Marshes on U.S. Coast Need More Protection NOW

A hundred years ago we thought that we had to fill in the marshes near populated areas along the eastern US coastline since they represented prime locations for commercial and residential development. Even after some protections were put in place to reduce the impacts of runaway development, marshes continued to serve are the places we dumped our garbage, and sent the effluents from our wastewater treatment plants. They also receive the nutrient-rich run off from agricultural land use and urban street runoff to our rivers. A major nine-year study led by researcher Linda Deegan points to the damage that human-caused nutrients inflict on salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she describes what these findings mean for an ecosystem that provides critical services, from nourishing marine life to buffering the coast from storms like Sandy.

Fluctuating Environment May Have Driven Human Evolution

A series of rapid environmental changes in East Africa roughly 2 million years ago may be responsible for driving human evolution, according to researchers at Penn State and Rutgers University.

Average Temperatures in West Antarctica Show Marked Rise Over 54 Years

Global average temperatures are rising in most places, but the rise is not uniform. In western Antarctica, temperatures have risen significantly over an extended period. In a finding that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study by the University of Colorado University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder finds that the western part of the continent's ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought. The temperature record from Byrd Station, a scientific outpost in the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), demonstrates a marked increase of 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) in average annual temperature since 1958. The rate of increase is three times faster than the average temperature rise around the globe for the same period. The study will be published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience. It was conducted by scientists at Ohio State University (OSU), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with funding coming from the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's sponsor.

University of Hawaii Comes to Aid of Hurricane Sandy Victims

Hurricane Sandy caused more damage than many people who are not living in the Staten Island and Jersey Shore areas are aware of. It will take a long time to recover and help is still needed. The University of Hawaii may take the title of the helpers who traveled the greatest distance to help. Their mission was two-fold, to help recovery efforts, and to learn what more might be done to reduce damages from future hurricanes and superstorms like Sandy. From November 29 to December 6, 2012, UH Manoa team members from the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC), Sea Grant and the Urban Resilience Lab traveled to the most severely damaged areas in New York City and New Jersey coastal communities to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) efforts in recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Sandy, the most devastating storm to hit the northeastern U.S. coast in decades, struck on November 29. The team assessed and documented damage and met with community leaders, emergency responders, hazard planners and those involved in relief and recovery efforts. Coastal storm surge, flooding and infrastructure failure were the main causes and consequences of Sandy's impact.

Smoking Found to Affect Your Genes

Cigarettes leave you with more than a smoky scent on your clothes and fingernails. A new study has found strong evidence that tobacco use can chemically modify and affect the activity of genes known to increase the risk of developing cancer. The finding may give researchers a new tool to assess cancer risk among people who smoke. DNA isn't destiny. Chemical compounds that affect the functioning of genes can bind to our genetic material, turning certain genes on or off. These so-called epigenetic modifications can influence a variety of traits, such as obesity and sexual preference. Scientists have even identified specific epigenetic patterns on the genes of people who smoke. None of the modified genes has a direct link to cancer, however, making it unclear whether these chemical alterations increase the risk of developing the disease.

Fusion Power on Line?

Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion processes. In fusion reactions two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus (in contrast with fission power which breaks these bonds). To date there are no commercial fusion plants. These are expected to be less impactful than a fission plant because of less radioactive waste that can be created. The U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has joined forces with researchers in South Korea to develop a conceptual design for a pioneering fusion facility in that Asian nation. The proposed device, called K-DEMO, could be completed in the 2030s as the final step before construction of a commercial fusion power plant that would produce clean and abundant energy for generating electricity.

EPA Finalizes Clean Air Standards for Boilers and Incinerators, Makes Progress in Protecting Public Health

Today, the U.S. EPA finalized changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers, incinerators, and cement kilns which are used by industries for everything from power generation, heating, treating waste, and manufacturing. These changes will achieve extensive public health protections by reducing toxic air pollution, while at the same addressing concerns and feedback from industry and labor groups, increasing the rule’s flexibility and dramatically reducing costs. As a result, 99 percent of the approximately 1.5 million boilers in the U.S. are not covered or can meet the new standards by conducting periodic maintenance or regular tune-ups.

Scientists Reveal Findings on Sutter’s Mill Meteorite

A meteorite that exploded over California's Sierra foothills this past spring was among the fastest, rarest meteorites known to have hit the Earth. After collecting and studying fallen pieces of the meteorite, an international team of scientists is ready to announce their research, reporting on everything from the meteorite's age, to it's travelled course and original size. The researchers found that the meteorite that fell over Northern California on April 22 was the rarest type known to have hit the Earth — a carbonaceous chondrite. It is composed of cosmic dust and presolar materials that helped form the planets of the solar system.

NOx Removal with Paint

NOx is a pollutant that comes from all combustion emissions. It can be minimized but not eliminated at the stack. Painted surfaces (a very common urban surface area) with photo-catalytic characteristics may be able to clean the air of nitrogen oxides and other health-endangering substances. Using a new testing procedure, Fraunhofer researchers can find out how the coatings behave during a long-term test. They will introduce the new test at the booth of the Fraunhofer Building Innovation Alliance January, 2013, in Munich, Germany.

Ice Sheets at Both Poles are Losing Ice at an Increasing Rate

The ice loss in the Arctic and and in the Antarctic is accelerating, according to a new study by an international team of experts supported by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). This team has combined data from multiple satellites and aircraft to produce the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses in Greenland and Antarctica and their contributions to sea level rise. In a landmark study published Thursday in the journal Science, 47 researchers from 26 laboratories report the combined rate of melting for the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica has increased during the last 20 years. Together, these ice sheets are losing more than three times as much ice each year (equivalent to sea level rise of 0.04 inches or 0.95 millimeters) as they were in the 1990s (equivalent to 0.01 inches or 0.27 millimeters). About two-thirds of the loss is coming from Greenland, with the rest from Antarctica. This rate of ice sheet losses falls within the range reported in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The spread of estimates in the 2007 IPCC report was so broad, however, it was not clear whether Antarctica was growing or shrinking.