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Think It’s Hot In Europe? In These Places The Human Body’s Close To Its Thermal Limit!

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Think It’s Hot In Europe? In These Places The Human Body’s Close To Its Thermal Limit!
Photo Credit: Metro

I am a scientist who researches climate hazards. This week I have published research on the potential for a catastrophic cyclone-heat wave combo in the global south.

Yet over the past few days I have been approached by various media outlets to talk not about that hazard, but about the unfolding UK heat wave and climate change.

It is always satisfying to respond to public interest around weather extremes, but there is a danger that key messages about extreme heat globally are not receiving enough airtime.

It is by now very well established that hot extremes are more likely in the changed climate we are living in. Yet there is a seemingly unquenchable thirst for this story to be retold every time the UK sweats.

Narratives around such acute, local events detract from critical messages about the global challenges from extreme heat.

Make no mistake, maximum temperatures of 35°C (95°F) or more are hot by UK standards, but such conditions are familiar to around 80% of the world’s population.

The headline-grabbing 46°C recently experienced by Britain’s neighbours in France is indeed unusual, but still falls short of the 50°C recorded in India earlier this summer, and is somewhat temperate relative to the 54°C (129°F) confirmed for both Pakistan (in 2017) and Kuwait (in 2016). People in these hotter climates are better at coping with high temperatures, yet such heat still kills.

Deadly heat waves are, of course, no stranger to Europeans. The infamous 2003 event claimed as many as 70,000 lives, and 2010 saw more than 50,000 fatalities in western Russia. Fortunately, lessons were learned and authorities are now much better prepared when heat-health alerts are issued.

But spare a thought for less fortunate communities who are routinely experiencing extraordinary temperatures. In places like South Asia and the Persian Gulf, the human body, despite all its remarkable thermal efficiencies, is often operating close to its limits.

And yes, there is a limit.

When the air temperature exceeds 35°C, the body relies on the evaporation of water – mainly through sweating – to keep core temperature at a safe level. This system works until the “wetbulb” temperature reaches 35°C. The wetbulb temperature includes the cooling effect of water evaporating from the thermometer, and so is normally much lower than the normal (“drybulb“) temperature reported in weather forecasts.

Once this wetbulb temperature threshold is crossed, the air is so full of water vapour that sweat no longer evaporates. Without the means to dissipate heat, our core temperature rises, irrespective of how much water we drink, how much shade we seek, or how much rest we take. Without respite, death follows – soonest for the very young, elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Wetbulb temperatures of 35°C have not yet been widely reported, but there is some evidence that they are starting to occur in Southwest Asia. Climate change then offers the prospect that some of the most densely populated regions on Earth could pass this threshold by the end of the century, with the Persian GulfSouth Asia, and most recently the North China Plain on the front line. These regions are, together, home to billions of people.

As the climate warms in places like the UK, people can take sensible precautions against heat – slowing down, drinking more water, and seeking cool refuges. Air conditioning is one of the last lines of defence but comes with its own problems such as very high energy demands. By 2050, cooling systems are expected to increase electricity demand by an amount equivalent to the present capacity of the US, EU, and Japan combined.

Provided that electricity supplies can be maintained, living in chronically heat-stressed climates of the future may be viable. But with such dependence on this life-support system, a sustained power outage could be catastrophic.

Deadly Combination!

So what would happen if we combined massive blackouts with extreme heat? Two colleagues and I recently investigated the possibility of such a “grey swan” event – foreseeable but not yet fully experienced – in a global study of storms and heat, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

We looked at tropical cyclones, which have already caused the biggest blackouts on Earth, with the months-long power failure in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria among the most serious.

We found that as the climate warms it becomes ever more likely that these powerful cyclones would be followed by dangerous heat, and that such compound hazards would be expected every year if global warming reaches 4°C.

During the emergency response to a tropical cyclone, keeping people cool would have to be as much a priority as providing clean drinking water.

The UK is moving into new territory when it comes to managing extreme heat. But the places that are already heat stressed will see the largest absolute increases in humid-heat with the smallest safety margin before reaching physical limits, and they are often least-equipped to adapt to the hazard.

It is therefore hardly surprising that extreme heat drives migration. Such mass displacement makes extreme heat a worldwide issue. Little Britain will feel the consequence of conditions far away from its temperate shores.

The challenges ahead are stark. Adaptation has its limits. We must therefore maintain our global perspective on heat and pursue a global response, slashing greenhouse gas emissions to keep to the Paris warming limits. In this way, we have the greatest chance of averting deadly heat – home and abroad.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

This article was written by Tom Matthews for The Conversation where it was originally published and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Tom Matthews, Lecturer in Climate Science, Loughborough University.

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Environment

Dozens Of ‘Extinct’ Creatures Found Alive In ‘Lost City’ Deep Within Rainforest

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Dozens Of ‘Extinct’ Creatures Found Alive In ‘Lost City’ Deep Within Rainforest
Photo Credit: www.hdimagesdownload.com

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

A specialized team of conservation scientists has found what appears to be a hidden oasis deep in the rainforest of Honduras that’s teeming with dozens of rare and endangered creatures.

The remote settlement, known as the “Lost City of the Monkey God” or “White City” and located in the Mosquitia rainforest, is a stunning example of the biodiversity that was once common across the tropics and rainforests in the region. The rainforest is home to hundreds of species of bats, butterflies and reptiles, the Independent reports.

The “ecological SWAT team” from Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) conducted their three-week expedition in 2017 after ancient ruins were discovered in the rainforest, which remains one of the least-explored areas of the region. Their full report on the expedition and its dizzying array of findings was only published this week.

The report details how the pristine ecosystem is filled with a number of rare and unique species, including those previously believed to be extinct.

This has included the False Tree Coral Snake, the pale-faced bat, and a tiger beetle which many had thought was already extinct. 22 species were also recorded whose presence in Honduras had previously been unknown, including the endangered Great Green Macaw and a live-bearing fish that scientists have only now discovered.

In total, scientists documented 198 species of birds, 94 butterfly species, 40 of small mammals, 56 amphibian and reptile species, and 30 species of large mammals—including jaguars, ocelots and pumas—not to mention a huge variety of plants, fish, rodents and insects.

Trond Larsen, the director of RAP, expressed that his team was “shocked” by their major find. In a press release, Larsen noted:

“The ‘White City’ is one of the few areas remaining in Central America where ecological and evolutionary processes remain intact.”

The conservationist added that the diversity of the area’s wildlife makes it a very high priority for future conservation efforts. Larsen said:

“One of the main reasons we found such high species richness and abundance of threatened and wide-ranging species (e.g., peccaries) is that the forests around the White City remain pristine, unlike much of the region.

This makes the area a high conservation priority for maintaining the broader landscape connectivity that is essential for the long-term persistence of biodiversity through Central America.”

The White City has long been sought after by explorers searching for what is believed to be the home to an ancient civilization that inhabited the area during the pre-Columbian era.

The area, which is largely undeveloped, has faced threats from illegal economic activities such as deforestation due to cattle ranching, in spite of efforts by Honduras’ president in 2005 to extend official protection to the “lost city.”

Larsen said:

“And these are areas with no road networks, no logistics or infrastructure to let people get in or let guards in, so it’s very hard to stop what’s happening.

In many cases, this illegal activity is being driven tangentially by drug trafficking, so it’s driven by powerful people with money. That’s the primary threat to the integrity of the forest of the area.”

Another member of the RAP SWAT team, John Polisar, noted the importance of ensuring strong protection that would allow the treasure-trove of rare creatures to thrive:

“We have been doing field work in the indigenous territories of La Moskitia for 14 years, and this site stood out as being simply gorgeous.

Because of its presently intact forests and fauna the area is of exceptionally high conservation value. It merits energetic and vigilant protection so its beauty and wildlife persist into the future.”

This article (Dozens of ‘Extinct’ Creatures Found Alive in ‘Lost City’ Deep Within Rainforest) was originally published at The Mind Unleashed and is re-posted here under Creative Commons.

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Environment

Here Comes Hemp: Congress Votes To Unleash A Billion-Dollar Industry

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Photo Credit: Getty

Phillip Smith, Drug Reporter

The Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday gave final approval to the massive 2018 Farm Bill, including a provision that will end an eight-decade ban on industrial hemp, that non-psychoactive but extremely useful member of the cannabis family. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

Even though you could smoke a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole and get nothing more than a cough and a headache, for decades the DEA has refused to recognize any distinction between hemp and marijuana that gets you high. That meant that American farmers could not legally produce hemp for a hemp products industry worth $820 million last year and expected to break the billion-dollar mark this year.

That’s right: Thanks to a federal court case brought against the DEA more than a decade ago, farmers in countries where hemp is legal can export it to the U.S., and companies in the U.S. can turn that hemp into a variety of products ranging from foods to clothing to auto body parts to building materials and beyond, but U.S. farmers can’t grow it. That’s about to change.

For too long, the outrageous and outdated ban on growing hemp has hamstrung farmers in Oregon and across the country,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). “Hemp products are made in America, sold in America, and consumed in America. Now, hemp will be able to be legally grown in America, to the economic benefit of consumers and farmers in Oregon and nationwide.”

Wyden and fellow Oregonian Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) teamed up with Kentucky Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to sponsor the bill and guide it through Congress. McConnell’s role as Senate Majority Leader certainly didn’t hurt the bill’s prospects.

As well as guiding the bill forward, McConnell took to the Senate floor on various occasions to support it. In his statement on the passage of the farm bill, he touted “the new opportunities available with the full legalization of industrial hemp.”

Finally we are recognizing industrial hemp for the agricultural product it is,” Merkley said. “This is a cash crop that hasn’t been allowed to meet its full economic potential because of outdated restrictions. When I visited a hemp farm mid-harvest, I saw first-hand the enormous potential of this diverse crop under the limited 2014 farm bill. This full legalization provides economic opportunity for farmers across rural Oregon and rural America—good for jobs, good for our communities, and just good common sense.”

The bill defines hemp as cannabis with 0.3 percent THC or less by dry weight and removes it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Regulatory authority over hemp moves from the DEA to the Agriculture Department. The definition of hemp in the bill includes all parts of the plant and specifically lists cannabinoids, including CBD, that are removed from control of the CSA. The bill also includes funding and authorization for research and authorizes crop insurance for hemp farmers.

The inclusion of CBD has the potential of greatly expanding the size of the legal hemp industry. Hemp-based CBD wellness products—a category that didn’t exist five years ago—already account for nearly a quarter of the domestic hemp market, and the Hemp Business Journal predicts they will account for nearly $650 million worth of sales by 2022, becoming the single largest sector of the hemp market.

It’s been more than 40 years since Jack Herer ignited the marijuana movement’s interest in hemp with The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy. Herer is long gone—he died at age 70 in 2010—but the movement he launched has now reached the promised land. The single most ridiculously unjustifiable aspect of federal marijuana prohibition has been killed; now it’s time to finish the job by ending federal marijuana prohibition.

About the Author

Phillip Smith writes for Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, and where this article was originally featured.

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Environment

Rare Wave-Like Clouds Over Virginia Mountain Look Like Van Gogh’s Famous ‘Starry Night’

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Rare Wave-Like Clouds Over Virginia Mountain Look Like Van Gogh's Famous 'Starry Night'
Photo Credit: Yahoo

Eric Althoff, Yahoo

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 9: Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at Moma on March 9, 2016 in New York, New York. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 9: Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at Moma on March 9, 2016 in New York, New York. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

It was indeed a starry, starry night for Virginia photographer Amy Hunter, who managed to capture the night-time celestial phenomenon known as Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, wherein specific atmospheric conditions create clouds that appear in wave-like patterns in the sky.

Hunter’s photograph was taken over Smith Mountain in the southwestern region of Virginia on Tuesday. She sent the photograph on to her local news affiliate, which immediately responded that the sight is indeed “very rare.”

Kelvin-Helmholtz waves occur when the higher layer of air moves at a faster speed than the lower-level air. Accordingly, the higher layer “scoops” the top of a lower cloud layer, thereby creating the wave-like shapes that appear similar to the crests of ocean waves. Their appearance often signals turbulent air, which can be a hurdle for aircraft in the area.

KDKA meteorologist Ray Petelin explained that Kelvin-Helmholtz waves form when two layers of air are moving against one another at different speeds, which results in the crest-like clouds called a “shear,” which occurs most often during windy conditions such as those that topped Smith Mountain Wednesday.

Velocity shear occurs when winds are traveling at different speeds at different heights in the atmosphere,” he said earlier this summer. “In the case of these cloud patterns, the winds are moving faster at the top of the cloud than the winds at the bottom of the cloud, just like how waves are created on water.”

The phenomenon is named for 19th century meteorologists Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, who explained the physics behind the cloud formations as part of their research into vortex dynamics.

The unusual weather occurrence has rarely been captured on film, but perhaps its most famous representation in any medium was in the 1889 painting “Starry Night” by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh painted the post-impressionist image while committed to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the South of France. Continuing to generate art during his commitment was thought to initially help with Van Gogh’s fits and depression, but he soon relapsed, and the work took on another darker dimension, with the color blue taking over the color palette as his mental state deteriorated.

Starry Night” hangs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. According to MoMa, at that late stage in his life, Van Gogh’s style had been informed by other artists he met in France, including pointillist Georges Seurat, as the Impressionism period came to its end. “Post-Impressionism,” MoMa says, came to define a period in which artists used “bold colours and expressive, often symbolic images,” such as those wave-like clouds Van Gogh captured on “Starry Night,” arguably his most famous canvas.

Van Gogh died on July 29, 1890, barely a year after completing the work.

This article (Rare Wave-Like Clouds Over Virginia Mountain Look Like Van Gogh’s Famous ‘Starry Night’) was originally published at Yahoo and is re-posted here under Creative Commons.

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Animal World

Pregnant, Starving Orangutan Clings To Final Tree As Bulldozers Destroy Her Rainforest Home

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Pregnant, Starving Orangutan Clings to Final Tree as Bulldozers Destroy Her Rainforest Home

John Vibes, The Mind Unleashed

As rainforests around the world continue to be destroyed by human societies seeking profits in the lush jungle, wild animal populations who have lived there since time immemorial have seen themselves displaced, often with nowhere to go.

And in Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago, animal rescue workers filmed the tragic moment when a desperate, heavily pregnant orangutan clung to one of the final trees standing in her formerly pristine rainforest home—right up to the moment when massive bulldozers destroyed what was left of it.

Boon-Mee was so weakened and traumatized that she couldn’t imagine leaving the tree trunk where she found sanctuary as heavy machinery ripped apart what used to be her home.

As a result, she was unable to forage for food to feed herself or her unborn baby, meaning she had nothing to look forward to besides death by starvation.

Across Indonesia, palm oil plantations have laid waste to what used to be the homes of orangutans like Boon-Mee, rendering the primates homeless in their formerly lush, rich homes in places like Borneo and Sumatra.

Every year, apes face slaughter at the hands of humans in the big agriculture industry, either by gun or machete. Such trends are reflected in alarming new figures showing that the orangutan population falls by up to 25 per day.

A century ago there were over 230,000 orangutans in Southeast Asia, according to the World Wildlife Fund. However, that number has now plummeted to 41,000 in Borneo and only 7,500 in Sumatra—the only two places where they can be found.

However, this story has a happy ending, because in this rare case the plantation owners had a heart and reached out to UK-based charity International Animal Rescue (IAR) to seek aid for the expecting mom.

An IAR team backed by local forest officials arrived on the scene after several hours of journeying through a still-smouldering forest that had just been freshly burned. When they finally arrived, they were shocked to find not only Boon-Mee but three other orangutans.

Among the three was Charanya, another mom who had just delivered her baby and was desperate to find food. Kalaya had also apparently just had a baby, and was lactating and semi-conscious—leading the IAR workers to believe that her baby had either died or was kidnapped to be someone’s pet.

Boon-Mee was still alive, but just barely—and was surviving on only tree bark, thus making her too weak to climb down the tree.

Rescuers were forced to eventually shoot her with a tranquilizer before catching her in a net.

IAR official Lis Key said:

“It’s heartbreaking to see the appalling state of these animals as their habitat is razed for the palm oil industry – they were weak from hunger. It’s a small comfort that this time rather than chase them off or kill them, the ­company did the right thing and ­contacted us.”

Palm oil is a vegetable oil that is extracted from the fruits and seeds of the oil palm—also known as the African palm—and is a common additive on supermarket shelves across the globe.

Oil extracted from the fruit of the palm is not only used in foods like instant noodles, yogurt, ice cream, and wine, but is also used in biofuel and a range of household products including laundry detergents, shampoo and cosmetic goods like lipstick.

Roughly 66 million tons of palm oil is produced each year, driving a trend that has seen forests burned and land robbed to make room for plantations, contributing greatly to global deforestation and the displacement of not only rural human populations, but local animal species endemic to the region.

Palm oil production has largely driven orangutans to the brink of extinction, with the species now classified as critically endangered. Bornean orangutan populations have fallen by more than half between 1999 and 2015.

This article (Pregnant, Starving Orangutan Clings To Final Tree As Bulldozers Destroy Her Rainforest Home) was originally published at The Mind Unleashed and is re-posted under Creative Commons.

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