Your shampoo and deodorant cause a daily pollution ‘rush hour’

May 1, 2018 by  
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You may not realize it, but your shampoo, deodorant, or lotion could be contributing nearly as much urban air pollution  as your daily commute. A new study discovered emissions from siloxane, a common ingredient in those personal care products , are similar to those from vehicles in rush-hour traffic. Are you leaving air pollution-contributing chemicals in your wake? Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) led a study published online this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that revealed people’s personal care items could be polluting the air. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Demystifying “Natural” and “Organic” Labels on Personal Care Products The scientists were measuring VOCs from a mobile laboratory and the Earth System Research Laboratory roof, tracking concentrations of traffic-related compounds like benzene at rush hour. They saw a peak in the data and one scientist suggested siloxane. He was right. Siloxane emissions correlated with benzene emissions, so the team guessed siloxane might be found in vehicle exhaust. But tailpipe emission testing and roadside measurements revealed that wasn’t the case. Siloxane, a volatile organic compound (VOC), is added to lotions or shampoos to impart a silky feel. The VOC evaporates rapidly after being applied, and according to CIRES , “In the air, sunlight can trigger those VOCs to react with nitrogen oxides and other compounds to form ozone and particulate matter.” The scientists figured out both chemicals could be connected to commuting . In the morning, after people had applied personal care products and headed outside, siloxane emissions peaked, as did benzene emissions as people traveled in cars or buses. The emissions of both chemicals decreased in the day and then peaked once again at the evening commute, although the evening peak was lower for siloxane emissions as many personal care products had evaporated to a great extent. “We estimate for the city of Boulder, it’s about 3 to 5 kilograms per day of siloxane (D5), and benzene (from motor vehicles), we estimate is about 15 kilograms,” CIRES scientist and lead author Matthew Coggon said . “So it’s about three to five times lower (than vehicles) in terms of total mass. But the emissions that you see in the morning…they’re fairly close, which is the stunning piece. You driving your car, you’re emitting as much siloxane as your vehicle is emitting benzene. That’s the general gist.” “We all have a personal plume, from our cars and our personal care products,” Coggon added. “In this changing landscape, emissions from personal care products are becoming important.” + CIRES + Environmental Science and Technology Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 ) and Kathy Bogan/CIRES

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Your shampoo and deodorant cause a daily pollution ‘rush hour’

World’s rarest marine mammal could face extinction under Trump administration

March 26, 2018 by  
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Under 30 vaquita porpoises live in the wild — but Donald Trump’s administration may be violating federal laws that could protect the animals, according to a lawsuit recently filed by conservation groups and reported on by Mother Jones . Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) staff attorney Giulia Good Stefani said in a statement  that the lawsuit “might be the vaquita’s last chance.” Will vaquitas vanish forever? Environmental groups are concerned they might, and the NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity , and Animal Welfare Institute are calling out Trump’s administration for failing to protect what the World Wildlife Fund calls the world’s rarest  marine mammal . The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act  requires the Secretary of the Treasury to “ban the importation of commercial fish or products from fish which have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of United States standards.” The vaquita can drown in gill nets, which are used to catch seafood , but the Trump administration has not banned seafood harvested with these nets in the Gulf of California, the sole habitat of the vaquita. Related: Trump administration ‘declares war’ on West Coast turtles, dolphins, and whales Gill nets kill around 50 percent of the vaquita population every single year — and, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the creatures might even go extinct next year if fishing practices aren’t changed. Mexico  also hasn’t permanently banned all gill nets in the Gulf of California, though scientists have recommended they do so. And Animal Welfare Institute’s marine animal program director, Susan Millward, said the United States is “a leading importer of fish products caught in the upper Gulf of California.” The groups that filed the suit are calling for an immediate US ban on seafood imports that come from the upper Gulf and Mexican shrimp, hoping such a move would pressure Mexico to completely ban gil lnets in the vaquita’s habitat. Millward said, “The U.S. seafood market should not be contributing to the extinction of a species.” + Center for Biological Diversity Via Mother Jones Images via Wikimedia Commons and NOAA Restoration Center, Chris Doley

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World’s rarest marine mammal could face extinction under Trump administration

This kinetic installation uses sound to visualize the worlds CO2 emissions

February 7, 2018 by  
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The CarbonScape installation by Chinese artist Chris Cheung (aka h0nh1m) , mimics the sounds of jet engines, ship horns, steam, chimneys, and other carbon emitters, blending them together into an immersive soundscape .  The sounds are visualized by a bamboo forest-like field of tubes and black ‘carbon’ balls. The result is a piece of art that speaks to the effects of fossil fuel use and industrialization on our planet. The kinetic soundscape installation consists of 18 tracks of synthesized sound samples. The artist collected these noises from the sound sources where a  carbon footprint is left, for example, the sound from the jet engine, steam from a factory or the horn of the ship. These tracks are blended into a unified soundscape. As the sounds are emitted, black balls rise and fall to represent the carbon in a particular part of the planet. Related: Amazing Hive comes alive with sights and sounds in Washington, D.C. CarbonScape uses data acquired from the NOAA ( National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ) to help bring the visualization to life. According to their findings, in 2017 the concentration of CO2 soared to its highest of the past three million years. The data show that this increase can be largely attributed to industrialization and the use of fossil fuels . + h0nh1m ? CarbonScape (PV) from h0nh1m on Vimeo .

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This kinetic installation uses sound to visualize the worlds CO2 emissions

The Earth’s poles may be about to flip – and the consequences could be ‘dire’

January 31, 2018 by  
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Over the past 200 years, the Earth’s magnetic field has been getting weaker . Researchers believe that this could be a sign that the poles are about to flip – and the consequences could be “dire,” according to some scientists. If a flip happens, it could knock out power grids, alter the climate, and expose us to solar winds that could puncture the ozone layer. The poles have switched regularly throughout Earth’s history. The last time they flipped was 780,000 years ago. Since the poles normally switch every 200,000 – 300,000 years – according to NASA – we are well overdue for a change. Over the last two centuries, the magnetic field generated by the Earth’s molten core has weakened 15 percent, lending further evidence to the fact that the poles are getting restless. Related: The Earth’s magnetic field is weakening ten times faster than expected If the poles flip, it could confuse animals that rely on magnetic fields for migration, and it could lead to more radiation from the sun reaching life on the planet, according to studies . This would lead to an increase in the incidence of cancer – or at least require us to protect ourselves better from the sun. In a worst-case scenario, the flipping poles could wipe out power grids by damaging satellites that control grid infrastructure and could impact the climate by changing cloud cover. According to researcher Daniel Baker , we don’t know for sure when the poles could flip. The poles have been known to shift and move, ultimately snapping back into place. And while it certainly wouldn’t be a doomsday scenario for the planet, it would be wise to prepare for the event, so that the impact isn’t challenging for humanity. Via Undark Images via NOAA,   NASA and Deposit Photos

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The Earth’s poles may be about to flip – and the consequences could be ‘dire’

"This is unprecedented": Irish Minister of State for Flood Relief on tropical storm Ophelia

October 16, 2017 by  
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When you hear the word ‘ hurricane ,’ you probably don’t think about Ireland . But Tropical Storm Ophelia, which has been downgraded from its status as a hurricane, is on a path towards the country, with warnings of high seas, power outages , and hazardous conditions. Minister for Flood Relief Kevin Moran said at a Dublin press conference, “This is unprecedented.” An Atlantic hurricane has been whirling towards the United Kingdom . Although Ophelia is an ex-hurricane, the Irish Meteorological Service, Met Éireann , is warning of violent and destructive wind gusts that could reach between 120 and 150 kilometers per hour (km/h), or around 75 to 93 miles per hour (mph). They said heavy rain and storm surges in some coastal areas will lead to flooding , posing a danger to human property and lives. Related: How Hurricane Irma changed the colors of these Caribbean islands As many as 100,000 homes and businesses in the country have lost power, as power lines have been knocked down. An Electricity Supply Board spokesperson said earlier today many of the power lines are still live and asked people to stay away. The Met Éireann said at Cork Airport, wind gusts of 124 km/h, or 77 mph, were recorded; at Fastnet Rock wind gusts were 176 km/h, or 109 mph. The United Kingdom Met Office issued an amber weather warning for Northern Ireland, southwest Scotland, Strathclyde, and Wales. They issued yellow warnings for 11 locations, including western areas in England and Yorkshire. A status red weather warning applies to all cities and counties in Ireland, according to prime minister Leo Varadkar, who told people to stay indoors. Speaking of Debbie, the largest storm recorded in the history of Ireland in the 1960’s, he said, “The last time we had a storm this severe 11 lives were lost so safety is our number one priority.” Via The Guardian Images via NOAA/NASA Goddard Rapid Response Team and Met Éireann on Twitter

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"This is unprecedented": Irish Minister of State for Flood Relief on tropical storm Ophelia

Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy

September 29, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Maria has left swaths of Puerto Rico without power – and millions of people could have to go without electricity for months . The storm’s devastation has stirred new interest in obtaining more energy from clean sources like solar or wind . Energy experts say increasing renewables and transitioning from centralized grids to microgrids could boost resilience as Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands weather storms. CARICOM, a Caribbean nation consortium, already hoped to hit 47 percent renewable energy by 2027. The recent hurricanes could act as a motivation to work for that goal. Caribbean countries in the past have relied mostly on imported fossil fuels , which are expensive both for the islands and for the environment . And storms can cripple power lines. Related: Puerto Rico could be without electricity for months due to Hurricane Maria There is an alternative, according to The Washington Post. Renewable sources, coupled with battery storage , powering small grids could offer more resiliency. Fossil fuels would offer backup—at least initially until battery storage becomes more affordable. The microgrids could be connected to a main grid but could also be isolated. With this new setup, the Caribbean could benefit from trade winds and solar panels. According to renewable energy expert Tom Rogers, who works at Britain’s Coventry University, solar systems in the tropics can “generate over one and a half times more than exactly the same PV system” installed in a location with a higher latitude like Europe. Rogers told The Washington Post, “You look at islands like Dominica, Anguilla, and other islands affected by the recent hurricanes, I’ve spoken to a couple of the utilities, and they say they would prefer to rebuild using distributed generation with storage, and just trying to reduce the amount of transmission lines. Because that’s where their energy systems fail. It’s having these overhead cables.” Via The Washington Post Images via Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/Puerto Rico National Guard and NOAA Satellites Twitter

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Three hurricanes form in the Atlantic for the first time since 2010

September 7, 2017 by  
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While Hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean towards the United States mainland, another two potentially powerful storms are waiting in the wings. Following closely behind Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, are Tropical Storms Jose and Katia. The presence of these storms marks the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic. In what may prove to be one of the most active on record , the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has already demonstrated the unpredictable and explosive power of storms in the age of climate change . Jose, like Irma, is known as a Cape Verde hurricane for its origins in the far eastern Atlantic , near the island nation of Cape Verde off the coast of Africa . However, it is unlikely that Jose will follow Irma’s path nor will it likely be as powerful. Jose is expected to spin towards the open ocean and become a Category 3 hurricane, though it is not expected to travel over any land area. Related: Harvey forces National Weather Service to add new color to its rainfall map Katia is more closely related to Harvey, in that it too became a hurricane in the warm waters of the southern Gulf of Mexico. Despite its shared birthplace with the devastating hurricane that made landfall near Houston , Katia is expected to travel close to Mexico . It is currently nearly 200 miles northeast of Veracruz, Mexico, near which a small portion of the coast is currently under hurricane watch. Although three hurricanes active in the Atlantic at the same time is unusual, it is neither unprecedented nor unrivaled. During the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, four hurricanes, including Hurricane Georges which caused major damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic , were active during the same period. Via CNN Images via NOAA (1)

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Three hurricanes form in the Atlantic for the first time since 2010

New NOAA tool shows how climate change will affect your neighborhood

May 4, 2017 by  
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We’ve all seen the projections: Sea-level rises, hastened by a warming planet, will be nothing short of catastrophic for the world’s coastal communities. Even so, climate change can still be a nebulous concept for those of us who aren’t immediately affected by the havoc rising temperatures can bring, whether it’s longer periods of drought, more powerful storms, or the increased risk of flooding. To see what you have personally at stake, tinker around with Climate Explorer , an online tool developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help community leaders, business owners, municipal planners, and residents understand how environmental conditions may alter local conditions over the next several decades. Launched in 2016 as part of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit , the Climate Explorer leverages two global climate model scenarios to predict how heat-trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere may shape variables such as temperature and precipitation through 2100. Related: Earth’s climate hurtling towards warmth unprecedented in nearly half a billion years The site is able to serve up observed and modeled data for every county in the United States. Simply enter your zip code for a snapshot of parameters such as the number of days over 95 degrees Fahrenheit and the number of days with heavy rain. “The Climate Explorer is designed to help users visualize how climate conditions may change over the coming decades,” David Herring, communication and education program manager at NOAA’s Climate Program Office, said when the tool first debuted. “Projections of how much and how fast change is happening is crucial to help communities prepare and become more resilient.” Related: CO2 levels just reached 410 ppm—the highest in millions of years NOAA’s timing couldn’t be more apt. 2016 marked Earth’s hottest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880. It had the equally dubious honor of being the third consecutive year to set a new record for global average surface temperatures. + Climate Explorer + National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Via International Business Times

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New NOAA tool shows how climate change will affect your neighborhood

Snhettas ready-made cabin can fit into any landscape

May 4, 2017 by  
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If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a Snøhetta -designed home, this may be the opportunity you’ve been looking for. The renowned Norwegian design firm just unveiled a beautiful prefabricated cabin designed to pop up in and complement any landscape. Created in collaboration with Rindalshytter , Norway’s leading producer of leisure homes, the Gapahuk cabin features an environmentally friendly footprint with off-grid capabilities. Designed for adaptability, Gapahuk can suit an array of climates and terrains from high mountaintops to lakesides. The cabin is built primarily from wood and uses a twisting roof that protects the interior from the elements. “Focus has been put on using high quality and low maintenance materials that can be locally sourced and are environmentally friendly,” writes Snøhetta. Related: Gorgeous forest home will fulfill your tiny cabin dreams Natural light pours into the Gapahuk through the cabin’s large windows that also frame views of the surrounding landscape. Created with an emphasis on social design, the compact cabin interior prioritizes common areas with its large open-plan kitchen, dining area, and living room. In contrast, the cabin’s three bedrooms are moderately sized. The building also features an outdoor patio space to emphasize connection with the outdoors. + Snøhetta

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Snhettas ready-made cabin can fit into any landscape

The 10,000-year-old East Coast Grand Canyon 100 miles from NYC

April 5, 2017 by  
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The East Coast has its own Grand Canyon -like natural wonder – just 100 miles southeast of Lady Liberty in New York City. And the mile-deep Hudson Canyon brims with biodiversity , but it is at risk of being exploited for oil and gas exploration. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)’s New York Aquarium recently nominated the canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary in a bid to protect endangered creatures dwelling there from the fossil fuel industry. The Hudson Canyon formed around 10,000 years ago during the last ice age, but few New Yorkers or East Coast residents know it exists. It’s under around 60 feet of water on the continental margin, or ocean floor zone separating thin oceanic crust from thick continental crust, at the Hudson River’s outlet. Scientists don’t even know a lot about what is at the bottom of the canyon, which is the East Coast’s largest submarine canyon , but they do know it’s home to endangered whales , sea turtles , sharks , and hundreds of plankton species. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio gives Seychelles $1 million for monumental marine sanctuary New York Aquarium visitors will get a glimpse into the canyon in the upcoming 57,000-square-foot exhibit “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” set to open in 2018. The exhibit will include Canyon’s Edge, a recreation of the experience of sitting on or standing just below the edge of Hudson Canyon. WCS wants to preserve the Hudson Canyon from fossil fuel exploration and extraction through nominating the site as a National Marine Sanctuary. They say such a designation will also sustain recreational and commercial fisheries and whale and bird cruises. WCS vice president Jon Forrest Dohlin also told NYMetro a sanctuary designation could also help scientists obtain resources necessary to explore the canyon further. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did determine the Hudson Canyon meets criteria necessary to be “an ecological site of national significance worthy of protection,” according to WCS, and they have a petition going asking NOAA to rapidly start the designation process. You can sign the petition here . Via 6sqft and NY Metro Images courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 – Pathways to the Abyss, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS and Dominic Sherony on Flickr

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The 10,000-year-old East Coast Grand Canyon 100 miles from NYC

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