Environment

Millions of tons of nuclear wastewater from Fukushima will be dumped into the sea

Japan’s government announced on Tuesday (April 13) that it will dump more than a million tons of contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, beginning in two years.

Roughly 1.25 million tons (1.13 million metric tons) of water have accumulated around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan since 2011, after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the region. The twin disasters killed nearly 20,000 people, according to NPR, and caused meltdowns in three of the plant’s six reactors, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

To keep the remaining reactor cores from melting, officials with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have been pumping nearly 200 tons (180 metric tons) of cooling water through the site every day. That contaminated wastewater is stored in more than 1,000 enormous tanks on site and automatically filtered to remove most of the radioactive material, except for tritium — a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is considered hazardous to human health in large amounts.

Now, 10 years after the disaster, TEPCO is running out of room to store the wastewater. The disposal plan, which was approved in a government cabinet meeting on Tuesday, will see the wastewater gradually discharged into the Pacific Ocean, most likely over the course of several decades.

Environment

Cosmic Glitches

Cosmic rays have been found to be responsible for a huge number of malfunctions in computers and other electronic devices. The high-energy protons and atomic nuclei that move through space at nearly the speed of light often strike Earth’s atmosphere.

Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company has determined that 30,000 to 40,000 malfunctions happen in its network alone each year due to the phenomenon.

The problems arise when electronics are struck by neutrons produced when the cosmic rays collide with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. This can cause devices from computers to mobile phones to freeze.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) in Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 91.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 68.3 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

Arctic Lightning

With the region around the North Pole heating up much faster than any other area of the planet due to climate change, atmospheric and space physicists from the University of Washington say the amount of lightning in the Arctic has grown by more than 300% during the past 11 years. They made the conclusion by looking at data from the World Wide Lightning Location Network.

While the scientists say they have no proof of a link between the warming and lightning increase, it is well known that the Arctic has typically been far too cold in the past to support the kind of updrafts that create thunderstorms and the accompanying lightning.

Coldest Ever

A U.S. research satellite detected a record-low temperature for the planet, which occurred atop a supercharged thunderstorm in the tropical Pacific just over three years ago.

Sensors aboard the NOAA-20 spacecraft found the temperature in an “overshooting top” of a soaring cumulonimbus cloud plunged to -168 degrees F.

While overshooting tops are common in thunderstorms, intense updrafts inside a thunderhead on Dec. 29, 2018, about 300 miles south of Naura Island in Micronesia, sent the top of the cloud punching into the lower stratosphere. This was in part due to the very warm ocean waters below. Such intense storms have become more frequent.

Global Warming

A Fifth of Food Output Growth Has Been Lost to Climate Change

Climate change has been holding back food production for decades, with a new study showing that about 21% of growth for agricultural output was lost since the 1960s. That’s equal to losing the last seven years of productivity growth, according to research led by Cornell University.

The revelation comes as the United Nations’ World Food Programme warns of a “looming catastrophe” with about 34 million people globally on the brink of famine. The group has cited climate change as a major factor contributing to the sharp increase in hunger around the world.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45.6 degrees Celsius) in Nawabshah, Pakistan.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 82.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63.3 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Wildlife

Waste Personal Protective Equipment from Covid-19 is Killing Wildlife

Waste from lifesaving personal protective equipment is killing birds, fish and other wildlife across the globe, a study has found. Animals are fatally ingesting or becoming entangled in discarded latex gloves and disposable face masks, while others have started building their homes using the same material, researchers said.

Scientists found a fish trapped in medical latex gloves in a canal cleanup in the Dutch city of Leiden in August, which prompted researchers to explore whether there was a larger problem.

The biologists found hundreds of discarded face masks in Leiden’s historical canals over the course of a few months and soon realized a worrying picture was emerging. Those affected are not confined to small fish and birds, rather the entire animal kingdom globally will suffer from COVID-19 litter.

Global Warming

Humans are throwing Earth’s energy budget off balance

Earth is on a budget – an energy budget. Our planet is constantly trying to balance the flow of energy in and out of Earth’s system. But human activities are throwing that off balance, causing our planet to warm in response.

Radiative energy enters Earth’s system from the sunlight that shines on our planet. Some of this energy reflects off of Earth’s surface or atmosphere back into space. The rest gets absorbed, heats the planet, and is then emitted as thermal radiative energy the same way that black asphalt gets hot and radiates heat on a sunny day.

Eventually this energy also heads toward space, but some of it gets re-absorbed by clouds and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The absorbed energy may also be emitted back toward Earth, where it will warm the surface even more.

Adding more components that absorb radiation – like greenhouse gases – or removing those that reflect it – like aerosols – throws off Earth’s energy balance, and causes more energy to be absorbed by Earth instead of escaping into space. This is called a radiative forcing, and it’s the dominant way human activities are affecting the climate.

Climate modelling predicts that human activities are causing the release of greenhouse gases and aerosols that are affecting Earth’s energy budget. Now, a NASA study has confirmed these predictions with direct observations for the first time: radiative forcings are increasing due to human actions, affecting the planet’s energy balance and ultimately causing climate change. The paper was published online on 25 March 2021, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Russian Arctic coast has planet’s quickest warming

It was the second warmest year in the Arctic on record, and parts of the vast region saw air temperatures far beyond the traditional freeze. The year 2020 follows the trend of the past decades and its spring months were the absolutely warmest since measurements started more than 100 years ago, a weather report from Russian meteorological service Roshydromet reads.

Parts of the Russian Arctic are now several degrees warmer than just few years ago. The warming is the most significant along parts of the North Siberian coast, and especially around the peninsulas of Taymyr and Yamal. Heat maps show that an area on the coast of Taymyr in 2020 had average temperatures up to 7’C higher than normal.

Global Warming

Amazon Adds to Global Warming

The first broad study of all greenhouse gases in the Amazon rainforest reveals that on balance the damaged ecosystem is now a net contributor to climate change. Part of the problem comes from local damaging activities like logging, dam-building, and cattle ranching. But planet-wide warming is also disrupting the water cycles in the Amazon, intensifying floods and drought that create more greenhouse gases and further decrease the ecosystem’s ability to capture and store carbon emissions.

Environment

Floods and Pests

Southeastern Australia’s worst floods in 50 years have forced thousands from their homes and driven a frightening number of snakes and spiders into populated areas. Other wildlife are also scrambling for higher ground, including skinks, ants and crickets.

The hordes of spiders invading people’s homes have proven to be the most traumatic for many residents. But they are advised not reach for insecticides because the arachnids will eventually leave when the waters recede.

Plastic Pathogens

Researchers say they have found that the vast amounts of microplastics released into the environment from wastewater treatment plants each day may be “hubs” for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other pathogens. A team from the New Jersey Institute of Technology says the plastic pollution forms a slimy layer of film on the surface of wastewater, which collects dangerous microorganisms and allows them to commingle and mix with antibiotic waste. The scientists say this poses a threat to marine life and human health if the plastic-borne pathogens bypass the treatment process, which is typically not designed to remove the plastics.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45.0 degrees Celsius) in Maïné-Soroa, Niger.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 82.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63.3 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

More than 50 new environmental chemicals detected in people

Researchers have detected more than 50 new environmental chemicals lurking in people’s bodies, the vast majority of which are little known or unknown compounds. The findings are concerning given that very little is known about these chemicals and their potential health effects.

Of these newly detected chemicals, two were perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These chemicals, used in consumer products such as nonstick cookware and pizza boxes, stay in the human body for a long time and can accumulate, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ten of the newly detected substances were plasticizers, or chemicals used in the production of plastics. For example, one of the detected plasticizers, a group of chemicals called phthalates, are often found in fast-food packaging and have been associated with adverse health effects. Two of the newly detected chemicals are used in cosmetics; one in pesticides. But most — 37 — of these newly detected chemicals are ones that researchers have little to no information on.

Environment

Mice Plague – Eastern Australia

Mice in the cabinets. Mice in the streets. Thousands upon thousands of mice in the barn, pooing so much it takes six hours to clean up their waste.

These are scenes from Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, where an out-of-control mouse infestation is making life miserable for farmers, grocers and other citizens of the eastern Australian states. One farmer described the rodent frenzy as “an absolute plague,” more severe than anything locals have seen in decades.

Some farmers have already lost entire grain harvests to the rampaging mice, according to local media reports, while hotels have had to close because they can’t keep the critters out of the rooms. Staff at a grocery store in a small town northwest of Sydney reported catching as many as 600 mice a night. So far, at least three people have visited the hospital with rodent bites.

Environment

Smoke alarm

Intense, widespread bushfires in Australia injected huge amounts of smoke into the stratosphere in 2020. Hirsch and Koren found that this smoke caused record-breaking levels of aerosols over the Southern Hemisphere, as much as that from a moderate volcanic eruption. The severity was caused by a combination of the vigour of the fires and their location at a latitude with a shallow tropopause and within the midlatitude cyclones belt. This aerosol increase caused considerable cooling over oceanic cloud-free areas.

Pulveriszing Plastic

Scientists say they have found a way to cleanly, efficiently and cheaply break down polystyrene, a type of plastic used in packaging material, food containers, cutlery and other items.

A team from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and Clemson University says it has found a way to grind up the polystyrene with metal ball bearings until a desired chemical reaction occurs. This type of “mechanochemistry” deconstructs the plastic through chemical events in which the metal bearings and oxygen in the air act as co-catalysts. The resulting debris can be used to create other products. “We think this proof of concept is an exciting possibility for developing new recycling technologies for all kinds of plastics,” said senior scientist Viktor Balema.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) in Maïné-Soroa, Niger.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 92.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 68.9 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.