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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Elementary teacher installs a dreamy tiny cabin on his pickup truck

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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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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