PFAS in bottled water
By: Nicholas Hill
Summary. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are industrial chemicals used in many products from non-stick cookware to electronics and medical equipment. While they are very important to human industries and livelihoods, they have very damaging and dangerous environmental side-effects. PFAS are deemed "forever chemicals" because they are difficult to breakdown and get rid of in nature. Having something stay around for ever is not always an issue, but studies conducted by scientists and health workers in recent years have found that some types of the PFAS chemicals are harmful to humans and animals. PFAS have damaging after effects towards living creatures including birth defects and cancer growths caused by exposure. In the US alone there have been many documented cases of PFAS chemicals found inside humans. How do these dangerous industrial chemicals make their way into humans and animals? One of the most common ways that PFAS chemicals can harm humans is through drinking water, specifically bottled water. Many plastics use PFAS or similar chemicals like PET (polyethylene terephthalate). When exposed to heat, these chemicals can breakdown and enter the water they were packaged in. But this is not the only way these chemicals can enter our drinking water. In fact PFAS chemicals may have already been in the water before it was packaged. Chemicals dumped by businesses or the plastics that have been stored in landfills can sweep into our water sources where it is difficult to detect. The chemicals are difficult to remove directly as well because one of the most effective ways to separate the harmful chemicals from water is through reverse osmosis, a long and sometimes costly process. In recent years as scientist and governments have learned of the dangers of PFAS, there has been widespread legislation to regulate the amount of chemicals in water and food sources as well as regulate the types and amount of chemicals industries can use in the first place.
Why we should care? For many people around the world clean drinking water is hard to come by. Bottled water is easy to transport around and convenient for many. Adding chemicals to worry about is not good.
This article is particularly interesting because it is about Michigan where we live. It is also very shocking to discover that there has been very little concern for the testing of PFAS chemicals particularly in bottled water but also in our very own Great Lakes. It is also very unsettling that the chemicals are found in many different brands of water and not just one brand. This is evidence that there are many trace sources of PFAS from many different water sources. It also shows that many corporations do not care to test the safety quality of the water they sell. Hopefully the evidence found by scientists will push government to make legislation to test water especially bottled water for people to consume.
Science in Action. Dr. Carl Ng is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburg Swanson School of Engineering.
Dr. Ng works in chemistry, biology, and engineering departments to develop models for environmental conservation. She has worked to study the harmful effects of PFAS on living organisms as well as developed models to track the PFAS chemicals in the global food economy. She has also worked on ways to treat humans that have been exposed to PFAS from developing harmful side effects as well as attack the at their source in the form of "green" environmentally friendly solutions. Other than PFAS, she has worked on projects to help find ways to clean up sources of water pollution and to improve water quality.
The Global Bottled Water Market
By: Ireland Betzold
Summary. The bottled water market is a global industry that sells water mainly in the form of plastic bottles. This industry is growing very rapidly and has been since the 1970’s. Most forms of bottled water are distributed for the purpose of drinking water. However, this is not always the case. Distilled water can also be used for things such as scientific use or car batteries. Although water is a necessity, buying drinking water from large global bottled water markets is extremely unsustainable. The reason that the market is so popular, even though many are aware of its faults, is due to one main thing: convenience. It is much more convenient to purchase a $1 bottle of water from the store than it is to locate a drinking water source and provide your own cup or glass. It is also a very common fact that bottled water is safer/ healthier than tap water. However, this is a myth. This topic is very relevant in today’s news because of COVID-19 and its effect on the industry. During quarantine when everybody was locked up inside their houses, large amounts of bottled drinking water were being consumed. Many people even took this further and hoarded mass amounts of bottled water, much of which they did not need. As stated before, the consumption of these plastic drinking water options is extremely unsustainable. The production of the plastic bottles is a huge contribution to the release of fossil fuels and global warming itself. In addition to this, the industry seems to have no intention of slowing down, as it has been growing steadily.
Why we should care? The main reason we should care about the global bottled water market is because of its immense contribution to global warming.
This article was incredibly interesting because it did a very good job at explaining the intense growth of the bottled water industry. The study covers the growth over a certain period of time, 2021-2026. Not only does it discuss the reason for the incline, but it also lists multiple insights that help us understand the pattern of the growth. This article was extremely helpful in understanding why the growth rate of these companies is flourishing and will continue to in the upcoming years. I also chose this article because of its relevance. The author mentions how COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the market, and how the pandemic has and will continue to cause growth of the global bottled water industry. However, COVID-19 is not the only pushing factor. There are multiple other factors that contribute to the growing industry of bottled water.
Science in Action.
Dr. Subhash C. Jain is a professor Emeritus at University of Connecticut.
Dr. Jain specializes in understanding marketing strategy and multinational marketing. In addition to this, he is also the author of over 100 publications including 12 books containing various marketing information. Although he resides in the United States, Jain holds many presentations and seminars all across the globe. Some of these seminars include the topics of marketing and export strategy, and global branding. I feel as though this is crucial to his credibility, as it proves he has had much experience in analyzing larger scale markets, such as the global bottled water industry. He also works as a consultant to many organizations such as United Technologies and General Motors. Jain is very passionate about the global bottled water market, hence why he performed a case study assessing global competitiveness within the bottled water industry.
By: Emma Jablonski
Summary. Nestle has been siphoning water from a southern California watershed in San Bernardino forest, and selling it through their Arrowhead Brand bottled water. The company itself states, “For more than 125 years, BlueTriton Brands and its predecessors have sustainably collected water from Arrowhead Springs in Strawberry Canyon. We take pride in being good stewards of the environment, while providing an excellent product loved by Californians.” Nestle has had rights to California spring water since the year 1865, but many California officials have been accusing Nestle of taking more water in the forest than they are permitted to. While these accusations took place in April of 2021, It didn’t help the situation when California had confirmed a drought emergency in two counties already. Environmental groups and local communities have said that Nestle’s water usage will have a negative impact on both local ecosystems and communities as the droughts and wildfires continue to worsen in California. They also argue that water shouldn’t be sold in plastic packaging, contributing to an already accelerating waste crisis. Another investigation took place in 2015, where the US Forest Service allowed Nestle to siphon forest water with a permit that expired in 1988. In 2018, Nestle was given a three year permit but in turn they had to follow Water Rights and state laws. Nestle could have also been fined around $500-1,000 a day, for everyday that they’ve taken water since 2018. As of now though, no penalties or fines have been put in place for the company.
Why we should care? I think we should care about this topic at hand because it's important for us as consumers to know where any type of bottled water we buy is sourced from, if it's having a negative environmental impact on its ecosystem.
I found this article interesting because Nestle is taking water from a forest that's already suffering from droughts and has a high risk of wildfire. It's no doubt that this would make those conditions worse. I was also surprised to learn that water board officials said Nestle is only allowed to take about 2.4 million gallons of surface water every year, but the company itself stated that they collected 59 million gallons of water from the system in 2020. I'm not sure how they get away with that, but it's crazy to hear how much water they're actually taking.
Science in Action.
Victor Vasquez is the head senior engineer of water rights enforcement at California Water Resources Control Board.
I was unsuccessful in finding an actual scientist who researches the topic of Nestle taking water from California, but there are many legal experts in the field. Victor Vasquez is an engineer at the California Water Resources Control Board that deals with situations like these ones. State regulators found that Nestle is entitled to a total of 26 acre-feet that includes surface water and groundwater. Vasquez and his team have found that Nestle has been taking unauthorized water as much as 152 acre-feet. As of now, Vasquez's team has successfully kept them within that 26 acre-feet limit, even though Nestle claims they have more.
The Flint Water Crisis: 2021 Update
By: Jackson Vosburg
Summary. The Flint Water Crisis ravaged the city of Flint and the surrounding neighborhoods in 2014. They used water from the flint river, which is a naturally soft and acidic water source. This in turn caused the pipes in homes, businesses, and gathering places to be tainted with lead, which was corroded into the water supply from the acidic water. This caused a catastrophe that made its rounds to national and international news and permanently scarred many residents and their families, causing mass distrust of government. In 2017, a federal judge mandated a plan to replace all pipes in the city of Flint, which is still ongoing as of today. Despite many homes being deemed safe for water consumption again, many people are still very distrustful. The program did not allow for the replacement of pipes inside of people's homes, meaning the water supply could still potentially be contaminated for some. This is not the only issue however. Public mistrust of the government in Flint is still near an all time high because of the lingering effects of the water crisis. Nearly all residents are still drinking bottled water and showering at a friend or family member's house outside of the city. This then begs the questions: What is this program for? How will the government regain trust? The obvious answer to the first question is that the program is to return the municipal water supply of Flint back to where it was pre-crisis in 2014. However, delving deeper into the question makes one wonder, what is it really for? If the people still don't trust the municipal water supply and many residents still have corroded lead pipes in their homes, is the replacement program really accomplishing anything positive? Many residents cannot afford to replace all of the lead pipes in their homes, and tenants who rent have no choice whatsoever in the replacement of lead pipes in their homes. This is a failure on the government for not providing pipe replacement for homes as well, which is ironic because the cause of the crisis in the first place was a government oversight in municipal water supply. Without fixing the pipes in homes, this project is as good as useless. The second question, how does the government regain trust, is even more difficult to answer. Flint's population is over 50% black, and minority populations have already been historically oppressed by the government. This makes trust of the government much harder to obtain, and much easier to lose. The 2014 crisis has significantly damaged this relationship, for some beyond repair. The government cannot simply do an advertising campaign like they can for other pressing issues, because trusting the government's propaganda to trust the water supply would obviously not work very well. The only way the government of Flint can repair their image is through their actions, not their words and false promises. As the year 2021 comes to a close, it marks nearly 7 years since the start of the Flint Water Crisis, and it does not show any signs of being completely gone for the foreseeable future. The crisis which many Michiganders and Americans stopped hearing or caring about years ago is still ongoing and causing issues for the people of Flint, Michigan.
We we should care? The Crisis is an example crumbling infrastructure of America and the consequences that can occur when not left in check. It is also an example of government corruption at the State and City level.
The article from the Washington Post was compelling because it interviewed multiple people from Flint to hear their story in 2021, and also asked them if they are back to using tap water yet. All people interviewed in the article said no, which is not too surprising considering the ongoing issues still occurring. People interviewed revealed the bottled water programs are still ongoing throughout Flint and are mostly among the elderly who have less money and are less mobile. Simple actions such as showering and cooking are either done at the houses of relatives or done with bottled water from the store. As a resident Aaron Neely put it, "Their pipes … were destroyed by a city problem, but now the responsibility to fix it is on the residents, which is totally unfair.” This brings light to the fact that although the water crisis is being masked by the pipe replacement effort from the government, it is hiding the fact that residents must pay to have their own pipes replaced. Without replacing the pipes inside homes, the effort to fix Flint's infrastructure is pointless.
Science in Action.
Dr. Marc Edwards is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineer at Virginia Technical University.
Marc Edwards has investigated water supplies in Washington DC, UNC campus, Flint, and most recently wells in Fishers Landing, New York. He has dedicated most of his life research into investigating and ensuring the safety of municipal water supplies in the United States. His research has lead to the replacement of thousands of lead pipes, and also changed the way water tests are done on a Federal level. Marc Edwards was instrumental in the Flint Water Crisis issues being exposed and brought to light. Before his research was conducted, City and State employees were falsifying scientific data in their reports. When Edwards heard cries for help and stories from Flint Residents he decided to test the water supply. His research was eventually sent to city and state officials, and a state of emergency was later declared due to his research. He saved countless lives through his research and his evidence also helped jail corrupt politicians and workers who allowed for the crisis to occur in the first place.
Radium Contamination in Colorado Water
By: Alexandria Simpkins
Summary. Residents of Gleneagle Colorado were notified this year that their drinking water was 1.7 pci/L over the limit of radium allowed. The Donala Water and Salination company presides over this city’s water and has determined the cause of these higher than normal radium levels to be due to excessive water use and the rise in temperature. The Donala Water and Salination company also states the water is safe to drink however the health risks for pregnant and immunocompromised persons is high, and if consumed for 50 years or more it can obviously increase the risk of cancer. Residents are concerned about the district's communication and do not fully understand the statement made by the water company. In short, their conclusion says the ‘radium found in the drinking water is a result from radium deposits that naturally occur from the minerals commonly found in any water supply. The higher pulling rates of water from these wells is causing the higher levels of radium seen.’ The Donala Water and Salination company’s attitude towards this matter is calm and seemingly cocky in their efforts to target the source and solve it. They have devised a plan to test each individual well for excessive radium levels to see if a certain well is pulling from a pocket and to treat the water with a chemical that will attach to radionuclides and pull them out. They will also turn off whatever well is experiencing high radium concentrations and use the HMO process to further filter the water. The Donala Water and Salination company’s closing statement is that they are already conducting this plan and expect the problem to be fully fixed by 2023. In the meantime, 25% of Gleneagle’s water has been bought by the Donala Water and Salination company from Leadville, to help dilute the radium present.
Why we should care? I think we should care about this topic because nothing is more important than understanding the regulations in place to protect us from various contaminations, whether it be physically, mentally, or environmentally harmful.
I think this article is important because it really exposes how little we know about what is really in our water. While the set standards of what is and is not allowed in any product we use or consume is regulated, it's still very interesting to know what those standards are. While reading this article I kept making comparisons to the Flint Water Crisis and found it unbelievable the speed at which these plans were made (within a year) for Gleneagle’s contamination.
Science in Action.
Dr. Uloma Uche is an EWG Environmental Health Science Fellow.
Uloma Uche worked on a peer reviewed research study by the EWG that demonstrated that areas at high risk for cancer from polluted tap water, that also experience environmental injustice can be identified when water quality data, demographic data and community water systems maps are analyzed and compared. The study urges for water equitability by asking EPA to add drinking water to its environmental justice mapping tools as a metric. I find this research to be important to this article because the EWG's research gives direct instructions on how lawmakers can make drinking water safer, especially under the domain of public health policies. The research also highlights common carcinogens in our tap water that are regulated, one being radium. The research shows the mix of these toxins found in tap water has the potential to lead to 100,000 cancer cases. or more. The research done by EWG could prevent situations in Gleneagle from happening again, while also lowering our country's exposure to toxins present in our water.
How PFAS are Affecting the Artic
By: Jack Leland
Summary. PFAS also know as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances are chemicals that don’t break down naturally in the environment. They are used in lots of different human made products, from pizza boxes to foam used to fight fires, and then they are released into the air. Once they are in the air they then will get trapped in snow and be brought to the Artic, they then often get trapped in Arctic ice. As the Earth begins to heat up the PFAS leave the ice and float in the water. When PFAS go into the water they increase the salinity of the water. The more water that this process begins to affect the worse it will get for the planet, the reason for this is that when the PFAS are in the water it releases pollutants into the air and gets rid of key nutrients. With these key nutrients missing it will affect the biota, (The base of the marine food web) causing major problem within the food web. People have been trying to find ways to combat and reduce the amount of PFAS in our environment. Scientists at in the UK have been studying to find ways to put less PFAS in our air. Other scientists are trying to find ways to take it out of our water. One of the ways that they are doing this is using reverse osmosis. This method does not help the environment as much, but stops it from poisoning humans. There have not been any ways to stop PFAS completely so, for now scientists will still have to work with just being able to find ways to reduce them enough so that it will affect the Earth as little as possible.
Why we should care? The PFAS also affect humans. It has been shown to lead to liver failure and fetus growth problem.
I found this article interesting because it lets the reader learn about what PFAS are, how they are produced, how they are affecting us and what the consequences are. They make it so that the reader does not get flooded with too much information. This makes it so that they start with verys basic concepts and then can go into a lot of detail about the problem. They do not go so deep into the content that an average reader would not be able to understand the article making it more appealing and available to a wider audience outside of other scientists.
Science in Action.
Karen Y. Kwok is associated with the City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Dr. Kwok is an Environmental Scientist who studies mainly out of Hong Kong on how humans affect marine life. She has been working on these issues for over 12 years. She mainly does research on how specific things that enter the water affect the animals, Like her article about how flame retardants are affecting zebrafish. She also has written a lot about how PFAS are affecting marine life which is why I believe she is relevant to my topic. With over four articles talking about PFAS she has devoted most of her work towards trying to save marine life from this deadly chemical.
By: Alex Leh
Summary. As other entries have posited, PFAS are an expansive category of toxic chemicals. PFAS can be found in a wide array of products and uses; grease resistant coatings for food packaging, cookware, stain resistant cloth, water resistant cloth, fire suppression foam and myriad more things. PFAS are highly stable compounds that seemingly do not break down in the environment at all. Along with an expansive list of health effects associated with exposure to these chemicals, PFAS should be feared. Scientists analyzed rainwater collected in Cleveland this past summer, and found PFAS concentrations of 1000 parts-per-trillion(ppt). Many more sites are being studied too. The Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network (IADN) is an international coalition of researchers dedicated to study pollution in the great lakes region. Scientists from the EPA and Canada set up monitoring stations in Cleveland, Chicago, Sturgeon Point (NY), Sleeping Bear Dunes and Eagle Harbor and have been studying the waters there since 1990. Across these sites, 38 separate PFAS compounds have been detected with concentrations of 100-400ppt. This is troublesome, as the seemingly remote areas are harboring harmful quantities of these chemicals. These results seem to conclude that PFAS are migrating in the air and precipitation to deposit elsewhere, deep in nature. Considering their stable nature, our lakes and ponds are continuously accumulating higher and higher concentrations of PFAS at this very moment. After a 1 year study, IADN researchers conclude that PFAS contamination are several orders of magnitude more concentrated than other pollutants.
Why we should care? I like to explore. It is already commonplace to see warnings of PFAS contamination in our parks and rivers. Considering the data, many more recreation sites will have warnings, or close outright.
This article is interesting because it uncovers the ubiquity of PFAS pollution in Michigan. Concentrations of PFAS high enough to cause harm are being found in rainwater and ponds, hundreds of miles away from their respective manufacturing plants. With natural bio-accumulation processes, we are slowly ensuring the destruction of our beautiful and scenic environment. Given how many recreation sites I have personally seen with PFAS warnings already, rivers may soon have to close to activities. The EPA and EGLE need to do more to educate the public on the dangers of PFAS, and to regulate/ban their use in industry.
Science in Action.
Dr. Marta Venier is an Assistant Professor at The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
Dr. Marta Venier is an environmental chemist that studies pollution. She was born in Italy, and received her laurea degree in chemistry from the University of Trieste. Venier then went on to get her PhD in environmental science from Indiana University in Bloomington. She tries to find out where pollution comes from, how it moves, and where it ends up. She mainly studies organic pollutants, like polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, PFAS and flame retardants. Her lab uses mass spectroscopy to study air, water, soil and biological samples. Venier has been the lead of the IADN since November of 2019.
By: Rochelle Durand
Summary. A recent study in Seattle, Washington found alarming levels of toxic chemicals called PFAS in samples of mothers’ breast milk. Researchers from Indiana University, University of Washington Children's Research Institute, and the organization ‘Toxic-Free Future’ followed 50 women in the Seattle area and measured the parts per trillion of nine different PFAS in their breast milk. They found PFA levels ranging from 52 parts per trillion, up to 500 parts per trillion. The median contamination levels among the 50 participants were 152 parts per trillion. For reference, in 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency set the PFA level for drinking water at 70 parts per trillion. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of man-made chemicals that can not break down on their own and can accumulate in the human body with negative health effects. These substances gained the nickname “forever chemical” due to their persistence in the environment and the human body. PFAS were invented in the 1940s and are best known for their water, fire, oil, and temperature resistance. They can be found everywhere, from non-stick appliances, rain jackets, food wrappers, and fire-fighting foams. PFAS can make its way into the human body through multiple pathways. This includes the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we consume, and household furnishings such as couches and carpets. It is now believed that over 98% of Americans have some level of PFAS in their blood. Once in the bloodstream, PFAS can travel to tissues and can make its way into the placenta and breastmilk of expecting mothers. From there, PFAS are passed down from the mother to the child. As more women are exposed to PFAS, more toxins are passed down to their children. Exposure to these toxic chemicals can cause adverse health effects for humans and animals, including decreased immune response, thyroid effects, increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, and increased cholesterol levels. Members from Toxic-Free Future and researchers from the study are now raising concern over the rising levels of toxins in breast milk, advocating for a state-wide ban or regulation on PFAS. Newer PFAs are being found in higher concentrations, showing that changing the type PFAS did not solve the problem. Even older PFA chemicals that are no longer being produced are still being found in breast milk samples in high amounts, proving that the whole class of PFAS needs to be addressed, not only certain kinds.
Why we should care? PFAS are found around us in everyday products. They can be passed down to our children since they cannot be naturally broken down, causing health effects that can last for generations.
I found this article interesting because not only did it include in-depth information on PFAS, but it also included an interview with one of the mothers who took part in the study, Vera Harrington. Harrington discusses her anxieties surrounding PFAS, and how avoiding them seems “out of her control”. She explains what products she will no longer be used in preparation for the arrival of her second child; including carpet cleaning treatments and a stain-resistant rocker that she bought for her first child. In addition to the interview with Harrington, the article provides useful infographics displaying the findings from the Seattle-based study, showing the different types of PFAS that were observed and the ppt (parts per trillion) recorded. The article also discusses the ways big corporations such as McDonald’s are taking action to remove PFAS from their products and other ways that organizations such as Toxic-Free Future are advocating for new legislation.
Science in Action.
Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington.
Dr. Sathyanarayana’s research focuses on PVC and BPA chemical exposures and their effects on the endocrine system as well as reproductive development. A majority of her research examines the relationship between toxic chemicals found in our environment and their effect on pregnancy outcomes and early childhood development. Recently, Sathyanarayana’s research has expanded to PFAS and their effects on the human body and the reproductive system. Her goals are to use science to influence policymaking and to protect children’s health. In the past, she has served as the chair of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee. She currently is a medical director at the University of Washington who provides health consultations through the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit to help parents better understand the dangers of toxic chemicals in their home environments. Her work is relevant to PFAS because just like other man-made chemicals such as PVC and BPA, they can have detrimental effects on the endocrine system in both babies and adults, and can accumulate in the body for long amounts of time.
By: Alexis Potoff
Summary. PFAs are Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are manmade. There is evidence that this chemical, which can be found in a wide range of places, can have adverse effects on human health and can accumulate in the body over time. Some of the places PFAs can be found are in biosolids, cleaning products, and food that was contaminated either by packaging, the facility it was produced in, or by being grown in contaminated soil or water. The focus of this blog post is on biosolids, or treated sewage sludge, and its common use as garden fertilizer. Many fertilizers are made with this sludge and sold at various retailers like Lowe’s, Menards, and The Home Depot. Such fertilizers are commonly marketed as organic. While the EPA does require that biosolids be tested for certain heavy metals and pathogens, they do not have a limit on the amount of PFAs that are allowed to remain in the soil. This means that a range of the different soils that a person can purchase at their local gardening store may contain these harmful chemicals. The Sierra Club tested some of these soils in commercial labs to check their contents: “Each product contained 14 to 20 of the 33 tested PFAS chemicals, with total concentrations ranging from 38 to 233 parts per billion (ppb)” (sierraclub.org). They go on to elaborate that this amount of PFAs is considered highly polluted meaning that there is a high probability of contamination by using them. The best thing that people can do is to check their different types of soil for biosolids before purchasing and potentially choose another option to avoid the continued build up of PFAs.
Why we should care? This topic is important for us to consider so that we can be cognizant of our impacts on the environment. We cannot stop the spread of PFAs but we are capable of lessening their impact at home.
I found this particular article interesting because I work at a gardening store and do a considerable amount of gardening myself, so I have a lot of involvement with different soils. I had no idea that many of the soils titled as “organic” could potentially contain biosolids and PFAs which can harm the environment. It is almost ironic considering that an activity such as gardening that seems to be a positive impact could be negative depending on the soil a person uses. In the future I will keep my eye out for which soils I purchase and recommend to customers.
Science in Action.
Dr. Youn Jeong Choi is an Analytical Chemist at Purdue University.
Dr. Youn Jeong Choi currently appears to focus her research on different types of PFAs and their impacts involving different materials. Conveniently, this is almost directly involved with the topic of this article. While her research is not entirely focused on soils, it is helpful to have more information on other impacts of PFAs. Some of her other research involves aerobic biodegradation, aqueous film forming foam, resins, and uptake by the Northern Leopard frog. This is relevant to the topic of PFAs in the environment because it directly discusses the way this chemical can have an impact in multiple different ways.
By: Jackson Gifford
Summary. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, are chemicals used in the manufacturing process of various products that we interact with on a regular basis. From water-resistant clothing, to food packaging, to even the food that we eat, PFAS have become a part of our daily lives without much notice. While PFAS have great use to manufacturers, they are dangerous to humans due to their inability to be broken down biologically. It has been found that PFAS will accumulate in the human body over time. Their increase in use has caused larger amounts of the chemicals to appear in the human body, and their concentration has been correlated to low infant birth weights and cancer, among other things. While the chemicals were thought to exist mostly in water and food sources, it has recently become more commonly detected in the air that we breathe indoors. This has been linked to PFAS’s use in carpets, floor wax, and more common indoor items that are used in private and public spaces. This has caused great concern in the health of children, who could be exposed to an onslaught of dangerous chemicals without their knowledge. This issue continues to develop by the day as new research is published and more chemicals are identified as dangerous. While the information about PFAS is relatively new, the EPA formed a council this year to address the concerns of scientists and citizens, which it hopes will be able to curb the use of PFAS by manufacturers in the coming years.
Why we should care? PFAS are a new kind of contaminant that are not thoroughly studied. As new research shows the dangerous effects of the chemicals, we need to eliminate their use in production as soon as possible.
I found this article interesting because it shows how much we still do not know about PFAS. In the article, there is an entirely new compound that is identified as dangerous to humans that was initially thought to be safe. I think that there is still so much to be understood about PFAS chemicals, where we are most susceptible to them, and how our bodies interact with them. There are so many effects that humans have on their environment that are still unknown, and the new case of PFAS shows how in the dark we still are. This article does a great job of emphasizing the unknowns of the chemicals and why we need to be aware of them.
Science in Action.
Maya Erin Morales-McDevitt is a Graduate Student at the University of Rhode Island.
Maya Erin Morales-McDevitt is the woman responsible for heading the research that the University of Rhode Island published this year. Not only is this the study cited in The Guardian, but also in countless other news articles covering this topic. Her research revolutionized our understanding of how we interact with PFAS in the air, and how dangerous they actually are. Morales-McDevitt and her colleagues were able to identify completely new compounds that are dangerous to humans, and determined how PFAS particles are able to be transported through the air. This work alone will forever change the way scientists look at PFAS, and will surely change the ways in which they act to diminish their presence.
By: Bob Deem
Summary. In 1967, 134 sailors were killed when a fire broke out aboard the USS Forestal aircraft carrier off the coast of North Vietnam. After that incident, the US Navy began requiring all of its vessels to carry a new firefighting agent called Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF, or "A Triple-F"). The revolutionary compound had been developed in conjunction with chemical company 3M and patented by the Navy in 1966. The use of AFFF was soon adopted as industry standard across the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and fire departments around the world. AFFF contains a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which was poorly understood at the time of its development. These chemicals have since been linked to a host of health conditions like cancer, immune disorders, reproductive and hormonal dysfunction. Worse, they are incredibly persistent in the environment, as they are immune to almost any kind degradation. PFAS chemicals released during firefighting activities, both real-world and far more often in training, make their way into groundwater either through seepage, runoff, or direct release into oceans, lakes, and streams. Because they do not degrade over time, they quickly build up and become harmful to humans in concentrations as low as 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Not only do PFAS chemicals accumulate in the environment, they are equally persistent in the human body, making exposure to even tiny amounts dangerous over time. In 2000, 3M announced that it would no longer manufacture AFFF containing PFOS, a type of PFAS chemical, after research indicated that there was no level of exposure that could be considered “safe” for humans. By this time, however, many more chemical manufacturers were manufacturing PFAS-based firefighting agents with a new 6 carbon-chain formulation that they claimed was safer for the environment than the old 8 carbon-chain AFFF. However, in the twenty years since, the new formulation has proven to be every bit as dangerous to health, more difficult to clean up, and better able to slip through filtration systems.
Why should we care? PFAS-based firefighting agents are used across the US and around the world. Every year, thousands of gallons of these toxic chemicals are discharged and make their way into our drinking water.
The linked article discusses the release of PFOS and PFOA containing firefighting agents into Lake St. Clair from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, right here in our own back yard! Subsequent testing has revealed local drinking water contamination in excess of 4,000 parts per trillion, against a lifetime exposure limit of only 70 parts per trillion established by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Michigan Environmental Council sets the limit at 16 parts per trillion for PFOS and just 8 parts per trillion for PFOA. As a former military crash rescue firefighter, the issue of PFAS contamination from military firefighting operations is a subject that is important to me.
Science in Action.
Dr. Jennifer Field is a Professor, Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State University.
Professor Field's research focuses on the development and application of methods to measure and track micropollutants in natural and man-made water systems. Her current work includes developing the application of chromatography/mass spectrometry to measure illicit drugs in municipal waste water as an alternative indicator of community drug use. A great deal of her early work focused on contamination of groundwater by fluorinated surfactants (PFAS) in firefighting foam. Professor Fields has published or co-published dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject of groundwater contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, from all sources, including military use of aqueous film forming foams.
By: Robin Bresolin
Summary. Wildfires are a major issue affecting people and ecosystems around the world, especially in the Western states. For most people not living in these states, the issue can be obscure and is not the first thing to come to mind when thinking about climate change and it’s negative impacts. By 2015, the fire season had grown two-and-a-half months longer than it had in the 1970s and is continuing to grow. Today even more acres are burning and the amount of fires are only going to grow. Wildfires in the west are an issue that needs more attention, because the fires are burning more than 3 million acres of land, destroying ecosystems and people’s homes. Some causes of wildfires out west include the droughts and heatwaves due to climate change, which is actually lengthening the time period of the fire season. In fact, 95% of the causes of wildfires are believed to be from climate change. Some scientists are skeptical of that percentage, but the logic that backs the number up is found at the bottom of lakes. For instance, researchers at Montana University drill deep into lakes to pull out ash and charcoal from ancient wildfires, called core samples. The core samples contain record proof of wildfires dating back in time and patterns which prove the connection that more fire results from a warmer climate. Contrary to the negative effects of wildfires from climate change, historic wildfires used to actually be part of a natural and healthy forest life cycle. Although the average person assumes the topic of wildfires to be bad for the environment, consistent trends in past fires prove that fires are essential to ecosystems. Since the beginning of time, wildfires have always been around and used to burn at a healthier rate that was more regulated. They open up land, rejuvenate growth, and help support certain species that live on the burned landscape. In today’s world, wildfires are inevitable, which is why methods to regulate and control fires are important for not only human life, but climate change as well. Simple precautions like installing indoor air filters, cleaning up flammable items around home, and developing houses in less fire-prone areas are methods that help adapt to living with wildfires. So although wildfires can be good for a natural forest life cycle, there can only be so many until a negative impact is left. Wildfires can easily grow out of control and leave devastating effects to a populated area and ecosystem, which shows the power that climate change can leave due to rising temperatures.
Why we should care? Wildfires are only going to increase in size and quantity as climate change continues. It's important to understand the dangers wildfires can cause to not only humans, but also ecosystems.
I found this article interesting because the disaster of wildfires is not something that is commonly talked about in Michigan or at least where I grew up. It’s important for more people to be aware of the devastating impacts wildfires have on ecosystems and humans living in that affected area. In order to promote more awareness about the importance of reducing climate change, the actual consequences must be brought to light. This is another reason why this article stood out to me. Since wildfires aren’t as common in the midwest, not as many people may know about the issue, including myself. I was disturbed to learn more about the rapidly increasing wildfires out west due to rising temperatures. This past July, northern Ontario experienced a ton of wildfires and the haze from the smoke actually drifted all the way to my home. It’s sad to see forests burning to the ground and increasing air pollution. It was also beneficial to learn about easy precautions to take in your everyday life to help prevent wildfires and reduce global temperatures. Overall, wildfires are yet another consequence of climate change, and making small changes in your everyday life goes a long way.
Science in Action.
Dr. Phil Higuera is a Professor of fire ecology at the University of Montana.
Professor Higuera is a director of the fire ecology and paleoecology labs at Montana University. His studies include how fire activity varies with climate change in the present versus the past, and how forest ecosystems respond to these changes. Higuera’s work is relevant to the climate change link to wildfires because he claims fire has always been a natural part of forest life cycles but discovered how human-influenced climate change has altered our ecosystems. One of these alterations is that due to the rapidly changing climate after a fire burns, the same type of forest doesn’t grow back in its place. Higuera’s findings are completely relevant because he gives an example that shows the disturbing effects of wildfires due to climate change.
By: Michelle Kim
Summary. or the first time in history, it was recorded that Siberian wildfires have reached the North Pole. The Sakha Republic in Siberia is known to be one of the coldest areas in the world. This year in Siberia, it has been recorded to have higher temperatures, droughts, and various amounts of forest fires covering larger areas (3.4m hectares (8.4m acres) being burned in the region). There are Smoke blankets that spread across the sky for about 2,000 miles from east to west and 2,500 miles north to south, covering most of Russia. The smoke has been recorded to have traveled more than 1,864 miles to reach the North Pole. The fire has burned at least 14m hectares of land which has been recorded as the second-worst fire in the century. Wildfires are known to be common in Siberia, but since early spring, these fires have increased and started to spread faster across larger areas of forests. Firefighters and paratroopers from the Russian military are doing their best trying to calm the fires, but only around half has been covered since the fires are too strong and dangerous. Throughout several articles, it mentions how the cause of how these wildfires got so bad was from our mistakes such as greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are these greenhouse gas emission are at fault, but according to Agence France-Pressethe, Russian authorizes are also to blame. They are aware that these fires are constant, but nothing is done about it since there is a law prevents them from intervening if the cost of intervention is greater than the cost of the damage they cause, or if they do not affect inhabited areas. These fires are terrifying news to climate experts because it reports that global heating temperatures are getting higher more quickly than imagined.
Why we should care? We should care about what is happening because it ties into global warming and climate change. More than 1,200 towns and villages have been impacted by the fires and the smoke puts our health at risk.
I found this article interesting to read about because it shows an inside perspective of the fire from various sources. The article talks about how badly the fire has impacted Russia along with pictures and videos. They described the fire to be covering the skies with black smoke and orange tints from the fire. You can see from the photos and videos exactly what they are talking about. It was crazy to see the fire through a POV (point of view) of a news reporter or a civilian because you can see first hand on how big the fires are and how much it has covered the skies. Seeing live videos made me realize that it is very real and scary to experience if I was in that position.
Science in Action.
Dr. Jessica McCarty is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Miami University in Ohio.
Dr. Jessica McCarty is an expert in geology. She studies interests regarding Geospatial technologies, methodologies including Earth observations, GIS, and data mining, Agriculture & food security, Land-use/land-cover change, Wildland, prescribed fire, Air quality, Black carbon emissions, Climate change, adaptation, Natural resources, and forestry. She has been in several publications including research about the Siberian forest fires. She has studied the patterns of forest fires in Russia along with other ecologists and how it has affected the world around it, which ties into the relevancy of my blog topic. It ties in because in my blog, it talks about how the fire affects climate change and the impacts it has created. Ecologists such as Jessica McCarty are important because they help us find the problems that affect our environment and can guide us to help preventing them from being incredibly damaging.
By: Emry Rittinger
By: Cameron Cornellier
Summary. California is the origin for many of the large wildfires that have been dominating headlines in the past few years. While the impact of these wildfires on the ecosystems where they occur can be devastating, new research is always being done to completely understand the effects of the fires. One of the newer wildfires, known as Caldor Fire, has been burning in California since August of 2021 and has had larger ramifications than simply burning through forests. The smoke and ash from the Caldor Fire has blown into the Lake Tahoe basin, which has polluted Lake Tahoe. The lake, which is famous due to its clarity, has become murkier due to particles of ash and ember that have fallen into the lake a result of the fires. As a popular tourist attraction, losing the famously clear water could potentially harm business around the lake. Additionally, the biological effects on the lake from the smoke is not fully understood, and the lake is being used as a case study to further understand how smoke, ash, and other particles impact the lake. Many endangered species call Lake Tahoe home, and the particle pollution in the lake could cause the natural ecosystem to become altered. Sunlight is being blocked by the smoke that hangs above the lake, which could kill plant life that needs photosynthesis to survive. Unfortunately, harm to Lake Tahoe will not stop after the forest fires are extinguished as rain in the region will cause ash-filled runoff into the lake, further filling it with particles. As more wildfires occur due to the changing of the climate, the problem that is occurring in the Lake Tahoe basin could happen to other lakes of the world. By understanding the effects that ash and smoke have on a body of water, we can prepare ourselves better when wildfires occur in other parts of the world.
Why we should care? As the climate of the world gets hotter, more wildfires will occur. By understanding how wildfires alter the ecosystem of a lake, we can better prepare ourselves in the future.
This article is interesting because it describes the scientific process that is being done on the water of Lake Tahoe in detail. By using marbles to filter the ash particles from the water, the researchers can determine the quantity and size of the particles. I think the article does a good job describing the entire situation as well as describing the research that is being done on the lake. It also touches on the League to Save Lake Tahoe, which is a group of people who focus on maintaining the clarity and cleanliness of the lake. I feel like they are an important group to bring up due to their prior understanding on how the ecosystem of the lake functions and it will be interesting to see what conclusions they come to after the experiments on the lake are finished.
Science in Action.
Dr. Sudeep Chandra is the Director of the Ozmen Institute for Global Studies, as well as the Director of the Global Water Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Sudeep Chandra is leading the team that is collecting the samples of ash falling into Lake Tahoe. He studies the restoration of declining aquatic ecosystems as well as the conservation of aquatic ecosystems, which would explain why he is leading the research on the Lake Tahoe wildfires. He also has experience working with the management of native and non-native species of animals, which is relevant to the aquatic ecosystem of the Lake Tahoe basin. Another key point of his research background is that he has an understanding on how water quality is altered when land changing events like mining, new human urbanization, and wildfires occur.
By: Matthew Vassilakos
Summary. In 2018 a man, searching for mammoth tusks in the permafrost of Siberia, found a cave lion cub that was almost perfectly preserved. This is believed to be one of the best-preserved specimens of any animal from the last Ice Age. This cub nicknamed Sparta is believed to be almost 28,000 years old. It was the second cub found in this location but the other, found 15 months before, is around 43,000 years old. They were initially thought to be siblings due to the similar appearance and location of discovery. It was only once the cubs were brought to the lab and radiocarbon dating was used that it was discovered the two cubs differed in age by around 15,000 years. These cubs were both estimated to be between one and two months based on their teeth, however when compared to modern African lion cubs the teeth of the cave lion cubs were developing slower. The researchers also could look at the hair of the cub because it was so well preserved. It was a greyish to light brown, this shows they had fur better adapted for the cold, white winters of northern Eurasia. It is likely that the cave lion cubs were buried quickly, a mudslide was suggested as a possible explanation for why they were preserved so well. Amazingly Sparta even has some of her mother’s milk still preserved inside of her. This allowed scientists to accurately determine what a fully grown cave lion’s diet could have looked like without finding an adult with food still in its stomach. Researchers from Russia, United States, France, Sweden, United Kingdom and Japan all collaborated on studies trying to figure out all they could from the two cave lion cubs that were found in this location.
Why we should care? We should care about this because we can learn about these animals, how they lived and what caused them to go extinct. We can use this knowledge to help protect the species still with us today.
I enjoyed this article because it was very informative about the cave lion cubs. However, the best part of the article was the included video. The video showed a lot of the process of how the cave lion cub was found and extracted from the permafrost. You can see how the how it was “mined” out of the cave and how ice was broken off the body to reveal the cave lion cub that anyone who has seen the lion king could recognize. It also provided interesting insights that the person who found the cub was not even looking for it, showing sometimes people accidentally stumble upon important scientific discoveries without even trying to.
Science in Action.
Dr. Love Dalén is a Professor in Evolutionary Genetics at the Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History.
Professor Dalén works using DNA technology to study the evolution of different species, past and present. He also looks at how environmental changes in the past effect the distribution and abundance of species today on Earth. He studies animals ranging from rhinos and mammoths to cave lions and lemmings. He looks at genetic variation, population structure and population size have changed over time, especially as a result of climate during the Late Pleistocene (Last Ice Age). His work is relevant to the cave lion cubs because he was one of the leading researchers looking at the cubs and determining how they lived. He has done the same with other animals, as mentioned above. The work Professor Dalén does can help us to protect the animals we still have by looking at the ones we have lost.
Still living after 24000 years
By: Collin Houston
Summary. Bdelloid rotifers are microscopic, multicellular creatures with very complex anatomies. They are able to survive in very harsh climates with excess acidity, fight off starvation, low oxygen, dehydration, and they are one of the most radiation-resistant animals. They were found in northeastern Siberia about 11 feet below the surface in permafrost that is around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. A new study showed that Bdelloid can also come back to life after being frozen for thousands of years in deep freeze, and are one of the few tiny creatures, including tardigrades, that are able to survive such unforgiving conditions. This study also shows that these micro-animals can survive very long durations in suspended animation as well. Since they are so resistant Dr. Meselson said “They’re the world’s most resistant animal to just about any form of torture,”. Bdelloid rotifers have been studied since the invention of microscopes. In 1702, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek described them as “little round animalcules” after examining some in gutter water from his house. Despite being only a dozen microns wide they have brains, guts, muscles, and reproductive systems. However, scientists are still unsure how Bdelloid rotifers are able to protect themselves from unsurvivable conditions and patch up their broken DNA. They have also been able to diversify to more than 450 species through assexual reproduction alone which is not favorable for evolution. These animals have also been sent to space to see how well they could survive in those conditions. The goal in studying and doing tests on Bdelloid rotifers is to unlock their super-resilient biological strategies in order to help preserve other animal cells, tissues, and organs on earth as well as other space which is the main reason they have been sent to outer space. According to Dr. Meselson “They’re probably the only animals we know that could do pretty well in outer space”.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because Bdelloid rotifers could unlock the ability for humans and living things to survive harsher climates as well as preserve other species of animals for the future.
I found this article interesting because of the possibilities that the Bdelloid rotifers can unlock for all living things. Unlocking their ability to survive suspended animation could allow us to save many living things that are dying due to an illness, and bring them back when a cure is discovered. It’s also interesting how a living thing could survive the harsh living conditions that the Bdelloid rotifers have been through. Like what exactly makes this thing so resilient to conditions that for almost every living thing are unsurvivable. To think that the possibility of something that many considered to be only out of science fiction to be possible is fascinating to me, and that it can help to save many people and living things is almost unbelievable.
Science in Action.
Dr. Mathew S. Meselson is a Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.
Dr. Meselson is a genius who has made contributions to the areas of DNA replication, repair and recombination as well as isolation of the first restriction enzyme. Most recently he has worked with Bdelloid rotifers and done research on them. He has done a lot of other work which is too long to list all of his work. However, his research in cellular biology was revolutionary. So I think that yes all of his past work with DNA and RNA are relevant to the blog post because the secret of Bdelloid rotifers hide within its DNA and cells and he has done this kind of research all of his life, and he is very respected and accomplished in this field.
By: Riley St.Ledger
Summary. The Trans-Alaskan pipeline is one of the world's largest oil pipelines, spanning about 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay in North Alaska to Valdez in the South. The pipeline carries almost 2 million barrels of oil across Alaska every day. But recent thawing of permafrost has threatened some supports holding the pipeline, putting the structural integrity in complete danger. A slope with an 810 foot long section of pipeline has already started to slip because of melting permafrost, causing the braces of the section to bend. Possible rupturing of the pipeline could result in a huge oil spill in a remote landscape, making it extremely difficult to clean up. Plus, any spill could release thousands of gallons of oil, which could only accelerate the thawing permafrost even more. Implications of the thawing permafrost can give people an idea about the effect climate change is having on pipeline safety, and on the landscape in Alaska. Permafrost is ground that has been frozen for at least two years, and it makes up nearly 85% of Alaska. In recent decades, the permafrost temperatures have warmed about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, causing increased thawing. To hopefully combat this melting, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is installing 100 thermosyphons, tubes that will suck heat out of the permafrost, to try and prevent further damage to the pipeline's structure, and keep frozen slope from slipping any further. But, there are still concerns with these cooling tubes. They haven't been used once a slope has already begun to slide, and the permafrost is already in the process of thawing. Plus, the thermosyphons will help keep the permafrost from melting around the oil pipeline, which is only adding to the extraction of more fossil fuels that are causing the melting in the first place. Besides the pipeline, roads and bridges and other infrastructure will also deteriorate faster than expected because of the thawing permafrost. This is a large problem that will continue to affect many aspects of life in Alaska.
Why we should care? This is an important topic because of the problems climate change is causing in Alaska, as well as in the Arctic. These places are heating twice as fast was the rest of the globe because of global warming, and are facing more problems quicker.
This article caught my attention because of how dangerous this situation could be. The Trans Alaskan pipeline stretches across the entirety of Alaska and has carried 20 billion gallons of oil since it was first established. The constant melting of permafrost in the future could cause multiple leaks, and increase the amount of oil spills occurring. The spills are already difficult to clean up, and of course are dangerous to the environment. There are solutions to the melting, so hopefully once those are in place there will be a decrease in thawing, and a positive change on the environment.
Science in Action.
Dr. Miriam Jones is a Research Geologist for Florence Bascom Geoscience Center.
Dr. Jones uses proxies to interpret climate and landscape change over timescales. Her current focuses are responses to abrupt permafrost thaw, sea level rise, sea ice retreat, and land use change. She has done research about the Alaskan permafrost and the abrupt thawing, which will release greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change even more. The climate change that is causing this melting is also increasing global climate change, which amplifies the dangers that permafrost melting really causes. This is relevant information to know about the permafrost melting, because of the added dangers that weren't covered in the main articles on this topic.
By: Ben Feld
Summary. Climate change is having a serious impact on all different places around the World, Oceans, Temperate lands, but none have been as effected as harshly as the north pole and Arctic circle. The Arctic circle was once considered a carbon sink, now due to snow ice and permafrost melting, it now releases more carbon than it absorbs from the atmosphere. The Arctic is warming at two times the rate of the rest of the world and this is not good. According to the Artic institute, permafrost covers almost a quarter of all land in the northern hemisphere. Permafrost refers to parts of the world where it is so cold the ground is always frozen, this happens in parts of Russia, Svalbard, Greenland, Northern Canada, and Alaska. Recently with the global increase of temperatures these lands have started to warm up and have lost their permafrost status. There are four million people living in permafrost areas whose homes and infrastructure will be effected by the melting. This permafrost holds 1,700 tons of organic material in it meaning once it is melted it will all decompose and end up in the atmosphere. Because of the mass amounts of organic material when permafrost melting starts happening more rapidly it will only continue to get worse as a negative feedback loop is created. Permafrost is also melting around coastlines which in addition to the lack of new ocean ice forming has led to receding shorelines, this has already effected small islands and coastal homes in Russia and Alaska. Of course, we cannot forget the frozen bacteria and viruses the world hasn’t seen in over one hundred years that are now being released by the melting permafrost. In addition Native peoples are also having their natural homes destroyed by the melting of permafrost.
Why we should care? The amount of carbon trapped in the permafrost is equivalent to about four times the amount humans have already released in 200 years.
This article was very interesting because it shows almost all the effects of melting permafrost I mentioned on the environment. As we can see a massive crater has opened up because of the melting of permafrost. Inside the crater was methane, a greenhouse gas with incredible reflecting power, four times that of carbon dioxide. The crater was 30 meters deep, or about 90 feet, that is a lot of methane that could have been released by it. This also shows how these craters can open up seemingly randomly and destroy whatever is on top of them, houses, train tracks, roads. I would hope this giant sinkhole helped people realize permafrost melting is a serious issue.
Science in Action.
Dr. Vladimir E. Romanovsky is a Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Romanovsky studies all things relating to the arctic, from human activities to groundwater and different soil influences. He has even researched how to find methane deposits on Mars and has done studies with satellites. He does mainly specialize in things relating to the artic and has written over 50 papers relating to the arctic. He is also a member of many scientific organizations researching climate change especially the effects on the arctic. He is a chair member on a member of the US Polar Research Board, the Vice President of the International Permafrost Association, and is also a member of the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Romanovsky has been committed to studying permafrost and has been doing it for 20 years and is considered an expert on the subject, he is relevant to permafrost and will seemingly be studying it until it runs out.
By: Amanda Turner
Summary. On June 20, 2020, Verkhoyansk, Russia experienced the highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle. Reaching 38deg Celsius (100deg Fahrenheit), temperatures are continuing to reach dangerous levels, which is leading to the permafrost melting, the collapsing of infrastructures, fuel spills, and an increased amount of methane being released into the atmosphere. These high temperatures are becoming common for Siberia, with the monthly average temperature in some areas reaching more than 10deg Celsius (50deg Fahrenheit) higher than the previous average. For many, though, the increased temperatures do not come as a surprise as the prevalence of climate change is becoming evident throughout the world. A group of scientists from the Met Office found that the heatwave was 600 times more likely than it was in 1900, and this sudden switch is all due to climate change. Wildfires are burning is Siberian forests, tree-eating moths are swarming the land, and the permafrost is melting. The National Resources Defense Council defines Permafrost as any ground that has been frozen for at least two years, but this can range up to hundreds of thousands of years. Alongside, the NRDC lists that some impacts of melting permafrost as the emission of greenhouse gases, collapsing infrastructures, altered landscapes, and a possible increased risk of disease. Fifty-six megatons of carbon dioxide were released as the result of wildfires in Siberian forests in June alone and 150,000 barrels of diesel were leaked into a river which is now endangering a nature reserve near the Arctic Ocean. Additionally, one of the coldest cities on Earth, Yakutsk in Siberia, is fearing losing their homes as the permafrost melts; many homes and buildings will only stay standing if the permafrost in in-tact. Some damage has already been done in this city, with some buildings having already fallen and many already having damage to their infrastructure. Many communities in Siberia are losing their homes, and the rest of the world will soon experience the effects of the melting permafrost.
Why we should care? The increased temperatures and the melting permafrost are dangerous to cities and other populations in Siberia, even putting nature reserves at risk. The results of the melting permafrost will affect the entire world.
This article highlights the dangers of the melting permafrost, specifically the methane and carbon emissions. It goes into detail on exactly why the melting permafrost is dangerous in relation to emissions, and it breaks down the process on how microbes release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Scientists in the article explain the difference between the effects of the melting wetlands and the melting limestone in Siberia; the thawing limestone’s emissions of hydrocarbons and gas hydrates are more dangerous and abundant than the emissions of the thawing wetland. With the thawing of the limestone, more microbes can access it and release more carbon dioxide and methane into the air. With the increased emissions of carbon and methane, climate change will only get worse, and the rest of the world will witness the effects.
Science in Action.
Dr. Dim Coumou is a Climate Scientist and Associate Professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Dim Coumou primarily researches global warming and how it influences extreme weather events. He coordinates Climate Data Science Research at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, and he has expertise in several areas including climate change, climate models, and extreme weather. The melting of the permafrost and the increased temperatures of the Arctic Circle both fall under his areas of expertise. Most scientists predict that climate change is a large factor in the heat wave, and the melting permafrost is an example of extreme weather, especially for the Arctic. Dim believes that this heat wave, and melting permafrost, would have never occurred in a preindustrial society. The effects that the melting permafrost have on the environment will continue to affect the planet and will contribute heavily to climate change.
By: Madalynn Matson
Summary. Hurricane Ida, bringing wind speeds of up to 150mph, brought destruction to all in it’s path. The storm is one of the largest ever recorded, leaving behind damaged houses, severe flooding, and devastation. While many were affected by the storm, many communities were hit harder than others, as is the case for many Indigenous people. The Houma Nation is the largest of fifteen Native tribes that Ida passed over, with upwards of 19,000 people living along the Gulf Coast. Despite its size, it isn’t recognized by the federal government, causing the nation to struggle with access to education, funds, and recovery aid. They also receive next to no help from the state government, forcing them to rely on outside donations. After Katrina, a study revealed that not many people even knew about the existence of Native communities in Louisiana. This, in addition to the general lack of media attention to Indigenous populations, reduces their aid and leaves many overlooked. After all, many don’t even realize these communities (a) exist and (b) are facing this much damage. Another pressing issue is the rapid coastal erosion in Mississippi and Louisiana. Rising sea levels are one of the main causes of the area’s alarming depletion of land. The buffer that had once slowed down the storm’s wind and water has been destroyed, allowing the hurricane to hit the area harder than ever. The road to recovery is expected to be a long one due to this level of damage. With climate change showing no signs of slowing down, coastal erosion continuing at rapid rates, and a lack of help from the government, many are worried for what is to come.
Why we should care? When talking about climate change, many refer to it as something that “could” or “will” happen. The Houma Nation is one of the many examples showing that it is already happening.
In this article, the Houma Nation’s chief, August Creppel, speaks about the devastation that hit his community. Houma is located on the Gulf coast, and is spread across six perishes. The nation received some of the worst damage from Ida, affecting over nineteen thousand Natives in that community alone. Many are unable to return, and if they do they are greeted with more rubble than home. Power and internet have been unstable, if available at all, and aid is incredibly difficult to come by for the state-recognized tribe. In addition to Ida, record temperatures plagued the country. The heat alone is dangerous and difficult to deal with, but coupled with hurricane recovery, no air conditioning, and no water, is entirely deadly. The article offers a new perspective on just how bad Ida has been.
Science in Action.
Dr. Jennifer Francis is a Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center.
Dr. Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, specializes in studying rapid changes in the Arctic, and how these changes are impacting the rest of the world. Her work covers the warming of the Arctic itself, and how recent, severe storms are the result of these changes in the Arctic. Francis’ early works looked into how moisture and energy exchanges occur throughout both the atmosphere and the globe. This work led her research to the connection of arctic warming and weather patterns closer to the equator. Francis has been working to better communicate her findings to the general public.
Students of ESG 1500