Global Water, Micro Plastics & Corporate Science


Last updated 2/1/2023 at 11:48am

A new satellite was launched by NASA in December that was built specifically to survey Earth's water. It's called SWOT, Surface Water and Ocean Topography. Both United States and French oceanographers and other partners came together and developed the satellite mission. It is the first orbital global survey of Earth's surface water.

"This multidisciplinary group is tackling pressing issues such as availability of Earth's freshwater resources, our changing ocean and coasts, and much more," according to the SWOT website. "Their studies will be essential for achieving societal goals of clean air and water, preparedness for extreme events, and adaptation to long-term environmental changes on continental scales." The site further states: "The warming of Earth's climate may profoundly alter the movement of freshwater resources from lakes to rivers to reservoirs, resulting in significant societal impact."

Data will be developed from hundreds of thousands of lakes, along with the discharge volumes of medium to large rivers. The data will help scientists understand Earth's water cycle on land as well as the dynamics of floodplains and wetlands and their role in that cycle. A global inventory will be created of water resources and lake and reservoir storage dynamics.

The Columbia River Basin 2021 Long-Term Supply & Water Forecast was published August 2022. Here is a statement from the executive summary: "The Columbia River Basin is the fourth largest watershed in North America in terms of average annual flows, and encompasses nearly 70% of Washington State, mainly east of the Cascade crest. The river is intensively managed to meet a range of competing instream and out-of-stream water demands." I expect officials who work for the many agencies and organizations that manage the water and water flow within the Columbia River Basin will be following the SWOT project with interest.

Speaking of water, recent research on a section of the Northwestern Mediterranean shows lots of plastic - micro plastics to be exact. You may have heard of the garbage patches that are floating in our oceans and seas. It's estimated that about 75% of the garbage patch mass is plastic. As these plastic items slowly break down into micro plastics, the material sinks to the bottom. Those bits of plastic settle onto the ocean and sea bottoms.

Researcher Laura Simon-Sánchez said, "Specifically, the results show that, since 2000, the amount of plastic particles deposited on the seafloor has tripled and that, far from decreasing, the accumulation has not stopped growing, mimicking the production and global use of these materials." The researchers analyzed the degradation of buried plastic particles in the seabed. They found that due to a lack of erosion, oxygen or light on the sea bottom, degradation of existing micro plastics is minimal. Micro plastics stay in the seabed for a really long time. Some may say, out of sight, out of mind.

A recent research project out of Harvard sheds some light on corporate science. The study shows that between 1977 and 2003, ExxonMobil Scientists were rather good at predicting future global warming. The findings appeared in the January 2023, peer-reviewed journal Science. Reports of Exxon knowing the risk of global warming decades ago have been known for some time. The studies abstract states, "Their projections were also consistent with, and at least as skillful as, those of independent academic and government models. Exxon and ExxonMobil Corp also correctly rejected the prospect of a coming ice age, accurately predicted when human-caused global warming would first be detected, and reasonably estimated the "carbon budget" for holding warming below 2°C. On each of these points, however, the company's public statements about climate science contradicted its own scientific data."

Here is the review of January 2023 weather data, all collected from my personal weather station. I measured a high temperature of 51.3˚F on the 27th, a low of 7.2˚F on the 30th. Our mean was 32.3˚F. The official all-time high was 57˚F in 1971, the all-time low was - 17˚F in 1950. The all-time mean for January is 27˚F. The precipitation I measured was 1.71 inches, 0.07 inches of which was snow water. Also measured was a total of 0.6 inches of new snowfall that fell on the 22nd and 29th. Official all-time high amount of precipitation was 2.52 inches in 1959. The mean is 1.08 inches for January. The all-time highest amount of snowfall was 23 inches in 1993. All-time mean snowfall for January is 6.1 inches.

I've included the Washington state snowpack chart as of January 30, 2023. It shows us snow water equivalent (SWE) as a percentage of normal. Three regions are above normal, including Okanogan and Ferry counties.

You have noticed, and likely have cheered the fact, that we are gaining more and more daylight. Following Winter Solstice on Wednesday, Dec. 21, we will have gained just under two hours of day light as of mid-February 2023. We will peak out through mid-June, then start the process back to shorter and shorter periods of daylight. This is one of the awe-inspiring "perks" of living in the upper latitudes. We will have a full Moon on Feb. 5. It's called the Snow Moon.


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