• Urban soils release surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

    In the concrete jungle at the core of a city, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are dominated by the fossil fuels burned by the dense concentrations of cars and buildings. Boston University researchers now have shown, however, that in metropolitan areas surrounding the city core, plant roots and decomposing organic material in soil give off enough CO2 , in a process termed "soil respiration", to make an unexpectedly great contribution to total emissions.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • Rutgers University Study finds sea level rise in the 20th Century was fastest in 3,000 years

    Global sea level rose faster in the 20th century than in any of the 27 previous centuries, according to a Rutgers University-led study published today.

    Moreover, without global warming, global sea level would have risen by less than half the observed 20th century increase and might even have fallen.

    Instead, global sea level rose by about 14 centimeters, or 5.5 inches, from 1900 to 2000. That’s a substantial increase, especially for vulnerable, low-lying coastal areas.

    “The 20th-century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia – and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster,” said Robert Kopp, the lead author and an associate professor in Rutgers’ Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • The impacts of a warming climate on Russian agriculture

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last month was the warmest January on record. That sets off alarm bells for climate scientists, but for the average person living in a northern climate, it might not sound so bad.

    That's what many people are saying these days in Russia, where the expected icy winter has failed to materialize this year – to widespread joy. Of course, any climate scientist will tell you that an unusually warm month — or even a whole warm winter — doesn't mean much. It's the long-term trend that counts.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • Warming climate is bad news for western US aquifers

    By 2050 climate change will increase the groundwater deficit even more for four economically important aquifers in the western U.S., reports a University of Arizona-led team of scientists.

    The new report is the first to integrate scientists' knowledge about groundwater in the U.S. West with scientific models that show how climate change will affect the region.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • New Report Ties "Hottest Year on Record" to Human Toll of Disasters

    Natural disasters made 2015 a miserable year for many people around the world. According to the United Nations’ Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the statistics were brutal. At least 98.6 million people were affected by natural disasters ranging from droughts to floods, and the economic damage could have been as high as $66.5 billion. Using the data available from the Belgian non-profit Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), the UN reports that almost 23,000 people died from the 346 natural disasters reported across the world.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • Bicycle ownership going downhill

    Bicycle ownership around the world is declining amid rising wealth levels and increased use of motorised vehicles in developing countries, a study has found.

    Four out of ten households on the planet own a bike, according to a paper based on surveys from 150 countries between 1989 and 2012. But the growing popularity and affordability of motorised transport, such as cars and scooters, “have disfavoured bicycle use”, the researchers say.

    China in particular experienced a collapse in bike ownership rates since 1992, when 97 per cent of households had bikes. However, this dropped to 63 per cent by 2009, the study shows, with ownership rates in most other countries either flat or decreasing.

    In Togo, bike ownership has remained stable at around 34 per cent of households between 1998 and 2010, but in Paraguay ownership rates dropped from 57 per cent of households in 1996 to 39 per cent in 2002, the paper states.

    These trends could be expected as the number of motor vehicles per person has increased over the past decade at a rate “never seen before in human history”, in particular in China, India and parts of Africa, says Marc Shotten, a transport specialist at the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility in the United States.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • Rocks have growth rings too and they can help us learn about past climates

    Scientists have found a new way to tease out signals about Earth's climatic past from soil deposits on gravel and pebbles, adding an unprecedented level of detail to the existing paleoclimate record and revealing a time in North America's past when summers were wetter than normal.

    A research team led by soil scientists at the University of California, Berkeley obtained data about precipitation and temperature in North America spanning the past 120,000 years, which covers glacial and interglacial periods during the Pleistocene Epoch. They did this at thousand-year resolutions -- a blink of an eye in geologic terms -- through a microanalysis of the carbonate deposits that formed growth rings around rocks, some measuring just 3 millimeters thick.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • Land surfaces are storing more water slowing sea level rise

    New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise.

    A new study by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, shows that while ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, changes in weather and climate over the past decade have caused Earth's continents to soak up and store an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent.

    The water gains over land were spread globally, but taken together they equal the volume of Lake Huron, the world's seventh largest lake. The study is published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • Sandia National Laboratories improves modeling of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets

    The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will make a dominant contribution to 21st century sea-level rise if current climate trends continue. However, predicting the expected loss of ice sheet mass is difficult due to the complexity of modeling ice sheet behavior.

    To better understand this loss, a team of Sandia National Laboratories researchers has been improving the reliability and efficiency of computational models that describe ice sheet behavior and dynamics. The team includes researchers Irina Demeshko, Mike Eldred, John Jakeman, Mauro Perego, Andy Salinger, Irina Tezaur and Ray Tuminaro.

    >> Read the Full Article
  • Obama Administration's "Clean Power Plan" dealt a setback by the Supreme Court

    The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan suffered a setback on Tuesday when the Supreme Court granted a stay to the program. In a 5-4 decision, the court sided in favor of petitioning states, utilities and coal companies that claimed that the federal government was overreaching its powers when it attempted to establish a national plan to move away from fossil-fuel based power. Requests for the Supreme Court to impose the stay were submitted in January after an appeals court ruled that the plan could proceed while legal challenges were being heard.

    The Supreme Court’s ruling is an about-face to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and it comes at a critical time for the Obama administration’s clean energy program, especially in light of the upcoming elections in November. While the administration can appeal the Supreme Court’s order, arguments would not be considered until June and, pending acceptance by the higher court, likely wouldn’t be scheduled until October or later this year. That leaves the fate of the Clean Power Plan in the hands of the upcoming presidency.

    >> Read the Full Article