As South Park enters its 18th season, I can’t help but think back on all the laughable and teachable moments that it has provided us. While some may think that it is simply a show that tries to be fair by taking equal shots at everyone (there is some truth to that), the greater point…
This is an interesting article from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Should we be designing for climate change within our infrastructure systems? The obvious answer, and the one that the ASCE code of ethics suggests for engineers, is yes. If you live in a coastal area like me, and where sea level rise is your enemy, the solutions are somewhat clearer. But what if you are in one of those areas where the future is far less certain? How do you plan for uncertain, uncertainty? A new area to study and maybe find a means to address things by thinking outside the proverbial box?
Southeast Florida was lucky – little damage, little impact. Farther up the coast the little eastward wobble on Friday helped folks in Melbourne, but the path of destruction picked up going north. People were still on the bridges and the beaches in St. Augustine after they were told to evacuate. Not smart. The death toll is 21 at the moment – we were lucky it was not worse like in Haiti where it will exceed 500. Fortunately we have better infrastructure to respond and better warning systems.
Homes on the beach in Palm Coast has sand inside, but the Carolinas got the brunt of it, much like in 1999 with Hurricane Floyd. Then they had cows and pigs on roofs of barns to stay dry. My friends in eastern North Carolina, living in the land of hard red clay and limited topography, have a situation that will make drainage more difficult, and therefore more costly and disruptive. Millions are without power. Some without water. The situation in Lumberton shows what can happen when vital services like water are not available even for short periods. The news does not tell us when that system will be back up, but you can see the breakdown occurring in the community as people struggle with basic needs. Our thoughts for quick recovery and safety are with them.
And those of us who were not impacted by this storm despite being being in its path – be really really thankful!! Talking about us, south Florida!!
We are currently waiting on Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane that will be skirting the Florida coast for the next 2 days. We could get some really big winds out of this. And lots of power outages and possible water and sewer outages. The good news, our Florida WARN system is a system where utilities work together to pool assets to help each other. It is a model system modeled by many others. Tree create the biggest challenge to water viability since most of us have generators. Sewer is much more dependent on localized power, which is why the FLAWarn system to share generators is a model. It helps those who are stressed. The hope is not too many people will be stressed. Matthew is offshore, a slight eastward movement. We will see how this affects us. Meanwhile the models show a loop. A second Florida hit. That would be a first. Let’s hope it doesn’t create more a problem. Stay Safe out there!!
This is very cool. Summer of 2015 I was laying in bed in Grand Lake Colorado after a day of hiking around with my wife. I got an idea for a short story about a coyote that was old and having trouble keeping up. I have never written fiction before but typed out the story on the plane ride back. The entire story is from they coyote’s view realizing he does not understand people, cars, dogs, etc. So here is the really cool thing – I submitted it to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2016 anthology called “Found” and it was accepted as one of the 15 short stories. So cool! Here is the link to amazon.
And the cover:
The signing is October 5 at Union Station in downtown Denver. My challenge – seeing if I can figure a way around classes etc to get there…. But even if I don’t the anthology is great. Here is the Denver post link….
Every water body will be different but in southeast Florida there are a couple options for Lake Okeechobee’s waters. One option has been in discussion for years – buy back the EAA lands and restore the Everglades flow. That has two benefits – improved water quality, and less potential for east-west releases. The downside is cost. But the sugar industry knows that the muck layer is decreasing and there are plans to develop the EAA into hundreds of thousands of housing units. That was not the intention in the 1940s when the EAA was created, but trying to stop someone from developing land, especially when the lake communities are challenged economically, is difficult. Buying the land would remove it from production, but decrease tax revenues. And it would need to be managed with no guarantee that it would cleaned up quickly.
The alternative? The South Florida Sun-Sentinel had a front page article that is a little scary. The figure below is reproduced from that article. The discussion was if there is no conservation/public purchase of land, Florida may look very different. The impact of not buying the land is development. More people. More taxes. More stormwater. The fertilizer does not go away – it now fertilizes lawns and golf courses. Add wastewater, and human activities. We find that urban living and farming can have similar impacts from a nutrient perspective. So development may exacerbate the problem and given that our modeling indicates that sea level rise imperils inland communities from groundwater, this is not a solution to coastal risk. Given limitations with local governments inland, it may create a larger crisis. All there things need discussion, but the question is – will the algal issues on the coast improve?
The most important parameters regulating algal growth are nutrient quantity and quality, light, pH, turbulence, salinity and temperature. Light is the most limiting factor for algal growth, followed by nitrogen and phosphorus limitations, but other nutrients are required including carbon. Biomass is usually measured by the amount of chlorophyll a in the water column. Water temperature influences the metabolic and reproductive rates of algae. Most species grow best at a salinity that is slightly lower than that of their native habitat, The pH range for most cultured algal species is between 7 and 9, with the optimum range being 8.2-8.7. Through photosynthesis, algae produce oxygen in excess of respiratory requirements during daylight hours. Conversely, during low light or nighttime periods algae respire (consume) dissolved oxygen, sometimes depleting water column concentrations. Thus, high algae concentrations may lead to low dissolved oxygen concentrations.
A common solution for algae is copper sulfate. Copper Sulfate works to kill the algae, but when it dies, it settles to the bottom of the water body where it becomes a carbon source for bacteria and future algae. One will often see shallow ponds with rising algae. But there is significant concern about copper in coastal water bodies. Copper is toxic to marine organisms so USEPA and other regulatory bodies are considering the limits on copper use. Such a limitation would severely limit options in dealing with algal blooms near coastal waters.
Mixing is necessary to prevent sedimentation of the algae, to ensure that all cells of the population are equally exposed to the light and nutrients. So oxygenation can help (it also mixes the water. The depth of south Florida water bodies is problematic (shallow and therefore warmer than normal). But oxygen will help microorganisms on the bottom consume the carbon source on the bottom, which might slow algal growth. Analysis is ongoing.
Two other conditions work against controlling blue-green algae outbreaks: climate change and political/regulatory decision-making. Lake Okeechobee has routine algal blooms from the nutrients introduced from agriculture and runoff around the lake, which encouraged an artificial eutrophication of the lake years ago. It continues today. Warmer weather will encourage the algal blooms in the future. The decisions to discharge the water without treatment is a political one. From a regulatory perspective, algae is seen as a nuisance issue, not a public health or environmental issue. But algal blooms consume oxygen and kill fish, so the ecosystem impact is considerable – it is not a nuisance .