Clean Energy Could Stress Global Water Resources

gdnfdnbdnbdfn“While there are alternative possible energy transition pathways which would allow us to limit global warming to 2°C, many of these could lead to unsustainable long-term water use,” says IIASA researcher Oliver Fricko, who led the study, “Depending on the energy pathway chosen, the resulting water use by the energy sector could lead to water allocation conflicts with other sectors such as agriculture or domestic use, resulting in local shortages.”

The energy sector already accounts for approximately 15% of global water use. According to the study global water use of energy could, however, increase by more than 600% by 2100 relative to the base year (2000). Most of this water usage comes from thermoelectric power plants–centralized solar power plants as well as nuclear, fossil fuel or biomass-powered plants–that rely on water for cooling.

Water use is however not the only problem. When river or sea-water is used for power plant cooling, it gets released back into the environment at a higher temperature, a problem known as thermal pollution, which can affect aquatic organisms. The study finds that thermal pollution will increase in the future unless measures are taken to reduce such pollution through mitigation

Even Plant Supporting Soil Fungi Affected By Global Warming

hdghgfjmOn a cool, fog-shrouded mountain of Costa Rica, University of California, Irvine biologist Caitlin Looby is finding that warming temperatures are becoming an increasing problem for one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth.

Seeking to determine how shifts in the tropical mountain cloud forest ecosystem would affect resident fungal species in Monteverde, Looby and fellow ecology & evolutionary biology graduate student Mia Maltz and their adviser, Kathleen Treseder, found that as the moist mountain soil dries out due to a warming climate, the fungi infrastructure that supports the abundant plant life also will change.

The impact on this ecosystem may be significant. Looby explained that if the higher-elevation soil becomes similar to lower-elevation soil (which is warmer and drier), it will spur the growth of the type of fungi flourishing at lower elevations that breaks down plant material. And if this degradation of plant material escalates, it will release significantly increased amounts of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere.

Open-access results of the study appear online in Ecology & Evolution.

Despite the fact that they make up less than 1 percent of the

Global Warming Increases Rain In Worlds Driest Areas

sfbfbsfbGlobal warming will increase rainfall in some of the world’s driest areas over land, with not only the wet getting wetter but the dry getting wetter as well.

New research published today in Nature Climate Change has revealed that in the Earth’s dry regions, global warming will bring an overall increase in rainfall and in extreme precipitation events that could lead to flash flooding becoming a more regular event.

“We found a strong relationship between global warming and an increase in rainfall, particularly in areas outside of the tropics,” said lead author Dr Markus Donat from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

“Within the tropics we saw an increase in rainfall responding to global warming but the actual rate of this increase was less clear.”

Unfortunately for societies, businesses and agricultural activities that exist in arid regions, the expected increase in rainfall over dry areas does not necessarily mean that more water will become available according to the researchers. The additional heat caused by global warming will likely lead to increased evaporation. This means that while there may be more extreme flooding events it may have little impact on overall water storage rates.

“The concern with

Sponge Structure Key To Mopping Up Oil Spills

An interconnected structure, which water can easily flow through, is key to creating a highly effective mechanical sponge for clearing oil spills.

These are the findings from scientists at the Istituto Italiano di Technologia (IIT), Italy, in their paper published today, 2nd March 2016, in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

The traditional method of clearing an oil spill, containing it with the use of booms and then ‘sucking’ the oil from the surface of the water, looks set to be replaced with polyurethane foams that can sponge the oil directly out of the water.

“We wanted to understand what the key features of such foams are, and how they can affect their performance” explains Dr Javier Pinto, author of the paper. “Particularly whether it was necessary to modify the surface chemistry, or if you could reach really good performance by simply choosing foams with the right structural parameters.”

The experimental and theoretical study shows that with highly interconnected open porous structures, and pore sizes below 500 micrometres, it is possible to reach absorption capacities as high as 30 grams of oil per gram of polyurethane.

Chemical functionalization of the porous structure did not appear to enhance the oil absorption efficiency, but did significantly contribute

Higher Ozone Lower Humidity Levels Associated With Dry Eye Disease

Air pollution is an important public health concern. According to the World Health Organization, most significant constituents of air pollution include particulate matter (PM), ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Ambient levels of air pollution are known to be associated with a wide range of adverse health effects that particularly affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Ocular surface abnormalities related to air pollution are thought to be a subtype of dry eye disease (DED); however, to date, there has been no large-scale study evaluating an association between air pollution and DED that includes multiple air pollutants. This study included data on 16,824 participants in the fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted from January 2010 to December 2012. Dry eye disease was defined as previously diagnosed by an ophthalmologist or the presence of frequent ocular pain and discomfort, such as feeling dry or irritated. Outdoor air pollution measurements (average annual humidity, particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter <10 µm [PM10], ozone, and nitrogen dioxide levels) were collected from 283 national monitoring stations in South Korea. The researchers found that decreased humidity levels and increased ozone levels were associated with DED, after controlling for known risk factors such as sex,

Give And Take Researchers Analyze How Nutrient Pollution Can Negatively Impact Important Ecological Relationships

Nature has its own economy, with trading as dynamic as that of any stock exchange. To cope with nutrient deficiencies in their respective habitats, certain plants, animals and fungi have evolved partnerships by which they can swap resources.

However, according to a new study by UC Santa Barbara researchers Deron Burkepile and Andrew Shantz, excess nutrient input — or nutrient pollution –creates an imbalance in the interactions between partner — also known as mutualistic — species across a variety of ecosystems. The culprit: nitrogen fertilizers and fossil-fuel combustion. Their findings appear in the journalEcology Letters.

In a very short period of time, Burkepile noted, humans have short-circuited the tight recycling of nutrients between mutualistic species, and this in turn has changed the balance of how such partners interact.

“That’s especially important because lots of these organisms are the foundation species of ecosystems without which the ecosystem would cease to exist,” said Burkepile, an associate professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology.

Take, for example, reef-building coral, which contain tiny algae that allow for rapid growth even when nutrient stores are low. “The presence of coral is what makes a coral reef,” Burkepile continued. “Without the association between coral and its symbiotic

How To Get A Handle On Potential Risks Posed By Fracking Fluids

The expansion of fracking in recent years has lowered energy costs for customers and is expected to continue its growth for the next several years, industry experts have reported. But the compounds used to crack shale formations to release their gas and oil reserves are under increasing scrutiny. While many are considered harmless, others are known toxins or carcinogens. And there are substances that oil and gas companies use in fracking operations that they don’t disclose publicly. But in a recent review article, Martin Elsner and Kathrin Hoelzer note several reasons why these companies should list all the compounds involved.

The researchers say transparency could go a long way toward improving these operations. Among other benefits, full disclosure could allow for better monitoring of waterways for potential contamination. It also could help in assessing what new compounds might form from underground chemical reactions. Although some fluid additives might be non-toxic to start, they could react with other substances once injected into a well and form new potentially harmful products, the team explains. A complete listing could also contribute to improving the treatment of wastewater from fracking operations to remove potential toxins before they can contaminate aquifers, rivers and lakes. In addition

Todays Clouds Might Not Be The Same As Pre Industrial Ones

A key problem is that we generally do not have data on clouds from the preindustrial era, before there was pollution, for comparison with the clouds of today. Because clouds are a key part of Earth’s climate system, working out how they behaved before the Industrial Age might ultimately help us better determine how much the world will eventually warm up.

The study points to at least two ways to potentially improve how the clouds are simulated in climate models. One is to better differentiate cloud types in models to account for their variability. Another would be to study clouds that are not influenced by the pollution that humans have been putting out since the Industrial Age started.

“We might have to find clouds far away from civilization,” said study author Steve Ghan of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “But, there are parts of the world that are pretty darn clean.”

Cloudy affect

One of the toughest questions dogging climate scientists is how much the earth will warm from all the greenhouse gases humans are putting into the atmosphere. Computer models put out a range of possibilities, and the smaller the range, the more sure scientists can be of the result.

For

Many Small To Medium Green Spaces In A City Provide Beneficial Cooling Effects

Built up urban environments can be as much as 9°C warmer than the surrounding area with buildings, road traffic and human activities all contributing to the ‘urban heat island’ effect. Vegetation, especially trees, has a crucial role to play in lowering temperatures by providing shade, reflecting sunlight and by evaporation.

The work, published online in the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, analyses data from eight London greenspaces with areas ranging from 0.2 to 12.1 ha. Very small green spaces with areas of less than 0.5 ha (slightly smaller than an average football pitch) did not affect the air temperatures of their surrounding areas; however as the area of green space increased the distance over which cooling was achieved increased linearly. Spaces with more tree canopy coverage increased the distance beyond the boundaries of the green space over which cooling was measureable, while the amount of cooling was more strongly linked to the amount of grass coverage present.

The researchers found that on windy nights it wasn’t possible to measure the cooling effects of the green spaces beyond their boundaries as there was too much turbulent mixing of the air; but on calm warm nights they estimate that a network of green spaces

Down The Drain Heres Why We Should Use Rainwater To Flush Toilets

Toilet flushing is the biggest use of water in households in the United States and the United Kingdom, accounting for nearly one-third of potable water use. But there is no reason that clean, treated, municipal water needs to be used to flush a toilet — rainwater could do the job just as well.

“People have been catching and using rain water for ages, but it’s only been in the last 20-30 years that we have realized that this is something that could be done systematically in certain urban areas to ease all different kinds of stresses on watersheds; potable water treatment and distribution systems; and urban drainage infrastructure,” said Franco Montalto, P.E., PhD, an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering, and director of its Sustainable Water Resource Engineering Lab, who led the research effort. “The study looks at four of the largest metropolitan areas in the country to see if it rains enough to make implementation feasible and, if everyone did it, what effect it would have on domestic water demand and stormwater runoff generation in those cities.”

The process of collecting and using roof runoff, which researchers call rainwater harvesting, has been working its way into vogue among urban planners

Electricity Heating Most Climate Friendly Uses For Natural Gas

The Rice study by environmental engineer Daniel Cohan and alumnus Shayak Sengupta compared the net greenhouse gas-emission savings that could be realized by replacing other fuels in vehicles, furnaces and power plants.

They found that gas-fired power plants achieved the greatest reduction — more than 50 percent — in net emissions when replacing old coal-fired power plants. The use of compressed natural gas in vehicles yielded the least benefit, essentially matching the emissions of modern gasoline or diesel engines.

The study, funded in part by Rice’s Energy and Environment Initiative, appears in the International Journal of Global Warming.

The researchers’ calculations considered emissions throughout the fuel cycle, from production and transport of each fuel through combustion and including leaks of methane. They made comparisons within the five sectors they studied — power plants, furnaces, exports for electricity generation overseas, buses and cars — and across sectors to see which use of natural gas pays the greatest dividend for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“This research is aimed at a world where natural gas has become more abundant,” Cohan said. “Some people vilify natural gas, focusing on leaks, and others make it out to be a clean, green energy source.

“With this work, we try to shift the

Cutting Cattle Carbon Bad Breath And Flatulence

Cattle have bad breath and commonly suffer from severe, chronic flatus generating large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas and a driver of anthropogenic global warming. There is an obvious answer to this problem, stop breeding cattle.

Unfortunately a large proportion of us enjoy our bovine dairy products and meat too much. Until synthetic products that are indistinguishable from the real thing become available and accepted by milk drinkers and steak fans, we will have to look into alternative approaches to reducing the carbon emissions from these creatures.

Writing in International Journal of Global Warming, Abdelmajid Moumen, Ghizlane Azizi, Kaoutar Ben Chekroun and Mourad Baghour of the Université Mohamed 1er, in Nador, Morocco, have reviewed the various approaches to reducing methane emissions from cattle and other livestock. These approaches involve improved genetic selection through breeding, modification of dietary composition, or through rumen microbial manipulation, vaccines against the methanogenic bacteria that generate the methane in these animals and various other techniques. It is possible that among the approaches or with a combination of approaches there might be a way to reduce the global burden of methane emissions from livestock.

“Methane emissions by livestock are very significant contributors to anthropogenic emissions of GHGs in

Are Developments In Technology Improving Air Quality

According to Hopke, the most effective way to measure air quality is to quantitatively determine sources of air pollution. As such, there is now a “substantial capability to provide useful insights into the sources of pollutants and their atmospheric processing.” He In his paper, “Review of receptor modeling methods for source apportionment,” Hopke discusses a multitude of mathematical data analysis methods in his article. Hopke emphasizes, emphasizing both the increasing maturity and the easy accessibility of these models.

Ultimately, according to Editor-in-Chief of Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, Dr. S. Trivikrama Rao, “Receptor modeling methods are now being routinely applied to air monitoring data for identifying and apportioning air pollutants. Hopke reviewed these methods in terms of their evolution, application, current state-of-the-science, and looks ahead to what next.” Hopke, while pleased with the expansion of atmospheric data analysis methods, emphasizes a continued need for improvements in the field.

The Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional organization that enhances knowledge and expertise by providing a neutral forum for information exchange, professional development, networking opportunities, public education, and outreach to more than 5,000 environmental professionals in 65 countries. A&WMA promotes global environmental responsibility and increases the effectiveness

Sea Level Rise Threatens Larger Number Of People Than Earlier Estimated

More people live close to sea coast than earlier estimated, assess researchers in a new study. These people are the most vulnerable to the rise of the sea level as well as to the increased number of floods and intensified storms. By using recent increased resolution datasets, Aalto University researchers estimate that 1.9 billion inhabitants, or 28% of the world’s total population, live closer than 100 km from the coast in areas less than 100 meters above the present sea level.

  • By 2050 the amount of people in that zone is predicted to increase to 2.4 billion, while population living lower than 5 meters will reach 500 million people. Many of these people need to adapt their livelihoods to changing climate, say Assistant Professor Matti Kummu from Aalto University.

The study found that while population and wealth concentrate by the sea, food must be grown further and further away from where people live. Highlands and mountain areas are increasingly important from food production point of view, but also very vulnerable to changes in climate.

  • Over the past century there has been a clear tendency that cropland and pasture areas have grown most in areas outside the population hotspots, and decreased in coastal areas.

Molecular Level Relationships Key To Deciphering Ocean Carbon

From beach shallows to the ocean depths, vast numbers of chemical compounds work together to reduce and store atmospheric carbon in the world’s oceans.

In the past, studying the connections between ocean-borne compounds and microbes has been impractical because of the sheer complexity of each. Three University of Georgia faculty members–along with an international team of scientists–bring to the forefront technological developments that are providing scientists with the analytical tools needed to understand these molecular-level relationships.

Their perspective article appears March 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It focuses on dissolved organic matter, or DOM, in the world’s oceans as a central carbon reservoir in the current and future global carbon cycle.

“Dissolved organic carbon is an amazing and confounding molecular soup,” said Aron Stubbins, co-author and associate professor of marine sciences at UGA housed at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah. “It sits at the center of the ocean carbon cycle, directing the energy flow from the tiny plants of the sea, phytoplankton, to ocean bacteria. Though around a quarter of all the sunlight trapped by plants each year passes through dissolved organic carbon, we know very little about the chemistry of the molecules or the biology of

Impact Of Climate Change On Agriculture May Be Underestimated

One of the most critical questions surrounding climate change is how it might affect the food supply for a growing global population. A new study by researchers from Brown and Tufts universities suggests that researchers have been overlooking how two key human responses to climate — how much land people choose to farm, and the number of crops they plant — will impact food production in the future.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, focused on the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, an emerging global breadbasket that as of 2013 supplied 10 percent of the world’s soybeans. The researchers used variations in temperature and precipitation across the state over an eight-year period to estimate the sensitivity of the region’s agricultural production to climate change. Those historical comparisons can help in making predictions about the sensitivity of agriculture to future climate change.

The study found that, if the patterns from 2002 to 2008 hold in the future, an increase in average temperature in Mato Grosso of just 1 degree Celsius will lead to a nine to 13 percent reduction in overall production of soy and corn. “This is worrisome given that the temperature in the study region is predicted to rise by as

Human Influence On Climate Dates Back To 1930s

The study suggests that without human-induced climate change, recent hot summers and years would not have occurred. The researchers also found that this effect has been masked until recently in many areas of the world by the wide use of industrial aerosols, which have a cooling effect on temperatures.

“Everywhere we look, the climate change signal for extreme heat events is becoming stronger,” said Andrew King, a climate extremes research fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia and lead author of the study. “Recent record-breaking hot years globally were so much outside natural variability that they were almost impossible without global warming.”

The researchers examined weather events that exceeded the range of natural variability and used climate modelling to compare those events to a world without human-induced greenhouse gases. The study was accepted for publication yesterday in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

According to the new study, record-breaking hot years attributable to climate change globally are 1937, 1940, 1941, 1943-44, 1980-1981, 1987-1988, 1990, 1995, 1997-98, 2010 and 2014.

“In Australia, our research shows the last six record-breaking hot years and last three record-breaking hot summers were made more likely by the human influence on the climate,” King said. “We were

Eyeing Climate Change Satellites Provide Missing Information

An international team of scientists led by Prof. Daniel Rosenfeld from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem found a way to measure missing critical information needed to quantify humanmade responsibility for climate change.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors describe a new way to determine both cloud-base updraft speeds and quantify the aerosol particles’ ability to create cloud droplets. The new method used measurements from an existing meteorological satellite, operated since 2012, rather than conventional aircraft and ground stations.

“This new satellite methodology enables us to quantify climate effects on a global scope, provides a more accurate assessment of the processes affecting global warming, and reduces the uncertainty there is about climate change,” said Prof. Rosenfeld, an expert on climate change from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Earth Sciences.

Emissions of greenhouse gases have long been recognized as a cause for global warming, as they slow the release of heat that radiates from Earth to space. “This relatively well-known warming effect is partially countered to a poorly-known extent by humanmade particulate emissions, such as smoke, dust and other kinds of air pollution particles,” explains Prof. Rosenfeld.

Much of the climate effect of these particles, called

Eyeing Climate Change Satellites Provide Missing Information

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors describe a new way to determine both cloud-base updraft speeds and quantify the aerosol particles’ ability to create cloud droplets. The new method used measurements from an existing meteorological satellite, operated since 2012, rather than conventional aircraft and ground stations.

“This new satellite methodology enables us to quantify climate effects on a global scope, provides a more accurate assessment of the processes affecting global warming, and reduces the uncertainty there is about climate change,” said Prof. Rosenfeld, an expert on climate change from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Earth Sciences.

Emissions of greenhouse gases have long been recognized as a cause for global warming, as they slow the release of heat that radiates from Earth to space. “This relatively well-known warming effect is partially countered to a poorly-known extent by humanmade particulate emissions, such as smoke, dust and other kinds of air pollution particles,” explains Prof. Rosenfeld.

Much of the climate effect of these particles, called Cloud Condensation Nuclei, comes from their impact on the behavior of clouds. Polluted clouds contain a relatively higher number of smaller droplets that make the cloud brighter. The smaller cloud droplets

Shipwrecks Tree Rings Reveal Caribbean Hurricanes In Buccaneer Era

Records of Spanish shipwrecks combined with tree-ring records show the period 1645 to 1715 had the fewest Caribbean hurricanes since 1500, according to new University of Arizona-led research. The study is the first to use shipwrecks as a proxy for hurricane activity.

The researchers found a 75 percent reduction in the number of Caribbean hurricanes from 1645-1715, a time with little sunspot activity and cool temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere.

“We’re the first to use shipwrecks to study hurricanes in the past,” said lead author Valerie Trouet, an associate professor in the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. “By combining shipwreck data and tree-ring data, we are extending the Caribbean hurricane record back in time and that improves our understanding of hurricane variability.”

Although global climate models indicate hurricanes will be more intense as the climate warms, those models are not yet good at making regional predictions, Trouet said. Learning more about how hurricanes correlated with climate for the past 500 years may lead to better regional predictions of hurricanes.

“We’re providing information that can help those models become more precise,” she said.

What is now the U.S. National Hurricane Center did not begin keeping records of Caribbean hurricanes until 1850, she said. Researchers have used