Top Stories

Palm oil or lard?

Animal fats and margarine consumption in the United States have been largely replaced by palm oil, a plant-based oil that has similar cooking properties, but may not be as environmentally-friendly as commonly believed, argues a researcher in this week's issue of Nature. >> Read the Full Article

Doha climate change deal makes aid to poor countries for loss and damage look likely

Poor countries have won historic recognition of the plight they face from the ravages of climate change, wringing a pledge from rich nations that they will receive funds to repair the "loss and damage" incurred. This is the first time developing countries have received such assurances, and the first time the phrase "loss and damage from climate change" has been enshrined in an international legal document. Developing countries had been fighting hard for the concession at the fortnight-long UN climate change talks among 195 nations in Qatar, which finished after a marathon 36-hour final session. >> Read the Full Article

Crevasses, Bendable ice affecting stability of Antarctic ice shelf

Gaping crevasses that penetrate upward from the bottom of the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula make it more susceptible to collapse, according to University of Colorado Boulder researchers who spent the last four Southern Hemisphere summers studying the massive floating sheet of ice that covers an area twice the size of Massachusetts. But the scientists also found that ribbons running through the Larsen C Ice Shelf – made up of a mixture of ice types that, together, are more prone to bending than breaking – make the shelf more resilient than it otherwise would be. The research team from CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences presented the findings Dec. 6 at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco. >> Read the Full Article

Improvements in Air Quality add Years to Life Expectancy in US

Are all the environmental laws and regulations accomplishing anything? Sometimes progress is not apparent, so it is good news that a new study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found an association between reductions in fine particulate matter and improved life expectancy in 545 counties in the U.S. from 2000 to 2007. It is the largest study to date to find beneficial effects to public health of continuing to reduce air pollution levels in the U.S. The study appears in the December 3, 2012 online edition of the journal Epidemiology. "Despite the fact that the U.S. population as a whole is exposed to much lower levels of air pollution than 30 years ago—because of great strides made to reduce people’s exposure—it appears that further reductions in air pollution levels would continue to benefit public health," said lead author Andrew Correia, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biostatistics at HSPH". >> Read the Full Article

Arctic Report Card 2012

The 2012 Arctic Report Card is an annual description of the state of the Arctic that is sponsored by NOAA. The first Arctic Report Card was published in in 2006. Nearly 150 scientists from 15 countries contributed to this year's report. A major finding of the Report Card 2012 is that numerous record-setting melting events occurred, even though, with the exception of a few limited episodes, Arctic-wide it was an unremarkable year, relative to the previous decade, for a primary driver of melting - surface air temperatures. From October 2011 through August 2012, positive (warm) temperature anomalies were relatively small over the central Arctic compared to conditions in recent years (2003-2010). Yet, in spite of these relatively moderate conditions, new records were set for sea ice extent, terrestrial snow extent, melting at the surface of the Greenland ice sheet, and permafrost temperature. >> Read the Full Article

Salmon to Blame for Upstream Contaminants

As water in streams and rivers flow, pollutants and contaminants that come from urban, agricultural, and industrial runoff are carried downstream. But how and why are scientists finding contaminants upstream of industries and developments? The culprit: salmon. Research by University of Notre Dame stream ecologist Gary Lamberti and his laboratory has revealed that salmon, as they travel upstream to spawn and die, carry industrial pollutants into Great Lakes streams and tributaries. The team advises, if you plan on catching and eating fish from a Lake Michigan tributary with a strong salmon run, the fish may be contaminated by pollutants. >> Read the Full Article

Gravity and Plants

When one examines the roots of a plant, one sees a tangled mess of tendrils. It is well known that plant growth patterns are influenced by a variety of stimuli, gravity being one amongst many. On Earth plant roots exhibit characteristic behaviors called waving and skewing, which were thought to be gravity-dependent events. This is how the roots develop and grow in terms of direction and changes in direction. However, Arabidopsis plants grown on the International Space Station (ISS) have proved this theory wrong, according to a study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Plant Biology: root waving and skewing occur in spaceflight plants independently of gravity. >> Read the Full Article

100 Million Electric Miles: Chevy Volts Reach Milestone

Chevrolet Volt owners collectively have driven more than 100 million all-electric miles since the vehicle went on sale two years ago this month. The average Volt owner travels more than 65 percent of the time in pure electric mode as the car was designed – only using the gasoline-powered generator for longer trips. By charging regularly, Volt owners drive approximately 900 miles, or a month and a half, between fill-ups. However, many Volt owners quickly exceed that average, based on an EPA-estimated 98 MPGe that puts electric-only range at 35 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway. >> Read the Full Article

Wind Speeds in Southern New England Declining Inland, Remaining Steady On Coast: Climate Change, Urbanization Among Possible Causes

Oceanographers at the University of Rhode Island have analyzed long-term data from several anemometers in southern New England and found that average wind speeds have declined by about 15 percent at inland sites while speeds have remained steady at an offshore site. >> Read the Full Article

Feeding Paris - why the city needs to adopt the 'fairer' diet

Like all great cities, Paris has the power to draw in food and resources from all corners of the Earth. And with every meal, this food-lovers' paradise unwittingly sketches the fate of its countryside and seashores, near and far. >> Read the Full Article