Earth Sciences

Throughout the 1990s, biofuels were the environmental rage. Everyone from Vice-President Al Gore to Greenpeace touted them as the replacement for fossil fuels. The future belonged to such renewable energy.

Benefited by a Republican Congress that loved science, President George W. Bush mandated and subsidized biofuel energy, but only the final product. The product used to make this ethanol was left up to growers. 

In California, wildfires happen thousands of times per year, even in non-drought years. They happened long before climate change concerns but not factoring wildfires into simplistic parameter-based models of climate change meant we were not getting an accurate picture of the atmospheric reality.

Southern California is aghast that cities are now enforcing water usage cutbacks during the ongoing drought - it's because during the mandatory restrictions, while the farming regions of central California have met their targets, water usage in southern California actually went up.

They may not know something that most people in California realize - California is a desert and its water comes from dams and rivers north of them in California, and in Colorado. Rather than being a green paradise, California was mostly sparsely-inhabited desert prior to European colonization - its history has been drought and fire, the boom and bust of nature that gives and takes away.

You aren't always what you eat – and that's a good thing. It's also why pesticides in reasonable usage haven't harmed arctic mammals such as caribou. Not only can caribou metabolize some current-use pesticides ingested in vegetation, they also limit the exposure of humans, including those who eat caribou.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element and a part of human enterprises like burning coal and making cement and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Knowing how much of both natural and unnatural mercury is bioavailable - uptaken by animals and humans— is important in international agreements to protect humans and the environment from mercury emissions and establishing public policies behind warnings about seafood consumption. Yet little is known about how much mercury in the environment is the result of human activity, or even how much bioavailable mercury exists in the global ocean.

Miles of linked habitat sounds like a good thing - until the ants show up.

Environmentalists who promote the notion of unintended consequences regarding genetic modification never considered that wildlife corridors might have risks also - but they do, as a recent study showed. Julian Resasco and colleagues at the University of Florida found that one type of fire ant used wildlife corridors to dominate recently created landscapes.

"Although habitat corridors are usually beneficial, they occasionally have negative effects," Resasco said."Sometimes they can help invasive species spread in exactly the same way they help native species."

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite known as TRMM flew directly over the eye of powerful Hurricane Iselle and found extremely heavy rainfall rates occurring there.

Warming temperatures are causing Arctic lakes to release methane, a greenhouse gas that has 23X the short term warming effect of CO2, it has been said. A new paper in Nature found that Siberian lakes have actually pulled more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than they have released into it since the last Ice Age

That is causing an overall slight cooling effect. Permafrost, especially that in the Siberian Arctic, contains significant amounts of all organic carbon found on Earth locked away in frozen soils. Warming global temperatures in the 15,000 years since the last Ice Age have begun to thaw the permafrost, leading to the widespread formation of lakes. 

Sulfur signals in the Antarctic snow have revealed the importance of overlooked atmospheric chemistry for understanding climate, past and future.

The element sulfur is everywhere and occurs in four stable forms, or isotopes, each with a slightly different mass. Ordinary reactions incorporate sulfur isotopes into molecules according to mass. But sometimes sulfur divvies up differently so that the relative ratios of the different isotopes is anomalous. The authors of a new paper measured the direction and degree of that anomaly for individual layers of snow representing a single season's snowfall.

Fires and the resultant smoke that comes from them are both just as widespread and heavy as they were in the month of July. Hundreds of fires dot the landscape and the Northwest Territories Live Fire map shows the extent of the wildfires and hot spots that have been reported. Fire danger around this area of the Northwest Territories remains in either the high or extreme range.

On the live fire map, notated detections of new fires number in the dozens. These fires are ones having been detected within the last 24 hours. Residents of Yellowknife were witness to red lightning recently due to the amount of smoke in the atmosphere coloring the lightning strikes.