Environment

Dead Sea Drying Up

Environmentalists say mismanagement of water resources around the Dead Sea has produced more than 3,000 sinkholes.

The saline lake — bordered by Jordan, Israel and the West Bank — is evaporating at nearly four feet per year, which leaves behind the salt pockets responsible for the dangerous sinkholes.

EcoPeace says the construction of dams, storage reservoirs and pipelines has caused the unique salt lake to dry up at a distressing rate. Water simply is not flowing in as freely as it once did from the typical sources, the Jordan River and various tributaries.

The first sinkhole appeared in the 1980s, but new ones appear every single day. They grow in groups and collapse into one another to create massive craters.

In 2005, Smithsonian magazine said that roughly 1,000 sinkholes had been reported. The new 3,000-plus figure indicates that they have been appearing at an accelerated rate in recent years.

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Great Lakes Suddenly Rise From Record Low Levels

One of the most rapid rises in water levels on the Great Lakes in recorded history marks the end of an unprecedented period of low levels that began in 1998.

Levels of the adjacent lakes Michigan and Huron have recently risen by more than 3 feet since they dropped to the lowest level on record in January 2013.

Routine measurements of the Great Lakes’ water levels have been made continually since the mid-1800s, and the recent rise is nearly equal to the record-setting increase that occurred between January 1950 and December 1951.

A team of U.S. and Canadian researchers says that the latest rise shows how quickly short-term climate fluctuations like the 2014 Arctic polar vortex can affect water supplies.

A combination of the elevated water levels on Lake Michigan and a powerful storm on Halloween 2014 resulted in high waves pounding the Chicago waterfront and also caused some lakeside flooding.

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Environment

Great Lakes Are Ice-Free at Last

After seven chilling months across the North American Great Lakes, winter’s grip on the region has finally ended.

With only days before the official start of summer, all five lakes became clear of the ice, which at one point in early March covered more than 92 percent of their combined surfaces.

That was the second-highest coverage on record, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Temperatures in the 80s helped finish off the few floating chunks that remained after the more than 2,000 hours of ice-clearing efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard this spring.

The last surviving chunk was on Lake Superior, near Marquette, Michigan.

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Nature – Images

Interesting Images:

Great Lakes ‘Whitening’

Seasonal changes that typically occur during late summer in parts of the North American Great Lakes can cause a dramatic variations in appearance of the water when viewed from space.

Such a “whitening event” was in progress on August 24, 2013, when an astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured the image to the right.

The pale appearance of Lake Ontario was produced by changes in water temperature that allowed fine particles of calcium carbonate to form at various depths.

The warmth and increased sunlight of summer can also sometimes increase photosynthesis among phytoplankton and other tiny marine life to cause the calcium carbonate to form.

But NASA says that scientists working on the lake when the photo was taken found that the whitening was caused by changes in water temperature rather than blooms of tiny plant life, which can often be triggered by agricultural runoff and other pollution.

The late August whitening can be seen swirling around much of Lake Ontario, carried on currents mainly generated by differences in water temperature within the lake.

Other features visible in the image are the sprawling Toronto metropolitan area and the cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Kingston.

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Environment

Tiny Plastic Bits Polluting Great Lakes

Tiny bits of plastic are polluting the world’s waterways, including North America’s Great Lakes.

Scientists are skimming the waters of the North American Great Lakes this summer to see how pervasive a pollutant known as “microplastic” has become.

The waterway’s ecosystems have already suffered other manmade ravages, such as invasive mussels brought in by shipping, industrial pollution and agricultural runoff that has triggered blooms of toxic algae.

But now scientists are finding increasing amounts of tiny plastic particles in the water and lake beds that are, in part, what is left when plastic bottles and other items break down over time.

But many of the particles are abrasive “microbeads” used in personal care products like body washes and toothpaste.

Manufacturers such as Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson have announced plans to phase out the production of the pollutants, which are too small to be filtered out by municipal wastewater systems.

It’s not yet clear how long the microplastic pollution has been in the lakes or if fish are eating it.

Initial studies indicate Lake Erie is the most affected, since it receives outflow from lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron to the north.

But Lorena Rios Mendoza, a chemist with the University of Wisconsin, says that “Lake Ontario is as contaminated (with the particles) as Lake Erie, if not more so.”

New studies hope to find out if the particles are soaking up toxins in the water, possibly contaminating fish that eat them.

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Environment

The Great Lakes, the world’s biggest freshwater system, are shrinking because of drought and rising temperatures, a trend that accelerated with this year’s almost snowless winter and scorching summer. Water levels have fallen to near-record lows on Lakes Michigan and Huron, while Erie, Ontario and Superior are below their historical averages. The decline is causing heavy economic losses, with cargo freighters forced to lighten their loads, marinas too shallow for pleasure boats and weeds sprouting on exposed bottomlands, chasing away swimmers and sunbathers.

Great Lakes Levels

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Victoria in Australia has sweltered on its hottest november day in more than a century, with the heatwave triggering numerous small grass fires in the state. Mildura recorded a high of 45.4ºC at 3.18pm (AEDT) on Thursday, taking it over the record of 45ºC set in the city in November 1905.

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Sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than U.N. projections, threatening low-lying areas from Miami to the Maldives, a study submitted during the U.N. talks in Qatar on combating climate change said on Wednesday.

The study said sea levels had been rising by 3.2 mm (0.1 inch) a year according to satellite data, which was 60 percent faster than the 2mm annual rise projected by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over that period.

In the last century, seas rose by about 17 cm.

The latest best estimate for sea level rise was between 50 cm and a metre this century, possibly more if greenhouse gas emissions surged. Higher temperatures would melt more ice on land and expand the water in the oceans.

That would leave low-lying regions – from Pacific island states and Bangladesh to Tokyo and New York – facing a greater risk of storm surges, erosion and, in a worst case scenario, complete swamping by flood waters.