Climate Change Getting Real in the Heartland

October 2, 2014

I’ve been covering the increasing knock-on impacts of climate change on the heartland – notably the Great Lakes region – where this past summer’s shutdown of Toledo’s water supply due to a climate-fueled toxic algae bloom caught the attention of a lot of bread and butter politicians.

One more reason why its getting harder and harder to run on a platform of climate-change-is-not-real.
When you can’t drink the water, that’s pretty real.

Toledo Blade:

Although not the primary source of Great Lakes algae, climate change is exacerbating the problem and making it harder to reduce phosphorus and other nutrients that help algae grow, experts say.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records show a 51 percent increase in heavy storms — those that dropped 3 inches of rain or more within 24 hours — in the Midwest since the 1960s.

Jeff Reutter, Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University Stone Laboratory director, cited erosion, nutrient loading, harmful algae blooms, invasive species, oxygen-depleted “dead zones,” and climate change as Lake Erie’s six biggest issues at an Ohio Farmers’ Union presentation in Toledo last Monday.

“Climate change makes all of them worse,” Mr. Reutter said.

He and other members of a special task force the state of Ohio has had looking at the phosphorus issue in recent years have concluded that western Lake Erie’s algae blooms could be brought under control within two or three years — being shallow, western Lake Erie tends to respond quickly to improvements — if northwest Ohio farm and street runoff, as well as sewage spills and other sources of nutrients, were reduced by 40 percent.

-But even if a 40 percent nutrient reduction is somehow achieved in the short-term, scientists said it’ll be an uphill battle preventing recurrences if the United States, China, India, and other countries producing the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases don’t come to terms on a meaningful plan to reduce them globally.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Scientists say the problem is Toledo is tied primarily to an increase in a highly potent form of phosphorus washing off agriculture land and into the water of western Lake Erie. Another factor is climate related — big early spring rains are becoming more common, and they flush phosphorus-rich fertilizer off fields before it can be absorbed into the crops of corn and soybeans grown on the western end of Lake Erie.

Invasive zebra and quagga mussels also play a role in the algae outbreaks. The invasive mollusks that arrived as stowaways aboard overseas freighters in the 1980s now blanket the bottom of Lake Erie. The mussels are a problem because they filter from the water healthy species of algae but do not eat the toxic blue green algae. This means that when algae blooms occur on Lake Erie today, they are much more likely to be toxic.

-No politician has felt more pressure in recent weeks than Collins of Toledo, who shared what he called his “nightmare” with his fellow mayors. It started in the early morning of Aug. 2 when he issued a do-not-drink-the-water order to the Toledo area.

 

20 Responses to “Climate Change Getting Real in the Heartland”

  1. omnologos Says:

    Not sure what the target audience for this is. obviously if the “high potent form of phosphorus” is not there, climate change won’t be able to do much. And if people keep using that phosphorus, even a miraculously stable climate won’t change the situation.

    So the surefire take home message is, stop using that form of phosphorus. It is a local action far more likely than getting heads of state convinced to sign something together. Also if there is no phosphorus the improvement is seen immediately…with CO2 emissions, who knows.

    The post ends up unwittingly arguing for non-climate problems to be solved instead of climate change to be blamed.

    • Jon Torrance Says:

      Learn to read.

      “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records show a 51 percent increase in heavy storms — those that dropped 3 inches of rain or more within 24 hours — in the Midwest since the 1960s.”

      and

      “Another factor is climate related — big early spring rains are becoming more common, and they flush phosphorus-rich fertilizer off fields before it can be absorbed into the crops of corn and soybeans grown on the western end of Lake Erie.”

      If the climate had been stable since the 1960s, there would be less phosphorus washing into bodies of water despite this high potency form of phosphorus being used.

      • omnologos Says:

        Jon – even if the climate were stable a freak year of torrential rains is bound to happen. So the bloom would occur.

        It’s like saying that since speed is a killer all cars should have airbags. That’s true and nice but first of all, cars need respect speed limits: because the problem is the speed and even if lack of airbads exacerbate it, still the main cause is speed.

        • jpcowdrey Says:

          Good grief, maurizio. What part of 51% increase in ‘freak storms’ do you not understand? It’s like raising the speed limit from 60mph to 90 mph. Capisce?


          • Theirs your problem he use kilometers per hour. It’s that imperial metric confusion again. 🙂

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Don’t ever expect to hear a “capisco” from Maurizio. He is once again trying to find any excuse to avoid the reality of climate change. His cognitive dissonance and motivated reason are truly awesome! Add his D-K in there and you have a world class AGW denier.

            We should actually be humbled and even proud that he has chosen to be so persistent in crapping up the discourse on Crock. I have come to appreciate him more since the arrival of The Norwegian Nightmare on the Jon Stewart thread. (That does not imply that they are not birds of a feather, however—-they are soulmates in the level of their delusion and D-K)

          • redskylite Says:

            I was thinking the same thing after the verbal diarrhoea spewing forth from the Jon Stewart thread comments (The Norwegian definitely wasn’t a fan of J.S and thank God he hasn’t been back since). While Omni is much more to the point, almost like “an ethereal strange twilight figure” as mentioned in Thinkprogess.

            http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/10/02/3571238/fighting-climate-change-without-blame/

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Great link. Says it as well as anyone ever has.

    • philip64 Says:

      Phosphorous has been the basis of agricultural fertilizer since agricultural fertilizer was invented – including the per-artificial type that used to be mined from South American guano. And phosphorous of all kinds can cause algal blooms if it reaches water in sufficient concentrations.

      It may be that the farmers of the Mid West can find alternatives to phosphorous-based fertilizer; or even do without fertilizer altogether. But the alternatives would be much more expensive in the first instance and the yields much lower in the second. Either way it ends up adding to the cost.

      So what this story actually gives us is another example of how climate change makes losers of everyone: the people who can’t get safe water, and the farmer who has (or may have) to take on extra expense.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        arguably, there are simple solutions, such as asking that farmers include a buffer, which might be only 15 feet or so, between crops and drainage channels. I don’t have numbers, but I suspect this would not be a huge expense or effort. It’s simply not enforced.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          After the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Clean Water Act in the late 60’s-early 70’s, many states did make attempts to develop sound riparian buffer policies to minimize agricultural pollution.

          It has been a long hard fight, with the usual cries of “Nobody’s going to tell ME what to do with MY water and MY land” and “It will cost me too much $$$ to not plant right up the the water’s edge” and “It’s not a problem—it’s the communist big-government liberal environmental whackos that want to FORCE this on all good Americans” ad infinitum.

          It took 20-30-40 years for states to get with it, and the big flaw is that most states don’t require buffers on the small headwaters where most of the pollutants wash in. There may be great buffers along the lower Mississippi, but that’s not where they’re needed.

          “Simply not enforced” is what’s happening also, and to be fair, it’s a nearly impossible task to really monitor and enforce any rules. The states seem to recognize that and are working with local governments and groups more in an effort to get voluntary compliance. There’s a lot out there on the topic—-google “riparian buffer zones”. This clip about Minnesota is typical of what’s going on in many states.

          http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/256920531.html


    • It’s not really either/or but both. Over-application of fertilizers coupled with runoff increase from more storms. Every time you speak you get shouted down, but you do have a point here, at least regarding phosphorus. It is also about climate change, though.

      • omnologos Says:

        thanks climatelurker. Do not worry, I am not “shouted down” 🙂

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Omno is correct—he is NOT shouted down on Crock.

          He is instead buried by facts, logic, rational thinking, and intelligent analysis. Omno may not understand that but climatelurker should.

          Climatelurker also needs to study this issue more before he supports Omno’s ignorance. So-called “over-application” of phosphorus is not as big a factor as the frequency, size, and timing of the AGW induced downpours.


  2. The algae bloom in Lake Erie that closed down Toledo’s water supply for a few days was not caused by global warming but rather by runaway nutrient pollution (the EPA’s term, not mine) in the Lake.


  3. […] I've been covering the increasing knock-on impacts of climate change on the heartland – notably the Great Lakes region – where this past summer's shutdown of Toledo's water supply due to a climate-…  […]


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: