Baghdad got its first snow in 100 years on Friday! The snow didn’t accumulate much, so the Baghdad government won’t have to add “snow plows” to its load of materials, but it was a once in a lifetime site. People of all ages remarked they had never seen snow, nor had ever heard of anyone in their lifetime seeing snow in the area before. Some people remarked it was the first time they had ever seen snow, outside of movies.
National Geographic is reporting that we can expect a season of intense solar flares for the next few weeks and months. This is all part of a normal 11 year cycle in solar flare activity, but it can lead to some distinct headaches in our tech heavy world. As the article notes, this is the first cycle where GPS is widespread – and GPS is one of the systems most easily affected by solar flares. It will be interesting to see how much impact these flares have on our day to day lives, particularly in the geospatial community. So, for the next few weeks/months, if you’re doing GPS field work, you might want to bring a book!
Japan has set a target to increase it’s number of solar powered houses to 14 million by 2030. It’s a fairly lofty goal. The exceptionally noteworthy part of this is that Japan is focusing on reducing the costs of panels, increasing the power output, and increasing the ease of installation. Since Japan produces roughly half the solar panels in the world, hopefully some of these improvements will find their way to other shores. I know I looked at solar panels for my house a couple of years ago when I was building. It just wasn’t cost effective for our area at the time. Hopefully with the rising price of electricity, these potential improvements will be a big boon!
So we have entered the winter season here in the northern hemisphere (welcome to summer down south). I prefer the winter months during this season, mostly cause the thought of Saint Nick in his swimming trunks is just not for me…nope, no way.
In other Google news, they have decided to invest some of their billions into renewable energy sources, like solar and wind. The plan is to make renewable sources cheaper than coal sources. It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s good to see even companies not in the energy sector realize the importance of growing our renewable energy pool.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has released a video today showing visually the ice loss in the Arctic Sea from 1979-2007. The video is pretty impressive showing the degree of loss over the last 30 years or so. The video is linked on the right hand side along with some flat photo images.
A story to round out Blog Action Day about current research along the Northwest Passage that will likely soon have new environmental finds. The BBC has had a press crew on the vessel (the Amundsen) that has been passing through the Northwest Passage and they have been showing some of the video on BBC World News for the last week, but you can also view these videos online on BBC web site. There are many Geography questions raised in the video from the scientific mission of the ship across the Northwest Passage to the political issues surrounding the question of whether it lies in national versus international waters.
Either way there should be a significant amount of environmental research to come out of the voyage and work over the next couple of years. You can check out a detailed diary of the journey across the Northwest Passage on the BBC website.
National Geographic has a photo essay/article about the top ten most polluted places on Earth. It’s unfortunate how many of them are located in the former Soviet Union areas. I found the photo of the cemetery of radioactive vehicles near Chernobyl to be the most disturbing. With luck, Chernobyl will be a one time event. The number of vehicles contaminated by the event is astounding.
The MIT Media Lab and Maine Audobon are working on a project that uses cell phones to help study bird populations and habitat. The Owl Project researchers actually use cell phones placed within the forest to call owls, play owl sounds, and then record the responses. Following the success of a pilot project in Connecticut, the researchers are going to expand their work to areas of Maine. The Owl Project site also features some educational information and a Google Maps mashup showing the cell nodes for the project, and you can click on the pushpins to hear what sounds the speakers are sending out. I am sitting in a brightly-lit lab far from the forest and I’m still a little creeped out by all the owl sounds.
Not to be out-done by Pleistocene Park, a Scottish landowner, Paul Lister, is attempting to turn his Highland estate, Alladale Estate (near Inverness), into an ecological game preserve with a twist – he is planning on recreating the flora and fauna that were typical of the area 2000 years ago. Lister is hoping to populate the park with elk, wild boar, lynx and other animals, as well as creating a reserve for indigenous vegetation such hazel, Caledonian pine and round birch.
The goal of this project is to create a tourist park and resort, and the developers hope to attract 50,000 visitors a year when the reserve is fully up and running.