150+ whales found beached in Ibaraki, similar to what happened before 2011 Tohoku earthquake

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RocketNews 24:

A little over four years ago, a week before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, 50 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture, only about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Now the same omen of bad things to come has happened again. On April 9, about 150 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture. As emergency teams race to save the whales, one thought is sitting in the back of their minds: is this foreshadowing another giant earthquake?

On April 9, more than 150 melon-headed whales (a type of dolphin) were found beached across a stretch of four kilometers (2.5 miles) of shoreline in Hokotashi City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Most of the whales were in critical condition, though the Ibaraki coast guard has been busy returning those still alive to the ocean. The ones that were too weak to be returned were euthanized.

The reason behind the mass beaching is still unknown, but it is suspected to be due to underwater tremors. Since melon-headed whales tend to prefer deeper waters, they would be more sensitive to plate/tectonic changes than other undersea mammals.

This has people worrying about another earthquake on the same or even higher level as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. There is a theory that beached whales are often a sign of undersea tremors, and the severity of the incoming earthquake can be estimated by how many whales are beached. The coast guard reported that while every year some amount of whales are found beached on the shoreline, this incident is by far the most that they have ever encountered.

The city where the beaching took place, Hokotashi City, has started to take emergency measures against the predicted earthquake and tsunami. It is unclear whether the surrounding areas are preparing as well, but they should seriously consider it. To all our readers in the area, be safe and stay alert for any warnings!

National Geographic: Solar panels floating on water will power Japan’s homes

Picture of a similar floating solar plant

Floating solar arrays take advantage of open water where land space is constrained.

National Geographic (by Bryan Lufkin):

Nowadays, bodies of water aren’t necessarily something to build around—they’re something to build on. They sport not just landfills and man-made beaches but also, in a nascent global trend, massive solar power plants.

Clean energy companies are turning to lakes, wetlands, ponds, and canals as building grounds for sunlight-slurping photovoltaic panels. So far, floating solar structures have been announced in, among other countries, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Italy.

The biggest floating plant, in terms of output, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan‘s Yamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. When completed in March 2016, it will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households. It will also offset nearly 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. (Since the EPA estimates a typical car releases 4.7 tons of CO2 annually, that’s about 1,700 cars’ worth of emissions.)

The Yamakura Dam project is a collaboration by Kyocera (a Kyoto-headquartered electronics manufacturer), Ciel et Terre (a French company that designs, finances, and operates photovoltaic installations), and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation.

So, why build solar panels on water instead of just building them on land? Placing the panels on a lake or reservoir frees up surrounding land for agricultural use, conservation, or other development. With these benefits, though, come challenges.

Solar Enters New Territory

Overall, this is a very interesting idea. If successful, it will bring a huge impact,” says Yang Yang, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in photovoltaic solar panels. “However, I do have concerns of its safety against storms and other natural disasters, not to mention corrosion.”

Unlike a solar installation on the ground or mounted on a rooftop, floating solar energy plants present relatively new difficulties. For one thing, everything needs to be waterproofed, including the panels and wiring. Plus, a giant, artificial contraption can’t just be dropped into a local water supply without certain precautions, such as adherence to regulations on water quality—a relevant concern, particularly if the structure starts to weather away.

That is one reason we chose Ciel et Terre’s floating platforms, which are 100 percent recyclable and made of high-density polyethylene that can withstand ultraviolet rays and corrosion,” says Ichiro Ikeda, general manager of Kyocera’s solar energy marketing division.

Another obstacle? Japan’s omnipresent threat of natural disasters. In addition to typhoons, the country is a global hot spot for earthquakes, landslides, and tidal waves.

Aerial view of the Yamakura Dam

The planned floating solar array for Japan would sit atop the Yamakura Dam, east of Tokyo.

To make sure the platforms could withstand the whims of Mother Nature, Ciel et Terre’s research and development team brought in the big guns: a wind tunnel at Onera, the French aerospace lab. The company’s patented Hydrelio system—those polyethylene “frames” that cradle the solar panels—was subjected to very high wind conditions that matched hurricane speeds. The system resisted winds of up to 118 miles per hour.

Why Japan Could Be the Perfect Spot

Given its weather, why build floating solar panels in the storm-filled, Ring of Fire-hugging Land of the Rising Sun? The reason: Many nations could benefit from floating solar power. And Japan is their poster child.

The largely mountainous archipelago of Japan suffers from a lack of usable land, meaning there’s less room for anything to be built, let alone a large-scale solar plant. However, the nation is rich in reservoirs, since it has a sprawling rice industry to irrigate, so more solar energy companies in Japan are favoring liquid over land for construction sites. Suddenly, inaccessible terrain becomes accessible.

Kyocera’s Ikeda says available land in Japan is especially hard to come by these days, as the number of ground-based solar plants in the country has skyrocketed in the past few years.

But, he added, “the country has many reservoirs for agricultural and flood-control purposes. There is great potential in carrying out solar power generation on these water surfaces.”

In Japan’s case, Ciel et Terre says that the region’s frequent seismic fits aren’t cause for concern, either. In fact, they illustrate another benefit that floating solar panels have over their terrestrial counterparts, the company says.

Earthquakes have no impacts on the floating photovoltaic system, which has no foundation and an adequate anchoring system that ensures its stability,” says Eva Pauly, international business manager at Ciel et Terre. “That’s a big advantage in a country like Japan.”

Solar’s Potential Ecological Impact

Floating solar panel manufacturers hope their creations replace more controversial energy sources.

Japan needs new, independent, renewable energy sources after the Fukushima disaster,” says Pauly. “The country needs more independent sources of electricity after shutting down the nuclear power and relying heavily on imported liquid gas.”

This up-and-coming aquatic alternative impacts organisms living in the water, though. The structure stymies sunlight penetration, slowly making the water cooler and darker. This can halt algae growth, for example, which Ciel et Terre project manager Lise Mesnager says “could be either positive or negative.” If there’s too much algae in the water, the shadow-casting floating panels might be beneficial; if the water harbors endangered species, they could harm them.

It is really important for the operator to have a good idea of what kind of species can be found in the water body,” Mesnager says.

Since companies must follow local environmental rules, these solar plants are usually in the center of the water, away from banks rich with flora and fauna. Plus, companies might prefer building in man-made reservoirs instead of natural ones, as the chances of harming the area’s biodiversity are smaller.

Could the Future Include Salt Water?

More than three-quarters of our planet is ocean, which might present alternative energy companies a blank canvas on which to dot more buoyant energy farms. But moving floating panels to the open sea is still in the future. Kyocera’s Ikeda says it would bring up a whole new realm of issues, from waves to changing water levels, which could lead to damage and disrupted operations.

Ciel et Terre is experimenting with salt water-friendly systems in Thailand, but ocean-based plants might be impractical, as offshore installations are costly, and it’s more logical to produce electricity closer to where it’ll be used.

For now, companies are aiming to build floating energy sources that conserve limited space, are cheaper than solar panels on terra firma, and are, above all, efficient. Ciel et Terre says that since its frames keep Kyocera’s solar panels cool, the floating plant could generate up to 20 percent more energy than a typical ground system does.

The Yamakura Dam project might be the world’s biggest floating solar plant, but it wasn’t the first-and it almost certainly won’t be the last.

 

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Kit Kat aims to bring train travelers back to Tōhoku with ticket biscuit

 

Kit Kat aims to bring train travelers back to Tōhoku with ticket biscuit

RocketNews 24:

 

Japan probably has the world’s largest and most bizarre selection of Kit Kat flavours on offer, but this latest release is about more than just tickling your tastebuds. Nestle Japan is offering a specially-packaged version of their classic biscuit to help recovery in areas destroyed by the devastating tsunami of March 2011.

On June 16 Nestle Japan will release the ‘Kit Kat Mini Kippu Kat’. In Japanesekippu‘ means ‘ticket‘, and according to Nestle PR, ‘these are the first sweets in the world that function as train tickets.’

The box containing the biscuits will serve as a rail ticket for the Sanriku Railway line in Iwate Prefecture which was damaged during the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake, losing 5.8km of line, and finally reopened this March.

Hand over the box at the ticket booth or when you alight from the train, and you can get 190 yen (US $1.90) off your fare. That’s how much it costs to travel the distance between Shimanokoshi and Tanohata stations, the last part of the track to reopen. If your fare is going to be more than 190 yen then you have to foot the difference yourself. It’s all for a good cause though, aiming to bring people back to a region that was devastated by the tsunami three years ago, so go on and treat yourself to the knowledge that you’re doing a charitable deed (yummy chocolate is just a bonus).

One box costs just 108 yen (US$1.05) and contains three plain chocolate mini kit kat bars. They’ll be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores around the Tōhoku area, and the ticket is valid until the end of May 2015.

 

Check out this link:

Kit Kat aims to bring train travelers back to Tōhoku with ticket biscuit

 

 

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Source: Tokyo Shinbun

 

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Japanese phones will soon get alerts for inbound missiles and other attacks

 

Japanese person checking a cellphone while on a bike

 

The Japanese get phone alerts for natural disasters, but they have more than that to worry about these days with an occasionally belligerent North Korea just a stone’s throw away. Accordingly, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency says that it will soon warn phone owners when there’s a hostile missile launch, a terrorist attack or a similar human-made threat to their region.

The new alerts will use the disaster technology from before, so residents won’t have to worry about software upgrades when the warning system takes effect on April 1st.

Locals hopefully won’t ever see the system put to use, but it’s good to know that it exists.

 

Check out this link:

Japanese phones will soon get alerts for inbound missiles and other attacks

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This amazing invention is saving countless lives after Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan

A boy gestures while washing in water from a broken pipe on Nov. 16, 2013, in Leyte, Philippines. 

TakePart.com ():

When natural disaster strikes, one of the first and most significant casualties is clean water: Humans can only go so long without liquids; as days pass without functioning infrastructure, bacteria spread and multiply, as does the threat of disease.

Large aid organizations’ answer has often been to send 747s stocked with cases of bottled water to the affected areas. But drop-offs like that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and leave behind a stream of plastic waste.

Enter WaterStep, a Kentucky-based aid organization that says it’s come up with a clever solution: the M-100 Chlorine Generator, a football-size water filter that allows survivors to produce up to 10,000 gallons of potable water per day.

Sixty of the devices are being used in the Philippines, says WaterStep CEO Mark Hogg. In November, Typhoon Haiyan’s massive storm surge and high winds pulverized some of the country’s most overcrowded and impoverished areas, killing more than 6,100 people, injuring another 28,000, and displacing more than 3.8 million.

The mini treatment system is not much to look at—the hose, pipe, and thermos configuration give it a distinctively Rube Goldberg feel—but its compact size makes it easily transportable to even the remotest of locations. Built with the help of engineers at General Electric and the Louisville Water Co., the device uses a pump, a filter, table salt, and a car battery to produce up to 1,000 gallons of water per hour.

The generator’s byproducts—chlorine and sodium hydroxide—are valuable resources for locals, says Hogg. They can be used to make either saline solution (which doctors use to treat dehydration and debride wounds) or disinfectants. Maintaining hygiene is crucial to water safety, especially in disaster areas. More than 880 million people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water, and 3.4 million people die every year from water-related diseases caused by poor sanitation.

In December, Hogg and a volunteer team composed of University of Louisville students spent a week in Cebu City, an area spared by the storm that’s become a hub of relief operations. There, they erected a temporary training center, teaching 150 local nonprofit workers to operate and maintain the chlorinators. “We had people from all sorts of surrounding islands come and visit for training,” Hogg says. “The impact for us was a dream.”

Other organizations, such as LifeSaver, have created individual water purification systems targeting survivors of natural disasters. While important, their purifying bottles and canteens can’t produce the same volume of clean drinking water that WaterStep can.

Haiyan was particularly devastating for the Philippines, but the country is accustomed to extreme weather events and will surely see more in its future. This is why Hogg believes the WaterStep system needs to play an ongoing role in providing potable water to the country’s residents. The generators can be kept in storage and pulled out when needed, he says, allowing locals to respond to natural disasters as they happen, instead of waiting for shipments of bottled water to appear.

The gift it brings is that ordinary people are going to have more tools at their disposal to do effective work with their water, sanitation, health, and hygiene needs,” he says.

Check out this link:

This amazing invention is saving countless lives after Typhoon Haiyan

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Tenth grader Francis Nguyen makes 1000 paper cranes to raise money for Typhoon Haiyan victims

1000 PAPER CRANES. Tenth grader Francis Nguyen turns over to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC the proceeds of her paper crane folding fund-raising project. Photo by Majalya Fernando/Philippine Embassy

Japanese legend has it that if you make one thousand paper cranes, the gods will cure you. A Vietnamese-American student initiated a paper crane folding fund-raising project that would benefit children affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Tenth grader Francis Nguyen, together with her friends Chieu Le, Teresa Do, and Kali Gabriel, got people from their community to fold 1000 paper cranes that generated a total of $1,000. A crane was equivalent to a one-dollar donation.

Cranes symbolize hope, health, happiness, and longevity. People need something to hope for and smile about when they believe there isn’t much to look forward to in their future, ”Nguyen said when she turned over the cranes and the proceeds to Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia.

The Crane Project, which seeks to bring hope after devastation, was inspired by the Japanese myth that if one folded a thousand cranes, his or her wish would be granted,” Nguyen added,

Nguyen previously folded paper cranes for victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.

YOLANDA DONATIONS. Ambassador Cuisia with members of the Vietnamese community who turned over donations for victims of Typhoon Yolanda. Photo by Majalya Fernando/Philippine Embassy

Cuisia turned over Nguyen’s donation to Feed the Hungry, Inc., a Philippine-based organization assisting relief and rehabilitation efforts in Eastern Visayas.

I would like to thank you for your kindness, generosity, and prayers. The children in the Philippines, especially those orphaned by the typhoon, need those things you mentioned—hope, health, happiness, and longevity—as we move from the relief phase to the rehabilitation phase,” Cuisia said, in response to Nguyen.

Cuisia also received over $18,000 from representatives of the Vietnam Buddhist Center and the Tu Bi Foundation.

Citing the Philippines’ acceptance of Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War in 1975, Thich Nguyen Hanh, Abbott of the Vietnam Buddhist Center said, “We are in debt to our Filipino friends.”

No words can express my gratitude and appreciation for what you had done for us, your support, your extraordinary generosity, kindness, heroism, and never-ending grace which comforted us through the most difficult time in our nation,” he added.

Check out this link:

Tenth grader Francis Nguyen makes 1000 paper cranes to raise money for Typhoon Haiyan victims