Climate

Nitrous Oxide emissions and Ice Ages
December 11, 2014 08:01 AM - Oregon State University

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas that doesn’t receive as much notoriety as carbon dioxide or methane, but a new study confirms that atmospheric levels of N2O rose significantly as the Earth came out of the last ice age and addresses the cause.

An international team of scientists analyzed air extracted from bubbles enclosed in ancient polar ice from Taylor Glacier in Antarctica, allowing for the reconstruction of the past atmospheric composition. The analysis documented a 30 percent increase in atmospheric nitrous oxide concentrations from 16,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago. This rise in N2O was caused by changes in environmental conditions in the ocean and on land, scientists say, and contributed to the warming at the end of the ice age and the melting of large ice sheets that then existed.

Warming climate puts wetlands more at risk to invasive species
December 10, 2014 07:55 AM - Duke University via EurekAlert.

In the battle between native and invasive wetland plants, a new Duke University study finds climate change may tip the scales in favor of the invaders -- but it's going to be more a war of attrition than a frontal assault.

"Changing surface-water temperatures, rainfall patterns and river flows will likely give Japanese knotweed, hydrilla, honeysuckle, privet and other noxious invasive species an edge over less adaptable native species," said Neal E. Flanagan, visiting assistant professor at the Duke Wetland Center, who led the research. 

Abandoned Wells Identified as Greenhouse Gas 'Super-emitters'
December 9, 2014 01:32 PM - John Sullivan, Princeton University

Princeton University researchers have uncovered a previously unknown, and possibly substantial, source of the greenhouse gas methane to the Earth's atmosphere. After testing a sample of abandoned oil and natural gas wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, the researchers found that many of the old wells leaked substantial quantities of methane. 

Sandia Labs study points to advantages of storing hydrogen in salt mines
December 9, 2014 07:59 AM - Sandia National Laboratories.

Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent Sandia National Laboratories study sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

Geologic storage of hydrogen gas could make it possible to produce and distribute large quantities of hydrogen fuel for the growing fuel cell electric vehicle market, the researchers concluded.

Geologic storage solutions can service a number of key hydrogen markets since “costs are more influenced by the geology available rather than the size of the hydrogen market demand,” said Sandia’s Anna Snider Lord, the study’s principal investigator.

Will more use of natural gas minimize or exacerbate climate change?
December 8, 2014 03:46 PM - Carnegie Science

Natural gas power plants produce substantial amounts of gases that lead to global warming. Replacing old coal-fired power plants with new natural gas plants could cause climate damage to increase over the next decades, unless their methane leakage rates are very low and the new power plants are very efficient.

These are the principal findings of new research from Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and Xiaochun Zhang, and Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures that compares the temperature increases caused by different kinds of coal and natural gas power plants. Their work is published in Environmental Research Letters.

Warming streams contribute to warming Chesapeake Bay
December 8, 2014 09:19 AM - US Geological Survey

The majority of streams in the Chesapeake Bay region are warming, and that increase appears to be driven largely by rising air temperatures. These findings are based on new U.S. Geological Survey research published in the journal Climatic Change.

Researchers found an overall warming trend in air temperature of 0.023 C (0.041 F) per year, and in water temperature of 0.028 C (0.050 F) per year over 51 years.  This means that air temperature has risen 1.1 C (1.98 F), and water temperature has risen 1.4 C (2.52 F) between 1960 and 2010 in the Chesapeake Bay region. 

The link between greenhouse gasses and African rainfall
December 5, 2014 08:58 AM - NCAR

New research demonstrates for the first time that an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations thousands of years ago was a key factor in causing substantially more rainfall in two major regions of Africa. The finding provides new evidence that the current increase in greenhouse gases will have an important impact on Africa’s future climate.

The study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is being published this week in Science.

The critical role crops play in the Earth's CO2 cycle
December 4, 2014 01:13 PM - Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Each year, the planet balances its budget. The carbon dioxide absorbed by plants in the spring and summer as they convert solar energy into food is released back to the atmosphere in autumn and winter. Levels of the greenhouse gas fall, only to rise again.

But the budget has gotten bigger. Over the last five decades, the magnitude of this rise and fall has grown nearly 50 percent in the Northern Hemisphere, as the amount of the greenhouse gas taken in and released has increased. Now, new research shows that humans and their crops have a lot to do with it, highlighting the profound impact people have on the Earth’s atmosphere.

Study says today's carbon emissions take 10 years to reach maximum effect
December 4, 2014 08:54 AM - Carnegie Institute for Science

The climate warming caused by a single carbon emission takes only about 10 years to reach its maximum effect. This is important because it refutes the common misconception that today’s emissions won’t be felt for decades and that they are a problem for future generations. For the first time, a study conducted by Carnegie's Katharine Ricke and Ken Caldeira has evaluated how long it takes to feel the maximum warming effect caused by a single carbon emission. Their work is published in Environmental Research Letters.

Melt rate of West Antarctic glaciers has tripled
December 3, 2014 08:57 AM - UC Irvine-NASA

A comprehensive, 21-year analysis of the fastest-melting region of Antarctica has found that the melt rate of glaciers there has tripled during the last decade. The glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica are hemorrhaging ice faster than any other part of Antarctica and are the most significant Antarctic contributors to sea level rise. This study is the first to evaluate and reconcile observations from four different measurement techniques to produce an authoritative estimate of the amount and the rate of loss over the last two decades.

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