Hurricane Michael leaves uncertainty for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida

October 18, 2018 by  
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The full extent of damage from Hurricane Michael is still not known. But when the storm hit the Florida Panhandle, it did more than destroy property and accumulate a human death toll that is still on the rise. Part of the hurricane’s devastation included sweeping away the nests of threatened baby loggerhead sea turtles that were hatching on Florida beaches after damage from previous storms. From May through October, the Gulfside Beaches in Florida’s Franklin County are dotted with sea turtle nests. But Hurricane Michael has replaced the dunes with scalloped sand in the town of Alligator Point, which was one of the most prolific areas for sea turtle nests in the state. Loggerheads are a federally-protected species and the most common type of sea turtle in Florida. Sea turtles lay eggs many times throughout the season, which results in hundreds of nests across the Panhandle that each hold anywhere between 50 to 150 eggs. Protecting those nests is a 24/7 job, and volunteers and city staff both work to make sure the hatchlings can make it to the ocean safely. At St. George Island in Franklin County, there were only seven nests left after the hurricane, but volunteers said if they haven’t already hatched, it is likely that none survived. According to Reuters , the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute started monitoring the beaches of Franklin County for sea turtle nesting activity back in 1979. In the 1990s, there was a huge increase in the number of turtles hatching and crawling to the ocean. Since then, there has been a significant drop-off. “The downward trend seen with hatch success began as a result of beach conditions and has continued due to tropical storms, high tides and erosion,” said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s website. However, during the last year, Franklin County had more than 1,1100 loggerhead nests — the most the state had seen in four years. Hurricane Michael came late in the nesting season, and that might be the only reason that this year’s turtle population wasn’t totally wiped out. Florida master naturalist Lesley Cox said that they had a lot of nests this year and no storms until Michael, so there is a good chance that a lot of hatchlings made it. Now, the question remains whether or not the beach erosion from the storm will keep the area from being a sufficient habitat for nesting next year. Via Reuters Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 )

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Hurricane Michael leaves uncertainty for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida

Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future?

September 21, 2018 by  
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The days where plastic straws and their wrappers litter the countertops of restaurants, coffee shops and fast food joints are nearing the end. With several governments, like Australia and the U.K. , banning and taxing single-use plastic items and companies like Starbucks, Disney and Hyatt taking their own environmental stand by rejecting plastic straws, sustainable and reusable varieties of the pipettes have been growing in popularity. Nowadays, it’s no longer about what color straw you’re sporting, but which reusable material you’ll choose. According to the research firm Freedonia Group , Americans reduced their previous consumption of plastic straws by 110 million units in the last year alone. As momentum gains, consumers may now be getting purchase paralysis because of the sheer number of options. Metal, bamboo, silicone, glass — there are many options available when selecting an alternative to single-use plastic straws. The question is, which one is the best? Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment There are several factors to consider when selecting a more sustainable option for sipping energizing morning smoothies and indulgent midnight milkshakes. Between lifespan and durability, width and length, taste, feel, shape and cleanliness, there are many variables to reusable straws that could make the leap to convert challenging. Are straws necessary? Before even delving into these seemingly negligible details some may ask, “Are the liquid chutes superfluous altogether? Do I even need straws at all?” Considering the widespread pollution that has been caused by disposable straws, eliminating the meal accessories seems like the best overall option. According to a report by 4Ocean , an organization dedicated to repurposing marine plastics to clear the ocean of pollution, a plastic straw can take up to 200 years to decompose. In the meantime, the harmful microplastics eventually disintegrate and contaminate our planet’s air, water and soil, poisoning wildlife and finding their way into our food. As a result, many people are now swearing by a straw-free lifestyle. But there are many reasons, such as dietary restrictions and health issues, that still call for the existence of straws. Related: UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution Factors to consider when purchasing reusable straws It’s no surprise that size tops the list of considerations when purchasing reusable straws. Both length and width are important depending on what type of liquid one intends to drink and from which assortment of container. Standard straws measure approximately 7.5-8 inches in length. Those who prefer to drink out of small glasses and coffee mugs are better suited with cocktail-sized straws. The miniature varieties span between 5 and 6 inches, while the longest options settle around 10 inches, although more extensive models can be found for tumbler and thermos users. A stress of function over form has become the sustainable-straw-purchasing mantra. Smoothies, bubble teas and shakes warrant straws with wider diameters, while less viscous beverages like water, juice and soda that are not semi-solid or thick can be easily consumed through thinner straws. Popular diameters range from around 7mm to 15mm (between 1/4 and 1/2 inches). Shape also comes into play: straight, bent, retractable, flexible — all of these have become important in the straw trade. Ultimately, most individuals would see these factors as a matter of personal preference. Given that straight straws, short straws and wide-rimmed straws are much easier to clean than their counterparts, they are the most hygienic options for users. It is this quality that makes them the most sustainable choices for new consumers, simply because they have a longer lifespan. Otherwise, unkempt straws get thrown out, and a long-term solution to plastic pollution could turn into another mass consumption (and pollution) trend. Steel straws When considering materials, stainless steel has become the most popular go-to material for reusable straw fans. The metal has odor-resisting properties and is the most durable material available for straws. Steel options are also the most widely available on the market because of their heat conducting properties. A cold drink is best enjoyed through a metal straw, because it maintains a crisp and refreshing temperature for the drinker. Unless consumers are turned off by the metallic flavor that steel can sometimes add to beverages, have sensitive teeth that are disturbed by the hardness of the straw or drink many hot beverages, metal straws serve as the best possible option. Silicone straws Those who prefer softer, more flexible straws may turn to silicone. But according to  Life Without Plastic , this material, which is generally categorized as a rubber, is actually similar to a hybrid between synthetic rubber and synthetic plastic polymer. The organization cites Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free , who said, “First of all, silicone is no more ‘natural’ than fossil-based plastic. It is a man-made polymer, but instead of a carbon backbone like plastic, it has a backbone of silicon and oxygen … the hydrocarbons in silicone come from fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas.” If this isn’t enough of a deterrent, the same silky texture that makes many people gravitate toward the silicone models is also to blame for its difficulty to wash. Silicone can harbor mold-forming bacteria, and it takes on unpleasant odors after continuous use. Bamboo straws With bamboo, consumers may see a reduction in availability. While bamboo straws might not be breakable, they ultimately do not hold up to long-term wear and tear. In addition, bamboo straws are the most difficult to clean of all the materials. Being naturally made from bamboo shoots, there is not a lot of precision in the shape and width to which they are constructed, making it hard to find the right kind of brush to use on them. Sadly enough, because of the chalky texture they leave in the mouth, bamboo straws inevitably fall lower on the enjoyment scale — despite the tropical taste they can generously impart to beverages. Glass straws In the end, there is only one other material that can compete with stainless steel in terms of sustainability: glass . Layered and tempered, glass straws are surprisingly durable and will not break easily if dropped or accidentally mishandled. Glass is a close runner-up to metal’s conductivity, and interestingly enough, it is capable of transferring hot liquids without burning the user. Because the glass is clear, making sure the straw is well-cleaned between uses is as simple as it gets. With no odor and no funny tastes imparted to the drinker, glass straws are a viable alternative to metal straws for the socially-conscious sipper. In the end, whether plastic straws are replaced with metal, glass or any other alternative, this trendsetting movement is turning a new leaf for the environment on a historical scale. Via Time , Going Zero Waste , Get Green Now ,  4Ocean and Life Without Plastic Images via Osha Key , Mark Pazolli , Glass Dharma and Shutterstock

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Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future?

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

Indonesia mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up plastic pollution

September 5, 2018 by  
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Indonesia wastes upward of 10 billion plastic bags every year, making it the second highest polluter of plastic in the entire world. To address the growing plastic pollution problem, thousands of volunteers gathered around the country last month and participated in one of the largest plastic cleanups to date. The goal of the event was to educate citizens about the dangers of pollution and promote better recycling practices among young people. More than 20,000 people from 76 different areas of the country participated in the event, which organizers dubbed “Face the Sea.” The volunteers scoured beaches in Indonesia for plastic trash in order to raise awareness about ocean pollution. The country only trails China in the amount of plastic it wastes every year. In total, Indonesia produces some 3.2 million tons of plastic trash annually, a quarter of which gets dumped in the ocean. Once the plastic gets into the ocean, currents gather it up and create huge areas of floating garbage. The biggest patch, located in the Pacific Ocean, is twice as large as the state of Texas. Marine life , including fish, whales and birds, often mistake the plastic for food and eat it. The plastic stays in the digestion system of the animal for life and frequently leads to death. If the world continues to waste plastic at this rate, the amount of waste in the ocean will outweigh sea animals by the year 2050. Fortunately, countries like Indonesia are starting to turn things around by understanding the importance of preserving the ocean. Apart from the recent event, the Southeast Asian country has also promised to decrease its plastic waste by 70 percent over the next seven years. The government initiated an extra tax on plastic bags two years ago, which cut the country’s plastic bag use in half over the course of just three months. The program is no longer in existence, however, because local businesses claimed it decreased overall sales. Many activists say the low number of successful policies to fight plastic pollution is because of a lack of awareness, which is what the ocean cleanup organizers are hoping to address. Via Mongabay Image via Fabio Achilli

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Indonesia mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up plastic pollution

Now is an incredible opportunity to make an impact on plastic

August 27, 2018 by  
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We need more than billions of dollars to keep plastic out of the ocean. Thankfully, there’s a consensus about the solutions — if we act now.

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Now is an incredible opportunity to make an impact on plastic

This dreamy Malibu beach house is designed to withstand climate change

August 21, 2018 by  
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Ask any number of people what they envision as their dream home, and the majority will likely respond with something along the lines of, “A house on the beach where I can hear and see the crashing waves.” With the right amount of money (in this instance, $5.7 million), you can make that vision a reality with House Noir, a spacious, three-story beach house in marvelous Malibu, California . Built on the sandy Las Flores beach, just steps from the mighty Pacific Ocean, House Noir has unmatched views of the mountains, sea and Catalina Island. Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) met the challenge of designing an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable home that can also withstand natural disasters and the impacts of climate change : earthquakes, rising sea levels and an eroding coastline. Related: Hurricane-resistant home uses resilient boat-building techniques to weather the storm The team began by elevating the 1,790-square-foot house a generous 20 feet above the beach to accommodate a tall seawall and subterranean caisson foundation (or pier foundation), an impermeable retaining structure sunk into the ground. The added energy-absorbing features help the structure withstand earthquake tremors. To combat the caustic effects of sea air, which can seriously depreciate exterior paint and metal facades, LOHA enveloped the house with aluminum and non-corrosive metal and finished it off with high-quality rustproof paint. The entire exterior package is wrapped in standing-seam siding that is seamlessly molded up the sides of the structure over the roofline, all the way to the roof deck. The luxurious — and well-protected — interior of the home offers mesmerizing views throughout. Full-height glass doors, which lead to oblique balconies, allow ocean breezes to cool the beach house. An open-air staircase ascends from the ground floor up through the heart of the home to the rooftop deck, with perforated metal risers and treads that encourage beams of natural light  to illuminate every floor. Other amenities include a large designer kitchen, imported tiles, European fixtures, white oak floors, an airy mezzanine, two bedrooms, two and a half baths and the spacious, private rooftop deck with an outdoor shower. + Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) Via Dwell Images via Paul Vu/Simon Berlyn

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This dreamy Malibu beach house is designed to withstand climate change

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

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