Pollution

Threat of wildfires expected to increase as global temperatures rise
August 12, 2016 04:01 PM - United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has warned that wildfires could become more frequent and more destructive as global temperatures rise and drought conditions plague many regions of the world.

“Last year was the hottest year on record and was above average for the number of reported major droughts and heatwaves. This year we are seeing a similar pattern with new temperature records being set on a monthly basis,” UNISDR chief Robert Glasser said yesterday in a news release issued by the Office.

July Electric Car Sales in China Rose by 188 Percent Over Last Year
August 12, 2016 01:59 PM - Yale Environment 360

Chinese consumers bought 34,000 new electric cars in July, a 188 percent jump over the same period last year, according to CleanTechnica, an energy and technology news organization. The monthly total puts China on track to sell 400,000 electrical vehicles in 2016, accounting for 1.5 percent of the total auto sales market — larger than annual EV sales in Europe, or the U.S., Canada, and Mexico combined. 

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing
August 12, 2016 01:48 PM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) via EurekAlert!

For all the promise they have shown in the lab, polymer solar cells still need to "get on a roll" like the ones employed in printing newspapers so that large sheets of acceptably efficient photovoltaic devices can be manufactured continuously and economically. Polymer solar cells offer advantages over their traditional silicon-based counterparts in numerous ways, including lower cost, potentially smaller carbon footprint and a greater variety of uses.

Where Lead Lurks And Why Even Small Amounts Matter
August 12, 2016 10:29 AM - Jessica Pupovac via National Public Radio

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too.

When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing.

Feds Say California's Endangered Channel Islands Foxes Are Recovered
August 11, 2016 03:48 PM - Center for Biological Diversity

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the successful recovery of three out of four unique subspecies ofisland fox on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands, removing them from the endangered species list. The agency also upgraded the protection status of the Santa Catalina Island fox — the fourth subspecies — from “endangered” to “threatened” to reflect its status improvement.

"Because they evolved separately on the islands for 16,000 years, these adorable little foxes are some of the only carnivores endemic to California,” said Jeff Miller with the Center. “They were on the brink of extinction just 12 years ago when they were protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now, thanks to successful reintroduction and recovery efforts, numbers of foxes are way up and threats have been reduced."

Discovery of sunlight-driven organic chemistry on water surfaces
August 11, 2016 03:41 PM - American Association for The Advancement of Science via EurekAlert!

Fatty acids found on the surface of water droplets react with sunlight to form organic molecules, a new study reports, essentially uncovering a previously unknown form of photolysis.

The results could affect models that account for aerosol particles, including models related to climate. Conventional wisdom holds that carboxylic acids and saturated fatty acids, which are abundant throughout the environment, only react with hydroxyl radicals and are not affected by sunlight.

Shipping Noise Causes Whales to Dive More Slowly and Forage Less
August 11, 2016 01:23 PM - Yale Environment 360

Ocean noise caused by shipping can cause humpback whales to dive more slowly and forage less frequently, according to new research in the journal Biology Letters. A team of U.S. and U.K. researchers tagged 10 humpbacks in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Massachusetts, with devices that simultaneously tracked the whales’ movements and underwater noise.

California Freeways to Go Greener by Generating Electricity
August 10, 2016 10:32 AM - Laura Goldman, Care2

Energy conservation is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about freeways jammed with idling vehicles.

But in California, which has some of the most congested freeways in the country, that’s about to change. The California Energy Commission (CEC) has approved a pilot program in which piezoelectric crystals will be installed on several freeways.

Melting ice sheet could expose frozen Cold War-era hazardous waste
August 9, 2016 07:18 AM - York University

Climate change is threatening to expose hazardous waste at an abandoned camp thought to be buried forever in the Greenland Ice Sheet, new research out of York University has found.

Camp Century, a United States military base built within the Greenland ice sheet in 1959, doubled as a top-secret site for testing the feasibility of deploying nuclear missiles from the Arctic during the Cold War. When the camp was decommissioned in 1967, its infrastructure and waste were abandoned under the assumption they would be entombed forever by perpetual snowfall.

A Troubling Snag in the Comeback of the California Condor
August 8, 2016 04:40 PM - Matt Simon via Wired.com

IN THE EARLY ’80s, the California condor almost scavenged its way to extinction. The grisly-looking birds survive off the remains of animals, often leftovers shot by hunters. But those hunters often used lead ammunition. Condors were dying of lead poisoning, their numbers dropping as low as 22.

In one of conservation’s greatest success stories, a frantic captive breeding program brought the huge, glorious scavenger roaring back; today, the condors number close to 450, over half of which are wild. While an outright ban on lead ammunition won’t kick in until 2019, aggressive public education has helped safeguard the species—inland at least. But scientists have found a new threat to the reestablished condors: extremely high levels of mercury and the pesticide DDT in the birds’ blood. This time, it’s an appetite for marine mammal flesh that may threaten the condor.

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