Three Extreme Climates That Inspire Innovation

By Rachelle Gaynor, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
November 20, 2013; 6:14 AM ET
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In order to survive, it is necessary for people to adapt to the climates that they live in. However, these adjustments can be extreme when places have unusually severe climates.

1. Lack of Sunlight: Rjukan, Norway

Large mirrors were recently installed on mountains surrounding the town of Rjukan, Norway, in order to reflect sunlight into the town center.

This small town is located deep in a narrow valley of the Gaustatoppen Mountains. Due to its location, the town is cut off from direct sunlight during five to six months of the year, according to a press release by Solar Tower Systems (STS), the company that installed the mirrors.

This solar mirror technology, referred to as Heliostats, is able to provide both warmth and sunlight to the town for the first time in more than 100 years, according to STS.

Heliostats are programmed and guided by computers to follow the course of the sun, according to STS. This enables the mirrors to reflect the optimum amount of sunlight into the town during daylight hours.

Exposure to sunlight is very important because it enables vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, and a deficiency can cause bones to become thin and brittle, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Vitamin D also prevents rickets in children and can help prevent osteoporosis in adults, according to the NIH.

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2. Extreme Heat: Arizona, United States

Arizona is one of the hottest places on Earth from May to September.

The record high temperature of 128 F for the state of Arizona was recorded on June 29, 1994, according to Matthew Roach, environmental epidemiologist for the Extreme Weather & Public Health Program of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).

"Some parts of Arizona regularly receive over 100 days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit," Roach said.

This extreme heat brings many health risks including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, according to the ADHS. These health concerns can become serious or even fatal.

United States Postal Service letter carrier Brian Johnson, 55, takes a break from his 400-house mail route to hydrate with some water Monday, July 1, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

From 1993-2002, the rate of death from heat exposure was three to seven times higher in Arizona than the overall U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control.

The Arizona heat also brings dangerous environmental conditions that can lead to droughts and other dangers.

"During drought, there is an increased risk for wildfires and dust storms," Roach said.

The state of Arizona has therefore responded to these threats by introducing a heat emergency response plan, a bilingual heat brochure and a drought preparedness plan.

"There is also a heat alert system in place," Roach said.

People are able to sign up for email alerts that will let them know when and how to be prepared for extreme heat conditions.

3. Flooding: The Netherlands

After the storm surge of 1953 reached the southwest coast of the Netherlands, causing more than 1,800 people to drown from flooding, the country has taken drastic measures to avoid future devastation, according to Risk Management Solutions (RMS).

A fallen mature tree blocks the Herengracht canal in Amsterdam, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. A major storm with hurricane-force gusts lashed southern Britain, the Netherlands and parts of France on Monday, knocking down trees, flooding low areas and causing travel chaos. (AP Photo/Margriet Faber)

The original plan put into place by Dutch water authorities (Rijkswaterstaat) after the storm surge was to increase the height of all dikes and levies in the Netherlands, according to Environmental History Resources (eh-resources). However, this plan was not successful.

Serious technical problems evolved from building up levies and dikes. Eh-resources said that sandbanks formed in the river, obstructing the flow of water. Also, ice jams in the winter led to a rapid rise in the water level. The rising water level led to flooding in agricultural areas that severely impacted the lifestyle of Dutch citizens.

The Netherlands is now moving in a new direction in flood management toward a more natural solution.

One of the latest innovations is the Sand Engine, a giant mound of sand that the Rijkswaterstaat is hoping nature will take to the "right place" and serve as a buffer, protecting the coastline for the next two decades, according to Yale Environment 360. Since the coast is an area that normally sees a lot of erosion, the Rijkswaterstaat is hoping the reservoir of sand will re-nourish the coastline naturally.

Another technology being utilized are "Smart Dikes"- sensor-embedded levees that relay real-time status reports via cell towers to decision-makers, according to Yale Environment 360. This is meant to give people more time to react to possible flooding threats and provide more time to evacuate or prepare.

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