Monthly Archives: September 2017

Boaty McBoatface returns home from abyss

Researchers from the University of Southampton have got super data retrieved from some of the coldest abyssal ocean waters on earth…known as the Antarctic Bottom Water. They were able to get this information by using the yellow robotic submersible called Boaty McBoatface which arrived back in the UK last week.

The team of scientists got data on temperature, speed of water flow, and underwater turbulence rates in the Orkney Passage. This Passage is a region in the southern ocean which is around 4,000m deep, and roughly 500 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula.

In order to understand the progress of Boaty and place the data in the context of the complicated terrain of the region, the team have created an animated fly through of the Orkney Passage. The information collected will now be reviewed to understand the complex process of ocean mixing and how it affects climate change.

This was the first Antarctic voyage of Boaty McBoatface , one of the Autosub Long Range class of unmanned submersibles. these are the latest type of autonomous underwater vehicle developed by the National Oceanographic Center. The Autosub was named following last year’s campaign by NERC to name the UK’s new polar research vessel. The vessel will be named after the famous naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. The popular suggestion of the contest Boaty McBoatface, lives on in the form of the unmanned sub that supports the research ship to explore parts of the polar regions inaccessible to humans.

Boaty completed 3 missions, the longest lasting 3 days, traveling more than 180k, and reaching depths of nearly 4,000m. Travelling back and forth through the abyssal current of Antarctic Bottom Water along the Orkney Passage, sometimes in water colder than O degrees and in currents of up to 1 knot. Huge amounts of data has been collected that would not have been possible before, this is due to Boaty being able to move around whereas before scientists were only able to collect information from fixed points.

We look forward to the further adventures of Boaty McBoatface.

 

Power From Evaporation

Researchers have found in a first ever evaluation of evaporation as a renewable energy resource that US lakes and reservoirs could generate 325 gigawatts of power. This is nearly 70% of what the United States uses.

 

Researchers at Columbia U. have in the lab proven we can harvest power from evaporation which in principle could be on demand , day or night. We can already use wind, soar, and water to generate power. Evaporation is just an extension of that kind of thinking.

Evaporation is nature’s way to cycle water between land and air. We just need to exploit the process. One present machine is the Evaporation Engine. Humidity is controlled by shutter that opens and closes, bacterial spores then expand or contract..the contractions are transferred to a generator to make electricity.

A big benefit is that evaporation can be generated when needed. With wind some days there is no wind. With sun there may be clouds. Both solar and wind require expensive batteries and need toxic chemicals in their manufacture.

Areas where the population is growing and sunnier weather can best capitalize on evaporation’s capacity to generate power and reduce water waste. California, Arizona, and Nevada are possible states that could benefit the most because evaporation packs more energy in warm dry conditions.

The researchers are working to improve the energy efficiency of their spore studded materials. Eventually they will come out of the lab and apply their work on lakes and rivers or perhaps even a greenhouse.

 

India..Dams release water after heavy rainfall.

This story out of Maharashtra, India.

Maharashtra was among the wetter places in India on Wednesday with triple digit rainfall falling on parts of the state in 24hrs. Records taken from some 95 India Meteorological Dept. show the from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning Maharashtra ‘s Met received more rainfall than all others.

Of the 10 rainiest cities in India the Maharashtra region had 9. the cities of Vasai, Matheran, Dahanu, and Mumbai recorded the highest volume. In Ottawa we have had our fair share of rain, but these cities in India recorded some 300mm in each place. 30 cms of rain in 24 hours. Close to 37 stations in Konkan-Goa and 2 in Central Maharishtra recorded triple digit rainfall between Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

I can only imagine what those volumes would look like here.

Will fish survive?

Amphibians, mammals , and birds will be forced by climate change to relocate to cooler areas outside their normal range, if they can find the space.

What of the fish? Where can they go as the waters warm around the world? Researchers are looking at these questions to see how vulnerable the world’s freshwater and marine fishes will be to climate change. Physiological data is used to predict how nearly 3,000 fish species will respond. Lab experiments from the last 80yrs on nearly 500 species were compiled.Experiments were conducted to measure the highest temperatures the fish could tolerate before dieing.

It was found that there is a great difference in being able to handle temp changes between fresh and marine species. Marine fish in the tropics and freshwater fish in northern climates were the most at risk when temps increased. Fish in tropical oceans may already be living in water that is approaching their upper limit…not much wiggle room. Fish in the far north tend to like cooler water and not much tolerance to warming water.

Fish will have to adapt , migrate, or die off. Fish can evolve, but this needs time ..and there is not much of it left. So, they will have to move, but to where and how? Is there path blocked by dams? Are their fish ladders?

Can we restore vegetation along the edges of water ways to help shade and reduce water temps to benefit the fish.

Fish around the world face mounting pressure from climate change. Continued efforts to support conservation strategies that allow species to survive the rapid changes are required.

Hidden dangers in flood waters

With the recent hurricanes and subsequent flooding I thought we could look at the hidden dangers in flood waters.

In the case of Houston bacteria and toxins have been found in the flood waters. Precautions need to be taken when returning home. How far the toxic water stretches is unclear , but there have been breaches at waste treatment plants. Consequently water flowing down the Briarhills Parkway contains E-coli or fecal contamination at 4x the safe level. Water taken from a living room near the Buffalo Bayou had E-coli  135x what is considered safe. This water also contained elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals. Water in homes is of particular concern as it can warm up and remain in one place becoming something of a breeding ground for bacteria.

 

Residents and medical people in Houston are starting to see infections likely caused by exposure to dirty floodwaters. Children, the elderly, and people with immune disorders should keep out of homes until they are cleaned up.

Healthy people with cuts and scrapes are open to infections as well. Contact with the water is not recommended. Backyard pools are like giant toilets that you can not flush.

Molds…green , black, and yellow are showing up. Sediments can contain lead, don’t let your children play in it.

If you are going to be dealing with flood waters at some point you might want to use a mask with filter, goggles and gloves, and rubber boots. Change your clothes immediately upon finishing your activity.

 

How a quarter in a frozen cup could keep you from getting sick

Our thoughts go out to those south of us that are getting hit by Hurricane Irma, and to those in Florida who are about to feel the power of Mother Nature through Irma.

How will putting a quarter in a frozen cup of water keep you from getting sick?

If a hurricane is approaching and you have to evacuate, freeze a cup of water and put a quarter on top.

When you come back, check the cup and the placement of the quarter. If the quarter is still on top the frozen food will still be good. If the quarter is at the bottom there was a power outage and mostly likely the food thawed and would not be good to eat. If the quarter is in the middle , the was a power outage, but not for too long and the food will most likely be fine.

…and that is how a frozen cup of water and a quarter can help prevent you from getting sick from food poisoning.

 

 

Development of Water Based Cellphone Battery

Last year the problems of lithium-ion based batteries was highlighted with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 . Batteries were exploding. This has led to more improvements and research into water based electrolyte batteries.

Common lithium-ion batteries can explode when charging . There is a release of electrolytes as energy travels back and forth between electrodes. These organic materials are flammable. The new battery uses a protective layer of salt, preserving the electrodes and holds more energy.

The main thing is that these new batteries are safer. The electrodes are protected from breaking down, and there is a 4 volt output. So the new batteries are safer and there is a good output of electricity..the drawback is life expectancy. Lithium ion based batteries have a life of some 700+ cycles whereas the water based batteries have a life expectancy of some 70 cycles.

I think as this new technology gets refined we will see the life expectancy of water based  batteries to grow. The demand for better batteries has never been stronger and will continue to grow as there are so many uses for batteries today….electric cars, smart devices, and other electronics demand top quality power sources.