The site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan remains a post-apocalyptic landscape of abandoned towns, frozen in time. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien got a rare tour inside the plant, where three nuclear reactors melted down after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, to learn more about the long-term solutions for stemming the radioactive contamination.




It is a vision of unimaginable desolation: a crowd of men, women and children stretching as far as the eye can see into the war-devastated landscape of Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.

A photograph released on Wednesday by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, shows the scene when thousands of desperate Palestinians trapped inside the camp on the edge of the Syrian capital emerged to besiege aid workers attempting to distribute food parcels.

More than 18,000 people are existing under blockade inside Yarmouk, enduring acute shortages of food, medicines and other essentials. Much of the camp has been destroyed by shelling, and attempts to deliver aid to those inside have been hampered by continued fighting in Syria’s three-year-old civil war.


SAN FRANCISCO — Drought was a key factor contributing to unrest and civil war in Syria, and the severity of the drought was probably a result of human-caused climate change, new research presented here Monday (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union suggests.

The study analysis suggests that the drought was too severe to be simply a result of natural variability in precipitation.
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Let me emphasize I would not know about this if someone had not pointed it out to me.
Posted the other day on the science denial blog Watts Up With That.

I won’t post a link. Find it yourself:

Which now brings me to the decisive point: while the proponents of the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) insist that the temperatures of the planet are set to rise in an accelerating mode that we won’t be able to control least we adopt drastic climate protecting measures a.s.a.p., we just learn that in the Sinai desert, a region to the south-west of Israel, four hikers have died in a blizzard. They lost their way and sadly froze to death in deep snow at temperatures well below the freezing point. Pictures in the internet show camels knee-deep in snowdrifts.

If one pieces together this information and biblical records, one might feel entitled to draw the conclusion that such a weather event hasn’t been observed in the region for several thousand years. Not exactly an indication of runaway temperatures, at least not a rush to the northern regions of the mercury scale. And this wasn’t a singular event. Over a prolonged time period and a wide area, the Middle East might have been experiencing its worst cold snap in several hundred if not thousand years.

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Good discussions this week on the topic of new paradigms for utility grids and energy storage.  I’m reposting Don Sadoway’s TED talk from 2012, because he has a promising technology for energy storage – that has continued in development by the startup Ambri.

Tech heavy stuff.  Excerpts here – more details at the link.  Experts weigh in.


The three layers in the Ambri battery are self-segregating, cheap to manufacture and earth-abundant. The materials used in the original design were magnesium and antimony separated by a salt — but “we needed higher voltage and lower temperature,” said the CTO, and so the firm has a new, undisclosed chemistry arrived at with the help of ARPA-E funding.

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You wouldn’t know it if you got all your news from Fox & Friends, but January was, globally, one of the warmest in the instrumental record.
Interestingly, this report, based on NOAA data, says January was the “third wettest” in the record, whereas the UK Met Office says the month was the wettest in 248 years, since records began. I give the Met Office the edge on that one.

I first interviewed Dr. Alun Hubbard on the edge of the Watson River in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland last summer.  His vivid language and lucid storytelling made that video on of the most popular in the Yale Series. (see below)

Both Dr. Hubbard, and my Dark Snow Project cohort, Sara Penrhyn Jones, live in Aberystwyth, on the coast of Wales, and teach at Aberystwyth University. I skyped with Alun a week or so ago in the midst of the storms hammering the area. Shortly after that he wrote me to explain that his roof had just blown off in hurricane force winds.

Sara was kind enough to shoot some video of the surf pounding the area,  and she caught up with Hubbard long enough for a colorful and well informed take on a sentinel weather event.

I’ll cut together some of Aluns’ further remarks that did not make this video in the next day or so – see Hubbard’s Greenland interview below:

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Come live the Good Life!

The good life in a “man camp”.
For “boomers” the short lived economic surge means a few years in a trailer, away from home, family, and community connections. For law enforcement, new and overwhelming levels of crime and social disruption.

A sensible program encouraging energy efficiency and sustainable development across America would mean construction and manufacturing jobs in local communities, maintaining and building the bedrock of society, schools, roads, infrastructure, and more importantly – human connections.  Moreover, the vital work of upgrading, and continuing to maintain, our existing buildings means jobs for anyone that can pound a nail, dig a hole, or bend metal.

That is not what Big Oil has in mind for your future.

Hollywood Interrupted:

In a country with an unofficial underemployment rate of 20%, the tiny railroad whistle-stop of Williston, North Dakota near the Montana border (population 17,000 and spiking) is currently at capacity: There’s not a motel room to be had in the city, housing prices are double what they were a year ago ($300,000 for a two-bedroom home), and the daily onslaught of new arrivals is reduced to living in their cars, RVs, sporadic tent cities or the rapidly proliferating “man camps” – clusters of trailers in an open field that pack in oil patch workers dormitory style, sometimes six to a room.
Access to running water and simple sanitation is so rare that public businesses have had to lock their bathrooms to discourage makeshift sponge baths or the dumping of wastewater. Meanwhile, throughout the region, fast food professionals can make $15 an hour and waitresses start at $25 an hour, with a bonus if they’ll stay in the job for at least six weeks. (Pizza Hut brought in campers-vans just so its counter help could afford to live there.)

Think Progress:

The oil boom in North Dakota has garnered headlines for a range of reasons, many of them unsavory: the possible increase of violence, drug addiction and STDs, the wastefulness ofgas flaring, and the increase in oil and waste water spills. Now, it can be tied to another effect: really high rent.

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Germany and California have begun mandating and incentivizing  battery production for storing grid electricity, the same dynamic that has caused solar photovoltaic prices to drop dramatically in recent years.
Now, a leading edge private initiative to create disruptive change in the energy storage space.

Motor Authority:

Tesla has reworked the ex-GM/Toyota NUMMI plant in Freemont, California into a high-tech electric car factory, but it may soon outgrow the place. The company–which has built about 30,000 Model S sedans so far–has previously hinted at a larger plant that would coincide with plans to ramp up production.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk elaborated on these plans in a recent shareholder letter. He described a “Giga Factory” that would build battery packs for a future mass-market electric car. Tesla currently buys individual battery cells from Panasonic, but under the new scheme it would start with raw materials and finish with complete packs.

“This will allow us to achieve a major reduction in the cost of our battery packs and accelerate the pace of battery innovation,” Musk said in the letter.

Auto Blog Green:

The Gigafactory will take in the raw materials for lithium batteriesand put out finished packs, not only for the electric vehicles made by Tesla and its automotive customers, but also for massive amounts of renewable energy storage – that’s a niche the company plans to begin to occupy sometime early next year with residential-sized products. The production volume is expected to be at least 30 gigawatt-hours-worth per year. That’s more storage than all the lithium battery factories in the world combined produce now. Color us impressed.

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