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Los Angeles area natural gas leak continues

Though it seems to be oddly absent from the mainstream media headlines, a massive methane gas leak in Southern California’s Aliso Canyon has prompted thousands of evacuations and, since Oct. 23, has pumped over 150 million pounds of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Even though the owners of the methane well, Southern California Gas Co., say this week that they have finally discovered the pipe associated with the leak, it will likely be months before a seal is entirely in place.

To truly underscore the seriousness of the Porter Ranch gas leak, the Environmental Defense Fund released an infrared aerial video this week showing the tremendous, continuous release of methane:

Methane gas, in its natural state, is also odorless. However, for safety reasons, foul-smelling additives are artificially included with the gas. In Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles neighborhood and the site of the leak, the additive smell’s intensity has affected the heath of many of residents — nose bleeds, nausea, headaches and dizzy spells have been reported.

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How exercising early in life alters gut microbes and promotes a healthier brain

The human gut harbors a teeming menagerie of over 100 trillion microorganisms, and researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have discovered that exercising early in life can alter that microbial community for the better, promoting healthier brain and metabolic activity over the course of a lifetime.

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This year's El Niño not giving up

The current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission. 

El Niño 2015 has already created weather chaos around the world. Over the next few months, forecasters expect the United States to feel its impacts as well. 

The latest Jason-2 image bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997, by Jason-2's predecessor, the NASA/Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) Topex/Poseidon mission, during the last large El Niño event. Both reflect the classic pattern of a fully developed El Niño.

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The economic benefits of mercury reductions

Mercury pollution is a global problem with local consequences: Emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources travel around the world through the atmosphere, eventually settling in oceans and waterways, where the pollutant gradually accumulates in fish. Consumption of mercury-contaminated seafood leads to increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairments.

In the past several years, a global treaty and a domestic policy have been put in place to curb mercury emissions. But how will such policies directly benefit the U.S.? 

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California drought putting many trees at risk

California's forests are home to the planet's oldest, tallest and most-massive trees. New research from Carnegie's Greg Asner and his team reveals that up to 58 million large trees in California experienced severe canopy water loss between 2011 and today due to the state's historic drought. Their results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to the persistently low rainfall, high temperatures and outbreaks of the destructive bark beetle increased forest mortality risk. But gaining a large-scale understanding a forest's responses to the drought, as well as to ongoing changes in climate, required more than just a picture of trees that have already died. 

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Influence of Earth's tilt on climate studied

LSU paleoclimatologist Kristine DeLong contributed to an international research breakthrough that sheds new light on how the tilt of the Earth affects the world's heaviest rainbelt. DeLong analyzed data from the past 282,000 years that shows, for the first time, a connection between the Earth's tilt called obliquity that shifts every 41,000 years, and the movement of a low pressure band of clouds that is the Earth's largest source of heat and moisture -- the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ.

"I took the data and put it through a mathematical prism so I could look at the patterns and that's where we see the obliquity cycle, that 41,000-year cycle. From that, we can go in and look at how it compares to other records," said DeLong, who is an associate professor in the LSU Department Geography & Anthropology.

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Bird habitat changing quickly as climate change proceeds

The climatic conditions needed by 285 species of land birds in the United States have moved rapidly between 1950 and 2011 as a result of climate change, according to a recent paper published in Global Change Biology.

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Study looks into past climate in Oregon's Coast Range

Lush greenery rich in Douglas fir and hemlock trees covers the Triangle Lake valley of the Oregon Coast Range. Today, however, geologists across the country are more focused on sediment samples dating back 50,000 years that were dug up by University of Oregon scientists.

The sediment indicates that the mountainous region, which was not covered in glaciers during the last ice age, was a frost-covered grassy landscape that endured erosion rates at least 2.5 higher than today's, an eight-member team reports in a paper in the journal Science Advances.

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How many trees are on planet Earth?

Here is a pop quiz: How many trees are on the planet?

Most people have no idea.

A new study says the answer is more than 3 trillion trees — that's trillion with a T, and that number is about eight times more than a previous estimate.

Thomas Crowther was inspired to do this tree census a couple of years ago, when he was working at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He had a friend who was working with a group with an ambitious goal: trying to fight global warming by planting a billion trees. A billion trees sounded like a lot. But was it really?

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Is the Earth more hairy than we thought?

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought.

A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of long filaments of dark matter, or "hairs."

Dark matter is an invisible, mysterious substance that makes up about 27 percent of all matter and energy in the universe. The regular matter, which makes up everything we can see around us, is only 5 percent of the universe. The rest is dark energy, a strange phenomenon associated with the acceleration of our expanding universe.

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