Raging Grannies Eugene

In many arid coastal areas, fresh water is scarce. But when fog rolls in …

Boreyko: “You can simply drape a net, and boom, you have this fresh water that’s appropriate to use right away.”

By Monica Isola
Friday, August 10, 2018.

Redwood trees inspired this device that collects water from the air

It could be used to provide fresh water in some arid areas.

That’s Jonathan Boreyko, a mechanical engineer at Virginia Tech. The method is called fog harvesting. It’s been used for decades and provides water that can be used for drinking or irrigation. Moisture from fog collects on wire mesh that looks like a screen. Then it drips into a container.

But the nets can only catch so much water.

Boreyko: “Current fog harvesters are simply not very efficient at all. A small net will clog and a large net will not catch enough of the fog droplets.”

To improve the system, Boreyko turned to California’s redwood trees for inspiration.

Harvesting water from fog ... learn more about this researcher's inspiration.

Boreyko: “These coastal redwoods are catching fog on their needles and then very efficiently draining these fog droplets along the needles so they can fall onto the ground and then get taken up by the roots.”

Boreyko’s design features vertical wires that mimic the tree’s parallel needles. Called a fog harp, his device collects two to three times more water than mesh.

The next challenge is to ramp up this nature-inspired technology to provide fresh water to thirsty communities on a large scale.

Reporting credit: Alison Fromme/ChavoBart Digital Media.
California redwoods photo: Copyright protected.

Monica Isola is a bilingual biologist-turned-communicator who specializes in climate change, environment, and conservation..

Anthony Leiserowitz, Ph.D.
Director, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Yale University

Study: Closing fossil fuel plants reduces premature births

After eight plants closed in California, preterm birth rates fell.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation uses a fleet of small drones for everything from search-and-rescue missions to environmental monitoring and mapping.

McDonnell: “The sky’s the limit.”

Scott McDonnell, the agency’s aviation coordinator, says using drones is often far cheaper than using helicopters or people on the ground.

Using drones is often far cheaper than using helicopters or people on the ground. Click To Tweet

McDonnell: “It’s about one-twentieth the cost of doing on-the-ground surveys.”

For example, last year, a drone mapped a stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline to assess coastal erosion from high water and wind.

McDonnell: “We probably did that mission in about two hours, whereas it would have taken about two weeks to do it on the ground, from boats and people making measurements and that type of thing.”

The drones have also been used to analyze the spread of invasive wetland plants, and to assess the condition of beaches and dunes on Fire Island to prepare for future storms.

Drones are now providing an affordable and efficient way to monitor landscapes and ecosystems threatened by global warming.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

By Diana Madson
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Are Antarctica's glaciers losing or gaining ice?

The continent's vast ice sheet could have a big impact on sea-level rise.

Antarctica’s glaciers are constantly moving. New ice forms in the interior as snow falls and is compacted under its own weight. This new ice then pushes the older ice downhill toward the sea.

But now, Antarctic glaciers are losing ice faster than they are gaining it.

Coal and oil-burning power plants emit pollutants including lead, mercury, and carbon dioxide. A recent study shows that closing these plants can help protect some of the most vulnerable among us: newborn babies.

Konrad: “They’re transporting the ice to the ocean faster than they get resupplied by snow.”

While at the University of Leeds, Hannes Konrad was part of a team that studied how the ice shelves on the outer edges of Antarctica are changing.

An ice shelf is where land-based glaciers extend out over the ocean. The point at which the underside of the shelf hits the land under water is called the grounding line. Konrad’s study found that the grounding lines of most Antarctic glaciers are rapidly retreating.

He explains that as oceans warm, ice shelves melt from underneath – so they become thinner and start to disintegrate. That makes the glaciers on land flow more rapidly into the sea, which contributes to sea-level rise.

Antarctica may be far away, but what happens there will have major consequences for the millions of people around the world who live on or near the coast.

Reporting credit: Daisy Simmons/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Drones were originally used only by the military. But now, they’re used for all kinds of things, such as taking photos, surveying farm fields, and even delivering mail. Drones can even help protect the environment.

Casey: “We looked at eight power plants that shut down and we observed a pretty large reduction in preterm birth, comparing before and after among people living nearby.”

That’s Joan Casey of the University of California-Berkeley. Her team looked at rates of premature births among people living within three miles of these California power plants.

Before the plants closed, about seven percent of babies were born preterm. Afterwards, that rate dropped to about five percent. Reductions among African and Asian Americans were even greater.

The plant closures had more than one benefit, this study shows.

A premature birth increases a baby’s risk for future medical and developmental problems. So Casey says it’s exciting to learn that there are ways to reduce these risks – and to limit global warming at the same time.

Casey: “We can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by switching off coal power plants and transitioning to other fuel sources, and we, at the same time, could also improve population health.”

Reporting credit: Hannah Breisinger/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Courtesy of David McCarthy.

Drones are now being used to protect the environment

The flying aircraft are monitoring and mapping sensitive areas.

By Samantha Harrington
Monday, August 13, 2018

By Daisy Simmons
Thursday, August 2, 2018.