SUPER BOWLING GREEN: America's largest single sporting event inevitably has a huge environmental footprint — Raymond James Stadium and the NFL Experience will consume more energy than 12 typical houses do in a year, and most of the 150,000 people converging on Tampa Bay this weekend will not be bicycling there. But the NFL doesn't usually fumble its attempts to make Super Bowls eco-friendly, having founded its environmental program 16 years ago, and in addition to buying biomass and solar power for the stadium and NFL Experience, it's planting 2,700 trees that scientists will then monitor to determine their long-term environmental benefits. If you're worried your own Super Bowl party's greenness will pale in comparison, try these five tips from U.S News & World Report, and let MNN's Danielle V. offer her sage green Super Bowl party-planning advice. (Sources: St. Petersburg Times, Associated Press, Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee, U.S. DOEU.S. News & World Report)

 
AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL: When it comes to climate change, we know we have a problem, we even know why we have a problem, but we don't know quite how we have a problem. That's because our climate models are still woefully inadequate — we don't fully understand how greenhouse gases cycle through the atmosphere, which makes fighting global warming difficult. Scientists are hard at work to remedy that, however, and several of them are in the news today:

  • One team of skyentists aims to crack the code of atmospheric carbon by flying around the world in a huge corporate-jet-turned-sky-lab, measuring every aspect of where and when CO2 enters and leaves the atmosphere. Doing so will hopefully inform a more complete climate model, which will in turn inform global climate change policies and treaties. The team is about to finish its first mission, a series of 11 flights that began Jan. 8, and has four more planned through mid-2011 that will provide "slices" of the atmosphere in different locations at different seasons. (Source: Scientific American)
  • Our understanding of water vapor, a natural and often-overlooked greenhouse gas, is also lacking. Like CO2, water vapor traps heat and radiates it back downward, but climatologists still don't fully grasp the complex global dynamics of evaporated water. Climate modelers at Hawaii's Mauna Loa research station — first used to study atmospheric CO2 50 years ago because of its unique altitude and isolation — aim to change that. By better understanding the oxygen and hydrogen isotopes (varying weights of the atoms) that make up water vapor, they hope to better predict how and how fast greenhouse gases like CO2 are changing the climate. (Sources: LiveScience, NOAA)
  • The Christian Science Monitor also reports this week on water vapor's climatic influences, pointing out that as CO2 concentrations rise and heat things up, the atmosphere can suddenly hold more water vapor, which then heats things up even more. Part of the problem is that the sources of atmospheric moisture are tricky to pin down, and the Monitor talks to several scientists who track hydrogen and oxygen isotopes to figure out how evaporated water moves around. They're a dedicated bunch — one Ph.D. student flew 18,000 feet high, in a propeller-driven go-cart and parachute, to collect air samples. (Source: CS Monitor)
HAWKEYES ON THE PRIZE: BBC News takes an in-depth look at Iowa as ground zero in the United States' forays into renewable energy — the state's gushing prairie winds and fertile soil make it an ideal testing ground for large-scale development of wind power and biofuels. But there are hurdles: Its rural, spread-out nature makes going green an uphill battle, its push for ethanol and other biofuels is rife with controversy, and it's too cold there in winter for some Iowans to feel comfortable relying on wind or solar power for heat. (Source: BBC News)

BACK ON TRACKS? As the economic stimulus plan winds through the U.S. Senate, the comparatively paltry offerings for mass transit projects could still get a boost. Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters today he'll introduce a $3 billion public transportation amendment, which would push the total mass transit component of the Senate's bill to more than $15 billion — still only half as much as it allocates for highway spending. (Source: Talking Points Memo)

Russell McLendon 

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