Iceland sits atop a divergent tectonic plate boundary, where the North American plate and the Eurasian plate are pulling apart. Yesterday, a volcanic fissure, about 4 km long, started to spurt lava only 10 km from Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon. This map shows some of Iceland's 32 active volcanoes. The current activity is on the Reykjanes peninsula extending from Iceland's southwestern coast. d8ys5mrbqhmjx.cloudfront.net/reykjavik/blog/12-surprising-facts-about-icelandic-volcanoes/large/12-surprising-facts-about-icelandic-volcanoes-242486.jpg
These maps look at shifting precipitation patterns in the Midwest: comparing the map on the left (based on average rainfall from 1979-1991) to the map on the right (based on average rainfall from 1994-2016) it is clear the Midwest has become drier, meaning a greater proportion of "America's breadbasket" has become dependent on irrigation to maintain crop yields. (Maps from www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/11/30/climate/airlines-jet-fuel-ethanol-corn.html.)
France is not a country that comes up too often in a clean energy conversation, but France has "a potentially mammoth cache of so-called white hydrogen, one of the cleanest-burning fuels in nature." Scientists believe the hydrogen reserves under abandoned coal mines in Lorraine, in northeastern France, could total as much as 260 million metric tons. "According to the U.S. Geological Survey, just a small fraction of these deposits could provide enough clean energy for hundreds of years." www.nytimes.com/2023/12/04/business/energy-environment/clean-energy-hydrogen.html
Perhaps not surprisingly given the composition of this year's COP climate conference participants, the first major announcement out of the conference did not address CO2 emissions, instead focusing on methane emissions. Methane emissions are a big deal, but for the fossil fuel industry, methane accounts for only about 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Much of the industry's methane emissions come at the site the fossil fuel is mined/drilled. This map of China shows that the country's coal mines are, themselves, methane "super-emitters," even before the coal is burned and produces CO2 emissions. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/12/01/china-methane-coal-mines-climate/.)
South Africa has the world's largest known chrome reserves, but this has not been a uniform blessing for the country. This article from Geographical (UK) looks at the impact of illegal chrome mining -- which by some estimates accounts for 10% of all production -- on communities in the chrome belt in the northwestern part of the country. geographical.co.uk/science-environment/witrandjie-south-africa-villaged-ravaged-for-chrome
This article from Geographical (UK) explores the physical and cultural geography of China: geographical.co.uk/culture/geo-explainer-the-many-chinas
Mount Vesuvius is arguably the most famous volcano near Naples, Italy, but it's not the largest: the supervolcano Campi Flegrei sits just to the west of Naples, and a swarm of earthquakes over the last few months suggests the volcano is stirring. Campi Flegrei ("Phlegraean Fields") is not a conical stratovolcano like Vesuvius; instead it is a bowl-shaped caldera, eight miles wide, with 24 craters, a park showcasing its geothermal features, vineyards producing Campi Flegrei wine, and a population of about 500,000. The last major eruption of Campi Flegrei was in 1538. An eruption about 39,000 years ago is believed to have contributed to the extinction of the Neanderthals. upload.wikimedia.org/wikiversity/en/2/27/Campi_Flegrei_caldera.jpg
The maps in this article overlay Texas aquifers, fracking sites, and water wells that have been drilled to supply fracking, an industry that has used 1.5 trillion gallons of water since 2011: www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/09/25/climate/fracking-oil-gas-wells-water.html.
The rapid depletion of key American aquifers, highlighted in this article, reflects an intersection of physical and human geography that is arguably every bit as important as climate change but gets a fraction of the attention. www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/08/28/climate/groundwater-drying-climate-change.html
Gravity is not the same all over the planet. One of the factors that can have an effect on surface gravity is the density of the underlying rock: higher-density rock increases surface gravity (ever so slightly). This map of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio is part of a Bouguer gravity anomaly map, showing higher-gravity regions in pink/red and lower-gravity regions in blue. Because of the underlying rock, you will weigh more in southern Illinois than in eastern Ohio, for example. www.atlasobscura.com/articles/strange-maps-uneven-gravity
Drought in the Midwest is leading to lower water levels in the Mississippi River again this year, which is leading to salt water encroaching up the river and threatening the water supplies of New Orleans. Although the "saltwater wedge" isn't supposed to arrive for a couple of weeks, New Orleans residents are starting to empty grocery stores shelves of bottled water.
"The crisis is a result of drought conditions in the Midwest, which have sapped water levels in the Mississippi, allowing salty water from the Gulf to creep upstream beneath a freshwater layer. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say the “saltwater wedge,” which has already affected communities downstream, could reach water treatment plants near New Orleans in about a month, pushing the salty water into household faucets. About a million people across southeastern Louisiana could be affected. Officials are working to slow the influx by strengthening an underwater sill, or levee, at the bottom of the Mississippi, and preparing to ship tens of millions of gallons of fresh water from upstream by barge to affected treatment facilities on a daily basis. Still, managing the demand for clean water could take a herculean effort, Dr. [Jesse] Keenan [of Tulane University] said, especially because it is unclear how long the intrusion could last. City officials said this week that they were planning for as long as three months, based on expert advice. In previous dry years, including in 1988 and 2012, officials in Louisiana managed to avert major problems, but this could be different: It’s the second straight year in which water levels have dropped drastically because of heat and drought intensified by climate change."
If you have been waiting to see the Starlink satellite system in the night sky, this is the map (and location search function) for you: findstarlink.com/
Nickel is a key mineral in batteries, a pivotal component in green energy technologies, and Indonesia has the world's largest nickel reserves, centered on the monkey-shaped island of Sulawesi. But Chinese investment in smelting and refining Indonesia's nickel is putting it at the center of a geopolitical tug of war.
"Mr. Luhut [an Indonesian cabinet minister] aspires to transform Indonesia into a hub for the production of electric vehicles. But as he pursues that paramount goal, he and his country are increasingly vulnerable to geopolitical forces beyond their control. Though this archipelago nation has long sidestepped entanglements in ideological rivalries, it is increasingly caught in the conflict between the United States and China. At stake is control over nickel, a mineral used to make batteries for electric cars and motorcycles — a central component of the mission to limit the ravages of climate change. Indonesia boasts the earth’s largest reserves, making it something like the Saudi Arabia of nickel. But harvesting and refining those stocks is largely dependent on investment and technology from Chinese companies. And that has limited Indonesia’s access to the United States. ... In recent months, Mr. Luhut — formally Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment — has implored the Biden administration for a trade deal covering minerals in an effort to secure his country status as a friendly country. That would generate greater demand for its nickel by making it eligible for the American tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act. Companies around the globe would presumably gain incentive to erect smelters and electric vehicle factories in Indonesia, enhancing the nation’s technological prowess, and creating jobs. But Mr. Luhut, the government’s de facto lead official on trade matters, has been repeatedly rebuffed because of American concerns about Chinese investment in Indonesia’s nickel industry, as well as unease over working conditions and environmental standards. ... “We are aiming basically to the United States,” he said. “But if the Americans finally say, ‘We don’t want to take it,’ fine, we’ll look for some other places to go.”"www.nytimes.com/2023/08/18/business/indonesia-nickel-china-us.html
Due to a powerful solar storm, there have been great photos of the aurora borealis spotted in unlikely places this week, including as far south as Missouri. If you'd like to catch the aurora, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides a daily forecast and notes the aurora "does not need to be directly overhead but can be observed from as much as a 1000 km away when the aurora is bright and if conditions are right." www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast
This satellite image, from Al Jazeera, shows the location of the two dams on the Wadi Derna in far northeastern Libya that collapsed earlier this week following unusually heavy rains. The dams were built in the 1970s by a Yugoslavian company as part of a project to provide reservoirs and an irrigation network for communities in the region. Although Libya is not considered especially vulnerable to climate change, Notre Dame's Global Adaptation Initiative had previously flagged Libya's dam capacity as a significant vulnerability. www.aljazeera.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/INTERACTIVE-Libya-Derna-floods-Storm-Daniel-1694506930.png
With Hurricane Lee dawdling off the Atlantic Coast of the U.S., this graph from NOAA is a reminder that this is the busiest time of year for hurricanes. (Graph from www.nola.com/news/hurricane/hurricane-lee-becomes-a-cat-3-storm-no-threat-to-the-gulf/article_fe6ad090-4f64-11ee-984f-3facb7542d5c.html.)
If the runaway success of Barbie has left you craving more pink in your life, Conde Nast Traveler has picked out the world's most beautiful pink places, from Florida to Jaipur to Spain to Vietnam to Scotland: www.cntraveler.com/gallery/the-most-beautiful-pink-places-to-visit-around-the-world
Last fall, low water levels on the Mississippi River cost the U.S. economy an estimated $20 billion in shipping losses. This spring, the Mississippi rebounded, flooding communities in Iowa and Illinois. But a dry summer is again threatening shipping. This map compares water levels at major ports along the Mississippi with historic averages. (Map from www.wsj.com/articles/mississippi-river-careens-from-floods-to-low-water-threatening-barge-traffic-a6d5758d.)
It's impossible to avoid the heat and drought stories this summer. This one is about Iran and how extreme water scarcity is shaping political protest, basic livability -- two provinces are expected to run out of municipal water completely by September -- and the geopolitics of the region. www.nytimes.com/2023/07/23/world/middleeast/iran-heat-water.html
AMOC (pronounced "ay-mock")-- the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation -- is a network of Atlantic Ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream, that plays a pivotal role in keeping Western Europe warm relative to its latitude and distributing heat around the planet. Multiple studies have found AMOC is weakening and is now perhaps the weakest it has been in 1,000 years. The massive melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which is dumping an estimated 250 billion metric tons of ice and cold, fresh meltwater into the northern Atlantic each year, is eyed as a possible culprit. Last week a study by Danish researchers of 150 years of weather data concluded that AMOC could collapse -- as it did 12,800 years ago -- by the end of the century, perhaps even within a few years. This article from Scientific American explains the science, the unknowns, and AMOC's significance: www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-a-mega-ocean-current-about-to-shut-down/.
Facing ongoing drought conditions, Spain is one of several countries looking to resurrect water-delivery systems hundreds or thousands of years old. This article is about Spain's acequias system, an extensive network of canals originally built by the Moors to deliver water from the mountains to communities across southern Spain. www.nytimes.com/2023/07/19/world/europe/spain-drought-acequias.html
As extreme heat grips much of the world, Death Valley, CA seems to have set a new record: its midnight temperature was measured at 120°F. The low a few hours later was measured at 105°F, which would also be a record if confirmed. www.newscientist.com/article/2382959-death-valley-may-have-just-had-the-hottest-recorded-midnight-ever/
A topographic map of California quickly reveals the Central Valley, a broad valley that runs nearly the length of California, from north of Sacramento to south of Bakersfield. Today, that is some of the U.S.'s most productive agricultural land. But historically it has also been a lake, filled to a depth of three feet or more following years with abundant rain or snowfall, like this year. In the southern basin of the Central Valley was Tulare Lake, once the biggest body of freshwater west of the Mississippi River. With snow melting in the mountains this spring, Tulare Lake has reemerged, with more than 150 square miles of lake bed refilling to submerge farms, roads, homes, electrical transformers, and anything else that might have been there: www.nytimes.com/2023/06/25/us/california-storms-tulare-lake.html.
Because they often rely on evaporative cooling to keep equipment from overheating, data centers rank among the top 10 most water-consuming industries in the U.S. This article explores the clash between Big Tech and local communities in water-stressed areas of the U.S. www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/04/25/data-centers-drought-water-use/
Last week's smoky air has dissipated on the East Coast, but this is almost certainly not the last time you will find yourself wondering about air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency's AirNow map shows air-quality data, updated hourly: gispub.epa.gov/airnow/?monitors=pm (You can select for ozone, particulate matter, or both.)
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