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Whitefish Energy won’t finish its work in Puerto Rico until it’s paid $83 million.

After Puerto Rico canceled its controversial contract with the small Montana company last month, Whitefish had agreed to continue repairs on the island’s devastated grid until Nov. 30. But on Monday, the company paused work 10 days early. According to Whitefish, PREPA, Puerto Rico’s government-owned utility, owed it $83 million.

“It may have not been the best business decision coming to work for a bankrupt island,” Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski told CNN. PREPA was $9 billion in debt before Hurricane Maria.

Whitefish claims that some of its contractors and subcontractors are going unpaid due to PREPA’s delayed payments. Meanwhile, PREPA says it paused payment to Whitefish on Nov. 16 at the request of a subcontractor claiming Whitefish owed it money. Sounds like a chicken-and-egg situation?

Congress and the FBI are currently investigating the $300 million Whitefish contract, which drew scrutiny for its anti-auditing measure and unusually high fees, among other things. A congressional hearing last week found that PREPA ignored lawyers’ advice in signing the deal in the first place. Soon after the hearing, PREPA’s CEO resigned.

Puerto Rico could use an end to the Whitefish drama — and the power outages. Two months after Hurricane Maria, less than half of the power has been restored and entire communities are still living without electricity.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Whitefish Energy won’t finish its work in Puerto Rico until it’s paid $83 million. on Nov 21, 2017.

http://ift.tt/2zUP2pA Source: http://grist.org



Read the Antarctica blockbuster that’s freaking everyone out.

In a long-awaited decision, the Nebraska Public Service Commission announced its vote Monday to approve a tweaked route for the controversial tar sands oil pipeline.

The 3-2 decision is a critical victory for pipeline builder TransCanada after a nearly decade-long fight pitting Nebraska landowners, Native communities, and environmentalists activists against a pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

After years of intense pressure, President Obama deemed the project “not in the national interest” in 2015; President Trump quickly reversed that decision earlier this year. But TransCanada couldn’t go forward without an approved route through Nebraska, which was held up by legal and political proceedings.

In the meantime, it’s become unclear whether TransCanada will even try to complete the $8 billion project. The financial viability of tar sands oil — which is expensive to extract and refine — has shifted in the intervening years, and while KXL languished, Canadian oil companies developed other routes to market.

The commission’s decision also opens the door to new litigation and land negotiations. TransCanada will have to secure land rights along the new route; one dissenting commissioner noted that many landowners might not even know the pipeline would potentially cross their property.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline, which KXL was meant to supplement, spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Due to a 2011 Nebraska law, the commissioners were unable to consider pipeline safety or the possibility of spills in their decision.

http://ift.tt/2mOyNoK Source: http://grist.org



How to survive Thanksgiving in one piece.

In a long-awaited decision, the Nebraska Public Service Commission announced its vote Monday to approve a tweaked route for the controversial tar sands oil pipeline.

The 3-2 decision is a critical victory for pipeline builder TransCanada after a nearly decade-long fight pitting Nebraska landowners, Native communities, and environmentalists activists against a pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

After years of intense pressure, President Obama deemed the project “not in the national interest” in 2015; President Trump quickly reversed that decision earlier this year. But TransCanada couldn’t go forward without an approved route through Nebraska, which was held up by legal and political proceedings.

In the meantime, it’s become unclear whether TransCanada will even try to complete the $8 billion project. The financial viability of tar sands oil — which is expensive to extract and refine — has shifted in the intervening years, and while KXL languished, Canadian oil companies developed other routes to market.

The commission’s decision also opens the door to new litigation and land negotiations. TransCanada will have to secure land rights along the new route; one dissenting commissioner noted that many landowners might not even know the pipeline would potentially cross their property.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline, which KXL was meant to supplement, spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Due to a 2011 Nebraska law, the commissioners were unable to consider pipeline safety or the possibility of spills in their decision.

http://ift.tt/2hSAKif Source: http://grist.org



NASA confirms asteroid came from another solar system – and it’s incredibly bizarre

Interstellar asteroid, interstellar asteroids, interstellar, asteroid, asteroids, 1I/2017 U1, 'Oumuamua, Institute for Astronomy, NASA, space, outer space, solar system, star system, science

The presence of an unidentified object hurtling through our solar system recently prompted a call to action from observatories throughout the world. NASA has confirmed that it’s the first object to arrive from another star – and it may be as long as a quarter mile. While the rocky asteroid, dubbed ‘Oumuamua, is definitely not piloted by aliens, it could give us clues into the formation of other solar systems.

Interstellar asteroid, interstellar asteroids, interstellar, asteroid, asteroids, 1I/2017 U1, 'Oumuamua, Institute for Astronomy, NASA, space, outer space, solar system, star system, science

In late October, scientists thought they might have observed an object that came from outside the solar system with the aid of the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope. The International Astronomical Union reclassified the object from a comet to an interstellar asteroid, per a November 14 release. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said in a November 20 press release: “For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now – for the first time – we have direct evidence they exist.”

Related: Scientists might have spotted the first object from outside our solar system

Yesterday the journal Nature published a study on the find, led by scientists at the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii. NASA helped fund the work. The bizarre asteroid could have been “wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system,” according to the agency.

Interstellar asteroid, interstellar asteroids, interstellar, asteroid, asteroids, 1I/2017 U1, 'Oumuamua, Institute for Astronomy, NASA, space, outer space, solar system, star system, science

‘Oumuamua – Hawaiian for “a messenger from afar arriving first” – has a slightly reddish hue, and is around 10 times as long as it is wide, according to NASA, which said the asteroid’s aspect ratio is bigger than any other asteroid or comet we’ve ever observed. And it varies widely in brightness: “by a factor of 10 as it spins on its axis every 7.3 hours.” It’s likely dense, comprised of metals or rock, without ice or water, and could have been reddened by irradiation from cosmic rays.

A few of Earth’s big ground-based telescopes are still tracking ‘Oumuamua. It’s around 124 million miles away from our planet and will probably be too faint for detection around mid-December. It will head for the constellation Pegasus after exiting our solar system.

Via NASA

Images via European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser and the International Astronomical Union

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Brilliantly renovated Rusty House is wrapped in a layer of rusted steel

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

Exposed raw steel wraps around this small house in the Czech Republic, renovated by OK PLAN ARCHITECTS. Covered with a vibrant layer of pre-rusted sheet metal (CorTen), the Rusty House is a minimalist residence that surprises passersby with its unusual exterior and layout maximizes the potential of its tiny plot.

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

After living in the house for twelve years, the owner decided to renovate the interior of the house and “soften” the appearance of the main living space. OK PLAN ARCHITECTS helmed the renovation process which included landscaping the surrounding garden.

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

Related: Rusty tin shed transformed into beautiful two-story studio in Sydney

Exposed concrete, galvanized steel and corrugated sheet metal dominate the house. The architects added layers to the interior, including oak ceiling panels, in order to improve the organization of the interior and its acoustic performance.

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

Custom-made furniture and fixtures were added to bring an element of modernity to the place. Older kitchen cabinets were replaced, and a new fireplace installed in the living room. The architects blended the old and the new to respond to new functional and aesthetic demands, while preserving the rawness of the original structure.

+ OK PLAN ARCHITECTS

Photos by BoysPlayNice Photography

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

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This holiday season, instead of picking your battles, pick your battlefield

November 2016 was a devastating time for at least 65.7 million people — everyone who voted for Hillary Clinton. And amid that discombobulating cocktail of astonishment and disillusionment (one part despair, two parts disbelief), many of them had to sit down at the Thanksgiving dinner table and weigh whether or not to discuss a traumatizing election. Perhaps there were Trump supporters at the table, or non-voters, or even someone who voted for Jill Stein!

Common etiquette dictates that political conversation is not appropriate for family dinners. Much has been said and written since the election about the best solution for the hyper-polarized political situation. And it boils down to: People who love and respect each other need to engage one another in political discussion, even — especially — if they disagree. In other words, etiquette is bad!

I talked to several people with politically diverse families about how they approached that issue at Thanksgiving 2016. They almost entirely opted to simply make nice, remain quiet, and try to keep from imploding. But now, a year later, so much has happened: The president has made us the only country in the world to oppose the Paris Agreement; the EPA is headed by a man who has long sought to dismantle it; and we’re actively embracing coal, a dying, increasingly economically unviable, climate-catastrophic energy source. (And that’s just on the environmental front.)

So I asked them how they are feeling now, facing another set of holidays? What approaches have they found that work to address hot-button topics with family members who hold different opinions? This is their advice. (Names are changed to protect family relations!)

One-on-one is more effective than a large holiday dinner.

Neil, 35, is a Texas native and conservative-turned-liberal — “I voted for Bush in 2000,” he whispers conspiratorially to me over the phone — who now works on energy efficiency in Dallas.

In the couple of weeks between the 2016 election and Thanksgiving, Neil was a volatile mess, as he’s currently being reminded by Facebook’s most evil feature, “A year ago today….” One day it serves up a weepy status update, the next, some half-hearted attempt to counteract the pervasive negativity and bitterness of his social circles. Every fresh Trump speech or quote, however, convinced him that there was little to be optimistic about.

Neil spent last Thanksgiving with his in-laws, all of whom are conservative Republicans and voted for Trump, despite the fact that they don’t like him. Politics is never tolerated as a dinner conversation; it’s effectively been banned by his mother-in-law.

“Trump could actually declare that he wants to kill or incarcerate every black man in the country, and my sisters-in-law would see conversation about the topic as inappropriate,” he says.

However, over the course of the year, he’s found that he’s been able to make some headway in private, one-on-one conversations with his in-laws. The key, he says, is focusing on issues that matter to them — conservation, education, the energy grid — rather than the current tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It’s not always easy — there’s a frequent sensation of “beating one’s head against the wall” — and he often feels exhausted or discouraged talking with committed conservatives. But it’s certainly yielded more meaningful conversation than in a potentially overwhelming, all-family setting. Neil says he’s been able to meaningfully discuss how the actions of the Trump administration — particularly in his cabinet nominations — have gone against the intentions and values of his relatives who voted for them.

Be realistic. If you know your family can’t be swayed, save your mental strength and find a coping mechanism.

The difficult truth is that you have to know your audience. My colleague Elena, 34, has a tight-knit, boisterous, and fiercely conservative family who all live within two miles of each other in rural Florida. They will vote Republican for the rest of time, she explains, because of the party’s commitment to lowering the estate tax. Her family members are long-time ranchers whose land is their livelihood.

“There’s nothing I can say that will change their mind,” she explains. “They think about this issue as preserving family land, preserving it in a way where your kids can still make a living off of it.”

As the lone liberal in the family, she often feels her relationships with some relatives are limited, especially since the election of Trump. Many of the people she loves, she explains, are supporting this man who embodies everything she stands against. Their ability to ignore the racism and sexism associated with the current presidency has been hard to swallow.

“You have to find strength deep down inside to ignore it. It sounds counterproductive, and ignoring is not what progressive people do at all,” Elena tells me. “But if you want to continue to have that family, there has to be some compromise of your principles and values.”

Elena has, however, found shared values with her family members within her generation. Away from the older, more entrenched relatives, she hears some vocal disappointment in the bigotry of the Trump administration. It gives her hope.

“What makes me able to temper myself is knowing that the type of belief system that would condone racism and sexism will die with the older generation of my family,” she says. “It will not be what carries on with my cousins and me.”

Actually, forget your family and go to the bar. There’s a chance you can sway more minds there.

The bigotry of the Trump administration is exactly what pushes Michael, 30, who lives in Pennsylvania, to keep trying to engage people in conversation.

Trump’s inauguration was on his daughter’s first birthday. “She lives in a white conservative area, and she’s black — she looks black,” he says. “Trump just encourages racism and emboldens racists, and I have to figure out how to explain that to her.”

What Michael found hardest about the election was worrying about what his daughter’s future would look like as a result of a Trump presidency. “That’s my whole thought process: How can I reverse anything that that idiot does?”

But his anxiety over Trump’s effect on his daughter will not be taking place at family gatherings with the white, conservative relatives of his ex-girlfriend (his daughter’s mother).“She doesn’t spend any time with family members who are conservative,” he explains “I forbid it, and her mom and I agree on that. We don’t want our daughter to feel like she doesn’t fit in or have to feel that kind of hostility low-key.”

Michael is usually out of earshot of his kid when he talks with people from the other side of the political spectrum. At this time last year, his family was living in a small, rural town. And even though he and his ex-girlfriend share most of their political beliefs, he says she would get too upset during most conversations about the state of the world. So in the lead-up to the election, he conducted most of his political debates at bars with the older, rural, white patrons.

“We had the same concerns: our families, good jobs,” he remembers about his fellow patrons. “If you bond with people on that part of it and then realize we’re humans and what we agree on, it’s easier to talk to people.”

Michael says that those conversations are even more necessary today as many people who voted for Trump may be starting to feel embarrassed and frustrated by his presidency — especially as we approach the midterm elections.


To be effective (and cordial!), meaningful political conversations with those around you have to start well before voting season — and since Thanksgiving falls right after elections, it’s about as far from the next voting season as you can get. But you have to set realistic boundaries. You have to know when, and where, and how those conversations should take place. A holiday table could be an apt scene for nuanced discussion, or it could lead to screaming, tears, hurled pies, and even more stubbornly entrenched political stances. Every family is different — unhappy in its own way!

My advice to you this Thanksgiving is simply: Read the room. The difficult conversations do have to happen, but they shouldn’t happen in the most difficult of settings.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline This holiday season, instead of picking your battles, pick your battlefield on Nov 21, 2017.

http://ift.tt/2hIxZw0 Source: http://grist.org



A brief review of rainfall statistics

There have been a number of studies which show that we can expect more extreme rainfall with a global warming (e.g. Donat et al., 2016). Hence, there is a need to increase our resilience to more rainfall in the future.

We can say something about how the rainfall statistics will be affected by a global warming, even when the weather itself is unpredictable beyond a few days.

Statistics is remarkably predictable for a large number of events where each of them is completely random (welcome to thermodynamics and quantum physics).

The normal distribution has often been used to describe the statistical character of daily temperature, but it is completely unsuitable for 24-hr precipitation. Instead, the gamma distribution has been a popular choice for describing rainfall.

I wonder, however, if there is an even better way to quantify rainfall statistics.

I have played around with the gamma distribution in an attempt to model daily rainfall statistics and its dependency on a set of physical factors. Without much success.

However, then I noticed that most daily rain gauge appeared to be almost exponentially distributed if I only included the rainy days (e.g. setting the threshold for a wet day at 1 mm).

When I plotted the histogram for rainfall on wet days with a log-y axis, I would mostly get a straight line of dots (see a typical example below).

Historgam of 24-hr precipitation measured at Bjørnholt in a forest near Oslo. There will always be some clutter at the upper end of plots like these because there are so few data points representing these extreme values.

The nice thing with the exponential distribution (which is a particular case of the gamma function) is that it only requires one parameter to specify the mathematical curve: it’s the inverse of the mean value \mu.

I then used Bayes’ theorem to account for dry and wet days, where the probability for rainfall was taken to be the wet-day frequency f_w.

The advantage of this approach is that I now had two parameters which were easy to estimate: the wet-day mean precipitation (or mean rainfall intensity) \mu and the wet-day frequency f_w.

Furthermore, it turned out thatf_w is often closely connected to the wind direction, and can easily be predicted based on circulation patterns or sea-level pressure anomalies.

It was harder to find a systematic influence on \mu, as it is likely affected by several factors, including the air moisture (which depends on temperature) and cloud top heights.

The total precipitation is the product of n f_w \mu, where n is the number of days.

In other words, f_w and \mu tell me many things I needed to know about the rainfall statistics (there are other aspects too, such as the mean duration of dry/wet spells, the spatial extent, and whether it comes as rain, sleet, snow or hail).

The equation for estimating the probability for a rain event with amounts exceeding x can be written as (using 1-CDF for the exponential distribution):

(1)   \begin{equation*} Pr(X > x) = f_w e^{-x/\mu} \end{equation*}

I have called it the “rain equation”, both because the name has not been taken and because it can provide many answers concerning rainfall.

It can address questions about the likelihood of heavy rainfall and whether it is due to an increase in the number of rainy days (e.g. due to changes in circulation) or because the rains have become more intense.

It is also on par with the normal distribution – in both cases, they are not meant to provide accurate probabilities for extreme events far out in the tails.

However, they are both capable of quantifying the probability of more moderate values, which can be illustrated in the figure below:

Figure 1. A comparison between probabilities estimated with the rain equation and the observed fraction of events with more than 30 mm rain in Groningen in the Netherlands. Here H(X - x) refers to the Heaviside function, which is a mathematical way of expressing that I only counted the number of events with more than 30 mm/day each year in the observervations (the plot was made with the R-package esd and the command test.rainequation(loc='GRONINGEN-1',threshold=20)).

The rain equation captures long-term changes as well as inter-annual variations. In this example, I used the annual wet-day mean precipitation \mu and frequency f_w estimated from the observations themselves to show its potential.

It can also be assessed against observations in a more systematic way, as in Figure 2:

Figure 2. A scatter plot of probabilities and corresponding fractions of events from long rain gauge records in Europe, based on the wet-day mean precipitation and frequency from the observations (the plot was made with the R-package esd and the command scatterplot.rainequation()).

A correlation of 0.98 is quite impressive, however, the rainfall is not perfectly exponentially distributed (Benestad et al., 2012). It nevertheless provides a means to address climate change connected to a change in either f_w or \mu.

We have used the rain equation in an attempt to downscale seasonal and decadal forecasts for precipitation (Benestad and Mezghani, 2015).

One thing that puzzles me, however, is that I cannot see this equation being used very much, despite the fact that it is so simple, seems so obvious, and can demonstrate impressive capabilities.

I would have thought it is an old formula. Perhaps one that has gotten out of fashion, but is documented in old papers that are not yet digitized and easy to google. Perhaps with a different name. Or have I missed something?

References


  1. M.G. Donat, A.L. Lowry, L.V. Alexander, P.A. O’Gorman, and N. Maher, "More extreme precipitation in the world’s dry and wet regions", Nature Climate Change, vol. 6, pp. 508-513, 2016. http://ift.tt/1M35BeC

  2. R.E. Benestad, D. Nychka, and L.O. Mearns, "Spatially and temporally consistent prediction of heavy precipitation from mean values", Nature Climate Change, 2012. http://ift.tt/2B2IGBc

  3. R.E. Benestad, and A. Mezghani, "On downscaling probabilities for heavy 24-hour precipitation events at seasonal-to-decadal scales", Tellus A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography, vol. 67, pp. 25954, 2015. http://ift.tt/2iEMSkf

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Iconic Dutch dike renovation opens with energy-generating kites that can power 200 homes

The Netherlands’ legendary Afsluitdijk dike has been in use for 85 years but it needed a renovation — so the Dutch government turned to designer Daan Roosegaarde for help. Studio Roosegaarde recently unveiled their Icoon Afsluitdijk project featuring three eye-catching designs: Gates of Light, Windvogel, and Glowing Nature, with elements from clean power-generating kites to live bioluminescent algae.

Icoon Afsluitdijk, Studio Roosegaarde, Daan Roosegaarde, Icoon Afsluitdijk by Studio Roosegaarde, Afsluitdijk, the Netherlands, Netherlands, Gates of Light, Windvogel, Glowing Nature, design, infrastructure

Studio Roosegaarde launched three striking designs at the Afsluitdijk. Icoon Afsluitdijk is intended to bolster the causeway’s iconic value, with the installations bringing light to the area after sunset.

Related: Daan Roosegaarde unveils mind-expanding 295-foot SPACE installation in Eindhoven

Gates of Light includes restored 1932 floodgates fitted with prisms that reflect light from vehicle headlights. If there are no cars by the Gates of Light – which the studio described as an example of a “futuristic and energy neutral landscape” – the structures don’t light up. Studio Roosegaarde said they were inspired to utilize retroreflection based on how butterfly wings reflect light.

Windvogel could offer enough power for 200 households. The smart kites’ lines move back and forth in the wind to generate energy, much like a dynamo on a bicycle, according to Studio Roosegaarde.

Glowing Nature is an exhibit in the dike’s historic bunkers featuring living algae. The bioluminescent microorganisms only light up when touched under optimal conditions and care. They could offer inspiration for light or energy solutions for the future, according to the studio.

Icoon Afsluitdijk, Studio Roosegaarde, Daan Roosegaarde, Icoon Afsluitdijk by Studio Roosegaarde, Afsluitdijk, the Netherlands, Netherlands, Gates of Light, Windvogel, Glowing Nature, design, infrastructure, algae, microorganism, microorganisms, bioluminescent

Roosegaarde said in a statement, “The Afsluitdijk represents a part of Dutch daring and innovation. We live with water, we fight with water, and we endeavor a new harmony…By adding a subtle layer of light and interaction, we enhance the beauty of the dike and form new links between man and landscape, darkness and light, poetry and practice.”

Icoon Afsluitdijk, Studio Roosegaarde, Daan Roosegaarde, Icoon Afsluitdijk by Studio Roosegaarde, Afsluitdijk, the Netherlands, Netherlands, Gates of Light, Windvogel, Glowing Nature, design, infrastructure

Gates of Light will become a permanent part of the dike. Glowing Nature and Windvogel can be glimpsed until January 21, 2018.

+ Studio Roosegaarde

Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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Scientists warn of more severe earthquakes in 2018 as Earth’s rotation slows

You wouldn’t have felt it, but sometimes the Earth’s rotation slows down. Sure, the fluctuations are minute – maybe a millisecond here or there. But two geophysicists think there could be more destructive quakes next year because of the phenomenon. There is a silver lining: such small changes also might help us forecast earthquakes.

Rebecca Bendick, Roger Bilham, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Montana, earthquake, earthquakes, quake, quakes, earthquake damage, earthquake destruction, earthquake devastation, damage, destruction, devastation, environment

Scientists have charted minuscule changes in the length of a day on our planet for decades. Sometimes we gain a millisecond, sometimes we lose one. But it turns out these tiny changes could impact us in a big way. They could be involved in the release of large amounts of underground energy. Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana and Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado, Boulder presented the idea in a research letter published by Geophysical Research Letters in late summer and at The Geological Society of America’s annual meeting last month.

Related: Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

Rebecca Bendick, Roger Bilham, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Montana, earthquake, earthquakes, quake, quakes, earthquake damage, earthquake destruction, earthquake devastation, damage, destruction, devastation, environment

Slowdowns in Earth’s rotation have corresponded with global increases of magnitude seven or greater earthquakes during the last century, according to the researchers: Bilham said, “The Earth offers us a five-years heads-up on future earthquakes.” In slowdown periods, Earth often sees two to five more large earthquakes than usual – but these arrive after the slowdown begins.

Earth’s magnetic field develops a temporary ripple as day length fluctuates over decades, according to Science Magazine. Both effects could be caused by small changes in molten iron’s flow in the outer core, researchers think. Earth spins 460 meters per second at the equator, according to Science Magazine, and “given this high velocity, it’s not absurd to think that a slight mismatch in speed between the solid crust and mantle and the liquid core could translate into a force somehow nudging quakes into synchrony.”

Bendick said the connection may seem crazy. But other researchers are intrigued – and geologist James Dolan of the University of Southern California said we should know if they’re on to something in five years. Based on the research, Earth should see five more major earthquakes than average starting in 2018 and we may have a new tool for earthquake forecasting.

Via Science Magazine and The Guardian

Images via Lorenzo Bollettini on Unsplash and Depositphotos

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Man quits his job, travels 31,000 miles in a renovated van with his cat [video]

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

It turns out dogs aren’t the best travel companions, cats are! In 2015, a man named Rich East quit his corporate job, renovated a camper van and took off with his rescue cat, Willow. Since then, he and the friendly feline have traveled more than 50,000 kilometers (over 31,000 miles) across Australia’s six states and two territories, venturing down many of the country’s lesser-trekked paths.

Rich explains on his blog Van Cat Meow, “In early 2014 I started making plans for a massive life change. Unhappy with my 10 years in the corporate world I started designing a new life for myself. I started designing a campervan that could provide me with shelter, a home, and comfort for this next stage of my life. Slowly I began to sell all my possessions such that what was left would fit in this van.”

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

In 2015, he was ready to go. “I sold my house, all of my possessions, and quit my job so I could take the trip of a lifetime,” he explained. “But one thing I couldn’t say goodbye [to] was this little cat so the obvious decision was to take her with me.” Their deep bond is evident in the travel photography East uploads to Instagram.

Related: Amazing camper van maximizes space with clever boat design tricks

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

According to East, there are some distinct advantages to traveling with a cat, rather than a dog. He said, “I may be biased but I believe travelling with a cat is easier than travelling with dogs. Cats are very independent and don’t require a huge amount of attention. Willow is quite nocturnal, sleeping throughout the day if we are driving and coming out in the afternoon for some food and a cuddle.”

He added, “The only disadvantage to having a travelling cat is not being able to go into the occasional area where pets aren’t permitted. We avoid the National Parks to find our own hidden places that maybe we wouldn’t have found otherwise.”

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

While most cats aren’t suited for nomadic living, Willow is the exception. “Some people think it’s odd that I’m traveling with a cat, but Willow is so chilled out and absolutely loves our new lifestyle,” East said. For her protection, the feline wears a special collar that tracks her location. “With the tracking collar, I have the peace of mind that if she decides to go for a hike I will be straight onto her,” he said.

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Though the pair’s trip concluded in early 2017, neither East or Willow have plans to stop traveling. East continues chronicling their adventures on Instagram and even compiled some of the best travel shots into a 2018 calendar that is now available for sale in the Van Cat meow online shop.

+ Van Cat Meow

Via MyModernMet, TreeHugger

Images via Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

Australia, camper van, off-grid living, traveling, news, inspiration, Rich East, Van Cat Meow

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