Belizean police are investigating a construction company that has destroyed most of one of the largest Mayan pyramids in the Caribbean nation to make gravel to dump on village roads, according to reports from the Caribbean.
Archaeologists and a local TV station witnessed the destruction Friday as bulldozers and excavators continued to demolish the 60-foot-tall main temple at Nohmul — “great mound” — one of the tallest structures in northern Belize, along the Mexican border in the Yucatan Peninsula.
“We can’t salvage what has happened out here,” John Morris, of the Institute of Archaeology, told 7 News Belize. “It is an incredible display of ignorance. I am appalled.” A news crew was threatened by a man with a machete as dump trucks hauled away rock and limestone from the temple, which has been “whittled down to a narrow core,” the TV station said.
A Caterpillar excavator was photographed tearing down what was left of the limestone-rich ruins. “It’s like being punched in the stomach, it’s just so horrendous,” Jamie Awe, head of the institute, told the Associated Press. “These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It’s just bloody laziness.”
The pre-Colombian site is about 2,500 years old and consists of twin ceremonial clusters surrounded by 10 plazas and connected by a raised causeway. Mayans used stone tools to quarry the rock and build the complex by hand. An estimated 40,000 people are believed to have lived there between 500 and 250 BC.
More of these incidents to come in the years ahead as population growth outweighs the need to protect resources.
If you are wandering around Greenland’s ice sheet and you run into this crazy thing, it is NASA’s GROVER (government acronym for something Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research). It is solar powered and it crawls around Greenland on its own and uses ground-penetrating radar to look at ice. And it’s cool.
NASA robot explores ice in Greenland. Video. Will explore for months at a time via remote. Possibly prototype to explore other planets.
Not sure how long the resources will be online, so get them while they last!
The conference will provide a forum for Arab politicians, policy makers, planners, academia and development experts to discuss issues and challenges facing the region with regard to disaster risk reduction. This session is being co-organized by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and the League of Arab States (LAS).
We’re looking into how changes in ocean currents (e.g., thermohaline circulation) could impact existing oil pipelines on the ocean floor. The concern is that untrenched (exposed) lines and subsea systems (see engineering image, above) are underprepared for future turbulence, among other things.
The above “pipelay” ships are designed for one task - to weld and deliver various sized pipes onto the ocean floor. Most pipelines are connected to a series of special drills and platforms (see second image above) and are located in shallow water. And many lines are buried under the seabed by special trench digger robots (funtrue!). But some lines are in very deep oceans, and currents could be messing with their stability due to shifting ocean currents.
As I was researching and answering reader mail (hello AK!), I got sidetracked to how some recent lines were originally designed and built. There are only a few specialized ships that handle the deepwater lines, so those are what I’m most interested in.
The first ship, above, is called the Solitaire. It’s massive. Built in 1998, and at 980 feet long(!), it’s among the largest pipelay ships on the planet! It’s also one of the most productive.
Here’s a video of how how Solitaire works! The first couple of minutes is an animated overview of the process. The next segment is live coverage of the inner workings. You can see workers, machines, and robots weld and piece the pipes together. The pipe is welded and ‘fed’ onto a spool that delivers the pipe onto the floor. It is amazing to see how flexible these pipes are. Really amazing stuff.
Do you want to read about these ships? If so, click here (careful, it is a huge, browser crushing PDF). It’s a poster describing 60 different pipely ships. It describes their owners, capacities, lay methods, and depths.
In 1980, Lake Peigneu, Louisiana disappeared into an underground vortex of doom.Actually, the accident was due to a math error, which resulted in one of the strangest oil drilling and salt mining accidents in U.S. history.
The Diamond Salt company had a huge salt mining operation under the lake. Meanwhile, Texaco Oil was drilling for oil from shallow platforms, which were built on the lake. Texaco roughnecks set a new drill a few hundred feet down, through the lake, through the lake bed, and into the earth. The drill bit hit one of the salt mine shafts, and the above disaster happened.
Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get worse, it does. The entire lake was sucked into the mine. The drill hole was originally 14 inches, but the force of the water expanded it to hundreds of feet across. At one point, a reverse water fall of 150 feet was formed because the Gulf of Mexico drained backwards (north!) into the lake. Watch the event unfold disaster on top of disaster. It is incredible. Via BoingBoing.
Video of a water main break in Russia. The explosion sends asphalt into the air to rain down on parked cars and pedestrians.
Aging infrastructure and deferred maintenance are the bane of cities around the world - especially America. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United State’s bridges, dams, airports, drinking water, roads, and schools a D+ in a recent report. Embarrassing? Absolutely. But cities are struggling to deal with an aging population and a lowered tax base. Schools, libraries, and park services are being cut (and gutted) all around the country. This means that cities are less likely to invest or fix problems with infrastructure, such as water supply. They can only react and look to the Feds for emergency cash. This mess we’re in will harm citizens in the long-term.
“I think a lot of cities like this because it’s a nice broad framework for sustainability,” said Diana McKeown, Metro director for CERTS. “For many cities, they have environmental commissions, and the GreenStep Cities program gives them ideas on what to work on.” The program, in its second year, gives cities guidelines for greening their infrastructure and work practices in order to save energy and resources.
Rijkswaterstaat and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment took me and others on a tour of this and other adaptation-engineering projects last year. I wrote a report for a Republican Congressman in Florida who is concerned about sea level rise (interesting backstory on that one!). Anyway, behind closed doors, the Dutch weren’t convinced this sand-engine would work very well over the long-term, but conceded it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Also interesting about this - special barges are sent into the North Sea to dredge up this sand (and for other projects). The barges have bomb specialists on them because the North Sea sand contains unexploded bombs and shells from WWII. Gnarly, gnarly work.
Smart-Dikes and Sand Engines: The Netherlands’ Approach to Rising Sea Levels
On a freezing winter day along the south-central coast of Holland, two beachcombers, hunched against the wind, stroll along a crescent of sand extending more than half a mile into the North Sea. Nearby, a snowkiter skims over the 28 million-cubic-yard heap of dredged sediment spreading along the shore. If all goes as planned, the mound will eventually disappear, rearranged by ocean currents into a 12-mile-long buffer protecting the coastline for the next two decades.
This is the Sand Engine, one of the latest innovations from Dutch masters of flood control technology and designed, as the national water board Rijkswaterstaat says, so that “nature will take the sand to the right place for us.”
After having constructed the country’s vaunted system of sea gates and dikes, Dutch planners and engineers are now augmenting it with new technology enlisting nature to keep the water at bay. “Normally, there is a lot of erosion here,” says hydraulic engineer Mathijs van Ledden, sweeping an arm toward the snow-covered spit snaking around an elongated lagoon. Van Ledden is a flood risk reduction specialist with Royal HaskoningDHV, a Dutch engineering consultancy involved in creating the Sand Engine, currently 2.2 miles wide.
“This big reservoir of sand should re-nourish the rest of the coast in time,” he says, gesturing toward the skyline of The Hague, several miles away.
Above, the gigantic Jirau Dam is one of 34(!) hydroelectric dams being built in the Amazon by Brazil. Thousands of people and dozens of communities and towns will be flooded by the dams. Meanwhile, environmentalists are left out of negotiations.
When it is completed in 2015, the Jirau hydroelectric dam will span the Madeira River, feature more giant turbines than any other dam in the world and hold as much concrete as 47 towers the size of New York’s Empire State Building.
And then there are the power lines, draped along 2,200 km of forests and fields to carry electricity from the middle of South America to Brazil’s urban nerve center, Sao Paulo. Still, it won’t be enough.
The Jirau Dam and the Santo Antonio complex that is being built a few kilometers downstream will provide just 5 percent of what government energy planners say Brazil will need in the next 10 years.
So the country is building more dams, many more, courting controversy by locating the vast majority of them in the world’s largest and most biodiverse forest.
akingamongrunaways asked: I'm studying the storm-surge buffering capabilities of the Boston Harbor Islands as well as possible plans to install barriers and sea gates between the islands in the future. What is the feasibility of such plans? How big of a role do the Harbor Islands currently play in protecting Boston Harbor? Do you have any suggested resources? Thank you for any help you can give.
I’m going to assume you’ve done a lot of research on climate, so I’ll just point you to some sources.
For climate science and some good maps, I’d check Woods Hole/USGS, MIT, and UMass.
You might be surprised by calling the folks at Mass/DCR, they’re actually real friendly on the phone.
You may want to look into orgs that do disaster, conservation, and beach erosion management work on the Cape (possibly Manomet, but definitely check with MassDOT).
And I’m sure the Army Corps of Engineers has their hands in the harbor (the Corps websites are a nightmare, so be persistent. There are hidden gems!).
The City of Boston’s climate report is embarrassingly weak. But, you should scour the authors and sources of the report for leads.
VHB, an engineering firm, does a lot of work on infrastructure using climate data, and I believe they have several contracts with the City of Boston, Logan Airport (in fact, Logan and VHB hosted me on a tour of the airport’s infrastructure and facilities). VHB has a strong climate division, and they’re very friendly folks and if you ask nicely, they’ll send you some climate CDs and climate reports by mail.
And finally, check with MassPort Authority. You’ll run into roadblocks when calling them directly, so you should target specific people in the organization and be persistent. Nothing gets built in the harbor without MassPort’s blessing.
That’s all I got off the top of my head. Good luck and let me know how it goes!
This is what climate adaptation looks like. Partnerships between cities (for the zoning and permits), residents (to protect their property), universities (for the climate science), and private sector (engineering and construction expertize).
Many properties in Boston may have to waterproof their buildings – raising critical electrical systems to higher levels or building barriers against storm surges — as sea levels rise from climate change.
The city is stepping up a campaign to prepare buildings for rising seas that could significantly flood neighborhoods during storms.
The public-private plan comes at the same time a Boston Harbor Association report spotlights high-risk areas, such as Long Wharf and University of Massachusetts Boston, and outlines how property owners can best protect themselves from water.
Hurricane Sandy and last week’s massive snowstorm have added new urgency to the issue, city officials say. This “will help make our waterfront and the rest of Boston better prepared to handle future storms and get the city back in business as quickly as possible,” Mayor Thomas Menino said.
In the next six months, the Boston Conservation Commission will develop new flood-plain maps to take in to account future storm surges atop higher sea levels. A wetlands ordinance will also help guide property owners to prepare for higher sea levels, said Brian Swett, chief of Environment and Energy for the city.
Inspectors discovered 326 deficient levees across the US, whose likely failures could leave millions of people dead.
A breach could demolish homes and cost local governments millions of dollars. By failing to repair the defective structures, the US is choosing to risk the lives of its citizens who are walking on eggshells with their proximity to the flood zones. In its first ever inventory of the nation’s flood control systems, inspectors raised the overdue alarm that hundreds of levees may be unable to regulate water levels and prove useless in face of heavy rains. Such populated cities as Washington DC, Sacramento, Dallas, Cleveland and many others might be flooded at any moment.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has only issued ratings for 58 percent of the 2,487 flood control systems, which means inspectors could still discover hundreds more deficient levees. Many of the earthen levees are crumbling under the effect of trees, shrubs and animal holes. Decaying pipes and pumping stations could also cause the flood control systems downfall, while some of the levees are dangerously close to houses or even have houses built on top of them.
We’ll be seeing more of these aging-cities stories in the coming years. And the push-back from city and local governments will make the infrastructure issues even worse. A study will be conducted (or several studies), and it will show that cities are under-prepared to deal with the variety of climate impacts. The solutions are expensive, and benefits are difficult to quantify in the public’s mind.
This piece in the Toronto Star outlines a recent study that concludes the city’s roads and sewer systems are vulnerable to increased environmental impacts. Some members of the city council didn’t like what the study found, and they parade the usual tropes to avoid action - that investing in infrastructure based on science will kill jobs, the climate models are wrong, that climate science is incomplete, etc.
A study commissioned by the city predicts heavier rain storms, but less snow in 2040. How will the city adapt its outdated infrastructure?
Toronto must overhaul its aging infrastructure to adapt to dramatic new climate change projections — a process that could cost billions — say some councillors and environmentalists.
But some fear the city is not taking the matter seriously enough, as the chair of the Parks and Environment Committee remains skeptical of the projections.
A study commissioned by the city and set to be discussed Tuesday by the parks committee predicts temperatures about 4.4 degrees warmer and a marked increase in extreme storms by 2040.
“If people are concerned about a crumbling Gardiner, this study makes it look like a teeny, tiny pothole,” said Franz Hartmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “If we’re not paying attention, it will literally be catastrophic.”
The study, called “Toronto’s Future Weather and Climate Driver Study,” foresees Toronto’s climate 30 years in the future as marked by fewer but more intense storms, less snow in the winter and increased heat and humidity in the summer.
Torontonians have already braved three of the worst storms in the city’s recorded history in the past 12 years, and sweltered through the earliest known heat wave on June 19, 2012.
The city’s roads, sewers, storm drains and electrical grids were simply not built to withstand the new climate, said Councillor Gord Perks, a member of the committee.
“If you took Toronto and put it in another part of the world, our infrastructure would be wrong for that weather. This is the same kind of problem,” he said.
He said the study means the city has “billions of dollars of work to do,” including expanding the capacity of sewers and re-engineering green spaces to accommodate ponds of rainwater.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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