November 20, 2019

    The rocks could trap around a quarter of the nitrogen found in Earth’s ecosystems
    Rocks contain 26% of the nitrogen in natural ecosystems - short science news

    A new source of nitrogen was just discovered and this could greatly improve climate change projections. This new source is represented by the Earth’s bedrock which stores 26% of the available nitrogen. The previously unknown source is used as a nutrient by plants from various ecosystems. Moreover, it may have an important impact on the planet’s carbon cycle. It might allow forests and other green lands to eliminate more CO2 from the atmosphere, having thus an impact on the environment.

    Read the full story: University of California, Davis
    Scientific publication: Science

    Crustaceans such as shrimps and lobsters are a delicacy, but fishing them has a negative impact on the environment
    Shrimp and lobster fishing have a negative impact on climate - short science news - environment news

    Shrimp and lobsters are in higher demand than ever, but this is bad news for the climate. The fishing vessels produce carbon dioxide and this has been rising by 28% from 1990 to 2011, according to a new study. This happened despite the fact that fishing boats are now more “green” (more fuel efficient). However, the fishing process in itself requires a higher than usual fuel consumption, therefore having a stronger negative impact on the environment. The study raises awareness about this issue and the results should make us think twice before ordering our shrimp meal in a restaurant.

    Read the full story: Sciencemag
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change

    Methane gas accumulates in the atmosphere and this leads to an increasing greenhouse effect
    First direct measurements proving increasing greenhouse effect caused by methane - short science news - Earth news, environment

    For the first time, researchers have directly measured the increasing greenhouse effect of methane at the surface of our planet. The study tracked the warming effect of methane over 10 years. It was suspected previously that methane is an important greenhouse gas, and now this is proven by the measurements. The researchers believe this type observations can provide a more accurate and complete picture of the relationship between atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and their warming effect on Earth’s surface.

    Read the full story: Berkeley Lab
    Scientific publication: Nature Geoscience

    With expanding deserts, arable land is disappearing
    Sahara desert is expanding

    Scientists have found that the Sahara desert is now 10% bigger than it was in 1920. The reasons for this expansion are sought in global warming and natural climate cycles such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. With the trend that African summers are getting hotter and rainy seasons are drying out, less arable land to cultivate crops will become available in the region while the world population continues to grow. The expanding Sahara desert, and probably other subtropical deserts as well, can thus have devastating consequences for human welfare.

    Read the full story: University of Maryland
    Scientific publication: Journal of Climate

    Several species of ammonoids were lost and others became smaller over a period of 700.000 years before mass extinction occurred
    Mass extinction announces itself

    Fossil records have shown that the biggest mass extinction ever, around 250 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary, was preceded by extinctions on smaller scale and reduced body size of marine animals. These early signs of mass extinction were already visible 700.000 years before the actual mass extinction happened, due to volcanic activity and global warming. There are parallels with extinction and reduced body size of animals today, which has been ascribed to global warming caused by human activities.

    Read the full story: Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
    Scientific publication: Geology

    Arctic winter time sea ice extent is the second lowest ever recorded
    Arctic sea ice continues to decline

    NASA reports that the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice was reached on March 17, and amounted to 14.48 million square kilometres (5.59 million square miles). This is the second lowest maximum on record, fitting in the trend that the surface of sea ice is diminishing. This has been ascribed to global warming, with more ice melting in the summer, and less ice forming in the winter. Less sunlight is therefore reflected, thus accelerating global warming even further.



    Read the full story: NASA

    Metabolites released by a plant's roots determine which bacteria species will thrive in the soil
    To the root of it all: plants decide which soil microbes will grow

    Plants influence the makeup of their soil microbiome by releasing metabolites from their roots. Not only that, by doing so they can favour the growth of some bacteria species, but not others. By trying to control which microbes thrive at their roots, plants could for instance protect themselves from pathogens,or promote the growth of particular species for nutrient supply. These new observations suggest it should be possible to optimize plant-microbiome connections for better soil quality and higher plant yield in agriculture.

    Read the full story: University of California, Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature Microbiology

    Plastics are accumulating in the oceans in higher amounts than previously thought
    Plastic soup in the Pacific 16 times bigger than previously thought

    By using new aerial and naval survey methods, researchers found that the accumulation of plastics in the Pacific between Hawaii and California amounts to 79 thousand tonnes, a figure 16 times higher than previously estimated. The now reported high amount of plastics in the ocean is mostly due to improved measuring techniques, but also shows that the accumulation of plastics in the surveyed zone, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is increasing exponentially and faster than in surrounding waters.

    Read the full story: The Ocean Cleanup Foundation
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Changes in forests due to drought could further amplify climate change. Picture Credit : pexels
    Climate change is amplified by drought-induced changes in forests- short science articles

    A shift in temperature and rainfall due to climate change is also causing changes in the abundance of tree species such that not only the forests start looking different, but also induce further climate change. Researchers have found that years of drought have reduced forest biomass, such that trees that are more tolerant to drought which are also slower growing are more abundant now. However, these trees also have a reduced capacity to store carbon since they store more carbon in the roots but less in the leaves and barks which normally sequester more carbon. This could further magnify the effects of climate change.

    Read the full story: University of Florida
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Could the earth survive long enough without alternative green energy
    It could take 400 years to change the energy system

    The UN has asserted that the world needs to cut 70% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to prevent increasing temperature by 2 degrees. About 15 years ago Ken Caldeira from Carnegie Institute projected that we would need to add a nuclear plant's worth of clean energy every day between 2000 and 2050 to avoid any catastrophic climate change. However, we are grossly underdoing this which could mean that it could take 400 years to overhaul the energy systems of the earth. While some say that cutting emissions could shrink the global economy by a few percents, the real danger is that if we do not control warming, the GDP of the world could be slashed by as much as 20%.

    Read the full story: MIT technology Review

    Melt water lake in Greenland with fractures around it. Image: Timo Lieber
    Greenland ice sheet is leaking away

    The lakes that form on the Greenland ice sheet during summer appear to drain fast, just in a few hours, through more than a kilometer of ice. Huge quantities of water and heat arrive at the base of the ice sheet, thus accelerating ice flow by as much as 400% and opening more fractures on the surface. This starts a chain reaction that can drain many other lakes, some as far away as 80 km. Thus, draining of lakes is not an isolated event, but rather a phenomenon of a massive network of lakes, posing a serious threat to the stability of the Greenland ice sheet and causing sea water levels to rise.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Artist representation of Kerygmachela kierkegaardi that lived in the Cambrian era. Credit: Apokryltaros at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons
    Fossilized brains of sea predator that lived 520 million years ago discovered - short paleontology science news

    Kerygmachela kierkegaardi is the name of a prehistoric marine monster that lived 520 million years ago. Researchers have recently discovered 15 fossilized brains that belonged to the extinct animal. The discovery is impressive (some of the oldest brain fossils ever found) and it will help understand how the brain developed over time. The animal had a brain of around 25 cm (10 in) with only one segment. It was less complex than its living relatives, the lobsters or the spiders. 

    Read the full story: LiveScience
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Ash from dinosaur-era volcanoes might have created fossil fuels.
    Thank volcanoes from dinosaur-era for the oil and gas of today.

    Ever wonder when were the oil and natural gas deep inside the earth were first created. Well, it seems that the nutrient-laden ash coming from huge volcanoes towards the end of dinosaur-era triggered a series of events which ultimately lead to the formation of these fossil fuels. Scientists noticed that the ash layer seemed to be associated with shale gas and oil deposits and this ash had the same micronutrients as the volcanoes laying the foundation of their theory.

    Read the full story: Rice University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Raw diamond. Impurities tell scientists a lot, but bring jewelers little
    Water found in a diamond from 800 km (500 miles) below the Earth’s crust

    By studying inclusions in diamonds that had been formed deep within the Earth’s mantle, researchers found traces of crystallized water, a direct proof of the presence of liquid water 500 miles, or 800 km, deep in the Earth. Scientists can now create more accurate models of what is happening in the interior of our planet, including an estimation of the extent to which water reservoirs in the Earth’s mantle contribute to the global water budget.

    Read the full story: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    Scientific publication: Science

    Permafrost contains carbon-rich organic material such as dead leaves
    Thawing of permafrost will release massive amounts of carbon

    Before this century is over, thawing of permafrost in the northern parts of the Arctic is predicted to unleash huge quantities of carbon-based greenhouse gases, according to a new study led by NASA. Total carbon emissions during a three hundred year period will be ten times as important as those provoked by human use of fossil energy sources. The Southern part of the Arctic, although already thawing up, will contribute less, as more plants will start to grow there that will take up carbon dioxide form the atmosphere during photosynthesis.

    Read the full story: Jet Propulsion Laboratory – California Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: The Cryosphere

    Some glaciers are not sensitive to temperature changes, but to precipitation
    Shrinking, not growing, glaciers during the last ice age

    Some glaciers in high mountain ranges in the Gobi desert in Mongolia shrank during the last ice age. This surprising finding of a recent study is explained by a lack of precipitation, and increased sublimation (ice transforming into water vapor) under the influence of sunlight. These particular glaciers in Mongolia are thus less sensitive to temperature shifts, but very sensitive to precipitation. The results show that glacier length cannot always be taken as measure of ambient temperature.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Quaternary Science Reviews

    Reduction of air pollution more than pays for Paris Agreement implementation
    Paris Climate Agreement costs a lot, but saves more

    Implementing the Paris Climate Agreement will reduce air pollution and related disease and death, a new modelling study shows. By estimating the beneficial effects on human health in the US, EU, China, India, and the rest of the world, reduction of health care costs will globally outweigh 1.4 to 2.45 times the costs that are inherent to implementation of the Agreement. All regions will benefit in this analysis, especially China and India, independently from reduction of any other damages due to climate change.

    Read the full story: Basque Centre for Climate Change
    Scientific publication: The Lancet Planetary Health

    Spring is arriving earlier all over the globe, but this is more visible in polar regions
    Spring comes earlier, especially in polar regions - short science news

    A new study shows that spring seasons are beginning earlier, but this depends strongly on the region on Earth. A new study estimates that for every 10 degrees of latitude north of the equator spring comes four days earlier than 10 years ago. Thus, in the Arctic regions spring is now beginning 16 days earlier, whereas at mid-latitudes it comes only one day earlier (as it is the case for Los Angeles or Dallas). It is difficult to predict how this accelerated springtime will influence plants and animals. The effects on migratory birds are a potential concern.

    Read the full story: University of California, Davis
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Treating crops and soil to capture sufficient CO2 from the atmosphere is unrealistic
    Carbon emissions cannot be locked in the ground to stop global warming

    While the idea of locking carbon in the soil’s organic matter to take CO2 from the atmosphere has been met with applause and converted into policy in many countries, new research shows the impossibility of this solution to halt climate change. To reach the desired increase of carbon sequestration of 4 ppm, drastic, impractical measures would have to be taken. The study identified four major problems: (1) the lack of necessary resources for farmers (like manure, but the increased use of manure would lead to massive nitrate pollution), (2) some practices favouring the locking of carbon in the soil are already in place, (3) practices are uneconomic for farmers, and (4) practices are undesirable for global food security. 

    Read the full story: Rothamsted Research
    Scientific publication: Global Change Biology

    Wind turbines and solar panels in a rapeseed field
    US could reliably meet 80% of its required energy from solar and wind power generation

    By analysing 36 years’ worth of weather data, scientists have calculated that solar and wind power generation can cover as much as 80% of the US energy demand. This is much more than the estimation of five years ago, which was 20 to 30%. The remaining 20% seems difficult to realise, due to rapidly increasing storage capacity problems and costs.

    Read the full story: University of California Irvine
    Scientific publication: Energy & Environmental Science

    After vacant land is restored people report reduced perception of crime, including gun violence
    Gun violence reduced by restoring vacant and neglected urban lots - short science news

    Approximately 15% of the land in U.S. cities is vacant land, often in need of restoration. Scientists report for the first time a relationship between urban vacant land and violence. They analyzed 541 vacant spaces (either restored or not) and correlated this with police reports and resident interviews. After the restoration of vacant land, the study found a 29% decrease in gun violence, but also in burglaries and vandalism. Moreover, residents perceived the neighborhood as safer and more than three-quarters of the residents increased the use of their outside spaces. Thus, direct changes to vacant urban spaces may hold great promise in breaking the cycle of abandonment, violence, and fear in cities and do so in a cost-effective way that has broad, citywide scalability.

    Read the full story: Columbia University
    Scientific publication: PNAS

    Dutch fishing fleet
    Tracking commercial fishing, worldwide and in real-time

    Through a collaborative effort from academia and technological industry, fishing activity can now be monitored across the oceans in near real-time, and down to the individual vessel. The new tracking system showed that while vessels from most countries remain within the boundaries of their exclusive economic zones, boats mostly from China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are fishing on the high seas. Also, politics, cultures and economics appear to play a more important role in fishing behaviour than natural cycles of fish such as migration. The new tracking system provides insightful data that can be used to develop sustainable fishing activities.

    Read the full story: UC Santa Barbara
    Scientific publication: Science

    Prophet Isaiah depicted in the Cathedral of Brussels, Belgium
    The secrets of Prophet Isaiah’s seal uncovered by archaeologists - short science news

    In an article in Biblical Archaeology Review Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist associated with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced the discovery of a clay seal that appears to bear the name of the biblical prophet Isaiah, who lived in the eighth century BC. The 2,700-year-old seal impression was unearthed in the Ophel, an ancient fortified area located at the base of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Isaiah is one of the most important Old Testament prophets, who predicted the birth of Jesus Christ. The researcher argues that the inscription on the seal should be translated as “belonging to the prophet Isaiah”. In other words, this small clay nugget preserves what might be called the “signature” of the biblical prophet.

    Read the full story: The Conversation
    Scientific publication: Biblical Archaeology Review

    Coral reefs may be facing erosion with increasing acidification of the oceans
    Another threat for coral reefs : erosion

    Coral reefs may suffer from erosion within the next thirty years as a result of acidification of the oceans, a new study found. Acidification dissolves the sand that is building and supporting the coral reefs, and slows coral growth. Acidification is a consequence of industrial CO2 emissions, as one third of CO2 is taken up by the oceans. Erosion through acidification is a new threat to coral ecosystems, in addition to coral bleaching.

    Read the full story: Southern Cross University
    Scientific publication: Science

    Przewalski’s horses are not wild horses
    All wild horses are extinct

    Przewalski’s horses are not the latest wild horse species on Earth, as believed until today, but are descendents from horses that have been domesticated in northern Kazakhstan about 5.500 years ago. This surprising finding, obtained through DNA analysis, thus indicates that all wild horses are extinct.

    Read the full story: University of Kansas
    Scientific publication: Science

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