Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How Plane Fuel Kills 8,000 People a Year


"As if airlines needed any more reason to reduce fleet emissions, MIT reports this week that pollution from airplanes flying at cruise altitude (approximately 35,000 feet) cause 8,000 deaths globally each year.

Current emissions regulations only target planes flying up to 3,000 feet. In the past, regulators assumed that emissions above the 3,000 foot mark would be dumped into a part of the atmosphere with smooth air that couldn't send pollutants drifting toward the ground (the air is more turbulent at lower altitudes). But MIT has found that that's not true--and unfortunately for those of us on the ground, 90% of aircraft fuel is burned at cruise altitudes."

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gulf May Avoid Direst Predictions After Oil Spill

From the New York Times...

"Marsh grasses matted by oil are still a common sight on the gulf coast here, but so are green shoots springing up beneath them.

In nearby bird colonies, carcasses are still being discovered, but they number in the thousands, not the tens of thousands that have died in other oil spills.

And at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the zone of severely oxygen-depleted water that forms every summer has reappeared, but its size does not seem to have been affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

How much damage resulted from almost five million barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico is still being toted up in laboratories and government offices. It will be some time before the government releases its formal assessment of the effects — one that will define the scope of environmental restoration required by BP, Deepwater Horizon’s operator, and other companies."

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Dallas' Building Codes Not Up To EF-2 Tornadoes


"Most Dallas buildings could not withstand a direct hit by a tornado packing 115 mile per hour winds.

We checked the city's building codes, and they don't require construction to that degree. The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit Mockingbird Lane Wednesday had 115 MPH winds.

In April 1957, a tornado headed for Downtown Dallas carved a path killing 10 people and destroying hundreds of buildings. Larry Holmes was just a kid, but he says Wednesday's tornado was a eerie reminder of the one he saw more than 50 years ago.

"As I watched this tornado, those thoughts were going through my mind," Holmes said. "Was this going to turn into that bad and that massive of a tornado?"

Today Holmes works for the City of Dallas Building Inspection Department and helps enforce codes that should prevent this damage. In recent years, the City has beefed up wind speed requirements by adopting the International Building Code which requires that all buildings constructed from Dallas to the Canadian Border can sustain 90 mile per hour winds."

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cambodia Spurs Development With Tallest Building in Asia


"Cambodia, despite, being one of the poorest nations in the world, has announced plans to build the tallest building in Asia, a 1,820-foot skyscraper in its capital, Phnom Penh. Some may applaud the idea as a step toward development, but for others the announcement is radically unnecessary, given the country's vast poverty and struggling socio-economic indicators. Wouldn't the $200 million dollars be better spent elsewhere? [...]

There is a precedent for building in uncertain times, such as the Empire State Building's construction during the Depression, but "economic development does not mean having the biggest companies or tallest buildings. It is worrying to see Cambodia take a Dubai approach to plant a foot on the world map," says Sinclair. But it seems Cambodia wants Siam Reap to be the next New York City and is willing to risk the well-being of millions of its citizens to reach that goal via a vision for Asia's tallest building."

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

As East Coast Braces For Hurricane Earl, NASA Watches From Above

From Popular Science...

"East Coast residents are bracing for this monster, headed their way with 125-mph winds, as a fleet of NASA satellites and airplanes monitors its evolution.

As of Wednesday morning, Hurricane Earl was a Category 3 storm, but an especially large one. Storm-force winds extend 200 miles from its eye, seen above in a photo snapped from the International Space Station.

NASA scientists are flying airplanes into this swirling mass, measuring the hurricane’s wind speeds, precipitation and more. As part of NASA's GRIP program — Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes — a NASA DC-8 flew through Earl's eye six times as the hurricane intensified from a Category 2 to a Category 4 storm."

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