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Sydney’s Beaches Turned Charcoal-Black, Air Rendered “Unbreathable” as Bushfires Rage On

Scientists are warning that drinking water supplies could soon be poisoned.

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Sydney Beaches Charcoal Black Air
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(TMU) — As Australia continues to cope with a historic wave of bushfires in New South Wales (NSW), Sydney’s normally immaculate beaches have turned almost completely black in an ominous sign of the effects that raging fires are having on the environment.

Over the past weekend, beachgoers took advantage of the Australian summer to dive into Sydney’s coastal waters despite the clearly charcoal-like appearance of the waters. Marine ecologist Emma Johnston was among swimmers who hazarded a swim in the black waters.

Prof. Johnston told the Daily Mail:

“Everyone was covered in ash, it was all through our bathers, all through our eyes and ears.”

In the meantime, photographers and social media users shared images of blackened waves of water tumbling onto the charcoal-tainted beaches of the region.

Kate Selway, an earth scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney, posted video to Twitter of the sooty, tar-like waters at Balmoral Beach, where the water at this time of year is usually a healthy blue.

In her tweet, Selway said:

“This used to be trees, homes, wildlife. Shocking and very sad.”

https://twitter.com/kate_selway/status/1203613565938290688

While documentarian Bill Code tweeted out footage from Malabar Beach near the city’s eastern suburbs, sardonically noting, “Take a swim in the charcoal, kids.”

In reply to the tweet, Prof. Johnston said:

“I’ve been swimming in flakes of charred wood for more than a week & there’s no more likely explanation than aerial deposits from the #bushfiresNSW—a massive pulse of organic enrichment—could have eutrophic consequences in contained water bodies.”

Johnston and other scientists are warning that drinking water supplies could be poisoned by the continued bushfires, which have overwhelmed firefighters and could grow worse as temperatures are expected to soar in the coming week.

Prof. Johnston fears that Sydney itself could have a crisis when the rain washes ash and other burnt matter into urban storm drains.

She told SBS:

“It’s not the saltwater places where people need to be worried, it’s when you’re drinking fresh water that’s contaminated that you have real human health issues.”

Among these dangers is the possibility that large algal blooms in drinking water catchments could compromise drinking water supplies. Likewise, huge amounts of fish could perish in such an event.

She explained:

“With that high density of particulates, you can get the clogging of fish gills or filter feeders might have trouble feeding.

A second, more indirect effect is that can trigger an algal bloom. And if you get a really, really large algal bloom, when that starts to decompose it uses up all the oxygen and can cause fish kills from low oxygen environments.”

On Tuesday, NSW was blanketed in a shroud of “unbreathable” air as temperatures climbed and firefighters kept up the fight against about 83 raging fires. Authorities said that the air quality in Sydney on Tuesday was among the worst ever recorded in the region’s history, 7 News reported.

It remains too early to tell how impactful prolonged exposure to the smoke will be on residents, according to a statement from Climate Council member and public health expert Hilary Bambrick.

Bambrick explained:

“These are the health consequences of a changing climate that health professionals have been warning us about.

Climate change is supercharging bushfires and that is what we are seeing now with massive, unprecedented fires producing unbreathable air.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral

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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Environment

Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History

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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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