Fracking contaminated drinking water

Scientific American has an article that explains that a former EPA scientist has found contaminants in drinking water that came from fracking. Drinking water from Pavillion WY smells and tastes bad. There are many natural gas wells in the area, many shallow wells under 2000 feet deep. Chemicals used in fracking have been found in well water.

Many labs analyzing well water originally didn’t find fracking chemicals. But it’s not that simple.

“Conducting a groundwater investigation related to fracking is extremely complicated,” DiGiulio said. “It is difficult because a lot of the compounds used for hydraulic fracturing are not commonly analyzed for in commercial labs.”

More recent test have found methanol, diesel compounds, and other fracking chemicals in wells. Many of these chemicals are unstudied, and we don’t know what the safe levels are for them.

Unsurprisingly, industry groups disagree with the findings. More studies need to be done to find how fracking can be done such that it won’t contaminate well water.

Why do people doubt Climate Change?

Many people in the U.S. don’t think that Climate Change is happening, even though a vast amount of evidence shows that it is. Justin Farrell, at Yale University, looked into the reasons there is so much polarity on the subject. He examined two decades of public texts on the subject, and found that there are over 150 organizations that have something to lose is alternative sources of energy are promoted.

In looking at the data, he found that organizations with corporate funding were more likely to give out information that was meant to polarize that organizations with public funding. He also found that the corporate funding influenced the content, and lead to a digression from actual science.

In short, he suggests that contrarian efforts by some actors seeking to mislead the public have caused so much confusion that many Americans are no longer able to figure out who to listen to or believe. He suggests that his research also highlights the needed for more information dissemination from publicly funded sources to counter those that are backed by corporations.


Here are some links to actual scientific information on Climate Change and Global Warming.

  1. Climate change: How do we know? [NASA]
  2. Global Climate Change Indicators [NOAA]
  3. Evidence for Global Warming [Skeptical Science]
  4. Global Warming Science [Union of Concerned Scientists]
  5. Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense [Scientific American]
  6. A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems [Nature]
  7. Ecological responses to recent climate change [Nature]
  8. Tropical Glacier and Ice Core Evidence of Climate Change on Annual to Millennial Time Scales
  9. Ice Core Evidence for Climate Change in the Tropics: Implications for our Future
  10. Modern Glacier Retreat on Kilimanjaro as Evidence for Climate Change: Observations and Facts
  11. Archaeological and palaeoecological indications of an abrupt climate change in The Netherlands, and evidence for climatological teleconnections around 2650 BP

Drunken Trees

Drunken_treesWhile drunken trees may sound like a joke, it’s not. There are drunken trees in Alaska, Canada, and Northern Europe. Trees should go straight up. However, if the trees are in places with permafrost, and the permafrost melts, then the ground can collapse and the trees will end up tilted. This leads to trees that look like they are drunk. And it’s happening due to climate change. Other effects are erosion, and depressions in the land (thermokarst). Sometimes the trees can survive, but not always. Birch and black spruce are most affected because they have shallow root systems.

It’s not just trees that are affected by this. It also affects animals in the ecosystem that depend on the trees for food or shelter. The depressions created can be big enough to swallow whole houses, which has happened. Families have had to move, roads have been destroyed, pipelines have cracked. And it’s only going to get worse as the global temperature continues to rise.

Ocean biodiversity healthier than we thought

Scientists have recently found that there is much more biodiversity in the oceans than we thought. Especially in the so called oceanic deserts.

The mesopelagic is the region in the ocean that is between 100 m and 1000 m deep; this is a huge region of water. We’ve thought for a long time that this area doesn’t have much fish. Now we know that about 95% of the ocean’s fish live in this zone. They have larger eyes to be able to see where there isn’t much sunlight. They also can detect and avoid fishing nets.

While the article written for phys.org says that the fish can avoid nets from 5 m away, the paper written by the original author says that the fish avoid nets from much further out, 100 m away, and take hours to return to the area. This is one of the main reasons that we haven’t known much about these fish before.

Paper or Plastic?

Ah, the age old question. “Paper or Plastic?”. Which should you get? Which is better for the environment? I’ll summarize a great answer from Quora:

  1. Plastic isn’t necessarily worse for the environment than paper. Paper is heavy, and making paper pollutes. There are many factors, some of them that you may not think about right away, that affect what ecological impact of each, and these factors can change over time.
  2. Reusable canvas bags are usually worse than plastic. Because the reusable bags are reusable, they have to be durable, and it takes a lot of energy to make. You’d have to reuse one over a hundred times to use less resources than plastic.

So it really depends on many different things and has more variables than you’d think at first blush. This isn’t a complete answer, and the answer may change year to year depending on circumstances.

Thanks Gayle!

Say goodbye to the Peel Watershed of the Yukon

The new government of Canada’s Yukon territory is (most likely illegally) ignoring a 2011 agreement on how to treat the Peel Watershed. The watershed is 77,000 km2, of which some 67,000 are in the Yukon. The indigenous people have been fighting with the mining industry over land use. In 2011 the Peel Compromise set aside 80% as protected wilderness, with the other 20% open to mining.

The new government is very pro-mining, and feels that the agreement is null and void now that they have been elected. They are changing the 80% to 29%, with the other 71% open to mining.

This actually ties in with what I’ve been teaching my 6th graders. We just learned that the 3 main uses people have for land is agriculture, mining, and development. I’ll be bringing this up in class tomorrow.

Beijing air pollution

The air pollution is so bad that just breathing the air for a day is as bad a smoking 21 cigarettes. People are urged to wear surgical masks.

As for why it’s so bad, China uses coal for 70% of their energy. They have had (what we would consider) lax regulations on car and factory pollution. In the past 20 years, the middle class has boomed, and this resulted in many more cars.

This may be Australia’s hottest year in history

According to The Guardian, Australia is on track for 2013 being its hottest year in recorded history. The past 12 months have been warmer than those months in any previous year. Almost 2 months to go, and their summer is looking pretty hot.

So far in 2013:

  • Warmest summer
  • Warmest January and September
  • Warmest 12 month period
  • 15 months in a row of above average temperature

Migration patterns of animals have changed due climate change.

And, just like her in the US, their politicians are also head-in-the-sand saying that climate change isn’t real. It’s sad. Really sad.

What can we do to bring the bees back?

TED recently published a talk on why bees are disappearing. It turns out that bee populations have been declining since WWII when we started doing modern farming with monocultures, pesticides, and more. Maybe we’re just really noticing it now because we’re approaching a tipping point.

But we can help bees out. Yes, you and me. We can plant flowers that bees like. And not put pesticides on them.

Acidification of oceans leading to stressed krill

In an earlier post I mentioned that previous mass extinctions have been linked to the oceans becoming more acidic (lower pH). Well, it looks like small ocean organisms (the ones that are more vulnerable to this) are showing signs of stress due to the acidification.

Antarctic krill are showing early signs of acidification damage. 40% of the CO2 that is absorbed by oceans ends up in the Southern Ocean. The polar latitudes are affected more than tropical latitudes due to ocean chemistry. With predicted levels of ocean pH, krill eggs don’t develop properly. By 2300 krill wouldn’t be able to reproduce in large areas of the Southern Ocean. Then there are the large animals that eat krill. Blue whales and minke whales would be affected.