Geochemical analysis from the last ice age may hold clues for future climate change and preparedness strategies

Stalagmites from Lake Shasta Caverns (LSC) – located in northern California within an important transitional climate zone between the Pacific Northwest and southwestern United States—hold geochemical clues to help researchers understand how climate changed during the end of the last ice age (14,000—37,000 years ago) and predict what may happen amid climatic changes in modern times.

Research: Crop plants are taking up microplastics

Microplastics (MPs), i.e., tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in length, can now be found throughout the ocean and other aquatic ecosystems, and even in our seafood and salt. As MPs have become ubiquitous, scientists have become concerned about the transfer of MPs from the environment to the food chain and the potential impact of MPs on human health.

Global methane emissions soar to record high

Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record. Increases are being driven primarily by growth of emissions from coal mining, oil and natural gas production, cattle and sheep ranching, and landfills.

Study finds less impact from wildfire smoke on climate

New research revealed that tiny, sunlight-absorbing particles in wildfire smoke may have less impact on climate than widely hypothesized because reactions as the plume mixes with clean air reduce its absorbing power and climate-warming effect. In a unique megafire study, a Los Alamos National Laboratory-led research team studied the properties of smoke from Arizona’s massive Woodbury Fire last summer using a powerful set of observing techniques.

Sea surface temperature has a big impact on coral outplant survival

Global average sea surface temperatures have risen at unprecedented rates for the past three decades, with far-reaching consequences for coral reefs. Today, the majority of coral reefs are surviving at their upper thermal limit and an increase in just one degree Celsius lasting longer than a few weeks can lead to coral bleaching and death. With projections of ocean warming expected to continue to rise by as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century, scientists are in a race against time to find new solutions to sustain reefs.

Study looks at life inside and outside of seafloor hydrocarbon seeps

Microbial cells are found in abundance in marine sediments beneath the ocean and make up a significant amount of the total microbial biomass on the planet. Microbes found deeper in the ocean, such as in hydrocarbon seeps, are usually believed to have slow population turnover rates and low amounts of available energy, where the further down a microbe is found, the less energy it has available.

A ‘regime shift’ is happening in the Arctic Ocean, scientists say

Scientists at Stanford University have discovered a surprising shift in the Arctic Ocean. Exploding blooms of phytoplankton, the tiny algae at the base of a food web topped by whales and polar bears, have drastically altered the Arctic’s ability to transform atmospheric carbon into living matter. Over the past decade, the surge has replaced sea ice loss as the biggest driver of changes in uptake of carbon dioxide by phytoplankton.

Lead fallout from Notre Dame fire was likely overlooked

On April 15, 2019, the world watched helplessly as black and yellow smoke billowed from the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The fire started just below the cathedral’s roof and spire, which were covered in 460 tons of lead—a neurotoxic metal, dangerous especially to children, and the source of the yellow smoke that rose from the fire for hours. The cathedral is being restored, but questions have remained about how much lead the fire emitted into the surrounding neighborhoods, and how much of a threat it posed to the health of people living nearby.

Assessing the impact of human-associated release of nitrogen into the environment

An international team of researchers that includes the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has conducted an impact assessment of the huge amounts of human-associated nitrogen that are released into the environment every year. In their paper published in the journal Nature Food, the group describes attempting to measure the amounts of human-associated nitrogen that is released into the environment and the impact it has.

Scientists urge caution, further assessment of ecological impacts above deep-sea mining

Interest in deep-sea mining for copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese and other valuable metals has grown substantially in the last decade and mining activities are anticipated to begin soon. A new study, authored by 19 marine scientists from around the world, argues that deep-sea mining poses significant risks, not only to the area immediately surrounding mining operations but also to the water hundreds to thousands of feet above the seafloor, threatening vast midwater ecosystems.

Tree rings show unprecedented rise in extreme weather in South America

Scientists have filled a gaping hole in the world’s climate records by reconstructing 600 years of soil-moisture swings across southern and central South America. Along with documenting the mechanisms behind natural changes, the new South American Drought Atlas reveals that unprecedented widespread, intense droughts and unusually wet periods have been on the rise since the mid-20th century. It suggests that the increased volatility could be due in part to global warming, along with earlier pollution of the atmosphere by ozone-depleting chemicals. The atlas was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A quarter of the world’s lowland population depends critically on mountain water resources

Global water consumption has increased almost fourfold in the past 100 years, and many regions can only meet their water demand thanks to essential contributions from mountain regions. By the middle of this century, 1.5 billion people, almost a quarter of the world’s lowland population, will strongly depend on runoff from mountain regions. Only sustainable development can ensure the important function of mountains areas as Earth’s “water towers” in the future.

Nitrogen pollution policies around the world lag behind scientific knowledge

National and regional policies aimed at addressing pollution fueled by nitrogen lag behind scientific knowledge of the problem, finds a new analysis by an international team of researchers. Its work, which appears in the journal Nature Sustainability, reveals how governmental regulations favor nitrogen use for commercial enterprise over curbing its environmental impacts.