Environment

  • 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.

  • Harvesting carbon dioxide to produce electricity

    Electric power-generating stations worldwide release about twelve billion tons of CO2 annually from combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas. Home and commercial heating produces another eleven billion tons. Researchers developed a technology which would make the CO2 react with water or other liquids and, with further processing, produce a flow of electrons that make up electric current.

  • Wildfires to get more common, harder to control

    Wildfires are getting worse, as evidenced by the devastation caused in Australia in 2009 and again last year, in Russia in 2010, in Canada’s Slave Lake and Colorado Springs in 2011, and in Arizona earlier this year. The world’s wildfires annually burn between 350 million and 600 million hectares of forest, an area equivalent to the size of India. Researchers predict that global warming will increase severity of wildfires threefold by end of century.

  • New iceberg theory points to rapid disintegration, exacerbating sea level rise

    In events that could exacerbate sea level rise over the coming decades, stretches of ice on the coasts of Antarctica and Greenland are at risk of rapidly cracking apart and falling into the ocean, according to new iceberg calving simulations from the University of Michigan.

  • Climate forecasts predict crop failures

    Climate data can help predict some crop failures several months before harvest, according to a new study. Scientists found that in about one-third of global cropland, temperature and soil moisture have strong relationships to the yield of wheat and rice at harvest. For those two key crops, a computer model could predict crop failures three months in advance for about 20 percent of global cropland.

  • U.K. water industry: fracking may contaminate U.K. drinking water

    U.K. water companies have warned the shale gas industry that the quality of U.K. drinking water must be protected at all costs and fracking must not harm public health. Shale gas fracking could lead to contamination of the water supply with methane gas and harmful chemicals if not carefully planned and carried out.

  • Predicting what could happen if Hurricane hits

    A Sandia National Laboratories team is gearing up for hurricane season, readying analyses to help people in the eye of a storm. The team has two jobs: conducting annual “hurricane swath” analyses of probable impacts on the Gulf Coast and East Coast, and providing quick analyses of crisis response in the face of an imminent hurricane threat to the United States. A swath analysis looks at how a hurricane might interrupt critical services and at impacts to infrastructure specific to an area, such as petroleum and petrochemical industries in Houston or financial services in New York City. It also looks at such things as the economic impact of the storm or how it could upset food deliveries.

  • Dealing with man-made earthquakes

    Between 1967 and 2000, central and eastern United States experienced on average 20 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 a year. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 in these regions has dramatically increased to an average of 100 a year. This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or man-made? And what should be done in the future as we address the causes and consequences of these events to reduce associated risks?

  • Mother Nature offers best protection for coastal communities’ infrastructure

    Extreme weather, sea-level rise, and degraded coastal ecosystems are placing people and property at greater risk of damage from coastal hazards. The likelihood and magnitude of losses can be reduced by intact ecosystems near vulnerable coastal communities. Scientists say that natural habitats such as dunes and reefs are critical to protecting millions of U.S. residents and billions of dollars in property from coastal storms.

  • Climate change, severe weather threaten U.S. energy sector: Dept. of Energy

    The U.S. entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report published last week. These climate and weather trends — increasing temperatures, decreasing water availability, more intense storm events, and sea level rise — each independently, and in some cases in combination, could restrict the supply of secure, sustainable, and affordable energy critical to U.S. economic growth.