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Climate

It’s no secret that volcanic eruptions can cool the planet by spewing ash and droplets of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere that obscure the sun. Now researchers at Germany’s GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Harvard University have found evidence that suggest the reverse could also be true. The researchers have discovered a strong historical link between global temperature increases and increases in volcanic activity. Read More
Recently, drought seems to be a fact of life. As the lead photograph poignantly illustrates, most of the U.S. has been struggling with serious levels of drought for the past several years. Worldwide, drought affected areas include Europe, India and Pakistan, Russia, much of Africa, South America – the list goes on. But when the rains start again, everyone expresses great relief, not realizing that long-term depletion of groundwater reserves is part of the price for surviving drought. It was with this in mind that GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), a joint U.S. and German space project, was designed a decade ago. Read More
A team of physicists from the University of Oregon (UO) has calculated that cooling the emissions from coal-fired power plants would result in a reduction of the levels of dangerous chemicals entering the atmosphere, including CO2, by 90 percent. While cryogenic treatment would also see a 25 percent drop in efficiency, and therefore result in electricity costs increasing around a quarter, the researchers believe these would be offset by benefits to society, such as reductions in health-care and climate-change costs. Read More

Some clever cross-referencing has helped an international team of researchers establish a link between low periods of solar activity and frosty European winters. The Sun's level of magnetic activity follows an 11-year cycle. Peaks in this cycle pose a threat to telecommunications and electricity networks and it's long been suspected that there's a correlation between the opposite end of the cycle and extreme winters in Europe. A lack of historical average temperature data makes it difficult to confirm this link, but scientists have filled the gap by studying the comings and goings of 19th Century riverboats on the Rhine. Read More

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is an unlikely entrant in the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival. Its “Perpetual World” animation may have failed to appeal to the judging committee of the 2011 edition of the competition, but it sure succeeded in catching our eye. The jaw-dropping animation visualizes the flow of surface ocean currents around the world. The raw data regarding the currents from June 2005 through to December 2007 has been turned into a work of art reminiscent of van Gogh. Read More
It's long been suggested that white rooftops could help reduce the heat bubble microclimates that surround our cities simply by reflecting solar radiation directly back into space, and in 2010 we reported on NCAR efforts to demonstrate the effect through computer modeling. A new study goes one better, putting the theory into practice and pitting three white materials against one another on three New York rooftops. The results of the study appear to be overwhelmingly positive, with white roof coatings reducing peak rooftop temperatures in summer "by an average of 43 degrees Fahrenheit (about 24 degrees C)." Read More
In the face of potentially catastrophic effects on global food production, some have proposed drastic solutions to counteract climate change such as reflecting sunlight away from the Earth. A new study from the Carnegie Institution for Science examining the effects of sunshade geoengineering has concluded that such an approach would be more likely to improve food security than threaten it. Read More
The first joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA that will study the chemical makeup of the martian atmosphere is scheduled for 2016. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter marks an unprecedented alliance between the two agencies for future ventures to Mars and is the first in a planned series of joint missions leading to the return of a sample from the surface of the Red Planet. Scientists worldwide were invited to propose the spacecraft’s instruments and the ESA and NASA have now made their selections. Read More
How do we get a good picture of what trees are where, how they are affecting or contributing to the environment, and what problems they might be susceptible to in today's changing world? The main problem with recording this vital information is (to borrow a line) “tree people like planting trees, they don't like entering data.” So why not throw the task open to the local community? The Urban Forest Map is a one-stop repository using information contributed from any willing group or individual and aims to engage community participation to build a complete, dynamic picture of the urban forest. Read More
Scientists in the US have been cloud-spotting over shipping lanes and have noticed something more interesting than teddy-bear shapes and faces. They have detected that rising steam from passing ships has caused brightening in the clouds which they theorize alters the reflectivity of the cloud and prevents the energy from reaching the Earth. They propose that if this could be achieved artificially via geoengineering it could be an effective defense against global warming. Read More
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