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The Lead

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...

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...

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...

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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.

Ocean pipes “not cool”, would end up warming climate

March 19, 2015 1:52 pm | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

To combat global climate change caused by greenhouse gases, alternative energy sources and other types of environmental recourse actions are needed. There are a variety of proposals that involve using vertical ocean pipes to move seawater to the surface from the depths in order to reap different potential climate benefits.

In climatic tug of war, carbon released from thawing permafrost wins handily

March 18, 2015 3:55 pm | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

There’s a carbon showdown brewing in the Arctic as Earth’s climate changes. On one side, thawing permafrost could release enormous amounts of long-frozen carbon into the atmosphere. On the opposing side, as high-latitude regions warm, plants will grow more quickly, which means they’ll take in more carbon from the atmosphere. Whichever side wins will have a big impact on the carbon cycle and the planet’s climate.

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Many plastics labeled “biodegradable” don’t break down as expected

March 18, 2015 1:43 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Plastic products advertised as biodegradable have recently emerged, but they sound almost too good to be true. Scientists have now found out that, at least for now, consumers have good reason to doubt these claims. In a new study appearing in Environmental Science & Technology, plastics designed to degrade didn’t break down any faster than their more conventional counterparts.

East Antarctica melting could be explained by oceanic gateways

March 16, 2015 3:46 pm | by Monica Kortsha, Univ. of Texas at Austin | News | Comments

Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin have discovered two seafloor gateways that could allow warm ocean water to reach the base of Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier. The discovery probably explains the glacier’s extreme thinning and raises concerns about how it will affect sea level rise.

Finding fault: New information may help understand earthquakes

March 16, 2015 8:58 am | by Larry Rivais, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst | News | Comments

New modeling and analyses of fault geometry in the Earth's crust by geoscientist Michele Cooke and colleagues at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst are advancing knowledge about fault development in regions where one geologic plate slides past or over another, such as along California's San Andreas Fault and the Denali Fault in central Alaska.

Hunting for meteorites

March 10, 2015 1:52 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, WUSTL | News | Comments

Every austral summer, a group of volunteers heads off to a remote region of Antarctica to set up a field camp on the ice. For the next month, they search the ice and nearby debris piles left by glaciers for dark rocks that might be extraterrestrial in origin. The program is called the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET).

Methane in Lake Traced to Seasonal Thawing

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by UC Santa Cruz | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that Arctic lakes emit methane, which comes primarily from the action of microbes in the water and lake sediments. Global warming may ramp up the flow of methane from groundwater into Arctic lakes, allowing more of the potent greenhouse gas to bubble out into the atmosphere.

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Researchers Explain How Aluminum Damages Crops

March 9, 2015 10:02 am | by The Univ. of Queensland | News | Comments

One third of the world’s food-producing land has been lost in the past 40 years as a result of soil degradation, putting global food security at risk. Researchers have discovered how aluminum, a toxic result of soil acidification, acts to reduce plant growth.  

Detector sniffs out origins of methane

March 6, 2015 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, second only to carbon dioxide in its capacity to trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere for a long time. The gas can originate from lakes and swamps, natural-gas pipelines, deep-sea vents and livestock. Understanding the sources of methane, and how the gas is formed, could give scientists a better understanding of its role in warming the planet.

El Nino finally here

March 5, 2015 9:09 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

A long anticipated El Nino has finally arrived. But for drought-struck California, it's too little, too late, meteorologists say. The National Weather Service on Thursday proclaimed the phenomenon is now in place. It's a warming of a certain patch of the central Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide, associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere, a generally warmer globe and fewer Atlantic hurricanes.

Plants use water wisely—mostly

March 5, 2015 8:49 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Plants trade water for carbon: Every liter of water that they extract from the soil allows them to take up a few more grams of carbon from the atmosphere to use in growth. A new global study, led by Australian researchers and published in Nature Climate Change, shows that plants trade their water wisely, with different plant species having different trading strategies depending on how much it costs them to obtain their water.

Reducing emissions with more effective carbon capture method

March 5, 2015 8:39 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and various industries could play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future. But current materials that can collect carbon dioxide have low capacities or require very high temperatures to work. Scientists are making progress toward a more efficient alternative, described in Chemistry of Materials, that could help make carbon capture less energy intensive.

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Models yield clearer picture of emissions’ true costs

March 5, 2015 7:06 am | by Duke Univ. | News | Comments

When its environmental and human health toll is factored in, a gallon of gasoline costs us about $3.80 more than the pump price, a new Duke Univ. study finds. The social cost of a gallon of diesel is about $4.80 more than the pump price; the price of natural gas more than doubles.

Permafrost’s turn on the microbes

March 4, 2015 5:16 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

As the Arctic warms, tons of carbon locked away in Arctic tundra will be transformed into the powerful greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, but scientists know little about how that transition takes place. Now, scientists looking at microbes in different types of Arctic soil have a new picture of life in permafrost that reveals entirely new species and hints that subzero microbes might be active.

A new level of earthquake understanding

March 3, 2015 3:07 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

As everyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area knows, the Earth moves under our feet. But what about the stresses that cause earthquakes? How much is known about them? Until now, our understanding of these stresses has been based on macroscopic approximations.

Water in smog may reveal pollution sources

March 3, 2015 11:14 am | by Lee Siegel, Senior Science Writer, Univ. of Utah Communications | News | Comments

The chemical signature of water vapor emitted by combustion sources such as vehicles and furnaces has been found in the smoggy winter inversions that often choke Salt Lake City. The discovery may give researchers a new tool to track down the sources of pollutants and climate-changing carbon dioxide gas.

On thin ice

March 3, 2015 10:41 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It’s no surprise that Arctic sea ice is thinning. What is new is just how long, how steadily, and how much it has declined. Univ. of Washington researchers compiled modern and historic measurements to get a full picture of how Arctic sea ice thickness has changed. The results show a thinning in the central Arctic Ocean of 65% between 1975 and 2012.

Syria's civil war linked partly to drought, global warming

March 2, 2015 5:09 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The conflict that has torn Syria apart can be traced, in part, to a record drought worsened by global warming, a new study says. In what scientists say is one of the most detailed and strongest connections between violence and human-caused climate change, researchers trace the effects of Syria's drought from the collapse of farming, to the migration of 1.5 million farmers to the cities, and then to poverty and civil unrest.

Sun has more impact on climate in cool periods

February 27, 2015 10:24 am | by Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

The activity of the sun is an important factor in the complex interaction that controls our climate. New research now shows the impact of the sun isn’t constant over time, but has greater significance when the Earth is cooler. There has been much discussion as to whether variations in the strength of the sun have played a role in triggering climate change in the past.

“Ecosystem services” help assess ocean energy development

February 27, 2015 7:47 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

With many projects under development in coastal regions such as New England, tidal power seems poised to join other U.S. commercial power sources. A new study finds that little is known of the impacts that tidal power projects may have on coastal environments and the people who depend on them, but that the perspective of “ecosystem services” could provide a promising framework for evaluating impacts.

The big melt: Antarctica's retreating ice may re-shape Earth

February 27, 2015 1:08 am | by Luis Andres Henao and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can't be seen is the battle raging underfoot to re-shape Earth. Water is eating away at the Antarctic ice, melting it where it hits the oceans. As the ice sheets slowly thaw, water pours into the sea—130 billion tons of ice (118 billion metric tons) per year for the past decade.

Carbon dioxide’s increasing greenhouse effect at Earth’s surface

February 26, 2015 8:12 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists have observed an increase in carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect at the Earth’s surface for the first time. The researchers, led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s increasing capacity to absorb thermal radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface over an eleven-year period at two locations in North America.

Electric car driving range, emissions depend on where you live

February 25, 2015 10:35 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Many car buyers weighing whether they should go all electric to help the planet have at least one new factor to consider before making the switch: geography. Based on a study of a commercially available electric car, scientists report in Environmental Science & Technology that emissions and driving range can vary greatly depending on regional energy sources and climate.

Geysers have loops in their plumbing

February 25, 2015 8:25 am | by Robert Sanders, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Geysers like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park erupt periodically because of loops or side-chambers in their underground plumbing, according to recent studies by volcanologists at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. The key to geysers is an underground bend or loop that traps steam and then bubbles it out slowly to heat the water column above until it is just short of boiling.

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