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The rush to rain

March 17, 2014 8:31 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new analysis of satellite data reveals a link between dust in North Africa and West Asia and stronger monsoons in India. The study shows that dust in the air absorbs sunlight west of India, warming the air and strengthening the winds carrying moisture eastward. This results in more monsoon rainfall about a week later in India.

Bionic plants

March 17, 2014 7:36 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.

Innovative solar-powered toilet ready for India unveiling

March 14, 2014 11:54 am | News | Comments

A self-contained, waterless toilet, designed and built using a $777,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has the capability of heating human waste enough to sterilize the waste and create biochar, a highly porous charcoal. The toilet, fueled by the sun, is being developed to help some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation, and will be unveiled in India this month.

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Recovering metals and minerals from waste

March 13, 2014 9:15 am | News | Comments

Scarcity of clean water is one of the most serious global challenges. In its spearhead program, a research center in Finland developed energy-efficient methods for reuse of water in industrial processes and means for recovering valuable minerals and materials from waste for recycling. Toward this purpose, rapid membrane-based tools were developed for identification of environmental pollutants.

Contaminated water still troubles Japan nuke plant

March 10, 2014 8:20 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The radioactive water that has accumulated at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant remains the biggest problem hampering the cleanup process three years after the disaster. The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has stabilized substantially since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed its power and cooling system, triggering meltdowns.

New technique allows frequent water quality monitoring for pollutants

March 5, 2014 10:19 am | News | Comments

Incomplete or infrequent water quality data can give an inaccurate picture of what’s happening in water resources. Using UV-Vis spectrometers that can rapidly collect data, researchers have developed a new technique o allow researchers and natural resource managers to collect significantly more information on water quality to better inform policy decisions.

New data confirms: Sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade

March 5, 2014 9:55 am | News | Comments

According to new research, the ice-free season across the Arctic is getting longer by five days per decade. New analysis of satellite data shows the Arctic Ocean absorbing ever more of the sun’s energy in summer, leading to an ever later appearance of sea ice in the autumn. In some regions, autumn freeze-up is occurring up to 11 days per decade later than it used to.

Dimer molecules aid study of exoplanet pressure, hunt for life

March 4, 2014 4:07 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Astronomers at the Univ. of Washington have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule. And if there is life out in space, scientists may one day use this same technique to detect its biosignature, the telltale chemical signs of its presence, in the atmosphere of an alien world.

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Peat soils as gigantic batteries

February 28, 2014 4:02 pm | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurch | News | Comments

Researchers from ETH Zurich and the Univ. of Tubingen in Europehave recently described a process that suppresses the formation of methane in soils that are rich in humic substances. The soils act as a battery, releasing to and accepting electrons from soil bacteria depending on the presence of oxygen. The study shows that electron transfer to and from humic substances is an important process with global implications for methane release.

Nuclear dump leak raises questions about cleanup

February 28, 2014 2:56 pm | by Jeri Clausing, Associated Press | News | Comments

For 15 years trucks have been hauling decades worth of plutonium-contaminated waste to what is supposed to be a safe and final resting place a half mile underground in the salt beds of the Permian Basin in New Mexico. But back-to-back accidents and an above-ground radiation release shuttered the government's only deep underground nuclear waste dump and raised questions about the $5-billion-a-year program for cleaning up legacy waste.

Biomass industry must prepare for water constraints

February 28, 2014 7:43 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The viability of the bioenergy crops industry could be strengthened by regulatory efforts to address nonpoint source pollution from agricultural sources. That, in turn, means that the industry should be strategic in developing metrics that measure the ability to enact positive changes in agricultural landscapes, particularly through second-generation perennial crops, according to a paper by a Univ. of Illinois expert in bioenergy law.

Methane leaks from palm oil wastewater are a climate concern

February 27, 2014 2:17 pm | News | Comments

In recent years, palm oil production has come under fire from environmentalists concerned about the deforestation of land in the tropics to make way for new palm plantations. Now there is a new reason to be concerned about palm oil’s environmental impact, according to researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder.

Still-fresh remnants of Exxon Valdez oil protected by boulders

February 27, 2014 11:21 am | News | Comments

Twenty-five years after the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, beaches on the Alaska Peninsula hundreds of kilometers from the incident still harbor small hidden pockets of surprisingly unchanged oil, according to new research being presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Hawaii this week.

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2nd Annual Chromatography Community Mixer

February 27, 2014 11:12 am | Events

This event will bring together scientist from chromatography discussion groups throughout North America for discussion, refreshments and music. Tickets, which are required for entry to this free event, are available from local and regional chromatography discussion groups and from chromatography equipment and media vendors.

Study: New gas-phase compounds form organic particle ingredients

February 27, 2014 10:51 am | News | Comments

So-called extremely low-volatility organic compounds, which are produced by plants, have been detected for the first time during field and laboratory experiments in Finland and Germany. The results may help to explain discrepancies between observations and theories about how volatile organic compounds produced by vegetation are converted into atmospheric aerosol. This in turn should improve existing climate models.

Silver gone astray

February 25, 2014 5:04 pm | News | Comments

It has long been known that free, ionic silver particles can be highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Yet we a lack of detailed knowledge about the doses required to trigger a response and how the organisms deal with the stress. To learn more about the cellular processes, scientists in Switzerland subjected algae to a range of silver concentrations. The results are reassuring, but the presence of other stressors could compound the problem.

New special air filter blocks small particles from getting inside cars

February 25, 2014 9:31 am | News | Comments

While taking in the scenery during long road trips, passengers also may be taking in potentially harmful ultrafine particles (UFPs) that come into the car through outdoor air vents. Closing the vents reduces UFPs, but causes exhaled carbon dioxide to build up. Now, scientists have developed a high-efficiency cabin air filter that could reduce UFP exposure by 93% and keep carbon dioxide levels low.

Volcanoes contribute to recent warming “hiatus”

February 24, 2014 8:19 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Volcanic eruptions in the early part of the 21st century have cooled the planet, according to a study led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This cooling partly offset the warming produced by greenhouse gases. Despite continuing increases in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, and in the total heat content of the ocean, global-mean temperatures at the surface of the planet have shown relatively little warming since 1998.

Nanotracer tester tells about wells

February 24, 2014 7:55 am | News | Comments

A tabletop device invented at Rice Univ. can tell how efficiently a nanoparticle would travel through a well and may provide a wealth of information for oil and gas producers. The device gathers data on how tracers, microscopic particles that can be pumped into and recovered from wells, move through deep rock formations that have been opened by hydraulic fracturing.

Scientists study how marine bacteria release cloud-making compound

February 19, 2014 2:30 pm | by Alan Flurry, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Univ. of Georgia (UGA) marine scientists are uncovering the mechanisms that regulate the natural production of an anti-greenhouse gas. A new $2 million National Science Foundation grant will allow the UGA-led research group to further document how genes in ocean microbes transform sulfur into clouds in the Earth's atmosphere.

Study indicates improvements needed in handling methane emissions

February 19, 2014 7:23 am | News | Comments

A new study led by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis says that the total impact of switching to natural gas depends heavily on leakage of methane during the natural gas life cycle, and suggests that more can be done to reduce methane emissions and to improve measurement tools which help inform policy choices.

Researchers warn against abrupt stop to geoengineering method

February 18, 2014 11:03 am | News | Comments

As a range of climate change mitigation scenarios are discussed, Univ. of Washington researchers have found that the injection of sulfate particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and curb the effects of global warming could pose a severe threat if not maintained indefinitely and supported by strict reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Study: Arctic getting darker, making Earth warmer

February 18, 2014 8:39 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The Arctic isn't nearly as bright and white as it used to be because of more ice melting in the ocean, and that's turning out to be a global problem, a new study says. With more dark, open water in the summer, less of the sun's heat is reflected back into space. So the entire Earth is absorbing much more heat than expected.

Huge U.S. thermal plant opens as industry grows

February 14, 2014 11:43 am | by Brian Skoloff and Michael R. Blood, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which sprawls across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened on Feb. 13 after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants. The plant, the world’s largest of its type, will test a balance between conservation and green energy growth.

Research reveals give-and-take of urban temperature mitigating technologies

February 13, 2014 1:41 pm | News | Comments

Greenhouse-gas induced warming and megapolitan expansion are both significant drivers of our warming planet, but how well adaptation technologies, such as cool roofs and green roofs, perform remains uncertain. Now, a team of researchers has begun exploring the relative effectiveness of some of the most common adaptation technologies aimed at reducing warming from urban expansion.

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