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Archives for September 2013

U.N. IPCC Report Shows Near Certainty on Climate Change

Ice capsThe latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that human activity has caused at least half of climate change in the last half-century. U.N. said they are 95% certain of this. This is a large spike in confidence, in 2007 scientist were 90% certain and in 2001 it was 66%.

“It should serve as yet another wake-up call that our activities today will have a profound impact on society not only for us but for many generations to come,” Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, which co-sponsored the IPCC.

Even with this increase in certainty of man-made climate change, some still deny it. Sen. James Inhofe issued this statement following the release of the IPCC report.

“Today’s release of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Summary for Policymakers proves that the UN is more interested in advancing a political agenda than scientific integrity. The IPCC glossed over the ongoing fifteen-year pause in temperature increases and did nothing to suggest that their predictions might be wrong.  With climate change regulations expecting to cost the U.S. economy millions of jobs and between $300 billion and $400 billion in lost GDP a year, we can’t afford to act on politically charged media alarmism.  Let’s not forget the article published in the New York Times in 1975 that reported ‘a major cooling of the planet’ was ‘widely considered inevitable.’  To me, this all appears to be business as usual.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had some strong words for climate change deniers in a statement released about the report.

“This is yet another wakeup call: Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire.

Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate.

Boil down the IPCC report and here’s what you find: Climate change is real, it’s happening now, human beings are the cause of this transformation, and only action by human beings can save the world from its worst impacts.”

One of the most concerning finds in the report is that it could be too late to make any real difference anytime soon.

“Many aspects of climate change will persist for centuries even if concentrations of greenhouse gases are stabilized. This represents a multicentury commitment created by human activities today.”

Oklahoma has had many extreme weather events since the 1950’s that climate change likely played a role in. We have seen a dramatic increase in extreme weather, especially record heat and heavier precipitation events, all over the world. While it’s difficult to know the exact role of climate change in individual weather events, like the Moore EF-5 tornado in May or the current drought, patterns do show that climate change does play a role in extreme weather.

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

Photo Credit- Some rights reserved by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

8 Easy Ways to Winterize Your Home

Cooler weather is creeping into the state, which means it’s time to start getting your home ready for the winter. Winterizing your home can help save you a lot of money. Here are some things to add to your to-do list this fall.

8 Easy Ways to Winterize Your Home

  • Hang heavy curtains or shades to help insulate windows and keep heat in.
  • Check for air leaks and fix any you find. Energy.gov has some great information on detecting air leaks.
  • Have your heating system serviced so you know it’s running as efficiently as possible and is safe.
  • Change your furnace filter once a month or as needed.
  • If you have a fire place be sure to have it checked. Many house fires are started each year because of improperly working fire places.
  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning to help prevent heat loss.
  • Consider adding more insulation. If you have an old home you home may not have enough and adding more will save you a lot of money.
  • Get out the sweaters and blankets. The cheapest way to save money this winter is to use less heat by dressing warmly. Keep nice warm blankets around the home and be sure family members have comfortable warm clothing to wear at home.

Using these tips now will help you save when cold weather returns to the state. Be sure to share your tips in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Two Earthquakes Rattle Oklahoma

earthquakesSmall earthquakes are becoming more normal in Oklahoma and even some large enough for people to feel, and do minor damage, are becoming more common. Sunday a magnitude 2.7 earthquake struck near Boley and Monday morning a 3.2 earthquake struck near Lone Grove. These are the two earthquakes large enough for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to report, 2.5+ magnitude. The Oklahoma Geological Survey, which reports all earthquake activity in the state, has reported several smaller earthquakes over the last several days.

When we have earthquakes in Oklahoma the question of why they are increasing always comes up. Earlier this year a study linked the states largest earthquake to disposal wells used in oil and gas drilling. However, a new study done in the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas found a link between oil and gas production sites and earthquakes.

The study was done by  scientists at the University of Texas at Austin. Cliff Frohlich, Associate Director at UT’s Institute for Geophysics and lead author of the study, was expecting the results of the study to point to disposal wells, as studies in other areas had but the Eagle Ford study results were different.

“What I found was, almost all the interesting [quakes] were not near sights of injection, they were near sites of production,” Frohlich says. “That is, people were pulling more fluid, oil and water out of the ground than they were injecting.”- New Study Finds Another Link Between Drilling and Earthquakes, StateImpact

The quakes in the Eagle Ford and Barnett, where many other earthquake studies have taken place, shales are generally small. Their frequency and intensity in areas not used to earthquakes has been unsettling to residents. One of the largest quakes in the Eagle Ford was in October 2011 and measured magnitude 4.8. The 4.8 quake occurred after the study.

Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy responded recently to the link between Oklahoma’s earthquakes and disposal wells saying,

“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is working with the Oklahoma Geological Survey and oil and gas operators to come up with a list of best practices for saltwater injection wells. The practices would only be voluntary, but Commissioner Dana Murphy said it’s important to make sure regulatory agencies keep pace with changes in the industry.

Although the OCC can suggest that operators monitor seismic activity in wells before and during the disposal process, the rules aren’t mandatory. Making a company install and monitor for earthquakes requires legislative changes.”- Regulator Responding to Risk of Injection Well Earthquakes With Suggestions, Not Rules or Laws, StateImpact

Studies on the oil and gas industries role in the increase of earthquakes, in places like Oklahoma, are ongoing. The oil and gas industry is not required to share a lot of the data that researchers need, making the process more difficult.

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

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS


Ban on Processed Chicken From China Lifted

chickenLate last month the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the ban on processed poultry imports from China has been lifted. The chickens will still be raised in the U.S., Canada or Chile (the only countries approved by the USDA), but they can be processed in China at one of four Chinese poultry plants that have been approved to export poultry to the U.S.

Processed poultry is currently imported to the U.S. from Chile, France, Canada, Israel, and Mexico. These products, and the ones that will soon come from China, do not have to disclose the country of origin on the packaging.

Some believe the approval for Chinese chicken imports is simply being used to get China to allow U.S. beef imports.“It has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. (which has been closed since 2003 due to the diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.) Once again, trade trumps food safety.”Food & Water Watch

NPR shared more scary news for chicken lovers, new procedures for inspecting poultry in the U.S. may also take a turn for the worse. “Basically, these changes would replace many USDA inspectors on chicken processing lines with employees from the poultry companies themselves. The USDA has been piloting the new procedures, which will save money and significantly speed up processing lines, in 29 chicken plants. As The Washington Post reports, the plan is to roll out the new procedures eventually to “most of the country’s 239 chicken and 96 turkey plants.” – NPR

The environmental cost of raising and slaughtering chicken in one country, shipping in overseas to be processed, and then shipped back to be sold, will be quite high. And many experts question if it will really be cost effective.

Even the poultry industry doesn’t appear to be totally sold on the idea. Toby Moore, a spokesman for the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council said, “I’m cautiously optimistic this is good news for our industry.”Politico

Only time will tell what the full impacts of these changes will mean from Americans. Oklahomans wanting to find safe alternatives are encouraged to check out the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and get to know the producers of your poultry.

Do you think lifting the China processed chicken ban is a good idea? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit-  Some rights reserved by yoppy


Drought Creeps Back Into State

Current Drought Conditions Drought conditions had improved drastically for most of the state after heavy rain in July. More relief for the hardest hit areas, the panhandle and much of the western parts of the state, came during August.

In early August more than 32 percent of the state was still in a severe or higher level drought. Right now just over 20 percent of the state is in a severe or higher level drought. But the overall amount of the state in some level of drought is rising. Last week just over 38 percent of the state was in a drought, this week it has risen to nearly 45 percent of the state. Another almost 30 percent of the state is considered abnormally dry. The state is still better off than it was back in June but with hardly any rainfall since August 18th things are drying up fast.

One place that is really feeling the effects of the drought is Duncan. Duncan is currently in a moderate drought. While they did receive some relief from the drought with the July rain, the rain just wasn’t enough to significantly boost the levels of Waurika Lake, which is Duncan’s primary water source. Duncan has been under Stage 2 rationing since May 9th. Stage 2 rationing allows watering every other day during the hours of midnight to 9 a.m. As the lake levels continue to drop, Duncan is considering Stage 3 water rationing.

Much of the state has a chance of rain over the next seven days. Fall also tends to bring more cold fronts and rainfall to the state. Right now above normal rainfall is predicted over the next couple of months. This rainfall is much needed to help with the long-term drought still being felt in part of the state as well as the new flash drought (i.e., rapidly developing drought). Without significant rainfall Oklahomans can expect the drought to intensify and spread, causing more water concerns for much of the state.

If the drought continues, the threat of wildfires will also intensify. Yesterday just south of the Oklahoma boarder in Denison Texas, a structure fire turned grassfire forced the evacuation of dozens of Denison residents. Oklahoma counties also battled fires over the weekend, including one in Bryan County which burned around 100 acres.

Oklahomans can help as drought conditions continue by conserving water. Even if your area isn’t under mandatory rationing, it helps prevent future problems if we all do our part.

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.

Salt Fork Fish Kill Still a Mystery

Fish KillState authorities have been investigating two fish kills that happened back in June, but the kills remain a mystery. The first kill took place near Lamont on June 3rd and the second near Tonkawa on June 17th. The kills are likely related and are being investigated as one event.

Fish kills are not uncommon in Oklahoma, especially in the summer. Most of the time the fish kills are caused by low levels of dissolved oxygen, but preliminary tests show plenty of dissolved oxygen in the river.

Droughts also often play a role in fish kills. No rain often cause rivers and lakes to become stagnate. These fish kills, however, happened after rainstorms.

Record-high salt was found in the river. The river is fed by the Great Salt Plains Reservoir, which is flanked by a great salt flat. One possibility is that the rainstorms washed the salt into the river. There is no record of this happening in the past but state agencies said it is possible.

Another source of saltwater in that part of the state is oil and natural gas drilling. However, the chemical composition of the salt contamination doesn’t match the brine from the nearby disposal well. Other disposal wells are being tested.

Residents with water wells nearby have reported problems with their water. It’s unclear if it’s related at this time.

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

Photo Credits:  Some rights reserved by OakleyOriginals