Posts Tagged 'EPA'

A Blue View: Rising Seas

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

June 26, 2013: Rising Seas

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss the impact
climate change is having on rising sea levels. 

On these hot summer days, our thoughts tend toward ice cream cones and tall glasses of ice water on a sweltering afternoon rather than the melting of ice sheets around the world. But just as the ice melting in your glass causes the water level to rise, so too does the melting of the world’s ice shelves.

Perhaps you’ve seen the incredible videos of massive chunks of ice breaking away from a glacier, causing crashing impressively into the sea. Until recently, it was thought that this was the primary cause of ice loss in Antarctica. But in fact, a study by NASA and university researchers indicates that warming oceans are also dissolving the ice from underneath the ice shelf at unprecedented rates, causing the greatest loss of Antarctic ice shelf mass. Scientists plan to use these data to help determine how ice shelves melt, improving projections of how the ice sheet might respond to a warming ocean and contribute to sea level rise.

Ice loss is not just occurring at the poles: NASA researchers have discovered that glaciers outside of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica lost an average of 571 trillion pounds of mass each year during the six-year study period, causing sea levels to rise almost two-tenths of an inch during that time. This actually matches the sea level rise attributed to the combined ice loss of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets.

Ice melting isn’t the only contributor to sea level rise. Warming temperatures cause waters to warm and expand. In turn, warming waters take up more volume. This phenomenon is called thermal expansion. The combination of ice melting and thermal expansion means that sea level rise is not just a possibility…it is happening now, and the only question is how fast it’s going to rise.

Many scientists now believe that sea levels will rise by no less than one to two feet by 2100. And without dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, the threat could be much more substantial.

The East Coast in particular is at greater risk from sea level than other areas of the world, mainly due to ocean currents and differences in seawater temperature and ocean salinity, according to climate scientists. The U.S. Geological Survey found that sea levels from North Carolina to Boston climbed by about 2 to 4 millimeters a year between 1950 and 2009 as compared to a global average of one-half to 1 millimeter.

These amounts may seem small and unimportant, but the repercussions from these rising levels are anything but. Imagine increased coastal flooding, shoreline erosion, loss of wetlands, and destroyed homes and businesses on the order of superstorm Sandy. Sea level rise does affect us all.

We need to take steps to control warming, as sea surface temperature and sea level rise are inextricably linked. According to the EPA, sea surface temperatures have risen at an average rate of 13 one-hundredths of a degree per decade since 1901. As small as that may sound, over 112 years, that’s an increase of one and a half degrees, which is already impacting not only sea level, but also coral reefs and other essential ocean habitats, migration and breeding patterns, the intensity of storms, and the spread of invasive species and marine diseases.

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A Blue View: Every Drop Counts

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

February 27, 2013: Every Drop Counts

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss the importance of responsible water use!

A lot of us take water for granted. We simply turn on a faucet, and there it is, in seemingly endless supply.

Freshwater, however, is not as plentiful as you might think. Yes, the world is 70 percent water, a staggering amount. Of that water, 97.5 percent is salt water. The rest, just 2.5 percent, is freshwater. And of that, less than 1 percent of the world’s freshwater is available for use by people.

According to the United Nations, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population in the last century. Around the world, many people don’t have enough water. Even in the United States, water shortages as a result of drought or environmental issues are on the rise. In 2010, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that more than 1,100 U.S. counties—one-third of all the counties in the lower 48—now face higher risks of water shortages by 2050.

According to the National Geographic Society, the average person in America uses nearly 2,000 gallons of water per day. Only 5 percent of that, however, is traveling through your faucets or watering your lawn. In fact, the water consumption is hidden in the food, products and services you use every day.

Our diets in particular are responsible for the majority of our water consumption. Take milk, for example. Eight-hundred eighty gallons of water are required to generate that one gallon of milk sitting in your fridge. And getting beef on the dinner table is one of the biggest diet-related water consumers: every pound of beef requires 1,800 gallons of water. Even a cup of coffee takes 55 gallons of water, due primarily to the water used to grow coffee beans.

To help consumers make more water-friendly choices, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a program called WaterSense. This program certifies products and services that meet a set of water-conservation standards. Consumers can look for the WaterSense label on products like faucets, shower heads and toilets, and know it meets performance standards and is also 20 percent more water efficient than average fixtures! 

water sense label

If one in every 10 homes in the US installed WaterSense-labeled faucets, we could save 6 billion gallons of water per year.

Here are some ways YOU can conserve water: 

  • Calculate your water footprint to get a better sense of how much water you use per day. Awareness is an important first step in changing behavior!
  • Purchase water-friendly products for your home.
  • Live a water-conscious life: keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator so you don’t have to wait for the tap to run cold; go meatless and/or dairy-free once a week; buy local; take quick showers instead of baths; and turn off the faucet while washing dishes and brushing your teeth!
  • Check the plumbing! It’s estimated that each of us loses 10 gallons per day due to leaks.
  • For even more ways to conserve, click here.

If each of us just takes a few small steps to reduce our water consumption, we can make a big difference, not only in gallons but in the health of our planet’s finite supply of freshwater. 

Do you have any great tricks for conserving water? Share them with us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter using #ABlueView!

A Blue View: 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

October 16: Clean Water Act 

Listen to John Racanelli discuss the importance of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.

In 1972, in the midst of a national concern about untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, destruction of wetlands, and contaminated runoff, this principal law was passed to protect the country’s waters. The act set a national goal, “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” with interim goals that all waters be fishable and swimmable where possible.

Arguably, no environmental legislation has had as much of an influence on our daily lives and health. Thanks to the Clean Water Act, huge strides have been made to protect our health and the health of the environment.

Want to help protect your local waterways and manage water supply? Here are some easy tips to help: 

Spring cleaning and greening

Spring is here! Flowers are in bloom, grass is getting greener, and the water warming- but is it getting cleaner?conservationplantingblog

As stated the EPA’s annual Chesapeake Bay report, the Bay Barometer, despite small successes in certain parts of the ecosystem and specific geographic areas, the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay did not improve in 2008. The Bay continues to have poor water quality, degraded habitats and low populations of many species of fish and shellfish. Based on these three areas, the overall health averaged 38 percent, with 100 percent representing a fully restored ecosystem.

As we hear all of the time, one of the greatest challenges to restoration is continued population growth and development, which destroys forests, wetlands and other natural areas. The impact of human activity is overwhelming nature and offsetting cleanup efforts.

Almost 17 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The actions that residents take everyday affect nature and impact the health of local creeks, streams and rivers, and ultimately the Bay. As you set off to enjoy the season and the outdoors,  remember what you can be doing to help protect our waters and the animals that inhabit them:

  • Pick up after your pet
  • Use phosphorus-free dish detergent
  • Volunteer for a watershed group (like the National Aquarium)
  • Drive your car less
  • Don’t fertilize your lawn
  • Plant native trees and shrubs
  • Install a rain barrel and rain garden

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