The Earth911 Reader collects and comments on useful news about science, business, sustainability, and recycling to save you time.
The Stratosphere Is Reshaping Extreme Weather Globally
The polar vortex, a frigid weather pattern that circles the North Pole, is splitting and will send icy weather into Canada and the northern U.S. This week, Phys.org reports that a weather researcher, Daniela Domeisen of ETH Zurich’s Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, has linked the high-altitude stratosphere to extreme weather around the planet. Domeisen’s research confirms cold air moving far above the top clouds contributes to cold snaps and droughts at ground level. The mechanism for the transfer of energy between layers of the atmosphere is not yet well understood. “Our research is about understanding these global interactions so we can then use what we learn to improve weather and climate models,” Domeisen said. In related news, researchers in China reported that they analyzed water vapor concentrations and temperature in clouds to predict extreme precipitation. As we gain greater insight into the Earth’s atmosphere, humanity will have more tools to address global warming.
Regions Prone to Water Shortages Could Double Drought Severity
A research team has complete an analysis of the water cycle and found that terrestrial water storage capacity is heavily impacted by global warming. By the end of the century, the amount of land and number of people affected by drought could “more than double,” according to Nature Climate Change. For example, they found the Amazon river basin is becoming drier as temperatures rise. The American Southwest is also receiving less rainfall and retains less water than before greenhouse gas emissions began. As people migrate to find water supplies, they will come into conflict with one another. The methodology developed for this research will assist in identifying drought risk. Still, only human action to reverse global warming can prevent the geopolitical consequences of widespread drought.
Food Waste Made Into Graphene Safely Without Emitting Toxins
The sheer volume of food waste is a global problem. As much as 40% of the food grown in the U.S. is sent to landfills annually. What if it could be turned into useful materials? Rice University researchers have developed a method for converting food waste into graphene, a material with many applications in advanced materials and low-carbon concrete. Since the concrete industry contributes as much as 8 percent of annual human emissions, the breakthrough is notable. Graphene is used in electronics, advanced materials, and to strengthen metals, making them lighter to reduce, for example, vehicle or plane emissions. The material previously cost as much as $200,000 a ton to produce. The Rice team said it could produce graphene by flash-burning it at high temperatures with a process that is “quick and cheap.” Adding graphene to concrete…
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