Tag: climate change

These Tree-Planting Drones Are About To Start An Entire Forest From The Sky

For the past five years, a group of villagers in the delta of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar has painstakingly planted 2.7 million mangrove trees in an attempt to begin to restore an ecosystem that has been disappearing for decades.

But the work is laborious, and the local nonprofit guiding the work wants to cover a much larger area–so they’re now turning to tree-planting drones.

The drones, from the startup BioCarbon Engineering, can plant as many as 100,000 trees in a single day, leaving the local community to focus on taking care of the young trees that have already started to grow.




Last September, the company will begin a drone-planting program in the area along with Worldview International Foundation, the nonprofit guiding local tree-planting projects.

To date, the organization has worked with villagers to plant an area of 750 hectares, about twice the size of Central Park; the drones will help cover another 250 hectares with 1 million additional trees.

Ultimately, the nonprofit hopes to use drones to help plant 1 billion trees in an even larger area.

The drone technology works in stages. As a first step, mapping drones fly more than 300 feet over the land, collecting detailed data about the topography and soil quality.

An algorithm uses that data to choose the best locations to plant trees, and the best species to plant.

Next, a second group of drones, flying low over the ground, automatically follows the map to plant seeds in custom, nutrient-filled “seed pods” designed by plant scientists to support each species.

Each drone can carry a mix of different species simultaneously. The drones fire the pods quickly enough to penetrate the soil.

The process targets locations for planting a seed within centimeters. “We can modify what to plant, and where, so you have the highest chance of survival,” says Irina Fedorenko, co-founder of BioCarbon Engineering, who initially connected with the founder of Worldview International at a conference.

“If you do aerial spreading–you just spread seeds wherever–maybe they hit a rock, maybe they hit a swamp, and they’re not going to survive. But we can basically control for that.”

It’s technically possible for a single drone pilot to oversee six of the drones simultaneously, reaching the maximum of 100,000 plantings in a day, though drone regulations in some countries require a pilot for every drone, making the process slightly slower.

The drones are at least 10 times faster than humans planting trees by hand, while the process can cost half as much.

In the U.K., where the test plots have been in place for more than a year, the trees are showing good rates of survival.

“[Survival rates are] definitely much better than spreading from a helicopter, which many people use,” says Fedorenko. “In some species, it’s comparable with hand planting.

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This City In Alaska Is Warming So Fast, Algorithms Removed The Data Because It Seemed Unreal

Last week, scientists were pulling together the latest data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly report on the climate when they noticed something strange: One of their key climate monitoring stations had fallen off the map.

All of the data for Barrow, Alaska — the northernmost city in the United States — was missing.

No, Barrow hadn’t literally been vanquished by the pounding waves of the Arctic Sea (although it does sit precipitously close).




The missing station was just the result of rapid, man-made climate change, with a runaway effect on the Arctic.

The temperature in Barrow had been warming so fast this year, the data was automatically flagged as unreal and removed from the climate database.

It was done by algorithms that were put in place to ensure that only the best data gets included in NOAA’s reports.

They’re handy to keep the data sets clean, but this kind of quality-control algorithm is good only in “average” situations, with no outliers. The situation in Barrow, however, is anything but average.

If climate change is a fiery coal-mine disaster, then Barrow is our canary. The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth, and Barrow is in the thick of it.

With less and less sea ice to reflect sunlight, the temperature around the North Pole is speeding upward.

The missing data obviously confused meteorologists and researchers, since it’s a record they’ve been watching closely, according to Deke Arndt, the chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch.

He described it as “an ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic.

Just this week, scientists reported that the Arctic had its second-warmest year — behind 2016 — with the lowest sea ice ever recorded.

The announcement came at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and the report is topped with an alarming headline: “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.

Changes in the Arctic extend beyond sea ice. Vast expanses of former permafrost have been reduced to mud. Nonnative species of plants, types that grow only in warmer climates, are spreading into what used to be the tundra.

Nowhere is this greening of the Arctic happening faster than the North Slope of Alaska, observable with high-resolution clarity on NOAA satellite imagery.

The current observed rate of sea ice decline and warming temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years, and likely longer than that,” the NOAA report says.

At no place is this more blatantly obvious than Barrow itself, which recently changed its name to the traditional native Alaskan name Utqiagvik.

In just the 17 years since 2000, the average October temperature in Barrow has climbed 7.8 degrees. The November temperature is up 6.9 degrees.

The December average has warmed 4.7 degrees. No wonder the data was flagged.

The Barrow temperatures are now safely back in the climate-monitoring data sets. Statisticians will have to come up with a new algorithm to prevent legitimate temperatures from being removed in the future.

New algorithms for a new normal.

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‘Megastorms’ That Throw Thousand-Tonne Boulders Over Clifftops May Be On Their Way Back Thanks To Global Warming

Standing atop a 60-foot cliff overlooking the Atlantic, James Hansen — the retired NASA scientist sometimes dubbed the “father of global warming” — examines two small rocks through a magnifying glass.

Towering above him is the source of one of the shards: a huge boulder from a pair locals call “the Cow and the Bull,” the largest of which is estimated to weigh more than 1,000 tons.

The two giants have long been tourist attractions along this rocky coast. Perched not far from the edge of a steep cliff that plunges down into blue water, they raise an obvious question: How did they get up here?




Compounding the mystery, these two are among a series of giant boulders arranged in an almost perfect line across a narrow part of this 110-mile-long, wishbone-shaped island.

Hansen and Paul Hearty — a wiry, hammer-slinging geologist from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington who has joined him here as a guide — have a theory about these rocks.

It’s so provocative — and, frankly, terrifying — that some critics wonder whether the man who helped spawn the whole debate about the dangers of climate change has finally gone too far.

The idea is that Earth’s climate went through a warming period just over 100,000 years ago that was similar in many ways to the warming now attributed to the actions of man.

And the changes during that period were so catastrophic, they spawned massively powerful superstorms, causing violent ocean waves that simply lifted the boulders from below and deposited them atop this cliff.

If this is true, the effort kicking off in Paris this week to hold the world’s nations to strict climate targets may be even more urgent than most people realize.

Hearty, an expert on Bahamas geology, first published in 1997 the idea that Cow and Bull were hurled to their perch by the sea.

Since then, Hansen has given the work much added attention by framing the boulders as Exhibit A for his dire view of climate change — which has drawn doubters in the scientific community.

But as Hansen examines the rocks on a recent morning, Hearty explains some of the evidence.

In particular, Hearty points out that the tiny grains that constitute the boulder rocks are more strongly cemented together and less likely to crumble than other rocks nearby, a sign that the boulders are older than what’s beneath them.

While there is a suggestion in the scientific literature that the boulders were simply left behind after surrounding rocks eroded away, Hearty and another leading Bahamas geology expert, Pascal Kindler of the University of Geneva in Switzerland, agree that the boulders are older than the surface upon which they rest and, thus, probably were moved by the sea.

Even the tourist placard near here takes their side, saying the ocean “lifted them atop the ridge.” But exactly how it could have done that is another matter.

Scientists have tended to attribute odd boulders such as these to tsunamis — there’s little doubt they have the power to move large rocks.

One recent study found that in the Cape Verde islands, 73,000 years ago, a 300-foot-high mega-tsunami carried boulders as large as 700 tons atop a cliff almost as high as the Eiffel Tower.

But more recent studies have also attributed large boulder movements to storms. And now into the fray has stepped Hansen, who, in 1988 testimony before Congress, put the climate issue on the map by contending — correctly, as it turned out — that global warming had already begun.

If he is also right about the boulders, Earth could be in for a rough ride.

And even if not, one thing is clear: Cow and Bull present a scientific mystery whose solution may serve as a reminder of just how violent and dynamic a planet we live on.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Scientists Develop ‘Speed Breeding’ To Feed Rising Population

Scientists are engaged in a race against time to breed staple crops that can both survive climate change and yield bigger harvests. Their aim is to feed a growing population in a warming world.

The method used for centuries of growing one crop a year in variable weather conditions and then selecting the seeds from the best plants is no longer viable in fast-changing climatic conditions.

Scientists are concerned that for some years there have been few improvements in yields of grain.

A new system called speed breeding, designed to grow six crops a year, has been developed in glasshouses to accelerate the process.




Using LED lighting to aid photosynthesis, intensive regimes allow the plants to grow for 22 hours a day.

This new form of lighting is a lot cheaper and also more efficient than using the old sodium vapor lamps that produced too much heat and not enough light.

Among the crops that can now be grown up to six generations a year are wheat, barley, peas and chickpeas. Canola, a form of rapeseed, can achieve four cycles.

Using this technology, scientists can study the way plants deal with diseases, and their shape and structure and flowering time, and the growing cycle can be repeated every eight weeks.

It is hoped the technique will yield new varieties of crops that can be grown on a commercial scale within 10 years.

If this could be achieved, it would increase productivity in the same way as the green revolution of the 1960s, when new crop varieties, modern farm practices, and use of fertilizers saved millions of people from starvation.

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This Behemoth Of A Scientific Instrument Was Launched Into Orbit So It Could Look Down On Earth To Monitor Its Climate

NCEI’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Climate Raw Data Record (C-RDR) is an intermediary product between the Raw Data Record (RDR) product and the many Sensor Data Record (SDR) products for the VIIRS instrument.

The VIIRS instrument is a key element of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, which was launched in October 2011.

VIIRS collects data in 22 spectral channels, from visible to longwave infrared, at two different spatial resolutions: 375 m and 750 m at nadir.

The VIIRS C-RDR contains all the raw measurements from the VIIRS RDR collected into time series variables. This simplifies access to the data for reprocessing using alternative calibration and geolocation methods.

The VIIRS C-RDR also provides the coefficients and tables used by the NESDIS Interface Data Processing Segment (IDPS) to convert the raw measurements to science units and calibrate them.




These data are all written to files using the Network Common Data Form 4 (netCDF-4) format, which is platform-independent, binary, hierarchical, and self-describing.

Each variable within a VIIRS C-RDR file is annotated with a description of the measurement, information about the source, and specifications of valid limits and fill values.

Each VIIRS C-RDR file also contains file-level metadata conforming to the Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata conventions, the Attribute Convention for Dataset Discovery (ACDD), and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) standards for Suomi NPP data products.

Metadata elements, such as granule IDs, which are found in Suomi NPP data product files, are also present in C-RDR files as an aid to understanding the provenance and processing history of the VIIRS C-RDR files.

A number of existing software applications (IDL, MATLAB, etc.) can easily read the variables contained within VIIRS C-RDR files.

Users can also easily access the file contents in their own applications by employing netCDF libraries that are available for FORTRAN, C, C++, Java, or Python.

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Why Renewable Energy Is Good For Business?

Gone are the days where a focus on renewable energy can be relegated to the “environmentally conscious.”

Now, issues surrounding commercial alternative energy solutions encompass a company’s financial performance as well as its corporate social responsibility.

As a result, an increasing number of organizations are taking a deeper look into the benefits of renewable energy for business.




In October last year, the Energy Collective reported that well-known brands including Apple, Bank of America and General Motors are not only looking to reduce their environmental impact but are actively gaining a competitive edge over other companies by investing in and utilizing renewable energy.

These corporations are leveraging their clean energy usage to bolster their business sustainability strategies and financial success. The article states:

Early adopters are building a critical advantage by being ahead of this market …

And goes on to conclude:

… the buying or selling of renewable power directly to corporations will be a barometer of success for businesses of all types.

Far from being simply a fad, investing in renewable energy is taking the stage like never before. Here’s why businesses are taking the concept of using renewable energy seriously:

  1. Consumers are evaluating and prioritizing companies that are committed to reducing and/or eliminating dependence on fossil fuels.
    The Apple brand isn’t only loved for its great technology. Recently, the company illustrated its dedication to sustainability planning by announcing goals for 100% clean energy reliance
  2. Government regulations will likely soon have an even bigger impact on companies and their energy usages.
    In the US, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan may have a significant role in putting the pressure on businesses for clean energy use.
  3. Companies are seeing the advantage of investing in renewable energy initiatives, and the possibility of financial savings.
    A major player in this effort is the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), which is an organization that helps businesses understand the advantages of moving to renewables, and has over 100 major corporate buyers on its roster.

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Artificial Volcanoes Designed To Reverse Global Warming Could Risk Natural Disasters

Efforts are underway to reverse global warming by mimicking volcanic eruptions but such dramatic interventions should be approached with caution, according to a new study.

When volcanoes erupt they spew sulphate particles into the air, cooling the Earth by creating a shield that reflects sunlight away from its surface.

By emitting similar particles into the stratosphere, some scientists have suggested we could imitate this process and reverse climate change in a process termed solar geoengineering.

But creating artificial volcanic eruptions might be as dangerous as it sounds.




New research published in Nature Communications suggests that while geoengineering may indeed have positive impacts, it could also have catastrophic effects in parts of the world already battered by natural disasters.

The researchers used simulations to examine the effect that geoengineering would have on tropical cyclone frequency in the North Atlantic.

While aerosol injections in the northern hemisphere decreased projected cyclone frequency, when applied in the southern hemisphere they could actually enhance cyclone risk.

To make matters worse, the team’s simulation suggested that the positive effects in the northern hemisphere would be offset by an increase in droughts in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa – an area already ravaged by desertification.

The prospect of geoengineering climates may seem remote, but scientists are already engaged in large-scale projects to investigate its feasibility.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 sent planet-cooling aerosols into the atmosphere.

One team at Harvard University estimates the whole planet could be solar geoengineered for the “very inexpensive” cost of $10bn.

Dr Jones and his team suggest that while such endeavours might have positive effects they need to be dealt with on an international scale.

If solar geoengineering were ever to occur, it would have to be in a uniform fashion,” he said.

We are extremely concerned that there is no regulation to stop a country doing geoengineering now. This hasn’t been taken seriously by policymakers so far, and that taboo needs to end.

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According To Researchers, Global Carbon Emissions Rising Again After Brief Plateau

For three years in a row, the world’s carbon emissions were virtually stable — holding steady after decades of growth.

But now they’re on the rise again, which is bad news for efforts to fight climate change, according to a team of researchers who have released a new study on the topic.

Seventy-six scientists from around the world contributed to the Global Carbon Project, or GCP, which released its annual “Carbon Budget” yesterday.

The budget estimates that total global carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industrial sources will rise by 2 percent in 2017.

There’s a fair amount of uncertainty in that projection, with possible values from .8 percent to 3 percent — but the researchers are confident it represents an overall rise, fueled in part by changes in the Chinese economy.




The anticipated change is a “big rise,” lead author Corinne Le Quéré tells NPR. “And this is contrary to what is needed in order to tackle climate change.

It’s a shift from the more hopeful findings from the last few years. From 2014 to 2016, according to the GCP analysis, the rate of emissions was basically flat.

Scientists agree that a reduction in carbon emissions is necessary to keep the global warming at 2 degrees Celsius or less, the target established by the global accord on climate change.

That level of climate change is still projected to have a range of damaging effects, including devastation for some island nations — but it will be far from the worse-case scenario projected if emissions continue to rise.

The increase in carbon emissions is not distributed evenly around the world.

The U.S. and the countries of the European Union, which once generated nearly all of the world’s fossil-fuel and industrial carbon emissions, now contribute less than half of the world’s cumulative emissions.

Their contributions are expected to continue to fall in 2017, albeit at a lower rate than they had previously been falling.

Annual Global Fossil Fuel And Cement Emissions
Total global emissions from fossil fuels and cement production (which the Global Climate Project analyzes to quantify industrial carbon output) have been rising, in general, for decades. The pace had slowed to a near standstill over the last three years. This year, however, researchers anticipate a 2 percent rise in the annual release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and industry.

Emissions from China, India and the rest of the world, however, are projected to show marked increase in 2017.

The result is “an emissions tug-of-war,” as the CICERO Center for International Climate Research put it in a press release.

That makes it hard to tell what’s going to happen next, because the trend is “so fragile,” as Le Quéré told NPR yesterday.

It’s the difference between emissions rising in parts of the world and decreasing in other parts of the world,” she says. Overall? “Frankly, it could really go either way.

And it’s crucial for that upward trend to start moving down, and quickly, she says.

She points to already-evident consequences of global warming: warmer oceans that can fuel more powerful storms and rising sea levels that cause more devastating coastal surge damage.

In order to tackle climate change emissions you have to go down to almost zero” emissions, she says. “The faster we do it, the more we limit the risks from climate change.

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Scientists Are Delighted To Discover That Eleanor The Sea Turtle Survived Unscathed After Tropical Storm

As seas get warmer, Earth is experiencing more powerful storms and hurricanes.

There are consequences for both humans and animals, and one of the concerns is marine animals – especially endangered species such as certain whales, manatees, sharks and sea turtles.

But new research has revealed that severe weather is not necessarily harmful to individual adult sea turtles – when researchers tracked a sea turtle during a tropical storm, they found that she survived the storm without any problems.

A team of Danish, American and Australian researchers conducted a study in 2012 which involved monitoring sea turtles fitted with GPS transmitters and motion sensors off the coast of Sarasota Florida.




One of the sea turtles, a loggerhead named Eleanor, was unexpectedly caught in a tropical storm, giving the researchers a unique opportunity to see how a sea turtle would cope with a storm.

We were delighted to find that she rode out the storm in style without any problem,” says Maria Wilson, a biologist at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

We know little about how sea turtles manage during hurricanes and tropical storms.

Storms could blow sea turtles off course, or surviving a storm could be so exhausting that it drains energy reserves and thus the ability to survive and produce eggs, thereby having a negative impact on the next generation of sea turtles,” explains Wilson.

A team of Danish, American and Australian researchers conducted a study in 2012 which involved monitoring sea turtles fitted with GPS transmitters and motion sensors off the coast of Sarasota Florida.

One of the sea turtles, named Eleanor, was unexpectedly caught in a tropical storm, giving the researchers a unique opportunity to see how a sea turtle would cope with a storm.

Eleanor was tagged for 16 days, four of which were during the storm, and data from the GPS and animal motion tags showed that she drastically changed behavior when the storm struck.

She was inactive for most of the first 9 days, during which she rested at on the seabed 80 per cent of the time with low levels of oxygen consumption.

Eleanor the sea turtle was caught in tropical storm Debby, which passed through through the Mexican Gulf between June 23 – 27, 2012 and caused extensive flooding in Florida, reaching wind speeds of up to 100 kph.

She was at sea in the Mexican Gulf in the egg-laying season when she was hit by the storm, and consequently, she had already nested on one of Florida’s beaches and had returned to the sea to replenish her energy reserves before coming back to lay more.

Eleanor was tagged for 16 days, four of which were during the storm, and data from the GPS and animal motion tags showed that she drastically changed behavior when the storm struck.

Before the storm, she rested on the seabed, moving only to go to the surface air.

When the storm struck, she moved further North than the researchers expected because she was forced by prevailing currents.

She also changed her diving patterns, becoming much more active instead of saving energy for the next egg-laying event.

Even though Eleanor swam for most of the four days the storm raged, she was good at saving energy, ending up actually using no more than she would normally use to produce 12 eggs,” says Wilson.

Given that sea turtles lay somewhere between 300 and 900 eggs during a nesting season, that’s not much.

The researchers calculated Eleanor’s energy consumption based on motion sensors (3D accelerometers and gyroscopes – a device used to measure orientation), which detected when she was swimming.

How much energy a swimming turtle uses had been determined from earlier experiments in the laboratory, making it possible to estimate how much energy they use at sea.

Even though it may seem that sea turtles are robust enough to avoid being harmed during storms, such a powerful storm can still be a major threat to them.

Sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach, and their nests are extremely vulnerable to passing storms,” Wilson says.

The storm that Eleanor easily survived destroyed almost 90% of nests on the beach where she and several hundred other female turtles had laid their eggs.”

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How Do We Know That Global Warming Is Real?

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history.

Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era and of human civilization.

Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.




Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale.

This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.

Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA.

There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels.

Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks.This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

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Pass it on: New Scientist