The Gulf Stream is the weakest it’s been in 1,600 years – here’s why that’s really bad news

April 12, 2018 by  
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The Gulf Stream current, which serves as an important regulator of weather and climate along the Atlantic Ocean, is now the weakest it has been in at least 1,600 years. This dramatic slowing of the current, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc), could usher in extreme shifts in weather patterns, such as more brutal European winters, rapid sea level rise on the American East Coast , and the disruption of essential tropical rainstorms. Suddenly, the 2004 climate-change disaster film The Day After Tomorrow, which depicted the dramatized consequences of a Gulf Stream slowdown, seems less science fiction, more predictive of a future plagued by catastrophic climate change. Although scientists have been aware of Amoc’s slowdown since 2004, two recent studies paint a more complete picture of just how dramatic this weakening has been. “The [current] climate models don’t predict [an Amoc shutdown] is going to happen in the future,” Dr. David Thornalley, leader of one of these recent studies published in the journal Nature , told the Guardian . “The problem is how certain are we it is not going to happen? It is one of these tipping points that is relatively low probability, but high impact.” Thornalley’s team gathered and analyzed sediments from North Carolina ‘s Cape Hatteras, as well as shells of marine animals at various Atlantic sites, to determine the full impact of the current slowdown. The study concludes that climate change has played at least a significant role in the weakened Amoc. Related: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing at an exponential rate Also published in Nature , the second study used thermometer data from the past 120 years to reach a similar conclusion: Amoc is about 15 percent weaker than it was in 400 AD. While the second study places much of the blame on climate change , the first study also cites natural climate variability as a contributing factor to Amoc’s slowdown. Regardless of its causes, the weakening is recognized in both studies as a potentially destabilizing phenomenon. “If we do not rapidly stop global warming, we must expect a further long-term slowdown of the Atlantic overturning,” second study co-author Alexander Robinson told the Guardian . “We are only beginning to understand the consequences of this unprecedented process – but they might be disruptive.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2)

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The Gulf Stream is the weakest it’s been in 1,600 years – here’s why that’s really bad news

Episode 118: Wells Fargo banks on cleantech, Harvard’s new curriculum; debating sustainable transportation

March 30, 2018 by  
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In this week’s edition, we mull electric and self-driving vehicles, catch up with the Ocean Conservancy’s CEO and find out what’s on the agenda for a new online sustainable business strategy course.

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Episode 118: Wells Fargo banks on cleantech, Harvard’s new curriculum; debating sustainable transportation

Scientists create ‘umbrella’ spray to protect coral reefs from sun damage

March 27, 2018 by  
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Researchers have crafted a new liquid substance that can be sprayed onto the surface of the water above vulnerable coral reefs , shielding them from intense UV and visible light beaming down from the Sun . In doing so, the spray may help to defend reefs from extreme bleaching events. 50,000 times thinner than a human hair, the biodegradable spray is made from a natural lipid and calcium carbonate, a key component of coral reefs. “It is white so it reflects and scatters all the light which hits the ocean surface,” study researcher Andrew Negri told the Sydney Morning Herald . Laboratory tests revealed that the spray was capable of reducing the amount of light reaching underwater coral by 20 percent. “In the laboratory, it actually stays on the surface for several weeks, but in the ocean it could be broken up by wave action and moved around by the currents,” explained Negri. The spray will quickly biodegrade after it is broken up. Trials in a real-world environment will begin soon to refine the spray and make it more resilient to sometimes turbulent waters . Related: Spraying spiders with graphene helps them spin webs 6 times stronger than normal Conservationists are enthused about the idea of using the spray to protect acute vulnerabilities in coral reefs. “The idea being that you could in the future, knowing there is going to be hot days ahead… spray this film on top of key reefs… and this will act as a bit of a shield… almost like an umbrella, to protect these reefs underneath and the animals underneath,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden told the Sydney Morning Herald . “It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef ,” Marsden noted. “That would never be practical, but it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high value or high-risk areas of reef.” Via The Sydney Morning Herald Images via Depositphotos (2 , 3 )

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Scientists create ‘umbrella’ spray to protect coral reefs from sun damage

Most active volcano in Europe ‘sliding into the sea’

March 27, 2018 by  
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Volcanic eruptions or lava flows you’ve heard of, but what about a volcano sliding into the sea? Scientists say that’s exactly what’s happening to Mount Etna, which The Open University described as the most active volcano in Europe. It’s the first time scientists have directly observed anything like it, and it could have disturbing consequences in the future. “Constant movement could contribute to a major landslide along Etna’s coast, causing devastating tsunamis to surrounding areas.” Mount Etna in Italy is headed towards the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers have observed parts of volcanoes move, but according to the BBC , these scientists think this is the first time anyone has directly observed basement sliding of a whole active volcano. They drew on 11 years of GPS measurements all over Etna to make the discovery. Related: Mount Etna eruption creates a display of fire, ash, and lightning over Sicily The Open University ‘s John Murray, lead author of the study on the work, said Mount Etna is moving 14 millimeters (mm) a year toward the Mediterranean. “While 14 mm might not seem much, previous studies of long-extinct volcanoes found those sliding downslope in a similar way have resulted in catastrophic landslides later in their history,” Murray said in the university’s statement. Should we be worried? Etna might not slide into the sea in our lifetimes, so local residents needn’t be afraid, but “continued sliding for hundreds or thousands of years could cause it to become dangerously unstable,” Murray said. He told the BBC scientists should monitor the motion to see if it accelerates. Mount Etna’s movement may impact research today, however; Murray said it could interfere with signals that clue scientists into where magma is. It could be trickier to monitor the likelihood of an eruption. The Bulletin of Volcanology published the research online late last week; scientists from Université Clermont Auvergne in France and Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom contributed. + The Open University + Bulletin of Volcanology Via the BBC Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Most active volcano in Europe ‘sliding into the sea’

Here’s how we aim to close the loop on ocean plastic pollution

March 22, 2018 by  
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The Closed Loop Fund and Ocean Conservancy are attacking plastic trash in the oceans with a bevy of corporate partners, from 3M to PepsiCo.

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Here’s how we aim to close the loop on ocean plastic pollution

The melting Arctic is already changing the ocean’s circulation

March 15, 2018 by  
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In the far North Atlantic , scientists have uncovered new evidence that an unusual infusion of freshwater into the ocean may already be affecting the ocean’s circulation. Mostly likely sourced from melting glaciers in Greenland or Arctic sea ice, the freshwater remains on the surface of the ocean for longer than denser saltwater. This could affect the ocean’s natural process known as convection, in which northbound surface water becomes denser and colder, thus sinking then traveling south at great depths. “Until now, models have predicted something for the future … but it was something that seemed very distant,” study lead author Marilena Oltmanns told the Washington Post . “But now we saw with these observations that there is actually freshwater and that it is already affecting convection, and it delays convection quite a lot in some years.” The research team gathered data on Irminger Sea to the southeast of Greenland , where they used ocean moorings to take measurements regarding the circulation of ocean water at key convection sites. While the study does not make any specific predictions regarding how convection may be affected, or how quickly it may change, the conclusion that freshwater from melting glaciers or sea ice may be already affecting convection is noteworthy. In 2010, 40 percent of melted freshwater remained on the surface through winter and into the next year. The staying power of the melted freshwater may suggest a positive feedback loop that could drive further mixing. Related: Pre-industrial carbon found in Canadian Arctic waters “It is possible that there is a threshold, that if there is a lot of freshwater that stays at the surface, and mixes with the new freshwater from the new summer, it suddenly doubles, or increases a lot, and the next winter , it’s a lot more difficult to break through,” said Oltmanns. It is already established that Atlantic circulation has been weaker than average since 2008, with scientists crediting climate change , cyclical patterns, or both. While the changes to convection may occur over time, the latest study indicates that change may occur more rapidly than expected. “There might be a threshold that is crossed, and it’s harder to get back to where we were before,” said Oltmanns. “It’s possible.” Via The Washington Post Images via Depositphotos (1)

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The melting Arctic is already changing the ocean’s circulation

Meet the Monocabin, a tiny home rental mere steps from the Aegean Sea

March 15, 2018 by  
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Milan-based Mandalaki Design Studio has created the gorgeous all-white Monocabin – a prototype for micro-living rentals located on the Greek island of Rhodes. At just over 270 square feet, this micro-home is made out of modular concrete panels and inspired by the island’s traditional architecture – which is simple, clean and cozy. This miniature piece of Greek holiday heaven, which is just steps away from the Aegean Sea, can currently be rented on Airbnb . The Monocabin’s modular concrete panels give the structure a traditional yet modern feel. The interior space, with a “hidden” bedroom and compact kitchen and living area, is simple but elegant. The walls, as well as most of the furnishings, are completely white, exuding an ethereal character. Related: Cool micro studio in Budapest makes the most out of 344 square feet Large and small windows located in every room provide plenty of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Additionally, Mandalaki’s own solar-powered lights are featured within the project. Outside, the cabin offers a beautiful open-air terrace that pulls double duty as a lounge area where guests can dine al fresco, under trees that provide plenty of shade. The courtyard is open and uncluttered, again paying homage to the simplicity that defines the island’s architecture. According to the architects, the cabins were inspired by idea that the island’s laid-back, minimalist lifestyle could be transported to other parts of the world via architecture. “The dream was to build a livable and modular design object we could place anywhere in the world sharing our design philosophy,” says George Kolliopoulos, co-founder and designer at Mandalaki. “And the story had to begin in Rhodes, my home island.” + Mandalaki Design Studio Via The Spaces Photographs via Mandalaki Design Studio

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Meet the Monocabin, a tiny home rental mere steps from the Aegean Sea

Moya Power tests sheeting material to harvest wind power from London’s Crossrail

February 14, 2018 by  
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We can harness the power of wind in a field or on the ocean, but what about in drafty train tunnels? 27-year-old Charlotte Slingsby’s startup Moya Power seeks to generate electricity capturing wind in existing infrastructure, Wired reported . The company employs a lightweight sheeting material to harvest low grade wind power. They have a pilot project underway on the London Crossrail . Slingsby pioneered Moya Power as part of an Innovation Design Engineering master’s program at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art (RCA); the description on RCA’s website describes Moya as a building material able to harvest wind energy in a variety of locations, like bridges or building facades. The statement on the project said, “The printed, semi-transparent sheets are light, low cost, versatile, and scalable.” Related: Pavegen unveils world’s first energy-harvesting smart street in London Wired described Moya as lamellae-covered plastic sheets. Moya Power’s website said the energy harvesting material “is designed to scavenge-off low grade wind energy, which is abundantly found against existing infrastructure . This involves vibrations and low speed, turbulent winds generating power 24 hours a day, which can be mounted on otherwise unused surfaces, hidden from public view.” One of those areas is the London Crossrail . The Moya material has been installed in tunnels , where wind from trains causes protrusions on the sheeting to move to generate electricity. According to Wired, the system is able to generate 10 percent of the power per square meter a solar panel can. Slingsby sees her product as one piece of a future mixture of urban power sources. She told Wired, “If we all live in cities that need electricity, we need to look for new, creative ways to generate it. I wanted to create something that works in different situations and that can be flexibly adapted, whether you live in an urban hut or a high-rise .” + Moya Power Via Wired and Royal College of Art Images via Transport for London Flickr and Moya Power/Royal College of Art

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Moya Power tests sheeting material to harvest wind power from London’s Crossrail

Clothing company removes 1,000,000 pounds of trash from global waters

February 13, 2018 by  
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Fast fashion is a dirty business, and the apparel industry is considered one of the world’s most toxic, second only to the oil industry when it comes to pollution. Some big labels are keen to tout their greenwashed textiles or “responsible” material sourcing, but few have taken measures to reduce waste. Enter  United By Blue , a sustainable fashion line that not only uses eco-friendly materials in the manufacturing of its products but has made a commitment to removing one pound of trash from global oceans and waterways for every product sold. The model, which was introduced in 2010, has so far led to the removal of 1,039,456 pounds of trash across 27 states—and counting. The initiative is wholly backed by United by Blue’s employees and like-minded volunteers looking to make a difference. Over 200 cleanups have been organized thus far, and everything from  plastic bottles , tires, appliances, to abandoned trucks have been scooped out of rivers, streams, creeks, and beaches. What’s more, United by Blue has budgeted time, resources, and money into its business plan for cleanups, and employees are paid for their contributions. Related: Billions of pieces of plastic trash are sickening the world’s coral reefs As it stands, eight million tons of plastic enter oceans each year with plastic bottles accounting for 1.5 million tons. There is almost no part of the world that has been untouched by the pollution , which endangers sea life and ends up in our food when we consume seafood that has unwittingly ingested plastic. Even scarier, in a recent study , researchers looked at more than 124,000 corals from 159 reefs in Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia, and found that plastic has ravaged the reefs. “We came across chairs, chip wrappers, Q-tips, garbage bags, water bottles, old nappies,” Joleah Lamb, a marine disease ecologist at Cornell University and lead author of the study, told the Atlantic . “Everything you see on the beach is probably lying on the reef.” Nearly 90 percent of corals that come into contact with plastic will get some sort of infection. Lamb and her colleagues reported that almost every time they lifted a piece of plastic shrouding coral, the coral was riddled with disease. Here’s hoping that more clothing companies follow United By Blue’s model so we can end this scourge once and for all. + United by Blue Via Treehugger

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Clothing company removes 1,000,000 pounds of trash from global waters

2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

January 29, 2018 by  
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Last year was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans , according to two scientists at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP/CAS). The increase in ocean heat led to a 1.7-millimeter global sea level rise – and other consequences like “declining ocean oxygen, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting sea ice and ice shelves.” The ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the planet’s “residual heat related to global warming ,” according to the researchers, Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, whose work recently came out as an early online release in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences . While they said the increase in ocean heat content for last year happened in most of the world’s regions, the Atlantic and Southern Oceans displayed more warming than the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to National Geographic , the two scrutinized ocean temperature data from multiple institutions, including the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists started gathering the data during the 1950’s – and in the late 1990’s, ocean temperatures started to take off, per the publication. The IAP ocean analysis reveals “the last five years have been the five warmest years in the ocean.” National Geographic pointed out people visiting the beach probably wouldn’t notice the temperature rise, but a warming ocean could still have damaging impacts. Sea ice coverage and thickness have both taken a hit. And the window to save Earth’s coral reefs is closing quickly . The researchers said in their paper, “The global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming…The human greenhouse gas footprint continues to impact the Earth system.” + Advances in Atmospheric Sciences Via Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences , The Guardian and National Geographic Images via Deposit Photos ,  Ant Rozetzky on Unsplash and Tim Lautensack on Unsplash

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

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