Photocatalyst makes hydrogen production 10 times more efficient

Hydrogen is an alternative source of energy that can be produced from renewable sources of sunlight and water. A group of Japanese researchers has developed a photocatalyst that increases hydrogen production tenfold.

ENN: Top Stories

Politicians take note (if you want our vote)… Renewables are now more popular than ever

If UK politicians want to reunite the country and garner votes they’d do well to embrace renewables in their manifestos, writes JOE WARE
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Scientists call for more precision in global warming predictions

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Researchers from Harvard University, Princeton University and the Environmental Defense Fund proposed a new, more precise way to measure the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on Earth’s climate in an article published on Thursday in the academic journal Science.

Reuters: Environment

Toronto's subways expose passengers to more air pollution than Montreal, Vancouver systems

Airborne particulates on subway platforms and trains are up to 10 times higher than outside air, around three times higher than levels in Montreal’s Metro

A new study co-authored by U of T Engineering Professor Greg Evans shows that subways increase our personal exposure to certain pollutants, even as they decrease overall emissions – and that Toronto has the highest levels in Canada.

ENN: Top Stories

A Surfer Is Killed, and Australia Asks: Do More Sharks Need to Die?

The death of a 17-year-old surfer, the 14th person killed by a shark in Australia since the start of 2012, has renewed a debate over what can be done.

Telltale Tsunami Sounds Could Buy More Warning Time

Ocean Leadership ~

Japanese tsunami

(Click to enlarge) Houses are swept by water following a tsunami and earthquake in Natori City in northeastern Japan March 11, 2011. A massive 8.9 magnitude quake hit northeast Japan, causing many injuries, fires and a ten-metre (33-ft) tsunami along parts of the country’s coastline. (Photo by REUTERS/KYODO Courtesy )

Buoys operate as today’s state-of-the-art tsunami-detection system. Seismic data can tell officials that an underwater earthquake has occurred, but strategically placed floating sensors often give the key warning if the earthquake has created a potentially devastating series of waves. Even so, warnings are often issued only minutes before a tsunami hits—if at all.

(From Scientific American / by Ryan F. Mandelbaum) — Aiming to buy more time for evacuations, scientists have begun decoding a new aspect of the sounds that underwater earthquakes produce. Sound waves can travel at upward of 1,500 meters per second through water—more than 10 times faster than a tsunami.

Usama Kadri, an applied mathematician and engineer at Cardiff University in Wales and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one these researchers. He is especially interested in the “acoustic gravity waves” that tsunami-generating earthquakes produce. These underwater sound waves have such low frequencies that gravitational forces can alter their wavelength and speed under a sudden change in pressure. In theory, these sound waves’ distinctive properties could allow scientists to tease them out from oceanic background noise. “Without acoustic gravity-wave theory, you can say for sure there’s an earthquake, but you can’t say there’s a tsunami,” Kadri says.

As outlined in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Kadri ran a simulation with data from the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. It took two hours for those waves to hit Sri Lanka, for example, but the island nation received no tsunami warning. According to the study’s calculations, if an acoustic gravity-wave-detection station with hydrophones had been 1,000 kilometers from the earthquake epicenter, that warning time could have been more than 90 minutes.

Read the full article here:

The post Telltale Tsunami Sounds Could Buy More Warning Time appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Climate Change Indicator: Arctic Ocean Getting Warmer, Becoming More Like The Atlantic

Ocean Leadership ~

A warming Arctic Ocean. (Photo credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) A warming Arctic Ocean. (Photo credit: NOAA)

A large international team of researchers has found another troubling indicator of climate change: the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole is getting warmer, and in the process, becoming more like the Atlantic Ocean to its south. Specifically, the eastern Eurasian Basin is now more ice-free and showing mixing of vertical layers of water, a phenomenon common in the Atlantic.

(From International Business Times / By Himanshu Goenka) — Record-breaking loss of sea ice has become a common feature in the Arctic every summer the last 10 years or so. Since 2011, the eastern Eurasian Basin region has been nearly free of ice at the end of every summer.

In a statement issued Thursday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said the changes in the Arctic Ocean “will have substantial impact on other components of the Arctic Ocean system. For example, it will likely enhance atmosphere-ocean interactions that affect the ocean’s heat storage and currents, change freshwater storage and export patterns, alter Arctic ecosystems and possibly change the ocean’s response to acidification.”

The researchers, led by Igor V. Polyakov from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, published a study that appeared in the journal Science under the title “Greater role for Atlantic inflows on sea-ice loss in the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean.” In the study, they say: “This encroaching ‘atlantification’ of the Eurasian Basin represents an essential step toward a new Arctic climate state, with a substantially greater role for Atlantic inflows.”

Offering a simpler explanation, Polyakov said in the statement that the number of distinct layers, as defined by temperature and salinity, in the ocean had reduced. The consequent increased mixing of nutrients among the layers could lead to changes in the local ecosystem. Also, as the warmer water from the deeper layers mixes more with the cooler layer traditionally on top, it hinders the formation of ice, even in winter months.

Read the full article here:

The post Climate Change Indicator: Arctic Ocean Getting Warmer, Becoming More Like The Atlantic appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Peru seeks more international aid to cope with extreme floods

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru needs more international aid to help hundreds of thousands of people cope with continuing floods and mudslides that have killed more than 100 people and torn apart much of the country’s infrastructure, the transportation minister said Friday.

Reuters: Environment

Ubiquitous Marine Organism Co-evolved With Other Microbes, Promoting More Complex Ecosystems

Ocean Leadership ~

Vibrio alginolyticus. (Credit: Dr. Gary Gaugler/Visuals Unlimited, Inc.)

(Click to enlarge) A new study shows a tiny bacterium’s metabolic evolution holds clues to the evolution of large, complex ecosystems. Photo: Vibrio alginolyticus. (Credit: Dr. Gary Gaugler/Visuals Unlimited, Inc.)

William Blake may have seen a world in a grain of sand, but for scientists at MIT the smallest of all photosynthetic bacteria holds clues to the evolution of entire ecosystems, and perhaps even the whole biosphere.

(From / by David L. Chandler) — The key is a tiny bacterium called Prochlorococcus, which is the most abundant photosynthetic life form in the oceans. New research shows that this diminutive creature’s metabolism has evolved in a way that may have helped trigger the rise of other organisms, to form a more complex marine ecosystem. Its evolution may even have helped to drive global changes that made possible the development of Earth’s more complex organisms.

The research also suggests that the co-evolution of Prochlorococcus and its interdependent co-organisms can be seen as a microcosm of the metabolic processes that take place inside the cells of much more complex organisms.

The new analysis is published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a paper by postdoc Rogier Braakman, Professor Michael Follows, and Institute Professor Sallie (Penny) Chisholm, who was part of the team that discovered this tiny organism and its outsized influence.

“We have all these different strains that have been isolated from all over the world’s oceans, that have different genomes and different genetic capacity, but they’re all one species by traditional measures,” Chisholm explains. “So there’s this extraordinary genetic diversity within this single species that allows it to dominate such vast swaths of the Earth’s oceans.”

Because Prochlorococcus is both so abundant and so well-studied, Braakman says it was an ideal subject for trying to figure out “within all this diversity, how do the metabolic networks change? What drives that, and what are the consequences of that?”

They found a great amount of variation in the bacteria’s “metabolic network,” which refers to the ways that materials and energy pass in and out of the organism, along its phylogeny. The fact that such significant changes have taken place over the course of Prochlorococcus evolution “tells you something quite dramatic,” he says, because these metabolic processes are so fundamental to the organism’s survival that “it’s like the engine of the system. So imagine trying to change the engine of your car while you’re driving. It’s not easily done, so if something is changing, it’s telling you something significant.”

The variations form a kind of layered structure, with more ancestral variants living deeper in the water column and more recent variants living near the surface. The team found that as Prochlorococcus started out living in the top layers of the ocean, where light is abundant but food is relatively scarce, it developed a higher and higher rate of metabolism. It took in more solar energy and used that to power a stronger uptake of scarce nutrients from the water—in effect, creating a more powerful vacuum cleaner but in the process also generating more waste, Braakman says.

Read the full article here:

The post Ubiquitous Marine Organism Co-evolved With Other Microbes, Promoting More Complex Ecosystems appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Weather conditions conducive to Beijing severe haze more frequent under climate change

Severe winter air pollution events, attributed to emissions from development, have increased in Beijing in recent decades. This study looks at how atmospheric conditions contribute and projects climate change will increase conditions favourable to such events.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate3249

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds