"We are not prepared" for climate changescientists issue bleak warning

February 16, 2018 by  
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Researchers have determined that countries around the world are failing to fulfill their greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement , inevitably subjecting the world to unpredictable extreme weather. In a study published in the  journal  Science   Advances ,  scientists concluded that extreme weather, such as drought, flooding, or heat waves, will increase across 90 percent of North America, Europe and East Asia if countries maintain their current pace of climate action. “We are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming ,” study author Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University professor of earth system science, told Time . The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperature rise below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with an ideal goal of less than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That extra 0.9 degrees will make a significant difference in how extreme weather manifests in the coming decades. The study documents the specific differences built into that temperature divergence, including the number of record warm or wet days. Following an extraordinary hurricane season in North America and a year that was once again dubbed the hottest on record, the urgency to address this challenge is clearer than ever. Related: Trump budget proposes huge cut to EPA and climate research Unfortunately, the Paris Agreement has a math problem. Each country in the agreement was encouraged to create their own pledges individually tailored to their political and economic situations. Though the goal remains less than 3.6 degrees of warming, the cumulative impact of all these pledges, if they were all fulfilled, would still result in a global temperature of 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the modest pledges made in the agreement are proving difficult to achieve. Some countries, most prominently the United States , have expressed interest in ignoring the consequences of climate change and are actively encouraging the growth of fossil fuels . In the meantime, greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb while the weather gets weirder. Via Time Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Venice’s canals go dry following weeks without rain

February 5, 2018 by  
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Venice has historically had a problem with too much water inundating its canals, but thanks to a combination of low tides and a lack of rain over the last few weeks, the sinking city’s waterways have turned into channels of mud. Indeed, unusual weather patterns have caused Venice’s water levels to plummet by more than two feet (60cm), rendering a number of channels completely unusable. And with no way to move through the city, many locals have left their boats and gondolas to languish in the muck. The Independent reports that dip in water is the direct result of low tides caused by the super blue blood moon paired with unseasonably dry weather. This, however, is not the first time the Italian city has seen its canals go dry; in 2016, water levels fell by 2.16 feet (66cm), and in 2008 and 1989 levels dropped by 2.95 feet (90cm). The canals are expected to return to normal when the rain returns. Related: Italy is giving away hundreds of historic castles and villas for free  While the phenomenon is surely alarming, flooding remains the biggest threat to the city.  Quarternary International published a report last year forecasting that Venice could disappear by the end of the century as a result of rising sea levels caused by climate change . The Mediterranean Sea is in fact predicted to rise by 4.59 feet (140cm) before 2100. The city itself is also sinking at a rate of about 1-2mm a year. Via Independent UK Images via Wiki Commons and Flickr

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Venice’s canals go dry following weeks without rain

Cape Town’s water pipes could run dry by April

January 16, 2018 by  
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Cape Town in South Africa is battling its worst drought in a century – and the city’s water supply is in trouble. Authorities are scrambling to drill boreholes and construct desalination plants, but Day Zero – when water taps run dry – is now predicted to take place on April 21st. Reuters quoted councilor Xanthea Limberg as saying, “At the current rate the city is likely to reach Day Zero on 22 April. There is a real risk that residents will have to queue.” Mayor Patricia de Lille recently moved the date up to April 21. Related: 16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels Dam levels fell under 30 percent in the first week of 2018, according to city officials – but only around 19.7 percent of that water is deemed usable. When the dams hit 13.5 percent, locals will have to start lining up for water. Locals would receive up to 25 liters, or around 6.6 gallons, of water per person per day. Reuters painted a picture of a current test water collection site, where people wait between metal fences to fill containers up via standpipes. The city could introduce around 200 more of these areas. According to Limberg, the situation has grown worse as some people have not limited themselves to 87 liters, around 23 gallons, a day. Reuters said there are many wealthy residents with sprinkler systems and swimming pools. The goal of the authorities is to cut Cape Town’s consumption to 500 million liters, or around 132 million gallons, per day – that’s half the amount the city consumed two years ago, per Reuters. Via Reuters and Agence France-Presse Images via Depositphotos and Marcelo Novais on Unsplash

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Cape Town’s water pipes could run dry by April

Out of control wildfires force thousands to flee their homes in Southern California

December 6, 2017 by  
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Relentless wildfires in Southern California have forced thousands of people to evacuate and threaten over 12,000 homes. The largest fire, centered around Ventura, has burned over 70,000 acres, shut down freeways, knocked out power for thousands and is so large it can be seen from space. Experts say that this is “just the beginning” of the problem, as the fires rage out of control in extremely dry conditions, pushed by the Santa Ana winds. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’isef-DPVSbhi6hrtOzU0gw’,sig:’8MVDCZMWHVWThSLQhpAV515zx5qbn9WZflUo-qOws8o=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’886889264′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); The Santa Ana winds – which usually blow during October – have rapidly pushed the fires over the past few days and there is zero percent containment at this point, which firefighters say will likely remain the case until the dry conditions and winds relent. Red Flag warnings have been issued from Santa Barbara to the Mexico border because the area is expected to have one of the driest two-month periods seen in over a century, prompting concerns about additional fires. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’-UQIwCqMSmV58VyTYJcNhg’,sig:’_e2bkc0_zyKQ46YhUpwm9nSBLej2HWDO52Ov1yX9fho=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’886767680′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); Related: Donald Trump believes California farmers who say “there is no drought” One fire, called the Skirball fire, threatens Los Angeles neighborhoods and the Getty Center and has jumped across the 405 Freeway – one of the most trafficked freeways in the US. The Creek fire rages out of control 20 miles north of Los Angeles and has devoured 11,000 acres in a short time. The largest fire, called the Thomas fire in Ventura, has forced 38,000 people to evacuate and has consumed 150 structures, including homes and apartment buildings. A fourth fire in San Bernadino has been 50 percent contained and has burned 100 acres. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’IaqOVadkQgFPtwp6RPF7cQ’,sig:’p0PsoBawHX52fAr2TOVQZusImKU4D6XwKbysWG6a07A=’,w:’594px’,h:’397px’,items:’886861778′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, and residents are advised to heed all evacuations warnings for their own safety. Experts also warn people in the area to be extremely cautious, because another blaze could easily erupt due to the massive winds and dry conditions. Via ABC Lead image via Deposit Photo

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This man spent 36 years carving through mountains to bring water to his village

April 21, 2017 by  
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In 1959, the small village of Caowangba in China ’s Guizhou Province had a problem – a drought had dried up all the nearby water sources, and residents were forced to rely on a single well for drinking water. Even that single well was faltering, sometimes leaving the people of the town without enough water to go around. Worse yet, the town’s single rice paddy had dried up, making it hard for residents to access enough food. Something had to be done. But rather than give up and move to a new home, one man named Huang Dafa decided to lead an ambitious project to dig a 10-kilometer canal along the face of several sheer cliffs to bring water to his home. It took 36 years and at least one failed attempt, but now enough water flows to the city to provide food and drinking water to everyone. Many have compared Dafa to the legendary figure Yu Gong , an old man whose determination caused the gods to literally move mountains from his path. At only 23 years old, Dafa made the project his life’s work. To build the canal, villagers had to carve along the sheer cliffs of three karst mountains , dangerous work that involved climbing up the side of the mountains, tying themselves to trees, and rappelling hundreds of meters down the cliff to dig. Related: Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants 1,360 Acre Forest Naturally, it took a bit of persuading before anyone else in town was willing to take on this dangerous work. But in the end, the only other option was to do nothing and watch the town continue to struggle. Unfortunately, after a decade of work, the first attempt at a canal was unsuccessful in bringing water to the city. It wasn’t a total waste: the effort did create a tunnel through the mountains that allowed for easy travel through the stone, rather than around, which is still in use today. Dafa realized they needed a better understanding of irrigation to make the project work. So he left to study engineering for several years, and planned his next attempt even more meticulously. In the early 1990s, he persuaded the villagers to try again. The workers often slept in caves along the cliff side, and the remote location made it difficult to reach them in case of emergency – in fact, Dafa was working in the mountains when his daughter and grandson passed away, unable to reach them before they died. Related: Hundreds of beehives hang off a steep cliff in China to save wild honeybees Finally, in 1995, the new channel was finished, and water began to flow to Caowangba. As if the channel weren’t enough, Dafa’s efforts were also responsible for bringing electricity and a new road to the town that same year, allowing the residents to step into the modern era. Now, the community is thriving, and Huang Dafa is celebrated as a local hero at 82 years old. The channel provides running water to three other villages that happen to cross its path as well, providing water to 1,200 people and allowing them to grow 400,000 kilograms of rice every year. Via Oddity Central Images via VGC , China Daily

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This man spent 36 years carving through mountains to bring water to his village

California governor marks official end of state’s historic drought

April 10, 2017 by  
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A wet winter that filled reservoirs with rainwater and blanketed the Sierra Nevadas with heavy snow has officially brought an end to California’s historic drought . On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown lifted the emergency order in effect since January 2014 for all of the state except for the Central California counties of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne that are still dealing with dried-up wells. Brown’s executive order continues conservation measures such as the State Water Resources Control Board maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibiting wasteful practices like watering lawns right after rainfall or in a manner that causes runoff. Related: Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185% The severely dry conditions that began in the winter of 2011-2012 killed an estimated 100 million trees , disrupted agricultural production, reduced drinking water supplies in rural communities and diminished groundwater basins. According to the executive order, Californians responded to the drought by conserving water at unprecedented levels — reducing water use in communities by more than 22 percent between June 2015 and January 2017. Also on Friday, state agencies put forth a long-term plan to make water conservation a way of life in California as part of resiliency efforts to prepare for more frequent and severe droughts as a result of human-caused climate change . “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” Via The Washington Post Images via Flickr 1 , 2

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Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

March 29, 2017 by  
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Thick layers of Dead Sea salt found 1,000 feet below the sea bed holds clues to our planet’s past – and a warning. The salt reveals during warm periods in Earth’s history, the region – the Dead Sea is bordered by Palestine, Jordan, and Israel – suffered from drought with no known precedent. The salt, scrutinized by an international team of researchers led by Yael Kiro of Columbia University , doesn’t just offer a history lesson, but a caution climate change could seriously dry the region again in the future. Crystalline salt from beneath the Dead Sea reveals 120,000 and 10,000 years ago, rainfall in the area was a fifth of modern levels. These dry periods were naturally caused. But human-caused climate change today could potentially dry the region – which is already struggling – more than we realized. Right now the Middle East’s fresh water per capita availability is 10 times less than the world average, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Related: Dramatic Video Captures Rebirth of the River Zin in Israel’s Negev Desert Back in 2010, scientists drilled 1,500 feet into the Dead Sea bed’s deepest part. They obtained a cross-section that provided 200,000 years of climate history in the area. Alternating layers of salt and mud showed dry and wet times. Only recently, however, did scientists analyze the core in great detail. The region suffered from what Columbia University called epic dry periods. Kiro said in a statement, “All the observations show this region is one of those most affected by modern climate change, and it’s predicted to get dryer. What we showed is that even under natural conditions, it can become much drier than predicted by any of our models.” The journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters published the research in an early online edition . Six other scientists from institutions in Israel and Spain also contributed to the study. Via The Guardian and Columbia University Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

March 29, 2017 by  
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A judge approved a settlement with the state of Michigan today that will come as welcome news to thousands of residents: at least 18,000 homes in Flint will have their toxic water pipes replaced over the next three years. The state has committed $87 million to identify and replace any service lines containing lead or galvanized steel by 2020. The settlement marks the end of a lawsuit filed last year by Concerned Pastors for Social Action , the Natural Resources Defense Council , the American Civil Liberties Union and a resident of Flint, targeted at both city and state officials. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has praised the agreement. The $87 million used to replace the pipes will come from a variety of sources. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which was passed by Congress last year, will provide up to $20 million in funds, with the state matching another $20 million. The state must also hold an extra $10 million in reserve, in case the repairs end up being more expensive than anticipated. The state will also cover the $895,000 the plaintiffs ran up in litigation costs. Related: 1,700 Flint residents sue the EPA over tainted water In the meantime , residents will have to either pick up bottled water from designated locations in the city, or they’ll have to install water filters on their taps. Though the filters have been shown to render the city’s water safe for human consumption, many residents are nervous and distrustful of anything that comes out of their taps (and with good reason). The lawsuit had asked that bottled water be delivered door to door throughout the city until pipe replacement was complete, but the judge shot down that request. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay and Paul Hudson

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6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

March 29, 2017 by  
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Da Vinci was definitely on to something when he observed birds and copied their forms to create his own wings for flight. Although biomimicry wasn’t ultimately successful in helping Da Vinci achieve flight , it has a solid track record for getting engineers, thinkers, and inventors to approach problems in design and technology by returning to nature and its processes. Here are six examples of how observing and imitating nature lead to designs that can improve issues in the modern world. Wind turbine with hummingbird wings Wind turbines typically incorporate a pinwheel shape, but a breakthrough design from Tyer Wind has cleverly tapped into the gravity-defying hovering abilities of hummingbirds . While it may look like these feather-light birds are furiously flapping their wings in a linear fashion, they actually use a figure eight configuration. The design for this new turbine uses wings instead of traditional rotating blades to turn energy from wind into green electricity through 3-D Aouinian Kinematics . Cactus water collector After observing certain cacti ’s ability to collect and store water particles from fog, students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago were inspired to create Dewpoint , a design with real-world applications beyond the desert. By recreating a cactus’s prong-like spines and attaching them to a panel that can absorb, collect, and efficiently save water, the team is beginning to explore water security possibilities for a world that is increasingly facing drought, desertification, and disappearing water sources. Stable and durable bridge Anyone who has ever watched a little leaf on a tree take hit after hit from wind or pelting rain (or perhaps a child with a stick) and still persist knows that surprising hidden strength can be found in many of Mother Nature’s designs. Wanda Lewis has been studying that idea for 25 years, looking specifically at how examining the ways that fragile elements in nature respond to external forces and stress can benefit the structure of a modern, man-made bridge . Lewis developed a mathematical model for bridge design that would take into consideration modern stressors such as traffic and extreme weather conditions. Lewis’s “form-finding” would enable the creation of bridges that are safer, more durable, and long-lasting  by using a previously elusive optimal arch. Related: Biomimicry keeps hope alive despite the new regime Light-sensitive robot caterpillar What may look like a tiny piece of wavy plastic (or perhaps a miniaturized piece of bacon) is actually a robot that can carry loads up to 10 times larger than itself . With caterpillars as inspiration, physics researchers in Poland created this 15 millimeter long critter which is crafted from light-sensitive Liquid Crystalline Elastomers. Mimicking the wave-like motions of a moving caterpillar, this soft robot can also go up a slope or squeeze into a small space. Watch this little robot move in a surprisingly meditative video. Artificial leaf Artificial photosynthesis has been around for over a century, but Caltech’s Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis has found a way to mimic the natural process and safely, effectively, and affordably produce and store energy using the sun . The group’s artificial leaf consists of two electrodes (one that generates hydrogen gas, the other that generates oxygen gas), as well as a plastic membrane that keeps the collected gases separate. The Caltech crew is working on scaling up the design, but their innovation shows promise for creating a system that uses only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce hydrogen fuels that can be utilized as needed. Avian-inspired train It’s a bird…it’s a train…it’s kind of both: a bullet train  whose design was partially inspired by features of an owl and a kingfisher . Engineer, general manager of the tech development department for Japan’s bullet trains , and avid bird-watcher Eiji Nakatsu wanted to make his trains both faster and quieter . He first employed his observations about the noise-dampening feather parts of an owl to reduce the sound effects of the trains as they whizzed through neighborhoods and tunnels. Later, he observed that the streamlined shape of the kingfisher’s bill could be used in a new train design to further reduce noise (including a persistent sonic boom effect) and decrease necessary fuel amounts, all while reducing travel time.

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6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces death spiral

March 14, 2017 by  
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A new study reveals that the Amazon rainforest may face a “death spiral” of deforestation and drought over the next century. The data comes from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and while the entire forest is unlikely to disappear from the face of the Earth, large parts of the region are currently considered to be at risk. The study explores what might happen as climate change causes the region to experience more frequent and more intense dry seasons. While it may seem obvious that reduced rainfall causes trees to die off and forests to shrink, it’s also been shown that forest loss intensified regional droughts as well. When these two factors occur together, it can cause a self-reinforcing feedback loop that could wipe out large portions of forest. Related: A student-designed drone is hunting illegal loggers in the Amazon Rainforest It’s unclear exactly how much of the Amazon is at risk – computer models show this type of forest dieback could threaten up to 38 percent of the Amazon basin. However, researchers stress that eventually most of the Amazon forest could potentially be at risk. The future isn’t completely without hope, however: the study also found that the more diverse an area’s vegetation is, the less susceptible it is to the effects of the feedback loop. So increasing biodiversity could be a vital tool in protecting the Amazon – and other vulnerable regions – from the worst effects of climate change . The full study has been published in the journal Nature Communications . Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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