The warmest ocean temperature in a century was just recorded in California

August 7, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have recorded the warmest sea surface temperature in more than a hundred years near a pier in San Diego. The Institute, affiliated with the University of California, San Diego, has been collecting data on sea surface temperatures at the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier since 1916. The 2018 level surpassed an unusual 1931 record by 0.2 degrees, coming in at a whopping 78.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Related: Ocean heatwaves have risen by more than 50% since 1925 According to a press release from Scripps , “the ocean region off Southern California has been experiencing anomalously warm temperatures for the past week, and other observational networks farther off the coast have reported record or near-record temperatures as well.” The continuous rise in temperature will have serious implications for sea life and marine ecosystems. For example, it could help create a toxic algae bloom, such as the one that spread along the north Pacific coast in 2014, altering the biodiversity of the area indefinitely. This bloom had a devastating impact on sea lions and other marine mammal groups, closed fisheries, and pushed species of jellyfish and stingrays further inward to shore, causing a perilous domino effect of altered food chains. In 2015, El Niño significantly altered water temperature levels off the coast of California . However, after such environmental phenomena, seawater temperatures are supposed to return to historical averages. This time, it never happened. “It really is weird,” explained Scripps research scientist Clarissa Anderson in an interview with NPR. “We have different records going back decades and while [our ocean water] temperature is tightly connected with the equator, we’re now seeing [temperatures] stabilize at the equator while temperatures in southern California keep going up.” According to researchers, the record temperature is yet another sign of the mounting effects of climate change . + Scripps Institute Via NPR

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The warmest ocean temperature in a century was just recorded in California

Hood River retreat boasts minimal environmental impact

August 7, 2018 by  
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Lovers of the Columbia River Gorge will swoon over this beautiful vacation retreat perched right on Neal Creek, just an hour outside Portland, Oregon. Designed by Portland -based practice Paul McKean Architecture to embrace the outdoors, this two-bedroom weekend getaway was crafted to maximize valley and water views while minimizing impact on the natural environment. The owners—both outdoor enthusiasts—sought an environmentally friendly home that they now serves as a vacation rental available for all to rent . To minimize site impact, Paul McKean Architecture raised the habitable part of the home to one full floor above grade, creating a top-heavy form with elevated views of the creek and treetop canopy. Set atop a concrete plinth, the second level is clad in horizontal planks of timber. “Their wooded two-acre parcel of land presented many unique challenges including wetlands, creek protection setbacks, and floodplain restrictions,” explains the architecture in a project statement. “Lifting the main space protects the house from potential flooding and brush fire damage while making way for a covered outdoor patio and much needed gear storage below. At the uppermost level, a future planted roof will replace the landscape lost to the building footprint and reduces heat gain to the interior spaces.” Related: Spend the night in this magical Hobbit House tucked into the Washington shire Completed in 2008 for a project budget of $185,000, the weekend retreat spans 960 square feet. However, full-height glazing and white walls give the home a more spacious feel than its size lets on. The two bedrooms include two queen beds, while two twin beds can be added to the hallway; the retreat can sleep a total of six people. The year-round nightly rate at the Neal Creek Retreat starts at $230. + Paul McKean Architecture Images by Stephen Tamiesie

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Hood River retreat boasts minimal environmental impact

Previously stable zones of Antarctica are now falling victim to climate change

August 1, 2018 by  
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Unlike its counterpart, West Antarctica, which has long been decimated by melting ice caps, East Antarctica used to be a safe zone – something scientists could depend on as a constant while they solved the more pressing destruction in the western part of the continent. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. According to  research unveiled last week in the journal  Geophysical Research Letters , despite the higher elevation and colder temperatures found in the eastern portion of the Antarctic continent, warm ocean currents and rising global temperatures are now destabilizing two of its glaciers. The research has chronicled the lives of two glaciers in the coldest region on Earth for the past 15 years. These glaciers shield the Eastern zone’s land ice, descending from the ice directly toward the sea. This creates a naturally formed dam that, if disturbed, would affect the ice that covers the rest of the region by subjecting it to the warming ocean waters. The melting of these two massive glaciers alone would raise sea levels more than 16 feet (five meters), undoubtedly compromising the rest of the territory. In an interview with Earther , Yara Mohajerani, lead expert in the study and PhD candidate at the University of California, explained, “The East Antarctic ice sheet contains much more ice and sea level potential than any other ice sheet by far, making it of crucial global significance.” Past research has shown the disappearance of similar glaciers in the East Antarctic region when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reached levels comparable to those found today as a result of human activities. Related: Scientists uncover giant canyons under the ice in Antarctica Scientists believe that, due to the circulation of warm ocean water under the two glaciers, they’ve been losing mass for quite some time. To help quantify the losses, NASA provided the researchers with its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, which measures small changes in gravity. GRACE collected data from 2002 to 2017, and the new study reveals that the glaciers are losing 18.5 gigatons of ice each year, or the equivalent of 7.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. While this is minuscule in comparison to losses in the rest of Antarctica, the location of these glaciers makes their survival central to the discussion of East Antarctica’s stability and, therefore, the state of the continent as a whole. + Geophysical Research Letters Via Earther

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Previously stable zones of Antarctica are now falling victim to climate change

Deadly heatwaves may make parts of China uninhabitable by the end of the century

August 1, 2018 by  
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It is no surprise that the world’s most populous country, China , is also the largest polluter on Earth. However, for individuals living in China’s northern plain, the most densely populated region on the planet, it may come as a shock that their homes could become uninhabitable by the end of the century. The region is expected to be subject to aggressive heatwaves that could kill even the healthiest of people in just a matter of hours if carbon emissions are not reduced. In a recent study published by MIT’s Center for Global Change Science , researchers found that China’s northern plain will be the worst spot in the world for future deadly heatwaves. “China is currently the largest contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases , with potentially serious implications to its own population,” said Professor Elfatih Eltahir, speaking on behalf of his team who ran extensive computerized climate models to research the unfolding event. “Continuation of current global emissions may limit the habitability of the most populous region of the most populous country on Earth.” Related: 6 ways that scientists are hacking the planet This is especially worrisome, because a large portion of the region’s 400 million people are farmers dependent on both the land and outdoor conditions for their livelihoods. According to Bloomberg , Chinese diets are becoming increasingly more like western ones — and it takes about 1 acre to feed the average individual in the U.S. When considering fields that are affected by pollution, which produce mercury-infected rice and milk powder with melamine, China barely has 0.2 acres of arable land per citizen. Pair the degradation of prime land by pollution with the dangerous heatwaves, and China will have a major humanitarian crisis in the near future. Eltahir and his team have previously published global models noting that the key driver to these heat waves is climate change, but that irrigation for farmland is also a serious contributor as water evaporation leads to harmful humidity levels. This combination of heat and humidity is measured in units called “wet bulb” temperature or WBTs. According to the U.S. National Weather Service, WBTs above 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit are classified with an “extreme danger” warning and, “If you don’t take precautions immediately, you may become seriously ill or even die.” WBTs above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will kill even the healthiest individuals sitting in the shade within just six hours. The country will be gambling with the lives of their citizens — not only those living in the northern region — if stricter regulations on carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are not adopted. + MIT Center for Global Change Science + Nature Communications Via The Guardian

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Deadly heatwaves may make parts of China uninhabitable by the end of the century

Mount Kilauea transforms Hawaii’s coastline with the birth of a new island

July 18, 2018 by  
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Mount Kilauea may have disappeared from the news for a while, but it isn’t done surprising us yet: the Hawaiian volcano has officially created a new island in the Pacific Ocean. Geologists working at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have reported the appearance of a tiny islet, measuring 20-30 feet in diameter, off the eastern shore of Hawaii . The new island was first seen by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) when it conducted a fly-by of the volcanic area on Friday, July 13. Records from the USGS mark the island’s inception and official birth date as July 12. As of Monday, July 16, the baby island has been declassified, forced to abandon its status after a tether to the mainland developed over the weekend. The official term for the new congealed lava structure is ‘tumulus’. Tumuli evolve as slow-moving molten lava forces newly formed crust upward. Related: Hawaii’s Kilauea is creating its own weather The most reasonable explanation for the accumulation is the overflowing of lava from the volcano’s East Rift Zone. This molten river has continued its advance into the ocean for over a month, creating a submerged segment of new-but-unstable territory that stretches almost a half-mile outwards from Hawaii’s shoreline. Other scientists attribute the new island to Fissure 8, the most active of Kilauea’s volcanic fissures. In the future, it would be no surprise to see more changes to Hawaii’s coast. Kilauea, whose name means ‘spewing’ in Hawaiian, has been continuously erupting since 1983, with records dating back to the early 1800s. In fact, Kilauea tops the charts as one of the most active volcanoes in the world despite being one of Hawaii’s youngest. The 2018 eruption marks Kilauea’s 61st official incident. Regardless of the newbie island’s complicated classification status, Hawaii will eventually boast a newer, slightly larger coastline for tourists and environmental enthusiasts to admire. In fact, many visitors have already posted selfies with the volcano on social media despite warnings against it. However, it’s safe to assume that most of us are waiting for a less perilous way to explore Hawaii’s new treasures. Perhaps a good old Google Maps update is in order? + USGS Via Earther Images via USGS

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This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste

July 11, 2018 by  
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More than 1,000 square feet of plastic ultimately destined to pollute the ocean is getting a second lease on life in Rotterdam. On July 4, 2018, Recycled Island Foundation opened its prototype to the public: a floating park made entirely from recycled plastic waste and appropriately named the Recycled Park. According to a report commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment , more than 1,000 cubic meters of plastic waste is transported every year down the Meuse River and into the North Sea. The plastics come from landfills, agriculture, sewage and inland shipping. They ultimate reach the river through a number of methods, including dumping, littering and run-off. Instead of letting the plastic reach the ocean, the Recycled Island Foundation and 25 partners created the Recycled Park: a public space in Rotterdam consisting of floating platforms made from recycled plastic waste. The team set traps along the Meuse River that collect waste, which is then gathered and transformed into platforms for the floating park. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The Recycled Park project is focused on the Meuse River because of the overall viability of plastic in the aquatic space. The collected waste  is newer than in other waterways, so it can easily be made into platforms. To create the platforms, the collected plastic is sent to Wageningen University, which leads the research on effective recycling techniques . From there, the platforms are designed with HEBO Mariteimservice , who removes the garbage from the water. But the platforms aren’t just designed to reduce plastic pollution — they also serve as a wildlife habitat. Plants grow both above and below the river surface, allowing greenery to thrive on top of the platforms, providing a habitat capable of sustaining marine life and encouraging fish to lay eggs below the platforms. With the prototype park open, the organization is now looking for expansion options. Its ultimate goal is to incorporate several aquatic platform types into the park, while finding a permanent location to collect plastic from the Dutch harbor . + Recycled Park + Recycled Island Foundation Images via Recycled Island Foundation

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This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste

A former anti-aircraft platform is now a beautiful skywalk in Gibraltar

July 6, 2018 by  
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If you’re not afraid of heights, you can now experience the famed Rock of Gibraltar in a whole new way. Gibraltar-based architecture firm  Arc Designs has turned an old WWII military platform on the very top of the landmark into a gorgeous glass skywalk with stunning views of the Rock and the surrounding ocean. Located 340 meters above sea level, the Gibraltar Skywalk is comprised of four layers of glass and over 60,000 pounds of steel embedded into the rocky, steep terrain. The glass-enclosed viewing area is built in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, which contained a platform formerly used as an anti-aircraft base in WWII. The architects used the base as a starting point to extend a glazed walkway and balustrade over the rocky terrain. Related: This terrifying glass walkway in China ‘cracks’ as you step on it Visitors can access the viewing platform via stairs or a glass elevator. Once on the walkway, they can enjoy east and westward views that look out over the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In fact, according to Arc Designs, the extraordinary location drove the inspiration for the skywalk ‘s design: “The design aspiration of this project was to afford the visitor with new and unrivaled views in all directions including over the rocky cliff-face below, while at the same time ensuring a subtle intervention, which did not detract from the natural and historic nature of this unique setting.” Although the setting guarantees beautiful views, the perilous terrain did present quite a few challenges for the project. “Because vehicular access to this area is limited to very narrow and winding roads, the entire walkway structure had to be fabricated in smaller sections which could be transported and assembled together in-situ,” explain the architects. To ensure that the glass skywalk was secure enough to withstand the visitor load, as well as the typical wind speeds – which can reach over 93 miles hour – the structure had to be embedded into the ground with multiple rock anchors. The entire project used a steel skeleton made up of 18 separate pieces. To build out the walkway, over 8,000 square feet of glass panels were installed. + Arc Designs Via Dezeen Photographs by Stephen Ball, courtesy of Bovis-Koala JV

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A former anti-aircraft platform is now a beautiful skywalk in Gibraltar

Snarkitectures mind-bending Fun House opens at the National Building Museum

July 6, 2018 by  
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In Washington D.C., a massive, mind-bending Fun House has taken over the National Building Museum to offer an interactive experience that easily lives up to the exhibition’s name. Created by New York-based collaborative design practice Snarkitecture , Fun House is the latest installment in the Museum’s Summer Block Party series of temporary structures. The exhibition also commemorates Snarkitecture’s ten-year history and showcases 42 of the firm’s projects using the framework of a traditional American house. Located in the Museum’s historic Great Hall, Fun House is an all-white interactive installation that comprises a two-story freestanding house with a front and back yard. “A lot of Snarkitecture’s work is about surprise, wonder and disbelief,” explains Italy-based curator Maria Cristina Didero, who worked with the architects to capture the essence of their decade-long work, which has focused on reinterpreting everyday materials in an imaginative new light and challenging people to rethink their surroundings. “We wanted to think back to basics,” continues Didero. “And then, we thought, what is more basic than a house? So, Fun House follows the look of a traditional American house…but if you walk in you’ll see that nothing is as it should be.” Related: Amazing Hive comes alive with sights and sounds in Washington, D.C. Stripped of all color, the all-white Fun House plays with texture and the element of surprise throughout. The installation begins at the front yard, where massive upholstered letter-shaped benches that spell out ‘Fun House’ are scattered in reference to the firm’s 2012 project ‘A Memorial Bowing.’ Behind a white picket fence is the main house, a simple gabled structure which would look fairly normal – that is, if the entrance weren’t completely chiseled away. The doorway, as well as the foyer, is a reinterpretation of Snarkitecture’s 2011 ‘Dig’ project; it explores the architecture of excavation with EPS architectural foam carved away with hammers, picks and chisels to cavernous effect. The EPS foam material will be returned to the manufacturer and recycled at the end of the exhibition. More oddities abound inside the home, which consists of the traditional sequence of rooms including a hallway, playroom, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, study and living room—each carefully crafted to evoke familiarity and surprise while paying homage to Snarkitecture’s past projects. Highlights include the bedroom’s ‘Light Cavern,’ an ethereal space that comprises 30,000 suspended strips of perforated white fabric to elicit porosity and translucency; ‘The Beach Chair’ bathtub ball pit, a throwback to Snarkitecture’s 2015 ‘The Beach’ installation at the National Building Museum; the study that serves as a showroom for various iconic works like the ‘Fractured’ bench and ‘Bearbrick’ sculpture; and the living room that’s made up of giant inflated tubes bundled together to form a ceiling—a reimagined version of the 2012 ‘Drift’ pavilion for Design Miami —and a playful small-scale version of their 2016 ‘Pillow Fort’ down below. Related: Gigantic swimmable ball pit takes over D.C.’s National Building Museum The most popular space, however, is undoubtedly the backyard, where ‘The Beach’ is reimagined as a circular kiddie pool and a larger kidney-shaped pool. Recyclable balls with anti-microbial coatings fill the pools to serve as ball pits shallow enough for kids yet large enough to entertain adults. White astroturf, lounge seating, umbrellas, and a picket fence surround the pools to finish off the relaxing, beach-like setting. “Fun House represents a unique opportunity for us to bring together a number of different Snarkitecture-designed interiors, installations, and objects into a single, immersive experience, ” said Alex Mustonen, co-founder of Snarkitecture. “Our practice aims to create moments that make architecture accessible and engaging to a wide, diverse audience. With that in mind, we are excited to invite all visitors to the National Building Museum to an exhibition and installation that we hope is both unexpected and memorable.” As with the National Building Museum’s previous Summer Block Party installations—which have included collaborations like ‘Hive’ by Studio Gang (2017) and the BIG Maze by Bjarke Ingels Group (2014)—Fun House will be accompanied by a series of programs and events, from behind-the-scenes construction tours to pop-up talks hosted during “Late Nights” on Wednesdays. Visitors will be given a one-hour timed entry ticket to explore Fun House. The ticket includes access to all of the National Building Museum’s exhibitions, including the not-to-be-missed ‘Secret Cities’ exhibit, which explores the history of the Manhattan Project secret cities from their design and construction to daily life inside them and their lasting influences on the American architectural landscape. Fun House concludes on September 3, 2018. + Snarkitecture + National Building Museum Images by Lucy Wang

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Snarkitectures mind-bending Fun House opens at the National Building Museum

This Swiss straw-bale house is completely self-sufficient

July 6, 2018 by  
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Traditional building techniques and modern technology come together in the House in Berne, a self-sufficient straw bale house in Graben, a Swiss village located less than an hour’s drive north of Bern. Trun-based architecture practice Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed the modern home, crafting it to blend in with the rural surroundings by taking on the appearance of an old Bernese farming house. Additionally, the self-sufficient house is powered entirely by rooftop solar panels. Completed this year, the House in Berne is set in the middle of a vast and open farming landscape. The dwelling comprises three floors in addition to a small basement for a total area of 1,970 square feet. In response to the client’s request for a modern, self-sustaining home that would be flooded with natural light , Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed a building with large yet carefully placed openings, as well as an energy-efficient envelope to ensure minimal heating energy demands that could be satisfied through a photovoltaic array or passive solar means. “Inside the house, glass ceilings ensure that daylight can penetrate fully into the whole building,” explains Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH in a project statement. “The reduction of inside walls allows the owners to live and work in a big open modern space. The 80 centimeter thick straw-bale walls guarantee minimal heat losses. The electrical and thermic energy gained on the solar roof is stored in a home battery system and in a 5000 [liter] solar tank located in the basement. If needed the house can be heated by the stored thermic energy.” Related: Leaky cottage retrofitted with straw bale sees 80% energy reduction Set on an east-west axis, House in Berne is built primarily from unfinished timber for both the interior and the exterior; the timber façade will develop a patina over time and further blend the building into the landscape. Solar panels top the roof, which features long overhanging eaves to protect the interior from unwanted solar heat gain . + Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH Images by Rasmus Norlander

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This Swiss straw-bale house is completely self-sufficient

Australia takes stand on single-use plastic bags

July 2, 2018 by  
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Single-use plastic bags are going out of style in Australia, but shoppers aren’t thrilled by the reduction. Two major retailers, Big W and Coles, have officially ended the use of plastic shopping bags from their stores. The move effectively outlaws their use in nearly every Australian state. After Tasmania and South Australia started by installing a plastic bag ban, national retailers voluntarily began relying on them in stores. On June 20, 2018, Woolworths stopped offering single-use bags, instead charging shoppers 11 cents for reusable plastic totes starting July 9. After sharp customer backlash, the totes will be free until July 8. Related: Billions of pieces of plastic trash are sickening the world’s coral reefs The other two retail chains pulled the plastic shopping bags off their shelves July 1. To quell community outrage, Coles brought on more staff to ensure check-out lines moved quickly as a result of the shift. As a nation, Australia is reducing its reliance on one-use plastic products to combat ocean pollution . According to the United Nations’ Environment Program , the world produces over 300 million tons of plastic annually. Approximately 2.6 percent – eight million tons and as many as 5 trillion plastic bags – end up in the ocean, where they can poison marine life. Without reducing single-use plastic production, the UN estimates plastics could outnumber ocean fish in just over 30 years. While the move is environmentally conscious , it isn’t popular with shoppers. According to Australian labor union SDA, around 43 percent of retail workers said they suffered “abuse” from shoppers because of the change. At least one was reportedly assaulted, leading the union to start a public service announcement campaign to educate the public about plastic pollution. In the United States, the National Conference of State Legislatures shows only two states have instituted single-use plastic bag bans for shoppers: California and Hawaii . Six major cities, including Austin, Boston, Chicago and Seattle, have all banned single-use bags, while four states and at least six cities charge fees to shoppers who opt for plastic bags. Via NPR and Reuters

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Australia takes stand on single-use plastic bags

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