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New fossil-fuel-free process makes biodiesel sustainable

May 21, 2014 1:58 pm | News | Comments

A new fuel-cell concept from Michigan State Univ. allows biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, should give producers the opportunity to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process.

Study shows iron from melting ice sheets may help buffer global warming

May 21, 2014 9:22 am | News | Comments

A newly-discovered source of oceanic bioavailable iron could have a major impact on our understanding of marine food chains and global warming. A team in the U.K. has discovered that summer meltwaters from ice sheets are rich in iron, which will have important implications on phytoplankton growth. In turn phytoplankton capture carbon, thus buffering the effects of global warming.

Britain launches $17 million science prize

May 20, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Britain is offering 10 million pounds (almost $17 million) to whoever can solve one of humanity's biggest scientific challenges. What’s the challenge? Organizers said Monday the public would vote on which of six challenges the prize should tackle, ranging from reversal of paralysis to making air travel environmentally friendly.

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Scientists forecast economic impacts of the drought on Central Valley agriculture

May 20, 2014 8:19 am | by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

California’s drought will deal a severe blow to Central Valley irrigated agriculture and farm communities this year, and could cost the industry $1.7 billion and cause more than 14,500 workers to lose their jobs, according to preliminary results of a new study by the Univ. of California, Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

How beach microbes responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

May 20, 2014 8:03 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In June, 2010, two months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Regina Lamendella collected samples along a hard-hit beach near Grand Isle, Louisiana. She was part of a team of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers that wanted to know how the microbes along the shoreline were responding to the spill.

Studies say climate change worsens wildfires

May 19, 2014 11:44 am | by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

The devastating wildfires scorching Southern California offer a glimpse of a warmer and fierier future, according to scientists and federal and international reports. In the past three months, at least three different studies and reports have warned that wildfires are getting bigger, that man-made climate change is to blame, and it's only going to get worse with more fires starting earlier in the year.

“Smoking gun” evidence for theory that Saturn’s collapsing magnetic tail causes auroras

May 19, 2014 9:47 am | News | Comments

Researcher in the U.K. has recently shown that Saturn’s auroras are caused by the same phenomenon which leads to dramatic auroral displays on Earth. The finding originates in stunning new images of Saturn’s auroras as the planet’s magnetic field is battered by charged particles from the Sun.

EPA proposes changes to emission rules

May 16, 2014 10:56 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

The EPA has announced a proposal to reduce oil refinery pollution that, if adopted, would mark the first change to the industry's emission standards in nearly two decades. The move is part of a consent decree that resolved a lawsuit filed by nonprofit environmental attorneys with Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of people directly affected by emissions from refineries in Louisiana, Texas and California.

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Study: Emissions from forests influence first stage of cloud formation

May 16, 2014 8:03 am | News | Comments

Clouds are the largest source of uncertainty in present climate models. Much of the uncertainty surrounding clouds' effect on climate stems from the complexity of cloud formation. New research from scientists at the Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets (CLOUD) experiment at CERN sheds light on new-particle formation, which is the very first step of cloud formation and a critical component of climate models.

Writing is on the wall for air pollution thanks to air-cleansing poem

May 15, 2014 12:23 pm | News | Comments

A poet and a scientist at the Univ. of Sheffield in the U.K. have collaborated to create a catalytic poem called “In Praise of Air”. The poem is printed on material containing a formula invented at the university which is capable of removing nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere. According to its developers, the cheap technology could also be applied to billboards and advertisements alongside congested roads to cut pollution.

Solar wind ion analyzer to look at key player in Mars atmosphere loss

May 15, 2014 9:49 am | by Claire Saravia, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

This past November, NASA launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission. One instrument aboard the spacecraft will study ions, a special component of the Martian atmosphere, to help solve the mystery of why the planet has been losing its atmosphere over billions of years.

Multilayer nanofiber face mask helps to combat pollution

May 13, 2014 12:43 pm | News | Comments

In response to persistent haze and concerns about its health effects, scientists in Hong Kong have developed a simple face mask which can block out suspended particles. The nanofiber technology can filter ultra-fine pollutants that have yet been picked up by air quality monitors. These particles can measure 1 micrometer or less.

Dangerous nitrogen pollution could be halved

May 13, 2014 12:16 pm | News | Comments

The most important fertilizer for producing food is, at the same time, one of the most important risks for human health: nitrogen. If no action is taken, nitrogen pollution could rise by 20% by 2050 in a middle-of-the-road scenario, according to a study now published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This research also shows that ambitious mitigation efforts could decrease the pollution by 50%.

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Radar surveys and data models indicate West Antarctica Ice Sheet collapse underway

May 13, 2014 7:27 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Washington have concluded that Antarctica's fast-moving Thwaites Glacier will likely disappear in a matter of centuries, potentially raising sea level by more than a half a meter. Data gathered by airborne radar, detailed topography maps and computer modeling were used to make the determination. The fastest scenario based on the data, the researchers said, is 200 years, and the longest is more than 1,000 years.

Ice-loss moves the Earth 250 miles beneath our feet

May 12, 2014 9:22 am | News | Comments

Studies of Antarctica have shown the earth is “rebounding” due to the overlying ice sheet shrinking in response to climate change.  This movement of the land was understood to be an elastic response and a very slow uplift over thousands of years. But new research has revealed that the land in this region is actually rising at a phenomenal rate of 15 mm a year, much greater than can be accounted for by the present-day elastic response alone.

As carbon dioxide levels rise, some crop nutrients will fall

May 8, 2014 8:08 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers have some bad news for future farmers and eaters: As carbon dioxide levels rise this century, some grains and legumes will become significantly less nutritious than they are today. The findings are reported in Nature. Eight institutions, from Australia, Israel, Japan and the U.S., contributed to the analysis.

Sprites form at plasma irregularities in the lower ionosphere

May 7, 2014 9:46 am | News | Comments

Sprites are an optical phenomenon that occur above thunderstorms, about 37 to 56 miles above the Earth. Atmospheric sprites have been known for nearly a century, but their origins were a mystery. Now, a team of researchers has evidence that sprites form at plasma irregularities and may be useful in remote sensing of the lower ionosphere.

Nanocellulose sponges to combat oil pollution

May 6, 2014 11:10 am | News | Comments

A new, absorbable material could be of assistance in future oil spill accidents. A chemically modified nanocellulose sponge, the light material developed at a research laboratory in Europe absorbs the oil spill, remains floating on the surface and can then be recovered. The absorbent can be produced in an environmentally friendly manner from recycled paper, wood or agricultural by-products.

New insight may help predict volcanic eruption behavior

May 6, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

Volcanologists in the U.K. have discovered that a process called frictional melting plays a role in determining how a volcano will erupt by dictating how fast magma can ascend to the surface, and how much resistance it faces en-route. The process occurs in lava dome volcanoes when magma and rocks melt as they rub against each other, creating a stop start movement in the magma as it makes its way towards the earth’s surface.

Food security may be increased by new agricultural production modeling

May 5, 2014 9:16 am | News | Comments

Farmers optimize crop production on their own lands by rotating crops, or testing soils to choose the right amount of fertilizers to apply. But is it possible to optimize production across a much bigger area, such as the eastern U.S.? That’s the question a team of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture scientists has begun to tackle by developing a sophisticated new modeling tool.

Research reveals value of large animals in fighting disease

May 5, 2014 8:12 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Evironment | News | Comments

Don't let their cute names fool you: The Mearns' pouch mouse and the delicate mouse can be dangerous. These and other rodents commonly harbor pathogens that can be deadly to humans. According to new research by Stanford Univ. scientists, populations of pathogen-carrying rodents can explode when larger animals die off in an ecosystem, leading to a doubling in the risk of potentially fatal diseases spreading to humans.

Undersea warfare: Viruses hijack deep-sea bacteria at hydrothermal vents

May 2, 2014 9:04 am | News | Comments

Microbiologists have recently studied unseen armies of viruses and bacteria as they wage war at hydrothermal vents more than a mile beneath the ocean's surface. They have found that viruses infect bacterial cells to obtain tiny globules of elemental sulfur stored inside the bacterial cells. Instead of stealing this bounty, the viruses force the bacteria to burn their valuable sulfur reserves, then use the unleashed energy to replicate.

Experts question ice wall at Japan nuclear plant

May 2, 2014 7:24 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Experts on Friday expressed skepticism about a plan to build a costly underground frozen wall at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, a development that could delay the start of construction on the project. The experts and Japanese nuclear regulatory officials said during a meeting in Tokyo that they weren't convinced the project can resolve a serious contaminated water problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Network for tracking earthquakes exposes glacier activity

May 1, 2014 8:32 am | News | Comments

Alaska's seismic network records thousands of quakes produced by glaciers, capturing valuable data that scientists could use to better understand their behavior, but instead their seismic signals are set aside as oddities. The current earthquake monitoring system could be "tweaked" to target the dynamic movement of the state's glaciers, suggests State Seismologist Michael West.

Ozone levels drop 20% with switch from ethanol to gasoline

April 29, 2014 9:35 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ. study by an economist and a chemist reports that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to mostly switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.

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