Environment

Drought in Botswana

Animal are struggling to survive in drought-hit Botswana. Around 38,000 livestock depend on the waters of Lake Ngami in northern Botswana, but the animals — like the lake itself — are being badly hit by a crippling drought. Hippo have also been severely affected seeking out the few remaining pools of muddy water to survive.

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Environment

Eruptive Bloom

The more than 1 billion tons of lava that spewed into the Pacific last summer from the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano triggered an algae superbloom offshore that initially puzzled scientists.

There are no nutrients contained in Kilauea’s lava. But Southern California and Hawaii scientists found that as the lava flowed deep into the coastal waters off the Big Island, its heat caused nitrates, silicic acid, iron and phosphate nutrients to rise from the deep, fueling the algae growth on the surface.

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Pacific Hot Blob

The unusually hot sea-surface temperatures that caused algae blooms and sea lion deaths in the Pacific several years ago are back.

The “hot blob” is basically caused by unusually weak winds, which typically don’t stay weak for long. But they have this summer, and lingering heat from the last warming seems to be amplifying the current outbreak.

Oceanographers say that if the hot water stays around for a long time, it will begin to penetrate deeper into the Pacific, increasing its influences on marine life.

Environment

Record Heatwave in France Killed 1 500 people

Heat waves that plagued France this summer left some 1,500 people dead, according to the European nation’s health minister. There had been at about 1,000 more deaths than normal during the summer months, with half of the deceased being 75 or older. In total, there were 18 exceptionally hot days recorded in France during June and July.

Environment

Plastic Pollution

The plastic that humans unwittingly ingest has now been detected in stool samples from people in diverse locations around the world.

Writing in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, lead researcher Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna says that none of the stool samples they examined was free of microplastics.

The test subjects showed signs of possible plastic exposure from food wrappers and bottles. Most had also consumed ocean-going fish, which are known to eat plastic.

Antibiotic Pollution

As much as 80 percent of the antibiotics entering the River Thames in human waste must be stopped to avoid the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a new study says.

Researchers from Britain’s Center for Ecology & Hydrology warns that rivers are now reservoirs for the superbugs, which can spread quickly to people in water, soil, air, food and animals.

The study results came after England’s chief medical officer warned that microbes resistant to antibiotics could pose a more immediate risk to humans than climate change, with their potential to kill at least 10 million people a year worldwide.

Environment

Noxious Cloud of Carbon Monoxide Pollution Spills Out of the Burning Amazon

NASA has detected a gargantuan cloud of noxious carbon monoxide (CO) rising from the Amazon blaze into the atmosphere.

The plume first appears as a greenish blob over Brazil before rapidly spreading out past the eastern and western coasts of South America, gradually darkening from green to yellow to red. This color shift signifies an increase in CO concentration in the atmosphere from about 100 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) to 160 ppbv in less than two weeks.

Environment

Radioactive Spike

Tiny amounts of radioactive iodine were detected in the air along Norway’s border with Russia following a deadly explosion that occurred during a secret rocket engine test in northern Russia’s Arkhangelsk region.

Russia’s meteorological agency said radiation levels in the city of Severodvinsk spiked by up to 16 times following the nearby blast.

U.S. experts believe Russia was testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile when the explosion occurred, killing five research staff and military personnel.

Four of the five stations in Russia that scan for radionuclide particles in the air for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization went silent for days following the blast.

Rain Tree

A team of Chinese and international researchers say they have developed an inexpensive solar-powered “tree” that desalts enough water each day from the sea to provide clean drinking water for at least three people per “leaf.”

The scientists say roots made of cotton fibers soak up water and send it up a metal stem, where leaves made of black-carbon paper convert sunlight into heat.

After the water is heated by the leaves to nearly 122 degrees Fahrenheit, the resulting water vapor is cooled and condensed back as fresh water.

The technology could be deployed in small communities or on remote islands to help ease water shortages.

Environment

Smoke from Burning Amazon Turns São Paulo Afternoon into Midnight

There’s so much smoke from wildfires in the Amazon rainforest that São Paulo plunged into darkness on Monday afternoon (Aug. 19), with day turning into night. The atmosphere was a reminder that forest fires in the Amazon have surged 82% this year compared with the same period last year (from January to August).

That smoke, combined with clouds and a cold front (it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere), led to the midnight-like darkness in São Paulo. The fires are largely burning in northern Brazil and have prompted the Brazilian state of Amazonas to declare a state of emergency.

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Environment

Plastic Pollution goes Airborne

Tiny bits of microplastics have been discovered in recent months in rainwater and snowfall from Colorado to the Arctic.

They join similar plastic pollution that has shown up in groundwater, rivers and lakes, and at the deepest depths of the sea.

Scientists from the Northwest Passage Project, taking ice core samples this summer in Arctic Canada, say they also found visible plastic beads and filaments of various shapes and sizes in the ice.

Earlier studies have found that plastic has fallen from the sky in Europe’s Pyrenees Mountains, a region near Hong Kong, the Iranian capital of Tehran and Paris.

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Environment

Chernobyl’s Crumbling Sarcophagus Will Be Torn Down

The giant structure originally constructed around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 to contain the radioactive material released in one of history’s worst nuclear disasters is crumbling. Soon, it will be torn down.

The Ukranian company managing the nuclear power plant, SSE Chernobyl NPP, recently signed a contract with a construction company to take the dome-shaped structure apart by 2023, according to a statement. That’s when the sarcophagus will reach the end of its stable life and “expire,” so to speak.

But that doesn’t mean radioactive material will just slip out into the world. In 2016, a large steel structure called the “New Safe Confinement” was crafted to blanket the sarcophagus and the radiation underneath it. This confinement structure, 354 feet (108 meters) high, was built a distance from the radioactive site and slid into place with 224 hydraulic jacks.

The New Safe Confinement is expected to last at least 100 years and is strong enough to withstand a tornado, according to the report. On the other hand, the crumbling sarcophagus underneath it wasn’t built to last long, and was a kind of Band-Aid approach to quickly contain the radiation during the time of the accident.

The sarcophagus is massive, made up of over 7,700 tons (7,000 metric tons) of metal and 14.1 million cubic feet (400,000 cubic meters) of concrete. But it’s flimsy — it doesn’t have any welded or bolted joints — and could be easily knocked down by an earthquake, according to the report.

It stays upright, not through sturdy engineering but through the force of gravity, according to the statement. Dismantling it will be “extremely complicated” and will happen under conditions of “high nuclear and radiation risk,” the statement said.

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Environment

Amazon Deforestation Shot Up by 278% Last Month

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest increased by 278% in July 2019 compared with July 2018, resulting in the destruction of 870 square miles (2,253 square kilometers) of vegetation, new satellite data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show.

That’s an area about twice the size of the city of Los Angeles. And, while the forest still spans some 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million square km — just a little bit bigger than Mexico), the spike in tree loss is part of a dangerous trend.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who vowed on the campaign trail to open more of the Amazon to various mining, logging and agricultural interests, despite environmental protections on the land called the report “a lie” and vowed to hire a private firm to monitor rain forest loss.

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Environment

Ethiopia Plans Trees

Ethiopians have planted more than 350 million trees in a single day as part of a campaign to fight deforestation and climate change. Ethiopia’s minister of innovation and technology, said 353 633 660 seedlings were planted in 12 hours on Monday. The planting spree, which surpassed the initial goal of 200 million trees planted in one day, will be a world record, officials said.

Environment

Nuclear Cloud Mystery Solved

A vast cloud of nuclear radiation that spreadover continental Europe in 2017 has been traced to an unacknowledged nuclear accident in southern Russia, according to an international team of scientists.

The experts say the cloud of radiation detected over Europe in late September 2017 could only have been caused by a nuclear fuel-reprocessing accident at the Mayak Production Association, a nuclear facility in the Chelyabinsk region of the Ural Mountains in Russia, sometime between noon on Sept. 26 and noon on Sept. 27.

Russia confirmed that a cloud of nuclear radiation was detected over the Urals at the time, but the country never acknowledged any responsibility for a radiation leak, nor has it ever admitted that a nuclear accident took place at Mayak in 2017.

Although the resulting cloud of nuclear radiation was diluted enough that it caused no harm to people beneath it, the total radioactivity was between 30 and 100 times the level of radiation released after the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011.

Environment

After Scorching Europe, Heat Wave Is Poised to Melt Greenland

A heat wave that shattered records in Europe this week is on the move, and it could melt billions of tons of ice in Greenland.

Hot air that originated over Northern Africa recently brought blistering heat to Europe, Paris sizzled at a staggering 108.7 degrees Fahrenheit (42.6 degrees Celsius), and temperature records were broken across the continent by up to 6 degrees F (3 degrees C).

A representative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that atmospheric flow would carry this scorching heat to Greenland, which lost over 170 billion tons (160 billion metric tons) of ice in July and 80 billion tons (72 billion metric tons) of ice in June from surface melting alone. When this warm air arrives in Greenland, it will likely cause “another major peak in melt area.

Pumping Deeper

The first nationwide study of U.S. groundwater wells shows that they are being dug deeper and deeper to supply the country’s expanding freshwater needs.

But scientists caution that the practice is not sustainable because groundwater supplies are dropping in many of the major aquifers that supply fresh water to more than 120 million people and half of U.S. farming irrigation.

Writing in the journal Nature Sustainability, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara caution that deeper wells may eventually tap into saltier water, requiring desalination. The U.S. Geological Survey says that between 1950 and 2015, aquifer levels have dropped by about 10 feet on average.

Environment

June Hottest Month on Record

June 2019 was the hottest June on record for the globe. And, it was the second month in a row that balmy temperatures caused Antarctic sea ice coverage to reach a record low.

The sizzling average land and sea temperature of June 2019 was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit (0.95 degrees Celsius) above the global average temp of 59.9 F (15.5 C), making June 2019 the hottest June in 140 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information.

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.