Category Archives: Nature

Map of the day: Hottest October in history


For the California coast and Pacific Northwest coasts, according to the National Climate Data Center:

BLOG Hottest

Map of the day: Your mother, in very high def


Yep, Mother Earth as you’ve never seen her before, and in 2160p resolution if you click that little gear and set it that high.

Created by James Tyrwhitt-Drake from images captured by the Russian Elektro-L weather satellite, the animation is truly spectacular and a reminder that we all share the same small planet.

From James Tyrwhitt-Drake:

Planet Earth in 4K

Program notes:

A timelapse of Earth in 4K resolution, as imaged by the geostationary Elektro-L weather satellite, from May 15th to May 19th, 2011. Elektro-L is located ~40,000 km above the Indian ocean, and it orbits at a speed that causes it to remain over the same spot as the Earth rotates. The satellite creates a 121 megapixel image (11136×11136 pixels) every 30 minutes with visible and infrared light wavelengths. The images were edited to adjust levels and change the infrared channel from orange to green to show vegetation more naturally. The images were resized by 50%, misalignments between frames were manually corrected, and image artifacts that occurred when the camera was facing towards the sun were partially corrected. The images were interpolated by a factor of 20 to create a smooth animation. The animation was rendered in the Youtube 4K UHD resolution of 3840×2160. An original animation file with a resolution of (5568×5568) is available on request.

To answer frequently asked questions; why are city lights, the Sun, and other stars not visible? City lights are not visible because they are thousands of times less bright than the reflection of sunlight off the Earth. If the camera was sensitive enough to detect city lights, the Earth would be overexposed. The Sun is not visible due to mechanisms used to protect the camera CCD from direct exposure to sunlight. A circular mask on the CCD ensures that only the Earth is visible. This mask can be seen as pixelation on Earth’s horizon. The mask also excludes stars from view, although they would not be bright enough to be visible to this camera.

Image Credit: NTs OMZ (http://eng.ntsomz.ru/electro).
Image processing by James Tyrwhitt-Drake

EnviroWatch: Disease, climate, critters, nukes


We begin with another African outbreak, via the Guardian:

Plague kills 40 people in Madagascar

  • World Health Organisation is concerned about risk of disease spreading in the capital where two cases have been recorded

An outbreak of the plague has killed 40 people out of 119 confirmed cases in Madagascar since late August and there is a risk of the disease spreading rapidly in the capital, the World Health Organisation has said.

So far two cases and one death have been recorded in the capital Antananarivo but those figures could climb quickly due to “the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system,” WHO warned.

“The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country,” it added.

And another one in Europe, from DutchNews.nl:

More cases of bird flu in the Netherlands, poultry farmers fear the worst

Three more cases of avian flu have been identified at Dutch poultry farms, this time near Kamperveen in Overijssel, the economic affairs ministry said on Friday.

The first farm, which rears broiler chickens and has around 10,000 birds on site, was identified on Friday morning. One of the other two farms had some 15,000 ducks. All three farms are being cleared.

On Thursday avian flu was found at a farm in Ter Aar. That has now been confirmed the same infectious type as on the first farm last weekend. A nationwide ban on the movement of eggs, poultry and poultry manure will remain in force, the ministry said.

While the Guardian covers taxation as an instrument of public health:

Largest American Indian reservation approves junk-food tax to fight obesity

  • A 2% increase on sales tax for food with little to no nutritional value
  • One-third of Navajos are diabetic or prediabetic
  • Obesity rate in some age groups is as high as 60%

The sales tax on cookies, chips, sodas and other junk food sold on the country’s largest American Indian reservation is going up.

Navajo nation president Ben Shelly signed legislation Friday to increase by 2% the sales tax on food with little to no nutritional value, starting next year. No other sales tax on the Navajo nation specifically targets the spending habits of consumers. It will remain in effect until 2020, but it can be extended by the Navajo nation council.

Navajos advocating for a junk-food tax said they wanted to pass a bill that could serve as a model for Indian country to improve the rates of diabetes and obesity among tribal members. Proposals targeting sugary drinks with proposed bans, size limits, tax hikes and warning labels haven’t gained widespread traction across the country.

And from AllAfrica, when one epidemic displaces another:

Liberia: Ebola Hampers HIV/Aids Care

Ebola has crippled the provision of treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Liberia, according to health workers and patients.

“We cannot get treatment normally now because of the outbreak of the Ebola disease in Liberia,” said 36-year-old Jeff Thompson, from Monrovia’s Jallah Town, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011. “Our care centres are closed and all the health workers are scared to come to work.”

There are an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Liberia, according to UNAIDS.

Before the Ebola outbreak, more than 70 percent of them had access treatment via 144 HIV/AIDS care centres scattered across the country. But now, due to a shortage of health workers and fear about Ebola transmission, more than 60 percent these facilities have shut their doors, according to the National AIDS Control Program (NACP)

From Al Jazeera America, water rustlers:

California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough

  • In northern areas of the state, counties report illegal diversions from tanks, wells and streams

Something rare quickly becomes valuable. So it should come as no surprise that the latest target of thieves in a state suffering a historic drought is water.

California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity.

They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

And from CBC News, another kind of contagion:

Jelly-covered plankton multiplying in Canadian lakes

  • Low calcium levels from acid rain, logging blamed

Jelly-covered plankton that look like tapioca are multiplying in many Canadian lakes, clogging up water pipes and potentially disrupting the food chain.

The population of freshwater plankton called Holopedium has doubled in Ontario lakes between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s, reports a study published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The plankton are thriving in lakes that are low in calcium — and the calcium levels of many lakes have fallen in recent decades because of acid rain and logging.

From the New York Times, a global warming identity crisis:

Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive.

In 30 years, there may be none.

A warming climate is melting Glacier’s glaciers, an icy retreat that promises to change not just tourists’ vistas, but also the mountains and everything around them.

Streams fed by snowmelt are reaching peak spring flows weeks earlier than in the past, and low summer flows weeks before they used to. Some farmers who depend on irrigation in the parched days of late summer are no longer sure that enough water will be there. Bull trout, once pan-fried over anglers’ campfires, are now caught and released to protect a population that is shrinking as water temperatures rise.

From the Los Angeles Times, combinatorial crises:

‘Looming environmental crisis’ at Salton Sea prompts plea for help

The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a plea to a state water board to help avert a “looming environmental and public health crisis” at the Salton Sea.

In a letter this week to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board, the irrigation district asked that the board sponsor negotiations to get the state to fulfill its obligation to stop the deterioration of the sea caused by the sale of Imperial Valley water to San Diego County.

After a six-month negotiation period, the irrigation district wants the control board “to condition water [sales] on the state satisfying its unmet restoration obligation at the Salton Sea.”

And from the Guardian, forestalling crises?:

Polar code agreed to prevent Arctic environmental disasters

  • International Maritime Organisation committee adopts measures to protect the environment in face of predicted polar shipping rush

The international body in charge of sea safety adopted measures on Friday to protect people and the environment during a predicted shipping rush in the Arctic.

But environment groups and insurers said the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee had failed to address key issues including a proposed ban on heavy fuel oil and how to safeguard against cowboy operators.

The committee, which met in London this week, signed off on the Polar Code and various amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention. These changes, which include mandatory requirements for ship design, crew training and search and rescue protocols, are expected to be ratified by the full IMO next year and come into force in 2017.

After the jump, a wildlife crisis in Kenya, tourism threatening indigenous cultures, boosting tools to fight environmental crime, Big Coal buys Fabebook Likes, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with a radioactive water freeze trap foiled and a more concrete solution, and removal of more hot fuel commences along with exclusion zone landlocked shipwrecks, plus a radiation release in Scotland. . . Continue reading

Whale Wars: Why Japan can’t stop whaling


A fascinating 2006 Australian documentary report on the politics of whaling, and in particular the bruising bribes and thuggery used by Japan in their desperate measures to continue the barbaric slaughter of some of the most intelligent and magnificent creatures on the planet.

We noted with particular interest that the arguments employed by Japan to counter growing international opposition to the slaughter are virtually identical to those employed by Antebellum Southerners to growing opposition to slavery.

From ABC Australia via Journeyman Pictures:

Why Japan Can’t Stop Whaling

Program notes:

Japan has long been accused of vote-buying and bribery at the International Whaling Commission. Already, through exploiting the loophole of ‘scientific research’, it has dramatically increased the number and species of whales it kills. Now, it wants to overturn the decades long ban on commercial whaling. Our offering this week uncovers just how it intends to do so. Made for ABC 4 Corners, it also reveals how the farcical rules of the IWC are open to manipulation and abuse.

The intransigence of Japan in the matter of whaling parallels the American-enabled Japanese failure to confront the massive scale of war crimes inflicted by the Japanese military of China, Korea, and other countries during World War II.

Unlike Germany, where the public was made forcibly aware of the crime committed by the SS and Wehrmacht in occupied countries, a similar awareness never extended to Japan, in large part because American imperial consul Douglas MacArthur insisted that the emperor be retained and spared any responsibility for the war and ensuing crimes. The reverse, of course, was true in Japan.

As a result, the Japanese government disavows responsibility for those crimes and even demands [unsuccessfully so far] that American states remove textbook references to forced prostitution in China, Korea, and other countries.

And now that Washington is encouraging Japan to remilitarize, we’re not optimistic about the future.And research whaling? Really?Here’s what happens to those “research whales,” via Green Answers:BLOG whale meat

EnviroWatch: Flu, climate, fuels, & species


And a rare day with no new news from Fukushima and the nuclear power front. . .

From Deutsche Welle, flu news:

Dutch authorities confirm second case of bird flu

Officials have detected the second case of bird flu in a week in the Netherlands. All 43,000 chickens at the affected farm are to be slaughtered and a nationwide ban on poultry transport has been imposed.

Dutch officials on Thursday confirmed the detection of another case of bird flu at a chicken farm, the second time this week that the disease has been found in the Netherlands.

The Dutch food and safety watchdog NVWA said the latest outbreak was detected at a farm in the village of Ter Aar in South Holland, 25 kilometers (15 miles) from a farm where an infection was found last week. All the 43,000 chickens at the farm were being destroyed and the farm disinfected, the NVWA said.

Officials say tests are being conducted to establish what strain of bird flu is involved. The earlier case in the Netherlands was confirmed as H5N8, which is considered as posing a low health risk to humans, but is highly contagious among poultry.

From Grist, temperatures rising:

No surprise, October was the hottest one ever

It’s cold outside, which means it’ll soon be time for the annual rousing chorus of climate change denial from people who think snow means global warming is fake.

Good thing NOAA is here to help. Today the agency released two new maps illustrating that even if you’re cold right now, the planet is still getting hotter. In fact, 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

And it’s not just October that was remarkably warm. The entire year so far, since January, has also been the warmest on record – a good 1.22 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. If the trend persists, 2014 will beat out 2010 as the hottest year on record:

BBC News ups the ante:

Climate fund receives $9.3bn pledge

Thirty nations meeting in Berlin have pledged $9.3bn (£6bn) for a fund to help developing countries cut emissions and prepare for climate change.

The Green Climate Fund was to have held at least $10bn by the end of 2014, so the pledge is just shy of the target.

The South Korea-based fund aims to help nations invest in clean energy and green technology.

It is also designed to help them build up defences against rising seas and worsening storms, floods and droughts.

The Guardian covers a preview of a coming attraction:

Merchants of Doubt film exposes slick US industry behind climate denial

  • Robert Kenner’s forthcoming documentary lifts the lid on the ‘professional deceivers’ manipulating US debate on climate change

Who remembers that climate change was a top priority early in George W Bush’s first term as US president? Merchants of Doubt, a new documentary film released in US cinemas this week, reminds us that in June 2001 Bush and the Republican party were 100% committed to curbing carbon emissions causing global warming.

Six months later everything changed. The film shows Republican party leader John Boehner calling the idea of global warming “laughable”, said Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner.

With the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occupying attention, Americans For Prosperity, a powerful, fossil-fuel lobby group founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, launched a decade-long, multi-pronged campaign to sow doubt about the reality of climate change.

By equating the findings of climate scientists as an attack on personal freedoms, they cleverly shifted the focus away from science to political opinion. “Creating a focus point away from what is actually going on is how magicians pull off their tricks,” said Kenner who directed the Oscar-nominated documentary Food Inc.

From Los Angeles Times editorial cartoonist David Horsey, a look at a favorite project of the climate denial funding Koch Brothers:

BLOG Keystoned

Fueling health problems, via Environmental Health News:

Coal’s black wind: Pregnant women in parts of India advised to stay away

In some regions of India, a married woman will return to her mother’s house for the last trimester of pregnancy and the birth of her child. But in Mettur, pregnant women are advised by their doctors to stay away.

“Black wind” from a coal yard wafts constantly across poor neighborhoods, settling on rooftops, walking paths and even indoor furniture. People complain of asthma, wheezing and frequent colds.

In its bid to industrialize, India relies heavily on energy from coal. Accounting for 71 percent of India’s electricity, coal will remain a key player over the next decade, with 455 new plants proposed, according to energy experts.

A cutback ordered, from Environment News Service:

EU Court Rules British Government Must Limit Diesel Exhaust

The United Kingdom must clean up illegal levels of air pollution “as soon as possible,” the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday, in its first decision on the European Union’s 2008 air quality law.

The case was originally brought in the British courts by ClientEarth, a London-based environmental group concerned about the 29,000 people who die early in the UK each year as a result of air pollution.

ClientEarth asked the British courts to require the UK Government to revise its plans to meet the statutory limits for nitrogen dioxide under the Air Quality Directive as soon as possible, and by January 1, 2015 at the latest.

EcoWatch covers a reduction proposal:

How Oil and Gas Industry Could Cut Methane Pollution in Half

Leading environmental groups—Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and Clean Air Task Force—released a summary report today to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laying out how the agency can cut methane pollution in half with low-cost technologies and practices. The report, Waste Not: Common Sense Measures to Reduce Methane Emissions from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, shows how the U.S. EPA must meet its obligations under the Clean Air Act by requiring the oil and gas industries to halt methane emissions. The full report will be available later this fall.

One of the simple solutions highlighted in the report shows that “most of the industry’s methane pollution comes from leaks and intentional venting that can be identified and curbed with existing, low-cost technology and better maintenance practices.” Mark Brownstein, associate vice president for U.S. Climate and Energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, agrees. “Methane leaks are simply a waste of a valuable national energy resource. The good news is that there are simple technologies and practices that the oil industry can use to substantially reduce this waste, creating new opportunities for American companies and new jobs for American workers.”

The big takeaway from this report is that these standards would cut up to 10 times more methane and up to four times more smog-forming pollutants than other proposals because these standards would apply to oil and gas infrastructure across the country, not just to equipment located in certain areas.

And from the Guardian, fracking funded:

Chemicals giant Ineos to announce £640m UK fracking investment

  • Operator of refinery at Grangemouth recently acquired 729 sq miles of fracking exploration licences in central Scotland

The chemicals giant Ineos is to announce a plan to invest up to £640m in shale gas exploration in the UK. The company, which runs a huge refinery and petrochemicals plant at Grangemouth, on the Firth of Forth, recently acquired 729 sq miles of fracking exploration licences in central Scotland.

The move would make Ineos one of the largest shale gas players in the UK and will be welcomed by government ministers who are seeking to speed up exploration. Ministers see fracking as an opportunity to develop a new domestic energy source as fields in the North Sea decline. Shale gas and oil have transformed the US energy market, although experts say the idea that it will lower energy prices in the UK is “baseless economics”.

Chief executive of Ineos Upstream, Gary Haywood, said: “I want Ineos to be the biggest player in the UK shale gas industry. I believe shale gas could revolutionise UK manufacturing and I know Ineos has the resources to make it happen.”

On to the threatened, first from StarAfrica:

Over 1,000 rhinos poached in S/Africa so far in 2014 – Official

South Africa has lost over 1,000 rhino to poachers so far this year, an official from the country’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs announced on Thursday.

According to the official, some 1,020 rhino have been poached for their horn since January this year, exceeding the 1,004 rhino that were poached in 2013.

The largest number of rhino poached has been in the world famous Kruger National Park in the north of the country, where 672 rhino have been poached this year.

The official said addressing the scourge was not simple, and that the ongoing killing of the rhino for its horns is part of a multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade.

And other critters on the brinks from Agence France-Presse:

Great apes facing ‘direct threat’ from palm oil farming

The destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa to make way for palm oil cultivation is a “direct threat” to the survival of great apes such as the orangutan, environmentalists warned Thursday.

They said tropical forests were tumbling at a rapid rate, with palm plantations a key driver, despite efforts by the industry’s Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to encourage sustainable cultivation.

The concerns were voiced at the sidelines of the annual RSPO meeting, held this year in Malaysia and which concluded Thursday.

“Orangutan and ape habitats are being destroyed,” said Doug Cress, from the UN Environment Programme’s great ape protection campaign. “The destruction of rainforest in Southeast Asia and increasingly now in Africa is a direct threat to the great apes.”

Finally, via the Guardian, yet another corporocrat spared:

Italian supreme court’s asbestos ruling could have major implications for Brazil

  • Court’s cancellation of Swiss asbestos polluter’s jail sentence dismays activists in Brazil, where substance is widely used

The Italian supreme court ruling on a case brought against Eternit, a Swiss-based building firm, could have major implications for the continued use of asbestos across the world.

On Wednesday, the court in Rome cancelled an 18-year jail sentence on the firm’s former owner Stephan Schmidheiny, who was facing charges of environmental disaster, having been found guilty of failing to comply with safety rules in two previous rulings.

The basis of the court’s ruling was that the statute of limitations had passed – Eternit left Italy 25 years ago – but the local trade unions and the Italian asbestos victims’ association, Afeva, who brought the case jointly, now intend to take it to Strasbourg.

Victims’ families shouted: “Shame on you!” as the verdict was pronounced. The group consisted of about 200 people, most of them from Casale Monferrato, a north-west Italian city where victims of asbestos-related diseases have been numbered in the thousands. Others came from countries including Switzerland, the UK, the US, Argentina, Belgium and Brazil.

The latest drought map: Once again, no change


Though with the rains yesterday and today [not including in this week's map], there may be some very modest relief shown in next week’s map. From the United States Drought Monitor:

BLOG Drought

Another Bay Area earthquake strikes


Well, just south of the San Francisco Bay area.

There were two shakers, with the much stronger striking a half hour ago whilst we were compiling items.

Here’s a screencap [click to enlarge] of the U.S. Geological Survey incident web page for the temblor, where all the links do work:

BLOG Quake