Nitrate Levels Rising in Northwestern Pacific Ocean

Yellow Sea. The area studied included the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. The researchers found that the phosphorus levels in the ocean water remained the same through time. (Credit: MODIS Data/NASA)

Changes in the ratio of nitrate to phosphorus in the oceans off the coasts of Korea and Japan caused by atmospheric and riverine pollutants may influence the makeup of marine plants and influence marine ecology, according to researchers from Korea and the U. S.

“Normally in a marine environment nitrate is the limiting factor, but increased nitrate in the ocean can spur growth and create a situation where phosphorus becomes the nutrient in short supply,” says Raymond G. Najjar, professor of oceanography, Penn State. “This change in nutrients could favor organisms that are better suited for high nitrate and low phosphorus.”

According to the researchers, the effects of anthropogenic nitrate pollution from the air have been shown to be significant in local lakes, streams and estuaries in Norway, Sweden and the U.S.

“This is the first evidence of increases in nitrate in ocean waters not in an enclosed estuary like the Chesapeake Bay,” said Najjar. “These are large, very deep bodies of water and it is surprising to see increased nitrate in these large seas.”

Najjar and his Korean colleagues, Kitack Lee, professor, and Tae-Wook Kim, graduate student, School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Pohang University of Science and Technology; Hee-Dong Jeong, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute; and Hae Jun Jeong, professor, School of Earth and Environmental Science, Seoul National University, studied trends in nitrate and phosphate in the coastal waters of Korea and Japan since the 1980s. They also compared the amount of nitrogen deposited from the air between 2002 and 2008 for Korea and Japan with the amounts of nitrate in the water during that same time period to show that the increased levels in the water are directly correlated to an increase in human-generated atmospheric nitrogen.

The area studied included the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. The researchers found that the phosphorus levels in the ocean water remained the same through time.

“The abundance of nitrogen relative to phosphorus in northeastern Asian marginal seas has increased significantly since 1980,” the researchers report in the Sepembert 23 online edition of Science Express. “Anthropogenic atmospheric nitrogen deposition has narrowed the deficiency of nitrogen relative to phosphorus across the study area and has even resulted in a nitrogen surplus in the East China Sea, Yellow Sea and East Sea, commencing in the mid-1990s.”

The other source of nitrate into the oceans is from runoff from industry and agriculture that reaches the seas via rivers. In most cases, this nitrogen is quickly diluted.

Story Continues -> Nitrate Levels Rising in Northwestern Pacific Ocean

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Biodegradeable products may be more harmful to the environment

by Emma Woollacott

Think you’re doing the right thing by using biodegradeable products? Think again. Research from North Carolina State University shows that they’re actually doing more harm than good, by releasing a powerful greenhouse gas as they break down.

“Biodegradable materials, such as disposable cups and utensils, are broken down in landfills by microorganisms that then produce methane,” says Dr Morton Barlaz. “Methane can be a valuable energy source when captured, but is a potent greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only about a third of municipal solid waste goes to landfills that capture methane for energy use. Another third is captured and burned off-site, and the rest allowed to escape.

“In other words,” Barlaz says, “biodegradable products are not necessarily more environmentally friendly when disposed in landfills.”

Story Continues -> Biodegradeable products may be more harmful to the environment

Don””t Blame Dairy Cows for (Greenhouse) Gas Emissions, New Study Shows

A new study by the University of Arkansas and Michigan Tech shows that the dairy industry — including this Jersey cow — is responsible for only about 2 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions. (Credit: Photo by Stephen Kennedy, courtesy of the Innovation Center for the US Dairy)

Forget all the tacky jokes about cow flatulence causing climate change. A new study reports that the dairy industry is responsible for only about 2.0 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, led by the University of Arkansas in association with Michigan Technological University, measures the carbon footprint of a gallon of fluid milk from farm to table and uses 2007 and 2008 data from more than 500 dairy farms and 50 dairy processors, as well as data from more than 210,000 round trips transporting milk from farm to processing plant. It was commissioned by the Innovation Center for the US Dairy, an industry-wide group.

The University of Arkansas addressed carbon emissions from the dairy to the milk in your cereal bowl. The Michigan Tech group looked further upstream. “We focused on the carbon footprint of the feed crops,” said chemical engineering professor David Shonnard, director of the Sustainable Futures Institute. “Animal feed is a major contributor to carbon emissions.” Using US Department of Agriculture data, Shonnard””s team, including PhD student Felix Adom and four undergraduates (Ashely Maes, Charles Workman, Zachary Bergmann and Lilian Talla), analyzed the impact of variables ranging from fertilizer and herbicides to harvesting and transportation. “We also looked at a Michigan feed mill, where grain gets combined with any of over a hundred different additives,” he said.

The team concluded that the cumulative total emission of greenhouse gases associated with all fluid milk consumed in the US was approximately 35 million metric tons in 2007. While the emissions are lower than sometimes reported, there is still room for improvement for dairy farms and businesses of all kinds, the study concluded. In particular, manure management, feed production and enteric methane (cow gas) were cited as areas that are ripe for innovation on farms. Energy management provides the greatest opportunity in the processing, transportation and retail segments.

The project has also raised other dairy-related issues that Shonnard””s group is investigating. They are studying the eutrophication of water — what happens when nutrients such as manure and fertilizers get into surface water, causing an overbloom of algae that sucks oxygen from the water and kills fish. The team is also investigating water consumption and land use in the dairy industry. “Growing crops is becoming more productive all the time, and we may be able to use less land to satisfy demand,” Shonnard said.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Michigan Technological University. The original article was written by Marcia Goodrich.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101018163743.htm

What''''s the Life Expectency Of Your Home''''s New Technology?

Photo via sanberdoo

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

How long can you expect new gadgets you bring into your home to last? From appliances to wireless network devices, we should have a better idea of how many years we can expect it to run without problems, so that we can make smart purchasing decisions. But beyond a two-year or five-year warranty, it can be a mystery just how long a dishwasher is expected to keep cleaning efficiently. Thankfully, the National Association of Home Builders has released a new study detailing the lifespans of many of our home””s electronics. So…about how long can you expect to have that new fridge?

The Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components lists everything from building materials to technology and is current for 2007 items. Technology has already changed a bit in just three years, but it””s still pretty accurate in terms of lifespan. Many of our major household appliances and gadgets will last over a decade, which is excellent when it comes to keeping what we have for as long as possible. It notes items such as:

Appliances:
* Dishwasher: 9 years
* Food Waste (“Garbage”) Disposer: 12 years
* Microwave Oven: 9 years
* Electric Range: 13 years
* Gas Range:15 years
* Range/Oven Hoods: 14 years
* Compact Refrigerator: 9 years
* Standard Refrigerator: 13 years
* Freezer: 11 years
* Washer: 10 years
* Electric Dryer: 11 years
* Gas Dryer: 10 years
* Furnaces: 15 to 20 years
* Tankless Water Heater: 20+ years
* Electric Water Heater: 11 years
* Gas Water Heater: 10 years

Devices:
* Built-In Audio System: 20 years
* Security Systems: 5 to 10 years
* Heat/Smoke Detectors: 5 to 10 years
* Wireless Home Networks: 50+ years
* Home Automation Systems: 50+ years

Unpluggd writes, “These figures might come in handy when you””re deciding whether to repair or replace an appliance or home system. If your tech is near the end of its projected useful life, it might be best to go brand-new.”

While we always back the idea of repairing what you have until it””s past even the miracle work of duct tape, it””s true that especially for home appliances, when it starts to reach the end of it””s useful life, it””s probably greener to replace it with a new energy star model rather than keep letting it run. For example, refrigerators last about a decade, but the technology and efficiency of today””s fridges can drastically show up the technology from 10 years ago. That means recycling the old and replacing with something new and highly efficient can be the best route.

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/10/whats-the-life-expectancy-of-your-homes-new-technology.php

HOT reactor cleans up in China

The HOT reactor (the silver-colored tank left of center) at the Lake Taihu cleanup site in China (Image: Honde LLC)

By Darren Quick

Just under a year ago we reported on a method to clean polluted water and soil by infusing them with pressurized ozone gas microbubbles. The process was developed by Andy Hong at the University of Utah and has now moved out of the lab and is being put the test in a demonstration project in eastern China. If all goes to plan the process has the potential to boost a wide range of environmental cleanup efforts around the world.

The process, which Hong calls heightened ozonation treatment (or HOT), exposes pollutants and makes them easier to remove. Its uses include removing oil and gas byproducts from water, removing organics and heavy metals from industrial sites, and removing harmful algae from lakes.

The China project has seen the University of Utah partner with Honde LLC, a large Chinese environmental cleanup company, and the Chinese government to remediate an industrial site on the shore of Lake Taihu. The large lake is located adjacent to Wuxi, a major Chinese industrial city west of Shanghai with a population of about 4.5 million. Lake Taihu is polluted by numerous contaminants as it receives runoff from across the region, which is dotted with polluted factory sites that results in nutrients collecting in the lake that feed harmful algae.

“The lake requires extensive environmental cleanup after years of neglect,” Hong says. “We hope this restoration project will be the first among many to come for the area. We are fortunate that the Chinese government is aggressively cleaning up this area and willing to tackle challenging issues with new techniques that haven”t been used anywhere else. This is a great opportunity for us and China.”

The focus of the project, which began in September and is expected to last three months, is removing heavy metals and other contaminants from the soil. The centerpiece of the effort is a HOT reactor – a pressurized metal vessel that produces ozone microbubbles. The reactor is currently being used to treat soil, but it can also be used to treat water, algae or sewage waste.

The HOT reactor is placed on the site to be cleaned and filled with contaminated soil. Organic contaminants (hydrocarbons) are removed first by repeatedly pressurizing and depressurizing the reactor with ozone gas, creating microbubbles that degrade the hydrocarbons. Metal contaminants then are removed by adding a chelating agent to extract them, then adding lime to precipitate the contaminants so they can be filtered out and then disposed of.

“The clean soil will be used for tree planting on public lands, and the water is recycled and reused in subsequent batches of soil cleanup,” Hong says.

If the demonstration is successful, Hong expects the project to be replicated at other sites for different types of contaminants around Lake Taihu. He also expects his new method to be applied in the United States and other countries across the world. To that end, in addition to Honde, the technology has been licensed by 7Revolutions Energy Technology Fund – an investment company based in Salt Lake City and a University of Utah startup – which has started a company to explore using the technology in North America and elsewhere.

http://www.gizmag.com/hot-reactor-cleans-up-in-china/16654/

Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth''s Temperature, New Modeling Study Shows

Various atmospheric components differ in their contributions to the greenhouse effect, some through feedbacks and some through forcings. Without carbon dioxide and other non-condensing greenhouse gases, water vapor and clouds would be unable to provide the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect. (Credit: NASA GISS)

Water vapor and clouds are the major contributors to Earth”s greenhouse effect, but a new atmosphere-ocean climate modeling study shows that the planet”s temperature ultimately depends on the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide.

The study, conducted by Andrew Lacis and colleagues at NASA”s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, examined the nature of Earth”s greenhouse effect and clarified the role that greenhouse gases and clouds play in absorbing outgoing infrared radiation. Notably, the team identified non-condensing greenhouse gases — such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons — as providing the core support for the terrestrial greenhouse effect.

Without non-condensing greenhouse gases, water vapor and clouds would be unable to provide the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect. The study”s results are published Oct. 15 in Science.

A companion study led by GISS co-author Gavin Schmidt that has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research shows that carbon dioxide accounts for about 20 percent of the greenhouse effect, water vapor and clouds together account for 75 percent, and minor gases and aerosols make up the remaining five percent. However, it is the 25 percent non-condensing greenhouse gas component, which includes carbon dioxide, that is the key factor in sustaining Earth”s greenhouse effect. By this accounting, carbon dioxide is responsible for 80 percent of the radiative forcing that sustains the Earth”s greenhouse effect.

The climate forcing experiment described in Science was simple in design and concept — all of the non-condensing greenhouse gases and aerosols were zeroed out, and the global climate model was run forward in time to see what would happen to the greenhouse effect.

Without the sustaining support by the non-condensing greenhouse gases, Earth”s greenhouse effect collapsed as water vapor quickly precipitated from the atmosphere, plunging the model Earth into an icebound state — a clear demonstration that water vapor, although contributing 50 percent of the total greenhouse warming, acts as a feedback process, and as such, cannot by itself uphold the Earth”s greenhouse effect.

“Our climate modeling simulation should be viewed as an experiment in atmospheric physics, illustrating a cause and effect problem which allowed us to gain a better understanding of the working mechanics of Earth”s greenhouse effect, and enabled us to demonstrate the direct relationship that exists between rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and rising global temperature,” Lacis said.

Article Continues -> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101014171146.htm

Reform of Toxic Chemicals Law Collapses as Industry Flexes Its Muscles

By Sheila Kaplan

This article by investigative journalist Sheila Kaplan is the first in a series supported by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University”s School of Communication. Politics Daily will publish the remaining installments in the weeks to come.

Fire retardants in baby blankets, nano-particles in cosmetics, plastics in water bottles and anti-bacterial agents in soaps.

Experts call these and other chemicals emerging contaminants — compounds that were once thought to be safe, but which scientists now believe may pose a danger to human health.

How those chemicals get into your house — and your bloodstream — is no surprise: Loopholes in the federal law that regulates toxic chemicals have allowed manufacturers to sell them without first proving they are safe.
In recent years, however, dozens of studies — many funded by the federal government — have shown that chemicals that are ubiquitous in the environment and in consumer goods can cause cancer, wreak havoc on hormones, damage the developing brain, depress the immune system and alter gene expression-among other problems. Earlier this year, the President”s Cancer Panel reported, “The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated.” And Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which funded many of the top studies, told Congress, “Research has revealed the heightened vulnerability of fetal, infant and child development processes to disruption from relatively low doses of certain chemicals.” Birnbaum, like EPA chief Lisa Jackson, urged Congress to revamp the federal law that regulates toxic chemicals, giving the agency greater authority to protect the public.
Last fall, a group of congressional Democrats vowed to overhaul the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to make it easier for EPA to take dangerous chemicals off the market and ensure that the substitutes are safe. But one year, six congressional hearings and 10 “stakeholder sessions” later, the bills are dead, a testament to the combined clout of $674 billion chemical industry, the companies that process their compounds into air fresheners, detergents, perfumes, cosmetics, toys, medical devices and other consumer goods, and the stores that sell them. Their campaign to block reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act won out over EPA”s support, an unprecedented campaign by public health advocates fueled by the industry”s own admissions that the current law does not fully protect public health.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who introduced reform bills, say they”ll reintroduce them next year. But industry lobbyists will also be back, making it likely that the stalemate will continue — even if the Republicans don”t gain any additional seats in Congress.