By: Michael Knust
Summary: Organic sources of carbon are naturally stored deep within permafrost. This is because dead plants and animals get frozen in the soil and do not decompose. The reason the organic material freezes before decomposing is due to the glaciers during the last ice age. In the summer plants would grow in the sediment layer left behind by the receding glacier. Then when the glacier spreads southwards in the winter it will cover and freeze these plants as well as some dead animals in its path. When the glacier retreats again, it will cover these frozen organisms with a new sediment layer and the process starts over, adding a new layer every year during the ice age. The frozen organic material is mostly roots and other plant matter, but there are some animals. When permafrost thaws, which is being sped up by climate change, microbes in the soil are able to eat the dead organisms. The decomposition releases large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The microbes produce methane rather than carbon dioxide when there is no oxygen available. Oxygen is not available to microbes in environments such as swamps and wetlands and a large portion of the southern region of the Arctic, where permafrost is melting, consists of wetlands. As global temperatures rise, more permafrost thaws, contributing further to climate change.
Why we should care? Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and is a significant contributor to climate change. Melting permafrost adds more methane to the Earth’s atmosphere and is not accounted for in most climate projections.
This article does a partially good job at concisely explaining the methane released from thawing permafrost. It explains that microbes produce methane rather than mathan and carbon dioxide when there is no oxygen in the soil and that there is little to no free oxygen available in water saturated soil. It also explains that methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas when compared to carbon dioxide (thirty times more devastating to climate change). Greenhouse gas emissions from thawing permafrost will significantly impact the climate budget and previously has not been estimated to have this great of an impact.
Science in Action.
Dr. Katey Walter Anthony is a professor of aquatic ecosystem ecology at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Walter Anthony researches the effect of the release of methane and carbon dioxide from melting permafrost. Her research focuses on thermokarst lakes in the arctic. Thermokarst lakes are shallow freshwater lakes that form from ice heaving. These lakes tend to produce sudden large releases of methane and carbon dioxide as these formations trap the greenhouse gases in their ice. Part of Dr. Walter Anthony’s research is estimating the amount of methane that will be released by these lakes as the permafrost melts. She estimates that by the end of the 21st century that melting permafrost will be the second most devastating source of greenhouse gases.
By: Ben Matthews
Summary: Waste production and management is an increasing large issue in many urban areas around the world. For example, Brazilian communities collect over 216,000 tons of trash every day. A large portion of that trash ends up in unsanitary landfills which fail to protect the surrounding soil and groundwater. Another consequence of open landfills is methane emissions, a greenhouse gas generated by decomposing trash which contributes to global warming. These open dump sites can also place nearby community members at risk for disease. Brazil’s solid waste is estimated to generate the equivalent of over 47 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. Carbon financing can help improve Brazil’s waste management by incentivizing landfill improvements. Landfill operators must agree to specific requirements involving a yearly reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Each milestone achieved is rewarded with a payment through the program, and under-performing could result in an interest rate increase. Methods used to reduce emissions are improved infrastructure and treatment of methane gas. The World Bank partnered with CAIXA, one of Brazil’s largest public banks, to create a program that improves the country’s carbon finance by connecting landfill improvements and emission reductions to financial investment. This has incentivized the improvement of landfills in Brazil which has a positive result for the environment and local communities. These landfills can also take the extra step of generating electricity from collected methane. With the possibility of turning trash emissions into electricity, it makes landfill investment much more appealing. Investing in landfills can help maintain environmental stability with the bonus production of electricity.
Why we should care? Mismanaged waste can harm the environment and its inhabitants. Methane emissions contribute to global warming. Investment in landfills helps maintain environmental stability and has the bonus of electricity generation.
It blew my mind to see how much waste is produced on a regular basis. And how a large portion of that waste is not properly managed, causing threats to the environment and people. The World Bank, an international development organization, works to improve economies and the standard of living of the people in the participating countries. I love the fact that by investing in landfills you can also help the environment and the locals. And introducing advancements in technology to better understand the field is fascinating. These sorts of innovative partnerships and solutions are what will lead us into a cleaner future.
Science in Action.
Antonis Mavropoulos is President/Chair of the International Solid Waste Association.
Antonis Mavropoulos acts as the president of the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and has been in the waste management sector for over 20 years. He has participated in writing several books and scientific publications and worked on more than 150 projects in 20 countries. He is also the founder and CEO of D-Waste, a waste management consulting company with the goals of easy access and cost-effectiveness. It’s people like Antonis who innovate to provide better solutions who will bring us to a cleaner future. Some of his most recent research deals with globalization, megacities, mobile apps and the internet of things.
By: Ella Ford
Summary: Seeps of gas hydrates have found their way from the Atlantic Ocean floor to the atmosphere in regions such as the Gulf Stream and locations surrounding Antarctica and South Georgia Island. Gas hydrates, also commonly referred to as methane hydrates and "climate time bombs," are a type of clathrate, a substance in which a crystal-like cage-forming structure of a water molecule encloses a gas. The formation of gas hydrates requires specific geological, physical, and chemical conditions in the realms of water temperature and pressure. Although the best conditions for gas hydrate formation is in waters of low temperature and high pressure, warm water temperatures and very high amounts of pressure with great depths allow for these clathrates to form, as well. Primarily configuring in continental slopes of the ocean floor, gas hydrates begin to shape at depths of around 500 meters in the open ocean and when brought to the surface, the lumps of gas hydrates resemble ice surrounded by the ocean floor. Methane is suspected to be leaking into the atmosphere due to delays in the consumption of the gas by microbes within the ocean sediment or the water column above the ocean floor. Researchers studying the seafloor in Antarctica have found that microbes were late to arrive at "seep sites," causing the methane to escape into the atmosphere during the time they were not present. Leaks of gas hydrates are believed to be set off by climate change, as well, as the warming of ocean water causes the greenhouse gas formations to dissolve at a more rapid pace. If gas hydrates become unstable and unfreeze, enormous volumes of methane may pour into the ocean and eventually roam into the atmosphere, contributing further to ocean acidification and climate change.
Why we should care? I believe that humans should care about the release of methane from the ocean and sea floors because, as mentioned, the leakage of methane into the atmosphere contributes further to climate change and ocean acidification.
I found this particular topic interesting because I have seen photos of bubbles rising from the ocean or sea floor before, but I do not think that I had ever questioned where these bubbles came from and what was causing them to escape from the ocean and sea floors. I did not have previous knowledge concerning the release of methane from the sea and ocean floors, and I think that this article explained how the delay of the microbes arriving contributed to the escape of the methane into the atmosphere very well. I also enjoyed how the author included two scientist's perspectives and overall knowledge on this issue, Andrew Thurber and Jemma Wadham. The picture attached to this article of the seastars and microbes on the sea floor of a dive site in Antarctica drew me in, as well!
Science in Action.
Dr. Andrew Thurber in an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University.
Andrew Thurber is an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University with over 20 publications of research ranging from topics like food-webs and viral outbreaks in coral to ocean biogeochemistry and polar ecosystem dynamics. Thurber's profile mentions his research interest of the impacts cross-domain interactions have on ecosystem function in marine communities and the research he is currently embarking on. Presently, Thurber is aiming to pinpoint how what an animal eats impacts the biogeochemical processes of bacteria and archaea. His profile details the two specific habitats of Antarctic Spionid beds and deep-sea methane seeps that Thurber works in for his current research, as "each allow a different approach when studying these interactions." This scientist's research is relevant to my blog because he has contributed to and lead studies directly relating to the release of methane from the sea-floor, and his current research within deep-sea methane habitats revolves around my chosen topic, as well.
By: Kyle Merandi
Summary: Led by California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, 20 states and 4 municipalities have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to block their rollback of methane emissions standards. According to the EPA’s own report, this rollback would increase methane emissions by 850,000 tons over the next decade. The agency says that the methane standards were “redundant,” and that incidental reduction emissions already occurs due to standards covering volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The previous standards were set by the Obama administration, who argued that, while reducing VOCs does also lower methane emissions, direct regulation of methane is important in the reduction of greenhouse gases. AG Becerra, in a statement announcing the lawsuit, highlighted the increase in wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and “super-tornadoes” as evidence of the fact that we are not doing enough to mitigate climate change. He asks, "How many wake-up calls do our nation‘s leaders need to take climate action?” This lawsuit marks the 54th challenge the state has brought against the Trump administration regarding environmental protections. Other cases have fought a reduction in vehicle emissions standards, the suspension of air and water pollution monitoring, and relaxation of asbestos levels.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because these decisions, whether they are made at a national or state level, and whether made by agencies, legislatures or courts, affect us all.
This article was interesting in that it shows that our unique system of government allows states to make decisions that are not necessarily in lock-step with the federal government. California’s economy makes up almost 15% of the national GDP. The decisions they make as a state on these kinds of issues can affect the entire country, especially today, when interstate and international trade connect supply chains the world over. It also highlights the need to reach a national consensus on environmental issues, as standards set will not be as effective if relaxed or reversed every time a new administration comes into power.
Science in Action.
Dr. Katey Walter Anthony is an Associate Professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Walter Anthony studies the methane released by permafrost melt. Her work suggests our current trends in global temperature will surpass those seen after the last ice age, releasing even greater quantities of methane than before. This is important because global climate change, if not mitigated, will continue to melt these ice-covered regions, creating a feedback loop of further emissions. We must recognize these secondary effects of our actions and how they exacerbate our impact on the global climate.
By: Jenna Steele
Summary: The second largest human-caused greenhouse gas is methane, right behind carbon dioxide. Methane is substantially stronger in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide and can stay in the atmosphere for about 12 years. Methane emissions come from natural gas, enteric fermentation (fermentation that happens in cattle digestive systems), manure, landfills, and coal mining. From the years 2008 to 2017 the total methane emissions in the world was around 596 million metric tons per year. This would be a 9% increase from the previous ten years, and it is still increasing in 2020. Before 2006 there are a slowdown in the amount of methane emissions, but since then there has been a steady increased in total emissions. By the end of 2019, the amount of methane in the atmosphere was 2.5 times higher than that of the emissions in pre-industrial times. Over the past few years, the largest component as to why methane emissions are rising are from agriculture, or consumption of red meat, and fossil fuels, or natural gas and leaking pipelines. By the end of 2020, in the equivalency of carbon dioxide metric tons the total emissions of methane are predicted to be around 9,390 metric tons. This would be the highest amount of methane in the atmosphere ever seen, and it does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The increasing global temperature, due to greenhouse gases such as methane, account for heat waves, drought conditions, loss of sea ice, sea level rise, and other intense weather patterns. Not only do these conditions mean hotter temperatures, but a potential loss in crops, species, and harmful weather to humans and animals.
Why we should care? Methane is a greenhouse gas which is found in ozone, which not only contributes to global warming but can also affect human health. We, as humans, currently are responsible for around 60% of total methane emissions worldwide.
I found this article interesting because it was incredibly informative, using statistics and figures from multiple scientific studies. The findings as to why the methane levels are rising that were stated in the article, were not at all surprising to me, but the fact that the emissions would be so high in the midst of a pandemic are astounding to me. The article also gives insights of scientist who study greenhouse gas emissions which I found to be more important than comments from politicians. The article also acknowledges the fact that we know where the high concentrations of emissions are coming from and the researchers believe that in order to get emissions down, there needs to be some reform on fossil fuels.
Science in Action.
Edward J Dlugokencky is an Atmospheric Chemist at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
As an atmospheric chemist, Dr. Edward Dlugokencky studies the carbon cycle and how it plays into climate change and greenhouse gases. He works closely with the Global monitoring Division of NOAA, which calculate and track global means of atmosphere gases at their marine sites monthly. At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Dlugokencky, has done a multitude of studies, some of the most recent covering the carbon dioxide and methane emissions at marine surfaces. This relates the topic of my blog, the rise in global methane emissions, because marine surfaces account for water levels in oceans. Water levels in oceans are directly connected to increased global temperature due to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, one being methane.
By: Mallory Evatz
Summary: As climate change escalates, the Arctic ice that polar bears heavily depend on for hunting and traveling, is melting. By 2040, scientists predict that the majority of ice in Northeast Canada and Northern Greenland region will be gone as the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe on average. This is significantly affecting the survival of polar bears because as the ice melts, bears are spending roughly 30 more days on land while they must move longer distances to hunt for food and keep up with the retreating ice. The difficulty polar bears face when trying to hunt is resulting in starvation, as bears spend roughly 50% of their time hunting yet are only successful less than 2% of the time. At this rate, the global polar bear population is projected to decline by 30% by 2050 which is two thirds of the polar bear population. Additionally, toxic pollution including oil spills as well as the increase in large scale hunting poses a threat to the survival of polar bears. The rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as well as other greenhouse gases are making the Arctic Ocean more acidic which is making the ice melt faster. Since 2008, polar bears have been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Why we should care? Polar bears’ endangerment is concerning to everyone because they play an integral role in the health of the marine ecosystem. They are at the top of the food chain so without polar bears, the rest of the food chain will be affected.
Looking into the endangerment of polar bears was interesting to me initially because I love animals and I believe it is important to protect all wildlife. The more I researched, I was fascinated that the endangerment of polar bears is not only a threat to them but the entire Arctic ecosystem. The issue of climate change is the main threat to the survival of polar bears which we need to address. We can protect the arctic by reducing short-lived greenhouse pollutants including ozone and methane and well as carbon dioxide. Immediate action needs to be taken at all levels of government.
Science in Action.
Dr. Péter K. Molnár is an Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Toronto.
Dr. Peter Molnar of the University of Toronto in Ontario studies the ecology and conservation of the Arctic species, specifically the polar bear. Molnar says that polar bears have become “the poster child of climate change” as the entire Arctic is threatened by climate change. Molnar estimates when different subpopulation will decline and establishes the timing polar bears can go fasting before they will rapidly decline, He uses the predicted numbers of days without ice to determine the number of days polar bears will have to survive.
By: Austin Vilk
Summary: As a result of great white sharks and the species they feed on being protected and thus growing they have expanded in number and also need more space. They have been migrating to more places as they need to for food and shelter and are able to because they aren't affected by cold or warm waters as much as other species. They are however more easily affected by other things, like water pollution, since they are a K-species so they have less offspring and the population is more vulnerable and can decline much easier. In that sense they are a fragile species and still many fishermen have a desire to kill them and the species they feed on due to competition for fish. These thoughts however do not keep in mind how it may affect the rest of the oceans species as well as the plant life in and near the ocean. Not to mention that certain species could grow out of control, or cease to exist as a sort of butterfly effect. Many people are also worried about safety at beaches but at the very least acoustic tracking devices could warn beaches as to when to get out of the water and there have also been other things recommended to fishermen to avoid for the sake of safety. As for the population of great white sharks being tracked it has been something ongoing for over ten years by Dr. Greg Skomal. For every worry there has been measures in place and for good reason as it is suggested that these aren’t record levels for these sharks but rather what used to be normal levels for their population.
Why we should care? Currently the seals that are protected feed on fish which compete with fishermen. While many fishermen don't like that and want to kill them at the same time, I think it would be more important to protect species richness.
I have liked sharks since I was a kid, I have always found them fascinating. So, for me to see them come back to a good population level provides me a certain level of relief to know they won’t disappear any time soon (as long as we continue to protect them as a species). On top of that the ocean is a vast and largely unexplored environment which I would love to see explored more. However, I would argue the ocean can be affected much quicker than on land since everything is connected by water rather than soil which is a denser form of matter.
Science in Action.
Dr. Greg Skomal is an aquarist and Marine Fisheries Biologist and author of many books.
Dr. Skomar is directly cited in the article I have looked at for this subject and has been studying the great white shark migration and their population increase in Massachusetts for over a decade. He has been cited in more than just this one national geographic article on sharks as well so he is academically and professionally acknowledged.
By: Heba Chokr
Summary: Hurricane season of 2020 has included numbers of severe storms and hurricanes-- to an almost record breaking point. This season of hurricanes is unlike anything seen before-- from intensity, to duration, and to damages caused. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that form over the Atlantic Ocean and hit coastal areas. These storms include heavy rains and strong winds that have taken a strong turn this season-- which lasts around 6 months, running from June to November. The hurricane season of 2020 has already seen 29 storms-- 28 of which were named, 12 of which were hurricanes, and 5 of which were major storms. The severity of these storms over the last couple of years have increased, causing unfathomable destruction-- such as flooding, deaths, displacement of peoples, habitat loss, and billions of dollars worth of damages. The increase of category storms, or the severity of these storms, can be linked to climate change. Due to the rising water temperatures and precipitation, researchers have found that those factors increase the intensity of the storms. The warmer temperatures have added power to the intensity of the storms. The number of storms and hurricanes in 2020 is almost as many as the most active hurricane season in 2005. These storms have been rapidly developing which is why we are seeing the number of these tropical storms increasing within each passing season. The world is seeing not only an increase of severity and the amount of hurricanes but also the increase of duration-- they are lasting longer than ever before. These hurricanes are affecting every aspect of human life and those who have to endure the storms are suffering. There are very little drastic measures being taken to solve this issue. Of course, there is no immediate or easy solution to climate change, but there needs to be more action taken to limit the impact these storms are having on people and places.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because with such heavy rain storms, thunderstorms, and strong prevailing winds-- it leaves coastal areas prone to terrible and immense damage, and so many people suffer for it.
This was an interesting article to read because it brings to light just how harmful and damaging the increase of hurricanes are on coastal areas. So many people have lost their homes to these tropical storms that, in some way, we've become desensitized to reading about the damages these intense hurricanes have on people and areas-- since we don't get many hurricanes in Michigan. It was quite intriguing reading about how climate change has been increasing the severity of these storms and how, as a society, we haven't taken more drastic methods to come up with a solution to this obvious connection between storm intensity and climate change. There is no simple solution to climate change but there needs to be more drastic measures taken in order to ensure that the future generation isn't stuck with the same dilemma that we are currently experiencing in 2020.
Science in Action.
Dr. James P. Kossin is an Atmospheric Research Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), and Center for Weather and Climate, Madison, Wisconsin.
Dr. James Kassin’s research is very relevant to this topic because by using his data, people are able to see how over the last several years, hurricane activity, severity, and duration is increasing. Dr. Kassin’s satellite imaging can prove that hurricanes are literally increasing in size, with correlation to increasing water temperatures in the Atlantic. The research done by Kassin also shows how the intensity of tropical storms differs due to the different variations in different regions. This research showed, not only how climate change affects hurricanes but, how different factors play into the increased activity.
By: Brielle Mears
Summary: La Niña is a climate event where the Pacific Ocean surface cools more than normal and the air pressure decreases over the western Pacific. It occurs typically every 3 to 5 years. For places like Asia, India, Africa, and Brazil, this means an increased amount of rainfall in the summers. For places in the Northern tier of the United States, like Michigan, this means more cold and dry winters. Because La Niña is a naturally occurring event, there is nothing in our power that we can do to prevent it. The only thing we can do is prepare for it. The most important thing we can do, besides the obvious such as buying warmer clothes and paying our heating bill, is prepping our homes. Make sure to have your water running relatively consistently to avoid the pipes from freezing. Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed and air tight so the cool air cannot seep inside. Make sure to safely remove heavy buildups of snow from your roofs and gutters to prevent them from caving in. By now, if you are a native to Michigan, these should be standard procedures that you’ve most likely been doing already to winterize your home. La Niña is not something that is new to us. If anything, most welcome it! Winters like this means more snow and more consistently cold temperatures. It is every winter lovers dream! La Niña produces ideal conditions for snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, etc. For ice fishers, La Niña helps bring up bigger game to catch. The upwellings in the Pacific Ocean carry the nutrient-rich waters to the surface. These waters then draw the smaller fish and crustaceans to the surface to feed, which in turn, brings up the larger predators to prey on them. In the southern tier of the United States, in places such as California and Florida, La Niña produces warmer and drier conditions. Environments like this increase the risk of wildfires and droughts. For example, La Niña is thought to be a cause of the Dust Bowl drought in the 1930s and the 1988 drought that hit the American Midwest. This cost the United States nearly $40 billion in damages. La Niña can also be tied in as one of the factors that contributed to the intensive wildfires we have experienced along the west coast this year.
Why we should care? The temperature fluctuations that La Niña produces could directly affect our crops. The colder temperatures could cause premature frosting which could kill the crops, therefore directly affecting our farmers source of income.
I have chosen this article as I think it does a good job further explaining how La Niña works. They incorporate useful charts and graphs into their work as well for those who are more visual learners. These charts depict the sea surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean in order for us to predict just how cold of a winter we have in store for us. This article is also consistently being updated and it provides a link that you can check at anytime for updates on how La Niña is/will affect our winter here in Michigan.
Science in Action.
Dr. Jacob Bjerknes was been a meteorologist at the University of Leipzig.
Dr. Jacob Bjerknes is actually the man accredited with the discovery of La Niña. In the 1960s, while he was studying Canton Island in the Southern Pacific Ocean, he found that there was a change in the ocean pressure pattern and temperature during different cycles of time. This cycle became known as Bjerknes feedback. During La Niña, the eastern Pacific Ocean cools, and the air begins to sink and dry out. This is what causes the cold and dry winters in the Northern part of the United States, and the drought-like conditions in the southern part of the U.S.. In the western Pacific Ocean, the temperature of the ocean warms, causing the air to rise, moisten, and thicken. This is what causes the heavy thunderstorms and floods in places like Asia. This rising and sinking motion of the air then produces strong winds that blow from the east to the west. These winds push the water from the eastern Pacific to the Western, which causes upwelling of the colder water. This cools the surface even more (producing those stronger winters). These same winds help push the warm surface water that’s in the western part of the Pacific over to places like Indonesia, producing the tropical conditions.
By: Connor Edelstein
Summary: This year, scientists are saying that the surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean will be lower than usual. This drop in surface temperatures is what is referred to as a “La Niña”. La Niñas influence weather patterns across the globe, and unfortunately for the already dry American Southwest, it can bring warmer temperatures and drier weather. Typically, dry regions like the Southwest rely on the snowmelt for a large amount of water that is used from spring, to summer, and into fall. Due to this year’s forecasted La Niña, many areas will not get enough water to supply them trough the summer. Meaning that they will most likely remain in a state of drought until at least next winter, until scientists are able to determine whether it will be a La Niña (Low Pacific surface temps), or an El Niño (High Pacific surface temps). The implications of this are huge. During drought conditions, people living in that area are not able to use as much water, cutting down on accessible water for bathing, cleaning, and cooking. The lack of water could also mean that the regions farmers will have a difficult year, and will most likely have lower than average yields, and that isn’t even considering the factories that utilize local water during the manufacturing process. On top of all that, the likelihood for wildfires remains high, which have already torn through many states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The La Niña is not going to affect just the American Southwest. Even though the dry weather will not reach the eastern United States, the lower air quality from wildfires will be noticeable, just like the hazy sky in Michigan this summer.
Why we should care? Fortunately in Michigan, wildfires aren't all that common, but the thought of one is absolutely horrifying. Obviously they are a natural process and serve a purpose, but they are happening more frequently.
To me it is interesting to think that the Southwestern portion of our country may be the driest it has been in 1000 years. In Michigan, one can drive for an hour and see many full lakes, cross over plenty of raging rivers. In the Southwest one will drive past the occasional reservoir and drive over bridges built over rivers that have since dried up. It makes me wonder how different I would be had I been raised in the dry Southwest. When I see it’s raining, I go oh crap, more rain. Would I be more grateful, and pay more attention towards resources that I rely on? Also makes me wonder about how this will affect the many species of the region.
Science in Action.
Dr. Michael Crimmins is a Professor and Extension Specialist of Climate Science at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Crimmins, who was a guest speaker in our Environmental Science 1500 class, is a Professor at University of Arizona. Dr. Crimmins does research on climate and conditions in the American Southwest. His research is relevant to my blog topic, because through Dr. Crimmins’ research, we will get a better understanding of what the Southwest is currently going through. This understanding will allow local officials to make better decisions on how to handle drought conditions and wildfires, and hopefully how to help prevent them. Understanding what happens before, during, and after these conditions will allow us to improve our current measures, and hopefully help prevent such conditions in the future.
By: Gwendolyn Schmidt
Summary: The US- Mexico border wall has been an ongoing project since Trump’s first Presidential campaign and for about as long, environmental scientists have been giving a laundry list of reasons as to why it is bad for the environment. To add to those reasons, the wall is being painted black as an extra precaution, so people do not attempt to climb it. However, a materials engineer interviewed by the Washington Post said that the black paint would “...increase its ability to retain heat...by less than [ten] percent...” (Dawsey). As of now, there is about 175 miles of wall and the wall is approximately 30 feet tall, which is over a hundred thousand feet of wall on each side to cover in black paint. The paint will need to be replaced about every ten years which is not only very costly, but it can be detrimental to the environment. Although the act of painting the wall black does not contribute to the immediate environmental issues, the long-term effects of paint and high heat will. Commercial paints have volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gases released through evaporation of chemicals, and consistent exposure to VOCs can lead to serious health problems. While wet paint is dangerous to inhale, drying paint will release VOCs into the atmosphere, creating an ozone. On bright sunny days, drying paint will release even more VOCs than normal and can cause people to have trouble breathing. As of late, there have been more and more bad air quality days in 2020 so far than in 2019 and as the climate gets warmer, the worse air we will have. The boarder wall is expected to be 2,000 miles long and no matter how fast it is painted, it will still take months to finish; as well as cost 5 million dollars. Ozone is not only harmful to humans, but plants in the environment as well. Ozone will enter the leaf through the stroma and reduce the survival of the plant. The VOCs in the atmosphere will harm all the plants around the border wall, some of which are already in trouble because of the wall in the first place. Painting the wall black will just add to the environmental issues already going on in the world.
Why we should care? This is an important topic because the environment is only digressing more and purposely adding harmful chemicals to the environment with no real logistical reasoning just does not seem ethical.
This is an interesting article because most people would not think twice about what they are using and how it impacts out atmosphere. When people think about air pollutants they only think of the obvious, factory smoke emission or exhaust from cars, not the everyday products they use. The most interesting part of these articles were about how many people have asthma attacks due to the air quality alone on a warm day. It is very eye opening that it is not just occurring in big cities, but small ones as well. This made me really rethink of the products I use and how they will affect the environment. I am trying to be more environmentally aware in what I use, and in my research, I found many ideas to consider.
Science in Action.
Dr. Paola Crippa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Paola Crippa studies Air Quality and Aerosol Dynamics Modeling, Climate Change, Environmental and Computational Sustainability, she has also been involved in how air pollution affects Covid patients. Dr. Crippa is relevant to this topic because she studies how air pollution is affecting sick people and she knows how poor air quality can affect people's health. In her studies, she measured the levels of fine particulate matter (PM) in the atmosphere and how they correlated to the premature death rates in patients with cardiovascular and respiratory issues. The finding was that during the lockdown, there was less PM in the atmosphere which allowed some Covid cases to not die. According to her study about 24,200 cases lived due to the cleaner air.
By: Lucas Laforte
Summary: American support for the construction of a wall at our southern border is unenthusiastic to say the least. New York Times reported that over 60% of Americans oppose the wall, but they aren’t the only ones. Mother nature always seems to have a destructive way of telling us when it’s in opposition to our infrastructure. In September of this year, monsoon related weather has taken a toll on newly build parts of the border wall. Earlier in the year, erosion from Hurricane Hanna left “gaping holes” and “waist deep cracks” on the bank of the Rio Grande. Just recently on another three mile stretch along the Rio Grande, heavy rains have cause extreme erosion surrounding the wall, putting it at major risk of collapsing. Scientists and engineers warned of such problems beforehand, citing pervious erosion events caused by hurricanes and mass flooding, but the hard-headedness of the Trump Administration ultimately led to its construction anyways. Historically, politicians and scientists were in agreement that building a wall along this river bank would cause the exact problems we are seeing now. The company responsible for the construction has touted the durability of their wall, promising to keep maintenance on the integrity of it with quarterly inspections with more thorough inspections after major storm events. Even after all this, engineers insist that worsening weather patterns from climate change, such as more intense hurricanes and longer monsoon seasons, will perpetuate the severity of the erosion along the river, leading to the eventual collapse of the wall.
Why we should care? This is a topic worth caring about because of the catastrophic damage that can be done by erosion. Not only that, but also the acceleration of erosion due to the infrastructure decisions we make in this country.
I find this topic to be particularly interesting because of my analysis of the interaction between science, nature, and the government. Throughout history, those three elements have seemed to be at odds with one another. The interests of the government often don’t coincide with science and academic consensus, and this topic is a perfect example of that. Most scientific analysis argued against a border wall along the Rio Grande river with the reasoning that it would accelerate erosion. Even with that being the case, construction of the wall continued and we are now seeing the exact issues arising that scientists warned us about.
Science in Action.
Dr. Alex Mayer is a Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Throughout his career, Dr. Alex Mayor has spent much of his time researching solutions for water resource problems. Much of his research has been done on the basin of the Rio Grande river, the one at risk of extreme erosion due to the construction of the border wall. After viewing overhead photos of the damage, his on-the-ground analysis concluded that erosion damage is “far worse than what we saw from the photos.” He later concluded that two or three more storms similar in intensity to Hurricane Hanna would erode the soil on the bank so much that the wall is likely to collapse.
By: Alvin George
Summary: In the Southwest of the United States, construction of Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall continues. To clear a path for the wall the ironic saguaro cacti along the border are being uprooted and destroyed. These plants can reach heights of over 50 feet tall and live for around 200 years. These ancient plants are being destroyed to keep those in Mexico from entering the United States. Saguaros are no ordinary cactus since they provide food and shelter to native species. These plants are the state flower of Arizona and in Arizona it is illegal to harm a saguaro cactus like they are by those building the wall. Those caught harming the majestic saguaro cacti can face fines and even jail time for the harm. These laws are being ignored by the construction team responsible for the wall. Even worse is that the saguaro isn’t the only cactus species that is being affected by Donald Trump’s border wall. Organ pipe cactus is also affected at a park on the border. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument sits at the border and is one of the places where this cactus seems to thrive. The park is a unique ecosystem due to the right conditions for this type of cactus to grow. This park was made to protect the native organ cactus and would be failing in its purpose if it allows the border wall to cut through the park. If the wall goes through the park, then the rare organ pipe cacti will have to be destroyed or relocated.
Why we should care? The people are the ones who pay for the protection of these cacti. This cacti damage is a form of habitat loss since the cacti provide a home for bird species and produce edible fruits. These cacti are also significant to the tribal people.
This article was interesting to me because we could see how the construction contractors dealt with the problem of the cacti. There have been attempts to relocate some of the cacti but it is impossible to move a mature saguaro since they just grow so big. The fact that they were able to price saguaros by the foot and differently for mature ones is fascinating since they take a while to grow. We also see that the contractors are hiding the destroyed plants to avoid spending the time and money on the relocation of compensation for the damages. Surprisingly, the company is waived from the damages to cacti for the walls construction.
Dr. David Dettman is a Research Scientist and Manager of the University of Arizona's Environmental Isotope Laboratory.
Dr. Dettman is currently working on a research project that to determine the changes in climate will impact the saguaro and columnar cacti species. He claims that the cacti is a foundation species due to the water and food they supply to the ecosystem. By looking at the presence of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon isotope ratios, he can determine growth rates, fertility, and recorded climate changes as to the rings on a tree. Dr. Dettman’s research is significant to this blogpost due to him using his research to say that the Sonoran Desert relies on the saguaro cacti. Without them there would be drastic changes to the environment of the desert.
By: Melissa Davila Castro
Summary: During President Trump's campaign run back in 2016, an infamous line used by his campaign was “Build the Wall”. Since then the border wall has grown to be about 650 miles long but Trump has called for a 1,000 mile long wall. Although the purpose of the wall was to keep people out, unintentionally wildlife has also been affected. Habitats that are important for wildlife have been disrupted along the border line even though Trump's administration has claimed they would provide sustainable practises throughout the building of the wall, Congress has waived the construction on obeying the Endangered Species Act along with several other acts that jeopardize the well being of stable species in the area. Along with this, animals will be cut off from one another therefore limiting breeding which can be detrimental to endangered species and can cause a chain reaction through the food chain of the species that are separated, migration patterns for animal births have been disrupted, light pollution caused from the shading of the wall can mess with the sleeping patterns of nocturnal insects and animals, wildlife refugees will be divided, and tourism money gained from the ecosystem that lives in this area will be lost. Animals that have the ability to fly are also affected by the border wall because the height some of the birds can achieve is not enough to surpass the wall therefore affecting migration and breeding patterns for several different bird species. Although there are small animals that can get through the lower crevices that the wall has put in place in order to combat these wildlife issues, the majority of animals are still negatively affected.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because we are actively damaging environments that we have previously worked to protect. Several Acts have been waived in order to continue with the construction of the wall.
I found this particular article interesting because it shows how the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services has worked to buy land along the Mexico/US border in order to protect the habitats in the area, this area now known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge has seen population increases in several animals including white-tail deer. Due to the fact that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services is a federal agency, Trump's organization went after them first in order to acquire land to build on therefore avoiding privately owned land in the area. Along with the U.S taking some of this land to build the wall on, the animals that live in this area are at a higher risk of drowning if the wall is built because the area tends to flood. There is a construction idea to put gates on the wall that will be lifted when the area floods in order to prevent the animals from drowning but the idea is expensive and most likely will not be done. With this, if the idea of a gate on the wall were to be done, animals would still be separated from their water supplies therefore there is no good alternative other then not building the wall.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gerardo Ceballos is a Professor of Ecology at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM).
Gerardo Ceballos along with other scientists researched the effects that building a longer border wall will have on the wildlife living in the area. This research consisted of the environmental laws that are being bypassed, the harmful effects that destroying wildlife habitat can have on the animals and land, the limits the wall will create for wildlife research and conservation because the border wall is being build over some endangered species conservation land, and the overall loss of biodiversity from the land that will occur if species are separated. I believe this is relevant to the blog post because it further pushes the narrative that the construction of the border wall is only causing harm to the ecosystem surrounding it and that the efforts that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services did in order to protect the biodiversity living in this area should be respected and take care of and not be easily ignored like it has been.
By: Ivy Eifert
Summary: The changing climate, led primarily by anthropogenic causes, is leading to major changes in regard to foliage. Leaves are beginning to remain red, orange, and yellow for longer periods of time than what they typically have in the past. The process of leaf senescence is lengthening due a steady increased temperature later into the Autumn season. Typically, this event caused by a steady increased set of temperatures extends the time period in which they are undergoing senescence, however it is important to note that periods of extreme drought and high heat will cause senescence to happen much faster. In other words, the warmer temperatures prevent the trees from losing their leaves completely and prohibit the tree from entering its hibernation period for the winter, or with drought in the mix, the period is shortened greatly, stripping the trees too early. Greenhouse gas emissions, a leading cause of the changing climate, are indirectly causing this issue, leading to the conclusion that - because humans are responsible for the large majority of greenhouse gas emissions - they are also indeed causing the bulk of this issue. Although this topic might seem insignificant, an extension of these periods of bright colored leaves has its costs and its benefits. An example of this is both economic boom or strife, depending on the region and its weather events. Additionally, this issue boasts several concerns about biodiversity across multiple ecosystems. Specifically, climate change and its effect on foliage is an indicator of a potential migration of multiple different tree species further north, altering the variables of ecosystems all across the United States and Canada. This issue is seen most notably in southern parts of Canada as well as the midwestern United States and will display noticeable effects in both the short and long term. This issue is one that is affecting our current global situation and is one that will affect even more aspects of our society in the future.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because its long term effects influence the biodiversity of multiple ecosystems across the country. Further than that, its short-term effects are influencing tourist communities as well.
I found this article interesting because it discussed both a prolonged and a shortened period of senescence. Also, toward the beginning of the article, it went into detail about specific examples of this phenomenon occurring in different areas across the globe. I found this interesting because it granted the article relevancy to various groups of people. The article also touched on the gravity of species migration, specifically that of the sugar maple, in regard to the loss of colors humans will see as a result of it. The author also gave examples concerning anthropogenic causes of climate change outside of the realm of greenhouse gas emissions, validating the vitality of our part in this topic. The examples given were pathogens and pests, as well as invasive species that are aided in their destruction because of the warming temperatures, thus proven as an indirect cause of human activity. Finally, this article firmly clarifies that some long-term effects of this issue are already completely apparent. This fact allowed me, as a reader, to fully grasp how important this issue is in regard to the health of our planet, all while making the issue both tangible and understandable.
Science in Action.
Dr. Amanda S. Gallinat is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Utah State University.
Dr. Gallinat’s research is relevant to this issue because it involves climate change’s effect on plant and animal species, and how those species will be affected in both the long and short term. Specifically, she is experienced in researching climate change’s effect on birds and the fruit that they feed on. Because she has made conclusions about the relational aspects of different species undergoing changes due to climate change, her research can help us to better understand the other species or communities that will be affected by this change in the duration of leaf senescence. She has also done research on leaves in their winter and spring periods, which is relevant to this topic because the way that trees respond to this autumn phenomenon can be viewed throughout the following seasons as well.
By: Alex Day
Summary: For majority of human history, we have lived in areas that fell in a small range of temperatures and that had the ability to produce large quantities of food. At our current rate by 2070 the amount of barely livable hot zones on earth will increase to 19 percent from where we are currently at 1 percent. This would inevitably cause people to have to move for survival. Right now, in Guatemala almost all citizens are experiencing some sort of food insecurities. This is causing children to develop with weak bones, bloated stomachs, and stunted growth. El Nino, an event of droughts an irregular storm, is becoming more regular which leads to this food insecurity hurting Guatemalans. They are expected to lose 60 percent of rainfall which would than cost farmers 83 percent of water they use to keep the soil moist. This could lead to crop production being one-third of what it is currently by 2070 in Guatemala. So as climate change continues similar situations to Guatemala’s land failure will appear from Mekong Delta to Sudan to Central America resulting in a global migration unlike anything seen before. The area of livable land will narrow down to cooler, northern areas. Although some won’t migrate from these countries and will opt to try to endure the conditions by 2100 even being outside for a couple hours could kill you from the heat in parts of India and Eastern China. Due to these severe conditions the world population is going to have to remap, and northern nations such as the US and UK will be looked to for support. This has caused these northern countries to react by setting immigration laws backed by nationalist governments. Examples of this type of mass immigration have been seen in Europe when Syrian refuges fled drought and war, causing the discontent that led to Brexit. And keep in mind this was with 2 million people. With a current model made by The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica joined with the Pulitzer Center shows that 30 million immigrants would head to the US over the next 30 years. The model also shows the relation between climate change and migration, which is that as climate change increases so does migration. So, if governments were to take action to reduce emissions it would lower the number of those migrating by 680,000 people from now to 2050, if no action is taken on climate change the number of those of migrating per year will be over a million.
Why we should care? We should care because as citizens of the United States we will be looked at as a haven by these immigrants escaping climate change. This can also be used to gain support of climate change policies by those worried about immigration.
What I found interesting about the article is that valid issues each party in America are concerned about, immigration and climate change, are closely related. Issues of immigration can be helped relieved by combating climate change. By keeping the climate sustainable for these southern countries, it will reduce the need for them to leave their land and migrate north. This rhetoric could be used as a way to convince others that combating climate change is important and won’t only create new jobs but protect those jobs as well as other jobs too. But unfortunately, I do not see this being the route taken by the government and politicians.
Science in Action.
Abrahm Lustgarten is a Senior Environmental Reporter at ProPublica.
I believe this scientist’s research is extremely relevant to the issues discussed in the blog, because he is also a reporter. As a reporter he documented the actual stories of people who were in these unfortunate situations due to climate change and had no other options but to migrate north. Abrahm meet a man in Guatemala named Jorge who was a farmer effected by El Nino due to it destroying his crops that he needed to support his family. He eventually signed away his house for an advanced for seeds that were also destroyed by El Nino. So, he pawned off his remaining goats at a 100 percent interest to afford to pay for his families migration. Abrahm also went on to form a team with other organizations to create a model for this exact situation of climate change’s effect on immigration.
By: Sophia Price
Summary: As we continue to pollute our atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, we see the increasing effects of climate change. As greenhouse gasses are trapped in the atmosphere, they collect heat, causing an increase in surface temperatures. In Michigan, climate change is effecting the Great Lakes, where water temperatures are at record highs. The Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS) reports that in July 2020, the average water temperature of Lake Huron was a shocking 11 degrees above average at 72.2 degrees. This is Lake Huron’s warmest mark on record this early in the year. In addition to Lake Huron, GLCFS reports that the water temperatures in all 5 Great Lakes are 6-11 degrees above average. Slightly higher water temperatures might not seem like a pressing issue, but climate change is already beginning to show it’s negative impact. In the Western waters of Lake Erie, an NOAA aircraft has photographed blue-green algae, these blooms can make both humans and fish that come into contact with them sick. Jason Samenow, a writer at the Washington Post reports, In 2014 cyanobacteria from Lake Erie entered Toledo’s water supply. Residents were told not to drink or touch their water. The possibility of an event like this occurring again is becoming more likely, as cyanobacteria is able to grow faster in the warmed water temperatures of the Great Lakes. Humans are not the only ones affected by a rise in Great Lakes water temperature. Fish are being squeezed into a smaller region of the waters, between the surface, which is too hot and the bottom, which does not contain enough oxygen. This poses a threat to the ecosystem as fish are now competing for resources in a smaller environment.
Why we should care? The Great Lakes are the largest source of freshwater on the planet. We should care about their preservation of its waters because of all of the services they provide; food, drinking water, economic opportunity and recreation.
This article struck my interest because of the multiple viewpoints it references. With an array of expert opinions, along with those of everyday people, it was very well rounded. It was interesting to see a contrast between a swim instructor who mentions, loving the warm waters, to an expert talking about the destruction of cyanobacteria. Another thing that made this article worth the read was the amount of visual aid while reading. A wide variety of maps and graphs were used to visually obtain information. I always find it helpful to realize the impact of an issue when looking at a comparative graph. The sources of these graphs and maps were all credible and established organizations, which gave me confidence in the information I was receiving. I know that in some articles there is bias around the issue of climate change, however this article was not the case in its strictly factual approach.
Science in Action.
Dr. Andrea Vander Woude is a Physical Research Scientist at NOAA- Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.
Dr. Vander Woude is a satellite oceanographer, data scientist and geologist. She has studied the Great Lakes for over 5 years to understand the physical and ecological processes that take place. Vander Woude does this through the use of her 20 years of experience with remote sensing. She works with NOAA and USGS in order to obtain further satellite imaging and stop issues from the air. Her opinion on what we can do in terms of algae blooms is to think about the choices we make that contribute to greenhouse gas production. This will weaken the link in the chain of events created through climate change and the warming of the Great Lakes.
By: Nil Akbari
Summary: When you think of Siberia, you think of the super COLD temperatures that drop below 0 F. However, this year, Siberia had a heatwave that could not been possible without the global climate change. In the winters the average temp is -13°F and in summer the average temperature can get up to 63 °F However, this year, according to the World Weather Attribution, Siberia experienced a heat wave with staggering high temperature of 100 °F. This was recorded in the town of Verkhoyansk on June 20th. This set off few wildfires, had in impact on the local pests and also caused damage to permafrost. This made the snow to melt and causing ice to melt which destroyed many wildlife habitats. The current Siberian heat has contributed to raising the world’s average temperature to the 2nd hottest on record for the period January to May. Using public scientific methods scientists looked at a large region spanning most of Siberia, inclusive of the area affected by the prolonged six-month heat and the town of Verkhoyansk that recorded the record daily temperature for the Arctic region. While the record temperature north of the Arctic circle on June 20 made many headlines, impacts linked directly or in part to the extreme heat have been widespread. Persistent and unusually many wildfires have been observed. About 7,900 square miles of Siberian territory had burned so far this year as of June 25, compared to a total of 6,800 square miles as of the same date a year ago, according to official data. The result of these fires led to a release of 56 Megatons of CO2 in June 2020. This is more than the yearly CO2 emissions of some countries. Further impacts include health impacts on the population and the melting of permafrost which led to high damages, including environmental pollution. A scientist explained BBC that “A fuel tank near the isolated Arctic mining city of Norilsk burst in late May after sinking into permafrost that had stood firm for years but gave way during a warm spring.” Officials said. It released about 150,000 barrels of diesel into a river which had a significant impact on the sea wildlife.
Why we should care? If we let climate change win, we could lose a lot of wildlife species that we see on out planet. Temperatures start to warm up in places that used to be super cold leading in melting ice. This results in the local wildlife finding hard to live.
I found this article very interesting because I would love to visit Siberia one day. I really want to experience the record low temperatures and I watch a bunch of videos about their climates, wildlife, and the culture. I would have never thought that Siberia would have ever had a time where they reached 100°F in the summer. That really sparked my interest since it is never been heard of in the history. Climate change is real! We need to start change the way we live our lives and really need to think about how our activities are impacting the world. It causes a series of problems that just seem to trickle down.
codScience in Action.
Andrew Ciavarella is a climate scientist with The Met Office, the national meteorological service for the UK.
Scientists at The Met Office have done numerous environmental reports from specific topics to studies on the ecosystem. On this specific topic they have conducted studies and have contributed to a full report on the World Weather Attribution website. The report consists of 35 pages. The World Weather Attributions is an organization that haves’ scientists create reports on our ecosystems. They have scientists write about issues we are having in our world like the California Wildfires, Heatwaves in certain regions which is not normal to general topics of the environments. The organization also takes parts in projects which can raise awareness to the general public.
By: Izabela Lewalski
Summary: On August 16, 2020 at 3:41 p.m., the temperature in Death Valley reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit. 130 degrees Fahrenheit would be the highest reliably measured temperature on the planet. Previously, a record temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit had been recorded in Death Valley in 1913. This record has been put in question because it may not have been reliably measured. The temperature recorded on August 16 is the world’s highest temperature officially recorded since 1931. There may be places on Earth that are hotter, such as the Sahara Desert, but these places are too remote to monitor reliably. The reason that reliably measuring temperatures is difficult is because the thermometer should be shielded from the sun and above the ground. The standards for reliable temperature measuring was set by the World Meteorological Organization. The Death Valley instrument, a thermistor, meets the standards and sends readings hourly to a satellite. Record temperatures are then validated by the Climate Extremes Committee. Death Valley is the driest, lowest, and hottest location in the United States. Heat records such as this one typically are recorded in July, the hottest month in the Northern Hemisphere, which makes August record stand out. The record temperature was recorded while a heat wave swept through the Western United States. This is the heat wave that could be connected to the intensification of the wildfires in the area. The record temperature, and the heat wave, can be connected to the issue of climate change. Scientists have found that the intensity of the heatwaves are increasing due to human-caused climate change. Climate studies have also concluded that climate change is having an effect on wildfire activity in the United States. Jeremy Pal, a professor of environmental engineering at Loyola Marymount University, believes that this is not surprising. He said, “as climate continues to warm, we’d expect more of these events and more of these record-breaking temperatures.” The record breaking temperature recorded in Death Valley is likely not an isolated event.
Why we should care? I believe that we should care about this topic because climate change affects all people. Climate change will eventually affect all aspects of life and record temperatures like this are only the beginning.
I found this article interesting because it does well in explaining the history of record high temperatures and what the causes could be. While it might be cool to some people to have the place with the highest reliably measured temperature is in the United States, this article points out the problems that this could cause. Heat waves and record high temperatures are associated with the West Coast wildfires. The wildfires are devastating to the environment and the people that live there. It is important to monitor temperatures because the recorded temperatures can be used to monitor some of the effects of climate change. I thought that this article was informative and interesting to read because it did not only give the immediate facts. It included how record high temperatures will continue to happen and people will begin to notice because it will affect their lives.
Science in Action.
Dr. Daniel Swain is a climate scientist in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California.
Dr. Daniel Swain studies the physics, dynamics, and impact of the Earth’s changing climate. He studies how climate change affects the character and cause of regional climate extremes, including wildfires and droughts. He recently began to study the climate-related factors driving the wildfires in California with his colleagues. He is also the author of the Weather West blog, which has information on California and Western North American weather, climate, and regional change. Dr. Swain was interviewed by the New York Times after the record temperature on August 16th in Death Valley. He believes that the high temperatures are a part of a variety of atmospheric phenomena that have unfolded in recent years. He believes that events like these will only become worse as time goes on. He also believes that as the climate continues to change, temperatures of 130 degrees will be recorded in places where people live.
By: Justin Yarrington
Summary: As of recently, we have been finding more and more trace amounts of microplastics in the atmosphere and in our waters. This not only has a direct impact on the biotic and abiotic factors of our ecosystems. It also has a direct impact on us humans as well. As of now we are not entirely sure of the implications that these microplastics have on our health. Some scientists believe that the ingestion of microplastics can cause health problems like diabetes and cancer. However the scary part about all of this is how easily these microplastics are ingested. They can be in the air and we can come in contact with them via breathing or we could eat fish or other aquatic species that have consumed plastic. These are just two ways however it's kinda frightening because all of the animals in the water and the ones that breathe air are also susceptible to these dangers. This is truly sad because these microplastics were brought about by us and we naturally bring down other species with this pollution. According to a study done by the Annals of Internal Medicine on the amount of microplastics in human stool all of the eight participants had over nine different microplastics in their stool. These microplastics ranged from polypropylene to polyethylene terephthalate. This is quite alarming however it is questionable because the study had a low sample size. In a journal about microplastics in seafood and the implications of human health, Jambeck suggests that the toxicity of these plastics is dose dependent. Meaning it depends on how much seafood a person ingests to determine how damaging the effects are. This is alarming because the journal also says that nutritionists suggest that we double our intake of seafood.
Why we should care? We should care about this issue because these problems are directly caused by humans and if we do not care then humans will begin to see the negative aspects first hand.
I choose this article because webmd.com clearly outlines the specific health risks associated with these Microplastics in our organs. Some of the dangers they include are obesity, diabetes, and even becoming infertile. Along with this the website also includes specific figures on how much plastic we might be consuming. One of the statistics included are we consume about five grams of plastic a week or about a credit card. When I heard this, my jaw dropped. Along with this, I enjoyed how webmd.com included some ways we can cut back on potentially ingesting these particles. One of the ways listen was use reusable water bottles and eat less packaged food. Webmd also included almost exactly how small these particles are. They said that although they are barely visible to the eye they are 5 millimeters in diameter or about 0.2 inches.
Science in Action.
Charlie Rolsky is Director of Science, North America, for Plastic Oceans International.
I included Mr. Rolsky as a scientist that covers this topic because I really admire how diverse his works range from. Rolsky is the director of science for North America at Plastic Oceans International. Plastic Oceans International is a non profit organization centered around creating awareness for the large amount of plastics in our ocean. Along with this Charles Rolsky is also involved with research at Arizona State University. Something that I admire about Rolsky is that he studies the ocean by networking with people around the world so that he can get samples of ocean water to test the microplastic content. Rolsky said he loves doing research this way because it encourages people from all walks of life to be passionate about environmental issues. Along with this Rolsky is also involved with a youtube series called breaking it down which is all about educating people about environmental issues.
By: Shelby Wilson
Summary: We have all heard of pollution and know that it is affecting our oceans. We have taken a stand trying to reduce the amount of plastic straws and bags we use, but is that helping as much as we think it does? According to Sophie Lewis, a writer at CBS, plastic bags and straws account for less than 1% of the total oceans plastic. She also states that over 10 million tons of plastic ocean waste enters our oceans each year. Most of that plastic we can't even see. Most is taken to the deep ocean floor by currents. Just because we cannot see that plastic doesn't mean it still isn't there not only affecting us but all other organisms. If microplastics are not filtered correctly out of factories, they can easily enter the ocean and be absorbed by living organisms. Not only do microplastics have a huge impact on marine life, but it has an impact on all living organisms. After it has entered the food chain, those microplastics can end up on our dinner table. Researchers said the amount of plastic is so high, it has become part of the makeup of the ocean floor. Those microplastics were never a part of the makeup of the ocean floor before, and they shouldn't be now. Currently scientists have uncovered the highest amount of microplastics ever recorded. A very unsettling 1.9 million pieces. There are “hotspots” where most of these microplastics have settled. By tracking ocean currents, we can estimate where these microplastics may end up. These currents carry oxygen and nutrients needed for deep sea organisms to survive but are disrupted by the microplastics. Plastic pollution is happening everywhere on earth.
Why we should care? I believe we should care about this topic because we are the ones who made plastic and are most of the reason it has ended up in our oceans. We should take accountability for our own actions.
I found this article particularly interesting because of the numbers involved. I was unaware of how much microplastic was not only on the ocean floor but in the entirety of the ocean. When I read that 10 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, I was in disbelief. I also found it interesting that plastic straws and bags only account for 1% of all that plastic. I feel that we need to broaden our view and not only focus on straws and bags. It is also clothes fibers and takeout containers. This article really opened my eyes to just how many microplastics are on the ocean floor and it is much worse than I could have ever thought.
Science in Action.
Dr. Ed Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Biology at San Francisco State University.
Ed Carpenter researched that not only plastic bottles, bags and straws (all the mainstream plastic many people think of) is not the only factor contributing to the oceans microplastic problem at the seafloor. He researched the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean. He found that the plastic emitted into the ocean is affected by sunlight, wind and waves which all weakens the plastic and breaks it into smaller and smaller pieces. Along with breaking down bigger pieces of plastic, the beads that are in body scrubs and exfoliants products are also on the seafloor and are microplastics. I thought this scientist's research was very interesting because he mentions that when he was on a cruise he saw tiny white pieces of plastic floating in the ocean very far off shore and was shocked to see it. I believe that many people don't know just how bad the microplastic is and how badly it can affect everyone. We should be concerned for not only ourselves but our marine life and our plant.
By: Mckenzie Weiss
Summary: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are synthetic organofluorine chemical compounds that are found in many household items such as cleaning products, paints, nonstick cookware, and stain resisting coats found on carpet and other fabrics. This substance has raised concern because of its potential toxicity to humans and wildlife. It is also known as the “forever chemical” due to its persistence in the environment and how long it takes to degrade. PFAS has been found to be linked to a wide range of health problems from different types of cancer to endocrine disruption. In recent studies, PFAS has been newly found in the Arctic seawater. On a research ship, a team collected water samples along two currents going into and out of the Arctic ocean and along a path from Europe's North sea to the Arctic Ocean. Higher levels of PFAS were detected in the water exiting the arctic compared to the water entering the Arctic. When discussing the effects of the substance on wildlife, it has been found to be linked to cause harm in many things such as the immune system, it can cause kidney infection, and affect liver function of bottlenose dolphins as well as the immune systems of sea otters. A build-up of PFAS in Arctic polar bears can cause neurological damage and cause trouble with reproduction. Due to the substance being found more exiting the Arctic than entering, it indicates that the PFAS is coming from the atmosphere and not the ocean and it is considered that snow and ice are what is holding these compounds. We have yet to discover something that accurately lowers the levels of PFAS in the Arctic, but this issue needs to be evaluated.
Why we should care? I think we should care about this topic simply because of the harm it is causing to our wildlife and humans. It causes so much harm to wildlife among a variety of species and a variety of different health effects.
I found this to be particularly interesting for a few reasons. One being that I never knew it was part of our everyday life but it is still harmful to us humans. As mentioned before, PFAS is in household products such as cleaning products, paints, non-stick cookware, and stain resisting coats. I never knew about this substance and the harm it causes which made it more interesting and made me more aware of the harmful effects of it so I can try to be cautious if/when using any of the products that contain it. The article went into depth about the substance and its compound which I found really interesting. I also found it interesting because I do not typically hear about this kind of subject like I should so I enjoyed doing research on it and learning about it.
Science in Action.
Dr. Cora Young is an Associate Professor and Rogers Chair, Department of Chemistry, York University.
York University atmospheric chemist Cora Young as well as Amila De Silva, a chemist at Environment and climate change, did research and came across traces of PFAS in Arctic ice. She decided to focus on smaller compounds that have not been studied as much as others. There were previous hypotheses that these smaller compounds were rising, but Cora Young was one of those to prove it. They found that PFAS, among others, have been rising since as early as 1990. They also found traces of trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), and per fluoropropionic acid (PFPrA). This information is of course relevant to the topic because it provides further information about PFAS, the levels, and how long it has been rising for.
By: Michael VanPaepeghem
Summary: On a federal level there is no established legal limit to the amount of PFAS in drinking water. PFAS or Per/polyfluoralkyl substances are a family of chemicals used in a variety of commercial products. Products such as household cookware, food packaging, and firefighting foams. One of the largest contributors polluting the environment is firefighting foams. When these chemicals get into drinking water they can have adverse health effects on humans, such as reproductive and developmental issues. The EPA on a federal level currently has a nonbinding advisory recommendation in place. To set enforceable limits the EPA must work through the court systems to establish policies to regulate PFAS in drinking water. There is much opposition from large corporations who are guilty of leaching these products into the environment. The opposition is due in part to the cleanup costs associated with the pollutants. PFAS have been widely used since the 1940’s. They have been on scientists/environmentalists radar since the early 2000’s as potentially harmful chemicals. In 1996 Congress revised the Safe Drinking Water Act which established the limiting of 90 contaminants in drinking water. The EPA had to and continues to enforce these 90 contaminants. To date the EPA has added no additional contaminant limits, such as PFAS, to the Safe Drinking Water Act. If the EPA decides to limit PFAS in drinking water it can take up to roughly four years before the regulation becomes law. A handful of states have taken matters into their own hands instead of waiting for the federal government. States such as Michigan, Colorado, and Vermont have initialized state guidelines, concentration limits, and health advisories. There is much work to do before the federal government implements a drinking water standard for PFAS.
Why we should care? PFAS exposure over time can have numerous health effects on humans and the environment around them. When people go to drink water they should not have to worry about the ingestion of toxic chemicals.
I found this article interesting because I personally thought there was some form of limiting in place on the federal level for PFAS. In recent years the term PFAS is widely heard and known by much of the population. Living in Michigan we all have a strong connection to the Great Lakes, it brought me some relief to see that our state has made an effort to limit these chemicals in drinking water. The other handful of states that have taken action have not been as successful as Michigan’s legal limits. Other states have only guidelines and advisories in place, leaving it up to the people as to whether or not to abide by them. The article itself was not written by a government agency which to me brought the issue at hand to a more personal level.
Science in Action.
Dr. Theodore Slotkin is Professor of Neurobiology in the Duke University School of Medicine.
Dr. Slotkin and his team wanted to study the effects of four PFAS and its health effects on the neurological level. The study was conducted on rat neuron cells in the lab and evaluated the neurotoxicity of four PFAS. Their findings exhibited that each of the chemicals impacted neurological development. I found this article to be supporting of the issue at hand due to the clear evidence of health effects PFAS have on animals and humans. The continued research conducted on the negative health effects of PFAS will build a stronger case to implement federal limits in drinking water.
By: Maissa Hamieh
Summary: Michigan has new water drinking standards, and they may finally actually do something in the state’s best interest. Considering everything Michigan’s water has been through, from the Detroit river to Flint, finally after about 2 weeks of session days Michigan Legislature’s Joint Committee passed a new rule which takes effect August 3, 2020. Michigan’s regulations will limit seven PFAS (toxic chemicals in the water) chemicals in drinking water and will covers over 2,500 different water supplies around the state and is stricter than the current US EPA rules currently held up to code. This new PFAS standard forces an immediate effect on existing rules for cleaning up Michigan’s water. Existing groundwater will have a 70 ppt for PFOS and PFOA and the new groundwater standard will be 8 ppt for PFOA and 16 ppt for PFOS and also will be a result in 42 new sites being added into MPART’s portfolio of ongoing PFAS investigations which prior consisted of landfills and manufacturing sites. The EPA has continuously denied calls made by the state so Michigan went forward and made it’s own regulations and by it being stricter than the EPA’s, they cannot deny us these standards. This water that the people of our state drink deserve to have it be clean. Water we bathe with, wash our food with. Considering Michigan has had such a high count in PFAS contamination it’s a good thing that our new rules and regulations are among the strictest in the United States. This forces not only corporations who package and make our food and drink and companies that use the water in whatever they are selling us first, but Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy itself to watch for what is being given to us in our water and keeps us safe.
Why we should care? This water is water we use to cook, clean, take care of our property with. If we are not careful we can ruin not only the planet but our health as well. We deserve to have clean drinking water.
Michigan has had a long running issue with clean water and I’ve seen what has happened to the people of Flint, I’ve lived in the Middle East and have seen what not having access to water has done to them there. I’ve been places who don’t have this issue and see the way they flourish. Being able to have access to clean water is a basic human right and should not be political or a classist issue. Everyone should have it and human rights are something that hold an importance to me, someone who’s lived every side of the class scale, a female, and a person of Arab descent. Human rights should not be a political problem.
Science in Action.
Dr. Cory Rusinek is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Dr. Rusinek's research focuses on what ways PFAS negatively effect the body and the community and is looking for a new method to breakdown and destroy PFAS. He has studied their chemical structure and since they are near impossible to break down because they’re so complicated, he believes by using electrochemical oxidation, he is able to break it down and get rid of the toxins, which is exactly what the state is attempting to figure out to rid these toxins from our water which is the reason why they’ve made such strict regulations and advancing their investigation to more places that might be a contaminant.