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Christmas Trees Absorb Greenhouse Gasses

Your Christmas tree and its brethren are absorbing methane, a super greenhouse gas that they were previously suspected of emitting. In fact, previous studies put the global methane output by plants at between 62 and 236 teragrams each year. That's not small potatoes (if you will pardon the vegetable pun), but 10 to 30 percent of all methane entering the atmosphere. I refer to methane as a "super" greenhouse gas because it does what carbon dioxide does, but packs about 25 times the punch, which is bad. However, methane does not last very as long in Earth's atmosphere, which is good. Then again, one of the things methane degrades into is carbon dioxide. Bad again. Ugh. >> Read the Full Article

Decal-like Sticker Will Make Solar Panels More Applicable

Solar panels have been popping up on everything from rooftops to parking garages and even Christmas lights. However, these stiff and rigid heavy panels often limit their applications. Fortunately, researchers at Stanford University have developed flexible, decal-like solar panels that can be peeled off like stickers and stuck to virtually any surface, from papers to window panes. >> Read the Full Article

Caribou at Risk of Losing Endangered Species Act Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that removing Endangered Species Act protections for the woodland caribou "may be warranted." The decision came in response to a petition from an anti-environment law firm, Pacific Legal Foundation, along with Bonners County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association. The petition argues that the southern Selkirk population of caribou, which are found in Idaho, Washington and British Columbia, are not significant and therefore not worthy of protection. Today's finding does not substantiate that claim, but states the Fish and Wildlife Service will take a closer look. >> Read the Full Article

Average Temperatures in West Antarctica Show Marked Rise Over 54 Years

Global average temperatures are rising in most places, but the rise is not uniform. In western Antarctica, temperatures have risen significantly over an extended period. In a finding that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study by the University of Colorado University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder finds that the western part of the continent's ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought. The temperature record from Byrd Station, a scientific outpost in the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), demonstrates a marked increase of 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) in average annual temperature since 1958. The rate of increase is three times faster than the average temperature rise around the globe for the same period. The study will be published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience. It was conducted by scientists at Ohio State University (OSU), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with funding coming from the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's sponsor. >> Read the Full Article

University of Hawaii Comes to Aid of Hurricane Sandy Victims

Hurricane Sandy caused more damage than many people who are not living in the Staten Island and Jersey Shore areas are aware of. It will take a long time to recover and help is still needed. The University of Hawaii may take the title of the helpers who traveled the greatest distance to help. Their mission was two-fold, to help recovery efforts, and to learn what more might be done to reduce damages from future hurricanes and superstorms like Sandy. From November 29 to December 6, 2012, UH Manoa team members from the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC), Sea Grant and the Urban Resilience Lab traveled to the most severely damaged areas in New York City and New Jersey coastal communities to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) efforts in recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Sandy, the most devastating storm to hit the northeastern U.S. coast in decades, struck on November 29. The team assessed and documented damage and met with community leaders, emergency responders, hazard planners and those involved in relief and recovery efforts. Coastal storm surge, flooding and infrastructure failure were the main causes and consequences of Sandy's impact. >> Read the Full Article

Smoking Found to Affect Your Genes

Cigarettes leave you with more than a smoky scent on your clothes and fingernails. A new study has found strong evidence that tobacco use can chemically modify and affect the activity of genes known to increase the risk of developing cancer. The finding may give researchers a new tool to assess cancer risk among people who smoke. DNA isn't destiny. Chemical compounds that affect the functioning of genes can bind to our genetic material, turning certain genes on or off. These so-called epigenetic modifications can influence a variety of traits, such as obesity and sexual preference. Scientists have even identified specific epigenetic patterns on the genes of people who smoke. None of the modified genes has a direct link to cancer, however, making it unclear whether these chemical alterations increase the risk of developing the disease. >> Read the Full Article

Fusion Power on Line?

Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion processes. In fusion reactions two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus (in contrast with fission power which breaks these bonds). To date there are no commercial fusion plants. These are expected to be less impactful than a fission plant because of less radioactive waste that can be created. The U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has joined forces with researchers in South Korea to develop a conceptual design for a pioneering fusion facility in that Asian nation. The proposed device, called K-DEMO, could be completed in the 2030s as the final step before construction of a commercial fusion power plant that would produce clean and abundant energy for generating electricity. >> Read the Full Article

EPA Finalizes Clean Air Standards for Boilers and Incinerators, Makes Progress in Protecting Public Health

Today, the U.S. EPA finalized changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers, incinerators, and cement kilns which are used by industries for everything from power generation, heating, treating waste, and manufacturing. These changes will achieve extensive public health protections by reducing toxic air pollution, while at the same addressing concerns and feedback from industry and labor groups, increasing the rule’s flexibility and dramatically reducing costs. As a result, 99 percent of the approximately 1.5 million boilers in the U.S. are not covered or can meet the new standards by conducting periodic maintenance or regular tune-ups. >> Read the Full Article

Scientists Reveal Findings on Sutter's Mill Meteorite

A meteorite that exploded over California's Sierra foothills this past spring was among the fastest, rarest meteorites known to have hit the Earth. After collecting and studying fallen pieces of the meteorite, an international team of scientists is ready to announce their research, reporting on everything from the meteorite's age, to it's travelled course and original size. The researchers found that the meteorite that fell over Northern California on April 22 was the rarest type known to have hit the Earth — a carbonaceous chondrite. It is composed of cosmic dust and presolar materials that helped form the planets of the solar system. >> Read the Full Article

NOx Removal with Paint

NOx is a pollutant that comes from all combustion emissions. It can be minimized but not eliminated at the stack. Painted surfaces (a very common urban surface area) with photo-catalytic characteristics may be able to clean the air of nitrogen oxides and other health-endangering substances. Using a new testing procedure, Fraunhofer researchers can find out how the coatings behave during a long-term test. They will introduce the new test at the booth of the Fraunhofer Building Innovation Alliance January, 2013, in Munich, Germany. >> Read the Full Article