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A possible cause of the end-Permian mass extinction: Lemon juice?

November 25, 2013 11:05 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Rain as acidic as undiluted lemon juice may have played a part in killing off plants and organisms around the world during the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history. About 252 million years ago, the end of the Permian period brought about a worldwide collapse known as the Great Dying, during which a vast majority of species went extinct. The cause of such a massive extinction is a matter of scientific debate.

Even if emissions stop, carbon dioxide could warm Earth for centuries

November 25, 2013 8:29 am | by Morgan Kelly, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

According to recent Princeton Univ.-led research that simulated an emissions-free Earth, the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere could continue to warm our planet for hundreds of years, even if emission came to a sudden halt. The study suggests that it might take a lot less carbon than previously thought to reach the global temperature scientists deem unsafe.

Pre-industrial rise in methane gas had natural and anthropogenic causes

November 22, 2013 9:15 am | News | Comments

For years scientists have intensely argued over whether increases of potent methane gas concentrations in the atmosphere, from about 5,000 years ago to the start of the industrial revolution, were triggered by natural causes or human activities. A new study suggests the increase in methane likely was caused by both.

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Colorado's proposed emissions rules get a hearing

November 21, 2013 6:58 pm | by KRISTEN WYATT - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Colorado's proposal to curb air pollutants from oil and gas operations got praise from industry representatives and environmental activists Thursday at its first hearing. But both sides warned the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission that there will still be haggling over the particulars of three rule changes introduced this week.

Turmoil at climate talks as blame game heats up

November 20, 2013 8:15 pm | by Karl Ritter, Associated Press | News | Comments

With two days left at the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw, there was commotion Wednesday after negotiators for developing nations said they walked out of a late-night meeting on compensation for the impact of global warming. Rich and poor nations are struggling with a yawning rift as developing countries look for new ways to make developed countries accept responsibility for global warming and pay for it.

Connection found between nitrogen levels in water, toxic algae production

November 20, 2013 10:15 am | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that phosphorus fuels growth of algae in lakes and streams. Wisconsin Sea Grant researchers have found that nitrogen levels are a factor in whether or not these algae—specifically, blue-green algae—produce toxins. The findings, published in PLOS ONE have parts of the scientific community buzzing.

Study: More spending on fire suppression may lead to bigger fires

November 20, 2013 10:02 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The “firefighting trap” is a term often used by business managers to describe a shortsighted cycle of problem-solving: dealing with “fires,” or problems, as they arise, but failing to address the underlying cause, thereby increasing the chance that the same problem will reoccur in the future. Massachusetts Institute of Technology has looked at the original inspiration for this “quick-fix” management strategy: firefighting itself.

NASA determines hazards of deep-space radiation

November 19, 2013 10:11 am | by Paul Gabrielsen, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

An instrument on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has learned more than ever before about the high-energy hazards at and around the moon. These dangers are serious but manageable, and human exploration missions will rely on these measurements to know how much radiation to expect in deep space and how best to shield against it.

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Microbiologists reveal unexpected properties of methane-producing microbe

November 19, 2013 7:18 am | News | Comments

For 40 years, scientists thought they understood how certain bacteria work together to anaerobically digest biomass to produce methane gas. But now microbiologists have shown for the first time that one of the most abundant methane-producing microorganisms on Earth makes direct electrical connections with another species to produce the gas in a completely unexpected way.

Scientists brave Old Man Winter to dig out secrets of lake-effect snows

November 19, 2013 7:15 am | News | Comments

Rare anywhere, thundersnow is sometimes heard during the lake-effect snowstorms of the Great Lakes. The interaction of clouds and ice pellets inside these storms generates a charge, with lightning and thunder the result. But how to catch thundersnow in action? Doppler-on-Wheels, a system used for other types of storms, will try to find them this winter.

Japan dials back climate change emissions target

November 15, 2013 11:22 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Activists taking part in U.N. climate talks say Japan's decision to drastically scale back its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will hurt the battle against global warming. The new target approved by the Japanese Cabinet calls for reducing emissions by 3.8% from their 2005 level by 2020.

Next generation of biofuels is still years away

November 14, 2013 12:54 pm | by Jonathan Fahey, Associated Press | News | Comments

The first trickle of fuels made from agricultural waste is finally winding its way into the nation's energy supply. But the full benefits of this fuel source remain many years away, and ethanol, which was meant to be a stop-gap until non-food sources of fuel were found, has been far more damaging to the environment than the government predicted.

Prairies vanish in the U.S. push for green energy

November 13, 2013 11:15 am | by Chet Brokaw and Jack Gillum, Associated Press | News | Comments

Across the Dakotas and Nebraska, more than 1 million acres of the Great Plains are giving way to cornfields as farmers transform the wild expanse that once served as the backdrop for American pioneers. This expansion of the Corn Belt is fueled in part by America's green energy policy, which requires oil companies to blend billions of gallons of corn ethanol into their gasoline.

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Scientists find precipitation, global warming link

November 12, 2013 10:41 am | News | Comments

The rain in Spain may lie mainly on the plain, but the location and intensity of that rain is changing not only in Spain but around the globe. A new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists shows that observed changes in global (ocean and land) precipitation are directly affected by human activities and cannot be explained by natural variability alone.

Rethinking the chemical makeup of Earth’s mantle

November 12, 2013 8:24 am | News | Comments

A new discovery by researchers from the Univ. of Notre Dame could change prevailing assumptions about the chemical makeup of the Earth’s mantle. The Univ. of Notre Dame team worked in cooperation with Vadim Kamenetsky of the Univ. of Tasmania, Hobart (Australia) to learn the art of conducting chemical and mineralogical analyses of melt inclusions within crystals of the mineral magnetite (Fe3O4).

Methane-munching microorganisms meddle with metal

November 11, 2013 2:46 pm | News | Comments

Methane hydrates are a potential energy source, but they are also a potential source of global warming. A pair of cooperating microbes on the ocean floor "eats" this methane in a unique way, and a new study provides insights into their surprising nutritional requirements. Learning how these methane-munching organisms exist in extreme environments could provide clues about how the deep-sea environment might change in a warming world.

Preparing for hell and high water

November 11, 2013 10:21 am | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Changes are already happening to Earth's climate due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and large-scale agriculture. As changes get more pronounced, people everywhere will have to adjust. In this week's issue of the journal Science, an international group of researchers urge the development of science needed to manage climate risks and capitalize on unexpected opportunities.

Updating building energy codes: How much can your state save?

November 7, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

How much in energy and cost savings would your state realize if it updated its commercial building energy codes? You can find out in a new online publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The state-by-state reports were the product of a new building energy efficiency analysis tool developed by NIST.

Enhancing microalgae growth to boost green energy production

November 7, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

A groundbreaking nanoparticle system which stimulates the growth of microalgae has been developed by a team of Australian scientists. The technique creates an optical nanofilter that enhances the formation and yield of algae photopigments, namely chlorophyll, by altering the wavelengths of light absorbed by the algae.

Clean Air Act has improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed

November 7, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

A new study shows that the reduction of pollution emissions from power plants in the mid-Atlantic is making an impact on the quality of the water that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. The study confirms a decreased amount of emissions of nitrogen oxide from coal-fired power plants.

The oldest ice core: Finding a 1.5 million-year record of Earth’s climate

November 5, 2013 12:24 pm | News | Comments

How far into the past can ice-core records go? Scientists have now identified regions in Antarctica they say could store information about Earth’s climate and greenhouse gases extending as far back as 1.5 million years, almost twice as old as the oldest ice core drilled to date.

Appeals court to review approval of BP settlement

November 3, 2013 10:02 am | by MICHAEL KUNZELMAN - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

A year ago, lawyers for BP and Gulf Coast residents and businesses took turns urging a federal judge to approve their settlement for compensating victims of the company's massive 2010 oil spill. However, the one-time allies will be at odds when an appeals court hears objections to the multibillion-dollar deal.

Warming report sees violent, sicker, poorer future

November 2, 2013 5:37 pm | by SETH BORENSTEIN - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease already lead to human tragedies. They're likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change, a leaked draft of an international scientific report forecasts. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will issue a report on how global warming is already affecting the way people live and what will happen in the future.

Going deep to study long-term climate evolution

October 31, 2013 10:46 am | News | Comments

A Rice Univ.-based team of geoscientists is going to great lengths—from Earth’s core to its atmosphere—to get to the bottom of a long-standing mystery about the planet’s climate. The team will focus on how carbon moves between Earth’s external and internal systems.

Physicists provide new insights into coral skeleton formation

October 30, 2013 8:31 am | News | Comments

Researchers using transmission electron microscopy have examined the smallest building block of coral that can be identified: sphemlites. These studies have revealed three distinct regions whose formation could be directly correlated to the time of day. These findings could help scientists and environmentalists working to protect and conserve coral from the threats of acidification and rising water temperatures.

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