Legislative & Regulatory Update

Sea ice strongly linked to climate change in past 90,000 years

Climate Change News - ENN - August 17, 2016 - 11:11am
"The Arctic sea ice responded very rapidly to past climate changes. During the coldest periods of the past 90,000 years the sea ice edge spread relatively quickly to the Greenland-Scotland Ridge, and probably far into the Atlantic Ocean." says first author Ulrike Hoff, a researcher at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE).Sea ice amplifies the climate changes that are occurring at any given time. Its growth and melting has profound effects on climate, the marine environment and ocean circulation.

Slower snowmelt affects downstream water availability in western mountains

Climate Change News - ENN - August 17, 2016 - 10:32am
Western communities are facing effects of a warming climate with slower and earlier snowmelt reducing streamflows and possibly the amount of water reaching reservoirs used for drinking water and agriculture, according to a study published in July."As the climate warms, there is actually a slower snowmelt - both in timing and rates, which makes for a less efficient streamflow," Adrian Harpold, ecohydrologist at the University of Nevada, Reno said. Harpold, who initiated the study two years ago at the University of Colorado Boulder, is a co-author of the paper published in AGU publications Geophysical Research Letters.

Solid batteries improve safety

Lithium-ion batteries store a lot of energy in a small space, making them the energy source of choice for mobile electronic devices. Today, mobile phones, laptops, e-bikes and electric cars are all powered by such batteries. Researchers at ETH Zurich have now developed a type of battery that, unlike conventional ones, consists entirely of solid chemical compounds and is non-flammable.Conventional lithium-ion batteries are not without their dangers: mobile phone batteries have exploded several times in the past, resulting in injuries, and only six months ago an entire row of houses burned down in the old town of Steckborn on Lake Constance. The blaze was caused by a model-making battery that allegedly caught fire due to being charged improperly.

Offshore Wind Moves a Step Closer for North Carolina

While we’re a long way behind countries like the UK, there seems to be a growing momentum behind US offshore wind development—suggesting we might finally get serious about the incredible potential for this increasingly competitive technology. The latest such signal is an announcement from the Department of Interior proposing a lease sale for the 122,405-Acre Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area.

Offshore Wind Moves a Step Closer for North Carolina

Climate Change News - ENN - August 16, 2016 - 4:39pm
While we’re a long way behind countries like the UK, there seems to be a growing momentum behind US offshore wind development—suggesting we might finally get serious about the incredible potential for this increasingly competitive technology. The latest such signal is an announcement from the Department of Interior proposing a lease sale for the 122,405-Acre Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area.

Overfishing on Coral Reefs Reduces Nutrients Healthy Ecosystems Need

Regulatory news - ENN - August 16, 2016 - 4:16pm
Overfishing of large and top predatory fishes on Caribbean coral reefs substantially reduces the amount of nutrients stored and recycled within the ecosystem by fishes, new interdisciplinary research published today in Nature Communications concludes.The study, by scientists at the University of Washington, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Smithsonian Institution and North Carolina State University, suggests that while avoiding local extinction of fish species is a conservation priority, management actions that preserve large fish groups such as sharks, groupers, snappers and jacks are needed to maintain an adequate flow of nutrients within ecosystems.

Mapping the health threat of wildfires under climate change in US West

Climate Change News - ENN - August 16, 2016 - 4:08pm
A surge in major wildfire events in the U.S. West as a consequence of climate change will expose tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades, according to a new Yale-led study conducted with collaborators from Harvard.The researchers estimated air pollution from past and projected future wildfires in 561 western counties, and found that by mid-century more than 82 million people will experience "smoke waves," or consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.The regions likely to receive the highest exposure to wildfire smoke in the future include northern California, western Oregon, and the Great Plains.

Today's electric vehicles can make a dent in climate change

Climate Change News - ENN - August 16, 2016 - 3:51pm
Electric cars that exist today could be widely adopted despite range constraints, replacing about 90 percent of existing cars, and could make a major dent in the nation's carbon emissions, new research indicates.The study, which found that a wholesale replacement of conventional vehicles with electric ones is possible today and could play a significant role in meeting climate change mitigation goals, was published today in the journal Nature Energy by Jessika Trancik, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor in Energy Studies at MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), along with graduate student Zachary Needell, postdoc James McNerney, and recent graduate Michael Chang SM '15.

Methane leaks: A new way to find and fix in real time

Regulatory news - ENN - August 16, 2016 - 11:07am
Researchers have flown aircraft over an oil and gas field and pinpointed -- with unprecedented precision -- sources of the greenhouse gas methane in real time. The technique led to the detection and immediate repair of two leaks in natural gas pipelines in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest.The technique led to the detection and immediate repair of two leaks in natural gas pipelines in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest. The approach could inform strategies for meeting new federal limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Methane emissions have spiked in recent decades along with the boom in natural gas drilling.

Methane leaks: A new way to find and fix in real time

Climate Change News - ENN - August 16, 2016 - 11:07am
Researchers have flown aircraft over an oil and gas field and pinpointed -- with unprecedented precision -- sources of the greenhouse gas methane in real time. The technique led to the detection and immediate repair of two leaks in natural gas pipelines in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest.The technique led to the detection and immediate repair of two leaks in natural gas pipelines in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest. The approach could inform strategies for meeting new federal limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Methane emissions have spiked in recent decades along with the boom in natural gas drilling.

NASA's Van Allen probes catch rare glimpse of supercharged radiation belt

Our planet is nestled in the center of two immense, concentric doughnuts of powerful radiation: the Van Allen radiation belts, which harbor swarms of charged particles that are trapped by Earth's magnetic field. On March 17, 2015, an interplanetary shock - a shockwave created by the driving force of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, from the sun - struck Earth's magnetic field, called the magnetosphere, triggering the greatest geomagnetic storm of the preceding decade. And NASA's Van Allen Probes were there to watch the effects on the radiation belts.One of the most common forms of space weather, a geomagnetic storm describes any event in which the magnetosphere is suddenly, temporarily disturbed. Such an event can also lead to change in the radiation belts surrounding Earth, but researchers have seldom been able to observe what happens. But on the day of the March 2015 geomagnetic storm, one of the Van Allen Probes was orbiting right through the belts, providing unprecedentedly high-resolution data from a rarely witnessed phenomenon. A paper on these observations was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on Aug. 15, 2016.

Warming climate likely to have 'minor' impact on power plant output

Future climate warming will likely cause only minor cuts in energy output at most U.S. coal- or gas-fired power plants, a new Duke University study finds.The study -- the first of its kind based on real-world data -- rebuts recent modeling-based studies that warn rising temperatures will significantly lower the efficiency of power plants' cooling systems, thereby reducing plants' energy output. Those studies estimated that plant efficiencies could drop by as much as 1.3 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of climate warming.

Warming climate likely to have 'minor' impact on power plant output

Climate Change News - ENN - August 15, 2016 - 3:15pm
Future climate warming will likely cause only minor cuts in energy output at most U.S. coal- or gas-fired power plants, a new Duke University study finds.The study -- the first of its kind based on real-world data -- rebuts recent modeling-based studies that warn rising temperatures will significantly lower the efficiency of power plants' cooling systems, thereby reducing plants' energy output. Those studies estimated that plant efficiencies could drop by as much as 1.3 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of climate warming.

Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer

Climate Change News - ENN - August 15, 2016 - 2:50pm
Ever thought of putting sewage on your plants? Scientists say thermally conditioned sewage sludge serves as an excellent fertilizer to improve soil properties. This was recently published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The major advantage over commercial fertilizers? Sustainable re-use of essential and finite phosphorus resources.Phosphorus is a key nutrient for all living beings. When deficient in the diet, it severely compromises human health, and when deficient in agriculture, it restricts crop productivity. Without phosphorus, there can be no food production.

New residential water heater concept promises high efficiency, lower cost

A team of scientists from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Florida has developed a novel method that could yield lower-cost, higher-efficiency systems for water heating in residential buildings.The theory behind the newly termed "semi-open" natural gas-fired design, explained in an ORNL-led paper published in Renewable Energy: An International Journal, reduces the cost and complexity of traditional closed gas-fired systems by streamlining, and even eliminating, certain components.

New residential water heater concept promises high efficiency, lower cost

Climate Change News - ENN - August 15, 2016 - 12:53pm
A team of scientists from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Florida has developed a novel method that could yield lower-cost, higher-efficiency systems for water heating in residential buildings.The theory behind the newly termed "semi-open" natural gas-fired design, explained in an ORNL-led paper published in Renewable Energy: An International Journal, reduces the cost and complexity of traditional closed gas-fired systems by streamlining, and even eliminating, certain components.

SLAC, Stanford gadget grabs more solar energy to disinfect water faster

In many parts of the world, the only way to make germy water safe is by boiling, which consumes precious fuel, or by putting it out in the sun in a plastic bottle so ultraviolet rays will kill the microbes. But because UV rays carry only 4 percent of the sun's total energy, the UV method takes six to 48 hours, limiting the amount of water people can disinfect this way.Now researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have created a nanostructured device, about half the size of a postage stamp, that disinfects water much faster than the UV method by also making use of the visible part of the solar spectrum, which contains 50 percent of the sun's energy.

Tropical sea urchins caught between a rock and a hot place

Climate Change News - ENN - August 15, 2016 - 10:48am
The balmy waters of the Caribbean could turn into a deadly heat trap for countless tiny creatures. Authors of a new study conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama discovered that microscopic sea urchin eggs and larvae may suffer stunting or death when the water temperature spikes just a couple of degrees above normal, adding to the impact of climate change in already warm tropical oceans.Sea urchins, pincushion-shaped relatives of the starfish, graze the sea floor from shallow coastal areas to deep ocean vents from pole to pole. Their young look nothing like them. Adults release millions of eggs and sperm into the water, which develop into pinprick-sized free-swimming larvae. Only a minute fraction will survive and metamorphose into adults. Scientists think the developmental stages from egg to larvae are extra sensitive to temperature changes, but very few studies compare the vulnerability of the offspring to that of the adults.

Nature and the Nurture of Aerosols

Regulatory news - ENN - August 15, 2016 - 8:07am
You've seen it when flying into major cities the world over: a haze over the city. It is caused by aerosol particles, but scientists don't know all the details of the complex chemistry involved. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Dr. Alla Zelenyuk and her team took on a specific part of that haze: originated from isoprene. After being released by the trees and shrubs, isoprene reacts in the atmosphere and becomes assorted chemicals, including IEPOX (isoprene epoxydiols). The team found that IEPOX is a major player in producing aerosols from isoprene and that particle size, certain coatings, and acidity influence how IEPOX behaves. 

Nature and the Nurture of Aerosols

Climate Change News - ENN - August 15, 2016 - 8:07am
You've seen it when flying into major cities the world over: a haze over the city. It is caused by aerosol particles, but scientists don't know all the details of the complex chemistry involved. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Dr. Alla Zelenyuk and her team took on a specific part of that haze: originated from isoprene. After being released by the trees and shrubs, isoprene reacts in the atmosphere and becomes assorted chemicals, including IEPOX (isoprene epoxydiols). The team found that IEPOX is a major player in producing aerosols from isoprene and that particle size, certain coatings, and acidity influence how IEPOX behaves. 

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