- Environmentpor iesdocastro
Environment Enjoys Confinement
The confinement around the world makes the environment better.
By Daniel López Martín
February 20th, 2021
The confinement apparently was terrible for a large proportion of the population, but not for the environment. The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things: we couldn’t leave our houses; we reduced transport (this is very good for the environment because air transport is one of the most polluting sectors); industry, consumption, and contamination were reduced a lot and we could see the difference around the world.
The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) shows from its satellites how the atmosphere is now better and cleaner. (According to the magazine Nature Climate Change, the emissions of CO2 were reduced by 17% around the world during the confinement.)
This drastic reduction of contamination was one of the effects of the pandemic which had a direct impact on the air that we breathe and our health. Some places like Shanghai, Madrid, Venice and other large cities noted the upgrade in their air quality.
The reduction of the pollution was good during the confinement, but the International Energy Agency (IEA) hopes that 2021 is the year with the least pollution ever. Having clean air benefits everybody, now and in the future and it’s our responsibility.
- Environmentpor iesdocastro
Are Hydrogen-Driven Cars the Very Best Solution to Pollution?
They may seem like the ideal solution, but they have a lot of things to improve
By Miguel Cruz Vázquez
March 18th, 2021
The number of cars that use fossil fuels is decreasing, while the number of electric cars is growing.
In terms of electric mobility, we have two options: battery driven (BEV) and hydrogen driven (FCEV) cars.
First of all, let’s see their basic characteristics.
Battery driven cars utilize a battery connected to a motor. The best part of these cars are their simplicity: you charge them like your phone and you use them. The installation of the charge station requires only a connection to the electricity system of your city. On the other hand, hydrogen driven cars are way more complex, and they require a lot of infrastructure. Here we can see a picture of how they work.
As we can see, the hydrogen enters the fuel tank. Then, it goes to the fuel cell, where it meets a platinum sheet. The platinum has the property
of only letting the positive and neutral parts of the atom pass through it. Because of this, the hydrogen electrons are abandoned, so they can move wherever they want. Obviously, they choose a wire that is also connected to this part of the fuel cell. That wire goes to the motor and we have the movement. Then, the electrons are conducted to the same place where the other part of the hydrogen is, and they regroup forming H2O (water). This process doesn’t generate a lot of electricity, so we need a lot of these plates. In fact, that need of platinum is one of the greatest disadvantages of this kind of vehicle, but we will talk about that later.
Probably one of the biggest advantages of hydrogen driven cars is its quick refuelling. The hydrogen fuel is like the traditional gasoline, with the only difference that it’s a gas.
On the other hand, charging an BEV lasts between 5 and 8 hours. Of course in some places you can charge the 80% of the battery in half an hour, but it requires a huge investment in infrastructure that is very hard to find nowadays.
The main disadvantage of FCEVs is the same of BEVs: they’re not always ecological. Everything depends on where you get the hydrogen. In order to produce hydrogen you need high temperatures, which are often produced burning fossil fuels. At the end, hydrogen is just an energy storage system: you use energy to produce hydrogen that then you convert into electricity.
Detractors also say that it’s a bad way of storing energy, because of the loss of it during the creation of the fuel.
Storing hydrogen is also tricky, because of its low density, meaning it takes a lot of space to transport a very low amount of it. A solution to this issue may be making it liquid, but it takes energy, which raises the cost.
Although the battle between BEVs and FCEVs will be tough, the winner will probably be the one who is cheaper, instead of more environmentally friendly. Nowadays the market is divided: while battery-powered cars are far more popular in the U.S. because of big brands such as Tesla or BMW investing in this technology, in Japan Toyota and Hyundai are taking the lead in terms of mobility, and they’re doing it using hydrogen cars. Only the future will teach us what was the best option.
- Environmentpor iesdocastro
A Huge Snowstorm Lashes Texas
There has been a massive snowfall in the state of Texas in the United States: an unusual event that could be related to climate change, which former President Donald Trump flatly denied
By María Barahona Malvar
February 25th, 2021
This great snowfall in Texas has been caused by a snowstorm, which as we know is very unfamiliar. The causes of this storm are related to climate change. This cold wave in Texas has been caused by a shift in the polar vortex. To put it in a very crude way: the air of the polar zones of our planet is usually confined in that region, with more force if possible in winter. By this time of year it often begins to be less stable and that vortex moves with the air it contains, in the case of the Northern Hemisphere, towards areas further south. We know that climate change is making it easier for clouds to move
further south. That is why cold air can go into regions as little used to it as Texas.
All this is related to the fact that the temperature of the polar zones has increased twice as fast as that of the rest of the planet, making the jet stream–a stream of air that helps separate this mass of polar air from the rest–appear much more windy as there is not as much temperature contrast between the pole and our latitudes.
This snowfall has created numerous problems as Texas has been left without water and electricity. So far this season has luckily only caused 24 deaths.
- Environmentpor iesdocastro
Bevy of Birds on Beaches in Vigo
A great variety of flying fauna can be seen on the beaches of Vigo
By Mario Villatoro Suárez
March 20th, 2021
When you take a walk on the beach of Vao, Samil or any beach that you fancy on the coast of Vigo, you’d surely spot some of the fowls of which this article will talk about in the following lines. Some of these species are only seen in a specific time of the year, called the pre-nuptial step, which is when a bird goes from one place to another in spring, and the post-nuptial step, which is the same, but in fall.
First, the most recognizable species in Vigo, the Larus michahellis, or yellow-legged gull, is a sedentary bird who has a noticeable breeding colony placed in the Cies Islands. They are pretty aggressive and territorial, and have a bad influence on other species of gulls. Their diet isn’t really complex, they are omnivores and foragers.
We can usually find the Phalacrocorax aristotelis or common shag. They can be often spotted resting on rocks after fishing.
Once they’re adults, they are completely black, with yellow spots near their beak. Their diet is composed of fish, since they dive into the seas to find food.
Another species that can be spotted on the seas of Vigo is the Calidris alpina or dunlin. They are usually spotted in winter, the pre-nuptial step and the post-nuptial step. Their bellies are black, just like their beak and their feet, while their wings are brown. They eat searching on the ground for bugs.
Usually spotted in the pre-nuptial step and in winter, the Arenaria interpres or ruddy turnstone, isn’t an exception on the list. This bird’s wings are brown with black spots, and they’ve got a black stain below their beaks, of the same color. They are always migrating and can be in groups of 100.
On the other hand, we can find the Actitis hypoleucos or common sandpiper. They can be seen in winter and in the post-nuptial step. While their bellies are completely white, their wings, head and beak are light brown.
And last but not least, the Egretta garzetta or Little egret. They’re completely white except for their beaks, which are black. Their necks are also undulating. These birds can be spotted almost all the year, for the breeding period.
So, next time you go for a promenade on the beach, make sure to bring some binoculars.