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Archives for August 2013

Are You Living on a Heat Island?

heat islandMost people in metropolitan and urban areas are unaware that they are living on a heat island – an area marked by significantly higher surface and air temperatures than surrounding rural areas. There are several causes of heat islands:

  • Replacement of the natural environment with pavements (especially asphalt) and buildings
  • Reduced air flow between large buildings
  • Heat from air conditioners, factories, and cars
  • Weather conditions
  • Location of city or town

According to the EPA, “cities with 1 million people or more can have air temperatures 1.8-5.4 degrees F warmer than surrounding areas” during the day and “as high as 22 degrees F” in the evening. Even cities with less than 1 million people often have higher temperatures of up to 10 degrees F than the surrounding areas.  Although inhabited by less than 1 million people, cities like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton are potential heat island locations.

Frequently, heat islands are discovered using satellite imagery and measured according to the urban heat island index (UHII)[i].  An UHII study was conducted in Oklahoma in 2003[ii]. At 29.5 feet (9 meters), the air temperature was consistently 32.09-35.15 degrees F (0.5 -1.75 degrees C) warmer at the center of Oklahoma City than in surrounding areas.

Why do heat islands matter? Heat islands have devastating consequences for communities: they increase energy usage, exacerbate air pollution and greenhouse emissions, damage water quality, and are contributors to heat-related illness, even death. What can you or I do?

1. Encourage our state and local policy makers and legislatures by writing or calling them.

  • To enact new tree and landscape ordinances
  • To  establish new zoning codes such as parking lot requirements
  • To reevaluate building codes to include green building standards

2. Increase tree and vegetative coverage, in your own yard, neighborhood, or community

3. Encourage businesses to install a green roof.
A green roof is simply a one that has a garden or vegetation incorporated as either a part of the roof or growing on top of it. The Cardinal Engineering building and the Winnie Mae House in Oklahoma City are great examples of a green roof top. For more information about green roofs visit www.greenroofs.org

4. Encourage governments and businesses to use cool pavements.
While regular pavements absorb and retain much of the sun’s heat, cool pavements reflect 5-40 percent of sunlight (there is no industry standard), and/or facilitate water evaporation. For example, one might use a lighter color of material to reflect the sun or use a pervious concrete to increase the permeability of the pavement .In addition to reducing the heat island effect, cool pavements also lower tire noise and increase road visibility at night.

5. Painting structures white or lighter colors

Currently, only 23 states have initiatives to reduce the temperatures and effects of  heat islands.   Oklahoma is not one of them. For more information on heat islands, visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.

[i] Basara, J.B., Hall, P.K., Jr., Cheresnick, D.R., & Schroeder, A.J. (2003). An analysis of the Oklahoma City urban heat island. Oklahoma Climatological Survey. University of Oklahoma.

[ii] Basara, J.B., Hall, P.K., Jr., Cheresnick, D.R., & Schroeder, A.J. (2003). An analysis of the Oklahoma City urban heat island. Oklahoma Climatological Survey. University of Oklahoma.

Photo Credit-  Tobias1983


Governor Fallin Announces New Secretary of Energy and Environment

Col. TeagueEarly this month Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Col. Michael Teague to the newly created Secretary of Energy and Environment position. Col. Teague is the former Tulsa District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The combining of Secretary of Energy and of Environment is drawing a lot of criticism.

“Gov. Fallin would be best served by having two voices in the room when it comes to energy and the environment,” David Ocamb, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club. “Not having that does a disservice to the state.”- The Oklahoman

The oil and gas industry is also criticizing the choice.

“The selection process and decision are confusing and questionable. It’s unprecedented for Oklahoma’s energy secretary to have no working knowledge in the oil and natural gas sector,” Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association President Mike Terry said in a statement. – The Oklahoman


Gov. Fallin says the two positions are linked so it’s “practical” to combine them. In a press release, Gov. Fallin went on to said,

“Strong energy policy is strong environmental policy. In Col. Teague’s new role, his mission will be to help develop policies that encourage energy exploration and production as well as responsible environmental stewardship. His years of experience dealing with energy production and distribution, infrastructure development, and water management will serve him well as Oklahoma’s first secretary of energy and environment. I am proud to have him on my team.”

Col. Teague believes energy exploration and production are the “greatest drivers of Oklahoma’s job growth and economic success.” He goes on to say he is,

“…thrilled to be in a position to help develop and implement statewide policies, such as the governor’s Oklahoma First Energy plan, that encourage the responsible production of Oklahoma’s natural resources.”   

Col. Teague will start his new role September 3 of this year.

Do you agree with combing the Secretary of Energy and Environment positions? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Concerns Over Norman Drinking Water

glass of waterMany Norman residents are concerned after finding out that Norman water has an average of 1.2 milligrams of aluminum per liter of water. The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends only .2 milligrams of aluminum in drinking water.

The aluminum is coming from Norman’s water treatment process. They use aluminum sulfate as a coagulant.  Norman has looked at alternate coagulants to use in place of or to supplement the aluminum sulfate but many of those come with their own set of issues. However, Norman does plan to investigate other options, such as ferric sulfate. The trial will start soon and they plan to test it for at least a year.

Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease in some studies, though health experts still disagree on if aluminum poses a health risk or not.

This is not the first water concern for Norman in the last several years. In December of 2010, a study found that Norman water had high levels of hexavalent chromium, the chemical that made Erin Brockovich famous. Hexavalent chromium is considered a human carcinogen. However, many groups disputed the study and said the amounts were safe and that the study caused unnecessary fear.

Are you concerned about the safety of Norman’s drinking water? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit-  Derek Jensen (Tysto), 2005-December-10


Hundreds of Gallons of Oil Spill in Oklahoma

An oil spill was discovered around the area of Cardinal Cove, not far from Lake Texoma early last week. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) estimates that about 10 barrels, or 400 gallons, were spilled. It was the result of a small hole in a 2-inch pipe coming from an oil well.

The company responsible for the spill is Wichita-based Berexco LLC and they retain an oil spill response organization to clean up the spill. As of a few days ago it was estimated that over 95% has been recovered but the goal is to recover all of the oil.

Unfortunately a small amount of the oil has made it into the waters of Lake Texoma and booms have been placed to contain the spill. At the moment no injuries or deaths to wildlife have been observed resulting from the spill but the threat to wildlife is always a concern with an oil spill.

As of a couple of days ago the cleanup was ongoing. There is no estimate on how long the cleanup will take but the crew will work until the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the OCC are satisfied that the spill is properly cleaned up.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit-  davidjlee


July Rainfall Brings Much Relief to State

Oklahoma Drought ConditionsWhile July was not a record setting month, we did get above average rainfall. The rainfall has helped push about half of the state out of the drought. And this July was quite different than last July. Last July, Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for the whole state of Oklahoma due to the drought conditions. The whole state was suffering from drought conditions.

This past July brought a statewide average of 5.11 inches of rainfall. While the record still goes to the 1950’s with 9.26 inches, it’s still a good amount of rain for July. It was also a fairly mild July, temperature wise. The statewide average temperature was 79.6 degrees, 2 degrees below normal. Last July the average was 85.5 and the summer of 2011 was 89.3. Quite the change!

While overall the news is positive, parts of Oklahoma are still suffering. The panhandle and parts of western Oklahoma are still feeling some pretty severe drought conditions. More than 32 percent of the state is still in a severe or higher level of drought. However, last July more than 91 percent of the state was in a severe or worse drought.

August’s outlook show an increased chance for above normal temperatures across southwestern Oklahoma and the panhandle. The current precipitation outlook shows equal chances for above normal, below normal, and near normal levels across the state. We do have rain and a bit of a cool down in the current 10-day forecast. If we continue to get rain fairly often that will help keep the temperatures down, a big relief to Oklahomans after a couple of very hot and dry summers.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit- The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.