Environment

Better Weather Forecasts Based on ‘Butterfly Effect’

To take advantage of the butterfly effect, a new forecasting approach treats the weather as random and uses historical data to force the forecast to reflect a realistic climate. (Robert Claypool/CC BY 2.0)
To take advantage of the butterfly effect, a new forecasting approach treats the weather as random and uses historical data to force the forecast to reflect a realistic climate. (Robert Claypool/CC BY 2.0)

The atmosphere is so unstable that a butterfly flapping its wings can, famously, change the course of weather patterns. This so-called “butterfly effect” also means...




  • Heavy metals make their way into the plastic products when the metals used as catalysts during production or when recycled plastic is exposed to metals during the reclamation process. (Mr.TinDC/CC BY-ND 2.0)

    ‘Safe’ Plastics Leach Toxins When They Break Down

    Trace amounts of toxic substances used to make plastics don’t contaminate the food or beverages they contain and pose no immediate threat to consumers. That’s... Read more

  • (Youtube/SumOfUs)

    Stop Starbucks from Killing the Planet

    It’s a place that many of us hit up almost every day, whether it’s for a cappuccino, flat white or something sweeter and more exotic... Read more

  • "After the 1973 oil embargo, vehicle manufacturers achieved major improvements in the on-road fuel economy of vehicles," says Michael Sivak. "However, the slope of the improvement has decreased substantially since 1991." (mocker_bat/iStock)

    Fuel Economy Has Barely Nudged Since 1991

    The fuel economy of the actual vehicles on US roads has only improved by less than a mile per gallon over the last 25 years—partly... Read more

  • "We need to understand how these glaciers are moving and how they are melting at their front. If we want to answer those questions, we need to know what's occurring with the meltwater being discharged from the glacier," says Timothy Bartholomaus. (Credit: ravas51/CC BY-SA 2.0)

    ‘Icequake’ Sensors Track Tidewater Glacier Melt

    Researchers for the first time have used seismic sensors to track meltwater flowing through glaciers and into the ocean, an essential step to understanding the... Read more

  • "Foresters and ecologists have long gauged the severity of drought from tree mortality that happens the same year," says James S. Clark. "But the damage suffered during drought sets in motion a decline that can kill trees years later." (Klaus Hollitzer/iStock)

    Drought Can Kill Trees for Years and Years

    The fact that drought kills trees is well known. But a new study of nearly 29,000 trees at two research forests in North Carolina shows... Read more

  • All that precious heat is going to waste. (Matt Buck, CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Time to Tap in to an Underused Energy Source: Wasted Heat

    Millions of people worldwide can’t afford to keep their homes warm, but few realise the heat wasted in our energy system could provide the answer... Read more

  • FILE - In this July 12, 2015 file photo, people cool down in a fountain beside the Manzanares river in Madrid, Spain. (AP Photo/Oscar del Pozo, File)

    Feeling the Heat: Earth in July Was Hottest Month on Record

    WASHINGTON—Earth just keeps getting hotter. July was the planet’s warmest month on record, smashing old marks, U.S. weather officials said. And it’s almost a dead... Read more

  • (StoykoSabotanov/iStock)

    Insecticide Changes Helpful Spider’s ‘Personality’

    Insecticides that are sprayed in orchards and fields across North America may be more toxic to spiders than scientists previously believed. For a new study,... Read more

  • In this Friday, Aug. 7, 2015 photo, Christos Chrysiliou, left, director of architectural and engineering, Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD, and Peter Yee, senior project manager, examine an outdated central air conditioner unit at the John Marshall High School in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

    California Measure Fails to Create Green Jobs

    SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Three years after California voters passed a ballot measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in... Read more

  • A Chinese traffic police man wears a mask at a security checkpoint near the site of an explosion in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. New explosions and fire rocked the Chinese port city of Tianjin on Saturday, where one survivor was pulled out and authorities ordered evacuations within a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) radius to clean up chemical contamination. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    China’s Air Problem Is Worse Than You Think

    The Chinese government is working hard to deal with its air, water, land, food-supply, and other sustainability challenges. So it’s a race between how hard... Read more

  • A black bear is seen at the Maine Willdlife Park in New Gloucester, Maine, on July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

    Add Black Bears to the List of Things Terrified of Drones

    It’s already an established fact that drones can be of great annoyance to humans: whether you’re the secret service, a California firefighter, or just a... Read more

  • 20150803-SolarEnergy-SamiraBouaou-3630

    Brooklyn Homeowner Tackles the Difficult Path to Solar

    NEW YORK—Michael O’Malley’s Ditmas Park Victorian home is loaded with old world character and charm, humble décor mixed with antique treasures. Built in the early 1900s,... Read more

  • One more California wildfire from last year: getting more dangerous and more expensive. (USFS Region 5/CC BY 2.0)

    From Smokey Bear to Climate Change: The Future of Wildland Fire Management

    Current conditions in the West demonstrate that our U.S. fire management system is struggling and approaching a state of crisis. Spending on fighting fires has... Read more

  • Krafla geothermal power plant in Iceland. Icelanders have been using geothermal energy for years. Now researchers may make it much more efficient. (Nameless86/iStock)

    Iceland Hits the Geothermal Jackpot. Is Japan Next?

    Iceland has been using geothermal energy to generate electricity for decades. In 2008, however, engineers discovered a reservoir of extremely hot water that has the... Read more

  • After Northern California fires like the Angora Fire in 2007, scientists are seeing species from drier, warmer areas increasingly taking over, says Jens Stevens. "It's a long process, but forest disturbance, be it thinning or wildfire, has the potential to hasten those shifts." (Steven Belcher/CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Wildfires Push Plants to Move North

    As California wildfires burn tree canopies and forest floors, plants commonly found in more southern areas of the western United States are moving in. For... Read more

  • FRAZIER PARK, CA - MAY 7: Dead and dying trees are seen in a forest stressed by historic drought conditions in Los Padres National Forest on May 7, 2015 near Frazier Park, California. According to an aerial survey conducted by the U.S. Forest Service in April, about 12 million trees have died in California forestlands in the past year because of extreme drought. The dead trees add to the flammability of a drying landscape that is increasingly threatened by large, intense wildfires. In some areas where extremely hot wildfires have occurred, as in the 437-square mile Cedar fire that burned across San Diego County in 2003, most trees have died and chaparral brush is displacing the forests and animals that rely upon them. The findings of the study were compared to similar surveys taken in July 2014. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    Extreme Droughts Weaken Trees’ Ability to Soak Up Carbon

    There’s a mystery inside trees upon which the fate of coastal cities, threatened by rising sea levels from climate change, may depend. Each year, the... Read more


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