Category Archives: earth

We Might Not Have Enough Materials for All the Solar Panels and Wind Turbines We Need, an Analysis Finds

An anonymous reader writes: Plenty of high-tech electronic components, like solar panels, rechargeable batteries, and complex circuits require specific rare metals. These can include magnetic neodymium, electronic indium, and silver, along with lesser-known metals like praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium. These metals are mined in large quantities in countries around the world, and they make their way into the supply chains of all sorts of electronics and renewables companies. A group of researchers from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure determined how many of these important metals will be required by 2050 in order to make enough solar panels and wind turbines to effectively combat climate change. With plenty of countries, states, cities, and companies pledging to go 100 percent renewable by 2050, the number of both solar panels and wind turbines is expected to skyrocket. According to the analysis, turbines and solar panels might be skyrocketing a bit too much. Demand for some metals like neodymium and indium could grow by more than a dozen times by 2050, and there simply might not be enough supply to power the green revolution.

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Japan Plans For 100ft Tsunami

schwit1 shares a report from The Times: It will shake houses and tall buildings, and unleash a 100ft tsunami on one of the most densely populated and industrialized coastlines in the world. It could kill and injure close to a million people. It will almost certainly come in the next few decades. Now, the Japanese government is making plans to evacuate millions of people in anticipation of what could be one of the worst natural disasters in history (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). It is known as the Nankai Trough megaquake. The Japanese government has previously estimated that there is a 70 to 80 percent chance that such an event will take place in the next 30 years and that the earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, could kill 323,000 people and injure 623,000. Unfortunately, the report doesn't outline how the government plans to get people out of harm's way. The city with the most people in the danger zone is Nagoya, Japan's fourth largest city and home to 2.3 million people. "The home of the nation's industry Hamamatsu is also at risk and home to over 800,000 people," reports The Irish Sun.

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The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign To Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules

When the Trump administration laid out a plan this year that would eventually allow cars to emit more pollution, automakers, the obvious winners from the proposal, balked. The changes, they said, went too far even for them. But it turns out that there was a hidden beneficiary of the plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation's oil industry. From an investigation by The New York Times: In Congress, on Facebook and in statehouses nationwide, Marathon Petroleum, the country's largest refiner, worked with powerful oil-industry groups and a conservative policy network financed by the billionaire industrialist Charles G. Koch to run a stealth campaign to roll back car emissions standards, a New York Times investigation has found. The campaign's main argument for significantly easing fuel efficiency standards -- that the United States is so awash in oil it no longer needs to worry about energy conservation -- clashed with decades of federal energy and environmental policy. "With oil scarcity no longer a concern," Americans should be given a "choice in vehicles that best fit their needs," read a draft of a letter that Marathon helped to circulate to members of Congress over the summer. Official correspondence later sent to regulators by more than a dozen lawmakers included phrases or sentences from the industry talking points, and the Trump administration's proposed rules incorporate similar logic. The industry had reason to urge the rollback of higher fuel efficiency standards proposed by former President Barack Obama. A quarter of the world's oil is used to power cars, and less-thirsty vehicles mean lower gasoline sales.

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Arctic Posts Second Warmest Year On Record In 2018, NOAA Says

According to a new report released on Tuesday by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Arctic had its second-hottest year on record in 2018. "Arctic air temperatures for the past five years have exceeded all previous records since 1900," according to the annual NOAA study, the 2018 Arctic Report Card, which said the year was second only to 2016 in overall warmth in the region. Reuters reports: The study said the Arctic warming continues at about double the rate of the rest of the planet, and that the trend appears to be altering the shape and strength of the jet stream air current that influences weather in the Northern Hemisphere. "Growing atmospheric warmth in the Arctic results in a sluggish and unusually wavy jet-stream that coincided with abnormal weather events," it said, noting that the changing patterns have often brought unusually frigid temperatures to areas south of the Arctic Circle. Some examples are "a swarm of severe winter storms in the eastern United States in 2018, and the extreme cold outbreak in Europe in March 2018 known as 'the Beast from the East.'"

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Scientists Identify Vast Underground Ecosystem Containing Billions of Micro-organisms

The Earth is far more alive than previously thought, according to "deep life" studies that reveal a rich ecosystem beneath our feet that is almost twice the size of that found in all the world's oceans. From a report: Despite extreme heat, no light, minuscule nutrition and intense pressure, scientists estimate this subterranean biosphere is teeming with between 15bn and 23bn tonnes of micro-organisms, hundreds of times the combined weight of every human on the planet. Researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory say the diversity of underworld species bears comparison to the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands, but unlike those places the environment is still largely pristine because people have yet to probe most of the subsurface. "It's like finding a whole new reservoir of life on Earth," said Karen Lloyd, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "We are discovering new types of life all the time. So much of life is within the Earth rather than on top of it." The team combines 1,200 scientists from 52 countries in disciplines ranging from geology and microbiology to chemistry and physics. A year before the conclusion of their 10-year study, they will present an amalgamation of findings to date before the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting opens this week.

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Global Carbon Emissions Jump To All-Time High in 2018

Global carbon emissions will jump to a record high in 2018, according to a report, dashing hopes a plateau of recent years would be maintained. It means emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts urgently needed, say scientists, to fight climate change. From a report: The rise is due to the growing number of cars on the roads and a renaissance of coal use and means the world remains on the track to catastrophic global warming. However, the report's authors said the emissions trend can still be turned around by 2020, if cuts are made in transport, industry and farming emissions. The research by the Global Carbon Project was launched at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where almost 200 nations are working to turn the vision of tackling climate change agreed in Paris in 2015 into action. The report estimates CO2 emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018, sharply up on the plateau from 2014-16 and 1.6% rise in 2017. Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, with emissions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in India by 6.3% in 2018. The EU's emissions are near flat, but this follows a decade of strong falls. "The global rise in carbon emissions is worrying, because to deal with climate change they have to turn around and go to zero eventually," said Prof Corinne Le Quere, at the University of East Anglia,who led the research published in the journal Nature. "We are not seeing action in the way we really need to. This needs to change quickly."

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Scientists Say Most Diverse Coral Site Ever Seen on Great Barrier Reef Discovered

In a space no longer than 500 metres, researchers say they recorded at least 195 different species of corals. From a report: A team of researchers says it has discovered the most diverse coral site ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef. Great Barrier Reef Legacy, a non-profit organisation that conducts research trips on the reef, and scientist Charlie Veron, known as the godfather of coral, have identified the site on the outer reef. In a space no longer than 500 metres, the researchers say they recorded at least 195 different species of corals on a research expedition last month. The group first stumbled upon the site on a voyage last year, and returned in November to conduct studies. "I've spent eight years working on the Great Barrier Reef in just about every nook and cranny," Veron said. "I thought there would be nothing new for me on the Great Barrier Reef." Veron returned with the group to record the corals and will write a paper on the site. He said it was located in a general area that had been affected by widespread coral bleaching and coral mortality and it would take further work to assess why this particular spot had survived so far. It also appeared to have been unaffected by cyclones and other factors such as crown of thorns that threaten coral health.

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Were Those Strange Waves Rippling Across Earth Caused By Magma Shfits?

"Strange waves rippled across earth and only one person spotted them," reported Forbes, noting that the seismologist then "quickly put out an alert to see if other systems detected the same unusual wave." "Seismographs picked up the waves as they traveled as far as New Zealand, Chile, Hawaii and Canada. In total, the waves were detected as far as 11,000 miles from their origin, ringing for 20 minutes or more minutes as they passed... As these waves rippled across the globe there were surprisingly no reports of anyone feeling the rumbling." The Weather Channel now reports that "There was no earthquake large enough to have started these low-frequency signals. Scientists believed a magma shift caused the rumblings," citing a recent interview with Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the University of Southampton. The Guardian reports: Hicks believes magma may suddenly have drained from a volcanic chamber about 10 miles under the seafloor near Mayotte, setting off the deep rumble that spread around the world. While strong enough to be picked up by sensitive seismometers, the vibrations would have been minuscule: far smaller than a millimetre. "It's something that you wouldn't perceive," he said. Pierre Briole, a geoscientist at Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, has reached a similar conclusion. He believes that a third of a cubic mile of magma may have drained from a volcanic chamber under the seafloor, unleashing deep vibrations when its roof collapsed. Much of the seismic sleuthing played out on social media with professional and amateur scientists working together. "Overall, [it has been] a fascinating demonstration of open science on Twitter and engagement between scientists and citizen seismologists," said Hicks.

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‘Great Dying’: Rapid Warming Caused Largest Extinction Event Ever, Report Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Rapid global warming caused the largest extinction event in the Earth's history, which wiped out the vast majority of marine and terrestrial animals on the planet, scientists have found. The mass extinction, known as the "great dying," occurred around 252m years ago and marked the end of the Permian geologic period. The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65m years ago. Up to 96% of all marine species perished while more than two-thirds of terrestrial species disappeared. The cataclysm was so severe it wiped out most of the planet's trees, insects, plants, lizards and even microbes. The researchers used paleoceanographic records and built a model to analyze changes in animal metabolism, ocean and climate conditions. When they used the model to mimic conditions at the end of the Permian period, they found it matched the extinction records. According to the study, this suggests that marine animals essentially suffocated as warming waters lacked the oxygen required for survival. The great dying event, which occurred over an uncertain timeframe of possibly hundreds of years, saw Earth's temperatures increase by around 10C (18F). Oceans lost around 80% of their oxygen, with parts of the seafloor becoming completely oxygen-free. Scientists believe this warming was caused by a huge spike in greenhouse gas emissions, potentially caused by volcanic activity.

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Sea Levels May Rise More Rapidly Due To Greenland Ice Melt

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Rising sea levels could become overwhelming sooner than previously believed, according to the authors of the most comprehensive study yet of the accelerating ice melt in Greenland. Run-off from this vast northern ice sheet -- currently the biggest single source of meltwater adding to the volume of the world's oceans -- is 50% higher than pre-industrial levels and increasing exponentially as a result of manmade global warming, says the paper, published in Nature on Wednesday. Almost all of the increase has occurred in the past two decades -- a jolt upwards after several centuries of relative stability. This suggests the ice sheet becomes more sensitive as temperatures go up. The researchers used ice core data from three locations to build the first multi-century record of temperature, surface melt and run-off in Greenland. Going back 339 years, they found the first sign of meltwater increase began along with the industrial revolution in the mid-1800s. The trend remained within the natural variation until the 1990s, since when it has spiked far outside of the usual nine- to 13-year cycles.

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Shocking Maps Show How Humans Have Reshaped Earth Since 1992

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: It's no secret that humans -- noisy, messy creatures that we are -- are vastly altering Earth's environments. But it's one thing to know this in the abstract, and another to see global changes laid out in detail, as they are in comprehensive new maps published this month in the International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. Developed by geoscientist Tomasz Stepinski and his team at the University of Cincinnati's Space Informatics Lab (SPI), the intricate visualizations reveal that 22 percent of Earth's total landmass was altered between 1992 and 2015, mostly by humans. The most common change was forest loss due to agricultural development, and the second most common was the reverse -- farms to forests. The swift urbanization of grasslands, forests, and farms was also reflected in the maps. Stepinski and his colleagues used satellite data collected by the European Space Agency's Climate Change Initiative, which included geospatial maps of land cover designed to monitor climate change. The team broke these maps into 81-kilometer-squared tracts and created a legend of color-coded tiles based on nine broad types of transitions that occurred between 1992 and 2015 (agriculture gains in yellow, forest losses in maroon, etc). The tiles are shaded to reflect the degree of change, with the lightest shade corresponding to regions altered by less than 10 percent, and dark patches representing regions that shifted by 30 percent or more. On a broad scale, the maps emphasize the massive influence of human activity on the planet. But the project has also revealed granular details about specific locations.

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CO2 Emissions Rose for the First Time in 4 Years

Human emissions of carbon dioxide have gone up for the first time since 2013, according to the UN's ninth annual Emissions Gap Report, meaning the world isn't on track to mitigate the worst of climate change's already disastrous effects. From the report: The report, published on Tuesday, says that while carbon emissions stayed relatively level between 2014 and 2016, carbon emissions in 2017 went up by 1.2 percent. Composed by climate scientists using the most up-to-date scientific data, the report aims to determine whether we're on track to meet the goals set by international climate agreements, such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The "emissions gap" is the difference between how low our emissions need to be, and where they actually are. The UN report concludes that the world isn't hitting the emissions targets necessary to curb warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. While the goal is not impossible, it's unlikely to be met under current political conditions, which have rendered us unable to take significant action against climate change for more than half a century. "According to the current policy and [Nationally Determined Contributions] scenarios, global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020," the report reads. "As the emissions gap assessment shows, this original level of ambition needs to be roughly tripled for the 2C scenario and increased around fivefold for the 1.5C scenario."

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Scientists Discover Rare Giant Viruses Lurking In Harvard Forest Soil

MinutePhrase shares an article from ScienceAlert: There's a forest in Massachusetts that for nearly 30 years has hosted the world's longest running soil-warming experiment, measuring how hotter temperatures impact the tiny life-forms that live in the dirt... "Our goal was to isolate bacteria directly from the environment to understand how microbial communities are changing in response to soil warming," says biologist Jeff Blanchard from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass)... In this oversized outdoor research laboratory, scientists have made an unexpected discovery, finding 16 rare 'giant' viruses that are completely new to science... These giant viruses were only discovered this century, and up until now they've usually been found in aquatic habitats. For that reason alone the Harvard Forest discovery is remarkable, as this represents the first time giant viruses have been discovered in a terrestrial ecosystem, and all from a single clump of dirt... "We recovered 16 distinct giant virus genomes in this study," says one of the team, bioinformaticist Frederik Schulz from the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute," but we are merely scratching the surface. If we sample more at the same site this number would easily double, triple, or even quadruple."

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Many of the Climate Impacts Predicted in the Last National Climate Assessment, in 2014, Are No Longer Theoretical

This year's report contains many of the same findings cited in the previous National Climate Assessment, published in 2014. From a report: More and more of the predicted impacts of global warming are now becoming a reality. For instance, the 2014 assessment forecast that coastal cities would see more flooding in the coming years as sea levels rose. That's no longer theoretical: Scientists have now documented a record number of "nuisance flooding" events during high tides in cities like Miami and Charleston, S.C. "High tide flooding is now posing daily risks to businesses, neighborhoods, infrastructure, transportation, and ecosystems in the Southeast," the report says. As the oceans have warmed, disruptions in United States fisheries, long predicted, are now underway. In 2012, record ocean temperatures caused lobster catches in Maine to peak a month earlier than usual, and the distribution chain was unprepared.

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Amazon Rainforest Deforestation ‘Worst in 10 Years’, Says Brazil

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has hit its highest rate in a decade, according to official data. BBC reports: About 7,900 sq km (3,050 sq miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed between August 2017 and July 2018 -- an area roughly five times the size of London. Environment Minister Edson Duarte said illegal logging was to blame. The figures come amid concerns about the policies of Brazil's newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro. During the 2018 election campaign, Mr Bolsonaro pledged to limit fines for damaging forestry and to weaken the influence of the environmental agency. An aide for the president-elect has also announced the administration will merge the agriculture and environment ministries, which critics say could endanger the rainforest. The latest government data says most of the deforestation occurred in the states of Mato Grosso and Para, and marked a 13.7% rise over last year's figures. Mato Grosso is the top producer of grains in Brazil, and critics say expanding agriculture is also encroaching on the rainforest.

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Norwegian Company Plans To Power Their Cruise Ships With Dead Fish

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Waste fish parts will be used to power ships in a new initiative to use green energy for polluting cruise liners. The leftovers of fish processed for food and mixed with other organic waste will be used to generate biogas, which will then be liquefied and used in place of fossil fuels by the expedition cruise line Hurtigruten. Hurtigruten operates a fleet of 17 ships, and by 2021 aims to have converted at least six of its vessels to use biogas, liquefied natural gas -- a fossil fuel, but cleaner than many alternatives -- and large battery packs, capable of storing energy produced from renewable sources. Biogas can be generated from most forms of organic waste by speeding up and harnessing the natural decomposition process to capture the methane produced. Organic waste is produced by all food industries but is frequently disposed of in landfill, where it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions as it decomposes. Hurtigruten is currently building three new hybrid-powered cruise ships in Norway, to be delivered in the next three years.

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A Massive Impact Crater Has Been Detected Beneath Greenland’s Ice Sheet

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: An unusually large asteroid crater measuring 19 miles wide has been discovered under a continental ice sheet in Greenland. Roughly the size of Paris, it's now among the 25 biggest asteroid craters on Earth. An iron-rich asteroid measuring nearly a kilometer wide (0.6 miles) struck Greenland's ice-covered surface at some point between 3 million and 12,000 years ago, according to a new study published today in Science Advances. The impact would've flung horrific amounts of water vapor and debris into the atmosphere, while sending torrents of meltwater into the North Atlantic -- events that likely triggered global cooling (a phenomenon sometimes referred to as a nuclear or volcanic winter). Over time, however, the gaping hole was obscured by a 1,000-meter-tall (3,200-foot) layer of ice, where it remained hidden for thousands of years. Remarkably, the crater was discovered quite by chance -- and it's now the first large crater to be discovered beneath a continental ice sheet.

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