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Could the Red Sea’s heat-resilient corals help restore the world’s dying reefs?

Could the Red Sea’s heat-resilient corals help restore the world’s dying reefs?


Corals in the Gulf of Aqaba have a unique evolutionary history that could help them survive the climate crisis. Scientists even hope to breed their resilience into other reefs.


Beneath the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern tip of the Red Sea, lies a bustling city of colorful corals. At sunrise, fish emerge from their coral shelters, joining eels, turtles and octopuses to swim through these teeming waters. 

This vibrant scene is untouched by the mass bleaching that has plagued reefs elsewhere. Most corals can only survive within a narrow temperature range. As oceans get warmer, stressed corals evict their energy-producing algae and lose their color. When corals bleach and die, entire ecosystems can collapse with them. 

Corals, like these on the Great Barrier Reef, have already succumbed to warming waters, leaving a ghostly underwater landscape bleached of once-vibrant life

A recent study found that 14% of the world’s coral reefs were lost in less than a decade. Ravaged by global heating, pollution and habitat destruction, global coral reef cover has halved since the 1950s. Experts predict that up to 90% of corals could perish in the coming decades. 

But some hope is emerging from the northern shores of the Red Sea, as Aqaba’s corals appear unaffected by steadily warming waters. 

“We found that the corals in Aqaba could withstand temperatures far above the summer maximum of 27 degrees [Celsius],”  (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) said Maoz Fine, a marine biology professor who led research on coral heat-resilience at The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel.

Map of the location of Gulf of Aqaba

Hope from the Red Sea 

Fine and his team designed an aquarium system to simulate future conditions in the Red Sea and ran experiments on what makes the corals in Aqaba so resilient. 

While most corals will bleach within a degree or two above their normal range, experiments showed that Aqaba’s corals could endure temperatures up to six degrees Celsius higher than the maximum summer temperature they’re usually exposed to. 

“We tested about 20 different species of corals, and all of them showed high tolerance to thermal stress,” said Fine. “Despite rising temperatures, the corals never bleached.”

This resilience to heat is thought to be a product of how corals migrated into the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean during the last Ice Age, some 20,000 years ago.

To reach the Gulf of Aqaba, corals had to pass through the Gulf of Aden and the southern part of the Red Sea, where water temperatures are much higher. Over generations, larvae of surviving corals moved north and populated areas with significantly lower water temperatures, but they retained their heat resilience.  

The ‘Red Sea Simulator’ allows scientist to study Aqaba’s uniqely heat-resistant corals

“These corals were selected for high temperatures, but they live in temperatures about six degrees below their bleaching threshold,” said Fine. 

Although corals in other regions are adapted to warmer waters, Fine said no other corals have such a large gap between the maximum temperatures of the waters they live in and their bleaching thresholds. “This is one of the few places we know where corals will be able to survive global warming,” he said.

As coral reefs face mass destruction across the globe due to rising temperatures, researchers and conservationists hope the Gulf of Aqaba could become a refuge for the world’s remaining corals. 

Could Aqaba’s corals help other reefs? 

“Aqaba’s corals could be a source to repopulate reefs if corals die everywhere else,” according to Manuel Aranda, a marine biologist at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. 

The problem, Aranda said, is scale. 

“The Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy. We can’t plant reefs the way we spread seeds on land,” he said, since coral plantation requires divers to go into the water and manually fix coral fragments grown in nurseries. 

Coral plantations are too costly and time-consuming, and species introductions are often very challenging. But Aranda is part of a research group at KAUST that is working to identify heat-resilient corals and cross-breed them with coral populations elsewhere to increase their heat tolerance.

Corals support a rich diversity of marine life that’s acutely vulnerable to climate change

“Usually, it takes many generations for corals to adapt,” said Aranda. But the planet is warming faster than this process of adaptation. He hopes to speed up genetic exchanges to give corals a chance of keeping up with rising temperatures: “We hope that with cross-breeding, we don’t have to plant corals, they will reproduce themselves.” 

But this method still takes time and Fine isn’t convinced it will work on a large-scale. He believes the focus should be on identifying and preserving resilient reefs, rather than trying to grow corals elsewhere. 

“What we can offer is knowledge, understanding which genes were selected down south when entering the Red Sea and what that means for thermal resilience,” Fine said.  

‘We owe it to future generations’

About 25% of all marine species live in and around coral reefs, making them among the most diverse habitats in the world. 

“The Gulf of Aqaba has a very diverse ecosystem,” said Jordanian conservationist Ehab Eid. “In Jordan, we have identified 157 species of hard corals and there are over 500 species of fish. More than half of them depend on the corals.”

In addition to providing vital habitats for marine life, coral reefs also provide food and medicines, protect shorelines, and secure the livelihoods of over 500 million people worldwide. 


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Despite their resilience to high temperatures, Aqaba’s corals are vulnerable to pollution and unsustainable urban coastal development, putting at risk the livelihoods of the many people in Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt who depend on fishing and tourism in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Fishermen in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, whose catch depends on the coral ecosystem, say fisheries aren’t as plentiful as they used to be

“The corals are essential for fish here,” said Ibrahim Riady, who has worked as a fisherman in the Jordanian city of Aqaba for over two decades. “Our livelihoods depend on them.” He and other local fishermen said their catches had declined over the last decades. 

Scientists are calling for the reef to be protected to ensure the gulf can serve as a refuge for corals that, if they survive local threats, could revive reefs elsewhere. “The Gulf of Aqaba might be one of the last reefs standing at the end of the century,” said Eid. “It’s a treasure. We owe it to future generations to preserve it.”

Source:

Marta Vidal at DW



Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms

Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms


A dangerous winter storm brought significant snowfall, strong thunderstorms and blustery winds to the northeastern U.S. on a holiday Monday.


The storm system dropped a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow in parts of New York state, Ohio and Pennsylvania Sunday night through Monday morning after pummeling parts of the Southeast on Sunday.

“We’ve had a very strong area of low pressure that’s kind of moved up the coast, with pretty heavy snowfall accumulations from Tennessee, North Carolina all the way into the northeast,” said meteorologist Marc Chenard at the weather service’s headquarters in College Park, Maryland.

Forecasters in Buffalo, New York, said almost 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow fell by 1 p.m. Monday. The city advised people not to travel if they didn’t need to on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while some surrounding towns instituted a travel ban.

“WOW! (Latest) snow measurement at 1 AM was 4.6 inches in the last hour at the Buffalo Airport!” the National Weather Service in Buffalo tweeted overnight. “And tack on another 4 inches in the last hour ending at 2 AM! Total so far since late Sun evening – 10.2 inches.”

WINTER STORM WHIPPING NORTHEAST US WITH SNOW, THUNDERSTORMS

Image 1 of 13

Snow, a four-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier runs through the snow with his companion, Marlin Rayney from Wilkinsburg in tow during his morning walk/run along Braddock Avenue Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Weather service meteorologist Alexa Maines said 15 inches (38 centimeters) or more of snow were reported in Cleveland, Ohio, and 25 inches (63 centimeters) in parts of Ashtabula County in the northeast corner of the state.

Power outages affected tens of thousands of customers in the northeast, and hundreds of flights were canceled. Many COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites had to close down.

New York City got less than an inch of snow, which was washed away by rain overnight. The weather service said spotty showers and snow showers might continue through Monday night.

Forecasters said wind gusts in New York City could top out around 45 mph (72 kph), and around 60 mph (97 kph) on Long Island.

Sleet and rain were the main threats for much of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Periods of snowfall transitioned to rain overnight. NWS meteorologists in Boston said wind gusts could reach 70 mph (113 kph).

The howling winds spread a fire that destroyed a motel and two other structures in coastal Salisbury, Massachusetts, early Monday.


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Lightning bolts descend from dark clouds in northern Alaska. Lightning tracker Vaisala reported a significant uptick in far-northern Arctic lightning in 2021.

ANOTHER SIGN THINGS ARE GETTING WEIRD: LIGHTNING AROUND THE NORTH POLE INCREASED DRAMATICALLY IN 2021


As extreme weather wreaked havoc across the globe in 2021, a stunning change was happening in the far northern Arctic, largely out of sight but detectable by a network of sensors. Lightning increased significantly in the region around the North Pole, which scientists say is a clear sign of how the climate crisis is altering global weather.


The storm brought similar conditions Sunday to the Southeast, where thousands were still without power Monday.

Multiple states reported heavy snowfall, and two people died Sunday in North Carolina when their car drove off the road. The roof of a dormitory partially collapsed in the state at Brevard College, with officials saying it broke under the weight of snow. There were no injuries.

Severe thunderstorms in Florida spun up a tornado with 118 mph (190 kph) winds, destroying 30 mobile homes and majorly damaging 51 more. Three minor injuries were reported.

Wet roadways in the South were expected to refreeze Monday, creating icy conditions for motorists.

Plow trucks were scattered along roads and highways up the East Coast, working to clear the way for travelers. Some crashes were reported in the early morning hours, including an ambulance involved in a wreck on Interstate 279 in Pittsburgh, KDKA-TV reported. It was unclear whether anyone was injured.

Source:

Julie Walker & Karen Matthews via Associated Press



The Mediterranean Sea is filled with plastics that come from elsewhere

The Mediterranean Sea is filled with plastics that come from elsewhere


Plastics are all over, especially in protected areas.


Almost every country in the Mediterranean Sea has at least one Marine Protected Area (MPA) where over half of its macroplastics originated from another country, according to a new study. The findings highlight that plastic pollution is an international problem and we need international collaboration in order to tackle it, the researchers argue.

Slowly but surely, plastic pollution has become one of the major environmental issues of our times, comparable to the climate crisis and overfishing. While much recent research focused on microplastics, this new effort looked at how macroplastics (plastic bits bigger than five millimeters) affect the marine ecosystem, as organisms ingest or become entangled in plastic litter — often with dramatic consequences. 

Plastic pieces (especially small ones) can travel very long distances and end far from their original sources. They come in unseen for multiple, often distant sources, threatening wildlife and their habitats in marine areas. Previous studies in the Arctic, the Pacific and the Atlantic have shown MPAs are very affected by plastic pollution. 

In the new study, a group of researchers focused on the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most polluted regions globally which also happens to be an important biodiversity hotspot. It’s shared by numerous countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, which brings big differences in terms of governance, politics, and cultures — which makes it difficult to implement common regulations of marine ecosystems. 

About 229,000 tons of plastic leak every year into the Mediterranean Sea, according to a report by IUCN from 2020, equivalent to 500 shipping containers. Roughly speaking, it’s like dumping a container and a half of plastic straight into the sea. Egypt, Italy, and Turkey were identified as the countries with the highest plastic leakage rates into the Mediterranean, mainly because of mismanaged waste and large coastal cities.

“Our study shows that specific sites, important for the conservation of biodiversity, concentrate high amounts of plastics,” Dr Yannis Hatzonikolkis, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Although marine protected areas are protected by restrictions from other threats as tourism, plastic acts like an ‘invisible’ enemy.” 

Plastics and the Mediterranean

Image credit: The researchers.

The researchers carried out a three-year simulation (from 2016 to 2018) of the distribution of plastic particles in the Mediterranean Sea. They used a particle drift model that considers the main dispersion processes such as winds and currents, incorporating three land-based sources of plastic particles – wastewater discharge, rivers, and cities. 

The findings showed that coastal zones were the hardest hit, both by macroplastics and microplastics (plastic pieces smaller than five millimeters). As MPAs tend to be closer to coastal zones, they accumulated more plastic waste than sites in offshore waters. Most plastics were traced back to land-based sources, which means the issue has to be tackled at source.


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Ship paint fragments were found to make up most of the samples the scientists found - SWNS

SCIENTISTS STUDYING MICROPLASTICS IN ANTARCTICA DISCOVER… IT ALMOST ALL CAME FROM THEIR SHIP


Scientists studying the origins of microplastics in Antarctica have discovered that 89 per cent of the samples they analysed came from the paint on their own ship.


The average concentration of macroplastics in inshore waters was larger than five kilograms per squared kilometer, while offshore waters had over 1.5 kilograms. Meanwhile, average microplastics concentration in inshore waters was higher than 1.5 million particles per squared kilometer, and 0.5 million particles in offshore waters. 

“The most effective way to reduce plastic pollution in protected areas is by reducing marine litter at the sources. A management plan including litter reduction at its sources can occasionally be successfully implemented locally,” the researchers wrote, suggesting the use of a floating barrier installation and a pre-filtering device. 

Source:

Fermin Koop at ZME Science



Brewing a real response to climate change

Brewing a real response to climate change


Innovative leaders in the beer industry are serving up true sustainability along with your brew.


Farming in the age of climate change is an uncertain proposition, as the hop growers in Washington’s Yakima Valley can attest. As weather patterns alter, the farmers who grow 40% of the world’s hop supply are battling one crisis after another. Violent windstorms toppled their hop trellises just before the 2020 harvest. (A similar gale drove the December 2021 fire that ripped through the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado.) An unprecedented heat dome scorched their crop during the summer of 2021. And wildfires during the autumn of 2020 ruined still more hops.

Over the past two years, these issues have played out across the beer industry supply chain. “The Colorado wildfires made the water unusable for our brewery,” says Katie Wallace, New Belgium Brewing’s director of social and environmental impact. “We also had the worst barley crop in farmers’ lifetimes due to extreme heat, and limited hop supplies because of the smoke taint. There were major supply chain disruptions during extreme weather events, like the deep freeze in February, that shut down deliveries of supplies critical to brewing and stalled production.” New Belgium’s R&D specialist Dave Glor echoes Wallace: “From fruit juices to barley, everything was impacted.”

But even as climate change batters their business, New Belgium and others in the beer industry are leading the way in adapting, offering a case study on environmental action that has real, measurable impact.

A case study in concrete action

Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, New Belgium Brewing wanted consumers to experience the flavor of climate change – so their flagship brand, Fat Tire, released “Torched Earth,” a limited-release ale incorporating smoke-tainted, drought-parched ingredients. It tasted terrible. “Being able to communicate the reality of what climate change would do to beer is really important,” says New Belgium’s Wallace. “Because if we don’t take action, it’s going to get worse.”

Fat Tire also made waves throughout the beer world in 2020, when they announced that their popular amber ale was certified carbon neutral – the first beer in the United States to achieve that status. But these initiatives are just the tips of the (rapidly melting) iceberg. The brewery is doing deep work at all levels to become as sustainable as possible, undertaking a broad portfolio of actions that consumers can see and measure.

At their peak, the solar panels atop New Belgium’s Fort Collins Packaging Hall make enough electricity to power the canning and bottling lines. Fat Tire

The effort started with a comprehensive carbon accounting process – a critical analysis of how much is emitted by the business, and where. From there, Fat Tire began buying high-quality carbon offsets for the emissions outside of their direct control, like transportation. Fat Tire’s efforts will pave the way for similar programs across all New Belgium beers, putting the business on the path to complete carbon neutrality by 2030. 

New Belgium Brewing also played a crucial role in lobbying the city council of Fort Collins to transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Wallace says other companies shouldn’t hesitate to do the same. “Sometimes companies feel like they need to have their own carbon accounting in place first, but this is the low hanging fruit,” she says. “Companies should go talk to whoever leads their local utility about moving to renewables. It’s an action they can take now! Companies don’t have to have perfect internal sustainability before asking for that.”

Wallace also highlights the role of larger companies in the fight against climate change: “70% of our emissions come from 100 companies,” she says. “It’s concerning. We can break our backs over here as a medium-size business, but we need the bigger companies to do the work too.” To that end, New Belgium and Fat Tire launched a “Last Call for Climate” initiative, highlighting the sustainability efforts of Fortune 500 companies, along with Twitter links for consumers to call them out or praise them based on their sustainability plans.

New Belgium’s other actions include developing beverage company sustainability standards and launching a carbon-neutral brewery toolkit for their competitors to download and use — free of charge.

For 2022 and beyond, the company has bold goals. “We just rolled out a supplier engagement program, partnering with our suppliers to understand our climate goals,” says Wallace. “Our success will rely on them heavily.” Other items on the agenda include implementing recommendations from the energy engineer New Belgium hired to review their 2030 net-zero plan, continuing to work with their internal carbon-neutral task force, and engaging with New Belgium’s banking and insurance providers.” They have so much influence in what gets funded in the world,” Wallace says.

A ripple effect

New Belgium’s work has also paved the way for other beer companies to take action. Chase O’Malley, from Sunday Beer Co., says, “When New Belgium announced in 2020 that they had made one of their beers carbon neutral, it was the first I had heard of another brewery doing it on that scale. That was really inspiring to us.” Sunday Beer Co. quickly followed suit, making their signature lager carbon neutral, and pooling with other small businesses to purchase offsets through the non-profit Carbon Neutral. Future beers made by the company will also be carbon neutral. The brewery has now switched to fully recyclable packaging, and is reassessing the supply chain for their non-beverage merchandise. “None of us believe that buying offsets is how we’re going to solve the climate crisis,” says O’Malley. “Paying someone else not to emit is not going to solve the problem. But putting the climate first in our business decisions is the first step.”

New Belgium has also inspired Colorado-based Upslope Brewing Company. “We had been on the hunt for a free, comprehensive accounting tool for a while,” says Elizabeth Waters, who oversees sustainability efforts at Upslope. “We were thrilled when New Belgium released their carbon toolkit. It’s user-friendly and specific to the beer industry.” Upslope plans to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, and is on track to achieve zero-waste by 2025.

Other major players in the beer world are following suit: Wallace says other large craft breweries using New Belgium’s toolkit are on track to announce their carbon-neutral plans soon. And the Yakima Valley hop farmers are doing their part, too – from implementing carbon sequestration practices and more efficient energy and water use to commissioning a first-of-its-kind lifecycle study of hops carbon footprint.

Consumers care

The response from consumers has proven that concrete climate action leads to sales. Kendall Jones, a journalist and the founder of the Washington Beer Blog, sees the trend growing. “A lot of craft beer drinkers are putting sustainability at the forefront,” he says. “One of the reasons the audience for craft beer is growing is that people who make decisions based on sustainability are seeing it as the more sustainable choice.”

New Belgium’s Katie Wallace sees this trend borne out in the data – consumer perceptions of Fat Tire have ticked sharply upwards since the ale became carbon neutral, and other data bears out the trend. “We see a lot of support from our customers around our sustainability work,” she says. “According to our Nielsen data, 84% of customers believe it’s important for a beer to be carbon neutral.”


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Other brewers are seeing the same positive response. “As we’ve grown our sustainability program, an increasing number of our stakeholders have been reaching out with questions and interest in partnering,” says Elizabeth Waters from Upslope Brewing Company. O’Malley from Sunday Beer Co. also sees the impact. “We’ve received incredibly positive feedback,” he says.

Wallace says collective action is the next step in the journey. “There have been many times when we have collectively invested in our shared wellbeing,” she says. “Many of the systems we depend on today came from protecting our shared prosperity during a time of threat, like the Great Depression or World War II. Right now, the biggest threat is climate change. It’s time to come together and make sure we’re addressing that.”

As the consumer response shows, taking concrete steps in the battle against climate change can also be good business practice. This bolsters the leaders in the beer industry who are taking a stance that other sectors would do well to emulate. As O’Malley of Sunday Beer Co. puts it: “The crisis is here. We can’t just take incremental steps — we need to leap forward as an industry. Our product is so tied to agriculture and the realities of our environment. Why shouldn’t the beer industry lead the way on these bigger goals and issues?”

Source:

Grist Creative



For BP, car chargers to overtake pumps in profitability race

For BP, car chargers to overtake pumps in profitability race


BP says its fast electric vehicle chargers are on the cusp of becoming more profitable than filling up a petrol car.


The milestone will mark a significant moment for BP which wants to shift away from oil and expand operations in power markets and around electric vehicles (EV).

EV charging has for years been a loss-making business as a whole for BP and rivals as they invest heavily in its expansion. The division is not expected to turn profitable before 2025 but on a margin basis, BP’s fast battery charging points, which can replenish a battery within minutes, are nearing levels they see from filling up with petrol.

“If I think about a tank of fuel versus a fast charge, we are nearing a place where the business fundamentals on the fast charge are better than they are on the fuel,” BP’s head of customers and products Emma Delaney told Reuters.

Strong and rising demand for rapid battery chargers in Britain and Europe, has already brought profit margins close to those for traditional petrol filling, she said.

Delaney did not disclose profit and loss for EV charging or when overall profit from the business could eclipse traditional fuel. In 2020 BP reported a gross margins for retail fuel sales of $3.5 billion. Its customers and products division made $2.6 billion in net profit in the first nine months of 2021, around 17% of the company’s total profit.

The company also said that electricity sales for EV charging grew 45% in the third quarter of 2021 from the previous quarter.

According to consultancy Thunder Said Energy, the traditional fuel retail margin at petrol stations is about 17 cents per gallon, roughly 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

London-based BP plans to grow its EV charging business in the coming years to 70,000 charging points by 2030 from 11,000 now.

Like rivals including Royal Dutch Shell, BP’s retail business, which includes fuel sales and convenience stores, is highly profitable and central in its energy transition strategy.

“Overall, we see a huge opportunity in fast charging for consumers and businesses, as well as fleet services more generally – that’s where we see the growth, and where we see the margins,” Delaney said.

Shell aims to have 500,000 charging points globally by 2025. On Thursday it opened its first ultra-fast EV charging station in London, which can charge 80% of a car battery in 10 minutes.


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While rivals like Shell are investing in a range of charging technologies including tens of thousands of slower, low voltage, on-street charging points in Britain and elsewhere, BP is focusing on fast and ultra-fast charging technology.

“We’ve made a choice to really go after high speed, on the go charging – rather than slow lamppost charging for example,” Delaney said.

Fast charging, defined as more than 50 kilowatt, and super-fast charging at more than 150 kilowatt, are however expensive to install as they require large investment in heavy-duty power infrastructure.

“Historically, many operators have struggled to make money out of EV charging, that’s been like the worst kept secret in the industry,” said Adrian Del Maestro, director at PwC Strategy&.

The drive to expand EV charging points also aims at keeping a strong stream of customers at BP’s petrol stations and their adjacent convenience stores.

“There has been a land grab by charge point operators, including the oil majors, to buy real estate and build infrastructure, with a view to generating growth revenues in the future,” Del Maestro said.

Source:

Ron Bousso via Reuters



New chief scientist wants NASA to be about climate science, not just space

New chief scientist wants NASA to be about climate science, not just space


Katherine Calvin was appointed as NASA’s chief scientist on Monday. In an interview with CNBC, Calvin explains she wants people to think of NASA as a leading voice on climate science, not just space.

Among other goals, she hopes to make climate science easier to find online.


The new top scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration wants the famed space agency to become a leading voice on climate change science, too.

“When people hear NASA, I want them to think of climate science alongside planetary science,” said Katherine Calvin, who was appointed as NASA’s chief scientist on Monday.

“All of the chief scientists of NASA have had specialty areas. Mine is climate,” Calvin told CNBC, speaking from NASA headquarters in Washington DC.

The agency already does a lot of scientific work that ties into climate change. Calvin’s role will be to connect NASA scientists with other scientists and to communicate their science outside of the agency.

“NASA is already a world leader in climate,” Calvin told CNBC. “And so I’m just communicating that science and connecting it to other agencies, to the public.”

NASA has more than two dozen satellites orbiting the Earth observing and measuring climate change variables, like changes in the oceans, clouds, and carbon dioxide levels. NASA uses this data to do climate modeling and prediction.

The agency also develops technologies that can be used to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

For example, NASA is working to make flights more efficient so they use less fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Calvin said.

Calvin’s will work to make the NASA’s climate data easier to find, so users don’t have to hop around to a bunch of different websites.


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“These are large emissions, and we see quite a lot of them on the global scale, much more than we had expected.”


The specifics are still in the works. “But the idea is to get all the information that’s relevant in a place where people can find it,” Calvin said. She particularly wants to make sure NASA’s data is accessible to underserved communities.

Calvin comes to NASA from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute in College Park, Maryland, where she’s worked since 2008.

New climate technologies give her hope.

“People are innovative, we flew a helicopter on Mars,” Calvin said. “There’s a lot of smart people at NASA and elsewhere, they’re developing technologies that can help us mitigate or adapt to climate change.”

Source:

Catherine Clifford at CNBC



Australia matches its hottest day on record as Western Australia town hits 50.7C

Australia matches its hottest day on record as Western Australia town hits 50.7C


Mercury in the remote town of Onslow registers 50.7C (123.3F) , while two other sites also reach extreme temperatures


Australia has matched its hottest ever reliably recorded temperature, with Onslow airport near the remote West Australian town of Onslow registering 50.7C (123.3F)

Prior to Thursday, the 50C-mark had only been crossed three times at a standardised monitoring site including consecutive days in early 1960. Onslow’s top was reached just before 2.30pm local time.

The 50.7C reading on 2 January 1960 had stood unmatched as Australia’s hottest temperature for 62 years, with the following day almost as scorching at 50.3C, according to Bureau of Meteorology data going back nationally to 1910.

On Thursday, Onslow was joined by at least two other WA sites in breaking 50C, with both Roebourne airport and Mardie hitting 50.5C. Mardie had been there once before, on 19 February 1998 – Australia’s only other 50C-plus day among the four.

The extreme temperatures came towards the end of a searing heatwave over north-western WA in recent days.

Stonkingly hot winds from Australia’s red centre had been building, in part as a result of the movement across northern Australia of tropical cyclone Tiffany.

Now an ex-tropical cyclone, Tiffany dumped huge amounts of rain over northern Queensland and the Northern Territory, and could end up steering heavy rainfall into central and eastern Australia in coming days.

A slew of other WA towns were likely to have set temperature records for January or any time of the year.

Iron-ore export hub Karratha, also on WA’s north-west coast, reached 48.4C (119.1F) to exceed its previous high of 48.2C.

Last year was the world’s fifth-hottest year on record, according to preliminary readings, and was likely the hottest recorded year with a La Niña event in the Pacific.

La Niña years are characterised by the tropical Pacific Ocean absorbing more heat than in a neutral year.


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Extreme urban heat exposure has dramatically increased since the early 1980s, with the total exposure tripling over the past 35 years.


The scorching heat was expected to somewhat ease in Roebourne and Karratha on Friday, but another 49C day was forecast further down the coast in Onslow.

Temperatures were also well into the 40s in parts of the Goldfields and Gascoyne regions, while Perth enjoyed a mild 26C day.

A severe weather warning had meanwhile been issued for people in parts of the far-north Kimberley region, including Kununurra and Wyndham.

The bureau said the ex-tropical cyclone had weakened to a deep tropical low that was set to move across the border from the Northern Territory, bringing heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding.

Damaging wind gusts up to 100km/h were anticipated from Thursday afternoon.

Source:

Peter Hannam at The Guardian



What Are Solar Trees, and Could They Replace Solar Panels?

What Are Solar Trees, and Could They Replace Solar Panels?


At first glance, solar trees might seem impractical — more art than function when compared to the best solar panels. But solar trees offer a few surprising benefits over their ground-mounted counterparts


Did you know that the shape of airplane wings were designed to mimic the sloped wing tips of eagles? That the ridges on whales’ fins that create an aerodynamic flow in water inspired the shape of the modern wind turbine? That termites drilling holes in their mounds to cool down in the desert summers influenced a method for designing more energy-efficient buildings?

Biomimicry has long been one of my favorite growing areas of science and sustainability — emulating models, systems or elements of nature to solve complex human problems. After all, mother nature has been around a lot longer than humans; she has a lot to teach us. So, as a specialist focused on solar energy, I’ve often wondered what nature can teach us about how to capture our power from the sun. Enter solar trees. 

What Are Solar Trees? 

A solar tree is a device resembling a tree in shape, but with photovoltaic (PV) panels in place of its crown. The “leaves” of the tree capture solar energy and convert it to electricity, with branches funneling that electricity down through a trunk and into a central battery within. In essence, they provide the same benefits as solar panels, but they use only a fraction of the surface area necessary for an array of solar panels.       

Solar trees are not a new invention, but they’re enjoying a rising popularity. Most of our readers may recognize the most iconic solar trees in Singapore’s stunning Gardens By the Bay, as seen in productions like Crazy Rich Asians and The Bachelor.

As they exist today, more solar trees raise public awareness around sustainability than are used to generate residential or commercial power. What’s more, the trees are still perceived as “futuristic,” but it might be time we start shifting our mindset about these inventions by incorporating them into our vision of what sustainability looks like in practice. Here’s why:

Benefits of Solar Trees

At first glance, solar trees might seem impractical — more art than function when compared to the best solar panels. But solar trees offer a few surprising benefits over their ground-mounted counterparts, including:

  • Solar trees preserve land: Since solar trees are vertically integrated, they require significantly less land than solar farms. The same logic would apply to a high-rise being able to fit more residents than a one-story house. Plus, because of their greater heights, the panels may receive more sunlight than a ground-mounted or roof-mounted arrangement would.
  • They can provide habitat for rare flora and fauna: Solar trees like those in Singapore’s Gardens By the Bay are large enough to host tropical flowers, vines and plants on its trunk and branches. These valuable habitats provide homes for plants and animals, protecting biodiversity in urban areas. 
  • Solar trees require little maintenance: Besides cleaning debris off the solar panels every now and then, solar trees are standalone electrical units requiring little to no maintenance.
  • The trees cool heat islands: By creating shade in urban environments, solar trees reduce the amount of thermal energy that is reflected off of urban surfaces like asphalt, concrete and brick. This can combat the most deadly effects of climate change within cities.
  • They increase awareness of clean energy: The striking structures are immediate attention-getters, conveying a message of creativity, resourcefulness, humility and the need to incorporate sustainability into everyday life. We see similar art installations at work across the world, such as the Terra pavilion in Dubai.

Solar Trees Vs. Solar Panels

We mentioned that solar trees serve essentially the same purpose as solar panels but require a much smaller footprint to do so. But are there any other significant differences outside the trees’ widespread adoption? Let’s dig in.

Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is a measure of how much energy is produced relative to the amount of sunlight that strikes the panels. So, to compare a standard solar array and solar trees in terms of efficiency, we’d need to know the specs of the solar cells used within the tree. 

However, when it comes to space efficiency, trees take the crown. This solar tree in West Bengal, India produces enough energy to power five homes in the U.S. Solar trees in Lynn Haven, Florida are capable of powering six to seven homes. Instead of using an entire roof to produce this electricity, the trees do so using only a few square feet of ground space. 

Cost

Since solar trees are still rare in the U.S., the average installation cost is high. According to top solar tree company Spotlight Solar advertises total pricing to be $40,000 to $80,000. Based on current average solar costs, you could buy a 15-kW to 30-kW solar panel system (for context, the average home needs a system between 5 kW and 10 kW). 

Of course, the complexity and size of the solar tree will influence the final price. Until solar trees reach the commercial mainstream, demand will limit their widespread availability. 

Storage and Distribution

Solar trees are used to produce electricity that will be used onsite. Storing and distributing the energy generated by the trees (like solar farms and power plants do) would require larger solar batteries and complex systems of transmission.

Utility

While solar panels are used primarily on rooftops or mounted on the ground, solar trees offer a different type of utility. In addition to energy, they provide shade and whimsy while taking up minimal surface area. A creative mind could find endless uses for these trees: shade for city sidewalks, parking lots, playgrounds, backyards and more. This brings us to…


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In an interview, famed astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson explained that we already have flying cars, in a way, because tunnels and overpasses allow cars to access the third dimension. By that logic, India has invented ‘flying solar panels,’ which are being suspended above irrigation canals to cut down on the evaporation of precious water droplets by providing shade from the sun’s evaporating heat.


The Future of Solar Trees

The metallic, modern look of solar trees might turn off the average reader, but keep in mind that as the technology improves, investment flows and demand increases, they’ll become much more similar in appearance to real trees or other plants. This modern mimicry will allow us to blend the trees into our forests, yards, coastlines, parks and cities. 

Apart from residential applications, here are a few of our favorite ideas for the uses of solar trees:

  • Shade along highways or agricultural areas
  • Artistic installations in public parks, outdoor malls and gardens
  • Energy sources for carports and parking lots

Solar trees may still be a few years from the mainstream, but relative to other solar panel alternatives like solar roads, they offer a lot more practical value. The efficiency and versatility of the trees make them ideal for cities and densely populated areas, making us think they will be commonplace sooner than you might expect. 

Looking to “Plant” a Solar Tree?

The options are still somewhat limited, but there are a number of organizations that can install solar trees throughout the U.S. We’d recommend starting with these companies:

Smartflower

Smartflower offers stunning designs of solar devices in the shapes of trees and sunflowers, with solar petals tracking, opening and closing with the sun for optimal energy conversion. We’re talking about premiere trees here. Each tree has an output of 2.5 kW at peak power, which is about half the power production of a small home rooftop solar system. 

Smartflower solar flower on lawn with two people and dog playing Frisbee
Courtesy Smartflower

Spotlight Solar

North Carolina-based Spotlight Solar produces models of several different types of solar trees. With flexible configurations, accessory options, efficient panels and quick assembly, Spotlight Solar’s trees serve as great options for public parks, carports and walkways.

Spotlight Solar solar tree models diagram
Courtesy Spotlight Solar

Beam Global

Founded in 2006, Beam Global (formerly Envision Solar) produces patented infrastructure products for the electrification of transportation. The San Diego-based company offers solar trees and solar carports as electric vehicle charging stations.

Beam solar trees shading parking spots
Courtesy Beam

Source:

Karsten Neumeister at EcoWatch



These windows are see-through solar panels

These windows are see-through solar panels


What if solar panels weren’t just on the roof?


In a recently built office building in Boulder, Colorado, there are solar panels on the roof. But the building also has one of the world’s first installations of solar-window technology—transparent panels that look like ordinary windows, but also invisibly generate energy.

“When you think about the commercial market, you can imagine big skyscrapers becoming vertical solar farms,” says Susan Stone, CEO of Ubiquitous Energy, the startup developing the technology, which is based on work that began at MIT. “You make that glass surface, which isn’t traditionally available for electricity generation.” Solar windows can also be used to replace ordinary windows in homes.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The technology works by capturing only part of the solar spectrum. “We actually let the visible light that our eyes can see pass right through our material,” says Miles Barr, cofounder and chief technology officer. “And that makes it look invisible to us.” Because typical solar panels absorb the full spectrum—making them appear black—the solar windows capture about a third less energy. But since they can be used in areas where regular solar panels can’t, they can help add to the supply of renewable energy.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The windows, with two panes of glass that are sealed together, have wires that can be connected either directly to something next to the window—such as a light or electronic blinds—or connected to a battery in the building or back into the electric grid.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The startup has spent several years developing the materials, including semiconductors that can selectively capture infrared and ultraviolet light, and ensuring that the product matches the performance and quality of nonsolar windows. Right now, at its pilot production facility in Redwood City, California, the company is making small window panels that have been installed in a handful of pilot locations, including the office building in Colorado. But it’s also preparing for larger-scale manufacturing, and developing processes to make the windows that can run on current window-manufacturing lines. “We’re bringing a disruptive product to market,” says Stone. “And we’re intentionally doing that without disrupting the supply chain.”


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Michigan State University [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

Andersen Corporation, the international window manufacturer, is one of the startup’s investors and participating in a recent $3o million Series B funding round. “Anderson led the industry in transitioning to insulated-glass units and pioneered the use of low-E coatings, all of which improved dramatically the energy performance of our windows, and both have now become an industry standard,” says Karl Halling, treasurer of Andersen Corp. “Andersen really sees this investment in this technology as a continuation of that legacy.”

As manufacturing scales up, Ubiquitous Energy expects the windows to be around 30% more expensive than conventional windows. But if the windows can replace standard glass, the impact could be significant. The company has estimated that there are 20 billion square feet of glass installed around the world annually, and if all of it was producing power, it would result in a 10% decrease in global emissions. “When you think about the impact that this can have,” says Stone, “it’s huge.”

Source:

Adele Peters at Fast Company



Taiwan soon to have more Gogoro electric scooter battery swap stations than gas stations

Taiwan soon to have more Gogoro electric scooter battery swap stations than gas stations


Electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro is famous for its battery-swapping network of GoStations that extensively covers its native Taiwan. The system has become so popular that it will soon eclipse the number of gas stations on the island nation.


Gogoro’s battery swap stations look something like a bright green and white vending machine.

Users of Gogoro’s batteries (which include scooters of many different brands thanks to its partnerships), simply roll up to a station and swap out their depleted battery for a freshly charged unit. A subscription service makes it a quick and easy process that takes just a few seconds.

At the end of 2021, Gogoro counted a total of 2,215 GoStations nationwide, according to the Taipei Times. The number of gas stations stood barely higher at 2,487.

At Gogoro’s current rate of expansion, 2022 very well may be the year that the number of GoStations surpasses the number of gas stations.

While that may be just an interesting factoid for Taiwan, it paints an important picture of what’s to come for much of Asia and the rest of the world.

Gogoro has aggressively expanded into major two-wheeler countries in the past year, where motorcycles and scooters make up a majority of the vehicles on the road in many cities.

Replacing those loud, polluting gas-powered vehicles with silent and emission-free electric scooters and motorcycles will make a large impact on these cities, measurable in both the decibel and air particulate levels.

This past April, Gogoro announced that it was entering the Indian market and partnering with Hero Motorcorp, the world’s largest motorcycle builder.

Gogoro followed up shortly afterwards with another announcement that it would enter the Chinese market thanks to a new three-way partnership with two-wheeler leaders Yadea and DCJ.

Barely another month went by before Gogoro announced yet another partnership, this time with massive manufacturer Foxconn to produce its electric scooters and swappable batteries.

The rapid expansion continued as Gogoro then announced a partnership with Gojek in November that would see expansion into the large Indonesian market.

Even as Gogoro expands across the Asian continent, its position in the local Taiwanese market grows stronger.

According to a Gogoro representative, 28% of all two-wheeled vehicles sold in Taipei last month were Gogoro-powered, with December marking Gogoro’s largest sales month ever.

The news comes as Gogoro prepares to go public on the Nasdaq via a SPAC deal that will see it listed under the ticker GGR.

When announced last year, the deal was expected to be finalized sometime this quarter.

Gogoro is just one company among dozens that are spreading electric scooters and motorcycles around the world.

But Gogoro’s innovative approach to its GoStations and the company’s rapid expansion has put it in a league of its own.

Seriously, just look at a graph of its domestic e-scooter sales compared to competitors.


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Now with so many companies jumping aboard the Gogoro train and putting the iconic green and black batteries in their own scooters, Gogoro is becoming something of a de facto standard in swappable batteries for light electric vehicles. Gogoro isn’t the only swappable battery game in town, but it is by far the largest. And perhaps a de facto standard is exactly what is needed to further accelerate the adoption of swappable battery technology for light EVs.

I just hope we get to see some light electric cars with a half dozen Gogoro batteries in back. Now that would make my day!

Source:

Micah Toll at ElecTrek