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Clean Energy Fuels in $150 Million Investment

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Clean Energy Fuels Corp, a California company that builds natural-gas fueling stations for heavy-duty trucks, is the proud beneficiary of new 150 million dollar investments in the form of 7.5% convertible notes due in 2016. The notes will be convertible into shares of Clean Energy common stock at $15 a share. The stock closed Thursday at $13.23.

A person close to the deal said that if the notes were converted they would amount to a little more than a 13% equity stake in Clean Energy Fuels.

The new investment, just a month after Chesapeake pledged $150 million to Clean Energy, underlines the increasing emphasis by companies such as Westport Innovations and General Motors on developing new technologies to replace pricey gasoline and diesel with cheaper natural gas fuels.

The Modern Energy Challenge

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

energy, industrial development, environmentPlenty of energy is consumed in the process of producing machines and other equipment we need to live easier and happier lives.

Industrial development makes life easier and more comfortable. Imagine living in a world without cars, TVs, computers, trains and planes. That is how life was only 200 years ago.

Industrial development would not have happened without concurrent discovery of ways to produce huge amounts of electrical energy.

Technological advancement has been accompanied by a huge environmental cost. There are two main problems regarding energy sources.

1. Most energy sources in the world like oil, coal and gas are finite and will one day become totally depleted.

2. Most energy sources (fossil fuels) produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases during combustion. Scientific research shows that these gases are responsible for climate changes that threaten life on earth.

Some scientists have argued that nuclear power could be used instead of fossil fuels as the main source of energy for electricity production. They argue that nuclear power plants are carbon friendly and they produce a lot of electricity using very little fuel.

Opponents of nuclear power say that disposal of spent fuel rods pose serious environmental problems. They also argue that technical problems in nuclear plants either due to human error or natural disasters could put lives of millions of people at risk.

The recent Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident on 11 March 2011 as a result of a massive tsunami has brought into focus the dangers posed by nuclear power stations.

A recent Lowy 2011 poll found 62% of Australians against nuclear power and 35% for. Germany has said it will shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022.

Check environment matters for kids pdf here.

Fossil fuels and nuclear reactors pose unique dangers to life on earth. However, it will take many years of investment in alternative energy sources like solar and wind before the world can become less dependent on dangerous energy sources.

Plenty of investment is required if we want to accelerate education and development of more clean energy sources.

Protection of carbonated Forest Through new palm-oil Contract

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

A prominent producer of Palm oil is now collaborating with environmental activists for the purpose of forest protection. The Indonesian corporation Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) has decided to work under the new regulations in order to protect forests that stock large quantities of Carbon.

This is being done in collaboration with and under the supervision of international environmental group The Forest Trust (TFT). This recent contract will be an extension to already existing regulations as fostered by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a worldwide coalition of producers, processors, retailers and environment groups.

Among the existing laws, RSPO prohibits the cutting of old forests and land associated with them, and those intending to develop in those areas are required to obtain formal consent from the residents of the land.

Extending the above mentioned law, the new deal proposes that the humates and the carbonized forests shall not be cleared under any circumstances.

The consequencies of this deal would be that those forest areas that have been, to some extent, cleared would not be allowed to be operated upon any further. As a rough initial estimate, 35 tonnes of carbon stored per hectare has been set as a limit, which could vary with the progress of the research.

Scott Poynton, the TFT’s executive director stated that these measures are not supposed to be in clash with PRSO, but only suggest ways to take proper measures towards this direction.

GAR is among the leading producers of palm-oil world-wide, which is being used in food and other utilities like cosmetics and fuel.

Throughout the years, like other major corporations operating on forests, GAR has also been criticized by environmental groups, and this criticism has moved GAR towards this initiative.

Franky Wijaya, GAR’s chairman and CEO said that being the leaders in palm oil industry, GAR has decided to play it’s role in the preservation of forests in Indonesia.

He further argued that GAR’s collaboration with TFT can result in producing palm oil in ways that would, on one hand, by quite harmless to the forests and on the other, be beneficial for progress, opening new doors for employment and assets.

This same year, TFT nailed down a contract with Swiss-based multinational food corporation, Nestle, to arrive at a mutual agreement that Nestle’s palm oil production would not result in the forest-damage.

These activities have sparked a discussion among the palm oil producers and it’s evident that in order to retain their markets, they need to come up with ways that would be beneficial them while not damaging the timberlands.

A pioneer among the forests activist NGOs, Greenpeace, has hailed this step as a huge positive initiative. According to campaigner Phil Aikman, this deal would prove to be a good example to follow for other palm oil producers.

He contended that such measures would protect the forests as well as the wild life that were in severe danger as a result of palm oil production. The deal directs the producers to come up with more efficient ways of production rather than damaging forests for their yield.

In past, such initiatives have generally failed due to negligence, but TFT intends to closely monitor the entire process from now on.

Intense Fires Can Create “Volcanic” Thunderclouds

February 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Scientists have discovered that intense fires have the power to create dirty thunderclouds that may be persuading the climate.  They stated that the dirty fire stimulated thunderstorms to the pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCbs) storms, just like volcanoes can funnel smoke and particulates above the atmosphere. These smoke palls may have unknown effects on Earth’s climate like warming and cooling the atmosphere.

Dirty Clouds Long Mistaken for Volcanic Ash

These pyrocumulonimbus clouds has been always mistaken for volcanic ash clouds but it was back 1979 that it was actually linked to crown fires, an intense forest fires. Storm clouds that is generally bigger, taller and darker than the normal thunderstorm clouds are often caused by the intense rising smoke and heat of crown fires.

These pyrocumulonimbus clouds are absorbing the crown fire’s smoke and aerosol particles and direct the pollutants as high as 11 miles above the atmosphere. Just like natural smokestacks, they exit the clouds and drift throughout the entire hemisphere and can linger for several months.

The smoke is cutting the precipitation process by preventing water molecules from forming together; it’s the reason why there are violent storms without much rain. Also, these clouds don’t drift but remain bonded to the blazes from which they were made, unlike normal thunderclouds.

Fire-Started Thunderstorms Can Wreak Havoc

These new discoveries drive scientists to adjust their computer climate models to be considered for the effects of these thunderclouds. In a number of occasions, stratospheric aerosol layers were believed to be caused by volcanic eruptions but it was found out that some of it was really from pyroCbs.

The smokes from these pyroCbs storms are very important since they could absorb radiation from the Sun causing changes in the weather and give warmth to the atmosphere. They may also considerably cool the air we breathe. It is really important to understand and study the storms because they are strong enough that can wreak havoc on us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology: Scientists Make Dozens of Storms in the Abu Dhabi Desert

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A Europe based company has claimed to be responsible for creating rain in the Abu Dhabi desert.

Though that claim is hard to verify but it certainly has raised a storm of doubt among leading weather modification experts. Other researchers and experts even said that there is no scientific basis for it and physics doesn’t support it.

In the mid-20th century, a typical weather modification effort was done, making use of natural clouds and attempt to “seed” them to produce precipitation. But Meteo Systems purports to create clouds themselves. According to them, their system uses arrays of 33 foot or a 10-meter electric tower that produces negatively charged ions. These ions bind with tiny solid and liquid particles and supercharging these particles will have the ability to form clouds and precipitation. But still experts have still doubts that the technique could work.

Ionization Effect

The ionization technology was first mentioned in 1890, and in 1946 General Electric executed some failed trials. But later the technology was used for military purposes in the former Soviet Union. But experts and researchers have been attempting ionization techniques for decades. Although they say that ionization could possibly have some effect under suitable meteorological conditions.

Data Analysis

Joseph Golden, a weather modification expert challenge those scientists involved in the project and trying to make it rain in the desert to “show him the data”. Though there may be a little chance of such transparency but Meteo Systems is closely guarding and protecting the secrets of potentially valuable technology they called WEATHERTEC.

Directors of Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, that in any way had been associated with the work of Meteo Systems, released a statement expressing distress. Also, they said that the rainstorms were part of unusual weather patterns in the Middle East last summer which certainly had nothing to do with very localized experiments in Abu Dhabi.

Playing God

In March 2010, UN based World Meteorological Organization expert team on weather modification met and issue a report that cautioned against this type of technology. They stated that weather modification technologies that claims to achieve such large-scale effects and don not have scientific bases should be treated with suspicion.

There are just people who are merely desperate to fool Mother Nature often spend for modification techniques that are always unproven at best. Just like farmers that invest thousands of dollars in those cannons to stop hail although in scientific evidence is that it doesn’t work. All these things are caused naturally by the rotation of the Earth, the energy of the Sun, and the moisture of the oceans and none of us can change it.

Some Types of Sharks Are Color-Blind, Retina Study Suggests

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

New research suggests that sharks are color-blind and even they may be able to smell blood from miles away but they most likely don’t know how red it is. Sharks have successfully lurked the oceans for million years, relatively because of their impressive suite of sensory systems, as well as their well-developed eyes and large area in the brain only devoted to vision.

Over the past decades, conflicting data have caused debates about whether sharks can see colors. Recently, study was conducted and scientists examined the retinas of 17 shark species caught off coast of eastern and Western Australia, it includes tiger sharks and bull sharks. A technique called microspectrophotometry had already previously showed that rays and chimaeras had color vision; both are close relatives of sharks. Retinas used two main types of light-sensitive cells allowing animals to see – rod cells help measure brightness and other various types of cone help distinguish colors.

Rod cells were the most common type of photoreceptor found in all 17 shark species that would mean that they would be able to see within a wide range of light levels. But no cone cells were observed in 10 of those 17 shark species and only one type of cone cell found to be present in 7 others. This implies that these sharks cannot tell different colors apart. The findings are excellent and a surprise that would definitely encourage more work.

Color-Blindness to Save Rare Sharks?

Many aquatic predators like whales, dolphins and seals also appears to be color-blind for the reason maybe in their mostly blue-green environments color vision is not in much use. Then according to the study team, it really makes a sense that sharks might really be color-blind. And if their discovery holds true for most shark species, it could be used then to help reduce the numbers of endangered sharks accidentally caught by fisheries and also preventing shark attacks on humans.

Since this may help in designing long line fishing lures that are less attractive to sharks and making swimming attires and suits that are less attractive to them since they have a lower visual contrast to sharks .

 

 

Technology: Climate patterns to Help Predict the Next Big Flood

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

The world has experienced large flooding events in 2010. But according to scientists, floods will be predictable with the next generation of climate-forecasting models. In American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference in San Francisco, Columbia University hydroclimatologist, Upmanu Lall said that flood risks can be predicted by studying climate patterns.

Lall said that similar to those made each year for the intensity of the upcoming hurricane season and climate scientist should be able to refine their models to be able to give long-term predictions of coming flood seasons.  He states that it’s possible to predict individual floods at individual locations that they may be able to identify the patterns that lead to more northerly floods in certain years, and more southerly floods in others.

The Ocean Connection

Each year, seasonal climate factors like jet stream, tropical storms and long-lived high-pressure zones, combine to direct water out of these areas in a focused way, producing “atmospheric rivers” of a water vapor capable of carrying more moisture than Amazon River.  Lall has examined the geographic distribution of hundreds of severe floods this decade. The data showed that damaging floods such as that stuck Pakistan were tied to ocean conditions and did not occur randomly.

According to him, moisture that caused 2010 floods were concentrated in a narrower than usual band of latitudes and that included Pakistan and Southern China. It is believed that climate change will carry more precipitation to northern regions and parts of Mediterranean, southerly ones will become drier.

Great Britain’s weather-forecasting agency, chief scientist at MET, Julia Slingo agrees and states that being flexible today will help us adapt as our climate changes. She was able to predict record flooding in Britain’s Lake District in 2009 with accuracy using local weather data. She’s even more optimistic than Lall by saying that she thinks that the magnitude of the 2010 Pakistan floods may be predicted about a week in advance.

2010 Not a Watershed Year for Floods

Lall found that there were relatively few severe flood events comparing to such, flood-ravaged year as 2002, 2003 and 2007. So as 2010 wasn’t actually a bad year for floods despite that disastrous flood in Pakistan. But human susceptibility to floods may be on rise.

This year’s Pakistan flood wasn’t exceptional despite leaving at least 1,500 dead and ruined millions of acres of agricultural. Since the same region even experienced a much bigger flood in 1929. The population in 2010 was more susceptible and now much larger population living along river banks.