On November 16, 2014, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” program aired “Depleting the Water,” a 13 min./55 sec. segment on groundwater use and depletion in major agricultural areas around the world, including California. The segment highlights the use of an experimental NASA program called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), which uses two satellites to detect changes in gravitational pull on the satellites resulting from groundwater-level changes on earth. The segment’s video, transcript, and additional information are available online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/depleting-the-water/.
On November 5, 2014, three localities in California, four in Ohio, and one in Texas were the latest to consider proposed local limits on the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to recover natural gas or oil from rock formations. In California, voters in the counties of Mendocino and San Benito voted to ban fracking, while voters in Santa Barbara County voted against a fracking prohibition. In Ohio, voters in the city of Youngstown and the towns of Gates Mill and Kent voted against fracking prohibitions, while voters in the city of Athens approved a fracking ban. In Texas, voters in the city of Denton approved a fracking ban. The votes took place in the context of differences among the areas in local and state economic situations, state laws, shale-bearing geologic formations, other natural resources (including water), and levels of current and past fracking activity.
Source: Split Decision by Voters on Local Fracking Bans, New York Times, 11/5/14.
Some 2000 miles from Virginia at its closest, the Arctic region is connected and relevant in various, complicated ways to the Old Dominion, as well as to the entire world. The region’s climate influences global weather and sea levels; its geographic location makes it important to the world’s commercial shipping; it is home to unique habitats and organisms and to valuable fisheries; it provides significant energy resources and is the focus of intense debate over expanded energy extraction; and its indigenous peoples have great cultural and historic significance as well as significant economic, social, and political challenges.
The Arctic Council was formed in 1996 as a high-level, intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation on the region’s environmental, economic, and social issues. Member states are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States; in addition, several organizations representing indigenous peoples are considered “Permanent Participants.” In 2015, the United States will become chair of the Council for a two-year period (Canada is the current chair). U.S. participation in the Council is under the leadership of the State Department. More information on the Arctic Council and the issues it addresses is available online at http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/; information about U.S. participation is available from the State Department’s Web site at http://www.state.gov/e/oes/ocns/opa/arc/ac/.
For information on many scientific and cultural aspects of the regions, see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Web site, “Arctic theme page,” online at http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/index.shtml. For more information on the Arctic region’s connection to global weather, please see the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site at https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/effects_of_climate_weather.html.
Tundra landscape and Arctic Ocean at Barrow, Alaska, June 24, 2005.
On October 13, 2014, the National Weather Service/Storm Prediction Center received over 330 preliminary (not yet verified) reports of severe weather (tornadoes, high winds, or large hail) from southeastern and lower Midwest states, from the same weather system that brought wind, rain, and tornado watches to Virginia on October 14 and 15. The Storm Prediction Center’s map of storm reports on October 13 (as of 10/15/14), is shown below. For the current day’s storm-report map and map archive, plus various prediction maps and tools, visit the Storm Prediction Center’s Web site at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/.
In June 2014, a research team led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Science Center in Leetown, West Va., published a study finding that fish in three Pennsylvania river basins showed the condition known as “intersex,” where male fish contain immature eggs or show other female characteristics. The study found intersex fish in the Delaware, Ohio, and Susquehanna River basins in the Keystone State. Previous USGS work has documented intersex fish in the Potomac River basin and in rivers basins around the country.
The intersex condition is thought to result from exposure to chemicals called “endocrine disruptors.” According to the USGS news release on the Pennsylvania study, the authors believe that the sources of chemicals causing the condition are probably a complex mixture of substances from agricultural sources, wastewater treatment plant effluent, and other wastewater; more research is being conducted to “characterize the sources and timing of exposure to these complex mixtures in relation to fish health.”
The study is “Reproductive Health Indicators of Fish from Pennsylvania Watersheds: Associations with Chemicals of Emerging Concern,” by V.S. Blazer et al., published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, October 2014, Volume 186/Issue 10, pages 6471-6491. Information on the study is available in the following USGS news release: “Intersex Fish Now in Three Pennsylvania River Basins,” 6/30/14, online at http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3921#.VDU7Axa_4_s.
Information on previous USGS work on intersex fish nationwide is available in the following news release: “Widespread Occurrence of Intersex Bass Found in U.S. Rivers,” 9/14/09, online at http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2305&from=rss_home#.VDU77Ra_4_t.
September 2014 marks the one-year anniversary of historic flash flooding in Colorado along the northern part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Resulting from heavy rains between September 9-16, 2013, the disaster killed 10 people in the state and caused an estimated $3.4 billion in damages to residences, dams, roads, irrigation ditches, and other structures.
The Summer 2014 issue of Headwaters, from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, provides a look back at the event, an assessment of recovery efforts as of summer 2014, and a discussion of lessons this event offers for flood prevention and response. Of particular value for citizens outside of the Rocky Mountain State is the article “Coming Home…A Calculation of Risk, Reward, and Restitution in Flood Zones” (pages 23-27), which discusses floodplain mapping and the National Flood Insurance Program.
The magazine’s issues archive is available online at https://www.yourwatercolorado.org/cfwe-education/headwaters-magazine/archive; or contact the Foundation in Denver at (303) 377-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.