» Pollution

Local biomass burning is a dominant cause of the observed precipitation reduction in southern Africa

Observations indicate a precipitation decline over large parts of southern Africa since the 1950s. Concurrently, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols have increased due to anthropogenic activities. Here we show that local black carbon and organic carbon aerosol emissions from biomass burning activities are a main cause of the observed decline in southern African dry season precipitation over the last century. Near the main biomass burning regions, global and regional modelling indicates precipitation decreases of 20–30%, with large spatial variability. Increasing global CO2 concentrations further contribute to precipitation reductions, somewhat less in magnitude but covering a larger area. Whereas precipitation changes from increased CO2 are driven by large-scale circulation changes, the increase in biomass burning aerosols causes local drying of the atmosphere. This study illustrates that reducing local biomass burning aerosol emissions may be a useful way to mitigate reduced rainfall in the region. Read More

Light pollution is associated with earlier tree budburst across the United Kingdom

The ecological impact of night-time lighting is of concern because of its well-demonstrated effects on animal behaviour. However, the potential of light pollution to change plant phenology and its corresponding knock-on effects on associated herbivores are less clear. Here, we test if artificial lighting can advance the timing of budburst in trees. We took a UK-wide 13 year dataset of spatially referenced budburst data from four deciduous tree species and matched it with both satellite imagery of night-time lighting and average spring temperature. We find that budburst occurs up to 7.5 days earlier in brighter areas, with the relationship being more pronounced for later-budding species. Excluding large urban areas from the analysis showed an even more pronounced advance of budburst, confirming that the urban ‘heat-island’ effect is not the sole cause of earlier urban budburst. Similarly, the advance in budburst across all sites is too large to be explained by increases in temperature alone. This dramatic advance of budburst illustrates the need for further experimental investigation into the impact of artificial night-time lighting on plant phenology and subsequent species interactions. As light pollution is a growing global phenomenon, the findings of this study are likely to be applicable to a wide range of species interactions across the world. Read More

Impact of Nuclear Shutdowns

The recent earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan has led to an international reevaluation of policies related to nuclear power. Germany has decided to shut down all nine of its nuclear powerplants by 2022, and Switzerland will shut down all five of its plants by 2032. Nuclear power currently supplies 25% of Germany’s power, 39% of Switzerland’s power, and 20% of the electricity consumed in the U.S. A new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and DAI Management Consultants, Inc. shows that these decisions are not without significant economic and environmental consequences. Shifting to other types of power plants could affect the reliability of the electricity supply, electricity costs, air pollution, carbon emissions, and the reliance on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Read More

Environmental Politics and Law (Yale Open Courseware)

Can law change human behavior to be less environmentally damaging? Law will be examined through case histories including: environmental effects of national security, pesticides, air pollution, consumer products, plastics, parks and protected area management, land use, urban growth and sprawl, public/private transit, drinking water standards, food safety, and hazardous site restoration in this free online class. In each case we will review the structure of law and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. Read More

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened concerns about the region’s future. Issues such as Arctic sovereignty claims; commercial shipping through the Arctic; Arctic oil, gas, and mineral exploration; endangered Arctic species; and increased military operations in the Arctic could cause the region in coming years to become an arena of international cooperation, competition, or conflict. This report provides an overview of Arctic-related issues for Congress, and refers readers to more in-depth CRS reports on specific Arctic-related issues. Read More

Streamlining Climate Change and Air Pollution Reporting: Final Report

The environmental policies currently being negotiated are likely to require Member State (MS) to control and report their emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and air pollutants (AP) more precisely. While there are likely to be associated costs, it is also likely that the cost of timely and targeted action will be less than the longer term cost of inaction. A number of European Union (EU) legal instruments are used to regulate emissions – several of these are under review. The review not only needs to anticipate future policy needs but also assess the alignment of the various instruments and whether the burden on users can be further minimized. Read More

Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards

This map shows states that have adopted or are planning to adopt California’s vehicle standards. Read More

Air Pollution: What’s the Solution?

Air pollution curricula with real-time data projects. Air Pollution: What’s the Solution? utilizes real time data to guide students, grades 6 – 12, to discover the science behind outdoor air pollution. The project contains exciting applications of the Internet by having students access real time atmospheric data, weather data and other sources. Students will focus on the science behind air quality issues, look for relationships and trends among the data collected via real time sources, and will examine the health impact of air pollution. Read More

CALIPSO

This cloud-watching spacecraft probes the thickness of clouds and aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere. This information, which the spacecraft has been collecting since its launch in April 2006, is important to the understanding of how the climate works, how much air pollution is present, and what’s changing in the atmosphere. CALIPSO is a joint U.S. (NASA) and French (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales/CNES) satellite mission that has been in operation for four years. Read More

Environmental Science, Environmental Chemistry, and Physics

A set of five high school science lessons on environmental chemistry and pollution. Read More

Mission

EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.

EERL & ATEEC

EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu