Metal-Eating Microbes Who Breathe Methane

Featured Image: Murky pond in Alaska with “rusty” iron-filled sediments. Image courtesy Jessica Buser. Used with permission.

Paper:  Sulfate- and iron-dependent anaerobic methane oxidation occurring side-by-side in freshwater lake sediment

Authors: Alina Mostovaya, Michael Wind-Hansen, Paul Rousteau, Laura A. Bristow, Bo Thamdrup

The table has been set and the food is all prepared. But this is no ordinary dinner party, it’s a microbe party! The guests sit down and proceed to dig into the main course; sulfur, rusty iron, and methane. Curiously, the guests are feeding each other, not themselves! This image seems pretty weird to us humans, but it’s a delight to these microbes. This collaborative method of eating occurs in pond and lake mud all around the world. In a new study, Mostovaya and colleagues describe one such feast in Danish Lake Ørn, that is not only collaborative but may mitigate climate change.

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Carbon to carbonates: capturing CO2 with rocks

Featured image: a field of basalt in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (National Park Service, public domain)

Paper: Potential CO2 removal from enhanced weathering by ecosystem respnses to powdered rock
Authors: Daniel S. Goll et al.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations pledged to work toward a common goal of limiting global warming to less than 2°C compared to pre-industrial times. The Agreement doesn’t specify how the signatories should do this, though: levy a carbon tax? Shut down coal-fired power plants? Use a stainless steel straw? According to the best available climate science, we will need to be doing all of the above and then some. In fact, meeting the target of the Paris Agreement will require negative emissions, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere via some form of Negative Emissions Technology (NET).

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Highway Maintenance “Drives” Carbon Release in Forests

Featured Image: Forest and highway between Trójmiasto and Gdynia, Northern Poland. Image courtesy Robin Hammam.

Paper: The proximity of a highway increases CO2 respiration in forest soil and decreases the stability of soil organic matter

Authors: Dawid Kupka, Mateusz Kania, Piotr Gruba

There has been a lot of talk about transportation as of late with America’s “Build Back Better Act”.  While these political decisions are partially informed by scientific research around climate change, particularly in the United States (where 30% of greenhouse gas emissions result from transportation by road, rail, and air each year), the negative impacts of transportation infrastructure on the climate and local ecosystems are often lost in political discussions.  In a new study in Scientific Reports, Kupka and colleagues discuss the broader impacts of highway maintenance on nearby forest soil ecosystems, finding that roadways themselves can increase carbon dioxide emissions by disrupting local carbon cycles.

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The Charney Report vs IPCC6: What’s changed in climate science in the last 40 years?

NASA satellite image of Earth from space, showing California wildfire smoke visible in the atmosphere.

Papers: Carbon Dioxide and Climate, a Scientific Assessment by Charney et. al (1979);
Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis by the IPCC (2021)

Right now in Glasgow, Scotland, representatives of world governments and other parties are currently gathering yet again to negotiate political solutions to climate change at COP26. This is the 26th semi-annual Conference of the Parties on climate change, but the history of our understanding of the problem — and attempts to deal with it — goes back even further than that. Speaking strictly of the science of global warming and its effects, what do we know now that the participants of the first COP did not?

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What can a delta’s history tell us about groundwater’s future?

Feature image: Mosiac of the the Ganges Delta in false color created with imagery from the Sentinal 2 satilite. CC-By Annamaria Luongo, via Wikimedia Commons


Article: Linking the Surface and Subsurface in River Deltas—Part 2: Relating Subsurface Geometry to Groundwater Flow Behavior
Authors: Xu, Z., Hariharan, J., Passalacqua, P., Steel, E., Paola, C., & Michael, H. A.

Deltas are striking features on Earth’s surface, where rivers meet large water bodies. Their flow spreads out into many channels, depositing the sediment they have been carrying, potentially since their headwaters. This sediment creates and sustains the delta, which can be hundreds of miles across. Beyond being mesmerizing, deltas are essential to human civilization, past and present. Nearly half a billion people live on deltas around the world, where the deposited sediment hosts some of the most fertile agricultural land available.

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ExxonMobil and Climate Change Communications: A Case Study in Propaganda

Feature image from Pixabay

Article: Rhetoric and Frame Analysis of ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications

Authors: Geoffrey Supran & Naomi Oreskes


It’s no secret that ExxonMobil is a major architect of the climate crisis. The oil giants have allocated incredible amounts of time and resources to undermining climate science while continuing to pollute the planet. Now, a recent One Earth publication by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes unpacks the way Exxon has so successfully spread propaganda while borrowing techniques from another destructive industry: that of tobacco. Exxon and other oil companies (often supported by powerful right-wing think tanks) have embarked on a propaganda campaign that has morphed from outright denial into a campaign aimed at distracting us, dividing political opinion, and convincing us that climate action is hopeless. Supran and Oreskes delve into the evolution of Exxon’s harmful contribution to this narrative.

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Ancient trees tell the story of modern climate change

Featured Image: Larch trees.  Image courtesy North Cascades National Park, used with permission.

Paper: Spring arctic oscillation as a trigger of summer drought in Siberian subarctic over the past 1494 years

Authors: Olga V. Churakova Sidorova, Rolf T. W. Siegwolf, Marina V. Fonti, Eugene A. Vaganov, Matthias Saurer

Seemingly straight out of a fairytale, ancient trees are able to convey details about Earth’s complex history to the scientists willing and able to listen.  Deep in the Siberian Arctic lie the secrets of past weather events, ocean currents, and droughts that occurred thousands of years ago, locked away in petrified wood and in the oldest living larch trees.  We often hear in the news how the Siberian forest is victim to extreme drought and fire—something that is new as of the recent century.  But how “new” are these events, and what exactly is perpetuating this new cycle? 

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How does smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. change the regional climate?

Feature image from Pixabay

Article: Biomass Burning Smoke and Its Influence on Clouds Over the Western U. S.

Authors: C. H. Twohy, D. W. Toohey, E. J. T. Levin, P. J. DeMott, B. Rainwater, … & E. V. Fischer

The area burned by wildfires has been increasing in the western U.S. in recent years and is expected to continue to increase due to climate change. In fact, a large wildfire is currently burning in Sequoia National Park in California, threatening to impact some of the largest and oldest living trees in the world. While wildfires directly impact people, wildlife, and the environment in many ways, a lesser-known impact, involving clouds, can influence the regional weather and climate.

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Doubling Electricity Production by Storing it!

Pumped Hydro Storage

Paper: The value of CO2-Bulk energy storage with wind in transmission-constrained electric power systems

Authors: Jonathan D. Ogland-Hand, Jeffrey M. Bielicki, Benjamin M. Adams, Ebony S. Nelson, Thomas A. Buscheck, Martin O. Saar, Ramteen Sioshansi

Some storage solutions give back more than we put in

Energy is lost when batteries charge. This is the case for most energy storage solutions – we get out less than we put in. Some storage solutions, however, give back more than we put in, such as hydro-power dams. In these dams, energy is stored as elevated water (potential energy), and rivers add more water (more energy). An international team of researchers recently described an underground storage solution which could more than double the electricity put in and also help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

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Throwing Earth Off Balance: Evidence Grows that Our Planet is Heating Up Faster than in the Past

Feature image: A satellite looks down at the surface of Earth. Image from Unsplash 

Paper: Satellite and Ocean Data Reveal Marked Increase in Earth’s Heating Rate

Authors: N. G. Loeb, G. C. Johnson, T. J. Thorsen, J. M. Lyman, F. G. Rose, and S. Kato

At the most fundamental level, what causes climate change? Simply put, climate change is a symptom of an energy imbalance with more energy coming into Earth’s atmosphere than is able to go out. This imbalance drives changes in our climate system that scientists around the world study, including warming temperatures, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and coral reef bleaching. Using two different kinds of observational data, a recent study has found evidence that the energy imbalance is increasing, which suggests climate change will only worsen.

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