Legislative & Regulatory Update

As Oceans Become More Acidic, Mussels Could Lose Ability to Hang On

Climate Change News - ENN - July 6, 2016 - 4:34pm
Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the world’s oceans to become 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, affecting everything from marine life’s ability to build shells to the pH level of fishes’ blood. Now, scientists have discovered that more acidic water also prevents mussels from attaching to rocks and other surfaces, which could have ramifications on the global food chain, the economy, and ecosystem health.

Characteristics improving bean resistance to drought identified

Climate Change News - ENN - July 5, 2016 - 6:06pm
The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is the most important food legume in the tropics. It is an inexpensive source of proteins and minerals for almost 400 million people, mainly from Africa and Latin America. It is generally cultivated by small farmers and subject to conditions limiting their productivity. Drought affects 60% of bean crops around the world and can cause from 10% in productivity losses to a total of 100% in some cases.Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Bean Programme at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia have identified drought-resistant genotypes and the morpho-physiological characteristics related to this resistance. The experiments were conducted in Palmira, Colombia, from June to September in 2012 and 2013, and the results were recently published in Frontiers in Plant Science.

NASA's Aqua satellite scans powerful Typhoon Nepartak

Climate Change News - ENN - July 5, 2016 - 5:49pm
NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Typhoon Nepartak after it became a major typhoon in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean.The second tropical cyclone of the northwestern Pacific Ocean season formed on July 3 and strengthened quickly into a tropical storm that was named Nepartak.On July 5 at 0359 UTC (11:59 p.m. EDT) infrared data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder aboard NASA's Aqua satellite detected strong thunderstorms completely surrounding the center of Nepartak with temperatures colder than minus 63 degrees Celsius (minus 81 Fahrenheit). Temperatures that could indicate very powerful thunderstorms with cloud tops high into the troposphere. Bands of powerful thunderstorms wrapped into the low-level center of circulation from the northwest and southeast.

California droughts caused mainly by changes in wind, not moisture

Climate Change News - ENN - July 5, 2016 - 1:59pm
Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods.The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, on June 30. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods, said lead author Jiangfeng Wei, a research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences."Ocean evaporation provides moisture for California precipitation but is not the reason for droughts there, although the ocean evaporation is slightly lower during droughts," Wei said.

Expanding Antarctic sea ice linked to natural variability

Climate Change News - ENN - July 4, 2016 - 5:21pm
The recent trend of increasing Antarctic sea ice extent -- seemingly at odds with climate model projections -- can largely be explained by a natural climate fluctuation, according to a new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).The study offers evidence that the negative phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), which is characterized by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific, has created favorable conditions for additional Antarctic sea ice growth since 2000.The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, may resolve a longstanding mystery: Why is Antarctic sea ice expanding when climate change is causing the world to warm?

66 Million Dead Trees in California Increases Wildfire Risk

Climate Change News - ENN - July 4, 2016 - 4:48pm
Those orange tree patches pictured aren’t harbingers of winter. They are dying or dead trees in California, most likely the result of pine beetle forest damage.It’s hot now in much of the golden state, and as temperatures continue to rise, something else is happening: Trees are dying in unprecedented numbers.A recent U.S. Forest Service aerial detection survey revealed a record 66 million dead trees in southern Sierra Nevada. What we’re left with is a breeding ground for wildfires in a state where wildfires are already rampant—particularly this time of year.40 million trees died statewide from 2010 to October 2015, but an additional 26 million trees died in California since October 2015.

The Future of Cities is Bright

What does the “city of the future” look like?In an era of rapid technological advancement and increasing urbanization, it’s a fair question. Eighty percent of the U.S. population already lives in large cities* – each with a smartphone, wearable or other device in hand.As such, city officials are beginning to piece together how those bits of technology can connect with assets like energy meters, garbage cans, street lights, traffic lights, water pipes and more. But, how do we make it all work together? By building a truly smart city.A truly smart city is one with seamless connectivity that solves local problems and provides its inhabitants with safety, cleanliness and the most efficient ways to get from Point A to Point B. It’s a city that optimizes how we use valuable resources to help improve quality of life, positively impact our planet and open new economic opportunities. A truly smart city provides tremendous opportunities for its citizens and beyond.

New technology could improve use of small-scale hydropower in developing nations

Engineers at Oregon State University have created a new computer modeling package that people anywhere in the world could use to assess the potential of a stream for small-scale, “run of river” hydropower, an option to produce electricity that’s of special importance in the developing world.The system is easy to use; does not require data that is often unavailable in foreign countries or remote locations; and can consider hydropower potential not only now, but in the future as projected changes in climate and stream runoff occur.

In hot water: Climate change is affecting North American fish

Climate Change News - ENN - June 30, 2016 - 5:54pm
Climate change is already affecting inland fish across North America -- including some fish that are popular with anglers. Scientists are seeing a variety of changes in how inland fish reproduce, grow and where they can live, according to four new studies published today in a special issue of Fisheries magazine.Fish that have the most documented risk include those living in arid environments and coldwater species such as sockeye salmon, lake trout, walleye, and prey fish that larger species depend on for food.Climate change can cause suboptimal habitat for some fish; warmer water, for example, can stress coldwater fish. When stressed, fish tend to eat less and grow less. For other fish, climate change is creating more suitable habitat; smallmouth bass populations, for example, are expanding.

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.

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