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Instant classic.

Deep genius thriller.

New Rod Serling. Yada Yada.

Dark Snow Project first landed in Greenland 5 years ago with the mission to study and communicate the emerging evidence that the observed darkening  Greenland ice sheet was accelerating ice melt and could affect projections of sea level rise.
Mechanisms that were getting attention included darkening agents from industrial pollution, shipping, and increasing wildfires around the northern hemisphere.  One area that had not received a whole lot of study was increased growth of microbial organisms on the ice, bumped up by streams of meltwater that made for favorable growth conditions.

5 years ago the idea that microbial, or algal, growth on the Greenland ice sheet was not getting very much attention, although scientists have known for decades that ice was, in fact a habitat for some kinds of micro organisms.

In recent years, several research groups have been looking in detail at the darkening of the ice sheet – and understanding that, as the planet warms, and ice melts, more liquid water means more habitat for bugs, more darkening, more melt, get the picture.

In 2016, I was fortunate to spend time on ice with members of a new initiative, called “Black and Bloom”, so named as it focuses not just on Black Carbon, a significant source of darkening and melt, but the specialized organisms “blooming” on the ice, shielding themselves from intense arctic summer sun by growing protective coats of dark pigment.


Dark Snow biologist Dr. Marek Stibal has found that a species of algae living on the ice produces a very special pigment that acts as a sunscreen, protecting it against the intense summer glare. The pigment is the very same molecule that gives black tea its color. The dark pigment, visible in many photos of ice during melt season, is an important, but not well understood, part of the darkening process. Read the rest of this entry »


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Above, during the campaign, candidate Trump was fond of reading a bit of dog-whistle doggerel about a kindly woman who shelters a bedraggled snake, only to come to grief, because, well you know why..
“You knew I was a snake when you took me in..”


During the campaign, Donald Trump billed himself as the “last shot” for coal country. He alone could save regions like Appalachia that had long suffered from poverty and dwindling coal jobs. And voters in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky believed him — choosing Trump over Hillary Clinton by wide, wide margins.

So it’s striking that President Trump’s first budget proposal would slash and burn several key programs aimed at promoting economic development in coal regions — most notably, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration. In recent years, these programs have focused on aiding communities that have been left behind as mining jobs vanished.

Even some of Trump’s staunchest allies were livid at the proposed cuts. “I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, a senior House Republican from a key coal-mining district in southeastern Kentucky.


So what gives? It’s possible Trump just didn’t put much thought into these reductions — and didn’t realize (or didn’t care) that he was backhanding his biggest supporters. Or it’s possible Trump genuinely believes he’s going to bring back coal jobs in Appalachia, as he’s promised, and hence figured there’s no need for all those other government programs.

Except Trump can’t bring back all the mining jobs that have disappeared over the past 30 years — it’s just not feasible. That’s a promise he won’t keep. And now he’s cutting the region’s safety net, too.

Crain’s Detroit:

In 1965, unlined wastewater lagoons holding chemical sludge spilled contaminants into a nearby tributary stream of Muskegon Lake, separated only by dunes from Lake Michigan.

In the years that followed, Kathy Evans would eat the fish her father caught out of the lake. But not all of them. While cleaning his catch, Evans’ father would toss a few fish in the trash — the smell of chemicals and petroleum was too strong to stomach.

Today, Muskegon Lakes’ fish are designated as safe to eat as other lakes in the region thanks partly to millions of dollars in federal funding. But the funding that saved Muskegon Lake and dozens of other Michigan waterways is in jeopardy under the Trump administration’s 2018 budget, which proposes cutting the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to zero.

In a move that threatens Michigan’s ecology and economy, the White House on Thursday proposed to slash Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31 percent and go further to eliminate the GLRI, which was reported earlier this month to see a cut of 97 percent in early budget speculation.

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A major new study of social-media sharing patterns shows that political polarization is more common among conservatives than liberals — and that the exaggerations and falsehoods emanating from right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart News have infected mainstream discourse.

Though the report, published by the Columbia Journalism Review, does an excellent job of laying out the challenge posed by Breitbart and its ilk, it is less than clear on how to counter it. Successfully standing up for truthful reporting in this environment “could usher in a new golden age for the Fourth Estate,” the authors write. But members of the public who care about such journalism are already flocking to news organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and, locally, The Boston Globe, all of which have experienced a surge in paid subscriptions since the election of President Trump. That’s heartening, but there are no signs that it’s had any effect on the popularity or influence of the right-wing partisan media.

The CJR study, by scholars at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, at Harvard Law School, and the MIT Center for Civic Media, examined more than 1.25 million articles between April 1, 2015, and Election Day. What they found was that Hillary Clinton supporters shared stories from across a relatively broad political spectrum, including center-right sources such as The Wall Street Journal, mainstream news organizations like the Times and the Post, and partisan liberal sites like The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.

By contrast, Donald Trump supporters clustered around Breitbart — headed until recently by Stephen Bannon, the hard-right nationalist now ensconced in the White House — and a few like-minded websites such as The Daily Caller, Alex Jones’ Infowars, and The Gateway Pundit. Even Fox News was dropped from the favored circle back when it was attacking Trump during the primaries, and only re-entered the fold once it had made its peace with the future president.

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, writing about the study earlier this week, recalled talking with a Trump voter in Pennsylvania who said she didn’t support Clinton because “I didn’t like how she stole those emails and it got people killed in Benghazi” — a perfect storm of misinformation.

Columbia Journalism Review:

While concerns about political and media polarization online are longstanding, our study suggests that polarization was asymmetric. Pro-Clinton audiences were highly attentive to traditional media outlets, which continued to be the most prominent outlets across the public sphere, alongside more left-oriented online sites. But pro-Trump audiences paid the majority of their attention to polarized outlets that have developed recently, many of them only since the 2008 election season.

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Copenhagen Post:

Denmark has teamed up with Germany and the Netherlands to look into the possibility of building an island in the North Sea to locate wind turbines in the future.

The artificial island, which will include a harbour and a landing strip for aircraft, is proposed to be six square kilometres in size and be located on Dogger Bank, a large sandbank in a shallow area about 100 km off the east coast of the UK.

“We haven’t let our fantasy gain the upper hand, although it may sound a little crazy and like something out of science fiction,” said Torben Glar Nielsen, the technical head of national energy provider

“We who have the responsibility of transporting the electricity generated by offshore wind turbines back to land and the consumers must constantly push and make sure that the price continues to fall. That requires innovative big-scale solutions, and an energy hub in the North Sea is worth thoroughly looking into.”

READ MORE: World Bank: Denmark top for green energy

Millions could benefit
The national energy transmission companies of the three nations involved will sign an agreement on March 23 that looks into the opportunities of the island.

Just establishing an island at Dogger Bank from stone and sand is expected to cost over 10 billion kroner, and that’s without the cost associated with the estimated 7,000 wind turbines planned to be erected there.

But however costly the plan, the benefits of one or more of these islands could ultimately provide energy to 80 million European consumers.

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President Trump’s budget slashes investment in clean energy — the biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the world.

In contrast, China’s latest five-year energy budget invests $360 billion in renewable generation alone by 2020. Beijing calculates the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”

Trump’s self-proclaimed “America First” budget released Thursday zeroes out key Department of Energy (DOE) clean-tech programs:

  • the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which invests in innovative clean technology
  • a program to improve manufacturing for clean cars, and
  • the loan guarantee program, which jump-started large-scale U.S. solar deployment, the electric vehicle (EV) revolution, and companies like Tesla.

This should surprise no one. Trump campaigned on zeroing out clean energy funding.

The budget offers this rationale: “The private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”

Nonsense. The United States is notorious for inventing whole industries other countries end up dominating — because our private sector under-finances advanced development and commercialization.

That’s a key reason America steadily lost manufacturing jobs while other countries make so many devices we invented. I’m looking at you iPhone, flatscreen TVs, and most consumer electronics….

Similarly, we invented the modern solar cell, but Chinese companies now make some 70 percent of them. We pioneered wind power and had the first megawatt wind turbine — but China now has five of the top ten turbine makers. The only U.S. company in the top 10 is GE.

The Trump administration would slash the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — the dominant U.S. backer of cleantech for decades — in favor of “limited, early-stage applied energy” R&D. That office (which I helped oversee in the mid-1990s) is a key reason for the game-changing cost reductions described in the 2016 DOE report “Revolution…Now: The Future Arrives for Five Clean Energy Technologies.”

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New York Times:

So perhaps it is no surprise that Mr. Trump’s first budget took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research.

Still, the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators. The reductions include $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health, which fund thousands of researchers working on cancer and other diseases, and $900 million, or a little less than 20 percent, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds the national laboratories, considered among the crown jewels of basic research in the world.

The White House is also proposing to eliminate climate science programs throughout the federal government, including at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at a White House briefing on Thursday. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

The budget also calls for eliminating some programs that help bridge the divide between basic research and commercialization. Among the most prominent of these is the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy, known as ARPA-E, the Energy Department office that funds research in innovative energy technologies with a goal of getting products to market. Its annual appropriation of about $300 million would be eliminated.

James J. Greenberger, the executive director of NAATBatt International, a trade group for the advanced battery industry, said ARPA-E had been of enormous benefit to the industry.

“We’re absolutely stunned by it,” Mr. Greenberger said of the agency’s potential elimination, which he announced to industry leaders gathered at his group’s annual conference in Arizona. “I don’t know what’s going through the administration’s head. It’s almost surreal.”


Tesla is ready to power some grids. And not just in California or Australia.

Last week, Elon Musk wagered he could address South Australia’s energy crisis with 100 megawatts (MW) of batteries installed in 100 days or less—“or it’s free.” The exchange blew up on Twitter and led to phone calls between Musk and leading Australian politicians, including Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman later chimed in that he’s interested, too.)

An analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that such a deal wouldn’t only alleviate South Australia’s blackouts, but would be profitable—at an anticipated cost of roughly $169 million (A$220 million). Battery prices are tumbling fast—by almost half just since 2014—and such mega projects are increasingly popping up around the world. More on that below. But first we should clarify Tesla’s pricing details, since there’s been some confusion out there.

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The greatest existential threat to human civilization, barring nuclear holocaust, is not worth preventing, according to alternative facts.
Not everyone in the administration is on board.

Meantime, another nexus of terror soon to be weeded out…

MIT Technology Review:

While promising to put up a high concrete wall along the Mexican border, Donald Trump said it would cost between $8 billion and $12 billion. Fat chance.

That becomes apparent after you look at what’s already on the border. After initially proposing to wall off all 2,000 miles, Trump said the wall could run along roughly half of the border, with mountains and other natural barriers blocking immigrants from crossing elsewhere. And on the portion where Trump envisions a wall, there are already 653 miles of fencing—some designed to stop cars, some to stop pedestrians, depending on the likeliest mode of crossing in each section. Building those fences has cost $2.3 billion since 2006.

If you wanted a wall instead of a fence—and if it truly were, as Trump has promised, 35 to 65 feet of concrete reinforced with steel—then the costs would mount extremely fast. Imagine a 1,000-mile wall, at a height of about 50 feet, the middle of the range that Trump has thrown out. Then suppose the wall extended 15 feet underground—a little more than is structurally necessary for a foundation, but enough to deter some tunnelers. You wouldn’t really build a long wall at a constant thickness, but let’s assume that on average, it’s one foot thick—enough to make a 50-foot wall stable and hard to cut through, a concern that Trump and his supporters have raised with the existing border fence.

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