UK fracking safe but US operations marred by ‘poor practices’

News article published on 29 June, 2012 on the Nature News Blog.

Hydraulic fracturing — or ‘fracking’, as it is popularly known — presents a “very low risk” of contaminating drinking water or triggering forceful earthquakes in the United Kingdom, and can safely be performed as long as companies engage in different practices from those that have produced concern in the United States.

This was the conclusion of an independent review of the controversial practice — in which a mixture of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected under high pressure into wells — published by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering today. The method fractures shale, creating fissures that allow previously inaccessible natural gas to flow more easily out of the well. Continue reading →


North Carolina Sea Level Rises Despite State Senators

News article appeared in Scientific American in June, 2012.

Could nature be mocking North Carolina’s law-makers? Less than two weeks after the state’s senate passed a bill banning state agencies from reporting that sea-level rise is accelerating, research has shown that the coast between North Carolina and Massachusetts is experiencing the fastest sea-level rise in the world.

Asbury Sallenger, an oceanographer at the US Geological Survey in St Petersburg, Florida, and his colleagues analysed tide-gauge records from around North America. On 24 June, they reported in Nature Climate Change that since 1980, sea-level rise between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and Boston, Massachusetts, has accelerated to between 2 and 3.7 millimetres per year. That is three to four times the global average, and it means the coast could see 20–29 centimetres of sea-level rise on top of the metre predicted for the world as a whole by 2100 ( A. H. Sallenger Jr et al. Nature Clim. Change; 2012).

“Many people mistakenly think that the rate of sea-level rise is the same everywhere as glaciers and ice caps melt,” says Marcia McNutt, director of the US Geological Survey. But variations in currents and land movements can cause large regional differences. The hotspot is consistent with the slowing measured in Atlantic Ocean circulation, which may be tied to changes in water temperature, salinity and density.

Read the rest of the article on the Scientific American website.