Study eyes link between climate change and infant health


Does climate change have an effect on pregnancy and infant health?

Research in Africa suggests drought and heatwaves results in lower birth weight

Staff Report

A complex statistical analysis of health and climate data suggests there may be a link between climate change and birth weight, at least in parts of the developing world. The findings show that a pregnant woman’s exposure to reduced precipitation and an increased number of very hot days results in lower birth weight.

The two-year research project was led by University of Utah geography professor Kathryn Grace, who said the results are a clear warning that climate change may have a direct affect on public health. Continue reading

Global warming: Dust in the wind …


Dirty snow and ice at the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet. @bberwyn photo.

Study takes close look at organic debris in Arctic ice cores

Staff Report

Organic biomarkers, in the form of tiny soil and plant particles, have helped ice core scientists track climate shifts linked to changes in the Arctic Oscillation. The research suggests that global warming will lead to more dust in the Arctic, which could speed up the meltdown of sea ice and Greenland glaciers.

The study by scientists with the University of Birmingham examined organic dust  transported from Asia and deposited in the Arctic over the last 450 years. During warmer phases of the Arctic Oscillation, more dust was being deposited in the Arctic, according to the findings published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

The scientists studyied two ice-cores collected from ice-caps more than 6000 kilometers apart, one from Greenland, the other from Kamchatka, in eastern Russia.Deposits can be dated very accurately by studying the annual layers within the cores — similar to tree rings — which allow scientists to examine deposits going back many years. Continue reading

Study says big storms could swamp New York every 25 years


Tropical Storm Joaquin is a potential threat to the Eastern Seaboard, although there is still a lot of uncertainty about the storm’s exact track, according to the National Hurricane Center.

‘A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation …’

Staff Report

As Hurricane Joaquin winds up, potentially taking aim at the Eastern Seaboard, researchers are warning that the flood risk in New York City and New Jersey has grown considerably in the last 1,000 years.

When the climate researchers compared both sea-level rise rates and storm surge heights in prehistoric and modern eras, they found that the combined increases of each have raised the likelihood of a devastating 500-year flood occurring as often as every 25 years. Continue reading

Shell shuts down Arctic drilling program

Regulatory hurdles cited as part of the reason for decision


Shell Oil is giving up on drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell Oil's Arctic drill rig, Kulluk, stranded near Kodiak Island, Alaska

One of Shell’s Arctic mishaps came in 2012, when a drilling rig escaped its tow ships and ran aground. Photo via U.S. Coast Guard.

By Bob Berwyn

Shell Oil’s hotly contested Arctic oil-drilling operation will shut down for the foreseeable future, the multinational fossil fuel company announced today, drawing sighs of relief from environmental advocates who had described the exploration efforts in apocalyptic terms.

The company’s efforts have been stop-and-go for a long time. In 2013, for example, Shell announced a temporary pause in the program after a string of incidents, including failed tests of oil spill containment gear, runaway ships and notices for violations of environmental regulations. Continue reading

Lawsuit challenges secretive surge in US oil exports


Increasing U.S. oil exports seen as environmental threat by conservation groups.

Conservation groups say recent increases may be illegal

Staff Report

Conservation activists want to know why U.S. oil exports have been increasing despite a Congressional ban. According to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and ForestEthics, exports increased from 44,000 barrels per day in 2009 to 351,000 barrels per day in 2014.

The lawsuit challenges the Bureau of Industry and Security, an agency within the Department of Commerce, for withholding documents related to its oil-export approval process. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Continue reading

Forests and CO2 — It’s complicated!

One of the few lodgepole seedlings to survive the industrial clearcutting on the north shore of the Frisco Peninsula.

Climate models may be overestimating the carbon-capturing capacity of forests. @bberwyn photo.

Loss of nitrogen a key factor in forest equation

Staff Report

Forests may grow faster as atmospheric CO2 increases, but that doesn’t mean they’ll absorb more of the heat-trapping gas. Instead, a shortage of nitrogen means plants won’t be able to fix as much carbon as projected by some climate models.

“Forests take up carbon from the atmosphere, but in order for the plants to fix the carbon, it requires a certain amount of nitrogen,” said researchers Prasanth  who took a close look at the chemistry of secondary forests that are regrowing after deforestation, wood harvest and fires.

“If that ratio of carbon to nitrogen isn’t right, even if you add many times more carbon than it gets currently, the forests cannot absorb the extra carbon,” Meiyappan said. Continue reading

Study says changes in air traffic patterns could cut fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions


Airlines could save money and cut emissions by adjusting the rhythm of transatlantic flights. @bberwyn photo.

Changing flight intervals could save $10 million per year

By Bob Berwyn

Tweaking flight paths across the Atlantic could yield huge savings in fuel costs and help cut airline greenhouse gas emissions.

“If the lateral separation between the aircraft can be reduced, they can be spaced closer and remain more in line with their optimum flight paths. Overall, this would produce fuel economy as most aircraft save fuel at higher cruise altitudes,” said Antonio Trani, director of Virginia Tech’s Air Transportation Systems Laboratory and a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Trani and fellow researchers reached their conclusions after studying flight information and fuel consumption for air traffic in the North Atlantic oceanic airspace. The research is part of the Future Air Navigation System started in the 1990s that focused on communication between aircraft and air traffic control services, conducted for the Federal Aviation Agency. Continue reading


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