to the work of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Minnesota, a 37th type of reaction can be added to the list. The newly explained reaction is an important part of atmospheric reactions that lead to the formation of climate-affecting aerosols.

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.

Wildfires projected to worsen with climate change

August 29, 2013 11:55 am | News | Comments

Research by Harvard Univ. environmental scientists brings bad news to the western U.S., where firefighters are currently battling dozens of fires in at least 11 states. A new model predicts wildfire seasons by 2050 will be three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky and will burn a wider area in the western U.S.

Arctic sea ice: Unlikely to break records, but downward trend continues

August 27, 2013 3:14 pm | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

The melting of sea ice in the Arctic is well on its way toward its annual "minimum," that time when the floating ice cap covers less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other period during the year. While the ice will continue to shrink until around mid-September, it is unlikely that this year’s summer low will break a new record. Still, this year’s melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover.

Study determines rate of release for old permafrost carbon

August 21, 2013 1:10 pm | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Using indicator molecules, a team of researchers working in Eurasia has for the first time assessed contributions of old carbon from permafrost soils to riverine carbon headed. They were also able to demonstrate that permafrost soils where the frozen areas are interspersed with gaps release more old carbon than those where the permafrost is uninterrupted.

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A new approach to making climate treaties work

August 21, 2013 7:58 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford University | News | Comments

Why can’t global leaders agree on a broad, effective climate change pact? More than 20 years after they began, international negotiations based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have resulted in only one legally binding treaty. That agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, has not been ratified by the U.S., historically the world’s largest carbon emitter. 

Heat waves to become more frequent, severe

August 20, 2013 10:31 am | News | Comments

Climate change is set to trigger more frequent and severe heat waves in the next 30 years regardless of the amount of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere, a new study has shown. Extreme heat waves such as those that hit the U.S. in 2012 and Australia in 2009—dubbed three-sigma events by the researchers—are projected to cover double the amount of global land by 2020 and quadruple by 2040.

Antarctic ice core sheds new light on how the last ice age ended

August 15, 2013 3:18 pm | News | Comments

Analysis of ice samples taken by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide drilling project reveals that warming in Antarctica began about 22,000 years ago, a few thousand years earlier than suggested by previous records. This timing shows that West Antarctica did not "wait for a cue" from the Northern Hemisphere to start warming, as scientists had previously supposed.

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.

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.

Scientists look into Earth’s “Deep Time” to predict climate change effects

August 1, 2013 4:15 pm | News | Comments

Climate change alters the way in which species interact with one another—a reality that applies not just to today or to the future, but also to the past, according to a recent study which analyzed information about past episodes of rapid climate change from Earth's history. The researchers hope to use this finding to help predict future changes to our planet's ecosystems.

Biggest extinction in history caused by climate-changing meteor

August 1, 2013 10:31 am | News | Comments

It's well known that the dinosaurs were wiped out 66 million years ago when a meteor hit what is now southern Mexico; but evidence is accumulating that the biggest extinction of all, 252.3 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, was also triggered by an impact that changed the climate.

Sediment behind dams makes them “hot spots” for emissions

July 31, 2013 9:42 pm | News | Comments

With the “green” reputation of large hydroelectric dams already in question, scientists are reporting that millions of smaller dams on rivers around the world make an important contribution to the greenhouse gases linked to global climate change. Their study shows that more methane than previously believed bubbles out of the water behind small dams.

Planetary “runaway greenhouse” more easily triggered, research shows

July 31, 2013 8:10 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

In the runaway greenhouse stage, a planet absorbs more solar energy than it can give off to retain equilibrium. As a result, the world overheats, boiling its oceans and filling its atmosphere with steam, which leaves the planet glowing-hot and forever uninhabitable, as Venus is now. Recent research shows this scenario might be more easily reached than previously thought.

Radio waves carry news of climate change

July 30, 2013 1:16 pm | News | Comments

The ionosphere, one of the regions of the upper atmosphere, plays an important role in global communications. Now, researchers have discovered that the radio waves reflecting back to Earth from the ionosphere offer valuable news on climate change as well.

New knowledge about permafrost is improving climate models

July 29, 2013 2:04 pm | News | Comments

The rate at which carbon dioxide is released from permafrost is poorly documented, and is a crucial uncertainty in current climate models. New findings by environmental scientists at the Univ. of Copenhagen, Denmark, document that permafrost during thawing may result in a substantial release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that the future water content in the soil is crucial to predict the effect of permafrost thawing.

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