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Rainfall can release aerosols

January 14, 2015 7:38 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Ever notice an earthy smell in the air after a light rain? Now scientists believe they may have identified the mechanism that releases this aroma, as well as other aerosols, into the environment. Using high-speed cameras, the researchers observed that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, it traps tiny air bubbles at the point of contact.

NASA awards $30M grant to Penn State

January 13, 2015 1:17 pm | by Patricia Craig, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Penn State Univ. will lead a five-year, $30 million mission to improve quantification of present-day carbon-related greenhouse gas sources and sinks. An improved understanding of these gases will advance our ability to predict and manage future climate change.

Estimated social cost of climate change not accurate

January 13, 2015 11:41 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

The economic damage caused by a ton of carbon dioxide emissions could be six times higher than the value that the U.S. now uses to guide current energy regulations, and possibly future mitigation policies, Stanford Univ. scientists say. A recent U.S. government study concluded, based on the results of three widely used economic impact models, an additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2015 would cause $37 worth of economic damages.

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Poll: Americans support labeling genetically modified foods

January 13, 2015 9:36 am | by By Mary Clare Jalonick - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

A large majority of Americans support labeling of genetically modified foods, whether they care about eating them or not. According to a December Associated Press-GfK poll, 66% of Americans favor requiring food manufacturers to put labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms, or foods grown from seeds engineered in labs. Only 7% are opposed to the idea, and 24% are neutral.

How rivers of meltwater on Greenland’s ice sheet contribute to rising sea levels

January 13, 2015 8:31 am | by Meg Sullivan, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Videos | Comments

As the largest single chunk of melting snow and ice in the world, the massive ice sheet that covers about 80% of Greenland is recognized as the biggest potential contributor to rising sea levels due to glacial meltwater. Until now, however, scientists’ attention has mostly focused on the ice sheet’s aquamarine lakes and on monster chunks of ice that slide into the ocean to become icebergs.

Small volcanic eruptions explain warming hiatus

January 12, 2015 8:13 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

The “warming hiatus” over the past 15 years has been caused in part by small volcanic eruptions. Scientists have known volcanoes cool the atmosphere because of the sulfur dioxide that is expelled during eruptions. Droplets of sulfuric acid that form when the gas combines with oxygen in the upper atmosphere can persist for many months, reflecting sunlight away from Earth and lowering temperatures at the surface and in the lower atmosphere.

Scientists: Great Lakes teeming with tiny plastic fibers

January 9, 2015 3:36 pm | by John Flesher, AP Environmental Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists who have reported that the Great Lakes are awash in tiny bits of plastic are raising new alarms about a little-noticed form of the debris turning up in sampling nets: synthetic fibers from garments, cleaning cloths and other consumer products. They are known as "microfibers", exceedingly fine filaments made of petroleum-based materials such as polyester and nylon that are woven together into fabrics.

How the “Beast Quake” is helping scientists track real earthquakes

January 9, 2015 10:31 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It’s not just the football players who have spent a year training. Univ. of Washington seismologists will again be monitoring the ground-shaking cheers of Seahawks fans, this year with a bigger team, better technology and faster response times. Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network will install instruments this Thursday to provide real-time monitoring of the stadium’s movement during the 2015 NFL playoffs.

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Mercury from gold mines accumulates far downstream

January 9, 2015 8:00 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have determined that the health risks taken on by artisanal, small-scale gold miners extend far beyond the miners themselves. Based on a study of gold-mining operations in Peru, the miners' practices not only contaminate local soil, sediment and water resources with mercury, they create hazardous levels of the neurotoxin in the food chain at least 350 miles downstream.

Cold comfort: U.S. weather in 2014 not too hot, disastrous

January 8, 2015 11:39 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

On a day when much of the U.S. struggled with bone-chilling cold, federal meteorologists said America's weather in 2014 wasn't really that bad. They announced Thursday that the U.S. average temperature in 2014 was half a degree warmer than normal and weather was less disastrous and drought-struck than previous years.

Algae blooms create their own favorable conditions

January 8, 2015 8:22 am | by John Cramer, Dartmouth College | News | Comments

Fertilizers are known to promote the growth of toxic cyanobacterial blooms in freshwater and oceans worldwide, but a new multi-institution study shows the aquatic microbes themselves can drive nitrogen and phosphorus cycling in a combined one-two punch in lakes.

Which fossil fuels must remain in the ground to limit global warming?

January 7, 2015 2:39 pm | by Bex Caygill, Univ. College London | News | Comments

A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2 C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.

Technology quickly traces source of tainted food

January 7, 2015 10:51 am | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

Foodborne illnesses kill roughly 3,000 Americans each year and about one in six are sickened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet most contaminated foods are never traced back to their source. That’s because existing methods to track tainted food following its supply chain from table to farm are highly inefficient, jeopardizing the health of millions and costing the food industry billions.

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Researchers create successful predictions of combustion reaction rates

January 6, 2015 8:22 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated, for the first time, a method to successfully predict pressure-dependent chemical reaction rates, an important breakthrough in combustion and atmospheric chemistry that is expected to benefit auto and engine manufacturers, oil and gas utilities and other industries that employ combustion models.

Electromagnetic waves linked to particle fallout in Earth’s atmosphere

January 5, 2015 3:31 pm | by Dartmouth College | News | Comments

In a new study that sheds light on space weather's impact on Earth, Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues show, for the first time, that plasma waves buffeting the planet's radiation belts are responsible for scattering charged particles into the atmosphere. The study is the most detailed analysis so far of the link between these waves and the fallout of electrons from the planet's radiation belts.

New concept of fuel cell for efficiency, environment

January 5, 2015 11:35 am | by Institute for Basic Science | News | Comments

The Center for Nanoparticle Research at the Institute for Basic Science has succeeded in proposing a new method to enhance fuel cell efficiency with the simultaneous removal of toxic heavy metal ions. The direct methanol fuel cell (DFMC) has been a promising energy conversion device for electrical vehicles and portable devices. However, the inevitable carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is one of the main factors reducing its performance.

Guide for healthy eating may consider environment

January 3, 2015 3:35 am | by By Mary Clare Jalonick - Associated Press | News | Comments

The government issues dietary guidelines every five years to encourage Americans to eat healthier. This year's version may look at what is healthy for the environment, too. A new focus on the environment would mean asking people to choose more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other plant-based foods—possibly at the expense of meat.

California puzzles over safety of driverless cars

December 23, 2014 11:15 am | by Justin Pritchard - Associated Press | News | Comments

California's Department of Motor Vehicles will miss a year-end deadline to adopt new rules for cars of the future because regulators first have to figure out how they'll know whether "driverless" vehicles are safe.        

NASA scientists find meteoric evidence of Mars water resevoir

December 19, 2014 2:26 pm | News | Comments

NASA and an international team of planetary scientists have found evidence in meteorites on Earth that indicates Mars has a distinct and global reservoir of water or ice near its surface.            

Study: Ancient Earth made its own water

December 17, 2014 10:06 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the forefront of Earth science: Did our planet make its own water through geologic processes, or did water come to us via icy comets from the far reaches of the solar system? The answer is likely both.

New tracers can identify coal ash contamination in water

December 16, 2014 2:20 pm | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool.

Carbon-trapping “sponges” can cut greenhouse gases

December 16, 2014 8:56 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell Univ. materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology.

Past global warming similar to today’s, but in two pulses

December 15, 2014 1:54 pm | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, researchers at the Univ. of Utah, the Univ. of Michigan and three other universities found.

How climate change could leave cities in the dark

December 15, 2014 11:30 am | by Jill Rosen, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Cities like Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. But a Johns Hopkins Univ. analysis finds climate change will give other major metro areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes.

Image: Clouds fill Grand Canyon

December 12, 2014 10:27 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

A rare weather phenomenon at the Grand Canyon had visitors looking out on a sea of thick clouds just below the rim. The total cloud inversion is expected to hang inside the canyon throughout Thursday.             

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