Microbots Could Play Key Role in Cleaning Up Our Water Systems

What if we could not only clean up the heavy metals in our water systems, but also recycle those metals and reuse them?A new study from the Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia in Spain suggests that, soon, we might be doing just that.

Shift in global winds caused record flooding in the Balkans

Disastrous floods in the Balkans two years ago are likely linked to the temporary slowdown of giant airstreams, scientists found. These wind patterns, circling the globe in the form of huge waves between the Equator and the North Pole, normally move eastwards, but practically stopped for several days then -- at the same time, a weather system got stuck over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia that poured out record amounts of rain. The study adds evidence that so-called planetary wave resonance is a key mechanism for causing extreme weather events in summer. Further, the scientists showed that extreme rainfall events are strongly increasing in the Balkans, even more than the globally observed rise."We were surprised to see how long the weather system that led to the flooding stayed over the region -- it's like the Vb cyclone 'Yvette' was trapped there," says Lisa Stadtherr from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead-author of the study to be published in Science Advances. "Day after day the rain was soaking the soil until it was saturated, which lead to the flooding that reportedly caused several dozen casualties and 3.5 billion Euro of damages." 

Moths in cities have learned to avoid man-made light

The globally increasing light pollution has negative effects on organisms and entire ecosystems. The consequences are especially hard on nocturnal insects, since their attraction to artificial light sources generally ends fatal. A new study by Swiss zoologists from the Universities of Basel and Zurich now shows that urban moths have learned to avoid light. The journal Biology Letters has published their results.Some insects are attracted by light while others shy away from it. Proverbial is the attraction light has on moths. Street lamps and other artificial light sources often become death traps for nocturnal insects such as moths. Either they die through direct burning or through increased exposure to predators. Mortality of urban insects can thus be 40- to 100- fold higher than in rural populations. 

Fast food may expose consumers to phthalates

People who reported consuming more fast food in a national survey were exposed to higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates, according to a study published today by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. The study, one of the first to look at fast-food consumption and exposure to these chemicals, appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The Paris climate accord looks promising

The climate talks that concluded last December were a great success, but it will be decades before we can judge whether the Paris Agreement itself is ultimately successful. What can be said is that the accord provides a good foundation for meaningful progress on climate change, and represents a dramatic departure from the past 20 years of climate negotiations.I have long viewed the dichotomous distinction between Annex I and non–Annex I countries in the Kyoto Protocol as the major stumbling block to progress. The protocol included mandatory emissions-reduction obligations for developed countries, but none for developing countries. That made progress impossible, because significant growth in emissions since the protocol came into force in 2005 has been entirely in the large developing countries — China, India, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia. 

Better long-term outcomes for married cancer patients

New research has uncovered a link between being married and living longer among cancer patients, with the beneficial effect of marriage differing by race/ethnicity and place of birth. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings have important public health implications, given the rising numbers of unmarried individuals in the United States in addition to the growing aging population. For the analysis, a team led by Scarlett Lin Gomez, PhD, of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and María Elena Martínez, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, assessed information on nearly 800,000 adults in California who were diagnosed in 2000 to 2009 with invasive cancer and were followed through 2012.  

Reducing food waste could help mitigate climate change

About a tenth of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture could be traced back to food waste by mid-century, a new study shows. A team from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the first time provides comprehensive food loss projections for countries around the world while also calculating the associated emissions. Currently, one third of global food production never finds its way onto our plates. This share will increase drastically, if emerging countries like China and India adopt Western nutrition lifestyles, the analyses shows. Reducing food waste would offer the chance to ensure food security, which is well known. Yet at the same time it could help mitigate dangerous climate change.

Rising oceans may pose a bigger threat than previously assumed

Of all the impacts of climate change, one stands out for its inexorable menace, writes Pete Dolack: rising oceans. And it's not just for distant future generations to deal with: new scientific studies show that people alive today may face 6-9 metres of sea level rise flooding well over a million sq.km including many of the world's biggest cities. So where's the emergency response?There is a possibility, a real danger, that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control. We have a global emergency.When it comes to global warming, what else don't we know? 

The North Pole had ice-free summers millions of years ago

An international team of scientists led by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have managed to open a new window into the climate history of the Arctic Ocean. Using unique sediment samples from the Lomonosov Ridge, the researchers found that six to ten million years ago the central Arctic was completely ice-free during summer and sea-surface temperature reached values of 4 to 9 degrees Celsius. In spring, autumn and winter, however, the ocean was covered by sea ice of variable extent, the scientists explain in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications. These new findings from the Arctic region provide new benchmarks for groundtruthing global climate reconstructions and modelling.The researchers had recovered these unique sediment samples during an expedition with Germany's research icebreaker RV Polarstern in summer of 2014. "The Arctic sea ice is a very critical and sensitive component in the global climate system. It is therefore important to better understand the processes controlling present and past changes in sea ice. In this context, one of our expedition's aims was to recover long sediment cores from the central Arctic, that can be used to reconstruct the history of the ocean's sea ice cover throughout the past 50 million years. Until recently, only a very few cores representing such old sediments were available, and, thus, our knowledge of the Arctic climate and sea ice cover several millions of year ago is still very limited," Prof. Dr. Ruediger Stein, AWI geologist, expedition leader and lead author of the study, explains. 

Using moss as a bioindicator of air pollution

Moss growing on urban trees is a useful bio-indicator of cadmium air pollution in Portland, Oregon, a U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station-led study has found. The work--the first to use moss to generate a rigorous and detailed map of air pollution in a U.S. city--is published online in the journal Science of the Total Environment.