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  • News

    Desalination pours more toxic brine into the ocean than previously thought

    Technology meant to help solve the world’s growing water shortage is producing a salty environmental dilemma.

    Desalination facilities, which extract drinkable water from the ocean, discharge around 142 billion liters of extremely salty water called brine back into the environment every day, a study finds. That waste product of the desalination process can kill marine life and...

    01/14/2019 - 10:17 Technology, Sustainability, Oceans
  • News

    A drill built for Mars is being used to bore into Antarctic bedrock

    Once destined for Mars, a prototype drill has a new mission: To bore into rocks buried deep beneath the ice in Antarctica.

    In early January, researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland took a modified version of their Martian drill to Antarctica. They’re poised to send it down to the bottom of a 651-meter deep ice borehole completed January 10 by researchers with the British...

    01/11/2019 - 14:47 Climate, Technology
  • News

    Poison toilet paper reveals how termites help rainforests resist drought

    It took hundreds of teabags and thousands of rolls of toilet paper for tropical ecologist Kate Parr and her colleagues to demonstrate that termites help tropical rainforests resist drought. Forests with more termites show more soil moisture, leaf litter decomposition and seedling survival during a drought than forests with fewer termites, the scientists report January 10 in Science.

    The...

    01/10/2019 - 14:00 Animals, Ecosystems
  • News in Brief

    Floating seabirds provide a novel way to trace ocean currents

    Seabirds are like feathered buoys. Gently rafting on the ocean’s surface, these birds go with the flow, making them excellent proxies for tracking changes in a current’s speed and direction.

    Oceanographers traditionally use radar, floating buoys or autonomous underwater vehicles to measure ocean current velocities, which can affect the climate, ecosystems and the movement of important...

    01/10/2019 - 09:00 Oceans, Ecology
  • News

    4 ways to tackle ocean trash besides Ocean Cleanup’s broken system

    Cleaning up ocean pollution is no simple task, as an effort to fish plastic out of the Pacific Ocean is revealing.

    In September, scientists launched a 600-meter-long boom meant to herd plastic debris from the great Pacific garbage patch into a net (SN Online: 9/7/18). The trash accumulation, which is twice the size of Texas, swirls in waters between California and Hawaii.

    But some...

    01/04/2019 - 15:48 Pollution
  • News

    Satellites make mapping hot spots of ammonia pollution easier

    Satellites may be a more accurate way to track smog-producing ammonia.

    It’s notoriously tricky to pinpoint accurate numbers for ammonia gas emissions from sources such as animal feedlots and fertilizer plants. But new maps, generated from infrared radiation measurements gathered by satellites, reveal global ammonia hot spots in greater detail than before. The new data suggest that...

    01/04/2019 - 07:00 Pollution, Climate
  • News

    A new way to genetically tweak photosynthesis boosts plant growth

    A genetic hack to make photosynthesis more efficient could be a boon for agricultural production, at least for some plants.

    This feat of genetic engineering simplifies a complex, energy-expensive operation that many plants must perform during photosynthesis known as photorespiration. In field tests, genetically modifying tobacco in this way increased plant growth by over 40 percent. If...

    01/03/2019 - 14:00 Agriculture, Plants, Genetics
  • Science Visualized

    Erosion has erased most of Earth’s impact craters. Here are the survivors

    When it comes to impact craters, Earth is the pauper of the solar system.

    Even with a recent, still-to-be-confirmed crater discovery under Greenland’s ice, there are fewer than 200 known impact craters on the planet. Mars, for comparison, has hundreds of thousands.

    Produced by falling space rocks, most impact craters on Earth have been wiped away over time by wind, rain, shifting...

    12/18/2018 - 06:00 Earth
  • Year in Review

    Half a degree stole the climate spotlight in 2018

    The grim reality of climate change grabbed center stage in 2018.

    This is the year we learned that the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming won’t be enough to forestall significant impacts of climate change. And a new field of research explicitly attributed some extreme weather events to human-caused climate change. This one-two punch made it clear that climate change isn’t just...

    12/17/2018 - 08:36 Climate, Science & Society
  • Year in Review

    Greenland crater renewed the debate over an ancient climate mystery

    For three years, a team of scientists kept a big secret: They had discovered a giant crater-shaped depression buried beneath about a kilometer of ice in northwestern Greenland. In November, the researchers revealed their find to the world.

    They hadn’t set out to find a crater. But in 2015, glaciologists studying ice-penetrating radar images of Greenland’s ice sheet, part of an...

    12/17/2018 - 08:27 Earth, Climate, Paleontology