Archives for September 2015

Re-engineering life? The dangers of ‘next generation’ biofuels

The biofuels of the future will depend on microbes, writes Almuth Ernsting: algae to produce the biomass, and fungi or bacteria to break cellulose down into useful molecules. Just one problem: wild strains aren’t up to the job. So scientists are trying to genetically engineer supercharged ‘synthetic biology’ variants – which will inevitably enter the environment. What could possibly go wrong?
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Large rainfall changes consistently projected over substantial areas of tropical land

This study quantifies a direct link between global greenhouse gas emissions and rainfall changes over tropical land, and identifies regions most at risk of large changes, such as southern and east Africa.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2805

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

10 Nasty Surprises from Climate Change

Here are some consequences of global warming that you may not be prepared for.
Discovery News

How does Aspirin work its miracles?

A recent study led by researchers at the Cornell University-affiliated Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) in collaboration with colleagues at Rutgers and Italy’s San Raffaele University and Research Institute, shows that aspirin’s main breakdown product, salicylic acid, blocks the protein, HMGB1, which could explain many of the drug’s therapeutic properties.

The findings appear Sept. 23, 2015, in the journal Molecular Medicine.

“We’ve identified what we believe is a key target of aspirin’s active form in the body, salicylic acid, which is responsible for some of the many therapeutic effects that aspirin has,” said senior author Daniel Klessig, a professor at BTI and Cornell University. “The protein, HMGB1, is associated with many prevalent, devastating diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, sepsis and inflammation-associated cancers, such as colorectal cancer and mesothelioma,” he said.

ENN: Top Stories

El Niño's role in Pacific Ocean sea level rise

Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps. Now they may also see much more frequent extreme interannual sea level swings. The culprit is a projected behavioral change of the El Niño phenomenon and its characteristic Pacific wind response, according to recent computer modeling experiments and tide-gauge analysis by scientists Matthew Widlansky and Axel Timmermann at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and their colleague Wenju Cai at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.

During El Niño, warm water and high sea levels shift eastward, leaving in their wake low sea levels in the western Pacific. Scientists have already shown that this east-west seesaw is often followed six months to a year later by a similar north-south sea level seesaw with water levels dropping by up to one foot (30 cm) in the Southern Hemisphere. Such sea level drops expose shallow marine ecosystems in South Pacific Islands, causing massive coral die-offs with a foul smelling tide called taimasa (pronounced [kai’ ma’sa]) by Samoans.

ENN: Top Stories

Volkswagen to refit cars affected by emissions scandal

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen said on Tuesday it will repair up to 11 million vehicles and overhaul its namesake brand following the scandal over its rigging of emissions tests.

Reuters: Environment

Targeted opportunities to address the climate–trade dilemma in China

Most of the greenhouse gas emissions embedded in China’s exports come from provinces with carbon-intensive energy mixes. Reducing the carbon intensity of production in these regions is a targeted means of addressing the climate–trade dilemma.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2800

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

NASA Confirms Water Flows on Mars

New findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. 

ENN: Top Stories

Predators help protect carbon stocks in blue carbon ecosystems

This Perspective considers the influence of marine predators on carbon cycling in salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and mangroves, and the potential role that these carbon-rich vegetated coastal ecosystems could play in climate change mitigation.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2763

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

New England air quality update

EPA today confirmed that New Englanders experienced a slight increase in the number of unhealthy air quality days this year, compared to 2014 and 2013.

Based on preliminary data collected between April and September 2015, there were 24 days when ozone monitors in New England recorded concentrations above levels considered healthy. By contrast, in 2014 there were a total of 9 unhealthy ozone days, and in 2013 there were a total of 20 such days.

The number of unhealthy ozone days in each state this summer is as follows:
– 22 days in Connecticut (compared to 8 in 2014, and 18 in 2013)
– 4 days in Rhode Island (0 in 2014, and 7 in 2013)
– 3 days in Massachusetts (0 in 2014, and 6 in 2013)
– 2 days in Maine (0 in 2014, and 5 in 2013)
– 2 days in New Hampshire (1 in 2014, and 3 in 2013)
– 0 days in Vermont (0 in both 2014, and 2013).

ENN: Top Stories