CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Posts tagged "alabama"
Several parks include climate education for visitors. Parks in Tennessee, Florida, Massachusetts, California, Tanzania, Oregon, Mexico, Netherlands, Alabama, and others. Good read.

CNN reports Alabama is abusing BP oil spill money. Above, a state rep defends plans to spend beach restoration funds on building a new convention center and tourist attractions on the beach, above. 

Alabama is spending just 8.5% on restoring beaches and marine ecosystems. Louisiana, for comparison, is spending 100% of the BP penalties on wetland, wildlife, marshes, and other coastal restoration. Florida is spending 90% on restoration.

Solid reporting @CNN’s OutFront

llamastash:

City leaders in Oxford, Ala. have approved the destruction of a 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound and are using the dirt as fill for a new Sam’s Club.

Oxford’s Mayor Leon Smith — whose campaign has financial connections to firms involved in the $2.6 million no-bid project — insists the mound is not man-made and was used only to “send smoke signals.”

(via gwebarchaeology)

Barges transporting natural gas collide, explode in Alabama. Click for video.

Top photo via Lagniappe.

An ancient Cypress forest was discovered at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Not a hoax. Hurricane Katrina stirred up the sand on the bottom of the Gulf, exposing a 50,000 year old forest.

For thousands of years, sand protected the ancient forest from rotting. Now that the sand has been removed, the trees are being torn apart by critters, fish, and exposure to water.

Here’s a video, which I can’t embed because tumblr hasn’t completely figured out How to Internet: Underwater Forest.

The forest is about 10 miles off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico and lies under 60 feet of water (about the height of a 6 story building). Researchers say you can see tree rings, and even sap when the wood is cut with a saw. In fact, they say it even smells like freshly cut Cypress.

The trees apparently lived along a river.

Why is there a forest at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico? Sea level rise from melting glaciers. Sea level rise chewed away and drowned millions of miles of coasts around the world after the last Ice Age, but I’ll leave that for you to google and for future posts!

Via Alabama.com

Warning! Severe Tornado Outbreak Expected Christmas Day, Night, and Wednesday in the south

Christmas 2012 will not only feature heavy snow from Winter Storm Euclid.  Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will target parts of the South Christmas Day into Wednesday!

Here is the general forecast timing of this event:

Tuesday:  Severe weather outbreak may begin before sunrise Christmas morning in east and southeast Texas into Louisiana. The severe storm threat spreads east, taking in the lower Mississippi Valley eastward into Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle by afternoon.  Tornadoes, damaging winds of 60 to 80 mph, and large hail are all threats in these areas!  Some tornadoes may be strong, long-track tornadoes, as well!

Full story, with tons of maps and surprising history of many Xmas tornadoes at Weather

In this must read piece (one that defines my career and the core theme of this tumblr), the New York Times contextualizes the issue of climate impacts on America’s aging infrastructure in this solid piece, “Rise in Weather Extremes Threatens Infrastructure.”

I’ve written about about weather-related nuclear power plant shut downs before (see here). When a power plant shuts down in the middle of a summer heat wave and drought, people’s lives are threatened, especially the elderly and children if they lose air-conditioning or power to essential products.

Nuke plants suck water from either a river or a lake. And the water is used to cool the reactors (those big, wide towers you see with “smoke” billowing out is actually steam). After the water circulates through the plant, it’s dumped back into the river or lake (this impacts fish and wildlife, because the water is very hot, killing or making ecosystem uninhabitable).

The water has to be below a certain temperature range in order for it to effectively cool the towers. But, what happens if the river water is too hot? The plant has to shut down.

Up until 2007, this has never happened in the United States before. But now it’s a regular occurrence. Rivers and lakes are heating up. Nuclear power plants in France shut down during a dangerous heat wave that killed 10s of thousands(!) of people in the early 2000s. Now, the US is experiencing a similar situation. Browns Ferry nuclear power plant shut down several times since 2007 because the lake it uses for cooling became too shallow and too hot. The result? No power (and therefore no air-conditioning) for nearly millions of people during the hottest and most dangerous summers in the south.

The Times does a way better job than I ever could covering the many issues of climate impacts on America’s aging and weakening infrastructure. As an climate adaptation professional, the list of problems is what I specialize in. Have a look:

Weather Extremes Leave Parts of U.S. Grid Buckling

"From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that undergird the nation’s infrastructure are being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought and vicious storms.

…a US Airways regional jet became stuck in asphalt that had softened in 100-degree temperatures, and a subway train derailed after the heat stretched the track so far that it kinked — inserting a sharp angle into a stretch that was supposed to be straight. In East Texas, heat and drought have had a startling effect on the clay-rich soils under highways, which “just shrink like crazy,” leading to “horrendous cracking,” said Tom Scullion, senior research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. In Northeastern and Midwestern states, he said, unusually high heat is causing highway sections to expand beyond their design limits, press against each other and “pop up,” creating jarring and even hazardous speed bumps.

Excessive warmth and dryness are threatening other parts of the grid as well. In the Chicago area, a twin-unit nuclear plant had to get special permission to keep operating this month because the pond it uses for cooling water rose to 102 degrees; its license to operate allows it to go only to 100. According to the Midwest Independent System Operator, the grid operator for the region, a different power plant had had to shut because the body of water from which it draws its cooling water had dropped so low that the intake pipe became high and dry; another had to cut back generation because cooling water was too warm.”

PSA: Eight Blue Heeler puppies up for grabs. They’re about to be sent to a shelter in Birmingham, Alabama. “Delisa” is trying to find a home for them — call her at 205.587.7170 if you’re interested.

That’s all I know, so no messages please.

A move that is both bold and weak at the same time. Scientists say ‘oil pollution,’ government says ‘small shrimp.’ Smells like PR bullshit to protect BP and oil drillers from further payouts to local communities.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. [‘Official’ reason is now reported to be smaller than average shrimp.]

Companies are working with the Alabama’s insurance commissioner to set rates across the state. This comes after a spate of tornado activity and near severe drought across the state. 

"The insurers are asking themselves the same question: What if this is a new pattern? What if this is going to mean there will be more tornadoes?" he said. "The global re-insurers are very concerned about climate change. As far as they are concerned, there is a pretty clear signal." 

As you can see from the article’s comments, Alabaman’s are a bit sour on raising raising due to climate change impacts.

Source: Birmingham News

ProPublica is reporting on the lack of fire safety in US nuclear power plants. They also reported that their reporters recently inquired about nuclear safety, and were met with hostile nuclear regulatory officials. My concern goes further in that these plants are not designed to withstand current climate impacts, such as major droughts. Power plants rely on a water source, such as a river or lake, to cool down their reactors. If the water runs dry, or too low, or is too hot, the plant has to shut down. There are no contingencies for these situations, that I’m aware of other than shutting down the plant. My understanding is that the danger here is a melt-down could occur from climate-related events. Never mind climate change, they’re not prepared for today. 

In a forceful critique of his agency’s approach toward fire safety, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission declared that the policy of not enforcing most fire code violations at dozens of nuclear plants is “unacceptable” and has tied the hands of NRC inspectors.

The written comments by NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko, released last week, were made as the commission voted in late May to continue a policy of citing only the most serious fire violations at 44 of the nation’s 101 reactors that are in the process of updating fire plans, and to address old hazards.

As ProPublica recently reported, many of the plants are relying on fire watches and other short-term measures while they work on their new plans. But critics say the NRC’s enforcement policy has allowed nuclear companies to put off installing fire suppression, barriers and other safety features for years.

Source: ProPublica. See also, ProPublica ripping the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on current unsafe nuclear power plants. MSM?

April 11, 2011. Click headline to read more. See also: Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant Shut Down. Look, the US is demonstrably under-prepared for current climate conditions. MSM has to pick up these climate-related shut downs. And politicians have to stop messing around with people’s lives and get on the alt-energy bandwagon. 

Update: @butterforce: Yes, it is an extremely bad thing. A shut down for more than a few hours can lead to catastrophic meltdown. Nuclear power plants need constant cooling, 24/7/365. The above shut down is a safety and infrastructure problem - diesel back-up generators are a short term fix. Brown’s Ferry took weeks to recover, and, luckily, there wasn’t another set of storms during that recovery time, nor was this recovery paralleled with yet another regional drought. I get where you’re coming from, and I wish these plants worked that way, with on/off switches. But, they don’t. Hope this helps! 

Highlights:

  • 475,000 homes without power (Update: now around 120,000)
  • Three reactors shut down at Brown’s Ferry.
  • *This is the third time in US history that a nuclear power plant shut down due to a weather related event since 2007.
  • Oil is leaking from generators
  • Workers working 24/7 to restore power
  • 26 power companies shut down, being restored
  • Over 90 transmission lines were damaged, servicing North Alabama and Mississippi

Source: TVA