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The Lead

Soy: It’s good for eating, baking and cleaning up crude oil spills

April 23, 2015 9:11 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

If you've studied ingredient labels on food packaging, you've probably noticed that soy lecithin is in a lot of products, ranging from buttery spreads to chocolate cake. Scientists have now found a potential new role for this all-purpose substance: dispersing crude oil spills. Their study, which could lead to a less toxic way to clean up these environmental messes, appears in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Study links swarm of quakes in Texas to natural gas drilling

April 21, 2015 12:05 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

With real-time monitors, scientists have linked a swarm of small earthquakes west of Fort Worth...

Global warming more moderate than worst-case models

April 21, 2015 11:15 am | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

A new study based on 1,000 years of temperature records suggests global warming is not...

3D-printed blossoms a growing tool for ecology

April 17, 2015 10:36 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

3D printing has been used to make everything from cars to medical implants. Now, Univ. of...

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Gulf health five years after BP spill: Resilient yet scarred

April 17, 2015 10:05 am | by Seth Borenstein And Cain Burdeau, Associated Press | News | Comments

From above, five years after the BP well explosion, the Gulf of Mexico looks clean, green and whole again, teeming with life: a testament to the resilience of nature. But there's more than surface shimmering blue and emerald to the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. And it's not as pretty a picture, nor is it as clear.

China’s thriving export industry comes with a high cost

April 17, 2015 8:35 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

China has become the world’s largest exporter, leading to the country’s rapid economic development, and notorious pollution that’s harmful to human health. For the first time, scientists have estimated this trend’s health cost. They report in Environmental Science & Technology that in 2007, export-related emissions in China led to almost 160,000 deaths.

How climate affects biodiversity

April 17, 2015 8:22 am | by Uppsala Univ. | News | Comments

How does climate change affect the occurrence and distribution of species? This is a key question in the climate debate, and one that is hard to answer without information about natural variation in species abundance. Now researchers from Uppsala Univ. can, for the first time, give us a detailed picture of natural variation through study published in Current Biology.

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Flourishing faster

April 17, 2015 8:16 am | by Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Scientists at The Univ. of Manchester have discovered a way to make trees grow bigger and faster, which could increase supplies of renewable resources and help trees cope with the effects of climate change. In the study, published in Current Biology, the team successfully manipulated two genes in poplar trees in order to make them grow larger and more quickly than usual.

Fragment of continental crust found under south east Iceland

April 13, 2015 10:32 am | by Univ. of Liverpool | News | Comments

A team has shown that south east Iceland is underlain by continental crust. The team found that the accepted theory, that Iceland consists only of very thick oceanic crust, is incorrect. Maps of crustal thickness produced from satellite gravity data, together with geochemical, plate tectonic reconstruction and mantle plume track analysis, were used to show south east Iceland is underlain by continental crust.

Researchers say permafrost carbon release will be gradual

April 10, 2015 8:05 pm | by Dan Joling, Associated Press | News | Comments

Frozen Arctic and sub-Arctic soil that thaws from global warming will add substantial amounts of carbon to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases, accelerating climate change the rest of the century, but it won't come in a sudden burst, researchers say in a new paper.

Ordinary clay can save the day

April 9, 2015 11:12 am | by Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology | News | Comments

Carbon capture will play a central role in helping the nations of the world manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Many materials are being tested for the purpose of capturing carbon dioxide. But now researchers led by the Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology have found that ordinary clay can work just as effectively as more advanced materials.

Turning to freshwater sources to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis

April 9, 2015 8:17 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The discovery of antibiotics produced by soil fungi and bacteria gave the world life-saving medicine. But new antimicrobials from this resource have become scarce as the threat of drug resistance grows. Now, scientists have started mining lakes and rivers for potential pathogen-fighters, and they’ve found one from Lake Michigan that is effective against drug-resistant tuberculosis.

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Scientists seek source of giant methane mass over Southwest

April 9, 2015 2:05 am | by Colleen Slevin, Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists are working to pinpoint the source of a giant mass of methane hanging over the southwestern U.S., which a study found to be the country's largest concentration of the greenhouse gas. The report that revealed the methane hot spot over the Four Corners region, where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet, was released last year.

How unwanted CDs and DVDs could help cut carbon emissions

April 8, 2015 1:45 pm | by ACS | News | Comments

Now that most consumers download and stream their movies and music, more and more CDs and DVDs will end up in landfills or be recycled. But soon these discarded discs could take on a different role: curbing the release of greenhouse gases. In ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, scientists report a way to turn the discs into a material that can capture carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, and other compounds

Robotic vehicle provides in-depth look under Antarctica

April 6, 2015 7:52 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Tech | News | Comments

A first-of-its-kind robotic vehicle recently dove to depths never before visited under Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf and brought back video of life on the seafloor. A team of scientists and engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology assembled the unmanned, underwater vehicle on Antarctica. They deployed (and retrieved) the vehicle through a 12-in diameter hole through 20 m of ice and another 500 m of water to the sea floor.

Biofuel crops replace grasslands nationwide

April 2, 2015 11:27 am | by Kelly April Tyrrell, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Clearing grasslands to make way for biofuels may seem counterproductive, but Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers show in a study that crops, including the corn and soy commonly used for biofuels, expanded onto 7 million acres of new land in the U.S. over a recent four-year period, replacing millions of acres of grasslands.

Secondhand smog

April 1, 2015 2:37 pm | by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Approximately 10% of ozone pollution in California’s San Joaquin Valley is estimated to be coming from outside of the state’s borders, particularly from Asia, according to preliminary research presented by the Univ. of California, Davis. Secondhand smog from Asia and other international sources is finding its way into one of the nation’s most polluted air basins, the San Joaquin Valley.

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How tropical forests respond to climate change

April 1, 2015 2:17 pm | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Tropical forests play major roles in regulating Earth’s climate, but there are large uncertainties over how they’ll respond over the next 100 years as the planet’s climate warms. An expansive new project led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory aims to bring the future of tropical forests and the climate system into much clearer focus.

Scientists discover elusive secret of how continents formed

March 31, 2015 11:58 am | by John Pastor, Virginia Tech | News | Comments

An international research team, led by a Virginia Tech geoscientist, has revealed information about how continents were generated on Earth more than 2.5 billion years ago, and how those processes have continued within the last 70 million years to profoundly affect the planet's life and climate.

The unseen way organisms cope with climate change

March 31, 2015 10:55 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

Scientists have found a way to measure the unseen toll that environmental stress places on living creatures, showing that they can rev up their metabolism to work more than twice as hard as normal to cope with change. Stresses from climate change such as rising temperatures and increasing ocean acidity can move an organism closer and closer to the brink of death without visible signs.

Better traffic signals can cut greenhouse gas emissions

March 31, 2015 7:34 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Sitting in traffic during rush hour is not just frustrating for drivers; it also adds unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Now a study by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology could lead to better ways of programming a city’s stoplights to reduce delays, improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed world by 2050

March 30, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Using high-performance computing and genetic engineering to boost the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in Cell.

Antarctic ice shelves rapidly thinning

March 27, 2015 10:08 am | by Mario Aguilera, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Univ. of California, San Diego, researchers has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves has recently decreased by as much as 18% in certain areas over nearly two decades, providing new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.

Critters found in Antarctic ice shows how tenacious life is

March 27, 2015 2:10 am | by Luis Andres Henao And Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

Deep below the ice, far from the playful penguins and other animals that bring tourists to Antarctica, is a cold and barren world that by all indications should be completely void of life. But recently, scientists researching melting ice watched a half-foot-long (15-cm) fish swim by. Not long after that, they saw shrimp-like creatures.

Algae from clogged waterways could serve as biofuels, fertilizer

March 25, 2015 11:31 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists will report today that they are working on a way to clean up these environmental scourges and turn them into useful products. The algae could serve as a feedstock for biofuels, and the feedstock leftovers could be recycled back into farm soil nutrients.

Air pollutants could boost potency of common airborne allergens

March 23, 2015 11:43 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A pair of air pollutants linked to climate change could also be a major contributor to the unparalleled rise in the number of people sneezing and wheezing during allergy season. The gases, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, appear to provoke chemical changes in certain airborne allergens that could increase their potency. That, in combination with changes in global climate, could explain why airborne allergies are more common.

Sewage could be a source of valuable metals, critical elements

March 23, 2015 8:42 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Poop could be a goldmine, literally. Surprisingly, treated solid waste contains gold, silver and other metals, as well as rare elements such as palladium and vanadium that are used in electronics and alloys. Now researchers are looking at identifying the metals that are getting flushed and how they can be recovered. This could decrease the need for mining and reduce the unwanted release of metals into the environment.

U.N. warns world could have 40% water shortfall by 2030

March 20, 2015 8:15 am | by Katy Daigle, AP Environment Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The world could suffer a 40% shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, a U.N. report warned Friday. Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change.

Massive amounts of fresh water, glacial melt pouring into Gulf of Alaska

March 20, 2015 8:00 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Incessant mountain rain, snow and melting glaciers in a comparatively small region of land that hugs the southern Alaska coast and empties fresh water into the Gulf of Alaska would create the sixth largest coastal river in the world if it emerged as a single stream, a recent study shows.

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