Saturday, September 23, 2017

30 days timelapse at sea

30 Days of Timelapse, about 80,000 photos combined.
1500GB of Project files.
Sailing in the open ocean is a unique feeling and experience.
Route was from Red Sea -- Gulf of Aden -- Indian Ocean -- Colombo -- Malacca Strait -- Singapore -- South East China Sea -- Hong Kong
0:32 Milky Way 0:53 Sirius Star (I think) Correction: Jupiter the planet according to some viewers 1:17 Approaching Port of Colombo 1:45 Cargo Operation 2:08 Departure Colombo with Rainstorm 2:29 Beautiful Sunrise 3:13 Lightning Storm at Malacca Strait and Singapore Strait 3:29 Clear night sky Milky Way with lightning storm 4:01 Camera getting soaked 5:09 Arrival Singapore 5:56 Departure Singapore 6:20 Moon-lit night sky 6:48 Another Sunrise 8:30 Headed due north and you can see Ursa Major rotating neatly around Polaris. 8:36 Squid Boats 8:54 Chaotic Traffic 9:15 Arrival Hong Kong

Friday, September 22, 2017

How oceans are being used to cool massive data centres

Google's Hamina data centre is one of many that the company operates across the globe to handle 40,000 search queries a second.
Image: Google

From Motherboard by Paul Tadich

At a state-of-the-art Google server farm in Finland, the waters of the Gulf soothe red-hot microprocessors.

As the number of people around the world who are connecting to the internet continues to mushroom, the physical infrastructure necessary to support all that data is being upgraded and improved.
The International Telecommunication Union estimates that by the end of this year, 47 percent of the global population will be online.
Earlier this year, Google estimated it handles, on average, about 40,000 search queries every second.

Tech giants like Microsoft and Google are forever updating their data centres—the giant server farms that handle every download and search query thrust into the ether.
As the demand for these centres grows, the innovation that goes into building them gets increasingly more sophisticated.

Find out about Google's newest data center currently under construction in Hamina, Finland.
The  data center features an innovative sea water cooling system.

As the number of people around the world who are connecting to the internet continues to mushroom, the physical infrastructure necessary to support all that data is being upgraded and improved.
The International Telecommunication Union estimates that by the end of this year, 47 percent of the global population will be online.
Earlier this year, Google estimated it handles, on average, about 40,000 search queries every second.

Tech giants like Microsoft and Google are forever updating their data centres—the giant server farms that handle every download and search query thrust into the ether.
As the demand for these centres grows, the innovation that goes into building them gets increasingly more sophisticated.

The facility mixes warm seawater returning from the heat exchangers with colder water from the Gulf, mitigating environmental damage.
All images from Google

Microsoft attempted to reconcile the overheated output with population proximity by launching an experiment in 2015 called Project Natick.
Since 50 percent of the global population lives near a coastal area, they would use the cooling power that can be obtained from seawater.
Natick involved submerging a self-contained data centre underwater as a test case to see if submersible cloud computing is a viable technology.

Microsoft is researching ways to move power hungry and heat-prone data centers underwater.

The goals of Project Natick were twofold: to determine if ocean waters off the coast of California, at a depth of hundreds of metres, could be used in a heat-exchange system to draw off the thermal energy generated by the humming microprocessors in a submerged data centre; and to determine if wave energy could be captured to provide some of the power needed to crunch the massive quantities of data being handled by the underwater system.

Racks and racks of servers hum away at a Google data centre.

Natick was declared a success by Microsoft and they say they have plans to expand the program, but they are keeping the details of the next phase of the project a secret.
They refused to discuss their future plans with Motherboard.

A few thousand kilometres to the northeast, Google has been running a seawater-cooled data centre near the Finnish city of Hamina since 2011.
The idea may be less radical than operating an internet facility deep beneath the waves, but Google's Hamina operation has shown that it's possible to run a power-hungry data centre with minimal environmental impact.

Google's Hamina centre started life originally as the Summa paper mill, an industrial facility built in the 1950s.
Nestled on a quiet bay in the Gulf of Finland, about 130 kilometres northwest of Helsinki, the former mill features a huge seven-by-four-metre tunnel that runs under one of the buildings and directly into the Gulf.
Google opened the data centre after a €200 million investment ($240 million USD) that took advantage of the mill's unique architectural feature.

"The data centre here is one of the largest data centres in the world—if not the largest—to be using seawater as a coolant," said Arni Jonsson, senior facilities manager of the Hamina centre, on the phone from the site.
The tunnel is connected to a massive intake chamber that feeds directly into the centre's cooling system.
From here, the water is drawn by pumps into a series of heat exchangers, sucking the thermal energy from the racks of servers inside the centre before it's discharged back into the Gulf.
When the water returns, it's a few degrees warmer, and actually cleaner, than it was when it went in.
"It's all free-flow," said Jonsson.
"We don't use any energy in getting the water from the sea."

A group of Google employees engages in some ice fishing on the property of their data centre near Hamina, Finland

High water temperatures around power plants that occur when warmer water re-enters the ecosystem, for example, have been shown to result in algal blooms and dead fish zones.
But at Hamina, the outgoing water is mixed with seawater at the original temperature so this effect is mitigated.
"We were concerned with the impact of this heat coming back into the bay on the fish living there," said Jonsson.
"We are doing a study where we measure the impact of the site on the fish, the quantity of the fish.
So far, the impact has at least been positive.
We have seen an increase in the fish population." In addition, no chemicals are used in the heat-exchange process, according to Jonsson.

Other environmentally-conscious organizations are looking into more radical concepts for data centre design.
Nevertheless, a new effort is underway underscoring the delicate balance between industry and nature.
These data centres need to exist and we need to understand how they interact with their local environments.

One resource that all data centres require is vast amounts of water to cool their overheated circuits.
Whether it comes from a huge gulf or not, it's incumbent on us to ensure it's managed responsibly.

Links :

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The fishing wars are coming

The Indonesian navy scuttles foreign fishing vessels caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters near Bitung, North Sulawesi, on May 20, 2015.
(Antara Foto/Reuters)

From WashingtonPost by James G. Stavridis and Johan Bergenas

James G. Stavridis was the 16th supreme allied commander at NATO and is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Johan Bergenas is senior director for public policy at Vulcan Inc.

Lawmakers are finally catching up to something that the Navy and Coast Guard have known for a long time: The escalating conflict over fishing could lead to a “global fish war.”

This week, as part of the pending National Defense Authorization Act, Congress asked the Navy to help fight illegal fishing.
This is an important step.
Greater military and diplomatic efforts must follow.
Indeed, history is full of natural-resource wars, including over sugar, spices, textiles, minerals, opium and oil.
Looking at current dynamics, fish scarcity could be the next catalyst.

The decline in nearly half of global fish stocks in recent decades is a growing and existential threat to roughly 1 billion people around the world who rely on seafood as their primary source of protein.
No other country is more concerned about the increasingly empty oceans than China, whose people eat twice as much fish as the global average.
Beijing is also the world’s largest exporter of fish, with 14 million fishers in a sector producing billions of dollars a year.

In order to keep its people fed and employed, the Chinese government provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in subsidies to its distant-water fishing fleet.
And in the South China Sea, it is common for its ships to receive Chinese Coast Guard escorts when illegally entering other countries’ fishing waters.
As such, the Chinese government is directly enabling and militarizing the worldwide robbing of ocean resources.

Fishing boats are put out to sea in Zhoushan, in China’s Zhejiang province, on Sunday.
The annual summer fishing ban, enforced on May 1 in the East China Sea, was scheduled to end on Friday, but Typhoon Talim delayed the start of fishing until Saturday.
(Photo: Xinhua)

The deployment of both hard and soft power to acquire natural resources is nothing short of hybrid warfare.
Countries on the receiving end of Chinese actions are responding in kind: Indonesia has blown up hundredsof vessels fishing in their waters illegally; Argentina sank a Chinese vessel illegally fishing in its waters last year; and South Africa continues to clash with Beijing over fishing practices.
Recently, Ecuador summoned the Chinese ambassador to condemn China’s fishing in Ecuadoran maritime territory following the seizure of 300 tons of illegally sourced fish.

The United States could be next.
Chinese vessels are increasingly fishing near our waters and are seeking to expand their footprint in the Caribbean.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jay Caputo recently underscored this point: “It is imperative that the Coast Guard be prepared for when the Chinese fishing militia approaches the U.S. [exclusive economic zone].”

Emptier oceans also lead to increased transnational crimes.
The commander of the Navy’s 5th Fleet noted this year that “out-of-work fishermen” are often involved in weapons smuggling for countries such as Iran.
Drug traffickers also use fishing vessels around the world, including U.S. waters.
This summer in Miami, U.S. Customs and Border Protection interdicted a fishing vessel from the Bahamas carrying 150 pounds of cocaine.
These practices are rampant in Central and South America.

Debris flies into the air as foreign fishing boats are blown up by Indonesia’s navy off Batam Island, Indonesia, Feb. 22, 2016
(AP photo by M. Urip).

Dozens of international treaties govern the protection of marine resources, but significant enforcement gaps exist that substantially reduce their effectiveness.
The U.S. Navy is better suited to help close this gap than any other institution in the world.
And while the Navy already recognized in its 2015 strategic blueprint that combating illegal fishing is part of its mission, the recent congressional action provides an opportunity for the Navy and partners to increase its role.

To that end, the Navy should expand its partnership with the Coast Guard through the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative, which allows both military branches to enforce fisheries laws, combat transnational organized crime and enhance regional security in the Central and South Pacific.
This program should be replicated in other ocean territories.

The United States can also revitalize efforts by including fighting illegal fishing as part of the mission of the Combined Maritime Forces, a voluntary maritime security initiative with 32 member nations that operates to combat terrorism and piracy and provide overall maritime security.
Fighting illegal fishing is not part of the group’s mission, but in light of the geostrategic challenges associated with it today, member countries should reconsider its inclusion.

 Dead sharks are found in a ship’s hold, at sea, off the coast of Com in East Timor, in this undated photo made available by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on September 15.
The environmental protection group said it led East Timor police to a Chinese-owned fishing fleet with an allegedly illegal cargo of sharks.
China’s boats do contribute significantly to illegal fishing but – at least from China’s perspective – not in Southeast Asian countries’ claimed waters in the South China Sea.
(Photo: EPA-EFE / Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Diplomatic efforts must be increased as well, starting with elevating environmental-crime issues, such as illegal fishing, within the U.S. government.
President Trump began that process this year by incorporating wildlife crime as part of an executive order on combating transnational organized crime.

Trump should also recognize illegal fishing as a direct threat to U.S.
interests in his National Security Strategy this fall.
Coupled with the congressional defense authorization, this would send a strong message to countries and criminals that the pillaging of our oceans is a serious threat to the United States — one that we must confront.

Links :

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The ships that could change the seas forever

 Transporting cargo across the oceans is vital in a global economy - yet ships sully our already polluted planet.
Some of the design solutions to fix that sound straight from science fiction.

From BBC by Chris Baraniuk

Last month in San Diego, California, an engineer sat down at his computer and gripped a joystick on the desk in front of him.
He wasn’t playing a video game – he was piloting a massive cargo ship thousands of miles away off the coast of Scotland.

The engineer’s joystick was directly linked to that vessel, via satellite, allowing him to control its movements precisely – entirely by manual remote control.
He watched carefully as a virtual ship’s changing position was plotted on his screen.
Meanwhile, on board the ship itself, other workers overseeing the test eyed their equipment and felt the craft bob and pitch under their feet.
Over the course of a four-hour experiment – carried out by Finnish energy and technology firm Wärtsilä– it was manipulated by their colleague half-way round the world.

Wärtsilä believes that smarter ships of the future will allow ship owners to more efficiently control the movements of their vessels, reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions.
It’s an ambitious idea to tackle a grand challenge of the 21st Century, in which we are simultaneously more inextricably interlinked in global trade, but also face climate change that could change weather patterns, sea levels and seriously affect the journey of goods moving from A to B.

What’s more?
Those ships could be captain-free, and could one day be controlled from many miles away not by humans, but by computers.

The cargo ships of the future could travel across the oceans devoid of humans - and instead be remote controlled like a video game 5,000 miles away
(Credit: Wärtsilä)

Shipping is a gigantic industry, but it is not known for being the most hi-tech.
Many vessels criss-crossing the world’s oceans today are bulky, diesel-guzzling giants that haven’t fundamentally changed in many years.

Will ship designs change much in the near future?
And is automation, which we are already seeing more of in road vehicles, about to hit the waves as well?

Here's what a cargo ship remote-controlled by a human half a world away could look like.
A certain degree of automation could cut costs spent on crew.
(Credit: Wärtsilä)

A big driver for updating the world’s ships is the war on pollution.
In fact, just 16 of the largest vessels produce the same emissions as all the planet’s cars put together.
But large companies are also, of course, looking for ways of maximising their profits.

Wärtsilä’s experiment is still some way from becoming an everyday reality in shipping, admits head of digital Andrea Morgante.
But because ship owners could cut significant costs by removing human crews from their vessels, he’s convinced it has potential.
“You could imagine new forms of tugs that are remote-controlled, to support vessels in the harbour,” he says. Another option would be ships that transport cargo around ports or along coastlines.

In fact, one firm already working with others to test and deploy fully autonomous vessels that do this sort of thing without human pilots is Kongsberg, of Norway.
It has two ships in development, the Hrönn and the YARA Birkeland.
The Birkeland, an 80-metre long (264ft) container transporter will also be fully electric and is planned to enter service in the second half of 2018.

Peter Due, director of autonomy at Kongsberg, extols the accuracy of the sensors on board its test vehicles.
“One system can see a beer can – you can’t tell if it’s Heineken or Carlsberg but you can see a beer can coming up close [on the water],” he explains. Machine learning trains the system to know what sort of objects are important to avoid, he adds.
“A seagull is not something to be [wary] of but if you have a swimmer it will recognise that and act accordingly.”

A recent report by the University of Southampton suggested autonomous ships will arrive faster than expected, because of falling technological costs and a demand to solve a labour shortage in some areas of shipping.

But as Due points out, bodies like the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will probably take several years to design regulations that allow autonomous vessels to operate in international waters.
Within a country’s national waters, however, local laws may allow for quicker adoption of such systems, he adds.

Regardless of who or what is piloting future ships – might it be human or robot? - the design of massive, emission-spewing commercial vessels is set to change.
And that’s another way that these vital modes of transport could lessen their impact on our planet.

The Yara Birkeland, set to be completed next year, is claimed to be the first autonomous shipping vessel in the world
(Credit: Yara International)

It is possible, for example, to build ships out of composite materials, for example glass fibres and plastic, which could greatly reduce the weight of some vessels and thereby improve fuel consumption and increase cargo capacity.

The European Union recently launched a project – Fibreship – to develop composite material hulls for cargo ships more than 50 metres (165ft) in length.

For some vessels, including passenger ships, this could be of benefit says Volker Bertram, a professor of ship design and a project manager at DNV GL, a classification society.
But he adds that for larger craft, especially those moving heavy cargo, steel will probably remain the material of choice.
“If you have an oil tanker and 90% of the weight of the oil tanker is cargo, there is not much motivation to build it in a lightweight fashion,” he explains.

 In the 21st Century, oceans are overrun with fossil fuel-spewing cargo ships, exacerbating climate change. But the ships of the future could run on sun
(Credit: Eco Marine Power)

Eco Marine Power, based in Japan, is working on rigid sails featuring solar panels that can be fitted to cargo ships.
“When we first started, it wasn’t that feasible to put solar [panels] on the rigid sails but the technology is always improving and the cost is coming down,” explains Greg Atkinson, director and chief technology officer.
He says any ships that use Aquarius will still need an engine and traditional fuel source, but wind and solar could additionally be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption.
Of the renewable energy portion, he believes that about 80% will come from the action of the wind on the sails and a further 20% from the solar panels.
Eco Marine hopes to trial its system at sea on a bulk carrier – a type of large commercial ship that moves bodies of cargo like iron ore, coal or grain.
“They’re good target ships [for this technology],” explains Atkinson.
“They’re going relatively slow and they’re sailing in some of the more favourable areas for wind.”

There are other such systems elsewhere in the world, as well, which plan to develop a cargo ship with rigid sails, this time a car carrier that could hold up to 2,000 vehicles.
But there are additional costs involved with designs like this – and indeed risks.
Rigid sails, of course, can be dangerous in high winds, especially if they cannot easily be folded onto or beneath the deck.
“It’s a bit sobering to see that so many concepts have been pushed, and via lots of publications, and we see relatively few installations,” notes Bertram.
He points out that digital technology is aiding ship designers and helping them to more accurately simulate how their vessels will perform in different conditions at sea.
Energy efficiency savings of a few percent may result from this work, he believes.

And techniques like 3D printing are probably going to change how some ship components are produced.
A prototype 3D printed propeller was recently produced by a consortium of shipping companies in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Of course, if a part breaks at sea and requires replacing, 3D printing it on board might be an attractive prospect for owners of some of the world’s largest ships.

These ships of the future – monster vessels piloted half a world away like a toy, built from futuristic materials that cut emissions and potentially powered by the Sun – are behemoths of the sea that might just change the face of Earth’s oceans forever.

Links :

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

‘Fingerprinting’ the ocean to predict devastating sea level rise

From NewsDeeply by Erica Cirino

Scientists are using satellites to identify where increasing sea levels could result in the most destructive storm surge as hurricanes grow more powerful due to climate change.

Scientists are "fingerprinting"  sea level rise around the world in an effort to identify coastal areas most at risk from devastating storm surge, as hurricanes grow increasingly destructive.

Warming ocean temperatures due to climate change can fuel more powerful storms.
Hurricane-force winds push water onto land, putting lives and property at risk while rising sea levels in coastal areas have magnified the impact of such storm surge.
Now a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters verifies the accuracy of a satellite-based monitoring tool called “sea level fingerprinting.”
The technology detects varying patterns in regional sea levels, which can be used for predicting how climate change will affect future storm surge in flood-prone coastal areas.

“Sea level fingerprints tell us about how sea level rises regionally around the globe due to melting ice sheets and changes in water storage,” said the study’s lead author, Isabella Velicogna, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, and a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“Sea level fingerprints will provide information on where sea level rises faster and therefore the coastline is more vulnerable to storm surge.”

For 15 years, the GRACE mission has unlocked mysteries of how water moves around our planet.
It gave us the first view of underground aquifers from space, and shows how fast polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers are melting.
The bulk of the data used for the project was collected by a pair of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites that can detect movement of water on Earth – such as sea level rise or depletion of freshwater aquifers – by measuring the resulting gravitational changes.
Velicogna and her coauthor Chia-Wei Hsu, a postdoctoral scholar at U.C.Irvine, compared 12 years of sea level fingerprint data with data taken by seafloor pressure sensors that measure the overlying mass of water and ice.
While the physical measurements are considered most accurate, Velicogna and Hsu found the satellite-derived measurements were very similar.

The scientists concluded that the satellite data provides a fairly accurate picture of sea level fingerprints that could create a roadmap for better placement of seafloor pressure sensors.
These sensors may be used to improve sea level fingerprint calculations in the future – and help people in vulnerable coastal zones better understand the extent of storm surge when a hurricane strikes.
Velicogna said that based on sea level fingerprint data, it’s already become clear which geographic regions are most vulnerable to floods.
“The greatest rise is not near the ice sheets – where sea level will actually fall – but far from the ice sheets,” said Velicogna.
“So, the largest increase in sea level is going to be at low latitudes” where the water mass of melted ice is redistributed over large areas.

Global sea levels have increased by an average of 3in (8cm) globally since 1992, with some areas experiencing a rise greater than 9in (23cm), according to NASA.
If climate change continues at its current pace, increased warming may melt enough of Earth’s ice caps, ice sheets and glaciers to raise average sea levels as much as 6.6ft (2m) by 2100

Artist’s conception of the GRACE spacecraft orbiting Earth.

The two GRACE satellites have been collecting data about Earth’s gravity field for the past 15 years, allowing scientists for the first time to calculate the depletion of freshwater supplies in aquifers around the world and the rate at which glaciers are melting.
But one of the satellites has nearly exhausted its nitrogen fuel supply and its battery is failing.
While NASA and its partner, the German Aerospace Center, have stabilized the failing satellite, they announced last week that both GRACE satellites would be decommissioned after a final mission ends in November.
Now the space agencies are rushing to put a new pair of satellites, GRACE-Follow-On, into orbit by early 2018 to avoid an interruption in the collection of crucial data.

In the meantime, scientists will continue monitoring the seas in an attempt to predict floods before they happen, especially before major storms.
“Sea level fingerprints will provide information on where sea level rises faster and therefore the coastline is more vulnerable to storm surge,” said Velicogna.

Links :

Monday, September 18, 2017

The stunning underwater picture this photographer wishes ‘didn’t exist’

A small sea horse grabs onto garbage in Indonesia.
(Justin Hofman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

From Washington Post by Lindsey Bever

The powerful and poignant image shows a tiny sea horse holding tightly onto a pink, plastic cotton swab in blue-green waters around Indonesia.

California nature photographer Justin Hofman snapped the picture late last year off the coast of Sumbawa, an Indonesian island in the Lesser Sunda Islands chain.
The 33-year-old, from Monterey, Calif., said a colleague pointed out the pocket-size sea creature, which he estimated to be about 1.5 inches tall — so small, in fact, that Hofman said he almost didn't reach for his camera.
“The wind started to pick up and the sea horse started to drift. It first grabbed onto a piece of sea grass,” Hofman said Thursday in a phone interview.

Hofman started shooting.
“Eventually more and more trash and debris started to move through,” he said, adding that the critter lost its grip, then latched onto a white, wispy piece of a plastic bag.
“The next thing it grabbed was a Q-Tip.”

Hofman said he wishes the picture “didn’t exist” — but it does; and now, he said, he feels responsible “to make sure it gets to as many eyes as possible.”
He entered the photo and was a finalist in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition from the Natural History Museum in London.
“I want everybody to see it,” he added.
“I want everybody to have a reaction to it.”

Hofman, an expedition leader with EYOS Expeditions, said he was wrapping up an expedition in December 2016 when he photographed the sea horse.
As he watched the creature through its journey, he said, his “blood was boiling.”

Hofman said the garbage had washed in, polluting their spot in the sea with sewage that he said he could smell and taste, and that the sea horse was searching for a raft on which to ride it out.
“I had this beautiful, little tiny creature that was so cute, and it was almost like we were brought back to reality — that this is something that happens to the sea horse day in and day out,” he said.

After the Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalists were named this week, Hofman posted the picture on Instagram, prompting emotional responses from people across social media who called it an “eye opening” and “mind-blowing shot” that illustrates a “disgusting” reality.

“It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it,” Hofman wrote beneath the image.
“What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago.
“This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?
” he said.

Hofman said that he has since received messages from people all over the world.
“Some of them feel heartbroken, some of them feel frustrated,” he said, adding some in Indonesia acknowledged they have a problem with plastic pollution.

Indonesia is the world's second-largest producer of marine pollution, dumping 3.22 million metric tons of plastic debris per year, according to data published in 2015 by Environmental Health Perspectives.
The country has vowed to reduce such waste by 70 percent by the end of 2025, according to the United Nations.

Maybe, Hofman said, the photo, and others like it, can be catalysts to create change.
“We are really affecting our oceans with our negligence and our ignorance,” he said.

Links :

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lines in the sand : when the beach becomes a canvas

Anyone can write their name in the sand, but Jim Denevan uses the beach to create stunning large-scale art.
What started as a hobby over 20 years ago has resulted in worldwide recognition, and he's created masterworks from Russia to Chile to Australia.
At the end of the day, though, Jim's just happy to find a new beach to make his canvas.