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Satellite eye on Earth: February 2017 – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2017/03/21 - 4:09am

Vibrant vegetation in a Venezuelan lake, Saharan dust in snowy Sierra Nevada, cloud vortices in South Korea, a vast solar farm in China, and a lone ship in the Atlantic are among our satellite images this month

Every so often, a vibrant green colour infuses the waters of Lake Maracaibo. Floating vegetation – likely duckweed – was swirling in the Venezuelan lake when Nasa’s Aqua satellite flew over in February 2017. Most of the time, Maracaibo’s waters are stratified into layers, with nutrient-rich, cooler, saltier water at the bottom, and a warmer, fresher layer near the surface. But after heavy rains, the layers can mix and make the lake an ideal habitat for plant growth. A narrow strait roughly 6km (4 miles) wide and 40 km (25 miles) long connects the lake to the Gulf of Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea. The influx of saltwater through the strait makes Maracaibo an estuarine lake. This mixing causes the water currents responsible for the concentric swirl pattern, according to Lawrence Kiage, a professor of geoscience at Georgia State University.

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Categories: Environment

Let the lapwing's joyful call not fade into silence

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 10:30pm

Claxton, Norfolk Lapwing song was the omnipresent soundtrack of all my childhood springs. Now it has gone from behind our family home

Part of the charm of lapwings is that they look silly, a friend says, and I can surmise what she means. It’s the ridiculous crest, the unnecessary breadth of wing, which gives them so much more aerial lift and loop than they require, and then there’s the zaniness of their spring display. Nor should we leave out the high-pitched notes that pass for song and which remind me of a dog’s squeaky play bone wheezing in and out of tune as the animal chews.

Yet lapwings are too ingrained in a lifetime of memory for me to think them only silly. They are the first sounds I awakened to as a naturalist in Derbyshire, whose nests we came upon in the grass like a revelation, and whose blotched-brown Easter eggs seemed a kind of miracle.

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Categories: Environment

Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 5:39pm

Earth is a planet in upheaval, say scientists, as the World Meteorological Organisation publishes analysis of recent heat highs and ice lows

The record-breaking heat that made 2016 the hottest year ever recorded has continued into 2017, pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory”, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

The WMO’s assessment of the climate in 2016, published on Tuesday, reports unprecedented heat across the globe, exceptionally low ice at both poles and surging sea-level rise.

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Categories: Environment

Charge electric cars smartly to take pressure off national grid – minister

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 12:45pm

SSE trials ‘demand-side response’ where vehicles start charging a few hours after being plugged in, when demand is lower

Electric cars are putting increasing pressure on the UK’s power grids, making it vital they are recharged at the right time of day, a minister has said.

John Hayes, transport minister, said it was important that such battery-powered cars were topped up in smart ways to avoid unduly stressing the energy system.

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Categories: Environment

a monday matinee...

The Field Lab - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 9:59am

87,92,54,0,C
Categories: Sustainable SW Blogs

Four select committees launch joint inquiry into UK air pollution crisis

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 7:52am

MPs say unprecedented investigation will study harm caused by toxic air and scrutinise government efforts to tackle it

MPs from four influential committees are coming together to launch a joint inquiry into the scale and impact of the UK’s air pollution crisis.

In an unusual development, the environmental audit committee, environment, food and rural affairs committee, health committee and transport committee will hold four sessions to consider mounting scientific evidence on the health and environmental effects of toxic air.

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Categories: Environment

Most voters in Peter Dutton's electorate oppose subsidising Adani coalmine, poll says

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 6:01am

Poll shows voters’ preference for renewable energy in immigration minister’s seat and 16.8% primary vote for One Nation

Most voters in Peter Dutton’s electorate oppose taxpayer subsidies for the Adani coalmine and more would prefer the government to fund renewable energy rather than coal-fired power plants, a poll has found.

The ReachTel poll of Dickson, commissioned by the Australia Institute, found that, even among Liberal National party voters, more opposed spending taxpayer funds on new coal-powered plants than supported it.

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Categories: Environment

19 House Republicans call on their party to do something about climate change | Dana Nuccitelli

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 3:00am

With the Republican Climate Resolution, Climate Solutions Caucus, and Climate Leadership Council, Republicans are trying to end their party’s climate denial

While the Trump administration is veering sharply toward climate science denial, 19 House Republicans have taken steps to pull the party in the direction of reality, and the need to combat the threats posed by human-caused climate change.

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Categories: Environment

UN asks UK to suspend work on Hinkley Point

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 3:00am

Move likely to embarrass British government as UN agency says lack of talks with Europe means it should refrain from further work

A United Nations committee has asked the UK to suspend work on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset because of the government’s failure to consult with European countries over the project.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said last year that the UK had failed to meet its obligations to discuss the possible impact of an incident at Hinkley on neighbouring countries.

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Categories: Environment

Torrey Canyon oil spill 1967 - in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 2:10am

Fifty years ago, the supertanker Torrey Canyon ran aground between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly, spilling more than 100,000 tonnes of crude oil into the Channel. The Observer photographer Jane Bown was sent to cover the cleanup operation across Cornwall’s beaches. These images are a small selection of the 270 photographs she took there, now housed in the GNM Archive.

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Categories: Environment

Katter’s Australian party push to legalise crocodile hunting after Queensland attacks

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 1:00am

Party to draft laws allowing a controlled cull of protected reptiles, including Indigenous-run safari hunts, after two suspected attacks in state’s far north

Two suspected crocodile attacks in the same north Queensland area within a day have prompted a bid by Katter’s Australian party to legalise hunting of the protected predators.

Wildlife officers and police believe Warren Hughes, 35, may have been killed by a 4m-plus crocodile that later “charged” a police boat searching for the Cairns man’s body on Sunday night.

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Categories: Environment

Sea level rise: Miami and Atlantic City fight to stay above water – video

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 12:15am

Sea levels are rising. For many cities on the the eastern shores of the United States, the problem is existential. We take a look at how Miami and Atlantic City are tackling climate change, and the challenges they face under a skeptical Trump administration that plans to cut funding for environmental programs

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Categories: Environment

Atlantic City and Miami Beach: two takes on tackling the rising waters

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/03/20 - 12:00am

Sea level rise is making floods more common and as the New Jersey resort braces for the next Sandy, the well-heeled Florida city is throwing money at the problem

The Irish Pub near Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk doesn’t have any locks on the doors as it is open 24 hours a day. So when Hurricane Sandy crunched into what was once known as the Las Vegas of the east coast in 2012, some improvisation was needed.

Regular drinkers helped slot a cork board through the frame of the door, wedging it shut and keeping out the surging seawater. The wild night, which severely damaged more than 320 homes and caused a week-long power blackout, was seen out by those taking shelter with the help of several bottles of Jameson.

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Categories: Environment

British tampons and nappies set to fuel power stations

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/03/19 - 11:01pm

New scheme aims to tackle one the UK’s trickiest disposal issues by turning thousands of tonnes of hygiene products into burnable bales

One of the UK’s trickiest waste problems is being tackled by turning the undesirable into the combustible – tampons and incontinence pads are being converted into dry, burnable bales. The new initiative, from a major waste company, compresses the waste into fuel for power stations.

Huge volumes of what are known in the trade as “absorbent hygiene products” are produced in the UK. But it is difficult to deal with as its dampness makes incineration expensive. Dumping the waste in landfill is the other current option, but the material takes decades to degrade and heavy and rising landfill taxes are aiming to end the practice.

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Categories: Environment

Inside story of a thatched roof

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/03/19 - 10:30pm

Hope Cove, Devon I need to go into the attic to check the timbers – an awkward job, but a chance to get out of the wind

An experienced thatcher told me early on in my apprenticeship: “You’ll learn to hate the wind more than anything.” And after five years of working on Devon roofs I’m inclined to agree with him: rain is our more obvious enemy, but rain doesn’t blow the wheat out of your hand or bowl you sideways off your ladder.

On really windy days like this one, you can’t go on the roof. In spite of the warm spring sunshine, a howling south-westerly is whipping up white horses on the Atlantic and training the coastal trees into even more diagonal contortions.

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Categories: Environment

Crocodile attack suspected as body found in search for Queensland spearfisher

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/03/19 - 5:54pm

Body believed to be that of 35-year-old Cairns man who disappeared on Saturday in far north Queensland

Rescue crews searching for a Cairns man who went missing while spearfishing alone in far north Queensland have a found a body.

Initial investigations suggest the man may have been taken by a crocodile, police said.

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Categories: Environment

Elon Musk, meet Port Augusta: four renewable energy projects ready to go

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/03/19 - 4:11pm

Pumped hydro, big battery, solar thermal and solar PV and storage projects are already planned for South Australia’s power network

When it comes to South Australia’s radical plans for energy storage to support its power network, all roads lead to Port Augusta – or all transmission lines, that is.

Proponents of projects that include energy storage have converged on this small outback city perched on the top of the Spencer Gulf – but why here and why now?

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Categories: Environment

Lambs make the most of their first hour on open land: Country diary 100 years ago

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/03/19 - 3:30pm

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 24 March 1917

SURREY
Sheep, some fifty of them, big black-faced ewes, with about the same number of late lambs just dropped, came this morning out of a great pen at the end of the rickyard which had been put up behind the shelter of two still standing stacks of corn. As they filed through the hurdle gap each began bleating, and all were soon in the wide ditch opposite, nosing about in warm corners for any sweet young shoots of early spring. The lambs of a few days old, each “wickering” (as the shepherd said) after its mother, tumbled about grotesquely; it was their first hour on the open land. Some of the older ones began to frisk; the sedate sheep dog watched them narrowly as if with a mute warning against pranks; then, the barred gate of a near meadow swung, and all were among the turnips littered here and there. But not for long. Clouds swept up with a north-east wind: the lambs shivered and cried plaintively; they had to be housed again behind the piled trusses of wheat straw. We are never out of the wood on the farm.

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Categories: Environment

Snow bunting takes a winter break in Somerset

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/03/19 - 2:30pm

The commonest garden bird in Iceland, and no stranger to the Scottish Highlands, this visitor is taking the bunting equivalent to a holiday in the Med

Some birds are simply more compelling than others. Think bullfinches and barn owls, peregrines and storm petrels, gannets and golden eagles. The snow bunting is certainly high in the charisma stakes. I first saw them in 1973, swirling around a shingle beach in Norfolk, caught in a biting wind like flurries of snow. Since then I’ve watched them on their breeding grounds in Iceland, where they are the commonest of the very few “garden birds” found in that northerly land.

Once, I even saw one singing in the car park at Reykjavik airport. And I’ve often come across them in the Cairngorms, where they feed on the crumbs left by passing skiers. But we don’t often get snow buntings in Somerset. So when I heard that one was spending the winter on my local patch alongside the River Parrett, I headed down there as soon as I could.

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Categories: Environment

Churchyards are our forgotten nature reserves

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/03/19 - 2:30pm

Often ignored, the ancient sites in the hearts of towns and villages have become refuges for a tremendous range of plants

There are thousands of wild plant sanctuaries across Britain, many in the hearts of villages, towns and cities, but they’re often ignored and forgotten. Cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds have almost become nature reserves.

Some of the most ancient sites have been around for over 1,000 years, and many grounds haven’t been assaulted with chemicals or intensive management – tighter spending has actually helped even more by cutting back on over-management. And so these sites have become refuges for a tremendous range of plants, including some of our most threatened grassland plants and old trees, mosses, lichens and flowers, as well as wildlife.

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Categories: Environment
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