Saturday, May 30, 2015

Oregon's Mysterious 'Disappearing Lake' Explained

As pointed out here, Mother Nature has her own unique ways and we should not interfere.

Oregon is a remarkable state in terms of natural resources and their respect for those wonderful assets.

Oregon's Mysterious 'Disappearing Lake' Explained

During the rainy fall and winter, most Oregonians probably don't give much thought to Lost Lake, a shallow lake surrounded by pine trees that sits near a highway.
But drivers might do a double take during the summer. During the dry months, the 85-acre (0.34 square kilometers) lake vanishes and turns into meadow.
The reason? Two hollow lava tubes at the bottom of the lake are constantly draining the lake dry, much like a bathtub left unplugged.
"The lakebed begins to fill in the late fall, when the amount of rain coming in starts exceeding the ability of the lava tubes to drain off the water," said Jude McHugh, a spokeswoman for the Willamette National Forest in Oregon. "And it continues to fill all winter long in a series of rain or snowstorms."
As the rainy season peters out, the 9-foot-deep (2.7 meters) lake loses its water source, and water disappears down the lava tubes until it's gone, McHugh said. The lake's watery boom-and-bust cycle repeats itself every year, she added.
Lava tubes aren't uncommon in Oregon. The state is home to the towering Cascades, a range of mountains and active volcanoes that extends from southern British Columbia to Northern California.
When lava streams flow down a volcano the outside crust cools as it makes contact with air. Hot lava continues to flow under the hardened crust, "kind of like a subway tunnel," McHugh said.
After the hot lava drains away, a hollow tube remains. Some lava tubes become a unique ecosystem for animals and others attract tourists. Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California has "all kinds of lava tubes," McHugh said. "Little guys literally a foot [0.30 m] across, and ones you can walk in that are just massive."
But Lost Lake, located about 130 miles (209 km) southeast of Portland, sports just two small lava tubes. The lake likely formed about 3,000 years ago, when lava flowing from a volcanic vent blocked a river channel and created the lake, McHugh said.
"Several small streams feed into the lake intermittently, but the lava tube drain holes are the only known outlets," McHugh said.
It's not entirely clear where the drained lake water goes, but researchers have an idea. It likely falls down the lava tubes and seeps through layers of cracked volcanic rock as groundwater, McHugh said.
Lost Lake sits on volcanic rock that formed about 12,000 years ago, she said. When this "young" rock formed, it was filled with gas bubbles that left behind pores as they escaped into the atmosphere. The lava also cracked and fissured as it flowed over the terrain, she said.
It takes roughly seven to 10 years for water to filter down through all those cracks and pores, McHugh said.
"Here in western Oregon, it pops out at the valley floor and supplies drinking water and important habitat for humans, fish and all kinds of species," she said. "That water that fell today, there's some kid that's going to be born tomorrow that's going to be drinking it when he's 10."
However, people aren't always respectful of lava tubes. At Lost Lake, some people have tried to plug the drainage holes and have also thrown trash into the lake over the years, McHugh said.
"We do not want to interfere with natural processes, and we very much discourage that," McHugh said. What's more, even if a plug did work, the lake would likely overflow and flood the nearby highway, she said.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Get to our Twitter feed

To take a look at a great live coverage piece we released on the main network site today (Renewable  Here's the link:

Last week, GrowSmart RI held their 2015 Awards Ceremony for a series of outstanding achievements by shaping a stronger Rhode Island. This year's special guest and keynote speaker was Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. ReNewable Now was fortunate enough to catch up with the Congressman, who spent some time with Peter Arpin and Rhode Island State Representative Jay O’Grady, during which they asked him about government’s roll in staging smart growth, along with what inspires his passion. You can watch the video to see the entire interview. The entire awards ceremony coverage will be released later this week via @ReNewableNowTV  . - See more at:

New Hydroelectric Plant

Here's a perfect example of a better, cleaner way of powering our homes and buildings, creating new jobs and keeping revenue local (versus energy costs flowing to another state or country).

Certainly, a good offset to carbon levels, but that is just a small part of the value of these types of investments.  New York is a state with a clear vision and goals on renewables.

New Hydroelectric Plant to Be Built for New York


The city is planning to build a $72 million hyrdoelectric power plant at its Cannonsville Reservoir. Credit New York City Department of Environmental Protection

It seems as natural as, well, water: Harness the energy potential of a 95-billion-gallon reservoir to run four turbines and generate electrical power cleanly and at a profit.
Having overcome potential hurdles ranging from drought-stricken rafters on the Delaware River to the endangered dwarf wedgemussel and northern wild monkshood, New York City is tapping the vast resources of its upstate reservoir system to commission a new hydroelectric plant.
The plant is projected to generate 14 megawatts of electric power, which the city would sell to the New York power grid. That is enough to provide electricity, on average, to 6,000 homes. By not using oil or coal to generate electricity, it is estimated that the plant would avoid the emission of 25,620 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, or the equivalent of removing 5,400 cars from the road.
This would be the largest hydroelectric development in New York State in more than two decades and the first time power would be generated directly from a Delaware River branch.
The city is building the $72 million plant, which is expected to produce about $2 million a year in revenue from the sale of electricity. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.
“It’s not going to be a big cash cow, but it’s sustainable and we will make the money back in the long run,” said Emily Lloyd, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Cannonsville is the newest and westernmost among 19 reservoirs and three lakes that collectively supply the city with water through an engineering marvel of interconnecting tunnels. Begun in 1842 as the Croton Aqueduct in what is now Westchester County, the system serves nine million customers in the state and can hold about 580 billion gallons of water — 95 percent of which is delivered by gravity.
Under an environmental resiliency plan initiated by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and continued by the de Blasio administration, the city has been exploring both how to protect the vast reservoir system and how to extract energy from the one billion or so gallons of water that flow from it every day. The goal of the city’s sustainability and resiliency campaign, PlaNYC, is to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels and other sources 30 percent by 2030.
Two city power plants built in the 1950s generate power as water flows from one reservoir to another, as do two others, one owned by the state power authority and one privately. Both were built in the 1980s and pay a commission to the city on their sales of electricity.
The new plant at Cannonsville, in western Delaware County, about 120 miles northwest of the city, will generate power from water flowing from a spillway directly into the Delaware River. Under a 1954 United States Supreme Court ruling, the city can take up to 800 million gallons daily from the Delaware River as long as it ensures adequate flow downstream to sustain recreation and aquatic life in New Jersey and elsewhere.
The power plant required federal regulatory approval, including guarantees that the flow to the river would not be interrupted and that endangered species, such as the northern wild monkshood and the dwarf wedgemussel, which have been seen in the region but not at the project site, would not be affected.
Paul V. Rush, the city’s deputy commissioner for water supply, said other potential power-generating possibilities had been considered, such as generating power from water flowing through the vast tunnels connecting the reservoirs. But that was deemed impractical because it would impede the flow and would restrict the Environmental Protection Department’s flexibility to shift the supply among reservoirs, depending on water quality.
The department is identifying other energy-saving initiatives, including using methane captured from a sewage treatment plant in Brooklyn to power the plant and to produce natural gas for sale as well as generating electricity for a plant on Staten Island by installing solar panels.
The Cannonsville plant would be the system’s third biggest, after Neversink and East Delaware, both city-owned. Last winter’s severe weather led to higher electric rates so the two plants netted more than usual for the fiscal year that ended June 30, about $8.2 million from the wholesale power market.
The Cannonsville Reservoir, which was completed in 1964, is about 140 feet deep and was created by damming the West Branch of the Delaware River, displacing nearly a thousand residents. Water releases from the dam’s spillway are now timed scientifically, both to coincide with the weather and to maintain a basin downstream to absorb rainfall and reduce flooding.
“We have real-time weather forecasts, so we understand the risks of releasing water downstream and that it will not impact on a reliable supply for the City of New York,” Mr. Rush said.
Ms. Lloyd said other power plants also might be built and department engineers had also looked at capturing the flow from water and sewer mains in the city. But after investigating “space, technology and issues of economic feasibility at 30 sites,” she said, “this was the one that gave the most power.”

Carbon plans deeply inadequate:

Hard to decide whose report is more accurate on rising green house gases and their potential impact, but we think that is less relevant than agreeing on a commitment to power our energy and transportation systems is a much cleaner fashion and enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of that shift.  

Carbon plans deeply inadequate: climate study warns


Pledges made by countries to slash carbon emissions are deeply inadequate to take them down to safe levels by 2030 and put the brakes on global warming, a new analysis warned Monday.

Based on the stated undertakings of the world’s major emitters, global emissions could reach about 57-59 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2030, said the report co-authored by British academic Nicholas Stern, a former World Bank vice-president considered an authority on the economics of climate change.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has calculated that emissions must fall to about 32-44 GtCO2e by 2030 for a 50-66 percent chance of reaching the goal to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 deg Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial levels.

In 2010, the latest year for which a comprehensive assessment is available, global emissions were about 50 GtCO2e.

The new report by Stern and colleagues at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) said the goals of the United States, European Union and China, placed them on target for a joint output of 20.9-22.3 GtCO2e in 2030.

The three countries are responsible for nearly half the world’s emissions.

In order to meet the UNEP’s upper limit of 44 GtCO2e by 2030, the rest of the world’s nations would therefore have to emit no more than about 23 GtCO2e, said the report — yet current and planned policies point to a level of some 35 GtCO2e.

This meant that the world faced “a significant probability of global warming of more than 2 degrees,” paper co-author Bob Ward, policy director of the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, told AFP by email.

The world’s nations are negotiating a global climate pact that will seek to limit global warming by limiting emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases, mainly from mankind’s voracious burning of fossil fuel.

National pledges, called “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs), are the heart of the agreement that is meant to be sealed at a global summit in Paris in December, and take effect form 2020.

So far, the EU bloc, US, Switzerland, Norway, Mexico, Gabon, Russia, Liechtenstein and Andorra have submitted their plans.

The US has pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, while the EU is targeting a 40-percent cut by 2030 on levels from 1990.

China, which accounts for about 25 percent of global emissions, has not made a formal pledge, but has set a target date of about 2030 for its emissions to peak.

Another major emitter, Russia, has said it could cut emissions 25-30 percent by 2030 over 1990 levels — on certain conditions.

“There is a gap between the emissions pathway that would result form current ambitions and plans, and a pathway that is consistent with the global warming limit of 2C,” said the report.

“Consequently, countries should be considering opportunities to narrow the gap before and after the Paris summit.”

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global mean temperature could rise by up to 4.8 C this century alone, a recipe for worse drought, flood and rising seas.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Climate drives new era in Arctic sea

There are predictions of record low (200 year records broken) temperatures coming in many different parts of the world, including the US.  Interesting to see some of the data getting collected and analyzed as we enter a new millennium of weather changes.  

Climate drives new era in Arctic sea

By David Shukman

Changes in the Arctic Ocean are so profound that the region is entering what amounts to "a new era", according to Norwegian scientists.

A switch from a permanent cover of thick ice to a new state where thinner ice vanishes in the summer will have far-reaching implications, they say.

The Norwegian Polar Institute has been mounting an expedition to the Arctic Ocean during the year's coldest months.

Scientists have to brave extreme temperatures and total darkness.

Their aim is to gather data on the condition of the ice as it freezes during the polar winter.
A research vessel, the Lance, has been deployed to an area about 500 miles from the North Pole and allowed to drift with the pack-ice.

The director of the institute, Jan-Gunnar Winther, said that measuring what happens in the winter was vital to improving scenarios for future climate change.

© BBC A major focus of the expedition is to examine the consequences of having less so-called multi-year ice and a greater proportion of younger ice 

"We have almost no data from the Arctic Ocean in winter - with few exceptions - so this information is very important to be able understand the processes when the ice is freezing in early winter and we'll also stay here when it melts in the summer," he explained.

"A new era has entered, we are going from old ice to young ice, thinner ice and the climate models used today have not captured this new regime or ice situation.

"So knowing how it is today can improve climate models which again improve the projection for global climate change."

Record lows

This research effort comes as US scientists have reported that the maximum extent of Arctic sea-ice was recorded at its lowest winter level since satellite records began.

A major focus of the expedition is to examine the consequences of the Arctic Ocean having less of the so-called multi-year ice - older, tougher floes which have survived for several years - and a greater proportion of younger ice which is thinner.

Among the researchers investigating the impact of this change on the polar biology is Dr Haakon Hop, who is leading a team of biologists working under the ice.

"Typically, there's much less life underneath first year ice - multiyear ice is more complex, with more ridging and typically has more animal life," he said.

"So what has been seen around the Arctic is these animals that live underneath the ice - crustaceans, amphipods, and copepods - the biodiversity has gone down and their abundance and biomass have also gone down in the areas that have been measured.

"That is a very serious concern because these animals are important prey items for sea birds feeding on the ice edge and for the marine animals that feed on them."

Complex response

Another biologist taking part in the expedition, Dr Philipp Assmy, said it was important to understand how some species might benefit from the ocean having less ice cover - as more sunlight would allow plankton to flourish - while others would suffer.

"We know that the organisms living in the ocean will actually increase because there will be more light available for them to grow.

"On the other hand, the organisms living within the sea-ice are likely going to decline as their habitat deteriorates and that will have cascading effects on the large charismatic marine mammals we are all familiar with."

The expedition is attempting to provide a comprehensive assessment of all key aspects of this part of the Arctic Ocean.

Dr Polona Itkin has been deploying tracking devices on the ice-floes so that the movement and thinning of the ice can be observed after the expedition ends in June.

"We would like to understand how the sea ice cover in this part of the Arctic is behaving in, let's call it, the new climate.

"We know something about this ice that has been studied over decades but we think now the ice is different and we would like to see how different, and what does it mean for other components of the climate."

The scientists say that data gathered from the ice itself is invaluable as a way of calibrating measurements taken by satellites and overflights.

But the work comes with risks. One is the sheer struggle of operating in freezing conditions. During our visit to the Lance, the temperature regularly fell to -21C with the wind lowering the feel of the cold to -47C.

Another threat is from polar bears, and one approached the ship while we were on board.
In the darkness of the polar winter, Dr Jennifer King was in a small group working under the Lance's floodlights when a bear guard suddenly spotted one of the animals emerging into the light.

"It was 25m away, standing up on ridge looking at us, looking like a majestic king of the Arctic - it was very beautiful but the heart stops."

The bear was scared away with flare guns.

A further danger is from the mobility of the pack-ice. During the course of the expedition, while scientists have been deployed on the ice, cracks or "leads" have frequently appeared in the surface or floes have collided creating pressure ridges.

Several times, we saw equipment being winched back from the ice to avoid the risk of it being lost. And once while filming, one floe was being forced above another and we were called back to the ship for our own safety.

According to Jan-Gunnar Winther, the younger ice more prevalent in the Arctic now is more mobile.
"We know that the ice drift is faster now than it was 100 years ago.

"So with thinner ice and less ice, it's more moved around by the wind and the weather. It's more dynamic now, we know that."

No, Flying Is Not Greener Than Driving

Part of our team is heading off to France tomorrow.  We will be posting each day, maybe not multiple times of day, but we may have less commentary as we'll be short handed.

Despite flying there and contributing to our carbon level, we will doing a lot of work around sustainability and setting up some new reporters and contributors.  France holds our second largest audience, right behind the US, and we look forward to expand our presence through out that beautiful country.

No, Flying Is Not Greener Than Driving

by Samantha Page

If you're truly worried about your carbon footprint, air travel probably isn't for you.
If you’re truly worried about your carbon footprint, air travel probably isn’t for you.
The headline of an article in the Washington Post on Tuesday might have gotten a lot of people excited about the fact that air travel may be more environmentally friendly than driving.

Unfortunately, the analysis out of the University of Michigan featured in Tuesday’s article leads to some false conclusions, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The new study, from Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, says that if you average out the data, flying has become more efficient while driving has become less efficient. The crux of his argument rests on the fact that we are now packed like sardines into planes, which reduces carbon emissions per passenger mile.

Specifically, Sivak found that “the average energy intensity of driving a light duty vehicle, such as a car or SUV, in the United States was 4,211 BTUs (British thermal units) per person mile, while the energy intensity of flying domestically was 2,033 BTUs per person mile.”

Of course, 4,211 is greater than 2,033, so driving must be twice as inefficient as flying, right? (For the record, gasoline and jet fuel have nearly identical CO2/BTU emissions).

Wrong. These numbers aren’t considering the different kinds of trips we make, according to ICCT program director Dan Rutherford. For short trips — like most people’s daily commute — flying isn’t even sensical, much less environmental. For longer trips, where flying might be an option, packing just a few people into a car is going to offer significantly less carbon per person mile than flying will.

The real issue is what question you are trying to answer, Rutherford told ThinkProgress. “All that data is just averaged. He hasn’t really made an attempt to compare competing trips.”

So for those of us interested in keeping a low carbon footprint, what questions really matter? Is it whether you drive to work every day, or whether you fly? How about whether your family will drive to Puerto Rico for vacation, or will they take the train?

Nope, those obviously aren’t the questions. The only sensible comparison between air and car transportation is for trips where both means are viable options.

“What’s the greenest way for me to get to my relatives for Thanksgiving dinner is a very different analysis,” Rutherford said.

The Washington Post takes the research to its furthest conclusion, saying, “If you carpool with a large group of people over a moderate distance — say, driving from D.C. to Detroit for Thanksgiving — you may still beat flying on an energy intensity basis.” (Emphasis added).

That’s wrong. By driving, you will beat flying on an energy intensity basis.

“The average occupancy for vehicle travel is 2.2,” Rutherford said. “Anything above 2.2, you will will get even better numbers for cars.”

Using the averaged data, two people in a car emit roughly the same amount of carbon as they would by flying. If you have three people, driving is about 15 percent more efficient. A family of four in a car cuts their carbon footprint in half over air travel.

In other words, it is true that air travel is less carbon-intense now that more people are fitting on planes. (So the next time you feel the urge to dump your drink on the passenger who reclined in front of you, just remember that your kneecaps are collateral damage in our collective fight to lower our emissions.) But if you are choosing between flying and driving with more than one person — or, even better, in a hybrid car — it’s still more environmentally friendly to pile into the car.

Of course, for people who truly want to cut their emissions, there is another directive here: Take the bus.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Independent Business Voice for the Environment/Guest for Today's show

E2 - Environmental Entrepreneurs


Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity.
We provide an independent, nonpartisan resource for understanding the business perspective on environmental issues. Working with business, environmental and non-traditional allies, E2 helps shape state and national policy that’s good for the economy and the environment
Our Mission
To create a platform for independent business leaders to promote environmentally sustainable economic growth.
Who We Are
E2 members come from a broad business base, ranging from clean energy and clean tech to real estate and finance, and beyond. Our members have been involved in the financing, founding or development of more than 1,700 companies that have created more than 570,000 jobs. Our members manage billions of dollars in venture and private equity capital that will flow over the next several years into new companies.
Business leaders join E2 as individuals who believe there is value in bringing a reasoned, economically based approach to addressing environmental issues. They contribute their unique perspectives, based on experience in industries that have seen economic growth paired with environmentally sustainable practices and policies. Together, they are working to promote a more sustainable economy, not just the interest of any one business or industry.
E2 leadership is drawn from our membership: our founders and Chapter Directors are business people who serve in a volunteer capacity.
What We Do
E2 provides a time-efficient way for business leaders to leverage their professional experience and networks to influence policy and shape the debate around environmental and sustainability issues. E2 keeps its members informed on critical issues, identifies key players in the debate and highlights actions that members can take to make a difference. We then organize specific initiatives that members can engage in, consistent with their time, interest and expertise: position statements, visits to legislators and administrators, letters and op-eds, press briefings and radio tours.
In order to have influence, we build relationships with public officials at the national, state and metropolitan level. Through E2 trips to Washington, DC and state capitals, in-district meetings with legislators, and events that incorporate public officials alongside the business community, we endeavor to create a level of mutual understanding and trust as a basis for constructive dialogue around specific issues.
Our Impact
E2 has influenced critical policies at the state, regional and federal levels in a wide range of sectors, including energy, climate, oceans, water, transportation, and smart growth. We promote policies that not only improve our air, water, and public health, but also create jobs and provide better economic returns using fewer natural resources. Policymakers often tell us that environmental victories could not be won without the support of E2’s business voice. They typically hear from companies or trade associations that have a financial interest in the outcome, and do not necessarily represent the broader business community. Our members’ experience and credibility is the key to E2’s ability to provide a more balanced perspective and to share the ‘real world’ impact of policies on business.