Wednesday February 26, 2014
I am starting a series of articles providing an overview of the latest global climate change research. As we're experiencing one of our coldest winter on record here in the northeastern U.S., I thought it would be fitting! In addition, this year is an important one for climate science. After a long wait, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is issuing its fifth assessment report. Some parts of it have already been released in the fall, and much more is coming this spring and summer. Expect updates on greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations estimates, observed effects, sea ice declines, glacier declines, sea level rises, projection models, and much more. To start, here's some more information about the IPCC.
Monday February 24, 2014
We know about the large amounts of plastic in the oceans, and probably can guess that it affects marine life in many different ways. Read about some hot-off-the-press research about whether sea turtles really do eat plastic.
Friday February 21, 2014
Processing crude oil from tar sands has a dirty side effect: petcoke. Residents of some Chicago neighborhoods are worried about gigantic deposits of petcoke right next door. Learn more about what petcoke is, and the environmental concerns associated with it.
Thursday February 20, 2014
On March 11, 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck Japan, generating a large tsunami which hit the eastern shore of the country. This tsunami led to massive loss of life and infrastructure destruction. But perhaps most lasting will be the damage it inflicted on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, releasing large amounts of radioactive material in the air and into the Pacific Ocean.
Over the following months, concerns arose across the Pacific about large quantities of floating debris reaching the coasts of Canada and the United States. There are fears that a plume of radioactive particles is to follow. Worries ratcheted up when it was first reported that migratory tuna were being caught in southern California waters bearing radioactivity picked up off the coasts of Asia. Bluefin tunas caught through sport fishing (not for commercial resale) were tested and shown to contain radioactive cesium originating from the Fukushima disaster.
A study published in 2013 evaluated the risks these radioisotopes pose to humans who consume migratory Bluefin tuna containing cesium. The results are reassuring. The amount of radiation one would be exposed to is less than (or close to) the dose obtained from radioisotopes found naturally in food or from routine medical treatments and air travel. This gives consumer a green light of sorts, but it doesn't relieve them from the responsibility of making sustainable seafood choices.
Fisher, N.S. et al. 2013. Evaluation of Radiation Doses and Associated Risk from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident to Marine Biota and Human Consumers of Seafood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221834110.