• Mysterious Rise in Ocean Salinity

    Scientists have observed unexpected changes in the seawater salinity and they are increasingly concerned about the potential impact on ocean currents. The salinity of seawater can accelerate the water cycle which can cause extreme weather events like floods and drought. To investigate the issue of ocean salinity scientists have boarded the research vessel Knorr, which set sail on September 6, 2012. NASA’s Aquarius instrument is part of a separate research project that has been measuring seawater salinity from space since August 2011. In addition to ocean salinity, researchers are exploring the water cycle which involves the ways that water circulates between the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and land. This process involves precipitation and return to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration. >> Read the Full Article
  • Carbon Dioxide Snow

    It is cold on Mars. It has a thin atmosphere that is mostly carbon dioxide (95%). NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data have given scientists the clearest evidence yet of carbon-dioxide snowfalls on Mars. This reveals the only known example of carbon-dioxide snow falling anywhere in our solar system. Quite literally the very air of Mars is falling as snow! Frozen carbon dioxide, better known as dry ice, requires temperatures of about minus 193 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 125 Celsius), which is much colder than needed for freezing water. Carbon-dioxide snow reminds scientists that although some parts of Mars may look quite Earth-like, the Red Planet is very different. The report is being published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. >> Read the Full Article
  • Global Wind Energy

    There is enough theoretical energy available in the wind to meet all of the world’s energy demand. Airborne wind turbines that convert steadier and faster high-altitude winds into energy could generate even more power than ground- and ocean-based turbine units. New research from Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira examines the limits of the amount of power that could be harvested from winds, as well as the effects high-altitude wind power could have on the climate as a whole. Their work is published September 9 by Nature Climate Change. Led by Kate Marvel of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who began this research at Carnegie, the team used models to quantify the amount of power that could be generated from both surface and atmospheric winds. Surface winds were defined as those that can be accessed by turbines supported by towers on land or rising out of the sea. High-altitude winds were defined as those that can be accessed by technology merging turbines and kites. The study looked only at the geophysical limitations of these techniques, not technical or economic factors. >> Read the Full Article
  • Wind Power and Climate Change

    Though there is enough power in Earth's winds to be a primary source of near-zero emission electric power for the world, large-scale high altitude wind power generation is unlikely to substantially affect climate. That is the conclusion of a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and collaborators who studied the geophysical limits to global wind power in a paper appearing in the Sept. 9 edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. "The future of wind energy is likely to be determined by economic, political and technical constraints rather than geophysical limits," said Kate Marvel, lead author of the paper and a scientist in the Laboratory's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison. >> Read the Full Article
  • Shell begins offshore drilling in the Alaskan Arctic

    With the approval of the Obama Administration, Royal Dutch Shell began drilling into the ocean floor of the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska yesterday morning. The controversial operation, which has been vehemently opposed by environmental and Native groups, will likely only last a few weeks this year until the Arctic winter sets in. The U.S. government has said that Shell must complete operations by September 24th, however the oil giant has asked for an extension. "We look forward to continued drilling progress throughout the next several weeks and to adding another chapter to Alaska’s esteemed oil and gas history," Shell wrote in an online statement. "We're proud to be offshore Alaska, and we're extremely proud of the preparation we've put in place to do it right." Extreme weather, floating ice, and remoteness are just a few of the challenges that faces any fossil fuel exploitation in the Arctic, and environmental groups say Shell hasn't proven itself ready to drill safely. The oil giant, which spent $4 billion on Arctic oil drilling, has suffered costly and embarrassing delays all year, including an oil spill containment barge which is still harbored in Washington State and undergoing retrofitting. >> Read the Full Article
  • Summer Temps in the Lower 48 Are 3rd Highest on Record

    Between June and August, the contiguous United States experienced its 3rd hottest summer. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature around the lower 48 states was warmer than average in June and August, and set a new heat record for July. The average for the whole summer was 74.4 degrees F, 2.3 degrees above the 20th century average. The only hotter summers were in 2011 and way back in 1936. The most notable aspect of this summer climate is the extreme drought in parts of the country. According to the US Drought monitor, nearly 63 percent of the lower 48 continue to experience drought conditions to this day. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change causing forest die-off globally

    Already facing an onslaught of threats from logging and conversion for agriculture, forests worldwide are increasingly impacted by the effects of climate change, including drought, heightened fire risk, and disease, putting the ecological services they afford in jeopardy, warns a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change. >> Read the Full Article
  • How Much Does the Ocean Weigh?

    Water does weigh something; about 8.3 pounds per gallon. In research published this week, scientists from the National Oceanography Center and Newcastle University have proposed an idea that will assess the mass of the world ocean by weighing it at a single point. But there is a catch. Global sea level is currently rising at about 3 mm per year, but predictions of rise over the century vary from 30 cm to over a meter. There are two ways global sea level can increase. The water in the oceans can warm and expand, leading to the same weight of water taking up more space. In other words water density can vary which must be taken into account. Alternatively, more water added to the ocean from melting of land ice will increase the ocean's weight. >> Read the Full Article
  • Pillaging the Moon for the Promise of Space Energy

    Between 1969 and 1972, Apollo astronauts brought just under 842 pounds of rocks and regolith back from the Moon. In 1985, engineers at the University of Wisconsin discovered significant amounts of Helium-3 in the lunar soil. Helium-3 is a stable isotope of helium -- the gas we use to fill party balloons with -- and is notable because it's missing a neutron, an important property that means we can used it in nuclear fusion reactions to produce clean energy. Unfortunately, our most plentiful stores of the isotope are a quarter of a million miles away. Current nuclear power plants use fission reactors, splitting uranium nuclei to release energy. This heat turns water into steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity. Unfortunately, radioactivity, spent nuclear fuel reprocessed into uranium, plutonium, and radioactive waste are by-products of this reaction. To get away from fission power, scientists have been working on nuclear fusion energy. >> Read the Full Article
  • Martian Climate

    On Mars's poles there are ice caps of ice and dust with multiple layers that can tell us much about climate variations on Mars. Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have related the layers in the ice cap on Mars's north pole to variations in solar insolation on Mars, thus established the first dated climate history for Mars, where ice and dust accumulation has been driven by variations in insolation. The results are published in the scientific journal, Icarus. The ice caps on Mars's poles are kilometers thick and composed of ice and dust. There are layers in the ice caps, which can be seen in cliffs and valley slopes and we have known about these layers for decades, since the first satellite images came back from Mars. The layers are believed to reflect past climate on Mars, in the same way that the Earth's climate history can be read by analyzing ice cores from the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica. >> Read the Full Article