"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

Architect builds a tiny studio in his backyard to be closer to his child

September 28, 2017 by  
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This tiny backyard studio in Toronto is the perfect home office for parents who want to play a bigger role in their young child’s life. Oliver Dang, founder of architecture firm Six Four Five A , has constructed the timber structure for himself as a private workspace overlooking a small green area where his one-year-old can play. The studio occupies a place at the end of the architect’s garden enclosed by high fencing. The cedar wood used for the fence was also chosen for decking and cladding the 100-square-foot hut. An asymmetric pitched roof tops the structure and shelters a small interior space fully optimized to fit all the necessary amenities. Related: Timber Shoffice is a Naturally Daylit Garden Shed + Office Combo in London Exposed vertical studs are used to support shelves, the drawing board occupies a space underneath the window, and a standing computer desk runs along one side. A slab of Carrara marble salvaged from a skyscraper functions as a threshold. The building provides the family with more flexibility in organizing their day-to-day life and spend more time together. The firm said in a statement: “The resulting design is a bright, lofty and functional office space that is also visually and spatially connected to the house and yard.” + Six Four Five A Via Dezeen Photos by Ashlea Wessel

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Architect builds a tiny studio in his backyard to be closer to his child

Volcanic eruption of Bali’s Mount Agung will cool Earth’s temperature

September 26, 2017 by  
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When Bali’s Mount Agung erupts in the near future, which could come at any moment, climate watchers may notice a slight shift from the seemingly endless global temperature rise . Ever so slightly, global temperatures will drop in the wake of the eruption. While this may sound like good news, it will only serve to temporarily cool down the planet. If Mount Agung’s most recent eruption offers any insight, the global temperature drop from the imminent volcanic activity should be approximately 0.1-0.4 degrees Celsius, as it was in 1963. Although this may not seem like much, even a small change in global temperature can make a significant difference on climate. For example, during the most recent Ice Age, the planet’s global temperature was only 5 degrees Celsius cooler than it is today. The significant cooling that should follow Agung’s eruption is the result of its spewing ash and sulfur dioxide into the air. When the sulfur dioxide reacts with the water vapor in the atmosphere, it becomes sulfuric acid. Accumulation of these droplets creates an atmospheric haze, which blocks the Sun’s ultraviolet rays from reaching the Earth, which causes the global cooling. Though the haze can remain in the atmosphere for years, its effects are short lived. “They’re small enough that they can stay up there for a while … but eventually they get rained out,” said Richard Arculus, Emeritus Professor in geology at the Australian National University. “These are short-term effects, not like the enduring, year after year injection of carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels — which keeps accumulating.” Related: NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth Though the cooling effects may be significant, and brief, you are unlikely to notice any major temperature change on the ground. However, it is not unheard of for volcanic eruptions to cause disruptive changes to the planet’s climate. For example, the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia resulted in what has become known as the Year Without Summer, during which Europe and the Northeast United States suffered from major crop losses due to unseasonable frost and lack of sunlight sufficient for plants . Via Australian Broadcasting Corporation Images via Martin Garrido , Jonathan Lin , and Flickr/unukorno

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Volcanic eruption of Bali’s Mount Agung will cool Earth’s temperature

Puerto Rico could be without electricity for months due to Hurricane Maria

September 22, 2017 by  
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When Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico last Saturday with 155mph winds, hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed and the entire island was left in a total blackout. After a natural disaster such as this, residents would usually go about their lives and pick up the pieces along the way. Not this time. Due to the island’s poor infrastructure, economic woes and the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, it could be months before millions of people have access to electricity again. It wasn’t hard for Hurricane Maria to wipe out the entire island’s electricity because the power grid has been in poor shape for years. Whereas most power plants are 18-years-old, those belonging to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) — the island’s sole power supplier to 1.5 million people — are 44 years old, on average.  In July of this year, PREPA filed for bankruptcy and called its own system “degraded and unsafe.” In a fiscal plan released this year, it added that “years of under-investment have led to severe degradation of infrastructure.” The electricity outage was also caused by Puerto Rico’s grim economic situation. The island has yet to emerge from a recession that has lasted over a decade. With an unemployment rate of 11 percent, the government entered into a process similar to bankruptcy protection earlier this May. TIME reports that its debt load is currently in excess of $70 billion. Related: Explosion of color takes over an abandoned Puerto Rican factory As a result of weakening infrastructure, financial problems and the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria, restoring the island’s power will be a lengthy, tiresome process. Governor Russello told CNN , “It depends on the damage to the infrastructure. I’m afraid it’s probably going to be severe. If it is … we’re looking at months as opposed to weeks or days.” Hurricane Irma , which skirted the north part of the island earlier this month, is also to blame. At the time, over 1 million users in Puerto Rico lost power. The day before Maria slammed into the island, 70,000 people were still without power, reports CNBC . To solve this tragedy, Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon brought up the issue of electric supply with Brock Long, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). She said, “We were asking him to have more resources in terms of electrical teams that can help us out to solve the situation and recover the infrastructure of the power grid on the island,” she said. “That is going to be the main issue.” Rossello has also asked President Trump to declare Puerto Rico a disaster zone. On Monday, Trump made an emergency declaration for the island, which enabled FEMA to coordinate relief efforts. However, only a “major disaster” declaration would ensure the territory receives an increase in federal resources and programs for affected areas to recover. Vox reports that even if Congress agrees to provide extra relief, funds would only be of limited help in this situation. Via TIME , Vox, CNN, CNBC Images via ABC 7 Chicago ,  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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Nouvelle AOM wins competition to give Paris’ Tour Montparnasse a massive green makeover

September 22, 2017 by  
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Nouvelle AOM has just been chosen to transform Paris’ historic Tour Montparnasse into beacon of sustainability for the City of Light. The winning design envisions a contemporary green makeover for the 40-year-old skyscraper – including a new transparent shell cladding and forests in the sky that will improve air quality in and around the tower. The 689-foot Tour Montparnasse was completed in 1973, and it was France’s tallest skyscraper until 2011. There is a lot of history (and controversy) behind the tower, so its redesign had to pay respect to its revered past while re-establish its position as a modern landmark in the city. Related: Holland’s first Vertical Forest to rise with 10,000 air-purifying plant s “This was a huge challenge, as the Tower isn’t like any other,” the jury explained. “Nouvelle AOM’s project perfectly captures the spirit of the 21st century, giving the Tower a multifaceted identity revolving around attractive, innovative new uses. The Tower will breathe new life into the Montparnasse neighbourhood.” The winning design, which beat out submissions from OMA, MAD and Studio Gang, was a collaboration between three Paris-based firms: Franklin Azzi Architecture , Chartier Dalix Architectes and Hardel et le Behan Architectes . The old opaque cladding will be replaced by a transparent facade that will “glow” at night. Multiple floors throughout the tower – including the large conservatory rooftop – will be planted with lush vegetated forests and hanging gardens that will improve air quality both within and outside the skyscraper. The architects explain that the design concept was inspired by the need to create a contemporary skyscraper that will become a beacon of the city’s commitment to sustainability . “When we took up the challenge of this exciting competition, our focus was on revealing the beauty of the Tour Montparnasse from the inside out. We achieved this by incorporating radically new uses and crafting a complete sustainable ‘green’ makeover of the facade. The aim is to make the Tower an icon of the 21st century energy revolution,” explains Nouvelle AOM. Construction on the €300 million project is expected to begin in 2019 and it’s slated for completion in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. + Nouvelle AOM Via Archdaily Images via Nouvelle AOM

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Nouvelle AOM wins competition to give Paris’ Tour Montparnasse a massive green makeover

The cost of solar power has dropped over 25% in one year

September 22, 2017 by  
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The clean energy revolution continues and solar is leading the charge. In a recently published report, the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories documented that the cost of utility-scale solar, generated from large plants rather than residential rooftops, has decreased by 30 percent within the past year. This happy news aligns with another recent announcement by the SunShot Initiative , a parallel effort within the US Department of Energy , which declared that their cost targets set for solar energy had been met years before their 2020 deadline. All of this serves as a reminder that, despite the politics of the moment, solar energy continues to rapidly become more cost effective and accessible, paving the way for a cleaner energy future. Although China has frequently been cited by the US President as a dangerous competitor, the solar renaissance in the United States has been made possible because of the pioneering work in solar energy being done in the People’s Republic. More solar modules are being produced in China than there is demand, which has enabled US importers to purchase this technology at low prices. As a result, the average price per watt is now only $1.03 for fixed-tilt systems and $1.11 for those that move to track the sun’s movement. Related: Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power While rooftop and residential solar system may represent the most visible manifestation of solar’s growth and reach, it is utility-scale solar systems, which feed into the grid , which have the most potential to change the game. Taking note of the ever-decreasing price of solar and demand from consumers for cleaner forms of energy, utility companies have invested funds to increase the share of solar in their portfolio. For example, Duke Energy Florida recently announced plans to spend $6 billion on solar infrastructure, scrapping its previous plans to invest in nuclear power . If trends continue, it is estimated that 139 countries , including the United States and China, could switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, with solar contributing the lion’s share. Via Futurism Images via Michael Mees and Kate Ausburn

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The cost of solar power has dropped over 25% in one year

Strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years made landfall this morning

September 20, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico earlier today as a Category 4 storm . While it had weakened from a Category 5, officials still warned the hurricane is dangerous – forecasters said there could be life-threatening winds blowing for 12 to 24 hours. Governor Ricardo Rossello told the Associated Press, “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history.” Maria hit the southeast coast of Puerto Rico this morning with 155 miles per hour (mph) winds, and could destroy power infrastructure and homes, compelling the government to rebuild dozens of communities, according to the Associated Press. Rossello said, as of Tuesday night over 4,400 people and 105 pets were in shelters. That number increased to 11,229 people and 580 pets by 5AM, according to a tweet from the governor. Related: Category 5 Hurricane Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever When the hurricane is measured by wind speed, Maria ties for the eighth strongest storm in the history of the Atlantic . Hurricanes tend to move north or south of Puerto Rico, so the island often avoids a direct hit. 1932 was the last time a Category 4 hurricane made landfall there, and in 1928, the island experienced the strongest storm to hit it: San Felipe, with 160 mph winds. The Washington Post said Maria had already blown over islands to the east with over 160 mph winds – on the island Guadeloupe, officials attributed the deaths of two people to the hurricane. At least two people were reported missing near the island of Desirade. As of Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane warning was in effect “for the Virgin Islands, the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, where Maria is expected to bring dangerous wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall .” Via the Boston Globe and The Washington Post Images via NASA/NOAA GOES Project and National Hurricane Center

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Strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years made landfall this morning

Extraordinary living chandelier with algae-filled leaves purifies the air

September 20, 2017 by  
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Lighting design has come a long way. Julian Melchiorri , a London-based designer and engineer, created this extraordinary living chandelier that not only lights up the room, but also actively purifies the air around it. Currently on display at the V&A Museum for London Design Week, the Exhale Chandelier features glass leaves filled with green algae that absorb CO2 and release oxygen. The living chandelier is not only an amazing eco-product that’s beneficial for the environment, but its sophisticated design makes for a beautiful lighting source for any atmosphere. Its modular format allows the chandelier’s green-hued leaves to be configured in a wide range of shapes, adding versatility. The lamp can be used indoors or outdoors – wherever air purification is needed. Related: 13 groundbreaking lighting innovations from NY Design Week Melchiorri is not only a design-engineer, but also a leading biochemical technology researcher. The innovative chandelier design is the result of his many years developing and crafting his unique “artifical leaf’” technology. Working with microbiological life forms, the designer’s bionic-leaf is based on the basic principles of photosynthesis , harnessing the power of converting CO2 into oxygen and integrating it into one very beautiful product. Although the chandelier is a prototype at the moment, the designer envisions integrating his photo-reactive cell technology into future buildings , freeing them of harmful emissions. + Julian Melchiorri + London Design Festival Photography by Mike Chino

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