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.
By: Arpita Patel
Summary: My post is about seeing the orange haze over the Michigan clouds. This orange haze is due to the massive wildfires that are spreading through the Western side of the US. According to Stephanie Hengesbach, a meteorologist and air quality forecaster with EGLE, she claims that the smoke has transferred from the west through the clouds. Few of Michigan residents became concerned about the air quality and what the effects will be. An air quality test was then done The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s air quality forecast which showed that Michigan still has a healthy quality of breathable air. Stephanie Hengesbach also talks about what the Michigan residents should do for now and explains how the fires will have a grand effect on the air quality. She explains that as of now, residents don’t have to worry about air quality. In the future, if the fires get out of hand, the entire mid-west area can see a change in air quality. Of course, the weather pattern also plays a HUGE role in this. She explains it's super unlikely to happen any time soon but soon we can predict based on state weather and air quality. The blog also talks about climate change and could there be an event like this in Michigan. State Climatologist Jeff Andresen of Michigan State University described how we are already seeing climate change happen. The past five years have been Michigan’s wettest five-year period on record, Andresen said. Last year was the wettest since record-keeping began, with a statewide average precipitation of 41.8 inches—a full 10.7 inches above the long-term average. And with more rain comes more flooding and more loss of life and property. He has explained that we are seeing climate change and change in the rain since 2014. Since 2014, 2 major dams in Michigan broke open and damaged more than 900 homes, and cost $100 million in public infrastructure damages. His message to the Michigan people is that there may be a little smoke from the tinted sky, but we are already in a major climate change that is happening right now, and it is transforming our ecosystem. We need to worry about that instead of the tiny smoke that we see in the sky.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because yes, it outlines the smoke from the Western side fires, but lays heavily on climate change that is occurring in Michigan.
I found this article to be very interesting because of the title. I did not know that there were effects in Michigan from the fires out in the west. When I read the blog, I was shocked to hear that people are seeing a pinkish haze sky in the early morning hours and also a photo to prove the point. It also talks about the air quality and what this will mean for the Michigan residents. I also like this blog because it talks about Michigan climate changes that we are going through. With record heat and record rainfalls, it tells us, what we are doing wrong and how we can prevent all these events from happening.
Science in Action.
Kelly House is a write for Bridge Michigan.
Kelly House covers all environmental issues for Bridge which is for Michigan. She has written articles about issues from public parks to Great Lakes anchor strikes to climate changes. This is relevant to my blog post because she works on all environmental issues Michigan is facing. Kelly House has been working for the Bridge since March of 2020. She also works with the residents of Michigan and helps them to raise their voice about our environmental issues and how we can speak against the government to tell them to do what’s right. She also writes blogs on how people can be safe for the COVID and ways we can prevent them.
By: Allison Partin
Summary: Scientists, researchers, and even the general public are starting to understand just how disastrous the recent wildfires in California over the past 3 years are becoming not only to our quality of air, but to our water supply as well. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), approximately 80 percent of the U.S.'s freshwater resource originates on forested land, and more than 3,400 communities rely on public drinking-water systems located in watersheds on forest lands. Because of this, wildfires can cause significant harm to these water systems, with one of the main problems being an influx in volatile organic compounds, or VOCs in both the water itself and the pipes it runs through. One of the main VOCs, benzene, is a harmful carcinogen that has been shown in several water samples after wildfires in California at exceeded limits. The effect on water quality by these wildfires can occur while the fire is actually burning and even after for years to come. While burning, the ash can settle upon the reservoirs and lakes directly contaminating the water supply, increasing the amount of sediment and erosion according to the USGS. After burning, wildfires can cause an influx in VOCs as previously mentioned, as well as pipe erosion, increased turbidity, shortened reservoir lifetime, and increased maintenance costs of these reservoirs and groundwater systems. Because of how apparent these wildfires have become within recent years, some policies and regulations are beginning to be put into place. For example California has implemented guidelines and regulations to tackle wildfire water safety, causing other states like Oregon to begin to implement. However, there is still a long way to go for protection of the public health from these wildfires, as the policies and regulations that have been implemented already are either not clear or do not offer enough protection.
Why we should care? It is important that we not only take into account the damage these wildfires are causing to the air quality of our earth, but to our drinking water as well. These wildfires in California are becoming more and more common.
This article from the New York Times really gives us insight on how the problem of contaminated water from the wildfires has been a known problem since 2017. Specifically, it gives us a good idea on how exactly the contaminated water moves within the network, descriptions on the types of chemicals that become apparent due to the fires, and observations from researchers in the past. I found this particular article interesting because it gives us some insight on how the residents of California are handling the contaminated drinking water, and the inconsistencies that the leadership of California are giving to these residents.
Science in Action.
Dr. Caitlin R. Proctor is a postdoctoral fellow in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
Dr. Proctor has done research on how wildfires have affected and contaminated drinking water widespread since 2017. Taking into account specifically the first two wildfires where chemical contamination was found after the fires, The Tubbs Fire (2017) and the Camp Fire (2018) in California, Caitlin and her colleagues have researched and outlined several insights that coincide with a rise in contamination due to the wildfires, including higher benzene levels, higher volatile organic compound (VOC) presence, and depressurization of the water distribution network in California. Caitlin and her colleagues work within this research not only gives us a look into several causes of how exactly the wildfires can affect and contaminate drinking water, but it also can give policy makers some insight on how to better protect public health.
By: Grace Young
Summary: The wildfires in Oregon have caused tens of thousands of people to leave their homes and many more are ready to leave if needed. The fires have caused residents close to Portland to leave as the fires got dangerously close to the suburbs. At the time of these articles, six people from Oregon had died and plenty of people had gone missing and sadly those numbers were only expected to rise. Splitting Oregon in half the east side is known to be more dry and the west side is normally wetter because of the Pacific Ocean. Areas in Oregon that don't normally have wildfires are burning as those places are “normally too wet.” Climate change has affected precipitation and temperature patterns so the west side is drier than usual. The heat is making the vegetation become dry allowing it to burn easily. The dry vegetation added with temperature, humidity, wind and solar radiation are setting up for a perfect storm as those are key factors to the fire. Oregon was met with the strongest wind that they have seen in the past 30 years. The windstorm carried hot air from the eastern part of Oregon and over the mountains allowing fires to spread into the western part of the state. The air moved through river canyons that compressed the air making it warmer and pushing it faster. This fire was able to move very quickly when that wind met with the dry conditions. Over 1,500 square miles have burned and these fires have caused the air quality in Oregon to be at an all time low. The smoke from the fire covers the state make it difficult to have air tankers come in and other resources that help with control the fires.
Why we should care? I think this is an important topic and that we should care because Oregon continues to burn and some of these fires are another byproduct of climate change.
I found this article interesting because it gives a general overview of the fires and what is happening but also breaks down why it's concerning where the fires are. These fires are affecting people's lives as they are having to move away so that they are safe. The fires on the west side are abnormal as the conditions are normally wetter so they didn't have to worry about fires. Then the article connects those fires with climate change as that is the reason the terrain is different. The article also explains how the wind plays a role on how one of the fires started.
Science in Action.
Philip Mote is Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School of Oregon State University and an active member of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute.
Philip Mote is an active member of Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. Climate change is one of the many reasons some of the fires started. His research is relevant to the wildfires as combating climate change could help to stop the wildfires in the western part of the state. The fires on the western part of the state climate change had an impact on. The western part of the state saw less snow and had hotter than normal temperatures which eventually caused some of the wildfires. Finding ways to combat climate change could help decrease the fires and even give us ways to prevent them in the future.
By: Sarah Huskin
Summary: Between the mayhem our daily lives and the commotion that 2020 has presented, many Detroit citizens are unaware of the Detroit River spill that occurred this past November. The spill, likely due heavy storms and shoreline erosion from high tides, caused the collapse of limestone aggregate into the river. Revere Dock LLC currently owns the land of the spill site located on the shore of this essential tributary to five freshwater bodies in the region. Speculation in news articles seem to relay the same message that there’s been little to no accountability, and they have lacked concern. Many deadlines have been missed when the company was supposed to announce plans to clean up the mess and prevent others from occurring in the future. Now several agencies have been testing locations upstream, downstream and on-site for uranium, lead, chemicals and other heavy metals that have been released by the incident. A multitude of soil and water contamination tests, performed by several federal and local agencies, have concluded that the levels are safely below federal standards and poses “no current threat to human or environmental health”, according to main-stream-media articles. Several other problems with the property remain a risk, including an ever-widening sinkhole on the site, and the probable continual leaching of hazardous materials. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) used sonar to examine the extent of the collapse in order to find the size and shape that a barrier would need to surround it. Silt-curtains are a special type of barrier placed around debris in rivers to prevent fine sediments from contaminating the body of water. In the months following the spill, the EPA and other organizations have donated $2.5 million since November towards cleaner and safer water for the Detroit River. Local and federal government agencies including the EPA, EGLE, the Great Lakes Water Authority and others are reaching out to Michigan’s lawmakers. Stricter regulations, precautionary measures, and closer monitoring of industrial sites and manufactures are some general ideas that people are pushing for now, in order to prevent the pollution and contamination of Michigan’s Great Lakes.
Why we should care? Despite being considered an Area of Concern (AOC) under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987, the Detroit River has been contaminated by manufacturing sites for decades.
I was interested in this article because I’ve lived in the Detroit area for most of my life and can remember the times we drove downtown as a family. I always felt disgust towards the scenery that I-94 has to offer of Detroit. Chimney smoke-stack factories graze the horizon and steel scrapyards litter the landscape. For 23 years I have driven past this and as a child I thought it would have changed by this point in my life. It’s kind of hard to understand why people have known about the problem and ways to resolve them for a very long time and yet nothing has significantly changed within the last few decades. One thing about this topic that stands out to me is the fact this massive freshwater resource is being polluted, and a lot of people don’t even blink an eye because it happens every day, and to be frank, it doesn’t really make the best headline. I hope that if there is a single positive outcome of the 2019 river spill, it would be that more people hear about this, and wake up and see the reality I’ve driven past 1,000 times in my 23 years.
Science in Action.
Liesl Clark was appointed as the Director of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy by Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer in January of 2019.
Resources, Environmental policy, and agricultural policy have been the focus points throughout Clark’s career, finding herself taking up a variety of roles regarding them. When thinking about environmental disasters like the Detroit river spill, we can’t lose hope or give up or become enraged or angry. It’s important remember we have Liesl Clark and thousands of others like her that are working tirelessly, and never backing down in fighting for our future. People like this are good role models and are remarkable for their strength and willpower.
By: Brianna Childers
Summary: The market for alternative energy is becoming dominated by wind and solar energy in order to reduce carbon emissions. Alternative renewable energy is becoming more popular from the fact that the world needs to reduce the need for burning coal and gas generated electricity. Many substantial companies such as DTE Energy have been investing millions of dollars in renewable energy sources for years. DTE is now transforming its power generation by building wind turbines. In 2019, a new wind park was created in Gratiot and Isabella County with more than 60 wind turbines. The Pine River Wind Park is now one of the largest wind farms in Michigan and generates enough power for more than 54,000 homes. The new project by DTE will reduce 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year which is equivalent to removing about 63,000 cars off the road for a year according to officials. Last year, DTE committed more than $2 billion in renewable energy for the next five years. By 2020 the energy company expects to generate enough energy to power more than 800,000 homes.
One of the obvious benefits of wind power is that wind turbines do not produce carbon dioxide, particulates, acid gases etc. that could contaminate the atmosphere or groundwater. Other benefits of this energy are that wind turbines have a shorter planning period than nuclear power plants. Also, wind power projects are modular meaning that more wind turbines can be added to an area if necessary, to capture more energy. The biggest benefit however is that there is no fuel costs and air emissions. However, location is slightly tricky because the area needs to be windy in order to generate and capture the most amount of energy.
Why we should care? Anyone who is concerned about global warming or running out of renewable resources should consider learning more about clean energy such as wind power. Right now, wind power is one of the largest suppliers of alternative green energy in the world!
I found this article interesting because it mentions DTE, one of the biggest suppliers of energy in Michigan. DTE is my personal energy supplier in Detroit, therefore I was interested to read what they are doing to reduce carbon emissions. Global warming is becoming an enormous problem; therefore, I think that it is very important for larger companies to be taking steps to a cleaner future. Wind power is one of the most cost-effective ways to produce renewable energy and I am happy to see that this alternative energy is dominating the market along with solar energy. While researching this topic, I came across an article about possibly building offshore wind turbines which I also found very interesting as it may happen in the near future.
Science in Action.
Josh Paquette is a research scientist in the Wind Energy Technologies Department at Sandia National Laboratories.
Paquette’s research includes understanding the dynamics of wind at different elevations in order to capture greater energy source. His research also includes addressing the structural and system dynamics of wind turbines. New materials and manufacturing processes are needed in order to address the emerging issues of scalability, transportation, and recycling as these turbines continue to get larger. Lastly, Paquette mentions that we need to focus on making renewable energy cost effective by designing and operating wind power plants to support and foster grid reliability and resiliency. Paquette’s research is relevant to my topic because for a wind plant to be successful, is must be cost effective, controllable, and placed in the right location.
By: Max Gouin
Summary: On February 27th, the Environmental Rules Review Committee voted to establish a draft of regulations that would implement enforceable standards on the levels of toxic fluorochemicals, known as PFAS, found in Michigan’s public water supplies. PFAS has been found at varying levels in different water systems, serving more than 1.9 million Michiganders. With these new regulations in place, around 2,700 water supplies in the state would establish sampling for PFAS chemicals, public notification, and laboratory certification of public supplies serving more than twenty-five people. Michigan state officials began drafting maximum contaminant levels for seven PFAS compounds in order to establish safe levels across the state. These new maximum contaminant levels are measured at parts per trillion (ppt) and include PFNA at 6 ppt, PFOA at 8 ppt, PFOS at 16 ppt, PFHxS at 51 ppt, GenX at 370 ppt, PFBS at 420 ppt, and PFHxA at 400,000 ppt. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) hopes to have these new standards in place by the end of April.
If these new rules are adopted, this will be the first time that Michigan has developed its own drinking water standards. Water regulations are usually put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at a Federal level and adopted by individual states. In this case, many states feel that the EPA is not moving at a fast enough pace for such an important issue. On February 20th, the EPA announced a preliminary determination stating that the agency planned to regulate just two of the harmful PFAS chemicals found in drinking water, PFOS and PFOA. Even if the EPA decides to move forward with these rule making, the process is expected to take several more years. Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, said “We can no longer wait for the federal government to act, which is why I directed EGLE to establish PFAS drinking water standards to protect Michiganders. Moving forward with the rulemaking process moves us one step closer toward building public confidence and achieving real solutions that ensure every Michigander can safely bathe their kids and give them a glass of water at the dinner table."
Why we should care? The harmful PFAS chemicals found in the drinking water of more than a million Michiganders can have detrimental effects on their health.
This news article, written by Garret Ellison, provides an in-depth view of the issues surrounding the PFAS chemicals contaminating Michigan’s public waters. I found this particular article interesting because it was one of the few I found that went in depth on all aspects of the topic. Many of the others I had read only described Governor Whitmer’s views. Ellison first describes the reasoning behind the new regulations, along with the groups involved in making these regulations. He then lists the harmful affects of the chemicals along with Michigan’s reasoning for moving forward at a state level, instead of following the lead of the EPA. Overall, I felt that this article was the most informative.
Science in Action.
Steve Silver is the executive director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART).
Silver and his team traveled the state testing the water systems of communities, schools, child care providers, and tribunal lands for any amount of these dangerous chemicals. While 90% of the water systems showed no levels of PFAS contamination, roughly 7% had shown levels below 10 parts per trillion (ppt). While a majority of Michigan’s communities had clean water, 3% of the water tested had PFAS levels between 10 ppt and 70 ppt. Two locations in the state, the city of Parchment and Robinson Elementary School, had dangerously high levels of PFOA and PFOS. These test levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) safety standards at over 70 ppt. Steve Silver said, “This first-in-the-nation study of all public water systems in the state resulted in 3,500 people in Parchment and Robinson Township being protected from high levels of previously unknown PFAS contamination in their drinking water last year”. Without the research of Steve Silver and MPART, many more of Michigan’s residents would have their health negatively affected by these contaminants. Research has shown that PFAS contamination severely affects infants and older children. By conducting these tests and finding dangerously high levels of PFAS at Robinson Elementary School, the health of hundreds of children were protected.
By: Todd Honeycutt
Summary: PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances, are chemicals that can take up to a thousand years before they break down and can lead to such health issues as testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid issues, and many other heath issues. PFAS have been used as the non-stick coating of Teflon pots and pans and flame retardant for military use. But PFAS have also been found in biosolids, or a mix of human and industrial waste, which gets used as cheap fertilizer. PFAS have originally been found in drinking water, potentially from industrial and/or fertilizer runoff. Now, recent studies have shown around the world that produce and livestock are also becoming contaminated with PFAS. The PFAS are being absorbed by vegetation from contaminated soil which is then eaten by livestock. Then, with every bite of contaminated feed, these chemicals accumulate inside the livestock which people then consume in more concentrated quantities than the livestock. PFAS are now also being found in dairy milk from contaminated cows. While it is known that PFAS are a health hazard, the federal government has not currently taking any steps to form policy on limiting the levels of PFAS found in food, leaving it up to the states. Some states have started more food testing and created thresholds for PFAS levels that are safe for consumption, although studies have shown that the current limit is much higher than what should be allowed. This brings us to Michigan, where the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has stated that they will not be directly testing any agricultural products such as meat or dairy. They plan to do a broader testing for PFAS and are only focusing directly testing on livestock and farms that have possibly used water or biosolids that have higher levels of PFAS in them. Their reasoning for this is that they want to find a means of testing that would not cause any permanent damage to farmers. There are a few examples of when farmers had cows tested for PFAS levels, cows with high levels were to be exterminated or farms had to be closed temporarily and causing some to go out of business. Public health is extremely important, and the public relies on the government to make sure foods and beverages do not cause us harm. But until further studies are done to find out what, if any, levels of PFAS are safe for human consumption, the federal government will not step in to disrupt the supply chain of common goods or affect any businesses that are apart of this issue. It is up to the people of Michigan to let their legislators know that we want to know what is being found in our water, in our food, and in our milk.
Why we should care? PFAS have been linked to many very serious health issues including testicular/kidney cancers, and thyroid issues and more precedence should be taken to prevent citizens from ingesting these chemicals.
This article talks about the complexity of the situation at hand. While the responsibility of the EPA should be to report the findings of PFAS found in milk and animals on the farm, this could ultimately cause the farm to be shut down. The EPA does not want to any farmers out of business, so they are finding other means to test for PFAS as to not single out a farm for having livestock contaminated with PFAS. While it seems obvious that getting these chemicals out of the food and beverages meant for human consumption, it still comes at a cost to certain peoples’ livelihoods.
Science in Action.
Kay Fritz is a Toxicologist for Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
Part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development position is to “safeguard the public’s food supply”. This means that they are responsible for testing the food in Michigan for potential contaminants that could be harmful to public health. One pollutant that has been becoming increasingly prevalent in many areas around the world is in the form of PFAS. This research is very relevant as the public needs to be aware of food potentially being contaminated with PFAS, how they are becoming contaminated, and how this can be prevented. With MDARD also being a government agency, they will also have more sway when it comes to creating state policies to ensure the health of the public.
By: Jala Daniels
Summary: My topic is about how global warming is affecting Antarctica and Greenland. Over the years Greenland and Antarctica have been rapidly losing their ice population. This has been happening naturally, but it has been sped up as a result of global warming. Global warming is the release of greenhouse gases, mainly because of human activity that causes the world to become warmer. Places that are made mostly of ice, such as Antarctica and Greenland are getting hit hard by global warming. This is a big issue because certain animals may go extinct if this issue isn’t controlled and sea levels are going to drastically rise as a result of the ice losses. Global warming is causing this issue, but the ice is melting at such a fast pace because the more ice that melts, the more of the dark sea is uncovered, and the sea actually absorbs sunlight and heat, making the surrounding ice melt even quicker. Without the snow and ice covering Greenland and Antarctica, the ice will just keep melting faster and faster.
Why we should care? We should care about this issue because animal populations are being hit hard by the loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica. Also, this is our planet and we should be protecting it, not harming it.
I found these two articles interesting because they didn’t just talk about the effects that the melting ice have on the animals in Greenland and Antarctica, but it talked about how it would affect humans. I’ve heard people who don’t care about animals disregard the effect of global warming in Antarctica/Greenland because they don’t think it will affect them, but this article let’s people know that it will affect them. I also like that these articles break things down so that common people can understand. The articles are very easy to understand without being a scientist so it can possibly reach a larger audience.
Science in Action.
Dr. Nick Golledge is an Associate Professor in the Antarctic Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington.
Dr. Golledge is studying how ice sheets in Antarctica react to different greenhouse gases that are released because of global warming/ climate change. I believe this is relevant to my blog because I’m writing about accelerated ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica, and his research is estimating how long it will take for Antarctica’s ice to be mostly gone if the
world continues to live the way we are now. This is also helpful because he is estimating how much the world needs to lower their greenhouse gas emissions to slow down the effects of global warming in the Antarctic.
By: Alexandria Schurig
Summary: In Florida every four years new predictions are made on how much the sea level is going to rise. In 2019, the new set of predictions came with quite a shock. The sea levels rising is nothing new, however, they are now expected to rise at an even faster rate than before. Most scientist state that the levels are expected to rise anywhere from 17 to 31 inches in just 40 years, by the year 2060. This puts Florida’s lower laying areas at great risk for becoming covered in water. These areas have already seen an increase in yearly flooding which is only going to get worse, sometimes flooding can last up to 3 months. In places like Miami and Key West government officials are discussing ways to take these new numbers into account and prepare for the future. They know there is no way to avoid the water and that they must accommodate. In the Keys plans of raising roadways have been discussed as to avoid having them flood, but this is an expensive project for areas where not a lot of people live. It would cost about $128 million just to raise the roadways to the predicted levels of 2045, and a total of $181 million to meet the 2060 predictions. The scientists who study and release these numbers play an important role, cities use them to decide how to build their new buildings while placing the most important in areas of less risk. Communities in Florida have come together to recognize that this is a real problem that isn’t going away. They must come together to fight this ongoing battle and find solutions, like affordable housing, that work for all members of society no matter the social class.
Why we should care? Everyone should care about the rising sea levels in Florida because people are at risk of losing their homes. Also, there is potential that we could lose beautiful destinations like the Keys.
I found this particular article interesting because it explains how much protecting these areas is really going to cost. Florida, while not being the only state that needs help, needs the most support at a cost of about $75 billion. The article gets the perspective of a man who lives in Delray Beach who explains that water is no longer just a problem when it rains. It has become an everyday issue that needs solutions quickly. The main reason this article peaked my interest is because a lot of these towns can’t afford to do all of the work as its very expensive. It was purposed in the article that the fossil fuel companies should cover the cost of anything related to the seas levels rising and climate issues. Considering these companies are some of the main contributors to this crisis I don’t think that is a bad idea
Science in Action.
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera is Director of Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center.
Dr. Obeysekera's research is relevant to the blog topic because the students and faculty at Florida International University are constantly looking for solutions to the rising sea levels. They are always monitoring sea levels and thinking of solutions as things change. This is allowing differences to happen sooner. I also think it’s very important that they are training students in how to predict the sea and come up ways to protect people and infrastructure. This means when its their time to be the ones leading the charge against climate change, they’ll have plenty ideas of what is effective and what to do. Hopefully this means in the future we will be better prepared to handle the always changing sea levels.
By: Matthew Terryn
Summary: Most people know about the tradition of Groundhog Day on February 2nd. The tradition is, if a groundhog emerges from hibernation on Feb. 2 and sees its own shadow, then it will retreat into hibernation and we will have another six weeks of winter. However, Punxsutawney Phil is no phenologist and doesn’t have a great track record for predicting spring. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycles and how they vary seasonally and inter-annually. The way that phenologists mark the annual arrival of spring is when plants begin the process of growing very tiny leaves, known as “leaf-outs.” Different plants have different bloom times; some bloom during the early part of spring and others can be extended to the middle or end of spring. All of the different data from the “leaf-outs” is taken into consideration for observing the beginning of spring. The season’s arrival has been increasingly early in the past few years. In the Southeast U.S., cases of early spring arrival in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida have been up to 3 weeks ahead of schedule in 2020 and decreasing in variability the further northwest you go. This is the earliest known spring arrival in 39 years of recorded data. The premature arrival of spring is correlating to the global temperature rise in recent years. The data observed could be causation from our current global climate crisis. This vast spring variation in the Southeast U.S. is something we should continue to monitor for data purposes in the future.
The topic of early spring in the Southeast United States should be of concern for a lot of people for many different reasons. For those involved in agriculture, an early spring would mean altered hibernation time for plants and animals. If a plant blooms too early, this could potentially mean pollination time for the plant and the pollinators responsible for transferring pollen might not line up, which could do a number to someone’s income for that year’s growing season. Another issue that goes along with an early spring is produce being damaged due to the varying and unpredictable temperature fluctuations so early on in the year. Plants and animals rely on seasonal cues in the spring and fall for when hibernation starts and ends. If these patterns continue to change, then migration locations could change as well, affecting entire habitats and
Why we should care?
What drew me to this topic first was my curiosity about seasonal change and the science behind it has always fascinated me. I think my fascination on this topic stems from the aesthetics of the seasons changing but that is enough to inspire me to learn more about how it works. Another reason I found this topic interesting is because of the correlation between the date of spring increasing in variability and the current climate crisis we are in now. I don’t think that it is just a coincidence that the data lines up this way. There is a lot of interesting science that is involved in a topic like this one. It has to do with climatology because of the way the temperature changes with each coming season and global warming impact. The seasons changing in general has to do with astronomy and the way that our Earth is tilting when it revolves around the sun. Phenology is the study of animal and plant life cycles and how they are influenced by seasonal change. Botany is present because of the seasonal impact of breeding and pollinating creating genetic variability for stronger species to thrive in the future. So many different fields of science are involved with this topic
Science in Action.
Dr. Theresa Crimmins is the Director for the USA National Phenology Network.
Theresa Crimmins contributes to many scholarly articles that correlate to the topic of my blog. She is very accomplished and has many letters and
articles published in multiple scientific journals. A notable letter she is cited on is about warming experiments on plants to estimate their response to the fluctuations in temperature caused by global climate change. Her research in plant reactions to climate directly relates to the impacts of an early spring in the SE U.S.. She also contributes to this topic as the director of USA-National Phenology Network, overseeing and contributing to the scientific and non-scientific community.