Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions

September 25, 2019 by  
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Researchers predict a major marine heat wave in the Pacific Ocean could prove disastrous to the fragile coral reefs along Hawaii’s Papa Bay and similar coastlines. Warmer water conditions often trigger coral bleaching, a condition that leaves coral reefs susceptible to mortality. Coral reefs play a very significant environmental and ecological role. As a habitat, for instance, they support many species in the marine environment. Coral reefs likewise serve as a protective barrier, buffering shorelines against deleterious wave action, especially during typhoon season, to minimize coastal damage and to prevent erosion. Healthy reefs contribute to local economies, particularly through tourism as well as commercial and recreational fishing. Related: ‘The Blob’ returns — marine heatwave settles over Pacific Unfortunately, when water is too warm, coral become stressed. They consequently expel the algae , or zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues. In doing so, coral turn white, a condition known as bleaching. Prolonged loss of the algae eventually leads to the coral’s demise. When coral reefs are compromised, the loss cascades, often causing far-reaching ecosystem repercussions. Back in 2015, a prominent marine heat wave eliminated half of the Papa Bay coastline’s coral reefs that surround Hawaii’s Big Island. This year, marine scientists associated with NOAA similarly predict that another round of very warm water will occur in the region once again. “In 2015, we hit temperatures that we’ve never recorded ever in Hawaii ,” NOAA oceanographer Jamison Gove said. “What is really important — or alarming, probably more appropriately — about this event is that we’ve been tracking above where we were this time in 2015.” Earlier this September, NOAA researchers warned of the Blob’s return. The Blob — the moniker coined by Washington state climatologist Nick Bond during the 2015 heat wave — describes the vast expanse of unusually warm water that occurred in the Pacific Ocean from 2014 to 2016. It adversely impacted coral reefs, causing global bleaching and diminished coastal fisheries’ yields throughout the Pacific. To date, this year’s Blob is reportedly the second-largest marine heat wave ever recorded in the past 40 years, just behind the 2014 – 2016 Blob. As a result, forecasts anticipate an even warmer October, which could critically undermine the coral that are still recovering from the first Blob. “Temperatures have been warm for quite a long time,” Gove continued.  “It’s not just how hot it is — it’s how long those ocean temperatures stay warm.” While scientists are not yet able to pinpoint the exact causes for ocean temperatures warming, it is believed human-influenced climate change is a salient factor. Restoration efforts are in the works. Research suggests coral can be conditioned to withstand future onslaught of warmer water. Both scientists and coral hobbyists are on a mission to breed “super corals” resilient enough to avoid bleaching. It is hoped the introduction of these “super corals” into the environment will fortify reefs to better evolve amidst global warming conditions. Via Associated Press Images via Terri Stewart and NOAA

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Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions

Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

Global warming makes 2018 the 4th hottest year ever

February 13, 2019 by  
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U.S. officials have confirmed that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA just revealed that temperatures were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the worldwide average, which includes temperatures between 1951 and 1980. Temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest of any year since 1880. That places 2018 slightly behind the top three average temperatures on record: 2016, 2017 and 2015, respectively. According to The Guardian , the rise in temperatures affects more than just the heat index. Global warming also raises sea levels and spawns increasingly extreme weather patterns. In 2018, for example, the U.S. witnessed two of the worst hurricanes on record, while wildfires devastated California. Elsewhere around the globe, India experienced massive flooding, while a disastrous typhoon hit the Philippines. Greece and Sweden also suffered deadly wildfires , and the Arctic had one of the warmest years ever. In fact, scientists warn that the Arctic is experiencing double the warming rate of any other region on Earth. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” NASA’s Gavin Schmidt explained. “The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding , heatwaves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change.” With global warming not showing any signs of slowing down, scientists believe hotter temperatures are the new norm. This year has already begun with El Niño in the forecast, which means it could be even hotter than last year. Unless carbon emissions are drastically cut within the next decade, it is possible that we see another record setting year between now and 2023. Even if governments around the world exceed expectations in cutting  carbon emissions, slowing global warming will be difficult. Even more disturbing is the fact that we have seen 18 of the 19 hottest years since 2001. For reference, children who are now graduating from high school have only experienced record-setting temperatures. Last year was the fourth hottest year on record, but it may turn out to be a mild one for future generations. Via The Guardian Image via Pixel2013

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Global warming makes 2018 the 4th hottest year ever

California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms

October 24, 2018 by  
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With 3,427 miles of coastline , one would think establishing wind farms in California would be a cinch. As it turns out, the depth of the waters has kept the idea of offshore wind in this area at bay. Energy companies have been eagerly awaiting the curtain fall from government regulators that was finally announced on Friday by the U.S. Department of the Interior. While turbine installation will prove to be a challenge because of unique terrain demands, offshore wind turbines could help California’s plans to reach 100 percent green energy by 2045. If all goes as planned, the wind farms could be operating within the next six years. “We are early in the process here,” explained California Energy Commission member Karen Douglas. “Offshore wind has potential to help with our renewable energy goals.” California’s first ever offshore wind auction, allowing energy companies to lease waters in certain areas of the Pacific Ocean, was announced alongside two other wind farm initiatives already underway in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. So what’s slowing down California’s state officials and utility companies? “They would be in much deeper water than anything that has been built in the world so far,” Douglas said. Because the ocean’s depths are substantial — even close to shore — California’s coastline is not ideal for offshore wind farms . Related: World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland Regardless, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management ( BOEM ) followed up on the announcement with a “call for information and nominations” from energy companies looking to develop the offshore technology. Submissions will be accepted over a 100-day period that will close on Jan. 27, 2019. The state’s new wind farms will be concentrated within proposed areas off of Central and Northern California. In total, the 658 full and partial blocks on the Outer Continental Shelf that are offered for commercial wind energy leasing cover an area of 1,073 square miles (687,823 acres). The announcement is good news for Gov. Jerry Brown and his office of environmental reformers. In September, the governor signed a bill that mandated California’s energy reliance be supplied solely through renewable sources by 2045. The addition of offshore wind turbines could propel this shift to happen much faster than expected, as the state is now able to look beyond land-based wind farms and solar panels to meet demand. Via The New York Times , NOAA and BOEM Image via Lars Plougmann

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California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms

Elementary teacher installs a dreamy tiny cabin on his pickup truck

October 24, 2018 by  
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Cabin builder and second-grade teacher  Jacob Witzling has spent much of his 35 years either living in or building fairytale-like tiny cabins made out of reclaimed wood . But now the ambitious builder is taking his creative cabin-making craft on the road in the form of an itsy-bitsy cabin installed on the bed of a pickup truck. Today, Witzling and his partner, Sara Underwood, are roaming from one amazing destination to another in their amazing Truck Cabin. Since he was young, Witzling has always been inspired by fairytales, forts and ewoks. In fact, as a teenager, he moved out of his parents’ house into an old cabin in the woods. He would go home to eat and wash his clothes, but he would always head back to his tiny cabin tucked deep into the wooded forest. It’s this love of nature that continues to drive his passion for constructing dreamy woodland dwellings. Related: These enchanting, off-grid cabins are handcrafted from salvaged materials After years of building enchanting, off-grid cabins in remote forestscapes, the crafty duo decided to take their love of tiny living on the road. This Truck Cabin is a tiny structure built onto the bed of Witzling’s pickup truck. Clad in reclaimed wood, the home on wheels has just enough space for the couple to relax when they are not busy exploring new and exciting destinations. The cabin features an elongated volume with an asymmetrical roof. The front cantilevers over the cab of the truck, adding extra space for a tiny sleeping loft inside. Below the loft, the living space is comprised of a bench with comfy pillows and a compact but functional kitchen. Various windows, also made out of salvaged wood, flood the interior space with natural light and provide natural ventilation. The Truck Cabin is surely one of the most innovative tiny cabins we’ve ever seen, but the traveling couple have even bigger plans. Jacob and Sara are planning to open a “cabin land” in the Pacific Northwest where they will build a series of tiny cabins with views of the mountains. Guests to the cabin community will be able to rent out the cabins individually or for large group events. + Jacob Witzling Via Dwell Photography by Sara Underwood and Jacob Witzling

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Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

September 11, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Florence is on a collision course with the southeastern United States. The immense and powerful storm will create high winds and surges along coastal towns and cities, but scientists are more concerned about how much rain Florence might produce — and the increased frequency of similar storms as a result of climate change . James Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , said flooding is the biggest risk with the incoming hurricane. Florence is moving so slow across the ocean that it might come to a near standstill once it hits land, moving somewhere around two to three miles per hour. If that happens, Florence could hit cities on the East Coast with record rainfall. Related: 2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year A similar situation occurred last year when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. The massive storm slowed almost to a halt in the Houston area, dumping more than 60 inches of rain in some locations. The excess rain led to 93 deaths and completely shut down certain areas. With Hurricane Florence set to repeat history, scientists believe slow moving storms may become the new norm — and it is all thanks to climate change. Kossin and his team published a study this year that showed cyclones are moving slower on average. In fact, hurricanes have undergone a decrease in speed by about 10 percent over the past 70 years. Kossin believes climate change is slowing down wind currents, which hurricanes use to travel across the ocean. Once the storms stall over land, they continuously dump rain and produce record flooding. The only exception to this trend is in the Indian Ocean, where wind currents have remained strong. Along with slowing down hurricanes, climate change is creating larger and more intense storms as ocean waters warm. The added warmth creates more fuel for the storms as the water evaporates. Harvey and Florence are two examples of this, and scientists believe that trend will continue until we begin to cut down greenhouse gases. + NOAA Via NPR Image via NOAA

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Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

The US just experienced its hottest May on record

June 11, 2018 by  
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It’s a familiar theme: each year, it seems, is the hottest year on record. The most recent climate change milestone in the U.S. occurred last month, when the country experienced its hottest May ever recorded. “Nature is dealing cards from a very different deck now compared to the 20th century,” climate scientist David Titley told USA Today . The average temperature for May in the lower 48 states was 65.4°F, 5.2°F above the average temperature for the month in the 20th century. Prior to this year, the record hottest May occurred in 1934, at the height of the Dust Bowl. While climate change contributed to the record warmth, two significant tropical storms brought heat and precipitation north from the Gulf of Mexico. While more than a quarter of the contiguous U.S. remains in drought, some states, including Maryland and Florida , experienced their wettest month of May on record. As a result of heavy winter snow melting rapidly in a warm spring, locations in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming have experienced significant flooding. Related: Climate change has transformed much of Alaska over the past three decades Beyond the average monthly temperature, more than 8,590 daily warm temperature station records were either broken or tied throughout May. “This was 18 times more than the approximately 460 daily cold temperature station records during the month,” NOAA wrote. “Several of the daily records were noteworthy, including 100°F on May 28 in Minneapolis, Minnesota  — the earliest such occurrence on record.” + NOAA Via Ecowatch and  USA Today Images via NOAA

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The US just experienced its hottest May on record

A prefab hotel with lakeside views pops up in northern Russia

June 11, 2018 by  
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St. Petersburg-based architecture firm Rhizome group designed and built Tochka na Karte Hotel, a prefabricated structure crafted to embrace the outdoors. Located in the northern Russian town of Priozersk in Leningrad Oblast, the hotel complex is a sleek and modern getaway nestled among mature pine trees. The use of modular technology has helped reduce construction waste and minimize site impact , including the preservation of existing trees. Located just a two-hour drive north of St. Petersburg , the Tochka na Karte Hotel (Russian for ‘a point on the map’) is set on the shore of Lake Ladoga on the border of the Republic of Karelia. Due to its proximity to St. Petersburg, historical points of interest and abundance of pristine nature, the area has long served as a major tourist destination for Russians and foreigners alike. The hotel taps into the region’s natural beauty by using floor-to-ceiling glazing to frame outdoor views from every room, thus blurring the line between indoors and out. The prefabricated building comprises three two-story blocks with 32 standard rooms, detached suites (built of two modules) and a reception building (assembled from three modules and some prefabricated elements). The modules, which measure 3.5 meters by 7 meters, were constructed in a factory and then assembled on site. Stairways and terraces connect the modular blocks. The facade was built of timber and dark metal to tie the building into the wooded landscape. To further blend the hotel into its pine forest backdrop, the structures were “dispersed” among existing mature pines near where the Vuoski River meets Lake Ladoga. Related: This minimalist prefab hotel offers stunning views of the Swiss Alps “We believe we succeeded in achieving the essence of a place inherent to modern Nordic architecture,” the architects wrote. “Terrain forms, trees layout and our strive to provide a view of the shore from every room constitute the buildings’ location on the site.” + Rhizome Images by Dmitry Tsyrencshikov

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A prefab hotel with lakeside views pops up in northern Russia

High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years

June 7, 2018 by  
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A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds that the frequency of coastal flooding at high tide across the U.S. has doubled in the past 30 years. This type of flooding, often referred to as “sunny day flooding,” occurs without the presence of a storm; the floodwaters simply arrive with the high tide. In 2017, there was an average of six high-tide flooding days, a record high, in each of the 98 coastal areas studied. Researchers expect the next two years to bring much of the same, while the long-term forecast, exacerbated by rising sea levels and increased occurrences of extreme weather, is more foreboding. In 2017, the Northeast and the Gulf of Mexico regions were the most affected by high tide coastal flooding. Boston , Massachusetts and Atlantic City, New Jersey experienced 22 days of flooding, while Galveston, Texas, in addition to being hit by Hurricane Harvey , was affected by 18 days of high tide coastal flooding. Because of cyclical climate conditions, NOAA expects the next two years to be as bad or worse for coastal flooding in at least half of the 98 areas featured in the study. Related: California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms “Breaking of annual flood records is to be expected next year and for decades to come as sea levels rise, and likely at an accelerated rate,” the report reads. “Though year-to-year and regional variability exists, the underlying trend is quite clear: due to sea level rise , the national average frequency of high tide flooding is double what it was 30 years ago.” Hurricanes and extreme weather may cause acute incidents of devastation, but the report suggests that mundane high tide coastal flooding represents a different, more pervasive kind of threat. “We need to rethink our relationship with the coastline because it’s going to be retreating for the foreseeable future,” geologist Andrea Dutton told the Guardian . “We need to take this report as a warning to prepare ourselves, or we will just sit around and wait for disaster to happen.” Despite the imminent threat, the U.S.  currently has no federal plan to adapt to rising sea levels and increased flooding. + NOAA Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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