The Biggest Environmental Science News Articles of 2020 So Far

July 8, 2020 • Shannon Flynn

While the novel coronavirus has dominated news cycles for much of the year, there has still been a serious activity in the world of environmental science.

This year, scientists have published new studies on the relationship between people and the environment and the impacts that consumption has on the environment. We’ve also developed a better understanding of how climate change will impact our lives and the environment over the coming years.

These are some of the biggest environmental science news articles published so far this year.

Rain Is Moving Plastic into Protected US Wildlands

A new study has found that rain is moving more than 1,000 tons of microplastics into protected US lands every year.

The microplastics collected were composed of microbeads from industrial acrylic coatings, as well as fragments of larger plastic items.

Microplastics are extremely small plastic fragments, typically defined as being less than five millimeters in length. These plastics are known to accumulate in wastewaters, rivers and larger bodies of water. This new study also shows that they accumulate in the atmosphere.

Better understanding of how natural forces move plastics through the environment will help us build global programs to manage waste.

Atmospheric Scientists Find the “Cleanest Air on Earth”

For the first time, a team of researchers have found a patch of air that’s effectively untouched by human activity. 

The team, led by a professor at the University of Colorado, discovered an area in the Southern Ocean that is completely free of fine particles called aerosols. These aerosols are generated by human activity.

The team used bacteria in the air over the Southern Ocean to infer properties of the local atmosphere, including the presence of aerosols.

The study gives us a better idea of how wind disperses these microorganisms around the world.

UK Temperatures May Regularly Pass 100 Degrees Fahrenheit By End of Century

Climate scientists continue to learn more about how climate change will affect our lives and the environment.

A new study from the UK found that temperatures there may regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) by 2100. Under the worst-case scenario, the country may hit these temperatures every three-and-a-half years.

Right now, the highest-ever recorded temperature in the UK is 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Other climate research from this year points to a similar conclusion. The earth may warm even more than scientists had previously expected. 

However, it doesn’t seem to be warming at the same rate everywhere. A new study on the South Pole found that the region is warming three times faster than the global average.

The growing temperature at the Pole could have a significant impact on the rest of the world. Antarctica is one of the primary drivers of sea-level rise. Additional heat at the Pole could lead to faster rise of global sea levels.

Planting Trees May Not Be Enough to Stop Climate Change

New studies have also shown that reversing climate change may be more complicated than previously thought. An analysis of soil organic carbon content across the world offers us a new picture of how much carbon dioxide trees pull in over time. 

According to the study’s results, planting trees may not be enough to seriously offset carbon production. 

Another study also confirmed that over-planting trees can have a negative impact on forest health and biodiversity. This result suggests that planting trees too many trees may have consequences.

The Most Important Environmental News of 2020

This year, new research confirmed that there is a lot we still don’t know about the impact of human activity on the environment.

Future research will continue exploring the role trees and environmental restoration will play in reversing climate change. Researchers are also likely to keep investigating the impact that climate change will have.

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