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

Astounding responsive map shows shark interactions with commercial fishers

July 24, 2018 by  
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Just in time for the 30th Anniversary of Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week, a new map shows the interaction of 45 sharks  with commercial fishing vessels. The interactive map, featuring over 150,000 miles of chartered shark territory and movement in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, seeks to shed light on the perilous environment in which the sharks maneuver on a daily basis and the approximate 100 million sharks killed each year. Austin Gallagher, CEO and chief scientist of Beneath the Waves and a project leader on the maps, said , “Many species of large sharks remain highly vulnerable throughout our oceans , and the integration provided here highlights the magnitude of the threats they face.” Shark expert at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and project collaborator Neil Hammerschlag explained that sharks are “highly mobile,” as demonstrated in the charted data published on the Global Fishing Watch , a non-profit organization launched by Oceana in collaboration with Google and Skytruth. Related: Endangered shark fins discovered on a Singapore Airlines flight to Hong Kong The sharks must navigate around fishing vessels,  creating a wide variety of potentially dangerous interactions. Hammerschlag said, “Many fishing gear types can put these sharks at risk , as both target and bycatch — especially in the international waters of the high seas where no catch limits exist for many shark species.” Many sharks are caught by accident, but they are also subject to targeted hunting for their fins. While the map currently displays recorded data of sharks tagged between 2012 and 2018, Oceana hopes to create a real-time interactive map that includes various shark species including blue sharks, great hammerheads and tiger sharks. Lacey Malarky, an Oceana analyst focused on illegal fishing and seafood fraud, said, “We’re hoping to expand and collaborate with more researchers to not only get more shark data but then other marine wildlife data as well, so that we can really create this interactive map platform that shows all types of marine wildlife and how they’re interacting with fishing vessels.” + Oceana + Beneath the Waves Via EcoWatch

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Astounding responsive map shows shark interactions with commercial fishers

A new study reveals that urban green spaces may be an antidote to depression

July 23, 2018 by  
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A recent study shows that symptoms of depression can be reduced for people who have access to green spaces. Researchers in Philadelphia transformed vacant lots in the city into green spaces and found that adults living near these newly planted areas reported decreased feelings of depression, with the biggest impact occurring in low-income neighborhoods. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine teamed up with members of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to transform and observe 541 randomly selected vacant lots in Philadelphia. Eugenia South, assistant professor and co-author of the study , said Philadelphia’s littered lots were an ideal environment to set-up their groundwork. “There’s probably 40,000 of them in the city” she told NPR , “but they’re concentrated in certain sections of the city, and those areas tend to be in poorer neighborhoods.” According to the study, lower socioeconomic conditions have already been proven to distress mental health states. Related: Virtual reality helps scientists plot the ideal urban green space The researchers separated the lots into three groups: a control group of lots where nothing was altered, a set of lots that was cleaned up of litter, and a group of lots where everything, including existing vegetation, was removed and replanted with new trees and grass. “We found a significant reduction in the amount of people who were feeling depressed ” South said. Her team used a psychological distress scale to ask people how they felt, including senses of hopelessness, restlessness and worthlessness, as well as measuring heart rates, a leading indicator of stress, of residents walking past the lots. Low-income neighborhoods showed as high as a 27.5 percent reduction in depression rates. South said, “In the areas that had been greened, I found that people had reduced heart rates when they walked past those spaces.” While previous research has cross-studied the beneficial effects of green spaces on mental health, experts, such as Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch from the University of California, Berkeley, are regarding this experiment as “innovative.” Morello-Frosch said that previous studies were observational in nature and failed to provide concrete statistical results as this study has offered. Morello-Frosch, who was not involved with the analysis, said, “To my knowledge, this is the first intervention to test — like you would in a drug trial — by randomly alleviating a treatment to see what you see.” Parallel research has identified indicators of crime-reduction and increased community interaction, showing that green spaces are a low-cost answer to improving many facets of a community’s well-being, now including mental health. +  JAMA Network Open Via NPR Before and After images via Eugenia South and Bernadette Hohl/JAMA Network Open

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A new study reveals that urban green spaces may be an antidote to depression

Green foods could clean up the construction industry

July 23, 2018 by  
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We’ve all heard of eating our vegetables, but what about building with them? A new study by Lancaster University ‘s B-SMART program will examine the effects of incorporating root vegetables – yes, vegetables – into cement production for a stronger and more sustainable way of building. The project, funded by the European Union, has brought academic and industrial stakeholders together in order to identify “biomaterials derived from food waste as a green route for the design of ecofriendly, smart and high performance cementious composites.” The program has proved successful insofar as creating a much more durable concrete mixture, with far fewer CO2 emissions from the process – all by adding some nutritious beets and carrots. Professor Mohamed Saafi, lead researcher at Lancaster University, reveals the cement is “made by combining ordinary Portland cement with nano platelets extracted from waste root vegetables taken from the food industry… this significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing.” This news comes none too soon for developers in urban areas contending with new green regulations enforced by governments both nationally and internationally. If recent trends continue, concrete production – which accounts for approximately 8% of CO2 emissions worldwide – will double in the next 30 years. Related: UN Environment and Yale present a sustainable tiny home in NYC According to Saafi, when root vegetable nano-platelets, such as those found in beets and carrots, are introduced into concrete, “the composites are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical and micro-structure properties but also use smaller amounts of cement.” The initial tests have attributed this to an increase in calcium silicate hydrate, the compound which reinforces the cement, thanks to the vegetable extracts. The new concrete mixture also boasts a longer-lasting, less corrosive body and denser micro-structure, also attributed to its green food invigoration. So next time you don’t feel like eating your vegetables, just remember – they could make you stronger, too. Via Phys.org Images via Shutterstock

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Eating seaweed could reduce cows’ methane production

July 5, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of California, Davis have found a surprising food source that could help reduce cows’ methane production: seaweed. A recent study from the university suggests bovines who eat an experimental mix of special food and a specific strain of seaweed produce less greenhouse gas than their peers. According to Pennsylvania State University , agriculture contributes up to seven percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. Each day, ruminal animals (like cows) belch up to 264 gallons of carbon dioxide and methane. As much as 20 percent of agricultural methane emissions comes from animal burps alone. Related: How seaweed eating super cows will save the world To reduce those emissions, UC Davis researchers experimented with new feed combinations for cows. The cows’ hay is mixed with up to one percent of a naturally occurring red algae , Asparagopsis armata. To encourage the cows to eat the new food, molasses is added as a natural sweetener and to mask the salty taste and smell. To measure effectiveness, researchers take the livestock to a special “breathalyzer” chamber three times daily, where cows’ breath is measured for gas content in exchange for a cookie. The cows who ate the seaweed-mixed feed saw a significant reduction in methane production . Across three two-week experiments, cows who ate the highest mix of algae saw their methane production drop by half. The research team called the findings a “dramatic reduction in methane emissions.” But did it change the dairy cows’ milk? Although the seaweed-eating cows produced slightly less milk, the feed didn’t change the milk’s taste. A blind taste-test conducted with 25 people discovered “no off-notes” in the dairy products . Any hints of saltiness or fish did not transfer over to the cows’ milk production. Before seaweed can become a major part of agricultural feed, the industry must overcome several hurdles. This includes changing the seaweed flavor to be palatable to cows and growing enough algae for agricultural purposes. In addition, growing feed must be economically viable for farmers. Using feed to reduce cow emissions is part of a bigger plan to cut greenhouse gases in California. State Senate Bill 1383 mandated that farms must reduce their methane production by 40 percent over the next 12 years. Via NPR

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Schemata Architects weaves modern design into a traditional Japanese house

July 5, 2018 by  
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Tokyo-based  Schemata Architects have renovated a traditional Japanese residence into a modern dwelling with an office, while keeping many of the 80-year-old building’s original features intact. Located in the seaside city of Kamakura an hour south of Tokyo , the Hojo Sanci is set in a quiet and lush residential area. To minimize changes to the original building structure and retain an open feel, the architects used varying floor heights and finishes to differentiate the programmatic areas. Built primarily from wood, the two-story Japanese home — which comprises a beautiful onsite garden and verdant greenery beyond — dates back to the early 20th century. Schemata Architects oriented the home’s rooms outward to keep the original emphasis on the outdoors. However, they removed the fusuma (wood-framed paper sliding doors) that had divided the rooms to create one large open space. To celebrate the building’s past, the architects also preserved existing finishes and partially exposed the substructure by removing sections of the ceiling and walls. Tatami mats were also laid down in certain rooms, where the floor was elevated above ground by 60 centimeters. “We decided to focus on floor heights and finishes and treat them as means to express different spatial characters and define spatial/functional zones,” explained Jo Nagasaka, the founder of Schemata Architects. “Firstly, we set a tatami floor area raised 40 cm above the earth floor at the entrance as a reference plane and determined the height, dimension and finish of respective floors in other areas. Each room was distinguished from others by different characteristics of furniture placed there. The floor height differences create a vibrant feeling as well as different viewpoints, allowing one to constantly feel nature and creative energy at any place and anytime in this space.” Related: Century-old Japanese townhouse reborn as Blue Bottle Coffee’s first Kyoto location The mix of modern and traditional becomes apparent in the various room designs. On the west side of the home, the architects inserted a Japanese-style room with tatami and an engawa (a type of covered veranda ) that connects to the garden, and OSB floors and gray geometric furnishings are used in the contemporary office addition. + Schemata Architects Images via Kenta Hasegawa

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Schemata Architects weaves modern design into a traditional Japanese house

The 1970s brick Upside-Down House gets an eco-friendly refresh

July 5, 2018 by  
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Melbourne-based Inbetween Architecture has breathed new life into a dark and tired 1970s double brick home in Kew, Australia. Nicknamed the Upside-Down House, the gut-renovation includes a dramatically transformed interior with a focus on natural daylight and energy efficiency . In addition to increased daylighting with skylights and adherence to passive solar principles, the remodeled home was fitted with energy-saving LED lighting, hydronic heating, improved insulation and solar-powered ventilators. When Inbetween Architecture was tapped for the project, the team debated between renovating and knocking the structure down to start anew. After weighing the environmental and cost benefits, however, the architects decided to retain the existing house, which was structurally sound but extremely dated and depressingly dark. As a result, they focused on bringing natural light into the home. Since the ground floor receives less access to daylight , the team decided to flip the ground floor and the first floor programming by placing the bedrooms on the ground floor and the communal living areas in the light-filled first floor — thus giving rise to the home’s nickname, the “Upside-Down House.” “The favorite part of our renovations is without question the soaring cathedral-like skylights that not only brought light in, but created space above without impacting on the roofline,” said the client, a young family of four. “Visually, our house flowed from room to room with the feature stair-case leading directly to the open tallow-wood living areas lit up by the northern sun. This flow continued to the outdoors with the clever relocation of an outdoor balcony to link to the previously isolated pool-area allowing for an expansive out-door entertaining area second to none.” Related: Smart Home targets affordability and eco-friendly design in Australia The architects replaced the home’s original seven “closet”-sized bedrooms with four spacious bedrooms. The interior design follows a minimalist aesthetic with hidden storage to avoid clutter. Created to meet a six-star energy rating, the home takes advantage of thermal mass from the existing concrete slabs on both floors and the externally insulated double brick walls. Long roof eaves and new dual shading help mitigate solar gain . + Inbetween Architecture Images by Tatjana Plitt and Nick Stephenson

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The 1970s brick Upside-Down House gets an eco-friendly refresh

Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law, University of Hawaii, climate change law and equity

June 29, 2018 by  
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Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law, University of Hawaii, climate change law, policy, equity, communities.

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Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law, University of Hawaii, climate change law and equity

Joan Barminski, Regional Director, Pacific Region, Ocean Energy Management, technology

June 29, 2018 by  
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Joan Barminski, Regional Director, Pacific Region, Ocean Energy Management, technology

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Joan Barminski, Regional Director, Pacific Region, Ocean Energy Management, technology

Dawn Lippert, CEO, Elemental Excelerator, investments, Hawaii

June 29, 2018 by  
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Dawn Lippert, CEO, Elemental Excelerator, investments, Hawaii.

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