Author: Laura B.

Laura L. Barnes is a librarian at the Prairie Research Institute Library, embedded at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. She founded and writes for Environmental News Bits.

Solar energy that doesn’t block the view

Read the full story from Michigan State University.

A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window…

The research was featured on the cover of a recent issue of the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

 

New Research Links Tornado Strength, Frequency to Climate Change

Read the full story from Florida State University.

New research by a Florida State University geography professor shows that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States.

Published Wednesday in the journal Climate Dynamics, Professor James Elsner writes that though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. So, for example, instead of one or two forming on a given day in an area, there might be three or four occurring.

Urban heat—not a myth, and worst where it’s wet

Read the full story at Phys.org.

A new Yale-led study quantifies for the first time the primary causes of the “urban heat island” (UHI) effect, a common phenomenon that makes the world’s urban areas significantly warmer than the surrounding countryside and may increase health risks for city residents.

Decision could boost use of popular weed killer

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

Faced with tougher and more resistant weeds, corn and soybean farmers are anxiously awaiting government decisions on a new version of a popular herbicide — and on genetically modified seeds to grow crops designed to resist it.

Critics say more study is needed on the effects of the herbicide and they are concerned it could endanger public health.

Ohio farmers point to algae law loophole

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

Ohio farmers caught in the headlights of the recent Toledo water crisis are defending their voluntary efforts to reduce phosphorus run-off to Lake Erie. That runoff is the primary source of toxic algae blooms. But Ohio farm groups and environmentalists say a new state law that will certify fertilizer use doesn’t go far – or fast – enough.

These folks feed their family with a garden in their swimming pool — and you can, too

Read the full post at Grist.

When Dennis and Danielle McClung bought a foreclosed home in Mesa, Ariz., in 2009, their new yard featured a broken, empty swimming pool. Instead of spending a small fortune to repair and fill it, Dennis had a far more prescient idea: He built a plastic cap over it and started growing things inside.

Thus, with help from family and friends and a ton of internet research, Garden Pool was born. What was once a yawning cement hole was transformed into an incredibly prolific closed-loop ecosystem, growing everything from broccoli and sweet potatoes to sorghum and wheat, with chickens, tilapia, algae, and duckweed all interacting symbiotically to provide enough food to feed a family of five.

California cemeteries dig deep to save water

Read the full post at Grist.

Californians are getting creative to cope with the state’s ongoing extreme drought —  from painting their dead lawns green to witchcraft. One of the latest casualties to the state’s water woes: its cemeteries.

Take the historic Savannah Memorial Park located in urban eastern Los Angeles County. Officials there have started replacing lawns with native plants and more drought-tolerant grasses, and using mulch and trees donated from the city to help retain moisture.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Savannah cemetery officials are trying to curb water use by 60 percent:

Michigan landfill taking other states’ radioactive fracking waste

Read the full story in the Detroit Free Press.

As other states ban landfills from accepting low-level radioactive waste, up to 36 tons of the sludge already rejected by two other states was slated to arrive in Michigan late last week.

Wayne Disposal landfill located between Willow Run Airport and I-94 near Belleville is one of the few landfills in the eastern and Midwestern U.S. licensed to accept the radioactive waste, which has been collected by a Pennsylvania hydraulic fracking operation.

As regulations tighten in other states, companies are turning to Michigan as the radioactive sludge’s dumping ground.

Modeling photovoltaic diffusion: an analysis of geospatial datasets

Carolyn Davidson et al 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 074009. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/074009

Abstract: This study combines address-level residential photovoltaic (PV) adoption trends in California with several types of geospatial information—population demographics, housing characteristics, foreclosure rates, solar irradiance, vehicle ownership preferences, and others—to identify which subsets of geospatial information are the best predictors of historical PV adoption. Number of rooms, heating source and house age were key variables that had not been previously explored in the literature, but are consistent with the expected profile of a PV adopter. The strong relationship provided by foreclosure indicators and mortgage status have less of an intuitive connection to PV adoption, but may be highly correlated with characteristics inherent in PV adopters. Next, we explore how these predictive factors and model performance varies between different Investor Owned Utility (IOU) regions in California, and at different spatial scales. Results suggest that models trained with small subsets of geospatial information (five to eight variables) may provide similar explanatory power as models using hundreds of geospatial variables. Further, the predictive performance of models generally decreases at higher resolution, i.e., below ZIP code level since several geospatial variables with coarse native resolution become less useful for representing high resolution variations in PV adoption trends. However, for California we find that model performance improves if parameters are trained at the regional IOU level rather than the state-wide level. We also find that models trained within one IOU region are generally representative for other IOU regions in CA, suggesting that a model trained with data from one state may be applicable in another state.

Eurasian milfoil, gross yet useful

Read the full story in The Journal.

It’s nice when something gross turns out to be useful (like how sheep sweat, lanolin, makes chewing gum softer.) So I’m happy to report, in answer to a reader’s question some time ago, that, yes, Eurasian milfoil harvested from area lakes can be used in helpful ways, including as a soil amendment, fertilizer and even mulch.

First, though, if you’re not sure what Eurasian milfoil is, it’s that stringy, slimy plant that those big, blue boat harvesters remove from the lakes every summer. First detected in Minnesota in Lake Minnetonka in 1987, it is an invasive aquatic species that has spread to waterways across the state. The plant produces thick mats on the surface of the water and tangled stems and masses below, making it difficult, if not impossible, to swim and boat enjoyably. It can also disturb aquatic ecosystems by displacing native aquatic plants.

Acres of milfoil are removed from Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes annually by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s mechanical harvesters. The machines usually cut off the top 3 to 4 feel of the plant, which can grow up to 15-feet long (super spooky to swim through). If you walk the paths around the lakes, you’ve probably seen (and smelled) piles of it onshore or at the boat launch.