Sea ice hit record lows in November

Unusually high air temperatures and a warm ocean have led to a record low Arctic sea ice extent for November, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for the month, caused by moderately warm temperatures and a rapid shift in circumpolar winds.“It looks like a triple whammy—a warm ocean, a warm atmosphere, and a wind pattern all working against the ice in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze.

Snow Data from Satellites Improves Temperature Predictions, UT Researchers Show

Researchers with The University of Texas at Austin have found that incorporating snow data collected from space into computer climate models can significantly improve seasonal temperature predictions.The findings, published in November in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, could help farmers, water providers, power companies and others that use seasonal climate predictions – forecasts of conditions months in the future – to make decisions. Snow influences the amount of heat that is absorbed by the ground and the amount of water available for evaporation into the atmosphere, which plays an important role in influencing regional climate.

Scientists Improve Predictions of How Temperature Affects the Survival of Fish Embryos

Scientists closely tracking the survival of endangered Sacramento River salmon faced a puzzle: the same high temperatures that salmon eggs survived in the laboratory appeared to kill many of the eggs in the river.Now the scientists from NOAA Fisheries and the University of California at Santa Cruz have resolved the puzzle, realizing new insights into how egg size and water flow affect the survival of egg-laying fish. The larger the eggs, they found, the greater the water flow they need to supply them with oxygen and carry away waste.

Sandia Labs, Singapore join forces to develop energy storage

Sandia National Laboratories has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the government of Singapore’s Energy Market Authority (EMA) that will tap into the labs’ expertise in energy storage.EMA is the statutory body in Singapore responsible for ensuring a reliable and secure energy supply, promoting competition in the energy market and developing a dynamic energy sector. Last year, EMA invited Sandia to organize a workshop on the latest developments in storage technologies. The two-day event in the Southeast Asian island city-state led to a CRADA under which Sandia will help set up Singapore’s first grid energy storage test-bed.“Sandia will collaboratively develop an energy storage test-bed to better understand the feasibility of deploying energy storage systems [ESS] in Singapore,” said Dan Borneo, Sandia team lead on the project. 

When Permafrost Melts, What Happens to All That Stored Carbon?

The Arctic’s frozen ground contains large stores of organic carbon that have been locked in the permafrost for thousands of years. As global temperatures rise, that permafrost is starting to melt, raising concerns about the impact on the climate as organic carbon becomes exposed. A new study is shedding light on what that could mean for the future by providing the first direct physical evidence of a massive release of carbon from permafrost during a warming spike at the end of the last ice age.The study, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, documents how Siberian soil once locked in permafrost was carried into the Arctic Ocean during that period at a rate about seven times higher than today.

Game Changer for Organic Solar Cells

With a new technique for manufacturing single-layer organic polymer solar cells, scientists at UC Santa Barbara and three other universities might very well move organic photovoltaics into a whole new generation of wearable devices and enable small-scale distributed power generation.The simple doping solution-based process involves briefly immersing organic semiconductor films in a solution at room temperature. This technique, which could replace a more complex approach that requires vacuum processing, has the potential to affect many device platforms, including organic printed electronics, sensors, photodetectors and light-emitting diodes. The researchers’ findings appear in the journal Nature Materials.

First Detection of Ammonia in the Upper Troposphere

Population is growing, climate is warming – hence, emission of ammonia (NH3) trace gas from e.g. agriculture will increase worldwide. Recently, scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) for the first time detected NH3 in the upper troposphere. Together with researchers from Colorado/USA and Mexico, they analyzed satellite measurements by the MIPAS infrared spectrometer and found increased amounts of NH3 between 12 and 15 km height in the area of the Asian monsoon. This suggests that the gas is responsible for the formation of aerosols, smallest particles that might contribute to cloud formation. The researchers present their work in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. (DOI: 10.5194/acp-16-14357-2016)

Cement made from steel production by-product can lead to a huge CO2 reduction

Steel production generates some hundred million tons of steel slag worldwide each year. This giant mountain of leftovers is largely dumped. TU/e professor of building materials, Jos Brouwers, will be working with industrial partners to investigate whether he can make cement out of it. If he succeeds, more CO2 emissions can be cut than is produced yearly by all the traffic in the Netherlands.Steel slag is produced by the conversion of raw iron into steel – around 125 million tons of it per year. Much of that is dumped and only a small portion used, in embankments. That’s a shame, professor Jos Brouwers says, because the mineralogical composition very closely resembles that of cement. It contains the same components, but in different ratios. And it is public knowledge that the cement industry emits a very high amount of CO2: five percent of the global total. A cement substitute with no extra CO2 emissions would, therefore, be most welcome.

Extreme downpours could increase fivefold across parts of the U.S.

At century's end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States — including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest — according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, also finds that the intensity of individual extreme rainfall events could increase by as much as 70 percent in some areas. That would mean that a storm that drops about 2 inches of rainfall today would be likely to drop nearly 3.5 inches in the future.

The Paris Climate Deal Is Now in Force. What Comes Next?

The Paris Agreement was hailed as a turning point for world governments tackling climate change, and it has now come into effect. What does this mean for the world — and where do we go from here?On Friday, November 4, the Paris Agreement went into effect, meaning that the agreement made last year by nearly 200 international delegates must now be honored. To recognize the consensus coming into force, the United Nations stated that it is a moment to celebrate – and to take concerted action.“We remain in a race against time,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized. ”Now is the time to strengthen global resolve, do what science demands and seize the opportunity to build a safer, more sustainable world for all.”