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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.

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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.

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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.

Capturing carbon with clever trapdoors

November 8, 2012 11:22 am | News | Comments

One method of capturing carbon dioxide is through molecular sieve that is an ultra-fine filter system that captures a variety of molecules that need further filtering. Engineers in Australia have developed new sieve that allows only carbon dioxide molecules to be trapped and stored, helping to eliminate the cost and energy typically required for filtering.

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A strange diet for methane-consuming microorganisms

November 6, 2012 12:36 pm | News | Comments

To keep cellular systems running all cells need fuel. For certain ocean-dwelling microorganisms, methane can be such a fuel. But researchers studying these creatures had previously assumed that the methane they consumed was used as a carbon source. However, recent studies have surprisingly shown that is not the case and will force scientists to reevaluate the microorganisms’ role in inactivating environmental methane.

After long-ago mass extinction, global warming hindered species' recovery

November 5, 2012 9:53 am | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered why plants and animals had a hard time recovering from the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history 250 million years ago. The reason: global warming. Because of environmental consequences of rising temperatures, those species that survived the extinction didn’t fully recover for 5 million years.

Small marine organisms' big changes could affect world climate

October 30, 2012 1:08 pm | News | Comments

In the future, warmer waters could significantly change ocean distribution of populations of phytoplankton, tiny organisms that could have a major effect on climate change. Researchers have recently shown that by the end of the 21st century, warmer oceans will cause populations of these marine microorganisms to thrive near the poles and shrink in equatorial waters.

Satellite data reveals power of solar wind

October 25, 2012 12:28 pm | by Karen C. Fox, NASA | News | Comments

A new study based on data from European Space Agency’s Cluster mission shows that it is easier for the solar wind to penetrate Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, than had previously been thought. Scientists have, for the first time, directly observed the presence of certain waves that show Earth’s atmosphere behaving more like a sieve than a barrier.

Opposite behaviors? Arctic sea ice shrinks while Antarctic ice grows

October 24, 2012 8:15 am | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA | News | Comments

A new NASA study shows that from 1978 to 2010 the total extent of sea ice surrounding Antarctica in the Southern Ocean grew by roughly 6,600 square miles every year, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. However, this growth rate is not nearly as large as the decrease in the Arctic, which has scientists questioning the reasons for the growth. Atmospheric circulation may be one cause.

Google cameras map popular Grand Canyon trails

October 24, 2012 6:40 am | by FELICIA FONSECA - Associated Press | News | Comments

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) — Google and its street-view cameras already have taken users to narrow cobblestone alleys in Spain using a tricycle, inside the Smithsonian with a push cart and to British Columbia's snow-covered slopes by snowmobile. The search giant now has brought its...

Satellites track rapid changes in the Earth’s core

October 23, 2012 10:05 am | News | Comments

Changes in the earth's magnetic field in a region that stretches from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean have a close relationship with variations of gravity in this area. Because geophysicists can follow these changes using highly accurate measurements from certain satellites, they can make conclusions about what is happening in the Earth’s outer core.

Air pollution study clears the air on diesel versus gas emissions

October 23, 2012 9:49 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is a major component of smog, and people have long argued whether large diesel trucks are a bigger source of this pollution than gasoline-fueled cars. Recent University of California Berkeley research shows that diesel exhaust contributes 15 times more than gas emissions per liter of fuel burned, and can be responsible for a majority of a region’s SOA.

Targeting solar geoengineering to minimize risk, inequality

October 22, 2012 9:30 am | News | Comments

By tailoring geoengineering efforts by region and by need, a new model promises to maximize the effectiveness of solar radiation management while mitigating its potential side effects and risks. The study explores the feasibility of using solar geoengineering to counter the loss of Arctic sea ice.

Acidification recorder recovered from icy Antarctic waters

October 19, 2012 10:23 am | News | Comments

A research team from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Portland State University has retrieved a sensor containing previously unavailable data about changes in chemistry or acidification in the remote waters of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. The device collected data through June, when the battery expired in the harsh polar sea.

Food vs. fuel: Is there surplus land for bioenergy?

October 18, 2012 8:37 am | News | Comments

Increasing demand for bioenergy feedstock is generating land-use conflicts and food vs. fuel controversies. An team of 11 scientists from seven European countries and the United States have recently published a study that gives scientific background to the debate. It supports a reassessment of the land available for bioenergy feedstock production.

Elevated indoor carbon dioxide impairs decision-making performance

October 18, 2012 8:04 am | News | Comments

Overturning decades of conventional wisdom, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide can significantly impair people's decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density.

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