The three-mile-long San Gabriel Reservoir, nestled in the mountains above Los Angeles, is running dry.
California saw significantly less rain and snow this year, and drought conditions this summer have left much of the state increasingly parched.
Across California, many reservoirs and lakes are experiencing a “bathtub ring” phenomena: Declining water levels expose white rings around the edges of these bodies of water – the result of calcium carbonate and other minerals attached to the rock. The more rings that are visible, the lower the water level.
Photographs of the San Gabriel Reservoir offer a hint at how severe the drought could get in Southern California.
In May, California Governor Gavin Newsom expanded the state’s emergency drought declaration to cover 41 counties, representing 30 percent of the state’s population. The governor’s office attributed the situation to especially hot temperatures brought on by climate change, as well as extremely dry mountaintop soil that absorbs water that would otherwise flow into the state’s water collection systems.
“Extraordinarily warm temperatures in April and early May separate this critically dry year from all others on California record,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
The giant reservoirs in Northern California – Folsom Lake, Lake Oroville, and Shasta – are also seeing low water levels after less snow and rain runoff came down from the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Most of Los Angeles’ water is pumped over the Tejon pass from northern California. The water from the San Gabriel reservoir, which holds more than 54 million cubic meters of water when full, mostly serves the San Gabriel Valley.
Significant rain and snow fall is not expected until November.
Ted Soqui is a photojournalist based in L.A. See more of his work here.
The amount of heat being trapped by Earth has roughly doubled since 2005, NASA warned.
Researchers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found in a new study released earlier this week that Earth’s “energy imbalance approximately doubled during the 14-year period from 2005 to 2019.”
The energy imbalance is how much heat the Earth absorbs from the sun, compared to how much “thermal infrared radiation” the Earth radiates back into space.
Norman Loeb, the study’s lead author and a NASA investigator, said: “The magnitude of the increase is unprecedented.”
Researchers pointed to human activity as one of the main catalysts.
The study said the greenhouse gases from human activity were trapping heat in the atmosphere that then melted snow and ice, which in turn put more water vapor into the atmosphere, thereby preventing radiation from escaping.
It also said that a “naturally occurring” shift in the Pacific Ocean from a cool phase to a warm one likely played a big part.
The researchers used a series of satellites and a network of ocean floats to reach their findings, and compared the data from each.
Loeb said: “The two very independent ways of looking at changes in Earth’s energy imbalance are in really, really good agreement, and they’re both showing this very large trend, which gives us a lot of confidence that what we’re seeing is a real phenomenon and not just an instrumental artifact.
“The trends we found were quite alarming in a sense.”
Narrator: What would you do if a fungus invaded your body, and started consuming you from the inside? It sounds like something out of a horror film, but that’s actually what happens to a certain type of baby moth.
The fungus eats its way through the helpless moth larvae and then sprouts out of their heads like a spring daisy. But this rare hybrid, the caterpillar fungus, isn’t just totally fascinating, it’s also expensive. Sometimes selling for more than 3 times its weight in gold!
Caterpillar fungus grows in the remote Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan Mountains but that’s not the only place you can find it. Here we are in New York City’s Chinatown. And nestled among countless drawers of dried mugwort leaves and hibiscus flowers,
There it is a small pile of 50 or so pieces of dried caterpillar fungus. Here, 1 gram of it costs about $30. But even that might be considered a good deal. Vendors on eBay, for example, list a gram for up to $125. The price is so high because this hybrid creature is incredibly rare.
It shows up for only a few weeks each year in remote regions of Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. And even then, the fungus can be tricky for collectors to find, hidden amidst a sea of grass. For centuries, it’s been a staple of traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine.
Kelly Hopping: “Traditionally, it was used as a general tonic, for immune support.”
For instance, a family might add half of this to a chicken soup. And it’s even rumored that it can be used as a sort of Himalayan viagra though there’s little evidence to back it up. People also buy the fungus as a gift or use it for bribes or as a status symbol. As a result, better looking pieces fetch a higher price.
Kelly Hopping: “It’s all dependent on exactly the color of the caterpillar fungus, even the shape of its body when it died, all of these things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with medicinal value make all the difference for the economic value.”
In 2017, for example, high quality pieces sold for as much as $140,000 per kg, or about $63,000 per pound. Now, caterpillar fungus has always been pricey. But experts say its value really skyrocketed in the 1990s and 2000s because of a growing Chinese economy, and the resulting increase in disposable income. Which ultimately, helped drive a massive boom in harvest.
In the Tibet Autonomous Region, for example, collectors reportedly hauled out more than three times as much caterpillar fungus in the early 2000s, than they did in the 1980s. And now, many families depend on the cash it brings in.
In fact, experts say that up to 80% of household income in the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas can come from selling caterpillar fungus. One district in Nepal reported collecting $4.7 million worth of caterpillar fungus in 2016. That’s 12% more than the district’s annual budget! But those profits are at risk.
Surveys indicate that annual harvests have recently declined.
Kelly Hopping: “The collectors themselves mostly attributed this to overharvesting, acknowledging that their own collection pressure was driving these declines.”
And it doesn’t help that it’s difficult to regulate the harvest.
Daniel Winkler: “All these different political units have different policy. In the end, it is really down to county level, how it’s implemented.”
Climate change is also causing problems. You see, the fungus is more abundant in areas with long, cold winters, which are increasingly hard to come by.
Daniel Winkler: “For the rural economy, if there’s a lot of loss, that would be devastating.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.
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Despite the influx of Office trivia night invites, nature is in fact not healing. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at its highest level in modern history and 50% higher than in preindustrial times, according to new findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
In fact, to find a time when Earth’s atmosphere had this much CO2 in it, you’d have to go back at least 4.1 million years ago to the Pliocene Epoch, when sea levels were almost 80 feet higher than today.
But what about the pandemic? Global emissions fell 7% last year due to travel restrictions and the general slowdown in human activity. However, as the new data reveals, that didn’t do much to change the long-term trajectory of carbon emissions.
That’s because every year, the world adds ~40 billion metric tons of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere. A brief commuting break can’t offset the CO2 that sticks around in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years.
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It’s been six years since the world’s governments adopted the Paris Agreement. But in many parts of the world, including my country of Indonesia, the coal industry rampages on, aided and abetted by banks from around the world.
As important as political action is on climate change, banks must end their financing of coal too. Through their lending and investing activities, many banks are funding companies opening new coal mines and building new coal power plants, despite the UN saying that all new coal projects should be cancelled immediately to meet climate goals. If financial institutions phased out funding for coal-dependent companies, the transition from polluting power to clean would be vastly accelerated.
But one major UK bank has escaped scrutiny for its poor coal policies: Standard Chartered.
Best known for sponsoring Liverpool FC, Standard Chartered is a major bank in Asia. It’s climate policy allows them to continue pumping billions into destructive coal companies, including in Indonesia.
Despite the bank’s internal analysis showing that Adaro’s business plans are in line with 5-6°C of global warming, it has decided to support Adaro anyway. Adaro is a major supplier of coal to Europe, Asia and America. It controls at least 31,380 hectares of land, an area bigger than Birmingham, producing 54 million tonnes of coal in 2020 alone.
Adaro estimates its coal reserves at 1.1 billion tonnes. Burning all of these reserves – as Adaro intends to do – would release 2.2 billion tonnes of CO2-e, almost the equivalent of the annual emissions of India. The company has no plans to produce any less coal. And yet, Standard Chartered continues to fund Adaro, whose business plan is consistent with the Paris Agreement failing.
Adaro coal mining operations tear down forests, degrading the land. Early this year, at least 24 people were killed, and more than 113,000 people were displaced due to a massive flood in South Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. The immense suffering from the floods has been linked to degraded land in the water catchment area. Adaro is one of the mining companies that operate its coal mines near the river catchment area.
So Standard Chartered isn’t just funding a perennial coal mining company. It’s funding a company building new dirty coal power plants. And yes, we’re talking about a UK bank in the year 2021.
Standard Chartered’s slogan, “Here For Good”, means nothing if it means continuing to provide hundreds of millions to a company ripping the heart out of communities in my country and making global climate change worse.
Binbin Mariana is an energy finance campaigner living in Indonesia, campaigning with environmental group Market Forces. A former banker, she believes that financial institutions must stop contributing to the climate crisis.
About 7.5 miles above our heads, the stratosphere begins.
That slice of sky – where supersonic jets and weather balloons fly – stretches up to 31 miles above Earth’s surface. But according to new research, this layer of the atmosphere has shrunk by a quarter-mile in the last 40 years.
A study published last week in the journal Environmental Research Letters shows that humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions are behind the startling contraction.
As carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels enters the lowest level of the atmosphere – known as the troposphere – it traps some of the sunlight that hits Earth as that light is being reflected back into space. That’s why the planet’s temperature is rising. The more emissions rise, the more heat from the sun stays trapped on Earth and the less it can warm the stratosphere as it travels spaceward. So the stratosphere is cooling.
As the stratosphere cools, it shrinks (as most materials do). Between the 1960s and mid-2010s, it cooled by up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). If global greenhouse-gas emissions continue at their current level or increase, that shrinkage is expected to continue.
The new study suggests that the stratosphere will get almost a mile thinner by 2080 – about a 4% decrease from its average thickness between 1980 and 2018.
That thinning could eventually mess with GPS navigational systems, radio communications, or the trajectories of orbiting satellites.
A contracting atmosphere
Imagine Earth’s atmosphere as a decadent, layered trifle cake.
The troposphere is closest layer to the planet, a 7.5-mile band where most of our weather happens, and where commercial airplanes fly. It meets the stratosphere above it at a boundary known as the tropopause.
On the stratosphere’s other side is the mesosphere, which extends 50 miles up; the boundary between those two layers is called the stratopause. Then comes the upper atmosphere, reaching 440 miles high. That includes the thermosphere, where satellites and the International Space Station orbit, and the ionosphere.
According to the new study, the boundaries on either side of the stratosphere – the tropopause and the stratopause – are getting to closer to each other, suggesting the stratosphere is being compressed. Since 1980, the altitude of the tropopause has been increasing, and the altitude of the stratopause has the been decreasing. Picture the filling of a whoopie pie gripped too tightly.
That trend, the researchers said, is expected to continue unless carbon emissions are sharply reduced. (Atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations hit a record high last year.)
“Carbon dioxide cools the stratosphere, and when the stratosphere cools, it actually shrinks the size of the atmosphere,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Canada’s National Observer in 2016.
If you’re in the mesosphere about 50 miles up, he added, “you actually are seeing the sky falling – it’s going down by a number of kilometers.”
Bad news for orbiting satellites?
Satellites orbit Earth above the stratosphere, but because any change in one layer of the atmosphere can spell trouble for the others, a contracting stratosphere could impact those satellites.
“If (and it is a big if) the shrinking stratosphere were to lower all the atmospheric layers above it, low-altitude satellites would experience reduced air resistance, which could modify their trajectories,” Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at Reading University in the UK who was not involved in the study, told The Times.
That modification could eventually wreak havoc on GPS satellites or other space-based navigation systems, according to the new study, perhaps making them less accurate.
High-frequency radio transmissions could also get screwed up, since this means of communication involves bouncing radio waves off charged particles in the ionosphere. That’s how airplane pilots talk to air traffic control towers in the northernmost regions of the planet where GPS doesn’t work, like the Arctic.
“Any change to the altitude of the electrically charged layer could alter the transmission of radio waves,” Williams said.
When Klaus Schwab thinks of climate change, he thinks of his grandchildren and their future. Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, is worried – but hopeful.
“Many people have a tendency to see our fight against climate change as a cost, as something that is negative,” Schwab said. “Yes, it may be to a certain extent, but it’s also a great opportunity.”
For the economic leader, tackling climate change means leadership innovation. Company executives, investors, consumers, and political leaders will have to find ways to work together to enact change, he said.
And that means new economic opportunities: new infrastructure projects such as the one Congress is debating, new developments in technologies such as carbon sequestration, and new products such as expanded options for electric cars.
Schwab credits a good portion of his philosophy on climate change to Bill Gates, who he said is a leader in the green movement.
“Gates talks about how, in order to decarbonize the world or to make it carbon-neutral by 2050, a lot of new technological progress has to be achieved,” Schwab said. “I see here a great opportunity because we can move into an age of green innovation.”
Signs of this age of green innovation have increased in the past year. ESG investments, or investments that apply environmental, social, and governance principles to a company’s performance, have seen record growth and are projected to increase in the future, reports showed.
US assets under management that used ESG criteria increased 42% over the past two years to $17 trillion in 2020, up from $12 trillion in 2018, showed a 2020 report from the US Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.
A growing number of companies have pledged large green initiatives. GM, America’s largest car manufacturer, said it would go carbon-neutral in its global products and operations by 2040. Apple committed to being 100% carbon-neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030.
Schwab is energized by these changes and believes the trend toward a more stakeholder-centric view of the world is ahead.
“I’m really excited,” he said, adding that society has changed over the past few years. “We have a new mindset. We have a new social consciousness.”
Insider spoke with Schwab about his new mindset and how leaders plan to embrace the ESG movement. Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.
There’s more and more recognition that a viable economy not only relies on treating people well but treating the climate well. Do you think CEOs have fully adopted this mindset that treating the climate well is good for shareholders?
So the executives who have a longer-term thinking have clearly adopted this mindset. And if you look, there are two reasons – they are very obvious. So there’s first an economic reason. I think what we have learned from the coronavirus is that prevention – the cost of prevention is much lesser compared to the cost of responding afterward to the damage. So we have a situation where you have a kind of free ride because you don’t have to integrate all your external costs into your business model, but someone will have to pay for it. And it will be down the road.
And my fear is that we may end up like tobacco companies, which means, we will be in a situation where, down the line, you will have class action. Already today, investors recognize this danger, this risk. There are investors who hesitate to provide capital to companies who really are damaging the environment.
But there’s also a moral reason. I’m thinking of my grandchildren. I don’t want to have them facing a crisis that may be much worse compared to what we are seeing today with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Do you believe that investors are recognizing the risk?
I said investors who are thinking long term. Of course, if you want to make a fast buck, it’s a different matter.
But in the end, I think companies will recognize they will be better off economically if they take care of nature, because young people – I mean, at least my employees – they don’t want to work anymore for a company or for an organization that is damaging nature.
And I think clients and customers do not want to buy the products of such a company. So I think it’s in the direct, commercial business interest of companies to take care of the planet.
Here in the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission just created an ESG task force to promote the disclosure and transparency of ESG criteria. And a report showed that over 300 ESG proxies are headed to a vote this spring. How do you feel about the surge and attention to ESG reporting?
I think it’s a great evolution. Some people would say even a revolution. But we should not forget that the ESG metrics – so measuring responsibility – are only part of a total integrated system.
It starts with defining your strategies, where you have to take into account the present and maybe even future expectations of your stakeholders. So it’s a strategy formulation. It’s the responsibility of the board. Then it is of course execution, not only inside the company itself but also in the supplying network. And at the end, you have some measurement system, the ESG metrics.
So we should not look at ESG metrics just as some kind of a formal, additional reporting system. I think to do ESG performance in the right way, you have to look at it as an ecosystem, which integrates a company as a whole.
There are those who are still against certain ESG metrics, for example, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently urged shareholders to reject proposals for more transparency of climate-related risks and diversity and inclusion efforts. What would you say to Buffett and others who reject more transparency?
I would like to have a discussion with him.
I would tell him: “Look, I can understand that on the level of Berkshire Hathaway, which is a kind of conglomerate, you will have difficulties measuring the ESG responsibility of each of your companies where you have a shareholding in. So, here, I would understand.”
But as far as his companies are concerned, where he has invested in, I would tell him: “Look, particularly because you are very heavily exposed to the insurance business, why don’t you engage actively into more ESG of responsibility? Because it may backfire on you one day, in your insurance business. You may be caught by not having an integrated policy where you pursue profitability but also take care of people and the planet.”
President Joe Biden is asking Congress to approve hundreds of billions of dollars to remake transit infrastructure in the US in a plan that the White House says will fight climate change. What do you think of this kind of package?
It’s not enough to hold only corporations responsible. I think we have a common responsibility, all stakeholders of global society, which means corporations have to absolve a lot of their responsibilities in this respect, but it’s also us individual consumers, and it’s the government.
And the government has to contribute to fighting climate change by creating the necessary incentives and also disincentives. I think there are still too many governments around the world that provide subsidies for activities that actually are damaging the climate. And I think we need the government to step in to build the necessary infrastructures.
What we need is an integrated approach. We cannot fight climate change by doing here a little bit, there a little bit. We need to have an integrated ecosystem approach. And I think here the government has a major role to play, to provide the kind of integrated vision for the future.
Going back to the corporate world for a minute: Doesn’t the case of Danone and the recent ousting of its CEO show that focusing on ESG metrics can lead to a nonconfidence vote of shareholders?
Yes, so we have the famous case of Danone. The CEO was ousted and the criticism was that he has been devoting his time and his attention much too much to the ESG dimension, and not necessarily giving sufficient attention to his shareholders. But I think that’s a wrong dichotomy.
We shouldn’t make an artificial polarization between profitability on the one hand and people and the planet on the other hand. I think the art of good management today is to create the right balance and not to be too much just keeping in mind stakeholders or shareholders. I’ll give you a practical example – if we compare Danone with Unilever.
Unilever is certainly recognized worldwide as a company that is at the forefront of ESG thinking, but at the same time the share price of Unilever has doubled more or less in the past 10 years. The share price of Danone has quite had some difficulties, especially over the past year. Shareholders are also stakeholders. Unilever is an example that you can give [attention] to your shareholders as well as your other stakeholders.
What company stands out to you as doing especially well when it comes to tackling climate change?
I’m looking at the hardest-hit companies, hardest in terms of those being confronted with a major need for transformation. Here – if I look at the oil industry – I take as an example Total, the French oil company. Total is one of the 70 companies that the World Economic Forum brought together to commit to report on the ESG metrics we have developed with the International Business Council, under the guidance of Bank of America’s CEO, Brian Moynihan, together with the Big Four audit companies.
If we’re talking about persons, I would say Bill Gates. I just read his newest book [“How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”]. I think he has a very great contribution to offer us. Because he says, “Look, we need a systemic approach to fight climate change. Even if we take all of our goodwill, it will not be enough. What we need is innovation.”
He talks about how in order to decarbonize the world or to make it carbon-neutral by 2050, a lot of new technological progress has to be achieved. Our present technology does not suffice to get to the target in 2050. So I see here a great opportunity because we can move into an age of green innovation.
Many people have a tendency to see our fight against climate change as a cost, as something that is negative. Yes, it may be to a certain extent, but it’s also a great opportunity.
If I look at the young generations – the World Economic Forum has a community of 10,000 young leaders – if I talk to them, they have a different mindset. They have a different picture of the world.
It’s not only the material dimension, income, or GDP. It’s well-being. And climate change is interconnected with pollution. It’s interconnected with life expectancy. It’s interconnected with a lot of health issues. So if we want to invest in our well-being, then we have to invest in fighting climate change.
Recently, a number of major corporations such as GM and Apple have made pledges to go carbon-neutral – GM by 2040, and Apple by 2030. Do you think these timelines are realistic? And are they fast enough?
We speak about a carbon-free world by 2050. That’s the objective of the Paris Agreement. Most countries have subscribed to this objective. And many, many companies have now also issued statements that they would achieve carbon neutrality.
Now, we have to be aware that the situation is not the same for each company. We have the energy companies – the Exxons, the Chevrons, and so on – that will have much more challenges to reach this objective of carbon neutrality in 2050, compared to Google, or even a car manufacturer that understands the technology to make this transformation to the electric car.
So it’s good if companies that have fewer challenges, such as the high-tech companies, provide an example by setting very ambitious objectives. But again, I come back to this: Setting objectives is not enough. Being measured in the execution is important, and here the ESGs come in again.
Do you think the energy-sector companies such as Chevron and Exxon have fully bought into the stakeholder-capitalism model? Have they bought into addressing climate change?
I would answer that in the following way: If they haven’t bought in yet, into the stakeholder concept, they are on the wrong side of history, because I’m deeply convinced that we are now really at an inflection point where society as a whole does not tolerate any more companies that are damaging nature or that are not upholding diversity and social justice.
I think we have a completely new social consciousness. We now also have a world where every deficiency can be reported very fast, and that can create a negative reaction. So if I were Exxon or a company that’s really challenged – we should not forget, these companies need a complete transformation of their business models – I would commit to the stakeholder concept, but would also try to create understanding in the public. For me, being in the energy sector, it may be much more difficult compared to a company that’s already producing products that do not necessarily damage the environment. So it’s a communications effort.
How are you feeling about the corporate fight to tackle climate change? What, if anything, are you excited about?
I’m really excited because, as I just mentioned, we have a new mindset. We have a new social consciousness. People like Greta Thunberg got very aware that something is wrong here in our lifestyles – that either we will have to suffer down the road or our children will have to suffer.
So we are now in a situation where climate change, or the attention given to climate change, provides a higher sensitivity for other deficiencies that we have.
I mentioned already a lack of inclusion, a lack of social justice, a system that is not necessarily fair in providing everybody with the necessary opportunities. And I think the pandemic has contributed to this new alertness, to this new sensitivity. Some people may say this is inconvenient because we pinpoint weaknesses in our society, but it’s a wake-up call to adapt and to make sure that we have better lives. That’s what we’re fighting for.
Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf is replete with giant cracks.
Scientists have been keeping tabs on the capricious ice for years, and the event they’d been watching out for finally happened on Friday: An iceberg more than 490 square miles (1,270 square kilometers) in size splintered off the shelf. It’s about the size of Los Angeles, and more than 20 times the size of Manhattan.
The Brunt Ice Shelf is located on Antarctica’s northern rim, some 3,000 miles from the southernmost tip of South America. It has all the key ingredients for a massive calving event – the term for when a chunk of ice breaks off and floats out to sea. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), had warned since November that the event was “imminent,” since a crack called the North Rift had opened up on the shelf.
In January, the rift started lengthening by more than half a mile per day. The video below shows the crack from the air.
Early on Friday, the last 1,000 or so feet (a few hundred meters) of the crack tore through the ice, and the ‘berg cracked free.
Converging cracks in the ice
The North Rift is the third major crack to develop on the Brunt Ice Shelf since 2011, according to the BAS, which keeps tabs on the region’s ice using satellite imagery.
But this one wasn’t the crack that had researchers concerned. Two other cracks have been accelerating toward each other since 2019, known as the “Halloween crack” and “Chasm 1.” If those meet, an even bigger iceberg will slough off into the ocean.
“It seemed as though one of these would eventually lead to a calving event,” Adrian Luckman, a glaciologist at Swansea University in Wales, told Insider. “The development of a new ‘North Rift’ towards the end of 2020 was a bit of a surprise but shows how complex the dynamics of ice shelves can be.”
NASA started tracking the Halloween crack in October 2016 (hence its name). It’s growing eastward from an area called McDonald Ice Rumples – a spot on the shelf’s surface where the ice isn’t flat and instead features crevasses and rifts.
The “Chasm 1” crack is located southeast of the McDonald Ice Rumples and started showing signs of movement in 2012. It started accelerating north in 2019, putting it on a collision course with the Halloween crack. The two are now just 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) apart.
When they converge, a piece of ice about 660 square miles in size could break off the ice shelf.
According to the BAS, neither Chasm 1 nor the Halloween Crack have grown in the last 18 months. But Luckman, who’s been tracking the Brunt Ice Shelf cracks over the past few weeks using satellite imagery, thinks that quiet period is at an end.
“Chasm 1 will certainly give rise to a further large calving event and I anticipate that this will happen in weeks to months,” he said.
The changing ice forced British researchers inland
This isn’t the first time Antarctica has lost a giant iceberg, and it didn’t set any records for size. In 2017, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off the continent’s Larsen C Ice Shelf.
“It is entirely natural for sections to calve away from ice shelves. As ice flows off the land, the ice shelf grows and eventually reaches a size which is unstable,” Luckman said. “Some calving events are small and go unnoticed, but every few years, a large one such as this happens.”
It’s difficult for scientists to determine how and why certain cracks in the Antarctic ice suddenly begin to grow, and there’s “no evidence that climate change has played a significant role,” the BAS said in a press release.
The instability of the ice has already impacted BAS researchers working at the Halley Research Station, where scientists study space weather and Earth’s atmosphere. In 2017, the expansion of Chasm 1 forced scientists to prematurely end the winter research season at Halley and close the station early.
Since the station’s inception in 1956, there have been six Halleys. The station’s current iteration, Halley VIa, moved 14 miles upstream from its original location, which had been to the west of Chasm 1, on the crack’s inland side.
“Four years ago, we moved Halley Research Station inland to ensure that it would not be carried away when an iceberg eventually formed. That was a wise decision,” Simon Garrod, director of operations at BAS, said in the release. “Our job now is to keep a close eye on the situation and assess any potential impact of the present calving on the remaining ice shelf.”
Luckman said he doesn’t think future calving events will pose a threat to the research station.
“Halley VI is on a stable part of the ice shelf,” he said. “But as we have seen, the future behaviour of fracturing ice is very hard to predict.”
Texas residents who endured days without power during last week’s winter storms are facing a new obstacle: Electricity bills over $5,000 for just a few days of energy.
Some customers of state-owned electric grid are seeing the eye-popping, five-figure power bills because their plans are tied to the wholesale market rate. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, residents have been hit with $1,000 per day charges for electricity, The Dallas Morning News reported. Residents have taken to social media to show $5,000 bills – or more – over a period of about five days.
CPS Energy, the electric utility in San Antonio, said some consumers can expect “exorbitant” bills in the coming weeks, KSAT reported. The utility might try to minimize the hit by spreading the charges over a period of up to 10 years, the news station said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott met with local lawmakers Saturday to address the latest crisis. “We are moving quickly to alleviate this problem and will continue to work collaboratively throughout this week on solutions to help Texas families and ensure they do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills,” Abbott said in a statement.
Spiking bills won’t hit state residents who had fixed-rate electric plans. The problem for many comes from index or variable rate plans, in which rates to power their home or business change with the price in the wholesale market. In good times, a customer’s bill can be lower – but if the price of electricity skyrockets, so too do bills.
Last Monday, as freezing weather rolled through Texas and the southeastern US, the wholesale price of electricity shot up 10,000%. It went from about $50 per megawatt hour to $9,000 – a system cap, according to data provided by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid’s operator.
The price increase came as sources of electricity, like natural-gas plants, went offline in the freezing temperatures. Meantime, the unusually cold weather for a mostly temperate state meant demand for energy went up, as people turned up their heaters to stay warm.
ERCOT responded with rolling blackouts, it said, so as not to further damage the grid. The blackout, which affected a few million residents at its peak, is among the largest in US history.
ERCOT did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about the wholesale electricity price and reports of spiking consumer bills.
It’s unclear how many Texas residents have variable or index-rate electric plans. Texans are allowed to shop for their power plans in its deregulated retail electricity market.
Griddy, one of the state’s electric companies, provides access to wholesale electricity for a monthly membership. Last week, it urged its nearly 30,000 customers to switch energy providers if they couldn’t afford the soaring rates, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Some state lawmakers think some residents might not understand how their electricity is billed.
On Sunday, power had been restored across much of Texas, though many people remain without water after pipes froze and burst. Damages from the storm, which left dozens dead, is expected to approach $50 billion, AccuWeather predicted.
Abbott has called the blackout event “unacceptable” and said he would add the reform of ERCOT as an emergency item for the 2021 legislative session.