63 Global Warming News Articles
for September of 2018
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Some issues will go away with the passage of time, others will be so slow developing that the decision-makers will depart before the results of their neglect become manifest.
Which brings us to the environment.
Trump is a clear and present danger
to the United States and to the Planet!
9-28-18 Warm tropical Atlantic waters juiced the 2017 hurricane season
The ocean’s unusually high sea-surface temperatures were a bigger factor than La Niña’s effect on winds. Very warm waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean were the primary cause behind the region’s many strong hurricanes last year, including powerhouse storms Harvey and Maria, a new study finds. And that pattern of ocean warming is likely to become more common in the future, fueling more strong hurricanes, the researchers say. Climate scientist Hiroyuki Murakami, now at the at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and based in Princeton, N.J., and colleagues used climate simulations to investigate whether several factors might have influenced the busy 2017 hurricane season, which included six major storms with intensities of category 3 or higher. That’s about double the average number of major hurricanes observed each year from 1979 to 2017. The simulations suggest that the relative warmth of waters in the tropical Atlantic, rather than factors such as the onset of a La Niña climate pattern, was the strongest driver of the storms, the researchers report online September 27 in Science. La Niña is a cyclical phenomenon — the meteorological flipside to El Niño — that brings cooler waters to the tropical Pacific Ocean and causes a change in the wind patterns over the Atlantic that can help strengthen hurricanes (SN Online: 6/9/16).
9-28-18 Carolina’s hog poop nightmare
As flooding in North Carolina recedes, it is leaving a “disgusting” legacy in its wake, said Rick Dove. Hurricane Florence inundated many of the 3,000 open-air “lagoons” of untreated hog waste throughout the state, contaminating waterways and groundwater with “pathogens, viruses, and bacteria.” The amount of waste produced by these industrial-scale hog farms is astonishing: Duplin County alone produces as much feces and urine as the entire New York City metro area, all of it sitting in the open, “waiting for a catastrophe like Hurricane Florence to wreak havoc.” My nonprofit, Waterkeeper Alliance, surveyed the damage from planes, and it was horrifying. Some cesspools were submerged in floodwaters, others had “suffered massive structural damage to their walls.” Raw waste filled with nitrogen, ammonia, and various pathogens—including antibiotic-resistant E. coli—had already flowed downstream. In coming weeks and months, North Carolinians will see hog waste cause “beach closures, fish kills, and contamination of shellfish beds.” Rivers and groundwater will be tainted. But because the pork industry carries great political weight in North Carolina, nothing will change. When the next hurricane comes, a tide of hog waste will wash over the state again.
9-27-18 Taller plants moving into warmer Arctic
The low-lying shrubs, grasses and other plants growing in the Arctic are getting taller. The finding comes from scientists who have analysed three decades of measurements. This data, gathered across Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia, indicates that a warming climate is driving the change. The team of 180 researchers says the increase in height could ultimately work to push up temperatures further. The international group reports its work in the journal Nature. Co-lead author Isla Myers-Smith, from the University of Edinburgh, UK, predicted that, on their current trajectory, the centimetres-tall Arctic flora could double in size by the end of the century. "That doesn't seem like a very dramatic increase, but if you compare it to the ecosystems around your house like the forest nearby - if you imagined that forest getting twice as tall; that is a pretty dramatic change," she told BBC News. Plants have to be hardy to flourish in the far north or high up Alpine mountains. The cold and short growing season precludes trees. Instead, this tundra landscape is populated by small species that hug the ground. But the Arctic is undergoing rapid change. Recent decades have seen the region experience some of the fastest rates of warming on the planet. It is not simply that existing plants have increased their stature, although that is the case; it is more that taller species are now invading areas they never used to grow in large numbers. As an example vernal sweetgrass, which is common in lowland Europe, has now moved into the research plots in Iceland and Sweden where long-term monitoring is undertaken. The re-profiling of plant communities is important because it could alter the way the tundra ecosystem functions. Taller Arctic plants will trap more snow around them, insulating the ground from very cold air and preventing it from freezing quite so hard. This makes it easier for usually rock-solid soils to thaw out in summer months and release their carbon into the atmosphere. This would add to the warming. Taller plants could also effect the same outcome because, by sticking their heads above the snow, they would present a darker surface, and that allows the ecosystem to trap more heat from the Sun. "Although there are still many uncertainties, taller tundra plants could fuel climate change, both in the Arctic and for the planet as a whole," said the study's other co-lead investigator, Anne Bjorkman, from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Germany.
9-26-18 China coal power building boom sparks climate warning
Building work has restarted at hundreds of Chinese coal-fired power stations, according to an analysis of satellite imagery. The research, carried out by green campaigners CoalSwarm, suggests that 259 gigawatts of new capacity are under development in China. The authors say this is the same capacity to produce electricity as the entire US coal fleet. The study says government attempts to cancel many plants have failed. According to this study, there was a surge in new coal projects approved at provincial level in China between 2014 and 2016. This happened because of a decentralisation programme that shifted authority over coal plant construction approvals to local authorities. The report says that at present China has 993 gigawatts of coal power capacity, but the approved new plants would increase this by 25%. China's central government has tried to rein in this boom by issuing suspension orders for more than 100 power plants but this analysis suggests that these efforts have been significantly less effective than previous news reports had indicated. In this study, the researchers used satellite photos to examine every power plant that was subject to a suspension order. They found construction ongoing at many locations. For instance, in September last year, China's National Energy Administration ordered a group of plants - that together could produce 57 gigwatts of electricity - to slow down construction. The organisation also prohibited them from connecting to the grid in 2017. However the satellite data suggests that half of this capacity appears not to have slowed down at all. "This new evidence that China's central government hasn't been able to stop the runaway coal-fired power plant building is alarming - the planet can't tolerate another US-sized block of plants to be built," said Ted Nace, from CoalSwarm.
9-26-18 Shahzeen Attari explores the psychology of saving the planet
The engineer takes a personal approach to solving environmental problems. When Shahzeen Attari was growing up in Dubai, her father ran a machine shop. Her mother, a gregarious people person, worked at a bank. “My curiosity about how things work came from my father,” Attari says. “I learned to love getting to know people from my mother.” That yin-yang background may help explain why Attari, now at Indiana University Bloomington, found a way to merge the practical and the personal in her scientific pursuits, by blending civil and environmental engineering with public policy and psychology. At age 37, she has become a leader in the study of how people think about conservation, energy use and climate change. At its heart, Attari’s research explores people’s difficulties in grasping complex physical systems. She has studied the ways in which people underestimate their own water and energy use. “We live in a world that must dramatically reduce its use of fossil fuels and water, but efforts to encourage people to change their behavior have proven notoriously difficult,” says communications researcher Edward Maibach of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “Shahzeen’s research has taught us much about why that is, and what can be done to improve our efforts,” says Maibach, who studies public understanding of climate change. Her graduate school adviser at Carnegie Mellon University, environmental engineer and air quality researcher Cliff Davidson, quickly noticed her interdisciplinary bent when she arrived with an undergraduate degree in engineering physics. In graduate school, Attari decided on a joint degree in engineering and public policy.
9-25-18 Climate change kills Antarctica's ancient moss beds
Emerging from the ice for a brief growing season every Antarctic summer, the lush green mosses of East Antarctica are finally succumbing to climate change. That is according to a study of the small, ancient and hardy plants - carried out over more than a decade. This revealed that vegetation in East Antarctica is changing rapidly in response to a drying climate. The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change. "Visiting Antarctica, you expect to see icy, white landscapes," said lead scientist Prof Sharon Robinson from the University of Wollongong, in Australia. "But in some areas there are lush, green moss beds that emerge from under the snow for a growing period of maybe six weeks." While West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula are some of the fastest warming places of the planet, East Antarctica has not yet experienced much climate warming, so the scientists did not expect to see much change in the vegetation there. "But we were really surprised when we saw how fast it was changing," Prof Robinson said. "After a pilot study in 2000, we set up monitoring in 2003. When we returned in 2008, all these green moss beds had turned dark red, indicating they were severely stressed. It was a dramatic change. "They change from green to red to grey if they get really stressed. "The red pigments are the sunscreen and drought stress protective pigments they produce to protect themselves - antioxidant and UV screening compounds. "Grey means they are dying."
9-22-18 How climate change causes extreme weather
Mammoth hurricanes have become more destructive and more common. Does climate change play a role? Here's everything you need to know:
- Are hurricanes worsening? Last year brought a trio of devastating Category 4 and 5 hurricanes: Harvey dumped a record-breaking 27 trillion gallons of rain on Texas; Irma was the most intense storm to hit the continental U.S. since Katrina; and Maria's winds reached 175 mph, flattening much of the Caribbean and knocking out Puerto Rico's entire power grid.
- Is that because of global warming? Scientists have debated the connection for years, but new research has provided strong evidence for that conclusion. Because Harvey crossed the Gulf of Mexico when waters were abnormally calm, scientists could collect highly specific data about ocean conditions before and after the storm.
- How else are storms changing? In June, Nature published the first study to analyze hurricane speeds worldwide. It found that hurricanes move about 10 percent more slowly over land than they did 50 years ago.
- How bad could things get? Researchers at NOAA use supercomputers to simulate the effects of climate change on hurricanes. From 2016 to 2035, they project more hurricanes in general and 11 percent more Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes. By the end of the century, they expect 20 percent more of the worst storms, some with winds above 190 mph.
- How can we plan accordingly? Experts champion "resilient infrastructure," with buildings, roads, hospitals, and power systems all designed to endure disasters. Taiwan is an exemplar; it experienced four typhoons in 2015 but was fully operational within about four days after each storm.
- Has North Carolina taken action? Yes, but only by passing a law preventing state officials from using the prediction of rising sea levels to make coastal development decisions. More recently, President Trump reversed Obama's executive order, so that federally funded construction projects do not have to take climate change into account.
- Flood coverage drowning in debt More than 5 million Americans receive flood insurance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency through a 50-year-old program that's more than $20 billion in debt. Last year alone, it paid out $8.7 billion to policyholders, leading Congress to forgive $16 billion the program owed to the federal government.
9-21-18 Hurricane Florence brings a flood of misery
Hurricane Florence this week turned towns in the Carolinas into virtual islands encircled by historic floodwaters. In Wilmington, N.C., normally a small city of 117,000 people, all roads were cut off. Residents trapped without power lined up for tarps and fresh water. By the middle of the week, the number of deaths had hit 37—including a 1-year-old boy swept away by the waters. The deluge reached biblical proportions, with 36 inches of rain recorded in Elizabethtown, N.C. Volunteers from around the country, including some from Louisiana’s ad hoc “Cajun Navy,” flocked to help, but they’ve had to contend with a cascade of environmental threats. More than 2,000 cubic yards of toxic coal ash leaked from a power plant, and a nuclear power plant was left inaccessible by roads. North Carolina’s industrial agricultural operations were hit hard and more than 100 pig manure lagoons were breached, releasing dangerous bacteria, raw excrement, and chemicals into rivers. Preliminary estimates of the damage from Florence run to $22 billion. Tens of thousands of people remain displaced. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper pleaded for residents to be patient and not try to return to dangerously flooded areas. “I know it was hard to leave home,” Cooper said. “For many people, this feels like a nightmare that just won’t end.” This past summer was “merciless,” said The New York Times. “Heat waves, droughts, and megafires” have already ravaged the country, and now Hurricane Florence’s “one-two punch of wind and rainfall” provides yet another example of “supercharged” extreme weather. To no one’s surprise, the link between hurricane intensity and climate change went unacknowledged in President Trump’s Washington. Catastrophic storms are the consequence of climate change, and we can’t deal with it by shrugging off the science, said Jill Filipovic at CNN.com. The government’s job is to offer disaster prevention, not just relief. We need infrastructure that can withstand stronger storms, like sea walls and elevated roads. But you can’t do that kind of planning when one of the major political parties denies there’s even an issue.
9-21-18 Typhoon batters Asia
Super-typhoon Mangkhut roared across the northern Philippines this week, killing at least 66 people, many of them small-time gold miners buried by mudslides. Then it slammed into China, flooding Hong Kong and Macau with waist-high waters, uprooting trees, and causing skyscrapers to sway. Four people were killed in China’s densely populated southern province of Guangdong, where authorities had evacuated more than 3 million people ahead of the storm’s landfall. Scientists said Mangkhut, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, is the world’s most powerful storm of 2018, with wind gusts of up to 200 mph and a span 550 miles wide.
9-21-18 El Niño’s return
El Niño, the Pacific Ocean weather phenomenon that affects temperatures and rainfall all over the world, could make a reappearance this winter, reports BBC.com. Scientists at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) say there is a 70 percent chance of the weather event happening by year’s end, while Japan’s weather bureau puts the likelihood of it happening from September to November at 60 percent. The last El Niño, in 2015–16, was one of the strongest ever recorded. It led to soaring temperatures—2016 was the warmest year on record—widespread drought in Africa, and floods across South America. WMO researchers say this year’s El Niño, if it develops, won’t be as powerful. The phenomenon, which involves fluctuating ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific, usually takes place only once every five to seven years. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas says a recurrence so soon would suggest that “climate change is influencing the traditional dynamics of El Niño and La Niña,” its sister event.
9-20-18 Divers are attempting to regrow Great Barrier Reef with electricity
It may be possible to restore damaged parts of the Great Barrier Reef by electrically stimulating coral fragments grown on underwater metal frames. A trial is underway to restore damaged coral on the Great Barrier Reef using electricity. The reef has been severely assaulted in recent years by cyclones and back-to-back heatwaves. Nathan Cook at conservation group Reef Ecologic and his colleagues are attempting to regrow surviving coral fragments on steel frames. The frames are placed on damaged parts of the reef and stimulated with electricity to accelerate the coral’s growth. Electrified metal frames have previously been used to encourage coral growth on reefs in South-East Asia, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. They have been shown to attract mineral deposits that help corals grow 3 to 4 times faster than normal. The technique is being trialed at a section of the reef 100 kilometres north of Cairns that was badly affected by the 2016 and 2017 mass coral bleaching events. Some coral is starting to grow back naturally, but it will take at least a decade for even the fastest-growing species to fully recover. Cook hopes the artificial method of speeding up coral growth will help the reef survive future bleaching events, which are now predicted to strike at least every five years due to climate change.
9-20-18 Field notes: Polluted polar bears await the great Arctic land grab
As global warming melts the Arctic, all eyes are turning to the riches under the ice. But will polar bears survive the pollutants trickling into the food chain? As our boat bobs in a windy, iceberg-filled cove, I try to gauge the skinniness of the polar bear in front of me. It isn’t plump, but I’ve certainly seen bears in worse health. We’re in Franz Josef Land, a remote part of Russia that sits between the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Many biologists consider this 192-island archipelago one of the least damaged polar ecosystems we have left. There are high numbers of polar bears, walruses, and seabirds at this time of year – late summer – and plenty of glacial ice. Unlike the permanent sea ice a few hundred miles to the north, this ice calves off from glaciers as they shrink and grow in annual cycles, creating floating sculptures that our boat manoeuvres around to get a better look at the bear. Even the coastal polar bears here seem to be doing okay. While offshore bears follow the sea ice, hunting seals on ice floes all year round, coastal bears spend their summers on land, and are forced to forage whatever they can find. Relying on sporadic, low-calorie meals such as the eggs of nesting guillemots or skuas, it’s usually harder for these bears to pack on the pounds. These slimmer bears may appear less healthy than their offshore cousins, but in fact it might be the other way round. Researchers recently discovered that offshore bears around the Barents Sea are some of the most polluted animals on Earth. This is a direct consequence of their size, and the seals that let them bulk up.
9-19-18 Mosquitoes are eating plastic and spreading it to new food chains
Aquatic mosquito larvae eat plastic in the water and retain it when they become flies – meaning the plastic ends up in the birds that eat mosquitoes. Mosquito larvae that grow up in water contaminated with plastic accumulate the litter in their bodies – and some of it remains there even after the larvae emerge as adult flies. The mosquitoes may exacerbate the problem of plastic contamination when they are eaten by animals living on land. Plastic pollution is ubiquitous in the environment, particularly in water. Birds, fish and other animals living around aquatic systems can ingest small plastic pieces by accident. These microplastics, with a diameter under 5 millimetres, pose a huge threat to the health of marine and freshwater ecosystems as they enter the food web. But their impact may be spread by animals with a lifecycle that involves living both in water and on land. Many insects, such as mosquitoes and dragonflies, spend their juvenile stages in water but move to land once they become adults. Amanda Callaghan at the University of Reading, UK, and her colleagues suspected these organisms could be vehicles that transport plastics into uncontaminated environments. To test their idea, Callaghan’s team fed 150 aquatic mosquito larvae with a mixture of food and microplastic beads of different sizes. They examined 15 individuals selected at random while the animals were still in the larval stage, and they looked at another 15 individuals when the animals had turned into flying adult mosquitoes. The team found microplastics in all 30 individuals. On average, a larva contained over 3000 2-micrometre-wide beads. As the animals matured they gradually stopped consuming microplastics and excreted most of them. Even so, Callaghan still counted about 40 beads on average in adults.
9-18-18 BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen face EU diesel emissions probe
German carmakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen are to face an EU inquiry for allegedly conspiring to restrict diesel emissions treatment systems. The European Commission said it was investigating whether they agreed to limit the development of systems to reduce harmful emissions. It said that if proven, this could mean that consumers had been denied the chance to buy less polluting cars. The firms were raided in 2017 as part of the Commission's earlier inquiries. The Commission said its in-depth investigation was intended to assess whether the carmakers colluded, in breach of EU anti-trust rules, to avoid competing on technology to clean up petrol and diesel car emissions. It said it was focusing on information indicating that the companies, including VW-owned Audi and Porsche, had met to discuss the development and deployment of emissions technology. Two kinds of emissions control systems are under scrutiny: Selective catalytic reduction systems, which reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines and "Otto" particulate filters, which reduce emissions from petrol-driven cars. "The Commission's in-depth investigation in this case concerns specific co-operation that is suspected to have aimed at limiting the technical development or preventing the roll-out of technical devices," it said.
9-17-18 The coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina, has been cut off from the rest of the state because of heavy floods following Hurricane Florence.
. Officials say all roads in and out are now impassable and have warned evacuated residents to stay away. About 400 people have been rescued from flood waters in the city, described as an island within the state. Two of the first known fatalities - a mother and her seven-month son - were reported in the city on Friday morning. At least 15 other people are reported to have died in storm-related incidents across North and South Carolina since Florence made landfall on Thursday. In Wilmington, with its population of about 120,000, some 400 people have had to be rescued from flood waters, and most of the city remains without power. The National Weather Service has warned of at least two further days of possible flash flooding in the area before conditions are forecast to improve. "Do not come here," New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White said. "Our roads are flooded, there is no access into Wilmington...We want you home, but you can't come yet."
9-16-18 Storm Florence: Worst still to come, authorities warn
There are warnings the worst is still to come from a storm in the US that has already been linked to the deaths of at least 14 people. Storm Florence has been dumping what has been called "epic" rain as it moves through North and South Carolina. The volume of rain will cause "catastrophic" flash flooding, the US National Hurricane Center says. The slow-moving storm is heading west, but on Sunday it is due to turn north towards Ohio. Florence, which started out as a hurricane, has now weakened to a depression, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Sunday, but flash flooding and river floods will continue over a significant portion of the Carolinas. "This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Saturday. Authorities in the North Carolina city of Fayetteville ordered residents living near two rivers to evacuate with record flooding expected. "If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible," Mayor Mitch Colvin said. Fourteen people have died as a result of the storm, US media say. Most of the deaths came in North Carolina.
9-16-18 Typhoon Mangkhut: Deadly typhoon lands in south China
Typhoon Mangkhut is lashing China's most populous province, bringing winds of up to 100 mph (162 kph). Guangdong is on its highest alert for the storm, which also hit Hong Kong, where it swayed skyscrapers and blew out windows. The death toll from the Philippines has now risen to at least 59. Most died in landslides caused by heavy rain. Mangkhut, considered the strongest storm of 2018, ploughed through the northern Philippines on Saturday. Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall on the Chinese coast near Jiangmen city on Sunday afternoon local time, state media reported. More than 2.45 million people have been relocated, and authorities there issued their highest warning level, a red alert. In Hong Kong, authorities also issued their maximum alert, with residents warned to stay indoors to avoid flying debris. Winds there reportedly reached more than 110 mph (177 kph). Officials put the number of injured at more than 200 but the territory avoided the worst of the storm. Water levels surged by almost 3.5 m (12 ft) in places and live fish were washed on to the streets.
9-15-18 Puerto Rico hurricane: How was the 3,000 death toll worked out?
United States President Donald Trump has disputed official findings that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of last year's hurricane. He added that the death toll had been inflated by adding people who died of other causes. "If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them on to the list," he tweeted. So is he correct to say this figure is wrong? Nearly every study and report into the hurricane estimates a significantly higher toll than the early official estimates mentioned by the president. The number of nearly 3,000 was released last month after an independent study by the George Washington University (GWU) in July, which was commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico. It found that 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria. Since the hurricane struck in September last year, several investigations by academics and journalists suggested the death toll was much higher than the official count, which for months stayed at 64. (Webmaster's comment: Our white supremacist govenment saw no reason to help non-white citizens! And Trump supported this.)
9-15-18 How Americans came to their senses about climate change
Climate change is no longer some remote threat that can be dealt with by our great-grandchildren. It is here. For a long time climate change felt far off to many Americans. Though people saw the pictures of melting ice caps and heard the warnings from Al Gore and 97 percent of climate scientists, they never truly felt this long-term environmental trend would threaten their own lives. Maybe it would affect future generations or people in the global south, where climate change will have especially deleterious effects, but not their own communities, not them. So not only did countless Americans treat global warming like some minor threat that wouldn't hurt them in any major way, but many simply denied that it was even happening. This attitude was promoted by fossil fuel companies and special interests that funded propaganda questioning the scientific consensus, as well as the politicians who supported their views. Thus over the past few decades, the Republican Party — the party that once founded the Environmental Protection Agency — became the party of climate change denialism. In recent years, however, this refusal to face reality has become increasingly hard to sustain, especially as extreme weather events become more and more common and menace more and more Americans. The latest instance of extreme weather, Tropical Storm Florence, is wreaking havoc on the Carolinas, and as many have already pointed out, there is strong evidence to suggest that climate change made it worse, increasing rainfall by up to 50 percent and slowing down the storm's movement. Florence arrives a little over a year after Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston area, and Hurricane Maria, which went down as the worst natural disaster in Puerto Rico's recorded history. There is little doubt in the scientific community about the effect that global warming is already having on the weather, and it is clearly making natural disasters more catastrophic than they were previously. Of course, it's not just hurricanes that are growing more deadly. The recent global heat wave that scorched America and left dozens of people dead was also connected to climate change, as were the wildfires that consumed the West Coast this summer.
9-15-18 Storm Florence: Warnings of 'catastrophic' flash flooding
Weather forecasters warn of the risk of life-threatening flash flooding in parts of North and South Carolina, and Virginia, from storm Florence. It has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm but continues to soak the East Coast area with rain, downing trees and damaging homes. It is slowly grinding over the eastern states, with winds of 65mph (105km/h). Five deaths have been linked to the storm and thousands of people have been staying in emergency shelters. Evacuation warnings were issued for 1.7 million people in the region. All five deaths linked to the storm are in North Carolina. The storm originally made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday morning as a category one hurricane. "Catastrophic fresh water flooding" is expected in parts of both the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center said late on Friday local time. Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft in places. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said the hurricane was likely to "continue its violent grind for days" and described the severity of the downfalls as a "1,000 year event".
9-15-18 Typhoon Mangkhut: 14 killed as storm batters Philippines
Some 14 people have been killed in a massive storm which brought destruction to the northern Philippines, a presidential adviser says. Typhoon Mangkhut ripped through the Philippines' main island of Luzon, and is now moving west towards China. Almost all buildings in the city of Tuguegarao sustained some damage, a government official said, and communications were down in places. The storm packed winds of 185km/h (115mph). Four million people were in its path, and thousands were evacuated amid warnings of 6m (20ft) storm surges. Francis Tolentino, a political adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, said up to 14 people were killed as a result of the storm. Two rescuers were killed trying to help people trapped in a landslide. Unverified reports say the body of a young girl was found in the Marikina river, which flows through Manila. The evacuation centre in the coastal town of Aparri is also said to have been destroyed and phone networks are down. The typhoon recalls memories of the deadliest storm on record in the Philippines - Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 - which killed more than 7,000. However, preparation and evacuation procedures have been improved since then.
9-15-18 ICESat: Space will get unprecedented view of Earth's ice
The American space agency has launched a laser into orbit to measure the condition of Earth's ice cover. The satellite mission, called ICESat-2, should provide more precise information on how these frozen surfaces are being affected by global warming. Antarctica, Greenland and the ice floating on the Arctic Ocean have all lost volume in recent decades. ICESat-2 will track ongoing change in unprecedented detail from its vantage point some 500km above the planet. The satellite was taken up by a Delta II rocket, flying out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. "ICESat-2 is going to observe the cryosphere with a spatial resolution at the level we have never seen before from space," explained Prof Helen Fricker from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Antarctica and Greenland lose billions of tonnes of ice every year - the result largely of warm water being able to melt land glaciers where they meet the ocean. This wastage is slowly but surely pushing up sea-levels worldwide. In the Arctic, the seasonal floes have also been in retreat. Sea-ice in the far north is thought to have lost two-thirds of its volume since the 1980s. And although this has no direct impact on the height of the oceans, the reduced ice-cover is working to amplify temperature rises in the region. "An elevation change of just a centimetre over an ice sheet the scale of Antarctica represents a tremendous amount of water either gained to or lost by the ice sheet. 140 gigatonnes worth."
9-14-18 The decline of the coal industry
President Trump has promised to revive coal’s flagging fortunes. Is it possible?
- How big is the coal industry? Coal represents just a sliver of the American economy. At its peak, in 1923, coal employed 883,000 workers. Today, about 53,000 people work in coal mining—less than the number of people who work at nail salons, bowling alleys, or Arby’s.
- Is that solely because of environmental reasons? There are economic reasons, too. Demand for coal has plummeted over the past decade amid a flood of cheap natural gas from the U.S. fracking boom and advances in wind and solar energy.
- What has Trump done? True to his word, President Trump has tried to use federal power to revive the coal industry. Many of the White House’s actions closely mirror a policy wish list submitted early in the administration by coal tycoon Robert Murray, who contributed $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration.
- Are coal jobs coming back now? Not really. Only about 1,300 new coal jobs have been created during Trump’s presidency so far, and Trump’s efforts haven’t reversed the long-term problems facing the industry.
- Why the obsession with coal? The electoral map. For most of the 20th century, the Democrats’ alignment with labor unions such as the United Mine Workers helped them reliably win in the coal country of Appalachia.
- Can coal jobs be replaced? There are efforts underway to retrain coal workers for jobs in renewable energy or other industries. More than 260,000 Americans already work in the solar power industry, which has nearly tripled in size since 2010.
- What do coal miners make? Coal has a reputation for generating well-paid jobs that don’t require a college education. The average coal miner under a United Mine Workers of America contract makes at least $61,650 a year—usually closer to $85,000 a year with overtime
9-14-18 How climate change will reshape ecosystems
If climate change continues on its current course, nearly every ecosystem on Earth will be completely transformed, creating a world almost unrecognizable compared with the one we live in today. That’s the conclusion of a major new international study that sought to shed light on the future by looking at the past, reports TheAtlantic.com. The researchers examined fossil and temperature records from the peak of the last Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago, to the year 1800. Global temperatures rose 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over that period, and the resulting changes were extreme: Sea levels rose by nearly 400 feet, forests grew on what was once ice-covered ground, and savanna turned to desert. To look ahead, the researchers examined how ecosystems would fare under four possible climate-change scenarios over the coming century. In the most optimistic case—in which global temperatures rise only 1 degree Celsius—the chances of large-scale ecosystem change remain low. But in the other three, including the “business as usual” scenario of 4-degree temperature increases by 2100, the world would be completely altered: Oak forests would turn into grasslands; evergreen woods would become deciduous. The findings, says study co-author Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan, “provide yet another wake-up call that we need to act now to move rapidly toward an emission-free global economy.”
9-14-18 Intensive farming 'least bad option' for food and environment
Intensive, high-yielding agriculture may be the best way to meet growing demand for food while conserving biodiversity, say researchers. But their study says the approach makes sense only if it is linked to more wilderness being spared the plough. Intensive farming is said to create high levels of pollution and damage the environment more than organic farming. However, this report suggests that contrary to perceptions, this is not necessarily the case. Organic groups though have rejected the report's findings. Around the world sales of organic produce have boomed over the past 20 years as consumers have bought into the idea that the approach is good not just for their health but for the good of the planet, as well. However, this study takes issue with that view. The researchers measured the environmental costs - including what they term "externalities", such as greenhouse gas emissions, fertiliser and water use - of producing a given amount of food on both high-yield and low-yield farms. Working with scientists in 17 organisations from around the globe, they analysed information from hundreds of investigations into four large food areas - Asian paddy rice, European wheat, Latin American beef and European dairy. (Webmaster's comment: And just who profits from this research? The corporate food industry of course.)
9-14-18 60% stays with us
Of the roughly 8,300 million metric tons of plastic that have been produced to date, about 60 percent is believed to be floating in the oceans or stuffed in landfills.
9-14-18 Hurricane Florence: Life-threatening storm lands in North Carolina
Hurricane Florence has made landfall on the US East Coast, bringing with it winds, heavy rains and warnings of "catastrophic" floods. The centre of the storm struck Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, with gales of up to 90mph (150 km/h). Its outer bands have already inundated coastal areas. Scores of people are currently waiting to be rescued in the city of New Bern. Evacuation warnings are in place for more than a million people. Nearly half a million power outages have been reported across North Carolina, according to the state's emergency management agency. The governor of North Carolina said surviving the storm would be a test of "endurance, teamwork, common sense, and patience". "This is an uninvited brute that just won't leave," Roy Cooper told NBC on Friday. National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said North Carolina is likely to see eight months' worth of rain in two to three days. Thousands of miles away meanwhile a huge typhoon is moving towards the Philippines. More than five million people are in the path of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, officials say. (Webmaster's comment: You should read: Storms Of My Grandchildren)
9-14-18 Politicize the weather
It's time to blame Republicans for climate disasters. Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas on Thursday, moving slowly inland. By Friday morning, it had brought a 10-foot storm surge and sever flooding to parts of North Carolina. Multiple people have needed to be rescued and power companies are reporting more than 150,000 outages due to strong winds topping 90 miles per hour. Yet for all of its destruction, it's just one of many terrible weather events that have caused humanitarian disasters in the United States over the past two years — most notably Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. It's time to realize one simple truth: Republicans are very largely to blame. Democrats should not hesitate to point this out. There are two main reasons why. First, natural disasters become humanitarian emergencies primarily due to poor preparation and response, either through incompetence or poverty. For instance, a 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed perhaps 100,000 people, while a much, much stronger one in Chile killed only 525 (mainly due to superior building construction). The United States is very rich, and should be able to handle anything short of the most severe disasters. The second reason to blame Republicans is, of course, climate change. The strength and intensity of weather disasters is likely being intensified by global warming, while the flooding from hurricanes is certainly being worsened by sea level rise. A climate policy package to cut domestic emissions, massively strengthen American communities against weather disasters, and pursue international diplomacy to help coordinate emission cuts in other countries is unquestionably the number one policy priority for this country.
9-14-18 Typhoon Mangkhut: Millions in path of 'monster' storm
Super Typhoon Mangkhut has gathered strength as it barrels towards the Philippines, weather officials say. The storm is now packing winds of 255 km/h (160 mph) and officials say more than five million people are directly in its path. Last-minute preparations are under way before it makes landfall on the northern tip of the main island of Luzon by Saturday. Flights have been cancelled, schools shut and the army is on standby. Officials have said that the storm, which is 900km in diameter, will be powerful enough to remain a "considerable threat" even if it slows down before making landfall. The storm - known locally as Ompong - has already pummelled the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. Authorities say they expect storm surges of up to 7m (23 feet) and are warning that heavy rains could trigger landslides and flash floods. Storm warnings have been issued in 39 provinces and sea and air travel has been restricted. National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council spokesperson Edgar Posadas told local media that 5.2 million people were expected to be affected, including a million people who live below the poverty line. "We are really frightened," Delaila Pasion, who had fled her home, told AFP. "They say it is so strong, we were too scared to remain." "During previous monsoon rains, half of our house was destroyed so I wanted to take my grandchildren to safety," she told journalists. The Philippines is routinely hit during the typhoon season. The deadliest storm on record in the country was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 7,000 people and affected millions in 2013. (Webmaster's comment: You dump more heat energy from global warming into the atmosphere and it's got to go someplace!)
9-14-18 Acid is dribbling out of the melting permafrost in the Arctic
As climate change thaws the Arctic permafrost, some of it is releasing sulphuric acid – which destroys limestone and releases even more climate-warming carbon dioxide. Some patches of Arctic permafrost are bleeding acid as they melt. The dribble of acid is destroying rocks and releasing more carbon dioxide into the air – but it’s not clear how much. Permafrost is soil and sand that is permanently frozen. Climatologists have warned for years that Arctic permafrost is thawing due to climate change. This will transform the landscape, and release carbon that is locked away in the permafrost in the form of carbon dioxide and methane – adding to the greenhouse effect. However, most climatologists think the extra warming will be minor compared to that directly caused by our emissions. Now it seems that some regions of the Arctic might release more carbon dioxide than expected. Scott Zolkos at the University of Alberta in Canada and his colleagues studied permafrost in the western Canadian Arctic, which is different to that in other areas. “The permafrost is more ice-rich and more sediment-rich,” says Zolkos. “There’s more minerals. So when that permafrost thaws, the material it exposes is different.” The team analysed samples of water from sites upstream and downstream of thawing permafrost patches that have subsided. Zolkos describes them as “giant mud pits” that can be hundreds of metres across and up to 30 metres deep. They found that the runoff water contained significant amounts of sulphuric acid, which formed when sulphide minerals were exposed by permafrost melt. The sulphuric acid then began reacting with limestone rocks, releasing carbon dioxide.
9-14-18 Cities lead the way on curbing carbon emissions
With many countries struggling to cut their carbon, new data suggests that major cities are making substantial strides to stem their emissions. Twenty-seven cities, including Warsaw, Barcelona and Sydney, saw CO2 peak in 2012 and then go into decline. As well as moving to green energy, the cities have provided affordable alternatives to private cars. Emissions declined by 2% every year on average, while their economies expanded by 3% annually. The C40 Cities group is an umbrella organisation that co-ordinates the climate change activities of 96 major urban centres around the world. Back in 2015, their research showed that if the planet was to keep to the lower, 1.5-degree-Celsius target agreed in the Paris climate pact, then major cities would have to peak their emissions of CO2 by 2020 at the latest. This new analysis by the group shows that 27 of these cities saw their emissions peak by 2012 and then fall over a five-year period. Those emissions are now at least 10% lower than at their zenith. The 27 who peaked and cut their carbon are: Barcelona, Basel, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Warsaw, Washington DC. According to C40, the cities have cut carbon while their economies and populations have grown. The key steps taken include decarbonising the electricity systems, optimising energy use in buildings, providing cleaner and affordable alternatives to cars, and cutting waste while increasing recycling. "This is the result of no revolution, but of a steady evolution in the life of our city, namely in the way we move around and in the way we reduce, recycle and reuse waste," said Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan. "We see a continuous advancement, that spans over more than 20 years and progressively led to 1 in every 7 citizens using shared cars or bikes and to 60% of quality separate waste collection. Such significant results could not have been achieved without the engagement and commitment of the citizens of Milan." (Webmaster's comment: Why is Sioux Falls not on the list? Why is your city not on the list?)
9-13-18 Here’s how climate change is fueling Hurricane Florence
A novel forecast looks at the size and fury of the storm with and without human-caused warming. Even as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, bringing fierce winds and heavy rains, one team of scientists has undertaken a different kind of forecast: Understanding the influence of human-caused climate change on a storm that hasn’t made landfall yet. Real-time storm forecasts continuously update as new data become available. But what would happen if, from a single starting point — in this case, the state of the atmosphere on September 11 — Florence roared ahead in two parallel worlds: one with and one without the influence of human-caused climate change? Florence is bigger than it would be if it occurred in a world with no human-caused warming, climate modeler Kevin Reed of Stony Brook University in New York and colleagues conclude in a study posted on the university’s website September 12. And thanks to warmer sea surface temperatures and more available moisture in the air, it will dump 50 percent more rain on the Carolinas, the researchers predict. The goal of such climate change attribution studies is to determine whether — and by how much — human-driven climate change might have caused a particular extreme event, such as a hurricane, a heat wave or a flood. It’s an increasingly high-profile area of research, particularly after three studies last year found that a trio of extreme events in 2016 simply could not have happened without climate change (SN: 1/20/18, p. 6).
9-13-18 Hurricane Florence: Prisons in hurricane's path not evacuated
"Storm of a lifetime" hurricane Florence is predicted to bring deadly disaster to large parts of the eastern US coast when it makes landfall on Thursday. But as millions are under order to flee, some are being told they have to stay put. On Monday, South Carolina officials announced they would not remove inmates from at least two prisons inside mandatory evacuation zones. "In the past, it's been safer to leave them there," a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections said. One of those facilities is no longer in those zones but remains in Florence's path. In Virginia and and North Carolina, some prisons have already been evacuated. Many on social media are drawing parallels with the devastating hurricane Katrina, in 2005, when thousands of inmates endured terrible conditions in a facility that had not been evacuated. "Almost 1,000 inmates were left to die in Orleans Parish Prison during hurricane Katrina," said PhD student Bedour Alagraa in a widely shared tweet, which was also popular on Facebook. "The [prison officers] evacuated themselves and inmates spent five days in chest-high water, with no food or water. "The generator had blown leaving them in pitch blackness - 517 were never found." (Webmaster's comment: Setting up a mass execution of men in prison!)
9-13-18 A new map reveals the causes of forest loss worldwide
Most forest loss occurring in the world leaves the possibility of trees growing back. Of the roughly 3 million square kilometers of forest lost worldwide from 2001 to 2015, a new analysis suggests that 27 percent of that loss was permanent — the result of land being converted for industrial agriculture to meet global demand for products such as soy, timber, beef and palm oil. The other 73 percent of deforestation during that time was caused by activities where trees were intended to grow back, including sustainable forestry, subsistence farming and wildfires, researchers report in the Sept. 14 Science. Understanding why forests are shrinking is important because the ecological impacts of permanent forest destruction are different from that of more temporary losses, says study coauthor Matthew Hansen, a remote sensing scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park. The analysis dives deeper into data published in 2013 by Hansen and others, which revealed global forest losses without tracking what caused those declines. Here, scientists developed a computer program that analyzed satellite pictures to determine what was driving changes in forest size.
9-13-18 Typhoon Mangkhut: Millions in Philippines braced for storm
Thousands of people have begun evacuating from coastal areas of the Philippines as a super typhoon heads towards the country.. yphoon Mangkhut, packing winds of 255km/h (160mph), is due to make landfall on the northern tip of the main island of Luzon by the weekend. Schools and offices are being closed and farmers are racing to save crops. Ten million people are in the path of the storm, along with millions more in coastal areas of southern China. The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year. Forecasters say Mangkhut is the strongest so far in 2018 - 900km in diameter, with sustained winds of 205 km/h. Authorities in the Philippines say they expect storm surges of up to 7m (23 feet) and are warning that heavy rains could trigger landslides and flash floods. The country's deadliest storm on record is super typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 5,000 people and affected millions in 2013. In Hong Kong preparations are already under way for the storm, though the latest forecasts suggest Mangkhut will pass to the south of the territory later in the weekend.
9-13-18 Just one tiny piece of plastic may be enough to kill a baby turtle
Post-mortems show that some sea turtles die from eating just one fragment of plastic – and it’s post-hatchlings that seem to be particularly vulnerable. Put it down to a combination of inexperience, mistaking plastic for food, or maybe swimming where most plastic waste collects. Whatever the reasons, new evidence shows that young turtles off Australia’s Queensland coast are more at risk than their elders of swallowing plastic waste. Fresh autopsies on 246 sea turtles that washed up dead on beaches across Queensland showed that 58 had ingested between one and 329 fragments of plastic, which might have contributed to their deaths. The rest died of other causes, such as boat collisions. But of the 58 plastic consumers, only four were full or near adults. Most – 41 – were juveniles. Very young “post-hatchlings” seemed particularly at risk: of the 246 dead sea turtles, 24 of them were post-hatchlings – and 13 of them had eaten plastic. One explanation is that young turtles swim nearer the surface in offshore waters where plastic floats, and drift with plastic-rich prevailing currents. “It may be that they are less selective than adults and encounter higher concentrations of debris,” says Britta Denise Hardesty of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Hobart, Australia, and head of the survey. “Plastics, particularly balloons, can resemble jellyfish and squid, as well as crustaceans and sponges,” she says.
9-12-18 Global warming is amplifying Hurricane Florence’s destructive power
Hurricane Florence won’t make landfall until Thursday, but we can already be sure that its destruction will be greater because of climate change. It remains to be seen just how much destruction Hurricane Florence will wreak when it makes landfall, likely as a Category 3 storm in North Carolina on Thursday. But we can already be 100 per cent sure that the damage will be worse than it would otherwise be because of global warming. Over the past century, sea level in North Carolina has risen 30 centimetres as a result of climate change, according to studies by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and colleagues. The rising waters are already eroding the Outer Banks – the barrier islands off the coast – and causing “sunny day flooding” during normal high tides. Highers seas mean higher storm surges wherever they occur. While 30 cm might not seem like much, in places it could determine whether the hurricane-driven surge overcomes flood defences and thus greatly increase the damage. The greatest threat posed by Hurricane Florence, though, is inland flooding caused by extreme rainfall, which will also be increased by climate change. For starters, abnormally high sea surfaces temperatures in the area Florence is moving over mean it will pump far more water into the atmosphere, which will eventually fall as rain. This region of abnormal warmth in the Atlantic is mostly due to global warming, according to a study published earlier this year. Water vapour is the fuel that drives hurricanes, so this is also why Florence has grown so large and powerful. Globally, rising sea surface temperatures are making hurricanes ever stronger.
9-12-18 Governor of California orders state to go carbon neutral by 2045
The governor of California has signed an executive order calling for state-wide carbon neutrality by 2045, followed by net negative emissions after that. WHILE headway was slow in the latest UN climate talks (see “Next round of Paris climate talks hits sticking points“), elsewhere there is some much needed good news on the climate front. California is planning to go carbon neutral by 2045 and achieve net negative emissions after that. Also, investors across the globe responsible for $6 trillion in funds now plan to divest from fossil fuels. On 10 September, the governor of California signed an executive order calling for state-wide carbon neutrality by no later than 2045. That exceeds by far any of the targets that countries signed up to in the Paris climate agreement. A few countries and states have set themselves similarly ambitious goals, but California is now the biggest economy to do so. Meanwhile, the divestment movement continues to gather pace. According to a report from Arabella Advisors, more than 1000 institutional investors with $6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuels, compared with just $52 billion four years ago.
9-12-18 Sea level rise doesn’t necessarily spell doom for coastal wetlands
Giving marshes room to expand inland can help preserve these crucial ecosystems. Rising sea levels don’t have to spell doom for the world’s coastal wetlands. A new study suggests salt marshes and other wetlands could accumulate soil quickly enough to avoid becoming fully submerged — if humans are willing to give them a little elbow room. The new study builds on previous work that suggests rising seas will increase sediment buildup in some parts of coastal wetlands. This increased sediment, as well as human adaptations to allow wetlands to move inland as the seas rise, could allow the coastal fringes to not only survive but to increase their global area by as much as 60 percent, researchers report September 13 in Nature. Humans have good reason to preserve the world’s salt marshes and mangrove forests. These coastal zones, occupying the area from the coastline to the highest inland push of the tides, perform key services including filtering pollutants, pulling and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and protecting communities from storms. Rising ocean waters, however, could drown these ecosystems. Current sea level rise projections suggest 20 percent to 90 percent of the world’s coastal wetlands could disappear, depending on how warm the planet gets and how high the seas rise.
9-12-18 Hurricane Florence: Mass evacuation from 'storm of a lifetime'
Highways in US East Coast areas braced for Hurricane Florence are congested with motorists fleeing "the storm of a lifetime". Up to 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate across South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. South Carolina authorities have turned four motorways into one-way routes away from the coast to speed the exodus. The category four storm with 130mph (215km/h) winds is forecast to make landfall early on Friday. Hurricane Florence could wreak more than $170bn (£130bn) of havoc, according to analytics firm CoreLogic. Its projection suggested the storm could damage nearly 759,000 homes and businesses from Charleston, South Carolina, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. A National Weather Service forecaster in Wilmington, North Carolina, said: "This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast. "And that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew. "I can't emphasise enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm."
9-12-18 'Nature-based' greenhouse gas removal to limit UK climate change
Planting millions of acres of trees and energy crops as well as restoring wetlands and coastal habitats could help the UK become carbon neutral by 2050. A new report says that these and other, newer technologies will be needed, even with stringent CO2 emissions cuts. The authors say Brexit could be an opportunity for farmers to switch to carbon-removing crops and practices. The plan is costly, the scientists say, but necessary and achievable. While the UK has been a world leader in setting legally binding targets to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector, industry and transport, scientists believe that these efforts alone won't be enough to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century. It's likely that emissions from aviation and farming will be very difficult to cut completely. In that light the government commissioned experts from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to look at what could be done in the UK to remove enough greenhouse gas to achieve the goal. The report says that this will be difficult and expensive - but feasible within the time frame. The scientists considered a wide range of greenhouse gas removal plans but have plumped for approaches that don't immediately require the development of new technologies. The researchers say that a suite of ideas is likely to work best in the UK. Many options such as planting trees and restoring wetlands are relatively simple - but to make significant inroads into emissions you need to not just draw down carbon but to store it permanently as well.
9-12-18 Ambitious plan for seven London-sized forests to meet UK climate goals
By expanding forest cover in the UK by 1.2 million hectares, the country could initiate its first practical plan to limit global warming . Planting forests covering 1.2 million hectares – equivalent to the more than seven times the area of Greater London – should be an immediate priority if the UK is to achieve zero net emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050. That’s the key recommendation of a joint report by the UK Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. The report is the first assessment of practical steps to help the UK reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to stabilise global warming. “You could say it’s a call to action,” says Nilay Shah of Imperial College London, and a member of the working group that produced the report. The priority should continue to be on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. This can be done by switching to renewable forms of power such as solar and wind energy, says the report. Progress to-date in this renewables shift has already helped the UK to cut its annual emissions from 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 1990 to 380 million tonnes today. But by themselves, emission reductions would still leave the UK producing 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, the report warns, well short of the 2050 zero-carbon target. Planting forests – which trap airborne carbon dioxide as wood – is one of the first practical measures that could help the UK cut the predicted surplus. The report estimates that new forests covering 1.2 million hectares could extract 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. “Within a couple of decades, you’d be drawing down significant amounts of carbon,” says Shah.
9-11-18 Hurricane Florence: Mass evacuation of 1.5 million residents ordered
As Hurricane Florence comes closer to land and approaches the highest possible storm rating, a state of emergency has been declared in four US states. The evacuation of more than a million residents along the Atlantic coast of the US has been ordered, as Hurricane Florence nears the coastlines of North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. Governors in all four states have declared a state of emergency ahead of what is predicted to be the worst deluge to hit the Carolinas in 30 years, and the fiercest storm to hit the US this year. The hurricane is expected to make landfall near the border between the North and South Carolina on Thursday. The US National Hurricane Center in Miami has issued warnings of storm surges and flooding, 220 kilometre per hour winds, and large swells and rip-currents affecting Bermuda and portions of the US East Coast. Florence is now nearing the highest hurricane rating, Category 5. If it reaches this level, it could bring winds of more than 251 kilometres per hour. “Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland,” said the latest National Hurricane Center bulletin on Monday. It also warned that damaging winds could spread well inland into parts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
9-11-18 How to eat well - and save the planet
Switching to a healthier diet can reduce an individual's water footprint by as much as 55%. According to new research, turning vegetarian has the biggest impact, but even cutting down on meat gives a saving of at least 10%. Shifting to a healthy diet is a "win-win situation", say researchers. Citizens will be healthier and their food can be produced using less of one of our most precious natural resources - water. "The main message is that if you shift to a healthy diet, be it with meat or without (vegetarian or pescetarian), according to your own preference, it's not only good for your health, but it's also very good for the environment in the sense that you reduce your water footprint substantially," said Dr Davy Vanham of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, in Ispra, Italy. Freshwater resources are already scarce, but the problem is set to get worse, due to population growth, changing lifestyles and climate change. Public messages on saving water by taking shorter showers or turning off the tap when brushing teeth are well known.
9-10-18 California governor signs law for clean energy by 2045
California has passed a law committing to exclusively carbon-free electricity sources by 2045, setting it against US President Donald Trump's energy policy. "There is no understating the importance of this measure," Governor Jerry Brown said, and vowed to honour the 2015 Paris climate deal. Last year Mr Trump said he would pull the US out of the deal and negotiate a new "fair" deal for US businesses. California is the second US state after Hawaii to commit to carbon-free energy. Were it to be an independent country, California would have the fifth largest economy in the world, trailing only Germany, Japan, China and the US. At a signing ceremony in the state capital Sacramento, Mr Brown vowed to meet the terms of the Paris agreement and to "continue down that path to transition our economy to zero carbon emissions". Under the terms of the legislation, all utility companies must get 60% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. By 2045, all Californian electricity must come from carbon-free or renewable energy. A report released by the state's energy commission estimated that in 2017 around one third of retail electricity sales in California came from renewable sources. Environmental activists enthusiastically backed the measure, but there was opposition from some of the state's largest utility companies. (Webmaster's comment: Of course. Their executives are going to lose money!) A statement from Pacific Gas & Electric spokesperson Lynsey Paulo reportedly said prices could rise for customers thanks to the new law. "If it's not affordable, it's not sustainable," it read.
9-10-18 'Climate change moving faster than we are,' says UN Secretary General
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that if the world doesn't change course by 2020, we run the risk of runaway climate change. Mr Guterres said he was alarmed by the paralysis of world leaders on what he called the "defining issue" of our time. He wants heads of government to come to New York for a special climate conference next September. The call comes amid growing concerns over the slow pace of UN negotiations. Mr Guterres painted a grim picture of the impacts of climate change that he says have been felt all over the world this year, with heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods leaving a trail of destruction. Corals are dying, he said, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and there are growing conflicts over dwindling resources. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest level in three million years. Despite the fact that the world agreed on a plan to tackle climate change in Paris in 2015, Mr Guterres said the world is way off track to achieve the modest goals of the pact. Despite the dire situation, the world could still tackle climate change effectively, he said. Saying it was too expensive to do so was "hogwash". "For every dollar spent restoring degraded forests, as much as $30 can be recouped in economic benefits and poverty reduction," Mr Guterres said. The world has the tools, and the ability. Renewables are cost-competitive with coal and oil, he said. By 2030, wind and solar could power more than a third of Europe. But the lack of decisive political leadership was hampering everything, he said.
9-10-18 New El Niño weather event likely this winter says WMO
There's a 70% chance of a recurrence of the El Niño weather event before the end of this year, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. The last El Niño occurred in 2015-16 and impacted weather patterns around the world. Researchers say they are not expecting this new one to be as intense as 2015-16. According to the WMO, climate change is influencing the traditional dynamics of these weather events. The El Niño/Southern Oscillation, to give its proper title, is a natural event that involves fluctuating ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific, which influence the weather all over the world. The 2015-16 El Niño was one of the strongest ever recorded, and had an impact on global temperatures, which saw 2016 enter the record books as the warmest year. As well as heat, the event also led to drought in Africa that saw food production plummet in many countries across the continent. South America saw floods across Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. This year started with the opposite to El Niño, the so-called La Niña phase. This saw cooler than average sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific. That has now faded and, according to the WMO models, there's a 70% chance of another El Niño developing by the end of this year. However, it is expected to have less impact than in 2015-16. "WMO does not expect the anticipated El Niño to be as powerful as the 2015-2016 event, but it will still have considerable impacts," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. "The advance prediction of this event will help save many lives and considerable economic losses," he added.
9-10-18 Miss America 2019: Miss Michigan criticises Flint water crisis
A contestant in Sunday's Miss America competition has been commended on social media for using her brief introduction to draw attention to the Flint water crisis. Instead of speaking about herself, Miss Michigan said she was "from the state with 84% of the US fresh water but none for its residents to drink". A deadly water crisis, due to lead piping, has plagued Flint since 2014. Local residents are still advised to only drink filtered and bottled water. It is thought that nearly 100,000 residents of the poor, mostly black city were exposed to high levels of lead. The contamination has been blamed for at least 12 deaths. While water tests are improving, full replacement of the pipes is not expected to be completed until 2020. On Twitter, people applauded Emily Sioma's comments, calling her a "badass woman" and saying she should have won for speaking out. As a survivor of sexual assault, Ms Sioma has already used her public platform to bring attention to violence against women. (Webmaster's comment: The assault of women by men is never ending, but they are the only ones who have the courage to speak out against the evil decisions by MANY men in our society. Where are the GOOD MEN?)
9-10-18 Volkswagen investors start €9bn emissions court case
Volkswagen has gone on trial in Germany in what is the first court case against the carmaker over the diesel scandal. Investors are pursuing VW for about €9.2bn (£8.2bn) in damages, claiming the company should have come clean sooner about falsifying emissions data. VW shares crashed after disclosure in 2015 that its diesel technology emitted illegal levels of pollution. "VW should have told the market that they cheated," Andreas Tilp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the court. "We believe that VW should have told the market no later than June 2008 that they could not make the technology that they needed in the United States," he told the Braunschweig higher regional court. Shareholders representing 1,670 claims are seeking compensation for the near 40% slide in Volkswagen's share price triggered by the scandal, which broke in September 2015 and has cost the firm €27.4bn in penalties and fines so far. The legal action has been brought by the Deka investment fund, which is being used a template for a further 1,600 lawsuits. The case involves about 50 lawyers, and interest in the hearing is so great that it had to be moved from the court house to a nearby conference centre. In a short statement to the BBC, VW pointed out that the "lawsuit is solely and exclusively about whether Volkswagen complied with its disclosure obligations toward shareholders and the capital markets".
9-9-18 Wildfires make their own weather, and that matters for fire management
New prediction tools zero in on how blazes throw embers and make weather that fans the flames. Wildfires are not known for their restraint. They’ll jump rivers, spew whirling dervishes of flames and double in size overnight. Take the Carr Fire — one of California’s most destructive — sparked in mid-July when the rim of a flat tire met pavement. As the blaze grew, it jumped across the Sacramento River and sparked a flaming whirlwind that trapped and killed a firefighter near Redding. By the time it was fully contained on August 30, it had burned 930 square kilometers, destroyed more than 1,000 buildings, and killed seven people. “Once these fires are spreading fast enough and intensely enough, you can’t stop them,” says Ruddy Mell, a combustion engineer with the U.S. Forest Service based in Seattle. Federal and state agencies that manage wildfires use mathematical equations — fire models — to predict how blazes will spread and decide how to commit firefighting resources or whether an evacuation is needed. But the models can’t always predict when a fire will suddenly veer in a new direction or grow exponentially. Now, scientists are developing more nuanced fire models with increasingly detailed satellite data and better understanding of how fires can create their own weather and fan their own flames. These finer-scale models take hours or days to run on a computer, so they aren’t likely to replace more quick-and-dirty field models for responding in the heat of the moment. But they can help scientists figure out what’s driving a wildfire’s behavior — and learn how to better protect communities from fires.
9-8-18 A giant pool noodle to clean up ocean plastic launches today
The Ocean Cleanup project has launched a system to help clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – but it could be unsustainable and harm fish. On Saturday, engineers plan to tow a gigantic floating boom out of San Francisco Bay, past Alcatraz prison, and to the open ocean. It is destined to begin cleaning up the mountains of plastic rubbish circulating in the Pacific. But is this the right way to do it? The idea of the project, called The Ocean Cleanup, is to collect plastic passively. As waves lap against the boom, the buoyant rubbish fragments should collect against it. Any drifting animals such as jelly fish, should be washed underneath. The team then plans to send ships to collect the rubbish and bring it back to land. The project leader Boyan Slat and his team have been refining and testing the concept for years, including testing a prototype in the North Sea in 2016. That has helped them answer important questions. For instance, some doubted the boom would clear up enough plastic to make it worthwhile, because most pieces of plastic in the ocean are microscopic and would wash underneath it. But a series of surveys from ships and aircraft have shown that about 75 per cent of the plastic in the area surveyed was larger than 5cm, and so should be large enough to collect. The boom, scheduled for launch today, will take on a curved shape in the water and plastic should collect in its centre. This means it will look a little like a giant pool noodle bent in the middle to take on the shape of a rubbish-gobbling Pac-Man. It is the first of a planned 60 similar systems. If all are deployed successfully by 2020 as the team plan, they should extract 14,000 tonnes of plastic in five years, or about half the mass of the plastic in the gyre. The team expects this to cost “several tens of millions of dollars per year”. That sounds like a lot, but the UN Environment Programme has estimated the total cost of plastic rubbish to the marine environment as about $13 billion a year.
9-7-18 A massive net is being deployed to pick up plastic in the Pacific
Critics are skeptical the project will do much good. The days of the great Pacific garbage patch may be numbered. A highly anticipated project to scoop up plastic from the massive pool of ocean debris is poised to launch its first phase from Alameda, Calif., on September 8. The creators of the project, called the Ocean Cleanup, say their system can remove 90 percent of the plastic in the patch by 2040. First proposed in a 2012 TED talk by Dutch-born inventor Boyan Slat, who was then just 18 years old, the Ocean Cleanup’s system consists of a snaking line of booms designed to simulate a kind of free-floating coastline that can essentially herd the plastic trash into retrievable piles. The project, based in Delft, the Netherlands, has drawn more than $30 million in donations from sponsors, philanthropists and a crowdfunding campaign. It has also drawn the ire of researchers who worry about possible negative effects on ocean life, or who say the project doesn’t address the majority of ocean plastic — bits called microplastics that are smaller than half a centimeter. The system is designed to capture pieces of plastic ranging in size from a few millimeters to tens of meters across, such as fishing nets. Critics also worry the project will divert attention and money from the root of the problem: too much plastic waste in the first place. A March study in Scientific Reports, led by Ocean Cleanup’s lead oceanographer Laurent Lebreton, estimated that in 2015 the great Pacific garbage patch was scattered across some 1.6 million square kilometers — an area twice the size of Texas — within a vast ocean swirl known as the North Pacific gyre. The patch, the study found, contains about 1.8 trillion pieces of debris, largely consisting of buoyant plastics like polyethylene and polypropylene, floating at the surface (SN Online: 3/22/18). Most of those pieces are smaller than half a centimeter — but by mass, more than 90 percent of the patch is made up of pieces 5 centimeters or bigger, the scientists estimate.
9-7-18 Giant plastic catcher heads for Pacific Ocean clean-up
When a Dutch teenager went swimming in the sea in Greece seven years ago, he was shocked to see more plastic than fish. In fact, Boyan Slat was so appalled by the pollution that he soon started to campaign for the oceans to be cleaned up. For a long time, few people took him seriously. Here was a university drop-out with a far-fetched idea that surely could never work. But this weekend, backed by major investment and some massive engineering, a vast plastic collection system will be towed out of San Francisco Bay. Until now, the focus of plastic litter campaigns has been on beaches, with volunteers all over the world lifting bags and bottles from shorelines. Never before has anyone gone further by trying to clear the stuff from the middle of an ocean and, despite sea trials and computer modelling, no-one knows if the experiment will work. Some experts worry that the effort is a distraction from the more pressing task of stopping more plastic getting into the sea in the first place, and that the operation may cause real harm to marine life. But Boyan and his team at The Ocean Cleanup non-profit believe the sheer scale of plastic out there demands that action be taken. Their target is the eastern Pacific and what's called the Great Garbage Patch, where circular currents have concentrated plastic in one large area. The aim is to halve the amount of pollution in the patch every five years so that by 2040 almost all of it will be gone. "We feel we're in a great hurry," says Lonneke Holierhoek, the project's chief operating officer. I'm meeting her at the project's headquarters in Rotterdam in offices that are far bigger than I expected. The Dutch government is a major backer, along with some wealthy companies and investors. The project, with a budget of at least €20m (£18m), has grown from a young man's vision to a serious international enterprise. "If we don't do it," Lonneke tells me, "all this plastic will start breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces - and the smaller the pieces are, the more harmful and the harder to extract from the marine environment." For her, the project is a determined effort to reverse the tide of pollution. "Rather than talking about it or contributing to problems or protesting against it, it's actually trying to solve it."
9-7-18 Why extreme weather ‘stalls’ in place
Scientists say they have established why vast swathes of the Northern Hemisphere were besieged by extreme heat waves and prolonged drought over the summer—and warn that these “extreme extremes” are only going to get worse. Large areas of Europe, North America, and Asia endured record temperatures in July and August, with wildfires breaking out as far north as the Arctic Circle. Researchers examined the links between this summer’s weather and Arctic warming—where climate change is causing temperatures to rise between two and four times faster than the global average. They concluded that the narrowing temperature difference between the Arctic and the equator is preventing planetary winds from building up enough energy to push high and low pressure systems around. “The weather in a given region gets stuck,” co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research tells The Independent (U.K.). “Rains can grow into floods, sunny days into heat waves, and tinder-dry conditions into wildfires.” Another prominent example of this “stalling” phenomenon was last year’s Hurricane Harvey, which dumped record volumes of water on Texas after getting “stuck” on the coast and drawing up massive amounts of moisture from the sea. The researchers warn that stalling weather patterns could imperil food production in Europe, Russia, and the U.S.
9-7-18 Large-scale wind and solar power 'could green the Sahara'
Installing huge numbers of solar panels and wind turbines in the Sahara desert would have a major impact on rainfall, vegetation and temperatures, researchers say. They found that the actions of wind turbines would double the amount of rain that would fall in the region. Solar panels have a similar impact although they act in a different way. The authors say their work reinforces the view that large-scale renewables could transform the Sahara region. The scientists modelled what would happen if 9 million sq km of the Sahara desert was covered in renewable energy sources. They focussed on this area because it is sparsely populated, and it is also exposed to significant amounts of sun and wind and is close to large energy markets in Europe and the Middle East. According to authors' calculations, a massive installation in the desert would generate more than four times the amount of energy that the world currently uses every year. Previous studies have shown that installing wind and solar can have an impact on temperatures - but the key difference with this research is the impact on vegetation. "Our model results show that large-scale solar and wind farms in the Sahara would more than double the precipitation, especially in the Sahel, where the magnitude of rainfall increase is between 20mm and 500mm per year," said Dr Yan Li, the lead author of the paper from the University of Illinois, US. "As a result, vegetation cover fraction increases by about 20%." In the Sahel, the semi-arid region that lies to the south of the Sahara, average rainfall increased 1.12mm per day where wind farms were present, according to the study.
9-6-18 Filling Sahara with solar and wind farms would double local rainfall
The Sahara desert would get more rainfall and have more vegetation if it was covered in solar panels and wind farms to help power the world. Covering the entire Sahara desert in solar panels and wind farms would not only help power the world, it would also improve the local climate. Rainfall would more than double and there would also be a modest increase in vegetation cover. “There would be a slight greening of the Sahara,” says Fred Kucharski of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy. This would not be nearly enough to return the Sahara to the much greener state it was in as recently as 6000 years ago, but at least the overall impact would be beneficial. And the greening effect could be amplified by other measures, such as tree planting. The Sahara desert is seen as prime real estate for solar and wind farms because of its plentiful sun and wind, sparse population and closeness to Europe. Morocco is already building large solar plants. But any changes made to land surfaces – from cutting down forests and building cities to covering deserts in solar panels – affect climate. According to a climate model used by a team including Kucharski, covering the entire desert in either solar or wind farms would lead to more air rising up above the Sahara and thus to more rainfall. Doing both would have an even greater effect. The reasons are complex and rather counterintuitive, and connected to changes in the brightness of the ground surface by installing dark solar panels, and changes in drag by installing turbines. As rainfall increases there is also a big positive feedback from increased growth of vegetation, which increases evaporation and also warms the surface leading to even more air rising up above the Sahara because plants are darker than the bare ground.
9-6-18 Global warming is melting glaciers and that means more tsunamis
Mountainsides are becoming less stable as glaciers retreat, leading to more landslides that can trigger massive - but localised - tsunamis. On 17 October 2015, a landslide near the end of the Tyndall Glacier in Alaska sent 180 million tonnes of rock plunging into a body of water called Taan Fiord. A couple of kilometres away, on the other side of the valley, the resulting wave reached a height of193 metres, according to a new study of the site. That’s one of the highest tsunamis ever recorded. The landslide was caused by the retreat of the glacier, say the researchers, likely as a result of global warming. That means as Earth heats up, the risk of such landslide-triggered tsunamis rises, they warn. Glaciers carve out steep-sided valleys, and there is usually a fjord or lake where the glacier ends. As glaciers around the world retreat because of climate change, they are leaving unstable slopes poised above the water. The thawing of the exposed mountainsides can destabilise them further. Fortunately, the areas at risk are remote and sparsely populated, and the tsunamis created by these landslides weaken rapidly with distance, unlike tsunamis caused when earthquakes displace large areas of seafloor. “Because the source is so localised, it will diminish as the wave spreads out,” says team member Brentwood Higman of the nonprofit organisation Ground Truth Trekking. Nevertheless, there is still potential for disaster. “There was a similar tsunami in Greenland in 2016 that destroyed a small village and killed 4 people,” says Higman. “I live near a site where a busy summer day might put hundreds in harms way, and in Glacier Bay [in Alaska] there are potentially several thousand people at a time in cruise ships visiting areas where landslide tsunamis are likely.”
9-5-18 Our thirst for water is turning the oceans saltier
As the need for clean drinking water grows, the only option may be to get it from our oceans. But there's a catch. FOR the time being, Cape Town has dodged a bullet. After months of unrelenting drought, the recent winter rains have begun to refill its parched dams. That doesn’t mean things are easy. City residents are still limited to using 50 litres of water a day, scarcely enough to half-fill a bath. But at least so-called day zero, when the taps run dry and residents have to wait in line to collect survival rations of water, has been averted. The South African city is an extreme example, but it is far from the only place facing a severe water shortage. To slake that thirst, many cities are turning to the ocean, a seemingly inexhaustible supply of water. They are doing this through desalination, a water purification technology that has been around for decades. Cape Town is bringing a couple of desalination plants online in a hurry and many others are being built elsewhere. As they spring up, however, attention is focusing on what they leave behind: concentrated brine, millions of litres of it a day. Now scientists are sounding a note of caution about the impacts of dumping all that salt in the environment. “Increasing salinity is one of the most important environmental issues of the 21st century,” says engineer Amy Childress. But smarter methods of desalination are emerging and they have benefits far beyond providing clean water. The list of cities with water shortages runs long and touches every continent. Even London, often thought of as a wet city, only gets about 600 millimetres of rain a year and will probably have supply problems by 2025. As populations grow, things are set to worsen. In 2007, the UN found that about 1.6 billion people lacked adequate infrastructure to supply them with drinking water.
9-5-18 Gas guzzlers reborn: Why your next car could run on hydrogen
Vehicles that run on hydrogen have been dismissed by the likes of Elon Musk, but recent advances mean they are making a comeback. HYDROGEN-POWERED cars have had a bumpy ride. Back in 2003, they were touted as “one of the most encouraging, innovative technologies of our era” by US president at the time George W. Bush. Then the Tesla revolution came along and they were left in the dust by their battery-driven electric rivals. Now, there are signs of a comeback. A recent survey of more than 900 global automotive executives by consulting firm KPMG found that 52 per cent rated hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a leading industry trend. Japan has announced plans to put 40,000 hydrogen vehicles on the road in the next five years, and South Korea 16,000. Germany wants to have 400 refuelling stations for hydrogen vehicles by 2025 and California has already opened 35. This renewed push has its sceptics. Tesla chief Elon Musk, for example, has dismissed hydrogen cars as being “extremely silly”. But Joan Ogden at the University of California, Davis, sees a future in which hydrogen and electric vehicles play complementary roles. “There are arguments for having both,” she says. Like electric cars, hydrogen vehicles produce zero pollutants and carbon emissions, so they don’t damage our health or the climate. The main difference is that hydrogen cars use a fuel cell instead of a battery to power an electric motor. Hydrogen is stored in a tank and fed into the fuel cell, where its chemical energy is converted into electrical energy.
9-5-18 Monster iceberg's pivot and turn
The monster Antarctic iceberg A-68 looks finally to be on the move. For 13 months after breaking away from the White Continent's long peninsula, the trillion-tonne block did little more than shuffle back and forth on the spot. But now its southern end has swung round almost 90 degrees, indicating the berg has been caught in ocean currents. The approaching southern summer should only assist its anticipated slow drift northwards, experts say. "After more than a year of moving to and fro near its parent ice shelf, iceberg A-68, which calved from the Larsen C Ice Shelf on 12 July 2017, has finally escaped," commented Prof Adrian Luckman from Swansea University, UK. "Until recently, the iceberg was hemmed in by dense sea-ice in the east and shallow waters in the north. "Now, a strong foehn wind blowing eastwards off the ice shelf in early September has pushed the southerly end of the iceberg out into the Weddell Gyre. This persistent clockwise drift of ocean waters and floating sea-ice flowing north past the Larsen Ice Shelf has rotated A-68 out into the Weddell Sea. "Here, it is much more free to begin moving away and be carried further north into warmer waters." A-68's pivot-and-spin behaviour is common in large tabular icebergs. Its contact with the seabed will be leaving big gouge marks in the sediment. These troughs should be evident to the sonar surveys that will be conducted by international teams at the turn of the year. Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute will lead one of these scientific cruises, using the Research Vessel Polarstern; the UK's Scott Polar Research Institute will lead the other, run off the icebreaker SA Agulhas II.
9-5-18 Emergency on US Gulf Coast as Storm Gordon strikes
A state of emergency has been declared in Louisiana and Mississippi as Tropical Storm Gordon batters the US Gulf Coast. Gordon made landfall just west of the Alabama-Mississippi border, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, with sustained winds of up to 70mph (110km/h). Thousands of people were reported to be without power. The NHC warned there could be "life-threatening" storm surges. Gordon strengthened as it neared the coast on Tuesday, but did not reach hurricane status. "Rapid weakening is forecast after Gordon moves inland, and is forecast to become a tropical depression on Wednesday," the NHC said in an advisory. At 03:00 GMT the centre of the storm was reported to be 30 miles east of Biloxi, Mississippi, moving at a speed of 14mph in a north-westerly direction.
9-3-18 Heatwave: 2018 was the joint hottest summer for UK
2018 was the joint hottest summer on record for the UK as a whole, and the hottest ever for England, the Met Office has announced. It said highs for summer 2018 were tied with those of 1976, 2003 and 2006 for being the highest since records began in 1910. England's average temperatures narrowly beat those seen in 1976, they added. The heatwave saw soaring temperatures across much of the UK throughout June and July. Dry, sweltering conditions for weeks on end gave way to a more average August, said the Met Office. To the nearest 0.1C, all four years - 2018 as well as 1976, 2003 and 2006 - had an average temperature of 15.8C (60.4F). That is 1.5C above the long-term average, the Met Office said. It had already been confirmed that the UK had experienced its hottest June day in 41 years, when a temperature of 34.5C (94F) was recorded at Heathrow. The all-time high, since records began, was 35.6C (96F) which was reached in the summer of '76.
9-1-18 Can peer pressure help solve climate change?
Fighting climate change might be as simple as a little suggestion. Psychologists have found a simple trick to reduce meat consumption in restaurants. Tell a customer that other people are increasingly choosing the menu's meatless options, and the customer becomes more likely to order a vegetarian meal. It's a simple but effective intervention that relies on peer pressure and social influence to convince people to rethink their longstanding habits, says Gregg Sparkman, a PhD student in psychology at Stanford University who led the experiment. Essentially, Sparkman's findings show that you can change a person's behavior by highlighting other people's success in changing their behaviors. In another forthcoming study, currently under peer review, Sparkman argues that the same method could be used to help people stop smoking, quit sugary drinks, and even to identify as feminist. "When people see others changing, they envision that, in the future, norms might be even more different — that the trend is probably going to continue," Sparkman says. For the experiment, he persuaded restaurant-goers to imagine a world where people eat less meat, nudging them to change their own habits. "They're reacting to their anticipated view of the world. We call that 'pre-conformity': essentially, people conforming to how they envision the future will be." Convincing people to change their deeply ingrained habits is difficult, and this intransigence has been a persistent problem when it comes to tackling climate change. According to a recent paper in the journal Science, "As the decades since the 1970s have revealed, merely educating people about what actions they can take does not dramatically shift behavior; nor does inspiring fear or guilt." As psychologist Elise Amel and her co-authors point out in the same article, while nearly half of Americans are "concerned" or "alarmed" about global warming, many still routinely fly, drive alone, and keep their homes at a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit — all environmentally damaging behaviors that conservatives love to cite when they attempt to discredit climate change activists by pointing to behavior they find hypocritical. There are various reasons why changing behavior is so challenging. One obstacle is the difficulty of prioritizing the long-term benefit to future generations over short-term personal convenience. In addition, Amel et al. point out, adopting sustainable behaviors that we think will be unusual to society at large can provoke fears of disapproval or rejection. While a sense of urgency is important, the authors write, individuals also need to have confidence that solutions are possible before they are inspired to act, or else they risk being paralyzed by despair.