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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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17 May 2020

Nevada Earthquake Raises More Doubts about Yucca Mountain

On Friday, May 15, 2020, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake rocked Nevada and portions of California. With the epicenter located about 22 miles west of Tonopah, NV, no serious damage was recorded aside from cracked highway pavement in the mostly remote surroundings, far from population centers. Reportedly, Nevada has not seen an earthquake of this size since 1954. Worth noting, the earthquake epicenter is about 100 miles away from the Yucca …

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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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22 April 2017

Toledo March for Science

Off to Toledo to March for Science! Updates later this morning!

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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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27 January 2017

Federal GIS Data in Jeopardy

How safe is Federal GIS data? Thursday, I ran across this article on a Reddit GIS forum and felt troubled by it. What is the motivation behind this legislation, House Bill HR482 and Senate Bill S103? From Section 3 of each bill: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on …

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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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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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