Environmental Policy

Climate seesaw at the end of the last glacial phase – A warmer Europe cools down East Asia
March 31, 2017 09:34 AM - GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences

The climate of the Earth follows a complex interplay of cause-and-effect chains. A change in precipitation at one location may be caused by changes on the other side of the planet. A better understanding of these “teleconnections” – the linkages between remote places – may help to better understand local impacts of future climate change. A look into the climate of the past helps to investigate the teleconnections. An international team of Japanese, British, Australian, and German scientists, with the participation of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, now investigated Japanese lake sediments to decipher the interplay between local climate changes on the northern hemisphere about 12.000 years ago. Their results, now published as Nature Scientific Report, show that a regional warming in Europe caused a cooling and an increase in snowfall in East Asia.

Solving the mystery of the Arctic's green ice
March 29, 2017 03:54 PM - Leah Burrows via John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

In 2011, researchers observed something that should be impossible — a massive bloom of phytoplankton growing under Arctic sea ice in conditions that should have been far too dark for anything requiring photosynthesis to survive. So, how was this bloom possible?

Using mathematical modeling, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) found that thinning Arctic sea ice may be responsible for frequent and extensive phytoplankton blooms, potentially causing significant disruption in the Arctic food chain.  

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation
March 28, 2017 03:56 PM - University of Hawaii At Manoa

New research from the University of HawaiÊ»i at Mānoa reveals a large part of the the heavily urbanized area of Honolulu and WaikÄ«kÄ« is at risk of groundwater inundation—flooding that occurs as groundwater is lifted above the ground surface due to sea level rise. Shellie Habel, lead author of the study and doctoral student in the Department of Geology and GeophysicsSchool of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), and colleagues developed a computer model that combines ground elevation, groundwater location, monitoring data, estimates of tidal influence and numerical groundwater-flow modeling to simulate future flood scenarios in the urban core as sea level rises three feet, as is projected for this century under certain climate change scenarios.

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation
March 28, 2017 03:56 PM - University of Hawaii At Manoa

New research from the University of HawaiÊ»i at Mānoa reveals a large part of the the heavily urbanized area of Honolulu and WaikÄ«kÄ« is at risk of groundwater inundation—flooding that occurs as groundwater is lifted above the ground surface due to sea level rise. Shellie Habel, lead author of the study and doctoral student in the Department of Geology and GeophysicsSchool of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), and colleagues developed a computer model that combines ground elevation, groundwater location, monitoring data, estimates of tidal influence and numerical groundwater-flow modeling to simulate future flood scenarios in the urban core as sea level rises three feet, as is projected for this century under certain climate change scenarios.

New Report Finds EPA's Controlled Human Exposure Studies of Air Pollution Are Warranted
March 28, 2017 02:21 PM - National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carries out experiments in which volunteer participants agree to be intentionally exposed by inhalation to specific pollutants at restricted concentrations over short periods to obtain important information about the effects of outdoor air pollution on human health.  A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds these studies are warranted and recommends that they continue under ­­two conditions: when they provide additional knowledge that informs policy decisions and regulation of pollutants that cannot be obtained by other means, and when it is reasonably predictable that the risks for study participants will not exceed biomarker or physiologic responses that are of short duration and reversible.

New Report Finds EPA's Controlled Human Exposure Studies of Air Pollution Are Warranted
March 28, 2017 02:21 PM - National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carries out experiments in which volunteer participants agree to be intentionally exposed by inhalation to specific pollutants at restricted concentrations over short periods to obtain important information about the effects of outdoor air pollution on human health.  A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds these studies are warranted and recommends that they continue under ­­two conditions: when they provide additional knowledge that informs policy decisions and regulation of pollutants that cannot be obtained by other means, and when it is reasonably predictable that the risks for study participants will not exceed biomarker or physiologic responses that are of short duration and reversible.

Chance find has big implications for water treatment's costs and carbon footprint
March 27, 2017 01:15 PM - Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

A type of bacteria accidentally discovered during research supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) could fundamentally re-shape efforts to cut the huge amount of electricity consumed during wastewater clean-up.

The discovery has upended a century of conventional thinking. The microorganisms - 'comammox' (complete ammonia oxidising) bacteria - can completely turn ammonia into nitrates. Traditionally, this vital step in removing nitrogen from wastewater has involved using two different microorganisms in a two-step approach: ammonia is oxidised into nitrites that are then oxidised into nitrates, which are turned into nitrogen gas and flared off harmlessly.

Chance find has big implications for water treatment's costs and carbon footprint
March 27, 2017 01:15 PM - Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

A type of bacteria accidentally discovered during research supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) could fundamentally re-shape efforts to cut the huge amount of electricity consumed during wastewater clean-up.

The discovery has upended a century of conventional thinking. The microorganisms - 'comammox' (complete ammonia oxidising) bacteria - can completely turn ammonia into nitrates. Traditionally, this vital step in removing nitrogen from wastewater has involved using two different microorganisms in a two-step approach: ammonia is oxidised into nitrites that are then oxidised into nitrates, which are turned into nitrogen gas and flared off harmlessly.

Litter is present throughout the world's oceans: 1,220 species affected
March 27, 2017 01:06 PM - Alfred Wegener Institute - Helmholtz Centre For Polar and Marine Research

Where is marine litter concentrated, and which species and ecosystems does it affect? Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute have for the first time compiled all scientific data published on marine litter in a single, comprehensive database, now accessible from the online portal AWI Litterbase (www.litterbase.org). Here, both the distribution of litter and its interactions with organisms are presented in global maps. In addition, the regularly updated datasets are fed into graphic analyses, which show e.g. that seabirds and fish are particularly affected by litter. The latest interaction analysis shows that 34 per cent of the species monitored ingest litter, 31 per cent colonise it, and 30 per cent get entangled or otherwise trapped in it (for all figures: valid as of 23 March 2017). The total number of affected species is rising steadily and is currently at 1,220 – more than twice the number reported in the last review article. These numbers will change as the database is being updated regularly.

Litter is present throughout the world's oceans: 1,220 species affected
March 27, 2017 01:06 PM - Alfred Wegener Institute - Helmholtz Centre For Polar and Marine Research

Where is marine litter concentrated, and which species and ecosystems does it affect? Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute have for the first time compiled all scientific data published on marine litter in a single, comprehensive database, now accessible from the online portal AWI Litterbase (www.litterbase.org). Here, both the distribution of litter and its interactions with organisms are presented in global maps. In addition, the regularly updated datasets are fed into graphic analyses, which show e.g. that seabirds and fish are particularly affected by litter. The latest interaction analysis shows that 34 per cent of the species monitored ingest litter, 31 per cent colonise it, and 30 per cent get entangled or otherwise trapped in it (for all figures: valid as of 23 March 2017). The total number of affected species is rising steadily and is currently at 1,220 – more than twice the number reported in the last review article. These numbers will change as the database is being updated regularly.

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