Oceanic Phytoplankton contribute to ice formation in clouds
September 10, 2015 08:49 AM - British Antarctic Survey.

Researchers from the Arctic Research Programme, managed at British Antarctic Survey, have shown for the first time that phytoplankton (plant life) in remote ocean regions can contribute to rare airborne particles that trigger ice formation in clouds.

Results published today in the journal Nature show that the organic waste from life in the oceans, which is ejected into the atmosphere along with sea spray from breaking waves, stimulates cloud droplets to freeze into ice particles. This affects how clouds behave and influence global climate, which is important for improved projections of future climate change.

MIT study shows climate change mitigation potential of geoengineering the oceans
September 9, 2015 07:23 AM - Mark Dwortzan | Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, MIT

Like the leaves of New England maples, phytoplankton, the microalgae at the base of most oceanic food webs, photosynthesize when exposed to sunlight. In the process, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting it to carbohydrates and oxygen. Many phytoplankton species also release dimethyl sulfide (DMS) into the atmosphere, where it forms sulfate aerosols, which can directly reflect sunlight or increase cloud cover and reflectivity, resulting in a cooling effect. The ability of phytoplankton to draw planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and produce aerosols that promote further cooling has made ocean fertilization — through massive dispersal of iron sulfite and other nutrients that stimulate phytoplankton growth — an attractive geoengineering method to reduce global warming.

The long-term effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill
September 8, 2015 10:02 AM - NOAA FISHERIES WEST COAST REGION via EurekAlert

For 25 years, methodical research by scientists has investigated the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 on Alaskan communities and ecosystems. A new study released today into the effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska shows that embryonic salmon and herring exposed to very low levels of crude oil can develop hidden heart defects that compromise their later survival, indicating that the spill may have had much greater impacts on spawning fish than previously recognized.

The herring population crashed four years after the spill in Prince William Sound and pink salmon stocks also declined, but the link to the oil spill has remained controversial. The new findings published in the online journal Scientific Reports suggest that the delayed effects of the spill may have been important contributors to the declines.

Ice sheets may be more resilient than previously thought
September 8, 2015 09:24 AM - Miles Traer, Stanford Report

Sea level rise poses one of the biggest threats to human systems in a globally warming world, potentially causing trillions of dollars' worth of damages to flooded cities around the world. As surface temperatures rise, ice sheets are melting at record rates and sea levels are rising.

But there may be some good news amid the worry. Sea levels may not rise as high as assumed.

Hummingbirds and Hawks, perfect together?
September 6, 2015 07:58 AM - Elizabeth Pennisi - Science

Sometimes it pays to have big, bad neighbors. Weighing in at about 3 grams, black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) can do little but stand by and watch Mexican jays 40 times their weight chow down on their eggs. So in the mountains of southeastern Arizona, the hummers have learned to build their nests near goshawk and Cooper’s hawk nests (Accipiter gentilis and Accipiter cooperii). Almost five times bigger than the jays (Amphelocoma wollweberi), the hawks enjoy these birds for lunch. So to avoid hawks swooping down and surprising them, the jays only forage above the hawks’ nests. Thus a cone-shaped safe zone exists below the 20-meter-high hawk nests, extending out about 100 meters, researchers report today in Science Advances. Of 342 hummer nests studied over three years, 80% were near hawk nests—and for good reason.

Fighting explosives pollution with plants
September 3, 2015 03:02 PM - University of York

Biologists at the University of York have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives.

Trees improve pollution dispersion in cities
September 3, 2015 09:28 AM - University of Leicester

Trees in cities throughout the UK could be significantly improving the quality of the air we breathe by decreasing pollution levels for pedestrians, researchers from the University of Leicester have revealed.

Satellite Study Calculates Earth's Tree Count
September 2, 2015 01:47 PM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A new satellite study has calculated that there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, around 422 trees for every person, although the number is believed to have dropped by 46 percent since the start of human civilisation. The Yale-led international research found the result of the tree count is around seven and a half times more than some previous estimates. 

Walrus's hit the beaches again
August 29, 2015 07:11 AM - WWF Global

On both sides of the Bering Strait, summer sea ice has once more dropped to a level that is driving thousands of walruses onto coastal beaches.
Photos taken in Ryrkaypiy in Chukotka, Russia show an estimated 5,000 walruses hauled out in that spot, while across the strait in the United States, thousands more are hauled out near the village of Point Lay, Alaska. Villagers in both places are working to protect resting walrus herds from curious onlookers, as walruses hauled out in such large numbers on beaches are prone to being stampeded, killing smaller animals in the crush.
During the late summer and early fall, the Pacific walruses of the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska and of Russia’s Chukotka prefer to rest on sea ice over the shallow waters of the continental shelf.  In those areas they can readily access food on the seabed.

Can rain clean the atmosphere?
August 28, 2015 02:31 PM - MIT News

As a raindrop falls through the atmosphere, it can attract tens to hundreds of tiny aerosol particles to its surface before hitting the ground. The process by which droplets and aerosols attract is coagulation, a natural phenomenon that can act to clear the air of pollutants like soot, sulfates, and organic particles. Atmospheric chemists at MIT have now determined just how effective rain is in cleaning the atmosphere. 

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