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5 August 2020

Massive Ammonium Nitrate Explosions: Beirut, Texas City, and West, Texas

As Beirut struggles with the aftermath of an enormous explosion apparently caused by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a dockside warehouse, it is notable that the world has seen such disasters before. What follows is a re-posting of an article I wrote and posted here in 2013 called “Deja Vu: Remembering the 1947 Texas City (Fertilizer) Disaster.” Why did the authorities decide to store such a massive …

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23 February 2020

Lake Erie is Nearly Frost-Free

For the past couple of days, we’ve been lucky to have some all-too-infrequent sunny days, giving us some sunshine to lift our spirits and send us searching for our sunglasses. The clear weather is also a good time for an updated MODIS image of the Lake Erie Basin. The image above shows the lake is nearly ice-free except for some narrow shoreline areas in the western basin. The surface water …

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16 February 2018

Chemical Cocktails Confound Phosphorus Management

It’s been fifty years since the Canadian government at the urging of the International Joint Commission set aside the Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora, Ontario in 1968 to conduct large-scale experiments in aquatic ecology. There, the young Director named David W. Schindler, who would go on to become a world-renown limnologist, and others conducted experiments with nutrient loading and produce one of the most iconic photos in the field of …

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8 September 2017

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Ag Programs Under Review

The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) has received a two-year $750,000 grant to evaluate the effectiveness of money spent on farm conservation programs by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). In addition to the GLC, Ohio State University and Michigan State University will play a role in the evaluation process. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration proposed to end funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and National Sea Grant programs. …

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31 March 2017

Wetlands and Flood Mitigation: The 10 Percent Solution

Following the Great Flood of 1993, an official report called for more research to find ways to prevent flood devastation, apparently unaware the problem had been mostly solved, conceptually over a decade earlier. But taking action through the implementation of a national wetland restoration program has faced intractable political and economic obstacles.

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18 February 2017

Keep Your Shirt On, Save Some Coral?

This is not great news, especially for those of us who like to be out in the sun but get really bad sunburns. As reported by Nature and Scientific American, Hawaii state senator Will Espero has introduced a bill to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that may pose risks to us, such as endocrine disruption, as well as to coral. The Environmental Working Group maintains lists of …

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15 November 2016

Rejected Export Corn Prompts Class Action Suit

Updated 16 November 2016 When it’s assumed that food grown using modern high-tech agriculture, including GMO crops and greater reliance on chemical pesticides, is absolutely necessary to feed a growing world population, one might be tempted to question that assumption when the most populous nation in the world rejects such food. Syngenta Litigation There are some angry farmers in the U.S. who, in 2013-2014 were unable to sell their GMO …

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30 September 2016

Lake Erie Algae Blooms Correlate to June Rainfall

June precipitation appears to be positively correlated to algae blooms in Lake Erie. Looking at monthly precipitation data readily-available from Weather Underground and comparing it to the Western Lake Erie Algae Bloom Severity Index, I was surprised by the strength of the correlation (0.6, 0.85 with an “outlier” removed). June precipitation was the only month to correlate to the Severity Index in my data set and I was surprised that …

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3 July 2016

Lake Erie Watershed Soil Phosphorus Study Shows Glyphosate Link

As reported recently by Laura Barrera in the magazine No-Till Farmer, a study led by Ohio Northern University chemistry professor Christopher Spiese links the popular herbicide glyphosate to dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) desorption in soils. Mobilization and runoff of phosphorus to streams and lakes is associated with toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. For decades, soil scientists have understood phosphorus to form low-solubility compounds …

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16 June 2016

Half of U.S. Corn Crop Now Goes to Ethanol

Farming has always been about energy. We eat food for energy our bodies need to survive. But now American farming is increasingly about filling gas tanks as well as bellies. At a typical gas station found along an interstate highway, one can fill up on gasoline blended with 10% ethanol made from corn, pay for it using a plastic card, perhaps made from corn, pull around the side of the …

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