Heading Off Arctic Invasives, Surging Glaciers, Mountaintop Removal, Geothermal Energy
Plus Defending Dudleya, Regenerative Ranching, Amtrak Goes to Cleveland, Plastic in Our Rivers, and Indian Wildlife
Heading Off Invasives in the Canadian Arctic
Scientists Make New Assessments of Risks Due to Climate Change
Climate change threatens to disrupt weather, raise the level of our seas, and affect the living world all over the planet. Besides all that, global heating will change—is already changing—human behavior. And that means even more trouble for the planet.
As Arctic ice disappears, sea lanes are opening up in and around Canada where they had not existed before. Ship traffic has already increased in Canada’s Arctic, mostly because of oil and gas drilling. Invasive species can tag along on these ships and disrupt native populations and cause ecological havoc.
Using what is called the Canadian Marine Invasive Screening Tool (CMIST), scientists have identified a number of species that pose some of the greatest risks to northern aquatic ecosystems. One of the regions at greatest risk is the Hudson Bay Complex, a region that extends outward from the Hudson Bay.
The species that pose the highest risk are those naturally found along the coasts of northern Europe and western North America. Shipping routes are already established from these areas to the Hudson Bay Complex. Species of crabs, mollusks, zooplankton, and some algae were identified as posing the greatest risks.
I have volunteered a lot to rid open spaces close to where I live of invasive species. Once they get established, they can be next to impossible to get rid of. This new research can be used to stave off invasives from getting introduced or to be quickly dealt with if they invade the northern waters of Canada.
Big Surprise! Global Warming Makes Glaciers More Dangerous
Two weeks ago disaster struck the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Surging floods killed at least 26 persons, with more than 174 missing after a glacier burst in the mountainous region that lies more than 200 miles from New Delhi. The floods were caused when a portion of a glacier fell into a river.
Glacial hazards, such as surges and sudden flooding, are rare occurrences, but new research indicates that these often tragic event may become more common. In a new study, scientists focused on the glaciers in the Karakoram, a 300-mile long mountain range extending east from Afghanistan and straddling the borders of Pakistan, India, and China. Unlike most glaciers in the world, the glaciers of the Karakoram have maintained or even grown their extents in recent decades.
The researchers, who are from the Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco-Security, the China Institute of International Rivers and Eco-security, and the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, used a number of research techniques, including remote sensing methods such as satellite imaging and sensing.
Glacial related flooding is related to glacial surges, when a glacier moves really fast, up to 100 times their normal rate of flow. Despite their apparent stability, the scientists found evidence that the glaciers of the Karakoram will develop shorter surge cycles, leading to more surges, more floods, and more disasters. In particular these surges will affect the safety of the Karakoram highway, a route that connects Pakistan and China and is a major tourist destination.
Some Places in West Virginia Still Plagued by Mountaintop Removal
Coal River Mountain Still Bearing the Brunt of Destructive Mining Practice
Since the 1980s mountaintop removal has ruined great swaths of central Appalachia. The mining practice has permanently buried or destroyed 2000 miles of streams and annihilated as much land as the entire state of Delaware.
Mountaintop removal also makes people sick. Research has linked mountaintop mining with folks being afflicted with kidney stones, losing teeth, diarrhea, learning disabilities, and some types of cancer.1 Other research found infants with birth defects in newborns who were born close to mountaintop mines.2
So much of the coal is gone. As well, economic factors have also lead to the decline of the coal industry. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, between 2018 and 2020 coal production in central Appalachia fell by around 42 percent.
Even still, there are some places like Coal River Mountain where mountaintop removal continues unabated. Currently there are two mine permit applications under review by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to mine and remove Paint Mountain and Turkey Foot mountain. The mines would destroy about 2000 acres of forest and streams. The Coal River Mountain area is already one of the most mined out areas of Appalachia, with over ten square miles where mountaintop removal has destroyed the land and sickened the folks who live there.
New Developments in Geothermal Energy
India is developing its first geothermal energy plant in the Ladakh region, an area that is under dispute with China and Pakistan. The initial phase of development would result in a one megawatt capacity power plant, but plans exist to develop the plant for greater generating capacity.
A must see destination for tourists in southern Britain is Bath. This town of diminutive Georgan architecture seems almost to be a Disney creation, an amusement park designer’s idea of what a European city looks like.
And the main attraction of the city is the ruins of the Roman baths. Among the artifacts and after almost 2000 years, the water in the pool still steams. What the Romans used, water that is naturally warmed by the heat within the Earth, may now provide heat to homes throughout Britain.
Through the great industrial period of the United Kingdom, coal was extracted from thousands of mines. In all, Britain has about 23,000 coalmines that have been abandoned. In the years since they last had miners extracting coal, these mines have filled with water. And as with the water at Bath, much of the water in these mines is warmed by geothermal energy.
Researchers at Durham University, working with BritBeothermal Research Partnership are working on ways to extract the heat in the warm water and use it to heat British homes. The warm water in the mines would be pumped to the surface and passed through a heat exchanger, which would warm another fluid, such as a brine or antifreeze, which would then be pumped to warm nearby homes. The mine water would be recycled back down into the mine to be warmed again.
Mining mine water for heat is not a new idea. There are already operations that are doing this, just not a whole bunch of them. Currently there are only 30 sites in the entire world that use heat from abandoned mines. There is one operation up and running in England, where the heat from a mine south of Newcastle is used to heat a wine supplier’s warehouse.
As the water is warm, not hot, offering only so much warming potential, some folks have proposed digging deeper to expose the water to more of the earth’s heat, but such deep extents may not have water down there to warm.
The scheme is not carbon neutral, the way above-ground passive solar heating is, because there are pumps and other thingamagigs used to extract the heat from the water. Even still, it is estimated that using the mine water is about one fourth as carbon intensive as heating homes with natural gas, which is the way most homes in Britain are now heated. There is also the irony of using mines—some of the first to have coal extracted during the industrial revolution with the resulting CO2 entering the atmosphere to start warming the planet—as green solutions to fight climate change.
Don’t Touch That Dudleya!
Bill Introduced to Protect California Succulents
California is a hotspot of biodiversity and natural wonders. Among the most beguiling of the native plants to be found in the Golden State are the native succulents called dudleyas.
The genus occurs in the Southwest United States and Mexico, with more than 50 species of dudleya native to California. The beauty of many of the plants is threatening their existence.
Dudleya have become very popular in Southeast Asia, so much so that a single plant can fetch $1000 on the black market. Because of this demand, poachers have been ripping dudleyas out of the California ground. Many species of dudleya are already rare and endangered, with some species occurring only within one county, mountain range, or island. Habitat has been lost to development. More frequent fires also make their existence more tenuous.
California Assembly Member Chris Ward (D) has introduced Assembly Bill 223: Wildlife: Dudleya: Taking and Possession, that would make it a crime punishable by a fine of at least $5,000 per plant and a year in jail for selling, offering to sell, buying, uprooting, or cutting dudleya that is not on that person’s property. Second or subsequent convictions could see fines as high as $40,000.
Bill introduced to promote regenerative ranching in California
Proposed law would encourage ranching practices that restore grasslands and sequester carbon (Audubon)
There is now lots and lots of plastic in our rivers
Aquatic species now seem to prefer lodging on pieces of plastic instead of rocks and other natural habitat (Yale360)
Amtrak is developing plans to expand rail service
Five new routes for Ohio, four going through Cleveland (Cleveland.com)
Advocating for a wildlife corridor from Delhi to Haryana 75 miles away
Proposed 80 square mile area is home to leopards, hyena, jackals, and 12 other mammal species (Down to Earth)
Holzman, David C. “Mountaintop Removal Mining.” Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 119, Issue 11 11/1/2011 print.
Ahearn, Melissa M. et at. “The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996–2003.” Environmental Research Vol. 111 Issue 6. Aug 2011, p 838-846 print.