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Climate

What Makes Hurricane Beryl So Unusual

On storm forecasts, Biden polling, and data centers in space

What Makes Hurricane Beryl So Unusual
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Intense storms in Europe killed at least seven people over the weekend • Nine inches of rain fell in 24 hours in Delhi, causing deadly flooding just days after blistering high temperatures • California will have “record-challenging heat” for the 4th of July.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Potentially catastrophic Hurricane Beryl heads for small Caribbean islands

The first hurricane of the season, Hurricane Beryl, has started lashing the southeastern islands of the Caribbean today as a category 3 storm. Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands, Grenada, and Tobago – islands that don’t normally endure storms of this magnitude – are all under hurricane warnings and bracing for catastrophic damage. The storm is forecast to push toward Jamaica before weakening slightly mid-week and then heading toward Mexico. The system strengthened from a tropical depression to a hurricane in less than 48 hours, which is unusually fast. It was at one point registering as a category 4 storm (and could do so again), the earliest ever recorded in the Atlantic, marking an ominous start to what is expected to be a very intense hurricane season. “Incredible doesn't cut it,” wrote meteorologist Jim Cantore. “This truly is something else of a hurricane.”

X/NHC_Atlantic

Meanwhile, another tropical storm, named Chris, formed in the Gulf of Mexico. Chris is the third named storm of the Atlantic season, and is also way ahead of schedule: “On average, the 3rd Atlantic named storm forms on August 3rd,” said Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist with Colorado State University.

2. SCOTUS strikes down Chevron, curtailing agencies’ authority

In case you (somehow) missed it: On Friday, the Supreme Court struck down a 40-year-old precedent that deferred to agencies’ interpretations of their own mandates where the statutory guidance was incomplete or ambiguous, otherwise known as Chevron deference. The ruling could kneecap federal agencies in their ability to regulate everything from air and water quality to cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence. “The impact will be enormous,” Jennifer Jones, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, toldBloomberg. “By paralyzing federal agencies and inviting lawsuits against the rules these agencies implement, this decision will profoundly undermine bedrock laws like the Clean Air Act that are meant to protect public health.”

3. Climate group calls for Biden to step aside

After a pretty dismal performance at last week’s debate, President Biden has been trying to reassure donors and voters that he remains the best person to run on the Democratic ticket in the 2024 presidential election. According toThe New York Times, his campaign has a call scheduled for today with its national finance committee to “calm nerves and take temperatures.” At least one prominent climate group, Climate Defiance, is urging Biden to step aside for the sake of the climate, E&E Newsreported. “Defeating Trump and Trumpism is existentially important for our climate and our democracy,” the group’s founder and executive director, Michael Greenberg, said Friday. “President Biden is not up for the job.” Biden’s family is reportedly urging him to stay in the race. All eyes will be on any post-debate polls that come out this week. One new CBS News/YouGov poll shows sentiment is growing among Democratic voters for Biden to step aside.

4. Walmart Canada gets Nikola’s hydrogen semi truck

Walmart Canada has become the first major retailer in North America to get a hydrogen fuel cell-powered semi truck. The truck, a Nikola HFCEV Class 8, has a range of nearly 500 miles and will avoid about 100 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually when compared to a traditional semi truck. Reutersreported that major retailers including Walmart and Pepsi had been eyeing Tesla’s electric semi trucks, but became frustrated by delays and have started turning to Tesla’s rivals in the quest to curb emissions across their fleets.

Nikola Motor

5. Data centers in space? EU-funded study says it’s possible.

Data centers are becoming a climate problem. As demand for artificial intelligence grows, these centers are using up huge amounts of energy and putting emissions targets at risk. But what if we put the data centers in space? That’s the suggestion that emerged from a study from a European space company and funded by the EU. The research concluded that not only would putting data centers in space be more sustainable, it could be lucrative, producing a large return on investment. The data centers would be solar powered and would not need to be cooled by water. But the study also found that, in order for these data centers to have a real emissions impact, they’d need to be launched using a yet-to-be-developed “eco-launcher” that produces less carbon dioxide. The EU’s goal is to have this launcher up and running by 2035 and start putting data center “building blocks” into space in 2036.

THE KICKER

Last Wednesday marked the first time in 469 days that global sea surface temperatures did not set a new daily record.

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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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