Great Salt Lake drying up negatively impacts air and environment


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | June 17, 2022

Climate change and population growth are drying up the Great Salt Lake, located in Salt Lake City Utah, which is affecting the air and environment around the lake. Since 1980, the lake has shrunk two-thirds in size. In 2021, the lake reached a new record low in average daily water levels, decreasing one inch below the previous record low in 1963, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

Animals are greatly affected by this alarming issue. Around 10 million migratory birds feed on flies and brine shrimp that live in the Great Salt Lake. As water levels drop, salt levels increase, becoming too salty for the lake’s algae, killing the shrimp and flies who feed on the algae. This then affects the numerous birds that eat the flies and shrimp. The drying up of the lake also affects the air and the citizens that breathe it. The bottom of the lake contains a mixture of arsenic and heavy metals, and as the water dries up, windstorms start to circulate these poisonous metals into the lungs of 1,260,730 people in the Salt Lake City metro area.

In addition, the Wasatch Front, an area home to 2.5 million people between Provo and Brigham City in Utah, utilizes the Jordan, Weber, and Bear rivers which feed on snowfall from nearby mountains, for water and agricultural purposes. Population growth has more citizens in these cities using the three rivers as their water sources at the same time as higher temperatures turn snowfall into water vapor instead of liquid. This creates a major problem for farmland that needs more water to combat high temperatures to feed the growing communities near the lake. 

Utah state lawmakers have made it mandatory to include the topic of water in their long-term planning, according to Euro News. In addition, Laura Briefer, director of Salt Lake City’s public utility department, said during a news conference that although the city, which is expected to increase in population by 50% by 2060, needs water, recycling wastewater and pulling from groundwater can increase the water supply for the fast-growing city without taking away water flow into the Great Salt Lake.

Hallar set to speak at CASE Colloquium on March 25


Via the Iowa Technology Institute.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | March 25, 2022

Professor A. Gannet Hallar rom the University of Utah’s department of atmospheric science will be featured on a Zoom call with the Iowa Technology Institute today.

Hallar is featured at the Climate/Atmospheric Science and Engineering (CASE) Colloquium. The event is one of a series for “for intellectual exchange related to climate/atmospheric research.” She will speak at 2:30 p.m. Central Time on Friday. Individuals can register here. Hallar’s research is based in “sing high quality measurements of trace gases, aerosol physical and chemical properties, and cloud microphysics to understand connections between the biosphere, atmosphere, and climate.” She also researched anthropogenic emissions.

The Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering, Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, Iowa Superfund Research Program, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Education, Tippie College of Business, and the Office of the Vice President for Research all co-sponsor the event wit the institute, hoping to foster conversations on climate topics.

Additional meetings will occur down the road. Zoom calls are held once a month on a Friday from starting at 2:00 p.m. typically. Meeting times may alter to adjust to speaker’s schedules.

Research suggests babies born near fracking sites more likely to experience health complications


Nick Fetty | August 26, 2014

A natural gas fracking operation in Shreveport, Louisiana. (Daniel Foster/Flickr)
A natural gas fracking operation near Shreveport, Louisiana. (Daniel Foster/Flickr)

The first study to examine the effects of hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – on babies born near wells found that these infants are more likely to experience health risks.

While this study is still preliminary, the researchers found that congenital heart defects were more common for babies born near gas wells in Colorado, the state with the nation’s strictest oil and gas regulations. Babies born to mothers who live within a mile of 125 or more wells experienced a 30 percent increase in congenital heart defects compared to those with no wells within 10 miles. The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives back in January.

A separate, non-peer reviewed study found that babies born near gas wells in Pennsylvania were more likely to experience low birth weight which can lead to developmental issues while local authorities in Utah are investigating after a recent spate of stillbirths, likely linked to unsafe levels of air pollution caused by the the gas and oil industry. The air quality in rural parts of Utah was comparable to the amount of exhaust from 100 million automobiles within a year. Infant mortality rates saw a major increase in Utah within four years with two deaths in 2010 compared to 12 in 2013.

The Colorado study was deemed non-conclusive because it did not account for “different types of wells, water quality, mothers’ behavior or genetics.” The American Heart Association has provided funding to conduct a similar study over the next four years.