• Scientists Warn of Air Pollution Risks in West Africa

    New research by European and African scientists, including a team from the University of York, warns of the risks posed by the increasing air pollution over the cities of West Africa – amid fears it could have an impact on human health, meteorology and regional climate.

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  • Is the California Drought Causing Land to Sink?

    As Californians continue pumping groundwater in response to the historic drought, the California Department of Water Resources today released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever before, nearly 2 inches (5 centimeters) per month in some locations.

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  • MIT analysis improves estimates of global mercury pollution

    Once mercury is emitted into the atmosphere from the smokestacks of power plants, the pollutant has a complicated trajectory; even after it settles onto land and sinks into oceans, mercury can be re-emitted back into the atmosphere repeatedly. This so-called “grasshopper effect” keeps the highly toxic substance circulating as “legacy emissions” that, combined with new smokestack emissions, can extend the environmental effects of mercury for decades.

    Now an international team led by MIT researchers has conducted a new analysis that provides more accurate estimates of sources of mercury emissions around the world. The analysis pairs measured air concentrations of mercury with a global simulation to calculate the fraction of mercury that is either re-emitted or that originates from power plants and other anthropogenic activities. The result of this work, researchers say, could improve estimates of mercury pollution, and help refine pollution-control strategies around the world.

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  • US EPA proposes regulations to reduce methane emissions from landfills

    As part of the Administration's Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two proposals to further reduce emissions of methane-rich gas from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. Under today’s proposals, new, modified and existing landfills would begin collecting and controlling landfill gas at emission levels nearly a third lower than current requirements. 

    Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Climate change threatens the health and welfare of current and future generations. Children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease and people living in poverty may be most at risk from the health impacts of climate change. In addition to methane, landfills also emit other pollutants, including the air toxics benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and vinyl chloride. 

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  • Apes show abilities related to speech

    Koko the gorilla is best known for a lifelong study to teach her a silent form of communication, American Sign Language. But some of the simple sounds she has learned may change the perception that humans are the only primates with the capacity for speech.

    In 2010, Marcus Perlman started research work at The Gorilla Foundation in California, where Koko has spent more than 40 years living immersed with humans — interacting for many hours each day with psychologist Penny Patterson and biologist Ron Cohn.

    "I went there with the idea of studying Koko's gestures, but as I got into watching videos of her, I saw her performing all these amazing vocal behaviors," says Perlman, now a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology Professor Gary Lupyan.

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  • Toxic blue-green algae pose increasing threat to nation's drinking, recreational water

    A report concludes that blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are a poorly monitored and underappreciated risk to recreational and drinking water quality in the United States, and may increasingly pose a global health threat.

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  • Greenland ice sheet's winds driving tundra soil erosion

    Strong winds blowing off the Greenland Ice Sheet are eroding soil and vegetation in the surrounding tundra, making it less productive for caribou and other grazing animals, carbon storage and nutrient cycling, a Dartmouth College study finds.

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  • Melting glaciers feed Antarctic food chain

    Nutrient-rich water from melting Antarctic glaciers nourishes the ocean food chain, creating feeding “hot spots” in large gaps in the sea ice, according to a new study. New research finds that iron stored in the region’s glaciers is being shuttled by melting water to open areas of the ocean, called polynyas, where it stimulates growth of phytoplankton, ocean algae that form the base of the marine food chain. 

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  • The benefits of eating spicy food

    People who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14% lower risk of death compared with those who consume spicy foods less than once a week, according to a new study. Regular spicy food eaters are also less likely to die from cancer, heart, and respiratory diseases than those who eat spicy foods infrequently.

    “The findings are highly novel,” said Lu Qi, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the study’s co-lead author. “To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first reporting a link between spicy food intake and mortality.”

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  • Fort Knox Military Base establishes Indiana Bat Management Area

    Fort Knox, a U.S. military installation located near Louisville, Kentucky, and famous for storing the nation’s gold bullion, has two of the largest known maternity colonies of federally endangered Indiana bats within the range of the species and the largest in Kentucky. On the same night, officials documented 451 and 478 Indiana bats emerging from two separate trees, both are records for this species. The first maternity colony of Indiana bats on Fort Knox (approximately 150 individuals) was discovered in 1999. The total number of Indiana bats in existence has declined due to white-nose syndrome, a devastating wildlife disease; a reduction and contamination of their insect food supply due to pesticide usage and disturbances by humans during the bats’ winter hibernation in caves and mines. During hibernation, bats cluster in groups of up to 500 per square foot, which means a single event can destroy a large number of bats.

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