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The Lead

Junk DNA not as worthless as once thought

July 24, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

Around 75% of the supposed functionless DNA in the human genome is transcribed into so-called non-coding RNAs, and little is known about their function. Now, researchers have demonstrated that the production of non-coding RNAs is precisely regulated. They suspect that non-coding RNAs might play a role in regulating cellular processes or in the modified immune response following exposure to environmental toxicants.

Urban heat’s effect on the environment

July 24, 2014 9:36 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

New research from North Carolina State Univ. shows that urban “heat islands” are slowly killing...

Study: Forward osmosis desalination not energy efficient

July 24, 2014 7:37 am | by Alissa Mallinson | MIT Dept. of Mechanical Engineering | News | Comments

In a recent study published in the Journal of Membrane Science, a Massachusetts...

World breaks monthly heat record two times in a row

July 23, 2014 8:54 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The globe is on a hot streak, setting a heat...

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The geography of the global electronic waste burden

July 23, 2014 8:42 am | News | Comments

As local and national governments struggle to deal with ever-growing piles of electronic waste (e-waste), scientists are now refining the picture of just how much there is and where it really ends up. Published in Environmental Science & Technology, their study found that nearly a quarter of e-waste that developed countries discard floods into just seven developing countries.

Study: Global warming “pause” reflects natural fluctuation

July 22, 2014 9:06 am | News | Comments

According to recent research from McGill Univ., statistical analysis of average global temperatures between 1998 and 2013 shows that the slowdown in global warming during this period is consistent with natural variations in temperature. The study concludes that a natural cooling fluctuation during this period largely masked the warming effects of a continued increase in man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Research shows oceans vital for alien life

July 21, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. Mathematicians and earth sciences experts in the U.K. have recently taken the next step, creating a computer-simulated pattern of ocean circulation on a hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planet. They hope to learn how different planetary rotation rates would impact heat transport with the presence of oceans taken into account.

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Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

July 18, 2014 12:37 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

“Big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change with a new model developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologist Brent Mishler and his colleagues in Australia. This effort  leverages the growing mass of data to take into account not only the number of species throughout an area, but also the variation among species and their geographic rarity, or endemism.

Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

66-yard crater appears in far northern Siberia

July 18, 2014 8:47 am | News | Comments

Russian scientists say they believe a 66-yard wide crater discovered recently in far northern Siberia could be the result of changing temperatures in the region. Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic who visited the crater this week, the crater was mostly likely the result of a "build-up of excessive pressure" underground due to rising temperatures.

Dispersant from Deepwater Horizon spill found to persist in the environment

July 16, 2014 12:51 pm | News | Comments

In an attempt to prevent vast quantities of oil from fouling beaches and marshes after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP applied 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant. The dispersant was thought to rapidly degrade in the environment, but a new study has found that the DOSS dispersant compound remains associated with oil and can persist in the environment for up to four years.

Urban heat is not a myth

July 10, 2014 8:40 am | by Kevin Dennehy , Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A new Yale Univ.-led study quantifies for the first time the primary causes of the “urban heat island” (UHI) effect, a common phenomenon that makes the world’s urban areas significantly warmer than the surrounding countryside and may increase health risks for city residents.

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Figuring out methane’s role in the climate puzzle

July 10, 2014 8:30 am | News | Comments

The U.S. may be on the verge of an economy driven by methane, the primary component of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal and is undergoing a production boom. It has poised the country as a top fuel producer globally, but recent research is casting serious doubts over just how climate friendly it is, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).

Ironing out details of the carbon cycle

July 7, 2014 10:02 am | by Steven Powell, Univ. of South Carolina | News | Comments

Iron is present in tiny concentrations in seawater, on the order of a few billionths of a gram in a liter. However, its availability in seawater can have a profound effect on phytoplankton growth and, consequently, the Earth's carbon cycle. In recent research, an assessment was made of the various sources of dissolved iron in the north Atlantic Ocean and surprising discoveries were made about their origins.

Study: Kudzu can release soil carbon, accelerate global warming

July 2, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

Scientists are shedding new light on how invasion by exotic plant species affects the ability of soil to store greenhouse gases. New research shows that invasive plants can accelerate the greenhouse effect by releasing carbon stored in soil into the atmosphere. Since soil stores more carbon than both the atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation combined, agricultural land management could dramatically affect carbon storage.

Separating finely mixed oil and water

July 1, 2014 11:51 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Whenever there is a major spill of oil into water, the two tend to mix into a suspension of tiny droplets, called an emulsion, that is extremely hard to separate and can cause severe damage to ecosystems. A new membrane developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can separate even these highly mixed fine oil-spill residues.

Study: Plastic debris widespread on ocean surface

July 1, 2014 11:03 am | News | Comments

Plastic junk is floating widely on the world's oceans, but there's less of it than expected, a study says. A newly published study drew on results from an around-the-world cruise by a research ship that towed a mesh net at 141 sites, as well as other studies. Researchers estimated the total amount of floating plastic debris in open ocean at 7,000 to 35,000 tons.

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Silver in the washing machine

June 30, 2014 8:35 am | News | Comments

The antibacterial properties of silver-coated textiles are popular in the fields of sport and medicine. A team in Switzerland has now investigated how different silver coatings behave in the washing machine, and they have discovered something important: textiles with nano-coatings release fewer nano-particles into the washing water than those with normal coatings.

A win-win-win solution: Biofuel, climate and biodiversity

June 25, 2014 10:44 pm | News | Comments

Fossil fuel emissions release billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. In Brazil, the demand for alternative energy sources has led to an increase in biofuel crops. New research demonstrates the high carbon costs of converting intact Brazilian savanna compared to the carbon gains obtained from converting underutilized pastureland for biofuel crops.

Fracking flowback could pollute groundwater with heavy metals

June 25, 2014 2:53 pm | by Melissa Osgood, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by “hydrofracking” could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell Univ. researchers have found.

Understanding the ocean's role in Greenland glacier melt

June 24, 2014 8:33 am | News | Comments

In the last 40 years, ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased four-fold contributing to one-quarter of global sea level rise.  Some of the increased melting at the surface of the ice sheet is due to a warmer atmosphere, but the ocean’s role in driving ice loss largely remains a mystery. Research by U.S. scientists sheds new light on the connection between the ocean and Greenland’s outlet glaciers.

Breakthrough provides picture of underground water

June 18, 2014 10:52 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Evironment | News | Comments

Superman isn't the only one who can see through solid surfaces. In a development that could revolutionize the management of precious groundwater around the world, Stanford Univ. researchers have pioneered the use of satellites to accurately measure levels of water stored hundreds of feet below ground.

Nanoparticles from dietary supplement drinks are likely to reach environment

June 18, 2014 9:11 am | News | Comments

Nanoparticles are becoming ubiquitous in food packaging, personal care products and are even being added to food directly. But the health and environmental effects of these tiny additives have remained largely unknown. A new study now suggests that nanomaterials in food and drinks could interfere with digestive cells and lead to the release of the potentially harmful substances to the environment.

Few, if any, big impact craters remain to be discovered on Earth

June 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

It’s likely that most of the large impact craters on Earth have already been discovered and that others have been erased, according to a new calculation by a pair of Purdue Univ. graduate students. Although it's known that natural processes erase craters fairly quickly from the Earth's surface, this model was the first to quantify how many craters have likely been erased.

Swarm of earthquakes in Alaska puzzles scientists

June 17, 2014 11:20 am | by Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press | News | Comments

A moderate earthquake shook northwest Alaska on Monday, the fifth temblor of the same magnitude since April in an area with otherwise little activity, seismologists said. The swarm of magnitude-5.7 quakes is connected to more than 300 smaller aftershocks, some with magnitudes in the high 3s, Ruppert said. The series of earthquakes has scientists puzzled about activity that is considered very unusual in the region of Noatak.

EU project applies green tech to decontaminate soil

June 16, 2014 10:32 am | News | Comments

Soil pollution causes severe environmental and economic impacts, as well as risks for the human health and ecosystems. The closure of mining and industrial facilities in many sites across Europe has revealed large amounts of contaminated land with uncertain future uses. Decontaminating and recovering such soil is a long, complex and expensive process, which places a large burden on enterprises or public administrations.

Study: Melting and refreezing of deep Greenland ice speeds flow to sea

June 16, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Beneath the barren whiteness of Greenland, a mysterious world has popped into view. Using ice-penetrating radar, researchers have discovered ragged blocks of ice as tall as city skyscrapers and as wide as the island of Manhattan at the bottom of the ice sheet, apparently formed as water beneath the ice refreezes and warps the surrounding ice upwards. The newly revealed forms may help scientists understand more about how ice sheets behave.

Computers replace humans reading weather reports

June 16, 2014 9:02 am | by Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press | News | Comments

Two outpost offices of the National Weather Service in Alaska are finally ending what has been a bygone practice for most of the nation for almost two decades: using real human voices in radio forecast broadcasts. Local weather forecasts are a big deal to many people in Alaska because, more than in some other parts of the United States, the forecasts can be a matter of life and death.

If global warming is real, why was it so cold and snowy last winter?

June 13, 2014 10:23 am | by Greta Guest, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

More Americans view global warming by what they see outside their windows and not scientific evidence, according to a Univ. of Michigan survey. While a majority of Americans still believe that global warming is occurring, the cold and snowy winter of 2014 created more disbelievers, according to the National Surveys on Energy and Environment.

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