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US Greenhouse Gas Emissions are Down

Anthropogenic US greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) amounted to a CO2-equivalent 6,702.3 million metric tons in 2011, down 1.6 percent from 2010 and 6.9 percent below 2005 levels. Longer term, US GHG emissions have increased at an annual average rate of 0.4 percent since 1990, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 18th annual US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (Inventory) report, which was released April 15. A decrease in the carbon intensity of fuels used in electricity generation due to increased use of natural gas as opposed to coal, a "significant increase in hydropower" generation, and "relatively mild winter conditions, especially in the South Atlantic Region of the US" were the main factors underlying the drop in national GHG emissions in 2011, according to the EPA’s "The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2011." >> Read the Full Article

Nitrogen Fertilizer Dangers

My first reaction when I heard details of this week's deadly fertilizer explosion in Texas was horror. My second thought was, "Maybe I shouldn't have pushed to change that headline." National Geographic magazine just published in its May issue my article about how nitrogen fertilizer has shaped our planet. The article, with Peter Essick's beautiful pictures, describes fertilizer's critical role in providing our food, but also its toll on water, air and wildlife. When the article went up online, the headline read, at first, "The Curse of Fertilizer." I didn't like it. It seemed only half of the story. I complained, and the headline soon changed to "A Mixed Blessing" — just as news broke that the West Fertilizer Co. plant had caught fire and exploded, destroying much of the small town of West, Texas. The blast killed at least a dozen people — including emergency workers who were trying to fight the fire — and injured more than 100 others. >> Read the Full Article

Superstorm Sandy "Earthquake"

Earthquakes shake the land obviously. So do explosions and similar events. How about a hurricane? When superstorm Sandy turned and took aim at New York City and Long Island last October, ocean waves hitting each other and the shore rattled the seafloor and much of the United States – shaking detected by seismometers across the country, University of Utah researchers found. >> Read the Full Article

Freeway Air Pollution Travels Farther than Previously Thought

Los Angeles is known not only for its celebrity clientele, but also for its congested roadways and heavy traffic, which consequently has led to severely polluted air, and the title of the "smoggiest city" in the United States. While air quality has improved somewhat in LA, a joint study by UCLA and the California Air Resources Board suggests that nearly a quarter of Angelenos are exposed to noxious plumes of freeway fumes almost every morning, far more people than previously thought. >> Read the Full Article

Green 'Khutbah' Muslim Sermon Campaign

Muslims have been asked to encourage their spiritual leaders, imams, to devote this Friday Khutbah or sermon (19th April 2013) to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of Allah’s creation. Muaz Nasir from Khaleafa who is leading the effort is also hoping to raise awareness amongst Muslim of the environmental challenges facing humanity. "The 'Green Khutbah Campaign' is aiming to challenge Muslims to become stewards of the environment by making changes to their daily routines," explains Nasir. "Although the evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever, the public is starting to tune out due to the recent economic crisis and a lack of political leadership. But Muslims cannot tune out from the environmental damage – tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to Allah's creation." >> Read the Full Article

Study Suggests Community Gardening May Produce Health Benefits

There are many benefits to community gardens. From greening urban ecosystems, to offering education and cultural opportunities, community gardens provide a venue for people to come together and stimulate social interaction. For individuals, these gardens also provide a venue for exercise, food production, and improved diets. These potential benefits have lead to a new study that reveals those who participate in community gardening have a significantly lower body mass index and have lower odds of being overweight or obese compared to their non-gardening neighbors. >> Read the Full Article

Shooting Asteroids

Asteroids is a video arcade game. The object of the game is to shoot and destroy asteroids and saucers while not colliding with either. Real asteroids are minor planets (small Solar System bodies and dwarf planets) that are not comets, especially those of the inner Solar System. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones. Shyam Bhaskaran of NASA is working a lot with asteroids these days. And also like many of his colleagues, the deep space navigator devotes a great deal of time to crafting, and contemplating, computer-generated 3-D models of these intriguing nomads of the solar system. But while many of his coworkers are calculating asteroids' past, present and future locations in the cosmos, zapping them with the world's most massive radar dishes, or considering how to rendezvous and perhaps even gently nudge an asteroid into lunar orbit, Bhaskaran thinks about how to collide with one. >> Read the Full Article

Wildlife Sanctuaries Along Coasts and Sea Level Rise

A new report on the potential effects of climate change on NOAA's Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary uses existing observations and science-based expectations to identify how climate change could affect habitats, plants and animals within the sanctuary and adjacent coastal areas. It also outlines new management recommendations for the sanctuary, and sanctuary officials called it the first step toward addressing them. They also said the report issued by the sanctuary, Climate Change and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary: Interpreting Potential Futures, will provide a foundation of information and identify key issues facing the sanctuary. >> Read the Full Article

Cigarette Butts Litter Waterways, Create Toxic Aquatic Ecosystems

What would you say is the most littered item on US roadways? I think of two things: gum and cigarette butts. But let's focus on cigarettes for now. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic which is technically biodegradable. However, cigarette butts only degrade under conditions described by researchers as "severe biological circumstances," such as when filters end up in sewage. Even under optimal conditions, it can take at least 9 months for a butt to degrade. >> Read the Full Article

Aerosols confirmed rising over India

While satellite data has shown aerosols — tiny polluting particles in the air — to be rising over India, a new study based on primary data gathered from measuring instruments installed in a network of stations confirms the trend. The study, by a team from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, published online in Geophysical Research Letters last month (14 March), is based on the principle that aerosols absorb the sun's rays as they reach the earth's surface. >> Read the Full Article