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On June 23rd 2016 voters across the UK went to the polls. But this wasn’t just a vote for a local council, or even the Government. The British were about the vote in the EU referendum. In contrast to electoral votes this event saw people voting on whether to stay in the EU or go it alone. Everyone knew that the result of this referendum would be final. This wasn’t like voting in a Prime Minister. When a bad decision would only mean up to 5 years with them in power. So, when the results of the vote were released on June 24th it became very clear that the UK would be leaving the EU for good.

What does Brexit mean for the environment?

One of the central subjects of debate in the run up to the referendum was that of immigration. Nigel Farage and his fellow Brexiteers were also keen to stress the financial gains the UK would see. With claims that the country would be so much better off after detaching itself from the rest of the EU. But little was said about the environment, and what Brexit would mean for the UK’s green policies. But groups fighting for a greener planet are getting worried about new legislation. The WWF’s director of advocacy stressed his concerns because the ‘majority of environmental protections derive from the EU’. But will Theresa May, and her Government, be able to incorporate these ideals into new UK laws?

What is being done to prevent environmental decline?

Environmentalists are often labelled as hippies, but now they are standing their ground and making themselves heard. Fearing what Brexit may mean for the UK, now that Article 50 has finally been invoked, they’re standing their ground. Greenpeace and WWF, along with green organisations and even high profile celebrities, have sent a letter to Theresa May. This letter urges the British PM to uphold previous pledges to leave a better environment for future generations. It then continued to stress the work needed to prevent environmental decline. A Government spokesperson has retorted ‘The Government also has a clear ambition to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it’. But whether or not they do is a matter yet to be seen.

Proud geek since 1988. I'm never happier than when I am enjoying a good film. Of course, as a Brit, the film watching experience is always better with a nice cup of tea.

Environment

Stark Warning: Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley” has been found to have dangerous levels of toxic gas

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High levels of toxic gas used in petrochemical manufacturing have been detected in Louisiana, surpassing safe limits by a significant margin.

This particular chemical is ethylene oxide, a highly flammable and colorless gas that has a faintly sweet odor. It is utilized in various industries for the manufacturing of antifreeze, detergents, fibers, and bottles. In addition, it is utilized for sterilizing medical and food production equipment.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University recently conducted a study in southeastern Louisiana to measure the levels of ethylene oxide in the air. They used two vans equipped with advanced technologies to accurately monitor the gas in real-time.

This region of the state encompasses “Cancer Alley,” a corridor along the Mississippi River connecting New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which unfortunately experiences alarmingly elevated rates of cancer and various health concerns among its population. Coincidentally, the area is home to numerous petrochemical plants that release a wide range of industrial chemicals, such as ethylene oxide.

Exposure to ethylene oxide at concentrations exceeding 11 parts per trillion can have detrimental effects on human health. This is because it has the potential to directly harm DNA and elevate the risk of developing cancer.

Surprisingly, this study discovered levels reaching as high as 40 parts per billion in areas in close proximity to industrial facilities. The concentrations turned out to be significantly higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimates.

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It was anticipated that ethylene oxide would be present in this region. However, the levels we observed were far beyond our expectations and significantly exceeded the estimated levels provided by the EPA,” stated Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor of Environmental Health and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

“As we drove through the industrial areas, we observed concentrations reaching 40 parts per billion, a level that exceeds the accepted risk for lifetime exposure by over a thousand times,” DeCarlo explained.

Researchers have issued a warning about the potential increased cancer risk for individuals residing in close proximity to ethylene oxide manufacturing and usage facilities.

Our discoveries carry significant implications for the well-being of community residents, particularly infants and children. According to Keeve Nachman, an associate professor of Environmental Health and Engineering and the co-director of the Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute, it has been demonstrated that ethylene oxide can cause direct harm to DNA. This implies that exposures to this substance during early life are particularly hazardous.

The latest research was recently published in the esteemed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Environment

Was cloud seeding responsible for the unusual floods in Dubai? Experts are skeptical

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Traditionally linked to dry sand and heavily air-conditioned megacities, many areas of the Gulf region have recently experienced a substantial amount of rainfall. Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), encountered an amount of rainfall in a single day that is equivalent to what it typically receives in a year and a half. This resulted in floods and disorder in the city.

There has been widespread speculation that the torrential rainfall was either caused by or made worse by cloud seeding. This procedure commonly entails dispersing minute particles, such as silver iodide, into the atmosphere to serve as “nuclei” for water droplets to gather around. This process enhances the development of ice crystals, hence augmenting the likelihood of precipitation in the form of rain or snow.

The UAE’s National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) is widely recognized for its regular utilization of cloud-seeding techniques to alleviate the country’s water scarcity issues. Nevertheless, there is no empirical data to suggest that the act of seeing clouds has any correlation with the precipitation that occurred this week. Conversely, meteorologists have observed that the occurrence in Dubai is connected to broader weather patterns.

A mesoscale convective system, which consists of medium-sized thunderstorms formed by sizable thunderclouds, is most likely what caused these storms. This occurs when heat causes moisture to rise into the sky. These weather phenomena have the capacity to generate substantial quantities of precipitation. When they happen across a broad region and in succession, they can result in extremely intense rainfall. According to Professor Maarten Ambaum, a meteorologist at the University of Reading who has researched rainfall patterns in the Gulf region, these events can quickly cause floods in surface water, as demonstrated at locations like Dubai airport.

Currently, there is no technology available that has the capability to originate or significantly alter this type of rainfall occurrence. Ambaum clarified that there had been no cloud seeding operations conducted in this area recently.

The NCM has confirmed this perspective by asserting that no cloud seeding operations occurred during the recent heavy rainfall. The National state-owned daily said that the NCM did not carry out any seeding activities during this occasion.

Cloud seeding requires the deliberate targeting of clouds in their first stages, prior to the onset of rainfall. Once a severe thunderstorm condition arises, it becomes impractical to carry out any seeding operations.

Ensuring the safety of our personnel, aviators, and aircraft is of utmost importance to us. The NCM stated that it does not carry out cloud seeding activities during severe weather conditions.

Cloud seeding frequently becomes the subject of conspiracy theories. In February of this year, a pilot program aimed at artificially inducing rainfall by seeding clouds in California was held responsible for causing two significant storms that struck the southern regions of the state, resulting in the occurrence of floods and landslides. Nevertheless, authorities emphasized that cloud seeding was not conducted during the two significant storms and, moreover, clarified that cloud seeding cannot directly generate storms.

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Environment

What will happen to Lake Mead in 2024?

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After a record-setting summer of found bodies in 2022 and historically low water levels that cut off the Colorado River’s connection to the sea, Lake Mead still seems to be feeling the effects of climate change and population growth, as its water levels have dropped quickly over the past few years.

Lake Mead is the biggest reservoir in the United States by volume. It provides water to about 25 million people in the area between Nevada and Arizona. At full pool, Mead is 104.6 kilometers (65 miles) long, starting at the Hoover Dam, and can be as wide as 9.3 miles (15 kilometers). It can hold about 36 trillion liters (9.3 million gallons) of water.

But as the environment changes and more people use water, the lake’s size is quickly shrinking. In July 2022, the area had the lowest water level ever recorded, at 317 meters (1,040 feet). The next year, 2023, wasn’t much better. At the end of the year, the water level was only 324 meters (just under 1,065 feet), which was much lower than the regular 365 meters (1,200 feet) seen in the 1980s and 1990s.

As of the beginning of 2024, the lake’s water levels are high, which is a big change from the previous year. Lake conditions looked better at the start of the year than they did at the same time in 2023, when the water level was 325.5 meters (1,068 feet) and rose to a peak of 328 meters (1,076 feet).

Newsweek talked to Jennifer Pitt, the Colorado River program director for the National Audubon Society. “The combined storage of Lakes Powell and Mead, the two large reservoirs on the Colorado River, has declined somewhat since the beginning of the year,” Pitt said.

But “Lake Mead, which receives water released from Lake Powell and makes releases to water users downstream, has since January 1 increased by about 7 percent, or around 600,000 acre-feet.”

Although water levels typically decline in March as summer approaches, this year’s unusually high water levels are projected to persist into the summer due to above-average snowpack levels.

Snowpack is the accumulation of snow on the ground in hilly areas. When this snow melts, it serves as a crucial water source for several lakes and rivers. Elevated snowpack levels in the adjacent mountains will result in augmented water resources when they gradually thaw over the warmer months and stream into the Colorado River, which accounts for 97 percent of the influx into Lake Mead.

Regrettably, this serves as only a transient solution for a somewhat more substantial problem concerning Lake Mead. Despite a promising start to the year, predictions show that water levels at the end of the year will be even lower than in 2023, a year in which higher-than-average snowpack levels also had an impact.

According to a recent 24-month operation plan by the US Bureau of Reclamation, the water levels in the reservoir are projected to decrease steadily for the remainder of this year, resulting in a decrease of 5 meters (17 feet) by December. By 2025, it is projected that the water levels in December may reach a mere 318 meters (1,044 feet), which is only a little more than 1 meter above the unprecedented low recorded in 2022. If the water level of the reservoir ever dropped below the critical point of 273 meters (895 feet), it would be incapable of supplying water to the states of Nevada, California, and Arizona, as well as some areas of Mexico.

The increased supply demands brought about by a growing population, the impact of climate change on rainfall patterns that result in protracted droughts, and the rising rate of evaporation are all having a significant negative impact on the health of this essential water source. Furthermore, the diminished water levels are adversely affecting the quality of the remaining water, indicating that the situation in the area is unlikely to ameliorate without implementing dramatic measures.

Pitt highlighted that the disparity between supply and demand will increase as climate change persists in reducing the size of the Colorado River, resulting in quicker depletion of the reservoirs.

“The decision-makers responsible for the Colorado River are currently engaged in negotiations to establish new regulations for the reservoirs,” she informed Newsweek. “Their ability to effectively manage the equilibrium between supply and demand will be crucial in ensuring a reliable water supply for all organisms reliant on this river.”

Managing the lake is challenging because of its large size. However, the loss of its resources will have a significant impact on millions of people, as it is one of the most crucial reservoirs in the United States.

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