Top Stories

Americans are buying more bottled water than soda
August 16, 2016 07:20 AM - Llowell Williams, Care2

This year is on track to see Americans’ consumption of bottled water outpace their soda drinking for the very first time. According to Euromonitor, a market research firm, the average American will buy 27.4 gallons of bottled water, compared to 26.2 gallons of soda drinks.

Is this a good thing? It’s hard to argue that less consumption of sugary products is a bad thing. However, Americans aren’t necessarily replacing soda with water — for the most part, they are simply buying more bottled water.

NASA's Van Allen probes catch rare glimpse of supercharged radiation belt
August 15, 2016 03:56 PM - NASA/GODDARD Space Flight Center via EurekAlert!

Our planet is nestled in the center of two immense, concentric doughnuts of powerful radiation: the Van Allen radiation belts, which harbor swarms of charged particles that are trapped by Earth's magnetic field. On March 17, 2015, an interplanetary shock - a shockwave created by the driving force of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, from the sun - struck Earth's magnetic field, called the magnetosphere, triggering the greatest geomagnetic storm of the preceding decade. And NASA's Van Allen Probes were there to watch the effects on the radiation belts.

One of the most common forms of space weather, a geomagnetic storm describes any event in which the magnetosphere is suddenly, temporarily disturbed. Such an event can also lead to change in the radiation belts surrounding Earth, but researchers have seldom been able to observe what happens. But on the day of the March 2015 geomagnetic storm, one of the Van Allen Probes was orbiting right through the belts, providing unprecedentedly high-resolution data from a rarely witnessed phenomenon. A paper on these observations was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on Aug. 15, 2016.

Warming climate likely to have 'minor' impact on power plant output
August 15, 2016 02:15 PM - Duke University via EurekAlert!

Future climate warming will likely cause only minor cuts in energy output at most U.S. coal- or gas-fired power plants, a new Duke University study finds.

The study -- the first of its kind based on real-world data -- rebuts recent modeling-based studies that warn rising temperatures will significantly lower the efficiency of power plants' cooling systems, thereby reducing plants' energy output. Those studies estimated that plant efficiencies could drop by as much as 1.3 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of climate warming.

Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer
August 15, 2016 01:50 PM - Frontiers in Nutrition via EurekAlert!

Ever thought of putting sewage on your plants? Scientists say thermally conditioned sewage sludge serves as an excellent fertilizer to improve soil properties. This was recently published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The major advantage over commercial fertilizers? Sustainable re-use of essential and finite phosphorus resources.

Phosphorus is a key nutrient for all living beings. When deficient in the diet, it severely compromises human health, and when deficient in agriculture, it restricts crop productivity. Without phosphorus, there can be no food production.

New residential water heater concept promises high efficiency, lower cost
August 15, 2016 11:53 AM - DOE/OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY via EurekAlert!

A team of scientists from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Florida has developed a novel method that could yield lower-cost, higher-efficiency systems for water heating in residential buildings.

The theory behind the newly termed "semi-open" natural gas-fired design, explained in an ORNL-led paper published in Renewable Energy: An International Journal, reduces the cost and complexity of traditional closed gas-fired systems by streamlining, and even eliminating, certain components.

New residential water heater concept promises high efficiency, lower cost
August 15, 2016 11:53 AM - DOE/OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY via EurekAlert!

A team of scientists from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Florida has developed a novel method that could yield lower-cost, higher-efficiency systems for water heating in residential buildings.

The theory behind the newly termed "semi-open" natural gas-fired design, explained in an ORNL-led paper published in Renewable Energy: An International Journal, reduces the cost and complexity of traditional closed gas-fired systems by streamlining, and even eliminating, certain components.

SLAC, Stanford gadget grabs more solar energy to disinfect water faster
August 15, 2016 11:39 AM - DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory via EurekAlert!

In many parts of the world, the only way to make germy water safe is by boiling, which consumes precious fuel, or by putting it out in the sun in a plastic bottle so ultraviolet rays will kill the microbes. But because UV rays carry only 4 percent of the sun's total energy, the UV method takes six to 48 hours, limiting the amount of water people can disinfect this way.

Now researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have created a nanostructured device, about half the size of a postage stamp, that disinfects water much faster than the UV method by also making use of the visible part of the solar spectrum, which contains 50 percent of the sun's energy.

Tropical sea urchins caught between a rock and a hot place
August 15, 2016 09:48 AM - Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute via EurekAlert!

The balmy waters of the Caribbean could turn into a deadly heat trap for countless tiny creatures. Authors of a new study conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama discovered that microscopic sea urchin eggs and larvae may suffer stunting or death when the water temperature spikes just a couple of degrees above normal, adding to the impact of climate change in already warm tropical oceans.

Sea urchins, pincushion-shaped relatives of the starfish, graze the sea floor from shallow coastal areas to deep ocean vents from pole to pole. Their young look nothing like them. Adults release millions of eggs and sperm into the water, which develop into pinprick-sized free-swimming larvae. Only a minute fraction will survive and metamorphose into adults. Scientists think the developmental stages from egg to larvae are extra sensitive to temperature changes, but very few studies compare the vulnerability of the offspring to that of the adults.

Nature and the Nurture of Aerosols
August 15, 2016 07:07 AM - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

You've seen it when flying into major cities the world over: a haze over the city. It is caused by aerosol particles, but scientists don't know all the details of the complex chemistry involved. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Dr. Alla Zelenyuk and her team took on a specific part of that haze: originated from isoprene. After being released by the trees and shrubs, isoprene reacts in the atmosphere and becomes assorted chemicals, including IEPOX (isoprene epoxydiols). The team found that IEPOX is a major player in producing aerosols from isoprene and that particle size, certain coatings, and acidity influence how IEPOX behaves. 

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.

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