Environment

  • Wastewater from fracking is often highly radioactive

    New studies have found that waste from fracking operations can be highly radioactive. A geological survey reported that millions of barrels of wastewater from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania and conventional wells in New York are 3,609 times more radioactive than the federal limit for drinking water, and 300 times more radioactive than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for nuclear plant discharges.

  • Climate change threatens public health, safety, economy along U.S. coasts

    A new technical study from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that the effects of climate change will continue to threaten the health and vitality of U.S. coastal communities’ social, economic, and natural systems. All U.S. coasts are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise, erosion, storms, and flooding, especially in the more populated low-lying parts of the U.S. coast along the Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, northern Alaska, Hawaii, and island territories. The report says that the financial risks associated with both private and public hazard insurance are expected to increase dramatically.

  • Extreme rainfall linked to global warming

    A worldwide review of global rainfall data has found that the intensity of the most extreme rainfall events is increasing across the globe as temperatures rise. In the most comprehensive review of changes to extreme rainfall ever undertaken, researchers evaluated the association between extreme rainfall and atmospheric temperatures at more than 8,000 weather gauging stations around the world.

  • The historical probability of drought

    Droughts can severely limit crop growth, causing yearly losses of around $8 billion in the United States. It may be possible, however, to minimize those losses if farmers can synchronize the growth of crops with periods of time when drought is less likely to occur. Researchers are working to create a reliable “calendar” of seasonal drought patterns that could help farmers optimize crop production by avoiding days prone to drought.

  • 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.