Pollution

How Growing Sea Plants Can Help Slow Ocean Acidification
July 12, 2016 01:57 PM - Nicola Jones via Yale Environment360

Researchers are finding that kelp, eelgrass, and other vegetation can effectively absorb CO2 and reduce acidity in the ocean. Growing these plants in local waters, scientists say, could help mitigate the damaging impacts of acidification on marine life.

Oregon’s picturesque Netarts Bay has long been known for its oysters. But Netarts, like the whole west coast of North America, is getting more acidic. And the oysters don’t like it. 

Since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide in the air has seeped into ocean waters and boosted acidity by 30 percent. Globally, the oceans’ pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1, and could drop another 0.4 units by the end of the century. The problem is worse off the west coast of North America, where acidic bottom-waters are brought up to the surface by onshore winds. Corrosive waters like those suck up the building blocks for shells, and can literally eat away at the skeletons of corals. 

Regulating particulate pollution
July 12, 2016 07:16 AM - Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative

An MIT analysis of how best to reduce fine particulate matter in the atmosphere has brought some surprising results. Due to past regulations, levels of key emissions that form those harmful particles are now lower than they were a decade ago, causing some experts to suggest that cutting them further might have little effect. Not true, concludes the MIT study. Using an atmospheric model, the researchers found that new policies to restrict the same emissions would be even more effective now than they were in the past. Further analysis elucidated the chemical processes — some unexpected — that explain their findings. Their results demonstrate the importance of tailoring air pollution policies to specific situations and of addressing a variety of emissions in a coordinated way.

Horrible algae bloom in Florida blamed on the government
July 10, 2016 09:12 AM - Greg Allen/NPR

About a hundred miles north of Miami on the Atlantic Coast, the town of Stuart is a picturesque waterfront community — with homes, restaurants and parks overlooking the St. Lucie Estuary. But in many areas now, when you approach the water, the first thing you notice is the smell.

"There's no way to describe it," says John Skinner, a boat salesman in Stuart.

But he still tries. "I would say hundreds of dead animals that have been baking in the sun for weeks."

 

After decades of clean up attempts, world's lakes still suffer from phosphorus pollution
July 8, 2016 10:52 AM - University of Southern Denmark via EurekAlert!

Leading scientists warn: Phosphorus pollution is a major concern. We need to speed up recovery treatments of lakes - or accept poor freshwater quality. In a series of studies published in a special issue of the journal Water Research, leading scientists assess how to control phosphorus pollution in lakes.

- In 40 % of Europe's lakes the water quality does not meet the demands of EUs Water Framework Directive, mainly due to phosphorus pollution. That is a huge problem for biodiversity and society and we need to put an effort into developing effective approaches to restore these lakes, says Associate Professor Kasper Reitzel, Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark.

Together with colleagues Sara Egemose and Henning S. Jensen, Reitzel is co-author of several contributions in a special issue of the journal Water Research. Kasper Reitzel is also co-editor. They are experts in lake restoration and are associated with the Villum Kann Rasmussen Centre of Excellence, Centre for Lake Restoration, (CLEAR).

NASA's airborne mission to explore the global atmosphere
July 7, 2016 01:31 PM - Nasa/Goddard Space Flight Center via EurekAlert!

Ice sheets, deserts, rivers, islands, coasts and oceans -- the features of Earth's surface are wildly different, spread across a vast geography. The same is true for Earth's thin film of atmosphere and the mix of gases it holds, although the details are invisible to human eyes. Pollutants emitted to the atmosphere -- soot, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides -- are dispersed over the whole globe, but remote regions are cleaner, by factors of 1000 or more, than areas near the continents. A new NASA airborne campaign aims to map the contours of the atmosphere as carefully as explorers once traced the land and oceans below.

The Atmospheric Tomography, or ATom, mission is the first to survey the atmosphere over the oceans. Scientists aboard NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory will journey from the North Pole south over the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand and then across to the tip of South America and north up the Atlantic Ocean to Greenland. ATom will discover how much pollution survives to the most remote corners of the earth and assess how the environment has changed as a result.

The Antarctic Ozone Hole May Be Closing
July 7, 2016 07:21 AM - s.e. smith

There’s good news from Antarctica, where researchers with tools like ozonesondes — pictured above — have been following the infamous ozone hole as it waxes and wanes over the seasons. The ozone hole has shrunk by 1.5 million square miles – around 4 million square kilometers — and this “healing” trend appears to be continuing.

A major ecological catastrophe has been averted, and we can cite human intervention as the reason. When the globe swept into action with 1987′s Montreal Protocol, which banned a number of substances known to contribute to ozone depletion, it apparently worked.

When scientists first began to observe a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, it was a cause for grave concern. Though ozone levels actually fluctuate throughout the year, they perform an important function by blocking the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

As Oceans Become More Acidic, Mussels Could Lose Ability to Hang On
July 6, 2016 03:34 PM - Yale Environment360

Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the world’s oceans to become 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, affecting everything from marine life’s ability to build shells to the pH level of fishes’ blood. Now, scientists have discovered that more acidic water also prevents mussels from attaching to rocks and other surfaces, which could have ramifications on the global food chain, the economy, and ecosystem health.

Bees' ability to forage decreases as air pollution increases
July 6, 2016 02:03 PM - Penn State via EurekAlert!

Air pollutants interact with and break down plant-emitted scent molecules, which insect pollinators use to locate needed food, according to a team of researchers led by Penn State. The pollution-modified plant odors can confuse bees and, as a result, bees' foraging time increases and pollination efficiency decreases. This happens because the chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules' life spans and the distances they travel.

While foraging for food, insects detect floral scent molecules in the air. Wind currents can carry these molecules up to thousands of feet from their original source to where bees have their hives.

"Many insects have nests that are up to 3,000 feet away from their food source, which means that scents need to travel long distances before insects can detect them," said Jose D. Fuentes, professor of meteorology and atmospheric science, Penn State. "Each insect has a detection threshold for certain kinds of scents and they find food by moving from areas of low concentrations of scents to areas of high concentrations."

Carbon emissions from Indonesia forest fires hit new high
July 6, 2016 10:40 AM - Dyna Rochmyaningsih via Scidev.net

Forest fires in Indonesia last year released 11.3 million tonnes of carbon per day, researchers have found. This figure exceeds the daily rate of 8.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions from the whole of the European Union, the study says.

The 2015 fires were the worst since 1997, when a strong El Niño also fanned widespread fires, says the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Fire is widely used in South-East Asia to clear vegetation and maintain land for the growing of crops, the paper explains. Last year, fires were exacerbated by extended drought associated with El Niño, releasing 857 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from September to October 2015, the authors say. This represents 97 per cent of the country’s annual carbon emissions.

Expanding Antarctic sea ice linked to natural variability
July 4, 2016 04:21 PM - NCAR/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research via ScienceDaily

The recent trend of increasing Antarctic sea ice extent -- seemingly at odds with climate model projections -- can largely be explained by a natural climate fluctuation, according to a new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The study offers evidence that the negative phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), which is characterized by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific, has created favorable conditions for additional Antarctic sea ice growth since 2000.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, may resolve a longstanding mystery: Why is Antarctic sea ice expanding when climate change is causing the world to warm?

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