Arctic warming likely turned Harvey into "an extreme killer storm"

August 31, 2017 by  
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Melting Arctic ice and spiking temperatures don’t just affect the northernmost part of Earth. According to Cornell University professor Charles Greene, they can also impact storms , like Hurricane Harvey, that are thousands of miles away – prompting them to stall or meander. He said in a statement, “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Just like Superstorm Sandy , Arctic warming likely played an important role in making Hurricane Harvey such an extreme killer storm.” Greene said warming in the Arctic slows jet streams, or global air currents, impacting the nature of big storms like Harvey, which so far has poured around 24.5 trillion gallons of rain on Texas and Louisiana. Researchers can be reluctant to say exactly how climate change might have altered a certain storm, though many agree rising sea levels can cause higher surges, while higher temperatures in the air and sea surfaces will thrust more water into the atmosphere, which then falls as precipitation. Related: 7 ways you can help people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey Gizmodo spoke to several other scientists, and at least one, climate scientist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was unsure warming had a significant role in Harvey. Penn State University climate scientist Richard Alley told Gizmodo, “Mostly, this is weather – big, dangerous weather, but still weather. But, because of global warming the ocean is a little higher than it otherwise would be, and that made the storm surge higher.” Meanwhile Greene compared Harvey to Superstorm Sandy, which also lingered instead of swerving out to the ocean as he said 90 percent of most late-season hurricanes do. He said, “ Houston would have suffered much less damage if Category 4 Hurricane Harvey had just crashed through the city and petered out in West Texas. But instead, the storm system is stalled in place and just continues to dump record amounts of rainfall from the Gulf on the city.” Via Huffington Post South Africa and Gizmodo Images via NASA and Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West

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Arctic warming likely turned Harvey into "an extreme killer storm"

Midwest greenhouse heated with geothermal energy produces citrus year-round for $1 per day

August 31, 2017 by  
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Those who live in the Midwest United States understand how difficult it can be to eat local during winter. But for Russ Finch and his community, the task isn’t too difficult. A former mailman living in Nebraska , Finch designed a greenhouse that produces lemons, grapefruit-sized oranges, green figs, and grapes — all for just $1 a day. His magic trick? Geothermal heating. Finch calls his structure the Greenhouse in the Snow . The original, which he constructed more than 20 years ago, is connected to his home. Finch specifically grew citrus in the greenhouse to prove that it’s possible. “Any type of plant we saw, we would put it in and see what it could do. We didn’t baby anything,” said Finch. “We just put it in and if it died, it died. But most everything really grows well. We can grow practically any tropical plant.” NPR reports that the structure’s design is base don a walipini, or a pit greenhouse. The floor has been dug down 4 feet below the surface, and the roof has a slant toward the south to catch the sun’s rays. During the daytime, temperatures in the greenhouse can reach over 80 degrees F. At night, geothermal heat is relied on to combat the plummeting temperatures. Only warm air is used to heat the greenhouse — no propane or electric heaters. Warm air is obtained from perforated plastic tubing that is buried underground. The tubing runs out one end of the greenhouse and extends in a loop to the opposite side. It is circulated via a single fan. “All we try to do is keep it above 28 degrees in the winter,” said Finch. “We have no backup system for heat . The only heat source is the Earth’s heat, at 52 degrees at 8-foot deep.” Because the 1,200 square foot greenhouse is not dependent on fossil fuels , energy costs are down to just $1 a day. Particularly in midwestern states, low energy costs matter. “There have been hardly any successful 12-month greenhouses on the northern High Plains because of the weather,” said Finch. ”The cost of energy is too high for it. But by tapping into the Earth’s heat, we’ve been able to drastically reduce the cost.” Related: Russian ice skating rink doubles as a solar-powered outdoor cinema and geothermal spa Every year, the farmer grows a few hundred pounds of fruit which he sells at a local farmers market. His main business is selling the design for the Greenhouse in the Snow. A new version of his invention costs $22,000 to build. Finch says he has constructed 17 of them so far, throughout the United States and Canada. While Finch might not be able to supply a supermarket with the crops he grows, he can provide fresh produce to his local community. If more people in the rural midwest invested in greenhouses that rely on geothermal energy, carbon emissions from shipping fruit and vegetables all over the country would be reduced. This, in turn, would benefit the environment and people’s health as fresh, organically-grown food is more nutrient-dense and retains more flavor. + Greenhouse in the Snow Via NPR Images via Pixabay, YouTube

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Midwest greenhouse heated with geothermal energy produces citrus year-round for $1 per day

Explosions rock Houston-area chemical plant following Hurricane Harvey flooding

August 31, 2017 by  
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Several explosions at a Houston-area chemical plant were reported on early Thursday morning, reportedly related to its loss of power. Black smoke billowed from the Arkema Inc. chemical plant in Crosby, Texas as blasts rocked the site, which remains submerged under six feet of floodwater. The Arkema plant is one of many in the region; this part of Texas is home to the one of the densest concentrations of pipelines, refineries and chemical plants in the country. The storm damage is certain to exacerbate the public health threat of Hurricane Harvey long after the rain has stopped. On Tuesday, prior to the explosions, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation zone for a 1.5 mile radius surrounding the plant. The Arkema plant was shut down before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the Houston-area, though 11 employees remained behind to service the facility. As the unprecedented floodwaters pushed in, the remaining team was evacuated as fumes began to pour out of the powerless plant. Several deputies from the Harris County Sheriff’s office were hospitalized for inhaling toxic chemicals . Related: 7 ways you can help people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey Arkema produces organic peroxides, compounds with a wide variety of applications, from construction materials to pharmaceuticals. Usually the volatile chemicals are kept under control through cold storage. However, without power , there is no refrigeration. “As the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire,” Arkema spokesperson Janet Smith told press. Arkema was previously mandated by the EPA to produce a report outlining the potential risks of the plant and plans for worst-case scenarios, which, according to Arkema’s submitted report, could potentially impact 1.1 million residents over a distance of 23 miles. However, the company reports that it is incorporating “multiple layers of preventative and mitigation measures” to ensure that the worst does not come to pass. Via Time and Washington Post Images via Google Maps

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Explosions rock Houston-area chemical plant following Hurricane Harvey flooding

Global ocean circulation may be slowing down due to Arctic ice loss

August 16, 2017 by  
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Humanity is entering a phase of grave uncertainty as rising temperatures wreck havoc on our planet. Researchers from Yale University and the University of Southhampton have found evidence that Arctic ice loss may be having a negative impact on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) , the largest ocean circulation system on the planet. A complex system not easily explained by talking heads scoring political points, AMOC helps regulate ocean and atmospheric temperatures – and its collapse would have repercussions that not even scientists can properly predict. “The ongoing decline of Arctic sea ice exposes the ocean to anomalous surface heat and freshwater fluxes, resulting in positive buoyancy anomalies that can affect ocean circulation,” the researchers wrote in a new study published recently in Nature . “It is found that on decadal timescales, flux anomalies over the subpolar North Atlantic have the largest impact on the AMOC, while on multi-decadal timescales (longer than 20 years), flux anomalies in the Arctic become more important. These positive buoyancy anomalies spread to the North Atlantic, weakening the AMOC and its poleward heat transport. Therefore, the Arctic sea-ice decline may explain the suggested slow-down of the AMOC and the ‘Warming Hole’ persisting in the subpolar North Atlantic.” Related: How climate change could alter the environment in 100 years So what does this mean? Trevor Nace, a geologist, explains for Forbes : “This process whereby water is transported into the Northern Atlantic Ocean acts to distribute ocean water globally. What’s more important, and the basis for concern of many scientists is this mechanism is one of the most efficient ways Earth transports heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes. The warm water transported from the tropics to the North Atlantic releases heat to the atmosphere, playing a key role in warming of western Europe…” Since this is largely unprecedented, it is uncertain exactly what will happen if the AMOC collapses, or how it will affect global weather patterns. But we do know that even small shifts in climate can result in dramatic changes – evidenced by the growing number of droughts, floods and other natural disasters worldwide. In November, temperatures in the Arctic were 20C degrees higher than normal, according to an Arctic Resilience Report . The best way to slow down this trend is to release fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which requires a shift away from burning fossil fuels and other carbon-producing industries. And that requires leadership. Via Forbes Images via NOAA, NASA

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Global ocean circulation may be slowing down due to Arctic ice loss

New plastic garbage patch discovered in Arctic Ocean

April 20, 2017 by  
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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t the only place where plastic pollution is gathering in the world’s oceans . An international team of scientists from 12 institutions in eight countries recently discovered a new garbage patch in the Greenland and Barents seas north of Norway. Between 100 and 1,200 tons of plastic have concentrated there, threatening wildlife already grappling with climate change . The Tara Expeditions Foundation dragged for plastic in the Arctic Ocean to find the new Arctic garbage patch. They visited 42 sites, and found over a third of the locations didn’t have any plastic. But then they found plastic amassing in Arctic waters above Norway. The garbage patch is smaller than the Pacific or Mediterranean garbage patches, but researchers hadn’t anticipated finding so much trash in that part of the Arctic, previously considered to be quite pristine. Related: World’s first ocean trash recon mission is complete – and the results are way worse than we thought Andrés Cózar of the University of Cádiz in Spain told The Verge, “We did not expect to find high concentrations of plastic there, so far from the populated regions and the large sources of plastic pollution.” He’s the lead author on a study published online yesterday in the journal Science Advances . So where’s all the trash coming from? Europe and America’s East Coast are likely at fault. Study co-author Erik van Sebille, who during the research was with Imperial College London and now works for the Netherlands’ Utrecht University , told The Verge, “If a plastic bottle or a plastic bag gets into the Atlantic from Europe or the East Coast of the U.S., that has a very good chance of ending up in the Arctic. The problem with plastic specifically being in the Arctic is that it’s going to get into the food chain of animals that are very much under threat already, that are struggling to survive in a changing climate.” Via The Verge Images © Anna Deniaud/Tara Expeditions Foundation

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New plastic garbage patch discovered in Arctic Ocean

Scientists hatch crazy $500 billion plan to refreeze the Arctic

February 14, 2017 by  
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As governments make slow progress towards alleviating climate change and denial marks the Trump Administration’s approach to the global crisis, scientists have hatched a crazy $500 billion scheme to refreeze the Arctic . Led by physicist Steven Desch of Arizona State University , a team of 14 scientists concocted a plan to replenish Arctic sea ice using ten million wind-powered pumps. The strategy involves deploying millions of renewably-powered pumps to send water onto the surface of Arctic ice during the winter. In theory, that water would then freeze, thickening the ice before summer. Desch said the pumps could add around three feet to the current layer of sea ice . If the ice is thicker, he argued, it would last longer and reduce the danger of sea ice vanishing completely during the summer. Related: Total sea ice levels on Earth lower than ever before recorded The paper’s abstract states that the Arctic could be utterly devoid of summer sea ice by the year 2030. If that occurs, the ocean would absorb the sunlight it once reflected – so replenishing sea ice now is an imperative. The paper goes on to state that the 2015 Paris agreement won’t be enough to halt the consequences of global warming . Desch told the Observer, “Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning fossil fuels . It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.” The American Geophysical Union ‘s journal Earth’s Future published their study in late January. Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Scientists hatch crazy $500 billion plan to refreeze the Arctic

Judge orders Exxon-Mobil to disclose 40 years of climate change documents

January 13, 2017 by  
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Last fall, the public learned that Exxon-Mobil may have spent millions of dollars researching the effects of climate change in the 1970s . Upon learning the disastrous impact of their own business practices, the company hid the results and continued as if no risks existed. This revelation prompted the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New York, Maura Healey and Eric Schneidermann respectively, to pursue investigations that are already bearing fruit. On Wednesday, a Massachusetts judge ordered the fossil fuel behemoth to turn over 40 years worth of documents that will shed light into what Exxon-Mobil knew, when it knew it, and how it obscured this knowledge from the public. The decision by the Massachusetts court arrives at an inopportune time for Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil and President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Tillerson, already under the microscope as the Senate moves through the confirmation process, has thus far refused to answer questions about Exxon-Mobil’s alleged obfuscation and endangerment of public safety, which occurred decades before his tenure as CEO. Tillerson has also been more forthcoming about the threats posed by climate change than other prospective members of the incoming Trump administration, but if these latest legal actions produce smoking-gun evidence of Exxon-Mobil’s deception, Tillerson may find himself in hot water. Related: US Slaps New Sanctions on Russia, Stops Exxon from Drilling in the Arctic While an investigation, however productive, won’t change the past, clear evidence that the fossil fuel industry acted as Big Tobacco did in the 20th century by willfully ignoring its own dangerous practices and deceiving the public would provide additional leverage and pressure on policymakers and businesses to take action against climate change. While scientists assert that we can burn only 565 gigatons more carbon dioxide before the Earth is doomed to a global temperature rise over two degrees celsius, the fossil fuel industry currently sits on 2,765 gigatons of carbon in its reserves, making evident their need to comply in the move towards a carbon-free economy . Even with evidence, the fight will not be easy. Since the revelations in the fall, Exxon-Mobil and its allies have fiercely fought against any investigation. The fossil fuel giant has filed two lawsuits against Attorney General Healey, alleging that her actions were politically motivated. Similarly, a federal judge in Texas had ordered a deposition of Healey, which would have required her to show up in a Texas court. This order was cancelled at the last minute. However, these actions demonstrate that those who fight on behalf of the public against Big Oil will face obstacle after obstacle in the dawning Trump era. Via  Engadget Images via Mike Mozart  and ARLIS Reference

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Judge orders Exxon-Mobil to disclose 40 years of climate change documents

Green-roofed music center built of natural materials harmonizes with the landscape

January 13, 2017 by  
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Tranquility is at the heart of the handsome Sunbeams Music Center , where music is used as therapy to soothe the souls of the disadvantaged. Designed by Newcastle-based studio Mawson Kerr for the Sunbeams Music Trust charity, the music therapy center visually harmonizes with its bucolic lake landscape in Cumbria, England. The building is sensitively placed on the landscape and incorporates environmentally friendly design including photovoltaics , locally sourced natural materials, and passive design principles. The 600-square-meter Sunbeams Music Center caters to disabled children and adults with a variety of music therapy rooms. The building includes four such rooms as well as recording studios, an exhibition space, concert hall, and administrative offices. To minimize site impact , the architects shaped the building along the landscape’s natural contours, which resulted in a building’s horn-like shape. “The building is designed as a home and advert for the amazing work Sunbeams do working with disadvantaged members of society,” writes Mawson Kerr. “Bringing music into the building was on of the key drivers alongside harmonising the building with the natural surroundings and wider environment.” Related: Green Covered Taipei Music Center by Mario Bellini Architects The building was largely constructed from locally sourced timber and features a glue-laminated timber structure, cedar shingles, and exterior oak slats. Skylights punctuate the building’s green roof . The music center was also built with ground-source heat pumps and sheep wool insulation. + Mawson Kerr Via Dezeen

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Green-roofed music center built of natural materials harmonizes with the landscape

Sweden’s new ICEHOTEL 365 uses solar cooling to stay open all year-round

December 2, 2016 by  
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Sweden’s famed ICEHOTEL , perhaps the “coolest” hotel in the world, has just unveiled a permanent luxury lodge made entirely of ice. The newly-designed ICEHOTEL 365 has all of the chilly charm of its sister hotel, but will be open 365 days a year thanks to state-of-the-art solar-powered cooling technology that will keep the structure frozen during summer months. Located 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Swedish village of Jukkasjarvi, ICEHOTEL rose to fame thanks to its unique igloo structure made out of “snice”, a mixture of snow and ice collected from the Torne River. The fantastical structure has been built and rebuilt every year since 1989. Related: World-Famous Swedish Ice Hotel Forced to Install Fire Alarms Despite Sub-Freezing Temperatures Now the new ICEHOTEL 365, which sits adjacent to the other temporary structure, has just been unveiled. Thanks to the solar-powered cooling technology , guests can now enjoy either cold or warm rooms year round, along with a cocktail room, saunas, and even an ice church. The cold rooms are kept between -5 and -8 degrees Celsius, and although the beds are made from blocks of ice, they have thick mattresses on top of wood crates for added comfort. Reindeer hides and thermal sleeping bags keep guests warm and comfy during the night. Like the original hotel, the 365 version has a series of thematic rooms called Art Suites. Each room has carved ice detailing created by artists from around the world. And if you really want to splurge, go for the Deluxe Suites. The largest suites in the hotel, the Deluxe Suites also have individually designed carvings as well as a private heated relaxation area, sauna, shower, and en suite bathrooms. + ICEHOTEL 365 Via Contemporist Photographs by Asaf Kliger and ICEHOTEL

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Sweden’s new ICEHOTEL 365 uses solar cooling to stay open all year-round

Obama administration just protected the Arctic and Atlantic from drilling until 2022

November 18, 2016 by  
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With only two months left in office, President Obama’s administration just finalized its program for oil and gas leasing , and it will ensure protections for the Arctic and Atlantic oceans until 2022. In what is considered a major win for coastal regions and marine wildlife, these areas will not be subject to dangerous oil or gas drilling until climate change-denier and fossil fuel-guzzling proponent Donald Trump has completed his term in office – and perhaps even beyond. “Coastal businesses, fishermen, and marine life learned the lesson after the BP disaster that when you drill, you spill,” said Heather Leibowitz, the Director for Environment New York . “We are thrilled the Atlantic is protected for the next five years and adding protection for the Arctic makes the victory that much sweeter.” The road to such protections was a long one, beginning with the initial 2017 to 2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan proposed in January of last year. This version of the plan left coastal regions from Virginia to North Carolina vulnerable, as well as the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean. Related: Obama to target Arctic and Atlantic oil drilling in fight against climate change The final plan cancelled leases for these areas for the next five years, yet left behind 10 leases in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a National Resources Defense Council survey , a majority of American oppose oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic. Leibowitz says more and more citizens are becoming aware of the dangers of offshore drilling, so there may still be hope for the Gulf’s future. She adds, “The only safe amount of drilling for our climate and communities is none at all – that is why President Obama should extend permanent protection for the Atlantic and Arctic oceans before leaving office.” Via  Environment New York Images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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