Climate, News

Huge Antarctica Glacier might melt much faster than previously believed

Image via Antarctica.gov

Researchers from NASA, Imperial College in London and Texas University have discovered two seafloor troughs that allow warm ocean water to infiltrate and accentuate the melting of Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest glacier. This could have massive implications not only for the Antarctica ice, but for global sea levels.

Materials, News, Renewable Energy

Scientists create better, cheaper perovskite crystals

Credit: Padture Lab / Brown University.

Researchers at Brown University have found a cheaper and easier way to create hybrid perovskites, enabling engineers to develop more affordable and efficient solar cells. Perovskite is a calcium titanium oxide mineral composed of calcium titanate (CaTiO3). The mineral has received much attention in recent years as artificial perovskite crystals have increasingly been used in solar cells. Perovskite films in solar cells are excellent light absorbers, but they until now, they were more expensive to fabric and only created small crystals….

News, Renewable Energy

Finally, a fully transparent solar energy harvester

transparent solar cell

University of Michigan researchers have devised what looks like the world’s first fully transparent solar cell. Think of all of those tall glass buildings; wouldn’t it be nice if all that incoming solar energy was harvested somehow? Likewise, why not let your smartphone charge up a bit while it’s taking a tan. Of course this isn’t a new idea, but previous attempts are rather unattractive because the compromise makes windows too shady or dark. After all, the purpose of a window is to let light in, not make energy. Ideally, you’d want them harness energy as well, complementary. The new system devised at UM is exciting because it offers exactly this: energy generation, with no compromise in visibility….

Animals, Biology, News

These birds evolutionary diverged on the same island – why this is very big news

An acorn-eating island scrub jay. Photo: Katie Langin

While he was only 22 years of age, Charles Darwin sailed on the ship H.M.S. Beagle to the Galapagos Island on a trip that would later inspire him to write the theory of evolution. Paramount to his evolutionary theories was his study of finches. He identified 13 different species differentiated by beak size, and correctly concluded that the different beaks were adaptations to different diets available among the islands. This was a powerful example of divergent evolution – varieties which diverge from some original species. For instance, domestic dogs from wolves. One powerful driver of divergent evolution is physical isolation. Each left to its own island, Darwin’s finches evolved specialized traits. On California’s Santa Cruz Island, however, a most peculiar finding was made. Katie Langin, a biologist at Colorado State University, discovered two varieties belonging to the same species (Aphelocoma californica or the Scrub Jay) which diverged despite the absence of a physical barrier. Isolation drives speciation, but not in this case. Granted, the two Scrub Jay populations are essentially the same species. And yet, this is still definitely very, very weird. And we’re only beginning to understand what’s happening….

Environment, News, Pollution

Peruvian farmer forced to relocate because of climate change now demands compensation from German company

Lake Palcacocha, Peru is gorgeous for sure, but it's also a major threat to residents lying in its floodpath. Photo: YouTube

Saul Luciano Lliuya is a farmer from Peru whose home in the floodpath of the Palcacocha lake which has been swelling with glacial melt-water for the past few decades. Because Lliuya feels “acutely threatened” by the lake, the farmer is now prepared to take one of Germany’s biggest producers of brown coal energy to court and demand compensation. This would make it the first such legal claim in Europe where a company is summoned to pay for its historical role in driving emissions. …

Environmental Issues, News, Oceanography

NOAA to double size of California’s bay area marine sanctuary

noaa map

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Obama administration and California lawmakers have announced a doubling of the size of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries off Northern California.   “NOAA is expanding the boundaries of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) to an area north and west…

Climate, News, World Problems

‘Monster’ Cyclone Damages 90% of buildings in Vanuatu’s Capital, Leaders Address Climate Change

Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam near Vanuatu on March 13. Image via Wiki Commons.

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has lost years of development progress following the devastating effects of Cyclone Pam. Widely regarded as the worst natural disaster in the history of Vanuatu, the cyclone’s damage has not yet been thoroughly estimated.

Environment, News

For the first time in history, CO2 emissions decouple from economic growth

alternative energies

Historically, CO2 emissions linearly follow the world’s economy, either dropping during recession or raising with growth. Today, we’re expelling more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than ever; not coincidentally, we’re also experiencing the greatest wealth ever. Not anymore, however. According to the International Energy Agency, for the first time in 40 years of monitoring, CO2 emissions flat lined relative to the previous year, while the economy grew. In effect, we’re experiencing the first carbon decoupling from the economy, a sign that the world is shifting away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources….

Environment, Green Living

Growing flowers locally is important too, not just food

Ecuador’s flower business employs about 50,000 people on about 550 farms across the country and is indirectly responsible for 110,000 jobs. The country ships $120 million in flowers in advance of Valentine’s Day alone, experts say. Image: Getty

Between 1992 and 2007, the number of products sold by farmers directly to consumers increased three fold and twice as fast as total agricultural sales. This gives to show that recent policies and campaigns aimed at improving the sale of local food have been largely successful. Local food is fresher, has more flavor and a longer shelf life, supports small business from the local community, preserves the use of farmlands and open spaces by making them economically viable. But not all agricultural sectors have received equal attention – take flowers, for instance. Some 80% of the flowers sold in the $7 billion-$8 billion American market come from South America, according to the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC)….

Environment, Renewable Energy

Nicaragua covers 50% of its energy demand with renewables, and expects 90% by 2020

Photovoltaic power plant in Diriamba, about 25 miles from Managua. Image: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

The central American republic of Nicaragua is nothing short of a renewable energy paradise: great winds, a scorching tropical sun and 19 volcanoes that can be tapped for geothermal. Not too long ago, the country had been enslaved by its over-dependence on foreign oil imports, since it practically has no performing oil rigs. Since 2005, the country has embarked on…