Hamilton Beach, NY after Superstorm Sandy. Pam_Andrade/Flickr
Eighty-two percent of Americans think that we should be doing more to prepare for sea level rise and extreme weather caused by global warming, according to new survey data released by researchers from Stanford University on Thursday. The survey, taken in the wake of the $70 billion in damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, shows strong support for doing more before disasters strike.
The study was conducted by Jon Krosnick, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Among the other findings:
62 percent support strengthening building codes for new structures along the coast
51 percent support barring new buildings from being built near the coast
48 percent support sand dune restoration
33 percent support efforts to maintain beaches with sand replenishment
37 percent support relocating structures away from the coast
33 percent support constructing sea walls
"People are least supportive of policies that try to hold back Mother Nature," Krosnick said. "They think it makes more sense to recognize risk and reduce exposure."
The survey also found that most respondents felt that coastal homeowners and businesses located in high-risk areas should pay for these measures, rather than the government. Most interesting, however, is that they found that even 60 percent of the respondents who don't think that climate change is real supported adaptation measures. Adaptation to … whatever it is they think is causing these rising seas and extreme storms, I guess.
A mile-long Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed in Minnesota on Wednesday, spilling 15,000 gallons. Reuters reports that 11 of the 94 train cars came off the tracks about 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
Some experts have argued oil-by-rail carries a higher risk of accidents and spills.
"It is good business for the rails and bad safety for the public," said Jim Hall, a transportation consultant and former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
"Railroads travel through population centers. The safest form of transport for this type of product is a pipeline. This accident could—and ought to—raise the issue for discussion," he added.
Others note that spills from rail cars are rare, and that delivering crude by rail has opened up opportunities in recent years for producers to develop huge volumes of oil production in areas of the United States that are not connected to markets by pipeline.
"It's not very good publicity, but railroads are incredibly safe, they don't spill often," said Tony Hatch, independent transportation analyst with ABH Consulting in New York who has done work for major railroads. "It should not change the opportunity railroads have to make us more energy independent."
We import more oil from Canada than any other country, so it's worth noting that with or without the pipeline, we're already moving oil into the US and there is a potential for spills.
Drillers inject high-pressure fluids into a hydraulic fracturing well, making slight fissures in the shale that release natural gas. The resulting briny wastewater flows back up to the surface, where it is transported by truck or pipeline to nearby injection wells. The liquid is then pumped down the injection wells to a layer of deep, porous rock, often sandstone. Once there, it can flow in every direction, including into and around faults. Added pressure and lubrication can cause normally stable faults to slip, unleashing earthquakes.
257 Beach 140th Street, a modest four-bedroom house blocks from the beach in Rockaways, Queens, is fairly unremarkable, but it put up a hell of a fight during Hurricane Sandy. While other houses just down the street were being ripped off their foundations, 257, which had been up for sale since before the storm, suffered only a little flooding in the basement. It's otherwise unscathed, but even that damage was enough to knock a solid 10 percent off its list price (down to $799,000 from $890,000), enough to make first-time homebuyers Matthew and Jenny Daly take a closer look.
"There are more opportunities because of everything that's happened in the last six months," Matthew says.
In New York City alone, Sandy racked up $3.1 billion worth of damage to homes. Many of those properties in hard-hit areas like the Rockaways and the south shore of Staten Island are still empty, awaiting repairs, government buyouts, resident squatters, or like in the case of 257, a new owner ready to tackle a fixer-upper. Damaged homes are now on the market for as much as 60 percent off their pre-storm value, and local realtors say there's a ready contingent of bargain-hunters waiting to pounce—sometimes, to the detriment of sellers.
Wastewater left over from fracking wells eventually ends up deep underground, where it can cause earthquakes. Wikipedia
In November 2011, a destructive 5.7-magnitude earthquake rocked the grasslands outside the small town of Prague, Oklahoma. The shaking leveled 14 homes, shut down schools for repairs, and was felt across 17 states. It also troubled seismologists, who'd never expected an event so large to hit an area that was supposed to be seismically safe.
According to the results of a new study published online yesterday in the journal Geology, the temblor was potentially linked to the underground injection of wastewater from local oil operations. In fact, the fault that triggered the event ruptured just about 200 meters from active injection wells. Changes in water volumes deep underground may have reduced the stress on the rock, allowing the fault to slip.
The underground disposal of wastewater has skyrocketed due to the recent uptick in hydrofracking operations across the country. Other studies have linked wastewater injection wells to earthquakes in otherwise seismically quiet areas of Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Colorado. The Oklahoma quake, however, was the most powerful.
For the current issue of Mother Jones, contributing writer Michael Behar followed Katie Keranen, the lead author of the Geology study, into the fields of the Sooner State for an elegant look at the science behind the link between earthquakes and the oil and fracking industries. Behar also interviewed seismologists and government officials who are increasingly concerned that loose regulations on wastewater injection could cause the next big one in a region unprepared for seismic activity. And he details the shadowy ties between industry and science that may complicate meaningful regulatory change.
The Arctic Ocean reached the most frozen it's going to get this year on 13 March. Now the melt season begins, predicts the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The seasonal stats were gloomy. The max sea ice area of 2013 was was 5.84 million square miles (15.13 million square kilometers). That's the sixth lowest extent on record and a whopping 283,000 square miles (733,000 square kilometers) below the 1979 to 2000 average maximum.
Interestingly this year's max fell five days later than the 1979 to 2000 average date of March 10. NSIDC says the date's highly variable, with the earliest max in the satellite record falling on 24 February 1996 and the latest on 2 April 2010.
Arctic sea ice extent on March 24, 2013, along with daily ice extent data for the previous five years. The 1979 to 2000 average is in dark gray: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Keep in mind that the Arctic Ocean froze a bigger extent of water than ever before this past autumn—a record 4.53 million square miles (11.72 million square kilometers). But that's only because it had to make up for the insane lack of sea ice that beset the Arctic (and all its ice-dependent flora and fauna) last summer. I wrote about that during my October cruise through the Arctic Oceanaboard the US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy (Arctic Ocean Diaries).
So what the past 12 months add up to is a wild pendulum: the lowest ever summer ice followed by the biggest ever winter freeze-over, which still only managed a dismally low winter cover, composed of thin one-year-old ice destined to melt super fast this summer. Everything has become more extreme.
So even though this year was *only* the sixth lowest winter max, the Arctic is likely on course for another epically low summer ice-scape, because almost all its frozen ocean is now newborn baby ice.
At least 1000 dead ducks were found floating in a river in Sichuan, China, Chinese media reported Monday.
Like the 16,000 pigs that were recently found in a different river in Sichuan, how the ducks died and why they were in the river is a mystery. They were fished out of the Nanhe river "then buried in plastic bags three meters underground," according toAgence Free Press.The Chinese government says that the ducks have been disinfected, and water in the area is safe to drink.
As The Guardiannoted earlier this week, the hogs may be a consequence of the Chinese government attempting to better manage its livestock practices in its large-and-fast growing meat industry. Until recently, illegal butcher shops would buy dead pigs from farmers on the cheap, but after the government cracked down on the practice farmers began dumping deceased pigs in the river. Water contamination from livestock manure is also a major issue:
"The dead pigs weren't a big problem in the past, it was pollution from the farming," said Wang Yubing, deputy at the Pinghu Environmental Protection Bureau. Pinghu borders the Shanghai district of Jinshan and is upriver of the city, and pollution from pig farms further upriver in Nanhu and Haiyan damage water quality.
"The biggest pollution problem for Shaoxing is poultry and livestock farming," said Xu Luzhong, an inspector with the Zhejiang environmental authorities, when he visited the city. Pig excrement, slurry and the corpses dumped all over mean that the beautiful water town is giving off a bit of a stink.
"There are 130,000 farmers raising over 7 million pigs. Each pig excretes as much as 6 or 7 adult humans," said Yu Hongwei, deputy of the city's environmental bureau.
Yet when it comes to pollution from large-and-growing factory farms, the US and China aren't so different. We can scoff at the horror of thousands of pigs and ducks washing up in a river, Tom Philipott recently broke down the pollution running off of Iowa waterways and that isn't so pretty either: There are 18 million hogs in Iowa, and the 1 million hogs in Sioux City alone give off as much untreated manure as the Los Angeles and Atlanta metro areas combined.
Tech optimists' crush of the decade is surely 3D printing. It has been heralded as disruptive, democratizing, and revolutionary for its non-discriminatory ability to make almost anything: dresses, guns, even houses. The process—also known as "additive manufacturing"—is still expensive and slow, confined to boutique objets d'art or lab-driven medical prototyping. But scaled up, and put in the hands of ordinary consumers via plummeting prices, 3D printing has the potential to slash energy and material costs. Climate Desk asks: can 3D printing be deployed in the ongoing battle against climate change?
We taste-tested Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Annie's Homegrown Macaroni & Cheese, Cheez-Its, and a simple, homemade pasta-and-cheese dish. Watch the video to see how they stacked up.
Perhaps you've heard about the recent outcry over the use of yellow dyes 5 and 6 in Kraft's popular Macaroni & Cheese. A couple of food bloggers have petitioned the food giant to ditch the artificial colors, calling them "unnecessary" and "potentially harmful."
The petition has already racked up more than 250,000 signatures. That isn't surprising, since Kraft's cheesy, gooey dish is a childhood staple. (I subsisted on a strict diet of it and Eggo waffles until about age 10.)
So just for fun, let's pretend that the petitioners succeed, and Kraft replaces its artificial dyes with natural coloring—or (gasp!) no coloring at all. Would the stuff then be healthier?
Well, let's consider the ingredients list for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese:
Now compare that to the ingredients list for Kellog's Reduced Fat Cheez-Its:
Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate [vitamin B1], roboflavin [vitamin B2], folic acid); soybean and palm oil with TBHQ for freshness, skim milk cheese (skim milk, whey protein, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, annatto extract for color), salt, containst two percent or less of paprika, yeast, paprika oleoresin for color, soy lecithin
To me, the list looked pretty similar—except for one thing: Instead of yellows 5 and 6, Cheez-Its uses annato extract and paprika for color. Yes, you read that right: Cheez-Its uses natural coloring, while Kraft Macaroni & Cheese uses artificial. Indeed, agreed Jesse Jones-Smith, a nutritionist at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, "Kraft actually has a few extra additives, even compared to Cheez-its." She added, "If you gave a kid two servings of Cheez-its and a glass of milk, you would actually have more sodium in Kraft Mac & Cheese. Otherwise, the two meals are pretty nutritionally equivalent."
Nutritionist Marion Nestle isn't a fan of the stuff in the blue-and-yellow box, either. "Kraft Mac & Cheese is a delivery vehicle for salt and artificial colors and flavors," Nestle wrote in an email. "It is a non-starter on my list because it violates at least three of my semi-facetious rules: never eat anything artificial; never eat anything with more than five ingredients; and never eat anything with an ingredient you can't pronounce."
Right. But that got me wondering: What about Annie's Homegrown, the supposedly healthier brand of packaged mac and cheese? When Jones-Smith compared Annie's and Kraft's nutritional information labels and ingredients lists, she found that their dry pasta and sauce packets weren't too different:*
The real difference, she says, was in what the two manufacturers recommended adding: Kraft suggests making the dish with four tablespoons of margarine and a quarter cup of two-percent milk, while Annie's recommends two tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of lowfat milk. "Margarine often has trans fat—why would they recommend margarine?" wondered Jones-Smith. The result is that when prepared, Kraft packs substantially more calories and fat into a serving than Annie's:
So what's a healthier alternative? I asked Tamar Adler, author of An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace, for a recommendation. She suggested a simple cheese, pasta, and cauliflower dish. Basically you mash up two cups of boiled cauliflower with a cup of parmesan, a little olive oil, and salt and pepper. Add it to a pound of pasta with a little of the pasta's cooking water, and you have a creamy, cheesy dish that Jones-Smith says is also more nutritious than both boxed versions: It's lower in sodium, fat, and calories, and slightly higher in protein. (It's slightly higher in saturated fat because of the real parmesan.)
It also tastes good. That's not to say that boxed mac and cheese tastes bad; it's hard to go wrong with cheesy, starchy comfort food. But I'm willing to guess that Adler's concoction is a few more steps removed from a bowl of Cheez-Its. Which is, well, comforting in its own way.
You can watch our taste test in the video at the top of this post.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated some of the values for Cheez-Its' nutritional information.
Great news today that the endangered limosa harlequin frog (Atelopus limosus) has been bred in captivity for the first time. This unbelievably groovy-looking character is native to the tropical lowland forests of eastern Panama. Six partner organizations forming the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project have been caring for 65 adult limosa harlequin frogs, including:
Figuring out how to arrange rocks in the breeding tank to create the submerged caves like those the frogs prefer in the wild
Getting the right highly oxygenated, gently flowing water between 22 and 24 degrees Celsius (71-75 degrees Fahrenheit)
Recreating the tadpoles' natural food—algal film growing on submerged rocks—by painting petri dishes with a solution of powdered spirulina algae and allowing it to dry
In other words, awesome Mary Poppins babysitting duties.
The project has successfully bred other challenging endangered species, including crowned treefrogs (Anothecaspinosa), horned marsupial frogs (Gastrothecacornuta), and toad mountain harlequin frogs (A. certus).
"These frogs represent the last hope for their species," saysBrian Gratwicke (see him in the the video below), international coordinator for the project and a research biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, one of the six project partners. "This new generation is hugely inspiring to us as we work to conserve and care for this species and others."
The limosa harlequin frog is deemed "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List because:
[I]ts Extent of Occurrence is less than 5,000 km2 (1,930 square miles), its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its forest habitat in Panama.
It's also a victim of the fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, caused by the water-borne pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). This worldwide amphibian plague is a real terror. From Amphibiaweb:
Bd may be responsible for the greatest disease-caused loss of biodiversity in recorded history. Over just the past 30 years, Bd has caused the catastrophic decline or extinction (in many cases within a single year) of at least 200 species of frogs, even in pristine, remote habitats. These rapid, unexplained declines have occurred around the world. Recently Bd has been implicated in the unexplained disappearances of Central American salamanders as well. While diseases have previously been associated with population declines and extinctions, chytridiomycosis is the first emerging disease shown to cause the decline or extinction of hundreds of species not otherwise threatened. Currently over 350 amphibian species are known to have been infected by Bd.
Worldwide distribution of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the amphibian chytrid fungus: Credit: Fisher et al (2009); DOI: 10.1146/annurev.micro.091208.073435
It's still up for scientific debate whether the lethal explosion of chytridiomycosis worldwide is a result of:
African frogs being traded around the world for scientific research and pregnancy testing starting in the 20th century
Whatever the ultimate cause(s), nearly a third of Earth's amphibian species are now at risk of extinction.
The mission of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is to rescue amphibian species that are in extreme danger of extinction throughout Panama. They're focused on establishing assurance colonies and developing methodologies to reduce the impact of the amphibian chytrid fungus so that one day captive amphibians may be reintroduced to the wild. Current project partners include Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Houston Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Zoo New England.