• Severe tropical droughts as northern temperatures rise

    A sediment core from a South American lake revealed a steady, sharp drop in crucial monsoon rainfall since 1900, leading to the driest conditions in 1,000 years as of 2007 and threatening tropical populations with water shortages; a 2,300-year climate record researchers recovered from an Andes Mountains lake reveals that as temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rise, the planet’s densely populated tropical regions will most likely experience severe water shortages as the crucial summer monsoons become drier

  • Direct removal of carbon dioxide from air infeasible

    A group of experts looked at technologies known as Direct Air Capture, or DAC, which would involve using chemicals to absorb carbon dioxide from the open air, concentrating the carbon dioxide, and then storing it safely underground; they conclude that these technologies are unlikely to offer an economically feasible way to slow human-driven climate change for several decades

  • U.S. agriculture escaped impacts of global warming -- for now

    Global warming is likely already taking a toll on world wheat and corn production, according to a new study led by Stanford University researchers, but the United States, Canada and northern Mexico have largely escaped the trend; the researchers found that global wheat production was 5.5 percent lower than it would have been had the climate remained stable, and global corn production was lower by almost 4 percent; Global rice and soybean production were not significantly affected

  • What past rises of sea levels tell us about future rises

    During a period of high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels three million years ago — the mid-Pliocene climate optimum — sea levels were anywhere between 15 and 100 feet higher than at present because water that is now locked up in glaciers as ice circulated freely through the oceans; by understanding the extent of sea level rise three million years ago, scientists hope more accurately to predict just how high the seas will rise in the coming decades and centuries due to global warming

  • Study finds natural gas releases twice as much greenhouse gas as coal

    A new study shows that natural gas is not as environmentally friendly as previously thought, dealing a major blow to environmentalists who viewed it as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy alternatives; researchers found that the greenhouse-gas footprint of shale gas over a twenty year period was at least 20 percent higher than coal and could even be “more than twice as great”; the study was quick to draw criticism from oil and gas companies for its use of shoddy data; the study also outlines multiple ways that the oil and gas companies could reduce methane emissions by up to 90 percent during the drilling process

  • West Texas towns face impending water shortage

    West Texas is facing a dire drought that has local officials scrambling to find additional sources of water for thirsty residents; since last October, West Texas has only seen about one-tenth of an inch of rain, and now two of the three reservoirs that cities in the Permian Basin depend upon are nearly empty; the third reservoir is 30 percent below capacity; without significant rain soon, all three reservoirs will be dry by January 2013; residents have been restricted to only three days of outdoor watering; the region faces limited options for additional sources of water and plans will be expensive to implement

  • Busy hurricane season ahead for U.S.

    Forecasting organizations predicts that the coming hurricane season in the United States will see 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes (category 3 or greater); these 2011 forecast numbers are above the long-term (1950-2010) averages of 12 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes

  • U.K. struggles to reduce water usage as supplies dwindle

    An uncharacteristically warm and dry spring in the United Kingdom has forced water companies to begin conserving water, but a recent survey indicates that the method currently employed is widely unpopular and grossly affects low income families; some reservoirs are 20 percent below normal levels and eleven rivers are at their lowest in twenty years; in 1989 the British government mandated that all new homes have water meters installed and introduced a usage plan which charges households based on the amount of water they consume; the plan has proven effective in reducing water usage, but costs have increased by more than 50 percent

  • Past experience shows that Earth can recover from global warming

    When faced with high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and rising temperatures fifty-six million years ago, the Earth increased its ability to pull carbon from the air;this led to a recovery that was quicker than anticipated by many models of the carbon cycle — though still on the order of tens of thousands of years, a new study finds; researchers found that more than half of the added carbon dioxide was pulled from the atmosphere within 30,000 to 40,000 years, which is one-third of the time span previously thought

  • Computerized irrigation system saves money

    The University of Michigan is using a computerized irrigation system for its campus landscaping; the system uses information from a campus weather station that monitors wind speed, rain, temperature, and humidity to adjust irrigation schedules; the system allowed the school to reduce the amount of water used on irrigation by 22 million gallons of water on landscape irrigation each year — or 68 percent relative to the amount of water used before the system was installed — saving an estimated $141,000 a year

  • New material cleans water of radioactive contamination

    NC State researchers develops material to remove radioactive contaminants from drinking water; the material is a combination of forest byproducts and crustacean shells; the new material not only absorbs water, but can actually extract contaminates, such as radioactive iodide, from the water itself; this material, which forms a solid foam, has applications beyond radioactive materials

  • Modeling shows limited spread of Fukushima's radioactive release in ocean

    Daily computer simulations are suggesting that, so far, the hazardous radioactive materials being released into the sea by the Fukushima nuclear plants are still largely restricted to areas near the coast; the powerful Kuroshiro current — the Pacific’s version of the Gulf Stream — tends to block contaminated seawater from flowing southward toward Tokyo Bay while picking up little contamination itself

  • Heavy snows divert Colorado River water shortage, for now

    This winter, heavy snowfall in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming have helped to avert a water crisis along the Colorado River; after an eleven year drought in the region, residents have begun to worry about impending water shortages; the Colorado River supplies nearly thirty million people in seven states with drinking water as well as Mexico; the heavy snows could bring only a brief moment of respite; with demand exceeding supplies and with each year bringing less water, there is potential for a future disaster; if supplies continue to decline, water deliveries will be reduced when Lake Mead’s water level drops below 1,075 feet; as of 1 February, Lake Mead’s water level was at 1,091feet

  • Artificial clouds to help keep 2022 World Cup cool

    Tiny Qatar will be the host of the 2022 Soccer World Cup; trouble is, temperatures in June and July can reach up to 50C (122F), leading to worries about the health effects of players and spectators; Qatari researchers say they have a solution: artificial clouds; the clouds are made from a lightweight carbon structure, and carry a giant envelope of material containing helium gas; four solar-powered engines move the structure via remote control

  • Rising seas and coastal risks

    Most scientists believe that melt water from glaciers, the Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West Antarctic ice sheet, along with thermal expansion from warming oceans, will raise sea levels by one-half to one meter (1.6 to 3.2 feet) over the next century and by one meter to two meters (6.5 feet) over the next 200 years; if sea level rises by a meter, “we will see higher tides, higher tidal velocities and tidal inundation every day,” says one expert; “And we’ll have a different shoreline”