Top Stories

Iron and Life and Volcanic Ash

In 2010, there was a large volcanic eruption spewing tons of ash into the atmosphere and into the sea. The ash caused major flight delays as well as posing potential health hazards. Nevertheless, the Icelandic volcano's ash plume resulted in the oceans absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than usual, say scientists. In about a third of the global ocean, the abundance of life is limited by a lack of biologically available iron. The supply of iron to a region that is depleted in this important nutrient can stimulate algal productivity, and can result in a temporary boom in biological activity. For much of the surface ocean, the wind-borne transport of iron-rich dust and the upwelling of nutrient-filled water are the normal major sources of iron. >> Read the Full Article

Happy World Water Day!

All across the globe, communities are celebrating International World Water Day and according the UN's World Water Day website, over 450 events have been planned this year! This year's theme is in part a reflection of the International Year of Water Cooperation. The day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation that is emphasized concerning using water as a resource. Not only is the environment heavily dependent on water, but as a basic human need, good management of water sources is crucial to our own livelihood. In correlation with this environmental holiday, we are encouraged to promote water cooperation and do our part in protecting one of Earth's most valuable resources as this year marks the 10th anniversary of the celebration that was recommended during the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. So in celebration of today, we are urging our readers to limit your water use! >> Read the Full Article

Climate Change and Giant Sequoias

The world’s largest living species, native to California's Sierra Nevada, faces a two-pronged risk from declining snowpack and rising temperatures. The threat to sequoias mirrors a growing danger to trees worldwide, with some scientists saying rapid warming this century could wipe out many of the planet's old trees. Few living things seem as permanent as the giant sequoia trees of California's Sierra Nevada. The largest species of flora or fauna on Earth, these towering redwood trees have held sway for millions of years in a narrow band of their native mountain habitat. With heights reaching 300 feet and girths as large as 150 feet, some sequoias can live in excess of 3,000 years before being naturally toppled by a combination of weather and gravity. >> Read the Full Article

Tectonic Plate Lubricant

Tectonic plates are composed of oceanic lithosphere and thicker continental lithosphere, each topped by its own kind of crust. Tectonic plates are able to move because the Earth's lithosphere has a higher strength and lower density than the underlying asthenosphere. Plate movement is thought to be driven by a combination of the motion of the seafloor away from the spreading ridge (due to variations in topography and density of the crust, which result in differences in gravitational forces) and drag, downward suction, at the subduction zones. Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have found a layer of liquefied molten rock in Earth's mantle that may be acting as a lubricant for the sliding motions of the planet's massive tectonic plates. The discovery may carry far-reaching implications, from solving basic geological functions of the planet to a better understanding of volcanism and earthquakes. The scientists discovered the magma layer at the Middle America trench offshore Nicaragua >> Read the Full Article

Cloning Brings Back Extinct Frog That Gives Birth Through Mouth

Scientists in Australia have successfully cloned embryos of a unique but extinct species of frog that gives birth through its mouth. >> Read the Full Article

US Hazardous Waste Grade: D+

Superfund is the common name for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), a United States federal law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances. Where responsible parties cannot be found, the Agency is authorized to clean up sites itself, using a special trust fund. There has been undeniable success in the cleanup of the nation’s hazardous waste and brownfields sites. However, annual funding for Superfund site cleanup is estimated to be as much as $500 million short of what is needed, and 1,280 sites remain on the National Priorities List with an unknown number of potential sites yet to be identified. More than 400,000 brownfields sites await cleanup and redevelopment. The American Society of Civil Engineers has prepared a report card on the state of the nation on this matter and have given us a D+. >> Read the Full Article

8 Frogs Discovered in 1 Sanctuary

Two surveys in the mountainous forests of Sri Lank's Peak Wilderness Sanctuary have uncovered eight new species of frogs, according to a massive new paper in the Journal of Threatened Taxa. While every year over a hundred new amphibians are discovered, eight new discoveries in a single park is especially notable. Sri Lanka is an amphibian-lovers paradise with well over 100 described species, most of which are endemic, i.e. found only on the small island country. Unfortunately the country has also seen more frog extinctions than anywhere else, and seven of the eight new species are already thought to be Critically Endangered. >> Read the Full Article

The Importance of Aircraft Emission in Climate Change

While air travel today accounts for just three percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants that come out of jet exhaust contribute disproportionately to increasing surface temperatures below because the warming effect is amplified in the upper atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the United Nations (UN) to provide comprehensive scientific assessments of the risk of human-induced climate change, reports that CO2 emitted by jets can survive in the atmosphere for upwards of 100 years, and that its combination with other gas and particulate emissions could have double or four times the warming effect as CO2 emissions alone.Modern jet engines are not that different from automobile engines—both involve internal combustion and burn fossil fuels. But instead of gasoline or diesel, jet fuel is primarily kerosene, a common home heating fuel used around the world. Just like car engines, jets emit CO2, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and soot. >> Read the Full Article

Plankton and CO2

Plankton are any organisms that live in water and are incapable of swimming against a current. They provide a crucial source of food to many large aquatic organisms, such as fish and whales. The true base of the food chain. Though many plankton species are microscopic in size, plankton includes organisms covering a wide range of sizes, including large organisms such as jellyfish. Models of carbon dioxide in the world's oceans need to be revised, according to new work by UC Irvine and other scientists published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience due to plankton. Trillions of plankton near the surface of warm waters are far more carbon-rich than has long been thought, they found. Global marine temperature fluctuations could mean that tiny Prochlorococcus and other microbes digest double the carbon previously calculated. >> Read the Full Article

Redfield's Ratio Refuted

The Redfield ratio has been a fundamental feature in understanding the biogeochemical cycles of the oceans and has been used since 1934 when oceanographer Alfred Redfield found that the elemental composition of marine organic matter is constant across all regions. By analyzing samples of marine biomass, Redfield found that the stoichiometric ratios of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus remain consistent with a ratio of 106:16:1 in ocean regions. However, according to new work by UC Irvine and other researchers, models of carbon dioxide in the world's oceans need to be revised. >> Read the Full Article