How aerosols drive the rain
January 22, 2016 07:14 AM - Mark Dwortzan, MIT News
While the effects of power plant emissions, vehicle exhaust and other manmade aerosols on air quality and public health are well-known, their impact on the climate is not completely understood. Scientists have shown that aerosols can lower surface temperatures either directly, by reflecting sunlight skyward, or indirectly, by increasing the reflectivity of clouds, but until now have not figured out the role these airborne particles play in shaping the distribution of rain and snowfall around the world.
High levels of PCBs threaten whales and dolphins
January 21, 2016 07:13 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2
Scientists are raising serious concerns about the future of whales and dolphins in European waters who are continuing to suffer from the effects of toxic chemicals that were banned decades ago, but continue to linger in the environment.
According to a new study led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which was just published in the journal Scientific Reports, whales and dolphins in Europe have been found to have some of the highest levels of polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) in the world.
Pollution in Pacific tied to Africa and Asia
January 20, 2016 06:06 AM - Loretta Kuo/Shawn Honomichl, SciDevNet
Burning down forests in Africa and South-East Asia causes ozone pollution in the air as far as the western Pacific Ocean, researchers say, calling for revision of global climate models to reflect their findings.
In a paper published in Nature Communications last week (13 January), the scientists say their data contradicts earlier theories on the origins of ozone-rich air parcels above the tropical western Pacific, which were thought to descend naturally from a higher atmospheric layer.
To clean up ocean plastics focus on coasts, not the Great Pacific garbage patch
January 19, 2016 07:14 AM - Imperial College London via EurekAlert!
The most efficient way to clean up ocean plastics and avoid harming ecosystems is to place plastic collectors near coasts, according to a new study.
Plastic floating in the oceans is a widespread and increasing problem. Plastics including bags, bottle caps and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes wash out into the oceans from urban rivers, sewers and waste deposits.
How much methane IS leaking at Porter Ranch?
January 15, 2016 07:08 AM - University of California, Davis via ScienceDaily
A UC Davis scientist flying in a pollution-detecting airplane provided the first, and so far only, estimates of methane emissions spewing from the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in Southern California since the leak began on Oct. 23, 2015.
Those estimates were provided to the California Air Resources Board in November. Pilot and UC Davis project scientist Stephen Conley continues to measure emissions from the still uncontrolled leak, which has displaced thousands of residents in the affluent Porter Ranch neighborhood in northern Los Angeles. On Jan. 6, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the community.
To date, Conley estimates that the leak has emitted nearly 80,000 tons of methane, or about 1,000 tons per day.
California, Feds Reject Volkswagen Recall "Fix"
January 14, 2016 07:16 AM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit
Last week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) said “no deal” to Volkswagen’s proposal to buy back some of the vehicles that were outfitted with cheat devices. According to CARB, the plan, which would see the recall of only a fraction of the 600,000 U.S. cars affected in the latest VW scandal, does “not adequately address overall impacts on vehicle performance, emissions and safety,” and would not fix the cars’ pollution problems quickly enough.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows how nanoparticles impact immune cells
January 13, 2016 03:35 PM - Tom Rickey, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Scientists have shown that a process known as oxidative stress is at work during encounters between certain nanoparticles and immune cells, selectively modifying proteins on macrophages, a type of immune cell. The findings, by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, were published in the journal ACS Nano.
While oxidative stress is a common way for cell damage to occur, the findings were a surprise in some ways.
"Oxidative stress is occurring selectively even at low levels of exposure to nanoparticles," said Brian Thrall, a nanotoxicology expert at PNNL and a corresponding author of the study. "We've demonstrated an approach that is sensitive enough to detect effects of nanoparticles on macrophages long before those cells die. This gives us the opportunity to understand the most sensitive cellular targets of oxidative stress and the pathways involved more completely than before.
"This is important information for understanding how nanoparticles can alter cell function and for beginning to identify functions that allow cells to adapt versus those that are potentially involved in adverse effects," Thrall added.
California Methane Leak leads to State of Emergency
January 11, 2016 07:26 AM - Mike Gaworecki, MONGABAY.COM
An ongoing methane gas leak at a facility in Southern California — what’s been called “the nation’s biggest environmental disaster since the BP oil spill” — has officially been declared an emergency by Governor Jerry Brown.
Natural gas, or methane, first started leaking from Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility on October 23 last year.
Some 2,300 homes have been evacuated in nearby Porter Ranch, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, after residents began experiencing nosebleeds, rashes, headaches and other serious health impacts due to the gas leak and the sulfur-like smell that is blanketing their community.
Testing chemical toxicity challenge announced by USEPA + National Institutes of Health
January 8, 2016 05:19 PM - USEPA
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and NIH’s National Toxicology Program (NTP) within the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are announcing a new challenge that will award up to $1 million to improve the relevance and predictivity of data generated from automated chemical screening technology used for toxicity testing.
Out of thousands of chemicals in commerce today, very few have been fully evaluated for potential health effects. Scientists from EPA, NIEHS/NTP, and NCATS are using high-throughput screening (HTS) assays to evaluate the potential health effects of thousands of chemicals. High-throughput screening uses automated methods that allow for a large number of chemicals to be rapidly evaluated for a specific type of biological activity.
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory developing underground battery system to store energy and CO2
January 6, 2016 04:30 PM - Lawrence Liverpool Laboratory.
Meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels will require increased use of renewable energy and reducing the CO2 intensity of fossil energy use.
The intermittency of when the wind blows and when the sun shines is one of the biggest challenges impeding the widespread integration of renewable energy into electric grids, while the cost of capturing CO2 and storing it permanently underground is a big challenge for decarbonizing fossil energy.
However, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota and TerraCOH, Inc. think they’ve found an answer to both of these problems with a large-scale system that incorporates CO2 sequestration and energy storage.