Environment

  • Climate change threatens world food security

    The last few decades have witnessed a substantial decline in the number of hungry people worldwide. Since 2007, however, progress has slowed and world food supply and demand have been precariously balanced — climate change threatens to tip this balance, most dramatically in the poorer areas of the world.

  • Water reservoirs for hydroelectric dams are sources of greenhouse gas emissions

    The large reservoirs of water behind the world’s 50,000 large dams are a known source of methane. Like carbon dioxide, methane is one of the greenhouse gases which trap heat near Earth’s surface and contribute to global warming.  Methane, however, has a warming effect twenty-five times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The methane comes from organic matter in the sediments that accumulate behind dams.

  • Dams play an important role in water pollution control

    Small dams, reservoirs and ponds trap water pollution, which provides an important benefit to water resources. This is especially relevant in agricultural lands of the Midwest U.S., where there are lots of small, but aging, dams.

  • Climate change may fuel extreme wildfires

    Climate change may be fueling the larger and more destructive wildfires which are scorching vast areas of the American West, according to new research. August 2012 saw 3.6 million acres burn in the region, the most of any August since 2000. There were, however, only 6,948 fires in August 2012 — the second fewest in that 12-year timeframe — meaning the fires were much larger.

  • Bacteria to clean contaminated leftover water used in fracking

    Fracking is a drilling technique which uses lots of water — up to 5-7 million gallons per frack. One well may be fracked several times. The water goes in clean and comes out contaminated with organic substances that render it unfit for reuse. Purifying that water would reduce the pressure on waste disposal sites called injection wells, as well as on sites of wastewater spills. Researchers say that bacteria may someday clean leftover frack water.

  • Quake Summit 2013: showcasing research on earthquakes, tsunamis

    Members of a national earthquake simulation research network next week will gather at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), for Quake Summit 2013, a scientific meeting highlighting research on mitigating the impact of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. Titled “Earthquake & Multi-Hazards Resilience: Progress and Challenges,” the annual summit of the 14-site George E. Brown Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), will run from 6 August through 8 August at UNR’s Joseph Crowley Student Center.

  • Online tools accelerate progress in earthquake engineering, science

    A new study has found that on-line tools, access to experimental data, and other services provided through “cyberinfrastructure” are helping to accelerate progress in earthquake engineering and science. The cyberinfrastructure includes a centrally maintained, Web-based science gateway called NEEShub, which houses experimental results and makes them available for reuse by researchers, practitioners, and educational communities. NEEShub contains more than 1.6 million project files stored in more than 398,000 project directories and has been shown to have at least 65,000 users over the past year.

  • Simulations help in studying earthquake dampers for structures

    See video

    Researchers have demonstrated the reliability and efficiency of “real-time hybrid simulation” for testing a type of powerful damping system that might be installed in buildings and bridges to reduce structural damage and injuries during earthquakes. The magnetorheological-fluid dampers are shock-absorbing devices containing a liquid that becomes far more viscous when a magnetic field is applied.

  • Raw cotton offers new, ecologically friendly way to clean up oil spills

    The Deepwater Horizon disaster highlighted the need for better ways of cleaning up oil spills. A new solution addresses this need. It is based on the finding that unprocessed, raw cotton may be an ideal, ecologically friendly answer, with an amazing ability to sop up oil.

  • Cost of Arctic methane release could be “size of global economy”: experts

    As the Arctic warms and sea ice melts at an unprecedented rate, hitting a record low last summer, the thawing of offshore “permafrost” in the region is releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Economic modeling shows that the possible methane emissions caused by shrinking sea ice from just one area of the Arctic, the East Siberian Sea, could come with a global price tag of $60 trillion — the size of the world economy in 2012.

  • U.K. winter flooding to get more severe, frequent

    Winter flooding in the United Kingdom is set to get more severe and more frequent under the influence of climate change as a result of a change in the characteristics of atmospheric rivers (ARs). ARs are narrow regions of intense moisture flows in the lower troposphere of the atmosphere that deliver sustained and heavy rainfall to mid-latitude regions such as the United Kingdom.

  • Analysts: arrogance, clumsiness of oil and gas industry caused fracking’s bad image

    Oil and gas industry experts say arrogance, secrecy, and poor communication by the drilling industry have led to public anger over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. These experts are calling for fracking companies to release more information to alleviate public concerns about the relationship between the drilling technology and water contamination.

  • Well water contaminants highest near natural gas drilling: study

    A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites. Researchers believe the increased presence of metals could be due to a variety of factors including: industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings; mechanical vibrations from natural gas drilling activity disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment; or the lowering of water tables through drought or the removal of water used for the hydraulic fracturing process. Any of these scenarios could release dangerous compounds into shallow groundwater.

  • Warming to reduce snow water storage 56 percent in Oregon watershed

    A new report projects that by the middle of this century there will be an average 56 percent drop in the amount of water stored in peak snowpack in the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range — and that similar impacts may be found on low-elevation maritime snow packs around the world. The snowpack reduction may have significant impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, hydropower, industry, municipalities, and recreation, especially in summer when water demands peak.

  • La. flood protection agency sues 97 energy companies for wetland destruction

    A Louisiana state agency on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against ninety-seven energy companies, charging that the companies have inflicted severe damage on fragile coastal wetlands, damage which left New Orleans and other Louisiana cities more vulnerable to hurricanes and storm surges. The agency wants the court to order these companies to pay steep penalties which would help the state restore the wetlands and thus recreate the natural buffer which had protected New Orleans.