Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams

Illegal drugs harming stream aquatic ecosystems

This is the local stream, Meadow Creek, that starts high in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and flows through our backyard.
A new study found that amphetamine pollution may be harming stream health. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

As if toxic waste from chemical manufacturing and other industrial processes weren’t enough, scientists say some streams are also being fouled by remnants of amphetamines — in some cases at high enough levels to alter the base of aquatic food chain.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, traced the presence of illicit drugs at six  stream sites around Baltimore, focusing on the Gwynns Falls watershed, which is part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research program. Two rural streams were also sampled in the Oregon Ridge watershed, the closest forested region. Continue reading “Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams”

Global warming started earlier than you think

New study suggests climate is very sensitive to greenhouse gases

Despite ups and downs from year to year, global average surface temperature is rising. By the beginning of the 21st century, Earth’s temperature was roughly 0.5 degrees Celsius above the long-term (1951–1980) average. (NASA figure adapted from Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Despite ups and downs from year to year, global average surface temperature is rising. By the beginning of the 21st century, Earth’s temperature was roughly 0.5 degrees Celsius above the long-term (1951–1980) average. (NASA figure adapted from Goddard Institute for Space Studies).

Staff Report

Although the rate of global warming has increased dramatically in the last few decades, a new study suggests that human activities have been driving climate change for the past 180 years. The findings suggest that global warming is not just a  20th century phenomenon, and that the climate system is, indeed, quite sensitive to the buildup of heat-trapping pollution.

The study was led by Nerilie Abram, of  The Australian National University, who  warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and started leaving a fingerprint in  the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected. Continue reading “Global warming started earlier than you think”

Will global warming boost groundwater supplies in the Upper Colorado River Basin?

Some climate models project more rainfall in the West

A bend in the Yampa River near Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado.
Will global warming boost flows in Colorado River tributaries? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

While most recent research suggests that the Colorado River will be depleted well beyond current demands as global temperatures increase, there may be one small bright spot on the horizon. Even if runoff from snow declines, groundwater replenishment in the basin may hold stead under projected increases in  precipitation, the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found in a new study.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Fred Tillman, lead author and USGS scientist. “These results are the first step in understanding the quantity of groundwater we can expect in the Upper Colorado River Basin; however, further studies are needed to help more accurately forecast future groundwater availability.”

The Colorado River is a critically important source of water for more than 35 million people in the United States and 3 million people in Mexico. As much as half the water flowing in the rivers and streams in the Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater. Understanding how much groundwater is available and how it’s replenished is important to sustainably manage both groundwater and surface water supplies in the Colorado River basin now and in the future.

In the new study, USGS and Reclamation scientists estimated projected changes in groundwater recharge for the Upper Colorado River Basin from recent historical (1950–2015) through future (2016–2099) time periods using climate projections and a groundwater-recharge model.

Simulated future groundwater recharge through 2099 is generally expected to be somewhat greater than the historical average in most decades due to an anticipated wetter future climate in the basin under the most advanced climate modeling projections. Groundwater resources are replenished through increases in precipitation, which may offset reductions from increased temperatures. The full report is available online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

But researchers urged caution interpreting the results because a few of the models suggested  decreased future recharge relative to the historical climate period.

Continue reading “Will global warming boost groundwater supplies in the Upper Colorado River Basin?”

What’s the tipping point for Antarctica’s ice sheets?

New study suggests rapid meltdown during post-ice age warming

aDS
How long will it take for Antarctica’s ice sheets to melt? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

After taking a close look at rocks from West Antarctica’s dramatic Ellsworth Mountains, climate researchers say there’s a chance that ice sheets in the region could melt quickly as the planet warms, potentially causing sea level to rise by  six to eight feet.

The new study, published in Nature Communications, took a close look at Antarctic climate change about 21,000 years ago during a period of warming after the coldest point of the most recent Ice Age. They found that  the West Antarctic Ice Sheet reached a tipping point, after which it thinned relatively quickly, losing 400m of thickness in 3,000 years. Continue reading “What’s the tipping point for Antarctica’s ice sheets?”

Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River

A Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist holds a young rainbow trout before releasing it into the Blue River in Silverthorne. The fingerling was raised in a cross-breeding program to develop a strain of fish resistant to parasitic whirling disease that all but wiped out rainbow trout across parts of the West.
A  young rainbow trout @bberwyn photo.

Disease may be exacerbated by warm water, low stream flows

Staff Report

The Yellowstone River, part of Montana’s iconic western landscape, is once again beset by environmental woes, as a rapidly spreading fish kill has spurred state resource managers to close the river to all recreational uses, including fishing, boating and tubing. Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they’ve counted more than 2,000  dead mountain whitefish, and the estimate the total mortality in the tens of thousands. The river was also hammered by an oilspill in 2011 after pipeline burst. Continue reading “Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River”

Climate: July breaks global temperature mark — again

Mideast heatwave set records

fd
All northern hemisphere land areas recorded above average temperatures in July 2016.

Staff Report

There was no letup to the global heatwave in July, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which reported this week that the month ended up as the warmest ever recorded on planet Earth.

Federal climate trackers said it was the 15th month in a row with above average temps, making it the longest such streak in NOAA’s 137 years of record keeping. The global temperature for July has been above average for 40 years in a row, since 1976. July was also the 379th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The last month with temperatures below the 20th century average was December 1984, at 0.09 degrees Celsius below average.

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces was 0.87 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average, besting the previous July record set in 2015 by 0.06 degrees Celsius. Across the world’s land areas, the average temperature was 1.10 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average. Continue reading “Climate: July breaks global temperature mark — again”

Harley-Davidson to pay $15 million for cheating on clean air rules

Et tu, Harley-Davidson?

Court settlement includes mitigation and buy-back program

Staff Report

Volkswagen isn’t the only company to try and circumvent clean air rules. This week, Harley-Davidson agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty for installing illegal devices that increase air pollution from their motorcycles.

Under the court-approved settlement, the company also agreed to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution by replacing older wood stoves with cleaner heating units, and to  stop selling and to buy back and destroy the so-called super-tuners.

According to court documents, Harley-Davidson manufactured and sold about 340,000 of the devices, that, once installed, caused motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than what the company certified to EPA. Aftermarket defeat devices like these super tuners alter a motor vehicle’s emissions controls and are prohibited under the Clean Air Act for use on vehicles that have been certified to meet EPA emissions standards. Continue reading “Harley-Davidson to pay $15 million for cheating on clean air rules”