The deep, open ocean may seem like an inhospitable environment, but many species like human-sized Humboldt squids are well-adapted to the harsh conditions. 1,500 feet below the ocean's surface, these voracious predators could be having complex conversations by glowing and changing patterns on their skin that researchers are just beginning to decipher.
In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of United States of America, scientists from Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) captured and analyzed footage of Humboldt squids off the Northern California coast using unmanned, robotic submarines called remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to better understand this squid's visual communication.
Humboldt squids hunt in groups, and their collective foraging has been described as a "feeding frenzy." The ROV footage and new research, however, suggest that the squids actually communicate with each other as they hunt and socialize. They do so by changing patterns of light and dark pigmentation on their skin, the study shows. The changes can be seen even in pitch-black deep ocean because the squids make their entire bodies glow in the dark, reports MBARI.
Humboldt squids have numerous, small bioluminescent organs called photophores embedded subcutaneously throughout their muscle tissue that make them glow, the study's abstract explains. They use this "backlighting" to "boost the contrast" for skin patterning changes, says a Stanford University news report.
Chromatophores, or pigment cells embedded in the skin, create those pattern changes, reports Scimex. MBARI reports how those are then "backlit like words on an e-reader screen."
"Maybe they need this ability to glow and display these pigmentation patterns to facilitate group behaviors in order to survive out there," suggests study collaborator Ben Burford in the Stanford report. "Many squid live in fairly shallow water and don't have these light-producing organs, so it's possible this is a key evolutionary innovation for being able to inhabit the open ocean."
Burford and senior author Bruce Robison compared where the light organs are in Humboldt squid to where the most detailed skin patterns appear. They found an overlap of where the most densely-packed photophores were and where the most intricate patterns occur, the Stanford report explains. The finding lends weight to their hypothesis about the squids' evolution and use of background glow and changing skin patterns to communicate, the study postures.
Burford analyzed ROV video of 30 Humboldt squids, identifying individuals and observing their interactions. Keeping track of behaviors and skin patterns while squids were swimming alone, in small and large groups and while feeding, Burford realized that Humboldt squids exhibit specific color patterns when interacting with one another in groups, reports MBARI.
The scientists suggest these color changes are a way for the squids to communicate with one another. MBARI explains that a half-light/half-dark pattern that Humboldt squid often display while feeding could be a warning: "Look out — I'm going to grab that lanternfish!"
The squids are able to move through the darkness with exceptional precision, never colliding or competing for prey, the Stanford report notes. "This suggests that their pigmentation changes may be an effective means of communication, analogous to humans using turn signals in traffic," explains MBARI. Scimex reports that the changes could be a "signaling of intent during competitive foraging."
The scientists also found that the squids used patterns in specific sequences, "similar to how humans arrange words in a sentence," describes MBARI. A small sample size prohibited the researchers from understanding the meaning of these sequences, but they believe that certain patterns modify the meaning of other patterns, creating a form of "syntax" or something akin to an alphabet, MBARI continues.
In squid talk, "One sequence of patterns might mean 'Look out! — I'm going to grab that lanternfish,' but a different sequence might mean 'Look out! — If you don't get out of my way, I'm going to eat you!'" reports MBARI.
Though the exact meaning of the signals remains unknown and though it is too early to conclude whether the pattern changes constitute a "human-like" language, the findings suggest that the squid communications could be a complex form of animal communication never-before described in deep-sea animals.
Burford concludes, telling MBARI, "What I like about this paper is that we're investigating really basic questions about life in the deep sea. Even though the deep sea is the Earth's largest habitat, it's also the least known. So we're still making a lot of exciting discoveries in natural history and animal behavior."
Arctic winters are meant to be frigid, but because of rising temperatures and climate change, they aren't cold enough. The permafrost, the thick subsurface layer of frozen soil that stores one of the world's largest natural reserves of carbon, is thawing. As it does, it releases potent greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change. European scientists have now found that resettling massive herds of large herbivores could combat this effect and save up to 80 percent of all permafrost soils around the globe until 2100.
The study, published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports on Tuesday, focuses on wholistic "ecosystem management practices" that "[integrate] fauna dynamics into complex Earth System models." Lead scientist and permafrost expert Christian Beer from Universität Hamburg's Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN) found that introducing and managing reindeer, horses, bison and other herbivores into Arctic ecosystems can save the permafrost soils and stall climate change.
Beer drew inspiration from the late Pleistocene era, when large herds of herbivores roamed most of Northern Eurasia maintaining a grassland ecosystem in the Arctic called the mammoth steppe ecosystem, notes the study.
The productive ecosystem actually pulled large quantities of carbon from the earth's atmosphere into the soil where it froze, reports Climate CoLab. Over tens of thousands of years, the carbon-infused soils built up into our modern permafrost.
This ecosystem existed up until the end of the last ice age when wooly mammoths and other big mammals died off and the mammoth steppe vanished. Today, as the permafrost thaws, ancient methane and carbon dioxide are released.
Beer's study explores what would happen if a similar ecosystem could be recreated in the modern era to prevent loss of the permafrost. Luckily, he doesn't need to find wooly mammoths.
Russian scientists Sergey and Nikita Zimov resettled herds of bison, wisents, reindeer and horses at Pleistocene Park in Siberia 20 years ago to study how restoring the mammoth steppe ecosystem will positively affect global climate, reports Climate CoLab.
At Pleistocene Park, the winter air (minus 40 degrees Celsius) is far colder than the permafrost (minus 10 degrees Celsius), the study notes. "Thick snowfall insulates the ground from the much colder air, keeping it 'warm.'"
As the animals graze, their hooves scatter and compress the snow cover, dramatically reducing the insulating effect and allowing for more "freezing Siberian air [to reach] more deeply into the ground's permafrost," explains Pleistocene Park. This slows the thawing of the permafrost even in a warmer climate, reports Climate CoLab.
Beer, the Zimovs and their research partners compared the effect of grazing herds on snow depth and soil temperatures at Pleistocene Park and other Arctic locations in Europe. The study reports that herds in the Park cut snow cover height in half and reindeer in Sweden lowered snow cover by 73 percent. Comparing soil temperatures inside and outside of the fenced Pleistocene Park during winter revealed a mean annual difference of −1.9 degrees Celsius where animals had grazed.
The study explains the huge potential upside of this experiment. "Since most populations of large herbivores like reindeer and muskoxen are directly managed by humans, either by hunting or management," it reports, "the herbivore community can also be manipulated even more by reintroducing lost components of the Arctic herbivore assembly."
Beer said, "This type of natural manipulation in ecosystems that are especially relevant for the climate system has barely been researched to date – but holds tremendous potential," reported a Universität Hamburg article.
"If emissions continue to rise unchecked ... we can expect to see a 3.8-degree Celsius increase in permafrost temperatures, which would cause half of all permafrost to thaw," the article reported. Adding animals lowers that warming by 44 percent, to 2.1 degrees Celsius, which is enough to preserve 80 percent of the world's permafrost.
Beer's team also explored what would happen if some, but fewer, grazers were resettled. He admitted, "It may be utopian to imaging resettling wild animal herds in all the permafrost regions of the Northern Hemisphere," reported Universität Hamburg.
Critically, Beer's results show that fewer animals would still produce a cooling effect. "What we've shown here is a promising method for slowing the loss of our permanently frozen soils, and with it, the decomposition and release of the enormous carbon stockpiles they contain," the earth system expert told Universität Hamburg.
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A good backup generator can help you keep your home running smoothly, even in the event of a major power outage. And, when you choose a solar generator, you can power your home using clean, renewable energy from the sun. By contrast, gas and diesel generators burn fossil fuels, and are extremely loud and spew harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Here are the best solar power generators available today that can provide a cleaner alternative for home generators.
Our Picks for the Top Solar Generators
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Renogy Lycan Powerbox
- Best All-Purpose - Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
- Best for Camping - Jackery Explorer 1000
- Most Affordable - Westinghouse iGen600s
- Fastest Charging- EcoFlow DELTA
- Best for Appliances - MAXOAK Bluetti AC200P
- Most Powerful - Point Zero Energy Titan
How We Reviewed the Best Solar Generators
There are a number of factors we considered when choosing which solar power generators to recommend, including:
- Battery capacity. Battery storage capacity is an important ranking factor. A greater battery capacity means the generator can store more energy, which ultimately means it will last longer without requiring a recharge. This is measured in watt-hours (Wh).
- Power output. When your generator is up and running, it will put out a certain amount of energy, measured in watts. It's important to select a generator that offers enough watts for you to power your essential home appliances.
- Inverter rating. The inverter is a critical part of any backup power generator. Basically, this is the component that turns solar energy into AC (alternating current) electricity. Inverter rating, along with battery capacity, determine how much power you can get from your home backup generator.
- Expandability. In order for your backup generator to function, you'll need some way of charging it. And if you plan to rely on solar energy, that means using solar panels. Expandability means that you can add solar panels to your generator as needed, making it easier to absorb more sunlight for energy.
- Number of outlets. How many devices or appliances do you need to charge? The functionality of your backup generator will be determined by how many outlets or ports are available.
- Price. Of course, as you look for the best home backup generator, one of the most crucial considerations of all is your budget. We've sought to emphasize generators that offer maximum value.
Based on these criteria, we've determined the solar backup generators that offer the most consumer value.Check out our complete list of recommendations below. You can also read our complete review of the best solar energy companies for rooftop home solar systems.
The Best Solar Energy Generators
Best Overall: Renogy Lycan Powerbox
Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the Lycan Powerbox, a solar power solution that's only a little bit bigger than a suitcase. It comes with an easy-grip handle and heavy-duty wheels, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering 1200W of output, which is enough power for most electronic devices and some appliances.
Why buy: The Lycan Powerbox can provide 1075 watt-hours of continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It offers great portability and includes an LCD display and easy, intuitive controls that allow you to switch between DC power and AC power as needed, as well USB ports and 12 volt car charger ports.
Best All-Purpose: Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
The Yeti 6000X is actually a portable power station that can be used for off-grid camping or powering an RV. With 6,000 watt-hours and two 2000W AC charger ports, it will give you plenty of power for your home. With a home integration kit, it's easy to use the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X to power essential circuits.
Why buy: Though it isn't exactly cheap, the Yeti 6000X power station is a great all-purpose backup generator, including a top-of-the-line charge controller and two robust AC outlets that make it easy for you to keep your household essentials up and running. It can even power a full-size refrigerator or microwave.
Best for Camping: Jackery Explorer 1000
The Jackery Explorer 1000 portable power station is one of the best all-around options, equally suited for outdoor activities and for emergency power readiness. Though it's rated for 1,000 watts, it can actually get closer to 2,000. The lithium battery pack offers a capacity of 1,200 watt-hours, and Jackery's professional MPPT technology makes it easy to get your unit fully charged in a relatively short span of time (usually just eight hours if you have two panels going).
Why buy: Jackery is one of the leading names in outdoor equipment and in clean energy products. This portable power station is a great pick for campers and can also be a very effective home backup power solution for small appliances and electronics thanks to its pure sine wave inverter AC outlets.
Most Affordable: Westinghouse iGen600s
Westinghouse Outdoor Power
Westinghouse is another company that specializes in solar powered generators, most of which are more ideally suited for camping trips. Their iGen600s portable generator, however, offers a wattage of up to 1,200 peak watts, which can certainly function as a decent emergency backup for certain household appliances and small devices.
Why buy: For a portable yet still very versatile solar generator, Westinghouse is a company to keep on your list. The iGen600 power system can run a mini fridge for up to 42 hours or a CPAP machine for up to 46 hours thanks to its lithium-ion battery that offers 592 Watt-hours of energy and a long battery life.
Fastest Charging: EcoFlow DELTA
The EcoFlow DELTA power station is a wonderfully rugged, dependable backup generator that can help meet your power needs during a blackout. For one thing, the charging time is incredible; you can potentially go from zero to 80 percent in under an hour with a wall outlet. Should you ever find yourself facing a power outage, this is an emergency energy solution you'll be really thankful for.
Why buy: The DELTA station from EcoFlow offers a lot of value and usability; in particular, it has one of the fastest recharging times of any solar generator, which may be reason enough for you to choose it over the competitors. The DELTA unit offers 13 ports, meaning it's compatible with pretty much any device or appliance you could ever need to charge.
Best for Appliances: MAXOAK Bluetti AC200P
For a heavy-duty emergency power solution, look no further than to MAXOAK, and particularly to a product called the Bluetti AC200P. With a 2000 Watt-hour capacity, this is one of the most robust solar generators you'll find anywhere.
Why buy: MAXOAK's Bluetti AC200P is the one you're going to want for really heavy-duty home energy backup. With massive AC inverters that offer up to 4800W surge capacity, it can provide more than enough power to fuel all your most critical home appliances, even some HVAC units. Also note the two-year warranty, a generous consumer protection.
Most Powerful: Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator
Point Zero Energy is one of the foremost names in disaster preparedness, and when you take a look at their product specs, you'll see why. Their Titan model solar generator offers almost twice the storage of similarly priced units with a high-capacity 2,000-watt-hour battery capacity and 3,000 watt high-efficiency inverter.
Why buy: On a purely technical level, this is the beefiest generator on our list, though of course, it's also one of the priciest. The unit is made with high-efficiency components, meaning it doesn't waste a lot of energy running the system; instead, it just supplies you with plenty of functional electricity when you need it the most.
How Does a Solar Generator Work?
Solar generators capture energy from the sun using photovoltaic solar panels, and store it in a built-in battery. Note that in order to absorb the sun's energy, your portable generator will need solar panels. These are typically sold separately, or as a package with the unit, so you'll need to factor in this additional cost. Solar panels contain solar cells, which are typically made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicone that acts as a semiconductor.
Once the sun's energy is stored in the battery, it is converted into AC energy. This happens via a component known as an inverter. AC power is required for most of your household appliances, as well as for charging devices like your phone, laptop, or tablet that normally require a wall charger or AC outlet.
Can a Solar Generator Power My Whole House?
Generally speaking, a rechargeable solar generator won't be able to power your entire house if you lose power. With that said, even a smaller generator can be used to power key devices or appliances, sometimes for days at a time depending on its power consumption. For instance, you can keep your refrigerator up and running, and/or ensure plenty of sustained use for medical devices, like CPAP machines.
With an especially robust generator, you may also be able to connect to core circuits, running multiple appliances at one time.
So, while having an emergency power supply from a solar generator may not mean that you can go about your life just like you would normally, you can at least keep the lights on at home, run your air conditioner, or ensure your perishable food items remain fresh until your electricity comes back on.
What are the Benefits of a Solar Generator?
There are a number of advantages you can anticipate from an emergency generator, especially when you choose to go solar. Consider:
You can minimize the disruption of a power outage.
Again, inclement weather can cause power outages that last for hours, sometimes even days. During that time, you can use a backup generator to keep your essential appliances and devices up and running. This level of preparedness can offer ample peace of mind.
Solar generators offer a clean alternative to other energy sources.
Most generators are powered by fossil fuels, which means they emit a lot of noxious emissions. If you want a clean power source and a minimal environmental footprint, these solar solutions are just the ticket. They are also much quieter than traditional gas or diesel generators.
They can be very cost-effective in the long run.
While the initial purchase price of a solar generator may seem steep, keep in mind that sunlight is free. You don't have to worry about buying fuel or any additional expenses associated with your solar unit.
Find the Solar Generator That's Best for You
Disaster preparedness begins by identifying a reliable power source, and if you want that power source to be clean and renewable, solar generators are ideal. Take a moment to explore the options and find the generator that's right for you.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
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The coronavirus crisis has spread far and wide, indiscriminately affecting civilians, celebrities, sports stars and politicians and touching all parts of society. Now, the pandemic is impacting scientists on a large research expedition in the frozen Arctic Ocean, delaying critical climate research.
The researchers are part of the MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) project, which is one of the largest-ever research missions to the polar region.
The scientists use the German research vessel Polarstern, which they intentionally froze into Arctic sea ice last October, as their home base. By trapping the ship – and themselves – in floating ice for over a year, the scientists created a "drifting polar-research laboratory" from which they hope to get a closer look at the Arctic's rapidly changing climate, reported Nature as the expedition began. The researchers and technicians sample the ice, atmosphere and ocean to better understand the intricate Arctic climate and how it affects global climate.
Throughout the 13-month study, 600 people from 19 countries will rotate onto the ship via other icebreakers and aircraft.
While the crew on the ship are currently infection-free, a team member slated to join the expedition this month tested positive for the virus right before departing for the field.
The infected individual attended a pre-expedition workshop in Bremerhaven, Germany on March 5 with other members from the aircraft team. MOSAiC chief scientist Markus Rex told Nature that 20 other team members who had contact with the person are being quarantined for 14 days in their homes by German health agencies. Until the quarantine is lifted, the airborne component of the expedition will be delayed and postponed for the safety of those onboard the ship.
"We don't want any exposure out there at the Polarstern," mission co-coordinator Matthew Shupe told The New York Times. As such, all team members scheduled to join MOSAiC are tested twice – two weeks before leaving their homes and once before leaving for the ship. This testing protocol uncovered the infection before it reached the field.
Lynne Talley, a physical oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explained the risk. Given the close quarters on the ship and the virus's long incubation time, keeping the virus from getting on the ship is critical. Talley told Nature, "Suppose someone inadvertently does end up on the ship with a virus. It would just pretty much take the entire ship."
Talley's warning comes on the heels of two major coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships – the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off Japan last month, and the Grand Princess, which was held offshore March 4 to 9 in northern California.
Shupe told Nature that the postponement should only minimally disrupt MOSAiC's scientific objectives. Assuming the quarantine is lifted and no others test positive, "the plan is to carry forward with the activities," he said to The New York Times. Shupe also confirmed that a separate airborne unit scheduled for April to bring fresh supplies and new researchers remains unchanged. "That part, so far, is on target."
Shupe did caution that further delays would "shrink the window for the airborne mission" and worried about future complications for the expedition as the pandemic continues to intensify around the world.
Setup of the MOSAiC ice camp in front of RV Polarstern during leg 1 of the expedition on Oct. 11, 2019. Stefan Hendricks / Alfred Wegener Institute
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Air pollution cuts human life expectancy by three years, according to new research published Wednesday in Cardiovascular Research.
"The loss of life expectancy from air pollution is much higher than many other risk factors and even higher than smoking," said co-author Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, reported The Guardian.
Air pollution actually shortens lives on a greater global scale than HIV/AIDS, wars and other forms of violence, parasitic and vector-borne diseases like malaria, and smoking tobacco.
The reason for this is the impact of fine particulate matter (PM2.5, particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 µm) from air pollution on the body. These small particles penetrate more deeply into the lungs, making them less likely to be exhaled, explained the study. Even smaller ultrafine particles with a diameter less than 0.1 µm (PM0.1) pass directly into the bloodstream to affect organs directly, making them "particularly harmful."
Prior research from the same team attributed increased air pollution to higher respiratory, heart disease and stroke mortality rates, and this latest study confirms that air pollution led to 8.8 million extra premature deaths in 2015. This all translates to losing an average of almost three years of life expectancy worldwide for all persons due to air pollution.
In comparison, smoking cuts an average 2.2 years off life expectancy (7.2 million extra deaths), HIV/AIDS 0.7 years (1 million deaths), malaria and similar diseases 0.6 years (600,000 deaths), and all forms of violence (including deaths in wars) 0.3 years (530,000 deaths).
Co-author Thomas Münzel called the global issue an "air pollution pandemic." Roughly 100,000 Americans die prematurely each year because of polluted air and that the annual number of polluted air days has been on the rise, reported Fox News.
Lelieveld and Münzel agreed that air pollution is a leading global health risk but perhaps one that is reducible.
In a statement from the European Society of Cardiology, Münzel explained how the study distinguishes between avoidable, human-made air pollution and pollution from natural resources like wildfire emissions. It found that fossil fuels are the largest source of air pollution.
The researcher said, "We show that about two-thirds of premature deaths are attributable to human-made air pollution, mainly from fossil fuel use; this goes up to 80% in high-income countries. Five and a half million deaths worldwide a year are potentially avoidable."
The study estimates that average life expectancy around the world would increase by over a year simply by removing fossil fuel emissions. If all human-made emissions were removed, average life expectancy would jump by two years.
"Policy-makers and the medical community should be paying much more attention to this," Münzel added. "Both air pollution and smoking are preventable, but over the past decades much less attention has been paid to air pollution than to smoking, especially among cardiologists."
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