Top Stories

Historic Nitrate Levels Still Plague U.S. Rivers
October 29, 2015 06:16 AM - USGS Newsroom

During 1945 to 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. rivers increased up to fivefold in intensively managed agricultural areas of the Midwest, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller and levels have remained high in most of the rivers studied. 

VW Dieselgate and EV priorities in Europe
October 28, 2015 04:03 PM - EurActiv

The pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed auto giant Volkswagen is turning up the heat on the German government to make more determined headway in its self-declared "electromobility" goals, analysts say.

The "bitter irony" of the scam that has rocked the automobile sector around the world and plunged the once-respected carmaker into a major crisis, is that the billions of euros VW could potentially face in fines"could have been used to finance an entire electric car programme," complained Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks recently.

Over the past six years, Berlin has put up €1.5 billion for research into an electric car, the minister pointed out. And her ministry is looking into a series of measures to promote the electric car, such as tax incentives and purchase subsidies.

Dancing makes you feel good and help bond with others
October 28, 2015 08:49 AM - Universtiy of Oxford

Dancing in time with others raises your pain threshold, Oxford University researchers have found.

A team from the University's Experimental Psychology and Anthropology Departments wanted to see whether our feelings of social closeness when dancing with others might be linked to endorphins – the body’s 'feel good' chemicals.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that form part of the brain’s pain control system, but they are also implicated in social bonding. Dr Bronwyn Tarr explained: 'Dance is an important activity around the world, and it could be a way to connect with other people and feel socially bonded. We wanted to see the effect of high and low energy, and synchronised and unsynchronised dancing had on both pain threshold and the sense of bondedness to fellow group-members.'

Black Holes and their flares studied by NASA missions
October 27, 2015 07:48 PM - NASA JPL - California Institute of Technology

The baffling and strange behaviors of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA's Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR. The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light, helping astronomers address an ongoing puzzle: How do supermassive black holes flare?

The results suggest that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas -- sources of extremely energetic particles -- shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.

"This is the first time we have been able to link the launching of the corona to a flare," said Dan Wilkins of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, lead author of a new paper on the results appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "This will help us understand how supermassive black holes power some of the brightest objects in the universe."

New report addresses how we can slow climate change
October 27, 2015 06:44 PM - UCLA

Top environmental researchers from UCLA joined a team of 50 University of California experts in issuing a new report today with solutions to stabilize Earth’s climate this century. 

The report, Bending the Curve, was released Tuesday at the UC Climate Neutrality Initiative Summit in San Diego, and provides 10 scalable solutions to reduce global greenhouse emissions. 

Why are diesel cars so popular in Europe?
October 27, 2015 08:04 AM - EurActiv

An estimated annual 'tax gap' subsidy of some €16 billion for diesel over petrol has made Europe the world's largest market for diesel cars - but the Volkswagen scandal has put the national tax schemes supporting this industry at risk.

“There is no reason to keep subsidising this sector," Carlos Calvo, policy analyst at Transport & Environment, told EurActiv on Monday (26 October). The efficiency of petrol-fuelled cars has improved significantly in recent years, while the diesel industry has reduced its nitrogen-oxide emissions only very slowly.

Declines in marine, large animals disrupt Earth's nutrient cycle
October 26, 2015 09:04 PM - University of Oxford via EurekAlert!

A new study reveals that in the past large land animals, whales, seabirds and fish played a vital role in recycling nutrients from the ocean depths, spreading them far and wide across the globe and taking them deep inland. However, the paper says massive declines in their populations coupled with the extinction of most of Earth's large mammals have disrupted this efficient system of recycling important nutrients, particularly phosphorous. The researchers calculate that the ability of whales and terrestrial megafauna to transport nutrients around the globe has been reduced to just 6% of their global capacity before mass extinctions and population declines. 

Oceans need more protected areas

Despite global efforts to increase the area of the ocean that is protected, only four per cent of it lies within marine protected areas (MPAs), according to a University of British Columbia study.

UBC Institute for Ocean and Fisheries researchers found that major swaths of the ocean must still be protected to reach even the most basic global targets.

In 2010, representatives from nearly 200 countries met in Nagoya, Japan, and adopted the United Nations' Aichi Targets, in a bid to stem the rapid loss of biodiversity. The countries committed to protecting at least 10 per cent of the ocean by 2020.

Disease-carrying ticks hitchhike into US on migratory birds
October 25, 2015 09:01 PM - Smithsonian Science News

Researchers who examined thousands of migratory birds arriving in the United States from Central and South America have determined that three percent carry ticks species not normally present in the United States. Some of the birds, they say, carry disease-causing Ricksettia ticks.

Waterfalls are more threatened than you might think
October 25, 2015 08:52 AM - Emily Zak, Care2

More than 100 years ago today, a 63-year-old Michigan schoolteacher took the first ride ever down Niagara Falls in a barrel. Annie Edson Taylor may have survived, but the future will tell if the waterfalls available for such (now-illegal) escapades will. Here are a few threats to waterfalls we can’t ignore if we want to preserve these natural wonders.

1. Drought

Last year, Yosemite Falls went dry for five months. While the falls have always been ephemeral, meaning they flow seasonally, California’s severe drought had stopped them two months earlier than usual in June until December rains started them again a month late. In The Atlantic, outdoorsman and author Michael Lanza wondered if the world’s sixth-highest falls would actually disappear, with climate change leading to less and less snowfall. Snowpack in the Cascade Range has already decreased 15 to 30 percent in the past 70 years.

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