Hurricane Dorian causes onshore oil spill in Bahamas

September 6, 2019 by  
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Besides demolishing homes, uprooting wildlife and ravaging forests, Hurricane Dorian has also caused an onshore oil spill in the Bahamas. Norwegian energy company Equinor reported it discovered an oil spill at its storage and transshipment terminal. “Our initial aerial assessment of the South Riding Point facility has found that the terminal has sustained damage, and oil has been observed on the ground outside of the onshore tanks,” Equinor said. Related: Hurricane Dorian threatens endangered bird species Before Hurricane Dorian hit, Equinor said it closed all its operations at the South Riding Point terminal on Aug. 31, and no staff was on the premises. “It is too early to indicate any volumes,” the company said. “At this point there are no observations of any oil spill at sea.” Equinor’s terminal contains 6.75 million barrels of crude and condensate storage and provides heavy crude oil blending services. “While weather conditions on the island have improved, road conditions and flooding continue to impact our ability to assess the situation and the scope of damages to the terminal and its surroundings,” the company added. Weather forecasters reported Hurricane Dorian made landfall early Friday morning at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and is now a Category 1 hurricane. Hurricane warnings have been issued for Canada as the hurricane continues moving northeast, and the threat of storm surges in North Carolina and Virginia remains. At the time of writing, at least 30 people have been killed in the Bahamas , the health minister said. More deaths are expected to be announced. Via Reuters , NBC News and The Weather Channel Image via NOAA

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Hurricane Dorian causes onshore oil spill in Bahamas

How many hours-of-safety do our homes have in extreme weather?

August 15, 2019 by  
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How long homes can maintain the last comfortable temperature during extreme weather can make the difference between life and death.

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How many hours-of-safety do our homes have in extreme weather?

Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

July 9, 2019 by  
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Somewhere in the world, there is a climate disaster unfolding every week. According to the leading disaster risk reduction adviser for the United Nation’s secretary general, climate related disasters are affecting thousands of people every week, whether or not they get media coverage. The U.N.’s adviser, Mami Mizutori, told reporters that governments need to adjust their policies to not only prioritize but mandate disaster-resilient infrastructure immediately. According to Mizutori, a 3 percent budget increase for all new infrastructure projects could cover the additional cost of making such projects resilient to storms, floods and other climate-related crises. That 3 percent rise in spending equates to a total of $2.7 trillion USD by 2040. While anything in the trillions might seem like a lot of money to the average person, when it is spread around the world’s nearly 200 countries across 20 years, the price tag is actually quite modest. In comparison, the U.N. estimates that these climate disasters cost the world at least $520 billion USD every year, so it seems logical to invest a little into reducing not only that cost but also the loss of lives. Related: Disaster-resilient housing saves lives and dollars “Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for,” warned Mizutori. “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough.” Most of the discussion about climate change at the international level revolves around reducing carbon emissions per nations’ Paris Climate Agreement commitments. While mitigation is important, curbing future emissions to reach a target and limit global warming does nothing to reduce the suffering of those impacted yesterday and today. According to the World Bank, there will be 143 million people displaced by climate-related incidences by 2050, and that’s only counting those from Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Low-cost, nature-based adaptation strategies are promising, such as restoring mangrove forests that protect coastal residents from sea-level rise, erosion and flooding. In order to adequately address the scale of these disasters though, a combined natural and built infrastructure approach will be necessary. According to Mizutori, these resilient solutions will require not only international collaboration but unlikely partnerships within governments as well. For example, most governments have separate departments for the environment and for infrastructure, but progressing toward resilience will require unprecedented collaboration at a scale that matches the unprecedented threat of climate change. Via Eco News and The Guardian Image via Jim Gade

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Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

Improving food cold chains for farmers and citizens in India

June 14, 2019 by  
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New research shows that temperature-controlling supply chains can cut food waste and boost public health in the country.

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Improving food cold chains for farmers and citizens in India

Words matter: The Guardian announces updated climate crisis language

May 22, 2019 by  
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Words matter, and last week The Guardian announced it will start using more appropriately strong words that reflect the magnitude of the climate crisis. Instead of “climate change,” which editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said sounds passive and gentle, staff writers will now use the terms “climate crisis” and “climate emergency”. “What scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity,” Viner said in a statement sent to all Guardian staff. “Increasingly, climate scientists and organizations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in.” Related: Ireland declares a climate emergency, promises action Recent reports about the urgency of reducing carbon emissions and the loss of biodiversity also helped motivate the change to take a stronger stance on the climate crisis. The Guardian will also use “wildlife” instead of “biodiversity” and “fish populations” instead of “fish stock.” The Guardian has also decided to discontinue the misleading use and recognition of “climate skeptics” who will now be called “climate science deniers.” A  skeptic is “a seeker of truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions.” However, in today’s climate skeptics can more accurately be described as those who deny overwhelming scientific evidence. Writers at the BBC have also been advised to give less airtime to climate science deniers, a position which is no longer widely accepted as an alternative and balanced side to climate debates. The Guardian recently began including the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on their daily weather reports. The change is the first time that weather reports symbolize not only how weather is predicted to impact human activity on a certain day but also how humans are impacting the weather. “Wording around climate really does matter, and though The Guardian’s changes are technically small, they may help reinforce the importance of climate reporting in the minds of both readers and newsroom staff,” Laura Hazard Owen from think tank Nieman Labshe wrote of the change. Via The Guardian Image via brontiN biswaS  

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National Weather Service claims 2019 flooding could cause record-breaking damage

March 26, 2019 by  
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The historic flooding that has been devastating the Midwest may be just the beginning of an ongoing trend. Last week, the National Weather Service released the flood predictions for 2019, and it does not look good. Toward the end of spring, the flooding could spread to over two-thirds of the United States, causing more record-breaking damage. The vast majority of rivers and lakes in the Midwest are at elevated levels, increasing the likelihood of flooding over the next few months. This includes the Missouri River, the Red River of the North, the Mississippi River, the lower Cumberland River, the Tennessee River basins and the lower Ohio River. Related: Climate change causing Nebraska’s worst floods on record, damage visible from space “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities,” the NOAA’s National Water Center’s Ed Clark explained. According to Grist , the floods this month have cost the Midwest around $3 billion in damage, and those estimates are expected to increase. The flooding was caused by heavy snowfall over the winter and excess rainfall in early spring. With rain accumulations this spring set to be at an all-time high, the over-saturated ground will lead to more devastating flooding. This is one reason why the lakes and rivers are already at a breaking point. Unfortunately, there is not much anyone can do to prevent the flooding . The situation is only going to get worse over the next few months. NOAA  predicts that additional melting snow and future rainfall will lead to flooding in the Midwest — and it will be even more widespread than what Nebraska experienced this month. As a reference, the 200 million Americans that could be affected by the flooding represent close to 60 percent of the population of the entire country. With flooding expected to continue throughout the spring, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ) is advising people to make sure they have the right insurance to cover flood damages. Normal home insurance policies typically do not cover flood damage, which is sold as a separate policy. FEMA also urges individuals to keep an eye on weather reports and flooding alerts, so they can be prepared for when disaster hits. + NOAA Via Grist Images via NOAA and Maxstrz

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Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080?

February 18, 2019 by  
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The phrase “global warming” gets tossed around a lot, but do we really understand what it means and how it will feel? In the groundbreaking Paris Agreement, 195 countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius — but how will those 2 degrees really affect our lives? A new study in Nature links 540 U.S. cities to other cities with a current climate that is similar to how those cities will feel in 60 years. As CityLab’s Robinson Meyer explained , the study takes each city and finds “the city whose modern-day weather gives the best clue to what conditions will feel like in 2080.” The researchers’ goal is to translate what abstract climate science and meteorological changes really mean for people by making them understandable in a modern — and personal — context. For example, Philadelphia will feel more like Memphis in 2080. That equates to summer days that are warmer by an average of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and winters that are warmer by 10 degrees. Memphis, on the other hand, will feel more like College Station, Texas.  Use this web tool to find your city’s ‘climate twin’. The ‘Arkansas-ification’ of U.S. cities “Every place is getting warmer and many are getting drier,” Matthew Fitzpatrick, author of the study, told CityLab. In fact, most cities’ future climate twin is approximately 500 miles farther south and toward the middle of the country. “In the Northeast, you can envision the future as one big Arkansasification,” Fitzpatrick explained. For those who haven’t been to Arkansas, the authors explained that means more humid, subtropical climates typical of the southeast and Midwest. Western cities, however, will start to feel more like the desert conditions of Southern California and the southwest. The cities selected in the study cover 250 million urban Americans. By using a method called climate analog mapping, the authors used different emission scenarios and weather predictions to find all similar cities, and then narrowed down the options to find the best match based on statistical and topographical similarities. The 540 cities selected were those that had the strongest match and the most relatable “twin.” A lot can happen in 60 years, and most are still hopeful that we can make changes to curb climate change. The authors used different examples of carbon emission rates, called Representative Concentration Pathways, to compare the results based on our best- and worst-case scenarios. For example, if progressive policies are put in place soon to curtail carbon emissions, Washington D.C. might feel like Paragould, Arkansas by 2080. If mitigation policies are not put into place, however, D.C. will become more like Greenwood, Mississippi — an additional 200 miles south. D.C. residents are already familiar with hot, humid summers in the low-lying capitol, so the news that their children will face even stickier summers is lamentably relatable. Though the matches aren’t perfect, the authors explained they do give modern-day examples that make abstract climate change realistic and easier to understand. Climate change puts cities at risk Cities are especially vulnerable to climate change, with rapidly increasing populations, urban sprawl, aging infrastructure and limited budgets for forward-thinking climate adaptation. In New York City , where heat island effect (the intensification of heat by concrete, urban environments) is already a major problem, the thought of becoming Jonesboro, Arkansas is daunting. Imagine a stifling hot, underground subway platform well above 85 degrees in July with no breeze. Now add an average of 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Related: Reimagine a resilient future for your city with this nature-based tool But human discomfort isn’t the only problem. These shifts in climate also affect other species. Migratory bird patterns are already changing but so are insect populations . Increased humidity, flooding and temperatures cause an uptick in mosquitoes, ticks and flies. This means an increase in diseases such as zika and dengue that were previously contained to fewer states. Winter freezes that used to kill off larva may no longer be cold enough to have the same population-controlling effect. Climate changes we can understand For most urban dwellers, this alarming news of hotter days and health consequences is not new. However, the authors of the study are hopeful that these results help people conceptualize climate change and make discussions more relatable. Their assessment is “place-based” and aims to use cities that are familiar. Many people have visited these cities, know about them or at the very least have an idea what the weather in their future “twin” city is like compared to where they live. Framing the discussion about climate impacts in a way that is understandable — and in some cases so real you can almost feel it — is critical. Hopefully, these terms and tools help people understand the urgency at a global scale in terms that are meaningful at a personal level. Via CityLab Image via Pixabay

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Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080?

This is how climate change will impact wine

February 14, 2019 by  
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Look at a wine label or chat with a wine connoisseur, and you will find that wine has always been intimately connected to location and climate. Grapes taste different from region to region, and even grapes from the same vineyard taste different from year to year, depending on the weather each season. So it is no surprise that drastically changing weather patterns have a huge and confusing impact on the wine industry. Increasing temperatures and climate volatility not only impact the flavor profiles for wine enthusiasts, but the unreliability also has a negative impact on wine farmers . Climate scientists argue that growers need to start implementing adaptation measures  and experiment with lesser-known varieties of grapes, but these solutions come with risks and expenses that are often too costly for farmers. The last four years have been the hottest on record , a drastic change for grapes that generally thrive in cool, temperate climates. Unpredictable weather, such as droughts, heatwaves and hail can devastate farmers of all kinds, but grapes are a particularly sensitive and vulnerable crop. In Sonoma County, a region in California known for wine production, a record-breaking wildfire devastated the county in 2017, followed by an even more devastating, record-breaking fire in 2018. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley Even in cases of more subtle changes, the impact on sensitive grapes is noticeable. Soil salinity is changing in some regions as a result of sea level rise, and many farmers struggle with increased pests and diseases. Typically, winter frost kills off pest larva, reducing the population in spring, but when temperatures no longer reach below freezing, the populations continue to grow. Wine’s climate connection The wine industry is highly dependent on subtle climate and soil characteristics. In fact, enthusiasts argue that wines are made from four ingredients: the weather, the soil, the topography and the grape. Wine is often defined by its terroir , a word derived from the Latin word terra , meaning earth. It is used to describe a wine’s “sense of place” — in other words, the very specific microclimate and soil of a particular area. To understand the specificity with which soil and temperature characteristics impact the wine, it is important to note one vineyard alone might contain many different microclimates. For example, the slope and orientation of a row might dictate how much sun the grapes receive. Weather affects the grape’s sugar content, acidity and tannin content. As temperatures increase, grapes are ripe and ready to harvest sooner than usual. If left on the vine, the sugar and alcohol content will rise past acceptable (and delicious) levels. Unfortunately, harvesting grapes earlier means they also lose their complexity and the quality that successful vineyards and their customers rely on. In New Zealand, for example, where 85 percent of exported wine is Savignon Blanc, the world renowned “acidic gooseberry” flavor profile is becoming more of a “mellow tropical fruit.” Climate-smart agriculture for wine growers Many farmers have begun to implement climate-smart agriculture practices on their land; however, broad changes and new technology are still unattainable for some growers. Examples of adaptation measures include cover cropping and drip irrigation to conserve soil and water , nets to protect vines from hail and limiting the height of vines. Other farmers are planting on south-facing slopes to reduce sun exposure, while some farmers are going so far as to relocate their entire vineyards to cooler climates and higher altitudes. Even the more modest solutions require significant costs in terms of new equipment and additional labor. One frost fan alone, which controls the temperature variation on the vines, can cost $40,000 . Researchers suggest lesser-known grapes Researchers argue that experimenting with lesser-known varieties of grapes is one solution that farmers should invest in. In a recent Harvard University publication , assistant professor Elizabeth Wolkovich explained, “There are more than 1,000 varieties — and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 percent of the wine market in many countries. We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change .” Farmers, however, are hesitant to experiment, because new varieties come with risk as well as changes to their brand. In Europe, only three varieties of grapes can legally be labeled as champagne. Champagne farmers are therefore uninterested in testing other varieties, because they will lose their name and their market share. Related: Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change In other regions, like the U.S. and Australia, labeling requirements are less strict; therefore, farmers have more freedom to experiment. Still, customers largely buy based on grape name recognition, such as “pinot noir.” Changing the grape means introducing new names and flavors to customers, which is a marketing challenge many vineyards are not excited to take on. In addition, experimentation is a risky and long-term solution. Christine Collier Clair,  director of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon, explained , “When you plant, you won’t get your first crop for four years, and your first wines in six years. And you won’t know if it’s a really great site for maybe 20 years.” The wine industry is in a difficult and critical moment of decision. Growers must decide now to risk investing land and money into new practices and uncertain grapes or else risk serious problems from an uncertain future. Via New Zealand Herald Images via Qimono , Chee Hong , Bernard Spragg and Tjabeljan

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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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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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