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Mystery of Death Valley's moving rocks solved

September 2, 2014 8:45 am | News | Comments

For years scientists have theorized about how large rocks, some weighing hundreds of pounds, zigzag across Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, leaving long trails etched in the earth. Now two researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Univ. of California, San Diego, have photographed these "sailing rocks" being blown by light winds across the former lake bed.

Study shows where on the planet new roads should and should not go

September 2, 2014 8:39 am | News | Comments

An ambitious study has created a “global roadmap” for...

Cool roofs in China can save energy, reduce emissions

August 28, 2014 8:49 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Working with Chinese researchers, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has conducted the first...

Snowfall in a warmer world

August 27, 2014 2:26 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If ever there were a silver lining to global warming, it might be the prospect of milder winters...

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Yellowstone super-eruption would send ash across North America

August 27, 2014 12:22 pm | News | Comments

According to a new study, in the unlikely event of a volcanic super-eruption at Yellowstone National Park, the northern Rocky Mountains would be blanketed in meters of ash, and millimeters would be deposited as far away as New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. An improved computer model finds that the hypothetical, large eruption would create a distinctive kind of ash cloud known as an umbrella, which expands evenly in all directions.

Composition of Earth’s mantle revisited

August 27, 2014 8:31 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Research published last week in Science suggested that the makeup of the Earth's lower mantle, which makes up the largest part of the Earth by volume, is significantly different than previously thought. According to scientists, the work performed at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source will have a significant impact on our understanding of the lower mantle.

Study: Earth can sustain more terrestrial plant growth than previously thought

August 27, 2014 8:00 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A new analysis suggests the planet can produce much more land-plant biomass than previously thought. The study, reported in Environmental Science and Technology, recalculates the theoretical limit of terrestrial plant productivity, and finds that it is much higher than many current estimates allow.

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Pacific plate shrinking as it cools

August 27, 2014 7:47 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The tectonic plate that dominates the Pacific “Ring of Fire” is not as rigid as many scientists assume, according to researchers at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Nevada. The researchers have determined that cooling of the lithosphere makes some sections of the Pacific plate contract horizontally at faster rates than others and cause the plate to deform.

Study: Existing power plants will spew 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide during use

August 26, 2014 4:33 pm | News | Comments

According to Univ. of California Irvine and Princeton Univ. scientists, existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas. The findings are the first to quantify how quickly these "committed" emissions are growing.

UN panel: Global warming human-caused, dangerous

August 26, 2014 3:25 pm | by Seth Borenstein - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Global warming is here, human-caused and probably already dangerous—and it's increasingly likely that the heating trend could be irreversible, a draft of a new international science report says. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday sent governments a final draft of its synthesis report, which combines three earlier, gigantic documents by the Nobel Prize-winning group.

New project is the ACME of addressing climate change

August 26, 2014 8:40 am | News | Comments

Eight U.S. Dept. of Energy national laboratories are combining forces to use high performance computing to build the most complete climate and Earth system model yet devised. The project, called Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy, or ACME, is designed to accelerate the development and application of fully coupled, state-of-the-science Earth system models for scientific and energy applications.

Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself

August 25, 2014 7:44 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution. But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions?

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Cause of global warming hiatus found deep in Atlantic Ocean

August 22, 2014 9:34 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Following rapid warming in the late 20th century, this century has so far seen surprisingly little increase in the average temperature at the Earth’s surface. At first this was a blip, then a trend, then a puzzle for the climate science community. More than a dozen theories have now been proposed for the so-called global warming hiatus, ranging from air pollution to volcanoes to sunspots.

Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost

August 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists. To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

Sunblock poses potential hazard to sea life

August 22, 2014 8:24 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The sweet and salty aroma of sunscreen and seawater signals a relaxing trip to the shore. But scientists are now reporting that the idyllic beach vacation comes with an environmental hitch. When certain sunblock ingredients wash off skin and into the sea, they can become toxic to some of the ocean’s tiniest inhabitants, which are the main course for many other marine animals.

The power of salt

August 20, 2014 7:46 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a team of mechanical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy.

Shale oil dividend could pay for smaller carbon footprint

August 19, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Unanticipated economic benefits from the shale oil and gas boom could help offset the costs of substantially reducing the U.S.'s carbon footprint, Purdue Univ. agricultural economists say. Wally Tyner and Farzad Taheripour estimate that shale technologies annually provide an extra $302 billion to the U.S. economy relative to 2007, a yearly "dividend" that could continue for at least the next two decades, Tyner said.

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No one-size-fits-all approach in a changing climate, land

August 19, 2014 7:31 am | by Kelly April Tyrrell, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

As climate change alters habitats for birds and bees and everything in between, so too does the way humans decide to use land. Researchers have, for the first time, found a way to determine the potential combined impacts of both climate and land-use change on plants, animals and ecosystems across the country.

Three radars are better than one

August 14, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Putting three radars on a plane to measure rainfall may seem like overkill. But for the Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment field campaign in North Carolina recently, more definitely was better. The system is specifically designed to measure rain in difficult-to-forecast mountain regions, where a wide range of frequencies to need be covered so that researchers can detect the more than 30 varieties of rainfall.

Snow has thinned on Arctic sea ice

August 13, 2014 11:30 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

From research stations drifting on ice floes to high-tech aircraft radar, scientists have been tracking the depth of snow that accumulates on Arctic sea ice for almost a century. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, research led by the Univ. of Washington and NASA confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska.

Foam favorable for oil extraction

August 13, 2014 7:49 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Videos | Comments

A Rice Univ. laboratory has provided proof that foam may be the right stuff to maximize enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In tests, foam pumped into an experimental rig that mimicked the flow paths deep underground proved better at removing oil from formations with low permeability than common techniques involving water, gas, surfactants or combinations of the three.

New research links tornado strength, frequency to climate change

August 7, 2014 9:24 am | by Kathleen Haughney, Florida State Univ. | News | Comments

A Florida State Univ. geography professor has shown that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States. though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. Instead of one or two forming on a given day in an area, there might be three or four occurring.

Ohio water crisis: Threat isn't going away soon

August 6, 2014 10:06 am | by John Seewer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The threat of toxins contaminating water supplies along western Lake Erie is far from over even after Toledo, Ohio, declared its water safe again. That's because the algae leaving behind the dangerous toxins each summer aren't supposed to peak until September. The chances of another water emergency over the next few months will depend on the winds, rains and temperatures that dictate how large the algae grow and where algae blooms end up.

Scientists uncover combustion mechanism to better predict warming by wildfires

August 5, 2014 11:02 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have uncovered key attributes of so-called “brown carbon” from wildfires, airborne atmospheric particles that may have influenced current climate models that failed to take the material’s warming effects into account. The work was described by a collaborative team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon Univ. and the Univ. of Montana in Nature Geosciences.

Study of aerosols stands to improve climate models

August 4, 2014 9:12 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Aerosols, tiny particles in the atmosphere, play a significant role in Earth's climate, scattering and absorbing incoming sunlight and affecting the formation and properties of clouds. Currently, the effect that these aerosols have on clouds represents the largest uncertainty among all influences on climate change.

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

July 30, 2014 4:55 pm | by Claire Sturgeon, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s "Through the Looking Glass", collaborators from Illinois and Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species evolve. The new model, called a mean field model for competition, incorporates the “Red Queen Effect,” which suggests that organisms must constantly increase fitness in order to compete with other ever-evolving organisms in an ever-changing environment.

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

July 30, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

For decades, strategic seed collections that help preserve biodiversity have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather. A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. A new approach called simulation-based planning was used to recommend how seeds are saved and reintroduced.

Climate change research goes to the extremes

July 30, 2014 11:50 am | by Angela Herring, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

By now, most sci­en­tists agree that the tem­per­a­ture of the planet is rising and that the increase is due to human activ­i­ties. But the jury still out regarding the vari­ability of that increase. Researchers using “big data” computational tools have recently taken a systematic approach to answering this question and their results point to both higher global temperatures and increasing variability among those temperature extremes.

Huge waves measured for first time in Arctic Ocean

July 30, 2014 8:03 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water that is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle of this century. Storms thus have the potential to create Arctic swell. A Univ. of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm.

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