Warming Lakes & Rivers = Trouble


It’s pretty easy to find climate change articles discussing the changes that are taking place in the world’s oceans. But, the gringa asks, what about the lakes and rivers of the Earth?

I grew up on a river. I love rivers. I love canoeing and floating down rivers on tubes and camping out alongside the banks of a river. What’s happening with these rivers I love? And what about lakes? Every summer we take a traditional three day weekend family trip to one of the most beautiful lakes in Texas. What’s happening to this fabulous lake? Unfortunately, the research shows that these are all changing as well.

NASA’s response to this change is to create a “global water cycle budget”. It covers a ten year period of the Earth’s freshwater concerns. This will be the baseline by which future “global water cycle budget’s” will be compared.

The water cycle involves the entire environmental process of how water moves, in all forms, around this big, blue planet. As depicted in the image posted it is easy to trace how water evaporates from the surface of the Earth. As it rises into the atmosphere it cools, condenses into clouds, then returns to the Earth as precipitation (rain, snow, hail,  or sleet). This is the kind of science the gringa learned in elementary school but it is, perhaps, the most critical environmental cycle for the continuation of life on Earth.

From the year 2000 until 2010 NASA collected satellite data  to estimate how much energy from the sun was required to move water. Hotter days means more evaporation of water within the soil. More evaporation means more moisture in the winds that transport this moisture throughout the world. Because the Earth is a closed system, any water that evaporates from its surface can be accounted for in the water vapor that eventually accumulates in the atmosphere. It’s kind of like taking a jar of pennies to the bank and getting dollars in return. It’s an even exchange of the same thing, money, but it exists in two different forms, pennies or bills. Water on Earth is the same. It’s either here on Earth as water or in the atmosphere as a form of precipitation.

However, the water model is a bit more complicated. Consider that each penny represents a different data set concerning where the water is specifically located, formed, or used. Such as: ocean, lake, evaporation from soil and plants, streams, rivers, human consumption. To help scientists manage all of this data they divide the Earth into seven land masses (Eurasia, South America, North America, Africa, Antarctica, Mainland Australia, Oceania/New Zealand/Tasmania) and nine ocean basins (North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Arctic, Black Sea).

Over two dozen satellites provide scientists with data concerning precipitation and evaporation over the land masses and oceans. Researchers can track the movement of atmospheric water vapor, river runoff, groundwater reservoirs, soil moisture and snowpacks.

These important studies have already determined that lakes around the world are warming. This warming trend is affecting the ecosystems they are a part of as well as threatening the security of adequate freshwater supplies.

To come to the conclusion that lakes are warming, NASA used a twenty-five year compilation of data of ground measurements of over 200 lakes on six separate continents. On average, the lakes are warming about half a degree Fahrenheit every decade. Some lakes, the ones at higher latitudes, are warming even faster, one whole degree Fahrenheit per decade. That means that freshwater lakes are warming faster than the oceans.

As lakes warm, algal blooms increase. These rob the oxygen in the water from the fish. NASA’s models predict a twenty percent increase in these toxic algal blooms over the next century. Not only will this result in a chain reaction within the ecosystem wiping out the fish, as well as the wildlife and fauna that depend on those fish, but the blooms will also increase greenhouse gas emissions. Algal blooms are expected to produce methane emissions that will increase four percent over the next decade unless we Earthlings come up with a solution.

Solving the lake warming problem is a very important component of solving the climate change problem because methane emissions are 25 times more powerful than carbon emissions. A massive worldwide increase of algal blooms in freshwater lakes is a disaster we cannot allow to happen.

If the world’s lakes become a casualty of climate change, it won’t just be an environmental disaster, it will be a humanitarian disaster. These are important sources for drinking water, crop irrigation, and the production of food fish that are an important protein source for vulnerable populations around the world. Some researchers are already detecting evidence that productivity in warming lakes is already declining.

Out of the 37 largest aquifers on Earth, 21 are already past the sustainability tipping point and are being depleted. Another 13 are classified as “significantly distressed”. Eight are classified as “overstressed”. “Distressed” and “overstressed” means that these water sources have no natural replenishment to offset consumption. Five more were classified as “extremely stressed”, being depleted but with some replenishment occurring.

These were the conclusions of NASA’s study of ten years of data from the GRACE satellites. The GRACE satellites measure how Earth’s gravity is affected by existing masses of water. What NASA reports is alarming and difficult for the gringa to swallow, even with a glassful of water. That means that almost one third of our world’s groundwater is rapidly disappearing. And what’s even scarier is there is no reliable data that can predict just exactly when these wells will run dry. Yet, we continue to consume rather than conserve.

One of these overstressed reservoirs is the Arabian Aquifer System. It sustains over 60 million people. If we think there’s trouble in the Middle East right now over regional power struggles and the global fight to dominate the oilfields for profit, what the heck can we expect to see when these people have nothing left to drink? What kind of mass exodus will occur when that happens? This is a problem that must be solved. When climate change deniers scoff at the idea that climate change is the single most issue that threatens the national security of all peoples, they have no idea what they are talking about.

If Americans thought the California and Texas droughts were painful, consider what could occur in India and Pakistan, home to the second-most overstressed aquifer, the Indus Basin. Then there’s the third most overstressed water source, the Murzuk-Djado basin in north Africa. These regions are home to almost two billion people! Think about the Syrian refugee crisis. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

While working toward a solution, scientists cannot agree on any projected timeline of “time to depletion”. And when the gringa says they cannot agree, I’m talking about discrepancies of warnings of ten years to twenty-one THOUSAND years! However, one thing that these scientists DO agree on is that in a water-scarce society that is water dependent, this kind of ignorance is intolerable. Well, the gringa is glad to hear that.

Because groundwater reservoirs are so deep beneath the surface of the Earth, the only method to accurately measure just how much is down there is to drill, baby, drill. It’s gonna cost a lot of money, but the experts say it has to be done. NASA is committed to using its technology, personnel and data to help secure mankind’s future and improve lives around the world. By sharing knowledge freely with scientists around the world, the agency hopes to increase understanding that will lead to solutions.

The gringa waits to hear NASA’s announcement of a challenge like “Dig A Hole, Save The Planet”. The gringa has every confidence that NASA will continue to lead the charge to save us Earthlings from ourselves and the messes we continue to make. These challenges are simply a way for us to redeem ourselves after making such awful messes.

Source & Photo Credit: www.nasa.gov

 

Advertisements

The Breath of the Earth


The cover photo for this post depicts a NASA supercomputer generated model that simulates what carbon dioxide looks like in Earth’s atmosphere if climate change creates a situation where the land and ocean are no longer capable of absorbing fifty percent of the CO2 emissions that are currently produced. Things are going to start getting hot really fast.

The aim of the UN climate summit in Paris is to set future limits on human-produced carbon emissions. The research of NASA will play a critical role in briefing all nations who attend. The gringa is willing to put her trust in NASA. In my opinion it is an agency that is a-political and non-nationalistic. It has one goal: scientific truth. It does not care about a scientist’s nationality, religion or political persuasion. NASA only cares about discovering the truth and using it for the benefit of all mankind.

Whereas there are many political motivations to embrace or reject the science of climate change, the gringa will put her trust in NASA. Whereas there are many financial gain motivations that cause people to embrace or reject suggested technologies to help curb climate change, the gringa will put her trust in what NASA advises. So, what is it that they have to say?

First, NASA will present how the Earth is reacting to the rise of gases in the atmosphere that trap heat. These are the gases causing climate change. NASA’s OCO-2 mission (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2) is a satellite designed for the purpose of measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Presently, as mankind burns fossil fuels around the world, the land and oceans absorb about half of the carbon dioxide emissions such action generates. But remember, the earth itself produces its own natural levels of CO2. Mankind is heaping its own contribution atop that. A full year of data collected by OCO-2 has been analyzed by NASA experts. The key question is whether or not the oceans, forests and ecosystems can sustain the current fifty percent absorption level of CO2.

Mankind is contributing to an atmospheric level of carbon dioxide that has reached a concentration point (400 parts per million) that is higher than it has ever been in over 400,000 years. This level continues to rise about 2 parts per million per year. In the years since the industrial revolution, the earth has experienced a 250% increase of carbon based emissions. It only took mankind about two hundred years to do that.

So, if nothing changes, it is a certainty that carbon emissions will increase. As the ecosystems continue their work as the lungs of the earth, will they be able to sustain their current efficiency? As warming of the earth continues, these ecosystems are affected and changed. Will these changes result in lowering the efficiency of the earth to breathe or increase its efficiency, causing the earth to gasp, or will it simply evolve to compensate and its ability to filter out these toxins from the atmosphere remain the same? Those are the only logical conclusions of our current environmental predicament. It has to be one of those three.

The deputy project scientist of the OCO-2 mission, Annmarie Eldering of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has stated that “… carbon dioxide is the largest human-produced driver of our changing climate…” That is actually good news. If dangerous levels of carbon emissions are not a natural condition but, rather, an artificially created condition by mankind, mankind can then make changes and lower these dangerous carbon emission levels. If we will only do it.

Life as we know it definitely has to change. Change is always uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful. The largest contributors of carbon emissions are populations that are enjoying the benefits of the technologies that are creating the problems. Can spoiled, grown up children really be expected to give up some of their toys or, at the least, limit the amount of time they play with them?

Mankind not only has to consider its physical contribution of pollutants that end up directly in the atmosphere, but also the things that we do that harms the lungs of the earth. Can mankind really afford to upset the balance of the world’s oceans and ancient forests? If we don’t change our ways it’s essentially no different than a human continuing to smoke two packs a day even though their doctor has told them they have lung cancer.

As conditions created by mankind causes atmospheric temperatures to rise, the oceans warm. Phytoplankton is the first link in the ocean’s ecosystem chain. And now that link is showing evidence of change in reaction to warmer oceanic temperatures. Mike Behrenfeld, the principal investigator for NASA’s mission of studying the largest natural phytoplankton bloom, said: “Phytoplankton are not only influenced by climate, but they also influence climate.” Everything on earth is interconnected, co-dependent, if the phytoplankton goes, we all go.

So, as the climate warms and changes the ecosystem, what about carbon emissions? Will the changes result in a rise or fall in atmospheric levels? Will the delicate balance remain the same? According to NASA’s decade long investigation “Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment” scientists have determined that as warmer temperatures result in Arctic permafrost thaw and increase forest fires, atmospheric carbon levels will increase. The chain reaction will be that the natural features of earth that act as the lungs that breathe for our world, will slowly deteriorate and be destroyed. The breath of the earth will slowly disappear as lung capacity diminishes.

In fact, NASA researchers have established a definitive link between forest wildfires in the Amazon with powerful hurricanes in the North Atlantic. One natural disaster feeds another. Warm ocean water is the fuel needed for devastating hurricanes. Warmer ocean temperatures are created when the lungs of the world, ancient forests, are decimated. So, deforestation raises carbon levels which warms the ocean which feeds a massive hurricane which reduces atmospheric moisture which creates dry conditions which contributes to decimating forest fires which leads to…. Are you following the gringa’s logic here?

University of California Earth System Scientist James Randerson concluded, “Keeping fire out of the Amazon basin is critical from a carbon cycle perspective.” And yet the forests burn. The most irresponsible deforesters are big business, often the mining industry or petroleum companies. The indigenous people understand their inter-dependence on the forest. They tend to respect what feeds and houses them. Big business, however, is only there temporarily to exploit the natural resources. Hence, the irresponsibility.

So, the predicted increase of a two parts per million annual increase of carbon dioxide could end up being much, much more. The earth could see a chain reaction event, a snowball effect, a runaway train rise of greenhouse gases that gets way beyond mankind’s ability to affect any manner of control or reversal of effects. That is the tipping point, the point of no return. That does not mean Armageddon and the destruction of all mankind. It does mean life as we know it will be over.

A runaway train event of global climate change would mean areas that once were agricultural breadbaskets could become deserts. Areas that are richly inhabited coastal areas could become reefs. Areas that were ancient forested Amazonian jungle could become barren and unable to sustain the indigenous populations that lived off the land.

A runaway train event of global climate change will mean mass migrations of humanity to areas that are capable of providing crops and freshwater. Cartography will become big business as coastlines change and borders move. In fact, borders could very well become a thing of the past as a global population undergoes a migrational shift such as has never been seen before.

NASA’s plans for the future:

  • A 2016 atmospheric carbon emission study over the skies of the United States
  • Coral Airborne Laboratory mission in 2016 to study the world’s coral reefs and changing pH levels of the oceans as they absorb increasing levels of carbon emissions
  • Pre-Aerosol, Clouds and Ocean Ecosystem satellite deployment to measure phytoplankton from orbit
  • Integration into the International Space Station of the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation and ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment which will observe plants and forests

NASA’s contribution to solving our world’s environmental issues is critical. However, just as you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, NASA can educate the world on the facts and that’s it. Mankind must make the determination to act upon those facts. And the gringa thinks that sooner is better than later.

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

Hercules & Plankton


Most of the time when the name NASA pops up images of stars and far flung planets and rocket ships come to mind. We often forget that NASA is interested in studying life on ALL planets, including our own. Yesterday, November 12, NASA officially launched their airborne laboratory on a C-130H Hercules. It headed north to St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada to begin its earthbound mission “North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study” (NAMES). The Hercules was accompanied by sea by the research ship “Atlantis” that is operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Together, these two research vessels will study the yearly cycle of phytoplankton and the effect small airborne particles produced by the ocean have on the North Atlantic’s fragile climate. Data will be collected throughout early December. This location has been chosen to study because this is the where the Earth’s largest phytoplankton bloom occurs each year.

The organic compounds the bloom releases can be detected as far away as the waters surrounding Ireland. By studying the plankton’s ecological and biological processes year after year, the ocean’s health and biology can be documented and the relationship between the ocean and its gaseous exchange with the air, which in turn influences clouds and climate, can be better understood.

The Atlantis is in for a four week cruise on the Atlantic Ocean where it will routinely rendezvous with the Hercules so that the two laboratories can coordinate and share computer models, satellite data, and the input of all of the scientists on board each vessel.  They hope that their efforts will help improve readiness and response to the changes predicted to occur in Earth’s ecosystems due to aerosol changes within our world’s warming ocean.

Plankton, one of the smallest organisms on Earth, are, ironically, strongly connected with climate change. Plankton is the first stage of the ocean’s food chain. Changes there create a chain reaction that affects everything else in the world. At present, there are conflicting scientific theories as to the details of how plankton’s aerosol emissions create changes. One goal of these missions are to coalesce the arguments into one sound approach.

NASA is committed to leadership in tackling the serious environmental issues that affect the entire world today. NASA makes the gringa’s little heart swell with pride by freely sharing their knowledge with institutions worldwide. In fact, over twenty different research and academic facilities are involved in the research operations of this mission. NASA doesn’t just see the earth as interconnected environmentally, it also understands the interconnectedness of humanity. That’s one reason the gringa is their biggest cheerleader.

NASA Throws Down The Gauntlet


Earlier this month NASA announced a challenge to the public. It seeks creative and innovative minds that can come up with the clever plan and even more clever technology that will enable astronauts to live like self-sufficient pioneers on Mars.

To get in on the action, you need to familiarize yourself with the scope of natural resources on Mars. Once you have a firm grasp on the raw materials and their capabilities, get to the drawing board and design a structure from those materials. First place wins $10,000. How awesome is that? What a wonderful opportunity for some public schools, who are always in need of additional funding, to motivate students to tackle the STEM subjects with gusto!

Truly NASA is committed to talented minds all around the globe as much as they are committed to their mission of exploration. Despite all the glory and prestige that is attached to the NASA brand, the agency recognizes that their efforts will most certainly be enhanced by the skills and brainstorms of any who share their dream and have something to contribute. They open the door to all with such challenges.

The goal to achieve with the technological development this challenge could potentially lead to is to shave off the launch budget about $100,000 for every two pounds of cargo by discovering how to use raw materials on Mars for construction rather than having to pack these materials for delivery here on Earth. This precious space can also be dedicated to other critical supplies for survival that absolutely cannot be found or replicated on the Red Planet.

Solving this problem will not just be for the benefit of a Martian exploration mission. This solution can be adapted and used on other missions as a successful mission on Mars opens the door to deep space exploration.

So, if you or someone you know is a science fiction fanatic or a creative innovator or a science geek, the gringa says, “Give them a poke in the ribs and a heads up! Tell them they need to design a shelter out of Martian soil and rocks.” Encourage them to visit the website setup for the challenge and submit an application: http://go.nasa.gov/1L4MSP6. I mean, really, what have they got to lose? Nothing! And, Mars to gain! What’s not to love about that? How could that NOT motivate a person!

And, if dirt and buildings are not their thing, if you know a fashionista who also has a talent with number-crunching, why not direct them to NASA’s textile challenge? Although the Z-2 design is pretty much a done deal, there are still all sorts of details to hammer out, like:

Direct any up and coming dressmakers, wool weavers and the like to the following link and I know their creative curiosity will get the best of them and they will just have to click!

https://ninesights.ninesigma.com/web/nasa-eva-test

NASA is preparing methods and procedures to properly test the design of the Mars spacesuit and they need some textile experts to help them with this critical job. What a thing to put on a resume when applying at the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house, “First Prize Winner of NASA Textile Challenge”. You know with something like that you’re guaranteed a second interview at the very least!

Source & Photo Credit: www.nasa.gov

Climate Change And Closet Space


As I spent a day roasting at the beach, I pondered climate change. I thought, well what could be some of the good points? How can I keep a positive perspective? Surely mankind will be able to adjust to changes. It may be a painful adjustment but, nevertheless, we should manage to survive as a species. If I am one of those survivors, what are some things I can look forward to? I only hear the doom and gloom about climate change. I only hear that Armageddon is imminent. Surely there’s at least one thing to look forward to?

Let’s see, closet space! I should be able to have more closet space! For a person living in a tiny apartment that is great news! My crafting tidbits that are packed here and there in unsightly containers doing their best to blend in with the décor of different rooms can finally have their own space. So, dear reader, you ask the gringa how climate change will give me more closet space. Isn’t it obvious? That one closet that contains coats, and ski bibs, and assorted insulated clothing and boots and gloves and hats can all get cleared out and donated! Goodbye Northface and London Fog! Hello craft supplies closet!

This idea leads to more closet space. As I tickle my toes with sand that feels like it must be three hundred degrees in the sun, I realize I can clear out all my shoes. Everything has rubber soles. They will all melt to the sidewalk on the walk out to my car. The only pair of shoes I will need will be a set of sturdy wooden clogs. If I get rid of all of my shoes, again, CLOSET SPACE! Plenty of space for “prepping” and stocking up on bottled water, canned goods and sunblock.

But, if my rubber sole shoes melt on the pavement that is probably cooking at about three hundred degrees or more, what about the tires on my car? What about recent reports that roads actually melted in India? I guess I won’t even need a car then. It will be too hot for the horses, so no horse and buggy either. I guess we’ll have to come up with a four wheel drive, metal wheeled chariot , solar powered Segway contraption that can drive on any surface.

As I bask in ocean breezes under my beach umbrella I take an imaginary stroll through my apartment. I suppose I can also get rid of my stove. Who needs one when it’s a hundred and fifty degrees outside? I could leave a grill out in the sun on my patio and toss dinner on that after it heats up to about three hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Oh my gosh! My apartment is getting roomier and roomier! Looks like climate change also means redecorating the house! But, no big furniture. Whatever I get will have to fit on the Segway chariot thing.

Also, when the sea levels rise my low rent apartment will become prime real estate and I’ll be locked into a long-term, low rent lease. Sweet! My one hour drive to the beach will probably end up becoming a ten minute stroll. However, the only time I will be able to enjoy the beach will be the dead of night when temperatures finally drop down to a cool and tolerable ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit.

All kidding aside, however, the people of India truly have suffered a tremendous loss of life in an unprecedented heatwave. Experts who thought we humans may have at least another thirty years or so until life as we know it really starts to change may have gotten the timeline all wrong. The ball that started rolling a while back seems to be picking up speed.

Wars in the past may have been inspired by the control of oil, but, with climate change accelerating, the world may have to look forward to wars over food, water, and a shade tree. The gringa thinks no amount of “prepping” is going to help an individual survive such a disaster. The only thing to do is all come together and help one another. It may be too late to divert this environmental disaster, but it’s never too late to be decent human beings helping one another.

Sources:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/05/26/3662797/india-heat-wave-deaths/

http://ringoffireradio.com/2015/08/the-climate-change-disasters-are-already-here-time-is-running-out/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/us/politics/climate-change-deemed-growing-security-threat-by-military-researchers.html?_r=1

Photo credit: www.lwfyouth.org