Pennsylvania Food Waste to Renewable Energy Assessment

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The specific objectives of this study were to:

  • quantify current industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) food waste generation and diversion within Pennsylvania (the Commonwealth);
  • compile a comprehensive inventory of anaerobic digestion (AD) and compost facilities accepting ICI food waste and the current quantities of food waste being processed;
  • identify any additional food waste processing capacity available within these existing AD and compost facilities;
  • estimate the reduction in GHG emissions resulting from the current level of diversion of ICI food waste from landfill;
  • estimate the amount of biogas currently produced from processing ICI food waste via AD and estimate how much additional biogas could be produced by increasing ICI food waste diversion using existing infrastructure; and
  • identify best practices for expanding existing AD/compost processing capacity and encouraging additional diversion programs in order to further increase the diversion of food waste, reduce the amount of emissions occurring from landfilling food waste, and increase renewable energy generation.

Prairie Research Institute offers applied science internships for summer 2022

In collaboration with the Graduate College’s Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), the Prairie Research Institute is offering hands-on summer internships that will enable undergraduate students from populations underrepresented in graduate study at Illinois to explore careers in applied science. This opportunity is open to students at any undergraduate institution. 

During the 10-week summer program, interns will be immersed in hands-on field and lab projects, led by PRI scientists, for 30 to 40 hours each week. Interns also will participate in other professional and career development activities and will learn about the pathway to graduate study. As a capstone, each student will present at the Illinois Summer Research Symposium.

Each summer intern will receive:

  • a $4,000 stipend
  • funds to cover travel to/from Urbana-Champaign
  • on-campus housing and meals, plus supplies for workshops and symposiums

There are opportunities in atmospheric science and climate; biology, ecology, and environmental science; geology; sustainable energy; and water supply and safety. To see all of the internship options and to apply, visit

A vivid view of extreme weather: Temperature records in the U.S. in 2021

Read the full story from the New York Times.

Temperatures in the United States last year set more all-time heat and cold records than any other year since 1994, according to a New York Times analysis of Global Historical Climatology Network data.

A plain pine coffin and eco-friendly cremation are the last acts of Desmond Tutu

Read the full story from NPR.

Desmond Tutu, the anti-apartheid leader and Anglican archbishop emeritus, died last Sunday in Cape Town, South Africa. Despite his monumental status, he requested a humble sendoff in a pine coffin without extravagant spending on the services. And in his last act as a champion of the environment, his remains will undergo aquamation, an eco-friendly alternative to traditional cremation.

Panasonic to use Redwood’s recycled materials in battery cell production at Tesla gigafactory

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

Panasonic battery cells made at the Gigafactory it operates with Tesla will use more recycled materials by the end of 2022 as part of an expanded partnership with startup Redwood Materials.

What Sci-Hub’s latest court battle means for research

Read the full story in Nature.

Delhi court will scrutinize whether the pirate paper website falls foul of India’s copyright law. The verdict could have implications for academic publishers further afield.

The Lord God Bird and dozens of other species declared extinct in 2021

Read the full story in The Revelator.

This year scientists identified birds, lizards, orchids and other species that have been lost. How many more will follow?

Tornadoes and climate change: What a warming world means for deadly twisters and the type of storms that spawn them

Tornadoes are hard to capture in climate models. Mike Coniglio/NOAA/NSSL

by John Allen, Central Michigan University

The deadly tornado outbreak that tore through communities from Arkansas to Illinois on the night of Dec. 10-11, 2021, was so unusual in its duration and strength, particularly for December, that a lot of people including the U.S. president are asking what role climate change might have played – and whether tornadoes will become more common in a warming world.

Both questions are easier asked than answered, but research is offering new clues.

I’m an atmospheric scientist who studies severe convective storms like tornadoes and the influences of climate change. Here’s what scientific research shows so far.

Climate models can’t see tornadoes yet – but they can recognize tornado conditions

To understand how rising global temperatures will affect the climate in the future, scientists use complex computer models that characterize the whole Earth system, from the Sun’s energy streaming in to how the soil responds and everything in between, year to year and season to season. These models solve millions of equations on a global scale. Each calculation adds up, requiring far more computing power than a desktop computer can handle.

To project how Earth’s climate will change through the end of the century, we currently have to use a broad scale. Think of it like the zoom function on a camera looking at a distant mountain. You can see the forest, but individual trees are harder to make out, and a pine cone in one of those trees is too tiny to see even when you blow up the image. With climate models, the smaller the object, the harder it is to see.

Tornadoes and the severe storms that create them are far below the typical scale that climate models can predict.

What we can do instead is look at the large-scale ingredients that make conditions ripe for tornadoes to form.

A woman stands in the back of truck working on a LiDAR system
A researcher with NOAA and the Oklahoma Cooperative Institute prepares a light detection and ranging system to collect data at the edge of a storm. Mike Coniglio/NOAA NSSL

Two key ingredients for severe storms are (1) energy driven by warm, moist air promoting strong updrafts, and (2) changing wind speed and direction, known as wind shear, which allows storms to become stronger and longer-lived. A third ingredient, which is harder to identify, is a trigger to get storms to form, such as a really hot day, or perhaps a cold front. Without this ingredient, not every favorable environment leads to severe storms or tornadoes, but the first two conditions still make severe storms more likely.

By using these ingredients to characterize the likelihood of severe storms and tornadoes forming, climate models can tell us something about the changing risk.

How storm conditions are likely to change

Climate model projections for the United States suggest that the overall likelihood of favorable ingredients for severe storms will increase by the end of the 21st century. The main reason is that warming temperatures accompanied by increasing moisture in the atmosphere increases the potential for strong updrafts.

Rising global temperatures are driving significant changes for seasons that we traditionally think of as rarely producing severe weather. Stronger increases in warm humid air in fall, winter and early spring mean there will be more days with favorable severe thunderstorm environments – and when these storms occur, they have the potential for greater intensity.

What studies show about frequency and intensity

Over smaller areas, we can simulate thunderstorms in these future climates, which gets us closer to answering whether severe storms will form. Several studies have modeled changes to the frequency of intense storms to better understand this change to the environment.

We are already seeing evidence in the past few decades of shifts toward conditions more favorable for severe storms in the cooler seasons, while the summertime likelihood of storms forming is decreasing.

Destruction of buildings for blocks after the tornado hit Mayfield.
The December tornadoes destroyed homes and buildings in communities from Arkansas to Illinois and claimed dozens of lives, including people in Mayfield, Ky. Scott Olson/Getty Images

For tornadoes, things get trickier. Even in an otherwise spot-on forecast for the next day, there is no guarantee that a tornado will form. Only a small fraction of the storms produced in a favorable environment will produce a tornado at all.

Several simulations have explored what would happen if a tornado outbreak or a tornado-producing storm occurred at different levels of global warming. Projections suggest that stronger, tornado-producing storms may be more likely as global temperatures rise, though strengthened less than we might expect from the increase in available energy.

The impact of 1 degree of warming

Much of what we know about how a warming climate influences severe storms and tornadoes is regional, chiefly in the United States. Not all regions around the globe will see changes to severe storm environments at the same rate.

In a recent study, colleagues and I found that the rate of increase in severe storm environments will be greater in the Northern Hemisphere, and that it increases more at higher latitudes. In the United States, our research suggests that for each 1 degree Celsius (1.8 F) that the temperatures rises, a 14-25% increase in favorable environments is likely in spring, fall and winter, with the greatest increase in winter. This is driven predominantly by the increasing energy available due to higher temperatures. Keep in mind that this is about favorable environments, not necessarily tornadoes.

What does this say about December’s tornadoes?

To answer whether climate change influenced the likelihood or intensity of tornadoes in the December 2021 outbreak, it remains difficult to attribute any single event like this one to climate change. Shorter-term influences like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation may also complicate the picture.

There are certainly signals pointing in the direction of a stormier future, but how this manifests for tornadoes is an open area of research.

John Allen, Associate Professor of Meteorology, Central Michigan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Journals adopt AI to spot duplicated images in manuscripts

Read the full story in Nature.

A few publishers are using automated software to catch flaws in submitted papers.

A smart bird feeder turns backyard birdwatching into a game

Read the full story at Springwise.

Bird Buddy is making birdwatching fun and engaging for a wider audience. The company is also working hard to ensure the smart birdfeeder doesn’t come with security issues. Images with people are automatically discarded and users are guided during setup to point their feeder at bushes or trees. The feeder is also the right product at the right time – helping people to engage with wildlife while at the same time building a community around that engagement. The feeders can be pre-ordered for $199, but you will need to wait – Bird Buddies are sold out until June 2022.