Vegetation is essential for limiting city warming effects

Cities are well known hot spots – literally. The urban heat island effect has long been observed to raise the temperature of big cities by 1 to 3°C, a rise that is due to the presence of asphalt, concrete, buildings, and other so-called impervious surfaces disrupting the natural cooling effect provided by vegetation. According to a new NASA study that makes the first assessment of urbanization impacts for the entire continental United States, the presence of vegetation is an essential factor in limiting urban heating.

Impervious surfaces’ biggest effect is causing a difference in surface temperature between an urban area and surrounding vegetation. The researchers, who used multiple satellites’ observations of urban areas and their surroundings combined into a model, found that averaged over the continental United States, areas covered in part by impervious surfaces, be they downtowns, suburbs, or interstate roads, had a summer temperature 1.9°C higher than surrounding rural areas. In winter, the temperature difference was 1.5 °C higher in urban areas…

The study, published this month in Environmental Research Letters, also quantifies how plants within existing urban areas, along roads, in parks and in wooded neighborhoods, for example, regulate the urban heat effect…

The northeast I-95 corridor, Baltimore-Washington, Atlanta and the I-85 corridor in the southeast, and the major cities and roads of the Midwest and West Coast show the highest urban temperatures relative to their surrounding rural areas. Smaller cities have less pronounced increases in temperature compared to the surrounding areas. In cities like Phoenix built in the desert, the urban area actually has a cooling effect because of irrigated lawns and trees that wouldn’t be there without the city…

At the human level, a rise of 1°C can raise energy demands for air conditioning in the summer from 5 to 20 percent in the United States, according the Environmental Protection Agency. So even though 0.3°C may seem like a small difference, it still may have impact on energy use, said Bounoua, especially when urban heat island effects are exacerbated by global temperature rises due to climate change.

I grew up in a southern New England factory town. What changed it from being as much of an environmental disaster as most – was the struggles for Keynesian solutions like the CCC during the Great Depression included the transformation of vacant brownscapes into parks. Sufficiently done that the city began calling itself a park city. Every neighborhood acquired a little more life, more human friendliness, with the addition of a greenscape of grass and trees.

Secret Service agent bound for prison for stealing what he was investigating


Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

A former U.S. Secret Service agent pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the theft of $820,000 in bitcoins in the Silk Road website probe.

Shaun Bridges, 32, a forensic analyst involved in the federal investigation which shut down the drug marketplace website, was the second agent caught stealing digital cash. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges during a San Francisco federal court hearing Monday.

During the probe, Bridges used his access authority to move 20,000 bitcoins to an account he controlled. The majority of transactions on the Silk Road website were made using bitcoins, a payment method not involving any government-backed currency.

The website was shut down in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbrecht, received life imprisonment in May for operating the site, and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Carl Force pleaded guilty in July to three charges in connection with the theft of more than $700,000 in bitcoins…

Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

I would sentence the dude, tomorrow. He’s already pleaded guilty as charged. Are we supposed to let someone from law enforcement disappear into the judicial fog and maybe be allowed a kinder, gentler sentence?

Does watching TV kill you or just an indicator for a sedentary life?


QPR fans don’t even get to jump up and celebrate often

People who spend more than 5 hours a day watching television appear to be at an increased risk of suffering fatal pulmonary embolism…

In a study that included more than 86,000 people in Japan who were followed for about 20 years, the risk of pulmonary embolism was 6.49 times higher for people who spent 5 hours or more in front of the tube compared with people who watched TV less than 2.5 hours a day…

In reporting his findings…at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, Toru Shirakawa said that the greatest risk was observed in people ages 40-59. In the overall population of 40-79 years, however, the risk still was 2.36 times greater for people watching TV for 5 hours or more…

Shirakawa told MedPage Today that people who watch a lot of television fall into the same category as the so-called ‘economy class syndrome’ in which people on long-haul flights who do not move around are at risk of clotting.

“The association between prolonged sitting and pulmonary embolism was first reported among air raid shelter users in London during World War II,” said Shirakawa. “Nowadays, a long haul flight in an economy class seat is a well known cause of pulmonary embolism that is called ‘economy class syndrome’.”

His study was the first attempt to prospectively assess a possible association between prolonged television watching and fatal pulmonary embolism…

Christi Deaton, PhD, RN…Professor of Clinical Nursing at the University of Cambridge, England, agreed that common methods of preventing clotting on airplanes – getting up frequently, keeping hydrated – would apply to people who watch a lot of television.

“That kind of immobility –watching television for long hours – is dangerous,” she told MedPage Today. “It is very consistent with data relating to airplane flights or just our sedentary lifestyles. We need to move around more.”

I agree. You should get up once in a while for another beer. Or a piece of cheese.

Asylum seekers enter Norway in the Arctic – from Russia – by bicycle

Norway Arctic border crossing
Click to enlargeStorskog Boris Gleb border crossingCornelius Poppe/AFP/File

As Europe grapples with record-breaking numbers of migrants, a trickle of asylum seekers from Syria and the Mediterranean region have found an unlikely route: Through Russia to a remote Arctic border post in Norway, partly on bicycles.

Police Chief Inspector Goeran Stenseth said…that 151 people have crossed the border this year near the northeastern Norwegian town of Kirkenes, 2,500 kilometers northeast of Oslo.

He said that most of the migrants are from Syria, with some from Turkey and Ukraine, and that they mainly cross in motor vehicles although some have resorted to arriving on bicycles because the Storskog border post is not open to pedestrians, in line with a Norwegian-Russian border agreement.

“There have been about 100 during the past two months, at least 50 in July and looks like August will be much the same,” he told The Associated Press. “But the conditions will be bad soon. It’s getting colder by the day … Soon no one will be able to bike, that’s for sure.”

Woo-hoo! Probably be snowing there, next week. I’ve done a few not-so-legal border crossings in my life; but, none this far North.

Meanwhile, the Mother of Invention still rules.