WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) - Water levels in U.S.aquifers, the vast underground storage areas tapped foragriculture, energy and human consumption, between 2000 and 2008dropped at a rate that was almost three times as great as any time during the 20th century, U.S. officials said on Monday.
The accelerated decline in the subterranean reservoirs is due to a combination of factors, most of them linked to rising population in the United States, according to Leonard Konikow, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.
The big rise in water use started in 1950, at the time of an economic boom and the spread of U.S. suburbs. However, the steep increase in water use and the drop in groundwater levels that followed World War 2 were eclipsed by the changes during the first years of the 21st century, the study showed.
As consumers, farms and industry used more water starting in 2000, aquifers were also affected by climate changes, with less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out, Konikow said in a telephone interview from Reston, Virginia.
Depletion of groundwater can cause land to subside, cut yields from existing wells, and diminish the flow of water from springs and streams.
A new study by scientists at Duke Univ. and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found no evidence of groundwater contamination from shale gas production in Arkansas.
“Our results show no discernible impairment of groundwater quality in areas associated with natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in this region,” says Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
DEEP CUT The Kennecott Copper Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah sits quiet after a landslide on April 11, 2013. The mine owner has suspended operations inside one of the world’s deepest open pits as geologists assess a landslide the company says it anticipated for months. (Photo: Ravell Call / The Deseret News via AP / NBC News)
You are not going to believe this, but mining public lands is governed by the brutal Mining Act of 1872. This act requiresdevelopers to mine certain public lands. (Seriously, it is an abhorrent law and Democrats wont touch it. See here). The law mandates that mining be the highest use of any conceivable land development uses - above roads, electricity, environmental, conservation, even water protection.
Worse, unlike drilling for oil, no royalties are due to the U.S. government for any minerals or metals found (including gold, diamonds, uranium, copper, etc.) A royalty is essentially a fee on every gallon of oil found in the ground. The fee per gallon is paid into the U.S. Treasury, and used to manage permitting and environmental impacts from drilling. In fact, oil royalties are the second highest amount of money collected by the Federal Government (second only to your federal income taxes!). Mining companies are exempt from royalties! I swear this is true!
It gets even worse. This particular mine is run by a foreign mining firm called Rio Tinto, based in the UK. They mine the copper and keep all the money - almost none of it stays in American hands. They pay no royalties, do not have to restore the land, pollute American air, lands, aquifers, and rivers (albeit via EPA permits). Brilliant!
Climate change will mean more landslides, experts warn
“Nearly 100 experts from 14 nations, representing scores of global institutions and governments, gathered at UN University in Tokyo January 18-20 to set international priorities for mitigating human and financial landslide losses and to promote a global network of International Programmes on Landslides. The meeting marks the first anniversary of the landmark UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan.
Asia suffered 220 landslides in the past century - by far the most of any world region - but those in North, Central and South America have caused the most deaths and injuries (25,000+) while Europe’s are the most expensive causing average damage of almost $23 million per landslide.
And experts attending the Tokyo conference warned that climate change-related increases in the number and intensity of typhoons and hurricanes will produce in tandem a rising danger of landslides in future.
“Increasing rainfall intensities and frequencies, coupled with population growth can drastically increase landslide-associated casualties, especially in developing countries, where pressure on land resources often lead to slope cultivation and slope agriculture which are very much prone to landslide disasters,” according to the International Consortium on Landslides (ICL), United Nations University, Kyoto University and UNESCO scientists organizing the three-day international meeting on landslide prevention and damage mitigation.
Climate change may promote landslides in other ways as well. A December landslide that claimed 60 lives in Yemen was blamed on mountain boulders shifting due to changes in temperature. Other landslide inducements include earthquakes, volcanic eruption, poorly planned developments, and mining.”
Aggressive beach erosion from rising sea levels will cost tourist towns, like this one in New Jersey, millions of dollars to fix. As beaches erode, engineers scrape sand from the ocean’s floor and poor it back onto shoreline. They then tamp the sand down with special equipment.
The bill for such projects (and there are many) falls on federal, state, and local tax payers to pay for these projects - millions each year. The restored beaches keeps tourists visiting and shopping, supporting local economies. But is it worth it? Should you pay for other city’s poor land use development choices? Who decides?
Beach replenishment (also called “beach nourishment”) is an engineering strategy commonly used on sandy shorelines where erosion threatens coastal property and infrastructure. The process involves extracting sand from a source area and delivering it to where the shoreline is actively eroding. Replenishment is considered a “soft” alternative to the construction of “hard” coastal structures such as groynes, seawalls, and rock revetments. Unlike these structures, which are effectively permanent, beach replenishment is transient, requiring periodic deliveries of fresh sand. Why would coastal managers choose a temporary solution over an apparently more lasting one? Because hard structures built to forestall coastal erosion tend to prevent sand from accumulating in front of them — and on developed shorelines, sand is worth money.
A beach in a tourist town is an example of a landscape with “natural capital.” Essentially, the width of the beach has an economic value. Economists have shown that valuation of beach width is rather like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: beaches that are too narrow or too wide are less desirable (and therefore less valuable) than beaches that are somewhere in between. Beaches that are “just right” attract more beach-goers, who need food to eat and hotel rooms to sleep in; people want to buy houses near the beach, pushing up real-estate values. However, shorelines are dynamic, with natural changes in accretion and erosion that cause beach width to fluctuate. If a natural trend in shoreline position is predominantly erosive, then coastal managers may opt for beach replenishment as a mitigation strategy.
Developed coastal areas can thus exhibit a strong relationship between shoreline change and economic dynamics, comprising a coupled human–landscape system in which beach replenishment is the link between the economics of coastal development and the physical processes of shoreline change.
Beach erosion, rain, geology, and poor city planning conspired to this accident. We will be hearing a lot more of these stories as the coasts get chewed away by rising seas. (Whidbey Island is very beautiful, by the way. My exes’ mother lived in the oldest house in Coupeville for several years. Great salmon fishing, too.).
An ancient Cypress forest was discovered at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Not a hoax. Hurricane Katrina stirred up the sand on the bottom of the Gulf, exposing a 50,000 year old forest.
For thousands of years, sand protected the ancient forest from rotting. Now that the sand has been removed, the trees are being torn apart by critters, fish, and exposure to water.
Here’s a video, which I can’t embed because tumblr hasn’t completely figured out How to Internet: Underwater Forest.
The forest is about 10 miles off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico and lies under 60 feet of water (about the height of a 6 story building). Researchers say you can see tree rings, and even sap when the wood is cut with a saw. In fact, they say it even smells like freshly cut Cypress.
The trees apparently lived along a river.
Why is there a forest at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico? Sea level rise from melting glaciers. Sea level rise chewed away and drowned millions of miles of coasts around the world after the last Ice Age, but I’ll leave that for you to google and for future posts!
I’m obsessed with this post on the North Pole by How Stuff Works.
So what do you need to know before you plan that trip to the North Pole? Who’s been there already, and why is it so alluring to the current generation of explorers? Beyond the weather, there is much to learn about the North Pole.
The North Pole is comparable to outer space: an unknown frontier that’s ripe for exploration — and exploitation. The region doesn’t belong to any one country, so there are always disputes about who can lay claim to the untapped natural resources there. And although the prospect of melting ice around the North Pole isn’t pleasant from a global warming standpoint, it could make those resources easier to reach.
In the winter, when the North Pole is farthest from the sun on the Earth’s axis, the average temperature is -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 Celsius) during December and January, but can dip into the negative 50s. The seawater beneath the ice of the North Pole is a relatively mild -28 degrees F (-33 C). In the summer, the Pole averages 32 F (0 C). But the North Pole isn’t as cold as it used to be.
Life at the North Pole
There are 400 known fish species swimming in the Arctic Sea. Beluga and killer whales, sea otters, ringed seals and walrus also call the Arctic home. Arctic birds usually spend their winters farther south in the tundra region, but the puffin, albatross, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, ptarmigan, jaeger and snowy owl can all be found in the Arctic
Polar bears also hang out around the North Pole, but they spend much of their time in the water, hunting the fish that live under the ice. Arctic trekkers are most likely to encounter polar bears on their journeys because the bears are naturally curious — and attracted by human food. .
History of North Pole Expeditions
The first North Pole explorers were in search of the Northwest Passage, a route through the Arctic that would create easier trade — and great wealth — for the country that discovered it. When these explorers came back with tales of diamonds and coal near the Pole, the world started seeing the Arctic as a frozen treasure chest. In fact, a U.S. Geological Survey estimates that nearly 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas are buried in the Arctic, which is a big reason for the disputes among the countries.
There were occasional North Pole expeditions in the 18th century (in 1755, the British Parliament offered a reward to the first ship to come within a degree of the Pole), but it wasn’t until the early 1900s that things really got going. In 1908, American Frederick Albert Cook was the first person to claim to have reached the North Pole. But his countryman Robert Edwin Peary, with support from Cook’s traveling companions, disputed the claim, and Cook was widely discredited.
Peary (with a team of 24 men, 19 sledges and 133 sled dogs) ended up making the first undisputed visit to the North Pole, on April 6, 1909. But there’s still some controversy attached to the claim, mostly because of Peary’s improbable 37-day time frame. Most expeditions of the era took months — at least — to come close to the goal. However, in April 2005, explorer Tom Avery recreated Peary’s sled expedition with the same materials and supplies; he beat Peary’s time by five hours. Some still doubt that Peary actually made it to the exact geographic North Pole, but he usually gets the credit for being first.
Over the past decade, the Greenland ice sheet has been getting darker, and less reflective, absorbing more solar energy. This past summer a record breaking melt extended over the entire surface area of the ice sheet.
Greenland expert Jason Box has been studying and publishing about this phenomenon, and has become concerned about the possible role of increasing wildfires worldwide, and increased darkening of the ice sheets.
The only way to nail the science is to go to the top of the ice sheet and take samples - Dr Box, along with Bill Mckibben, and videographer Peter Sinclair, are kicking off the Dark Snow project to raise funds for for such an expedition, the first crowd-sourced scientific expedition to the arctic.
Eagle Lake is located is 5100 feet above sea level in north eastern California about 16 miles north of Susanville in Lassen County. It is the second largest natural freshwater lake wholly in California. Having no natural surface outlet, Eagle Lake is a closed basin lake with its water levels fluctuating with variations of inflow.
Water surface areas have fluctuated between 16,000 to 29,000 acres with a present area of 26,000 acres. The Lake and its immediate drainage are located in a high semi-arid plateau characterized by basaltic lava flows, volcanoes, and cinder cones.
Some of the lava flows are fairly recent, having occurred not more than a few centuries ago. The higher western portion of the drainage basin consists mainly of volcanic mountains that form the east flank of the Cascade Range.
Eagle Lake is well known for its fish and wildlife. Around its shores are located one of the last colonies of nesting osprey and the largest nesting colony of western and eared grebes in the western United States. It is the home of the Eagle Lake Trout which are native only to Eagle Lake.
Video of a glacier literally exploding. It’s called a “jökulhlaup,” a type of glacial flood caused by volcanic or geothermal pressure. An extremely rare event, it’s rarely caught on camera. The above catastrophic jökulhlaup occurred in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajökull erupted.
A jökulhlaup (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈjœːkʏl̥ˌl̥øip]) is a glacial outburst flood. It is an Icelandic term that has been adopted by the English language. It originally referred to the well-known subglacial outburst floods from Vatnajökull, Iceland which are triggered by geothermal heating and occasionally by a volcanic subglacial eruption, but it is now used to describe any large and abrupt release of water from a subglacial or proglacial lake/reservoir.
Since jökulhlaups emerge from hydrostatically-sealed lakes with floating levels far above the threshold, their peak discharge can be much larger than that of a marginal or extra-marginal lake burst. The hydrograph of a jökulhlaup from Vatnajökull typically either climbs over a period of weeks with the largest flow near the end, or it climbs much faster during the course of some hours. These patterns are suggested to reflect channel melting, and sheet flow under the front, respectively.
Similar processes on a very large scale occurred during the deglaciation of North America after the last ice age (e.g. Lake Agassiz), and presumably at earlier times, although the geological record is not well preserved. Via Wikipedia (great entry!)
A slide to analyze volcano debris flows? OK! Video shows how scientists in Oregon analyze how volcanic, avalanche, and other debris flows tumble down mountains. The goal is to identify and forecast hazards to protect property and save lives. Especially important in the coming years as mountains hold less snow pack and glaciers continue to melt.
Debris flows are hazardous flows of rock, sediment and water that surge down mountain slopes and into adjacent valleys. Hydrologist Richard Iverson describes the nature of debris-flow research and explains how debris flow experiments are conducted at the USGS Debris Flow Flume, west of Eugene, Oregon. Spectacular debris flow footage, recorded by Franck Lavigne of the Universite Paris, makes clear the destructive power of these flows. Via USGS.
Nearly 1,000ft below the Chihuahua Desert in Mexico, this cave was discovered by two brothers drilling in the Naica lead and silver mine. It is an eerie sight.
Up to 170 giant, luminous obelisks - the biggest is 37.4ft long and the equivalent height of six men - jut across the grotto like tangled pillars of light; and the damp rock of their walls is covered with yet more flawless clusters of blade-sharp crystal.
They are formed from groundwater saturated in calcium sulphate which, warmed by an intrusion of magma about a mile below, began filtering through the cave system millions of years ago.
When, about 600,000 years ago, the magma began to cool, the minerals started to precipitate out of the water, and over the centuries the tiny crystals they formed grew and grew until 1985, when miners unwittingly drained the cave as they lowered the water table with mine pumps.
Because the crystals resemble giant icicles, the picture suggests it must be very cold inside the Cave of Crystals - but appearances can be deceptive.
In fact, the temperature is a sweltering 112F, with a humidity of 90-100 per cent.
This is why cavers wear protective suits and carry backpacks of ice-cooled air.
So amazing. A non-biological thing that “wants” to grow.