Surferbird News-Links, 36th Edition


Welcome to the 36th edition of Surferbird News-Links! Today's stories include: the polar vortex, fracking and drinking water, soil, carrageenan, light festivals, the first Amazon drone delivery, and more.

Warm up

Images from light festivals around the globe (

These are beautiful - twenty-seven images depicting festivals of light from around the world. Light in the dead of winter is one of my favorite things about the holiday season.



Pipeline spill in N. Dakota (

Located only 150 miles from Standing Rock, a pipeline leaked 175,000 gallons of crude oil. Of that, 37,000 gallons have been recovered. Although oil companies continue to claim pipelines are safe, this particular leak was due to a failure in monitoring equipment, which never detected the leak. So far this year,220 significant pipeline incidents have been reported.

A polar vortex is headed our way (

I guess you could call this a Surferbird weather alert because by Friday, it's going to be really cold in many parts of the U.S. But if climate change is real, why does this happen?

When the Arctic is warmer than usual, the temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes weakens. As a result, the polar vortex, which usually remains centered above the poles, migrates closer to the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, this means that cold air dips southward. As the Arctic warms with climate change, these southward dipping polar vortexes may become even more common. The video below explains the makings and workings of polar vortexes.

Potentially colder than normal winter in UK (

So, I wondered if my friends in the UK would be sharing the upcoming cold U.S. weather, but it doesn't look likely. However, you still may be in for exceptionally cold weather this winter. I guess I have more to learn about polar vortexes. Also, other factors may be at play in determining temperatures in the UK.

Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet (

Well, it is, and it's alarming. Furthermore, warming changes the dynamics of snowpack, increasing the amount of snow that melts in the spring. Polar regions are far more susceptible to increasing temperatures than other places.


A food revolution in coal country (

After reading this piece, I wanted to forget about California, pricey rents, congested freeways, and move to Appalachia. The food revolution taking place in those parts is undeniably refreshing, but not surprising. Perhaps the most notable fact is that this area has "the largest community garden-based food program in the country." You can learn more about this program, here.


How much do you know about healthy soil? (

Well, first of all, it takes 2000 years for bedrock to break down into 10 centimeters of soil. That's the equivalent of about 4 inches. However, there's more to learn in this article, which presents ten facts about healthy soil. And it's important to emphasize that healthy soil is part of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Open source seeds as a way to provide food security (

The food movement focuses primarily on conventionally grown produce versus organic, safety of GMOs, locally produced food, and various agricultural growing methods. But seed patents and the ability (or not) to breed different plant varieties are usually left out of the conversation.

Because so many large seed companies have crop patents and don't allow breeding, many feel this practice puts our food security at risk. It's often twenty years before a patent runs out, and many climate changes can take place in that amount of time. Learn all about the Open Source Seed Initiative, which allows farmers to develop new plant varieties from open source seeds and to save these seeds for future use.


EPA says that fracking does indeed pollute water (

Guess what? Fracking pollutes drinking water, after all. And what's more, the EPA has known about this since 1987, according to the Environmental Working Group. What are the implications of these findings in light of an incoming president who wants to expand the oil and gas industry?

News on carrageenan (

A committee that makes decisions regarding ingredients permitted in organic foods just banned carrageenan, a natural thickener derived from seaweed. Many consumers are concerned that carrageenan might cause intestinal inflammation, however, the World Health Organization, European Commission, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration maintain that it's safe. It sounds like fodder for a blog post, to me.

Science and technology

First Amazon PrimeAir drone delivery (

This happened December 14, yesterday, in the UK countryside. The AmazonAir drone made the delivery within 13 minutes of the customer placing the order. However, the U.S. doesn't allow drone deliveries, yet.

Today's featured video