Methane-eating bacteria in lake deep beneath Antarctic ice sheet may reduce greenhouse gas emissions

An interdisciplinary team of researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has concluded that bacteria in a lake 800 meters (2,600 feet) beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may digest methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, preventing its release into the atmosphere.

NSF awards $5.6 million to establish new arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a $5.6 million, five-year grant to establish a Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site along the northern Alaskan coast that will focus on the interactions between land and ocean that shape coastal ecosystems in the Arctic over different time scales.Researchers at the Beaufort Sea Lagoons LTER site will study food webs, which support large-scale coastal fisheries and more than 150 species of migratory birds and waterfowl. Long-term changes along the northern Alaska coast have already affected the types of fish and other creatures that live in the lagoons, and are expected to continue to do so. The LTER research team will collaborate with members of local communities, including the Iñupiat, and with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  

Last year's El Nino waves battered California shore to unprecedented degree

Last winter’s El Niño may have felt weak to residents of Southern California, but it was one of the most powerful weather events of the last 145 years, scientists say.If severe El Niño events become more common in the future, as some studies suggest, the California coast -- home to more than 25 million people -- may become increasingly vulnerable to coastal hazards, independently of projected sea level rise.

Ocean temperatures predict U.S. heat waves

The formation of a distinct pattern of sea surface temperatures in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean can predict an increased chance of summer heat waves in the eastern half of the U.S. up to 50 days in advance.The pattern is a contrast of warmer-than-average water coming up against cooler-than-average seas. When it appears, the odds that extreme heat will strike during a particular week -- or even on a particular day -- can more than triple, depending on how well-formed the pattern is.

How sea spray affects clouds

All over the planet, every day, oceans send plumes of sea spray into the atmosphere. Beyond the poetry of crashing ocean waves, this salt- and carbon-rich spray also has a dramatic effect on cloud formation and duration.In a new paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Paul DeMott finds that sea spray is a unique, underappreciated source of what are called ice nucleating particles. These microscopic bits make their way into clouds and initiate the formation of ice, affecting the clouds' composition.

Termite mounds could help prevent spread of deserts

Termites might not top the list of humanity's favorite insects, but new research suggests that their large dirt mounds are crucial to stopping deserts from spreading into semi-arid ecosystems. The results indicate that termite mounds could make these areas more resilient to climate change. The findings could also inspire a change in how scientists determine the possible effects of climate change on ecosystems.

Do Weddell Seals have an Internal GPS?

Weddell seals have biological adaptations that allow them to dive deep--as much as of hundreds of meters--while hunting, but also an uncanny ability to find the breathing holes they need on the surface of the ice. Now, researchers supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) believe they have figured out how they do it--by using the Earth's magnetic field as a natural GPS. "This animal, we think, may be highly evolved with an ability to navigate using magnetic sense in order to find ice holes some distance apart and get back to them safely," explained Randall Davis of the Department of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University. If the hypothesis turns out to be true, it would represent the first evidence of such a trait in a marine mammal.

Magma storage at Mount Hood compared to refrigerated peanut butter

New research results suggest that magma sitting 4-5 kilometers beneath the surface of Oregon's Mount Hood has been stored in near-solid conditions for thousands of years. The time it takes to liquefy and potentially erupt, however, is surprisingly short--perhaps as little as a couple of months.