Top Stories

NASA's GRAIL mission sheds light on the origin of the Procellarum basin on the Moon
October 1, 2014 02:24 PM - Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

New data obtained by NASA's GRAIL mission reveals that the Procellarum region on the near side of the moon - a giant basin often referred to as the "man in the moon" - likely arose not from a massive asteroid strike, but from a large plume of magma deep within the moon's interior. The Procellarum region is a roughly circular, volcanic terrain some 1,800 miles in diameter - nearly as wide as the United States. One hypothesis suggested that it was formed by a massive impact, in which case it would have been the largest impact basin on the moon. Subsequent asteroid collisions overprinted the region with smaller - although still large - basins.

Dog waste contaminates our waterways
October 1, 2014 10:50 AM - American Chemical Society

Americans love their dogs, but they don't always love to pick up after them. And that's a problem. Dog feces left on the ground wash into waterways, sometimes carrying bacteria — including antibiotic-resistant strains — that can make people sick. Now scientists have developed a new genetic test to figure out how much dogs are contributing to this health concern, according to a report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Yellowstone Aspen recovering thanks to the Wolves
October 1, 2014 08:47 AM - Oregon State University

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is undergoing dramatic shifts with consequences that are beginning to return the landscape to conditions not seen in nearly a century, according to a series of new studies. In the park's northeast section, elk have decreased in number in their historic winter range in the Lamar Valley and are now more numerous outside the park. This change in elk numbers and distribution can be traced back to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995-96. Scientists have hypothesized that wolves affect both the numbers and the behavior of elk, thereby reducing the impact of browsing on vegetation, a concept known as a "trophic cascade."

Climate Change and Food Security
October 1, 2014 08:47 AM - Bill DiBenedetto, Triple Pundit

If coping with climate change is central to achieving a sustainable future for the global population, then food security lies at the heart of this effort, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said last week in a speech at the United Nations Climate Summit last week. "We cannot call development sustainable while hunger still robs over 800 million people of the opportunity to lead a decent life," he said in a reference to the latest U.N. report on world hunger, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014.

Renewable energy capacity increases, nuclear declines
September 30, 2014 05:03 PM - Editor, Worldwatch Institute

Advocates of nuclear energy have long been predicting its renaissance, yet this mode of producing electricity has been stalled for years. Renewable energy, by contrast, continues to expand rapidly, even if it still has a long way to go to catch up with fossil fuel power plants, writes Worldwatch Institute Senior Researcher Michael Renner in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online analysis (bit.ly/NuclearRE). Nuclear energy’s share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013. Renewables increased their share from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2012.

New research in Thailand finds birds and bats key to reforestation efforts
September 30, 2014 08:37 AM - Heather D'Angelo, MONGABAY.COM

Tropical forest restoration projects are exciting research sites for scientists studying factors that affect ecosystem recovery. Here, scientists are trying to understand plant community succession, i.e. the process of recovery after cleared lands are abandoned and allowed to regrow naturally. One of the most important components of this recovery process is seed dispersal, since seeds from nearby forests allow a deforested habitat to become populated again by native plants and trees.

New MIT report predicts serious future warming
September 30, 2014 07:38 AM - Audrey Resutek | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Global temperature is likely to rise 3.3-5.6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, unless international climate negotiations in Paris next year are more effective than expected, according to a report released Monday by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. The predicted temperature increase surpasses the threshold identified by the United Nations as necessary to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change, altering precipitation patterns and heightening the pressures of population and economic growth. "Our world is rapidly changing," says John Reilly, co-director of the MIT Joint Program and a coauthor of the report. "We need to understand the nature of the risks we’re facing so we can prepare for them."

Causes of California drought linked to climate change, Stanford scientists say
September 29, 2014 03:34 PM - Ker Than, Stanford University

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, Stanford scientists write in a new research paper. In a new study, a team led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

Connecting Productivity of Office Workers and Climate Change
September 29, 2014 09:57 AM - John Alker, The Ecologist

Energy efficiency in office buildings struggles to gain the attention of top management, writes John Alker - because energy is too cheap to really matter. But with 90% of operating costs spent on staff, a new report shows that green building design makes employees happier and more productive. There would seem to be no connection between the productivity of office workers and the great challenge of climate change. But a report published by the World Green Building Council suggests otherwise.

Climate change more of a risk to the Greenland Ice Sheet than thought
September 29, 2014 07:56 AM - University of Cambridge

A new model developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge has shown that despite its apparent stability, the massive ice sheet covering most of Greenland is more sensitive to climate change than earlier estimates have suggested, which would accelerate the rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities worldwide. In addition to assessing the impact of the increasing levels of meltwater created and spilled into the ocean each year as the climate continues to warm, the new model also takes into account the role that the soft, spongy ground beneath the ice sheet plays in its changing dynamics. Details are published today (29 September) in the journal Nature Communications.

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