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Scientists track ocean currents using uranium-236

December 17, 2012 12:35 pm | News | Comments

Atmospheric nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s produced significant amounts of uranium-236. This isotope readily dissolves in seawater, giving researchers today the opportunity to investigate ocean currents by monitoring its concentration. Until recent advances in heavy ion mass spectrometry, however, this type of detection was considered impossible.

Top officials meet at ONR in response to Arctic changes

December 14, 2012 10:28 am | by David Smalley, Office of Naval Research | News | Comments

The rapid retreat of sea ice in the Arctic has attracted the attention of top naval officials who have recently held an Arctic Summit at the Office of Naval Research to discuss their reponse to what will likely be a increased volume of human activity in the region. Although the meeting did not discuss policy, it did highlight the many potential areas of impact, from oil drilling to tourism.

Cloud forest trees drink water through their leaves

December 13, 2012 9:59 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Using an electronic “leaf” that is able to detect when leaves receive moisture, a team of researchers working in Costa Rica’s cloud forests have discovered that tropical montane cloud forest can augment their water intake by drinking directly from the clouds. In dry but otherwise foggy areas, this ability to drink water through leaves is an essential survival strategy.

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New forecast system helps transoceanic flights avoid storms

December 12, 2012 9:00 am | News | Comments

A new NASA-funded prototype system developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research now is providing weather forecasts that can help flights avoid major storms as they travel over remote ocean regions. The eight-hour forecasts of potentially dangerous atmospheric conditions are designed for pilots, air traffic controllers and others involved in transoceanic flights.

Energy experts say drilling can be made cleaner

December 11, 2012 8:46 am | by Kevin Begos and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

In the Colorado mountains, a spike in air pollution has been linked to a boom in oil and gas drilling. About 800 miles away on the plains of north Texas, there's a drilling boom, too, but some air pollution levels have declined. Opponents of drilling point to Colorado and say it's dangerous. Companies point to Texas and say drilling is safe.

Detecting tunnels using seismic waves not as simple as it sounds

December 10, 2012 1:09 pm | News | Comments

Tunnels are often used to smuggle people and illicit goods between the border of the U.S. and Mexico. Researchers have attempted to use seismic waves to find these shallow tunnels, but current methods often miss them because of what is called the “halo effect”, in which fracturing and other geological anomalies create diffuse boundaries that hide open areas. A two-year study has shed light on this phenomenon and may lead to better results.

Crevasses, bendable ice affect stability of Antartica ice shelf

December 10, 2012 8:09 am | News | Comments

Gaping crevasses that penetrate upward from the bottom of the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula make it more susceptible to collapse, according to researchers who spent the last four Southern Hemisphere summers studying the massive Larsen C Ice Shelf. But the team, which used radar technology to study the composition of the ice shelf, also identified structures that contributed to the shelf’s resilience.

Safety testing system proposed for development of new chemicals

December 10, 2012 7:59 am | by Jocelyn Duffy, CMU | News | Comments

Claiming that recent product recalls and bans indicate that product manufacturers do not have adequate tools for identifying and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals in their products, a group of scientists from North America and Europe has developed a five-tiered testing system that manufacturers can use to ensure that the consumer products they produce are free of endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA or DDT.

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U.N. climate talks go into overtime in Qatar

December 7, 2012 11:18 am | by KARL RITTER - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

  Nearly 200 countries haggling over how to stop climate change—and how to pay for it—failed to reach a deal on schedule Friday, setting the stage for the wrangling to continue late into the night. The two-week U.N. conference in Doha was never meant to yield a global climate pact to curb emissions of greenhouse gases—that has been put off until 2015.

Researchers turn harmful greenhouse gas into tool for making pharmaceuticals

December 7, 2012 8:22 am | News | Comments

A team of chemists at the University of Southern California has developed a way to transform a hitherto useless ozone-destroying greenhouse gas that is the byproduct of Teflon and manufacture and transform it into reagents for producing pharmaceuticals. The method is now being patented.

Gene-altered mosquitoes could be used vs. dengue

December 6, 2012 9:26 am | by Jennifer Kay, Associated Press | News | Comments

Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some residents, however, are worried about the risks.

California's nitrous oxide emissions nearly triple current estimates

December 5, 2012 12:09 pm | News | Comments

Using a new method for estimating greenhouse gases that combines atmospheric measurements with model predictions, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have found that the level of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, in California may be 2.5 to 3 times greater than the current inventory. At that level, total nitrous oxide emissions would account for about 8% of California's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Ancient microbes survive beneath icy surface of Antarctic lake

December 3, 2012 10:48 am | News | Comments

Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation describe in a new publication a viable community of bacteria that ekes out a living in a dark, salty, and subfreezing environment beneath nearly 20 m of ice in one of Antarctica's most isolated lakes. The finding could have implications for the discovery of life in other extreme environments, including elsewhere in the solar system.

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Electrically spun fabric offers dual defense against pregnancy, HIV

November 30, 2012 1:52 pm | News | Comments

A new form of contraception could take an unexpected shape: electrically spun cloth with nanometer-sized fibers. These fibers, designed by a University of Washington team, can dissolve and release drugs, providing a cheap and discreet platform for protecting against unintended pregnancy, as well as HIV infection.

Study: Carbon dioxide could reduce crop yields

November 30, 2012 11:03 am | News | Comments

Beyond recent warnings from the United Nations about climate change tipping points, researchers are beginning to make practical insights about the effects a greater concentration of greenhouse gas has on areas of industry like agriculture. Researchers have recently found that certain high-yield dwarf varieties of plants such as rice are actually struggling to meet yield predictions because high carbon dioxide levels prevent them from producing a vital acid.

Emerging vector-borne diseases create public health challenge

November 30, 2012 10:35 am | News | Comments

A series of papers published recently in the journal The Lancet are calling attention to the rapid spread of vector-borne, zoonotic diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever, and Lyme disease. These diseases, spread to humans by animals like mosquitos and ticks, are advancing as a result of urbanization, land use, and more intensive agricultural practices.

A human-caused climate change signal emerges from the noise

November 30, 2012 7:40 am | News | Comments

By comparing simulations from 20 different computer models to satellite observations, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientists and colleagues from 16 other organizations have found that tropospheric and stratospheric temperature changes are clearly related to human activities.

Scientists develop new approach to support future climate projections

November 29, 2012 2:03 pm | News | Comments

Scientists have developed a new approach for evaluating past climate sensitivity data to help improve comparison with estimates of long-term climate projections developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The sensitivity of global temperature to changes in the Earth’s radiation balance (climate sensitivity) is a key factor for understanding past natural climate changes as well as potential future climate change.

Study: Kerosene lamps spew black carbon, should be replaced

November 29, 2012 9:12 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Results from field and lab tests have found that 7 to 9% of the kerosene in wick lamps—used for light in 250-300 million households without electricity—is converted to black carbon when burned. In comparison, only half of 1% of the emissions from burning wood is converted to black carbon. Kerosene is the primary source of light for more than a billion people in developing nations.

Many home couches contain potentially toxic flame retardants

November 28, 2012 12:28 pm | News | Comments

Scientists are reporting an increasing use of flame retardants in the main gathering spot for adults, children and family pets in the home—the couch. In recent study, Heather Stapleton and colleagues describe the first efforts to detect and identify the flame retardants applied to the foam inside couches found in millions of family rooms and living rooms across the U.S.

Scientists find ancient microbes in ice-sealed Antarctic Lake

November 26, 2012 5:24 pm | News | Comments

Shedding light on the limits of life in extreme environments, scientists have discovered abundant and diverse metabolically active bacteria in the brine of an Antarctic lake sealed under more than 65 feet of ice. The finding is surprising because previous studies indicate that the brine has been isolated from the surface environment—and external sources of energy—for at least 2,800 years.

Smartphones, labs to reveal health effects of environmental pollutants

November 20, 2012 10:27 am | News | Comments

A major new initiative in the European Union is being launched to build a complete picture of how environmental pollutants influence health. Researchers are being asked to use smartphones equipped with GPS and environmental sensors to monitor study participants and their exposure to potential hazards. This information will be combined with blood and urine analysis to investigate whether exposure to risk factors leaves chemical fingerprints that can be detected in bodily fluids.

Airborne particles smuggle pollutants to far reaches of globe

November 16, 2012 9:47 am | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Even though pollution from fossil fuel burning and forest fires should decay long before it travels to Arctic regions, it nevertheless has been shown to successfully complete this lofty journey. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have used SPLAT II, an instrument that can characterize millions of particles one-by-one, to determine what happens to these airborne particles over their lifetimes.

Researchers tap into CO2 storage potential of mine waste

November 15, 2012 12:08 pm | News | Comments

Digging, trucking and processing make mining an energy-intensive industry that emits greenhouse gases. However, mine waste rock that is rich in the mineral magnesium silicate has an inherent ability to react with CO2 and chemically "fix" it in place as magnesium carbonate. Mining engineers in Canada believe that this ability to store carbon dioxide could five to 10 times greater than total greenhouse gas production from some mine operations.

Scientists unravel the mystery of marine methane oxidation

November 13, 2012 10:39 am | News | Comments

Vast amounts of methane are stored under the ocean floor, and anaerobic oxidation of methane coupled to sulfate respiration prevents the release of this gas. Though discovered decades ago, the mechanism for how microorganisms performed this reaction has remained a mystery. According to recent findings, a single microorganism can do this on its own, and does not need to be carried out in collaboration with a bacterium as previously thought.

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