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Climate Change Could Open Up ‘Rivers in The Sky’ Over East Asia

Climate Change Could Open Up ‘Rivers in The Sky’ Over East Asia

We know that the climate crisis is already having a profound effect on global weather systems, altering temperatures, rainfall, wind patterns, and more – and a new study predicts likely deluges over the mountainous parts of East Asia in the future.

The pouring rain will be brought on by atmospheric rivers, scientists predict. These narrow corridors of concentrated moisture can quickly cause flooding when they hit a barrier such as a mountain range, releasing vast amounts of water in a short space of time.

According to the researchers’ models, rainfall events in East Asia will be more frequent and more severe in the coming decades as the planet warms up. More water will be transported through the air, and more precipitation will land on the ground.

“We find that both the atmospheric river-related water vapor transport and rainfall intensify over the southern and western slopes of mountains over East Asia in a warmer climate,” write the researchers in their published paper.

“Atmospheric rivers will bring unprecedented extreme rainfall over East Asia under global warming.”

Generally speaking, atmospheric rivers pick up moisture from warmer areas and deposit it over colder regions. Their movements are controlled by changes in wind and temperature – just the sort of changes that climate change can bring about.

When it comes to regions such as Japan, Taiwan, northeastern China, and the Korean Peninsula, the rainfall could reach record-breaking levels, the study reports. Most rain will land on the southwestern slopes of the Japanese Alps.

To reach their conclusions, the scientists ran simulations based on meteorological data collected from 1951 to 2010, modeling that data out to the year 2090 and assuming an increase in temperature in line with the more extreme scenarios of climate change.

“We used high-resolution global atmospheric circulation model simulations as well as regional climate model downscaling simulations,” says environmental scientist Yoichi Kamae from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

""A radar scan showing atmospheric river movement. (Y. Kamae et al., Geophysical Review Letters, 2022)

There has been plenty of previous research into these atmospheric rivers, but it’s still not fully clear how these bands of moisture will change as the climate does – especially as their behavior is determined by topological features as well as the movements of warmer and cooler air.

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Extreme weather events – including powerful heat waves and devastating floods – are now the new normal, says the World Meteorological Organisation.

For some regions, increased rainfall will be a benefit; for others, extreme weather conditions could cause dangerous, life-threatening flooding. This is just the latest link between climate change and an increasing frequency of extreme weather events.

The researchers say that the modeling could also apply to other areas where atmospheric rivers might develop. While a lot of uncertainty remains, it seems probable from this and other studies that certain parts of the globe are going to see a lot more rainfall in the coming decades.

“Our findings are likely also applicable to other regions of the mid-latitudes where interactions between atmospheric rivers and steep mountains play a major role in precipitation, such as in western North America and Europe,” says Kamae.

“These regions may also experience more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events as the climate warms.”

The research has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.


David Nield at Science Alert

Shell’s massive carbon capture facility in Canada emits far more than it captures

Shell’s massive carbon capture facility in Canada emits far more than it captures

The “Quest” plant in Alberta, Canada, owned by oil giant Shell, has previously been touted as a “thriving example” of how CCS is working to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

One of the only facilities in the world that uses carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) to reduce the emissions of hydrogen production has been found to emit far more greenhouse gas emissions than it captures.

The Quest plant in Alberta, Canada, owned by oil giant Shell and designed to capture carbon emissions from oil sands operations and safely store them underground, has previously been touted as a “thriving example” of how CCS is working to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

However, an investigation by watchdog group Global Witness, published last week, showed that while 5 million tons of carbon dioxide had been prevented from escaping into the atmosphere at the plant since 2015, it also released 7.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases over the same period.

The investigation noted that, per year, that’s the equivalent carbon footprint of 1.2 million gasoline cars.

It means just 48% of the plant’s carbon emissions were captured, according to the report. That’s far short of the 90% carbon capture rate promised by the industry for these types of projects in general.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for Shell told CNBC via email that Global Witness’ analysis was “simply wrong” and stressed that the Quest facility was designed to capture around a third of carbon dioxide emissions.

Energy transition

Proponents of CCS believe these technologies will play an important role in meeting global energy and climate goals. And using CCS alongside hydrogen production, which is sometimes referred to as “blue hydrogen” or “fossil hydrogen,” has been pushed by the oil and gas industry as a potential solution to the energy transition.

Climate researchers, campaigners and environmental advocacy groups have repeatedly admonished CCS as a climate solution, however, arguing that not only do these technologies have a history of failure, but backing these projects prolongs our reliance on the fossil fuel industry and distracts from a much-needed pivot to renewable alternatives.

“Oil and gas companies’ promotion of fossil hydrogen is a fig leaf for them to carry on with their toxic practices – the extraction and burning of fossil fuels,” Dominic Eagleton, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness, said in a statement.

“The single best way for companies like Shell to help tackle the climate crisis is to phase out all fossil fuel operations, rather than find ways to hide their climate-wrecking activity behind false solutions.”

The burning of fossil fuels such as oil and gas is the chief driver of the climate emergency and researchers have repeatedly stressed that the best weapon to tackle rising global temperatures is to cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.

Yet, even as politicians and business leaders publicly acknowledge the necessity of transitioning to renewable alternatives, current policy trends show that our reliance on fossil fuels is not likely to go away — or even decline — any time soon.

‘Demonstration project’

Shell’s Quest CCS facility opened in late 2015 near Edmonton, Alberta and is part of the group’s Scotford complex, where hydrogen is produced for use in refining oil sands bitumen (a type of petroleum deposit). The Quest plant does not cover the emissions for the entire facility.

“Our Quest facility was designed some years ago as a demonstration project to prove the underlying CCS concept, while capturing around a third of CO2 emissions. It is not a hydrogen production facility,” the Shell spokesperson said.

“The hydrogen projects we’re planning – like Polaris – will use a new technology that captures more than 90% of emissions. Global Witness are comparing apples with pears.”

Shell announced plans in July last year to build a large-scale CCS project called Polaris at its Scotford refinery and chemicals plant. The initial phase is expected to start operations in the middle of the decade subject to an investment decision by the company next year.

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The world’s biggest carbon-capture plant – which sucks carbon dioxide out of the air – just opened. A UN report says carbon capture technology is necessary if the world wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. But many experts think the tech is too expensive and not scalable in the next few decades.

A ‘serious blow’ to fossil hydrogen

Global Witness said its findings are likely to deliver a “serious blow” to fossil hydrogen proponents pushing for more public funds to support its use, noting that $654 million of the $1 billion costs of Shell’s Quest facility stemmed from Canadian government subsidies.

Eagleton described the analysis as “yet another nail in the coffin” for claims made by the oil and gas industry that fossil hydrogen is climate-friendly.

“Governments cannot let the wool be pulled over their eyes to invest vital public funds in projects that will not deliver what’s needed to avert climate disaster. Instead, they should use that money to end our reliance on fossil fuels and direct it towards renewable alternatives,” Eagleton said.

Commenting on the report, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said via Twitter on Saturday: “This is exactly what happens when people in power care more about their reputation and imagery than to actually reduce emissions.”


Sam Meredith at CNBC

Scientists find there are 70% fewer pollinators, due to air pollution

Scientists find there are 70% fewer pollinators, due to air pollution

Air pollution significantly reduces pollination by confusing butterflies and bees, lessening their ability to sniff out crops and wildflowers

Insects provide pollination of important food crops and native wildflowers, but researchers sought to understand how air pollution affects different pollinating insect species, of which, some rely on scent above all other senses.

Scientists studying air pollutants from both urban and rural environments found that there are up to 70% fewer pollinators, up to 90% less flower visits, and an overall 31% in pollination reduction in test plants when there were several common ground-level air pollutants present – including diesel exhaust pollutants and ozone.

Common air pollutants are diminishing the insect’s pollination by inhibiting them from sniffing out the crops and wildflowers that depend on them. Pollination supports around 8% of the total value of agricultural food production worldwide and is a huge contributor to food security and the economy.

The study, published in Environmental Pollution, highlights the negative impact of common air pollutants on pollination in the natural environment. The researchers theorise that the pollutants react with and change the scents of flowers, making them harder to find.

Diesel fumes can alter floral odours

Pollution could contribute to the continual decline of pollinating insects, by making it harder for them to locate their food (pollen and nectar), and previous laboratory studies have shown that diesel fumes can alter floral odours.

The study used a purpose-built fumigation facility to regulate levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) – present in diesel exhaust fumes – and ozone in an open field environment. The researchers observed the effects these pollutants had on the pollination of black mustard plants by free-flying, locally-occurring, pollinating insects over the course of two summer field seasons.

The study only used pollution concentrations below maximum average levels, equating to 40-50% of the limits currently defined as safe for the environment by US law. These concentrations of pollution are minor in comparison, with the far higher levels of pollution that occur around the world due to breaches of regulations.

In 2019, outside of London, an analysis revealed illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide were recorded in local authorities in large areas of northern England, including Cheshire and Gateshead, and south England, including Wiltshire, Chichester and rural areas such as the New Forest.

“The impacts we found in the field were much more dramatic than we had expected.”

Dr Robbie Girling, Associate Professor in Agroecology at the University of Reading, who led the project, said: “We knew from our previous lab studies that diesel exhaust can have negative effects on insect pollinators, but the impacts we found in the field were much more dramatic than we had expected.”

Dr James Ryalls, a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow at the University of Reading, who conducted the study, added: “The findings are worrying because these pollutants are commonly found in the air many of us breathe every day. We know that these pollutants are bad for our health, and the significant reductions we saw in pollinator numbers and activity shows that there are also clear implications for the natural ecosystems we depend on.”

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70% of all crop species depend on pollination

The analysis of data exposed there were 62-70% fewer pollinator visits to the plants located in polluted air.

This decrease was seen in numerous pollinator groups – particularly bees, moths, hoverflies and butterflies – and based on seed yield and other factors, there were also 83-90% fewer flower visits by these insects, and ultimately a 14-31% reduction in pollination.

Researchers predict that these findings will have wide ranging implications as insect pollination delivers hundreds of billions of pounds worth of economic value every year. It supports around 8% of the total value of agricultural food production worldwide, with 70% of all crop species – including apples, strawberries and cocoa – relying on it.

Dr Christian Pfrang, Reader in Atmospheric Science at the University of Birmingham and a co-author on the study, said: “This truly cross-disciplinary work demonstrated very clearly how atmospheric pollutants negatively impact on pollination with direct consequences for food production as well as the resilience of our natural environment.”

Scientists from the University of Reading, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the University of Birmingham are continuing studies into the effects of air pollution on insect health and their interactions with the environment.


Open Access Government

Harder than concrete but much more ecological: ByFusion turn tons of non-recyclable plastic into building blocks

Harder than concrete but much more ecological: ByFusion turn tons of non-recyclable plastic into building blocks

As much as we fight against single-use plastics, millions of tons continue to be produced. Some are reused, but there is a large amount of plastic that cannot be recycled. Fortunately, there are some solutions to reuse this huge amount of material.

That’s what Los Angeles-based company ByFusion does. Through a vaporization and compression process, they shape the plastics into blocks that they call ByBlocks and can be used for construction as they have a resistance as high as concrete.

More than 100 tons of plastic have already been turned into blocks

Byfusion plastic blocks

ByFusion blocks are strong enough to be used in any type of construction. We talk from houses to bus stops, passing through walls and other types of barriers. Its base size is 16 x 8 x 8 inches, which is about 40 x 20 x 20 centimeters .

As described by the company, the blocks are lighter than their equivalent in cement. Approximately 4.5 kilos less. But they claim they are just as durable.

The true innovation of this company is not the blocks, but the machine that allows them to be compacted. These machines are called Blockers. Blockers can turn tons of plastic into blocks without the need to classify or clean them.

ByFusion currently has one of these machines installed at its headquarters with the capacity to process up to 450 tons of plastic per year. The intention is to have up to 12 of these machines before the end of the year. To date, the company claims that it has already compacted 103 tons of non-recyclable plastic.

House made of plastic blocks

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The Dutch studio’s limited-edition collection titled The Elements, showcasing wave-like 3D encoded beach furniture, is digitally manufactured from 80 per cent recycled plastic.

This company intends to distribute its machines on a large scale so that companies and municipalities can reuse all the non-recyclable plastic.

Among the uses that have been given to these blocks is the construction of a house. Of course, as part of these plastics can be susceptible to sunlight, the company explains that they must be covered with resistant paint designed for exteriors.

In the creation process, no type of glue or addition is incorporated. If we have 20 kilos of garbage, the material will be enough to make 20 kilos of blocks. An ingenious solution that can be an interesting patch to take advantage of all those plastics that should disappear, but unfortunately they are still very present.



Giant canyon discovered underneath Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica, revealing history behind rising sea levels

Giant canyon discovered underneath Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica, revealing history behind rising sea levels

Australian Antarctic expeditioners have discovered an enormous, 2-kilometre-deep canyon underneath a glacier that may make it more vulnerable to warming oceans.

The discovery also indicates the Vanderford Glacier in East Antarctica once extended 60km further than it currently does and had a significant role in rising sea levels.

Voyage leader Lloyd Symons said the canyon extended at least 3.5km underneath the glacier, which might be influencing how quickly the ice was melting.

“The fact that there is such a deep canyon beneath this glacier would perhaps allow the possibility for warming waters to get underneath the glacier,” Mr Symons told the ABC.

“One of the issues for Antarctic glaciers at the moment is them being eaten away from underneath by warming waters coming down from the north.”

The Southern Ocean circulates warming waters from around the world, pushing them deep towards Antarctica where they lap against the colder ice.

Large glacier in Antarctica sits in sea
The Vanderford Glacier is slowly sliding into a warming Southern Ocean, contributing to rising sea levels.(ABC News: Henry Belot)

“If there is a deep channel underneath this glacier, then it’s possible that may not bode well for the Vanderford Glacier, but that, of course, requires further study,” Mr Symons said.

Satellite data from NASA indicates the surface height of the Vanderford Glacier has shrunk by about two metres since 2008.

East Antarctica has long been considered to be less affected by climate change than West Antarctica, which is below South America.

But recent studies of NASA satellite images indicate that is beginning to change, particularly around Vincennes Bay where the Vanderford Glacier ends.

A 3d image of a sectino of antarctica showing a long canyon in the middle in green
A 3D model of the canyon found under the Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica.(Supplied)

Trench indicates where glacier once stood

The 60km trench extending away from the glacier is likely to indicate where it once stood before melting.

“This immense canyon that we have found really just gives us a very clear indication of just how big this glacier was perhaps tens of thousands of years ago,” Mr Symons said.

The discovery was made by Australia’s new icebreaking ship, Nuyina, while testing cold water systems near the glacier and Australia’s largest research station, Casey.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley described the discovery as “stunning” and early proof that Nuyina’s acoustic technology was world leading.

“The Nuyina is demonstrating that Australia has opened the door to new levels of polar research that will help us unlock secrets of Southern Ocean maritime ecosystems, strengthen our reach inland and our understanding of the world’s climate,” Ms Ley said.

Large ship seen from above.
Expeditioners on Australia’s new icebreaking ship, Nuyina, made the discovery.(Australian Antarctic Division/Flying Focus)

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Floyd Howard was one of the acoustics officers who mapped the canyon over a 24-hour period.

“We were using the multi-beam echosounders to map the ocean floor as we were in an area with limited charts,” Mr Howard said.

“The multi-beam sends out sound that bounces off the seabed and then it listens to the echoes — like a bat or a dolphin — and measures how long they take to return back to the ship.

“You would expect there to be a glacial trough in front of the glacier from when sea levels were lower, but we didn’t expect it to be so deep and so spectacular.”

The findings will now be shared with glaciologists and climate scientists who will be able to determine the impact this canyon is having on the glacier.


Henry Belot at ABC News

The Cost of Lab-Grown Chicken Dropped by More Than Half in 2021

The Cost of Lab-Grown Chicken Dropped by More Than Half in 2021

2021 saw significant rises in consumer prices across all sorts of goods, one of them being food. Amid supply chain complications, labor shortages, and plant closures, meat prices shot up, in some cases to double what they’d been a year prior. Chicken was no exception, with consumers and restaurants paying up to 125 percent more than the typical baseline price.

There may soon be an unexpected solution, and it’s one that comes with the added bonuses of not harming any animals and having a far smaller environmental footprint. Last week Israeli company Future Meat Technologies announced that it’s producing cultured chicken breasts at a cost of $7.70 per pound, which comes out to about $1.70 per breast.

These figures are significant for a couple reasons. First is the speed with which the company has brought down its production costs. Just six months ago, Future Meat’s cost of making cultured chicken was around $18 per pound. To be well below half that in less than a year’s time means the company’s methodology is working better than even they expected; the cost reduction actually exceeded an 18-month projection the company put out in May.

Secondly, while $7.70 per pound is still not at price parity with farmed chicken, it’s getting closer. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the average price of a pound of chicken in November 2021 at $3.62. This already factors in costs like shipping and packaging, so the $7.70 figure will need to go down by more than 50 percent. But given the pace of reductions thus far, it seems reasonable to think that could happen within another year or two.

One significant factor that helped pull costs down was the company’s launch of a new factory this past June. The facility in Rehovot, Israel was the world’s first dedicated to producing cultured meat at scale, and makes burgers as well as chicken. At the time of the factory’s opening, Future Meat was producing cultured chicken breasts at a cost of $3.90 apiece, which broke a price record in the industry.

Unlike plant-based meat, which isn’t really meat at all and uses only plant-derived ingredients, cultured meat is made from animal cells. Cells are extracted from the animal’s tissue and fed with nutrients, oxygen, and moisture while being kept at the same temperature they’d be at inside the animal’s body. The cells divide and multiply then start to mature, with muscle cells joining to create muscle fibers and fat cells producing lipids.

Future Meat calls its process “media rejuvenation,” with animal cells fermenting in stainless steel vats as waste products are continuously removed to keep the physiological environment constant. The company says its method leads to yields 10 times higher than the industry standard while generating 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, using 99 percent less land and 96 percent less freshwater all while delivering the same nutritional value as traditional meat.

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The 3.7oz cultivated steak printed by MeaTech 3D. Photograph: Shlomi Arbiv/MeaTech 3D Ltd


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“We have consistently demonstrated that our single-cell technology and serum-free media formulations can reach cost parity faster than the market anticipates,” said Yaakov Nahmias, Future Meat’s founder and president. “We also demonstrated that our proprietary media rejuvenation technology enables cell densities greater than 100 billion cells per liter, translating to production densities 10-times higher than the industrial standard.”

It’s possible (rather, it’s likely) that the big drop in cost for chicken breast production was brought about primarily by the new factory and the scale it enabled, and cost reductions could plateau in the coming months. But Future Meat will have plenty of money to work with as it figures out how to further cut costs; last week the company announced it had raised $347 million in Series B funding, the largest investment ever made in cultured meat. Part of that will go towards starting construction on a second large-scale production facility, this one located in the US. A specific site has not yet been announced, but Future Meat plans to break ground on the new plant in 2022.

Factory farming isn’t going away anytime soon, but starting to supplement its meat with cultured meat will be a good first step towards reducing both the prices consumers pay for meat and the meat industry’s negative impact on the environment. There will still be the questions of getting regulatory approvals and waiting for consumer sentiment to catch up with cultured meat technology, but these will come with time.

Nahmias, for one, is highly optimistic. “I truly see the entire cultivated meat industry as a massive agent of change, creating a sustainable future for coming generations,” he said.


Vanessa Bates Ramirez at SingularityHub

Batteries get hyped, but pumped hydro provides the vast majority of long-term energy storage essential for renewable power – here’s how it works

Batteries get hyped, but pumped hydro provides the vast majority of long-term energy storage essential for renewable power – here’s how it works

To cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half within a decade, the Biden administration’s goal, the U.S. is going to need a lot more solar and wind power generation, and lots of cheap energy storage.

Wind and solar power vary over the course of a day, so energy storage is essential to provide a continuous flow of electricity. But today’s batteries are typically quite small and store enough energy for only a few hours of electricity. To rely more on wind and solar power, the U.S. will need more overnight and longer-term storage as well.

While battery innovations get a lot of attention, there’s a simple, proven long-term storage technique that’s been used in the U.S. since the 1920s.

It’s called pumped hydro energy storage. It involves pumping water uphill from one reservoir to another at a higher elevation for storage, then, when power is needed, releasing the water to flow downhill through turbines, generating electricity on its way to the lower reservoir.

Illustration of two open- and closed-loop hydro storage systems. Closed-loop systems use two reservoirs rather than running water.
Two types of pumped-storage hydropower; one doesn’t require a river. NREL

Pumped hydro storage is often overlooked in the U.S. because of concern about hydropower’s impact on rivers. But what many people don’t realize is that most of the best hydro storage sites aren’t on rivers at all.

We created a world atlas of potential sites for closed-looped pumped hydro – systems that don’t include a river – and found 35,000 paired sites in the U.S. with good potential. While many of these sites, which we located by satellite, are in rugged terrain and may be unsuitable for geological, hydrological, economic, environmental or social reasons, we estimate that only a few hundred sites are needed to support a 100% renewable U.S. electricity system.

Why wind and solar need long-term storage

To function properly, power grids must be able to match the incoming electricity supply to electricity demand in real time or they risk shortages or overloads.

There are several techniques that grid managers can use to keep that balance with variable sources like wind and solar. These include sharing power across large regions via interstate high-voltage transmission lines, managing demand – and using energy storage.

Aerial view of a pumped hydro project's two reservoirs and solar array on a dry landscape
The Kidston pumped hydro project in Australia uses an old gold mine for reservoirs. Genex Power

Batteries deployed in homes, power stations and electric vehicles are preferred for energy storage times up to a few hours. They’re adept at managing the rise of solar power midday when the sun is overhead and releasing it when power demand peaks in the evenings.

Pumped hydro, on the other hand, allows for larger and longer storage than batteries, and that is essential in a wind- and solar-dominated electricity system. It is also cheaper for overnight and longer-term storage.

Off-river pumped hydro energy storage

In 2021, the U.S. had 43 operating pumped hydro plants with a total generating capacity of about 22 gigawatts and an energy storage capacity of 553 gigawatt-hours. They make up 93% of utility-scale storage in the country. Globally, pumped hydro’s share of energy storage is even higher – about 99% of energy storage volume.

Pump hydro projects can be controversialparticularly when they involve dams on rivers that flood land to create new reservoirs and can affect ecosystems.

Creating closed-loop systems that use pairs of existing lakes or reservoirs instead of rivers would avoid the need for new dams. A project planned in Bell County, Kentucky, for example, uses an old coal strip mine. Little additional land is needed except for transmission lines.

Satellite image showing potential pairings of reservoirs in a mountain area.
Examples from the atlas of off-river reservoirs with the potential to be paired for pumped hydro near Castle Rock, Colorado. Andrew BlakersCC BY

An off-river pumped hydro system comprises a pair of reservoirs spaced several miles apart with an altitude difference of 200-800 meters (about 650-2,600 feet) and connected with pipes or tunnels. The reservoirs can be new or use old mining sites or existing lakes or reservoirs.

On sunny or windy days, water is pumped to the upper reservoir. At night, the water flows back down through the turbines to recover the stored energy.

A pair of 250-acre reservoirs with an altitude difference of 600 meters (1,969 feet) and 20-meter depth (65 feet) can store 24 gigawatt-hours of energy, meaning the system could supply 1 gigawatt of power for 24 hours, enough for a city of a million people.

The water can cycle between upper and lower reservoirs for a hundred years or more. Evaporation suppressors – small objects floating on the water to trap humid air – can help reduce water evaporation. In all, the amount of water needed to support a 100% renewable electricity system is about 3 liters per person per day, equivalent to 20 seconds of a morning shower. This is one-tenth of the water evaporated per person per day in the cooling systems of U.S. fossil fuel power stations.

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Storage to support 100% renewables

Little pumped storage has been built in the U.S. in recent years because there hasn’t been much need, but that’s changing.

In 2020, about three-quarters of all new power capacity built was either solar photovoltaics or wind power. Their costs have been falling, making them cheaper to build in many areas than fossil fuels.

Australia is installing solar and wind three times faster per capita than the U.S. and is already facing the need for mass storage. It has two systems under construction that are designed to have more energy storage than all the utility batteries in the world put together; another dozen are under serious consideration. None involve new dams on rivers. The annual operating cost is low, and the working fluid is water rather than battery chemicals.

Shifting electricity to renewable energy and then electrifying vehicles and heating can eliminate most human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. has vast potential for off-river pumped hydro storage to help this happen, and it will need it as wind and solar power expand.


Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu & Matthew Stocks at The Conversation

Rare, pristine coral reef found off Tahiti coast

Rare, pristine coral reef found off Tahiti coast

Deep in the South Pacific, scientists have explored a rare stretch of pristine corals shaped like roses off the coast of Tahiti. The reef is thought to be one of the largest found at such depths and seems untouched by climate change or human activities.

Laetitia Hédouin said she first saw the corals during a recreational dive with a local diving club months earlier.

“When I went there for the first time, I thought, ’Wow — we need to study that reef. There’s something special about that reef,” said Hédouin, a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Moorea, French Polynesia.

What struck Hédouin was that the corals looked healthy and weren’t affected by a bleaching event in 2019. Corals are tiny animals that grow and form reefs in oceans around the world.

Globally, coral reefs have been depleted from overfishing and pollution. Climate change is also harming delicate corals — including those in areas neighboring the newly discovered reef — with severe bleaching caused by warmer waters. Between 2009 and 2018, 14% of the world’s corals were killed, according to a 2020 report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Project.

Rare, pristine coral reef found off Tahiti coast

Image 1 of 4

In this photo provided by @alexis.rosenfeld, researchers for the French National Centre for Scientific Research study corals in the waters off the coast of Tahiti of the French Polynesia in December 2021. Deep in the South Pacific, scientists have explored a rare stretch of pristine corals shaped like roses off the coast of Tahiti. The reef is thought to be one of the largest found at such depths and seems untouched by climate change or human activities. (Alexis Rosenfeld/@alexis.rosenfeld via AP)

The newfound reef, stretching 2 miles (3 kilometers), was studied late last year during a dive expedition supported by UNESCO. Unlike most of the world’s mapped corals, which are found in relatively shallow waters, this one was deeper — between 115 feet (35 meters) to 230 feet (70 meters).

Exploring such depths posed a challenge: the deeper a diver goes underwater, the shorter amount of time can be safely spent at each depth. The team was equipped with special tanks and did 200 hours of diving to study the reef, including taking photographs, measurements and samples of the coral.

The reef is in a spot where many researchers haven’t spent a lot of time in, said former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer Mark Eakin.

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The coral reefs of Aqaba have a resilience to warming waters seen nowhere else in the world


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.

“We’ll be seeing more of these discoveries as the technology is applied to these locations,” said Eakin. “We may find some bigger ones somewhere, but I think this is always going to be an unusual reef.”

The recent volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves across the Pacific has not affected the reef off Tahiti, said Hédouin.

Hédouin hopes the research can help experts understand how the reef has been resilient to climate change and human pressures, and what role these deeper corals might play in the ocean ecosystem. More dives are planned in the coming months.

“We know very little about the ocean, and there’s still so much that needs to be recorded, needs to be measured,” said Julian Barbière, the head of UNESCO’s marine policy and regional coordination.


Victoria Milko via Associated Press

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

An oil spill on the Peruvian coast caused by the waves from an eruption of an undersea volcano in the South Pacific nation of Tonga prompted dozens of fishermen to protest Tuesday outside the South American country’s main oil refinery.

The men gathered outside the refinery in the province of Callao near Lima’s capital. Peru’s environment minister, Rubén Ramírez, told reporters that authorities estimate 6,000 barrels of oil were spilled in the area rich in marine biodiversity.

Under the eyes of police, the fishermen carried a large Peruvian flag, fishing nets and signs that read “no to ecological crime,” “economically affected families” and “Repsol killer of marine fauna,” which referred to the Spain-based company that manages La Pampilla refinery, which processes around 117,000 oil barrels a day, according its website. They demanded to speak with company representatives, but no executive had approached them.

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

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A cyclist shows his oil-covered hands after stopping to put them into the polluted water on Cavero beach in Ventanilla, Callao, Peru, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, after high waves attributed to the eruption of an undersea volcano in Tonga caused an oil spill. The Peruvian Civil Defense Institute said in a press release that a ship was loading oil into La Pampilla refinery on the Pacific coast on Sunday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

The company did not immediately returned an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“There is a massacre of all the hydrobiological biodiversity,” said Roberto Espinoza, leader of the local fishermen. “In the midst of a pandemic, having the sea that feeds us, for not having a contingency plan, they have just destroyed a base of biodiversity.”

An Italian-flagged ship was loading oil into La Pampilla on Saturday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. Repsol in a statement Sunday said the spill occurred “due to the violence of the waves.”

The eruption caused waves that crossed the Pacific. In Peru, two people drowned off a beach and there were reports of minor damage from New Zealand to Santa Cruz, California.

On Tuesday, northwest of the facility, on Cavero beach, the waves covered the sand with a shiny black liquid, along with small dead crustaceans. Fifty workers from companies that work for Repsol inside the refinery removed the oil-stained sand with shovels and piled it up on a small promontory.

Juan Carlos Riveros, biologist and scientific director in Peru of Oceana – an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans – said that the species most affected by the spill include guano birds, seagulls, terns, tendrils, sea lions and dolphins.

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“The spill also affects the main source of work for artisanal fishermen, since access to their traditional fishing areas is restricted or the target species become contaminated or die,” Riveros said. “In the short term, mistrust is generated about the quality and the consumption of fishing is discouraged, with which prices fall and income is reduced.”

Peru’s environmental assessment and enforcement agency estimates that some 18,000 square meters of beach on Peru’s Pacific coast have been affected by the spill.

In a statement, the Peruvian agency said Repsol “has not adopted immediate measures in order to prevent cumulative or more serious damage that affects the soil, water, flora, fauna and hydrobiological resources.” An AP reporter on Monday observed workers dressed in white suits collecting the spilled oil with plastic bottles cut in half.

José Llacuachaqui, another local fisherman leader, who was watching the cleanup, said the workers were only collecting the oil that reached the sand, but not the crude that was in the seawater.

“That is preying, killing, all the eggs, all the marine species,” he said.


Franklin Briceno via Associated Press

Sahara Desert Experienced Snow For the 4th Time in 42 Years!

Sahara Desert Experienced Snow For the 4th Time in 42 Years!

The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world. It is considered to be one of the harshest environments on the planet that covers 3.6 million square miles (9.4 million square kilometers) or almost one-third of the African continent and about the size of the US, including Hawaii and Alaska.

The Sahara is most famous for its sand dune fields, which are often depicted in movies. It reaches almost 600 feet (183 meters) high but only covers 15% of the entire desert, according to Live Science. But it also has mountains, plateaus, sand- and gravel-covered plains, and many more.

With the scorching hot temperature in the desert, who would have thought that it would rain snow in one of the driest places on Earth? But it did happen over the past decades and is reportedly happening for the fourth time in 42 years this time. Although this seems to be astonishing, experts claim that the snowfall is unprecedented.

Rare Snowfall Leaves Unique Patterns on Sahara’s Sand Dunes

Last January 19, the Sahara desert was reportedly covered with snow. The snow was spotted outside the town of Ain Sefra northwest of Algeria wherein it created a unique pattern on the sand dunes. Local photographer Karim Boucheta took the photos of the sand dunes streaked with crystal ice and the unusual weather in the Sahara desert that have made headlines around the world.

The dusting marks on the sand dunes is the fourth tie that the desert experienced snow in 42 years, with previous occurrences recorded in the years 1979, 2016, and 2018. Unlike this year’s rare snowfall, previous snowfalls were a lot thicker and heavier. For instance, the 2016 blizzard dumped over 3 feet (1meter) in selected regions, while the 2018 snowfall left15 inches (40 centimeters) of snow.

According to NASA, the Sahara Desert is more likely to experience snowfall at higher altitudes, like the Atlas Mountains. The American space agency said that the 2018 snow dump was even visible from space. They added that the Moroccan side of the Atlas Mountains also saw some snowfalls in 2015 and 2012.

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Why Did It Snow In the Sahara Desert?

Ain Sefra is located near the border of Algeria and Morocco. It sits about 3,800 feet (1,000 meters) above sea levels and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains. During the summer season, the region’s temperature is usually 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

However, Sky News reported that this January it averaged on by about 57 F (14 C). The night before the recent ethereal display of frost in the Sahara Desert, the temperature was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius).

According to Paul Deanno Books, for any place to receive snowfall, it needs to have two weather factors: cold air and moisture. These factors are short in supply in Africa but not in Ain Sefra, which makes snow unusual but not impossible.

That means cold plus precipitation could result in snow even in the world’s driest place, which happened again for the fourth time in 42 years.


Erika P. at The Science Times