Legislative & Regulatory Update

Ocean circulation implicated in past abrupt climate changes

Climate Change News - ENN - June 30, 2016 - 5:25pm
There was a period during the last ice age when temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere went on a rollercoaster ride, plummeting and then rising again every 1,500 years or so. Those abrupt climate changes wreaked havoc on ecosystems, but their cause has been something of a mystery. New evidence published this week in the leading journal Science shows for the first time that the ocean's overturning circulation slowed during every one of those temperature plunges - at times almost stopping."People have long supposed this link between overturning circulation and these abrupt climate events. This evidence implicates the ocean," said L. Gene Henry, the lead author of the study and a graduate student at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Scientists observe first signs of healing in the Antarctic ozone layer

Climate Change News - ENN - June 30, 2016 - 4:47pm
Scientists at MIT and elsewhere have identified the "first fingerprints of healing" of the Antarctic ozone layer, published today in the journal Science.The team found that the September ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers -- about half the area of the contiguous United States -- since 2000, when ozone depletion was at its peak. The team also showed for the first time that this recovery has slowed somewhat at times, due to the effects of volcanic eruptions from year to year. Overall, however, the ozone hole appears to be on a healing path.The authors used "fingerprints" of the ozone changes with season and altitude to attribute the ozone's recovery to the continuing decline of atmospheric chlorine originating from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These chemical compounds were once emitted by dry cleaning processes, old refrigerators, and aerosols such as hairspray. In 1987, virtually every country in the world signed on to the Montreal Protocol in a concerted effort to ban the use of CFCs and repair the ozone hole.

Is your makeup killing sharks?

Regulatory news - ENN - June 30, 2016 - 7:50am
Most animal lovers wouldn’t dream of harming an animal for fashion. Fur? No, thank you. Leather? I don’t think so. Yet they might be unknowingly killing sharks — and highly endangered kinds on top of that — for their beauty routine.Unbeknownst to most, one little ingredient in products like sunscreens, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, lipsticks and face creams is responsible for the death of over three million sharks annually.Killer ingredient“Squalene is a naturally occurring compound found in large quantities in the liver of sharks,” explains the shark protection group Shark Trust. “A sharks’ large oily liver helps to control its position in the water column, however many cosmetics companies use the oil (and an associated compound called squalane) as a base for their moisturizing and skin care creams, lipstick and gloss, as it is non-greasy and softens skin.”

Vermont will be the first US State to Label GMOs

Regulatory news - ENN - June 30, 2016 - 7:40am
Vermont will soon be the first state in the nation to require labels on genetically modified (GMO) foods. Its GMO-labeling law, the first passed in the nation, goes into effect on July 1. Maine and Connecticut have since passed their own GMO-labeling laws. But they won’t go into effect until neighboring states pass similar legislation.

Ocean acidification affects predator-prey response

Climate Change News - ENN - June 29, 2016 - 6:25pm
Ocean acidification makes it harder for sea snails to escape from their sea star predators, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, suggest that by disturbing predator-prey interactions, ocean acidification could spur cascading consequences for food web systems in shoreline ecosystems.For instance, black turban snails graze on algae. If more snails are eaten by predators, algae densities could increase."Ocean acidification can affect individual marine organisms along the Pacific coast, by changing the chemistry of the seawater," said lead author Brittany Jellison, a Ph.D. student studying marine ecology at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Crucial peatlands carbon-sink vulnerable to rising sea levels

Climate Change News - ENN - June 29, 2016 - 6:06pm
Rising sea-levels linked to global warming could pose a significant threat to the effectiveness of the world's peatland areas as carbon sinks, a new study has shown.The pioneering new study, carried out by Geographers at the University of Exeter, examined the impact that salt found in sea water has on how successfully peatland ecosystems accumulate carbon from the atmosphere.The researchers studied an area of blanket bog - a peat bog that forms in cool regions susceptible to high rainfall - at Kentra Moss, in Northwest Scotland.

Floating Solar: A Win-Win for Drought-Stricken Lakes in U.S.

Climate Change News - ENN - June 29, 2016 - 10:17am
The Colorado River’s two great reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are in retreat. Multi-year droughts and chronic overuse have taken their toll, to be sure, but vast quantities of water are also lost to evaporation. What if the same scorching sun that causes so much of this water loss were harnessed for electric power? Installing floating solar photovoltaic arrays, sometimes called “floatovoltaics,” on a portion of these two reservoirs in the southwestern United States could produce clean, renewable energy while shielding significant expandes of water from the hot desert sun. 

Building a better battery

Forget mousetraps -- today's scientists will get the cheese if they manage to build a better battery.An international team led by Texas A&M University chemist Sarbajit Banerjee is one step closer, thanks to new research published today (June 28) in the journal Nature Communications that has the potential to create more efficient batteries by shedding light on the cause of one of their biggest problems -- a "traffic jam" of ions that slows down their charging and discharging process.All batteries have three main components: two electrodes and an intervening electrolyte. Lithium ion batteries work under the so-called rocking-chair model. Imagine discharging and charging a battery as similar to the back-and-forth motion of a rocking chair. As the chair rocks one way, using its stored energy, lithium ions flow out of one electrode through the electrolyte and into the other electrode. Then as the chair rocks the other way, charging the battery after a day's use, the reverse happens, emptying the second electrode of lithium ions.

Pipelines affect health, fitness of salmon, study finds

Climate Change News - ENN - June 28, 2016 - 3:26pm
Pipelines carrying crude oil to ports in British Columbia may spell bad news for salmon, according to a new University of Guelph-led study.Exposure to an oil sands product - diluted bitumen - impairs the swimming ability and changes the heart structures of young salmon.The research will be published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and is available online now.It's a timely finding, says U of G post-doctoral researcher and lead author Sarah Alderman.The National Energy Board (NEB) recently approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project; the federal government is expected to make a final decision by December.  

Climate Change Is Happening Faster Than African Crops Can Handle It

Climate Change News - ENN - June 28, 2016 - 12:20pm
Crop yields in Africa will nosedive ten years from now unless we can develop varieties that can better deal with climate change. Unfortunately, we’re not breeding those hardier varieties fast enough.That’s the sobering conclusion of a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change by researchers from the University of Leeds. As temperatures rise, crop yields fall. This is particularly true for staple crops like corn, bananas and beans raised in hot tropical areas. 

Wind-blown Antarctic sea ice helps drive ocean circulation

Climate Change News - ENN - June 27, 2016 - 12:34pm
Antarctic sea ice is constantly on the move as powerful winds blow it away from the coast and out toward the open ocean. A new study shows how that ice migration may be more important for the global ocean circulation than anyone realized.A team of scientists used a computer model to synthesize millions of ocean and ice observations collected over six years near Antarctica, and estimated, for the first time, the influence of sea ice, glacier ice, precipitation and heating on ocean overturning circulation. Overturning circulation brings deep water and nutrients up to the surface, carries surface water down, and distributes heat and helps store carbon dioxide as it flows through the world's oceans, making it an important force in the global climate system. The scientists found that freshwater played the most powerful role in changing water density, which drives circulation, and that melting of wind-blown sea ice contributed 10 times more freshwater than melting of land-based glaciers did.

Recycled Plastic Lumber Invented by Pioneering Rutgers Professor

Imagine a material lighter than steel, longer-lasting than lumber and strong enough to support 120-ton locomotives.Now imagine that material is made from milk containers, coffee cups and other plastics that we recycle.It’s called structural plastic lumber, and the ingenious, nontoxic material was invented by Thomas Nosker, an assistant research professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and principal investigator in the Center for Advanced Materials via Immiscible Composite Materials at Rutgers University. The late Richard W. Renfree, Nosker’s graduate student who later became a Rutgers professor, helped invent the revolutionary material.

Why the Increase in Solar-Powered Schools?

Out of the 125,000 K-12 schools in the United States, over 3,700 are running on solar power. Three-thousands of these schools installed their solar power systems within the past six years, as solar technology continues to become less expensive and more sophisticated.This trend in powering our schools reflects the growing recognition by district and state officials that photovoltaic electrical systems offer significant financial and environmental benefits. Here are four key reasons why more schools are making this transition.

Warning from the past: Future global warming could be even warmer

Climate Change News - ENN - June 24, 2016 - 8:05am
Future global warming will not only depend on the amount of emissions from man-made greenhouse gasses, but will also depend on the sensitivity of the climate system and response to feedback mechanisms. By reconstructing past global warming and the carbon cycle on Earth 56 million years ago, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute among others have used computer modelling to calculate the potential perspective for future global warming, which could be even warmer than previously thought. The results are published in the scientific journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

Probing giant planets' dark hydrogen

Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe. It's also the simplest--sporting only a single electron in each atom. But that simplicity is deceptive, because there is still so much we have to learn about hydrogen.One of the biggest unknowns is its transformation under the extreme pressures and temperatures found in the interiors of giant planets, where it is squeezed until it becomes liquid metal, capable of conducting electricity. New work published in Physical Review Letters by Carnegie's Alexander Goncharov and University of Edinburgh's Stewart McWilliams measures the conditions under which hydrogen undergoes this transition in the lab and finds an intermediate state between gas and metal, which they're calling "dark hydrogen."

2 ways to limit the number of heat-related deaths from climate change

Climate Change News - ENN - June 23, 2016 - 8:16am
By the 2080s, as many as 3,331 people could die every year from exposure to heat during the summer months in New York City. The high estimate by Columbia University scientists is based on a new model--the first to account for variability in future population size, greenhouse gas trajectories, and the extent to which residents adapt to heat through interventions like air conditioning and public cooling centers. Results appear online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

94-million-year-old climate change event holds clues for future

Climate Change News - ENN - June 22, 2016 - 6:10pm
A major climate event millions of years ago that caused substantial change to the ocean's ecological systems may hold clues as to how the Earth will respond to future climate change, a Florida State University researcher said.In a new study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Assistant Professor of Geology Jeremy Owens explains that parts of the ocean became inhospitable for some organisms as the Earth's climate warmed 94 million years ago. As the Earth warmed, several natural elements -- what we think of as vitamins -- depleted, causing some organisms to die off or greatly decrease in numbers.

Laplace's Equation: Mathematical Key to Everything

PHYSICS HAS ITS own Rosetta Stones. They’re ciphers, used to translate seemingly disparate regimes of the universe. They tie pure math to any branch of physics your heart might desire.It’s in electricity. It’s in magnetism. It’s in fluid mechanics. It’s in gravity. It’s in heat. It’s in soap films. It’s called Laplace’s equation. It’s everywhere.Laplace’s equation is named for Pierre-Simon Laplace, a French mathematician prolific enough to get a Wikipedia page with several eponymous entries. In 1799, he proved that the the solar system was stable over astronomical timescales—contrary to what Newton had thought a century earlier. In the course of proving Newton wrong, Laplace investigated the equation that bears his name.It has just five symbols. There’s an upside-down triangle called a nabla that’s being squared, the squiggly Greek letter phi (other people use psi or V or even an A with an arrow above it), an equals sign, and a zero. And with just those five symbols, Laplace read the universe.

Particle zoo in a quantum computer

Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The discovery of the Higgs boson at the CERN in 2012 constitutes a further step towards the confirmation of the Standard Model. However, many aspects of this theory are still not understood because their complexity makes it hard to investigate them with classical computers. Quantum computers may provide a way to overcome this obstacle as they can simulate certain aspects of elementary particle physics in a well-controlled quantum system. Physicists from the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences have now done exactly that: In an international first, Rainer Blatt's and Peter Zoller's research teams have simulated lattice gauge theories in a quantum computer. They describe their work in the journal Nature.

Chicago's urban farming produces fresh veggies all year, 24/7

Climate Change News - ENN - June 22, 2016 - 11:29am
Hydroponics and new, high-tech urban agricultural techniques are now growing fresh food in the middle of Manhattan and other large metropolitan centers globally. People are catching onto the taste and business opportunities of urban agriculture: find it growing in Middle Eastern cities such as Cairo, Egypt too!Urban farming in midwestern American cities like Chicago has had its limitations due to adverse winter weather conditions at least 9 months a year. New indoor farming techniques use vertical farming, special indoor LED lighting and hydroponic systems that pump soybean and kelp-infused water through a temperature and humidity-controlled system, nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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