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Climate

Can smoke from fires intensify tornados?
February 3, 2015 12:06 PM - Gary Galluzzo, University of Iowa

Can smoke from fires intensify tornadoes? “Yes,” say University of Iowa researchers, who examined the effects of smoke—resulting from spring agricultural land-clearing fires in Central America—transported across the Gulf of Mexico and encountering tornado conditions already in process in the United States. The UI study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, examined the smoke impacts on a historic severe weather outbreak that occurred during the afternoon and evening of April 27, 2011. 

Study Finds Leaks in Boston's Natural Gas Pipelines
February 2, 2015 04:37 PM - S.E. Smith, Care2

A team of researchers led by Kathryn McKain of Harvard University has recently discovered that approximately three percent of the natural gas delivered to Boston leaks directly into the atmosphere, taking with it a heavy load of methane, a known greenhouse gas. Their study doesn’t just have significant environmental implications: It’s estimated that the city is losing around $90 million to leaks every year. Correcting leaks is a relatively straightforward task, though it would require some investment in natural gas infrastructure and consumer education. However, these costs would be mitigated by the substantial savings offered if Boston was able to cut down on its methane problem.

Is there an emerging consensus on climate change action?
February 2, 2015 08:39 AM - David Victor, Yale Environment360

Once again, the world is on a sprint toward a new agreement on global climate change. The last time this happened — in 2009 — the sprint ended in acrimony in Copenhagen. This time, the signs are more auspicious. As someone who has been writing for nearly 25 years about the difficulties of making serious progress on climate change, I am more optimistic today than I have been in a very long time. When governments gather in Paris late this year, I believe they are likely to adopt a watershed strategy for slowing climate change.  

I’m optimistic for two reasons. First, the logic of Paris is new. In the past, governments have tried to negotiate single, massive, and integrated 

A shift in strategy was evident at climate talks in Lima in December, where Peru’s Manuel Pulgar served as conference president.

Ocean acidification changes balance of biofouling communities
January 30, 2015 08:45 AM - British Antarctic Survey

A new study of marine organisms that make up the ‘biofouling community’ — tiny creatures that attach themselves to ships’ hulls and rocks in the ocean around the world — shows how they adapt to changing ocean acidification. Reporting in the journal Global Change Biology, the authors examine how these communities may respond to future change.

Study finds atmosphere will adapt to hotter, wetter climate
January 29, 2015 04:17 PM - University of Toronto via EurekAlert!

A study led by atmospheric physicists at the University of Toronto finds that global warming will not lead to an overall increasingly stormy atmosphere, a topic debated by scientists for decades. Instead, strong storms will become stronger while weak storms become weaker, and the cumulative result of the number of storms will remain unchanged. "We know that with global warming we'll get more evaporation of the oceans," said Frederic Laliberte, a research associate at U of T's physics department and lead author of a study published this week in Science. "But circulation in the atmosphere is like a heat engine that requires fuel to do work, just like any combustion engine or a convection engine."

New analysis explores trends in global plastic consumption and recycling
January 28, 2015 03:35 PM - Gaelle Gourmelon, Worldwatch Institute

For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year, writes Gaelle Gourmelon, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article.

Study Analyzes Variability of Climate Models
January 27, 2015 03:05 PM - Duke University

A new Duke University-led study finds that most climate models likely underestimate the degree of decade-to-decade variability occurring in mean surface temperatures as Earth’s atmosphere warms. The models also provide inconsistent explanations of why this variability occurs in the first place. These discrepancies may undermine the models’ reliability for projecting the short-term pace as well as the extent of future warming, the study’s authors warn. As such, we shouldn’t over-interpret recent temperature trends.

Natural Breakdown of Petroleum May Lace Arsenic into Groundwater
January 26, 2015 04:09 PM - USGS Newsroom

In a long-term field study, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Virginia Tech scientists have found that changes in geochemistry from the natural breakdown of petroleum hydrocarbons underground can promote the chemical release (mobilization) of naturally occurring arsenic into groundwater. This geochemical change can result in potentially significant arsenic groundwater contamination. 

Effects of wood fuel burning have less of an impact on CO2 emissions than previously thought
January 26, 2015 08:36 AM - Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

The harvesting of wood to meet the heating and cooking demands for billions of people worldwide has less of an impact on global forest loss and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than previously believed, according to a new Yale-led study. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers, including Prof. Robert Bailis of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), concludes that only about 27 to 34 percent of wood fuel harvested worldwide would be considered “unsustainable.” According to the assessment, “sustainability” is based on whether or not annual harvesting exceeds incremental re-growth.

Warming seas decrease sea turtle basking
January 23, 2015 01:11 PM - Duke University

Green sea turtles may stop basking on beaches around the world within a century due to rising sea temperatures, a new study suggests. Basking on sun-warmed beaches helps the threatened turtles regulate their body temperatures and may aid their immune systems and digestion. By analyzing six years of turtle surveys and 24 years of satellite data, researchers from Duke University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and the University of Ioannina in Greece have found the turtles bask more often each year when sea surface temperatures drop.

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