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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    Shark week

    Until now, even the most highly-skilled wildlife cameraman have been unable to capture a Great White shark leaping straight out of the water from a bird's-eye view.  

    A mission to get the "impossible shot" was documented in Discovery Channel's Shark Week series. We've pulled out the highlights.  

    To get the "impossible shot," Shark Week veteran Andy Casagrande and his team headed to Gansbaii, South Africa, known for its dense population of Great Whites.

    Watch video clips here > 

    The objective: To get a never-before-seen view of a Great White leaping vertically out of the water in what is called a "Polaris Attack."

    Watch video clips here > 

    The first overhead view of a Polaris breach was captured by the Shark Week film crew in 2001. But researchers have been chasing after one particular angle for more than a decade.

    Watch video clips here > 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Moon Wind Turbine Green Energy Industrial Production

    Today, Aug 14, the Energy Department and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a new report on America's wind energy market in 2011.

    The report shows that the US is a leading producer of wind energy, and shows the strong growth of the industry.

    The findings of the report underscore the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that the U.S. remains a leading producer and manufacturer in this booming global industry.

    US is #2.

    In the United States, domestic clean energy production and manufacturing competitiveness work hand-in-hand. The report finds total U.S. wind power capacity grew to 47,000 megawatts by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 megawatts, enough to power 12 million homes annually — as many homes as in the entire state of California.

    Wind is on the rise.

    And as wind energy capacity has grown, more and more wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears, and generators are "Made in America." Nearly 70 percent of all of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year came from domestic manufacturers, doubling from 35 percent in 2005.

    Innovative industry.

    Technological innovations are helping make longer and lighter wind turbine blades, while improving turbine performance and increasing the efficiency of power generation. At the same time, wind project capital and maintenance costs have continued to decline.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    In 2006, Alexander Drummond and Jonathan Cedar met in New York City and quickly realized they shared a love for sustainable energy and design.

    Frustrated that every camping stove required batteries or petroleum, Drummond and Cedar founded the BioLite company and set out to create a wood-burning stove that runs on clean energy without a lot of smoke. This stove would have a ton of practical use in the developing world.

    An estimated three billion people in third world countries use wooden cooking stoves. These smoky stoves cause 1.5 million deaths from smoke inhalation every year, killing more people than malaria.

    Drummond and Cedar went to the Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon to create the original prototype for a thermoelectric chip which uses wasted heat to create electricity. The energy from that chip powers a fan to reduce the smoke, which increases the efficiency of the fire and reduces the toxins in the air that are created with traditional wood burning fires.  

    "We set out to test how one would make the thermoelectric chargers," says Aprovecho's executive director Dean Still. 

    Still leads a team that helps 10 to 30 different manufacturers a year to make better stoves and said the BioLite stove was "very clean." After years of trial and error with prototypes, the BioLite CampStove was born, which later gave way to the HomeStove when the company realized the global impact and sent it out to the third world.

    BioLite conducted tests in India and Africa and will further test the HomeStove in the developing world on a larger scale over the coming months, according to BioLite spokeswoman Erica Rosen.

    The stove reduces smoke in the air by 94 percent, carbon dioxide by 91 percent and fuel consumption by half, according to BioLite. Families no longer have to look for as much fuel to power their stoves, saving hours of work a week.

    If that wasn't enough, the extra electricity the chip collects isn't wasted. A USB port on the stove can charge electronics such as phones and other devices, crucial for the 1.3 billion people who lack electricity, according to BioLite data.

    Boston company Rose Park Advisors was among the companies that invested in BioLite, they did so a year ago, and they've been "thrilled" with their progress, according to lead advisor Matthew Christensen. "It's really a pleasure to work with them."

    Christensen called the HomeStove "an energy solution for the developing world." It gives energy to those who don't have enough, or any, of it, he said. And he mentioned that not only are there the health benefits from the decreased smoke and carbon dioxide inhalation, but also an incredible savings on charging electric products.

    "Some people spend $1 a week to just charge their phones," Christensen said.

    For those without electricity and for those who want a clean and more efficient way to cook, Drummond and Cedar's innovative invention can become an invaluable tool.

    See how the HomeStove works > 

    See our list of Game Changers: 30 Innovations That Will Change The World  > 

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    Three billion people worldwide cook on open fires contributing to more than 1.5 million premature deaths each year from smoke inhalation. The low-cost, cleaner cooking stove by BioLite provides a simple solution and doubles as a charging station for cell phones and LED lights.  

    The HomeStove uses a chip called a thermoelectric generator that converts heat to electricity, which in turn powers an internal fan that oxygenates the fire for secondary combustion. That fan creates the smokeless fire to generate electricity from the heat of the fire. This electricity is used to cool down the fire and to power a USB enabled charging device, called the Power Module, so electronic devices can also be charged.

    The cooking utensil goes on top of the metal stove, while the thermoelectric generator is found in the orange contraption that also contains the USB charger.

    No batteries or fuel is required to power the stove, just some spare wood, branches or leaves and a lighter.

    The fire lights at the bottom of the stove. The stove uses 50 percent less fuel than traditional stoves, saving people many hours each week collecting fuel.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Water Recycling Shower Graphic

    Most people love taking a long, hot, steamy shower on a cold day. But it comes at a cost to the environment and your wallet. 

    A person taking a 10-minute shower uses anywhere from 20 to 50 gallons of water, at the use of 2 to 5 gallons per minute

    Australian engineering firm CINTEP has developed a product that cuts that number by more than half. The Water Recycling Shower looks and feels like an ordinary shower, but is able to slash water consumption by 70 percent. It does this by automatically cleaning, filtering and pasteurizing used water. The shower then recirculates and reuses 70 percent of that clean water.

    Peter Brewin, a British engineer, invented the environmentally-friendly shower in 2004 while he was an industrial-design student at the Royal College of Art in London. The shower functions somewhat like a small-scale water treatment plant in that it continuously captures, cleans, and recirculates 70 percent of the water used during a shower. Pasteurization—the same method used for heating and purifying milk—because it's the fastest and most environmentally-friendly way to clean and recirculate the water.

    "The main benefits [of pasteurization] are that it requires no chemicals and can be very rapid," Brewin said. "Because in a recirculating shower you are starting with warm water and you have to heat it anyway it was possible to use a heat exchanger to heat the water to a high enough temperature to achieve pasteurization without a significant additional energy input."

    Nick Christy, the CEO and co-founder of CINTEP with Brewin, explained the step-by-step process of how this shower works.

    How It WorksWater Recycling Shower Schematic

    1. Water is pumped from the mains (cold water only, no hot feed necessary), and a non-return valve prevents back flow into the mains.
    2. The mains water is then pumped to the mixer, which will adjust the relative cold and hot flows until the mixed flow is at the requested temperature.
    3. The water passes through a mesh filter and is pumped from the shower tray to the hydrocyclone.
    4. The hydrocyclone removes heavier than water particles from the water and splits the flow so that 30% leaves through the underflow carrying the majority of un-dissolved solids to the drains. The balance of 70%, which is now clean, exits through the top of the hydrocyclone.
    5. The clean water is then carried to the carbon filter where it becomes visually clean and chlorine is removed. This filter will require replacement every 6 months.
    6. The water is now visually clear and enters a heat exchanger with an efficiency of 90%. The heat exchanger raises the temperature of the water in the inflow to the heater, reducing the energy input required to reach pasteurisation and increasing the efficiency of the shower.
    7. The water then enters an electric heater where the temperature rises above 72 degrees Celsius/162 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. This pasteurizes the water (the same treatment that makes milk safe to drink) and is sufficient to kill almost all biological pathogens.
    8. After leaving the heater, the water re-enters the heat exchanger where some of its heat is transferred to the water entering the heater, reducing the temperature of the water in the outflow, which reduces the amount of cold water required to reduce the outflow water temperature for use in the showerhead. The presence of the heat exchanger therefore increases both the energy and water efficiency of the shower.
    9. The water then enters the mixer where it is mixed with cold water (approximately 30% of the re-circulated volume) from the mains supply to reduce its temperature to the requested temperature and to replace the volume lost at step 4 from the underflow of the hydrocyclone.
    10. After passing through the mixer, the water passes to the showerhead.

    Conserving Water & Energy

    The shower recycles 70 percent of the water it uses. That means that for each liter input to the shower system, it will output 3.3 liters at the showerhead.

    Christy explained that when the shower starts, it fills with three liters (.80 gallons) of clean unfiltered water. It then heats and filters that water before you even step foot in the shower, meaning that you won't have to waste any time waiting for the water to get hot. The shower will then continually re-use 70 percent of that water. At the end of the shower, it will drain completely before it can restart, meaning that you will never use dirty shower water.

    Water Recycling Shower Bathroom

    But the shower doesn't just conserve water. It saves energy too. It uses about 40 to 70 percent less power than a traditional shower because the system doesn’t have to heat as much water.

    "Water has a very high specific heat capacity which means that a huge amount of energy is required to heat cold water for a shower so the energy saving is a very considerable environmental and cost benefit," Brewin said.

    Christy claimed that each person who uses the Water Recycling Shower would take up about about 5,000 to 10,000 fewer gallons of water per year. That means that over the course of a year, a typical household (with a family of four) would save about 20,000 to 40,000 gallons of water.

    Popular Science calculated that this would mean that a local water treatment plant would save upwards of 200 kilowatt-hours of energy per household per year.

    The shower is currently in the testing phase, but Christy said that he expects the shower to be available for sale in early 2013. CINTEP has not yet set a price for the shower, but Christy claimed that "the shower will pay for itself in 3 to 4 years at current utility prices."

    Meet Peter Brewin, the Inventor of the Water Recycling Shower >

    See our list of Game Changers: 30 Innovations That Will Change The World >

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    Around 110 million years ago, a large, spiky dinosaur roamed the same earth as some of the nation's best space scientists.

    On Aug. 17, dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford found the back footprint of a nodosaur on NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center campus in Greenbelt, Maryland, The Washington Post's Brian Vastag first reported.  

    See more photos from the discovery > 

    The nodosaur lived during the the Cretaceous Period, which ran between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago. The leaf-eating beast was characterized by an armored body.

    The imprint is about one-foot across and may have been made as the dinosaur was running because it's not fully pressed into the ground.  

    Other nodosaur tracks have been found in the Western United States and British Colombia in Canada, but it's rare to find a footprint in Maryland, according to Stanford.  

    Johns Hopkins University dinosaur expert David Weishampel confirmed that the footprint is real, according to NASA

    The space agency is now in discussions with Maryland officials to devise the best of course of action for documenting and preserving the print. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Arctic sea ice is set to reach its lowest ever recorded extent as early as this weekend, in "dramatic changes" signalling that man-made global warming is having a major impact on the polar region.

    With the melt happening at an unprecedented rate of more than 100,000 sq km a day, and at least a week of further melt expected before ice begins to reform ahead of the northern winter, satellites are expected to confirm the record – currently set in 2007 – within days.

    "Unless something really unusual happens we will see the record broken in the next few days. It might happen this weekend, almost certainly next week," Julienne Stroeve, a scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, told the Guardian.

    "In the last few days it has been losing 100,000 sq km a day, a record in itself for August. A storm has spread the ice pack out, opening up water, bringing up warmer water. Things are definitely changing quickly."

    Because ice thickness, volume, extent and area are all measured differently, it may be a week before there is unanimous agreement among the world's cryologists (ice experts) that 2012 is a record year. Four out of the nine daily sea ice extent and area graphs kept by scientists in the US, Europe and Asia suggest that records have already been broken. "The whole energy balance of the Arctic is changing. There's more heat up there. There's been a change of climate and we are losing more seasonal ice. The rate of ice loss is faster than the models can capture [but] we can expect the Arctic to be ice-free in summer by 2050," said Stroeve.

    "Only 15 years ago I didn't expect to see such dramatic changes – no one did. The ice-free season is far longer now. Twenty years ago it was about a month. Now it's three months. Temperatures last week in the Arctic were 14C, which is pretty warm."

    Scientists at the Danish Meteorological Institute, the Arctic Regional Ocean Observing System in Norway and others in Japan have said the ice is very close to its minimum recorded in 2007. The University of Bremen, whose data does not take into account ice along a 30km coastal zone, says it sees ice extent below the all-time record low of 4.33m sq km recorded in September 2007.

    Ice volume in the Arctic has declined dramatically over the past decade. The 2011 minimum was more than 50% below that of 2005. According to the Polar Science Centre at the University of Washington it now stands at around 5,770 cubic kilometres, compared with 12,433 cu km during the 2000s and 6,494 cu km in 2011. The ice volume for 31 July 2012 was roughly 10% below the value for the same day in 2011. A new study by UK scientists suggests that 900 cu km of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year.

    The consequences of losing the Arctic's ice coverage for the summer months are expected to be immense. If the white sea ice no longer reflects sunlight back into space, the region can be expected to heat up even more than at present. This could lead to an increase in ocean temperatures with unknown effects on weather systems in northern latitudes.

    In a statement, a Greenpeace spokesman said: "The disappearing Arctic still serves as a stark warning to us all. Data shows us that the frozen north is teetering on the brink. The level of ice 'has remained far below average' and appears to be getting thinner, leaving it more vulnerable to future melting. The consequences of further rapid ice loss at the top of the world are of profound importance to the whole planet. This is not a warning we can afford to ignore."

    Longer ice-free summers are expected to open up the Arctic ocean to oil and mining as well as to more trade. This year at least 20 vessels are expected to travel north of Russia between northern Europe and the Bering straits. Last week a Chinese icebreaker made the first voyage in the opposite direction.

    "Every one of the 56,000 Inuits in Greenland have had to adapt to the retreat of the ice," said Carl-Christian Olsen, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Nuuk, Greenland. "The permafrost is melting and this is jeopardising roads and buildings. The coastline is changing, there is more erosion and storms, and there are fewer mammals like polar bears. It means there can be more mining, which is good for the economy, but it will have unpredictable effects on social change".

    Research published in Nature today said that warming in the Antarctic, where temperatures have risen about 1.5C over the past 50 years, is "unusual" but not unprecedented relative to natural variation. The research by Robert Mulvaney of the British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, based on an ice-core record, showed that the warming of the north-eastern Antarctic peninsula began about 600 years ago. Temperature increases were said to be within the bounds of natural climate variability.

    The difference between the rate of warming at the two poles is attributed to geographical differences. "Antarctica is a continent surrounded by water, while the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land. Wind and ocean currents around Antarctica isolate the continent from global weather patterns, keeping it cold. In contrast, the Arctic Ocean is intimately linked with the climate systems around it, making it more sensitive to changes in climate," said a spokesman for the NSIDC.

    • This article was amended on 24 August 2012 to restore to the start of the penultimate paragraph the words "Research published in Nature today", which had been lost in the editing process.

    This article originally appeared on

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    Army remains

    More than 2,000 years ago, thousands of soldiers were slaughtered as part of a bizarre sacrificial ritual, then chucked in the small basin of a lake. 

    Today, that basin is a bog in northeastern Denmark called Alken Enge. In April, researchers from Skanderborg Museum and Aarhus University unearthed the skeletal remains of more than 200 warriors there.

    See the skeletal remains >

    But after a recently completed summer dig, archaeologists believe the fragments of more than 1,000 individuals could be scattered across the 99-acre site, Irene Berg Sørensen of ScienceNordic reports. 

    "Finds of damaged human bones along with axes, spears, clubs and shields confirm that the bog at Alken Enge was the site of violent conflict," according to a statement from Aarhus University

    Alken Enge first caught the attention of researchers when human remains were discovered there in the 1950s. The bog was regularly used as a place of sacrifice during the Iron Age, according to Skanderborg Museum.  

    A mass grave at Alken reveals fractured skulls and hacked bones

    Source: ScienceNordic 

    A summer excavation found many more human bones than expected, excavation Field Director Ejvinf Hertz told ScienceNordic

    Source: ScienceNordic 

    The hole in this skull is believed to have been caused by a spear or arrow

    Source: ScienceNordic 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea

    Arctic sea ice, the white cap that covers the watery northern edge of the planet, has melted back to a record low level.

    However, the ice is unlikely to stop shrinking. Arctic sea melts through the summer usually reaching its annual minimum in September.

    On Sunday (Aug. 26), Arctic sea-ice extent fell to 1.58 million square miles (4.10 million square kilometers), surpassing the previous low, set on Sept. 18, 2007, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reports. Sea-ice extent refers to the area of ocean covered at least 15 percent by sea ice, according to the NSIDC.

    The record low, set in 2007, stood at 1.61 square miles (4.17 square kilometers).

    But this year's melt is unlikely to stop soon. The melt season still has another two or three weeks to go. [10 Things to Know about Sea Ice]

    Continuous satellite records of sea-ice extent began in 1979. But in recent years, satellite data have shown a shift in the fluctuating ice cover. For example, including this year, the six lowest ice extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last six years, the NSIDC reports.

    arctic sea ice chart

    Scientists attribute the shift to a combination of natural forces, for example, a storm in early August coincided with an acceleration of melt that occurred at the same time. However, over time, the effects of winds, clouds and other natural conditions should, in theory, balance themselves out. It is the emission of greenhouse gases that alters the long-term trend by warming the planet, Walt Meier, a research scientist at NSIDC told LiveScience last year

    This year's melt rate was much faster than the normal rate for this time of year, the NSIDC reported today (Aug. 27).

    Sea ice matters to the animals, such as polar bears and walruses, that depend on it for habitat, and scientists worry the loss of ice could have serious consequences for them.

    Arctic Sea Ice, 2007 and 2012

    Sea ice also affects weather and global climate, because it reflects most of the sun's energy back out to space. If sea ice melts, the dark water beneath it absorbs most of the energy, which in turn enters the natural system. In this way, scientists believe the melting of sea ice will aggravate global warming.

    Follow Wynne Parry on Twitter @Wynne_Parry or LiveScience @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

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    Roert Scott

    A little over 100 years ago, Robert Scott led a privately funded British expedition to travel the Arctic to become the first people to successfully reach the South Pole.

    Scott, who had previously been a senior member on another Arctic expedition, was chosen to lead a group of 65 men who used the Terra Nova supply ship to guide them on the initial portion of the journey. Because of the name of the ship, Scott's mission has been historically referred to as the Terra Nova Expedition.

    Scott was not the only group looking to be the first to reach the South Pole. A Norwegian group with Roald Amundsen at the helm was traveling on the other side of the Arctic down to the South Pole at the same time.

    Scott's crew successfully reached the South Pole on January 12, 1912, but were ultimately beaten by Amundsen's crew by over a month. Supplies were low for the trip back north and temperatures were beyond frigid. Scott and his crew did not make it and a search party found Scott's frozen body in November 1912.

    The Terra Nova remained in service until 1943, when it sank off the coast of Greenland. That legendary ship was recently discovered and its wreckage was filmed by the Schmidt Ocean Institute last month.

    Here we chronicle Scott's fateful journey.

    Robert Scott, the veteran of a previous Antarctic expedition, was tabbed by private investors to lead a journey to be the first group to successfully reach the South Pole.

    Scott and his carefully selected 65 member crew used a supply ship called the SS Terra Nova and carried an incredibly large amount of supplies.

    Even ponies were brought along to ensure that Scott and his crew would be the first people to ever reach the South Pole.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    time-lapse video of images taken by NOAA's Goes-13 satellite between Aug. 25 and Aug. 27 show Tropical Storm Isaac moving past Cuba and the Florida keys into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

    Forecasters expect the storm to hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of about 100 mph early Wednesday — on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 

    President Obama declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on Monday and federal support teams have been deployed to the area.  

    Meanwhile, the death toll has jumped to 19 in Haiti and 5 in the Dominican Republic after the tropical storm battered the region with heavy rainfall late last week, resulting in floods and mudslides.  

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    Tropical Storm Isaac was officially declared a hurricane Tuesday morning, reaching wind speeds of 75 mph. Americans are taking serious precautions as the storm closes in on the Gulf Coast, one day before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

    The big, slow-moving storm is more than 350 miles wide. It's expected to wreak havoc on the South, including New Orleans. 

    We found these photos posted to Twitter in cities like New Orleans, Orlando and Biloxi, Mississippi. They show the beginnings of dark storm clouds and flooding. Some also show how Americans are preparing for the storm. 

    Even Olympian Lolo Jones went to the store to hunt for supplies and found the aisles pretty much empty. 

    A boarded pharmacy on Canal Street in New Orleans.

    A view of the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

    A wall built to protect New Orleans from storm surge.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Hurricane Isaac

    As Hurricane Isaac bears down on the city of New Orleans, gaining strength as it churns across the warm, energizing Gulf of Mexico, it conjures memories of another storm that spiraled in its place almost exactly seven years ago: Hurricane Katrina.

    With Katrina, we know how the story ended: in devastation, heartbreak and enormous loss of life and property. With Hurricane Isaac, the story has only begun. There are eerie similarities between the storms — their paths, their threat to New Orleans and the time of year — but there are plenty of important ways that Isaac differs from Katrina.

    A side-by-side comparison of these hurricanes, and the Gulf Coast's readiness for each of them, can yield insight into how Isaac's story might play out.

    Birth date and place

    Isaac: Isaac churned to life over ocean waters east of Puerto Rico. The National Hurricane Center named the storm on Aug. 21, making it the ninth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. A storm is named only after it becomes a tropical storm — defined as an organized, rotating storm with maximum sustained winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph).

    A tropical storm becomes a hurricane once its top winds hit at least 74 mph (119 kph). Isaac passed that mark midday today (Aug. 28), becoming the fourth hurricane of 2012.

    Katrina: Katrina gained strength much more rapidly than Isaac. The storm was named Aug. 24, 2005, when it was a tropical storm about 65 miles (105 km) east-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas. Katrina became the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season when it was upgraded the very next day.

    Storm path

    Isaac: Almost from the moment it formed, Isaac has chugged toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, aiming for New Orleans. It veered slightly left early on to sweep over Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, but then made a straight shot northwest across the Gulf of Mexico, drenching Florida en route. Isaac's path is projected to take it to a landfall along the southeast coast of Louisiana. It is then projected to move inland over Arkansas and Missouri and then possibly over the northern Midwest.

    Katrina: Katrina took a more curvaceous path. The hurricane made landfall in southeast Florida on Aug. 25, then peeled westward through the Gulf of Mexico. It gained strength for a few days from the warm waters, then arced north to the coast.

    Katrina made its Gulf landfall on the morning of Aug. 29 near Buras, La., about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of New Orleans. The storm kept weakening as it moved north, finally dying out around the Great Lakes region Aug. 31. [In Photos: Gulf Coast Damage from Hurricane Katrina]


    Isaac: Isaac is bigger than most storms, measuring more than 400 miles (644 km) wide as of Aug. 27. (Typical hurricanes measure 300 miles, or 483 km, across.) Isaac's extra girth will mean more rainfall when it bears down on the coast, as well as a strong storm surge, or rise in the seawater level beneath the storm caused by its winds. The National Hurricane Center predicts up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rainfall in some places and a storm surge as high as 12 feet (3.5 meters).

    Katrina: The 2005 storm was similarly sized. Katrina measured about 400 miles (644 km) wide when it made landfall in Louisiana.

    Incidentally, the biggest hurricane ever recorded was Typhoon Tip. (Hurricanes in the western Pacific Ocean are called typhoons.) The 1979 storm, which made landfall in southern Japan, was nearly 1,400 miles (2,253 km) wide at one point. That's almost half the size of the continental United States. [Hurricanes from Above: See Nature's Biggest Storms]

    Isaac and Katrina paths


    Isaac: Isaac has not grown in intensity as much or as rapidly as predicted. It stayed a tropical storm for a week, then finally reached the status of Category 1 hurricane today, when its maximum sustained winds picked up to 75 mph (121 kph).

    Katrina: Katrina was much more intense. In the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina grew into a Category 5 hurricane — the strongest storm category there is. Its maximum sustained winds reached speeds of around 173 mph (278 kph), and then slowed before making landfall. When it hit Louisiana, the storm had been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane and boasted maximum wind speeds around 127 mph (204 kph), still a major hurricane.


    Isaac: Isaac has already damaged 2,346 homes, destroyed 335, and caused 24 deaths in Haiti.It is too early to gauge the hurricane's impact on the U.S. Gulf Coast, but some predictions can be ventured.

    New Orleans, for one, has probably never been better prepared for a hurricane. Since 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers has spent $14.45 billion overhauling the city's flood prevention system, including raising the height of the levees (sloped embankments), constructing heavily reinforced floodwalls along the canals, and installing a new system of pump stations, including one flood pump capable of sucking 150,000 gallons (more than 560,000 liters) of water per second out of the bowl-like city, should flooding occur.

    The rest of the Gulf Coast region may fare less well. Forecasters predict extreme rainfall, and coastal Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana may experience flooding and destruction of property from flash floods and storm surge. Areas farther inland are also susceptible to flash floods from Isaac's rains, which could total more than 20 inches in some places. However, memories of Katrina have made officials extra cautious, and many areas have been evacuated to prevent loss of life.

    Katrina: Katrina was an epic disaster. The hurricane flattened and flooded much of coastal Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, generating storm surges of nearly 28 feet (8.5 meters) in some places.

    Some experts estimate Katrina caused $125 billion in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. And the storm killed more than 1,800 people, the vast majority of them in Louisiana. Many of these people died after New Orleans' levee system failed and most of the city was flooded.

    Getting out of the way

    Isaac: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu did not issue an evacuation order, but instead called for people outside the city's multibillion-dollar levee system to leave. According to CNN, mandatory evacuations have been ordered for St. Charles Parish and parts of Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes, all in Louisiana.

    In Mississippi, mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of Hancock and Jackson counties, and port authorities ordered the port cleared of cargo vessels. Finally, in Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley ordered an evacuation of parts of Baldwin and Mobile counties, while residents in other low-lying or flood-prone areas have been urged to leave voluntarily. The Alabama evacuation orders have since been lifted, according to the Weather Channel, as the threat of Isaac has trended westward.

    Katrina: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued a voluntary evacuation order on the evening of Aug. 27, 2005. As the storm bore down on his city, the mayor upped that to a mandatory order around 11 a.m. the next day — about 18 hours before the storm hit.

    The vast majority of New Orleans residents got out of harm's way. But some who were less mobile — seniors, disabled people and those without cars, for example — were left behind, and many of them died. Seven years later, the debate continues about who should bear the brunt of blame for this evacuation failure.

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    Weather reporter

    Weather reporting: It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

    As the winds start picking up and shop owners begin boarding up ahead of Hurricane Isaac, these brave storm chasers throw on their parkas and head to the one place they shouldn't — the beach.  

    Isaac, which reached Hurricane status Tuesday afternoon when maximum sustained winds reached 75 mph is expected to hit the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, as a Category 2 Tuesday evening.  

    John Terrett reports from a Mississippi beach to experience what the "outer bands of a hurricane is like."

    CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez reports from Key West, where Tropical Storm Isaac reaches winds of 60 miles-per-hour.

    "These are some of the strongest impact winds we have felt," says CNN's Martin Savidge as the storm makes landfall in Haiti. Isaac, which brought heavy flooding and mudslides to the Caribbean country resulted in 19 deaths.

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    Atlantic Tracks 4x3

    Hurricane Katrina caused an estimated $125 billion in damages, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S history, and killed more than 1,800 people when it hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005.

    Exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac has slammed into the Gulf coast, bringing flooding and high winds with it.

    Tropical cyclones — the scientific name for hurricanes and tropical storms — form when warm air above the ocean rises. More air from the surrounding areas of higher pressure push in under this rising air, pushing it up and cooling it. The entire system just keeps growing and starts to swirl.

    After several severe hurricanes, and two of the most productive hurricane seasons on record, we started to wonder — What makes hurricanes strong and destructive? Are hurricanes getting worse or is it just us? Why and what can we do about it? What if we don't?

    A combination of factors made Hurricane Katrina so devastating. From a scientific standpoint, Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph when it hit New Orleans on Aug. 29. 2005. This is a strong hurricane, but not atypical.

    Katrina wasn't as fast as, say, Hurricane Camille in 1969. But it was huge and it's approach over shallow water resulted in a stronger storm surge.

    There were also engineering problems. Katrina was especially damaging because the levees designed to protect the below-sea-level city burst under the hurricane's 25-foot high storm surge. So what's different now?

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    The U.S. is still suffering from the worst drought to hit the country in over 50 years. And some parts of the country are being hit harder than others.

    The latest drought map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows "categorical improvements" in MidAtlantic states of  Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. Drought conditions also eased in Florida because of rains brought by Hurricane Issac. But conditions worsened in South Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

    All of Michigan's 83 counties were declared primary disaster areas because of drought and extreme heat. We previously wrote about how Michigan has been hit by a "double-whammy" of bad weather.

    While the drought impacted corn, soybean and other crop prices a while ago, the USDA has now warned that it will push the price of meat higher too. From the USDA:

    "The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 63 percent of the nation's hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 72 percent of the nation's cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought.

    Approximately 86 percent of the U.S. corn is within an area experiencing drought, down from a peak of 89 percent on July 24, and 83 percent of the U.S. soybeans are in a drought area, down from a high of 88 percent on July 24.

    During the week ending August 26, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that 52 percent of U.S. corn and 38 percent of the soybeans were rated in very poor to poor condition, while rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor remained at 59 percent for the fourth consecutive week."

    Looking to the week ahead however the U.S. drought monitor expects some rain from Hurricane Isaac:

    "Over the next five days (August 29-September 2) the remnants of Hurricane Isaac will continue to move inland and impact the area from Louisiana into Arkansas and portions of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.  Areas of the Midwest may see up to 7 inches of rain as the system moves through the region.  The southwestern United States looks to stay in an active pattern with scattered showers from Arizona up into Utah and Idaho.  Temperatures look to be well above normal over much of the country, with departures of 6-9 degrees Fahrenheit over the High Plains."

    Here is the latest drought map from the U.S. Drought Monitor:

    drought map

    Don't Miss: Photos Of The Severe Drought That's Devastating Crops In The Midwest >

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    A major global company like Coca-Cola sells more than 1.5 billion cans of coke every day. Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. In 2010, 14 million tons of plastic containers and packaging ended up in U.S. landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The barriers to plastic alternatives have not historically been a lack of ideas. It's the combination of scale, stability and cost — all those things that have made plastic a success over the last century — that has prevented the implementation of those ideas.

    WikiCells, an edible skin that takes the place of plastic packaging and protects the food or liquid within, moves past all of those obstacles.  

    "This may be the first scalable, inexpensive, stable packaging solution that fully eliminates plastic," said inventor David Edwards, a professor at Harvard University. "Beyond being edible, the reality is it's solving a major industry, health and environmental need today."

    Here's where it started.    

    At Harvard, Edwards teaches a class called "How to Create Things and Have Them Matter." In the fall of 2008, Edwards gave his students the seed of an idea: To explore how a biological cell could help us think about carrying water more efficiently in drought-stricken parts of the world. 

    About a year later, the biomedical engineer, whose past ideas have led to imaginative creations like inhalable caffeine and breathable chocolate, realized the the rules of nature could also be applied to food packaging.    

    "Like a grape, you can't empty the inside of biological cell and have something left," says Edwards. "It made me wonder whether you could recreate packaging with that in mind and eliminate plastic." 

    David EdwardsFrom there, Edwards contacted a designer in Paris, Francois Azambourg, and asked if he would like to work on the project. The first take on the WikiCell design was the Edible Bottle a concept that debuted at Le Leboratoire in Fall 2010. The French lab, located next to the Louvre in Paris, was founded by Edwards in 2007 for people to showcase experiments in art, design and science and invite the public to test them. 

    "At that point, the project was very hypothetical and curiosity-driven," Edwards said. "Yes, we were sensitive to the need of eliminating plastic and packaging, but it clearly wasn't the commercial notion; it was just a general, philosophical scientific design question."  

    Over the next two years, Edwards continued to test the limits of WikiCells: gazpacho soup wrapped in a tomato skin, a grape pouch filled with wine, and orange juice in an orange-flavored skin. In January 2012, the engineer presented the idea of WikiCells at Harvard. The talk generated immediate buzz culminating in the founding of WikiCells Designs, a startup based in Cambridge, Ma. The company's CEO is Robert Connelly. Ice cream housed in an edible shell is their first commercial product.   

    What is a WikiCell? 

    WikiCellA WikiCell acts like the protective peel of an orange or the shell of a coconut. 

    A soft skin holds and protects foods and drinks like ice cream, yogurt, cheese, juice and pudding. 

    The WikiCell actually has two layers of packaging. The primary packaging, which is all edible, is mostly made of natural food particles from chocolate, nuts, fruit and seeds (imagine chocolate chip ice cream with a cookie dough skin or yogurt with a blueberry skin, for example). This soft wrapper is equivalent to the skin of the grape and can be washed like a regular piece of fruit. Then there's the hard-shell packing, which may or may not be edible. In the cases where you can't eat the outer-shell, it's completely biodegradable so it can be peeled off and thrown away at less cost to the environment. [See how the WikiCell is made in more detail].  

    In a supermarket setting, it helps to think of WikiCell Ice Cream like a Magnum bar. Chocolate ice creams bars are sold in cardboard boxes. Within that box, each chocolate bar is individually covered in a plastic wrapper. With a WikiCell, the cardboard box would be the outer-shell (only completely biodegradable). The edible skin of the WikiCell completely eliminates a need for the secondary wrapper.   

    "It's as shippable as a standard package," says Edwards. 

    The Future

    In the near-term, products like WikiCell ice cream, yogurt and juice are available though something called a WikiBar, a setting that allows the public to sample and experiment with edible wrapping. The first WikiBar opened at the lab store in Paris last year. WikiBars will begin to appear in American retail shops in 2013. With the next three years, WikiCells will expand into specialty shops and supermarkets like Whole Foods and Stop &Shop.  

    The idea is to partner with established brands in the food and beverage industry, creating new flavor combinations by wrapping well-known products with WikiCells, says company CEO Robert Connelly. 

    In parallel, the company plans to go directly to consumer by developing a vending machine for the home that would allow people to design their own WikiCell packaging, say choosing a soda with a caramel skin in the size of a grape.  

    "The notion of giving consumers the ability to 'Wiki-fy' their packaging is inherent in what we're doing," Edwards said. "Likely, over the next several years, as we cross a broad spectrum of products — starting with ice cream, then yogurts, cheeses, soda and eventually water — all of these things will ask for different amounts of consumer adoption or change of behavior."

    If changing the way we eat means challenging the throwaway culture, then we are more than ready, Dr. Edwards. 

    See how the WikiCell works >

    See our list of Game Changers: 30 Innovations That Will Change The World > 

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    If you look at the structure of an orange or a coconut, you generally have a skin that maintains moisture and an outer coat that protects that skin. In the case of a coconut, it's the shell; with an orange it's the peel.

    Like the coconut or orange, the WikiCell, an edible form of packaging invented by Harvard professor David Edwards, provides a double layer of protection around the liquid, foam or solid it holds.    

    See the WikiCells > 

    You can think of the first layer, a soft skin, like a raisin skin. It's made of three main components: tiny natural food particles, like chocolate, fruit, nuts or seeds; a nutritive ion-like calcium; and a natural molecule like chitosan (which comes from the body) or alginate (which comes from algae).  

    When you mix these three things together they form an electrostatic gel that keeps water inside the food or drink. 

    The second layer, a protective shell around the skin, is like the egg-carton packaging. Depending on the kind of WikiCell and how it reaches the consumer, that shell may be completely edible (in which case you would wash it like an apple) or completely biodegradable (in which which case you can peel it off and throw it away). 

    The edible shell would be made of isomalt (a kind of sweetener) and the biodegradable shell would be made of baggase (what remains when you remove sugar from sugar cane) or tapioca.  

    WikiCells are edible containers of food or drink. A soft membrane holds the liquid, foam or solid inside.

    The WikiCell balls are placed in edible or non-edible, biodegrable shells, which replace the outer, cardboard packaging that most food products come in.

    Liquid WikiCells are consumed in a variety of ways. One is that the liquid may be in a grape form so you just toss it in your mouth. You might have a larger "orange" form and use a straw. You might design the WikiCell in a sort of "pear" form, shown here, and then eat the tip of it and drink the inside.

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    BP has suffered a further blow after it was revealed that Hurricane Isaac has uncovered oil that wasn't cleaned up after the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010.

    Since Isaac made landfall more than a week ago, the water the storm has receded and tar balls and oil have been reported on shores in Alabama and Louisiana, where officials closed a 13-mile stretch of beach on Tuesday.

    BP said some of that oil was from the spill, but said some of the crude may be from other sources, too, AP reported.

    "If there's something good about this storm it made it visible where we can clean it up," BP spokesman Ray Melick said.

    BP still has hundreds of cleanup workers on the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 workers and leading to the nation's largest offshore spill.

    Melick said the company was working with the Coast Guard, state officials and land managers to clean up the oil on the Fourchon beach in Louisiana. He said crews would be there on Thursday.

    Isaac made landfall near Fourchon on August 28 as a Category 1 storm, pummeling the coast with waves, wind and rain. Seven people were killed in Louisiana and Mississippi.

    Ed Overton, a chemist and oil spill expert at Louisiana State University, said the exposed oil was weathered and less toxic, though it could still harm animals - such as crabs, crawfish and bait fish.

    He said the storm helped speed up natural processes that break down oil and it might take several more storms to stir up the rest of the oil buried along the coast.

    "We don't like to say it, but hurricanes are Mother Nature's way of taking a bath," he said.

    The reappearance of oil frustrated state officials.

    Garret Graves, a top coastal aide to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, accused BP of not being aggressive enough with its initial cleanup.

    "If they would put just a fraction of the dollars they're putting into their PR campaign into cleanup, we'd certainly be much farther ahead than we are now," he said.

    BP has spent millions of dollars on its public relations campaign, but the company has not said exactly how much it has invested. Its cleanup and response costs over the past two years were more than $14bn (£8.8bn) and more than 66m man-hours have gone to protect and treat the Gulf shoreline, the company has said.

    BP also gave $1m to the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army to help victims of Isaac.

    On Wednesday the US government reiterated that it would seek to prove that the oil major’s “gross negligence” caused the Gulf of Mexico disaster – stoking fears that it will become embroiled in a lengthy trial.

    The group, which has always denied the charge, saw its shares fall 2.9pc to 423.85p, wiping £2.7bn off its value amid concerns that the dispute will prevent it reaching a settlement with US authorities.

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    Japanse Drilling

    A Japanese ship has boldly drilled where no ship had drilled before: more than 6,926 feet below the seafloor. This trumps of the previous world record by a little less than three feet, says OurAmazingPlanet. 

    The ship, called the Chikyu, is located off Shimokita Peninsula of Japan in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The goal is to collect rock samples from deeply buried ocean coal beds. This will provide new clues about microbes that live far underground and their possible role in the production of natural gas, or methane, previously found at this level. 

    The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology explains the purpose of the expedition:

    Understanding the system of carbon cycling, including methane hydrates and natural gas, below the continental coastal sea floor is not only directly linked to issues of Japan's energy resources but is also an important scientific area for understanding past global environmental warming events, ecosystem changes, and for building a future sustainable low-carbon society.

    The expedition will continue through the end of September with plans to drill as far as 7,217 feet below the ocean floor.  


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