Archive for 2007
Bringt es wirklich etwas, fuer fuenf Minuten das Licht auszuschalten, aber den Rest des Jahres nichts fuer die Umwelt zu tun? Ein provokanter Artikel ueber Klimaschutz und Klimasymbolismus.
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Climate Change and Groundwater
On a global scale, water levels are rising. The author of a recent Spiegel article claims that the effects of increasing saltwater intrusion has been neglected so far. Well… the US National Groundwater Association (NGWA) has saltwater intrusion covered since quite a while in their list of “Current and potential impacts of climate change” (part of this document). However, the author continues to mention that guys at Ohio State modelled how far saltwater extends from an ocean’s shore inland. And they found out that saltwater stretches further under continents than one has thought before.
Another point the author makes, one that I completely agree with, is that people don’t see the effects that global climate change has on groundwater resources. And people depend largely on groundwater. The author quotes a number from the USGS, according to which half of the US population derives its drinking water from groundwater
Latest UN Report
The latest UN report regarding Climate Change (and here) is a summary of the three reports that were published earlier this year. This summary will be the basis for discussion at the climate conference in Bali in December. Generally, the pictures painted in this summary-report are fairly dark: inundations, draughts, infectious diseases are all going to increase in magnitude and frequency.
The HLRS, the federal high performance computing center in Stuttgart, about 500m away from my current office, has a NEC SX-8 installed.
It is everything else but trivial to write code that can take advantage of all the cores and all the bandwidth. Certainly, the power behind such systems is mighty.
The fires in California, especially the San Diego area are turning into a big thing!
(Photo made in GoogleEarth with data from here)
The territory around the North Pole has been on an international spotlight especially since Russia recently dove in a submarine to the sea-floor and planted their flag down there. Of course, the lure of a shipping route through the North has always been kindling. Global Warming might lead to an ice-free passage in the summer — this is what has actually happened this summer. The BBC has somebody on a Canadian Coast Guard ship traveling the Northwest Passage, and produced really interesting videos and a diary.
One expression that a researcher in the BBC footage uses is “tipping point”, a word that probably came into style since Malcolm Gladwell, son of a University of Waterloo math prof, published a great book with “tipping point” as its title. Within the current context, “tipping point” means the
oft-debated point when the loss of ice and the increase in warmth will result in a permanently changed polar region that defies the ebb and flow of freezing and unfreezing that characterizes the region. (quoted from Arctic moving towards tipping point).
Franz Alt, some german guy I’ve never heard about before was recently interviewed on his thoughts on global drinking water shortages. He’s not an engineer, but I thought the interview is interesting. While we are in the “general interest” section, here is how water works.
A team of the University of Darmstadt won the “solar decathlon”. I’m not sure who should live in that house, and in what region of the world, but I think it looks interesting. Finally, Georgia might or might not have water problems.
Germany is in a hype because two german researchers won this year’s Nobel Prices in Physics and Chemistry: Peter GrÃ¼nberg from the Forschungszentrum JÃ¼lich together with Albert Fert (France) for their work on magnet resistance, and Gerhard Ertl (Fritz Haber Institute Berlin) for his research on processes on solid surfaces, respectively. In previous years, the lack of german researchers winning a Nobel Price was taken as the main argument to claim that german research sucks. The two guys winning two of this year’s prices are taken as clear evidence, that german research is not so bad after all. Only the universities are a little bit behind because both Nobel Price winners currently are employed at federal research centers. Nobody tells us when or where they did the actual work that made them win the prices now.
There are people out there who are certain that the climate is changing, and they are trying to do something against that. One idea is to dump a whole bunch of iron into the oceans which then reduces global greenhouse-gas pollution. Patrick surely knows more about that. Wired calls the act of thinking and planning such activities global climate engineering. Interesting point:
Calls for regulation might sound wimpy in the face of climate-change risks. There’s broad scientific agreement on the dangers of a warming planet: drought, famine, social and economic unrest — catastrophes that could be just decades away. Or, if we hit so-called tipping points, such as unexpectedly fast-melting polar-ice caps, or a thawing Siberian permafrost, they might be a few years away.
The Guardian Weekly (in its issue October 5-11, 2007, page 6) reports that chinese officials admit for the first time major problems with the Three Georges Dam which was finished last year, and since the planning phase has been object of major criticism. As far as I can recollect, this is the first statement that I’ve read so far that admits that there are problems. And substantial problems:
Chinaâ€™s showcase hydro-engineering project, the Three Gorges Dam, could become an environmental catastrophe unless remedial action is taken, the state media reported last week. [...] officials warned that landslides and pollution were among the â€œhidden dangersâ€ facing the worldâ€™s biggest hydro-electric plant. The alarmist reports, carried by the Xinhua news agency and the Peopleâ€™s Daily website, were in stark contrast to the congratulatory tone of most domestic coverage of the project, which was planned for flood control along the Yangtze and for lessening Chinaâ€™s dependence on power driven by coal.
[...] ‘There are many new and old hidden ecological and environmental dangers concerning the Three Gorges Dam,’ Xinhua quoted officials as saying. ‘If preventive measures are not taken, the project could lead to a catastrophe.’ [...] Li Chunming, vice-governor of Hubei, reportedly said that tributaries were being affected by outbreaks of algae. According to Xinhua, the rising volume of water in the reservoir behind the dam has eroded river banks along 91 stretches of the Yangtze, triggering landslides. The sudden collapses of soil into the water has created waves that have been up to 50 m high, the agency said.
[...] The prime minister, Wen Jiabao, raised these issues in the state council this year. His senior advisers have warned that the problems are as yet far from solved. ‘We cannot lower our guard against ecological and environmental problems caused by the Three Gorges project,’ Wang Xiaofeng, director in charge of building the dam, was quoted as saying. ‘We cannot win by achieving economic prosperity at the cost of the environment.’
One topic in the last post was how oceans are garbage-dumps. This morning I found a picture that visualizes that quite impressively:
Cynthia Vanderlip, manager of the State of Hawaii’s Kure Atoll Wildlife Sanctuary, cut open the dead body of a fledgling Laysan albatross (nicknamed “Shed Bird”) to find more than half a pound of plastic in its stomach.
There is no water, there is no oil, there is no other mineral without drilling. Even open pit mines need bore holes for exploration and subsequent geostatistical analysis. Drilling a hole certainly is no easy task. It can be tricky, it can be frustrating, but like with other similar things, it is highly rewarding when the hole is completed, and maybe the well installed, developed, and working. Maybe, one day, I’ll write about my drilling experiences in detail. For now, here are a few links related to some exciting aspects of drilling:
The International Deep Ocean Drilling Program with their immensely cool drill ship has created a Google Earth Visualization of their drill locations.
Wired has put up some general information about oil drilling, after Chevron completed a 30,000ft (~10.000m) hole in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is a sketch of the layers that are drilled through, and here is the full article.
Probably very little drilling is needed for mountain top mining. The Bush-administration has recently lifted rules in favour of mountain top mining.
Impacts on Environment
Germany just agreed on reducing emission of climate gases — in the future. At the same time, according to lighterfootsteps.com, there are five things that are worse than global warming: the end of cheap oil, the collapse of ocean ecosystems, the coming water crisis, deforestation, and nuclear weapons. Of course, this is also nothing new, the latter two items for example are the classic stomping grounds of the Green Party in Germany — or maybe even the reason why they exist.
Speaking of ocean ecosystems, the amount of garbage introduced into oceans, especially the Mediterranean, is extreme. Note: not only garbage, but also war destroys ecosystems.
Via the “goole earth blog” I found out that the Popular Science Magazine has an issue dedicated to the “future of the environment“, accompanied by a google earth layer to highlight where areas of substantial impact are.
The first attempt remained an attempt, but was the inaugural event for an organization now known as Greenpeace. Today, a Greenpeace ship made it to Amchitka.
If you’re a tree-hugger, if you’re a SUV driver, or just anybody — I think this is a good moment to sit back and think about Greenpeace for a minute. Would it be possible to found a similar organization today? How much have they reached?