BreezoMeter’s real-time data tracks air quality and wildfires

September 14, 2021 by  
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Many natural elements affect our daily activities, including snow, temperature and rain. Additionally, air quality has become a primary concern in many areas, especially considering the dramatic increase in the number and intensity of wildfires in recent years. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the United States has experienced, on average, 100 more large wildfires every year than the year before since 2015. Wildfires are also growing in size and moving with a speed and intensity previously unseen. BreezoMeter, a company focused on providing air quality data to citizens, is unveiling a database of information anyone can access so the general population can have an accurate understanding of active fires and their effect on  environmental  air quality.  Related: Wildfire smoke linked to almost 20,000 COVID-19 cases last year The new wildfire tracking technology is available via a free app and provides information about the location of fires and the resulting air quality. It also provides visuals of the total area consumed by the fire, its name, the wind’s speed and direction, the estimated time of containment, and the time of the last update. The team behind BreezoMeter hopes those who track and fight fires can use the Live Wildfire Tracking data for better resource management.  “The free service is part of the company’s commitment to protecting people’s health by equipping them with more than what the eyes can see about the air they breathe, as the effects of climate change,  pollution  and fires increasingly affect air quality around the world,” BreezoMeter said in a press release. The real-time information combines some aspects of other technology already available, such as local sensors and air quality reports. However, BreezoMeter set out to improve gaps in that information to provide real-time visibility without time delays in reporting.  Ran Korber, CEO of BreezoMeter, says, “As wildfires worsen, the public needs the same level of accuracy around fires that they’ve come to expect of rain, snow, and other traditional weather forecasts. Our new technology enables people to protect themselves by adjusting their daily lives without any fear or doubt that the information they’re getting is reliable. It additionally gives companies the tools they need to adapt their operations and offerings, and authorities the real-time information they need to act quicker and smarter.” In addition to providing up-to-date data to citizens and firefighters, BreezoMeter hopes its information can benefit companies in the healthcare, smart home , air purification, automotive, lifestyle and cosmetics industries. The technology will work with GPS data to map the healthiest driving, walking, biking and jogging routes. This information can also benefit supply chain deliveries that may otherwise be delayed by wildfire activity. Along with smart home technology, BreezoMeter can provide evacuation alerts and enhance weather apps with information about air quality. + BreezoMeter Images via BreezoMeter 

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BreezoMeter’s real-time data tracks air quality and wildfires

ANNA is a stunning prefab cabin with off-grid potential

August 19, 2021 by  
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Many people dream of staying in a cabin in the woods, but few have dreamed of one like this. Fortunately, Dutch designer Caspar Schols did, and now it’s available in a flat-pack design that can be quickly constructed for work, living or a getaway. The idea behind this unique and versatile  cabin  is to allow nature into the space, rather than simply placing a lodging in nature. “It’s primarily about being outside, and about creating a dynamic interaction between yourself, cabin ANNA as your home, and nature,” Schols explained. Related: ARCspace’s prefab homes are a quick and sustainable housing solution That’s done through a dynamic and innovative design that allows layers of the cabin to roll away as different situations arise. It features a glass-framed interior and a wooden exterior with a roof. The exterior is made of panels on rollers that can quickly transform the space. Completely retracting the walls and roof leaves a deck surface for true outdoor living. Alternatively, removing only the  wood  panels leaves a glass sunroom for shelter from the elements while allowing in copious natural light and views. When the weather rolls in, so do the walls, for a tight closure and a cozy protected space.  Schols was new to the architecture realm, but he dreamed big and delivered. ANNA, as the cabin is known, is now a completed ANNA Stay location, and the home can be delivered to a buyer’s location nearly anywhere in Europe . It’s expected to be available for shipping worldwide in 2022. ANNA can come flat-packed or fully constructed. If construction is required onsite, the build takes a few days with a small crew and an electric crane. Schols relies on  natural materials  inside and out, using sustainable Siberian larch wood and birch plywood. Sawdust is used for insulation. The cabins are prefabricated for minimal construction waste and site impact.  The cabin covers the basics with a shower, toilet, bathtub, complete kitchen and space for a couple of beds. Buyers can customize ANNA with a central heating system to match the location’s climate. It can also be fully equipped for off-grid living with a fire-heated boiler, a solar energy system and a water  waste  treatment system. ANNA Stay has received the 2021 Architizer A+Awards Project of the Year Award in a competition with over 5,000 entries from more than 100 countries. ANNA’s ability to adapt and change enables occupants to immerse themselves in the natural surroundings. Schols says, “She gives the freedom to live among an abundance of life, and cultivates a sense of belonging. You become part of everything around you, and I believe that everyone recognizes that feeling deeply from within.”  + Cabin ANNA Photography by Jorrit ‘t Hoen and Tonu Tunnel

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ANNA is a stunning prefab cabin with off-grid potential

Dead zones expand in the Gulf of Mexico and on Oregon coast

August 9, 2021 by  
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Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA ) announced last week that the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico are worse this year than they expected. Four million acres of habitat off the Texas and Louisiana coasts are so oxygen-depleted that fish and other bottom-dwelling species can’t live there. Dead zones are more scientifically called “hypoxic zones.” This refers to places where so little oxygen is dissolved in the water that marine species move on, if they’re mobile like fish, or die in place, if they’re less mobile, like oysters. Dead zones happen when agricultural runoff, wastewater or other pollutants overwhelm rivers or coastal areas. The introduced nutrients stimulate  algae  growth, which then decomposes in the water, a process that consumes oxygen needed by marine life. Dead zones expand and contract with the weather, covering the largest area in summer when water is warmer and oxygen levels are lower. Related: Underwater robots just discovered the world’s biggest dead zone “The distribution of the low dissolved  oxygen  was unusual this summer,” said Nancy Rabalais, Louisiana State University professor and the study’s lead. “The low oxygen conditions were very close to shore with many observations showing an almost complete lack of oxygen.” Dead zones impact commercial fisheries, such as shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico and crabs and fish in the Pacific Northwest.  Oregon  has suffered from hypoxic areas every summer since 2002. Scientists said the dead zone developed earlier this year than any other time in the past 35 years. Perhaps as a result, crab fishers have found many Dungeness crab carcasses strewn on Washington and Oregon shores this year. Fertilizer  is one of the main culprits, having caused about $2.4 billion in damage to marine life and fisheries each year since 1980, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. In 2001, state and federal agencies set a target of 1,900 square miles as the maximum five-year average for the dead zone in the Gulf. This year, the hypoxic area is about three times that size. “Without a significant, concentrated effort to reduce  nitrogen  runoff from farms and livestock operations, Gulf Coast communities will continue to bear the costs of the dead zone,” said Rebecca Boehm, an economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The dead zone has not meaningfully shrunk in the last 30 years, and we are no closer to the goals set by the Hypoxia Task Force. Policymakers need to rethink their strategy, or we will find ourselves back here next year with the same bad news.” Via The Guardian , NOAA Lead image via Pixabay

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Dead zones expand in the Gulf of Mexico and on Oregon coast

Marjan van Aubel’s solar roof couples renewable energy with beauty

August 9, 2021 by  
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Expo 2020 Dubai is gearing up to open in October 2021. This multi-national event will bring together ideas to improve societies and the environment . The Netherlands is participating with a pavilion that will display the ability to harvest water, energy and food through innovative technologies, including a cone-shaped vertical farm beneath colorful solar panels. Marjan van Aubel, a Dutch designer with several solar-based innovations under her belt, was selected to design the solar roof for the Netherlands Pavilion at the expo.  The designer’s work is more than simply piecing together solar panels . With artistic flair, the lightweight, organic transparent solar cells (OPV) are installed with the effect of skylights. A colorful pattern reflects throughout the space, which is intriguing for visitors while illuminating the natural features inside the pavilion. Related: Sunne passively and stylishly collects sunlight for use after dark “Beauty is powerful. For the World Expo 2020 I combine solar technology with aesthetics to realise the Netherlands pavilion’s solar roof,” van Aubel said. “The aim is to show new ways in which solar can be seamlessly integrated into a space.” Because there will be a vertical farm below, van Aubel designed the solar skylights to filter through the exact range of light for plant growth and optimal health. The panels will also power the needs of the pavilion.  “Not only does the solar roof power the Dutch biotope, it also filters Dubai’s sunlight to ensure the right spectrum of light enters the biotope for the plants to photosynthesise,” she explained. The pavilion is made from locally sourced materials, and van Aubel followed suit with organic , non-toxic options in her material selection for the solar panels. Additionally, the panels can be removed and reused at another site. She hopes the work not only represents the function of solar and the innovations within the field but presents the realization that function can exist hand-in-hand with art and beauty as represented with the Moiré effect in her chosen graphic design. + Marjan van Aubel Studio Images via Marjan van Aubel Studio

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Marjan van Aubel’s solar roof couples renewable energy with beauty

Extreme weather: Is the climate changing faster than expected?

July 26, 2021 by  
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We’ve been hearing about  climate change  for decades. But extreme weather events like the devastating European floods and the recent 115-degree temps in the Pacific Northwest have people wondering if we’re closer to the end than we thought. Is climate change ramping up? Are we  way  ahead of models forecast by climate scientists? Daniel Swain, a climate scientist and extreme  weather  expert at UCLA, says it’s more complicated than that. “I’m less convinced that recent events tell us that things are moving faster than projections have suggested,” Swain said in an interview with Grist. “But I am increasingly convinced that we’ve underestimated the impacts of some of the changes that were actually fairly well predicted.”  Related: Oregon’s Bootleg Fire is creating its own weather Responses among  scientists  vary. According to Swain, some are shocked while others say recent weather events are hardly scientifically surprising. “And I would generally fall into that latter group, actually, because I think where the divergence may be coming from is that I think historically there’s been a little bit of a lack of imagination regarding what different levels of warming actually mean,” said Swain. The  planet  has already warmed between 1 and 1.3 degrees centigrade, which is enough to shift weather events enormously. In fact, that extra degree has had more consequences than many scientists expected. So, are climate models useless if they fail to predict things like the recent Northwest heatwave? Swain says no. “Global climate models are designed and intended to simulate global climate. And in doing that, they do a really good job.” Instead, we need weather models for day-to-day localized weather events. Weather models predicted 115 highs in  Oregon  a week before they hit, though locals were skeptical it could actually happen. Swain hopes that recent extreme weather will wake people up to the need to address this problem. If we’re already seeing these kinds of heatwaves,  floods , droughts and hurricanes in 2021, what is 2050 going to look like? “I think we’ve had, from a broader societal standpoint,” said Swain, “kind of a failure of imagination in the sense that there hasn’t been enough conversation about what it really means to warm a degree or two degrees or five degrees, god forbid.” Via Grist Lead image via Pixabay

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Extreme weather: Is the climate changing faster than expected?

Oregon’s Bootleg Fire is creating its own weather

July 23, 2021 by  
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Usually, weather conditions influence how wildfires behave. But southern Oregon’s massive Bootleg Fire is so powerful that it’s changing the  weather . Fire officials have reported about the Bootleg Fire’s “aggressive surface spread with pyrocumulus development.” This cloud form results from the flames of a  wildfire  producing such extreme heat that it causes air to rise rapidly, cooling and condensing smoke particles. Pyrocumulus clouds are like self-contained thunderstorms carrying wind and lightning. Related: California teenager invents AI-powered tool for early wildfire detection Drought in Oregon and other western states has upped the potential for such massive fires. According to Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry, 90% of the state is in exceptional, extreme or severe  drought  conditions. “The future for us for the remainder of the season continues to look above normal dry and above normal temperatures,” said Grafe, as reported by CNN. “So this is not going to return to normal anytime soon, so we’re facing a long, difficult fire season.” He predicted Bootleg might burn another 50,000 to 100,000 acres before firefighters contain it. The Bootleg Fire started on July 6. At press time, it’s burned an area bigger than Los Angeles, more than 606 square miles, and is 30% contained. At least 83 wildfires are burning in 13 states, with eight of them in  Oregon . The fire is already one of the largest in Oregon history — and growing — with more than 2,000 firefighters trying to contain it.  “There’s absolutely no question that  climate change  is playing out before our eyes,” Governor Kate Brown said at a news conference, as reported by CNN. “We saw the heat dome event a few weeks ago. We unfortunately lost a lot of Oregonians through that event. In February we saw devastating ice storms. Over a half a million people lost power last fall, as you are well aware. We had unprecedented wildfires.” Via CNN Lead image via Pixabay

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The High Performance Surfing Center honors nature inside and out

July 23, 2021 by  
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When Branco Cavaleiro Architects was asked to develop a plan to house the High Performance Surfing Center in Cabedelo, Viana do Castelo, Portugal, the designers chose to incorporate protections for visitors as well as the surrounding landscape. The High Performance Surfing Center was designed with sustainable construction in mind. This idea was reflected in the selection of green building materials and choice to reduce energy consumption. Situated on a dune system within a grove of pine trees, the Surfing Center needed to respect the natural environment. For minimal site impact , architects designed the building to perch over the dunes through the use of pillars. Similarly, they worked around the pine trees, allowing the trees to remain untouched. Related: Eco hotel and golf resort boasts ocean views in Portugal The campus includes dormitories, a service area and a surf training wing with a gym and showers. The different wings connect with a central patio, which leads to the beach. The love for the surrounding nature is seen throughout the buildings via geothermal temperature control, LED lighting with a centralized management system for optimal efficiency and cladding in agglomerated black cork , which surrounds the whole building, including the roof. Designers kept sustainability in mind with the use of the cork, a local natural material in Portugal. The architects said, “Cork is a 100% natural, recyclable, non-toxic and durable material. In the process of manufacturing cork products, 100% of the material’s resources are used, in which production waste is reused again for cork agglomerates.” They explained that cork is “associated with behavior as a barrier against soil desertification, as it provides micro-ecosystems with high biodiversity, as well as contributing to the fixation of CO2.” The building’s tight envelope and thermal enhancements provide a high level of energy efficiency . Vast windows allow views, but the glazing minimizes heat transfer. Windows on the south side have a higher solar factor, while those facing north have a lower solar factor. + Branco Cavaleiro Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by José Campos via Branco Cavaleiro Architects

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The High Performance Surfing Center honors nature inside and out

"This is unprecedented": Irish Minister of State for Flood Relief on tropical storm Ophelia

October 16, 2017 by  
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When you hear the word ‘ hurricane ,’ you probably don’t think about Ireland . But Tropical Storm Ophelia, which has been downgraded from its status as a hurricane, is on a path towards the country, with warnings of high seas, power outages , and hazardous conditions. Minister for Flood Relief Kevin Moran said at a Dublin press conference, “This is unprecedented.” An Atlantic hurricane has been whirling towards the United Kingdom . Although Ophelia is an ex-hurricane, the Irish Meteorological Service, Met Éireann , is warning of violent and destructive wind gusts that could reach between 120 and 150 kilometers per hour (km/h), or around 75 to 93 miles per hour (mph). They said heavy rain and storm surges in some coastal areas will lead to flooding , posing a danger to human property and lives. Related: How Hurricane Irma changed the colors of these Caribbean islands As many as 100,000 homes and businesses in the country have lost power, as power lines have been knocked down. An Electricity Supply Board spokesperson said earlier today many of the power lines are still live and asked people to stay away. The Met Éireann said at Cork Airport, wind gusts of 124 km/h, or 77 mph, were recorded; at Fastnet Rock wind gusts were 176 km/h, or 109 mph. The United Kingdom Met Office issued an amber weather warning for Northern Ireland, southwest Scotland, Strathclyde, and Wales. They issued yellow warnings for 11 locations, including western areas in England and Yorkshire. A status red weather warning applies to all cities and counties in Ireland, according to prime minister Leo Varadkar, who told people to stay indoors. Speaking of Debbie, the largest storm recorded in the history of Ireland in the 1960’s, he said, “The last time we had a storm this severe 11 lives were lost so safety is our number one priority.” Via The Guardian Images via NOAA/NASA Goddard Rapid Response Team and Met Éireann on Twitter

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"This is unprecedented": Irish Minister of State for Flood Relief on tropical storm Ophelia

A puzzle-like aluminum faade wraps around Bergens National Academy of the Arts

October 16, 2017 by  
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Snøhetta ’s recently completed National Academy of the Arts in Bergen is wrapped in an innovative prefab façade made of raw aluminum elements . The new facility is built to withstand the rainy climate of the Norwegian west coast and offer a durable, robust space where KMD’s 350 art and design students can learn and collaborate under one roof. The building replaces the former Bergen Academy of Art & Design (KHiB) and assembles the previously scattered faculty buildings under one roof. It has two main axes–one internal, dedicated to students and staff, and one external, open to the public. Related: Snøhetta unveils spectacular makeover for nation’s second-largest waterfall The most prominent features of the building are in the large project hall situated at the point where the two axes cross. The entrance is connected to a large outdoor plaza which makes the building inviting and engaged in a dialogue with Bergen’s city center. Related: Iridescent hand-folded metal panels clad Snøhetta’s Learning Center at Toronto’s Ryerson University Prefab raw aluminum elements clad the building’s exterior, with 900 varied sized seawater-durable crude aluminum elements protruding from the wall at varying distances. Large cantilevered box-shaped windows punctuate the rhythm of the metal surface. The crude aluminum surfaces can withstand the rainy coastal climate and will gradually weather and oxidize, heightening the variations in colors and textures. + Snøhetta Lead photo by Trond Isaksen

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A puzzle-like aluminum faade wraps around Bergens National Academy of the Arts

Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States

September 28, 2017 by  
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El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest managed by the United States Forest Service, suffered major damage as Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm. While Washington faces criticism for its apparently lackluster response to the unfolding humanitarian disaster , scientists are beginning to turn their attention to the ecological devastation wrought by the powerful hurricane. Bill McDowell, an ecologist at the University of New Hampshire who led research missions in El Yunque for decades, described the national forest and center for scientific research as “devastated.” Still, life will find a way and El Yunque, adapted for the hurricane-prone Caribbean, is expected to endure, offering scientists a glimpse into the ecological recovery process. El Yunque National Forest covers nearly 30,000 acres in the northeast region of Puerto Rico and contains a wide range of habitat, from humid lowland rainforests to cool, cloud forests in the Luquillo Mountains. El Yunque is home to sixteen species of coqui frogs , the only species of native parrot in Puerto Rico, and a wide variety of epiphytes, which survive by pulling water from the air in the chilly upland dwarf forests. The National Forest is also known for its uniquely preserved petroglyphs by the indigenous Taíno people. Related: Scientists discover the Amazon forest sets off its own rainy season While El Yunque and similar forests in the region have evolved to cope with a sometimes-volatile climate , the unique power of Hurricane Maria presents an unprecedented challenge for the ecosystem . “From a science perspective, this is a test of how resilient the forests and streams are,” said Alan Covich, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Georgia who has studied El Yunque for decades. “I think the biggest question is the intensity of the disturbance and the cumulative effect of two [major hurricanes]. It’s a situation that has taken a century to develop.” Still, researchers are optimistic about the forest’s future. “We think things are pretty resilient and will come back within weeks and months, like they did after Hugo,” said Covich. “Six to 12 months from now, the forest will be in fine shape.” However, Covich noted that in the wake of such a disruptive event, different organisms may emerge as dominant species than before the storm. In addition to its role as an ecological and scientific hotspot, El Yunque has historically supported the people of Puerto Rico in critical ways. After hurricanes , the forest typically prevents debris and landslides from contaminating the headwaters of the Loquillo Mountains. While Puerto Ricans wait for relief from FEMA, El Yunque National Forest protects the much-needed sources of clean drinking water that sustain the population. Via Earther Images via  Omar Gutiérrez del Arroyo Santiago/Earther

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Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States

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