Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

April 15, 2019 by  
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A historic heat wave in Australia killed off thousands of flying foxes late last year. In Australia’s northern coast, temperatures reached over 107 degrees for several days, leading to the deaths of around 23,000 flying foxes, which are some of the largest bats on the planet. The flying foxes did everything in their power to beat the heat. This includes panting, using their wings as fans and coating their bodies with saliva. Unfortunately, the heat proved to be too much, and many of the bats fell to their deaths. A few hundred were also taken to rehab facilities in the region. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “We have never seen die-offs in this species before,” David Westcott, who works for the National Flying-Fox Monitoring Program, explained. “Indeed, across the species’ range, we have rarely, if ever, seen temperatures like this before.” The large bats are not the only wildlife affected by such temperatures. The record-breaking heat wave killed camels, wild horses and fish over the past few months. The temperatures have climbed so high that hanging fruit cooked on trees. Although 23,000 bats is a lot, this is hardly the first time such huge numbers of species have died because of heat waves. In 2014, a devastating heat wave led to the death of more than 45,000 bats in Queensland. Dating all the way back to 1791, there have been around 39 similar events , although 35 of them have happened after 1994. What makes last year’s die-off unique is that it happened to a type of bat that is on the endangered species list. Prior to November, scientists estimated that there were around 75,000 spectacled flying foxes in the world, spread out among  Australia , New Guinea and Indonesia. That means the latest heat wave killed close to a third of their population, which could have devastating results on the future of the species. In light of the situation, conservationists are doing their best to prevent future die-offs. Scientists working out of Western Sydney University have created a warning system that alerts local residents ahead of a heat wave , giving them enough time to provide the bats with life-saving water sources. Via EcoWatch Image via Lonely Shrimp

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Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

April 15, 2019 by  
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Imagine your city without cars — every single Sunday. At first, you might be frustrated by the inconvenience and inability to complete errands, but once you embrace the throngs of bikes, recognize your friends and neighbors among the people out for a stroll or attend a Zumba class at what was once a congested intersection, it’s likely to become one of your favorite traditions. For 45 years, the Colombian city of Bogotá has closed its major roads for Ciclovía, a weekly event where cyclists and pedestrians reclaim the street. The world’s most successful mass recreation event Vox calls the weekly event “the world’s most successful mass recreation event,” and more than 400 cities around the world look to Bogotá as a model for replication. In Spanish, Ciclovía means “Bicycle Way,” but the roads are open to bikes , roller skates, scooters, wheel chairs, skateboards, runners, walkers and all other types of physical activity, recreation and relaxation. Since its launch in 1974 , the event has expanded to include juice bars, fruit stands and exercise classes at various stops along the now 76 miles of designated roadway. Related: France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation Ciclovía occurs from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every single Sunday and on major holidays, a frequency that sets it apart from similar events in other cities and is credited for its long-term success. Pulling off such a large-scale event is no easy feat in Bogotá , a major Latin American city that normally moves 1.5 million cars, 50,000 taxis and 500,000 motorcycles on any given day. “The Ciclovía is the moment when motor vehicles make way for human beings,” a director for the event, Bibiana Sarmiento, told National Geographic . In fact, nearly 1.5 million Bogotanos take over the public space every Sunday, which is approximately a quarter of the city’s entire population. Statistics show that the average participant is out there for about three hours, which has significantly helped residents reach widely recommended levels of physical activity. Bogotanos, like most city-dwellers, face limited space for recreational activities and soaring rates of chronic diseases linked to sedentary lifestyles. Although Ciclovía is only once a week, the city-wide emphasis on physical activity and community access to exercise classes and bike routes has caused a marked difference in health indicators. Street closures are good for your health In addition to improved air quality and a palpable decrease in stress and aggressive behaviors, the city of Bogotá is also attempting to analyze specific public health benefits. Program analysts studied savings on medical costs and found that Ciclovía saves between $3.20 and $4.30 in direct medical costs per every dollar invested, which is approximately $6 per participant. General analyses also indicate that public health benefits are more profound and long-term when such recreational events are reoccurring, something that sets Ciclovía apart from other cities with similar programs. To date, more than 400 cities worldwide have implemented similar mass recreation and street closure events, including 122 U.S. cities. A major roadblock (pun intended) to hosting such events is the logistical nightmare of acquiring permits for road closures and the cost of paying traffic staff. The benefits can outweigh the costs According to Vox, researchers recommend establishing reoccurring events to streamline permitting, staffing and signage and to ensure that residents are aware of the event and familiar with the detours.  Researchers argue that if made more frequent, “the cost of coordinating the event could come down and it could ‘help thousands to meet weekly recommended levels of [150 minutes of] physical activity.’” Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly “Over time the system has been perfected in terms of minimization of costs and of making the public aware of the road closures,” Marcela Guerrero Casas, managing director of Open Streets Cape Town in South Africa, told Vox. “When you do this consistently (in terms of time and location), people accept and embrace the program.” In addition to onerous permitting procedures, planners cite overtime for police officers as one of the largest and prohibitive expenditures. As part of the success, Ciclovía and a similar event in LA (called CicLAvía) utilize volunteers for traffic assistance. The city also pays for the program through sponsorships and a tax on phone bills, made possible because the program is so longstanding and beloved by all types of people that it is an accepted part of Bogotano culture and government spending. Going car-free can bring together the community Although the specific health and urban planning benefits aren’t always easy to quantify, there is resounding, worldwide interest in events like Ciclovía and a multitude of examples of its uniting , cross-cultural success. “No one cares about the clothes you’re wearing or what social class you’re from,” director Bibiana Sarmiento explained to National Geographic. “Everyone is welcome, and everyone is equal.” Via National Geographic and Vox Images via Saúl Ortega ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Cidades para Pessoas and Carlos Felipe Pardo

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Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

March 28, 2019 by  
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A unique location and environmentally-friendly passive house design are what define this lovely home on the Czech Republic/German border. 750 meters above sea level and in the middle of a ridge within the Ore Mountains, it almost looks like a modern farmhouse from the outside. On the inside, however, you’ll find a sleek, clean design with light colors, glass and wood. The rustic home was built by Stempel & Tesar Architects and is a certified passive house . A passive house technique dramatically reduces a building’s environmental footprint by essentially reusing the heat generated by electrical and gas appliances (refrigerators, ovens, even computers) to heat the home. A ventilation system is used to supply fresh air from outside the house to keep the air quality clean, and an efficient heat recovery unit contains and exhausts the recycled heat. Related: Green-roofed NY home taps into passive solar with contemporary style Ultra tight insulation and advanced windows that don’t allow for the heat to escape is required to produce a passive house. Conversely, a passive house is also designed to keep your home comfortable in the warmer months. So rather than using a separate heating or cooling device like a heater or air conditioner that drains energy , a passive house can recycle the heat that is already being generated. The result is a low-cost, energy efficient design that reduces the ecological footprint of the home. Outside the home is a covered walkway leading to the front entrance and an exterior of dark wood. Using an environmentally-friendly method, the wood was colored using a heating technique that eliminated the need for synthetic varnishes. The wood was also used to match the two-car garage to the look of the main house, and the roof is made of simple ceramic tiles. The location of the property allows for plenty of sunlight to brighten the home through the large windows. The home is comprised of two levels and also features a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a sliding door that allows for the entire house to be opened to the garden in the warmer months. Though the summer is short in this part of the world, the designers still included a winter garden and a covered terrace outside. + Stempel & Tesar Architects Via Archdaily Images via Stempel & Tesar Architects

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This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

March 28, 2019 by  
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In the aftermath of the Puebla earthquake that struck central Mexico in September 2017, Fundación PienZa Sostenible and Love Army México tapped Mexico City-based firm Francisco Pardo Arquitecto to design a home for a family who had lost their house in the disaster. Working in close collaboration with the Guzman family, the architects created a new and more earthquake-resistant dwelling that not only caters to the family’s needs but also offers improved living conditions. Named Casa Karina after the matriarch in the family of four, the home is built largely of compressed earth blocks , created in situ, along with pinewood used for the doors and windows. Located in the rural town of Ocuilan de Arteaga, the Guzmans’ 807-square-foot lot is located on family land split into five equal parts among the siblings. The Guzman’s original home was of poor construction: a single-story wood structure covered in metal sheets without insulation ; the floors were bare soil. In designing an improved home for the Guzmans, the architects decided to build a multi-story house with the communal areas and full bathroom on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the second floor and an open terrace on the third floor from where views of the town, the neighboring fields and the surrounding volcanoes can be seen. By building upward, the architects also allocated enough area on the grounds for a field for growing crops and space where the couple’s two daughters can play outdoors. The kitchen, located at the heart of the home, overlooks views of the field. Related: This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation The new construction is also far more robust than the previous house, with concrete foundations and polished cement floors. The compressed earth block walls are reinforced with concrete slabs. The architects said, “This is how we were able to entirely adapt the design to the needs and uses of the Guzman family and to build a new and more resistant home for them, providing better space conditions.” + Francisco Pardo Arquitecto Photography by Jaime Navarro, Pablo Astorga and Fernanda Olivares via Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

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A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

Ocean heatwaves have risen by more than 50% since 1925

April 11, 2018 by  
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Oceanic heatwaves have increased by 54 percent since 1925, posing a major threat to aquatic ecosystems . In a study published in the journal Nature Communications , researchers outlined the cause and effects of underwater heatwaves and their future impact on the world’s oceans. According to researchers, “These trends can largely be explained by increases in mean ocean temperatures, suggesting that we can expect further increases in marine heatwave days under continued global warming.” As higher levels of greenhouse gases concentrate in the atmosphere, greater amounts of solar radiation are trapped on Earth — 95 percent of which is absorbed by the ocean . Much like the relationship between extreme weather and rising temperatures on land, as the mean average oceanic temperature rises, so too does the likelihood of extreme oceanic heating events. Because water is able to hold more heat than land, these extreme temperature events last longer than those caused by higher air temperatures. A recent example occurred in 2015, when ocean temperatures from Mexico to Alaska increased up to 10 degrees above average. Fifty documented whale deaths were recorded in this period, and many other marine animals suffered from the unusually hot water. Related: Researchers discover a completely new ocean zone swimming with new species To conduct the study, the research team gathered and analyzed data on sea surface temperatures from the past century, with recent decades producing the most accurate data. Given that the most useful data is from such a short time period, the team could not explicitly draw a causal link between anthropogenic climate change and oceanic heatwaves. They explained that the fluctuations may be due to natural temperature swings. Nonetheless, the researchers concluded that the notable increase in average oceanic temperature is absolutely affected by climate change . The scientists are most concerned that — in combination with other pressures such as acidification, overfishing , and pollution — fragile ecosystems could reach a tipping point by oceanic heatwaves and ultimately collapse. Via ZME Science Images via Depositphotos and Oliver et al.

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

Scientists puzzle over subterranean heat melting Greenland’s glaciers

January 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers have acquired evidence that heat emanating from deep below the Earth’s surface is contributing to the meltdown of Greenland’s glaciers. Though they have long suspected that a subterranean heat source was a factor in the melting glaciers, scientists were previously unable to determine the precise mechanism by which this occurred. Data gathered from Greenland’s Young Sound fjord region, a geologically active area featuring many hot springs in which temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, indicates that radiant heat loss is melting glaciers from the bottom up. This discovery will allow researchers to more accurately assess the stability of Greenland’s ice sheet and better predict sea level rise . The heat rising from below Greenland’s surface has loosened the lowest levels of glaciers, easing their slide into the sea. “There is no doubt that the heat from the Earth’s interior affects the movement of the ice, and we expect that a similar heat seepage takes place below a major part of the ice cap in the northeastern corner of Greenland,” wrote Søren Rysgaard, lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports . The heat source is known as a geothermal heat flux, an ancient phenomenon found throughout the planet. In Greenland, the heat percolates from below the surface up through fjords, warming deep sea temperatures that then transfer this heat to the surrounding glaciers . Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth Because geothermal heat fluxes are difficult to assess, “our results are very unique because we determined the relatively small heat flux from a decade-long warming of an almost stagnant water mass,” co-author Jørgen Bendtsen told Newsweek . Earth’s heat circulating up through the fjords of Greenland is one of several factors contributing to the melting glaciers. Rising air and sea temperature, precipitation , and the unique qualities of the ice sheet also affect the speed of glacier melting. Via Newsweek Images via Wieter Boone ,  Mikael Sejr , and  Søren Rysgaard

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Scientists puzzle over subterranean heat melting Greenland’s glaciers

This floating hotel and spa in Sweden will fill you with wanderlust

January 23, 2018 by  
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The team behind the famous Treehotel in Sweden just unveiled plans for a new floating hotel and spa on the Lule River in that will fill you with wanderlust. The Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa might be the perfect place to enjoy the Northern Lights and work on your well-being while being surrounded by stunning landscapes. As a company that specializes in luxury adventure holidays, Off the Map Travel aims to provide people with exotic travel options and allow them to reach authentic destinations. The newest addition to their handpicked offering is this floating hotel and spa that freezes into the ice in the winter and floats on top of the Lule River in the summer. Related: Floating sauna with charred timber cladding boasts minimal site impact The Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa is a circular building that will house a spa treatment room, four saunas , an outside cold bath, a hot bath, outside and inside showers, and two dressing rooms for visitors. The six hotel rooms included also float or remain frozen into the ice, depending on the time of year. The project is being built using locally available materials and will be open for overnight stays as soon as early 2018. + Off the Map Travel Via AFAR

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This floating hotel and spa in Sweden will fill you with wanderlust

MIT researchers pioneer affordable way to turn waste heat into power

June 13, 2017 by  
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Steel and glass manufacturing generates large amounts of waste heat that’s not easy to capture – devices that do the job are either prohibitively expensive or don’t work in the requisite high temperatures. But a team of three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created a device that solves both issues at once. The high-temperature liquid thermoelectric device, which converts industrial waste heat into energy , could be a game-changer. Converting waste heat to electricity is often accomplished through solid-state thermoelectric devices, but at certain high temperatures they just don’t work, or are so expensive they can’t be used in much other than spaceships. In contrast, the MIT liquid thermoelectric device could pave the way for affordable conversion of waste heat into electricity. It includes a molten compound of tin and sulfur much cheaper than the solid-state bismuth telluride found in many commercial thermoelectric devices. That material is around 150 times more expensive than tin sulfide per cubic meter, according to MIT, and it only operates at temperatures of around 500 degrees Celsius. Related: Tiny thermophotovoltaic device harvests energy from infrared wavelengths The new MIT device, built by graduate student Youyang Zhao, operates at temperatures of 950 to 1,074 degrees Celsius. And as he changed the temperatures in which the device operated, he saw no significant performance drop. The researchers, however, don’t think most glass or steel plants would adopt the device simply to save the planet. But assistant professor of metallurgy Antoine Allanore, of whose research group Zhao is a part, said they might be interested if heat management could enable them to operate at even higher temperatures – allowing them to increase productivity or lengthen the lifespan of their equipment. According to MIT, thanks to the molten compounds in the new device, managing heat at high temperatures is now a possibility. The two scientists were joined by recent PhD graduate Charles Rinzler for a paper published by ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology . Via MIT News Images via Youyang Zhao and Denis Paiste/Materials Processing Center

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MIT researchers pioneer affordable way to turn waste heat into power

Lethal extreme heat and wildfires scorch the American southwest

June 20, 2016 by  
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The American southwest is battling extreme temperatures and blazing wildfires . The National Weather Service issued heat advisories – and in some cases excessive heat warnings – in California , Arizona, and New Mexico as temperatures threaten to climb higher this week. In Arizona , four people have already died. A crazy ‘ firenado ‘ was captured on video in California’s Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara County. The fire has burned close to 8,000 acres so far and is just 51 percent contained. Fires in Arizona and New Mexico have scorched even more acres. Arizona’s Cedar Head Fire has burned 12,140 acres and New Mexico’s Dog Head Fire has blazed through 17,891. Neither of those are as contained as the Sherpa Fire, and the Dog Head Fire is just nine percent contained. CNN reports all together, an area larger than Paris is burning. Related: India shatters records with temperature of 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit A weather pattern called a ‘heat dome’ has exacerbated temperatures. This occurs when a high pressure system in the atmosphere pushes hot air back down, trapping it and resulting in hotter temperatures than normal. CNN’s meteorologist said the three states have seen the hottest temperatures at the beginning of summer ever . Phoenix hit 118 degrees Fahrenheit, and the National Weather Service warned that in some desert areas, the temperature could reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 14 California locations hit at least 117 degrees Fahrenheit. In New Mexico, seven locations shattered heat records as well. In Pima County, Arizona, two hikers perished because of the heat, and a 25-year-old male and 28-year-old female died in Phoenix. 30 million people live in the areas that have received heat warnings. The National Weather Service warned that such extreme temperatures “can be life-threatening.” Via CNN and Global News Images via Susie Cagle on Flickr , Josh Berlinger on Twitter , and the National Weather Service Video via Global News

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