Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90% of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out in what was the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. But pinpointing the culprit has been difficult, and controversial. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers may have found enough evidence to convict the guilty parties, but you’ll need a microscope to see the killers.
Experts say a bigger earthquake along the lesser-known fault that gave Southern California a moderate shake on Friday could do more damage to the region than the long-dreaded "Big One" from the more famous San Andreas Fault. The Puente Hills thrust fault stretches from northern Orange County under downtown Los Angeles into Hollywood, a heavily populated swath of the Los Angeles area.
National efforts in the last decade to clear the air of dangerous particulate matter have been so successful that most urban areas have already attained the next benchmark, according to new research by Rice Univ. Atmospheric researchers at Rice studied the state implementation plans from 23 regions mandated by the EPA to reduce particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 um (PM 2.5) to less than 15 micrograms per cubic meter by 2009.
Phosphorus can be found in fertilizers, drinks and detergents, and it accumulates in waterways, polluting them. For this reason, researchers in Germany have developed a new platform for recovering this valuable but harmful element from water. They have attached bonding sites for phosphorus to particles so that they fish the phosphate anions out of the water and carry them “piggyback”. The particles can be applied using a magnet.
Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in New Delhi on Saturday. The primary goal: to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity and produce a usable product at low cost. The World Bank estimates the annual global cost of poor sanitation at $260 billion and India is by far the worst culprit.
If you think of climate change as a hazard for some far-off polar bears years from now, you're mistaken. That's the message from top climate scientists gathering in Japan this week to assess the impact of global warming. In fact, they will say, the dangers of a warming Earth are immediate and very human.
Far beneath the surface of the ocean, deep currents act as conveyer belts, channeling heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients around the globe. A new study by the Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Irina Marinov and Raffaele Bernardello and colleagues from McGill Univ. has found that recent climate change may be acting to slow down one of these conveyer belts, with potentially serious consequences for the future of the planet’s climate.
Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in U.S. federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn't work.
An international research team has documented evidence suggesting that part of the reason that the Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars lies with a built-in atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator. Basically, ”fresh” rock exposed by uplift also emits carbon through a chemical weathering process, which replenishes the atmospheric carbon dioxide.
In 2010, researchers demonstrated for the first time that atmospheric information could be captured by an airborne GPS device. Now, a new technique led by a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography stands to improve weather models and hurricane forecasting by detecting precise conditions in the atmosphere through a new GPS system. A first-time demonstration using this system has captured key meteorological data from aircraft.
The White House on Wednesday announced an initiative to provide private companies and local governments better access to already public climate data. The idea is that with this localized data they can help the public understand the risks they face, especially in coastal areas. The government also is working with Google, Microsoft and Intel, to come up with tools to make communities more resilient in dealing with weather extremes.
Scientists have revived a moss plant that was frozen beneath the Antarctic ice and seemingly lifeless since the days of Attila the Hun. Dug up from Antarctica, the simple moss was about 1,600 years old, black and looked dead. But when it was thawed in a British lab's incubator, it grew again.
The frustrated attempts of a Univ. of California, Los Angeles graduate student to quantify the amount of water draining from Greenland's melting ice sheet led him to devise a new way to measure river flows from outer space, he and his professor report in a new study. The new approach relies exclusively on the measurements of a river's width over time, which can be obtained from freely available satellite imagery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.