• Plants Might Have Saved Earth From Permanent Ice Age

    In the last 800,000 years, Earth has chilled and thawed its way through eight ice ages, each lasting tens of thousands of years. But why? Why didn’t Earth just freeze the one time and stay that way?

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  • New research urges a rethink on global energy subsidies

    The hidden toll that subsidies for electricity, fossil fuels, and transport have on social welfare, economic growth and technological innovation needs to be exposed through better research says a new paper in Ecological Economics by Benjamin K Sovacool.

    Energy subsidies, which have mostly supported fossil fuels and nuclear power over the previous half century, have historically kept energy prices artificially low, compared to market rates. But they come at a high cost to governments and taxpayers. The Indian government, for example, spends as much as it does on fuel subsidies for kerosene and liquid propane, used to light rural houses, as it does on education. India subsidises fossil energy consumption by $21 billion every year, which works out at $16 per person. Given that 500 million of its people live on less than $2 per day, this is a surprisingly large amount.

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  • Dartmouth Study Finds Increased Water Availability from Climate Change May Release More Nutrients into Soil in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica

    As climate change continues to impact the Antarctic, glacier melt and permafrost thaw are likely to make more liquid water available to soil and aquatic ecosystems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, potentially providing a more nutrient-rich environment for life, according to a Dartmouth study recently published in Antarctic Science. (A pdf of the study is available upon request).

    With an average annual air temperature of -2.2 F and an average precipitation of 3-50 mm per year, the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are dominated by dry soils underlain by permafrost. The Dry Valleys ecosystem is severely limited by liquid water and nutrients, resulting in limited organic matter. One such limited nutrient is phosphorus, an element that is essential to all living organisms. Understanding the spatial distribution of phosphorus in the soil is crucial to identifying where life could become more abundant in the future. 

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  • Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon

    Logging that happens today and potential future rainfall reductions in the Amazon could push the region into a vicious dieback circle. If dry seasons intensify with human-caused climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss would increase even more, an international team of scientists finds. If however there is a great variety of tree species in a forest patch, according to the study this can significantly strengthen the chance of survival. To detect such non-linear behavior, the researchers apply a novel complex network analysis of water fluxes.

    “The Amazon rainforest is one of the tipping elements in the Earth system,” says lead-author Delphine Clara Zemp who conducted the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. “We already know that on the one hand, reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, and on the other hand, forest loss can intensify regional droughts. So more droughts can lead to less forest leading to more droughts and so on. Yet the consequences of this feedback between the plants on the ground and the atmosphere above them so far was not clear. Our study provides new insight into this issue, highlighting the risk of self-amplifying forest loss which comes on top of the forest loss directly caused by the rainfall reduction.” This study results from the  German-Brazilian Research Training Group on Dynamical Phenomena in Complex Networks at (IRTG1740) hosted by Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. 

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  • Agencies team up to accelerate Earth system prediction

    Accurately predicting the weather - at short and long time scales - is among the most complex and important challenges faced by science. Protecting the nation’s security and economic well-being will increasingly rely on improved skill in forecasting weather, weather-driven events like floods and droughts, and long-term shifts in weather, ocean and sea-ice patterns.

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  • NASA Sees Wind Shear Affecting Tropical Cyclone 11S

    Tropical Cyclone 11S appeared elongated in NASA satellite imagery as a result of the storm being battered by wind shear.

    When NASA's Terra satellite flew over Tropical Cyclone 11S on March 10 at 0515 UTC (12:15 a.m. EST) the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument took a visible light picture of the storm. The image revealed that the storm has been stretched out by moderate vertical wind shear.

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  • Volcano Breath: Measuring Sulfur Dioxide from Space

    There is no mint that can take the edge off sulfurous emissions from volcanoes, but researchers can use remote sensing to better understand volcanic breathing.

    Volcanoes erupt, they spew ash, their scarred flanks sometimes run with both lava and landslides. But only occasionally. A less dramatic but important process is continuous gas emissions from volcanoes; in other words, as they exhale. A number of volcanoes around the world continuously exhale water vapor laced with heavy metals, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, among many other gases. Of these, sulfur dioxide is the easiest to detect from space.

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  • Measurements by school pupils paved way for key research findings

    With their measurements and samples, nearly 3,500 schoolchildren have assisted a research study on lakes and global warming, now published in an academic journal. The results show that water temperatures generally remain low despite the air becoming warmer. This helps to curb the outflow of greenhouse gases.

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  • Carbon-based Approaches for Saving Rainforests Should Include Biodiversity Studies

    Conservationists working to safeguard tropical forests often assume that old growth forests containing great stores of carbon also hold high biodiversity, but a new study finds that the relationship may not be as strong as once thought, according to a group of researchers with contributions from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and other organizations.

     Tropical forests are exceptionally rich in both carbon and biodiversity, but the study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports indicates that, within the tropics, tree diversity and forest carbon do not necessarily correlate, and that there is no detectable relationship between the two factors across a region, a scale relevant for conservation planning and the establishment of protected areas. For instance, in Central Africa, some areas that are dominated by one or a few tree species are high in carbon density, whereas some forests with many more tree species have a lower carbon density. 

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  • NASA's Aerial Survey of Polar Ice Expands Its Arctic Reach

    For the past eight years, Operation IceBridge, a NASA mission that conducts aerial surveys of polar ice, has produced unprecedented three-dimensional views of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, providing scientists with valuable data on how polar ice is changing in a warming world. Now, for the first time, the campaign will expand its reach to explore the Arctic’s Eurasian Basin through two research flights based out of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

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