Sunday, 31 December 2006

Fragile Earth

This morning I've been looking at another book I got for Christmas (no-one can say geographers are difficult to buy presents for!) - Fragile Earth, Views of a Changing World, which has some stunning - and shocking - images of the effects of natural events and of human activity on the planet. Some of the images, as well as some information about the book, can be found on the Collins website by clicking on the picture.

I was also interested to read some "views to the future", particularly one from Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. He suggests that, if we want to make the world a better place, we ought to be focussing on isses such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and malaria - and in addressing these issues, we will be reducing people's vulnerability to the effects of climate change... An internet search for Bjorn Lomborg will provide you with lots of information about him and his ideas, but it is fair to say that he's quite a controversial character! There are many "anti-Lomborg" sites, accusing him of "scientific dishonesty" and saying that he is manipulating statistics to support his claims that climate change fears are greatly exaggerated. He was also named one of the world's 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine in 2004.

The concluding paragraph in his article in
Fragile Earth reads, "It is likely that the future of the world will be better - simply because our technology and innovation keep making us richer and better able to deal with our threats. The trick is to worry about the right things first.".

Have a listen to this interview and read some of the responses on the BBC website... What do you think? Might there be some truth in what he is saying? Or is he talking nonsense?

What better way to start 2007?

Make sure that you are tuned into Radio 4 (92-95FM, 198LW) tomorrow morning (New Year's Day) between 7 and 9am...

Back in November, a team of Geographers (Geography teacher Daniel Raven-Ellison, Hannah Bosher - one of Daniel's Yr10 students, and David Lambert who is Chief Executive of the Geographical Association) won a listener vote to edit the New Year's Day edition of the Today Programme on Radio 4.

The G-Team have some great plans which you can read about here, and it promises to be an interesting and entertaining listen...

(And of course, if 7am is too early for you, you can take advantage of the BBC's Listen Again service.)

Friday, 29 December 2006

1 cumulus cloud = 80 elephants

Yes, you read that right! If you were to put together all the water droplets in a typical cumulus cloud, they would weigh about as much as 80 elephants!!

That is one of the many fascinating facts in a brilliant new book that Santa brought me - The Cloudspotter's Guide. It is interesting and informative, and v easy to read... Click on the picture for the link to that well-known online bookshop.

The author, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, is also the founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society - loads of great cloud pictures (the one below is December's Cloud of the Month - what type of cloud is it?) and info on the website, and membership is a snip at £3.44!

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Sustainable Development...

Well, with Christmas out of the way and forgotten, Yr11 will all be keen to start preparing for their DME exam in January, I'm sure...

As well as the sustainable transport links I posted before, some of you might like to have a look at this document - "Sustainable Development - What on Earth does it mean?". (Thanks to Imogen Smith for pointing this out.) Although it is primarily written for people working in local government, it is fairly straightforward and easy to read.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

UK's biggest earthquake this year hits Scotland

Below is a seismograph showing the earthquake event - measuring 3.5 on the Richter Scale - that occurred in Dumfries this morning. Fortunately, it appears that no-one was injured, and there was no structural damage.

Clicking on the seismograph will take you to the site of the British Geological Survey where there is information about today's quake, and there are news reports and a video clip on the BBC website. The Times Online also has a report.

Meanwhile, memorial services have been held across the world today, to mark the second anniversary of the tsunami that devastated SE Asia on Boxing Day 2004.

Clicking on the picture will take you to the story on the Times website, where there are also questions about where the billions of pounds that were raised have gone, and why some areas are still little more than piles of rubble.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Not long to go!

There are now just over 9 hours until Santa leaves the North Pole! Don't forget to track his progress (click on the picture).

Have a GEOGTASTIC Christmas!

Thursday, 21 December 2006


These are two of the fantastic pictures sent in to the BBC website today... Can you decide where they are before you look at the other images in the gallery? And since the fog looks set to last another couple of days, why not get out and take some pictures yourself? Then send them to the BBC and/or to me!

Putting Mrs K out of her misery!

Slightly more positive I guess, but not much...

The story "The dark side of the Christmas orange harvest" described the conditions that about 20,000 African migrants, harvesting clementines for Christmas in Southern Italy have found themselves in.

The majority are working illegally, for very low wages, and living in very poor conditions - described in the article as "not even meeting the minimum standards set by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for refugees in camps in Africa".

So severe is the situation in Southern Italy that Medecins Sans Frontieres - an international charity which works mainly in Africa and Asia - has sent a team in.

The picture below shows Samia, from Ghana, in the abandoned factory that is his home - along with about 80 other migrants. Click on the picture to link to the full story.

There is also a Special Report, focusing on the sad stories of individual workers, and a series of images.


Why are these men moving to Italy? Why do they put up with such poor conditions? Does Italy need these migrant workers? If so, should they be treating them better than this? (And even if not, should they be treated like this?!).

Are you dreaming of a White Christmas?

Sadly, it seems unlikely your dreams will become reality if you're still in the UK, according to the Met Office.
The satellite image shows that there is a classic anticyclone over the UK at the moment, which is causing it to be a bit chilly, as well as resulting in the heavy fog which is causing misery for passengers stranded at airports all around the UK.

Click on the image to link to the Met Office website, where you can look at more satellite images, and also the pressure charts - check out those isobars!

The BBC Weather site has a good explanation of how fog is formed here...

A clue... And Polish Christmas Dinners...

Well, Mrs K was close with her suggestion that the men in the picture were waiting for work... And she thought they might be going to gather oranges... But where are they? And why did they make the front page of Tuesday's Guardian?

On a not unrelated theme, I was reading the local newspaper at my parents' house in Bradford yesterday, and was interested to see that Morrison's are now stocking carp on their fish counters. Although it is not a fish that we traditionally eat in the UK, fried carp is the main dish in the 12-course feast that Polish people eat on Christmas Eve. No-one seems quite sure how many Polish immigrants there are in Bradford, but Morrison's seem keen to cater for the whole community! I can't find a link to the story, but their press release is here. There is also a more general article about Polish food and how it, and other foreign cooking traditions have influenced the "British culinary landscape" on the Waitrose website. Have you spotted any other similar stories? Or do you know of any other interesting Christmas food traditions around the world?

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

A question for you...

Actually, a few questions...

Who are these men?

Where are they?

What are they waiting for?

And what connects them to this...?

Leave a comment to tell me what you think the answers are... And check back in the next couple of days to find out the full story...


It's been great in the last few days to hear some positive comments about geogtastic (especially as that means some of you must be reading it and so I am not just talking to myself!), and I'm very pleased to see the first pupil comments posted on the blog today.

You can leave a comment by clicking on the link at the bottom of the relevant post...
  • Will you be having a green Christmas?
  • What do you think about the post office closures?
  • Do you think the new wind farm plans are a good idea?
  • What would it be like to live in South Georgia?
And if you have any other geogtastic sites or ideas that you think we should all know about, let me know!

What's happened in the world this week?

I saw this excellent site a while back, but have just been reminded about it on a geography forum...

Earthweek - A Diary of the Planet has a clickable map with information about the natural and environmental events that have occurred during the week... For example, this week, there have been earthquakes in Greece, Italy, India and Taiwan (amongst other places)... And, if you think it's cold here, spare a thought for the people of Oymyakon in Siberia - temperatures of -52oC were recorded there this week!

Monday, 18 December 2006

Thames offshore windfarms to go ahead...

You may well have heard in the news today that the Government has approved plans for two offshore windfarms in the Thames estuary, which it claims will produce "green" electricity for about a million homes. The larger of the two schemes - the London Array - which will have 341 turbines, and is set to cost £1.5 billion, will be the world's largest windfarm.

Unsurprisingly, there have been mixed responses to the proposals...

The BBC coverage of the story is here, and clicking on the logo will take you to the London Array website where you can find lots more information about the projects.

A Google search will also bring up lots of links to various websites. Lots of these sites make interesting reading - but it is always worth remembering that pretty much anyone can put pretty much anything on the internet... Read and absorb, but always with a critical eye!

  • What are the advantages of the planned schemes?
  • Why do you think some people might be concerned?
  • WHAT DO YOU THINK? (And would your opinion be the same if you lived near to the planned developments?)

Post your comments here, or "Have Your Say" on the BBC website!

Winter cancelled in Europe??

I mentioned the other day the threat to ski resorts in Europe... Concern is growing, according to a BBC news report today, with many ski resorts having had to delay their openings, and ski races and events being cancelled due to a lack of snow.

The story also reports on the confusion amongst people - and animals - in Russia! The unusually warm conditions in a country known for its harsh, cold winters, and where temperatures this time last year fell as low as -29 degrees, have prompted mixed reactions. Some are happy that walking and driving are much easier, and that they are not slipping and sliding around. Others are worried - having to find alternatives to their traditional winter past-times of ski-ing and ice fishing. And Red Square, normally covered in a blanket of white snow by now, remains grey and damp, without a snowflake in sight.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Collecting your pension from the pub?!

That might be the case for elderly people in rural areas, if the threatened closures of 2500 Post Offices (announced last Thursday) go ahead.

It is claimed that the post office network is unsustainable, because more and more people are doing their banking, bill-paying, and buying TV licences and road tax via the internet, and so small rural branches in particular are likely to have to close. But many of these small rural Post Office are viewed by their customers as a vital part of the community...

One suggestion has been that "Post Office Outlets" could be set up for small rural communities in pubs and village halls.

But it's not just the rural Post Offices suffering - it was announced back in June that 6 major Post Offices were to close and their services transferred to nearby W.H. Smith's stores.

Click on the picture below to link to Thursday's story about the closures on the BBC website. Whilst you are there, have a look at some of the other related stories, and people's views on the issue.

What role(s) do you think Post Offices have in small rural villages?
What impacts will these closures have?
What are the possible solutions?

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Geography Cup in the news...

The Geography Cup has been in the news a few times in the last few days - an article in the Guardian today. The UK are back in the lead now, but it's pretty close - if you haven't already, register and help us show the Americans who the better Geographers are!

How does he do it?!

Ever wondered how Santa manages to visit all those people in just one night, or what route he takes on his journey?

Well, now you can find out, by following his progress...

NORAD Santa use sophisticated technology - radar, satellites, Santa Cams and jet fighter aircraft to track Santa on Christmas Eve.

If you have Google Earth 4, you can also download a Santa tracker from here and see where Santa's got to in GE.

Penguin Spotting!

This webcam on the island of South Georgia was pointed out a while back by a Scottish geography teacher friend, and watching the penguins on the beach in front of the camera is a great distraction from marking mock exams!

South Georgia is an island in the South Atlantic, and is at about the same latitude relative to the South Pole as the north of England is to the North Pole, but is much colder than the UK - can you find out why?

Because South Georgia is in the southern hemisphere, it is summer there at the moment. Keep visiting and watch how things change when winter arrives...

There is plenty of interesting reading on the South Georgia website as well, particularly for Yr13 who will be starting to look at human activity in cold environments after Christmas. Watch out for some more human activity/cold environments links coming soon...

Thursday, 14 December 2006

2006 - Britain's warmest year...

According to scientists from the Met Office and the University of East Anglia, this year is likely to be the warmest on record since records began - back in 1659!

The graph on the left shows how temperatures have varied from the average since 1772. Click on the graph to link to the full story on the BBC website.

The Guardian also has a story about ski resorts in Europe being threatened because of a lack of snow - this will have serious consequences for the economies in these areas, as tourism here is worth billions of Euros. (Click on the picture for the full story.)

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas...

My Yr8 group are doing some work at the moment about Christmas and Geography...

We are looking at whether it is better, from an environmental point-of-view, to have a real or an artificial Christmas tree (or to be a complete Scrooge and not have one at all!) - and they have some very strong opinions on the matter!

Surely artificial trees are better because they don't involve chopping trees down unnecessarily... And they can be used again and again - many people just throw their real trees out with the wrapping paper! But then again, what about the oil used to make those artificial trees? And the Co2 produced by transporting them here from China or Taiwan, where many of them are made?
Have a look at this Guardian article from last year and decide what you think...

Find out more about how to have a GREEN CHRISTMAS by clicking on the picture...

Marvellous Maps!

My Yr7 group were very excited to receive their free OS maps today, and keen to take them home and test their parents' map reading skills!

MapZone is part of the Ordnance Survey website and has lots of games and some tips to help you to understand more about maps and how they work...

Geograph is a project which is attempting to collect photographs for every square kilometre of the British Isles. They are already well on their way, although there are still a fair few squares left to "bag". There are some fantastic photos on there and it is worth remembering if you need photos for projects, etc.. Even better though, get registered and put some of your holiday snaps, or some pictures of your local area on the site!

It's only words...

Confused by your cyclones? Frazzled with fluvioglaciation? is a great site which allows you to create lists of words... Would be very useful for creating online glossaries of key terms so that you can talk about "abrasion at the base of the cliff creating a wave-cut notch", rather than "bits of rock in the sea cause other bits of rock to fall off and make a little hole"!

Alternatively, you could follow the example of some of my Yr9s and use it to learn new words to confuse people with...

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

"Season's Eatings" from Ben and Jerry's!

Amidst all the hype (or is it?) about global warming and ethical consumerism that's about at the moment, it was interesting to hear that Ben and Jerry's are the latest company to jump on the bandwagon, launching two new flavours - "Fairtrade Vanilla", and "Fossil Fuel". Their website also has a lot of information about Fairtrade and about global warming and CO2 emissions...

Click on the picture to go to their website and look at Caring Dairy and Cool Your Jets...

Year 11 - Sustainable Transport... the very exciting topic for January's DME exam!

Although you are not allowed to see the Resource Booklet until January, you can start to do some background reading/research.

Don't forget, the DME is all about sustainability - if you are not sure what this means you had better get looking it up!!

A good place to start your reading would be the Sustrans website (click on the logo on the right)... A Google Search for "sustainable transport" will keep you going with reading all through the holidays!

If you find any sites that would be useful for all of us to have a look at, let me know!

An Arctic with no ice?

That could be the case by 2040, according to some new Nasa-funded research today! The images above show the Arctic ice in 2000 (on the left) and the predictions for 2040 (on the right). If the climatologists are right, what effects will this have? Click on the pictures to link to the full story on the BBC website. (For Yr13 especially, this is important reading!)

The story was also covered in the national newspapers - check out this article from the Times Online.

Who are the better Geographers?

Brits and Americans are often slated for their geographical knowledge (or lack of)... but who is best? (or worst?).

The Geography Cup is an online competition and a chance for UK geographers to prove that we know best. It's been running for a month now, and at the time of writing, the USA are slightly in the lead... But there's still time (until 31st Dec) for you to help sort that out! Get registered, get practising (especially those little Pacific islands) and get the UK back in the lead!

Monday, 11 December 2006

Hello Geographers!

Hello, and welcome to GeogTastic!

This is a bit of an experiment at the moment (especially as I am no blog expert... yet), but will hopefully be a useful place for ideas, resources, information, puzzles and problems for you to ponder, and all things geogtastic...

SO... Read... Think... Learn... And maybe even start your own "geogblog"!