Tag Archives: climate

Ecology goes Big Data – 15,000 sensors to measure everything in the soil

This project, called NEON, should revolutionize the study of ecology, and with it global warming.

The Economist – NEON light

Once this network is completed, in 2016 if all goes well, 15,000 sensors will be collecting more than 500 types of data, including temperature, precipitation, air pressure, wind speed and direction, humidity, sunshine, levels of air pollutants such as ozone, the amount of various nutrients in soils and streams, and the state of an area’s vegetation and microbes.

 

I just can’t believe they were able to get $400+ million in funding for this project.

 

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A refreshing look at climate change in America – what are we doing about it?

A refreshing, well-balanced look at climate change in America.

 

You don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside.

The United States is now enduring its warmest year on record…Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate.

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

 

Keep reading: N.Y. Times - There’s Still Hope for the Planet

 

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U.S. global warming affects Texas, Midwest, and Northeast – the most

The United States recently went through the hottest 12 months ever, since record-keeping began in 1895.

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration said that for the period from May 2011 to April 2012, the nationally averaged temperature was 55.7 degrees, 2.8 degrees higher than the 20th century average. The national average temperature for April was 55 degrees, 3.6 degrees above average.

To be sure, the higher temperatures haven’t hit every region equally. The Pacific Northwest actually saw cooler-than-average temperatures over the past year, according to NOAA data. Much of California was also cooler than normal; Southern California had an average year.

But record averages for the year scorched central Texas — which saw a horrific drought last year — the upper Midwest, and much of the Northeast.

The last time the globe had a month that averaged below its 20th century normal was February 1985. April makes it 326 months in a row. Nearly half the population of the world has never seen a month that was cooler than normal, according to United Nations data.

via L.A. Times

La Niña leaves on Thursday – El Niño could be coming

Changes are brewing in the equatorial Pacific, and they could profoundly affect weather across the U.S. and much of the globe next winter and spring.

La Nina, which has held sway since last fall, will be officially declared a goner Thursday, an official at the Climate Prediction Center in Maryland told InsideClimate News. And while nobody is quite certain what will happen next, some long-range forecast models are pointing to the possible emergence of the opposite phenomenon: El Nino.

Climate scientists are still trying to determine what role climate change plays in the La Nina/El Nino cycle. One study by scientists with NASA and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle suggests global warming may already be affecting the intensity and impacts of El Nino.

Regardless of climate change’s role, a shift away from this year’s La Nina could dramatically alter temperature, precipitation and extreme-weather patterns.

…keep readingAdios, La Nina. Hola, El Nino?

 

// Photo – Vinoth Chandar

Climate Change in California means heats waves…lots of them

In the past 60 years, California has experienced two heatwaves – in 1955 and 2006 – in which temperatures in its urban centers were greater than 37.8 degrees C (100 degrees F) for three or more consecutive days.

A new analysis prepared by other Scripps researchers indicates that by century’s end, those kinds of heatwaves will be the norm. Scripps climate researcher David Pierce said the new data will be assimilated into a major climate report scheduled for release in 2013.

“We’ll start getting these kinds of heatwaves more frequently by 2020 and by 2070, they’ll become common,” Pierce said.

…in all scenarios, not only do episodes of 100-degree-plus temperatures happen more frequently (several times a decade), but events in which temperatures top 100 for seven or more days begin happening at least once a decade by 2060 in all the models.

via Scripps Institute of Oceanography

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Perpetual Ocean – NASA recreates the ocean currents of the world

This visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through Decemeber 2007. The visualization does not include a narration or annotations; the goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience.

This visualization was produced using NASA/JPL’s computational model called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2.

ECCO2 is high resolution model of the global ocean and sea-ice. ECCO2 attempts to model the oceans and sea ice to increasingly accurate resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow-current systems which transport heat and carbon in the oceans.The ECCO2 model simulates ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization.

A full 20-minute version in HD is available at the Perpetual Motion NASA site.

 

Another writer ponders the similarities to Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night:

What you’re looking at is the surface current flow (not anything deeper) of oceans around the world, recorded from 2006 to 2007. The white lines are the currents, and the darker blue colors of the water represent bathymetry (the fancy word for misnomer “ocean topography”).

The image is wondrous, isn’t it? I had no conception of how many massive whirlpools sit off the world’s coasts. It’s hard to imagine how difficult sea travel must have been to early explorers, trapped in currents without motors, relying only on wind, guts, and the stars to take them somewhere they’ve never seen before. Heck, it seems scary to undertake now.

And all this pontification is ignoring just how unthinkingly beautiful the visualization looks.

via Co.Design

We create our own stars – the satellites tracking U.S. weather

The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) brought online its latest weather satellite GOES-15, and pushed aside its predecessor GOES-11.

It will be tracking the weather for California, the west coast, Hawaii, and the Pacific Ocean. The image above is the first infrared image it sent to NOAA, which it will continue to do every “15-30 minutes, with full hemisphere scans every 3 hours until its retirement.”

The term GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Which means that they sit, like a star, at the same place in the sky and a radio antenna can be permanently pointed at it to receive data.

There are currently four of them covering our globe:

  • GOES-12 - South America located at 60°W.
  • GOES-13 - East located at 75°W. It provides most of the U.S. weather information.
  • GOES 14 - in on-orbit storage at 105° W.
  • GOES 15 - West and Pacific Ocean located at 135° W.

They are up there to track half the world’s weather patterns and to “track space weather, oceanographic changes, forest fires and other hazards and provide scientific data collection and information for search and rescue operations.”

As the name implies, there are 15 or more of these satellites up in space. Some are online, one is in storage ready-for-action, others are floating space junk, and a few are floating nonchalantly but providing data (like one at the North Pole).

Next time you look up at the stars keep an eye out for one of these satellites and you can bet they will be keeping an eye on us.

For more information, science writer Gary Robbins has a profile on GOES-15 vs GOES-11.

Are cars causing Global Warming?

I often hear folks complain about cars and the pollution they cause. This seemed a little off so I did some investigating.

Out of all the ways to go green, including reducing energy use, buying green products, and driving less…

 

Which one is the best for the environment?

 

The EPA keeps a tally of these things on their Climate Change page and in an Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions (pdf).

The results are astounding. Cars account for only 17% of all emissions. While 80% comes from home use, business, and food.

 

[box type="shadow"]

2009 US Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Business — 35.6%
  • Electricity — 33%
  • Personal vehicles — 17.8%
  • Agriculture — 7%
  • Residential — 5%
  • US territories — 1%

* Business = factories, business vehicles, office buildings
** Residential = gas heating
*** Includes CO2 and all other gasses 

[/box]

 

To put it another way. If you buy a recycled product or reduce your energy use, that has 2x greater impact than driving less does.

This means things like hang drying your clothes, buying recycled toilet paper, reusing floss, and turning off the A/C, are much more important than biking to work.

I know, I know, this just doesn’t seem right.

The numbers don’t lie…so next time you get in the car think, instead, about how you can reduce your energy use or buy a sustainably created product.

 

More on the Numbers

 

If you think about driving, most of the recommendations are for health concerns instead of pollution problems. Things like biking to work and reducing traffic congestion. Or, it is about geopolitics and our reliance on other countries for oil.

The thing is, most of the car industry is green and even innovative. There are smog checks, 40 mpg cars, engine filters galore, a huge used car industries (i.e. reuse), and awesome junkyards (recycle).

From the top, where the rich subsidize the innovations like electric cars. To the bottom, where the middle and poor buy used to save money. The entire industry appears to have itself aligned in an environmental way.

Compare that to the energy industry and green product market where that alignment isn’t quite there yet. Buying a used car saves money and helps the entire industry, and it is considered cool/smart. Whereas, buying recycled or hang drying your clothes makes you kind of extreme, and not all locations offer products.

Not to mention the incentives are tiny. The pennies and dimes I save in electricity use make me to question the extra effort. The only thing that keeps me going is “think of the kids”, lol.

This may be a good place for smart government. A good example would be the car industry, where those who drive a lot or purchase low MPG cars pay much more at the pump. They also pay more taxes and if you look at how much tax is loaded into each gallon, it’s a lot.

Perhaps there could be an extra tax on those who use more electricity. Make those who own big houses or a million appliances pay more. Use that money to fund clean energy projects.

I’m seeing this happen in a few regions but not at the scale where it needs to be. I say tax the hell out of wasters and over-users otherwise it makes all my reductions inconsequential.

Plus, it sure would be nice to get rid of these coal and gas power plants…

 

Which one would you rather have in your backyard?

 

Our consumer-driven growth model is broken: Now what?

Last week at dinner, our friend (@doyendon) challenged 1X57 to find, or at least contemplate, a solution to consumer-based economies, aka contemporary capitalism, which is causing a global crisis of unconscionable proportions – with food and energy prices soaring, world populations surging, and weather-related disasters like tornadoes, tsunamis, droughts, fires and floods increasing in frequency and scale.

In a new book by Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur Paul Gilding called “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World” – the solution offered is “moving to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less.”

We’ll be exploring this solution and others, and welcome any suggestions that will help lead us to a global remedy.

 

 

A Guide to DC’s Environmental Film Festival

Kieran Timberlake: The Loblolly House

I love movies. The only thing better than movies is a film festival full of them. In the last few years I’ve become a regular film festival attendee (see my Sundance Festival Guide).

It was with some surprise then to learn that DC has its very own film festival. A major event that is possibly the best of its kind in the world, the Environmental Film Festival.

It runs from March 15-27 and presents 150 films at 60 venues, with an expected attendance of 26,000 filmgoers.

What makes any festival interesting is the sense of discovery where you find yourself watching a movie you would never otherwise see. And, that film will most likely never again be in your local theater or even on Netflix. They are works of art that while good enough to be selected at film festivals, will never make it into the studio circuit of big budgets, posters, and red carpets.

Being in DC is uniquely special as well since the city produces a huge amount of documentaries. I once heard a friend at the DC Film Institute joke that we are not Hollywood but Docu-wood.

The subject of this year’s festival is Energy, but I noticed several other topics just as interesting: the chesapeake bay, architecture, lectures by professors, nuclear waste, short films, and adventures in cold places.

Where Whales Sing

After looking through the list of films I quickly realized that I want to see them all. With over 60 movies making the first cut as “must-sees”. My festival instincts kicked in as I reminded myself that every movie was chosen because it is worth seeing.

The wise option then is to choose my absolute favorites:

The next step is to plan out my 12 day schedule. This process helped me a bit to narrow down my schedule to just 21 movies. Leaving room for a day job and food but little else.

Here is the full list (with links). I hope a few of these tickle your fancy and you end up attending one or two. Leave a comment about your experiences or if you need someone to go with (because I sure do!).

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects

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Mar 15

Wasteland and Wilderness: Lecture by Peter L. Galison – 5:30pm

The Polar Explorer – 8pm

Mar 16

Mission Blue – 7:30pm

Oil Rocks – City Above The Sea – 7pm

Mar 17

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie – 7pm

Mar 18

El Muro – 6:30pm

Mar 19

Into Eternity – 1pm

Mar 20

Kieran Timberlake: Loblolly House – 1pm

Countdown To Zero – 6:30pm

Mar 21

World Water Day: Global Water and Population Films and Panels – 6pm

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects – 7pm

Mar 22

Where Whales Sing – 10:30am

An Evening With Chris Palmer – 7pm

Mar 23

Short Films on the Chesapeake: The Last Boat Out, The Runoff Dilemma, Watermen, & Sturgeon: Eggs To Die For – 6pm

Mar 24

Planeat – 7:30pm

Mar 25

We Still Live Here: As Nutayunean – 7pm

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air – 7pm

Mar 26

I.M. Pei – Building Modern China - 2pm

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga – 3pm

Mar 27

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization – 3pm

A Murder of Crows – 1pm

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie