NASA Software Shows How Sea Level Rises Affect Cities

NASA scientists have created a new software program that can show how cities in coastal regions are endangered by flooding and sea level rise caused by global warming. The simulation shows how 300 coastal cities will be affected in the next century.

The software was developed by  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It calculates which ice sheets and glaciers are melting and how the additional water influences coastal regions. It takes into consideration the rotation of the Earth as well as the influence of gravity. The results are surprising. Sea levels will actually decrease around cities closer to ice masses, while the biggest rises will occur through ice caps that are farther away.

New York, for example,  will be most affected by melting ice caps in northeastern  Greenland. Sydney, on the other hand,  will actually be influenced by parts of Antarctica that are far away from Australia’s city.

The software aims at helping city planners prepare for sea level changes within the next few decades and how to keep ocean water out.

A climate report published this week shows that, since 1900, global sea levels have risen by about 20 cm, with half of the rise occurring in the last 25 years. Projections show that by 2100 ocean levels will rise by an average of 1 metre, however, the rise will not affect all coastal areas in the same way.

 

Ice Sheet in Greenland -
Ice Sheet in Greenland – Image: Christine Zenino

Words

  • actually = in fact
  • additional = extra
  • affect = change
  • aim = here: what it wants to do and who it wants to help
  • average = here: evenly spread out across all oceans
  • calculate = here: find out how much something will change by using numbers
  • century = a hundred years
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • decade = ten  years
  • decrease = go down
  • develop = create , make
  • endangered = to be in danger
  • flooding = when land becomes covered with water
  • glacier = very large mass of ice which moves down a valley
  • global = worldwide
  • global warming =  the increase in the world’s temperatures by higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • gravity = force or power that causes something to fall to the ground and stay there
  • ice cap = large mass of ice
  • influence = change
  • NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration = American space agency
  • occur = happen
  • prepare = get ready for something
  • projection = calculation about what something will be in the future  based on the information we have now
  • publish = to make information for everyone to see
  • rise = to go up
  • rotation = the Earth’s spin  around its own axis
  • sea level = the average height of the sea
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • simulation = here: software that shows how something could happen in the future
  • take into consideration =  here: to use  certain factors when you run the programme

Smog Returns to Delhi

Deadly smog has returned to Delhi. Air pollution reached several times the level suggested by the World Health Organisation. People were told to stay indoors and not walk on the streets of the world’s most polluted city. Doctors declared a state of emergency and some schools in the city stayed closed.

Smog in northern India is a big problem, especially during the winter months. From November to March cold temperatures force pollutants and dirt particles closer to the ground, mixing with the foggy air. Low wind speeds and dust from construction sites have also contributed to high pollution levels in the area.

Environmentalists say that factories and traffic are the biggest causes of smog. In addition, farmers in northern India burn the leftovers of crops after harvest and therefore produce more smoke.

Critics say that Indian government is not doing enough to protect India’s second-largest city. New measures took effect last October. Traffic became more regulated and several power plants were shut down. Authorities also want to restrict the personal use of cars to every second day, a measure that already worked in the past.

Last November Delhi was hit by the highest air pollution levels in 20 years, forcing over a million children to stay at home. Researchers claim that 2.5 million Indians die of pollution every year.

Smog in Delhi
Smog in Delhi – Image: Saurabh Kumar

Words

  • air pollution = when the air becomes dirty through factories and cars
  • authorities = official organisation or a government department that has the power to make decisions
  • cause = reason
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • construction sites = places where new houses are built
  • contribute = to help make something happen
  • declare = to say something officially, in public
  • environmentalist = person who cares about nature and the world  around us
  • especially = above all
  • dust = dry powder made up of small  bits of dirt
  • fog = cloudy air near the ground which is difficult to see through
  • force = to make something happen
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • harvest = when crops are gathered from the fields
  • in addition = also
  • leftovers = here: leaves and stems that are left over when crops are harvested
  • measure = action
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • pollutant = substance that makes air and water dirty
  • power station = building that produces energy and electricity
  • regulated = controlled
  • researcher = person who studies a topic closely in order to find out more about it
  • restrict = limit; control
  • several = many
  • shut down = close
  • smog = a mixture of smoke and fog
  • state of emergency = when the government gives itself special powers in order to try to get a dangerous situation under control
  • take effect = when something starts to work
  • therefore = that is why
  • World Health Organisation = international organisation that helps countries improve  their people’s health by giving medicine and providing information about diseases

 

 

 

Environmental Pollution Kills More People Than Smoking and Wars

A new report concludes that environmental pollution is world’s number one killer. Every year it kills more people than global wars , natural catastrophes,  or hunger. About 9 million people die prematurely every year because of our polluted environment.  Experts state that this costs  about $4.5 trillion  a year, 6% of the world economy.

Researchers say that pollution has never reached such a dangerous level before. Pollution-related deaths are one and a half times higher than the number of people killed through smoking and six times higher than people who die in road accidents. The real figures are thought to be even higher because pollution isn’t monitored in some remote place in Africa , South America or Asia.

Two thirds of the deaths are caused by air pollution. Burning wood and coal, as well as fumes of cars and other vehicles cause 6.5 million deaths every year.

The authors of the new report examined not only air quality , but took soil and water probes as well. They received additional data from the World Health Organisation.

Most of the deaths  occur in poor developing countries  , where governments care less about the environment and do not have strict laws in effect. Bangladesh and Somalia are among the most polluted countries.  In India, the second most populous country in the world,  one out of four deaths is caused by some form of pollution. China’s environment is also considered to be one of the deadliest  in the world. 

On the other side Sweden and Brunei have the lowest pollution levels. Pollution in developed countries is especially high in low-income areas of large cities, whereas  the rural countryside shows very low pollution levels.

The report makes a few recommendations . Fighting pollution should become a priority everywhere and more funds should be made available to combat pollution.

Environmental pollution from a factory
Environmental pollution from a factory

Words

  • additional data = more facts and information
  • available = to be used
  • coal = hard black stone which is dug out of the earth and can be used  to produce heat and energy
  • combat = fight
  • conclude = to come to a result
  • developed countries = the richest countries in the world
  • developing countries = the poorest countries in the world
  • economy = the system of products , services and money in a country
  • environmental pollution = the process of making air, water  and soil dangerously dirty so that we cannot use it
  • especially = above all
  • examine = to look at something closely
  • fumes = gases and smoke that come out of a car or factory
  • funds = money
  • global = worldwide
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • level = amount
  • low-income = people earn very little money
  • monitor = watch closely
  • occur = happen
  • populous = many people live there
  • prematurely = something that happens before the normal time
  • priority = the thing that you think is most important  and that needs attention before anything else
  • probe = a sample of water or soil
  • recommendation = suggestion
  • remote = faraway
  • researcher = person who studies a subject very closely in order to get more information about it
  • rural = countryside
  • soil = the top layer of the earth, on which plants can grow
  • state = to say that something is true
  • strict = something that you must obey
  • whereas = on the other side
  • World Health Organisation = UN organisation that helps countries improve the health of the population by giving medicine and offering information about diseases
  • vehicle =  machine with an engine that is used to  take people or things from one place to another

More Amazon Rain Forest Destroyed By Mining

A recent survey , examining the years between 2005 and 2015, has come to the conclusion that more and more of the Amazon rain forest is lost due to mining operations. According to the government, most of these mining activities  are illegal and unregulated.

Brazilian environmental organisations  now say that mining is one of the major problems of the Amazon rain forest. Whereas earlier estimates put the destruction through mining at about 2% of the total area, experts now say that over 10% of rain forest loss is caused by mining. Most of the rain forest is cleared to create settlements for mine workers , as well as new transportation routes  and airports. Minerals mined in the Amazon region include iron ore, bauxite and copper.

The destruction of the rain forest through  mining is 12 times greater outside official and regulated  areas than within. In some cases  observers saw mining activity up to 70 km from a mine’s border.

Rain forests are essential to the planet’s climate. They bind carbon dioxide and provide a living space for many plants and animals . Since 2000 more than 190 000 square kilometres of the Amazon rain forest have been cleared.  The leading cause of deforestation is still farming.

Officials  also report that, for the first time in years, deforestation throughout the year has  actually decreased – by 16 % between  August 2016 and July 2017.  This is a result of more surveillance and stricter controls, but it is also caused by lower livestock prices on world markets.

 

Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest - satellite image
Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest – satellite image

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • bauxite = soft material that you use to get aluminium
  • bind = here: not let something escape into the atmosphere
  • border = the end of an area
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals and people breathe out  and when carbon is burned
  • cause = reason
  • clear = here: cut down trees
  • conclusion = to decide or say something, based on the information you have
  • copper = soft reddish-brown metal that lets electricity and heat  pass through easily
  • decrease = to go down
  • deforestation = the cutting down or burning of all trees in an area
  • destruction = here: cutting down all trees in the area
  • due to = because of
  • environmental = about nature and the world around us
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is using the information you have
  • examine = to look closely at a topic in order to get more information about it
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • illegal = against the law
  • iron ore = rock that has iron in it
  • livestock = animals, such as cows or sheep, that are kept on a farm
  • loss = losing something
  • major = very important
  • mineral = material in the earth that is valuable and which you can sell
  • mining = the work of getting minerals, like coal, oil or metals out of the earth
  • official = here: allowed by the government
  • provide = offer, give
  • recent =  a short time ago
  • settlement = group of houses created to live in
  • surveillance = when the police watch a place very closely because there may be something wrong going on there
  • survey = questions that you ask people in order to find out more about a topic
  • unregulated = not controlled or watched by the government
  • whereas = although, while
  • within = inside

 

 

Sidewalk Toronto – City of the Future in Canada

Sidewalk Labs, a Google company, has announced  plans to build a futuristic city in Toronto, Canada. The new urban area, called Sidewalk Toronto, aims at turning the waterfront of Lake Ontario into a playground for city development and a testing site  for new technologies.

The project wants to make cities cheaper, healthier and even more exciting to live in .  The new city will offer its residents ultra-fast WiFi connections, lanes for self-driving cars and sustainable energy sources.  Thousands of sensors will report pollution and noise levels, as well as monitor traffic and levels of carbon monoxide.

Planners of Sidewalk Toronto want to find new solutions for  overpopulation, waste management , traffic , pollution and other urban problems. Several companies have said that they will make their services  available to the new city. 

Planners estimate that the project will cost around 1 billion dollars. However, it will also offer tens of thousands of people a place to live, work  and have fun. Eventually, similar projects may spread to other parts of the world, helping to build smarter and greener  cities.

Google has also announced that it plans to move its Canadian headquarters to Sidewalk Toronto.

 

 

 

Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario
Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario – Image: George Socka

Words

  • aim = wants to , plans to
  • announce = to officially say something in public
  • available = here: something that people can use
  • carbon monoxide = poisonous gas that produces carbon when it is burned
  • development = to become bigger, more modern and advanced
  • estimate = think about how much something will cost
  • eventually = as time goes on, slowly
  • futuristic = something  that looks unusual and very modern
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • however =  but
  • lane = one of two or many areas on the road that keeps cars apart
  • monitor = watch, observe
  • overpopulation = too many people live on a small area of land
  • resident = here: a person  who lives in a city
  • services = work or help that a company gives you
  • similar = almost the same
  • solution = way of dealing with a problem
  • spread = move to another place
  • sustainable = something that can be used without causing danger to the environment or nature
  • urban = about a city
  • waste management = way of getting rid of unwanted materials and dirty water
  • waterfront = part of a city or town that is next to the sea or lake
  • WiFi connection = connecting computers and other machines to the Internet by using radio signals

 

Thousands of Penguin Babies Die in the Antarctic

Thousands of penguin babies have starved to death in the eastern Antarctic recently . Observers found thousands of unhatched eggs and lifeless baby penguins  on the coast. According to scientists , only two baby penguins survived during the 2017 breeding seasonAdélie penguins live in colonies that consist of thousands of animals.  It is the second time that a whole colony has been wiped out after no babies survived in 2015.

The World Wildlife Fund says that krill fishing in the area has led to the starving of penguin babies. Officials state that fishing in the area may permanently endanger the whole penguin population in the Antarctic.

Another reason for the declining number of Adélie penguins is possibly climate change.  In regions where ice gets thicker, adult penguins must  travel further away from the shore in order to find food. When they get back they find many of their babies already dead.

The WWF  and other organisations now demand that the eastern Antarctic coastline be declared a Marine Protected Area in order to help endangered penguins. Commercial fishing should be banned around these areas .

Adélie penguins live along the Antarctic coast  and usually breed from October to February.  They lay eggs in nests made up of stones.

 

Adélie penguin
Adélie penguin – Image : Andrew Shiva

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • adult = grownup
  • ban = forbid
  • breed = two or more animals get together in order to have babies
  • commercial fishing = fishing in order to make money
  • consist of = made up of
  • declare = to officially say that something exists
  • declining = going down
  • demand = want to have
  • endanger = to put a person or an animal in danger
  • krill = small shellfish
  • lifeless = dead
  • Marine Protected Area = area in the ocean where fishing and mining is banned and where animals and plants are protected
  • permanently = exist for a long time in the future
  • observer = a person who watches something closely
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • starve = to die because you do not have enough to eat
  • survive = to live on after a dangerous situation
  • unhatched = if a baby animal does not come out of an egg
  • wipe out =  destroy completely, so that nothing is left
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that protects endangered animals and plants

 

 

Ocean Wind Farms Could Give Energy To Everybody

Winds and storms in the Atlantic are so strong that wind-powered turbines in the Atlantic Ocean could provide the whole world with clean energy. Energy experts now claim that ocean wind farms  can produce three to five times more energy than wind turbines on land. Over water wind speeds are up to 70% higher.

Winds on land create friction because of mountains and buildings. They slow down as they move inwards . In addition, turbines are built closer together, which takes some of the wind speed away .

Winds are especially strong across the northern Atlantic Ocean because of differences in water temperature. When the warm Gulf Stream moves up the North American coast it mixes with cold water in the northern Atlantic. This leads to higher storm activity and more winds, especially during the winter months.

Norway’s energy company Statoil has been operating floating wind turbines in the shallow North Sea for over a decade. These are connected via cable to the ocean floor.  In order to make them work  in the deep sea , however, they must be attached to vertical poles that have massive weights in the water.

One of the biggest problems that face ocean wind farms is transporting energy from the deep sea to land. Energy companies , like Statoil, are looking for high-wind areas that are closer to shore.

While wind farms on land are becoming more  and more common, production costs of running them are becoming lower. In the near future wind energy is expected to become one of the cheapest alternative energy sources .

Europe is the number one wind energy producer at the moment. Every year, about 12 gigawatts of energy are produced by wind power, whereas in America green energy from wind is still in its infancy. If  produced more effectively, the solution to the world’s energy problems may lie in ocean wind farms.

 

 

Offshore wind farm in the North Sea
Offshore wind farm in the North Sea – Image : Harald Pettersen / Statoil

Words

  • alternative energy source = energy that does not come from fossil fuels, like, coal, oil or gas
  • attach = fix, connect to something
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • coast = where land meets the sea
  • common = widespread, popular
  • connect = fix or tie to something
  • decade = ten years
  • deep sea = far away from land
  • Gulf Stream = warm water that flows to Europe from the Gulf of Mexico
  • effectively = here: to produce more with less money
  • especially = above all
  • face = deal with, manage
  • float = to move on water without sinking
  • friction = when something rubs against a surface
  • gigawatt = one thousand million watts
  • in addition = also
  • infancy = at the beginning
  • inward = here: away from the sea
  • massive = very big
  • provide = give
  • shallow = not deep
  • shore = land near the coast
  • speed = how fast something is
  • turbine = energy or motor  in which pressure pushes a wheel around
  • weight = a very heavy object
  • whereas = on the other side

 

 

Massive Hole Discovered in Antarctic Ice

Scientists have discovered a gigantic hole that has reappeared in the Antarctic ice. It is about the size of the Netherlands and is located around the Weddell Sea.

In the 1970s climatologists found a similar hole at almost the same spot. At that time  they didn’t have the observation equipment that they have now, so they couldn’t study the hole closely enough. After a few years it disappeared . Last year, the hole came up again.

Researchers cannot explain how the hole emerged.  One theory is  that warmer salt water from deep under the Antarctic ice sheet  may have come up and mixed with cold water near the surface, thus , melting the ice sheet above.  Normally a thick layer of ice covers Antarctica at the end of the  southern winter. Scientists also claim that it may be connected to climate change and global warming.

Such a hole in the ice is called a polynya.  Although not totally uncommon, it is strange that the hole in the Antarctic ice has appeared very far from its edge . Usually such holes are found in coastal regions.

Climatologists are not sure whether the hole will have an impact on the water temperature in the world’s oceans. If warmer water continues to surface to the top of the hole it may stay there for a longer period of time because it would then be difficult for ice layers to form.

Severe weather conditions during the Antarctic winter make it difficult to find holes in the ice . This is the second time in two years that such a hole has emerged , although last year’s was not that big.

 

Antarctic Ice Shelf
Antarctic Ice Shelf

Words

  • although = while
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • climatologist = person who studies the weather and how it changes the climate on earth
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • disappear = go away
  • discover = to find something that has not been there before
  • edge = the part of an object that is furthest from the centre
  • emerge = come out  from somewhere
  • equipment = the tools or machines you need to do something
  • gigantic = huge; very big
  • global warming = the increase in the temperature of the atmosphere
  • ice sheet = area of thick ice that covers the North and South Poles
  • impact = influence, change
  • layer = material or substance between two other things
  • reappear = to come again, after it has gone away for some time
  • researcher = a person who studies a subject in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • severe = bad, extreme
  • similar = almost the same
  • size = how big something is
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • thus = therefore; that is why
  • uncommon = unusual, strange

Africa’s Great Green Wall

Africa’s Great Green Wall is a project to create a natural wall of trees across Africa. The wall will stretch across Africa south of the Sahara desert  from the Atlantic Ocean to the Horn of Africa. When finished the 8,000 km long and 15 km wide Great Green Wall will be the largest man-made structure  on earth.

The project started in 2007 in an attempt to fight desertification, permanent drought  and food shortages in countries of the Sahel zone, one of the poorest regions in the world.

However, the building of the wall is not moving forward fast enough. Up to now, only 15% of the trees have already been planted, mainly in Senegal.  The ambitious project will cost over $4 billion. 21 African countries, the World Bank, the FAO and the French government have committed themselves to financing the natural wall.

The Great Green Wall will run through an area, in which the dry season can last up to 10 months a year. Experts claim that by 2025 a large part of the  fertile land in the region could be lost if nothing is done to save it. In addition, the wall is expected to provide food for 20 million Africans and  also bind millions of tons of carbon dioxide.

 

The Sahel Zone
The Sahel Zone

 

Words

  • ambitious =  good but difficult to do
  • bind = here: to make it stay in the ground and not let it escape into the atmosphere
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals breathe out  or when carbon is burned in the air
  • claim = to say that something is true, even if you cannot prove it
  • commit = here: to say that you will do something
  • desert = land where it is always dry and where there are few plants and a lot of rocks and sand
  • desertification = when farmland changes into desert
  • drought = long period of dry weather when there is not enough water for plants and animals to live
  • FAO = Food and Agriculture Organisation = organisation in the United Nations that helps produce food and gives it to poor people around the world
  • fertile = here: land that is good enough to produce food
  • mainly = mostly
  • move forward = to make progress; here: to continue building
  • permanent = existing for a long time
  • provide = give
  • Sahel zone = dry area of land between the Sahara desert and tropical Africa
  • shortage = not enough of something
  • stretch = reach from one place to another
  • structure = object that has been built

 

2011 Tsunami Drives Marine Animals to US Coast

The 2011 tsunami , which led to the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, has swept thousands of sea creatures across the Pacific Ocean to the  US coast. In the past 6 years scientists have found mussels, starfish, crabs  and other marine animals washed up on the American Pacific coast. Marine biologists expect that there are even more species to arrive in the future.

The giant waves caused by the tsunami in Japan  were almost 40 metres  tall and washed objects into the open sea.  In 2012, scientists found debris together with living creatures on them near the Alaskan coast as well as in Hawaii. They were sea animals that have never before been seen there.

Scientists are surprised that marine species have been able to survive over such a long period in such bad conditions. However, most species travelled on plastic or glass objects, things that do not decompose and stay the same for many years. On the other hand, animals that travelled on wooden objects did not make the long journey across the Pacific, because wood lasts only for a short time.

Because the debris moved slowly across the ocean the animals had time to get used to their new surroundings as they travelled the 4,000 mile journey across the Pacific.

With so much plastic and other garbage swimming in the world’s oceans, the danger of marine animals being washed up on foreign coasts has never been greater.

Experts are not sure what effect these new species may have on the local environment. Such invasive species may change the ecosystem of the area  they arrive at. They might transport new diseases or kill off existing species . In any case, it will take a decade or more to see the results.

 

Starfish found off the Pacific coast
Starfish found off the Pacific coast

Words

  • crab= sea animal with a hard shell , five legs on each side and two large claws
  • creature = animal; living thing
  • debris = garbage, waste
  • decade = ten years
  • decompose = to break down into many smaller parts
  • disease = illness
  • ecosystem = the animals and plants in a certain area and they way they live together
  • effect = result ; change caused by an event
  • foreign = another country
  • garbage = waste; things people throw away
  • however = but
  • invasive species = plant or animal that does not grow naturally in an area but has come there from somewhere else
  • journey = trip
  • local environment = the world around the place that you live in
  • marine species = animals and plants that live in the ocean
  • mussel = small sea animal with a soft body  that can be eaten and a black shell that is split into two parts
  • nuclear catastrophe = here: an atomic power plant explodes and sends dangerous radioactive waves into the atmosphere
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • starfish = flat sea animal that has five arms and looks like a star
  • surroundings = the place or natural area around a person or animal
  • survive = live on after a dangerous situation
  • sweep – swept = to push something away
  • tsunami = very large waves, most of the time cause by an earthquake in or near the sea.