Archive for December, 2013

Crop yields plateau as demand for food soars, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 17, 2013   View Article

On about one-third of the world’s agricultural lands, farmers have maxed out the amount of rice, wheat and corn they can grow, according to a new study. The finding suggests a limit to the benefits of the so-called green revolution and portends hard work ahead to feed ever more, and more affluent, people.

A side effect of the plateauing — and in some instances, declining — crop yields is that more land will be required to meet food demand, as can be seen in the 8 percent expansion of agriculture area since 2002, much of it into rain forests, wetlands and grasslands, the study found.

Algae converted to crude oil in less than an hour, energy department says

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 17, 2013   View Article

The day when planes, trucks and cars are commonly revved up on pond scum may be on the near horizon thanks to a technological advance that continuously turns a stream of concentrated algae into bio-crude oil. From green goo to crude takes less than an hour.

The goo contains about 10 percent to 20 percent algae by weight. The rest is water. This mixture is piped into a high-tech pressure cooker where temperatures hover around 660 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of 3,000 pounds per square inch in order to keep the mixture in a liquid phase.

Melting ice a ‘sleeping giant’ that will push sea levels higher, scientist says

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 13, 2013   View Article

By the time today’s preschoolers are babysitting their grandkids, global sea levels are likely to be pushing 2 feet higher than they are now and on the way to topping 8 feet above current levels by the year 2200, according to a new study.

The finding stems from geologic evidence that allowed scientists to tease apart a natural background pattern of how fast and how high sea levels rose as ice ages came and went over the past 2 million years.

Today’s pace of sea level rise is about twice as fast compared to historical standards, the team concluded. Going forward, seas will be pushed higher as rising temperatures force the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to disintegrate, glaciers around the world to retreat toward mountaintops, and warming ocean waters to expand, the study notes.

Abandoned mine could yield clues to stopping global warming

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 10, 2013   View Article

An abandoned mine in California is providing scientists with important data that could lead to a possible new weapon to fight global warming.

Massive amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide vacuumed from smokestacks or the air could be permanently locked up in a type of tight, magnesium-rich rock found in the mine, according to scientists. One tricky part is to break up the rock to make room for the greenhouse gas. And that may require violence.

Extremely rare orchid ‘rediscovered’ on a remote island

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 10, 2013   View Article

An incredibly rare species of butterfly orchid has been “rediscovered” in the Azores, a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.

The species is so rare that it may be confined to a single mountaintop forest, according to a researcher associated with the find.

It’s one of three species of butterfly orchid that scientists found flowering on the Azores.

Five distinct humpback whale populations identified in North Pacific

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 4, 2013   View Article

Five distinct populations of humpback whales ply the North Pacific Ocean each year between winter breeding and summer feeding grounds, according to a new study. The finding adds a layer of complexity to ongoing efforts to conserve the majestic marine mammals.

Humpback whales are found throughout the world’s oceans. In the North Pacific, they number more than 21,000 today, up from less than 1,000 at the end of commercial humpback whaling in 1966. “That is a great thing,” Scott Baker, a marine biologist with Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, told NBC News.

Harsh carbon fee needed to avert disaster, warns top climate scientist

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 3, 2013   View Article

Time is almost out to avoid a climate catastrophe that would leave today’s children and future generations with a world starkly different from the one that nurtured civilization for the past 10,000 years, according to one of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.

Left unchecked, for example, rising global temperatures could soon cross thresholds that melt enough ice in Greenland and Antarctica to drown all of the world’s existing coastal cities in rising seas.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach