AirToob Lightning

Tags  →  climate change

Greening the world's shipping fleets

Future sailing ship

In April 2018, shipping companies from 170 member states of the International Maritime Organization agreed to halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

A study by a think tank of the OECD showed that an improved target of 95% reduction was potentially achievable by 2035, using “maximum deployment of currently known technologies”.

The study identified a number of short term, relatively low-tech solutions to reduce drag through the water, including pumping compressed air below the hull to create a friction-reducing carpet of bubbles.

The longer term solutions require entirely new ships, and some existing design proposals involving solar and wave power, computer-controlled sails and innovative fuel solutions are really neat, with several of these techniques already in use.

As is so often the case with green technology, all of these measures will reduce costs and improve
profits for the shipping companies - a win-win strategy.

Click the image above for an exceptionally good article from The Guardian, from which this information comes.

More links on this subject will be found here.

If you like this...

[My environment and technology page]





Our Good Earth from National Geographic
Biochar is an ancient process that is making a comeback. It does many things at once: starting with most urban, agricultural or forestry biomass residues, it can generate energy, enrich soil, and actually remove carbon from the atmosphere. It is not merely carbon-neutral, but carbon-negative.

The biochar process is akin to a process utilized thousands of years ago in the Amazon Basin, where islands of rich, fertile soils called Terra Preta ("dark earth") soils were created through a process similar to pyrolysis (one example of which is the production of charcoal by burning wood with restricted oxygen).

The beautiful picture above comes from a superb online National Geographic article (sadly no longer available) called "Our Good Earth", which introduced me to this process, and which provided me with one of the many positive topics in my "Environment and Technology" page (which has just had a major update).

The modern biochar process is summarized below. It is interesting (for me, anyway) to compare it with the food recycling process that generates both fertilizer and energy, now in widespread use in the UK.




[Food recycling in the UK (from my web site)]
[The International Biochar Initiative]
[Recent links on the Biochar process]
[Terra Preta, the "Black Revolution"]



It has been known for some time that hurricanes need warm-enough surface temperatures in the oceans in order to form. The critical temperature turns out to be 26.5°C or 79.7°F.

Climate change is increasing sea temperatures, and even a few degrees matters.

In 2017 the exceptionally high surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico that launched Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria were measured at 32°C or 89.6°F.

There have been many suggestions for cooling surface temperatures enough to prevent hurricanes from forming, but they have all seemed impractical.

Until now.

The Norwegians have long stopped ice forming in their fjords by efficient “bubble curtains” - bubbles of compressed air blown from perforated pipes, bringing relatively warm water from depths to the surface. Their scientists have pointed out that the system could be used for the opposite effect, bringing cooler water from (ideally) 100 meters to 150 meters below the surface to reduce the surface temperatures.

The first site for a real test may be the Yucatán Straits, which connect the Caribbean Sea to the Gulf of Mexico.

Reversing climate change, if it can happen at all, is a long term prospect.

When set against the enormous costs of destructive hurricanes, this idea for an interim solution may prove to be both practical and cost-effective. If you're interested in the idea and its progress, you will find many reports on it if you click the image above.


Meanwhile, in Germany...



A wonderful outbreak of common sense in urban architecture - learning from nature to combat climate change and help the environment.

If you like this...

[More about sponge cities]
[Liuzhou Forest City]


Air Conditioning With Off-Peak Generated Ice

In a neat twist on energy storage, this AC unit in Nantucket (click the image for details) uses its own ice-maker, creating the ice in the cool of the night using off-peak electricity. It uses an Ice Bear battery storage system, a technology that saves 40% on dommestic and commercial air conditioning.

That's potentially huge - there are an awful lot of AC units just in America - and a great help in spreading the load on the energy grid and tackling climate change.

What can I say... it's a really cool idea!


If you like this...

[“Renewables + Energy Storage = The Future”]


“The Universe is made of protons, neutrons, electrons and morons”
Animals can't believe the stupidity of people who deny climate change

The USA's current administration (but only a minority of its people and States) is, to put it bluntly, anti-science and anti-truth, possibly for related reasons, as well as anti-environment (for some mix of oil greed, corporate lobbying, stupidity and vindictiveness against anything Obama accomplished). We still have to see whether raging fires, floods and a succession of Category 5 hurricanes will put a dent in all this - but the three links above about the US Administration are very sobering, to put it mildly.

My younger daughter produced the wonderful face-palm montage above, for a different reason, and I thought it was too good not to snaffle. Hurricane Irma is the second Category 5 storm to hit the south-east USA this year, where it regained strength after passing over record-warm seas, and Texas is still suffering flooding with toxic water in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, with other strong hurricanes brewing.

Since extreme weather is not a new thing, the question keeps coming up: “Is our weather getting worse?”

The best answer to that in 2012 was Channel 4's super documentary, which can't be ignored today. I captured it in an article which you can find here, or click my summary image below.
Global warming and climate change - is our weather getting worse?

Some other links from 2017 worth following (may be added to from time to time):

[Hurricanes: A perfect storm of chance and climate change? - a deep and balanced analysis]
[Why the 2°C of warming limit is so important]


...and for much good news on the environment, as well as the bad:

[My Environment & Technology web page]


Oxfordshire Skies, 9th September 2017 (as Hurricane Irma hit Florida)

While in communication with relatives in Florida, luckily all safe now, we were staying in a self-catering converted barn in the Cotswolds. We experienced unsettled cold weather, with sudden cloudbursts that turned streets into trainer-deep streams, and also some impressive skies like these (possibly the remnants of Hurricane Harvey).



Maybe the planet is trying to tell us something?


If you're interested in environment issues, you may like to know that I have just updated the Environment & Technology section of my web site, which tries to provide useful information and links about a wide variety of environmental solutions and issues.

The issues now include, of course, an anti-science, anti-environment President of the USA. However, as you will discover if you visit my web site, there are still very positive things happening both in the USA and elsewhere.

Although the section is quite large, you will hopefully find that it is easy to navigate. I have tried to make it rich in high quality links (many of which have also been updated), so that what you see on the pages are just the tips of many interesting icebergs, so to speak.

If you visit it and really like it, then please share it anywhere you think it would help the environment - thank you!

I am sure that the section could be further improved. Any suggestions would be really welcome.


Mission Galapagos

Liz Bonnin in the superb BBC 3-part series Galapagos, a beautiful and informative documentary

Mission Galapagos was a high-tech science expedition to examine what the Galapagos Islands can tell us about evolution and the effect of climate change on wildlife.

The islands, located in the Pacific about 1000km west of Ecuador, are not a place for Creationists to think about (doing so would fry their brains).

One of many things we learn is how the islands were formed (and are still being formed), how long this has taken, and why they are so different from each other.

It turns out that the islands sit on the Nazca tectonic plate that acts like a conveyor belt, trundling very slowly eastwards (at around 58km per million years), passing over a magma hot-spot below. This hot-spot constantly generates new volcanos as the plate moves eastwards, which rise above sea level to become new islands. Eventually the volcanic islands leave the hot-spot and cool so that they develop lush vegetation, and finally disappear underwater again (as the plate slides downward beneath the South America Plate) to become submerged mountains.


The Mission Galapagos science team visit one of the most awesome and dangerous dive spots in the world...


...Darwin's Arch, where scuba divers must descend quickly through strong currents to the relative safety of the rocky sea bed (click either image above for photo source)...


...and where hammerhead sharks (globally endangered) congregate in vast numbers for a mating ritual
(photo by Simon J Pierce, click image for photo source)


Among many other animals investigated was the astonishing marine iguana, living above and below water,
which has evolved so that the same animal can shorten its length in hard times
(Click the image for photo source and to read more about the expedition.)

There was much to enjoy in this documentary, whether above ground, underground or underwater. Some people, sadly, may never get to see it. American networks were very reluctant to show the final episode of Sir David Attenborough's Frozen Planet, because it showed "controversial" evidence of the effect of climate change at the Poles. What Bible Belt America and Trump America will make of Mission Galapagos, should they get to see it, is anyone's guess.

It is not only in America that Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is under threat. There have recently been massive worldwide “Marches for Science”, protesting against “a global political assault on facts”. Anyone who doubts the significance of this is invited to peruse my Trump Diaries.

Liz Bonnin is one of my personal heroes in what is genuinely a fight against the forces of darkness. Her scientific background (she is a biochemist and Wild Animal Biologist, among other things) and her personality make her a very effective ambassador for STEM.

In the UK, as elsewhere, it was realized some time ago that disrespect for STEM would cost the country dear if not reversed. One of the first shots in achieving that was the successful BBC Series Bang Goes The Theory, where I first saw Liz in action.

Now young people (and especially girls) are being actively encouraged to take an interest in STEM.

Sadly, the USA is cursed with an anti-science (and anti-reality) President who seems bent on undermining the US's science and technology base, with untold consequences - but that's another story.


If you like this...

[My environment and technology page]


“Politicized Science”

This is “Politicized Science” according to Trump, i.e. it is Science, i.e. it concerns itself with Reality, to which #45 is seriously allergic. Accordingly he is gutting NOAA's budget.

Thanks to blacksock for this one.


“Against stupidity, the very gods themselves contain in vain” —Schiller

One graphic to say it all... (well, on this topic anyway)


[More than half of newly added world energy capacity now comes from renewables]





Please share this, if you will (but click the date/time FIRST in order to get a permalink - thanks!)

Some therapeutic reading (may be added to, newest first, check back...):

[Mike Pence on Facebook invites people to the Inauguration - some hilarious responses]
[Remembering Obama, by people who actually met him]
[BBC: Trump team moving away from supporters on climate science]
[Bushes write a touchiing letter to Obama sisters]
[Obama's final address to the nation as commander-in-chief]
[Guy shuts down friend's Obamacare rant by pointing out he's on Obamacare (both hilarious and sad)]
[Obama enacts permanent ban on new oil and gas drilling in federal waters in Atlantic and Arctic Oceans]
[DoE rejects Trump Transition Team's request for names of staffers who worked on climate change programs]
[California's governor issues serious warning to Trump on climate change]
[Bill Gates and other billionaires have launched a fund of more than $1 billion, focused on fighting climate change]
[Trump voters complain that already he isn't delivering what he promised]
[America's Finest]
[Things Donald Trump can and can't do with his Executive Power]
[Why business will step in to save Obama's sustainability agenda]
[The Shadow in the West - how we can make the world a nicer and safer place]
[What Trump's 2,000-mile wall on the U.S.-Mexico border would actually look like]
[Gatorindo: The Oxford English Dictionary's editors nominate "post-truth" as word of the year]
[George Takei: The challenge ahead under Donald Trump, and the way out of darkness]
[US Election 2016 — in-depth views from Oxford University]
[TED: Beware online "filter bubbles" that distort your view of the world]
[Trump: The best thing ever for climate change? (unintentionally, but really)]
[Nov 18: World's poorest countries to aim for 100% green energy ]
[Nov 18: Elon Musk's announcement just changed the solar industry]
[Oct 26: The world just made a major shift toward renewable energy]

and from my web site:

[The Shadow in the West - the full version]



I took this picture today in Baulk Wood, near Henlow in southern England (a site reclaimed beautifully from what used to be a rubbish tip, and extended as a nature reserve and walking area).

It was sunny when I set out... until I saw this coming. Luckily we're not getting the devastating floods hitting the north of England. Yesterday the Honister Pass rain gauge in the Lake District recorded 341.4mm (13½") of rain - the highest 24-hour rainfall since records began.

In 2012 there was an excellent Channel 4 documentary taking a serious look at the question: Is Our Weather Getting Worse?, which I featured here in January 2013. It might be worth looking at again...


(Latest update to this post: 5th January 2017 - the URL for this post has changed and is now here)

Some time ago, Julie and Scott Brusaw grabbed the imagination of several million people, with an invention that may eventually benefit the lives of hundreds of times that number: a modular system of intelligent solar paving slabs made of non-slip, highly durable glass, with many applications.

Apart from generating electricity, these paving slabs can provide variable signage or illumination from high intensity LEDs, keep road surfaces free of snow or ice, and perform a variety of other useful functions.

These smart slabs will also act as local components of the Smart Grid.

Click the graphic, or go here, for more information from my web site.


“Is Our Weather Getting Worse?”

This great photo (source here) was taken at Great Yarmouth as homes were being evacuated ahead of the UK's December 2013 storm surge (click the picture for many images of the surge and its effects).

England still isn't having enjoyable weather, to put it mildly, and nor (I see on TV) are many other parts of the world.

In 2012 there was an excellent Channel 4 documentary taking a serious look at the question: Is Our Weather Getting Worse?, which I featured here in January 2013. I think it might be worth looking at again...


Earthwatch...

The Worldometers site keeps you updated, in real time, on a whole host of statistics about the health and resources of the Earth and the people living on it, as well as many things we are doing (like producing cars, bicycles and computers, or sending emails or tweets).

The statistics are grouped under headings World Population, Government & Economics, Society & Media, Environment, Water, Energy and Health.

For many statistics, you can choose to see today's total changing, or the total for the whole year so far.

Fascinating to watch!



If you like this sort of thing...

[My environment and technology page]


And here is the weather report for England...

West Yorkshire, March 23rd - 2 days past the Spring Equinox.

A Scandinavian high pressure area, apparently permanently stuck in place, has been feeding biting easterly winds into England for what seems like forever.

The reasons for this are explained here (among many other places).


Yeah, right...


Hats off to guys who have to go out and fix things in this weather


Our nice Kate (the Duchess) out there with the scouts


Looe in Cornwall, where 24 hours of continuous rain caused a landslide of saturated earth, killing the unfortunate woman living in what used to be a house (the other houses in this row have been evacuated)


...and not too much fun being had in Newlyn, normally a pretty place (see paintings here) a little further to the west


If you're interested in this, see my earlier post...

[Is our weather getting worse? (major Channel 4 documentary)]


Is our weather getting worse? Channel 4 documentary
Britain has had some extraordinary weather in 2012, varying from severe drought to record levels of rainfall, with flash floods across the country. This excellent Channel 4 documentary (from which my screenshots come) considers if extreme weather is to be expected occasionally, or whether it provides evidence of an increasing climate change problem - not just in Britain, but everywhere.

Judging by how often the documentary is being repeated on UK TV, it's a question that certainly interests people in the UK. If you click on any image, you may still be able to view it online if it interests you as well.

(The rather beautiful instrument seen above, by the way, is a Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder, invented in 1853 and still in use today.)



This is some of what happened in Britain in 2012:


On January 3rd, severe storms with gusts of over 100 mph battered the coastline of much of the UK from Scotland to the south.



On February 5th, 4" of snow fell across southern England, with hundreds of flights cancelled.


4 weeks later there was a dramatic change in the weather. On March 26th, record-breaking heat baked Scotland, Aberdeen, with temperatures above 27°C (81°F).


Drought affected 35 million people across the country, in the driest Spring for 100 years.


Then, no sooner had the hosepipe ban been issued, when everything changed. On April 3rd snow warnings were issued across the country. In Scotland, temperatures plummeted by 27°C in just 2 days. The snow quickly melted, and on April 18th was replaced by torrential downpours across England and Wales.


By the end of the month the Met Office declared that it was the wettest April in a century, and the heavens remained open through the whole of May. By early summer the whole of Britain was saturated.




On June 22nd, a series of torrential thunderstorms funnelled into West Yorkshire's Hebden Bridge (which floods once every 5 years on average, but nothing like this). A month's worth of rainfall fell in 7 hours.


On July 9th, another cunim cloud, 10 miles high, towered over West Yorkshire. It burst at 1 pm. A month's worth of rain fell in just 3 hours.


And the extreme summer just went on and on. In July, a severe storm in Leicestershire produced hailstones the size of golfballs, and the rainfall continued into August. By the end of the summer, 4,000 homes across Britain had been devastated by floods. Saturated ground meant that even small amounts of rainfall caused flash floods.


On September 25th, a severe storm churned up plankton in the North Sea, swamping the Scottish town of Footdee in a thick layer of strange foam.



On October 11th, this flash flood was triggered in the Devonshire town of Clovelly when 2 weeks worth of rain fell in just 90 minutes.


Flooding doesn't just destroy homes, it takes lives. By far the deadliest place to be is trapped inside a car.


Training for flood survival and car rescue is not for the faint-hearted. Teesside Barrage at Stockton on Tees, a major facility for international "white water" events, is also used as a flood survival training centre. Four huge archimedes screws (each 13 metres or 45½ feet in diameter) lift water to create an artifical flood, pumping tons of water every second into the river. (BTW, there are plans to generate electricity by running these screws in reverse when the course is not being used.)


It only takes seconds for the weight of water to break the instructor's grip and sweep him away (a cubic metre of water weighs a ton). Avoiding lethal debris means keeping pointing downstream and trying to steer around what is coming.


Car rescue training starts inside a car anchored to the concrete bottom.

You need to get out through the window, and onto the roof...




"I'm on the roof, but there's not a lot to hold onto here..."



What has been causing Britain's extreme weather in 2012?

Part of the story is this:


The northernmost of 4 jet streams is responsible for delivering weather to Britain, and its position varies according to our seasons. In Spring 2012 the jet stream moved north of the UK, a position it normally takes in mid summer. This early move north brought us unusually high temperatures and drought.


And then in summer, something very different happened. The jet stream switched south, a position it usually takes during winter, bringing cold stormy weather to the British Isles. Even now, the behaviour of the jet stream remains a mystery(*).

*In January 2013, the BBC Weather Report featured a new development which has managed to link Sudden Stratospheric Warming with changes to the jet stream, and has allowed the Met Office to forecast weather events relating to jet stream movement much earlier than was previously possible.



Was 2012 just a freak year, or are these events part of a much bigger picture? Is our weather really changing?

What we saw in 2012 was certainly not a one-off. The past 15 years saw 8 of the warmest years on record, and some of the wettest years on record.


On July 28th 2005, a tornado ripped across Birmingham, spawned by severe thunderstorms, causing £40m of damage in 4 minutes.


Tornados by themselves are not enough to indicate that our weather is changing, but they are part of a series of extreme weather events that have plagued the UK in the last decade.


December 2010 was Britain's coldest ever.


In 2003, UK temperatures hit a record 38°C (100°F). This intense heatwave killed more than 2,000 people.

In fact, extreme weather events have occurred throughout the last century, and much earlier than that...

Over nine hundred years ago, in 1091, a medieval version of Mary-le-Bow Church in London (immortalised in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons - a Cockney is traditionally defined as someone born within the sound of Bow Bells) was destroyed by the first recorded tornado in British history, approaching via the site of the modern London Eye and ripping the church tower to shreds - more than 600 homes were destroyed and London Bridge was damaged.


The deadliest natural disaster ever to hit our shores was in 1703, when a destructive hurrican ripped across southern England, killing 8,000 people. It became known as The Great Storm, the first properly documented weather disaster in British history.

We have always had violent and erratic weather events, but have they become more frequent?

Less than 70 years after The Great Storm, the collection of reliable weather data had begun. In 1772 scientists started to record the daily temperature of central England.



The Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder was invented in 1853, marking the start of systematic weather observations from around the world. As well as using instruments dating from Victorian times, data is now gathered from satellites and weather balloons, and analysed using supercomputers.

Scientists can see that the world has warmed by about three-quarters of a degree in the last 100 years, with an even greater increase of one degree for Britain in the same period. One degree may not sound much, but it's enough to change our weather. As temperatures across the world rise, so does the level of moisture in the atmosphere, with more heat, and more energy in the system.



The atmosphere has 4% more moisture now than it had in the 1970's, and with more moisture, there is much more likelihood of severe weather events.

The increase in world temperature, climate scientists agree, is caused by greenhouse gases.


By drilling nearly a kilometre deep into the Antarctic ice sheet, we can measure levels of carbon dioxide and other gases that were present in our atmosphere over the last 800,000 years. They show that CO2 levels have fluctuated over thousands of years, however it always remained below 300 parts per million. 100 years ago it was 280 parts per million. Today, we are just crossing a threshold of 400 parts per million. Most scientific institutions conclude that man-made CO2, following the industrial revolution, is the culprit for global warming. Most scientists agree that global warming is having a dramatic effect on our weather, leading to more and more severe weather events.

The warmth contains lots of energy, and it's the energy from the warmer ocean and land that is driving our extreme weather.


Scientists at the Met Office have calculated that the chances of 2003-style heatwaves in the UK have approximately doubled. Ironically, we might also get colder, harsher winters in the UK, because of the effect on the Gulf Stream. If melting polar ice causes the Gulf Stream to weaken, then some calculations show that temperatures in Britain in winter might fall by 5 degrees, heading for more like a Scandinavian climate.

These predictions, scientists emphasise, are by no means a certainty - much work still needs to be done.



It isn't just Britain...

When we look at the whole world, we begin to realise that recently extreme weather has touched every corner of the globe...


America's recent weather events are well known, but in Italy in Winter 2012 we saw extreme snowfalls occurring in places that had never seen snow in living memory.


In 2010, the hottest summer on record affected many parts of the world. In Russia alone, 50,000 deaths were directly attributed to the sweltering heat.


In 2011, severe flooding caused havoc across the globe, from Australia to Thailand, and in the same year America's worst tornado season in living memory claimed 500 lives.


In 2012, Superstorm Sandy was fuelled by near record ocean temperatures, something people living on the USA's East Coast will not soon forget.




After watching this sobering documentary, I reflected that it is easy to understimate the effect of a few degrees rise in temperature. It doesn't take much energy to raise (say) a litre of water by a couple of degrees (an average person could generate this much energy on a stationary bike pedalling for around 20 seconds), and it doesn't give up much heat when it cools again. But the world's oceans contain about 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of water, and each cubic kilometer contains a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) litres of water. Even if a tiny fraction of the ocean warms by a few degrees, the energy involved is beyond imagining.

The other thing that struck me is the complexity and importance of the three-dimensional system of currents in the ocean, and how drastic can be the effects of an alteration in their behaviour.

Unfortunately, if decision-making people continue to ignore the science (which seems to happen for political, religious or corporate profit reasons, among others), we won't have to imagine the effects of global warming as the years go by - they will be all too obvious, and it will be too late to do much about them.



If you're interested in this kind of stuff, you might also like...

[The Secret Life of Waves]
[My environment and technology web page]