Study assesses climate change vulnerability in urban America
August 31, 2016 07:17 AM - George Washington University via EurekAlert!

Flooding due to rising ocean levels. Debilitating heat waves that last longer and occur more frequently. Rising rates of diseases caused by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes, such as Lyme disease, Chikungunya, and Zika. Increasing numbers of Emergency Room visits for asthma attacks due to higher levels of ground-level ozone. Impacts of climate change such as these will affect cities across the country.

One of the first efforts to systematically assess how cities are preparing for climate change shows that city planners have yet to fully assess their vulnerability to climate change, leaving serious risks unaddressed. In their evaluations to-date, they see infrastructure and risks to specific human populations as the primary areas of concern. Despite these concerns, expert assessments of urban climate vulnerability often do not address the real risks that local planners face.

Vegetation matters
August 30, 2016 04:59 PM - University of California - Santa Barbara via EurekAlert!

In California's Sierra Nevada mountains, as more precipitation falls in the form of rain rather than snow, and the snowpack melts earlier in spring, it's important for water managers to know when and how much water will be available for urban and agricultural needs and for the environment in general.

While changing precipitation patterns can have a significant impact on stream flows in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a new study by UC Santa Barbara researchers indicates that shifts in vegetation type resulting from warming and other factors may have an equal or greater effect. Their findings appear in the journal PLOS One.

Cows in glass tanks help to reduce methane emissions
August 30, 2016 04:44 PM - Natural Resources Institute Finland via ScienceDaily

In the future, the breeding of the climate-friendly cow can be speeded up by using genetic information. A recent study identifies areas in the cow's genotype which are linked to the amount of methane it produces. Cows subjected to study did not unnecessarily chew their cuds when being placed in glass cases.

Of the greenhouse gases produced by humans, 16 per cent consists of methane, of which one third originates in cattle production: more than one billion cattle graze the planet, and each of them emit around 500 litres of methane every day, thereby warming up the climate.

Could it be possible to produce a cow with lower methane emissions through the means available for breeding? The genotype and feed affect a cow's microbial make-up and functioning. Microbes in the cow's intestine and rumen on their part play a key role in the functioning of the cow's entire biological system. "A similar interaction was previously detected in humans," says Johanna Vilkki, professor at Luke.

The Sound of a Healthy Reef
August 29, 2016 03:18 PM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will help researchers understand the ways that marine animal larvae use sound as a cue to settle on coral reefs. The study, published on August 23rd in the online journal Scientific Reports, has determined that sounds created by adult fish and invertebrates may not travel far enough for larvae —which hatch in open ocean—to hear them, meaning that the larvae might rely on other means to home in on a reef system.

UTA study finds air contamination near fracking sites result of operational inefficiencies
August 29, 2016 10:39 AM - University of Texas at Arlington via EurekAlert!

Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington have published a new study that indicates that highly variable contamination events registered in and around unconventional oil and gas developments are the result of operational inefficiencies and not inherent to the extraction process itself.

The study, published today as "Point source attribution of ambient contamination events near unconventional oil and gas development" in Science of the Total Environment, found highly variable levels of ambient BTEX, or benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds, in and around fracking gas drilling sites in the Eagle Ford shale region in South Texas. BTEX compounds in high concentrations can be carcinogenic and have harmful effects on the nervous system.

Storms in Mexico Kill Millions of Monarchs
August 29, 2016 07:06 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

While international efforts are under way to help keep dwindling populations of monarch butterflies from disappearing, scientists are raising concerns about how severe weather and a loss of forest habitat at their wintering grounds in Mexico are affecting them.

Every year, monarchs embark on an epic multigenerational migration that takes them thousands of miles from Canada and the U.S. in search of sites in California and in Mexico. The fir trees in the southern regions offer the shelter and warmth they need to survive the winter.

Unfortunately, these vital forests in Mexico have been threatened by illegal logging, and now storms have destroyed hundreds of acres of habitat, while severe weather is believed to have killed an estimated 6.2 million of these iconic butterflies.

How Elephant Seals Are Helping Scientists Study Climate Change
August 24, 2016 06:10 PM - Yale Environment 360

A group of southern elephant seals is helping scientists monitorhow climate change is impacting Antarctica by tracking water temperature, depth, and salinity as they swim and dive around the frozen continent. 

Smoke Waves Are the Next Climate Change Problem
August 24, 2016 07:25 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

In the hills near Los Angeles, the Blue Cut Fire just ripped through 36,000 acres, taking dozens of homes along with it, spurring a major evacuation, and even requiring temporary highway closures. But the merciless flames of the Blue Cut Fire almost pale in comparison with the flood of wildfires across the Golden State, and the West at large, in an era when the wildfire season is growing longer and more aggressive every year. Climate change is the reason why, and researchers are discovering that the cost of wildfires may be bigger than we imagined: They’re tracking deadly “smoke waves” that sweep the landscape, causing serious respiratory health problems.

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup
August 23, 2016 10:51 AM - Karlsruher Institut Für Technologie (KIT) via EurekAlert!

Some water ferns can absorb large volumes of oil within a short time, because their leaves are strongly water-repellent and, at the same time, highly oil-absorbing. Researchers of KIT, together with colleagues of Bonn University, have found that the oil-binding capacity of the water plant results from the hairy microstructure of its leaves. It is now used as a model to further develop the new Nanofur material for the environmentally friendly cleanup of oil spills. (DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/11/5/056003)

Damaged pipelines, oil tanker disasters, and accidents on oil drilling and production platforms may result in pollutions of water with crude or mineral oil. Conventional methods to clean up the oil spill are associated with specific drawbacks. 

NASA Monitors the 'New Normal' of Sea Ice
August 23, 2016 07:33 AM - Maria-José Viñas and Kate Ramsauer, NASA

This year’s melt season in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas started with a bang, with a record low maximum extent in March and relatively rapid ice loss through May. The melt slowed down in June, however, making it highly unlikely that this year’s summertime sea ice minimum extent will set a new record.

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