Imagine being able to accurately predict extreme weather events such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma months in advance to better prepare those in their paths. Recently in San Francisco Bay, KPIX 5 caught a glimpse of such a future: a boat pulling two high-tech “saildrones” out to the Pacific.

The journey began on the Alameda waterfront, at the historic former Naval Air Station Alameda. A huge forklift device carefully drove each one of the brightly-colored drones from inside a cavernous warehouse, to carefully place them one-by-one into the water. “Today is a very important day for us and for oceanographic science in general,” said Sebastien de Halleux, Chief Operating Officer at Saildrone, Inc.

“Yes, we’re very excited,” exclaimed Dr. Christopher Sabine, Laboratory Director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab based in Seattle, Washington.

The saildrones’ mission: a six-month, 8,000 nautical mile round-trip journey to the equator, where they will encounter the birth place of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño. “Those start in the tropical Pacific but it’s a very remote location, it’s difficult to monitor,” explained Sabine.

The ultimate goal of this launch and journey:  To help scientists better understand not only El Niño, but the world’s changing climate. Onboard, not a single human being. Instead, the drones are each equipped with an amazing array of sensors.

The oceans affect the fundamental processes that drive our weather and the rate of climate change. Understanding these processes is crucial, but getting reliable and affordable data from remote parts of the ocean has historically been tough. Saildrone changes that.

In the face of ocean acidification and over-fishing, fisheries management is becoming ever more important. Combining our sensor suite with the most advanced fish finder, Saildrones can help create sustainable fisheries for future generations.

Operating for extended periods in high traffic areas, Saildrones can monitor environmental health in many situations. Whether measuring nitrate run off from river systems or tracking oil spills, Saildrone can maintain a permanent presence, enabling immediate response.


China’s Floating Solar Farm

China is now home to the world’s largest floating solar power farm, a huge expanse of solar panels stretching across what was once a coal mining town in the central province of Anhui.

The farm connected to the grid last month, is thought to be the world’s largest in terms of capacity at 40 megawatts, providing enough lectricity to power 15,000 homes.

It occupies more than 800,000 square meters in an area hit by flooding and subsidence due to coal mining, a problem many coal mining regions in China are plagued with. After the ground sank, residents moved away, an employee at Sungrow, the company behind the panels, told Reuters.

Proponents of water based solar panel farms say they have the advantage of being placed in areas that would not have been utilized for other purposes, as well as being less likely to overheat due to the cooling effect of the water.

China – the world’s biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases – has been at the heart of global efforts to persuade the United States, the second largest emitter, to remain in the 2015 Paris agreement. The pact calls on countries to commit to helping keep global temperature rises at lower than 2 degrees Celsius.

The long-anticipated withdrawal announced by President Donald Trump on Thursday will boost China‘s influence in global climate politics and ease pressure to make more ambitious carbon dioxide cuts of its own, analysts said. It could also further strengthen China‘s position in potentially lucrative sectors like renewables, nuclear power and hybrid vehicles.


GreenWave Floating Farm

85% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed beyond their limits – and the future of ocean life looks grim. Fortunately, GreenWave has developed a revolutionary floating farm that actually regenerates our oceans while providing jobs and a sustainable source of food.

The vertical aquaculture farm yields bountiful crops of shellfish and seaweed – species specifically selected to absorb greenhouse gas and filter out harmful chemicals.

Founded by commercial fisherman Bren Smith and Emily Stengal, an expert in sustainable food systems, the revolutionary GreenWave vertical farming system cultivates an underwater ecosystem comprised of seaweed and shellfish. The farm requires zero input, and it actually restores ocean ecosystems by sequestering carbon and fixing excess nitrogen (which leads to algae blooms and oceanic dead zones).

The open-source farming system enables anyone with a boat and around $20,000 to set up their own restorative ocean farm within a year. The Greenwave system won the Fuller Challenge in 2015 and it was recently honored with the 2017.


Deep Sea Wind Farm

What if the world’s energy problems could be solved with one deep-sea wind farm? A new study, conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, suggests it could. Scientists determined that if a renewable energy project the size of India were to be constructed in the ocean, enough electricity could be generated to fulfill the energy needs of every nation on earth.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira wrote: “On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.” The duo noted that wind speeds are on average 70 percent higher over the Earth’s oceans than on land. In order to generate the equivalent of all energy used today, a deep-sea wind farm would need to span three million square kilometers.

On land, the concept would never work. This is because when more wind turbines are added to a farm, the combined drag from the turning blades limits the amount of energy that can be obtained. As a result of this effect, electricity generation for large wind farms on land is limited to about 1.5 watts per square meter. In the North Atlantic, however, the limit would be much higher — more than six watts per square meter.

The Independent reports that this is possible because more heat pours into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the problem of “turbine drag” is essentially overcome. Said Possner, “We found that giant ocean-based wind farms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere whereas wind farms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources.”

During the summer, the output from the vast North Atlantic wind farm would drop to one-fifth of the annual average. Despite this, enough energy would still be generated to meet the electricity demands of all countries in the European Union. The scientists added that a deep sea wind farm would have to operate in “remote and harsh conditions,” where waves heights often reach more than 3 meters. If these hurdles were overcome, political and economic challenges would need to be tackled next.


Philippines Beach Plastic Audit

1.88 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic litters the Philippines every year. Greenpeace Philippines and the #breakfreefromplastic group decided to clean up some of that junk at Freedom Island – and they’re calling out the businesses most responsible for the pollution. Nestlé topped the list, followed by Unilever and Indonesian company PT Torabika Mayora.

The Philippines is the third worst polluter of Earth’s oceans, according to Greenpeace. They spent a week cleaning up the beach and performing an audit, which they said was the first one of its kind in the Philippines. There, the organizations picked up 54,260 pieces of trash. They found single-use items like plastic straws and bags, and trash like footwear and styrofoam.

Most of the garbage included sachets, small plastic parcels used largely in developing countries allowing people with low-incomes to buy quality products. But the single-use sachets typically make their way into landfills and the ocean instead of being recycled.

In order, these are the companies most responsible for plastic pollution at Freedom Island according to Greenpeace: Nestlé, Unilever, PT Torabika Mayora, Universal Robina Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Nutri-Asia, Monde Nissin, Zesto, Colgate Palmolive, and Liwayway.

Greenpeace called for companies to rethink packaging and delivery practices. Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Abigail Aguilar said in a statement, “They could for instance practice extended producer responsibility where companies substitute non-reusable and non-recyclable products with new systems, such as refillables – prevention instead of end-of-pipe waste management. Citizens are burdened with the social and environmental impacts of plastic waste, rather than those that are responsible.”

China is the worst ocean polluter. Greenpeace cited a study which found Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam join China and the Philippines in the top 10 countries with the most poorly managed plastic trash. All that garbage is costing them; the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation estimated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, the cost to fishing, shipping, and tourism industries was $1.2 billion.