Antarctica by Whale Cam

February 19, 2020

American Geophysical Union:

SAN DIEGO—Cameras attached to a rare species of Antarctic whale are giving scientists an unprecedented view of how the whales survive in their sea ice habitat, according to new research presented here at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020.

In a recent study, scientists attached tags to 30 Antarctic minke whales, a small and little-known species of baleen whale, to better understand the animals’ sea ice environment. The tags, clinging to the animals’ backs with suction cups, recorded video and motion data for 24 to 48 hours.

Each time the whales surfaced, the researchers could calculate from the video how much sea ice was present, providing clues as to how the amount and type of sea ice influenced the whales’ behavior.

Previous research had relied on satellite images to study the whales’ habitat, but scientists needed to get closer to truly understand how these creatures were moving through their sea ice environment.

“It’s unique in that we’ve never been able to measure this kind of an environmental feature from the animal’s perspective,” said Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist at the University of California Santa Cruz who led the project. “These tags have the capacity to continuously show us the environment the animal is experiencing, which is absolutely novel for us.”

While the research is still ongoing, preliminary data from the whale cams are already revealing surprising results, according to the researchers. From the six tags analyzed so far, the researchers saw whales were spending 52 percent of their time in open water compared to just 15 percent in water with high concentrations of sea ice.

As Antarctic sea ice continues to shrink under climate change, understanding its importance for the whales will be crucial for protecting them, according to the researchers.

“A lot of [previous work] with these cameras has been focused on animal behavior, which was originally one of the intentions that we had for our cameras,” said Jacob Linsky, a research technician at the University of California Santa Cruz who helped develop the new technique and will present the results this Friday. “But we happen to have stumbled upon a great way to monitor the environment with this mobile platform, which is something that hasn’t been done in the marine environment before.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker:

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—In an apparently successful attempt to get under the skin of Donald Trump, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has purchased Greenland from Denmark.

In an official statement released on Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, would not disclose the price that Bloomberg paid for Greenland but indicated that it was an “all-cash offer.”

“Mr. Bloomberg has a lot of money,” Frederiksen added.

News of Bloomberg’s purchase of Greenland reportedly infuriated Trump, who immediately ordered his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to make an offer to buy the Faroe Islands from Denmark.

Within minutes, however, Denmark rebuffed Kushner’s bid. “We do not believe Donald Trump is capable of running the Faroe Islands,” Frederiksen said.

As for Bloomberg, his campaign released a brief statement about the historic purchase of the 836,330-square-mile landmass, saying only, “Mike gets it done.”

Andy Borowitz  writes The Borowitz Report, a satirical column on the news.

Master class in simple, clean, finger style guitar.

The new year’s most important story so far –
after a decade of creep, a landslide of institutional funding for climate mitigation and renewables.

Verge:

Today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he would be committing $10 billion to fight climate change through a new fund called the Bezos Earth Fund.

He announced new fund in a post on Instagram.

Bezos said that the money will be used to help scientists, activists, NGOs, and “any effort that offers a real possibility” to help preserve the earth from the impact of climate change. A person close to the fund told The Verge that it would not engage in private sector investment, but focus entirely on charitable giving. 

The fund plans to begin issuing grants this summer, but right now, there are few hard details besides what Bezos shared on Instagram, so it’s unclear exactly how or when applications for grants will be accepted.

Bezos is worth about $130 billion, so committing $10 billion to philanthropy isn’t taking a huge chunk out of Bezos’ net worth. Bezos hasn’t been quite as vocal as other tech billionaires about his philanthropy, though in 2018, he did launch announce a network of free nonprofit preschools to be built in low-income communities. And in 2017, he polled Twitter for philanthropy ideas that could assist people in need in the near-term.

Not everyone impressed.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice:

This morning, Jeff Bezos announced he is donating $10 billion to his new “Bezos Earth Fund.” Following that news, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice issued the following statement: 

Read the rest of this entry »

CNN:

“To get attention, you have to build tall,” said Øystein Elgsaas, a partner at the architecture practice behind the record-breaking tower, Voll Arkitekter, in a video call.

“And when you have the world’s tallest building made of timber, everybody says, ‘Wow, what’s going on in Norway?'”

“People are interested, and that is actually the most important part of this building — to showcase that it is possible, and to inspire others to do the same.”

The record-breaking feat was realized thanks to a type of engineered wood called cross-laminated timber, or CLT. Part of a larger group of materials known as mass timber, it is produced by gluing strips of laminated wood together at 90-degree angles to one another, before they’re compressed into huge beams or panels under extreme pressure.

The resulting wooden towers — sometimes dubbed “plyscrapers” — were once the preserve of conceptual designers. But thanks to changes in building regulations and shifting attitudes towards the material, they are quickly becoming a reality.

A slew of new timber high-rises is set to break ground or open in 2020. HoHo Vienna, a mixed-use development just five feet shorter than Mjøstårnet, has just opened for business in Austria. And while Europe has traditionally led the charge, North America is quickly catching up.

In Vancouver — a city already home to a 174-foot-tall wooden student residence — the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban has designed a “hybrid” condo complex comprising a steel and concrete core with a timber frame that will open this year. Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, work on a 238-foot wooden apartment block, Ascent, is set to begin in June.

Advocates for mass timber claim that, compared to existing alternatives, these towers are quicker to construct, stronger and, perhaps most surprisingly, safer in the event of a fire. It may, however, be their green credentials that explain wood’s rising popularity in recent years.

The construction and operation of buildings accounts for 40% of the world’s energy consumption, and approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. But while concrete emits a huge amount of carbon, trees instead absorb it throughout their lifetime.

If those trees are then turned into mass timber, that carbon is “locked in,” or sequestered, rather than returned to the atmosphere when the tree dies. Studies suggest that 1 cubic meter of wood can store more than a ton of carbon dioxide.

The developers of Milwaukee’s Ascent apartment complex, for instance, claim that its use of timber represents the equivalent of taking 2,100 cars off the road.

“Trees store carbon, so if you harvest them at the right age when they can’t absorb much more or grow much further, then it’s a better solution to use them as a building material,” said Elgsaas, adding that, if buildings are designed with longevity in mind, they could keep the carbon out of the atmosphere for generations. “It prolongs the trees’ lifespans (before they decompose) by maybe 100 or 200 years, if done correctly.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Two pieces in the Washington Post reference impacts of climate anxiety on young people, and how we are dealing, or not dealing with it.

Long but worthwhile reads – I’m excerpting here.

Washington Post:

The nexus between climate change and the mental health of children is rarely at the forefront of the discussion around environmental politics, but it’s very real: In a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll of American teenagers released in September, 57 percent said that climate change made them feel scared and 52 percent said it made them feel angry, both higher rates than among adults. Just 29 percent of teens said they were optimistic. Reports like the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment have cited mental health concerns as a side effect of climate change. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2015 warning that climate change poses threats to “children’s mental and physical health,” and that “failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children.”


“Eco-anxiety” or “climate depression” is playing out in real terms among young people, sometimes in extreme ways: A 2008 study in an Australian medical journal chronicled the case of a 17-year-old boy who was hospitalized after refusing to drink water during a nationwide drought, in what the authors called the first case of “climate change delusion.” A psychiatrist I interviewed told me a patient had confessed that she secretly wished a pandemic would strike to ease stress on the planet.

But the anxiety can manifest in subtler ways as well. Sarah Niles, an 18-year-old from Alabama, told me that her fears about climate change have simply become a part of her life. “I feel like in my peer group, you just go right from talking about polar bears dying to ‘Did you see what Maya posted on Snapchat?’ Nobody has a filter to adjust,” Niles says. “It’s like, the ice caps are melting and my hypothetical children will never see them, but also I have a calculus test tomorrow.”

Park Guthrie knows about this paralysis in climate-change-spooked kids. A sixth-grade teacher in Sonoma County, Calif., he has seen the toll that the state’s raging wildfires can take on the generally enthusiastic 11- and 12-year-olds in his classes. He has witnessed panic attacks triggered by the mere smell of smoke. When smoke from a nearby controlled burn once drifted to the school, he recalls, one boy smiled blankly and announced, “I think I’m having PTSD.” Last year, after the Kincade Fire burned nearly 78,000 acres in the county in late October, Guthrie found himself, not for the first time, comforting students worried about their homes and their relatives.

Guthrie understands how much climate change troubles his students, but he doesn’t shy from talking about it. He confronts not only their fears, but also the political reality of denial and decades of inaction, all of which is disturbing to his students. “It’s like there’s a paradigm shift, like when you learn that Santa Claus isn’t real,” he says. “Everything we teach them, that science is a tool for understanding the world, that adults are protecting you, falls apart. There’s nothing to prepare them for this enormous problem that we simply haven’t solved.”

Read the rest of this entry »