Global warming: Study confirms greenhouse gas ‘fingerprint’ in distinct patterns of temperature change

Study links regional atmospheric warming with greenhouse gases. Photo courtesy NASA.

Study will anchor new IPCC climate change assessment

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just as thousand of delegates gather in Doha, Qatar for the UN’s annual climate talks, researchers are releasing a wealth of new observational data that verifies the output from existing climate models.

In recent example, a team of climate scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and colleagues from 16 other organizations compared simulations from 20 different computer models to satellite observations, finding that tropospheric and stratospheric temperature changes are clearly related to human activities.

“It’s very unlikely that purely natural causes can explain these distinctive patterns of temperature change,” said Lawrence Livemore National Laboratory atmospheric scientist Benjamin Santer, who is lead author of the paper appearing in the Nov. 29 online edition of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “No known mode of natural climate variability can cause sustained, global-scale warming of the troposphere and cooling of the lower stratosphere.” Continue reading

Microbial cleanups touted for major oil spills

A NASA photo taken May 13, 2010 from 28,000 feet shows the Deepwater Horizon oil slick spreading across the Gulf of Mexico as a light-blue sheen.

Natural and enhanced microbial degradation identified as key to minimizing impacts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Ubiquitous oil-eating microbes may be the key to cleaning up future oil spills, according to a pair of researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who studied both the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and last summer’s disastrous Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite big differences in the impacted marine ecosystems and the circumstances of these two worst oil spills in U.S. history, oil-degrading microorganisms played a significant role in reducing the overall environmental impact of both spills, the scientists said.

“Responders to future oil spills would do well to mobilize as rapidly as possible to determine both natural and enhanced microbial degradation and what the best possible approach will be to minimize the risk and impact of the spill on the environment,” said Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist with the Berkeley Lab. Continue reading

Photovoltaic systems add to home resale values

A new study suggests photovoltaic systems add to the resale value of homes. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY.

Berkeley Lab study quantifies economic benefits of solar installations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Adding a photovoltaic solar system to your home is a good environmental move, and now, new research by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that those homes sell for a premium over homes without solar systems.

“We find compelling evidence that solar PV systems in California have boosted home sales prices,” said lead author Ben Hoen, a researcher at Berkeley Lab. “These average sales price premiums appear to be comparable with the average investment that homeowners have made to install PV systems in California, and of course homeowners also benefit from energy bill savings after PV system installation and prior to home sale.”

The research finds that homes with PV in California have sold for a premium, expressed in dollars per watt of installed PV, of approximately $3.90 to $6.40/watt. This corresponds to an average home sales price premium of approximately $17,000 for a relatively new 3,100 watt PV system (the average size of PV systems in the Berkeley Lab dataset), and compares to an average investment that homeowners have made to install PV systems in California of approximately $5/W over the 2001-2009 period. Continue reading

Energy: New nanotech material could boost hydrogen fuel

This schematic shows high-capacity magnesium nanocrystals encapsulated in a gas-barrier polymer matrix to create a new and revolutionary hydrogen storage composite material. IMAGE BY JEFF URBAN.

New composite solves some of the challenges of storing enough hydrogen in a small space to make it useful as fuel for vehicles

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new composite nanotech material may speed up the development of hydrogen-based energy by storing concentrated amounts of hydrogen and releasing it easily without the application of extreme heat.

Researchers at the  U.S. Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory said their new product is a major breakthrough in materials design for hydrogen storage, batteries and fuel cells.

The material consist of nanoparticles of magnesium metal sprinkled through a polymer related to Plexiglas. This pliable nanocomposite rapidly absorbs and releases hydrogen at modest temperatures without oxidizing the metal after cycling.

One of the key applications could be to use hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles, said Jeff Urban, deputy director of the Inorganic Nanostructures Facility at the Molecular Foundry, a Department of Energy nanoscience center and national user facility located at Berkeley Lab. Continue reading

Oil spill: 126 miles of ‘severe to moderate’ shoreline impacts

More than 600 miles of the Gulf Coast are still experiencing some level of impact from the spilled oil.

Research continues on massive underwater oil plume

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Is the oil gone from the Gulf of Mexico?

Hardly, according to the latest update from the unified command center, which reported that 126 miles of shoreline are seeing moderate to heavy oil impacts. That includes 111 miles of shoreline in Louisiana, 10 miles in Mississippi, 3 miles in Alabama, and 2 miles in Florida.

Another 500 miles of shoreline, including 112 miles in Florida, are classified as experiencing light to trace oil impacts—about 229 miles in Louisiana, 94 miles in Mississippi, 64 miles in Alabama, and 112 miles in Florida.

Those figures don’t include vast quantities of oil that’s hovering 3,000 feet deep in the Gulf, according to scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who detected a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long, 1.2 miles wide and 650 feet high. Continue reading

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