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.

09/19/2017 09:01 PM
End-of-summer Arctic sea ice extent is eighth lowest on record
Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its yearly lowest extent on Sept. 13, scientists have reported. Analysis of satellite data showed that at 1.79 million square miles (4.64 million square kilometers), this year's Arctic sea ice minimum extent is the eighth lowest in the consistent long-term satellite record, which began in 1978.

09/18/2017 09:34 PM
Enzyme's worth to biofuels shown in recent research
A newly discovered enzyme proves adept at breaking down cellulose fibers regardless of whether their crystalline structure is simple or highly complex. No other enzyme has shown that ability.

09/18/2017 08:17 PM
Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene
Scientists have harnessed the power of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into fuels and alcohols at efficiencies far greater than plants. The achievement marks a significant advance in the effort to move toward sustainable sources of fuel.

09/18/2017 08:17 PM
Copper catalyst yields high efficiency CO2-to-fuels conversion
Scientists have developed a new electrocatalyst that can directly convert carbon dioxide into multicarbon fuels and alcohols using record-low inputs of energy. The work is the latest in a round of studies tackling the challenge of a creating a clean chemical manufacturing system that can put carbon dioxide to good use.

09/18/2017 07:21 PM
'King Tide' mapping project
'Dress rehearsal' will help quantify local flooding risk and validate storm-surge models, while laying groundwork for a long-term network of volunteer data collectors.

09/18/2017 06:27 PM
People's love of the seas could be the key for plastic pollution solution
Tapping into the public's passion for the ocean could be the key to reducing the threats to it posed by plastic pollution.

09/18/2017 05:36 PM
An effective way to eliminate atrazine and its by-products in surface water
Atrazine, widely used as a weedkiller, is known to have harmful effects on aquatic wildlife and presents a risk to human health by altering the action of certain hormones. Researchers have now compared various processes used to degrade atrazine, one of the most common pesticides detected in surface water in Quebec.

09/18/2017 05:35 PM
To predict how climate change will affect disease, researchers must fuse climate science and biology
To predict how climate change will affect disease, researchers must fuse climate science and biology, according to a new review.

09/18/2017 04:18 PM
A solar cell you can put in the wash
Scientists have developed a new type of ultra-thin photovoltaic device, coated on both sides with stretchable and waterproof films, which can continue to provide electricity from sunlight even after being soaked in water or being stretched and compressed.

09/18/2017 02:33 PM
Fuel from waste and electricity?
Researchers have shown that the combination of microbial and electrochemical conversion of biomass can yield valuable products. For the example of corn beer and corn silage they have gained energy-dense alkanes with diesel-fuel like properties at high carbon and energetic yield.

09/18/2017 02:33 PM
5,000 deaths annually from Diesel-gate in Europe
Excess emissions from diesel cars cause about 5,000 premature deaths annually across Europe, a new study shows. Higher exposure to secondary particles and ozone can be traced back to excess NOx emissions from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles. With the EU's vehicle emission limits achieved on the road about 5,000 premature deaths could be avoided annually. If diesel cars emitted as little NOx as petrol cars, about 7,500 premature deaths could be avoided annually.

09/18/2017 02:28 PM
Devilish source of dust in atmosphere of Earth and Mars
Swirling columns of sand and dust, known as dust devils, are a feature of desert areas on Mars and on Earth. Now, a study of terrestrial dust devils has shown that around two thirds of the fine particles lifted by these vortices can remain suspended in the atmosphere and be transported around the globe. The findings have implications for the climate and weather of both planets and, potentially, human health here on Earth.

09/15/2017 10:02 PM
Converting waste toilet paper into electricity
Chemists have performed a techno-economic analysis of converting waste toilet paper into electricity. They propose a two-step process and calculate a cost per kWh comparable to that of residential photovoltaic installations.

09/15/2017 09:29 PM
Black Sea water temperatures may buck global trend
Scientists have successfully simulated the Black Sea’s long term currents, salt water content and temperature for the first time.

09/15/2017 02:52 PM
300,000 families living in US-Mexico border towns face exposure to toxic stress
Roughly 300,000 Texans living in impoverished border communities known as 'colonias' are facing substandard housing, lack of resources and exposure to toxic stress. New research finds these communities are also ill-equipped to face a natural disaster.

09/15/2017 02:06 AM
New climate risk classification created to account for potential 'existential' threats
A new study evaluating models of future climate scenarios has led to the creation of the new risk categories 'catastrophic' and 'unknown' to characterize the range of threats posed by rapid global warming. Researchers propose that unknown risks imply existential threats to the survival of humanity.

09/14/2017 08:24 PM
Water conservation can have unintended consequences
Conventional wisdom dictates water conservation can only benefit communities affected by drought. But researchers have deduced that indoor residential conservation can have unintended consequences in places where systems of wastewater reuse have already been implemented, diminishing both the quantity and quality of influent available for treatment.

09/14/2017 08:23 PM
Discovery could reduce nuclear waste with improved method to chemically engineer molecules
A new chemical principle has the potential to revolutionize the creation of specially engineered molecules whose uses include the reduction of nuclear waste and the extraction of chemical pollutants from water and soil.

09/14/2017 08:23 PM
Old fish few and far between under fishing pressure
A new study has found that, for dozens of fish populations around the globe, old fish are greatly depleted -- mainly because of fishing pressure. Old fish are increasingly missing in many populations around the world.

09/14/2017 08:22 PM
Light at the end of the tunnel: Restored forest now shelters dozens of endangered species
A twenty-year effort to protect and manage tiny remnants of a dilapidated forest in Benin, along with its agricultural and fallow vegetation surroundings, resulted in 14 ha of rich secondary forest, which corresponds to the size of nearly 20 sacred groves. This sanctuary now protects the critically endangered red-bellied monkey together with 52 endangered plant species.

09/14/2017 01:40 PM
Forest fires are not limited to hot or temperate climates
Evidence of wildfires dating back 20,000 years was recently discovered in the Massif du Queyras, in the heart of the French Alps, 2,240 meters above sea level. This discovery echoes the recent wildfires in the Arctic tundra, where the presence of trees have become increasingly common.

09/14/2017 12:31 AM
New method for identifying carbon compounds derived from fossil fuels
Scientists have developed a laboratory instrument that will greatly reduce the cost of analyzing carbon isotopes. Among other things, this will allow scientists to measure how much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere came from burning fossil fuels, and to estimate fossil fuel emissions in an area as small as a city or as large as a continent.

09/14/2017 12:31 AM
Wax on, melt off: Adding phase change materials, like paraffin, to concrete could make roads that melt snow and ice
Researchers have made a discovery that could create roads that melt off ice and snow during winter storms. Their secret? Adding a little paraffin wax to the road's concrete mix.

09/14/2017 12:29 AM
Getting to the point (mutations) in re-engineering biofuel-producing bacterial enzymes
Helping bacteria become more efficient when breaking down fibrous plant waste into biofuel could result in more affordable biofuels for our gas tanks and sustainable products such as bioplastics. One way to achieve this goal is to re-engineer the bacterial enzyme complexes, called cellulosomes, which serve as catalysts in the degradation process.

09/14/2017 12:29 AM
Climate change challenges the survival of fish across the world
Researchers have published the first analysis looking at how vulnerable the world's freshwater and marine fishes are to climate change. Their study used physiological data to predict how nearly 3,000 fish species living in oceans and rivers will respond to warming water temperatures in different regions.

09/13/2017 01:44 PM
An important process fueling harmful algal blooms investigated in Canadian water bodies
A critical review examines the recycling of phosphorus from sediment to water and finds that internal phosphorus loading is common in Canadian fresh waters, but its importance is variable across the country.

09/12/2017 10:05 PM
Decade of data shows FEMA flood maps missed 3 in 4 claims
An analysis of flood claims in three Houston suburbs from 1999-2009 found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 100-year flood plain maps failed to capture 75 percent of flood damages from five serious floods, none of which reached the threshold rainfall of a 100-year event.

09/12/2017 06:48 PM
Historic legacies affect climate change survival in Caribbean
Discussion of climate change has failed to pay enough attention to the social, political and historic factors which increase the vulnerability of Caribbean societies, and calls for a new approach focused on understanding and addressing these historic inequalities.

09/12/2017 03:28 PM
Coffee and bees: New model of climate change effects
Areas in Latin America suitable for growing coffee face predicted declines of 73-88 percent by 2050. But bee species diversity may save the day, even if many species in cool highland regions are lost as the climate warms.

09/12/2017 02:31 PM
'Keep it local' approach more effective than government schemes at protecting rainforest
Conservation initiatives led by local and indigenous groups can be just as effective as schemes led by government, according to new research. In some cases in the Amazon rainforest, grassroots initiatives can be even more effective at protecting this vital ecosystem.

09/12/2017 02:30 PM
Ancient tree reveals cause of spike in Arctic temperature
A kauri tree trapped in a New Zealand swamp for 30,000 years may have overturned the idea that a slowdown in ocean currents in the North Atlantic may be entirely responsible for Dansgaard-Oeschger events and the characteristic bi-polar see-saw, which sees the Antarctica cool while the Arctic warms during glacial periods. The research reveals a mechanism that generates a 20,000 km long atmospheric bridge, reaching from Antarctica to the Arctic.

09/12/2017 02:30 PM
Modeling the impact of green eggs and hens
Poultry given vegan organic chicken feed can help to produce eggs with a smaller environmental footprint than those fed non-organic feeds that contain animal by-products, new research shows.

09/11/2017 08:09 PM
Air pollution cuts 3 years off lifespans in Northern China
A Chinese policy is unintentionally causing people in northern China to live 3.1 years less than people in the south due to air pollution concentrations that are 46 percent higher. These findings imply that every additional 10 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter pollution (PM10) reduces life expectancy by 0.6 years.

09/11/2017 08:09 PM
Clouds like honeycomb
An innovative network approach to explain polygonal patterns in clouds could help scientists find more accurate descriptions of clouds in computer models of weather and climate change.

09/11/2017 08:09 PM
Urban climate change
Southern cities such as Houston and Tampa -- which faced the wrath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively -- may not be the only urban environments vulnerable to extreme weather. Northern cities also face the potential for flooding as global temperatures continue to warm.

09/11/2017 05:26 PM
How openings in Antarctic sea ice affect worldwide climate
In a new analysis of climate models, researchers reveal the significant global effects that seemingly anomalous polynyas, or openings in sea ice, can have. Their findings indicate that heat escaping from the ocean through these openings impacts sea and atmospheric temperatures and wind patterns around the globe and even rainfall around the tropics.

09/11/2017 05:26 PM
Biodiversity just as powerful as climate change for healthy ecosystems
Biodiversity is proving to be one of humanity's best defenses against extreme weather. In past experiments, diversity has fostered healthier, more productive ecosystems, like shoreline vegetation that guards against hurricanes. However, many experts doubted whether these experiments would hold up in the real world. A study offers a decisive answer: biodiversity's power in the wild surpasses experimental predictions, in some cases topping even effects of climate.

09/11/2017 02:59 PM
Desert locusts: New risks in the light of climate change
The desert locust is an invasive species that is both well known and feared because of the large-scale agricultural damage it can cause. It is particularly closely monitored, to prevent the risks of outbreaks and invasions. Climate change could modify its distribution area, meaning a new threat to agriculture, according to a study.

09/09/2017 11:37 PM
How safe are critical infrastructures from hacker attacks?
Critical infrastructures such as wind power stations are partially controlled via mobile phone networks. Using state-of-the-art tests, researchers are investigating how well protected that form of communication is from external attacks. The team is aiming to make critical infrastructures in Europe able to withstand hacker attacks.

09/09/2017 01:54 AM
NASA flights map summer melt of Greenland ice sheet
Operation IceBridge is flying in Greenland to measure how much ice has melted over the course of the summer from the ice sheet. The flights, which began on Aug. 25 and will go on until Sept. 21, repeat paths flown this spring and aim to monitor seasonal changes in the elevation of the ice sheet.

09/07/2017 07:46 PM
Extreme weather has limited effect on attitudes toward climate policies
People who recently experienced severe weather events such as floods, storms and drought are more likely to support policies to adapt to the effects of climate change, according to a new study.

09/07/2017 07:27 PM
Ship exhaust makes oceanic thunderstorms more intense
Thunderstorms directly above two of the world's busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don't travel, according to new research.

09/07/2017 07:27 PM
The sand trap: Demand outpaces caution, knowledge
Sand, spanning miles of beaches, carpeting vast oceans and deserts, is a visual metaphor for limitless resources. Yet seize another metaphor -- sand in an hourglass, marking time running out.

09/07/2017 07:26 PM
Courts' critical, underappreciated role in climate policy
Both climate lawsuits and their reliance on scientific data have increased over the past decade, the most extensive study to date shows.

09/07/2017 06:25 PM
New acid-free magnet recycling process created
A new rare-earth magnet recycling process dissolves magnets in an acid-free solution and recovers high purity rare earth elements.

09/07/2017 03:23 PM
Increasing effective decision-making for coastal marine ecosystems
Marine restoration, rather than protection, might be the most cost-effective solution for coastal marine ecosystems suffering from human activities, a new study has found. The study examined how to best benefit coastal marine ecosystems on limited conservation budgets, to help managers better understand the trade-offs.

09/06/2017 06:56 PM
Realistic projections of economic growth and carbon emissions
Between 2008 and 2015, the United States was able to reduce carbon emissions while enjoying limited economic growth. But in a recent commentary, John Deutch, who has worked with the energy departments of several presidential administrations, urges cautious optimism. He explains the country experienced a short-term decoupling of emissions and economic growth that models suggest won't sustain in the future or be enough to prevent climate change.

09/06/2017 06:56 PM
Water-based lithium-ion batteries without explosive risks now a reality
Researchers have developed for the first time a lithium-ion battery that uses a water-salt solution as its electrolyte and reaches the 4.0 volt mark desired for household electronics, such as laptop computers, without the fire and explosive risks associated with some commercially available non-aqueous lithium-ion batteries.

09/06/2017 06:56 PM
Defects in next-generation solar cells can be healed with light
Researchers have shown that defects in the molecular structure of perovskites -- a material which could revolutionize the solar cell industry -- can be 'healed' by exposing it to light and just the right amount of humidity.

09/06/2017 06:56 PM
Cloud formation suppressed by biogenic organic emissions
Researchers have found evidence that near-ground biogenic emissions of organics suppress cloud formation in cool-temperate forests in autumn, providing clues to how global warming will affect cloud formation and the overall climate.

09/06/2017 06:55 PM
Finding better wind energy potential with the new European Wind Atlas
Over the last 25 years, the world has seen an increased dependency on wind energy that promises to continue growing. This has created an ever-evolving process to develop a method that can accurately assess a region's wind energy potential.

09/06/2017 04:46 PM
Light-based method improves practicality and quality of remote wind measurements
Researchers have developed a new remote sensing instrument based on light detection and ranging that could offer a simple and robust way to accurately measure wind speed, which could help scientists better understand how hurricanes form and provide information to pinpoint landfall earlier.

09/06/2017 04:46 PM
Firebricks offer low-cost storage for carbon-free energy
Researchers draw from an ancient technology in their latest solution to enabling rapid expansion of wind, solar and nuclear power. Heat-storing firebricks could be used to level electricity prices for renewables, they propose.

09/06/2017 03:36 PM
Cloud formation suppressed by biogenic organic emissions
Evidence has been found that near-ground biogenic emissions of organics suppress cloud formation in cool-temperate forests in autumn, providing clues to how global warming will affect cloud formation and the overall climate.

09/06/2017 03:36 PM
Unraveling a major cause of sea ice retreat in the Arctic Ocean
Quantitative analysis has evidenced the acceleration system of melting ice: dark water surfaces absorb more heat than white ice surfaces, thus melting ice and making more water surfaces in the Arctic Ocean.

09/06/2017 01:29 AM
Longer, stronger summers in the Gulf of Maine
Summer in the Gulf of Maine is as much as two months longer and warmer than it has ever been before, according to a new study. The study examined the seasonality of sea surface temperature trends along the northeast coast of the United States.

09/06/2017 01:29 AM
Deforestation long overlooked as contributor to climate change
When it comes to tackling climate change, the focus often falls on reducing the use of fossil fuels and developing sustainable energy sources. But a new study shows that deforestation and subsequent use of lands for agriculture or pasture, especially in tropical regions, contribute more to climate change than previously thought.

09/05/2017 07:55 PM
Engineers develop tools to share power from renewable energy sources during outages
A team of engineers has developed algorithms that would allow homes to use and share power from their renewable energy sources during outages by strategically disconnecting these devices, called solar inverters, from the grid. The algorithms work with existing technology and would improve systems' reliability by 25 to 35 percent.

09/05/2017 06:45 PM
Could switchgrass help China's air quality?
Researchers have proposed an idea that could improve China's air quality, but they're not atmospheric scientists. They're agronomists.

09/05/2017 05:32 PM
Warmer world may bring more local, less global, temperature variability
Many tropical or subtropical regions could see increases in naturally occurring temperature variability as Earth warms over coming decades, a new study suggests. These local changes could occur even though Earth's global mean surface temperature variability will likely decrease because of less solar reflection from icecaps at high latitudes.