Environmental Policy

New maps reveal safe locations for wastewater injection
November 11, 2016 11:13 AM - Ker Than via Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

Stanford geophysicists have compiled the most detailed maps yet of the geologic forces controlling the locations, types and magnitudes of earthquakes in Texas and Oklahoma.

These new “stress maps,” published in the journals Geophysical Research Letters and Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, provide insight into the nature of the faults associated with recent temblors, many of which appear to have been triggered by the injection of wastewater deep underground.

“These maps help explain why injection-induced earthquakes have occurred in some areas, and provide a basis for making quantitative predictions about the potential for seismic activity resulting from fluid injection,” said study co-author Mark Zoback, the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geophysics in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

A Major Ocean Current is Widening as Climate Warms
November 10, 2016 09:37 AM - University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

A new study by University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researchers found that the Indian Ocean’s Agulhas Current is getting wider rather than strengthening. The findings, which have important implications for global climate change, suggest that intensifying winds in the region may be increasing the turbulence of the current, rather than increasing its flow rate.

Rising CO2 Threatens Coral And People Who Use Reefs
November 9, 2016 04:26 PM - Erin Mckenzie via Duke University

As atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels rise, very few coral reef ecosystems will be spared the impacts of ocean acidification or sea surface temperature rise, according to a new analysis. The damage will cause the most immediate and serious threats where human dependence on reefs is highest.

A new analysis in the journal Plos One, led by Duke University and the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, suggests that by 2050, Western Mexico, Micronesia, Indonesia, parts of Australia and Southeast Asia will bear the brunt of rising temperatures. Reef damage will result in lost fish habitats and shoreline protection, jeopardizing the lives and economic prosperity of people who depend on reefs for tourism and food.

A new study concludes warm climate is more sensitive to changes in CO2
November 9, 2016 02:46 PM - Rachel Lentz via University of Hawaii At Manoa

It is well-established in the scientific community that increases in atmospheric CO2 levels result in global warming, but the magnitude of the effect may vary depending on average global temperature. A new study, published this week in Science Advances and led by Tobias Friedrich from the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, concludes that warm climates are more sensitive to changes in CO2 levels than cold climates.

Human health risks from hydroelectric projects
November 9, 2016 09:25 AM - Leah Burrows via Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

In a new study, Harvard University researchers find over 90 percent of potential new Canadian hydroelectric projects are likely to increase concentrations of the neurotoxin methylmercury in food webs near indigenous communities. 

The research forecasts potential human health impacts of hydroelectric projects and identifies areas where mitigation efforts, such as removing the top layer of soil before flooding, would be most helpful. The works uses factors such as soil carbon and reservoir design to forecast methylmercury increases for 22 hydroelectric reservoirs under consideration or construction in Canada.

Major advance in solar cells made from cheap, easy-to-use perovskite
November 8, 2016 10:38 AM - University of California, Berkeley

Solar cells made from an inexpensive and increasingly popular material called perovskite can more efficiently turn sunlight into electricity using a new technique to sandwich two types of perovskite into a single photovoltaic cell.

Perovskite solar cells are made of a mix of organic molecules and inorganic elements that together capture light and convert it into electricity, just like today’s more common silicon-based solar cells. Perovskite photovoltaic devices, however, can be made more easily and cheaply than silicon and on a flexible rather than rigid substrate. The first perovskite solar cells could go on the market next year, and some have been reported to capture 20 percent of the sun’s energy.

New Delhi Air Pollution Reaches Highest Level In 20 Years
November 7, 2016 03:20 PM - Yale Environment 360

Indian officials declared an emergency in New Delhi over the weekend as the capital city entered its second week with air pollution levels as high as 30 times above World Health Organization guidelines, several news outlets reported.

Construction sites have been closed, operations at a coal-fired power station halted, diesel generators stopped, and officials are preparing to reinstate traffic restrictions, all to reduce smog levels across the city, which have reached their highest levels in 20 years. Officials say field burning on nearby farmland and fireworks from the recent Diwali festival helped worsen the smog conditions. 

Biodiversity needs citizen scientists
November 3, 2016 07:49 PM - Linda See, IIASA

Could birdwatching or monitoring tree blossoms in your community make a difference in global environmental research? A new study says yes: citizen scientists have a vital role to play.

Citizen scientists are already providing large amounts of data for monitoring biodiversity, but they could do much more, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation, which suggests that citizen science has the potential to contribute much more to regional and global assessments of biodiversity. Citizen scientists are regular people who provide data or input to science, for example by monitoring species in their community or examining satellite imagery for evidence of deforestation or land use change. 

“Citizen scientists are already contributing enormously to environmental science,” says IIASA researcher Linda See. “For example, a huge amount of species occurrence data is provided by members of the interested public. The question we addressed was, where are citizens contributing and where are they not, and how can we draw on this phenomenon to help fill the gaps in science?”

Can Radioactive Waste be Immobilized in Glass for Millions of Years?
November 3, 2016 11:26 AM - Todd B. Bates via Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

How do you handle nuclear waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, keeping it from harming people and the environment?

It isn’t easy, but Rutgers researcher Ashutosh Goel has discovered ways to immobilize such waste – the offshoot of decades of nuclear weapons production – in glass and ceramics.

Goel, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is the primary inventor of a new method to immobilize radioactive iodine in ceramics at room temperature. He’s also the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI for six glass-related research projects totaling $6.34 million in federal and private funding, with $3.335 million going to Rutgers.

Adapting to climate change — a major challenge for forests
November 2, 2016 09:14 AM - Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL

Climate change means that trees germinating today will be living in a much-altered climate by the time they reach middle age. The expected changes are likely to hit them hard and threaten key forest functions in the decades ahead. However, appropriate management shall enable to increase the forest habitat's adaptability. This is shown by the results of the Forests and Climate Change research programme conducted by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment FOEN and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL since 2009.

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