Earth Sciences

It sounded ridiculous when Gina McCarthy claimed nature was fixing itself after they created a toxic waste disaster in Colorado but that future methane needed the EPA to halt it right now, yet science has again shown that nature is more resilient than political bodies think.

Biodiversity can often help protect ecosystems from extreme conditions, according to a study of 46 grasslands in North America and Europe. The results showed that increasing plant diversity decreased the extent to which extremely wet or dry conditions disrupt grassland productivity. 

A new study shows that surface water temperature in the Chesapeake Bay is increasing more rapidly than air temperature, signaling a need to look at the impact of warming waters on one of the largest and most productive estuaries in the world. The study was completed by Haiyong Ding and Andrew Elmore of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory.

"I was surprised that the pattern of increasing water temperature was so clear," said study co-author Andrew Elmore. "If you take any group of five years, they are generally warmer than the previous five years. A consistent warming trend happening over a really large portion of the Bay."

A new challenges prevailing wisdom by identifying the atmosphere as the driver of a decades-long climate variation known as the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) and offering new insight on the causes and predictability of natural climate variations, which are known to cause wide-ranging global weather impacts, including increased rainfall, drought, and greater hurricane frequency in many parts of the Atlantic basin.

For decades, research on climate variations in the Atlantic has focused almost exclusively on the role of ocean circulation as the main driver, specifically the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which carries warm water north in the upper layers of the ocean and cold water south in lower layers like a large conveyor belt.

The very act of tolerating some forms of soil pollution may give trees an advantage in the natural world, says University of Montreal plant biologists. Their findings were published this week in BMC Plant Biology.

Warming ocean temperatures a third of a mile below the surface, in a dark ocean in areas with little marine life, might attract scant attention. But this is precisely the depth where frozen pockets of methane 'ice' transition from a dormant solid to a powerful greenhouse gas.

New University of Washington research suggests that subsurface warming could be causing more methane gas to bubble up off the Washington and Oregon coast.

The study, to appear in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, shows that of 168 bubble plumes observed within the past decade, a disproportionate number were seen at a critical depth for the stability of methane hydrates.

Scientists writing in Environmental Research Letters estimate that the onset of spring plant growth will shift by a median of three weeks over the next century - and global warming is to blame.

The scholars from University of Wisconsin-Madison applied the extended Spring Indices to predict the dates of leaf and flower emergence based on day length. These general models capture the phenology of many plant species.  Their results show particularly rapid shifts in plant phenology in the Pacific Northwest and Mountainous regions of the western US, with smaller shifts in southern areas, where spring already arrives early. Much of their data is available at

By meticulously examining sediments in China's Yellow River, a Swedish-Chinese research group are showing that the history of tectonic and climate evolution on Earth may need to be rewritten. Their findings are published today in the highly reputed journal Nature Communications.

To reconstruct how the global climate and topography of the Earth's surface have developed over millions of years, deposits of eroded land sediment transported by rivers to ocean depths are often used. This process is assumed to have been rapid and, by the same token, not to have resulted in any major storages of this sediment as large deposits along the way.

Renewable energy is not very sustainable in the European Union (EU) yet but the food industry, which is heavily reliable on subsidies to stay competitive with the rest of the world, needs renewable energy costs to come down to remain viable.

Until then, the food sector is going to resist using renewable energy, which is a scant 7 percent of their usage, compared to 15 percent in the EU overall. Instead of advocating basic research to improve renewable energy, the call is out to lower meat consumption in a new report. And of course to reduce food choices by shopping locally and seasonally.

Pioneering new research sheds light on the impact of climate change on subglacial lakes found under the Greenland ice sheet.

A team of experts, led by Dr Steven Palmer from the University of Exeter, has studied the water flow paths from one such subglacial lake, which drained beneath the ice sheet in 2011.

The study shows, for the first time, how water drained from the lake - via a subglacial tunnel. Significantly, the authors present satellite observations that show that a similar event happened in 1995, suggesting that this lake fills and drains periodically.

The study, called Subglacial lake drainage detected beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Though activists want to retreat into the past and have less energy available for the public (which will impact the poor) a more progressive approach is to look to science and the future - but that will only work if there are stable policies in place.

Oddly, this progressive thinking is coming from energy corporations rather than environmentalists. A group of electricity corporations are creating a picture of a future high-tech energy mix that would help nations meet climate-related CO2 reduction pledges and the expanding demand for electricity.