The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
During the past decade, Antarctica’s massive ice sheet lost twice the amount of ice in its western portion compared with what it accumulated in the east, according to Princeton University researchers who came to one overall conclusion — the southern continent’s ice cap is melting ever faster. The researchers “weighed” Antarctica’s ice sheet using gravitational satellite data and found that from 2003 to 2014, the ice sheet lost 92 billion tons of ice per year, the researchers report in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. If stacked on the island of Manhattan, that amount of ice would be more than a mile high — more than five times the height of the Empire State Building.
A team of German and Canadian researchers have discovered areas with extremely low levels of oxygen in the tropical North Atlantic, several hundred kilometres off the coast of West Africa. The levels measured in these ‘dead zones’, inhabitable for most marine animals, are the lowest ever recorded in Atlantic open waters. The dead zones are created in eddies, large swirling masses of water that slowly move westward. Encountering an island, they could potentially lead to mass fish kills. The research is published today in Biogeosciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). Dead zones are areas of the ocean depleted of oxygen. Most marine animals, like fish and crabs, cannot live within these regions, where only certain microorganisms can survive. In addition to the environmental impact, dead zones are an economic concern for commercial fishing, with very low oxygen concentrations having been linked to reduced fish yields in the Baltic Sea and other parts of the world.
A new study using evidence from a highly detailed ice core from West Antarctica shows a consistent link between abrupt temperature changes on Greenland and Antarctica during the last ice age, giving scientists a clearer picture of the link between climate in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Some scientists have suggested that global warming could melt frozen ground in the Arctic, releasing vast amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, greatly amplifying global warming. It has been proposed that such disastrous climate effects could be offset by technological approaches, broadly called geoengineering. One geoengineering proposal is to artificially whiten the surface of the Arctic Ocean in order to increase the reflection of the Sun’s energy into space and restore sea ice in the area. New research from Carnegie’s Ivana Cvijanovic (now at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) and Ken Caldeira, as well as Douglas MacMartin of Caltech, shows that while an incredibly large effort could, in principle, restore vast amounts of sea ice by this method, it would not result in substantial cooling. As a result, it would not be effective in keeping the ground frozen in the Arctic. Their findings are published by Environmental Research Letters.
New York is an energy hog, London and Paris use relatively fewer resources and Tokyo conserves water like a pro. These are just a few of the findings from a new study on “megacity metabolism”–the world’s first comprehensive survey of resources used and removed in each of the world’s 27 largest metropolitan areas. Led by engineers at the University of Toronto, an international team of researchers examined data on how resources pass through the planet’s largest cities, such as burning natural gas for heating, using electricity for public transit or disposing of solid waste and wastewater.
A few years ago, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology created the first map of all the road crossings and dams blocking the tributary rivers that feed the five Great Lakes. These tributaries serve as migratory highways, providing fish like walleye and lake sturgeon access to headwater breeding grounds. “It painted a pretty horrifying picture of what it’s like to be a fish in the Great Lakes Basin,” says Peter McIntyre, an assistant professor in the center, who led that study. “Seven out of eight river miles are completely inaccessible to the fish.”
Spanish and Portuguese researchers have analysed the composition and radiative effect of desert aerosols during two episodes which simultaneously affected Badajoz (Spain) and Évora (Portugal) in August 2012. Results show that the intrusion of dust from the Sahara Desert caused radiative cooling of Earth’s surface. Atmospheric aerosols (solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere) are difficult to examine for various reasons. Firstly, they remain in the atmosphere for a short time and secondly, their cause may be natural or anthropogenic.
Yet there is no doubt that research into atmospheric aerosols is becoming increasingly important due to the effects that they can have on the global temperature of Earth, given that solar radiation is the main source of energy for Earth-Atmosphere system. Aerosols also affect human health, ecosystems and the water cycle.
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