Smoke from wildfires can have lasting climate impact

Researchers have found that carbon particles released into the air from burning trees and other organic matter are much more likely than previously thought to travel to the upper levels of the atmosphere, where they can interfere with rays from the sun — sometimes cooling the air and at other times warming it.

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Hottest lavas that erupted in past 2.5 billion years revealed

Deep portions of Earth’s mantle might be as hot as it was more than 2.5 billion years ago, an international team of researchers has recently discovered.

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Rare tooth find reveals horned dinosaurs in eastern North America

A chance discovery in Mississippi provides the first evidence of an animal closely related to Triceratops in eastern North America. The fossil, a tooth from rocks between 68 and 66 million years old, shows that two halves of the continent previously thought to be separated by seaway were probably connected before the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

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Supercomputing helps researchers understand Earth’s interior

Geologists have created a computer model of tectonic activity so effective that they believe it has potential to predict where earthquakes and volcanoes will occur. Scientists focused on the deep mantle and its relationship to plate tectonics.

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Computer code that Volkswagen used to cheat emissions tests uncovered

An international team of researchers has uncovered the mechanism that allowed Volkswagen to circumvent US and European emission tests over at least six years before the Environmental Protection Agency put the company on notice in 2015 for violating the Clean Air Act. During a year-long investigation, researchers found code that allowed a car’s onboard computer to determine that the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test.

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With a tight federal budget, here’s where to focus clean energy research funding

The U.S. Department of Energy spends US$3-$4 billion per year on applied energy research. These programs seek to provide clean and reliable energy and improve our energy security by driving innovation and helping companies bring new clean energy sources to market. President Trump’s detailed budget request reportedly will ask Congress to cut funding for the Energy Department’s clean energy programs by almost 70 percent, from $2 billion this year to…

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Triple play boosting value of renewable fuel could tip market in favor of biomass

A new process triples the fraction of biomass converted to high-value products to nearly 80 percent, also tripling the expected rate of return for an investment in the technology from roughly 10 percent (for one end product) to 30 percent.

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Traffic-related air pollution linked to DNA damage in children

Children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have evidence of a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening, reports a new study.

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Kamchatkan volcanic ash travels half the world

Geochemical fingerprinting links microscopic ash found on the bottom of a Svalbard lake to volcanic event happening 7,000 years ago and 5,000 km away.

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Environmental pollutants in large Norwegian lakes

Scientists have discovered the presence of contaminants in the pelagic food chains in the lakes Mjøsa, Randsfjorden and Femunden in Norway, and in supplementary material of fish from Tyrifjorden and Vansjø, sampled in 2015. Mercury and persistent organic pollutants (cVMS, PCBs, PBDEs, PFAS) were analyzed in samples of fish from all lakes, as well as pelagic crustaceans in Mjøsa.

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Fueling the future

New research investigated the full life cycle impact of one promising ‘second-generation biofuel’ produced from short-rotation oak. The study found that second-generation biofuels made from managed trees and perennial grasses may provide a sustainable fuel resource.

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Sea level as a metronome of Earth’s history

Sedimentary layers contain stratigraphic cycles and patterns that precisely reveal the succession of climatic and tectonic conditions that have occurred over millennia. Researchers have been working on an analytical method that combines observing deep-water sedimentary strata and measuring in them the isotopic ratio between heavy and light carbon. They have discovered that the cycles that punctuate these sedimentary successions are ascribable to sea level changes.

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Understanding tornadoes: 5 questions answered

Editor’s note: May and June are typically peak months for tornadoes in North America. We asked Penn State meteorology professors Paul Markowski and Yvette Richardson to explain why tornadoes form, how to stay safe if you’re near one and whether climate change is affecting tornado patterns. 1. Where are tornadoes most likely to occur? Most headline-making tornadoes are spawned by what are known as supercell thunderstorms. These are large, intense…

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Smoking out sources of in-home air pollution

An ambitious study has investigated various factors that contribute to air pollution inside the house. Not surprisingly, cigarette smoke emerged as a major source of airborne particles in homes with smokers, but cleaning products, candles, frying food and marijuana smoking also jumped out as in-home air polluters. It’s the first study to identify marijuana as a significant source of in-home air pollution.

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Fake caterpillar study reveals global pattern in predation

A new study revealing the world’s prime insect predation hotspots, achieved its landmark findings using an unusual aid: plasticine ‘dummy caterpillars.’ The new study has revealed a global pattern of predation on insect herbivores. The trends observed were surprising, revealing that predatory behavior in the tropics is not driven by birds or mammals but by ants and other small arthropods.

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Antarctic has seen widespread change in last 50 years, moss study reveals

In 2013, researchers studying mosses and microbes growing at the southern end of the Antarctic Peninsula documented unprecedented ecological change over the last 50 years, driven by warming temperatures. Now, the same research group has confirmed that those striking changes in the Antarctic are widespread, occurring all across the Peninsula.

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Untangling the genetic legacy of tomato domestication

Favorable mutations that went along with increased fruit size and other beneficial traits in tomato plants do not always play well together. A study published in Cell found that natural mutations in two important tomato genes that were selected for different purposes in breeding can cause extreme branching and reduce fruit yield when they occur in the same plant. The researchers used those genes to create a tomato plant that grows more tomatoes.

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Tooth truth: Human teeth tell the story of humanity through our fragile relationship with the sun

Researchers have developed a new method to read imperfections in teeth caused by a lack of sunlight, creating a powerful tool to trace events ranging from human evolution and migration out of Africa to the silent damage of vitamin D deficiency that continues to affect 1 billion worldwide.

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Water efficiency in rural areas is getting worse, even as it improves in urban centers

A nationwide analysis of water use over the past 30 years finds that there is a disconnect between rural and urban areas, with most urban areas becoming more water efficient and most rural areas becoming less and less efficient over time.

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A recipe for concrete that can withstand road salt deterioration

Engineers have known for some time that calcium chloride salt, commonly used as deicer, reacts with the calcium hydroxide in concrete to form a chemical byproduct that causes roadways to crumble. A civil engineer is working on a new recipe for concrete, using cast-off products from furnaces, that can hold its own against the forces of chemical erosion.

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Tiger breakthrough: Camera trap time stamps provide valuable data for conservationist

Spatial capture-recapture model analysis is often used to estimate tiger abundance. A new study, however, finds that dates and times of animal detections are often not factored into the analysis. This is despite the fact that this data is available when using ‘continuous-time’ recorders such as camera-traps.

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Groundwater loss tracked during drought in California’s Central Valley

Significant groundwater loss in California’s Central Valley during the recent drought and sparks questions of sustainability for the important agricultural area, a new study reveals.

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Climate stabilization: Planting trees cannot replace cutting carbon dioxide emissions

Growing plants and then storing the carbon dioxide they have taken up from the atmosphere is no viable option to counteract unmitigated emissions from fossil fuel burning, a new study shows. The plantations would need to be so large, they would eliminate most natural ecosystems or reduce food production if implemented as a late-regret option in the case of substantial failure to reduce emissions.

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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 researchers has developed a photocatalyst that increases hydrogen production tenfold.

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Myanmar’s extensive forests are declining rapidly due to political and economic change

The loss of intact forest cover in Myanmar has accelerated over the last decade, according to a new study.

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When birds of a feather poop together: Excessive birds feces and algal blooms

Algal blooms deplete oxygen in lakes, produce toxins, and end up killing aquatic life in the lake. Researchers are tracing the role of bird feces, which are rich in phosphorus and nitrogen.

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Monarch butterfles: The problem with herbicides

Monarch butterfly populations are shrinking. New research makes a strong case that the reasons for this decline go far beyond what’s happening on the wintering grounds and addresses a current controversy about the primary causes of the specie’s decline.

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