The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
WASHINGTON (AP) — While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it’s not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought and the polar vortex blamed for a harsh winter that mercifully has just ended in many places.
The Utah State University scientists involved in the study say they hope what they found can help them predict the next big weird winter.
Outside scientists, such as Katharine Hayhoe at Texas Tech University, are calling this study promising but not quite proven as it pushes the boundaries in “one of the hottest topics in climate science today.”
Germany is in the midst of a fierce battle against climate change and is making an aggressive push to get at least 80 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2050. But with nearly half its power still drawn from some of the world’s dirtiest coal, there are plenty of bumps in the road ahead. One of the biggest is how to store renewable energy when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, a problem that has tormented clean-energy advocates around the globe.
One engineer thinks he’s found the solution—half a mile underground.
Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
On Earth Week–and in fact, every week now–trees in mountains across the western United States are dying, thanks to an infestation of bark beetles that reproduce in the trees’ inner bark. Some species of the beetles, such as the mountain pine beetle, attack and kill live trees. Others live in dead, weakened or dying hosts.
In Colorado alone, the mountain pine beetle has caused the deaths of more than 3.4 million acres of pine trees.
What effect do all these dead trees have on stream flow and water quality? Plenty, according to new research findings reported this week.
Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years — a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become more severe in the coming decades, according to new research. The number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.
For the past 20 years, researchers have published soil organic carbon sequestration rates. Many of the research findings have suggested that soil organic carbon can be sequestered by simply switching from moldboard or conventional tillage systems to no-till systems. However, there is a growing body of research with evidence that no-till systems in corn and soybean rotations without cover crops, small grains, and forages may not be increasing soil organic carbon stocks at the published rates. “Some studies have shown that both moldboard and no-till systems are actually losing soil organic carbon stocks over time,” said University of Illinois soil scientist Ken Olson who led the review.
A changing climate is increasing the accessibility of U.S. Arctic waters to commercial activities such as shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism, raising concern about the risk of oil spills. A new report from the National Research Council says that a full suite of proven oil response tools is needed to address potential oil spills in U.S. Arctic waters, but not all of them are readily available. While much is known about both oil behavior and response technologies in ice-covered environments, there are areas where additional research would enable more informed decisions about the most effective response strategies for different Arctic spill situations, the report adds.
Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to Stanford researchers. Wildlife and the natural habitat that supports it might be an increasingly scarce commodity in a world where at least three-quarters of the land surface is directly affected by humans and the rest is vulnerable to human-caused impacts such as climate change. But what if altered agricultural landscapes could play vital roles in nurturing wildlife populations while also feeding an ever-growing human population?
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