Is there Snow in the Trees
A group of researchers was interested in analysing thousands of images of mountain trees and created an app for citizen scientists to ask a simple question during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The respondents then used their time to classify a large database of time-lapse images of snowy mountain forests. The dataset was used in a recent study published in Water Resources Research. It found that models that try to simulate how much snow is intercepted under the canopy can produce estimates that are as high as 20% error.
This means that communities that rely on snowmelt from high altitudes for water may not be able get reliable projections of how much water they can expect to receive from the snowmelt over the next few years.
“Basically our dataset shows that these estimations aren’t good enough,” said lead author Cassie Lumbrazo, a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington.
These models are often built on parameters that are only applicable to the climate in which they were created. One model might be most suitable in Washington state where the air is saturated and snow sticks to trees like glue. The snow melts in spring and falls to the earth. Colorado is dry and snow is light so much of the snow melts and is blown around.
Lumbrazo said that understanding these differences is key to understanding future water availability. Even a small error in projecting the future can result in massive misestimation, Lumbrazo said. This is what many climate models have done.
“We need to know how much snow is on the ground at a given point,” she said. “If we don’t have the calculation right then we’re not going to get our water right. So it’s dissecting one component of a larger model, but it’s one component that actually hasn’t been looked at before because there hadn’t been any data to do that.” Now, with the help of citizen scientists, there is.
‘I Want Kids To Be Hopeful’
The world’s children are going to grow up on a planet forever altered by climate change. Surveys show that children and young adults worry about climate change and fear the future. Many feel helpless and depressed in the face such a world.
“Climate anxiety is the second pandemic that kids in America are facing,” said Kenn Viselman, a former producer for the children’s shows Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine. Viselman explained that the weight of children’s burdens inspired him to retire and to start a program for kids aged 4-10 called MeteoHeroes. Here six animated superheroes help solve big environmental and climate catastrophes. The show is fueled by the evil pollution monster Dr. Makina.
Luigi Latini, who sits on the board of directors of an Italian weather center, created the show. It debuted on PBS in America earlier this year. Viselman stated that meteorologists from the center review episodes to ensure that the science is sound. Child psychology professionals also provide input to ensure that the content is appropriate for children and does not increase their anxiety.
Viselman’s entertainment company has partnered with the online education platform Adventure 2 Learning to bring the show into the classroom in 30,000 schools around the U.S., pending government funding for climate change education, he said.
The key takeaway from each episode of MeteoHeroes is “you don’t need to wear a cape to be a superhero,” Viselman said, and “everybody has the power within themselves to change the world.” Each episode leaves kids with something they can do to improve the planet, whether it’s taking shorter showers, turning off lights or sorting their recycling.
“I want kids to be hopeful. I want them to know the future’s bright. I want them to know they have the power to change the world if they don’t like the direction it’s headed in,” Viselman said. “I’d like them to know that there are people out there who care, who are listening and who are trying to help them make their world brighter.”
Four Movements of Altered Landscapes
The Covid-19 pandemic was a reckoning, bringing modern life as we’d known it since World War II to a screeching halt. The pandemic caused a rebirth and suggested that a more sustainable future was possible.
That narrative is wrapped up in a new symphony composed by Jimmy López Bellido and performed by the Reno Philharmonic for the first time last month. The Reno Philharmonic conductor Laura Jackson ordered the composition. It was inspired both by the events of the past two years as well a photo collection called Altered Landscapes from the Nevada Museum of Art that depicts human impact upon the Earth. López Bellido examined these images, Jackson said, “and from that wrote it sonically, so we went from pictures to a symphony.”
The piece is 34 minutes long and consists of four movements. The first, titled “Great Acceleration,” is inspired by images of urban development and symbolizes humanity’s consumption of resources between World War II and the present day through quickening tempos. The second movement, titled “Stillness,” signals when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and halted unnecessary human activity. The third movement, titled “Reckoning,” invokes a meditative tone with a recurring mantra meant to be reflective. And the final movement, titled “Alignment,” brings back sounds from the first three movements to create a sound representing a hopeful, hypothetical future where humanity comes out from the pandemic better and lives more sustainability on the planet.
“At the end, it’s a very, very hopeful symphony. It’s a very hopeful piece,” said Jackson. “And full of energy, but I really love that it also faces the daunting task that we have had.”
Jackson stated that other orchestras would normally have to pay for the symphony but that they are free to perform it if they donate at minimum $1,000 to The Nature Conservancy.
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A Solar-Hydrogen Nanogrid, Large or Small
Many people who are left without power after natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires resort to diesel-powered generators in order to keep the lights on. This week, a solar power company revealed its fully-renewable alternative and it can do more than just keep the lights on.
Powered by solar and green hydrogen, Sesame Solar’s mobile nanogrids can be quickly trucked into a disaster area and brought up and running by a novice in as little as 15 minutes. The nanogrid can restore power to vital services in an emergency, including communications, WiFi stations and water purification and filter systems. Only sun and water are required for the solar panels. The hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen separated from oxygen in water molecules for powering a battery onboard.
Lauren Flanagan, long-standing entrepreneur and CEO of Sesame Solar was inspired by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
“If we could figure out how to make mobile, easy to use, fast to deploy scalable power plus essential services after a catastrophe like Katrina, that’s actually what we need to help adapt to this,” Flanagan said.
A nanogrid is available in two sizes: a smaller one can be towable by a truck, and a larger one can be transported on flatbed trailers. The price range for a nanogrid can vary depending on its equipment. It can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000.
Sesame Solar’s customers have included Comcast and the U.S. Air Force. Flanagan hopes her company can lease the nanogrids to get them to places where disasters are less likely to occur.
“We can’t turn back the clock right now, sadly,” she said. “We can’t stop hurricanes and wildfires and tornadoes from coming, but we can adapt as a people, as society, as communities, to how we can mitigate the impacts from those and do so in a way with renewable power.”
Source: Inside Climate News