Asia

Solar Flares Said to Take World Back To Dark Ages

DanielleNepean7 No Comments

One of the biggest scare stories for years is about to be revealed. British Secretary of Defense Liam Fox warns that the electricity grid, financial networks and transport infrastructure could be paralyzed by a solar flare.

There is a growing threat of electromagnetic disruption to the underpinnings of modern life, the Defense Secretary will tell a meeting of scientists and security advisers this week.

Dr. Fox tells the conference that he wants to address the “vulnerabilities” in the nation’s hi-tech infrastructure.

“As the nature of our technology becomes more complex, the threat becomes more widespread as well,” he says.

Of course any one living off the grid would be largely immune to such a scenario, and there is evidence that the entire story is just a hoax – Australia’s leading body responsible for monitoring space weather has dismissed claims that a massive solar storm could wipe out the Earth’s entire power grid.

One report quotes an Australian astronomer saying that “the storm is likely to come sooner rather than later”.

But Dr. Phil Wilkinson, the assistant director of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Ionospheric Prediction Service, says claims that this coming solar maximum will be the most violent in 100 years are not factual.

“All this talk about gloom and doom has selling power, but I’m certain it’s overstated,” he said.

“[It’s] going far beyond what’s realistic and could be worrying or concerning for people who don’t really understand the underlying science behind it all.

“The real message should be that the coming solar maximum period could be equally as hazardous as any other solar maximum.”

The sun goes through an 11-year solar cycle moving from a period of low activity called solar minimum to a time of heightened activity called solar maximum.

During solar maximum there is an increase in sun spot activity, which are dark patches on the sun’s surface caused by magnetic field lines breaking through the sun’s surface.

Because the Sun is not a solid object like the Earth, different parts of it rotate at different speeds, which cause these magnetic field lines to twist and stretch, eventually snapping like elastic bands.

When they snap, they produce an eruption of electromagnetic energy called a solar flare and are sometimes accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME).

If directed at Earth, charged particles within the CME slam into the magnetosphere, resulting in the northern and southern auroral lights.

Previous CME events have damaged spacecraft, interfered with communications systems and overloaded ground-based power grids. But despite the potential threat, Dr. Wilkinson says authorities are aware of them and are taking precautions.

“We monitor solar activity and issue warnings if something is heading our way,” he said.

“That will be at least a few hours [in advance], enough time to prepare.”

He says while some satellites could be damaged by a future CME, others could be protected by being placed in “safe mode”.

Furthermore, Dr. Wilkinson adds that the impact on power grids would be minimal.

“At worst, it’s a regional thing, not a global thing as these reports imply,” he said.

He says high frequency communications may also be affected, but it would be temporary.

In addition, Dr. Wilkinson quipped that the sun has been through a long solar minimum and appears to be heading into a low solar maximum.

Previous observations have shown this could result in high spikes of CME activity.

“It means we could see auroral activity over all of Australia rather than just the higher latitudes,” Dr.Wilkinson said.

“It’s unusual, but not unprecedented. James Cook made mention of just such an event off Timor.”

“While we all benefit from the products of scientific advances so we also create vulnerabilities that can be exploited by our enemies.

“However advanced we become the chain of our security is only as strong as its weakest link.”

The Coalition’s defense review is considering potential weaknesses against hi-tech attack or disruption. While conventional military units will be cut back, cyberwarfare and other technology driven capabilities are likely to get more money when the review is concluded.

Much of the Ministry of Defense’s planning focuses on the risk of a hostile state exploding a nuclear weapon in space, creating a sudden, intense burst of electromagnetic energy called a high altitude electromagnetic pulse. It could shut down electrical equipment including computers vital to daily life and cripple satellites. One “nightmare scenario” being privately discussed by senior defense figures involves Iran detonating a device high over Europe. “They could reduce our civilization to the dark ages,” said one insider.

Some scientists believe that there is a similar danger from a once-in-a-century solar flare, a disturbance on the sun’s surface that could cause geomagnetic storms on earth.

One in the mid-19th century blocked the nascent telegraph system, and some scientists believe that another is overdue.

The Westminster meeting is being hosted by the Electric Infrastructure Security Council and the Henry Jackson Society, a think-tank, and it will be addressed by Avi Schnurr, a former US government adviser.

The electrical grids, computers, telephones, transportation, water supply and food production are all vulnerable to a major flare, said Mr. Schnurr, who also works for a lobby group called Israel Missile Defense Association.

“Our electrical infrastructures are so ubiquitous that an EMP or geomagnetic storm could shatter nations all over Earth, and we cannot wait for disaster to spur us to action,” he said.

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Northern Lights, Iceland

DanielleNepean7 No Comments

The Northern Lights in Iceland.

The Northern Lights can be one of the most unforgettable travel experiences.

In Nordic Europe, Iceland is one of our favorite Northern Lights destinations.

We’ve blogged about the new Northern Lights tour with solar eclipse tour company Explorers.

Icelandair is also offering a Northern Lights City Break.  The package will include flights, three nights accommodation and a Northern Lights tour.

The Northern Lights are at their peak until the end of March in Iceland.

In the rugged Icelandic wilderness, Reykjavik Excursions will lead three to five hour Northern Lights tours.

Every tour is unique because tour leaders take groups to the area where they are most likely to see the lights based on that day’s weather.

The Icelandair offer, available through March 31, 2011, must be booked by October 31, 2010.

For more info, visit the Icelandair site.

Image courtesy of Explorers and The Adventure Company

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SriLankan Airlines help regulate Whale and Dolphin watching

gjxhiosrj No Comments

Whale watching in Sri Lanka has gone from a tiny minority pursuit of just a few hundred visitors a year, to over 30,000 a year since 2010. The warm water, t-shirt weather and a fleet of local fishing boats have spurred the growing awareness of this pursuit.

It has been managed expertly. You can see why SriLankan Airlines want to protect whales and dolphins. They’re helping put measures in place to ensure these stunning wild mammals and their habitat remain unharmed by the impact of increased activity on their waters. With whale numbers dropping across the world it’s great to hear about whales and dolphins thriving in the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka’s seas are brimming with different species of wild mammals. Whale and dolphin watchers can see: blue whales, bryde´s whales, sperm whales, fin whales, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and striped dolphins.

It’s not just the whales who are benefiting from improved regulation – local fisherman now work in a more sustainable and structured industry. SriLankan Airlines’ work could give a boost to the local economy, providing vital income for the community.

They launched Project Blueprint with a group of hotels to ensure that whales and dolphins and their environment remain unharmed by a recent boom in tourism.

The influx of visitors occurred after increased whale sightings on the south coast led to a large amount of locals with vessels offering tourists whale watching tours. SriLankan Airlines noticed this influx and soon realised that this blossoming industry was going unregulated. They worked with Keells Hotels and Jetwing Hotels to introduce safety regulations to ensure that vessels were safe for tourists and the whales and dolphins that they find so fascinating.

Watch our short film about SriLankan Airlines’ work in the field featuring an interview with Manoj Gunawardena, Chief Commercial Officer at SriLankan Airlines as well as some stunning shots of whales off the coast of Sri Lanka.

Ethical Boat tour of Philippine Islands

AlexandraRibush No Comments

Drifting with good intentions The endless ocean, broken occasionally by sand-fringed islands, stretched before me. A salty breeze caressed my face and two magnificent sails billowed bright in the sunlight as we headed into the unknown. I was on an oceanic adventure, sailing across the Palawan archipelago in a replica of a boat that first crossed these Philippine seas more than 1,000 years ago.

My trip was a taster of a new tour by local company Tao Philippines, which offers off-the-beaten-track sailing holidays between El Nido, in the north of long, thin Palawan island, and Coron, further north, off Busuanga island. Taking in areas few tourists visit, it directs some of its profits to funding community projects across the islands.

Africa, Alaska, Caribbean – 3 places to go off-grid

casandra No Comments

From www.off-grid.net

Chikoko Tree Camp South Luangwa National Park, Zambia Remote Africa Safaris is a small, family–run operation in Zambia with four intimate little camps, renowned for its excellent guides and remote, pristine locations and leopard sightings. Chikoko Tree Camp and its sibling Crocodile Camp are in South Luangwa National Park, and reached by canoe and foot via the parent camp, Tafika, where the owners John and Carol Coppinger and Bryan Jackson live. Neither has electricity or generators; they use solar lighting, gas freezers and radio communications, and to get a phone signal you have to go to the top of a termite mound on the edge of the park. Chikoko Tree Camp has three twin timber–and–grass chalets with big beds, crisp linens, flushing lavatories and steaming bucket showers. Amazing food is produced in hole–in–the–ground ovens and there are ice–cold beers on demand. There are also shady hammocks and lots of other cushioned spots for siestas. The emphasis is on walking and mountain biking with a team of excellent guides. The details Open from May 25 to October 31. Prices from US$480 per person per night on a full–board basis (remoteafrica.com).

You had better be going for a good long time to justify all those air miles. And these destinations prove that going off-grid does not have to mean roughing it.

But Petit St Vincent St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean has a gloriously ‘unplugged’ feel. Petit St Vincent is a beautiful private island between St Vincent and Grenada. It was substantially spruced up by new owners in 2011, but regulars say little of its previous spirit has been lost. While the whole vibe is rustic, it’s as exclusive as nearby Mustique with a celebrity clientele to match, so it’s actually a highly slick operation.

Escape to the foothills of India

ElizabeL03 No Comments

Amongst this vast country’s cities, beaches and deserts, people find their niche and enjoy their time. In a country with a population in excess of one billion people, however, there will be a crowding problem. For those of us who appreciate silence and tranquility, the northern state of Uttarakhand offers salvation from the incessant hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Five Thai Eco-hotels

Woodruff Ashli No Comments

Thai hosts are so good-natured and sweet that it is no suprise their eco-resorts are among the best in the world. A new book, “Green Guidebook: Green Life, Green Communities”, signposts some of the country’s best eco-conscious destinations. Here are a selection:

New Thai eco-resort

isuru No Comments

There’s always hype about new hotels becoming more ecological, but few manage to live up to their claims.
The resort company, Six Senses, longtime pioneers of sustainable travel, recently unveiled their new Eco Villa in the hope of raising their standards. Standing proudly in a jungle clearing at the Soneva Kiri resort, on the Thai island of Koh Kood, the prototype, off-the-grid Eco Villa may look prehistoric but may also signify the future of sustainable accommodation.

Eco-luxury in Bali

CaseyKunkle7037 No Comments

Perched one hundred metres above the Indian Ocean on the southern coast of Bali, lies the Alila Villas Uluwatu, a new resort opening in April.

Built with Environmentally Sustainable (ESD) certification in mind, the resort’s attention to water conservation, recycling and energy have gained it Bali’s first Green Globe certification, ESD’s highest level of certification.  

Wind Rush

gjxhiosrj No Comments

A series of reports from Reuters news agency tonight highlighted rapid growth in Renewable Energy worldwide.

Timed to coincide with the launch of the 2005 Renewable Energy conference in Beijing (http://www.birec2005.cn/), the reports covered global investment in renewable energy as well as highlighting China’s leading role in wind power and solar panel manufacturing.

Global investment in renewable energy hit a record $30 billion last year, accounting for 20-25 percent of all investment in the power industry, and with solar power the fastest-growing energy technology, a Worldwatch Institute report released on Sunday said.

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