Fracking impacts reviewed in major study

A controversial method of drilling for natural gas, called fracking, has boomed in recent years—as have concerns over its potential to cause environmental contamination and harm human health. But a major review of the practice uncovered no signs that it is causing trouble below ground. "We found no direct evidence that fracking itself has contaminated groundwater," said Charles Groat of the University of Texas, Austin, who led the study. The report, released at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW), doesn't give this form of natural gas extraction a clean bill of health.

Transparent Iron

When one thinks of iron one thinks of a dull grey solid. Transparent iron is an odd thought. The effect of electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) is a known phenomena from laser physics. With intense laser light of a certain wavelength it is possible to make a non-transparent material transparent for light of another wavelength. This effect is generated by a complex interaction of light with the atomic electron shell. At DESY's X-ray source PETRA III, the Helmholtz research team of Röhlsberger managed to prove for the first time that this transparency effect also exists for X-ray light, when the X-rays are directed towards atomic nuclei of the Mössbauer isotope iron-57 (which makes up 2% of naturally occurring iron). The potential real world benefit for this phenomena may be in the a quantum effects computer which would be extremely fast.

Survival of Fish with Antifreeze in Antarctica

A unique group of fish that has evolved to live in Antarctic waters thanks to anti-freeze proteins in their blood and body fluids is threatened by rising temperatures in the Southern Ocean, according to a new study by Yale. The development of antifreeze glycoproteins by notothenioids, a fish family that adapted to newly formed polar conditions in the Antarctic millions of years ago, is an evolutionary success story. The three species of fish are an example of the diversity this lineage achieved when it expanded into niches left by fish decimated by cold water environment. Now the same fish are endangered by warming of the Antarctic seas.

Coal-Power in China Makes Electric Vehicles More Polluting

China produces electricity for its burgeoning economy with its ample coal reserves. A full 80 percent comes from coal-burning power plants, and new plants are being constructed all the time. The country's reliance on coal power, while causing very dirty pollution, also has an interesting side effect. It takes away the "greenness" of electric vehicles. A new study from a team of University of Tennessee researchers has found that the power generated to fuel electric cars produces much greater emissions of particulate matter (PM) than gasoline-powered cars. Perversely, this also makes driving an electric car in China a greater public health hazard than driving a gasoline car.

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga Plant Gets LEED-Platinum Certification

Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee facility has achieved the world's first LEED-Platinum green building certification for an automotive manufacturing plant. The $1 billion production facility makes the 2012 Passat.

Call for new indicators of sustainable development

The world must develop different indicators on sustainable development that are not biased against developing countries, a major conference has heard. Bharrat Jagdeo, former president of Guyana, said current assessments and rankings use indicators such as access to potable water and sanitation, or malaria levels, which automatically rank developed countries higher.

The Decline of Wild Salmon

The Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, is the largest species in the pacific (Oncorhynchus) salmon family. Other commonly used names for the species include King salmon, Quinnat salmon, Spring salmon and Tyee salmon. Chinook are an anadromous fish native to the north Pacific Ocean and the river systems of western North America ranging from California to Alaska. Scientists have found that only about ten percent of the fall-run Chinook salmon spawning in California's Mokelumne River are naturally produced wild salmon. A massive influx of hatchery-raised fish that return to spawn in the wild is masking the fact that too few wild fish are returning to sustain a natural population in the river. The study, published in the online journal PLoS ONE, highlights the danger of relying on ordinary census techniques to evaluate the health of wild salmon populations and their habitats. Most hatchery fish in California are unmarked and therefore undetectable in population surveys. For this study, the researchers were able to identify hatchery fish by using a novel technique to detect traces of a hatchery diet preserved in the ear bones of adult fish.

World’s biggest offshore wind farm officially connected to the Grid

The world's biggest offshore wind farm was officially opened today after record-fast construction in the middle of the Irish Sea. The 102 turbines of the two connected Walney wind farms cover an area of 73 square-kilometres and were formally connected to the National Grid in a ceremony today. With a capacity of 367.2MW, the huge project can provide low-carbon, green electricity to 320,000 homes. The generating capacity of each turbine, supplied by Siemens Wind Power, is 3.6MW, and the rotor diameter of the turbines is 107m for Walney 1 and 120m for Walney 2, with a maximum height of 150m from sea level to blade tip.

Himalayan Ice melt less than thought

Estimates from satellite monitoring suggest the melt rate from the Himalayas and other high-altitude Asian mountains in recent years was much less than what scientists on the ground had estimated, but those monitoring the satellite data warn not to jump to the skeptical conclusion. The region's ice melt from 2003-2010 was estimated at 4 billion tons a year, far less than earlier estimates of around 50 billion tons, according to the study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

Marguerite Bay Glaciation

Marguerite Bay or Margaret Bay is an extensive bay on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is bounded on the north by Adelaide Island and on the south by Wordie Ice Shelf, George VI Sound and Alexander Island. A new paper reports glacial geological data that provide evidence for the timing of ice-sheet retreat and thinning at the end of the last glaciation (~10,000 years ago) in Marguerite Bay. The length of time that rock outcrops have been exposed was dated which allow dating of the thinning of the ice sheet, and the record from seabed sediments. This then allows the determination of how the ice sheet retreated across the continental shelf. The dating shows a surprising pattern. About 9,600 years ago, the ice in Marguerite Bay appears to have thinned very quickly indeed, an observation that turns out to be consistent with several other datasets from the same area (ice-shelf collapse histories, raised beaches and lake sediment cores).