Great Barrier Reef building coral under threat from poisonous seaweed
February 3, 2017 09:45 AM - Griffith University

World-first research on the Great Barrier Reef has shown how ‘weed-like’ algae will kill vital coral because of increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

Gradual environmental change is an ally to viral pathogens
February 1, 2017 03:15 PM - Bill Hathaway

How viruses like Ebola, influenza or even the common cold adapt is a question that affects the health of everyone on earth.  A new Yale University study reveals that gradual exposure to new host species leads to major genetic changes in these pathogens — and possibly makes them more dangerous.

Oil production releases more methane than previously thought
February 1, 2017 10:58 AM - International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Global methane and ethane emissions from oil production from 1980 to 2012 were far higher than previous estimates show, according to a new study which for the first time takes into account different production management systems and geological conditions around the world.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, which scientists rank as the second-most important contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. Yet while methane concentrations in the atmosphere can be easily measured, it is difficult to determine the contribution of different sources, whether human or natural. This is necessary information for reducing emissions.

Coal mine dust hastens Arctic snow melt
February 1, 2017 10:34 AM - University of Colorado At Boulder

Dust released by an active coal mine in Svalbard, Norway, reduced the spectral reflectance of nearby snow and ice by up to 84 percent, according to new University of Colorado Boulder-led research.

The study illustrates the significant, localized role that dark-colored particulates — which absorb more solar radiation than light-colored snow and keep more heat closer to the Earth’s surface — can play in hastening Arctic ice melt.   

The study was published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

Coastal Wetlands Excel at Storing Carbon
February 1, 2017 10:21 AM - University of Maryland

In the global effort to mitigate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, all options are on the table—including help from nature. Recent research suggests that healthy, intact coastal wetland ecosystems such as mangrove forests, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows are particularly good at drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it for hundreds to thousands of years.

Colorado's wildfire-stricken forests showing limited recovery
January 31, 2017 09:45 AM - University of Colorado Boulder

Colorado forests stricken by wildfire are not regenerating as well as expected and may partially transform into grasslands and shrublands in coming decades, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

New ocean observations improve understanding of motion
January 31, 2017 08:24 AM - University of Hawaii - Manoa

Oceanographers commonly calculate large scale surface ocean circulation from satellite sea level information using a concept called “geostrophy,” which describes the relationship between oceanic surface flows and sea level gradient. Conversely, researchers rely on data from in-water current meters to measure smaller scale motion. New research led by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa oceanographer Bo Qiu has determined from observational data the length scale at which using sea level height no longer offers a reliable calculation of circulation.

How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold and Why It Matters
January 30, 2017 04:11 PM - Nicola Jones via Yale Environment 360

Last year will go down in history as the year when the planet’s atmosphere broke a startling record: 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. The last time the planet’s air was so rich in CO2 was millions of years ago, back before early predecessors to humans were likely wielding stone tools; the world was a few degrees hotter back then, and melted ice put sea levels tens of meters higher.

“We’re in a new era,” says Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Program in San Diego. “And it’s going fast. We’re going to touch up against 410 pretty soon.”

Unexpected result: Ocean acidification can promote shell formation
January 30, 2017 10:59 AM - NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Fact: More carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air also acidifies the oceans. It seemed to be the logical conclusion that shellfish and corals will suffer, because chalk formation becomes more difficult in more acidic seawater. But now a group of Dutch and Japanese scientists discovered to their own surprise that some tiny unicellular shellfish make better shells in an acidic environment. This is a completely new insight.

Researchers from the NIOZ (Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research) and JAMSTEC (Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) found in their experiments that so-called foraminifera might even make their shells better in more acidic water. These single-celled foraminifera shellfish occur in huge numbers in the oceans. The results of the study are published in the leading scientific journal ‘Nature Communications’.

Study: How Climate Change Threatens Mountaintops (and Clean Water)
January 30, 2017 09:42 AM - University of Vermont

Mountains are far more than rocks. They also confer various natural benefits—for example, about half of the world’s drinking water filters through their high-elevation forests, plants, and soils.

Now, a new, first-of-its kind study, in the journal Nature, shows how these mountain ecosystems around the globe may be threatened by climate change.

Rising temperatures over the next decades appear likely to “decouple” key nutrient cycles in mountain soils and plants, an international team of sixteen scientists reports. Their study suggests that this is expected to disrupt the function of mountaintop ecosystems, as plant communities above and at treeline are thrown into turmoil faster than trees can migrate uphill in a warmer world.

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