Environmental News Network: Top Stories
Environmental News Network
Updated: 13 hours 56 min ago
According to government estimates, 138,500 whales and dolphins will soon be injured and possibly killed along the East Coast if exploration companies are allowed to use dangerous blasts of noise to search for offshore oil and gas. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is considering allowing geophysical companies, working on behalf of oil and gas companies, to use seismic airguns to search for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida. These airguns use compressed air to generate intense pulses of sound, which are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine.
It seems that every now and then we are surprised to learn that an asteroid is passing near the earth. Sometimes these are asteroids that NASA and others have been tracking for some time, but in other cases, they are newly discovered. The consequences of an asteroid hitting our planet range from relatively insignificant to catastrophic. At the University of Rochester, a team has developed a special type of camera that is capable of detecting and tracking asteroids. A sensor designed to be the eyes of a future asteroid-tracking mission has passed a critical test. The Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) sensor is a new infrared-light detector to improve the performance and efficiency of the next generation of space-based asteroid-hunting telescopes. It is the result of a long-term collaboration between the University of Rochester and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), together with Teledyne Imaging Sensors. A paper on the NEOCam sensor test will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Optical Engineering.
Horseradish grown in the Midwest of the United States has been experiencing significant yield reductions for the past 30 years due to internal discoloring and root rot. According to crop science professor Mohammad Babadoost at the University of Illinois, "If the roots are discolored, they are not accepted for processing." This affects the success of these plants and the livelihood of Illinois farmers who grown over half of the horseradish produced in the United States.
The seas do rise and fall over the ages. Lands sink and rise depending on the weather. Dynamic modeling of sea-level rise, which takes storm wind and wave action into account, paints a much graver picture for some low-lying Pacific islands under climate-change scenarios than the passive computer modeling used in earlier research, according to a new report. A team led by research oceanographer Curt Storlazzi of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center compared passive bathtub inundation models with dynamic models for two of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The team studied Midway, a classic atoll with islands on the shallow (2–8 meters or 6–26 feet deep) atoll rim and a deep, central lagoon, and Laysan, which is higher, with a 20–30 meter (65–98 feet) deep rim and an island in the center of the atoll. Together, the two locations exhibit landforms and coastal features common to many Pacific islands.
Recycling rivalries added another level of "madness" to March this year, as 523 schools competed in the RecycleMania Tournament, which harnesses the competitive spirit around sports rivalries and uses them to increase campus recycling and waste reduction. Colleges and universities across the United States and Canada participated in the eight-week competition in which schools are ranked according to how much recycling, trash and food waste they collect.
A new chemical process can transform waste sulphur into a lightweight plastic that may improve batteries for electric cars, reports a University of Arizona-led team. The team has successfully used the new plastic to make lithium-sulphur batteries and discovered other potential applications, including optical uses.
Low availability of selenium, an essential human micronutrient, in Malawian soils is responsible for its deficiency among the country's population, a study has found. Researchers from Malawi, New Zealand and the United Kingdom sought to establish both whether selenium content in different Malawian soils affects the mineral content of food crops grown in them, and its ultimate influence on the status of human health.
In the last few decades, glaciers at the edge of the icy continent of Antarctica have been thinning, and research has shown the rate of thinning has accelerated and contributed significantly to sea level rise. New ice core research suggests that, while the changes are dramatic, they cannot be attributed with confidence to human-caused global warming, said Eric Steig, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences. Previous work by Steig has shown that rapid thinning of Antarctic glaciers was accompanied by rapid warming and changes in atmospheric circulation near the coast. His research with Qinghua Ding, a UW research associate, showed that the majority of Antarctic warming came during the 1990s in response to El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
There's plenty of evidence that the climate has warmed up over the past century, and climate scientists know this has happened throughout the history of the planet. But they want to know more about how this warming is different. Now a research team says it has some new answers. It has put together a record of global temperatures going back to the end of the last ice age — about 11,000 years ago — when mammoths and saber-tooth cats roamed the planet. The study confirms that what we're seeing now is unprecedented.
Before Disney World, Silver Springs in Central Florida was for decades one of the state's most popular tourist destinations. Even if you've never visited Silver Springs, you might have seen it — if you're old enough. The 1960s television show Sea Hunt was filmed here, as were countless movies including Tarzan and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The crystal clear water of Silver Springs made it invaluable to Hollywood. Guy Marwick, the founder of the Silver River Museum, says it drew over a million visitors a year. "It was not an amusement park in the sense of Coney Island and the rides that one might associate with it," Marwick says. "It was kind of the natural Florida, and I think that's what people are hoping to see it go back to now."
Remember seventeen years ago when those creepy looking orange and black insects covered nearly every tree and you could barely step outside without crunching on a molted shell or cringing when these winged creatures flew by? Maybe they weren’t in your neighborhood, but all along the eastern seaboard of the United States from New York to North Carolina, millions of these half-inch long cicadas swarmed around for nearly a month. And guess what? This spring, these little critters will emerge from the ground once again. In fact, the cicadas are probably starting to plan their escape right now, as several weeks before emerging, they start to build small cones that stick above the soil.
Solar power or natural gas power? How about both? Natural gas power plants can use about 20 percent less fuel when the sun is shining by injecting solar energy into natural gas with a new system being developed by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The system converts natural gas and sunlight into a more energy-rich fuel called syngas, which power plants can burn to make electricity.
As both climate change and population growth continue to increase, there is reason to believe that food commodity prices will be both higher and more volatile in the decades to come. Continuing a decade-long increase, global food prices rose 2.7 percent in 2012, reaching levels not seen since the 1960s and 1970s but still well below the price spike of 1974. Between 2000 and 2012, the World Bank global food price index increased 104.5 percent, at an average annual rate of 6.5 percent.
Although the Sahara desert used to be a green retreat for giraffes and hippos 5,000 years ago, it is now a giant, sometimes rolling landscape of sand. A lot of sand. In fact, roughly two thirds of Algeria is made up of sand, according to the authors of a study published in the Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering. And they believe it can be used to produce a sustainable building material for a limping construction industry. That's right, they want to turn the dunes into bricks, and they already have a pretty good formula. Since Algeria possesses very little in the way of aggregate materials that can be used in the construction industry, researchers from the University of Kasdi Merbah and the Polytechnic School of Algiers developed a new kind of brick made with little more than water, sand sourced from their own backyard – so to speak – and a binder.
The first study of its kind to calculate the amount of nutrients entering and leaving the Arctic Ocean has been carried out by scientists based at the National Oceanography Center, Southampton. Their results, which are published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research, show that there is a mismatch between what goes into the Arctic Ocean and what comes out. This is the first study to look at the transport of dissolved inorganic nutrients nitrate, phosphate and silicate together, all of which are essential for life in the ocean. The study combined measurements of nutrient concentrations with measurements of how much water was transported across the main Arctic gateways – Davis Strait, Fram Strait, the Barents Sea Opening and Bering Strait during the summer of 2005.
Winter may be over for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and hopefully we will not be expecting any more snowfall, but that doesn't mean we still can't marvel at the intricacies of the snowflake. A team of researchers at the University of Utah have developed a new high-speed camera system that records 3-D images of these snowflakes in hopes of improving radar for weather and snowpack forecasting. Funded in part by NASA and the US Army, the team studied falling snow and how it interacts with radar in order to improve computer simulations. As a result, the research has revealed more about how snowy weather can degrade microwave (radar) communications.
Leading academic brands industry a "scam" as campaigners condemn our growing thirst for bottled water. The UK bottled water industry releases 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. One of Britain's leading authorities on water supplies has branded the bottled water industry a scam, backing campaigners' claims of wasted millions and environmental pollution at a time when tap water standards have never been higher. Professor Paul Younger, Rankine Chair of Engineering at Glasgow University, has highlighted growing fears that our increasing consumption of bottled water is damaging the environment while raising huge profits for the big brands, despite Britain having one of the best mains water supplies in the world.
There is more interaction than one would think between interplanetary bodies. In this case a new study tracks the "rain" of charged water particles into the atmosphere of Saturn and finds there is more of it and it falls across larger areas of the planet than previously thought. The study, whose observations were funded by NASA and whose analysis was led by the University of Leicester, England, reveals that the rain influences the composition and temperature structure of parts of Saturn's upper atmosphere. The paper appears in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
The EU’s chief scientific advisor has said that evidence allows the go-ahead for extracting shale gas, the energy source at the centre of a European policy tug-of-war. The EU executive launched a green paper on 27 March, setting out Europe's energy and climate aims for 2030, with Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger taking a favourable position on shale gas. "I am in favour of producing shale gas, particularly for safety reasons, and to reduce gas prices," he said. "In the United States, which is a big producer of shale gas, the price of gas is four times less than in Europe."
Statins are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which plays a central role in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Statins may slightly increase the risk of diabetes, with higher doses appearing to have a larger effect. A laboratory study has shown for the first time that coenzyme Q10 offsets cellular changes that may be linked to a side-effect of some statin drugs - an increased risk of adult-onset diabetes. Statins are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, able to reduce LDL, or bad cholesterol levels, and the risk of heart attacks or other cardiovascular events. However, their role in raising the risk of diabetes has only been observed and studied in recent years.