Courtesy TaylorMilesScientists suspect that last year’s devastating earthquake in China may not have been a natural disaster. A nearby dam may have weakened fault lines and spurred the magnitude-7.9 quake.
The Zipingpu Dam is only 3.4 miles from the epicenter of the May 12, 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province. This quake killed 80,000 people and left 5 million homeless. Although the area exhibits a lot of seismic activity, an earthquake of this magnitude is unusual.
Water in the Zipingpu Dam
The Zipingpu Dam is one of nearly 400 hydroelectric dams in the area. It rises 511 feet high and holds 315 million tons of water. US and Chinese scientists believe that the weight of the water increased the direct pressure on the fault line below. This volume of water would exert 25 times more pressure annually than is natural. Additionally, water seeping into the rock acted as a lubricant and relaxed the tension between the two sides of the fault line. Since the reservoir was filled in 2004, the water caused a chain of ruptures culminating in this massive earthquake.
Worldwide impact on green energy
Sichuan province is the epicenter for more than just a powerful earthquake. It is here that most of China’s hydroelectric power is generated, an integral component of its renewable power plans. The area also produces much of the world’s wind turbine equipment. The infrastructure will take months or years to repair.
Before the quake, China admitted to major flaws in the country’s 87,000 dams. The earthquake damaged other dams and power stations and several major reservoirs were drained to prevent their dams from failing.
Based on a ranking of the annual energy savings made by technology improvements to commercial buildings, the Twin Cities ranks eighth nationally. Topping the list (in order) are Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston. The full report and details can be found here. Interestingly, major cities not making the top ten include New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit. This USA Today report also includes a quiz you can take to find out the eco-friendly score of the place where you live.
Courtesy AugneblinkenDon't tell me I'm not looking out for y'all's best interests, Buzzketeers.
I recently received a very secret tip, about some very secret mountains hiding under the antarctic ice.
Actually, nobody is totally surprised that there are mountains on Antarctica—these mountains under the glaciers were first discovered something like 50 years ago—but the region has only recently received detailed mapping with ground penetrating radar, and the mountains have been revealed to be very Alpine in nature. That is, they have high, sharp peaks, and deep, er... what's the opposite of sharp... not dull, but like the inverse of... whatever. The mountains have deep valleys. Sharply cleft valleys, we'll say.
It's interesting information because it tells us something about how these massive (about 2 miles thick!) slabs of ice formed: quickly. If the glaciers had formed slowly, the mountains would probably have been ground down do just about nothing by now. But that's not the case.
Perhaps more significantly, knowing more about the character of these glaciers can tell us something about how they might melt if Antarctic temperatures rise significantly with global warming. 2-mile-thick chunks of ice hold lots of water, enough to significantly change sea levels if it all became liquid.
And certainly most importantly is the investment opportunity this presents. I don't know much about real estate. Or the Alps. Or money. But don't people love the Alps? And spend lots of money to be around them, and slide down them on things? Something like that. So c'mon, kidz. Let's move on this! With all the coasts gone, people are going to be searching for new tourism destinations! These mountains could be ours!
Whatever. Check out the article.
Research showing that the glaciers of Glacier National Park might be gone by 2030 was wrong. New aerial surveys of the park's glaciers found them to be retreating faster than previously thought. Park scientists with the USGS now think the park could be glacierless by 2020.
Rivalries are common between college campuses – who's got the better football team, the tastier dorm food or the coolest parties. But in Northfield, Minn., where rival colleges Carlton and St. Olaf are located on opposite sides of the town, there's a growing intense rivalry over wind-power turbines. Read more about it here.
Courtesy Mark RyanTwo recent stories in the news highlight environmental issues with Earth’s oceans. The first deals with how the oceans’ pH levels are changing at a much faster rate than normally due to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The second concerns the rise of sea levels due to climate change.
With the first story, Prince Albert II of Monaco and over 150 marine scientists are urging world policymakers to confront the problem of ocean acidification. They stated their concerns in the Monaco Declaration, a document that arose from the 2nd International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World held in Monaco last October.
According to the Monaco Declaration, the rapid change in seawater chemistry is already measurable and could by mid-century cause oceans to become inhospitable to coral reefs, inhibit calcification in mussels, plankton, and other calcifying organisms, and subsequently harm the fish population to the extent of causing massive deficits in the food source for millions of people.
The world’s oceans have long acted as buffers against CO2 - absorbing up to a third of it - but are now straining to keep up with rising levels of the greenhouse gas. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it causes pH levels to drop, resulting in a more acidic chemistry. Oceans are 30 percent more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution, and in recent years, researchers at Scripps Oceanography have recorded a drop in the pH from 8.16 to 8.05
The declaration warns that only a serious and immediate reduction in CO2 levels will reverse ocean acidification.
You can find more info at the following links:
In the second story, the rise of sea levels due to climate change may actually be a greater threat than previously thought. The potential for rising water from melting ice sheets is not news. Earlier studies have predicted rising ocean levels from the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet and other ice could, by the end of the century, inundate coastal cities and low-lying areas with up to 3 feet of water.
But previously unrecognized factors are ratcheting up the severity of that number. Authors of a new study say related events triggered by the initial ice melt could cause the sea-levels to rise as much as 21 feet. But it’s really more of a “could happen” rather than a “will happen” situation.
Geophysicist Jerry X. Mitrovica (University of Toronto) and geoscientist Peter Clark (Oregon State) predict not only would the melted ice add more water to the oceans, but also the reduced gravitational pull from the melted (and missing) ice sheet could cause the Antarctic water levels to decrease while northern water levels increased. Also, once the weight of the heavy ice sheet was gone the Antarctic land mass would rebound, pushing more water outward. Finally, the redistribution of water could cause a shift in the Earth’s rotation and potentially push more water northward toward highly populated coastal regions.
University of Toronto physics grad student Natalya Gomez also contributed to the study that appears in the journal Science.
Courtesy billadayWhen we think of water quality, we generally assume that all is well in the United States. Sure, we have trace amounts of undesirable stuff here and there. But overall, you tend to be ok.
What about the rest of the world?
Well, recently Joakim Larsson, an environmental scientist from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, found that there is a particular area in India where you may want to think twice about drinking the water, or even bathing in it.
And why is this?
The water leaving the wastewater treatment facility wins the prize of having the highest known levels of pharmaceuticals in the world. As it turns out, almost 100 Indian drug companies dump their various drug residues into this particular stream. For example, ciproflozacin , an antibiotic, is dumped in this stream with high enough concentrations to treat 90,000 people a day.
But wait, aren't antibiotics good for you?
When you actually need them, yes, antibiotics are useful. However, if these antibiotics and floating around willy nilly, running into bacteria here and there in the environment, they are actually allowing the bacteria to become more antibiotic resistant with these casual encounters. As if making stronger bacteria were not enough, these various drugs are also damaging the reproductive systems of fish and amphibians in the water.
Where do we figure into this mess?
Although this is not water in the United States, we are involved in two ways. First, all water resources in the world are connected. There is no "our" water and "their" water. It is water that we all share. Secondly, many of the drugs made by these Indian companies are sold in the United States.
And so we are left with a question asked by Joakim Larsson, "Who has a responsibility for a polluted environment when the Third World produces drugs for our well being?"
It could always be worse.
Some geologists think that 700 or so million years ago, the entire earth was one spherical skating rink. Called "Snowball Earth", it was a time when runaway ice caps covered the entire earth. They even covered the tropical oceans, making a mid-winter getaway to Hawaii less appealing, and possibly wiping out most of life on earth. The theory goes like this. Millions of years ago the sun was weaker than today. Ice started forming at the North and South poles, reflecting incoming sunlight back out to space and making it colder. So, the ice grew even more and so on in something called a positive feedback. Eventually, ice covered the entire planet, leaving rock types characteristic of glacial erosion in the tropics.
So, how do they think we got out? Well, all the time the earth was covered with ice, volcanoes were belching out carbon dioxide. Over millions of years, carbon dioxide is sucked out the atmosphere by breaking down rocks (it's much too slow a process to help us out in the current situation, though). Eventually carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached many times what they are today, temperatures soared, and there was a global ice-out that's usually described as "catastrophic."
A careful review of the existing information by two scientists from Britain suggests that things may not have been so dire. Geological evidence suggests that some parts of the ocean were not covered in ice, though there was a lot of ice in the tropics. This new view means geologists and climate scientists need to re-think "Snowball Earth" and how it could have come about. Something to think about while you're trying to get the car started.
Courtesy Mark RyanA new dual solar and wind-powered charger for personal electronic devices was on display at last weekend’s annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The K2 by Kinesis Industries is a handheld unit that allows you to harvest energy from both the sun and the wind and store it in an internal battery that can then be used to power all your energy-hungry USB-powered electronic gadgets.
You know what? I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. There’s been a few times I’ve lost battery power in my camera or cell phone and wished I had something like this. I’ll probably buy one even if I never use it. The idea is just so cool.
Portable chargers like this have been around for a while. Solio of California produces an array of solar-powered handheld chargers. PowerFilm in Ames, Iowa manufactures foldable thin film solar modules for a number of charging and direct powering applications. They rolled out a new USB and AA charger at this year’s show.
But evidently none match K2’s capacity or versatility. One hour gathering sunlight or wind with the K2 is enough to power 30 minutes of cell phone use or over 300 minutes of mp3 music. A full charge is enough to fully power your cell phone five times over. You can also plug the K2 into an AC outlet and store up power for later use that way.
But what happens if you forget to do that and it’s a cloudy day and the weather is dead calm? What’s a poor techno-weenie to do? Well, not to worry, the K2 also has a nifty side clip so you can attach it to your bicycle and generate your own wind. As of yet there’s no release date for the K2 but when it does come out, it’s expected to retail for about a hundred bucks.
Now, just so we’re clear, I have not personally tried any of the products mentioned in this story, so I can’t endorse or pooh-pooh any of them. You should do your own research before making any purchase of this technology. I just like the idea of being able to charge my gadgets anywhere I go. That way next time I’m stranded out in the middle of Wyoming and my iPod’s battery starts to fizzle during Britney’s latest hit, I’ll be golden.