Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185%

March 3, 2017 by  
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A year ago 95 percent of California was in a drought . Today, just 9 percent of the state is still experiencing drought conditions thanks to one of the wettest winters on record. Those are the findings of the United States Drought Monitor, a weekly map of drought conditions produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The percentage of the state currently in drought is the lowest since 2011, when the drought began. Scientists say the Sierra Nevada snowpack measured on March 1 was an astounding 185 percent of average, measuring 45.5 inches. The Sierra Nevada hasn’t had this much snowpack since 1993 when the snowpack was at 205 percent of normal, measuring 51.25 inches. The historical average snowpack is 24.6 inches, according to the state Department of Water Resources. Related: California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought A series of “atmospheric river” storms flowing east from Hawaii and the tropical Pacific have slammed the state, bringing heavy rain and dumping massive amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There have been about 30 atmospheric river events since Oct. 1 – well above the yearly average of 12, and the six annually during the last five years of the drought. However, even with record levels of rain filling up reservoirs and snow accumulating in the Sierra Nevada, Gov. Jerry Brown is not about to declare the drought over. The snowpack will be measured again on April 1 when it is considered at its peak and Brown said he will wait until those results are announced before making a call on the drought and associated water conservation measures . + United States Drought Monitor Via Los Angeles Times Images via Pexels and Wikimedia

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Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185%

Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction

February 14, 2017 by  
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a The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux just suffered a major defeat at the hands of a federal judge — the tribes’ request to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was rejected Monday afternoon. The tribe’s lawyers filed the motion arguing that Lake Oahe, which the pipeline would cross, contains sacred water which would be desecrated by the pipeline. This argument was dismissed by Energy Transfer Partners , saying that the company had “the utmost respect for the religious beliefs and traditions” of the tribe and that their efforts did not threaten the traditions of the community. The protesters, who fear the consequences of an oil spill near their main source of water, say they aren’t surprised by the ruling. In a report from the Guardian , many reaffirmed their commitment to the cause, with some stating they would continue to occupy the protest camps near the pipeline’s construction sites. Related: Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately Religious beliefs and traditions weren’t only issues at stake in this ruling. The pipeline, which was originally halted by the Obama administration in December, was supposed to undergo a lengthy environmental review process before permits would be issued for the company to begin drilling. Instead, Donald Trump used his first weeks in office to throw out the review and simply push the approval process through. Though many indigenous protesters dispersed during the winter to avoid brutal storms, they are beginning to return as the weather improves. They are vowing to continue to fight the pipeline, both on the ground and in court. Via The Guardian Images via Tony Webster and Lars Plougmann

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Damaged Oroville spillway in California prompts mass evacuations

February 13, 2017 by  
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Winter storms continue to drench California , and over the weekend people living near Oroville in Northern California faced a crisis. After officials noticed a hole in the emergency spillway at the United States’ tallest dam , around 180,000 residents were ordered to evacuate , some given just one hour to flee their homes. Flooding in the area had been a threat for around a week as the reservoir behind Oroville Dam reached capacity. When the main spillway started eroding, officials opened an emergency spillway that’s never been used since the dam was built in the 1960’s. But then officials noticed the hole, and ordered evacuations on Sunday. Some residents had just one hour’s notice before officials feared the auxiliary spillway could fail, which could precipitate “an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville,” according to the National Weather Service . Related: Record winter storm pounds California Late Sunday reservoir water levels finally lowered, providing a bit of a respite. But officials said evacuations should continue, and conditions are still perilous. Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a state of emergency on Sunday for three counties , saying in a statement, “I’ve been in close contact with emergency personnel managing the situation in Oroville throughout the weekend and it’s clear the circumstances are complex and rapidly changing.” During the night evacuation shelters were still being outfitted with blankets and beds, according to NPR. Gizmodo reports residents of Oroville, Wheatland, Marysville, Plumas Lake, Hallwood, and Olivehurst were told to evacuate. According to the Los Angeles Times, if the emergency spillway failed, large amounts of water could gush into the Feather River, which travels through downtown Oroville. Flooding and levee failures would likely follow in the wake of a spillway failure for miles south of the Oroville Dam. Many communities could be flooded if that were to happen. Via NPR , the Los Angeles Times , and Gizmodo Images via California Department of Water Resources Facebook and Wikimedia Commons

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Historic tram depot reborn as chic co-working space and restaurant in Amsterdam

February 13, 2017 by  
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As if charming canals and beautiful bicycle paths weren’t reasons enough to visit Amsterdam, the cosmopolitan city just welcomed another beautiful landmark with a gorgeous multipurpose space for both work and play. Converted from a former tram depot in Amsterdam west by design firm Studio Modijefsky , the cavernous Kanarie Club is a stunning example of adaptive reuse that’s refreshingly modern without compromising the building’s historic integrity. Although Amsterdam is better known for its canals, the city also prides itself on its extensive tram network still in use today. To pay tribute to the old trams, the architects carefully preserved elements of the De Hallen tram depot, formerly used to service broken trams, during the restoration process. The new interior pays homage to the materials and color palette of the 19th century tram depot, from the custom-made furniture that mimics the vintage design of old electric tram seats to the tram signage and language adopted for the restaurant signage. The architects bring greater attention to the old trams with light-integrated arches and enclaves aligned with the tram rails in the ground. Tall vaulted ceilings, skylights, and large windows fill the venue with natural light, while the open layout adds to the sense of spaciousness. Exposed brick, industrial lighting, and multiple references to the tram depot’s history give the space an industrial chic vibe, while the bold colors, strings of light, and tropical plants gives it a playful edge. The centrally located bar placed atop a platform forms the focal point of the venue. Level changes help delineate different spaces. During the day the Kanarie Club functions more as co-working space and is outfitted with lockers, charging points, and built-in USBs. The space also has restaurant amenities and a kitchen. Related: Old potato barns come back to life as a pair of modern and stylish homes The most playful space in the Kanarie Club is the Pool Bar, a lounge area with a blue-painted pool that has no water. Studio Modijefsky writes: “The concept is taken from the squatters who used to live in the old tram depot before its renovation, they used the leaking water from the ceiling to create an inside pool for themselves. The new pool however will not be filled with water. With round comfy cushions and a splash of blue everywhere, it’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a cocktail. Made out of blue rubber with a stroke of matching tiles, the pool is complimented with a typical pool railing and a wavy mirror element on the bar lift. Pool signs and graphics with a direct reference to swimming pool rules have been used in the space to emphasize the identity of this part of the interior.” + Studio Modijefsky Images by Maarten Willemstein

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Designers float plan to cover Toronto’s CN Tower with clip-on condos

February 13, 2017 by  
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CN Tower in Toronto , Canada once held the title of world’s tallest freestanding structure until China’s Canton Tower and the Burj Khalifa overtook it. Now design firm Quadrangle has come up with a new vision for the 1970’s building: to cover it in modular Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) condominiums . The wooden residential pods would cling to the outside of the tower between wind-shielding wings. Once a broadcasting tower, the CN Tower today is mainly a tourist attraction, with a restaurant and hands-free walk on a ledge 116 stories above ground. Honoring what Quadrangle calls Toronto’s “tradition of reinvention and exploration,” the design team dreamed up a new use for the tower. Instead of just visiting occasionally, people could call the CN Tower home, enjoying life in condominiums featuring breathtaking views of the Canadian metropolis. Related: Taiwan’s first CLT building paves way to greener alternatives to concrete and steel Quadrangle says the condominiums could be offered in several sizes so people could pick the layout best for them. Supports drilled into the concrete tower would allow the pods to taper as they crept up the side of the building. In their press release Quadrangle said, “Dynamic shapes will evolve from the varying sizes of the units, with staircases creating sharp diagonal incisions in the otherwise cube-like structures.” The studio settled on CLT for the building material , saying it is sustainable, beautiful, and versatile. Using CLT, the condominiums could be snapped together onsite, making for quick construction that wouldn’t disrupt tourist activities too much. The design has its critics. Treehugger pointed out while the tower could probably hold the pods, and the idea very well could revitalize the old building as intended, CLT may not be the best material for the job since it weighs around 31 pounds per cubic foot and would require cladding and insulation. + Quadrangle Via Dezeen and Treehugger Images courtesy of Quadrangle

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Record winter storm pounds California

January 24, 2017 by  
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California is battling one of the strongest winter storms the state has seen in years, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in 50 counties. After a brutal five-year drought , the state needs rain but the severe weather has also led to mudslides, flooding, and evacuations. Southern California in particular has been hit with a deluge of rain , breaking records in some areas. Los Angeles County coastal areas received most of the brunt of the storm. Long Beach Airport actually saw a new rainfall record of 3.87 inches. National Weather Service meteorologist Brett Albright said some parts of southern California received up to four inches. He told the Los Angeles Times, “Today was very intense. It’s not a normal event…It’s not often we see higher rainfall totals on the coast than in the mountains.” Related: California storms could herald the end of punishing historical drought The storms continue the trend of more rain than usual in California. Since October 1, 2016, downtown Los Angeles has received over 13 inches of rain, which is 216 percent more than normal for this time period, or around 6.26 inches according to the National Weather Service. Swaths of southern California experienced extreme events connected to the storm. Rockslides in Malibu closed roads. In Isla Vista, close to Santa Barbara, a patio and a cliff crashed into the ocean. Residents were told to evacuate in Duarte, Glendora, and parts of Santa Barbara County and Orange County, where 2016 wildfires left behind burned areas that are more susceptible to mudslides. One death in Pomona has been likely connected to the storm; a driver lost control of their car and crashed while driving in heavy rain in the afternoon. Rainfall is supposed to continue into this week, and some areas could see four to six inches of rain during the next couple of days. The state of emergency will help secure state and federal funds to help those struggling with what Gov. Brown called “conditions of extreme peril.” Via the Los Angeles Times Images via Flickinpicks on Flickr and nosha on Flickr

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California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought

January 13, 2017 by  
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Californians may finally receive some relief from the drought they’ve grappled with for five brutal years. Recent storms drenching the state with rain and snow could enable at least Northern California to leave the drought in the past. National Weather Service specialist Tom Fisher said Southern California is seeing the highest rainfall “in at least five years,” while Northern California experiences their highest rainfall “in at least 10 years.” The United States Drought Monitor said Northern California has at last escaped the drought, but Southern California is still grappling with dry conditions. About 30 percent of that region is still experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. Other officials warned it may be too early to claim a full victory over the drought, as California weather conditions can change. Los Angeles Department of Water Resources spokesperson Ted Thomas said the state sometimes begins with a wet winter, only to see dry conditions prevail later on in the season. According to the US Drought Monitor, over 26 million people are estimated to live in areas still dealing with drought. Related: 713 trillion gallons of water discovered under drought-stricken California The extreme conditions have inspired California farmers to come up with creative ways to store water . Terranova Ranch general manager Don Cameron flooded the ranch’s vineyards during the winter, allowing all that water to seep underground to replenish aquifers. As it rarely rains during California summers, and during the drought farmers couldn’t obtain the water they needed from surface reservoirs, they often had to pump water out of the earth to water their crops. But as the drought persisted, wells dried up, and aquifers were depleted. Cameron’s idea worked – the water sank into the ground and didn’t harm the crops on the way down. Other farmers are working with University of California, Davis groundwater hydrologist Helen Dahlke to apply the innovative yet simple method of water management as storms dump water on the state. Cameron told NPR, “This is going to be the future for California. If we don’t store the water during flood periods, we’re not going to make it through the droughts.” Via Phys.org and NPR Images via James Daisa on Flickr and Bob Dass on Flickr

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Quirky Pinocchio-themed museum looks like it came out of Geppetto’s workshop

November 23, 2016 by  
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This unusual complex occupies a irregularly-shaped piece of land located on the outskirts of north eastern Seoul. The client, an avid collector of Pinocchio dolls and artifacts from around the world, and owner of a private kindergarden , commissioned Moon Hoon to design a museum and galleries where her Pinocchio collections and related collections and designs could be enjoyed and experienced by kids and adults alike. Three buildings house different programs, and are organized around a nice grassed inner courtyard dominated by a sky-train, a pond, and large Pinocchio statue. Related: Enchanting fairytale museum will pay homage to Hans Christian Andersen The first building is inspired by the whale scene in the story. The curvilinear layout of the building references the whale and the wave, leaving very narrow crawl space between large and small stepped seats to enhance a sense of adventure. The open, concave crater-like space becomes an extension of the interior when the weather permits. The second building is where large character dolls and accompanying tables and seats are exhibited. A curved, high ceiling auditorium functions as a venue for different shows and performances. The third building features a water fountain that provides active sound and movements to the still environment. The balcony in the second floor can be opened on both sides to provide views of the neighboring forest. + Moon Hoon Via Archdaily

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Thousands of giant snowballs pile up on 11 miles of Siberian coast

November 9, 2016 by  
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Huge snowballs along 11 miles of coastline surprised residents of Nyda, Siberia recently. Locals say they’ve never seen a phenomenon like this one, and documented the thousands of snowballs in social media posts. Some of the snowballs are as small as a few inches, while others are nearly three-feet-wide. The icy orbs started showing up around two weeks ago near the small Siberian village north of the Arctic Circle . While the snowball-swathed beaches may look like preparations for a giant snowball fight, natural processes actually led to the strange balls. Related: Zombie anthrax outbreak hits Siberia after blistering heatwave The snowballs apparently form when water and wind roll ice pieces. Valery Akulov of the village administration told The Siberian Times, “When the water in the gulf rose, it came into contact with the frost. The beach began to be covered in ice. Then the water began to slowly retreat, and the ice remained. Its pieces were rolling over in the wet sand, and turned into these balls.” Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute spokesperson Sergei Lisenkov told The Siberian Times, “It is a rare natural phenomenon. As a rule, grease ice forms first, slush. And then a combination of the action of the wind, the outlines of the coastline, and the temperature, may lead to the formation of such balls.” Akulov said village “old-timers” had never seen such a phenomenon before, and locals expressed disbelief and amazement at the snowballs. Local Ekaterina Chernykh said, “We all were very surprised. Many people believed it only when they saw with their own eyes. This has not happened previously. And there was not so much snow for them to form. It’s so interesting.” Locals compare the size of smaller snowballs to tennis balls and large ones to volleyballs. Via The Siberian Times , the BBC and Gizmodo Images via screenshot

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Revolving solar-powered home for veterans wins California’s first tiny house competition

November 9, 2016 by  
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Powered by eight 330 Watt Sunmodule solar panels , the self-sufficient tiny home stores its energy in saltwater batteries that are the first to be Cradle-to-Cradle certified, and the Colossus solar tracking mechanism increases its absorption efficiency by 30 percent. In addition to being completely off-grid, the tiny home on wheels is also beautifully designed for surprising comfort. A transforming Murphy bed in the bedroom maximizes space during daylight hours, the full-sized kitchen has a seating area and fold-out table for the same reason, and the wet bathroom uses a dry-flush toilet to eliminate black water. Related: KODA is a tiny solar-powered house that can move with its owners rEvolve House is not only about as green as they come, with small planters on the facade and a spiral staircase leading to a rooftop terrace, but also boasts deep humanitarian intentions . “The tiny house provides the first step in the journey of empowering veterans to evolve their independence and is a safe haven for them to acclimate and begin training their dogs prior to returning to their respective homes,” the students write in their design brief. “The Tiny House Competition – Build Small and Win Big” is a new competition in the Sacramento region, challenging collegiate teams to design and build net-zero, tiny solar houses, writes the organizer, Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD). “The event, held Saturday, October 15 at Consumnes River College, was open to all colleges and universities in California. Participation promoted an interest in energy conservation, energy efficiency and green building and solar technologies.” + rEvolve House Images via Joanne H. Lee/Santa Clara University

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