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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.

 

Why the Himalayas keep growing
January 13, 2016 07:27 AM - University of Leeds

An international team of scientists has shed new light on the earthquake that devastated Nepal in April 2015, killing more than 8,000 people.

In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the scientists show that a kink in the regional fault line below Nepal explains why the highest mountains in the Himalayas are seen to grow between earthquakes.

Cloud cover found significant factor in Greenland Ice Sheet melt
January 13, 2016 06:27 AM - University of Wisconsin-Madison via EurekAlert!

The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest ice sheet in the world and it's melting rapidly, likely driving almost a third of global sea level rise.

A new study shows clouds are playing a larger role in that process than scientists previously believed.

"Over the next 80 years, we could be dealing with another foot of sea level rise around the world," says Tristan L'Ecuyer, professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author of the study. "Parts of Miami and New York City are less than two feet above sea level; another foot of sea level rise and suddenly you have water in the city."

The Porter Ranch gas leak update
January 12, 2016 06:28 PM - NRDC

Senators Kevin de León and Fran Pavley announced a package of new legislation that builds on Gov. Brown’s state of emergency declaration to ensure protections for Californians impacted by the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch. 

The new legislation will require: 

  • a moratorium on new injections into the Aliso Canyon  storage facility until experts determine it is safe to resume and a study to see whether it makes sense to continue using the facility. (SB 875)
  • that response costs – such as greenhouse gas mitigation, relocation, and emergency response costs – will be funded by the Gas Company shareholders, not the ratepayers who are suffering from this disaster. (SB 876)
  • stronger laws regulating gas storage facilities, including increased inspections and health and safety measures. (SB 877)
  • setting state climate pollution reduction targets and holding polluters accountable for meeting those targets. (SB 878)

NASA published amazing images of dwarf planet Ceres
January 12, 2016 11:42 AM - NASA Earth Observatory

This image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest craters on Ceres. Image Credit: NASA/JPL Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Features on dwarf planet Ceres that piqued the interest of scientists throughout 2015 stand out in exquisite detail in the latest images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which recently reached its lowest-ever altitude at Ceres.

Dawn took these images near its current altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers) from Ceres, between Dec. 19 and 23, 2015.

Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest craters on Ceres, shows off many fascinating attributes at the high image resolution of 120 feet (35 meters) per pixel. The crater has bright material exposed on its rim, which could be salts, and its flat floor likely formed from impact melt and debris. Researchers will be looking closely at whether this material is related to the "bright spots" of Occator Crater. Kupalo, which measures 16 miles (26 kilometers) across and is located at southern mid-latitudes, is named for the Slavic god of vegetation and harvest.

Acoustic Sanctuaries for Marine Mammals
January 12, 2016 07:24 AM - Mike DiGirolamo, MONGABAY.COM

Imagine living in an environment of constant noise where you cannot get anything accomplished. Ocean noise pollution caused by shipping, oil and gas development, and other human activities is making this the reality for marine mammals in many places, interfering with their ability to detect prey and communicate with one another. Yet some areas of the ocean remain refuges of quiet. A new study has identified some of these acoustic sanctuaries off the coast of British Columbia in the hope that they may be protected.

The Ebola-poverty link
January 11, 2016 10:06 AM - Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos, SciDevNet

Last year’s Ebola outbreak spread fastest and was hardest to control in poor communities, says a study which argues that future efforts to combat highly infectious diseases should target such areas.
 
A paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases at the end of 2015 showed that people in poorer parts of Montserrado county in Liberia — which contains the capital, Monrovia — were more likely to both catch Ebola and pass it on than those in wealthy neighbourhoods. Residents in areas of extreme poverty need rapid and high-quality healthcare interventions during outbreaks to contain epidemics quickly, it concludes. 

“The paper implies a need for more investment, time and effort spent on improving health and education in urban communities.” Elizabeth Hamann, International Rescue Committee

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.

Recycling on the ropes, France has a plan to fix the industry
January 11, 2016 05:29 AM - EurActiv

Low raw material costs have dealt a heavy blow to the recycling industry. The French recycling federation (FEDEREC) believes the sector needs a complete overhaul to stay afloat in the coming years.

FEDEREC published its view of the future of recycling in a white paper entitled "The recycling industry by 2030." In the preface to this 70-page document, a frank discussion of the problems facing the industry and how they might be solved, Corinne Lepage, a Republican politician, evoked a sector "devastated by an oil price that is so low that it is driving us back towards a linear economy, as it is cheaper today to buy primary raw materials than recycled raw materials".

Natural carbon sinks and their role in climate
January 10, 2016 11:32 AM - Mark Dwortzan | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Protected areas such as rainforests occupy more than one-tenth of the Earth’s landscape, and provide invaluable ecosystem services, from erosion control to pollination to biodiversity preservation. They also draw heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store it in plants and soil through photosynthesis, yielding a net cooling effect on the planet.

Determining the role protected areas play as carbon sinks — now and in decades to come — is a topic of intense interest to the climate-policy community as it seeks science-based strategies to mitigate climate change. Toward that end, a study in the journal Ambioestimates for the first time the amount of CO2 sequestered by protected areas, both at present and throughout the 21st century as projected under various climate and land-use scenarios.

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