Rapid plankton growth seen as indicator of carbon dioxide loading in oceans
November 27, 2015 08:04 AM - Arthur Hirsch, Johns Hopkins

A microscopic marine alga is thriving in the North Atlantic to an extent that defies scientific predictions, suggesting swift environmental change as a result of increased carbon dioxide in the ocean, a study led a by Johns Hopkins University scientist has found.

What these findings mean remains to be seen, as does whether the rapid growth in the tiny plankton's population is good or bad news for the planet.

Published today in the journal Science, the study details a tenfold increase in the abundance of single-cell coccolithophores between 1965 and 2010, and a particularly sharp spike since the late 1990s in the population of these pale-shelled floating phytoplankton.

Could Lithium-air batteries make oil obsolete?
November 24, 2015 06:47 AM - Editor, The Ecologist

Sooner than it takes to build a nuclear power station, lithium-air batteries could be helping wind and solar to make coal, oil and nuclear obsolete, say Cambridge scientists. Five times lighter and five times cheaper than current lithium batteries, Li-air would open the way to our 100% renewable future.

US Forest Service proposes coal mining expansion in Colorado
November 20, 2015 10:08 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

National and local conservation groups today condemned a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to continue pressing to open national forest roadless areas in Colorado to coal mining.

In a notice filed today, the Forest Service announced it would move forward by issuing a draft environmental impact statement on the proposal to pave the way for mining. The proposal would reopen a loophole in the “roadless rule” for national forests in Colorado to enable Arch Coal — the nation’s second largest coal company — to scrape roads and well pads on nearly 20,000 acres of otherwise-protected, publicly owned national forest and wildlife habitat in Colorado’s North Fork Valley.

Food industry focuses on sustainable sourcing to mitigate climate change
November 20, 2015 06:59 AM - Sarantis Michalopoulos, EurActiv

Faced with a raw materials scarcity due to climate change, food and drink giants have turned to a sustainable management in order to protect the environment and ensure their future viability. The global population is expected to rise from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to UN projections. As a consequence, according to a survey published in July by FoodDrinkEurope, this will require a 60% increase in food supplies globally, as well as a 30% rise in global demand for water for agriculture.

New study casts doubt on how much sea levels may rise from the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet
November 19, 2015 06:54 AM - British Antarctic Survey

A new study by scientists in the UK and France has found that Antarctic ice sheet collapse will have serious consequences for sea level rise over the next two hundred years, though not as much as some have suggested.

This study, published this week in the journal Nature, uses an ice-sheet model to predict the consequences of unstable retreat of the ice, which recent studies suggest has begun in West Antarctica.

An international team of researchers, including a scientist from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), predict that the contribution is most likely to be 10 cm of sea-level rise this century under a mid to high climate scenario, but is extremely unlikely to be higher than 30 cm. When combined with other contributions, that’s a significant challenge for adapting to future sea level rise. But it’s also far lower than some previous estimates, which were as high as one metre from Antarctica alone.

Ice Cap in Iceland gaining mass
November 18, 2015 03:05 PM - NASA Earth Observatory

Winter storms can blanket Iceland almost entirely with snow. The relative warmth of summer and fall, however, exposes a spectacular, varied landscape. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color view of the Nordic island nation on November 9, 2015.

“The visible snow cover is typical for this time of the year, compared to conditions during the past 15-20 years,” said Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson, a glaciologist at the Icelandic Meteorologial Office. He noted, however, that compared to the reference period of 1961-1990, snow cover is “almost certainly” less than average in the highland and mountain regions above 400 meters in elevation.

The melting of seasonal snow cover accentuates the boundaries of Iceland’s permanent ice caps. The ice caps appear smooth and rounded in contrast with the snow-covered interior plateau or the snow-capped ridges along the glacier-carved coastline.

Snowfall shift threatens water supply
November 18, 2015 07:17 AM - Safya Khan-Ruf, SciDevNet

Climate change-induced changes in snowfall patterns could imperil two billion people who rely on melting snow for their water supply — and developing countries must work to protect citizens from these variations, researchers say.

Another Glacier in Greenland is rapidly melting
November 17, 2015 08:26 AM - JPL NASA

It's big. It's cold. And it's melting into the world's ocean.

It's Zachariae Isstrom, the latest in a string of Greenland glaciers to undergo rapid change in our warming world. A new NASA-funded study published today in the journal Science finds that Zachariae Isstrom broke loose from a glaciologically stable position in 2012 and entered a phase of accelerated retreat. The consequences will be felt for decades to come.

The reason? Zachariae Isstrom is big. It drains ice from an area of 35,440 square miles (91,780 square kilometers). That's about 5 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet. All by itself, it holds enough water to raise global sea level by more than 18 inches (46 centimeters) if it were to melt completely. And now it's on a crash diet, losing 5 billion tons of mass every year. All that ice is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean.

Climate change is impacting birds more than previously thought
November 16, 2015 01:30 PM - Oxford University Press via ScienceDaily

Scientists have long known that birds are feeling the heat due to climate change. However, a new study of a dozen affected species in the Western Cape suggests their decline is more complex than previously thought -- and in some cases more serious.

According to the study, published in Conservation Physiology, by scientists from the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, there could be several reasons why birds are being negatively affected by human-made climate change.

The Paris attacks - the climate talks, and the war on terror
November 15, 2015 08:31 AM - Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist

Is it a coincidence that the terrorist outrage in Paris was committed weeks before COP21, the biggest climate conference since 2009? Perhaps, writes Oliver Tickell. But failure to reach a strong climate agreement now looks more probable. And that's an outcome that would suit ISIS - which makes $500m a year from oil sales - together with other oil producers.

Yes, it's still about the climate, very much so. But there are also compelling reasons of national and global security to reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels, oil in particular.

The first thing to be said about the terrorist attacks on Paris yesterday is that they are a dreadful crime that deserves only the most fervent condemnation.

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