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Climate

Texas Is Bracing for the First Named Storm of Hurricane Season

On the tropical system in the Gulf, advanced nuclear reactors, and hybrid jet engines

Texas Is Bracing for the First Named Storm of Hurricane Season
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Heat records are falling across the Midwest and Northeast while parts of the Pacific Northwest are seeing late-season snow • Wildfires in New Mexico have burned more than 20,000 acres • Nighttime temperatures remained near 100 degrees Fahrenheit in northern India.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Tropical storm takes aim at Texas

A weather system churning in the Gulf of Mexico could become the first named storm in what is expected to be a very busy hurricane season. Tropical Storm One, as it’s currently known, is “large but disorganized,” but is forecast to coalesce into Tropical Storm Alberto sometime today as it moves toward the coasts of Mexico and Texas and makes landfall tonight or tomorrow morning. A tropical storm warning was already issued for the Texas coast, indicating that high winds are on the way. Flash flooding is also very likely, especially across South Texas, where six to 10 inches of rain could fall.

NOAA

2. Senate passes bill that boosts development of advanced nuclear reactors

The ADVANCE Act, which would reform the nuclear regulatory policy to encourage the development of advanced nuclear reactors, passed the Senate yesterday by a vote of 88-2, preparing it for an almost certain presidential signature. The bill is just one of a flurry of legislative and executive actions to support the nuclear energy industry. It is designed to align the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) around so-called “advanced” nuclear reactors, a catch-all term that covers a number of designs and concepts that are typically smaller than the existing light water reactor fleet and would, ideally, be largely factory-built to reduce costs. The ADVANCE Act would eliminate some fees for applicants going through the NRC approval process; instruct the NRC to develop specific rules for “microreactors,” which might only have 20 or so megawatts of capacity and could be used for single sites or rural areas; establish prizes for advanced reactors; and “streamline” the NRC process for advanced nuclear reactors.

3. Hajj death toll climbs as Mecca hits 125 degrees

Reports suggest that more than 550 people have died from extreme heat exposure during this year’s Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Updated death tolls are trickling in from various national news outlets, and haven’t been independently verified, but temperatures on Monday hit 125.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade at the Grand Mosque in Mecca and Saudi authorities said they had treated more than 2,000 people for heat stress. Nearly 2 million pilgrims were expected to take part in the Hajj this year. The event, which began last Friday, comes to a close today.

4. Fisker files for bankruptcy

Struggling electric vehicle startup Fisker declared bankruptcy yesterday. The announcement wasn’t hugely surprising given the company’s financial troubles and layoffs in recent months, but it serves as a cautionary tale to other EV startups about how a “lack of preparedness” for what happens after a company gets a new car out on the road can cause major problems, as Sean O’Kane at TechCrunch put it. Fisker’s electric Ocean SUV was plagued with a laundry list of problems – electrical failures, braking issues, software glitches – and staff couldn’t keep up while also trying to sell more vehicles, O’Kane wrote, adding: “Fisker wasn’t ready to grapple with bringing a flawed car to market.”

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  • 5. GE Aerospace, NASA developing hybrid electric jet engines

    NASA is working with GE Aerospace to develop hybrid electric engines for jets, “like a Toyota Prius of the skies,” Reutersreported. The engines are still in the early stages of development, but the goal is to eventually use them to power single-aisle jets, which are responsible for half of the aviation industry’s carbon emissions. “Our collaborations with industry partners like GE Aerospace are paving the way for U.S. leadership in hybrid electric commercial transport aircraft,” said Anthony Nerone, a project manager with NASA’s Glenn research center.

    THE KICKER

    The Biden administration started swearing in the first cohort of the American Climate Corps this week, and expects to enroll 9,000 young people in the program by the end of the month.

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    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

    Technology

    Florida’s Climate Tech Hub Has a Florida Problem

    One of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. wants nothing to do with “climate change.”

    A Florida postcard.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    The Biden administration loves a hub. There are the hydrogen hubs, the direct air capture hubs, and now there are the tech hubs. Established as a part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the $10 billion program has so far seeded 12 such hubs across the country. Four of these are focused on clean energy and sustainability, and one is located in the great state of Florida, which recently passed legislation essentially deleting the words “climate change” from state law.

    The South Florida ClimateReady Tech Hub did not, in the end, eliminate climate from its name. But while Governor Ron DeSantis might not approve, the federal government didn’t seem to mind, as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the hub $19.5 million to “advance its global leadership in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”

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    Climate

    America Wasn’t Built for This

    Why extreme heat messes with infrastructure.

    Teton Pass.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    America is melting. Roads are buckling everywhere from Houston to Aurora, Colorado, and in June caused traffic jams in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Last week, a New York City bridge that had opened to let a ship pass got stuck after expanding in the heat, forcing thousands of commuters to detour. The mid-June heat wave led to thousands of flight delays; more recently, even Toronto’s Pearson International Airport warned travelers to brace for heat-related complications. Commuters along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor have been harried by heat-induced delays for weeks.

    The train delays have affected an especially large population. The Northeast Corridor is the most trafficked commuter rail system in the country, with over 750,000 daily commuters. In late June, Amtrak notified customers that trains in the corridor could face delays of up to an hour in the coming weeks as heat interfered with tracks and overhead power lines. Since it issued that warning, tens of thousands of people have experienced heat-related delays.

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    Climate

    AM Briefing: Turbine Troubles

    On broken blades, COP29, and the falling price of used electric vehicles

    Vineyard Wind Is Having Turbine Troubles
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Torrential rain brought flash flooding to Toronto • A wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Kauai has been contained • Parts of southern Spain could hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit this week.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Intense heat waves and thunderstorms torment millions of Americans

    The extreme heat wave over the East Coast may very well break a record in Washington, D.C., today that was set during the 1930s Dust Bowl: the longest stretch of days with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The mercury yesterday hit 104 degrees, after similarly scorching numbers on Monday and Sunday, tying the existing record of three days. The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 98 degrees for Wednesday but The Washington Post said there’s “an outside chance that it hits 100 (or higher).” Either way, with humidity at 55%, it will feel torturously hot, with a potential heat index of 110 degrees. An “Extended Heat Emergency” is in effect in the city through today. Nearly 75 major cities across the Northeast, South, and Southwest are currently facing dangerous heat levels, according to The New York Times.

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