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


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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.

 

 

Thwaites: Antarctica’s tipping point


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Glacier collapse could lead to a global disaster | Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | April 30th, 2019

McMurdo, a small group of buildings in the Antarctic meant solely as a pass-through for scientists of different fields, sits 800 miles away from a glacier roughly the size of Florida. This glacier–dubbed the “Thwaites”–is difficult to reach and difficult to study, but this enormous formation of ice could have dire consequences for our civilization should it collapse in our oceans.

Thwaites’ wedge shape and its massive size make it something to be contended with. In 2008, when Sridhar Anandakrishnan and five others from Penn State journeyed to the glacier, they found that it was losing ice at an alarming rate. The ongoing losses from Thwaites already accounts for a global sea level rise of roughly 4%. Thwaites is likely a support glacier, a “cork in a wine bottle“, meaning that its total collapse could lead to more glacier disaster, forcing us to contend with rising oceans that we may not be prepared to deal with.

Sridhar’s team, a year after their initial exploration, returned to the glacier to begin measuring its base, some 4,000 feet below the water. By drilling boreholes in the icy ground and setting off explosive charges, the team could read the seismic waves generated by the charge as it reverberated off of the glacier bed. Though much information has been gathered about Thwaites, there is still no solid explanation for its accelerated rate of collapse.

Thwaites could completely collapse in as soon as a century, especially since its loss of ice may be unstoppable. In the meantime, scientists are risking life and limb in the antarctic’s bitter cold, trying to uncover the mystery of this ticking time bomb.

 

On The Radio- Preparing for flood season


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Photo from the 2008 June floods (christina rutz/flickr)

Kasey Dresser| April 29, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how towns along the Mississippi are preparing for flood season. 

Transcript: 

As flood season begins, mayors of towns along the Mississippi prepare for potential disaster. 

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

It’s not easy maintaining a city or town along the Mississippi. The river—one of the largest in the world—is especially susceptible to floods during spring, when rain and melting snow cause the water levels to rise significantly.

The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative is a collection of 88 mayors spanning 10 states that work together to find solutions for flooding. They’ve been setting safety measures in place for this coming flood season, one that’s predicted to be especially disastrous.  

In late March, the group talked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to figure out some preventative measures. Previously, they gathered in Washington DC to work out a nearly eight billion dollar deal to help reinforce existing infrastructure. Midwestern states have sustained billions in flood damages just this year, and supposedly once-in-a-lifetime floods have hit St. Louis on three different occasions since 2011.

These previously rare weather events have been happening more and more frequently, and the coalition is amping up their defenses to beat back the oncoming waves. 

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org. 

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