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Earth Science

Heavier Rainfall Will Increase Water Pollution In the Future (nationalgeographic.com) 233

An anonymous reader shares a report from National Geographic: If climate change continues to progress, increased precipitation could mean detrimental outcomes for water quality in the United States, a major new study warns. An intensifying water cycle can substantially overload waterways with excess nitrogen runoff -- which could near 20 percent by 2100 -- and increase the likelihood of events that severely impair water quality, according to a new study published by Science. When rainfall washes nitrogen and phosphorus from human activities like agriculture and fossil fuel combustion into rivers and lakes, those waterways are overloaded with nutrients, and a phenomenon called "eutrophication" occurs. This can be dangerous for both people and animals. Toxic algal blooms can develop, as well as harmful low-oxygen dead zones known as hypoxia, which can cause negative impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy. In the new study, researchers predict how climate change might increase eutrophication and threats to water resources by using projections from 21 different climate models, each of which was run for three climate scenarios and two different time periods (near future, 2031-2060, and far-future, 2071-2100).
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Heavier Rainfall Will Increase Water Pollution In the Future

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  • After all something like 78% of the air we breathe is nitrogen.
    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      The word "nitrate" is apparently too complicated for the people who read nationalgeographic.com.

      • I suspect it's more the writer and the proofreader. National Geographic isn't exactly Scientific American.

      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @10:51PM (#54896273) Homepage Journal

        It's called synecdoche. Calling businessmen "suits" and supporters "partisans [wikipedia.org]" is referring to a whole by using a part. By the same token we refer to carbon dioxide as "carbon" and NO3- as "nitrogen".

        In context is is perfectly clear to someone who actually understands what the whole is. To those who do not understand what the whole is calling the whole by its proper name is unlikely to be enlightening.

        • by Nutria ( 679911 )

          By the same token we refer to carbon dioxide as "carbon" and NO3- as "nitrogen".

          We do? Then what do you call carbon monoxide and NO2-?

          • Carbon monoxide is rare and called "carbon monoxide" for that reason.

            NO2 is called "smog."

            Any other ESL questions I can help you with?

            • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @02:46AM (#54896841)

              Carbon monoxide is rare

              Not in regions of poor combustion.

              NO2 is called "smog."

              Clean your glasses. I wrote NO2-, which is definitely not smog.

              Any other ESL questions I can help you with?

              Any other chemistry (and reading comprehension) questions I can help you with?

              • Not in regions of poor combustion.

                I have worked in steel mills. CO is definitely NOT rare.

                LK

                • And have you heard anyone calling CO or CO2 "carbon" when in the context of steel mills ?

                  • In the context of a steel mill, "Carbon" usually means either the element as it is contained in liquid iron/finished steel or the graphite that you get when you blow out with the liquid oxygen.

                    For those in on the environmental monitoring side of things; CO2 is sometimes called "Carbon", informally.

                    LK

                  • Come on, they didn't manage to hold the context in their little brains even long enough to directly respond, how can you expect them to keep the context in mind while explaining their counter-point?

                    If they can't comprehend that a rare thing can be locally common, what can you really expect from them? It is like expecting to be able to send your dog to college, it is just not a realistic expectation to place on them.

                    They didn't even manage to look up NO2 within the context.

                    Maybe working in a steel mill doesn

          • by hey! ( 33014 )

            Consider the word "Jack"; it can refer to a playing card, it can be a person's name, it can be an electrical socket, it can be a lifting machine, it can be a flag, or it can be a variety of cheese. On the face of it this should make the word confusing. But it's not.

            Words are not like variables in a programming language. Just as human grammar is context-sensitive, so are the meanings of words. So people in-the-know understand that a "carbon tax" isn't levied on, say, a diamond.

        • "I can't comprehend your words because I'm too much of an expert and you used plain English, which I'm allergic too because I'm so educated."

          These people are always running around this place, with their neckbeards all braided into turtlenecks. I always wonder, "Doesn't that itch?"

          It doesn't occur to them that if they can't understand the version that uses 10th grade English, they were probably only pretending to understand the college-level English that they're demanding.

    • Nitrogen is the name used in describing the macro-nutrients in fertilizer. While you generally see something like ammonium nitrate used as the source of available nitrogen you also have stuff like urea which, while I'm not a chemist, I do not believe is actually a nitrate.

      The end result, however, is that nitrogen is available to the plant which is the ultimate goal. Hence referring to anything in the N of NPK as nitrogen.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Whilst they have focused on the nitrates it tends not to be the biggest problem. Increased rainfall also changes movement of moisture through the soil, taking away many soluble elements, increasing porosity of soil, so then larger particles are taken away and then major soil movements, both sink holes and landslips. Also means much more organic material to rot in rivers, sucking up oxygen and releasing methane, a far worse greenhouse gas. There is a real need to slow down the movement of moisture through wa

  • Let's pray for a drought in California.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, 2017 @10:16PM (#54896111)

    Phosphates have already been banned in dishwasher detergents since 2010 (that's why your glasses have been getting so cloudy and scale is building up), and phosphates aren't in hand soap and shampoo. And high phosphate fertilizer is already being banned in the US. So there isn't additional phosphates going into the water system beyond today's rates.

    So basically, global warming is no longer causing droughts, but now 20% more rain. Again, it all points to conditions for increased vegetative growth, which means higher food stocks and more CO2 processing. Sounds great to me!

    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @11:41PM (#54896495) Homepage

      So basically, global warming is no longer causing droughts, but now 20% more rain.

      Earth has more than one place. More than one concurrent weather event. Furthermore, weather and climate are different. And drought and increased rainfall can happen together; less frequent rain, with heavier storms when it does rain. You'll still measure increased plant growth, but it won't be the food plants, it will be the pioneer (weed) plants.

      • How is this insightful? Haven't we developed a set of technologies collectively called "Agriculture" that allow use to cope with and make use of variable weather to grow useful crops? What is changing so drastically that makes it impossible to adapt and improve our technologies to accommodate?

        • No, Mr. Potter, that isn't the way farming works. You ask me some questions, there are answers that are very relevant and easy for you to look up. If you're really that ignorant, me explaining things like the "dustbowl" isn't going to make it through your thick skull, so I'll just self-righteously tell you to look it the fuck up.

        • Well that depends on your definition of "Agriculture". Are we talking growing plants or are we getting into GMO? Additionally, it's not a nothing condition. I think parent of your comment might be stretching a bit, but there will be a decrease, and each 1% decrease in yield or 1% increase in cost to grow, goes directly into the cost you pay at the store.

          Good example. Wheat in the US. The kernels inside of the wheat, where we get flour, need a pretty stable environment. Upset the environment too much a

          • In my opinion, agriculture covers everything from canals and reservoirs to GMO and beyond. But fundamentally my question was that if we have more turnover in the water cycle and more CO2 in the atmosphere, why would we not be able to take advantage of those increased resources? Thank you for the thoughtful response. I see that some costs will go up predictably and raising the quality of life for the developing global economies to current western standards doesn't appear sustainable, but what can't be acc

    • The problem is that weather is chaotic. As you add energy to the climate, hot places will tend to become hotter, the rainy places will tend to become rainier, but you will also get more freak events that do not correspond to the normal rules because adding more energy to the system makes new types of events possible. Droughts become longer... but may be punctuated by flash floods.

    • it all points to conditions for increased vegetative growth, which means higher food stocks and more CO2 processing. Sounds great to me!

      Yeah, and the million other tiny ancillary effects that cumulatively add up to devastation to our habitat and ecosystems.

  • But only this one. The increase in rain is real starting around 2005. I don't buy the Global Warming Claim that it's CO2 caused because both the Pan Evaporation Rate and the Precipitation measurements by weather stations agree that it started only after 2005. The issue is a bit more concerning when you're no longer blind to the Global Warming Hype Train. I'd love to publish the facts on it too but Eleven Hundred Dollars to publish seven pages and some graphs is a bit outside of my price range.
  • ... no measurable precipitation in Seattle for 40 days.

  • by Picodon ( 4937267 ) on Thursday July 27, 2017 @11:10PM (#54896375)

    For those who are merely confused and ignorant, yet not fully deprived of intellectual honesty or interest in learning, here are two excerpts from Wikipedia that may help:

        “Assuming high growth in GHG emissions (IPCC scenario RCP8.5), presently dry regions may be affected by an increase in the risk of drought and reductions in soil moisture. Over most of the mid-latitude land masses and wet tropical regions, extreme precipitation events will very likely become more intense and frequent.” (in “Effects of global warming [wikipedia.org]”).

        “The warmer atmospheric temperatures observed over the past decades are expected to lead to a more vigorous hydrological cycle, including more extreme rainfall events. Erosion and soil degradation is more likely to occur.” (in “Climate change and agriculture [wikipedia.org]”).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by blindseer ( 891256 )

      So more heat in the air means more clouds? The same clouds that cool the earth? It's almost as if the atmosphere has a natural mechanism to maintain a fairly even the temperature on the surface.

      Oh, and "extreme precipitation events"? You mean these things we call "storms"? That's nothing new.

      Sometimes it's wet, sometimes it's dry. Climate changes, no doubt about that. Not much we can do about it either.

      • So more heat in the air means more clouds? The same clouds that cool the earth?

        Water vapor is a greenhouse gas. This is not news. HTH, HAND!

  • By the year 2100? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@NosPaM.earthlink.net> on Thursday July 27, 2017 @11:17PM (#54896407)

    That's 80+ years from now, in other words we have time.

    I hear that the sea levels are rising.... at about a foot per century. We can adjust to that without getting all in a panic.

    I've been told that the corn belt is moving north. Unless this happens in the span of a single growing season then I find it hard to get worked up about this. Farmers already rotate crops for reasons of keeping soil in good shape. If over a few decades the rotation of crops needs adjusting then they'll figure it out.

    Rain this, droughts that, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, blah, blah blah. We got this figured out.

    We've all been hearing this panic for decades now. All we are doing is getting the next generation stressed out over nothing. They are getting bombarded with climate change disasters in movies, cartoons, in the news, and on and on. Kids can't get away from this but when they grow up and have to deal with this on their own they will realize like I did that this is a big nothing.

    A quick read of the comments on this article so far tells me that I'm not alone in how I feel on this. The climate change alarmists have been pushing the panic button so often for so long, with nothing to really show for it, that no one pays attention any more.

    Here's the problem now. If this climate change that is coming is in fact a real problem then we're all screwed anyway because no one listens any more. Because the climate change alarmists would not police themselves and point out bad science when it came up no one can tell what is true any more.

    Again, 80 years, we have time.

    • Quick quiz, one inch in ocean level rise results in what increase in storm surge distances onshore?

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      The corn belt is moving north. When it runs so far north it's no longer near any farmers or arable land or infrastructure, it ceases to exist. It also doesn't understand national borders, and will gracefully move past them like they don't exist.

      Sea levels rising aren't scary because things will be gradually submerged, they're scary because they multiply storm surges, which can swamp even the most intense flood protection systems.

      It's fine you don't want to pay attention to the science - just don't pretend

    • I hear that the sea levels are rising.... at about a foot per century. We can adjust to that without getting all in a panic.

      How are you going to protect Florida, where the ground is made from porous limestone, and the sea will penetrate underneath levees ?

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @10:02AM (#54898029) Journal

      That's 80+ years from now, in other words we have time.

      Really? And how, do you plan to deal with the accumulated buildup of 200 years in the span of 80 when a good portion of the populace don't even understand the basic science and refuse to accept reality? Climate change is bringing about a whole host of issues, a number of which need to be dealt with far in advance. We're already 40 years behind the curve.

      Furthermore, the climate system lags inputs by a good 30 years. In other words, if you think you have a problem now, it will be worse 30 years later.

      I hear that the sea levels are rising.... at about a foot per century. We can adjust to that without getting all in a panic.

      You "hear" incorrectly. Assuming no runaway feedbacks kick off, the expected increase by the end of the century is between 1 and 2 meters. As far as dealing with it, we're already FAILING. Places like Miami flood during high tide now. Salt water intrusion is already a problem. Even a 1 meter rise would present significant challenges, and shoring up thousands of miles of coast to deal with that (not to mention hurricanes) is neither trivial nor quick.

      I've been told that the corn belt is moving north. Unless this happens in the span of a single growing season then I find it hard to get worked up about this. Farmers already rotate crops for reasons of keeping soil in good shape. If over a few decades the rotation of crops needs adjusting then they'll figure it out.

      This is why ignorance is dangerous. You do not simply "move" the agricultural infrastructure that's been developed over the past century north. Such an effort would take decades, even if were feasible. There's are REASONS why the corn belt is where it is. Arable land, ideal climate, etc. allows for very productive farming. But what's north of that? Are there aquifers to support such operations? Will the sail be able to handle the stress? Will the climate actually be conducive? Can the crops handle the new conditions?

      It takes more than warm weather to grow crops at scale. You have to have the right mix of conditions. There are very few places on our planet where mass agriculture can be done consistently and productively. Sure, you can move to a new area if prices get high enough to make it feasible to turn someplace like, say, the Canadian Shield into farmland, but I don't think paying $30 for a loaf of bread is "dealing" with the problem.

      Rain this, droughts that, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, blah, blah blah. We got this figured out.

      No, we really don't. If you've been paying attention over the past decade, there are several prominent examples of exactly how NOT figured out things are. First to mind is the record heat/drought in Russia a few years back that caused them to cease exports. And that's just a taste. If a similar event caused the US to cease exports there would be significant global repercussions. If you think we're immune to such things, you're extremely naive.

      We've all been hearing this panic for decades now. All we are doing is getting the next generation stressed out over nothing. They are getting bombarded with climate change disasters in movies, cartoons, in the news, and on and on. Kids can't get away from this but when they grow up and have to deal with this on their own they will realize like I did that this is a big nothing.

      The only reason you think it's a "big nothing" is because it hasn't impacted you personally (it actually has, you just aren't paying attention). Climate change happens over decades. It's slow boiling a frog. You and people like you expect an immediate cause and effect. The climate system doesn't work that way short of major catastrophes.

      A quick read of the comments on this article so far tells me that I'm not alone in how I feel on this. The climate change alarmists have been pushing the panic button

      • I don't know anyone that would not admit that pollution is a problem. Plastic waste from _all_over making up huge masses in the oceans is an easy example. TFA and AGW proponents both have the same problem, which is complaining about the wrong stuff. Nitrogen is fertilizer for plants, and CO2 is converted by plants into O2. If those two things are really a concern, simply allowing plants to grow is the best possible answer. Do away with Nitrogen or CO2, and all the plants die. With them, goes the human

    • That's 80+ years from now, in other words we have time.

      Translation: I'll be dead by then, so I don't give a fuck. Fuck the future.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:15AM (#54897721) Journal

    Actually, it's a pretty convenient theory.

    If global warming is a thing, either it will get wetter or it will get drier.
    If it gets drier, of course drought, sky falling, etc as per the news in California for the last couple of years.
    If it gets wetter, as this article asserts, it will be terrible for all sorts of reasons.

    It's a perfect theory: no matter what happens, it can be interpreted to be bad, and it's humans' fault.

    It used to be that the weather just changed, and we didn't try to blame anyone for it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PoopJuggler ( 688445 )
      Yeah it seems unlikely that pumping billions of tons of pollution into the atmosphere every year could have any effect on the climate...
      • Natural processes emit and absorb about 440 gigatons of CO2. I assume that's the pollutant you're talking about, since you invoked Global Warming.
        Humans? About 5% of that.

        The assertion that a 5 BILLION year old complex system, which has sustained MUCH higher and lower temperatures, and whose primary components (such as solar activity, Milankovitch cycles, vulcanism (and/or plate tectonics, depending on the scale you're talking about), topological and ecosystemic changes, albedo changes (both natural and a

  • harmful low-oxygen dead zones known as hypoxia

    I know Slashdot is full enough of pedants, but hypoxia is a name for the phenomenon/condition - not the name of the place. You could call it a hypoxic zone. You could call the state of the area hypoxia. You can't call the place hypoxia.

  • First, it is near certain that gas/diesel will be nearly, if not fully, done being used for transportation. By 2040, if not closer to 2035, the majority of vehicles will be electric, though it is possible that later on, something like H2 could take over for some vehicles.
    Secondly, Farming is undergoing MASSIVE changes. by 2050, if not sooner, most of it will not only be automated, but possible green-housed. Regardless, we will no longer see the massive spraying of fields that we see today. Instead, it will

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