Is geothermal energy fit for megacities?

Featured image: Steam rising from Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Iceland via Wikimedia commons. Public Domain.

Article: Geothermal energy as a means to decarbonize the energy mix of megacities

Authors: Carlos A. Vargas, Luca Caracciolo, Philip Ball

As the world grapples with climate change, the transition to renewable energy has become a necessity. Governments are investing heavily in solar and wind power to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. Another non-conventional source of energy that’s still understudied is geothermal energy. But what is geothermal energy? Geo means earth, thermal means heat. The internal heat of Earth is harnessed to heat water and produce power. An advantage of using geothermal energy over solar and wind is that, it doesn’t rely on weather to produce electricity. It provides clean, constant, stable and predictable supply of power. The question is, can geothermal energy cater to the demand of megacities where a large chunk of the world’s population resides?

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Our enduring fascination with groundwater springs

Landscape with mountains in the distance and trees, rocks, and a path in the foreground

Featured Image: The middle zone of the Gerecse Mountains in Hungary via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Article: Springs regarded as hydraulic features and interpreted in the context of basin-scale groundwater flow
Tóth, Á., Kovács, S., Kovács, J., & Mádl-Szőnyi, J.

O Fount Bandusia, brighter than crystal,
worthy of sweet wine and flowers,
tomorrow shalt thou be honoured with
a firstling of the flock whose brow,

with horns just budding, foretokens love
and strife. Alas! in vain; for this
offspring of the sportive flock shall
dye thy cool waters with its own red blood.

Thee the fierce season of the blazing
dog-star cannot touch; to bullocks wearied
of the ploughshare and to the roaming flock
thou dost offer gracious coolness.

Thou, too, shalt be numbered among the
far-famed fountains, through the song I
sing of the oak planted o’er the grotto
whence thy babbling waters leap.

Horace (56BC-8BC) Ode 3.13

This ode by the Roman poet Horace is part of a long tradition of art and literature honoring groundwater springs, called ‘founts’ or ‘fountains’ in this translation. It is no wonder why: they can provide high-quality water that continues to flow even in the heat of a Mediterranean summer, “the fierce season of the blazing dog-star,” when surface water is often not available. But where does this water come from? Is it from large underground lakes, as the Romans suspected? Some of the same characteristics Horace names in this poem can help scientists figure this out.

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Ice from fire – When volcanos let it snow

Featuring image: Erruption of the Raikoke Volcano on June 22, 2019. Volcanos can exhaust a large amount of gases and dust during eruptions. Is this enough to create an atmosphere on the Moon? NASA’s Earth Observatory, public domain (CC0).

Paper: Polar Ice Accumulation from Volcanically Induced Transient Atmospheres on the Moon

Authors: A. X. Wilcoski, P. O. Hayne and M. E. Landis

The Moon is a silent and dry, yet beautiful desert. Where it comes from and how much ice exits is still a mystery. It can be found in the darkness of its pole regions as ice. Surprisingly, the eruptions of volcanos might have helped the Moon to keep its water.

The gas that is set free during a volcano eruption contains different volatile molecules, including water. On small celestial objects without an atmosphere like the moon, most of the gases are released to space. A new study suggests that not all water vapour from such eruptions escaped from the Moon during its history. Instead, local and short-lived atmospheres might have formed during eruptions, allowing a part of the water vapour to cool down and deposit as snow and ice.

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How Machine Learning Helps in the Fight Against Climate Change

Featured Image: Machine Learning has proven itself to be an effective tool in interdisciplinary research, but how can it be useful in understanding climate change? CC BY-NC 4.0, via. Dean Long

Paper: Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning (Chapter 8)

Authors: David Rolnick et al.

Machine Learning (ML) gives researchers extremely valuable ways of revealing patterns within enormous datasets, and making predictions. Climate change research is one of many fields that is beginning to explore ML approaches. There are three major areas of interest: (1) climate prediction/modeling, (2) assessing impacts, and (3) exploring solutions as we attempt to decarbonize energy production. Rolnick and his coworkers explored the merit of machine learning in climate research and where it can support scientists best. The authors also call for greater collaboration between researchers of different backgrounds to advance our understanding of such a complex issue.

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