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17 May 2013

Deja Vu: Remembering the 1947 Texas City (Fertilizer) Explosion

The 1947 Texas City Disaster is known as the worst U.S. industrial accident and the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. The disaster, like the recent West, Texas disaster (video), was preceded by a fire. Nearby firefighters and spectators were among many of those killed or injured. The Texas City incident began with a fire that broke out on the French registered SS Grandcamp, which was loaded with 2,300 tons of …

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28 April 2013

The Gas We Eat

Nearly half of the world’s population owes its existence to food grown with industrial nitrogen fertilizer produced from natural gas. (1) In 2004, journalist Richard Manning published an intriguing, if somewhat controversial, article in Harpers magazine called The Oil We Eat: Tracing the food chain back to Iraq. Manning notes that growing our food under the usual practices requires about 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of …

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28 December 2012

Dustbowl Adaptations: Conservation, Irrigation

The excellent Ken Burns documentary, “Dustbowl” (see previous post) featured personal accounts of many individuals who experienced the disaster first hand. The film emphasized a mostly non-technical, human perspective that, I thought, did a good job of placing us into the shoes of those who endured incredibly tough circumstances – within the United States. In the second half of the film, Burns introduced Hugh Hammond Bennett and other soil scientists …

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17 November 2012

Ken Burns Presents “The Dust Bowl” on PBS

This coming Sunday and Monday nights (November 18-19), PBS is featuring the Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl. Burns calls it “the greatest man-made ecological disaster in Unites States history… A ten-year apocalypse superimposed over the worst economic cataclysm in our nation’s history, the Great Depression.” From an article by James West at the Atlantic: As the East Coast licks its wounds from superstorm Sandy, many in New York and …

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19 July 2012

Introducing the European Geoscience Union – Soil Systems Science Division

The European Geoscience Union, a leader in the free dissemination of scientific research, has rolled out its Soil Systems Science Division (SSSD). The SSSD has a blog newsletter with some fine articles and beautiful images about soils and surface geology of Europe. When Editor Jessica Drake (Soilduck) kindly invited me to write a short “why I do soil science” biographical piece, I jumped at the chance. Being that I’m American, …

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28 November 2011

Using Thermogravimetry for Carbon Accounting

Thermogravimetry-Derivative Thermogravimetry (TG/DTG) is a simple and inexpensive method to account for recent soil carbon sequestration. As such, it’s a good choice to be a standardized test in international carbon trading markets. More about TG/DTG shortly, but first, why┬áis this important? Background Here in the United States, clearly, any federal legislation that seeks to reduce carbon emissions, such as by taxation or carbon trading, has no chance of getting through …

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10 November 2011

Australia Passes a Carbon Tax

In a bold move, Australia has passed a carbon tax. The 500 largest polluters will pay $23 per tonne. Farmers can cash in by selling carbon offsets, presumably through ways including soil carbon sequestration. Obviously, the measure’s not popular with everyone. Australia mines and uses a lot of coal, even though, as part of the law, there is a lot of money appropriated to support displaced jobs. Scientific American has the …

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12 September 2011

Lake Erie Algae Bloom

This September 3, 2011 MODIS image of Lake Erie reveals a bright green algae plume concentrated in the western basin. The western basin of the lake is the shallowest part and receives discharge from the Maumee River, the largest river watershed in the Great Lakes with 6,354 square miles (16,460 square km) of land drainage. Land use in the watershed is about 85 percent agricultural and growers typically use a …

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22 August 2011

Wetland Services: The Netley-Libau Project

The University of Manitoba and Ducks Unlimited enlist the ecological services of one of North America’s largest freshwater wetlands. A fly-over Google Earth tour of the area prepared by the International Institute for Sustainable Development shows a huge delta marsh where the silt-laden Red River of the North flows into Lake Winnepeg. The Netley-Libau Nutrient Bioenergy Project turns wetland plants to into bioenergy and recovers agricultural phosphorus while protecting water …

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16 May 2011

MODIS Reveals Major Sources of Sediment

It’s mud season in the Midwest and the MODerate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 250m true color band beautifully displays the tell-tale sediment plumes entering western Lake Erie (left). Updates of Great Lakes MODIS imagery are available here MODIS is a multi-band imaging instrument mounted on two Earth-orbiting satellites, the Terra, and the Aqua, both part of the NASA-led international Earth Observing System. Between the two of them, the entire Earth is …

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