Category Archives: Nature

Headline of the day II: You know it’s dry when. . .

From the San Francisco Chronicle, reporting on the drought emergency measures in one parched Northern California coastal community:

Fort Bragg orders restaurants to use disposable plates, cups

Maps of the day: Dry California & El Niño hopes

From the California Department of Water Resources, the severely depleted levels of the Golden State’s reservoirs explains why both agribusiness and urban governments are hoping for those promised El Niño deluges:


With water rationing the rule for both in both town and country, the arriving El Niño is being brought to the western shores of the Americas by a current of warm water out of Asia that triggers precipitation as it hits the colder waters of the Eastern Pacific.

The warm waters have already triggered an invasion of Australian jellyfish off the California shores, as well as a host of other changes in marine life.

From the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, here’s a map of temperature anomalies in the Pacific, with the warm current clearly visible toward the bottom:

BLOG El nino

Quote of the day: Fuku-ed up from the get-go

From the The Fukushima Daiichi Accident, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s final report on the three-reactor-meltdown disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the 11 March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 16,000 dead and more than 2,500 missing:

A major factor that contributed to the accident was the widespread assumption in Japan that its nuclear power plants were so safe that an accident of this magnitude was simply unthinkable. This assumption was accepted by nuclear power plant operators and was not challenged by regulators or by the Government. As a result, Japan was not sufficiently prepared for a severe nuclear accident in March 2011. The Fukushima Daiichi accident exposed certain weaknesses in Japan’s regulatory framework. Responsibilities were divided among a number of bodies, and it was not always clear where authority lay.


The regulation of nuclear safety in Japan at the time of the accident was performed by a number of organizations with different roles and responsibilities and complex interrelationships. It was not fully clear which organizations had the responsibility and authority to issue binding instructions on how to respond to safety issues without delay.

The regulatory inspection programme was rigidly structured, which reduced the regulatory body’s ability to verify safety at the proper times and to identify potential new safety issues.

The regulations, guidelines and procedures in place at the time of the accident were not fully in line with international practice in some key areas, most notably in relation to periodic safety reviews, re-evaluation of hazards, severe accident management and safety culture.

Plastics alarm: Planetary poisoning for profit

Forget climate change and nuclear war.

What may ultimately wipe out the humans as well as much of the rest of the animal kingdom may be much closer to hand.

What is this menace, you ask?

In a word, plastics, a subject we’ve been following for the last six years.

Yep, those petroleum byproducts so beloved for their role in making our lives so much easier have a dark side.

The latest research shows plastics cause cancer, reduce male sperm counts, alter the development of male genitalia, cause prostate problems, trigger earlier menopause, lay the groundwork for developing diabetes and high blood pressure, cause some forms of hyperactivity, trigger the development of moobs [enlarged male breasts] at the onset of puberty, and trigger low birthweights among girls, and, later, childhood obesity.

And we suspect those problems are just the tip of the iceberg.

One key to the problems associated with plastics is that when consumed into the body, they can mimic the chemicals secreted by the endocrine system [think estrogen and testosterone for starter], which is turn play key roles in regulating everything from our sexual development to our psychological states. Plastics, in short, function as what biologists call endocrine disruptors.

Yep, and its not just humans who are impacted by our ever-increasing reliance of plastics in everything from baby bottles and toys to microwave food containers, clothing, cosmetics, and so much more. Indeed, our consumption of plastics doubles every eleven years, and many of the most commonly used forms can’t be recycled, at least economically — leaving the planet awash in plastic refuse.

If it were just Homo sapiens paying the price for our addiction, one might tkae the neoliberal argument and say, hey, we deserve what we get.

But what about the myriad other species inhabited this small sphere were call Earth?

By now everyone should know that our habit of treating the world’s oceans as giant toilets has resulted in massive agglomerations [gyres] of plastic floating on the waves. But those are just the smallest percentage of plastics in the Seven Seas.

And what are those plastics doing once immersed in the world’s oceans? Read the rest after the jump [and do read on for some stunning findings]: Continue reading

Map of the day: Oceanic warming tracked

From Roberto De Almeida of Sunnyvale’s Marinexplore via Scientific American, a map of temperature changes since 1900 in the world’s oceans [click on it to enlarge]:

Changes in Sea-Surface Temperature Since 1900
Changes in Sea-Surface Temperature Since 1900

And now for something completely different

It’s the hot new energy drink now sweeping Japan and poised to flood the world.

It’s. . .Fukushima Water™ — enriched with radioactive Cesium 137 to give you that extra zing.

And if all this sounds surreal, that’s because it is, a creation of German art directors aimed at focusing attention on those ongoing leaks of radioactive water from the earthquake-demolished reactor complex that have been such a headache for TEPCO and government officials struggling to contain the leaks, which periodically escape into the ocean and contaminate the soil.

From Fukushima Water:

Fukushima Water – The all-new energy-drink from Japan

Program notes:

Four years after the disaster of Fukushima-Daichii a brand-new energy drink conquers the Japanese beverage market and quickly becomes a cult product in all age groups: Fukushima Water. With a perfidious marketing strategy, the drink advertises itself as “energy water” – a natural mineral water with an artificial additive. Just a bad advertising stunt of a japanese beverage company or the most absurd product in the world?

DroughtWatch: A very minuscule change

The latest California map from the United States Drought Monitor features an enigma in the form of a hundredth of a percentage point increase in the category “Moderate Drought” category, though whether it’s an improvement or a worsening is impossible to tell given that figures for all other categories are precisely the same as last week:

BLOG Drought