Sunday, 19 December 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Responsible For Europe Wide Freeze?

A recent study has shown that the Gulf stream has weakened significantly in recent times and on July the 28 the Gulf Loop, which is a major influencer of the Gulf Stream stopped completely. This at a time when the  Deepwater Horizon well explosion disaster had finally been capped but not before it had released an estimated 184,000,000 gallons(lower estimates put it at 94,000,000) that's more than 1,000,000 gallons per day even at lower estimate levels. The oil leaked into the Gulf Region for 86 days in total. The gulf stream is essential for keeping the UK and northern Europe mild it is estimated to deliver 1,000,000 power stations worth of energy to northern Europe elevating temperatures in some regions by as much as 10 degrees C. in the UK alone which is as northerly as Moscow it is said to lift temperatures by 6C. Without this warming influence the UK would be in big trouble as its infrastructure is not well suited to cold weather as the recent big freeze has shown with much of the UK grinding to a Holt with foot after foot of snow falling. Government estimates say that this weather is costing the UK economy 1.2billion a day. Worse could be yet to come the UK fresh water pipes are not made to withstand such cold weather unlike in Russia where water pipes are put several feet under ground to prevent freezing. UK pipes are placed much nearer to the surface so are particularly at risk from cracking in freezing conditions.

The Researchers on a recent scientific expedition to monitor the Gulf Stream have observed that it has slowed down by 30% since a similar expedition 12 years ago. Harry Bryden of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton leader of the study said that if the Gulf Stream stays as it is Temperatures in the UK will drop on average by 1C and if the Gulf Stream completely stops then temperatures will drop by 4-6C according to computer models some would say this is a conservative estimate and many believe that the shutting down of the Gulf Stream has been responsible for Ice Ages in the past.

Here is a picture of the Global Conveyor Belt including the Gulf Stream.

Here is a picture of the latest observations of The Gulf Stream Stretching Eastward.

So back to the original Question and title of this post is the oil spill responsible for the weakening of the Gulf Stream and the Europe wide freeze. Well let's look at some further evidence, below is a picture of the Gulf Loop which feeds into the Gulf stream and is a major source of its energy.

The Arrow shows the natural direction of the Gulf Loop as it enters and exits.

Now Here are some Satellite Pictures showing the Oil spill in relation to the Gulf Loop

If we assume from the dates on the satellite imagery from NASA that these pictures were taken no later than the 8th of May then these pictures apply to no later than sixteen days after the 22nd of April the initial date of the Disaster. If we also take the conservative estimate of 1,070,000 gallons of oil a day were leaking into the Gulf then this outline of the oil slick applies to at the most 17,120,000 gallons of oil by the 86th day of the Disaster, July 14th 94,000,000 gallons of oil were spilled. Even at this early stage of the spill it can be clearly seen than the oil spill is interacting with the northern edge of the Loop.

By the 28th of July 14 days after the spill had been capped and the full amount of oil had been leaked the Gulf Loop had broken up and stopped its normal process It would be fair to assume that other than natural phenomenon the increased viscosity in the region affected by an upper most prediction of 184,000,000 gallons of oil and 1,000,000 gallons of cleaning agent had a substantial effect on on the natural cycle of the Gulf Loop.

Here is a picture of the Gulf Loop as it progressively breaks up.

So has this break up affected weather in Northern Europe well it cannot be blamed for all of the unprecedented weather we are experiencing but it is probably a contributing factor the gulf stream is weaker than normal and was so before. The Oil Disaster has definitely not helped matters. Luckily the latest pictures of the Gulf loop show it acting more normally although there is still less general activity in the area of the Oil Disaster itself than this time last year.

With us knowing so little about the Gulf stream and the complex influences that drive it we have to be extremely careful. The Oil spill was a major Catastrophe and its long standing effects on the Gulf Stream we may yet have to wait to see. Sensitive Areas like this that are essential for global climate have to be treated with the utmost respect. I would suggest that the offshore drilling in this area be permanently prevented not just until 2017 as the Obama administration has implemented. The possible Fallout from such disasters is simply too dangerous to risk. We will need a hell of a lot more oil than is under the Gulf to keep us warm if we break the Gulf Stream.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Solar Cooling: What Is It Anyway?

The words 'solar cooling' sure sounds like a contradiction, but it's true that the same solar energy that provides heat in winter can also provide cooling in the summer months.

There have been quite a number of passive cooling systems developed and tested in recent times. They function quite simply. There is a coolant that absorbs heat and then dispels it outside. If you're wondering just what are these coolants, they can even be simple everyday things, like water troughs or water tanks - they are very much capable of sucking in the heat and letting it out as the sun's rays evaporate the heat automatically.

These may be simple coolants or ways to use passive cooling, but you can get any one of several passive solar cooling systems with more intricate processes. These systems make use of a shaded solar collector, to start with. And the storage medium in it gathers all the heat during daytime to release it later after sundown. When the night comes, you can remove the cover or shade of the solar collector, allowing it to get in contact with the night air, and as a result releasing any heat collected.

You can choose from many different possible shades for the solar collector, from extended shades to sun blinds. You need to be able to cover your solar collector just as well as you can expose it, because this is, after all, a temporary arrangement that will go the other way around in the winter time.

If you are using a conventional air conditioner, you can actually save energy by using solar panels to power it. Solar panels are a great idea especially in the summer, because the sun shines the brightest during these hot months, making it the perfect opportunity to create electricity with photovoltaic, or PV cells. This way it is possible to use your air conditioner in the summer free of charge - how about that to save a chunk off your electric bill!

One final way you can use solar cooling is without the use of any form of technology. The ancient Romans needed a way to cool the walls of their homes, so they used running water to do the trick. As you can guess, the water evaporates under the sun, thereby dissipating heat and soothing the inner temperatures. This same arrangement can be put up at your house on the walls and even on rooftops.

Cooling and heating are two reasons why Americans experience higher than usual utility bills in the summer and winter months respectively. Solar cooling, as we have illustrated, has many ways in which it could help you regulate your house's temperature, save costs, and do so in an environmentally friendly way.

About the author: Erica Hall is a blogger and about life in Saint Louis. Explore St Louis at this city guide and find the latest Saint Louis City area events.

Is It Time To Stock Up On Fuel And Food For The Winter Ahead?

Winter is quickly approaching and officially starts on December 1st. It seems that after last year's significant disruption, which many believe wasn't accurately forecast, many of the major weather forecasters including the UK Met Office have decided to "no longer issue long-range forecasts for the general public".

One thing is certain, after last year's winter snows that brought large swaths of the country to a complete standstill, many across the UK are a little nervous of what this year's winter has in store.

With stories of local authorities stockpiling salt and grit reserves, it does raise the question of are the powers-that-be just being careful to avoid the shortages that were experienced last year or are weather models for the coming months predicting a return to freezing temperatures and snowbound towns and villages?

The 2009 / 2010 winter period was the coldest for a decade. One of the most decisive anomalies was the North Atlantic Oscillation, which has been negative for a record breaking 13 months. The previous record of 9 consecutive months was back in 1968 into 1969 which was also a very cold and snowy winter.

Other factors that can affect the weather on a global level are volcanoes, of which there seems to have been a fair few recently. It was thought that only massive eruptions would have an affect on a worldwide scale but many believe that lots of smaller eruptions could also produce a cooling affect. Volcanic eruptions can throw up thousands of tonnes of dust particles that can remain suspended in the air for months, blocking out some of the Sun's energy and depositing cooling sulphur dioxide at higher altitudes.

As stories of unusual bird migrations and bee behaviour are reported, are we truly heading for another harsh winter on the scale of last year or worse? As always, the great British weather has a unique unpredictability and a habit of doing its own thing, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


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Is A Century Old Biofuel The Answer?

Conservationists are troubled about the production of the biofuel Ethanol.It's true that it does decrease dependency on increasingly scare fossil fuel resources, however acres of often virgin land have to be given over to its production.Those are usually found by felling forests, clearing vast swathes of precious habitat or supplanting other equally important, but less profitable, food crops.Growing crops specifically to generate biofuel could therefore have environmental consequences even more catastrophic than the damage already done by the continuing use of fossil fuels.

It's not just the Greens who are interested in solving this dilemma. The motor industry, including contract hire companies, are just as keen on reaching a sustainable long term solution in order to remain in business. Research continues into hybrid vehicles and the alternatives of all electric cars or hydrogen-fuelled cars. Major manufacturers are now investing substantial sums in ongoing development and it may only be a few years before Audi contract hire choices include a hydrogen fuel cell powered hatchback. BMW too has ripped the petrol-heart from the Mini and replaced it with batteries and an electric motor so BMW contract hire may also include similar zero emission options in the near future. The eco-friendly Nissan Leaf is already garnering much praise and will be built at Nissan's plant in Sunderland by 2013.

However, a highly calorific liquid fuel remains more convenient to store and distribute and Butanol may be the answer. Not only does Butanol gives 30% more power output than Ethanol, but scientists in Scotland have also produced it in what could be commercial quantities by adapting a 100 year old technique.What's more, they've used existing waste products from the Scotch whisky industry for the process, so it does not impinge on virgin land.Using waste products is more environmentally sustainable than growing crops to generate biofuel and it's reckoned that this process could contribute as much as 10% of total fuel sales in the UK by 2020.

Using The Cloud To Be An Environmentally Friendly Business

The concept of cloud computing is nothing all that new. It is becoming more and more popular and many businesses start to switch over. As it becomes more popular more businesses are starting to invest in virtualization technology and the benefits are becoming clearer. One of the most prominent is the minimization of the impact of mass technological dependency on our environment.

With cloud computing companies offering virtualized interfaces to customers, the number of physical servers needed to carry out functions is becoming dramatically reduced. IT professionals have long used physical servers at well below their data processing capacities in order to create ample storage and backup opportunities. With the invention of the data center and cloud based backups, the number of server units is being reduced dramatically. You no longer need to spend so much of your resources creating these physical servers saving time and energy. It also means that organizations that choose to opt for a virtualized server operation can reduce the amount of office space needed to carry out their everyday functions.

For larger organizations this can have a massive impact especially on their carbon footprint as they can dramatically reduce the floor space needed for their data centre. There are many other environmental benefits of running a virtualized environment. Since one server will be able to offer end users services on a range of operating systems by its use of a buffering software layer in the cloud. Theoretically, this will add a completely new level of flexibility to working practices, making remote working and online collaborations easier. This means that cloud has the potential to reduce the amount of time your business needs to have people on the road travelling to face to face meetings.

All these mean that for once a new technology can have the potential to help any business have a responsible attitude towards it's carbon footprint and therefore it's reputation and image by being at the start of this emerging and increasingly popular technology.

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