26 May 2015

This Week in Water

This week we focus on the continuing degradation, depredation, and disintegration of our planet's most precious resource.

"Absolutely massive" flooding hit central and east Texas after upwards of 12 inches of rain fell on the sea-level flat region. Oklahoma, too. A couple weeks earlier, a once-in-a-thousand year rain dumped up to 11 inches of rain on parts of Nebraska.

A "blob" of remarkably warm water in the Pacific Ocean off the U.S. coast of California may be responsible for the unusual western drought conditions and unseasonably wet eastern weather the last couple of years.

California's drought has killed approximately 12 million trees over the last year in its national forests. And there's more to come.

Lake Powell, America's second largest water reservoir, is drying up.

The Western snowpack, main source of California's water supply, was low again this year and melted early.

Nestle Corporation continues to bottle California water for sale. Likewise Walmart is profiting from California's drought by selling bottled water taken from municipal supplies.

Drought conditions near Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, are becoming increasingly drastic. Cases of dengue fever in the region have soared as a result.

The largest ice shelf in the Antarctic peninsula is thinning as a result of warming seas and climate and could break up with potential catastrophic results for world-wide sea levels.

Two hundred feet of North Carolina Highway 12 near Kitty Hawk broke off and washed into the Atlantic Ocean during a full-moon high tide. Meanwhile, the Republican legislature in that state is denying that rising seas are a result of climate change.

Likewise, Florida is facing the threat of rising seas and has no political plan to deal with the issue.

NOAA scientists have discovered a vast "dead zone" in the Atlantic Ocean spreading from the east coast of South America to the west coast of Africa. This lack of oxygen, or 'hypoxia', threatens all life because it effects the food chain there.

Santa Barbara is still reeling from the worst oil pipeline burst in decades off the coast of California. Estimates are than more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into pristine waters off undeveloped beaches.

Lake Erie is turning green (and not in a good way) from toxic algae blooms coming from farm runoff and septic spills from Michigan, Indiana, and Canada.

Duke Energy subsidiaries have pleaded guilty to criminal violations of the Clean Water Act in relation mainly to the massive coal ash spill in the Dan River, North Carolina, though other violations were found at other facilities. Fines and wetland mediation were the company's agreed-upon punishment.

Fish in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River are turning up with rare malignant cancerous tumors.

A USGS study has shown that well water contaminated with hydrofracking runoff could prove hazardous to human health.

Certain microbial bacteria in wastewater treatment plants may be reconstituting pharmaceutical pollution that had been previously broken down.

China is building islands on disputed reefs and shoals in the South China Sea for use as military bases.

Water scarcity in the Middle East may be contributing to the increasing political unrest and radicalization there.

[Edit Update: Thanks to thunder for the following link] The Obama administration has given conditional approval to allow Shell to start drilling for oil off the Alaska coast this summer. This comes on the heels of the Dept. of the Interior opening up a portion of the Atlantic Coast of to offshore drilling. The perils of such an operation have been pointed out many times in previous editions.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, a "flotilla" of kayakers and canoers protested the port's decision to host Shell Oil's Arctic oil drilling fleet.

15 May 2015

The Week in Water

Wondering what's going on this week in the world of water? Look no further! This week we focus on the positive, science-y aspects of our planet's most precious resource.

Did you miss the 7th World Water Forum in South Korea? Don't worry, there was a blogger there.

Water is "the weirdest liquid on the planet."

British scientists have revealed the molecular structure of water's liquid surface.

Astrophysicist have shown that water could have been abundant in the early universe.

NASA has found evidence for water ice at Mercury's poles.

What role did water play in the chemistry that led to life on Earth?

Seaweed might have the chemical super-power to counteract the increasing acidification of the world's oceans.

Scientists believe there exists an entire, virtually unknown world of microbial life under the surface of Antartica.

MIT scientists have developed a portable, solar-powered water desalination machine. Portable. Solar-powered. Desalination. This is the sort of game-changer I've been going on about since before I started this little shebeen. Here's another, smaller distiller.

Oak Ridge (Tennessee) scientists have developed a graphene-based desalination membrane. Scalability appears to be the next challenge.

Britain is planning a wind farm some 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast at a submerged island on Dogger Bank.

Want to see a video of the formation of a new island near Tonga resulting from an underwater volcano? Here you go! You're welcome.