Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Water vapor


Megadroughts are comparable in severity to the worst droughts of the 20th century but are of much longer duration. A megadrought in the American Southwest would impose unprecedented stress on the limited water resources of the area, making it critical to evaluate future risks not only under different climate change mitigation scenarios but also for different aspects of regional hydroclimate. We find that changes in the mean hydroclimate state, rather than its variability, determine megadrought risk in the American Southwest. Estimates of megadrought probabilities based on precipitation alone tend to underestimate risk. Furthermore, business-as-usual emissions of greenhouse gases will drive regional warming and drying, regardless of large precipitation uncertainties. We find that regional temperature increases alone push megadrought risk above 70, 90, or 99% by the end of the century, even if precipitation increases moderately, does not change, or decreases, respectively. Although each possibility is supported by some climate model simulations, the latter is the most common outcome for the American Southwest in Coupled Model Intercomparison 5 generation models. An aggressive reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions cuts megadrought risks nearly in half.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate, Climate change, Water vapor, Natural gas, Greenhouse gas, Global warming, Attribution of recent climate change


Atmospheric water is a resource equivalent to ~10% of all fresh water in lakes on Earth. However, an efficient process for capturing and delivering water from air, especially at low humidity levels (down to 20%), has not been developed. We report the design and demonstration of a device based on porous metal-organic framework-801 [Zr6O4(OH)4(fumarate)6] that captures water from the atmosphere at ambient conditions using low-grade heat from natural sunlight below one sun (1 kW per square meter). This device is capable of harvesting 2.8 liters of water per kilogram of MOF daily at relative humidity levels as low as 20%, and requires no additional input of energy.

Concepts: Water, Precipitation, Climate, Sunlight, Humidity, Water vapor, Relative humidity, Atmosphere


Food production is a major driver of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water and land use, and dietary risk factors are contributors to non-communicable diseases. Shifts in dietary patterns can therefore potentially provide benefits for both the environment and health. However, there is uncertainty about the magnitude of these impacts, and the dietary changes necessary to achieve them. We systematically review the evidence on changes in GHG emissions, land use, and water use, from shifting current dietary intakes to environmentally sustainable dietary patterns. We find 14 common sustainable dietary patterns across reviewed studies, with reductions as high as 70-80% of GHG emissions and land use, and 50% of water use (with medians of about 20-30% for these indicators across all studies) possible by adopting sustainable dietary patterns. Reductions in environmental footprints were generally proportional to the magnitude of animal-based food restriction. Dietary shifts also yielded modest benefits in all-cause mortality risk. Our review reveals that environmental and health benefits are possible by shifting current Western diets to a variety of more sustainable dietary patterns.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Environment, Natural environment, Water vapor, Natural gas, Coal, Greenhouse gas, Ecological footprint


Water scarcity is a particularly severe challenge in arid and desert climates. While a substantial amount of water is present in the form of vapour in the atmosphere, harvesting this water by state-of-the-art dewing technology can be extremely energy intensive and impractical, particularly when the relative humidity (RH) is low (i.e., below ~40% RH). In contrast, atmospheric water generators that utilise sorbents enable capture of vapour at low RH conditions and can be driven by the abundant source of solar-thermal energy with higher efficiency. Here, we demonstrate an air-cooled sorbent-based atmospheric water harvesting device using the metal-organic framework (MOF)-801 [Zr6O4(OH)4(fumarate)6] operating in an exceptionally arid climate (10-40% RH) and sub-zero dew points (Tempe, Arizona, USA) with a  thermal efficiency (solar input to water conversion) of ~14%. We predict that this device delivered over 0.25 L of water per kg of MOF for a single daily cycle.

Concepts: Water, Precipitation, Climate, Humidity, Water vapor, Relative humidity, Atmosphere, Dew point


Despite the importance of precipitation phase to global hydroclimate simulations, many land surface models use spatially uniform air temperature thresholds to partition rain and snow. Here we show, through the analysis of a 29-year observational dataset (n = 17.8 million), that the air temperature at which rain and snow fall in equal frequency varies significantly across the Northern Hemisphere, averaging 1.0 °C and ranging from -0.4 to 2.4 °C for 95% of the stations. Continental climates generally exhibit the warmest rain-snow thresholds and maritime the coolest. Simulations show precipitation phase methods incorporating humidity perform better than air temperature-only methods, particularly at relative humidity values below saturation and air temperatures between 0.6 and 3.4 °C. We also present the first continuous Northern Hemisphere map of rain-snow thresholds, underlining the spatial variability of precipitation phase partitioning. These results suggest precipitation phase could be better predicted using humidity and air temperature in large-scale land surface model runs.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Solubility, Physical quantities, Humidity, Water vapor, Relative humidity, Tropical cyclone


We carried out upper air measurements with radiosondes during the summer over the Arctic Ocean from an icebreaker moving poleward from an ice-free region, through the ice edge, and into a region of thick ice. Rapid warming of the Arctic is a significant environmental issue that occurs not only at the surface but also throughout the troposphere. In addition to the widely accepted mechanisms responsible for the increase of tropospheric warming during the summer over the Arctic, we showed a new potential contributing process to the increase, based on our direct observations and supporting numerical simulations and statistical analyses using a long-term reanalysis dataset. We refer to this new process as “Siberian Atmospheric Rivers (SARs)”. Poleward upglides of SARs over cold air domes overlying sea ice provide the upper atmosphere with extra heat via condensation of water vapour. This heating drives increased buoyancy and further strengthens the ascent and heating of the mid-troposphere. This process requires the combination of SARs and sea ice as a land-ocean-atmosphere system, the implication being that large-scale heat and moisture transport from the lower latitudes can remotely amplify the warming of the Arctic troposphere in the summer.

Concepts: Water, Climate, Water vapor, Atmosphere, Arctic Ocean, Troposphere, Arctic Circle, Atmospheric thermodynamics


Many cities globally are seeking strategies to counter the consequences of both a hotter and drier climate. While urban heat mitigation strategies have been shown to have beneficial effects on health, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions, their implications for water conservation have not been widely examined. Here we use a suite of satellite-supported regional climate simulations in California to show that broad implementation of cool roofs, a heat mitigation strategy, not only results in significant cooling, but can also meaningfully decrease outdoor water consumption by reducing evaporative and irrigation water demands. Irrigation water consumption across the major metropolitan areas is reduced by up to 9% and irrigation water savings per capita range from 1.8 to 15.4 gallons per day across 18 counties examined. Total water savings are found to be the highest in Los Angeles county, reaching about 83 million gallons per day. Cool roofs are a valuable solution for addressing the adaptation and mitigation challenges faced by multiple sectors in California.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Precipitation, City, Climate change, Water vapor, Irrigation, Greenhouse gas, Green roof


Four types of films viz. gelatin, gelatin-MMT, gelatin-chitosan and gelatin-MMT-chitosan prepared from redsnapper and grouper bone gelatin were compared with the mammalian gelatin films, for their mechanical and barrier properties. Grouper gelatin films had higher tensile strength (TS) and Young’s modulus (YM), but lower elongation at break (EAB) than redsnapper films. Incorporation of MMT and chitosan improved the TS (p<0.05) of the films. Water solubilities were lower (p<0.05) in films incorporated with chitosan compared to simple gelatin film. Protein solubilities were lower in gelatin-MMT films, irrespective of the type of solvent used. The water vapour transmission rates (WVTR) of fish and mammalian gelatin films were similar, but addition of MMT had reduced WVTR (p<0.05). SEM micrographs depicted smoother surface for gelatin-MMT and gelatin-MMT-chitosan films. Thus, composite fish gelatin films made with MMT and chitosan could be the good natural biodegradable films due to their better mechanical and barrier properties.

Concepts: Water, Tensile strength, Water vapor, Young's modulus, Carbon fiber, Vapor, Photographic film, Gelatin


Bio-based nanocomposite films were successfully developed using nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) as the reinforcing phase and kappa-carrageenan (KCRG) as the matrix. NFC was successfully synthesis from short stable cotton fibers by chemo-mechanical process. The bionanocomposites were prepared by incorporating 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, and 1wt% of the NFC into a KCRG matrix using a solution casting method there characterization was done in terms of thermal properties (DSC), morphology (SEM), water vapor transmission rate (WVTR), oxygen transmission rate (OTR), X-ray diffractograms (XRD), and tensile properties. The main conclusion arising from the analysis of the result is that the bionanocomposites containing 0.4wt% of NFC exhibited the highest enhancement in tensile strength it is almost 44% improvement. WVTR and OTR results showed improvement of all nanocomposite film compare to control KCRG film.

Concepts: Water, Cotton, Materials science, Tensile strength, Water vapor, Cellulose, Moisture vapor transmission rate, Cellulose fiber


Supersaturating Drug Delivery Systems (SDDS) hold the promise of enabling intestinal absorption for difficult-to-formulate, poorly soluble drug candidates based on a design approach that includes (1) converting the drug into a high energy or rapidly dissolving system which presents a supersaturated solution to the gastrointestinal environment and (2) dosage form components that act to stabilize the formed metastable drug solution through nucleation and/or crystal growth inhibition. The appropriate development and study of SDDS require that useful and biorelevant supersaturation and precipitation assays are available. This review summarizes different methodological aspects of currently available in vitro assays, including the generation of supersaturation (solvent shift, pH shift or formulation-induced), the quantification of supersaturation and the detection of precipitation. Also down-scaled approaches, including 96-well plate setups, are described and situated in the pharmaceutical development cycle based on their consumption of API as well as time requirements. Subsequently, the ability to extrapolate in vitro supersaturation assessment to the in vivo situation is discussed as are direct and indirect clinical tools that can shed light on SDDS. By emphasizing multiple variables that affect the predictive power of in vitro assays (e.g. the nature of the test media, hydrodynamics, temperature and sink versus non-sink conditions), this review finally highlights the need for further harmonization and biorelevance improvement of currently available in vitro procedures for supersaturation and precipitation evaluation.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Solubility, Thermodynamics, Water vapor, Nucleation, Superheating, Supersaturation, Rock candy