Last week, word came from Prudhoe Bay that sent chills through me as surely as if I’d been standing in the Alaskan North Slope drilling outpost myself. The United States Department of Energy – in collaboration with energy giant ConocoPhillips and the Japanese nationalized minerals corporation – reported success from a month-long test extraction of methane gas tucked into an icy lattice below the permafrost.
Anthropogenic climate change is so anthropomorphic. While we think we have a mighty impact on the atmosphere, sauropod dinosaurs millions of years ago shouldn't be left out of the pollution hall of fame - they alone could have produced enough methane to warm the climate many millions of years ago, according to a numerical model.
Like CO2, methane is a greenhouse gas, but with 23X the warming impact of CO2. It's produced by dying plants and cow burps - and cows share one thing in common with hulking sauropods, distinctive for their enormous size and unusually long necks, that were widespread about 150 million years ago. As in cows, methane-producing microbes aided the sauropods' digestion by fermenting their plant food.
The second-largest mass extinction in Earth's history, the so-called Late Ordovician mass extinction, coincided with a short but intense ice age during which enormous glaciers grew and sea levels dropped.
The Late Ordovician mass extinction occurred about 450 million years ago and was related to climate change, that has been known, but exactly how the climate change produced the extinction has not. A team led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has created a framework for weighing the factors that might have led to mass extinction and has used that framework to determine that the majority of extinctions were caused by habitat loss due to falling sea levels and cooling of the tropical oceans.
The key air pollutants that combine to cause smog have dropped due to emissions regulations but baseline levels of ozone are continuing to creep up in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
Scientists from the University of British Columbia, along with state and environmental groups, are trying to figure out why average levels of ground-level ozone haven't dropped with emissions over the last decade and have instead gone up. A new report from Metro Vancouver shows ambient levels of fine particulate matter, like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, have declined by 20 to 60 percent since 2001, but ozone has continued to rise in that same period, up 20 percent.
The atmosphere contained little carbon dioxide (CO2
) during the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago. Why did it rise when the Earth’s climate became warmer? Processes in the ocean are responsible for this, says a new study based on newly developed isotope measurements.
Around 20,000 years ago, the atmospheric CO2 concentration was distinctly lower than in the following warm period, showed measurements from Antarctic ice cores. An international team of glaciologists looked even further back and found that the close connection between carbon dioxide and temperature has existed over the past 800,000 years: with low CO2 concentrations during the Ice Ages and higher CO2 values during warm periods.
Climate change is a polarizing science policy debate the likes of which humankind has never witnessed before. Even President Obama's science advisor John Holdren never dreamed up this kind of doomsday scenario when he was writing books with the king of doomsday predictions, Paul Ehrlich. Women in the workforce, CFCs, acid rain, islands of garbage - nothing from past cultural debates compares to the scariness of rolling drought and melting glaciers. What to do? On one side we have people who insist a world where elites have energy and others do not must be implemented right now.
In areas where freshwater is scarce, recycling of wastewater seems to be common sense. Perhaps not, argues Amy Townsend-Small, assistant professor of geology and geography at the University of Cincinnati, and a team of researchers from the University of California, Irvine.
Their research shows that wastewater recycling processes may generate more greenhouse gases than traditional water-treatment processes. Townsend-Small, along with Diane E. Pataki, Linda Y. Tseng, Cheng-Yao Tsai and Diego Rosso, studied how different types of wastewater treatment affect emissions of one greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a long-lived and potent greenhouse gas, with a warming potential of about 300 times that of carbon dioxide.
Forget mitigation and rationing, it is not the way cultures and progress work. The long-term solution is obviously to engage in basic research and come up with effective clean energy but also to create fewer emissions while development is in progress.
America never migrated to nuclear energy the way the French did so today up to 75 percent of electricity used in the United States is instead produced by coal-burning power plants and that means carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and increased risk of global warming. To reduce the impact of current power generation, researchers are searching for porous materials to filter out the CO2 generated by those plants before it reaches the atmosphere, a process commonly known as carbon capture.
Criegee biradicals, invisible chemical intermediates, are powerful oxidizers of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide produced by combustion and can naturally clean up the atmosphere. Sounds like fiction, right? These chemical intermediates were first postulated by Rudolf Criegee in the 1950s but researchers now say that they have been detected and with further research could play a major role in off-setting climate change.