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New insight may help predict volcanic eruption behavior

May 6, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

Volcanologists in the U.K. have discovered that a process called frictional melting plays a role in determining how a volcano will erupt by dictating how fast magma can ascend to the surface, and how much resistance it faces en-route. The process occurs in lava dome volcanoes when magma and rocks melt as they rub against each other, creating a stop start movement in the magma as it makes its way towards the earth’s surface.

Food security may be increased by new agricultural production modeling

May 5, 2014 9:16 am | News | Comments

Farmers optimize crop production on their own lands by rotating crops, or testing soils to choose the right amount of fertilizers to apply. But is it possible to optimize production across a much bigger area, such as the eastern U.S.? That’s the question a team of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture scientists has begun to tackle by developing a sophisticated new modeling tool.

Research reveals value of large animals in fighting disease

May 5, 2014 8:12 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Evironment | News | Comments

Don't let their cute names fool you: The Mearns' pouch mouse and the delicate mouse can be dangerous. These and other rodents commonly harbor pathogens that can be deadly to humans. According to new research by Stanford Univ. scientists, populations of pathogen-carrying rodents can explode when larger animals die off in an ecosystem, leading to a doubling in the risk of potentially fatal diseases spreading to humans.

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Undersea warfare: Viruses hijack deep-sea bacteria at hydrothermal vents

May 2, 2014 9:04 am | News | Comments

Microbiologists have recently studied unseen armies of viruses and bacteria as they wage war at hydrothermal vents more than a mile beneath the ocean's surface. They have found that viruses infect bacterial cells to obtain tiny globules of elemental sulfur stored inside the bacterial cells. Instead of stealing this bounty, the viruses force the bacteria to burn their valuable sulfur reserves, then use the unleashed energy to replicate.

Experts question ice wall at Japan nuclear plant

May 2, 2014 7:24 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Experts on Friday expressed skepticism about a plan to build a costly underground frozen wall at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, a development that could delay the start of construction on the project. The experts and Japanese nuclear regulatory officials said during a meeting in Tokyo that they weren't convinced the project can resolve a serious contaminated water problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Network for tracking earthquakes exposes glacier activity

May 1, 2014 8:32 am | News | Comments

Alaska's seismic network records thousands of quakes produced by glaciers, capturing valuable data that scientists could use to better understand their behavior, but instead their seismic signals are set aside as oddities. The current earthquake monitoring system could be "tweaked" to target the dynamic movement of the state's glaciers, suggests State Seismologist Michael West.

Ozone levels drop 20% with switch from ethanol to gasoline

April 29, 2014 9:35 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ. study by an economist and a chemist reports that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to mostly switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.

Study: Graphene not all good

April 29, 2014 7:45 am | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Graphene oxide nanoparticles are an oxidized form of graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms prized for its strength, conductivity and flexibility. In a first-of-its-kind study of how a material some think could transform the electronics industry moves in water, researchers have found that these graphene oxide nanoparticles are very mobile in lakes or streams and therefore likely to cause negative environmental impacts if released.

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Fukushima residents unsure of return to no-go zone

April 29, 2014 3:22 am | by Yuri Kageyama - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Whenever Kazuhiro Onuki goes home, to his real home that is, the 66-year-old former librarian dons protective gear from head to toe and hangs a dosimeter around his neck. Grass grows wild in the backyard. The ceiling leaks. Thieves have ransacked the shelves, leaving papers and clothing all over the floor so there is barely room to walk. Mouse dung is scattered like raisins. There is no running water or electricity.

How to count methane emissions

April 28, 2014 7:29 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In formulating policies to address greenhouse gas emissions, or evaluating the potential impact of different energy technologies on global climate change, one of the thorniest issues is how to account for the very distinctive characteristics of various different gases. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, as well as a significant byproduct of using natural gas. But a direct comparison between methane and carbon dioxide is complicated.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

April 25, 2014 7:46 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering MIT | News | Comments

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion upon billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species.

Microscopic organism plays big role in ocean carbon cycling

April 24, 2014 4:44 pm | News | Comments

It’s broadly understood that the world’s oceans play a crucial role in the global-scale cycling and exchange of carbon between Earth’s ecosystems and atmosphere. Now scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography have taken a leap forward in understanding the microscopic underpinnings of these processes. The discovery involves “recycling” bacteria that play an important role in regulating the ocean’s storage of carbon dioxide.

Today’s Antarctic region once as hot as California, Florida

April 22, 2014 8:20 am | by Eric Gershon, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Parts of ancient Antarctica were as warm as today’s California coast, and polar regions of the southern Pacific Ocean registered 21st-century Florida heat, according to scientists using a new way to measure past temperatures. The findings underscore the potential for increased warmth at Earth’s poles and the associated risk of melting polar ice and rising sea levels, the researchers said.

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Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

April 21, 2014 4:21 am | by Jennifer Agiesta - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they express bigger doubts as concepts that scientists consider to be truths get further from our own experiences and the present time, an Associated Press-GfK poll found. Americans have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 billion years ago.

Researchers find 3-million-year-old landscape beneath Greenland Ice Sheet

April 18, 2014 3:15 pm | by Joshua Brown, Univ. of Vermont, and Maria-José Viñas, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

Glaciers and ice sheets are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything, including vegetation, soil and even the top layer of bedrock. So a team of university scientists and a NASA colleague were greatly surprised to discover an ancient tundra landscape preserved under the Greenland Ice Sheet, below two miles of ice.

Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet

April 17, 2014 2:56 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, a newly found planet is the most Earth-like planet yet detected. Astronomers say the distant, rocky world is similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life. The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

Fish from acidic ocean waters less able to smell predators

April 16, 2014 8:05 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Fish living on coral reefs where carbon dioxide seeps from the ocean floor were less able to detect predator odor than fish from normal coral reefs, according to a new study. The study confirms laboratory experiments showing that the behavior of reef fishes can be seriously affected by increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the ocean.

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

April 15, 2014 3:17 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by a team of astronomers. In fact, sometimes it helps because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them, are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

Moth study suggests hidden climate change impacts

April 15, 2014 11:23 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A 32-year study of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that scientists may be underestimating the impacts of climate change on animals and plants because much of the harm is hidden from view. The study analyzed populations of 80 moth species and found that 90% of them were either stable or increasing throughout the study period, from 1978 to 2009.

An Arctic ozone hole? Not quite

April 15, 2014 11:06 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers and the public have wondered whether we might someday see a similarly extreme depletion of ozone over the Arctic. But a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study finds some cause for optimism: Ozone levels in the Arctic haven’t yet sunk to the extreme lows seen in Antarctica, because international efforts to limit ozone-depleting chemicals have been successful.

The Benefits of Single-particle ICP MS for the Characterization of Engineered Nanomaterials

April 15, 2014 8:41 am | by Rob Thomas and Chady Stephan | Articles | Comments

The unique properties of engineered nanoparticles have created intense interest in their environmental behavior. Due to the increased use of nanotechnology in consumer products, industrial applications and health care technology, nanoparticles are more likely to enter the environment. For this reason, it’s not only important to know the type, size and distribution of nanoparticles, but it’s also crucial to understand their impact.

A few “problem wells” source of greenhouse gas

April 15, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

High levels of the greenhouse gas methane were found above shale gas wells at a production point not thought to be an important emissions source, according to a study jointly led by Purdue and Cornell universities. The findings could have implications for the evaluation of the environmental impacts from natural gas production.

Cost of fighting warming 'modest,' says UN panel

April 13, 2014 12:20 pm | by Karl Ritter - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The cost of keeping global warming in check is "relatively modest," but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the head of the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change said Sunday. Such gases, mainly carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, rose on average by 2.2% a year in 2000-2010.

Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain

April 11, 2014 11:29 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

The rise and fall of acid rain is a global experiment whose results are preserved in the geologic record. By analyzing samples from the Greenland ice sheet, Univ. of Washington atmospheric scientists found clear evidence of the U.S. Clean Air Act. They also discovered a link between air acidity and how nitrogen is preserved in layers of snow.

Artificial cooling tricky topic for climate panel

April 10, 2014 5:19 pm | by Karl Ritter, Associated Press | News | Comments

The U.N.'s expert panel on climate change is under pressure this week as it considers whether geoengineering should be part of the tool-kit that governments use to keep global warming in check. Drafts leaked before the conference only mentioned one of the proposed options, removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it underground. But some countries support solar radiation management as well.  

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