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Water in smog may reveal pollution sources

March 3, 2015 11:14 am | by Lee Siegel, Senior Science Writer, Univ. of Utah Communications | News | Comments

The chemical signature of water vapor emitted by combustion sources such as vehicles and furnaces has been found in the smoggy winter inversions that often choke Salt Lake City. The discovery may give researchers a new tool to track down the sources of pollutants and climate-changing carbon dioxide gas.

On thin ice

March 3, 2015 10:41 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It’s no surprise that Arctic sea ice is thinning. What is new is just how long, how steadily, and how much it has declined. Univ. of Washington researchers compiled modern and historic measurements to get a full picture of how Arctic sea ice thickness has changed. The results show a thinning in the central Arctic Ocean of 65% between 1975 and 2012.

Syria's civil war linked partly to drought, global warming

March 2, 2015 5:09 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The conflict that has torn Syria apart can be traced, in part, to a record drought worsened by global warming, a new study says. In what scientists say is one of the most detailed and strongest connections between violence and human-caused climate change, researchers trace the effects of Syria's drought from the collapse of farming, to the migration of 1.5 million farmers to the cities, and then to poverty and civil unrest.

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Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

March 2, 2015 9:00 am | by Univ. of Southampton | News | Comments

A study of how climate change has affected emperor penguins over the last 30,000 years found that only three populations may have survived during the last ice age, and that the Ross Sea in Antarctica was likely the refuge for one of these populations.

Sun has more impact on climate in cool periods

February 27, 2015 10:24 am | by Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

The activity of the sun is an important factor in the complex interaction that controls our climate. New research now shows the impact of the sun isn’t constant over time, but has greater significance when the Earth is cooler. There has been much discussion as to whether variations in the strength of the sun have played a role in triggering climate change in the past.

“Ecosystem services” help assess ocean energy development

February 27, 2015 7:47 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

With many projects under development in coastal regions such as New England, tidal power seems poised to join other U.S. commercial power sources. A new study finds that little is known of the impacts that tidal power projects may have on coastal environments and the people who depend on them, but that the perspective of “ecosystem services” could provide a promising framework for evaluating impacts.

The big melt: Antarctica's retreating ice may re-shape Earth

February 27, 2015 1:08 am | by Luis Andres Henao and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can't be seen is the battle raging underfoot to re-shape Earth. Water is eating away at the Antarctic ice, melting it where it hits the oceans. As the ice sheets slowly thaw, water pours into the sea—130 billion tons of ice (118 billion metric tons) per year for the past decade.

New technology could make treatment of oil and gas wastewater simpler, cheaper

February 26, 2015 9:05 am | by Univ. of Colorado at Boulder | News | Comments

Oil and gas operations in the U.S. produce about 21 billion barrels of wastewater per year. The saltiness of the water and the organic contaminants it contains have traditionally made treatment difficult and expensive. Engineers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder have invented a simpler process that can simultaneously remove both salts and organic contaminants from the wastewater, all while producing additional energy.

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Carbon dioxide’s increasing greenhouse effect at Earth’s surface

February 26, 2015 8:12 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists have observed an increase in carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect at the Earth’s surface for the first time. The researchers, led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s increasing capacity to absorb thermal radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface over an eleven-year period at two locations in North America.

Electric car driving range, emissions depend on where you live

February 25, 2015 10:35 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Many car buyers weighing whether they should go all electric to help the planet have at least one new factor to consider before making the switch: geography. Based on a study of a commercially available electric car, scientists report in Environmental Science & Technology that emissions and driving range can vary greatly depending on regional energy sources and climate.

Geysers have loops in their plumbing

February 25, 2015 8:25 am | by Robert Sanders, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Geysers like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park erupt periodically because of loops or side-chambers in their underground plumbing, according to recent studies by volcanologists at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. The key to geysers is an underground bend or loop that traps steam and then bubbles it out slowly to heat the water column above until it is just short of boiling.

Sea level spiked for two years along northeastern North America

February 24, 2015 11:32 am | by Mari N. Jensen, Univ. of Arizona | News | Comments

Sea levels from New York to Newfoundland jumped up about four inches in 2009 and 2010 because ocean circulation changed, a Univ. of Arizona-led team reports in Nature Communications. The team was the first to document that the extreme increase in sea level lasted two years, not just a few months.

Climate science literacy unrelated to public acceptance of human-caused global warming

February 24, 2015 8:18 am | by Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Deep public divisions over climate change are unrelated to differences in how well ordinary citizens understand scientific evidence on global warming, according to a new study published by Prof. Dan Kahan. In fact, members of the public who score the highest on a climate science literacy test are the most politically polarized on whether human activity is causing global temperatures to rise.

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La Nina-like conditions associated with 2,500-year-long shutdown of coral reef growth

February 23, 2015 11:18 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A new study has found that La Niña-like conditions in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Panamá were closely associated with an abrupt shutdown in coral reef growth that lasted 2,500 years. The study suggests that future changes in climate similar to those in the study could cause coral reefs to collapse in the future.

Turning smartphones into personal, real-time pollution monitors

February 20, 2015 8:48 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As urban residents know, air quality is a big deal. When local pollution levels go up, the associated health risks also increase, especially for children and seniors. But air pollution varies widely over the course of a day and by location, even within the same city. Now scientists, reporting in Environmental Science & Technology, have used smartphone and sensing technology to better pinpoint where and when pollution is at its worst.

Antarctica: Mystery continent holds key to mankind's future

February 20, 2015 1:08 am | by Luis Andres Henao And Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

Earth's past, present and future come together here on the northern peninsula of Antarctica, the wildest, most desolate and mysterious of its continents. Clues to answering humanity's most basic questions are locked in this continental freezer the size of the U.S. and half of Canada: Where did we come from? Are we alone in the universe? What's the fate of our warming planet?

Engineers Measure Tsunami's Impact on Columbia River

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Engineers have completed one of the most precise evaluations yet about the impact of a major tsunami event on the Columbia River. They found what forces are most important in controlling water flow and what areas might be inundated.

Hydrogels Fight Invasive Ants

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Pesticide sprays and baits are common tactics for managing pest ants. But sprays can have little long-term impact and carry environmental costs such as chemical contamination of soil and water sources. Water-storing crystals known as hydrogels can effectively deliver pesticide bait to invasive Argentine ants, quickly decimating a colony.

Air Filter Could Help Beijing Breathe Easily

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A professor and his students have turned a material commonly used in surgical gloves into a low-cost, highly efficient air filter. It could be used to improve facemasks and window screens, and maybe even scrub the exhaust from power plants.  

Study details impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on beach microbial communities

February 18, 2015 7:46 am | by John Toon, Georgia Tech | News | Comments

When oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill first began washing ashore on Pensacola Municipal Beach in June 2010, populations of sensitive microorganisms, including those that capture sunlight or fix nitrogen from the air, began to decline. At the same time, organisms able to digest light components of the oil began to multiply, starting the process of converting the pollutant to carbon dioxide and biomass.

Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

February 17, 2015 12:17 pm | by Univ. of Gothenburg | News | Comments

At least five mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study led by researchers at the Univ. of Gothenburg shows that plants have been very resilient to those events. For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world's surface.

More infectious diseases emerging because of climate change

February 17, 2015 9:03 am | by Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications | News | Comments

The appearance of infectious diseases in new places and new hosts, such as West Nile virus and Ebola, is a predictable result of climate change, says a noted zoologist affiliated with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln.  

Rivers can be a source of antibiotic resistance

February 13, 2015 2:43 pm | by Univ. or Warwick | News | Comments

Rivers and streams could be a major source of antibiotic resistance in the environment. The discovery comes following a study on the Thames river by scientists at the Univ. of Warwick and the Univ. of Exeter. The study found that greater numbers of resistant bacteria exist close to some waste water treatment works, and that these plants are likely to be responsible for at least half of the increase observed.

Sustaining a Laboratory Environment

February 13, 2015 1:00 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

The design of laboratories for sustainable construction and operation has become a major driver in the A/E/C industry over the past 10 to 15 years. Most large academic, government and corporate laboratory clients are looking for sustainable design approaches at a minimum, and third-party certification, such as LEED, in many cases.

Carbon release from ocean helped end the ice age

February 13, 2015 9:20 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

New techniques are allowing scientists to understand how carbon dioxide, released from the deep ocean, helped to end the last ice age and create our current climate. An international team studied the shells of ancient marine organisms that lived in surface waters of the southern Atlantic and eastern equatorial Pacific oceans thousands of years ago.

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