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Decoding life under our waters to ensure species' survival
July 5, 2017 08:05 AM - University of New Brunswick

Four hundred million lines of text: that’s how much data is in a single gene-sequencing file when Scott Pavey’s team receives it. If you wanted to scan it manually, and generously assume it would take one second per line to look at, it would take you 12 and a half years of reading around the clock to get through it all.

‘Brazil Nut Effect' Helps Explain How Rivers Resist Erosion, Penn Team Finds
November 21, 2017 10:49 AM - University of Pennsylvania

Pop the top off a can of mixed nuts and, chances are, Brazil nuts will be at the top. This phenomenon, of large particles tending to rise to the top of mixtures while small particles tend to sink down, is popularly known as the “Brazil nut effect” and more technically as granular segregation.

Hot News from the Antarctic Underground
November 7, 2017 04:21 PM - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Study Bolsters Theory of Heat Source Under West Antarctica

A new NASA study adds evidence that a geothermal heat source called a mantle plume lies deep below Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land, explaining some of the melting that creates lakes and rivers under the ice sheet.

Study Links Major Floods in North America and Europe to Multi-Decade Ocean Patterns
August 14, 2017 01:48 PM - USGS

The number of major floods in natural rivers across Europe and North America has not increased overall during the past 80 years, a recent study has concluded. Instead researchers found that the occurrence of major flooding in North America and Europe often varies with North Atlantic Ocean temperature patterns.

Sediment from Himalayas may have made 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake more severe
May 25, 2017 04:13 PM - Oregon State University

Sediment that eroded from the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau over millions of years was transported thousands of kilometers by rivers and in the Indian Ocean – and became sufficiently thick over time to generate temperatures warm enough to strengthen the sediment and increase the severity of the catastrophic 2004 Sumatra earthquake.

The magnitude 9.2 earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004, generated a massive tsunami that devastated coastal regions of the Indian Ocean. The earthquake and tsunami together killed more than 250,000 people making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.

Why the World's Rivers Are Losing Sediment and Why It Matters
June 20, 2017 06:44 AM - Jim Robbins, YaleEnvironment360

Vast amounts of river-borne sediment are trapped behind the world’s large dams, depriving areas downstream of material that is badly needed to build up the marshes and wetlands that act as a buffer against rising seas.

In September 2011, after 20 years of planning, workers began dismantling the Elwha and Glines dams on the Elwha River in northwestern Washington state. At the time, it was the largest dam removal project in U.S. history, and it took nearly three years for both barriers to be dismantled and for the river to once again flow freely. 

Over the course of their nearly century-long lives, the two dams collected more than 24 million cubic yards of sediment behind them, enough to fill the Seattle Seahawks football stadium eight times. And since their removal, the Elwha has taken back the trapped sediment and distributed it downstream, causing the riverine ecosystem to be rebuilt and transformed. Massive quantities of silt, sand, and gravel have been carried to the coast, resurrecting a wetlands ecosystem long deprived of sediment.

Climate Change Could Decrease Sun's Ability to Disinfect Lakes, Coastal Waters
October 25, 2017 11:32 AM - National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

One of the largely unanticipated impacts of a changing climate may be a decline in sunlight's ability to disinfect lakes, rivers, and coastal waters, possibly leading to an increase in waterborne pathogens and the diseases they can cause in humans and wildlife.

Scientists make biodegradable microbeads from cellulose
June 9, 2017 03:25 PM - University of Bath

Scientists and engineers from the University of Bath have developed biodegradable cellulose microbeads from a sustainable source that could potentially replace harmful plastic ones that contribute to ocean pollution.

Microbeads are little spheres of plastic less than 0.5 mm in size that are added to personal care and cleaning products including cosmetics, sunscreens and fillers to give them a smooth texture. However they are too small to be removed by sewage filtration systems and so end up in rivers and oceans, where they are ingested by birds, fish and other marine life.

New assessment identifies global hotspots for water conflict
July 17, 2017 05:32 PM - Oregon State University

More than 1,400 new dams or water diversion projects are planned or already under construction and many of them are on rivers flowing through multiple nations, fueling the potential for increased water conflict between some countries.

A new analysis commissioned by the United Nations uses a comprehensive combination of social, economic, political and environmental factors to identify areas around the world most at-risk for “hydro-political” strife. This river basins study was part of the U.N.’s Transboundary Waters Assessment Program.

Hydroelectric Dams May Jeopardize the Amazon's Future
June 14, 2017 04:46 PM - University of Texas at Austin

Hundreds of built and proposed hydroelectric dams may significantly harm life in and around the Amazon by trapping the flow of rich nutrients and modifying the climate from Central America to the Gulf of Mexico. These findings, published in Nature, emerge from a multidisciplinary, international collaboration of researchers from 10 universities, led by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin.

To meet energy needs, economic developers in South America have proposed 428 hydroelectric dams, with 140 currently built or under construction, in the Amazon basin — the largest and most complex network of river channels in the world, which sustains the highest biodiversity on Earth. The rivers and surrounding forests are the source of 20 percent of the planet’s fresh water and valuable ingredients used in modern medicine. 

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