Environment

June 2019 Hottest June Ever

The Copernicus Climate Change Services (C3S) — a European Union program that monitors several aspects of climate — reported July 2 that last month saw the highest average temperatures ever recorded in the month of June in both Europe and around the world.

Advertisements

Environment

Heatwave in Europe Continues

Europe sweltered Saturday on the sixth day of a widespread, deadly heatwave that has fuelled record-breaking temperatures, huge blazes and pollution peaks. France, Italy, Spain and some central European nations posted all-time high temperatures.

The heat has officially claimed four lives in France, two in Italy and another two in Spain, including a 17-year-old harvest worker, a 33-year-old roofer and a 72-year-old homeless man.

The hot spell sparked several blazes, including in Spain where firefighters were again battling high flames in strong winds and blistering heat Saturday just after they managed to contain another inferno after nearly 72 hours. A fire that started Friday in the central Spanish town of Almorox burnt at least 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres), spilling over into the Madrid region and forcing the evacuation of a village, emergency services said.

In France, about 40 fires were reported, razing about 600 hectares and dozens of houses in the Gard department in the country’s south. This is the same region where a new French record of 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.6 degrees Fahrenheit) was set Friday, prompting the Meteo France weather service to issue its highest alert level of red for the first time.

Winegrowers in the south of France said their precious crops have been badly burnt.

Environment

“Plasticrust”

EWCOLOR

Researchers say they have found a strange new combination of rock and plastic forming on Portugal’s Atlantic island of Madeira.

Researcher Ignacio Gestoso says the new hybrid geology was first observed on the island’s volcanic shore in 2016, the apparent result of waterborne plastic pollution being slammed into rocks by wave action.

The new “plasticrust” looks like melted plastic encrusted on the rocks, according to Gestoso and colleagues at the island’s Marine and Environmental Research Center. They say the plastic is mainly polyethylene, a mixture of polymers and ethylene used in single-use packaging, bottles and food containers.

Heatwave in Europe

Europe’s record-breaking heatwave is forecast to intensify further on Thursday with authorities on high alert as temperatures threaten to exceed 40 degrees Celsius in some parts of the continent.

The stifling heat prompted traffic restrictions in France, sparked forest fires in Spain, and fanned debate in Germany over public nudity as sweltering residents stripped down.

Meteorologists blame a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the heat this week, which has already set new records in Europe for June. According to reports, the high temperatures have already claimed the lives of three people.

Exceptional for arriving so early in summer, the heatwave will on Thursday and Friday likely send mercury above 40C in France, Spain and Greece.

Paris Bans 60% of Cars Due To Heatwave and Pollution Levels

Paris imposed a ban on older and less efficient cars on Wednesday and is due to stay in place within the A86 second ring-road – which encompasses Paris and 79 towns around it – as long as the hot weather lasts, the city council said.

Data firm AAA Data said that nearly five million vehicles registered in the Ile-de-France area around Paris were covered, about 60 percent of total, a record number to be restricted. The city was not immediately available to comment on those estimates.

Traffic was lighter in Paris, but not significantly so. Several drivers said they were ignoring the restrictions as the fines for breaking them – just 68 euros ($77) for cars and 135 euros for vans – were so low.

French authorities also stepped up restrictions on water use on Thursday as swathes of western Europe remained in the grip of an intense heatwave.

Paris’ driving ban was imposed under the new “Crit’Air” colored stickers system, which classifies cars by age and pollution levels.

Only electric or hydrogen vehicles, petrol cars registered after Jan. 2006 and diesel cars registered from Jan. 2011 – corresponding to Crit’Air levels 1 and 2 out of 5 – were allowed on the roads.

Environment

Massive Freshwater Sea Is Buried Beneath the Atlantic Ocean

A gigantic freshwater aquifer is hiding under the salty Atlantic Ocean, just off the northeastern coast of the United States, a new study finds.

While the aquifer’s exact size is still a mystery, it may be the largest of its kind, taking up a region stretching from at least Massachusetts to southern New Jersey, or nearly 220 miles (350 kilometers). The area includes the coastlines of New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. This aquifer may contain about 670 cubic miles (2,800 cubic kilometers) of slightly salty water (from slight mixing with sea water over time).

This water isn’t young, either. The researchers said they suspect that much of it is from the last ice age.

Screen Shot 2019 06 25 at 1 30 57 PM

Environment

‘Fly-Pocalypse’ in Russian Town

A farmer in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region allegedly fertilized his field with chicken litter and unwittingly unleashed a fly-pocalypse, according to local news reports.

Footage recently captured by state news agency Channel One Russia and shared online June 13 revealed unsettling views from the village of Lazorevy. In the video, piles of dead and near-dead flies cover floors, tables and other surfaces in villagers’ homes. Meanwhile, outdoors, seething swarms of flies gather on roads, yards and fields.

Screen Shot 2019 06 20 at 3 33 59 PM

Environment

Locusts in Sardinia

Locusts are devouring crops across the Italian island of Sardinia in the worst such invasion seen there in 70 years.

While the ravenous insects are often seen on the Mediterranean island during the summer, farmers say they are now greater in number than at any time since World War II because of extreme weather swings during the past two years.

“We had droughts in 2017 and a lot of rain in 2018, the ideal climate for locusts to emerge from fallow land and then move to cultivated fields to eat,” Michele Arbau from the agricultural association Coldiretti Sardinia told Reuters.

Heat and Dust in India

A searing heat wave across India that brought Delhi its hottest ever temperature of 118 degrees F. has killed dozens of people and severely affected wildlife.

Officials say as many as 36 people have perished in the heat so far this year.

At least one troop of monkeys died from suspected heatstroke, or from violent conflicts with other monkeys over dwindling water supplies. Similar deadly conflicts among the human population have also been reported.

Tigers that are dying from thirst in parched forests have been observed moving into communities in search of water.

Environment

Philippines returns waste to Canada

cargo ship carrying tonnes of rubbish dumped in the Philippines by Canada more than five years ago, has left the Southeast Asian country, as nations in the region increasingly reject serving as dumpsites for wealthier states.

The 69 shipping containers of rotting waste were loaded onto the M/V Bavaria at Subic Bay port in the early hours of Friday, before embarking on a 20-day journey to Vancouver, in southwestern Canada.

The waste was transported to the Philippines in 103 containers in 2013 to 2014, and falsely declared as recyclable plastic scraps. Several containers of the rubbish had been disposed of, including in a landfill, leaving 69 containers of electrical and household waste, including used diapers, rotting in two Philippine ports.

449943f2158d469b81ef7358dbefb3f2 18

Environment

Drought – Alaska

The wettest part of Alaska is currently experiencing something unusual: extreme drought. Last week, the region, which has been experiencing drought conditions for almost two years, was upgraded by the United States Drought Monitor to a D3—meaning extreme drought, the second-highest level of drought severity measured by the United States Drought Monitor. The affected areas include the southernmost region of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell, and Metlakatla.

Environment

Nuclear Testing Legacy

Cracks in a dome built over a crater left by a 1958 nuclear blast in the Marshall Islands may now be leaking radioactive contamination around Enewetak Atoll.

The Runit dome was built by the United States in 1977, designed to also contain radioactive debris from other nuclear tests in the Pacific between 1946 and 1958. But the new cracks and rising sea levels threaten to inundate the atomic dump, further contaminating the Pacific atoll.

Some of the Enewetak residents evacuated before the blast were finally allowed to return in 1980 after the dome was completed and the Marshall Islands government accepted the U.S. cleanup efforts as final.

EWCOLOR

Environment

Heatwave in India

Almost half of India has been put on heatwave alert, with at least 500 people being reported to have died in the heatwave sweeping India, with temperatures reaching 48C (118F) in some areas. Most deaths have taken place in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where more than 140 people have died since Saturday.

Environment

Scientists Went to One of the World’s Most Remote Island Atolls. They Found 414 Million Pieces of Plastic

The amount of plastic pollution previously thought to exist around the world may be a dramatic underestimate — because the vast majority of plastic pollution may actually be below the surface.

That’s the takeaway from a survey of plastic pollution on the beaches of Australia’s Cocos Islands, made up of two coral atolls.

An estimated 414 million pieces of debris are now littering the remote islands, and the vast majority of that waste is buried below the surface, according to a new study. But even that is likely an underestimate, a group of researchers reported May 16 in the journal Scientific Reports.

What’s more, because most of this plastic is buried below the surface, and most global surveys don’t look below the surface, the amount of plastic pollution worldwide may be way more than we previously thought, they reported.

The scientists surveyed seven of the 27 islands, which made up 88 percent of the total landmass of the islands, and estimated that they were littered with 262 tons (238 metric tons) of plastic. A quarter of those pieces of debris were single-use or disposable items such as straws, bags and toothbrushes (about 373,000 of them), The researchers also identified some 977,000 shoes.

Roughly 93% of the debris found, most of it tiny micro-debris, was actually buried below the surface. But because they only dug 3.94 inches (10 centimeters) into the sand, and couldn’t access some beaches that are known to have a lot of debris, these numbers are likely conservative.

The amount of debris buried up to about 4 inches (10 cm) below the surface of the beach is 26 times higher than the amount visible on its surface, the researchers wrote.

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 2 46 05 PM

Environment

Heavy metals and harmful chemicals ‘poison Europe’s seas’

Heavy metals and a cocktail of dangerous chemicals continue to poison Europe’s seas, with more than three-quarters of areas assessed showing contamination, according to a report.

The sea worst affected was the Baltic, where 96% of the assessed areas showed problematic levels of some harmful substances, according to the European Environment Agency. Similar problems were found in 91% of the Black Sea and 87% of the Mediterranean. In the north-east Atlantic, unsafe levels of chemicals or metals were found in 75% of assessed areas.

However, in most areas the situation was improving, as many of the toxic substances that have washed into the seas – such as the pesticide DDT and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – are now subject to bans or severe restrictions. The improvement in the breeding success of the white-tailed sea eagle in the Baltic, for instance, is attributed to the decline in DDT. A continuing problem is with flame-retardant chemicals, which are still used and still found in waterways, and DDT from Africa is still leaching into the Mediterranean.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Ancient tree discovered in North Carolina Swamp (USA)

According to a new study published today (May 9) in the journal Environmental Research Communications, scientists studying tree rings in North Carolina’s Black River swampland have discovered a bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) that’s at least 2,624 years old, making it one of the oldest non-clonal, sexually reproducing trees in the world. (Clonal trees, which are vast colonies of genetically identical plants that grow from a single ancestor, can live for tens of thousands of years.)

How old is 2,624 years, really? To borrow an analogy from the Charlotte Observer, that age makes this tree older than Christianity, the Roman Empire and the English language.

Screen Shot 2019 05 10 at 2 42 45 PM

Environment

A Single Thundercloud Carries 1 Billion Volts of Electricity

Using an array of sensors designed to measure electric fields and the intensity of muons — heavy particles that constantly rain down from Earth’s upper atmosphere, decaying as they pass through matter — the team measured the voltage of a large thundercloud that rolled over Ooty, a town in India, for 18 minutes on Dec. 1, 2014. The researchers found that, on average, the cloud was charged with about 1.3 gigavolts of electricity, which is 1.3 times 10^9 volts — roughly 10 million times more voltage than is supplied by a typical power outlet in North America.

Armed with this knowledge, the researchers were finally able to calculate that the thunderstorm carried about 2 gigawatts of power, making this single cloud more powerful than the most powerful nuclear power plants in the world.

Screen Shot 2019 05 09 at 1 26 54 PM

Environment

Vanishing Forests

Forests around the world shrank by 30 million acres last year as human activity and wildfires brought about the fourth-largest amount of deforestation on record.

Most of the losses were the result of expanding agriculture and humankind’s other expanding footprints on the landscape, according to data compiled by the World Resources Institute.

A number of the deforestation hot spots were near the homes of indigenous people around the Amazon, many of whom had previously been unaffected by deforestation.

The institute says that forest loss was 30% greater in 2018 than the average from 2011 to 2017. It points out that the loss of pristine forest cover is only making climate change worse since the larger and older trees store carbon more efficiently.