Environmental Science News -- ScienceDaily

Environmental science news. Learn about current research into rainforest deforestation, sustainable development, energy use, air quality monitoring, mining processes and hazardous waste disposal. Updated daily.

04/27/2017 02:17 PM
Ocean warming to cancel increased CO2-driven productivity
Researchers have constructed a marine food web to show how climate change could affect our future fish supplies and marine biodiversity.

04/26/2017 11:30 PM
Engineers shine light on deadly landslide
Late in the morning of March 22, 2014, a huge chunk of land cut loose and roared down a hillside in the Stillaguamish River Valley just east of Oso, Washington, about 60 miles northeast of Seattle. In a matter of minutes, 43 people lost their lives as a wall of mud, sand, clay, water. A new report details the factors leading to the disaster, the hazards that accompany landslides and steps that can be taken to mitigate landslide consequences and risk in the Pacific Northwest, with the aim of preventing future tragedies.

04/26/2017 09:47 PM
Tsunami formation: Study challenges long-held theory
A new study is challenging a long-held theory that tsunamis form and acquire their energy mostly from vertical movement of the seafloor.

04/26/2017 08:37 PM
Changes that lightning inspires in rock quantified
New research has identified the minimum temperature of a bolt of lightning as it strikes rock. The study discovered that, based on the crystalline material in the sample, the minimum temperature at which the fulgurite formed was roughly 1,700 degrees Celsius.

04/26/2017 06:10 PM
Light can improve perovskite solar cell performance
Scientists show how light affects perovskite film formation in solar cells, which is a critical factor in using them for cost-effective and energy-efficient photovoltaics.

04/26/2017 06:10 PM
Global warming accounts for tripling of extreme West African Sahel storms
Global warming is responsible for a tripling in the frequency of extreme West African Sahel storms observed in just the last 35 years, an international team of experts has reported.

04/26/2017 05:30 PM
Stringent exhaust gas tests for cars in Europe
As of October 2017, newly launched car models will have to pass more stringent exhaust gas tests in the EU and in Switzerland. The new test method includes measuring drives in actual traffic. Researchers have already tested currently available cars with the new method – with alarming results.

04/26/2017 05:17 PM
Wind, rain play key role in breeding patterns of migratory tree swallows
Wind and precipitation play a crucial role in advancing or delaying the breeding cycles of North American tree swallows, according to the results of a new study.

04/26/2017 02:23 PM
Nanoparticles can travel from lungs to blood, possibly explaining risks to heart
Tiny particles in air pollution have been associated with cardiovascular disease, which can lead to premature death. But how particles inhaled into the lungs can affect blood vessels and the heart has remained a mystery. Now, scientists have found evidence in human and animal studies that inhaled nanoparticles can travel from the lungs into the bloodstream, potentially explaining the link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease.

04/26/2017 02:23 PM
New model could help predict major earthquakes
Researchers have characterized several earthquakes that struck South America's west coast over the last 100 years by using seismographic data, tsunami recordings, and models of the rapid plate movements associated with these natural disasters. The team showed that some earthquakes were linked to the same sites of rupture at plate boundaries and others to different sites. Thus, they revealed the periodicity and intensity of earthquakes associated with particular sites, potentially aiding future earthquake prediction.

04/25/2017 11:21 PM
Is climate change responsible for record-setting extreme weather events?
After an unusually intense heat wave, downpour or drought, climate scientists inevitably receive phone calls and emails asking whether human-caused climate change played a role.

04/25/2017 09:22 PM
Cold weather linked to mortality risks in Texas, research shows
Cold weather increases the risk of mortality in Texas residents, according to researchers. In the state's 12 major metro areas from 1990 to 2011, researchers found that cold temperatures significantly increased the risk of mortality by up to 5 percent with a 1 degree Celsius decrease in temperature in the winter.

04/25/2017 07:02 PM
India's outsized coal plans would wipe out Paris climate goals
India will not be able to meet its Paris climate agreement commitments in the coming years if it carries through with plans to construct nearly 370 coal-fired power plants, according to researchers.

04/25/2017 05:42 PM
A more than 100% quantum step toward producing hydrogen fuel
Efforts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels are advancing on various significant fronts. Initiatives include research focused on more efficient production of gaseous hydrogen fuel by using solar energy to break water down into components of hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists have now reported a key breakthrough in the basic science essential for progress toward this goal.

04/25/2017 04:08 PM
Modeling reveals how policy affects adoption of solar energy photovoltaics in California
Researchers inspired by efforts to promote green energy, are exploring the factors driving commercial customers in Southern California, both large and small, to purchase and install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. They built a model for commercial solar PV adoption to quantify the impact of government incentives and solar PV costs.

04/25/2017 03:25 PM
Pathway for generating up to 10 terawatts of power from sunlight by 2030
The annual potential of solar energy far exceeds the world's energy consumption, but the goal of using the sun to provide a significant fraction of global electricity demand is far from being realized.

04/25/2017 03:25 PM
Triggering artificial photosynthesis to clean air
A chemistry professor has just found a way to trigger the process of photosynthesis in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time. The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy.

04/25/2017 02:23 PM
Mystery of the missing mercury at the Great Salt Lake
Around 2010, the deep waters of Utah's Great Salt Lake contained high levels of toxic methylmercury. Mercury measurements in waterfowl surrounding the lake led to a rare human consumption advisory for ducks. But by 2015, 90 percent of the deep mercury was gone.

04/25/2017 02:23 PM
Century-old mystery of Blood Falls solved
A century-old mystery involving a famous red waterfall in Antarctica has now been solved by researchers. New evidence links Blood Falls to a large source of salty water that may have been trapped under Taylor Glacier for more than 1 million years.

04/25/2017 02:22 PM
Toronto's subways expose passengers to more air pollution than Montreal, Vancouver systems
Subways increase our personal exposure to certain pollutants, even as they decrease overall emissions, research finds. Another finding from this study is that Toronto has the highest levels in Canada.

04/25/2017 02:22 PM
Predicting the movement, impacts of microplastic pollution
Microplastics, which are particles measuring less than 5 mm, are of increasing concern. They not only become more relevant as other plastic marine litter breaks down into tiny particles, they also interact with species in a range of marine habitats. A new study takes a look at how global climate change and the impact of changing ocean circulation affects the distribution of marine microplastic litter.

04/24/2017 10:22 PM
Geologist discovers whirlwind phenomena in Andes mountains
There's a lot to be learned from the winds in a Chilean desert--everything from surviving tornadoes on Earth to planning travel to Mars, with surviving climate change in between, suggests a researcher.

04/24/2017 10:22 PM
In-flight, on-demand hydrogen production could mean 'greener' aircraft
Technion researchers have a developed safe and efficient way to produce hydrogen on board a plane in flight. Using aluminum particles and (fresh or waste), the technology could one day help meet in-flight energy needs on commercial aircraft.

04/24/2017 10:08 PM
Heavy precipitation speeds carbon exchange in tropics
New insight into how forests globally will respond to long-term climate change has been gained by recent research. The new work suggests that climate-change driven increases in rainfall in warm, wet forests are likely to cause increased plant growth. Plant-growth declines are still expected in cooler forests with increased precipitation.

04/24/2017 10:07 PM
Process invented to make sustainable rubber, plastics
Synthetic rubber and plastics -- used for manufacturing tires, toys and myriad other products -- are produced from butadiene, a molecule traditionally made from petroleum or natural gas. But those humanmade materials could get a lot greener soon, thanks to a team of scientists that has invented a process to make butadiene from renewable sources.

04/24/2017 08:38 PM
Global warming making oceans more toxic
Climate change is predicted to cause a series of maladies for world oceans including heating up, acidification, and the loss of oxygen. A newly published study demonstrates that one ocean consequence of climate change that has already occurred is the spread and intensification of toxic algae.

04/24/2017 07:13 PM
Wax worm caterpillar will eat plastic shopping bags: New solution to plastic waste?
Generally speaking, plastic is incredibly resistant to breaking down. That's certainly true of the trillion polyethylene plastic bags that people use each and every year. But researchers may be on track to find a solution to plastic waste. The key is a caterpillar commonly known as a wax worm.

04/24/2017 07:12 PM
West Virginia groundwater not affected by fracking, but surface water is
Three years of fracking has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, but accidental spills of wastewater from fracked wells may pose a threat to surface water, according to a new study. The scientists used a broad suite of geochemical and isotopic tracers to sample for contaminants in 112 water wells near shale gas sites, including 20 wells that were sampled both before and after fracking began.

04/24/2017 04:07 PM
New approach to improve detection of landfill-related pollution
A method known as laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) offers a cleaner, faster and simpler approach than existing technologies for detecting contaminants in the fluids coming from landfills, known as leachates.

04/24/2017 02:39 PM
Ambulances respond more slowly in summer and winter
Ambulance response times in London worsen when air temperatures rise or fall beyond certain limits in summer and winter, according to a new study. 

04/22/2017 02:08 AM
Forces that threaten sensitive coastlines
Wind-driven expansion of marsh ponds on the Mississippi River Delta is a significant factor in the loss of crucial land in the Delta region, according to new research. The study found that 17 percent of land loss in the area resulted from pond expansion, much of it caused by waves that eroded away the edges of the pond.

04/21/2017 05:32 PM
Making bins more convenient boosts recycling and composting rates
Want to recycle or compost more? Try moving the bins closer, new research suggests. The study shows that placing bins 1.5 meters away from suite doors drastically boosts recycling and composting rates by 141 per cent. The findings highlight how small changes in convenience can have a big impact on performance.

04/21/2017 02:16 PM
Towards a liveable future
Humans have influenced nature since as early as the Ice Age, and over the past century our impact has become even greater with our many new technologies and a growing world population. Researchers have studied this impact and how we can keep it within reasonable limits so that nature can be preserved. We cannot do without nature: we need it for our food and for raw materials, as well as for relaxation.

04/21/2017 01:49 PM
Better way to predict the environmental impacts of agricultural production
Many companies want to know how the creation of their products affects the environment. Scientists have now found a way to better predict and quantify environmental impacts.

04/20/2017 09:21 PM
Application of statistical method shows promise mitigating climate change effects on pine
Confronting evidence that the global climate is changing rapidly relative to historical trends, researchers have developed a new statistical model that, when applied to the loblolly pine tree populations in the southeastern United States, will benefit forest landowners and the forest industry in future decades.

04/20/2017 06:46 PM
Rising water temperatures endanger health of coastal ecosystems, study finds
Increasing water temperatures are responsible for the accumulation of a chemical called nitrite in marine environments throughout the world, a symptom of broader changes in normal ocean biochemical pathways that could ultimately disrupt ocean food webs.

04/20/2017 06:23 PM
New research unlocks forests' potential in climate change mitigation
For the first time, scientists have created a global map measuring the cooling effect forests generate by regulating the exchange of water and energy between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere. The information offers a valuable new tool in efforts to mitigate climate change, according to a new article.

04/20/2017 06:23 PM
Engagement with natural environment a significant contributor to life satisfaction
Looking to improve your overall life satisfaction? Try regularly hiking in a forest or otherwise engaging with the natural environment.

04/20/2017 02:37 PM
Coral reefs struggle to keep up with rising seas, leave coastal communities at risk
In the first ecosystem-wide study of changing sea depths at five large coral reef tracts in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawai'i, researchers found the sea floor is eroding in all five places, and the reefs cannot keep pace with sea level rise. As a result, coastal communities protected by the reefs are facing increased risks from storms, waves and erosion.

04/20/2017 02:36 PM
Recovering species must be celebrated or we risk reversing progress
A failure to celebrate conservation successes means we miss vital opportunities to convince the public of 'real and practical solutions' they can engage with. Conservationists across the globe see the need to champion environmental victories and show there is cause for hope -- the decisive component in the fight to save disappearing biodiversity.

04/20/2017 02:02 PM
A better way to manage phosphorus?
A new project proposes a restructured index to build on phosphorus management efforts in farm fields in New York state and beyond. The new index structure improves upon previous approaches. It focuses on the existing risk of phosphorus runoff from a field based on the location.

04/20/2017 02:02 PM
EPA methane emission policy likely to cost less, miss 2025 targets
Research shows plugging methane leaks will cost about a third less than the EPA estimates, further underscoring the cost-effectiveness of emissions mitigation -- but the agency will also likely fall short of its 2025 reduction targets.

04/19/2017 10:04 PM
Volcanic eruptions examiner
Volcanologists spent two weeks collecting samples from Yasur, a continuously erupting volcano on Tanna, an island in the remote South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu, to study its chemical composition and determine how the gasses it produces may be affecting people who live nearby.

04/19/2017 10:04 PM
Chesapeake Bay pollution extends to early 19th century
Humans began measurably and negatively impacting water quality in the Chesapeake Bay in the first half of the 19th century, according to a study of eastern oysters.

04/19/2017 06:19 PM
Canary in the kelp forest: Sea creature dissolves in today's warming, acidic waters
The one-two punch of warming waters and ocean acidification is predisposing some marine animals to dissolving quickly under conditions already occurring off the Northern California coast, according to a new study.

04/19/2017 05:20 PM
Hazardous asteroid effects ranked from least to most destructive
If an asteroid struck Earth, which of its effects -- scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis -- would claim the most lives? A new study has the answer: violent winds and shock waves are the most dangerous effects produced by Earth-impacting asteroids.

04/19/2017 05:20 PM
New method to create the next fuel-efficient renewable energy developed
The fossil fuel fight goes on for scientists as they develop a new method for creating reversible hydrogen storage based on methanol, with no carbon emissions, in the last major paper co-authored by USC's first Nobel laureate, the late George Olah.

04/19/2017 04:24 PM
Grand challenges to better prepare for volcanic eruptions
Despite broad understanding of volcanoes, our ability to predict the timing, duration, type, size, and consequences of volcanic eruptions is limited, says a new report. To improve eruption forecasting and warnings to save lives, the report identifies research priorities for better monitoring of volcanic eruptions and three grand challenges facing the volcano science community.

04/19/2017 03:08 PM
A better life in the outback: Improving living standards in the Australian desert region
People who live in desert regions are perceived as living in hardship and isolation and surviving largely due to subsidies from the 'mainstream' economy. New research suggests that for some desert regions, particularly Australia's 'outback', there is huge potential given appropriate infrastructure and investment.

04/19/2017 03:08 PM
Shale gas threat to forests can be eased by consolidating infrastructure
Fragmentation of ecologically important core forests within the northern Appalachians -- driven by pipeline and access road construction -- is the major threat posed by shale-gas development, according to researchers, who recommend a change in infrastructure-siting policies to head off loss of this critical habitat.

04/19/2017 03:08 PM
Degradable electronic components created from corn starch
As consumers upgrade their gadgets at an increasing pace, the amount of electronic waste we generate continues to mount. To help combat this environmental problem, researchers have modified a degradable bioplastic derived from corn starch or other natural sources for use in more eco-friendly electronic components.

04/19/2017 02:33 PM
Elevated levels of mercury in women of child bearing age in Pacific Island countries, new study reveals
Women of childbearing age living in four Pacific Island countries have elevated levels of mercury in their bodies, a new study reveals.

04/19/2017 02:31 PM
Making oil from algae: Towards more efficient biofuels
The mechanism behind oil synthesis within microalgae cells has now been revealed by a research team. This discovery could contribute to the development of biofuels, they say.

04/19/2017 02:16 PM
Membranes to remove viruses from drinking water
The 'zwitterionic polymer hydrogel' repels the viruses from approaching and passing through the membrane. It contains both positive and negative charges and improves efficiency by weakening virus accumulation on the modified filter surface. The result was a significantly higher rate of removal of waterborne viruses, including human norovirus and adenovirus.

04/18/2017 09:18 PM
How campuses can measure their nitrogen footprints
A new groundbreaking initiative helps researchers to measure and reduce the nitrogen footprint left behind by campus activities like food waste and energy consumption. The publication outlines research aiming to reduce emissions of reactive nitrogen and prevent negative impacts on such things as water quality, air pollution, and climate change.

04/18/2017 09:00 PM
Climate change and risk to fossil fuel industry: Sustainability train has left the station
New research examines the climate-related risks facing the fossil fuel industry and conclude that the sustainability train has already well and truly left the station -- and is not coming back.

04/18/2017 05:08 PM
Prescribed forest fire frequency should be based on land management goals
Researchers have studied forests subjected to different frequencies of fires to determine what effects fire can have on oak forests over long periods of time. They found that the frequency of prescribed forest fires should be determined based on the long-term goals of land managers.

04/18/2017 04:52 PM
Communicating tsunami evacuations effectively
An effective communication approach incorporating computer simulations could help people find practical means to evacuate in the event of a tsunami.

04/18/2017 04:52 PM
Using tropical microbes to improve the environment
Researchers are harnessing properties in tropical microbes to address a variety of environmental, agricultural and aquacultural issues.

04/18/2017 04:46 PM
A new mineral from the oldest solar system solids in meteorites
Researchers have identified a new mineral in the oldest solar system solids from primitive meteorites. They've named it "rubinite" after Dr. Alan E. Rubin, a pioneering cosmochemist at University of California, Los Angeles. Rubinite was officially approved in March 2017 by the International Mineralogical Association.