25 January 2016

This Week in Water

I'm sure no one on the U.S. East Coast needs to be told what's happening this week in water, but here goes:

A massive, historic winter storm (named 'Jonas') smacked the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard with snowfalls over 30 inches and blizzard winds up to 60 mph and coastal flooding affecting nearly 80 million people and leaving at least 27 dead. You might have heard about it.

In other news:

Hurricane Pali, an extremely rare winter hurricane, swept through the Pacific. Meanwhile, Hurricane Alex, the first January hurricane since 1958, formed in the Atlantic Ocean. More here.

The amount of man-made heat energy absorbed by the world's oceans has doubled since 1997.

Canada's ice roads are melting, resulting in food and water shortages to many of that country's remote northern First Nation communities.

Warming trends are affecting Greenland's ability to store excess water and, thus, more melting ice may be running off into the ocean than previously believed.

Research suggests that farmlands in more developed countries that rely on climate stability for high yield agriculture may be more vulnerable to changing conditions—such as increased drought—affected by climate change.

Drought conditions and water shortages are now a threat to what was once the world's wettest place—Cherrapunji in northeastern India.

Though El Niño storms are replenishing many California lakes and aquifers, some scientists fear the state may never fully recover from its historic drought.

Continuing winter flooding along the lower Mississippi River may prove to be among the costliest in history.

The toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan, continues. Criminal investigations are being initiated and the National Guard has been summoned, yet people still do not have sufficient lead-free water to bathe and cook and drink. The ramifications of this colossal political miscalculation by Gov. Rick Snyder may continue for generations.

President Obama rejected an attempt by congressional Republicans to gut the Clean Water Act and overturn landmark federal regulation seeking to ensure that water used for drinking, bathing, recreation, and energy development is protected.

Some fear that by 2050 there will be more discarded plastic in the ocean than fish.

Restoration of coastal wetlands may play a crucial role in slowing climate change. Saltwater ecosystems of seagrass and marshes and mangrove promote healthy fisheries, sequester carbon in their soils, stave off erosion, and provide defenses to powerful storm surges.

Chile is attempting to harness seawater and solar power in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth.

Scientists still don't fully understand why water is such a unique liquid, e.g., why ice floats or how it absorbs and releases a large amount of heat without undergoing huge changes in temperature.

Is there water ice on Pluto?

09 January 2016

Wintry Afternoon in Atlanta

Le déluge: Flooding from November
Après moi, le déluge; après le déluge, le debris
15 Years a Trampoline
Apparently, this is why I can't grow fresh bananas here—just banana trees

Lo, how a rose ere blooming...

For the deadheads among you

Pondage in winter
Is it me, or does Niobe seem particularly forlorn?
TFW the tree says you really shouldn't have put the walk so close
Loropetalum never fails to delight

The winter difference between fescue (foreground) and Bermuda grass
The former trampoline deconstructed and set out for pick up
The mossy area from which I hope to harvest my pet Tardigrades for my new terrarium
Tardigrade: the most interesting animal in the world

07 January 2016

This Week in Water

Busy holiday and end-of-year 'real life' issues now past, it's time to kick off the new year, 2016, with another installment of #TWIW.

The full effects of the current powerful El Niño have yet to be felt.

Winter temperatures in the Arctic rose above the freezing point in December as a result of storms originating from El Niño, the same storms that brought historic rains to the southern U.S. and Great Britain.

The U.S. midwest experienced historic flooding of the Mississippi River over the holidays. As did parts of northern England.

For the first time in ten years, California's snowpack is above normal.

Flooding from Typhoon Melor in the Philippines resulted in the evacuation of 725,000 people.

The Florida Keys are experiencing increasingly regular street flooding during high tides, and as temperatures continue to climb so will sea levels around Miami.

Melting Arctic sea ice is associated not only with increased heat absorption but also with increased precipitation in the Arctic.

The North American Great Lakes are warming twice as fast the planet's oceans. So is Israel's Lake Kinneret and many others worldwide.

The most critical ecosystem of Europe's oldest lake, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, one of the most biodiverse lakes in the world, is being paved over to accommodate increased tourism.

Bolivia's second largest lake, Lake Poopo in the Andes, has dried up.

Scientists have been significantly underestimating humanity's global water footprint by as much as 20%, and some believe we are fast approaching unsustainable levels.

Flint, Michigan has been declared a state of emergency after the state government changed up its water supply and toxic levels of lead and other toxic substances began showing up in the drinking water. You can (and should) follow the news here.

The chemicals in the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, are known to be associated with developmental and reproductive toxicity. The extent of their concentrations in groundwater supplies affected by fracking requires urgent further study.

The Australian government has given final approval to a giant coal terminal at Abbot Point in northern Queensland, just 12 miles from the Great Barrier Reef.

President Obama signed a new law banning the use of exfoliating plastic microbeads in soaps and shampoos and toothpaste beginning in 2017. These have been making their way into our waterways and water supplies for years.

Orange peels may be able to absorb excess mercury contamination in the water and soil.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and NOAA are crowd-sourcing tsunami sensors on cargo ships and other seafaring vessels to provide more accurate real-time data than current warning systems.

Scientists at Cornell University have developed a reusable polymer that can remove pollutants from flowing water within seconds.

Industry views on the state of water in 2015 here.

Dry ice rather than water could have sculpted those mysterious gulleys on Mars.