• Waste Heat Recovery: The Next Wave of Clean Tech

    The terms renewable energy and clean technology conjure up images of photovoltaic panels baking in the desert sun, wind turbines rotating lazily in the wind, and large dams generating hydro-power. However, there is another important and growing clean energy technology that the average consumer hasn't heard of yet: waste heat recovery. Waste heat recovery employs a process that has been around since the 1960s called the organic Rankine cycle (ORC), which easily integrates into existing manufacturing infrastructures. ORC units capture heat that is currently being released into the atmosphere and converts it into useable CO2-free electricity. This technology has a small footprint, approximately the size of a tractor trailer flatbed and interest in systems that use this energy generating skid is on the rise as companies look to maximize the efficiency of existing investments and infrastructures. The market for waste heat recovery is virtually limitless. According to researchers at University California Berkley, the U.S. currently consumes about 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy per year. However, between 55 and 60 quadrillion BTUs are currently vented into the atmosphere as waste heat. With ORC technology these emissions are harnessed on-site to generate useable CO2-free electricity that is fed directly back into a manufacturing process. Pulp and paper, lumber, refinery, cement and power plant operations are especially well-suited for waste heat recovery systems since they consume large amounts of electricity and maintain consistent waste heat streams with temperatures between 400° and 800°F. >> Read the Full Article
  • The best Job in the World? Filming in the Jungle, new from BBC Earth

    Often the attraction of working in natural history is the thrill of the wild. The untamed, the undomesticated, the possibility of discovering the unknown! However even as a dedicated natural history program maker, there are certain hostile and remote locations where it is essential to have your super-human senses switched on. As a cameraman, crouching down to get that perfect shot on the dark and damp forest floor. It is your ears you need to rely on above all else, as often the only proof of the vast amounts of animal life around you…is what you hear! The high humidity of this environment creates ideal conditions for the strangest animals to live, breed and sing! Through the cacophony of rival mating calls, warning cries, sharing the location of a known food source and social interaction; the sounds of the wilderness could leave you overwhelmed. But it is a specific sound you are listening out for… As an enthusiastic drummer of the jungle, the chimpanzee has worked out a less stressful way of communicating with each other than exhaustive calls...which transpires is also a highly enjoyable one! While scouring the forest in search of their next meal, the troops will use buttress roots and hollow trunks to sound out! Drumming as they pass, the chimpanzee’s will make distinctive bass sounds (some even repeatedly on their favorite trees!) using their hands and feet to make clear - who is where, and how successful each party has been with their search. >> Read the Full Article
  • Farm states suffer expanded drought

    A dire drought that has plagued Texas and parts of Oklahoma expanded across the key farming state of Kansas over the last week, adding to struggles of wheat farmers already dealing with weather-ravaged fields. Harvest in Kansas, the top U.S. wheat-growing state, is set to begin within weeks. But a report issued Thursday by a consortium of climatologists said the three most severe levels of drought spread across the state over the last week, with the most dire conditions concentrated in the key wheat-growing south-central and southwest parts. "It is pretty bad," said Kansas state climatologist Mary Knapp. "For a lot of these areas... the last significant rainfall was in July of last year." Kansas now has 50 percent of the state suffering severe levels of drought or worse, up from 41 percent last week, according to the Drought Monitor report. Just three months ago, less than 4 percent of Kansas was suffering severe drought or worse. The drought is eroding production potential at a time when every bushel counts. >> Read the Full Article
  • High Atmospheric CO2 Levels May Cause Mass Extinctions in the Oceans

    One of the greatest causes of global climate change is the human emissions of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide (CO2). These emissions are released into the atmosphere, but much of it gets absorbed into the world's oceans. A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at prehistoric ocean sediment and found a disturbing trend. Periods of high CO2 concentrations have historically coincided with mass extinctions of marine organisms. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Salty Seas of Earth

    Final preparations are under way for the June 9 launch of the international Aquarius/SAC-D observatory. The mission's primary instrument, Aquarius, will study interactions between ocean circulation, the water cycle and climate by measuring ocean surface salinity. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% (35 g/L). In addition to Aquarius, the observatory carries seven other instruments that will collect environmental data for a wide range of applications, including studies of natural hazards, air quality, land processes and epidemiology. Although the vast majority of seawater has a salinity of between 3.1% and 3.8%, seawater is not uniformly saline throughout the world. Where mixing occurs with fresh water runoff from river mouths or near melting glaciers, seawater can be substantially less saline. The most saline open sea is the Red Sea, where high rates of evaporation, low precipitation and river inflow, and confined circulation result in unusually salty water. The salinity in isolated bodies of water (for example, the Dead Sea) can be considerably greater still. >> Read the Full Article
  • Louisiana flooding continues, peak nears

    Floodwater released from a key Mississippi River spillway surged through the Louisiana bayou on Tuesday, and levees protecting the state's two biggest cities held as river flows neared their peak. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza Spillway on Saturday in an effort to spare the downstream cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge from the Mississippi River's record flooding. Towns and crop lands along the Atchafalaya River basin that are in the path of the diverted floodwaters could see as much as 20 feet of water in coming days. Flooding has reached places like Butte LaRose and St. Landry Parish at the northern end of the basin, putting some houses underwater. In towns like Krotz Springs and Morgan City to the south, construction crews have erected miles of flood barriers, assisted by National Guard troops and even prison inmates, as they await the rising water. The floodwater is making its way south from the spillway more slowly than the Corps originally forecast, in part due to drought-parched soil that is soaking up some of the water, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said at a press briefing. >> Read the Full Article
  • Drought crisis in France

    France has imposed limits on water consumption in 28 of its 96 administrative departments, the environment ministry said Monday, amid signs that a prolonged dry spell that has hit grain crops would continue. "We are already in a situation of crisis. The situation is like what we would expect in July for groundwater levels, river flows and snow melting," Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told a press conference. The government had previously put 27 departments under water consumption limits, and Kosciusko-Morizet said Monday that similar measures could be extended to three more -- effectively affecting a third of the country. One of the hottest and driest Aprils on record in France has parched farmland and cut water reserves, stoking worries of a drought similar to that experienced in 1976 and fuelling concern harvests will suffer in the European Union's top grain producer. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Great Lousiana Flood

    The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 are among the largest and most damaging along the U.S. waterway in the past century, rivaling major floods in 1927 and 1993. In April 2011, two major storm systems dumped record rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed. Rising from springtime snowmelt, the river and many of its tributaries began to swell to record levels by the beginning of May. Following the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, much effort has been invested in building defenses to withstand a flood of three million cubic feet per second just upstream from the Old River Control Structure. The US Army Corps of Engineers refers to this design goal as the "project flood". As of 11 May 2011 the expected flow will be on the high side, but still within that maximum capacity, assuming everything works as expected. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday opened two of the 125 floodgates at the Morganza Spillway 45 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, and opened two more on Sunday. Opening the floodgates - a move last taken in 1973 - will channel water away from the Mississippi River and into the Atchafalaya River basin. That will take the floodwaters toward homes, farms, a wildlife refuge and a small oil refinery but avoid inundating New Orleans and Louisiana's capital, Baton Rouge. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Fantastic Fox, new from BBC Earth

    In myth, the fox is better known for its cunning rather than its courage. Becoming a symbol of trickery, deceit and even having its name attributed to false prophets in the bible. Yet the bad press received is counter to the foxes natural strengths and abilities! Living on a diet of scavenged scraps while always remaining one step ahead of its many predators, are just two examples of this animals ability to adapt, and above all, survive. A member of the canine family, it is understandable to see how the fox has been able to colonize in so many parts of the world. As a relation of dogs, wolves and coyotes, this animal naturally sits on the boundaries of civilization. However this domestication has meant that while some species have thrived in the urban jungle, others have not. This species success story is therefore best seen out of the cities, and into the remote habitats where the variations in their biology can really be seen/appreciated. Although you may have to look hard, as these 'true foxes' of the deserts, mountains, tundra's and frozen worlds are kings of being coy. Of the 37 species referred to as foxes, only 12 actually belong to the Vulpes genus of true foxes; and one that fits into this category but also that of its own genus, is the Arctic fox. Surviving in a subzero temperatures, this compact fox has evolved to have short ears, short legs, and incredibly dense fur. This canine's unique physical development does not stop there. With its footpads also covered with thick hair, it enables this small creature to hunt all year round, by protecting it from the severe cold and even providing traction on ice. >> Read the Full Article
  • Put up your data and step away from the car

    Your driving and charging habits mean a great deal to companies selling Electric Vehicles (EV), to government when developing policy, to firms developing wireless communications or charging stations and to utility companies that will be required to supply the electricity. All of them want to know when/where and how much electricity is needed and how it is obtained as more and more people buy EV. Most likely your decision to buy an EV might depend on how far you will be driving regularly. BEV gives more range, but HPEV save you from range anxiety. Either way, you are only going to spend the extra money to own an EV if you know you can drive/charge the way you want. Whether we like it or not, that means it is as important to us as it is to utilities, car companies or the government that good vehicle charging data become available. Americans have always been leery of intrusions into their privacy. Use data from personal electric vehicles, be they BEV or PHEV, will become only more important to the development of policy and marketing for greener driving goals. Think about your EV. You leave home one morning after having charged it up overnight. You go to work, where your employer provides a parking bay with an EV charger and charge it again. This charge will be what you need to get home, but what happens when your daughter calls and asks you to pick up your grandchild from daycare for her? Well, that's across town and you need extra battery range for that. But, you check your iPhone app and see that Walgreens has installed chargers at the store near daycare, so you figure you'll pick up your granddaughter and the two of you can get her the stuffed animal you promised her while the car charges again. Any other day maybe you’d only charge at home and work. >> Read the Full Article