China brainstorms ways to control pollution

September 26th, 2014 at 11:31 am by under Weather
Chinese wear face masks to protect themselves from the dense, hazardous air pollution blanketing Beijing on February 23, 2014. China issued a rare environmental orange alert after three days of hazardous air pollution, measured at ten times over the level of what the World Health Organization deems safe to breath. UPI/Stephen Shaver

BEIJING, Sept. 15 (UPI) – It is no secret China has a serious air pollution problem, but less known are proposed solutions, the results of brainstorming in the press.Residents are encouraged to think of resolutions, and some require less technology than others. Ideas are encouraged, and some are evidence to observers that China is not ready to resolve its smog issues. The city of Los Angeles was similarly swamped with silver-bullet approaches to its smog issues in the 1950s.

“We’re seeing the exact same thing in China that we saw in L.A. — crazy ideas coming out of the woodwork,” says Chip Jacobs, co-author of a book about the history of smog in Los Angeles.


UN Climate Summit

September 25th, 2014 at 6:01 pm by under Weather

Hundreds of world leaders including President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon are gathering this week at the U.N.  to discuss climate change, and build momentum for a new internationally binding agreement that can be enacted in 2015.
CLICK HERE to visit the TakePart website, and be sure to watch the opening film!

Austin Pittie Limits Saturday

September 25th, 2014 at 1:36 pm by under Weather

The Austin Animal Center, in partnership with several animal welfare groups, will host the first-ever Austin Pittie Limits event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 27. The Austin Animal Center is located in east Austin at 7201 Levander Loop.

Austin City Limits Music Festival is scheduled for the beginning of October, which is also Pit Bull Awareness Month, and we want to kick the festivities off in style by teaming up with other local animal welfare partners for an event that celebrates the diversity of “bully type dogs” and helps our community to better understand them and meet their needs.

Austin Pittie Limits will include live music and fun activities for the entire family, lots of adoptable dogs, plus informational booths about animal welfare resources available in our area, effective and positive dog training, prizes, goodie bags for adopted dogs, dog agility demos, games to play with your dog, and even a chance to make your own dog toys for active dogs!  The event is free and open to the public, and pizza will be available for purchase.


NASA’s Earth Minute: Usual Suspects

September 23rd, 2014 at 1:18 pm by under Weather

(NASA) Before the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s climate changed due to natural events such as volcanic activity and solar energy variations. These natural events still contribute to climate change today, but their impact is very small compared to the growing levels of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by humans burning fossil fuels. NASA’s ongoing Earth science missions, research and computer models help us better understand the long-term global changes occurring today through both natural and manmade causes.

Ozone hole has stabilized, but some questions remain

September 22nd, 2014 at 9:37 pm by under Weather

(Courtesy of EMPA)

Size: 130 KB
The production and consumption of chemical substances threatening the ozone layer has been regulated since 1987 in the Montreal Protocol. Eight international expert reports have since been published, which examine the current situation and the future of the threat to the ozone layer. Empa scientists made a decisive contribution to the latest report – presented on 10 September at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Image source: «Keystone»
After the detection of the ozone-depleting properties of CFCs in the 1970s, data from satellite measurements in 1985 startled mankind. A huge hole had been discovered over the Antarctic in the ozone layer that protects the Earth from dangerous, carcinogenic UV rays. Already in 1987 politicians around the world reached agreement on the Montreal Protocol that bans ozone-depleting substances, in particular chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 197 states have now ratified this international treaty. A series of scientific expert reports has since accompanied the efforts to save the ozone layer. The eighth in the series of these reports was published on 10 September 2014 at a joint press conference of WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Program). As one of the lead authors Empa scientist Stefan Reimann made a major contribution.
Ozone layer returning to its 1980 levels

The Antarctic ozone hole continues to appear every September. But unlike in the 1980s and 1990s it is no longer growing. Since the turn of the millennium it has remained unchanged. There are even signs of a slow recovery. Model calculations reveal that by 2050 the ozone layer may have returned to its 1980 levels. The concentration of most ozone depleting substances (mainly CFCs) mentioned in the Montreal Protocol has fallen as expected. This is monitored in measurements over many years, amongst other things, on Jungfraujoch. The global emissions of HCFCs, introduced as replacements but which are just as harmful to the ozone layer, have stabilized on a high level and are expected to fall in the future.

Now, surprisingly “new” CFCs have been discovered in the atmosphere, which have never been produced on an industrial scale, smaller amounts of which may nonetheless escape as industrial by-products. The concentration of these substances is, however, between 100 and 1,000 times lower than the classic ozone depleting substances. The fact that these substances can be traced shortly after they have been released highlights the capabilities of global measurement networks. The measurement networks act like early warning systems and ensure that emissions of potentially hazardous substances can be identified as early as possible. CFCs used in the past, for instance, in insulating foams and cooling systems still pose a significant threat to the ozone layer, though. During the recycling of these systems, it is important to collect CFCs separately and destroy them by incineration; otherwise this legacy of the past would harm the ozone layer more than all new substances together.
Whereas the classical ozone depleting substances are thus slowly disappearing, the volume of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the replacement for ozone-depleting substances, is increasing by around 7 percent a year. These substances do not harm the ozone layer but they often have a high greenhouse potential and contribute markedly to global warming. They, too, should be replaced in future. There are open questions, too, about the replacement substances supposed to mitigate the greenhouse effect. HFO-1234yf, for example, is intended to be used in AC system of new cars. This substance decomposes in the atmosphere into trifluoroacetic acid – a compound that is not degraded in nature and, therefore, accumulates in the environment.
Worrying deviations discovered

During the regular monitoring of trace gas data from the global measurement networks, the atmospheric researchers noticed significant deviations. These findings are also mentioned in the latest UNEP report. For instance, the concentration of the ozone-depleting gas carbon tetrachloride is not falling by four percent (as predicted) but by only one percent – although production of this substance is only allowed as intermediate, with very small expected emissions. New measurement data indicate that the emissions do not come from Europe or North America.

Success! NASA’s MAVEN probe enters Martian orbit

September 21st, 2014 at 9:46 pm by under Weather


NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has entered Martian orbit after a journey of 10 months and 442 million miles, mission managers reported Sunday. The bus-sized spacecraft executed a crucial engine burn that lasted slightly longer than the expected 33 minutes. “Congratulations, Maven is now in Mars orbit,” Dave Folta, mission design and navigation lead, told the mission control team. That sparked an eruption of applause at Maven’s mission operations center near Denver.

Over the next several weeks, additional maneuvers will put the orbiter in position for a yearlong mission to monitor Mars’ upper atmosphere. Maven’s observations are expected to help scientists figure out how Mars lost its air over the course of billions of years and was transformed from a warmer, wetter world to the cold, dry planet we see today. The name of the $671 million mission is an acronym that stands for Mars Atmosphere andVolatile EvolutioN.

NOAA: 2014 hottest summer on record worldwide

September 21st, 2014 at 9:24 am by under Weather



The summer of 2014 is officially the hottest since the modern instrumental record began more than 130 years ago, according to the latest state of the climate report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

August 2014 also was the hottest August worldwide in records dating back to 1880, the report adds, as the combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.35 degrees F above the 20th century average of 60.1 degrees F, breaking the previous record set in 1998.

Warmer-than-average temperatures abounded across most of the world’s land surfaces, except for parts of the eastern United States, western Europe and parts of Asia and Australia.

Both the U.S. and Russia had weather stations that reported record warm temperatures as well as at least one record cold temperature, the report adds, while the United Kingdom and Austria had their coolest Augusts since 1993 and 2006, respectively. In the U.K., the unusually cool August ended a streak of eight consecutive warmer-than-normal months.

There was no cooldown for the world’s oceans, however. NOAA reports that the average August temperature for the world’s oceans was 1.17 degrees F above the 20th century average, topping the previous record set in 2005.

NOAA notes that the oceans were “a major contributor to the global average” warmth in August, as the departure from average for the world’s oceans during the June-August period this year was also highest on record, at 1.13 degrees F above the 20th century average.

2-week rainfall totals

September 20th, 2014 at 9:25 am by under Weather

We’ve enjoyed a much wetter September than average thus far. In fact, parts of Austin have added up as much rain in the past 14 days as we typically would in 3-4 months!

Check out the following 2-week rainfall totals courtesy of the LCRA Hydromet — also available on here.

9-20 hillco


9-20 metro


9-20 east

NASA Mars spacecraft ready for orbit Sept. 21

September 19th, 2014 at 1:30 pm by under Weather

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is quickly approaching Mars on a mission to study its upper atmosphere. When it arrives on September 21, 2014, MAVEN’s winding journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).

Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 6:50 p.m. PDT (9:50 p.m. EDT).

“So far, so good with the performance of the spacecraft and payloads on the cruise to Mars,” said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion.”


Hurricane remnants bring flooding rain to Central Texas

September 19th, 2014 at 9:51 am by under Weather

For the past three days, the remnants of Hurricane Odile have sent periodic rounds of heavy rainfall into Central Texas.

Parts of our area have now seen more rainfall than anywhere in Arizona, New Mexico, or West Texas (areas more directly affected by the ex-hurricane’s circulation).

Check out the rainfall totals below from the past week (courtesy LCRA, also available sorted by which lake the water flows into here) to see if your neighborhood was one of the lucky ones:

9-19 Rain hill co

9-19 rain metro

9-19 rain east