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Around 2010, the deep waters of Utah’s Great Salt Lake contained high levels of toxic methylmercury, measurements so outrageous they warranted a rare human consumption advisory for ducks. But by 2015, 90 percent of the deep mercury was gone in a large-scale unplanned chemistry experiment, published in Environmental Science & Technology.

A Union Pacific railway line crosses the lake, dividing it into a smaller north arm and a larger south arm, with the line drawn right at the base of the bunny-ear-like northern extensions of the lake. Because the north arm has no major river inflow, it’s much saltier than the south arm. 

The difference in density between the deep and shallow waters prevented mixing, says geology and geophysics professor William Johnson, and kept fresh oxygen from infiltrating into the deeper water layers. Decaying organic matter on the lake floor sucked all the oxygen out of the briny layer, forcing microorganisms to find something else to “breathe.”

Without oxygen, some bacteria turn to fuel the chemical processes of life, transforming into iron, manganese, and finally sulfate. Residents of the Salt Lake Valley may have noticed a byproduct of the sulfate-breathing bacteria – sulfide, a stinky rotten egg smell emanating from the lake. In another side effect, the bacteria turn elemental mercury into toxic methylmercury. utah.edu
The eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, like many of the country's urban areas, suffers from intense smog. 

The Air Quality Index, which uses a scale from 0 to 500 (with higher numbers indicating worse pollution), rates Nanjing's air quality as 132 – a level considered unhealthy for the public, especially those with respiratory disease.

The Italian design firm Stefano Boeri Architetti believes that building towers covered in plants could help the city reduce its pollution.

The company recently announced that it will build two skyscrapers that will hold a total of 1,100 trees and 2,500 cascading shrubs on their rooftops and balconies.

Construction on the buildings, called the Nanjing Green Towers, began in early 2017 and is set to wrap up next year.

The design will be similar to that of a two-tower complex that Boeri designed in Milan. Another tower in Lausanne, Switzerland will follow a similar plan and is expected to open by early 2018. sciencealert.com
An Eastern Kentucky coal mining company plans to build what could become the state's largest solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop strip mine, promising jobs for displaced coal miners.

The Berkeley Energy Group and EDF Renewable Energy are exploring what they're billing as the first large-scale solar project in Appalachia. They're focused on two mountaintop-removal mining sites outside Pikeville, where engineering and feasibility studies are underway for a 50- to 100-megawatt project.

By comparison, that could be five to 10 times are big as LG&E and KU Energy's 10-megawatt solar farm at its Brown station in Mercer County. That Central Kentucky array has 45,000 solar panels on 50 acres that company officials have said can provide energy for about 1,500 homes. The Kentucky Public Service Commission last yearalso approved an 8.5-megawatt solar farm for East Kentucky Power in Winchester.

"I grew up with coal," said Ryan Johns, an executive with Berkeley, an Eastern Kentucky coal company. "Our company has been in the coal business for 30 years. We are not looking at this as trying to replace coal, but we have already extracted the coal from this area." He said it's just an extension of using that land to produce energy for the nation while putting out of work coal miners back to work. courier-journal.com
The unpredictable annual flow of the Nile River is legendary, as evidenced by the story of Joseph and the Pharaoh, whose dream foretold seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine in a land whose agriculture was, and still is, utterly dependent on that flow. Now, researchers at MIT have found that climate change may drastically increase the variability in Nile’s annual output.

Being able to predict the amount of flow variability, and even to forecast likely years of reduced flow, will become ever more important as the population of the Nile River basin, primarily in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, is expected to double by 2050, reaching nearly 1 billion. The new study, based on a variety of global climate models and records of rainfall and flow rates over the last half-century, projects an increase of 50 percent in the amount of flow variation from year to year.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, was carried out by professor of civil and environmental engineering Elfatih Eltahir and postdoc Mohamed Siam. They found that as a result of a warming climate, there will be an increase in the intensity and duration of the Pacific Ocean phenomenon known as the El Niño/La Niña cycle, which they had previously shown is strongly connected to annual rainfall variations in the Ethiopian highlands and adjacent eastern Nile basins. These regions are the primary sources of the Nile’s waters, accounting for some 80 percent of the river’s total flow. mit.edu
A Scottish engineer has been awarded $1m after he revealed that a cruise liner was illegally dumping waste. 

Christopher Keays, from Glasgow, turned whistleblower shortly after starting a new job on board the Caribbean Princess in 2013.

He discovered that a so-called "magic pipe" was being used to illegally pump oily waste into British waters.

His evidence led to US courts imposing a $40m penalty on Princess Cruise Liners. 

The US Department of Justice said it was the largest ever fine for a crime involving deliberate vessel pollution. 

Court papers reveal that Mr Keays was 27 when he took a post as a junior engineer onboard the 3,140-passenger Caribbean Princess. 

It was his first job since graduating from the Glasgow College of Nautical Studies. bbc.com
A chemistry professor in Florida has just found a way to trigger the process of photosynthesis in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time. 

The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy.

"This work is a breakthrough," said UCF Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo. "Tailoring materials that will absorb a specific color of light is very difficult from the scientific point of view, but from the societal point of view we are contributing to the development of a technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases."

Uribe-Romo and his team of students created a way to trigger a chemical reaction in a synthetic material called metal-organic frameworks (MOF) that breaks down carbon dioxide into harmless organic materials. Think of it as an artificial photosynthesis process similar to the way plants convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight into food. But instead of producing food, Uribe-Romo's method produces solar fuel. eurekalert.org
When environmentalism finally became cool in Hollywood, a team of Aussie animators arrived to tell the story of an enchanted forest endangered by humans. Facing skeptical critics, they shaped a generation. It took a decade—and the fortuitous casting of Robin Williams—for that moment to arrive for Young, and for 'FernGully: The Last Rainforest.' 

By the late 1980s, the environment had become a cause célèbre for celebs: Sting appeared on the cover of Paris Match with an Amazonian tribe chief, and Madonna threw a benefit concert in New York called “Don’t Bungle the Jungle.” “That was our window of opportunity,” says Young, who had, in the interim, produced 1986’s hit Australian export 'Crocodile Dundee'. 

'FernGully' director and Oscar-nominee Bill Kroyer, started Kroyer Films with his wife, Susan; their company grew from 16 to about 40 animators to work on 'FernGully,' its first feature, with a script from Jim Cox, who’d recently written the first two treatments for 'Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.' 

Screenwriter Cox scripted FernGully’s Batty Koda—a pop-culture quoting fruit bat who’d escaped a research lab and charted himself back to the forest, some brain damage not withstanding—specifically with Williams in mind. By the time Katzenberg approached Williams in 1991 to do the voice-over work for another post-modern whirlwind, Aladdin’s Genie, the comic had already signed on as Batty. vanityfair.com
Global investment in coal and gas-fired power generation plants fell to less than half that in renewable energy generation last year, in a record year for clean energy. It was the first time that renewable energy made up a majority of all the new electricity generation capacity under construction around the world, and the first year in which the financial investment by developing countries in renewables outstripped that of the developed world.

Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter, said the developments were “extremely significant” and showed a new trend. She said: “We are looking at serious sums of money being invested in clean energy, with the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels the losers. This is the direction of travel that we need to see to have a chance of escaping the worst impacts of climate change.”

About $286bn (£200bn) was invested globally in renewable energy last year, more than the previous peak of $278bn reached in 2011, according to research published on Thursday by the UN Environment Programme (Unep). The figures exclude investment in large hydroelectric plants but include solar, onshore and offshore wind and biomass.

China alone accounted for 36% of the global total, as the country pins it hopes on clean energy as a means of combating air pollution. Chinese investment rose 17% from 2014 to 2015, totalling $103bn. This surge is likely to continue for years to come, as China’s recently-unveiled new five-year plan places a strong emphasis on new renewable energy. theguardian.com