Changes in sea level could be more significant than ever before


Accelerated melting ice and changes in the global temperatures could cause the sea levels to rise| Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

Sthefany Nóbriga| May 23, 2019

Due to the accelerated melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica, researchers believe that worldwide sea levels could increase much more than anticipated. 

On 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that, global waters would rise by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100. However, a new study confirms that changes in the global temperatures could cause the sea levels to double or triple that amount.  

The IPCC report in 2013 only considered a 17-83% of the possibilities of sea level rising, where areas, this new study covers 5-95% estimates—which means this study looks at a broader range of results, according to BBC news. 

Researchers believe that if there are no significant reductions in emissions, we would see global waters rising between 62cm and 238cm by 2100. According to these studies, the earth could lose an equivalent area of land to 1.79 million square kilometers—approximately the size of Libya.

 If this becomes a reality, this could have severe implications to the planet, and hundreds of millions of people could be displaced. Many of the affected areas would be major cities such as London, New York, and Shanghai as well as large swathes of Bangladesh, where it will be nearly impossible for people to live in. 

Researchers remain hopeful and believe that there is still time to prevent these scenarios from occuring. The governments around the world must take action to inform the people and bring awareness to the rising levels of emissions. 

The delicate balance between carbon and Earthworms


worms eye view of grass
Worms help keep our soil fertile, but they play a much bigger part in our environment | Photo by Christina Pirker on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | May 21th, 2019

Earthworms are essential to the health of our soil, fertilizing gardens and fields. But their relationship with the earth is complicated–and the link between earthworms and carbon is being continuously investigated by scientists.

North America used to have earthworms; its native species was wiped out thousands of years ago during an ice age. European settlers brought their own variety to their new home, and the continent has been populated ever since.

Earthworms are simple organisms, but they greatly affect the health of our soil. Some feed on topsoil, while others burrow down, coming up to eat dead leaves on the surface. All varieties help fertilize the ground–but sometimes, if the location isn’t right, earthworm activity does more harm than good.

This is especially true for earthworm activity in North American boreal forests, a network of coniferous (evergreen) trees that normally don’t house these small creatures. As the worms dig down through the soil, they release carbon that’s been packed into the forest floor. Boreal forest floors are essentially carbon sponges, and the spread of earthworms to these previously worm-less regions threatens to release all of that stored carbon, further accelerating our current climate change.

Exactly how these earthworms have spread from their more natural habitat to the evergreen forests of North America is a bit of a mystery, with multiple factors–warmer weather, invasive plants, agricultural practices–at play.

Even as these tiny organisms increase in all the wrong places on our side of the pond, in the UK, topsoil feeders are beginning to disappear, threatening the island’s agriculture. Worms, carbon, and our global food supply are all part of a delicate ecosystem that may slowly be unraveling if we don’t step up to figure out why.

On The Radio- Decreasing fish populations


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(flickr/nanarab)

Kasey Dresser| May 20, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how fish populations are decreasing as ocean temperatures continue to increase. 

Transcript: 

Overfishing is not the only factor decreasing fish populations.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

A study published in the journal, Science, tracked the changes of 235 fish and shellfish populations from 1930 to 2010. Throughout that time, the Earth’s ocean temperatures have increased on average by half a degree Celcius.

Eight percent of the fish and shellfish in the study showed depleting populations. Four percent of the populations increased however, since fish like black sea bass thrive in warm water. As water temperatures continue to increase, those gains will not be sustained.

Christopher Free, a quantitative ecologist at the University of California Santa Barbara, referred to this trend as the fish and shellfish reaching their heat thresholds. Currently,124 species of fish and shellfish are on route to becoming an unstable food source.

3.2 billion people worldwide rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. These findings are meant to inform local fisheries of the changing populations so they can begin to take these findings into account.

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

Reducing pollution–at land and at sea


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The shipping industry causes more pollution than you might think | Photo by Sascha Hormel on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | May 15th, 2019

An environmental group recently met to discuss methods of reducing pollution and emissions from an often under-the-radar source: The shipping industry.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is an environmental group paving the way for cleaner and greener ocean vessels. Despite the increased use of planes for transport, roughly 90% of global trade is still done by boat.

Currently, pollution from ships accounts for about 3% of global emissions in total, but could balloon to 17% by 2050.

Ship fuel isn’t regulated the same way that most onshore fuels are. Most ships use what’s often referred to as “dirty fuel”, and it produces large amounts of sulfur and carbon into the air. Sulpher is known for contributing to acid rain; the black carbon is often carried by the wind towards the Arctic, where it stains the snow, increasing the amount of heat that snow absorbs and adding another layer to the greenhouse effect.

The group discusses ways of reducing these various emissions during their meeting, avenues of saving the climate that included restricting ships to use fuel with less than 0.5% sulfur content and investing in alternative fuel. While a 3% contribution to global emissions may not seem like much, any reduction in our planet’s pollution is welcome.

How humans are accelerating extinction


bare tree
Human activity is changing the landscape faster than animals can adapt | Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | May 7th, 2019

From dinosaurs to dodo birds, species of animals occasionally cease to exist entirely–a prospect that is extremely chilling, upon second thought.

Extinction does not have to be caused by incessant poaching or hunting. Upsetting the balance of an animal’s habitat and ecosystem is enough to put it on the endangered list. Our population–slowly climbing past its current 7 billion–is putting every other living thing at risk in our attempts to gather resources for our own survival. Cow grazing in the Amazon, for instance, has contributed heavily to the steady disappearance to the rainforest, with swathes of land being burned down for the beef industry.

The loss of biodiversity–the relative number of different flora and fauna within a location–proves devastating for many developing countries that still rely primarily on hunting, gathering, and fishing to stay alive. At this stage, preventing losses in biodiversity is the only way to keep many of our nations properly fed, as they depend on steady crops and animal products for their nutrition.

Transformation will not come overnight. It is vital that an understanding and consideration of ecosystems and biodiversity be built into every aspect of our society–our gathering, trading, and marketing.

This is a stark reminder that continuing to proceed the way we are with our energy and resource gathering could prove fatal–not just to us, but to the many species of animals that help keep our planet balanced.

 

On The Radio- The first- ever photograph of a black hole


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Powehi is a Hawaiian phrase meaning “embellished dark source of unending creation.” (CNN)

Kasey Dresser| May 6, 2019

This weeks segment looks at what space technology research can also teach us about the earth.

Transcript:

Our obsession with outer space is helping us understand our Earthly environment.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The recently unveiled, first-ever photograph of a black hole captured imaginations. The black hole–now christened “Powehi” –was actually photographed in April 2017, but the image was just released this year. Taking the image required eight telescopes from around the world.

Telescopes, satellites, and other space-age technology have helped us explore the far reaches of our solar system–and have given us a way to truly analyze and map our climate from above.

The data collected from orbiting satellites has helped climate scientists for decades. Satellite data helped us discover the hole in our ozone layer in 1985. Some satellites are specifically launched to monitor ice caps, track sea levels, and measure the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere. 

Many tools used for monitoring our climate today are modeled after space technology, and the research and development of tools that help us leave our atmosphere will also help us understand our planet.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E Mason.

Disastrous forecast realized in Davenport flood


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Davenport flooding in 2011 (flickr).

Julia Poska|May 2, 2019

The Quad Cities have been preparing since the National Weather Service reported earlier this year a 95 percent chance of pronounced flooding in the area through May. As of Tuesday, their temporary barriers had been in place for 48 days. This week, their preparations proved insufficient.

Tuesday afternoon, Mississippi River floodwaters suddenly rushed into Davenport when HESCO Barriers — military grade defense boxes used to make temporary walls — succumbed to the force of the water. Officials saw early signs, the Quad City Times and Dispatch-Argus reported, and began urging people in some areas to evacuate when the temporary levees began breaking around 3:30 pm. The HESCO barriers had never been tested in waters above 21.5 feet, but as of 4:30 pm the Mississippi was at 21.87 feet, heading quickly to the expected 22.4 foot crest.

Not everyone received or took seriously the evacuation warnings, and many had to be rescued by boat after the fact. Once the water came rushing in, there was little time to take action. No serious injuries were reported.

The Weather Channel reported that floodwater began to recede Wednesday morning, and that at their peak levels surpassed 6 feet in some areas. A new expected crest of 22.7 feet is expected later today, which could surpass the 22.6 foot record set in 1993.

Scott County officials and Gov. Kim Reynolds are hoping President Trump’s earlier disaster declaration for western Iowa will extend into the Quad Cities area, local media reported.