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Archive for March 22nd, 2010


Posted by feww on March 22, 2010

More Like Another Sick UNEP Whitewash

Having just downloaded the new ‘bells and whistle’ report by UNEP titled Sick Water? two of the moderators  were about to discuss the main points raised in the report, but were dismayed to find a headline that appeared on the Joint Statement page:

The statistics are stark: Globally, two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the world’s waterways and at least 1.8 million children under five years-old die every year from water related disease, or one every 20 seconds.

Signed by Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP AND  Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director, UN-HABITAT

The problem?

The report says only ‘two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste are discharged in the world’s waterways’ [by the world’s 6.81 billion population with  a combined GDP of  $61 trillion.]

That’s less than 290 g per person, or just over 1 kg per family of four, per year!

We know that two million tons of sewage, and industrial waste are released DAILY into Hong Kong’s Victoria harbor alone!

[Note: Hong Kong Population is just over 1 percent of the world population, and there are 365 days in a year!]

Here’s another statistic:

An estimated one billion (one thousand million) metric tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste are dumped into India’s Ganges River every day of the year!

How could any other figure provided by the report be reliable?

Do the UNEP staff really know what they are talking about, or is it just another one of those amazing UN whitewashes?

For our initial assessment of the report see photo below:

Photo of sewage/industrial waste  dumped in a waterway.
Source: UNEP Report Sick Water?

UNEP must clarify why they made such a huge error, otherwise their report is not worth the billions of tons of sewage and waste that are being dumped in the world’s waterways each and every day of the year.

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Today is World Water Day

Posted by feww on March 22, 2010

Water Issues: Scarcity and Pollution

A sever drought is affecting about 60 million people in SW China. Well that’s less than 1 percent of the world population, you could argue.

But another 60 million people are severely affected by a drought in the Mekong Basin, which is threatening not just their livelihood, but their survival.  The water flows are the lowest  for 20 years, warns the Mekong River Commission (MRC). The drought has an impact on agriculture, food security, access to clean water and river transport.

Drought conditions are so severe in parts of Africa most women have to walk five miles per day, carrying just enough water for drinking and cooking in large containers placed on their head.

Of Africa’s 53 nations, only 10 countries have adequate drinking water. In Uganda alone, more than 10 million people have no access to clean water.

More than a billion people have NO access to safe water and about 2.5 billion people live without adequate sanitation. About 55 percent of “developing world’s” population are  suffering from at least one major illness  related to unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Each day, at least 6,000 children die of waterborne diseases including diarrhoeal diseases and malaria.—UNICEF

Mwamanongu Village water source, Tanzania. In Meatu district, Shinyanga region, Tanzania, water most often comes from open holes dug in the sand of dry riverbeds, and it is invariably contaminated. Credit:  Bob Metcalf

Unsanitary water is responsible for 80 per cent of all illnesses,  and is world’s number one killer, UN says.

The UN also states that unsanitary water is responsible for 1.5 million cases of hepatitis A (and 133 million cases of intestinal parasites).

According to the world bank, waterborne illnesses are each year responsible for:

  • 4 billion cases of diarrhea, killing more than 6 million people.
  • 300 million cases of malaria
  • 200 million cases of schistosomiasis
  • 6 million people are blinded by trachoma ( 500 million people who are currently at risk of contracting the disease).

Bottom line

As of  March 2010

  • One in five people on this planet have no access to clean water.
  • One in ten people is experiencing a severe to a moderate drought.

Every year, nearly 11 million children die before reaching their fifth birthday, most from preventable causes. That is approximately, 30, 000 children per day. Another 300 million children suffer from illnesses caused by lack of clean water, poor nutrition and inadequate health services and care. —UNICEF

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Second Sandstorm Blasts Beijing

Posted by feww on March 22, 2010

Beijing Blasted by Sandstorms Twice in Two Days

Mothers, tell your children NOT to do what they have done!

Beijing was hit Monday by a second sandstorm just two days after a severe sandstorm struck on Saturday. The sandstorm originated from Mongolia and arrived in Beijing Monday morning, but was expected to subside by the evening.

Tourists visit the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing amid a massive sandstorm, March 22, 2010. The Central Meteorological Station issued a blue alert for sandstorms at 6 AM on Monday. (Xinhua/Sang Quanli). Image may be subject to copyright.

“The sandstorm from Mongolia arrived in Beijing Monday morning, and is expected to weaken by Monday evening,” said Zhang Mingying, senior engineer with the Beijing Meteorological Station, official news agency Xinhua reported.

The Sandstorm spawned by strong winds has swept over north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, as well as Shanxi and Hebei provinces, he was reported as saying.

“Dust and sand left from Saturday’s sandstorm was still affecting Beijing Monday,” Zhang said.

“Although the sky was not as orange as Saturday, the smell of the dust was stronger on Monday,” said Li Nan, a Beijing resident.

Lanzhou, Gansu province, shrouded by a thick yellow-orange haze produced by thousands of tons of airborne sand. March 19 -20, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua] Image may be subject to copyright.

What’s Behind the Sandstorms?

In short, it’s the economy. The impact of exponential growth economy has driven China’s fragile ecosystems to the verge of collapse. The environmental stress caused by overconsumption of water, deforestation, land-use change and severe droughts, enhanced by climate change, are accelerating the desertification in northern China.

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Houston: A Nightmare of Lights

Posted by feww on March 22, 2010

Metropolitan Energy Black Hole

Light Pollution in ‘The Energy Capital of the World’

Five of Texas’s coal-fired power plants that pollutes Houston’s sky at night are among the nation’s Top 10 emitters of mercury.

Houston, Texas at Night. The image [acquired January 10, 2010] depicts the roughly 100 kilometer (60 mile) east-west extent of the Houston metropolitan area. Houston proper is at image center, indicated by a “bull’s-eye” of elliptical white to orange-lighted beltways and brightly lit white freeways radiating outwards from the central downtown area. Suburban and primarily residential urban land uses are indicated by both reddish-brown and gray-green lighted regions that reflect a higher proportion of tree cover and lower light density. Petroleum refineries along the Houston Ship Channel are identified by densely lit areas of golden yellow light. Rural and undeveloped land rings the metropolitan area, and Galveston Bay to the southeast (image lower right) provides access to the Gulf of Mexico. Both types of non-urban surface appear dark in the image. Image and caption [sniped for brevity] by NASA.

Some facts about Houston

  • Size: Houston CMSA covers about 2,331,000 hectares (9,000 square miles)
  • Houston CMSA: The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA) consists of the eight counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller.
  • Average Elevation: 13m (43 feet)
  • Population: 2.5 million (Houston is the fourth most populous city in the US, trailing only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and is the largest in Texas and the southern U.S.)
  • Houston Metro Population: 5.8 million (Pop Ranking: 6th largest US)
  • The three-airport system saw over 51 million passengers in 2006, including over seven million international travelers.
  • Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other city,  with  11,000 restaurants and eateries.
  • The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. It is the tenth largest port in the world.
  • More than 5,000 energy related firms are based in Houston.
  • Energy, aeronautics, and technology industries in Houston make it second only to New York City as a base for Fortune 500 headquarters.
  • Comparing Houston’s economy to a national economy, only 21 countries other than the United States have a GDP exceeding Houston’s regional output (2007).

Texas Coal-Fired Power Plants

Location Map:  Texas Coal-Fired Power Plants. Source: The Western Region Ash Group

Visible Pollution

  • Houston has a serious air quality problem. Since 1999, the Texas city has exchanged titles with Los Angeles as having the most polluted air in the United States defined by the number of days each city violates federal smog standards.
  • Five coal-fired Texas power plants which help keep the lights glaring at night are among the nation’s Top 10 emitters of mercury (Texas is also home to the largest concentration dirtiest coal-fired plants in the nation boasting 7 out of the worst 50).

Houston, we really do have a problem!

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Icelandic Volcano Erupts – UPDATE

Posted by feww on March 22, 2010

Eruption at Eyjafjöll is consistent with recent global patterns of volcanism and tectonism. Wild eruptions may occur in Iceland and elsewhere—Fire-Earth

Eyjafjöll Volcanic System Erupts

Eyjafjallajökull volcanic system erupted in the south of Iceland, forcing up to five hundred people to evacuate the area, prompting the authorities to declare a state of emergency and imposing a NO FLY Zone  over much of Icelandic airspace.

Background: Volcano erupts near Eyjafjallajoekull, Iceland

At least three flights en-route Reykjavik from the US were ordered back to Boston, and up to 1,500 are currently stranded in the Reykjavik airport.

Where the Eruption Occurred

Location of the Eruptive Fissure.
Source: Nordic Volcanological Center. Click image to enlarge.

How Eruption Occurred

Eruption began at 23:52UTC on 20 March 2010 at  the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic system (also known as Eyjafjöll volcano). A red cloud appeared above the volcano, which lightened up the sky above the eruptive fissure. “The eruption was preceded with intense seismicity and high rates of deformation in the weeks before the eruption, in association with magma recharging of the volcano. Immediately prior to the eruption the depth of seismicity had become shallow, but was not significantly enhanced from what it had been in the previous weeks. Deformation was occurring at rates of up to a centimetre a day since March 4 at continuous GPS sites installed within 12 km from the eruptive site.” IESUI reported.

“The eruption broke out with fire fountains and Hawaiian eruptive style on about 500 m long NE-SW oriented eruptive fissure at N63º38.1′, W19º26.4′ on the northeast shoulder of the volcano at an elevation of about 1000 m. It was observed from air from 4-7 A.M. on March 21. Lava flows short distance from the eruptive site, and minor eruption plume at elevation less than 1 km was deflected by wind to the west. Volcanic explosive index (VEI) is 1 or less. Tephra fall is minor or insignificant. The eruption occurs just outside the ice cap of Eyjafjallajökull, and no ice melting is occurring at present.”

Surface temperature satellite image taken by MODIS shows the location of the eruption. Source: NASA via Nordic Volcanological Center. Click image to enlarge.

Source: Nordic Volcanological Center. Click image to enlarge.

The eruption occurred at a fissure on a 2 km wide pass of ice-free land between Eyjafjallajökull and its large neighbor Katla volcano which is buried under Myrdalsjökull ice cap. “Katla volcano is known for powerful subglacial phreatomagmatic eruptions producing basaltic tephra layers with volumes ranging from ~0.01 to more than 1 cubic kilometer.” Institute of Earth Sciences at University of Iceland (IESUI) reported.

Eyjafjallajökull is known to have erupted at least three times in the last 1100 years (settlement of Iceland). “The most recent began in December 1821 and lasted intermittently for more than a year. The neighbouring volcano Katla erupted then on 26 June 1823. Other eruptions include an eruption in 1612 or 1613, and about 920 A.D.”

Eyjafjallajökull is known for several episodes of unrest, “with documented sill intrusions in 1994 and 1999.”

The 2.5-km-wide summit caldera of Eyjafjöll located west of Katla volcano. Photo by Oddur Sigurdsson, 1992 (Icelandic National Energy Authority). Click image to enlarge.

Seismic Activity

Eyjafjallajökull has been experiencing intensive Seismic activity since late February with most of the shocks occurring at 7 to 10 km depth. “On March 19th a seismic swarm began east of the top crater, originating between 4 and 7 km depth.” Iceland Met Office reported.

“On March 19th a seismic swarm, began east of the top crater, originating between 4 and 7 km depth. The activity migrated eastwards and towards the surface on Saturday, March 20th.”

What Local Experts Say

Scientists at Nordic Volcanological Center say further volcanic activity in the area may be imminent, based on the fact that three previous eruptions at Eyjafjallajokull had all primed the powerful Katla volcano to erupt.

“What we know is that an eruption in Eyjafjallajokull seems to be a trigger for Mt Katla,” geophysicist Pall Einarsson said.

“The volcano has been inflating since the beginning of the year, both rising and swelling, even though we were seeing increased seismic activity, it could have been months or years before we saw an eruption like this.”

Einarsson believes that an eruption at Mt Katla would be a much greater and more serious event because molten lava would melt the glacier causing large-scale flooding.

Geophysicist Magnus Gudmundsson says it’s impossible to predict how long the Eyjafjallajokull eruption could last. “It could end tomorrow, it could go on for a year or two, but this is a small eruption.”

More facts about Icelandic Volcanoes:

  • Mt Katla last erupted in 1918.
  • The most recent eruption at an Icelandic volcano occurred in 2004.
  • Eyjafjallajokull Volcanic System was dormant since 1821.
  • Iceland has experienced 21 eruptions in the past 50 years.
  • Only one of the 21 eruption caused serious damage  when a volcano erupted in Westmann islands in 1973.

Map of Iceland Earthquakes (Last 48 hours) – Icelandic Met Office

© Veðurstofa Íslands

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Posted in Eyjafjöll, Eyjafjöll volcano, Tephra fall, volcanism, volcano eruprted | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »