Top Stories

Global Warming "hiatus" connected to volcanic eruptions

The “warming hiatus” that has occurred over the last 15 years has been caused in part by small volcanic eruptions. Scientists have long known that volcanoes cool the atmosphere because of the sulfur dioxide that is expelled during eruptions. Droplets of sulfuric acid that form when the gas combines with oxygen in the upper atmosphere can persist for many months, reflecting sunlight away from Earth and lowering temperatures at the surface and in the lower atmosphere. Previous research suggested that early 21st-century eruptions might explain up to a third of the recent warming hiatus.

>> Read the Full Article

Denmark Sets New Wind Power World Record

Denmark has long been one of the world’s leaders in wind power. The country of 5.6 million has set a goal of generating 50 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2020 and aims to be entirely fossil fuel-free by 2050. Those goals, especially the one for 2020, are well achievable: Denmark has announced it scored 39.1 percent of its energy from wind in 2014.

>> Read the Full Article

Carbon capture and the UN Economic Commission for Europe

The only way to limit global warming to less than two degrees is to combine renewable energy and energy efficiency with a large expansion in the use of carbon capture and storage, writes Christian Friis Bach.  Christian Friis Bach is executive secretary and under-secretary-general of UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

I will admit that just a few years back I was very sceptical. Today I am convinced that we must do it. We must capture the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

Oil prices tumble. Coal resources are vast. Large new gas reserves have been found. Fossil fuels will be with us for many decades and will continue to underpin social and economic development around the world. We need to invest heavily in energy efficiency and in renewable energy sources, but the only way we can hope to limit global warming to less than two degrees is to combine it with a significant expansion of the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

>> Read the Full Article

January Marks National Radon Action Month

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated January as national Radon Action Month, a perfect time for you to protect your family by testing your home for radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, so testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home or school. Test kits are available in home improvement centers, hardware stores and online. They cost approximately $20. The kits are simple to use with easy testing and mailing instructions. 

>> Read the Full Article

Which fossil fuels must remain in the ground to limit global warming?

A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. The study funded by the UK Energy Research Centre and published in Nature today, also identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused and so sets out the regions that stand to lose most from achieving the 2°C goal.

>> Read the Full Article

Wave Energy looks very favorable from a cost standpoint

A new analysis suggests that large-scale wave energy systems developed in the Pacific Northwest should be comparatively steady, dependable and able to be integrated into the overall energy grid at lower costs than some other forms of alternative energy, including wind power.

The findings, published in the journal Renewable Energy, confirm what scientists have expected – that wave energy will have fewer problems with variability than some energy sources and that by balancing wave energy production over a larger geographic area, the variability can be even further reduced.

>> Read the Full Article

Study reveals new method to estimate the global impacts of dams

When dams are built they have an impact not only on the flow of water in the river, but also on the people who live downstream and on the surrounding ecosystems. By placing data from close to 6,500 existing large dams on a highly precise map of the world’s rivers, an international team led by McGill University researchers has created a new method to estimate the global impacts of dams on river flow and fragmentation.

>> Read the Full Article

Most Earth-like Planet Revealed

Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler satellite have boosted the tally of known or suspected planets beyond our solar system to more than 4000, they reported here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Most are inhospitable—too big, too hot, or too cold for any conceivable life form. But another team seeking to verify Kepler candidates announced here today that they had identified eight new potentially habitable planets, including some close to Earth in size and situation. “We’ve significantly increased the list of verified small planets in the habitable zone,” says Douglas Caldwell of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

>> Read the Full Article

Lake Erie dead zone increased drastically by 2012 drought

Lake Erie just can’t catch a break. The lake has experienced harmful algal blooms and severe oxygen-depleted “dead zones” for years, but now a team of researchers led by Carnegie’s Anna Michalak and Yuntao Zhou has shown that the widespread drought in 2012 was associated with the largest dead zone since at least the mid-1980s.

Until now, the size of the dead zone each summer and the factors explaining the variability from year to year have been elusive. Using 28 years of data collected in and around the lake, the team was able to “measure” the size of the dead zone each summer and identify factors that explain the year-to-year variability for the first time. They found that the 2012 drought, with extremely low water inflow from tributaries, was associated with a record-breaking dead zone in the lake, and that meteorological factors together with agricultural practices explain why these events vary annually. Previous studies have focused on phosphorous from agricultural runoff as the primary driver of the lake’s dead zones, but this analysis shows that the inflow of water from tributaries is actually the largest explanatory factor. The results are published in Environmental Science & Technology.

>> Read the Full Article

Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Could Taint Pools

A new study suggests pharmaceuticals and chemicals from personal care products end up in swimming pools, possibly interacting with chlorine to produce disinfection byproducts with unknown properties and health effects. Chlorination is used primarily to prevent pathogenic microorganisms from growing. Previous research has shown that many constituents of urine including urea, uric acid, and amino acids, interact with chlorine to produce potentially hazardous disinfection byproducts in swimming pools. However, chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal care products, or PPCPs, also could be interacting with chlorine, producing potentially harmful byproducts. 

>> Read the Full Article