The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
The power company responsible for a North Carolina coal ash spill that has continued to leak arsenic and mercury-laced coal waste into a river used for drinking water pledged Friday to clean up the mess and apologized to communities affected by the crisis.
It’s not clear yet how the power company plans to fix the problem, or if it plans to remove the coal ash pond, amid charges by environmental activists that the river’s levels of arsenic are now far too high in the spill’s aftermath.
The Arctic is leading a race with few winners, warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. Loss of snow and ice, which reflect the sun’s energy, is usually blamed for the Arctic temperature spike.
But a new study suggests the Arctic’s cap of cold, layered air plays a more important role in boosting polar warming than does its shrinking ice and snow cover. A layer of shallow, stagnant air acts like a lid, concentrating heat near the surface, researchers report today (Feb. 2) in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Early farmers boosted Earth’s temperature by 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) over a period of 8,000 years, a new study suggests.
“This is almost as large as the global warming in the past 150 years,” said Feng He, lead study author and a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “That means early agricultural is as powerful as the whole Industrial Revolution.”
A number of floating ice shelves in Antarctica are at risk of disappearing entirely in the next 200 years, as global warming reduces their snow cover. Their collapse would enhance the discharge of ice into the oceans and increase the rate at which sea-level rises. A rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions could save a number of these ice shelves, researchers at Utrecht University and the British Antarctic Survey say in a new paper published today in the Journal of Glaciology. Back in 1995 and 2002, two floating ice shelves in the north of the Antarctic Peninsula (Larsen A and B) suddenly collapsed — each event occurred in a matter of weeks.
Dr Peter Kuipers Munneke, the paper’s lead author, said: “This was a spectacular event, especially when you imagine the size of these ice shelves, which are several hundreds of metres thick, and have been in place for over 10,000 years.”
Can naturally occurring processes selectively buffer the full brunt of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities? Yes, find researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Johns Hopkins University in the US and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
As the globe warms, ocean temperatures rise, leading to increased water vapor escaping into the atmosphere. Water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, and its impact on climate is amplified in the stratosphere.
Updates to satellite data show that California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins are at near decade-low water storage levels. These and other findings on the State’s dwindling water resources were documented in an advisory report released today from the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM) at the University of California, Irvine. Responding to Governor Jerry Brown’s recent declaration of a drought emergency in California, a team of UCCHM researchers has updated its research on the state’s two largest river basins, and the source of most its water. The region also encompasses the Central Valley, the most productive agriculture region in the country. The Central Valley depends entirely on the surface and groundwater resources within the river basins to meet its irrigation needs and to produce food for the nation.
Using satellite data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, the researchers, led by UCCHM Director and UC Irvine Professor Jay Famiglietti, found that as of November 2013, total water storage in the river basins — the combination of all of the snow, surface water, soil moisture and groundwater, and an integrated measure of basin-wide water availability — had declined to its lowest point in nearly a decade. GRACE data for the record-dry 2013-2014 winter months were not yet available for analysis.
University of Montana researchers examined the impact that converting natural land to cropland has on global vegetation growth, as measured by satellite-derived net primary production, or NPP. They found that measures of terrestrial vegetation growth actually decrease with agricultural conversion, which has important implications for terrestrial carbon storage.
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