• 2012 Marks Extraordinary Year for US Wildfires

    The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is the nation's support center for wild land firefighting and provides up-to-date reports on current forest fires. While the NIFC has been collecting data for the past 50 years, records maintained by the center and by NASA both indicate that 2012 was an extraordinary year for wildfires in the United States. NIFC statistics show that more than 9.1 million acres had burned as of December 7, 2012—the third highest total in the record that dates back to 1960. >> Read the Full Article
  • Improvements in Air Quality add Years to Life Expectancy in US

    Are all the environmental laws and regulations accomplishing anything? Sometimes progress is not apparent, so it is good news that a new study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found an association between reductions in fine particulate matter and improved life expectancy in 545 counties in the U.S. from 2000 to 2007. It is the largest study to date to find beneficial effects to public health of continuing to reduce air pollution levels in the U.S. The study appears in the December 3, 2012 online edition of the journal Epidemiology. "Despite the fact that the U.S. population as a whole is exposed to much lower levels of air pollution than 30 years ago—because of great strides made to reduce people’s exposure—it appears that further reductions in air pollution levels would continue to benefit public health," said lead author Andrew Correia, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biostatistics at HSPH". >> Read the Full Article
  • Salmon to Blame for Upstream Contaminants

    As water in streams and rivers flow, pollutants and contaminants that come from urban, agricultural, and industrial runoff are carried downstream. But how and why are scientists finding contaminants upstream of industries and developments? The culprit: salmon. Research by University of Notre Dame stream ecologist Gary Lamberti and his laboratory has revealed that salmon, as they travel upstream to spawn and die, carry industrial pollutants into Great Lakes streams and tributaries. The team advises, if you plan on catching and eating fish from a Lake Michigan tributary with a strong salmon run, the fish may be contaminated by pollutants. >> Read the Full Article
  • 100 Million Electric Miles: Chevy Volts Reach Milestone

    Chevrolet Volt owners collectively have driven more than 100 million all-electric miles since the vehicle went on sale two years ago this month. The average Volt owner travels more than 65 percent of the time in pure electric mode as the car was designed – only using the gasoline-powered generator for longer trips. By charging regularly, Volt owners drive approximately 900 miles, or a month and a half, between fill-ups. However, many Volt owners quickly exceed that average, based on an EPA-estimated 98 MPGe that puts electric-only range at 35 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway. >> Read the Full Article
  • NOAA predicts sea level will rise 0.2 to 2 meters by 2100

    The worst potential scenario for sea level rise around the US coastline this century is more than two meters, says an authoritative report issued today by NOAA's Climate Program Office. Regardless of how much warming occurs over the next 100 years, sea level rise is not expected to stop in 2100. More than 8 million people in the US live in areas at risk of coastal flooding. Along the Atlantic Coast alone, almost 60 percent of the land that is within a meter of sea level is planned for further development, with inadequate information on the potential rates and amount of sea level rise. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Race for Developing Plant-based Renewable Plastics

    The 20th century marked the great space race between Russia and the United States for domination in space exploration. Now the 21st century marks a new race: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo competing for leadership on plant-based renewable plastics. In March of 2010, PepsiCo announced the world's first PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable plant-based resources ensuring production of a new 100% recyclable bottle in 2012. PET plastics are typically labeled with the #1 code near the bottom of the containers and are commonly used for soft drinks, salad dressings, water, etc. >> Read the Full Article
  • Grassland Carbon Storage

    Plants "breathe in" CO2 and create biological mass. This is a form of sequestration. Forests, grasslands and shrublands and other ecosystems in the West sequester nearly 100 million tons of carbon each year, according to a Department of the Interior recent report. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica. In temperate latitudes, such as northwestern Europe and the Great Plains and California in North America, native grasslands are dominated by perennial bunch grass species, whereas in warmer climates annual species form a greater component of the vegetation. Carbon that is absorbed through natural processes reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The 100 million tons sequestered in western ecosystems is an amount equivalent to – and counterbalances the emissions of – more than 83 million passenger cars a year in the United States, or nearly 5 percent of EPA’s 2010 estimate of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. >> Read the Full Article
  • Date Palm Leaves Could Improve Water Treatment Across the Middle East

    Date palm leaves — currently a waste product of date farming — could be used to remove pharmaceutical chemicals and dyes from hospital wastewater, say researchers from Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in Oman. The first hospital wastewater treatment pilot project is due to start in Oman early next year, and scientists are working to use this technology in both drinking water filters and for industrial wastewater treatment. >> Read the Full Article
  • Shale Oil and How It Changes the World

    Oil shale, also known as kerogen shale, is an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock containing kerogen (a solid mixture of organic chemical compounds) from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced. Shale oil is a substitute for conventional crude oil and the USA has a lot of it. The global energy map is changing, with potentially far-reaching consequences for energy markets and trade. It is being redrawn by the resurgence in oil and gas production in the United States due to shale and could be further reshaped by a retreat from nuclear power in some countries, continued rapid growth in the use of wind and solar technologies and by the global spread of unconventional gas production. >> Read the Full Article
  • CO2 Output Hits Record High

    Around the world, we are emitting more carbon dioxide than ever. For 2012, according to new projections by the Global Carbon Project, there is likely to be a 2.6 percent rise in global CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels compared to the year before. That puts emissions of the gas at 58 percent higher than 1990 levels. >> Read the Full Article