Wildlife impacts, fracking, sea level rise, or nifty promising technology: what moved you most in 2013? ReWire covered a wide range of topics in the year now slowly drawing to a close, and with just a couple of weeks left before 2014 it seemed worthwhile to take a look back.
With more than 400 stories posted so far this year, we've touched on quite a number of issues related to renewable energy in California, from the upbeat to the distressing. On Thursday, we'll discuss which stories we covered that we think are the most important.
But first, let's take a look at the stories you thought were the most important, at least in terms of how many of you stopped by to read them (that'd be pageviews or traffic in web speak). Here are the top ten most-visited stories for 2013, in ascending order of eyeballs.
10) ReWire's most-read story of 2013 is gleefully optimistic, but this one's all the way at the other end of the spectrum. The title says it all: Will Climate Change Cause Human Extinction? In the piece, we discuss the alarming suggestion that in the next couple centuries at least some parts of the globe -- including much of the continental U.S. -- will become so hot and humid that it'll be physically impossible for unprotected human beings to survive for more than a day. Spoiler alert: we couldn't debunk it completely enough to suit us.
9) Our most-visited story on solar power tower projects' threat to flying wildlife was just one of many updates on the topic of concentrated solar flux, which we've been covering in increasing depth since 2012. Now that the "bad burned bird problem" our October 1 piece refers to may now have doomed a much larger solar project, with ramifications for the whole power tower sector, we'll likely be covering the issue well into 2014.
8) In February, a handful of science writers were blithely discussing the possibility that climate change might already have locked us into almost 70 feet of sea level rise. We got to wondering what that would mean for California, so we checked. The answer wasn't pretty, and our resulting story -- complete with maps of places we'd lose in California -- brought several thousand people by to gawk, and hopefully to go make some changes in their carbon footprint.
7) Rachel Samuels and Miranda Thompson started their series of stories on fracking in California in September, and The Well Next Door's inaugural piece -- Rachel's "Meet The Frackers, Los Angeles" -- easily made it into the year's top ten most-visited stories. The piece is a great intro to the likely effects on L.A.'s historic oil wells of modern enhanced oil and gas recovery techniques, with a guest appearance by a minerals extraction company with a less than stellar rep among environmental activists.
6) A pair of related stories tie for sixth place: our July 10 piece on an Endangered Yuma clapper rail being discovered at the Desert Sunlight Solar facility near Joshua Tree National Park, and our July 17 followup on how the solar farm mortality problem extends to a wide range of other water birds not usually found hanging out on the ground in the desert. Those two stories launched our extended coverage of waterbird mortality at solar facilities, which we'll talk about more on Thursday.
5) This analysis of the problems with comparing cat bird kills to wind turbine wildlife mortality is a bit of a sleeper. We published it in late January to not much notice, but its traffic has been steadily growing over the course of the year, to the point where it's become our fifth-most-read story for 2013. It looks as though people are using it in discussions of the issue on Facebook and other social media. One recent spate of visits brought some criticism that our headline downplays the threat to birds from outdoor cats. That was certainly not our intention, and we encourage you to keep your kitty away from wild birds.
4) People seemed to like our piece on the global shutdown of one of Siemens' models of wind turbines; their visits pushed the story to number four in our ranking here. That cautionary move by Siemens came after a representative turbine at Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind facilty tossed a gigantic blade headlong across the Yuha Desert in May. It took a few weeks for those turbines to start back up. Fortunately, no one was injured in the accident, but locals might be forgiven if they continue hunkering: this week, a turbine in nearby Campo ignited and sparked a brushfire along Interstate 8.
3) People really want to believe a piece of technology will save us from climate change, but they also enjoy a good debunking. That's the lesson we took from the popularity of our critical piece "Viral 'Solar Window Outlet' Cannot Possibly Work." As appealing as the idea of plugging your appliances directly into a dongle you stick on your window might be, this was one time when the engineers knew better than the visionary designers. Sadly, the "too good to be true" debunking genre doesn't seem to be outliving its usefulness anytime soon.
2) We wish ReWire didn't have to report on the story that brought us the second most visits; namely, our coverage of a tragic August 26 plane crash at First Solar's Desert Sunlight solar project in the wake of a summer rainstorm. The accident took the lives of First Solar employees Mike Cyr and Jeff Randall, two good men who just wanted to support their families making the world a better place. Their families, colleagues, and friends have our continuing sympathy.
1) More Good News About The 'Scientific Accident That May Change The World': An astonishing 479,000 people read this story the day after we posted it February 21, making it the most-visited ReWire story ever. Technically a followup to our February 19 piece "Battery Viral Video: Legitimate or Too Good to Be True?", our coverage of the work Ric Kaner and his colleagues at UCLA have been doing on graphene supercapacitors apparently resonated with the online zeitgeist. Getting frontpaged on Reddit and linked to by Farhad Manjoo at Slate helped booost your visits, though having more than 20,000 people like the story on Facebook certainly didn't hurt.
What's new since February? A wide range of reserachers have been looking at ways to incorporate graphene -- a single-atom-thick sheet of pure carbon -- into electronics to achieve various ends from power storage to semiconductance. So far the substance is pure potential, but as for tangible results? Maybe we'll see in 2014.