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When the Rivers Run Dry

Trinity River dry 2
Author: Eric Westerman

We tend to think of water as a renewable resource.  To a large extent, that is true.  On the macro level, the water cycle does ensure that roughly the same amount of water is always on the planet.  However, on micro levels, for individual communities, that is a bit of a fallacy.  In a given area, drinking water can be used up by large enough population much faster than it can be renewed, if at all.  With a world population that is approaching six billion, that is occurring in many areas across the globe.  The same water cycle that ensures a certain level of water also sets an upper limit on its total availability.  As populations rise, that means that the water available to each person is always shrinking.  On the macro level, we are nowhere near the point where there is not enough water for each person, but on the micro level, this availability bears watching.

The problem is most evident in arid areas.  Cities like Phoenix, San Antonio, and Las Vegas are finding their local water supplies dwindling.  Irrigation is still very much an option, but at what point does this importation become too expensive and/or the areas that are being irrigated from begin to start hording their own supplies.  Another major issue is water rights regarding running water.  Some rivers are dammed or diverted for local purposes, thus harming areas that are reliant on this supply downstream.  This happened earlier this decade when some running water was dammed up in Nebraska and had a negative effect on Kansas farmers, resulting in a federal lawsuit.  Issues like these are just the domestic perspective; it does not even take into account the major issues facing areas like Saharan Africa. [Read the rest of this entry...]

The Earth’s Newest Island

Ice Island calves off Petermann Glacier

Author: Anthony Ricigliano

The Earth has a brand new island in the form of a chunk of ice four times the size of Manhattan after it broke off from the Petermann Glacier in Greenland. The ice island is slowly drifting across the Arctic Ocean with the potential to make its way toward oil platforms and busy shipping lanes off of Newfoundland.

The ice island is approximately one hundred square miles in size and is the largest northern hemisphere ice island since 1962. “It’s so big that you can’t prevent it from drifting. You can’t stop it,” said Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo. The challenge now is to track the likely trajectory of the island to determine the potential danger which could be wreaked in the shipping lanes and Canada’s offshore platforms in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. [Read the rest of this entry...]

How Do Oil Spills Happen?

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Author: James Hunt

When we hear about an oil spill that has occurred in some part of the world we may be unaware of just how much oil has been spilled into either the water or on land. When we are talking about an oil spill, we are talking about a huge amount of oil that can do serious damage to the environment in which it was spilled.

How do Oil Spills happen?

Oil spills into rivers; bays and oceans are caused by accidents that usually involve tankers, barges, or refineries. Usually the oil is being transported to another part of the world for various reasons. People who by some form or another make mistakes or are being careless in what they are doing cause the spills themselves. Oil spills are not always caused by human mistake however; sometime machinery can break down which cause oil to spill out into the surrounding environment.

What happens when oil spills occur?

If an oil spill occurs in the ocean, the oil itself will float in salt water. It has been found that if the oil spill occurs in fresh water there is a good chance that the oil will float on top of the water as well. Believe it or not this is a good thing. This means that the oil is confined to the surface of the water, which makes containing the spill a little easier. The problem is that in water the oil will spread out quickly over the surface of the water. The more time the oil is left in the water the more it will spread out to cover a wider surface area, which can have a negative impact on the rate at which it can be contained and corrected. [Read the rest of this entry...]