Environment

  • Projected U.S. water use to increase as climate warms

    Despite increases in efficiency, water demand in the United States is likely to increase substantially in the future if climate continues to warm, new projections indicate.

  • Maryland counties debate funding stormwater drainage management

    A new tax aimed at property owners could finance the first set of improvements of the drainage works in Salisbury, Maryland since the original system was laid almost a century ago. City leaders have been arguing since 2009 over dedicating a source of funding to stormwater management, when an environmental panel recommended it. In the past, funding for projects like this has been hard to find as other priorities were deemed more important.

  • Improving cities by using the notion of “urban metabolism”

    As is the case with organisms, cities need energy, water, and nutrients, and they need to dispose of wastes and byproducts in ways which are viable and sustainable over the long run. This concept of “urban metabolism” is a model for looking systematically at the resources that flow into cities and the wastes and emissions that flow out from them in order better to understand the environmental impacts of cities and to highlight opportunities for efficiencies, improvements, and transformation.

  • “Rebound” effect of energy-efficient technology exaggerated

    The argument that those who have fuel-efficient cars drive them more and hence use more energy is overplayed and inaccurate. Researchers find evidence that, indeed, if a technology is cheaper to run – for example, a fuel-efficient car — people may use it more, but the effects of an increased use of the technology are too small to erase energy savings from energy efficiency standards and energy-efficient technologies.

  • Better predictions of Asian summer monsoons, tropical storms

    The amount of rainfall and number of tropical storms during the summer monsoon season greatly impact the agriculture, economy, and people in Asia. Though meteorologists and climate scientists have worked for years to develop helpful prediction systems, seasonal predictions of these two types of weather phenomena are still poor. Scientists have now made a promising breakthrough for predicting in spring both the summer monsoon rainfall over East Asia and the number of tropical storms affecting East Asian coastal areas.

  • Uranium mining debate divides Virginia

    In Virginia a fight has begun over whether to drill for uranium. Some feel the drilling, which would create about 1,000 jobs and bounty of tax revenue in addition to nuclear fuel, is important for a state whose main industries, such as tobacco and textiles, are failing. Those who oppose the drilling fear the contamination of drinking water in case of an accident, and a stigma from uranium which would deter people and businesses from moving to the area.

  • Keystone pipeline clears another hurdle as Nebraska governor approves project

    On Tuesday, Nebraska governor Dave Heineman notified President Obama that he approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to go through the state. This marks a significant step forward in the project, which was delayed by the administration last year.

  • South African study highlights African fuelwood crisis

    Researchers have found that at current consumption levels in the communal areas of Lowveld, South Africa, reserves of fuelwood could be totally exhausted within thirteen years. The consequences are significant, with around half of the 2.4 million rural households in the country using wood as their primary fuel source, burning between four and seven million tons per year.

  • Fracking generates less wastewater per unit of gas, but more overall

    Hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are producing less wastewater per unit of gas recovered than conventional wells would. The scale of fracking operations in the Marcellus shale region – which stretches from New York to Virginia and accounts for about 10 percent of all natural gas produced in the United States today — is so vast, however, that the wastewater it produces threatens to overwhelm the region’s wastewater disposal capacity.

  • Large amounts of antibacterial agent used in soaps found in freshwater lakes

    When people wash their hands with antibacterial soap, most do not think about where the chemicals contained in that soap end up. A new study determined that the common antibacterial agent, called triclosan, used in soaps and many other products, is found in increasing amounts in several Minnesota freshwater lakes.

  • DOE addresses rare earth, critical materials shortage

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced earlier this month that a team led by Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, has been selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish an Energy Innovation Hub which will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security.

  • Thorium holds promise of safer, cleaner nuclear power

    Thorium as nuclear fuels has drawbacks, but its main advantage includes generating far less toxic residue. The majority of the mineral is used during the fission process, and it can burn existing stockpiles of plutonium and hazardous waste, saving the need to transport it and bury the waste in concrete. If thorium becomes available as a source of energy in the future, the world will rely less on coal and gas, and wind turbines will become a thing of the past. The risk of a global energy crunch will decrease considerably.

  • Black carbon’s contribution to climate change underestimated

    Black carbon is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming and its influence on climate has been greatly underestimated, according to the first quantitative and comprehensive analysis of this issue; black carbon is believed to have a warming effect of about 1.1 Watts per square meter (W/m²), approximately two thirds of the effect of the largest man made contributor to global warming, carbon dioxide.

  • Black carbon’s contribution to climate change underestimated

    Black carbon is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming and its influence on climate has been greatly underestimated, according to the first quantitative and comprehensive analysis of this issue; black carbon is believed to have a warming effect of about 1.1 Watts per square meter (W/m²), approximately two thirds of the effect of the largest man made contributor to global warming, carbon dioxide.

  • NASA: 2012 sustained long-term climate warming trend

    NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record. Scientists emphasize that weather patterns always will cause fluctuations in average temperature from year to year, but the continued increase in greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere assures a long-term rise in global temperatures. Each successive year will not necessarily be warmer than the year before, but on the current course of greenhouse gas increases, scientists expect each successive decade to be warmer than the previous decade.