Climate

Greatest concentrations of world's soil carbon pinpointed in peat bogs
January 12, 2015 01:05 PM - Tim Radford, The Ecologist

The greatest concentrations of the world's soil carbon have been pinpointed by researchers - and much of it is a dangerously flammable addition to climate change concerns. An international scientific survey of peat bogs has calculated that they contain more carbon than all the world's forests, heaths and grasslands together - and perhaps as much as the planet's atmosphere. Since peat can smoulder underground for years, it is another potential factor in global warming calculations.

Global Warming "hiatus" connected to volcanic eruptions
January 9, 2015 02:36 PM - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The “warming hiatus” that has occurred over the last 15 years has been caused in part by small volcanic eruptions. Scientists have long known that 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. Previous research suggested that early 21st-century eruptions might explain up to a third of the recent warming hiatus.

Global Warming History Repeats Itself
January 5, 2015 02:21 PM - David Bond, The Ecologist

The Earth's current warming is looking similar to what took place 55 million years ago, writes David Bond. And if it works out that way, the news is good: we may avoid a mass extinction. On the other hand, the poles will melt away completely, and it will take hundreds of thousands of years for Earth to get back to 'normal'. It is often said that humans have caused the Earth to warm at an unprecedented rate. However researchers have discovered another period, some 55m years ago, when massive volcanic eruptions pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere that the planet warmed at what geologists would think of as breakneck speed. The good news is that most plants and animals survived the warm spell. The planet has experienced several mass extinctions - and this wasn't one of them. But there's a catch: even after carbon levels returned to their previous levels, the climate took 200,000 years to return to normal.

Is Australia on the wrong track on climate change?
December 19, 2014 01:17 PM - Kieran Cooke & Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist

Despite record heat and drought Australia's emissions and coal exports are soaring, says a new report, and both are increasing as a matter of government policy. But a homegrown climate action movement is putting a spanner in the works - and just stopped its first coal train.

Australia's response to climate change is headed completely backwards. If we can stop this new coal mine we set a precedent for the rest of Australia to stand up.

Road Salt Increases Urban Stream Contamination
December 15, 2014 03:54 PM - USGS Newsroom

Average chloride concentrations often exceed toxic levels in many northern United States streams due to the use of salt to deice winter pavement, and the frequency of these occurrences nearly doubled in two decades. Chloride levels increased substantially in 84 percent of urban streams analyzed, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study that began as early as 1960 at some sites and ended as late as 2011. Levels were highest during the winter, but increased during all seasons over time at the northern sites, including near Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; and other metropolitan areas. The report was published today in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Solar power shines brightly in the UK
December 13, 2014 10:52 AM - , The Ecologist

Solar power has a sunny future - even without any major breakthroughs, writes Ralph Gottschalg. There are huge gains to be made simply by getting smarter and using existing technologies more effectively. A new report shows that - given political support - solar PV could be competitive in the UK by 2020.

PV can achieve the costs required to survive - without subsidies, and without any step change in technology. All it needs is the political will. 

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. 

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.

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.

What Drives the Global Warming Debate?
December 1, 2014 12:09 PM - Michigan State University

Scientists have presented the most comprehensive evidence to date that climate extremes such as droughts and record temperatures are failing to change people’s minds about global warming. Instead, political orientation is the most influential factor in shaping perceptions about climate change, both in the short-term and long-term, said Sandra Marquart-Pyatt, a Michigan State University sociologist and lead investigator on the study.

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