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Let’s do offshore wind power the right way!

‘It is essential to identify where whales, dolphins and other species occur to help avoid adverse impacts and to continue to monitor their response to the construction and operation of wind turbines’

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Offshore wind turbines could provide most of the power for North American cities.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many of the conflicts between energy development and wildlife protection developed because there wasn’t enough upfront planning. Researchers with the University of Maryland say similar issues relating to offshore wind energy can be minimized with early monitoring.

“As the number and size of offshore wind developments increases, there is a growing need to consider the consequences and cumulative impacts of these activities on marine species,” said Helen Bailey, lead author and research assistant professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

“It is essential to identify where whales, dolphins and other species occur to help avoid adverse impacts and to continue to monitor their response to the construction and operation of wind turbines,” Bailey said. Continue reading

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Study: Natural gas boom won’t slow global warming

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Increase in global gas production likely to displace renewable low carbon energy

Staff Report

FRISCO — Increasing production of natural gas won’t save the world from global warming, researchers said this week.

In the long run, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas is likely to displace not just coal, but  also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use, the study found.

“The effect is that abundant natural gas alone will do little to slow climate change,” said lead author Haewon McJeon, an economist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Global deployment of advanced natural gas production technology could double or triple the global natural gas production by 2050, but greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow in the absence of climate policies that promote lower carbon energy sources.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: Amphibians now facing huge viral threat

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Amphibians are facing a new viral threat.

Study documents mass die-offs in Spain

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the deadly chytrid fungus that has been wiping out frogs and salamanders for a few decades, there’s a new emergent threat to amphibians.

Researchers from the UK and Spain are tracking severe disease and mass deaths in many amphibian species in the mountains of northern Spain, where common midwife toads, common toads and alpine newts are taking the biggest hit, showing levels of population collapse which could ultimately prove catastrophic to amphibian communities and their ecosystems. Continue reading

Unhealthy mercury levels found in 25 percent of U.S. streams

These rainbows may not break any records, but they were caught in Dillon Reservoir, where it can sometimes be notoriously tricky to land fish.

Is there mercury in your trout?

National assessment by USGS pinpoints regional mercury hotspots

Staff Report

FRISCO — Widespread mercury contamination is one of the many signs of continued global environmental degradation. Currently, there are fish consumption advisories for mercury in all 50 states in the U.S. Methylmercury concentrations in fish exceed the human health criterion in about one in four U.S. streams.

A new USGS report takes a comprehensive look at mercury contamination in streams across the United States, finding the highest concentrations in the Southeast and in the West, where some streams were degraded by historic mining activities.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in fish to levels of concern for human health and the health of fish-eating wildlife. Much of the mercury originates from combustion of coal and can travel long distances in the atmosphere before being deposited. This can result in mercury-contaminated fish in areas with no obvious source of mercury pollution. Continue reading

GAO report finds lagging response to ocean acidification

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Ocean acidification is an existential threat to many marine species and ecosystems.

Federal government has failed to implement several key steps required by 2009 law

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal agencies well recognize the environmental threats of increasing ocean acidification, but so far, the response has been lackluster at best, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report issued this week, the GAO said federal agencies have been slow in implementing several requirements of the 2009 Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, including outlining the budget requirements for implementing the research and monitoring plan. Continue reading

Study says odds are sea level will rise 3 feet by 2100

Denmark-based research team seeks to pinpoint ice sheet melt factor

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Large parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast could be swamped by rising seas.

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Coastal tidal flooding is already causing transportation problems near Venice, Louisiana, USA. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — Developing accurate projections for sea level rise has been an elusive, high-priority goal for climate scientists. It’s certain that sea level will keep rising for centuries to come. But it’s not clear at what rate and pace that will happen, especially during the next few decades as coastal communities try to prepare.

Some factors, like thermal ocean expansion, can be established with some accuracy but researchers still aren’t sure exactly how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to warming.

In the latest number-crunching, scientists with the Niels Bohr Institute established that there’s little chance sea level will rise more than 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) by 2100. The results are published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters. Continue reading

Environment: $627 million restoration plan finalized to repair some of the damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds targeted for restoration

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Nearly four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation disastrously failed and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA and its partners have finalized a $627 million restoration plan. The formal record of decision released last week authorizes 44 projects to restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

This announcement marks the largest suite of Gulf early restoration projects selected thus far in the wake of the 2010 oil spill. The projects aim to address a range of injuries to natural resources and the subsequent loss of recreational use. Details of restoration efforts are outlined in the Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Continue reading

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