Why a sudden spike in the temperature of the Great Lakes has scientists worried

Why a sudden spike in the temperature of the Great Lakes has scientists worried

SOURCE: CBC News DATE: September 11, 2018 SNIP: The Great Lakes are getting hotter, seeing a rise in some parts of three degrees. Aaron Fisk, a professor with the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor, spoke with the CBC’s Julianne Hazlewood about why temperatures are on the rise and what that means for the Great Lakes and the things that live in it. “Three degrees is pretty big. We see a variation from year to year of half a degree or .2 of a degree. Three degrees is a pretty significant jump. It’s a really significant change in temperature. Much beyond anything you would normally expect over the last 60, 70, 80 years. Temperature is one of the most important drivers of aquatic systems and terrestrial systems as well. It sets up the types of animals you can have there. Animals and fish like a particular temperature. They have evolved to live in that temperature. We also see a lot of seasonal chances with the algae and the zooplankton that are in the water. When you change the temperature you force animals to move to places they don’t want to be and also fish are a cold blooded species. They are the temperature of their water. When water gets warmer it means their metabolism is higher which means they need to eat more. It just adds to a general stress on the system. If you look at any of the Great Lakes there’s a warming trend since the ’50s and ’60s but this recent jump is consistent with a lot of other data. We...
‘A hot drought’: Warming is driving much of the Colorado River’s decline, scientists say

‘A hot drought’: Warming is driving much of the Colorado River’s decline, scientists say

SOURCE: AZ Central (USA Today) DATE: September 7, 2018 SNIP: Since 2000, the amount of water flowing in the Colorado River has dropped 19 percent below the average of the past century, a decline that has left the Southwest on the brink of a water shortage. Now, new research indicates that a large portion of that decline isn’t due to less rain and snow falling from the sky, but to warmer temperatures brought on by climate change. Scientists from the University of California-Los Angeles and Colorado State University found that about half the trend of decreasing runoff from 2000-2014 in the Upper Colorado River Basin was the result of unprecedented warming across the region. “A good chunk of the decline we’re seeing right now is temperature-related. And as the Earth continues to warm, we’re going to see less flow in the river,” said Brad Udall, a water and climate scientist at Colorado State University who co-authored the research. “We need to prepare for a river that has significantly less water in it.” [The researchers] calculated that 53 percent of the trend was linked to warming, which has shrunk the average snowpack in the mountains, boosted the uptake of water by plants and increased the amount of water that evaporates off the landscape. The researchers attributed the remaining 47 percent of the decrease in the river’s flow to shifts in precipitation patterns, with less rain and snow falling in four areas of Colorado that tend to be especially productive in feeding tributaries in the Rocky Mountains. The study, which was published Aug. 30 in the journal Water Resources Research, is...
How energy companies set off earthquakes miles away from their waste dumps

How energy companies set off earthquakes miles away from their waste dumps

SOURCE: The Washington Post DATE: August 30, 2018 SNIP: Each day across the United States, 2 billion gallons of fossil-fuel-industry wastewater flies through thousands of underground tubes. The injection wells descend into porous rock, filling gaps with brine and chemicals that are the result of extracting oil and gas from the ground. The goal of the wells is for the wastewater to be out of sight, out of drinking water and out of harm’s way. Except the wells can cause earthquakes. In some cases, the quakes begin as far as 15 miles from the wells. In a new study in the journal Science, scientists describe for the first time how earthquakes can be triggered so far away from the wells. An efficient practice by the oil and gas industry is creating a ripple effect far beyond its drilling locations. Geologists have linked injection wells to quakes, with findings based on years of observation. Human-made earthquakes, though most are moderate in size, put 1 in 50 people in the United States at risk, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey analysis. Wastewater injection wells are concentrated in Oklahoma, Texas, California and Kansas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “Induced earthquakes are becoming more and more of an issue in central and the eastern U.S.,” said University of California at Santa Cruz seismologist Thomas Goebel. In 2011, an injection well in Oklahoma was responsible for a magnitude-5.6 earthquake that damaged a highway, shook buildings and generated a dozen aftershocks. The study authors were able to identify two types of earthquakes triggered by wastewater wells, having everything to do with what kind...
The Water Wars of Arizona

The Water Wars of Arizona

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: July 19, 2018 SNIP: Aquifers are unimaginably complex and incredibly fragile; once tapped, they can take more than 6,000 years to replenish. Among the most vulnerable aquifers are those underlying the desert basins of the American Southwest. The Sulphur Springs Valley, in Arizona’s far southeastern corner, is one such basin. Surrounded on three sides by steep mountain ranges, the valley is an unusually flat and level 1,900-square-mile expanse of sagebrush and tanglegrass, which acts as a massive natural vessel for rain and snowmelt. In geological terms, it is a “closed basin,” as none of its water rejoins a river. Instead, it pools at the center, percolating into the ground. Centuries of evaporation have transformed this ancient lake bed into a dry alkali flat, inhabited today by a migratory roost of 30,000 sandhill cranes. Beneath it, buried in layers of sediment, lies all the water that never flowed to the ocean. Some of it is more than 20,000 years old. Around the turn of the 20th century, when sulfurous water was discovered bubbling out of the ground, cattle ranches and homesteads began to proliferate across the valley. One of the first deep water wells was drilled around 1915, when Texas farmers began adopting the oil industry’s turbine pump. Overnight, this innovation allowed agriculture to stray deep into arid climates, and in the span of a generation, the valley became home to a thriving agricultural economy. In the late 1990s, during the first few years of what would eventually turn out to be a 19-year-and-counting Arizona drought, only about 15,000 acre-feet of water were estimated to...
When Tropical Cyclones Can’t Move On

When Tropical Cyclones Can’t Move On

SOURCE: National Center for Environmental Information at NOAA DATE: June 6, 2018 SNIP: Tropical cyclones—also sometimes referred to as hurricanes and typhoons—are taking substantially longer to move from place to place, according to a new study by NCEI scientist Jim Kossin. In his paper, “A Global Slowdown of Tropical Cyclone Translation Speed (link is external),” published in Nature, Kossin demonstrates that, globally, tropical cyclones slowed by 10 percent between 1949 and 2016. With additional water vapor in the atmosphere in a warming world, as little as a 10 percent slowdown could double local rainfall and flooding impacts caused by 1°C of warming. According to the study, tropical cyclones have slowed in both hemispheres and in every ocean basin except the Northern Indian Ocean. But, tropical cyclones have generally slowed more in the Northern Hemisphere, where more of these storms typically occur each year. “Of great importance to society,” says Kossin, “tropical cyclones over land have slowed down 20 percent in the Atlantic, 30 percent in the western North Pacific, and 19 percent in the Australian region. These trends are almost certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding, which is associated with very high mortality risk.” Hurricane Harvey in 2017 serves as a dramatic example of the consequences a slow-moving or “stalled” tropical cyclone can produce. Harvey—the hurricane that refused to leave—dumped upwards of 50 inches of rain on Houston, Texas, and the surrounding area in just five days. Some locations received two feet of rain in just two days. [Slower than expected?...