Monthly Archives: October 2017

Climate change might be worse than thought.

In a new study climate change might be far worse than thought.

The new information challenges the way researchers have worked out sea temperatures until now. This means that the temperatures may be increasing quicker than previously thought. The methodology generally used by the scientific community may be based on a mistake and so our understanding of climate change may be seriously flawed.

The new research suggests that hundreds of millions of years ago the oceans were much cooler than previously thought. If true then the global warming we are experiencing is unparallelled within the last 100 million years, and far worse than previously calculated.

The belief is that the ocean depths, and the surface of the polar ocean 100 million years ago were about 15 degrees warmer than they are today. But..they might have remained relatively stable, making the warming at present far more alarming.

Oceans cover 70% of the planet and play an important role in the climate. Knowing the extent to which their temperatures have changed over time is critical to understanding where we are headed.

The new study scientists have been reviewing shows we have been overlooking crucial processes when the  temperature of the oceans from millions of years ago were gauged. Leading to the belief that they were warmer than they actually were. Temperatures have been calculated by studying the fossils of tiny marine organisms  found in the sediment on the ocean floor. The shells of these small creatures takes on an oxygen isotope depending on how warm the water is. By looking at the oxygen content the temperature can be estimated when they were alive. This has led scientists to believe the sea temps have fallen by 15 degrees over the last 100 million years.

The new research shows that the amount of oxygen in those shells doesn’t actually remain constant over time, and the change can happen without any visible trace that would alert researchers to that change.

The perfectly preserved fossil may in fact not be so well-preserved and the estimates of paleotemps are now incorrect.

The French and Swiss research team behind the new work are hard at it to try to decide the proper paleotemps. More marine life found in the core sediments are being studied so we can clearly understand what took place in the sediment over geological time.

Arsenic reduction leads to fewer cancer deaths

This just out from the EPA in the USA…The EPA revised a rule on arsenic in drinking water results show a reduction in lung , bladder and skin cancers.


In 2006 the EPA reduced the amount of arsenic allowed in public water systems to 10 milligrams per liter, down from 50 milligrams. This rule does not apply to private wells.

Through an ongoing nation wide health survey, researchers compared urinary arsenic levels in 2003, before the rule went into effect…against urinary arsenic levels from 2014 or after the arsenic rule change.


Over 14,00 people were in the study, and adjustments were considered to account for  arsenic exposure through smoking or diet.

A 17% reduction in arsenic levels was found among those using public water systems. This translates into the ruling  causing 200-900 fewer lung  and bladder cancers and fifty fewer skin cancers annually.

The researchers try to provide information in a way that is useful for policy makers. They understand that water treatment to remove arsenic is expensive, and difficult to afford for smaller municipalities. Eliminating arsenic completely should be the goal, but we must be realistic.


Afghan Villagers Unite to Preserve Access to Water

In Dand District, Kandahar Province villagers from Qalach-a-Abad come together to clean the Nawai Pathaw Canal. They do this so they have enough water to irrigate their fields, and grow their crops for the rest of the year.

The canal needs to be cleaned every year due to the amount of mud and silt that accumulates and needs to be removed for the water to flow freely.


Over 100 villagers are working together to clean the canal. It takes 20 days to clean 10.5 kilometres of the canal, which provides water for 6 villages. It is also common to require 40 days to make repairs, stop leaks, and clean. In spite of this annual  effort it is not unusual for the villages to run out of water due to the leakages.

The canal that was originally built some 50 yrs ago, was rehabilitated in 2014 by the Irrigation Restoration and Development Project. The project which took a year included building new sluice gates, a protective wall, , flumes, and culverts the length of the canal. The result is agricultural output and activity has improved. 2,748 hectares of farmland is now serviced compared to the previous 2,320 hectares.


Before the upgrade villagers came out and did the work, but not happily. Now with the outside investment and the increase in crops, they are more happy to put in their own money and time to keep the improvements in good shape. the people of the 6 villages have a renewed sense of purpose.

This project is only part of the picture as irrigation systems serving some 300,000 hectares need upgrades. Presently, 98 irrigation schemes covering 100,000 hectares benefiting 63,000 farmers have been rehabilitated.

That is 63,000 people with a renewed sense of purpose. This carries over to the villages investing more into themselves…the true power of development.


Salmon sex linked to geological change

Researchers at Washington State University have found that the mating habits of salmon can alter the profile of the stream beds, affecting the evolution of an entire watershed. This is the first time we can say that salmon can influence the shape of the land.

Female salmon “fluff” the soil and gravel on the river bottom as the prepare their nests. The gravel and soil is then more easily moved by flooding, which exposes the underlying bedrock to erosion. By moving the sediment the fish are in fact changing the character of the stream bed, so in times of flood the base is more mobile.

the researchers modeled the changes over 5 million yrs and saw streams with spawning salmon lowering stream slopes and elevation over time.  Land beside the stream can also get steeper and more prone to erosion.

Different salmon species can have a different effect. Chinook can move bigger pieces of material, while coho move finer particulate. Over time, this diversification can lead to different erosion rates  and changes  to the landscape.

This research highlights the role of living things to shape their environment. Trees prevent landslides, beavers build dams that slow water..creating wetlands that benefit many.

Conversely, in streams where salmon drop in numbers or disappear completely significant long-term changes in their profile and ecology may be seen.

The evolution of a watershed can be influenced by the evolution of a species.

WHO: 1.7M children die every year due to polluted environments

Consider that a quarter of all global deaths of children under 5 are due to unhealthy or polluted environments including water and air, second hand smoke and adequate hygiene.

Unsanitary and polluted environments can lead to fatal cases of diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia kill 1.7 million children each year. A polluted environment can be deadly on young children, they’re developing organs and immune systems, smaller airways, and bodies make them vulnerable to dirty air and water.

Households without access to safe water and sanitation , or that are polluted with smoke from unclean fuels such as dung or coal for cooking and heating present higher risks for diarrhea and pneumonia.

Children are also exposed to harmful chemicals through food, water , and air around them.

Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health , such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels will result in massive health benefits.

US to rescind WOTUS based on flawed analysis

New evidence suggests that the Trump Administration’s proposal to rescind the 2015 Waters of the United States rule that would limit the scope of the Clean Water Act inappropriately overlooks wetland related values.

In a 2017 government issued analysis, benefits to rescind the rule were found to be greater than costs, results conflict with a similar analysis made in 2015 under the Obama administration. The big difference is the 2017 analysis left wetlands related values unquantified, These differences led to an almost 90% drop in quantified benefits from the 2015 to the 2017 analysis. Excluding wetlands values obviously presents an incomplete picture.

How important is this?…The Supreme court will be holding a hearing that will decide selected issues related to WOTUS.

The 2015 report was put together by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the 2017 report was also put together by these same groups. The 2015 report showed the wetlands benefits at up to $500million a year. The 2017 report excluded wetland values.

The 2017 analysis contained inconsistencies as wetland valuation studies were considered to old for inclusion while point source pollution studies published during the same time frame were not treated as too old, and were included.

A failure to consider available data on public attitudes regarding water quality protection that supports the credibility of the wetlands benefits in the 2015 analysis was also noted.

There are 10 recent studies that could be examined for wetland value estimates. Also, there is evidence showing that US public opinion on environmental protection remains strong.

The 2017 report seems to have lost some credibility.


Why Should We Save Water?

Why should we conserve water given that 71% of the Earth is covered with water?

What we know about water on Earth looks like this..97% of all water on our planet is salt water which is not suitable for drinking. Only 3% of all the water is fresh water, and only 1% is available for drinking. 2% of the available freshwater sources is locked in ice caps and glaciers.


With the continuing growth in the world population of humans, and with a small percentage of water suitable for drinking it just makes sense that we conserve this precious resource. We depend on water to sustain life as we know it, so we should learn how to conserve it and how to keep it pure and safe for consumption moving forward.

Why save? Our water supply is not infinite, it is not endless. We all need water to live our daily lives so water conservation is not just for scientists, hydrologists, city planners and the like…it is up to each one of us to use water with conservation in mind.

Conserving water minimizes the effects of drought and water shortage. Our need for fresh water is always increasing because of population and industry growth…but the supply remains constant. Thanks to the water cycle, water always return to Earth but not always to the same spot , in the same quantity and quality.

Conservation guards against rising costs and political conflict. By not conserving we could face a lack of adequate quality water leading to rising costs, potentially reduced food supplies, and political conflict.

We need to conserve to preserve our environment.

We need to conserve for recreational purposes. Golf courses, swimming pools and spas require large amounts of water. We also need water to water lawns, trees , flowers, and vegetable gardens.

Safe and beautiful communities require a volume of good quality water. Firefighters, hospitals, gas stations, health clubs, and restaurants need large amounts of water to provide their services to the community.

It is up to all of us to conserve water, every little bit helps, so what you do as an individual does count. Make conservation a way of life.


Algae Bloom Covering Lake Erie

Residents and officials local to Lake Erie were alarmed last week to find a potentially harmful algae bloom covered more than 700 sq miles in the western basin.

Scientists say the blooms have been a growing problem since the early 2000’s…mainly due to the use of fertilizer on the area’s farmland. Under certain conditions algae blooms can produce toxins that can contaminate drinking water and cause harm to the local ecosystem. The good news is that during last week’s bloom these toxins remained low around intake points where town’s draw their water.

So while not all algae blooms are toxic, they can produce toxins that can cause serious liver damage. Consider that in 2014  Toledo , Ohio had to shut down the drinking water to some 500,000 people for 3 days. The disruption to the locals affected must have been great. Now consider that 3 million people get their drinking water from the central basin of Lake Erie. Also, Lake Erie attracts millions of visitors for the beaches and recreational fishing…many businesses stand to lose the tourist dollars.

An official from the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association describes the algae as musty smelling, lime green skin on the lake’s surface that is so thick you can write your name on it. 

A big concern is that the blooms are getting larger. Most of the increase can be attributed to a rise in the amount of dissolved phosphorous flowing into the lake. Researchers started tracking algae blooms on Lake Erie in the 1980’s , at the time they were mostly small, but changes in farming practices has caused them to spike.

Global warming is now expected to play a role as the warming causes a change in rainfall patterns. Storms have become more intense carrying more nutrients from the farmland into the lake. 

Is Lake Erie the beginning and end to algae blooms? No, as the Carnegie Institution for Science has a study that shows algae blooms will continue to grow around North America and around the world, especially Southeast Asia.