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.

05/22/2017 01:08 PM
Air pollution may disrupt sleep
High levels of air pollution over time may get in the way of a good night's sleep, according to new research.

05/19/2017 08:35 PM
Triple play boosting value of renewable fuel could tip market in favor of biomass
A new process triples the fraction of biomass converted to high-value products to nearly 80 percent, also tripling the expected rate of return for an investment in the technology from roughly 10 percent (for one end product) to 30 percent.

05/19/2017 08:35 PM
Traffic-related air pollution linked to DNA damage in children
Children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have evidence of a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening, reports a new study.

05/19/2017 06:16 PM
Environmental pollutants in large Norwegian lakes
Scientists have discovered the presence of contaminants in the pelagic food chains in the lakes Mjøsa, Randsfjorden and Femunden in Norway, and in supplementary material of fish from Tyrifjorden and Vansjø, sampled in 2015. Mercury and persistent organic pollutants (cVMS, PCBs, PBDEs, PFAS) were analyzed in samples of fish from all lakes, as well as pelagic crustaceans in Mjøsa.

05/19/2017 05:40 PM
Fueling the future
New research investigated the full life cycle impact of one promising 'second-generation biofuel' produced from short-rotation oak. The study found that second-generation biofuels made from managed trees and perennial grasses may provide a sustainable fuel resource.

05/19/2017 01:36 PM
Iron deficiency restrains marine microbes
Iron is a critical nutrient in the ocean. Its importance for algae and the nitrogen cycle has already been investigated in detail. Now a new discovery shows that microbes also need iron to process phosphorus. A team of researchers has completed a study showing that iron can limit phosphorus acquisition in the ocean. Their study contributes to knowledge of nutrient cycling in the ocean.

05/18/2017 08:38 PM
Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
Using neutron crystallography, research team has mapped the three-dimensional structure of a protein that breaks down polysaccharides, such as the fibrous cellulose of grasses and woody plants, a finding that could help bring down the cost of creating biofuels.

05/18/2017 07:38 PM
Smoking out sources of in-home air pollution
An ambitious study has investigated various factors that contribute to air pollution inside the house. Not surprisingly, cigarette smoke emerged as a major source of airborne particles in homes with smokers, but cleaning products, candles, frying food and marijuana smoking also jumped out as in-home air polluters. It's the first study to identify marijuana as a significant source of in-home air pollution.

05/18/2017 07:38 PM
Fake caterpillar study reveals global pattern in predation
A new study revealing the world's prime insect predation hotspots, achieved its landmark findings using an unusual aid: plasticine 'dummy caterpillars.' The new study has revealed a global pattern of predation on insect herbivores. The trends observed were surprising, revealing that predatory behavior in the tropics is not driven by birds or mammals but by ants and other small arthropods.

05/18/2017 07:03 PM
Tooth truth: Human teeth tell the story of humanity through our fragile relationship with the sun
Researchers have developed a new method to read imperfections in teeth caused by a lack of sunlight, creating a powerful tool to trace events ranging from human evolution and migration out of Africa to the silent damage of vitamin D deficiency that continues to affect 1 billion worldwide.

05/18/2017 07:02 PM
Water efficiency in rural areas is getting worse, even as it improves in urban centers
A nationwide analysis of water use over the past 30 years finds that there is a disconnect between rural and urban areas, with most urban areas becoming more water efficient and most rural areas becoming less and less efficient over time.

05/18/2017 03:41 PM
Groundwater loss tracked during drought in California's Central Valley
Significant groundwater loss in California's Central Valley during the recent drought and sparks questions of sustainability for the important agricultural area, a new study reveals.

05/18/2017 03:41 PM
Not all cool pavements are created equal
Cool pavements can help keep cities cool, right? Yes, but according to new research many reflective pavements have some unexpected drawbacks relative to conventional pavements when considering the entire life cycle of the materials.

05/18/2017 03:40 PM
Climate stabilization: Planting trees cannot replace cutting carbon dioxide emissions
Growing plants and then storing the carbon dioxide they have taken up from the atmosphere is no viable option to counteract unmitigated emissions from fossil fuel burning, a new study shows. The plantations would need to be so large, they would eliminate most natural ecosystems or reduce food production if implemented as a late-regret option in the case of substantial failure to reduce emissions.

05/18/2017 02:01 PM
Nanophysics: Saving energy with a spot of silver
Tomorrow’s computers will run on light, and gold nanoparticle chains show much promise as light conductors. Now scientists have demonstrated how tiny spots of silver could markedly reduce energy consumption in light-based computation.

05/18/2017 01:53 PM
Photocatalyst makes hydrogen production 10 times more efficient
Hydrogen is an alternative source of energy that can be produced from renewable sources of sunlight and water. A group of researchers has developed a photocatalyst that increases hydrogen production tenfold.

05/18/2017 01:30 PM

Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing twice as fast as in the rest of the globe, while the Antarctic is warming at a much slower rate. A new study shows that land height could be a 'game changer' when it comes to explaining why temperatures are rising at such different rates in the two regions.

05/18/2017 01:30 PM
Measuring the human impact of weather
The World Meteorological Organization has announced today world records for the highest reported historical death tolls from tropical cyclones, tornadoes, lightning and hailstorms. It marks the first time the official WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes has broadened its scope from strictly temperature and weather records to address the impacts of specific events.

05/17/2017 07:36 PM
Myanmar's extensive forests are declining rapidly due to political and economic change
The loss of intact forest cover in Myanmar has accelerated over the last decade, according to a new study.

05/17/2017 06:26 PM
Earth's atmosphere more chemically reactive in cold climates
A Greenland ice core providing a first glimpse at the history of reactive oxidants shows that for big temperature swings in the past 100,000 years, reactive oxidants are actually higher in cold climates. This means that new mechanisms -- not just water vapor, plant and soil emissions -- must affect the concentration of ozone and other oxidants in the atmosphere.

05/17/2017 06:25 PM
Fate of marine carbon in last steps toward sequestration
New research explains how an ancient group of cells in the dark ocean wrings the last bit of energy from carbon molecules resistant to breakdown.

05/17/2017 05:05 PM
New study sheds light on origins of life on Earth through molecular function
Debate exists over how life began on Earth, but a new study provides evidence for a 'metabolism-first' model. Scientists have traced the origins and evolution of molecular functions through time. The study shows metabolism and binding arose first, followed by the functional activities of larger macromolecules and cellular machinery.

05/17/2017 04:16 PM
Space weather events linked to human activity
Human activities, like nuclear tests and radio transmissions, have been changing near-Earth space and weather, and have created artificial radiation belts, damaged satellites and induced auroras.

05/17/2017 03:11 PM
Autonomous 'soaring with solar' concept
Scientists are building on the proven concept of autonomous cooperative soaring of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which enables long endurance flights of unmanned sailplanes that use the power of the Sun.

05/17/2017 02:05 PM
During heat waves, urban trees can increase ground-level ozone
Planting trees is a popular strategy to help make cities 'greener,' both literally and figuratively. But scientists have found a counterintuitive effect of urban vegetation: during heat waves, it can increase air pollution levels and the formation of ozone.

05/17/2017 02:05 PM
Microbial fuel cell converts methane to electricity
Transporting methane from gas wellheads to market provides multiple opportunities for this greenhouse gas to leak into the atmosphere. Now, an international team of researchers has taken the first step in converting methane directly to electricity using bacteria, in a way that could be done near the drilling sites.

05/17/2017 02:05 PM
Dams are major driver of global environmental change
Water reservoirs created by damming rivers could have significant impacts on the world's carbon cycle and climate system that aren't being accounted for, a new study concludes.

05/16/2017 09:29 PM
Green fleet technology
New research addresses the impact delivery trucks have on the environment by providing green solutions that keep costs down without sacrificing efficiency.

05/16/2017 07:34 PM
Public divides over environmental regulation and energy policy
A 54 percent majority of US adults believe that 'government regulations are necessary to encourage businesses and consumers to rely more on renewable energy sources,' while 38 percent support the notion that 'the private marketplace will ensure that businesses and consumers rely more on renewable energy sources, even without government regulations,' according to a new survey.

05/16/2017 07:33 PM
'Narco-deforestation' study links loss of Central American tropical forests to cocaine
Central American tropical forests are beginning to disappear at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihood of indigenous peoples there and endangering some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America. The culprit? Cocaine.

05/16/2017 03:48 PM
Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is often very difficult, in part because they are extremely water-repellent. Scientists have now been able to show how such biofilms adapt their surface texture to repel water -- similar to leaves.

05/16/2017 03:47 PM
Cities need to 'green up' to reduce impact of air pollution
The harmful impact of urban air pollution could be combated by strategically placing low hedges along roads in a built-up environment of cities instead of taller trees, a new study has found.

05/16/2017 03:47 PM
From where will the next big earthquake hit the city of Istanbul?
Scientists reckon with an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or greater in this region in the coming years. The extent of such seismic threat to this Turkish city of Istanbul actually depends on how strongly the tectonic plates are entangled and on the exact nucleation point of the earthquake. A team of researchers now presents a study indicating that the next major earthquake is more likely to originate in Istanbul's eastern Marmara Sea.

05/16/2017 02:08 PM
How atmospheric waves radiate out of hurricanes
Researchers believe they have found a new way to monitor the intensity and location of hurricanes from hundreds of miles away by detecting atmospheric waves radiating from the centers of these powerful storms.

05/16/2017 02:08 PM
'Fathers do matter' for the wandering albatross
Biologists have been looking at the body mass of the wandering albatross. Variation in body mass distribution is expected to have consequences for the conversation of particular species.

05/16/2017 01:08 PM
Protecting Peru's river dolphins
River dolphins and Amazonian manatees in Peru will benefit from new protection thanks to a newly developed plan.

05/15/2017 11:04 PM
Rise of aggressive reef predator may impede sea urchin recovery, study finds
A new study suggests that an aggressive reef competitor -- the Threespot Damselfish -- may have impeded the recovery of Caribbean long-spined sea urchin populations after a mysterious disease outbreak caused a massive die-off of these animals over three decades ago.

05/15/2017 08:48 PM
No escaping ocean plastic: 37 million bits of litter on one of world's remotest islands
The beaches of one of the world's most remote islands have been found to be polluted with the highest density of plastic debris reported anywhere on the planet, a new study shows. Despite being uninhabited and located more than 5,000 kilometers from the nearest major population center, Henderson Island is littered with an estimated 37.7 million pieces of plastic.

05/15/2017 08:07 PM
Rare Earth element mineral potential in the southeastern US coastal plain
Rare Earth elements have become increasingly important for advanced technologies, from cell phones to renewable energy to defense systems. Mineral resources hosted in heavy mineral sand deposits are especially attractive because they can be recovered using well-established mechanical methods, making extraction, processing, and remediation relatively simple.

05/15/2017 06:30 PM
NASA's EPIC view spots flashes on Earth
One million miles from Earth, a NASA camera is capturing unexpected flashes of light reflecting off our planet.

05/15/2017 05:59 PM
Key differences in solar wind models
The challenge of predicting space weather, which can cause issues with telecommunications and other satellite operations on Earth, requires a detailed understanding of the solar wind (a stream of charged particles released from the sun) and sophisticated computer simulations. New research has found that when choosing the right model to describe the solar wind, using the one that takes longer to calculate does not make it the most accurate.

05/15/2017 05:22 PM
A better sustainable sanitary pad
Students have developed a new, 100-percent biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made of all natural materials and is much thinner and more comfortable than other similar products. The SHERO Pad uses a processed form of algae as its super-absorbent ingredient, resulting in a maxi pad that is effective, comfortable to wear and can break down anywhere from 45 days to six months.

05/15/2017 05:22 PM
Climate change: Extreme rainfall will vary between regions
The most extreme rain events in most regions of the world will increase in intensity by 3 to 15 percent, depending on region, for every degree Celsius that the planet warms, say researchers.

05/15/2017 04:15 PM
Diesels pollute more than lab tests detect
Because of testing inefficiencies, maintenance inadequacies and other factors, cars, trucks and buses worldwide emit 4.6 million tons more harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) than standards allow, according to a new study.

05/15/2017 04:15 PM
Heat on for Australia's Great Barrier Reef when global temperatures hit 1.5C
Scientists have modeled how extremes in precipitation, drought, extreme heat and ocean temperatures will change in Australia at global temperatures 1.5°C and 2°C above pre-industrial conditions. It doesn't bode well for Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

05/15/2017 03:12 PM
'Switchable' smart windows reduce energy consumption significantly
Smart windows that act as blinds in the summer and let all the sunlight through in the winter. That's the idea of the reflective windows that are able to reflect invisible infrared light but allow visible light through. In addition these windows can be 'switched on and off'. This new technology cuts the energy consumption for cooling and heating buildings by 12%.

05/15/2017 02:52 PM
Producing fertilizer from air could be five times as efficient
Scientists bring the prospect of farmers producing their own fertilizer from only air closer with a revolutionary reactor that coverts nitrogen from the atmosphere into NOx, the raw material for fertilizer. The method, in theory, is up to five times as efficient as existing processes, enabling farms to have a small-scale installation without the need for a big investment.

05/15/2017 02:26 PM
Photovoltaics and batteries: An expensive combination
Solar power can cover up to 40% of the electricity needs of a typical household. Going beyond that level becomes really expensive: using batteries coupled with solar panels would be twice as expensive as using the power grid.

05/15/2017 02:11 PM
Unborn rays traumatized when their mothers are captured, world-first study finds
The stress of unintentional fishing capture has a detrimental impact not only on pregnant rays, but also their unborn offspring, research that is the first of its kind in the world has found.

05/13/2017 12:57 AM
New tool could help predict, prevent surging waters in flood plains
A group of international scientists studying China's Yellow River has created a new tool that could help officials better predict and prevent its all-too-frequent floods, which threaten as many as 80 million.

05/13/2017 12:57 AM
Data science used to better predict effect of weather and other conditions
Data science has been used by researchers to determine and predict the effects of exposure to weather and other conditions on materials in solar panels. Using data science to predict the deterioration of such materials could lead to finding new ways to extend their lifetime, the researchers say.

05/12/2017 02:39 PM
Next-gen solar cells could be improved by atomic-scale redesign
Researchers have uncovered the exact mechanism that causes new solar cells to break down in air, paving the way for a solution.

05/11/2017 07:20 PM
Some forests have been hiding in plain sight
A new estimate of dryland forests suggests that the global forest cover is at least 9 percent higher than previously thought. The finding will help reduce uncertainties surrounding terrestrial carbon sink estimates.

05/11/2017 06:59 PM
How plankton and bacteria shape ocean spray
As the oceans ebb and flow, the resulting waves and splashes form tiny bubbles.The bubbles burst and release a vapor -- called sea spray aerosol -- into the air. This aerosol scatters sunlight and is involved in forming clouds and ultimately climate. But no two bubbles are the same, researchers report. They analyzed sea spray and found that the atmospheric-changing properties of the bubbles are influenced by phytoplankton and bacteria in the water.

05/11/2017 04:59 PM
Distance at which supernova would spark mass extinctions on Earth
KU researcher Adrian Melott examines the effects of a supernova on Earth's biology in new research to appear in Astrophysical Journal. The KU researcher and colleagues argue the estimated distance of the supernova thought to have occurred roughly 2.6 million years ago should be cut in half.

05/11/2017 02:50 PM
Warmer temperatures cause decline in key runoff measure
Since the mid-1980s, the percentage of precipitation that becomes streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande watershed has fallen more steeply than at any point in at least 445 years, according to a new study.

05/11/2017 02:50 PM
Teleconnection between the tropical Pacific and Antarctica
The higher the seawater temperature in the tropical Pacific, the more likely ice breakup will occur in East Antarctica, according to researchers.

05/11/2017 02:50 PM
Irreversible ocean warming threatens the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf
By the second half of this century, rising air temperatures above the Weddell Sea could set off a self-amplifying meltwater feedback cycle under the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, ultimately causing the second-largest ice shelf in the Antarctic to shrink dramatically.

05/11/2017 01:37 PM
More natural dust in the air improves air quality in eastern China
Human-made pollution in eastern China's cities worsens when less dust blows in from the Gobi Desert, according to a new study. That's because dust plays an important role in determining the air temperatures and thereby promoting winds to blow away human-made pollution. Less dust means the air stagnates, with human-made pollution becoming more concentrated and sticking around longer.

05/11/2017 01:37 PM
Six-legged livestock for sustainable food production
Farming crickets for human consumption is less of a burden on the environment than other livestock production systems according to a new study. Results suggest that insect farming systems can be improved to become even more environmentally sustainable in the future.