For the third time in a decade, the globe sizzled to the hottest year on record, federal scientists announced. Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA calculated that in 2014 the world had its hottest year in 135 years of record-keeping. Earlier, the Japanese weather agency and an independent group out of UC Berkeley also measured 2014 as the hottest on record.
Consumer advocates are fighting a new rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that aims to address concerns over “inert” ingredients, including fragrances and dyes, in pesticides for non-food use. They say the proposal, which could become final this year, doesn’t go far enough to protect human health and the environment from the ingredients’ potential impacts.
Stacking perovskites onto a conventional silicon solar cell dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the cell, according to a new study led by Stanford Univ. scientists. The researchers describe their novel perovskite-silicon solar cell in Energy & Environmental Science.
An international team of researchers says climate change, the loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change and altered biogeochemical cycles like phosphorus and nitrogen runoff have all passed beyond levels that put humanity in a “safe operating space.” Civilization has crossed four of nine so-called planetary boundaries as the result of human activity, according to a report published in Science by the 18-member research team.
Almost half of the processes that are crucial to maintaining the stability of the planet have become dangerously compromised by human activity. That is the view of an international team of 18 researchers who provide new evidence of significant changes in four of the nine systems which regulate the resilience of the Earth.
Minuscule, fossilized pieces of plants could tell a detailed story of what the Earth looked like 50 million years ago. An international team led by the Univ. of Washington has discovered a way to determine the tree cover and density of trees, shrubs and bushes in locations over time based on clues in the cells of plant fossils preserved in rocks and soil.
Mass die-offs of animals may be increasing in frequency and in severity as well, according to a study of 727 mass mortality events since 1940. Despite the ecological importance of individual mass mortality events, in which a larger than normal number of individuals die within a population, little research has been conducted on patterns across mass mortality events.
The world's oceans are now rising far faster than they did in the past, a new study says. The study found that for much of the 20th century the sea level was about 30% less than earlier research had figured. But that's not good news, scientists say, because about 25 years ago the seas started rising faster and the acceleration in 1990 turns out to be more dramatic than previously calculated.
Sometimes the response to the outbreak of a disease can make things worse. The ability to anticipate when such overreactions might occur could help public health officials take steps to limit the dangers. Now a new computer model could provide a way of making such forecasts, based on a combination of data collected from hospitals, social media and other sources.
The Obama administration said Wednesday it will issue the first regulations to cut down on methane emissions from new natural gas wells, aiming to curb the discharge of a potent greenhouse gas by roughly half. Relying once again on the Clean Air Act, the rules join a host of others that Obama has ordered in an effort to slow global warming despite opposition to new laws in Congress that has only hardened since the midterm elections.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.