Category Archives: Environment

Time-lapse of 2053 nuclear explosions

The Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a very thought provoking video time-lapse project. The video charts all of the 2053 nuclear explosions registered between 1945 and 1998, from the first Project Manhattan test at Los Alamos to a nuclear test conducted by Pakistan in 1998.

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Chinese pollution drives US freak storms?

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According to the UK newspaper The Guardian, air pollution in China might be responsible for altering weather patterns over the Pacific Ocean, leading to an increase in freak weather phenomenon in the US.

The article quotes scientists from Texas, California and Washington, who have used advanced computer models to study how the tiny particles released by pollution in China and elsewhere interacts with the atmosphere.

One of effect of the particles seems to be a change to what is known as the Pacific storm track, which refers to a part of the ocean where storms that later hit the US often originate.

“Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US,” said Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading told the Guardian.

“The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.”

In other words, burning coal in China can lead to freak storms in the US. Anyone need another reason for looking at man-made climate change?

Sun on climate change: I didn’t do it!

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New scientific data shows that the sun is unlikely to have contributed much to the global warming phenomenons like melting ice caps, higher temperatures, more unstable, and, according to some, Miley Cyrus.

“Research examining the causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the past 1000 years has shown that until the year 1800, the key driver of periodic changes in climate was volcanic eruptions. These tend to prevent sunlight reaching the Earth, causing cool, drier weather. Since 1900, greenhouse gases have been the primary cause of climate change,” scientists from University of Edinburgh said in a recent press release.

Climate scientists speak out in favour of nuclear energy

Some of the world’s most prominent scientists have written an open letter calling for the development of nuclear energy.

James Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel and Tom Wigley wrote:

“As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”

In an email interview with rediff.com, Hansen further explained:

“We should compare alternatives for the future. The air pollution from fossil fuels kills far more people than the worst nuclear technology of the past, the most weakly regulated nuclear technology,” he said.

Now for someone who for a long time has been a supporter of nuclear energy, this makes a lot of sense. However, it’s going to have a lot of people up in arms….luckily the arms won’t be nuclear….

Fracking: opportunity or danger? Or cute cartoon?

Hydrofrackturing rock formations to extract gas – or fracking, as it’s commonly known – has generated more than a fair share of debate in recent years.

Supporters call it the key to solving our energy needs while moving towards more green energy, while opponents call it the worst idea since the Romans put lead in their aqueducts.

And water is often at the heart of the debate between the two sides, with opponents saying that fracking causes pollution of drinking water and also causes earthquakes. Supporters, on the other hand, say that this isn’t the case and point to the fact that gas extracted through fracking has lowered the use of coal in some countries, meaning that it’s helping reduce the amounts of CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

Right or wrong, this is a complex issue. Good thing we have cartoons.

OK, that’s a dig (bad pun, sorry), but this illustration of the pros and cons actually does a pretty good job of explaining the whole thing:

Obama’s plan on the environment – not great, but has infographic

President Obama has revealed his plan to reduce American CO2 emissions and generally improve the state of the environment.

Left and right have already had a swing at it, and if you’re into the environment as a sorta nice place to hang out, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed at its limited scope and level of ambition.

But hey, it comes with an infographic:

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China lines up the death penalty for pollution

Serious polluters in China are going to risk more than a hefty fine for their actions, according to the Chinese state media, Xinhua news agency.

The company recently reported that the Chinese government has given the country’s courts the option of handing down a death penalty in serious pollution cases.

“In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down,” Xinhua said.

The move comes as protests have started to mount against the continuous industrial push in China.

Last month, for example, thousands of Chinese took to the streets in Kunming to protest against the planned production of a specific chemical at a local plant.

Scientists pick apart US committee chair’s arguments on climate change

Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth have spent more than 70 years between them studying Earth’s climate. And they were both left shaking their heads, when Republican Lamar Smith from Texas recently published an op-ed defending not raising prices on carbon emissions.

“Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science,” Mr. Smith wrote.

A claim that didn’t sit well with Oppenheimer and Trenberth. Especially as Mr. Smith is the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

In a link-o-rama of a rebutal, they asserted that climate change is real, and not surrounded by the uncertainty Mr. Smith alluded to.

“[…] most of the world’s major scientific organizations indicate that by the end of this century, people will be experiencing higher temperatures than any known during human civilization — temperatures that our societies, crops and ecosystems are not adapted to,” they said.

Who to agree with…hmm, I think I’ll go with the 70 years of experience on this one….

Of course, the rebuttal might be more than futile. As one reader commented:

“How quaint, using facts, science and logic to rebut a GOP congressional numbskull. It’s a complete waste of time and effort, of course. You might as well talk to the wall.”

GROVER goes to Greeland to look at ice

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Photo: NASA

NASA have sent GROVER on an autonomous mission to Greenland to look at ice sheet that covers more or less all of the massive island.

GROVER is short for ‘Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research’. In simple terms it’s a solar-powered robot car equipped with powerful radar-equipment. The idea is that GROVER will drive around and measure how thick the ice sheet is in various spots. Over time, the data collected will give scientists a clearer picture of the ebbs and flows in the ice sheet, and through that a better understanding on how global warming is affecting the interior of Greenland.

GROVER is currently ambling around Greenland on a trial run.

I haven’t read too much about this project, but I have to admit that the idea of using a solar-powered robot in a region where the sun more or less disappears for six months at a time strikes me as odd….

Unwelcome GMO wheat wanders onto Oregon farm

Genetically engineered wheat has been found growing on a field in Oregon. That, in its own right, might not be considered earth shattering news. For that you need the extra ingredients: the wheat in questions wasn’t planted by the farmer, and the wheat has never been approved for commercial planting.

Biotech company Monsanto, who is believed to be the company that developed the wheat in question, ended its Oregon field trials of GMO wheat in 2001, so it’s a bit of a mystery how the wheat was still found there, more than ten years later.

“Further testing by USDA laboratories indicate the presence of the same genetically engineered GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. APHIS launched a formal investigation after being notified by an Oregon State University scientist that initial tests of wheat samples from an Oregon farm indicated the possible presence of GE glyphosate-resistant wheat plants,” the USDA said in a statement.