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climate

Hurricanes suppressed by air pollutants

Understanding how often devastating tropical storms like Superstorm Sandy occur, and how humans may play a role in their frequency, is a major goal among climate scientists. Now, a new study indicates that aerosols may suppress storm formation over the Atlantic. Thus, researchers say, more frequent storms at the end of the last century might have been an unintended side effect of cleaning up the air.

26 Jun 2013

The past is key to the future: Historical observations strengthen modern science

 

Written records of natural phenomena come from personal journals and diaries, newspaper accounts, ship logs and government documents, among other sources. Such accounts often offer descriptive details and context that cannot be matched by other methods, and they can prove extremely useful in broadening records both temporally and geographically. Given that they predate the sort of widespread instrumental readings that scientists have come to depend on, sometimes there is simply — and literally — no substitute for historical data. Despite their advantages, historical records are used infrequently in modern physical sciences. That may be changing, however.

29 May 2013

Highlights of 2012: Climate 2012 - A window into what to expect for 2013 and beyond?

July 2012 was the hottest month by far for the lower 48 states. Much of the nation faced drought conditions that grew steadily worse throughout the summer, and there were major repercussions for crop yields and food prices. Wildfires were also rampant. The record low snowpack in May 2012 in the Colorado Rockies set the stage for major wildfires in June, with more than 600 homes lost in Colorado alone. Wildfires developed in other regions in July as well, as tremendous record-breaking heat developed in Oklahoma and surrounding areas. Considered individually, the record temperatures, droughts, fires and diminished snowpack are not necessarily alarming and may not signal anything beyond the natural occurrence of a hotter-than-average year. But combined, these indicators are much more significant from a climate standpoint. They highlight that there is more than just natural variability playing a role: Global warming has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future. So, what can we expect?

25 Nov 2012

Voices: Geologists on the wrong side of the law

We live in a litigious society. Engineering and environmental geologists are no strangers to the legal system. They frequently deal with issues relating to geologic hazards such as active faults and unstable ground, the release of contaminants into the environment and numerous other circumstances. But for the most part, geoscientists tend to avoid legal battles. Is that changing?

03 Dec 2010

A Dirty SecretChina's greatest import: Carbon emissions

The U.S. and much of the Western world have a dirty secret.

While we claim to be working diligently to decrease our emissions and switch to cleaner, non-fossil fuel energies, we are actually just exporting emissions to other countries, most notably China. We don’t talk about it. We get on our soapboxes at international meetings and claim to be making great progress to halt ever-increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. And we complain vociferously about developing countries — again, most notably China — not doing the same.

22 Nov 2010

Voices: Greening the Gross Domestic Product

When measured in terms of annual Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, the United States is the richest country in the world, followed at a distance by China and Japan, and then several European countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The GDP — the value of all final goods and services produced in a country during a given year — is a simple computation that allows a direct comparison of wealth between countries.

01 Apr 2010

Capturing carbon from coal plants: Is it feasible?

On a remote patch of rolling plain in western North Dakota lies a massive labyrinth of buildings, tanks, towers, pipes and conveyors. This industrial behemoth — the Great Plains Synfuels Plant — is designed to turn the vast deposits of lignite coal that lie in the ground into substitute natural gas.

16 Apr 2009

Swapping one greenhouse gas for another

There are no miracle cures, it would seem. Nitrogen trifluoride is a colorless, nontoxic gas that has helped make the semiconductor industry greener by replacing a well-known greenhouse gas threat. But nitrogen trifluoride is a powerful greenhouse gas in its own right, with a potential impact on climate 17,000 times greater than carbon dioxide — and it is currently unregulated.

28 Aug 2008

Watch out Houston, Ike is coming

As residents of Galveston, Texas, scramble to evacuate before Hurricane Ike makes landfall tonight, most Houston residents have been told to stay put. But even Houston — about 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the northeast — is in for some extreme weather tomorrow.

12 Sep 2008

Highlights of 2010: Offshore wind in Texas and the curious case of Massachusetts

Humans have harnessed wind energy throughout history for milling, pumping and transportation — in a way you could say it’s the “original” form of industrial energy. But only recently have we built massive, powerful turbines to convert that wind into electricity. As concerns about pollution, carbon emissions, resource depletion and energy security mount, wind farms are an increasingly attractive alternative for meeting growing energy demand.

07 Dec 2010

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