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Technologies to characterize natural gas emissions tested in field experiments

October 29, 2013 8:08 am | News | Comments

A new collaborative science program is pioneering the development of ultra-sensitive methane-sensing technology. Methane, the principal component of natural gas, is one of many gases whose presence in the atmosphere contributes to global climate change. It is a goal of industry and scientists alike to better constrain the source flux of fugitive methane emissions from man-made activities.

Scientists dig for fossils in L.A. a century later

October 28, 2013 3:28 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Digs over the years at the La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of Los Angeles have unearthed bones of mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats and dire wolves that became trapped in ponds of sticky asphalt. But it's the smaller discoveries, like plants, insects and rodents, that in recent years are shaping scientists' views of life in the region 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.

Gold nanoparticles give an edge in recycling carbon dioxide

October 25, 2013 8:00 am | News | Comments

By tuning gold nanoparticles to just the right size, researchers from Brown Univ. have developed a catalyst that selectively converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, an active carbon molecule that can be used to make alternative fuels and commodity chemicals.

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Innovation kills waterborne microorganisms, produces safer drinking water

October 24, 2013 8:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Purdue Univ. have developed prototypes of a water disinfection system to take advantage of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, which is plentiful in many areas where clean water is lacking. Their water disinfection system pumps water through a UV-transparent pipe placed on a parabolic reflector, effectively magnifying the effect of UV radiation, which damages microorganism DNA.

How climate change affects microbial life below the seafloor

October 22, 2013 4:21 pm | News | Comments

For more a decade scientists have investigated microbial life under the seafloor off the coast of Peru. Traces of past microbial life in sediments reveal how these ecosystems have responded to climate change over hundreds of thousands of years. Little is known about how the “deep biosphere” developed over millennia and how microbial life influences the cycling of carbon in the oceans.

"Killer apps" that could keep you healthy

October 22, 2013 12:38 pm | News | Comments

For those wanting to keep their distance from health threats like E. coli-contaminated lettuce or the flu, there are two upcoming apps for that. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory hosted a competition last summer where graduate students used Android development tools and web-based analytics to design mobile apps that could help fight the threats of food-related illnesses and the flu.

Calif. finds more instances of offshore fracking

October 21, 2013 7:56 am | by Alicia Chang and Jason Dearen, Associated Press | News | Comments

In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach—some of the region's most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions—oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades. This discovery made from drilling records and interviews shows that offshore fracking is more widespread and frequent that state officials believed.

How important are plants on Earth?

October 17, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

Enhanced growth of Earth's leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet's transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers based at Princeton Univ. found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years.

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Study: Climate change will wreak havoc on oceans by 2100

October 17, 2013 8:14 am | News | Comments

A new study looking at the impacts of climate change on the world’s ocean systems concludes that by the year 2100, about 98% of the oceans will be affected by acidification, warming temperatures, low oxygen or lack of biological productivity. These biogeochemical changes triggered by greenhouse gas emissions will not only affect marine habitats and organisms, but will often co-occur in areas that are heavily used by humans.

Stanford drones open way to new world of coral research

October 16, 2013 2:43 pm | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists still know relatively little about the world’s biggest corals, where they are and how long they have lived. Camera-equipped flying robots which have the ability to film these corals from the air promise new insights into climate change effects on important ecosystems.

Without plants, Earth would cook under billions of tons of additional carbon

October 16, 2013 2:19 pm | by Morgan Kelly, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Enhanced growth of Earth's leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet's transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers have found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years.

A clearer look at Martian clouds

October 8, 2013 8:30 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

At first glance, Mars’ clouds might be mistaken for those on Earth. Given what scientists know about the Red Planet’s atmosphere, these clouds likely consist of either carbon dioxide or water-based ice crystals. But it’s difficult to know the precise conditions that give rise to such clouds without sampling directly from a Martian cloud. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have now done the next-best thing.

Giant channels discovered beneath Antarctic ice shelf

October 7, 2013 2:38 am | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered huge ice channels beneath a floating ice shelf in Antarctica. At 250 m high, the channels are almost as tall as the Eiffel tower and stretch hundreds of kilometers along the ice shelf. The channels are likely to influence the stability of the ice shelf and their discovery will help researchers understand how the ice will respond to changing environmental conditions.

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Global electric circuit model to help scientists understand electricity in the air

October 4, 2013 11:35 am | News | Comments

Electrical currents born from thunderstorms are able to flow through the atmosphere and around the globe, causing a detectable electrification of the air even in places with no thunderstorm activity. But a good understanding of atmospheric conductivity has eluded scientists. Now, a research team in Colorado has developed a global electric circuit model by adding an additional layer to a climate model.

What the death of a spruce tree means

October 3, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Examining a long-lived forest, researchers have found that Black Spruce trees, which dominate the northern forests of North America, succumb about five years after being weakened by environmental stresses. Without rejuvenating fire, the dead trees aren't being replaced by new ones. The result will help researchers better understand how climate change affects the health of forests, and how forests affect the severity of climate change.

Radioactive shale gas contaminants found at wastewater discharge site

October 2, 2013 11:56 am | News | Comments

According to a recent study led by scientists at Duke Univ., elevated levels of radioactivity, salts and metals have been found in river water and sediments at a site where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged into a western Pennsylvania creek.

Cassini detects plastic ingredient on Saturn moon

October 1, 2013 1:05 pm | News | Comments

The Cassini spacecraft has found small amounts of propylene, a chemical used to make storage containers and other products, in the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon Titan. The spacecraft’s composite infrared spectrometer located the chemical in Titan’s stratosphere.

Federal trial over Gulf oil spill to resume

September 30, 2013 3:05 am | by MICHAEL KUNZELMAN - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The trial resumes Monday for the federal litigation spawned by BP's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with a focus on the company's response to the deadly disaster. At the start of the trial's second phase, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is expected to hear two hours of opening statements from lawyers for BP and for Gulf Coast residents and businesses who claim the spill cost them money.

El Niño cycle has a big effect on a major greenhouse gas

September 27, 2013 7:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Scientists in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Global Change Science have developed a highly detailed model that simulates levels of nitrous oxide emissions in different regions and ecosystems of the world. Based on local soil temperature and moisture content, some of the simulations were able to reproduce actual nitrous oxide measurements. From their simulations, the researchers discovered a surprising pattern.

China’s synthetic natural gas plants will have heavy environmental toll

September 26, 2013 9:01 am | News | Comments

Coal-powered synthetic natural gas plants being planned in China would produce seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional natural gas plants, and use up to 100 times the water as shale gas production, according to a new study by Duke Univ. researchers. These environmental costs have been largely neglected in the drive to meet the nation’s growing energy needs, the researchers say.

A unique look into the Sun’s chromosphere

September 25, 2013 12:54 pm | News | Comments

Three months after the flight of the balloon-borne solar observatory Sunrise, scientists in Germany now present unique insights into the central layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, the chromosphere. The Sunrise data provide the first high-resolution images of this region, lying between the Sun’s visible surface and the corona, in ultraviolet light.

Turning plastic bags into high-tech materials

September 25, 2013 12:08 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Australia have developed a process for turning waste plastic bags into a high-tech nanomaterial. The furnace-driven process uses non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags to produce carbon layers that line pores in nanoporous alumina membranes. The result is carbon nanotube membranes.

What 95% certainty of warming means to scientists

September 24, 2013 1:44 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill. They'll even put a number on how certain they are about climate change. But that number isn't 100%. It's 95%. And for some non-scientists, that's just not good enough.

Spinning CDs to clean sewage water

September 24, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

By coating compact disks in photocatalytic compounds and spinning them to clean water, scientists in Taiwan have found a potential new use for old music CDs. The disks, equipped with tiny zinc oxide nanorods, are able to break down more than 95% of the contaminants in methyl orange dye, a benchmark organic compound for testing photocatalytic reactions.

FDA lays out rules for some smartphone health apps

September 24, 2013 8:32 am | News | Comments

With the rise of the iPhone, Android and other mobile devices has come a flood of applications designed to help people stay healthy. Food and Drug Administration officials say they will now begin regulating applications and gadgets that work with smartphones to take medical readings and help users monitor their health.

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