• Running Hot and Cold in Iceland

    Iceland's economy runs hot and then cold—and then hot and cold again! And Icelanders like it that way. Created from a volcano more than 50million years ago, Iceland's environment is one of the harshest yet one of the kindest when it comes to energy. The island nation sits atop this natural heat pack and is, as a result, poised to become the first country in the world to run 100% on renewable energy. This is because the volcano is still active bubbling and ulcerating perpetually altering the landscape. The Icelandic people extract warm water and store it in tanks to provide an unlimited supply of free central heating. The heated water is extracted and placed into tanks where it is converted to steam. The pressurized steam then turns the turbines, which operate the country’s geothermal power stations providing electricity to the people and businesses of Iceland. This is very important for high tech companies that require an enormous amount of power to operate their equipment. In fact, more than half of the energy required to operate their computer servers and other high tech equipment is in the form of cooling equipment to temper the heat generated by the computers for their operation. Technology giants are beginning to get it. Facebook has relocated its server farm to Sweden and Google is operating out of Finland. This leaves other companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and IBM to speculate. >> Read the Full Article
  • Hydrofracking resulting in radioactive contaminants in wastewater

    The Marcellus Shale, encompassing 104,000 square miles across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and upstate New York, is the largest source of natural gas in the US. Since 2008, hydraulic fracturing has been used to release and capture the shale gas for energy consumption. The use of hydrofracking has been highly disputed, and recent findings by Duke University further display the harmful impacts of fracking. >> Read the Full Article
  • Triassic Pollen

    Using two drilled core samples from northern Switzerland, researchers from the University of Zurich have unearthed flowering plant fossils dating back 240 million years. These are now the oldest known fossils of their kind. The pollen grains provide evidence that flowering plants evolved 100 million years earlier than previously thought. Researchers have described these as Angiosperm-like pollen and Afropollis from the Middle Triassic of the Termanic Basin. >> Read the Full Article
  • Solar power straight off the shelf

    Furniture giant IKEA are soon to stock solar panels in all their UK stores, evidence that renewable technology can really compete in the global marketplace says David Thomas. The mood among UK trade organizations is that despite working hard to promote solar PV as an investment, governmental mismanagement has done the industry harm. >> Read the Full Article
  • Are Sierra Nevada forest fires getting more severe?

    A new scientific study finds that fire severity is not increasing in the forests of California's Sierra Nevada. The findings are contrary to claims by those who have tried to use recent fires in the region to justify more logging in the state's forests. The study, by Dr. Chad Hanson of the John Muir Project, and Dr. Dennis Odion of the Earth Research Institute at University of California, Santa Barbara, was published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. It found no trend of increasing fire severity in the Sierra Nevada management region in California over the past three decades. In fact, the study found that between 1984 and 2010, the amount of high-severity fire in the Sierra was lower than its natural level, before modern fire suppression. >> Read the Full Article
  • Investment Biking in Portland

    Bicycling's numerous and varied benefits – economic, social and environmental – have long been recognized, though given short shrift in the way of institutional value or support. That's changing. Public and private sector decision makers in cities and communities across the U.S. and around the world – spurred by persistent advocacy at the grassroots level and biking's near universal popularity – are factoring bicycling into integrated urban, suburban, and even rural transportation, development and sustainability plans. >> Read the Full Article
  • Crossing the Northwest Passage: Cargo Ship Navigates Arctic Route

    The Northwest Passage is a 900-mile long sea route through the Arctic Ocean that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Access through this passage would allow many short cuts and benefits for the shipping industry. However, it's frozen waters and dangerous ice caps have proven to be obstacles for transport. That is, until now. This passage has become more accessible because of melting sea ice that has opened up the waterways, which many say is due to global warming. While other reports have discussed viable trans-Arctic shipping lanes between North America and Russia or Asia, only small vessels have been able to cross the region in summer months when the ice is less. However, earlier this month, a 75,000 ton Danish-owned cargo ship known as the Nordic Orion traversed the passage, entering history books as one of the first bulk carriers to navigate these icy Arctic waters. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change pushing tropical trees upslope 'exactly as predicted'

    Tropical tree communities are moving up mountainsides to cooler habitats as temperatures rise, a new study in Global Change Biology has found. By examining the tree species present in ten one-hectare plots at various intervals over a decade, researchers found that the proportion of lowland species increased in the plots at higher elevations. >> Read the Full Article
  • Extreme wildfires - the new normal?

    It has been a deadly year for the people who fight wildfires. In total, 32 people have lost their lives fighting fires in 2013; the highest number in nearly 20 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Just one incident accounts for most of those deaths, the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona. In June, the blaze blasted through a firefighting crew known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots; 19 of the 20 men died. As people move farther into wildland areas and climate change turns landscapes into tinder, experts say the wildfire danger around the country will likely only grow. But there may be a lesson to learn from how the U.S. stifled an earlier fire crisis in urban settings. >> Read the Full Article
  • New UN climate change report

    The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been leading the effort in collecting scientific evidence of climate change and in looking to answer the most important question, is it caused by human activity? Some argue that it is caused mostly by natural variability, and non-human factors. The new IPCC report, released this week, provides more evidence that human activity is a major cause. The UN is calling for a global response to combat climate change, following new findings by the IPCC stating it is "extremely likely" that humans have been the dominant cause of unprecedented global warming since 1950. "The heat is on. Now we must act," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message to the launch of the report of the UN-backed IPCC. "This new report will be essential for Governments as they work to finalize an ambitious, legal agreement on climate change in 2015," Mr. Ban said. "The goal is to generate the political commitment to keep global temperature rise below the agreed 2-degree Celsius threshold." >> Read the Full Article