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Happy Friday Readers: Look to the sky this Saturday (9/3) if you’re in viewing distance to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Artemis 1 is scheduled for launch at 2:17 p.m. EDT (weather and equipment permitting; Sep. 5, 5:12 p.m. EDT would be the next launch option if things don’t work out on Saturday). Over the next month or so, the spacecraft (without any people on board) will travel more than a million miles, spend some time orbiting the moon, and will return to Earth to hopefully fly again soon. Fun fact (myth?): Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo (according to Greek mythology). NASA never misses out on an opportunity to be clever in naming something! This week we feature articles on rain intensity, social cost of carbon, ocean trench mapping, and more. If you'd like to view previous editions please click here, or to subscribe please click here!
When it Rains it Pours
That familiar saying, coined by Morton salt, is getting a lot more play than it used to. What do St. Louis, MO, eastern KY, eastern IL, eastern Dallas, Death Valley (CA and NV), and parts of MS have in common? All 6 locations have had 1-in-1000-year rain events in the last 6 weeks. A recent assessment from EPA found that 9 of the 10 years having the most extreme 1-day rainfall occurred after 1996 (based on national data from 1910 to 2020). NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction's Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center is working on updating its national rain frequency thresholds. Read more here.
The Social Cost of Carbon
The social cost of carbon (SCC) is an estimate of the economic damages resulting from the addition of an incremental ton of CO₂. The US government’s current estimate of the SCC is $51 per ton, but a new estimate shows that this can be as high as $185 per ton, a value 3.6 times higher than the government estimate. The model includes several inputs: emissions projections, climate model, discounting approach, and damage functions (heat-related mortality, agricultural productivity, energy expenditures for heating/cooling, and coastal impacts of rising sea levels). This has implications for policy decision-making that involves cost-benefit analysis. RFF
35,000 Feet Below: Mapping the Deepest Point on Earth
Marine geologist and the chief scientist of Esri, Dr. Dawn Wright made herstory in July to become the first Black woman to descend over 35,000 feet below the ocean waves to an unexplored area of the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep - the deepest point on the planet. Wright, along with pilot Victor Vescovo, adventured in a compact titanium personnel sphere submersible to an area with pressure around 16,000 pounds per square inch to take grayscale topographical images of the area. Wright’s work will contribute to the Seabed 2030 project, an initiative drafted by the United Nations to produce a publicly available map of the entire world’s ocean floor by 2030. Research like this will be used to help scientists fully understand our planet’s health. Popular Science.
First Ever Housing Development Powered by Geothermal Energy
A new 2,000-acre housing development in Whisper Valley Texas, near Austin, is built atop an enormous geothermal grid. This geothermal grid is the largest ever built for a residential community, and will serve as a blue-print for greener living. Of the planned 7,500 homes to be built over the next decade, all of them will be powered by the geothermal energy and supplementary solar panels on the houses. This combination will reduce energy consumption by about 80%, and with minimal increases to housing prices. The median price of the homes already built is $460,000, only $10,000 more than comparable homes. Battery replacements will be an additional cost for homeowners, but with a dramatically reduced energy bill and available tax credits for solar and geothermal, these extra costs should be recouped. The Inflation Reduction Act also triples the current 10% tax credit for at least the next 10 years further incentivizing homeowners to choose geothermal powered homes as an option, as well as investors and developers. Read More.
Data Visualization of the Week: Mapping Restaurant Chainness
A study to quantify the “chainness” of restaurants around the U.S. was turned into an interesting set of visualizations to easily see where there are more or less chain restaurants. The research was completed by urban planners at GA Tech; they contend that it’s important for the stability of a place to preserve local restaurants “in order to cultivate a distinctive, authentic landscape.” Check out the blue or green areas of the map to see the least chain-restaurant-dense urban areas in the U.S. See more from FlowingData.