Category: Earth

How do you run a bus on poop?

The UK’s first bus powered entirely by human and food waste has gone into service between Bristol and Bath…The 40-seat “Bio-Bus” runs on biomethane gas generated through the treatment of sewage and food waste.

The eco-friendly vehicle can travel up to 300km (186 miles) on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of about five people to produce.

It is run by tour operator Bath Bus Company and will shuttle people between Bristol Airport and Bath city centre.

The biomethane gas is generated at Bristol sewage treatment works in Avonmouth, which is run by GENeco, a subsidiary of Wessex Water.

GENeco general manager Mohammed Saddiq said: “Gas-powered vehicles have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities but the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself…”

Har! Hold that thought.

Bath Bus Company’s Collin Field, said: “With so much attention being directed towards improving air quality generally, the public reaction to the appearance of this bus on a service between a world heritage city and an airport will further focus on the potential for this particular fuel…”

Bristol sewage treatment works processes around 75 million cubic metres of sewage waste and 35,000 tonnes of food waste each year.

A total of 17 million cubic metres of biomethane, enough to power 8,300 homes, is generated annually at the plant through a process known as anaerobic digestion.

Yes, it gives me the idea to harass the pols in town – in Santa Fe. The city was the first in the United States to institute buses running on compressed natural gas. Seems to me the easy bit would be conversion to bio-gas. OTOH, the city’s wastewater and sewage treatment facility seems incredibly inefficient. Might be an occasion for doing something bright with the process?

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A year in the life of Earth’s CO2

Concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere continue to increase. On Monday, NASA released a striking video that visualizes the invisible gas as it travels around the planet over one year.

The simulation shows plumes of carbon dioxide “swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources,” according to NASA. The video also shows differences in carbon dioxide levels in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, as well as the change in concentrations of carbon dioxide that come with changes in season due to the growth cycle of plants and trees.

Created with an ultra-high-resolution computer model, the visualization is called “Nature Run,” simulating May 2005 to June 2007.

The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates,” NASA wrote. “The model is then is left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Computational analysis is fundamental to growing and understanding modern science. I admit it. I love it.

What a fascinating tool.

Thanks, Mike

Life with a Tesla — spent more on tires than electricity

David Noland always knew electric cars were cheap to run, but this is ridiculous. [OK - Back to first-person]

After I bought the first set of replacement tires for my 2013 Tesla Model S (at 26,000 miles), I crunched the numbers and came to a startling conclusion: I’ve spent substantially less per mile for my electric “fuel” than I have for my tires.

The tires weren’t cheap. The Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season grand-touring tires set me back $250 apiece, plus mounting and balancing, for a total of $1,131.

Over 26,277 miles, that works out to 4.3 cents per mile. Pretty typical for a high-performance luxury sedan.

Over those same 26,277 miles, I used a total of 8,531 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

But, thanks to Tesla’s network of free high-power Superchargers, I didn’t pay for all of it.

As best as I can figure, I drove about 5,500 Supercharged miles during that time, including a 2,500-mile round-trip to Florida from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley.

That means I probably sucked up around 1,800 free kWh from the Superchargers.

So let’s say I paid for 6,700 kWh…My local utility, Central Hudson, charges about 14 cents per kWh. (Unfortunately, it offers no special night-time or electric car rates.)

So, let’s do the math: 6,700 kWh x 14 cents/kWh = $938…Divide by 26,277, and my total “fuel” cost per mile works out to a remarkable 3.6 cents per mile.

That’s 20 percent less than the per-mile cost of the tires that carried me on all those miles.

Yes, you can spend more – or less – on electricity or tires. Or tyres [I spent more years selling tyres than tires - few countries use American spelling for English].

RTFA for the fun and satisfaction of driving a car absent fossil fuel and the direct pollution that results. Tesla also takes advantage of the rate of torque transmitted directly to the road by a DC motor. It is a feeling that demands gobs of horsepower from anything that requires fire inside.

Thanks, Smartalix

Climate change includes increasing lightning strikes

lightning-strikes
Click to enlarge

Lightning strikes in the lower 48 U.S. states will increase about 12% for every degree rise in Earth’s average temperature, potentially sparking more wildfires, according to a new study.

The new estimate was based on calculations of convective energy and precipitation from future thunderstorms, and fits three independent data sets chronicling past strikes, according to the study, published online Thursday in the journal Science.

“You need two ingredients to make lightning in a storm,” said the study’s lead investigator, David Romps, a climate scientist at UC Berkeley. “One of those is that you have water in its three phases — vapor, liquid and ice — coexisting in the cloud. And the other is that the storm clouds be rising quickly enough to loft that liquid and ice into the atmosphere and keep it suspended. So we’ve built our proxy around those two ideas.”

Previous formulas were built around predicted cloud heights and did not account for as much of the variance in actual strikes as the new proxy does, according to the study. The new proxy explains about 77% of the variance in strikes.

A 12% rise for every degree Celsius works out to about a 50% rise over this century

It’s only conjecture; but, you would have to think an increase in lightning strikes will forge an equivalent rise in the number of wildfires – lightning causing about half of all wildfires. Not a feature of climate change that anyone in mountain and forest country looks forward to.

Thanks, Mike

Obama and Xi pledge cooperation on greenhouse gas emissions

China and the US have unveiled new pledges on greenhouse gas emissions, as the leaders of the two countries met for talks in Beijing.

US President Barack Obama said the move was “historic”, as he set a new goal of reducing US levels between 26%-28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

China did not set a specific target, but said emissions would peak by 2030.

China has cut carbon intensity for nine years in a row.

The two countries also agreed to reduce the possibility of military accidents in the air and sea…

In case you didn’t notice, only one of those two countries is stacking up military forces in air and on the sea – next to the other.

The two countries together produce about 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide…

President Obama’s offer is based on cuts in carbon emissions from coal power (a policy the Republicans threaten to reverse).

China’s offer to peak emissions is a long-awaited decision. Its emissions trajectory is now similar to Europe and the USA, just further behind because it still has so many people in poverty.

Scientists will fear this agreement is not yet strong enough. But it does show leadership – and it sends a powerful signal to financiers that investing in dirty fuels for the future is becoming a risk.

Except, not for the next two years at least. The Party of NO is now in a position to try to turn back what little has been done.

In September, China told a United Nations summit on climate change that it would soon set a peak for carbon emissions and that it would make its economy more carbon efficient by 2020.

China had previously aimed to reduce its carbon intensity, which meant reducing the amount of emissions per dollar of economic output. This meant that with its rapidly growing economy, its emissions could still rise.

Wednesday’s pledge is the first time it has agreed to set a ceiling, albeit an undefined one, on overall emissions.

China can speak for themselves and their actions speak much louder than editorial content in the NY TIMES. As an American citizen, I’m concerned with what my nation does – or in the case of any political topic requiring commitment at least 6th grade science, what my nation does not do.

Americans aren’t educated. Our politicians reject education and science – aside from lip service. As the recent mid-terms proved, our nation not only does not vote in their own self-interest, they don’t vote.

I think my cynicism is justified.

Poorest president in the world gets $1 million offer for his 1987 VW Beetle

vw_beetle_jose_mujica-

The Uruguayan president Jose Mujica says he has received a million-dollar offer to buy his blue 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, which has become a symbol of his austere lifestyle.

The man once nicknamed “the poorest president in the world” told the Uruguayan weekly Busqueda that an Arab sheik offered $1m for the humble car.

When asked about the reported offer at a news conference, Mujica, who is standing down as president, said: “That’s what they said to me, but I didn’t give it any importance.”

In an informal chat, Mexico’s ambassador to Uruguay recently suggested to Mujica that he auction the Beetle in Mexico and predicted he could get 10 four-wheel-drive trucks for it…

Mujica, a former leftist Tupamaro guerrilla leader, said that if he got $1m for the car, he would donate the money to a scheme for the homeless. If he got trucks for it, he said, they could go to Uruguay’s public health office or his campaign workers.

The president said he would gladly auction the Beetle because he has “no commitment to cars” and he joked that he did not sell it because of his dog Manuela, famous for only having three legs.

Manuela

My kind of president. Not that I ever expect to get to vote for one.

And if someone like Mujica wanted to contest for president of the United States it would have to be as an independent. Neither Establishment party would let him into a primary – and I’m not certain many Americans would vote for someone who wasn’t safely respectable.

There are times when I think we’re working hard at becoming a stuffy, small-minded nation.

Auroral Corona over Norway

aurora norway
Image Credit & Copyright: Harald Albrigtsen

Higher than the highest mountain lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere. Somewhat uncommon, an auroral corona appears as a center point for a surrounding display and may occur when an aurora develops directly overhead, or when auroral rays are pointed nearly toward the observer.

This picturesque but brief green and purple aurora exhibition occurred last month high above Kvaløya, Tromsø, Norway. The Sessøyfjorden fjord runs through the foreground, while numerous stars are visible far in the distance.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Hinode satellite recorded X-ray footage of solar eclipse


Click to enlarge

On October 23rd, while North America was witnessing a partial eclipse of the sun, the Hinode spacecraft observed a “ring of fire” or annular eclipse from its location hundreds of miles above the North Pole. This image was taken by the X-ray Telescope – the XRT.

The Hinode spacecraft was in the right place at the right time to catch the solar eclipse. What’s more, because of its vantage point Hinode witnessed a “ring of fire” or annular eclipse…

…The XRT was developed and built by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Hinode’s X-ray Telescope is the highest resolution solar X-ray telescope ever flown.

The XRT collects X-rays emitted from the sun’s corona — the hot, tenuous outer layer that extends from the sun’s visible surface into the inner solar system. Gas in the solar corona reaches temperatures of millions of degrees. The energy source that heats the corona is a puzzle. The sun’s surface is only 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the corona is more than 100 times hotter.

Science is so beautiful. But, then, the quest for truth always is.

Thanks, Ursarodinia