The mass fish kills will continue.
The effects of this spring’s extreme flooding of the Mississippi River have been – pardon the pun – spilling over into every possible corner of the area’s residential, commercial, and agricultural life over the last two months. And it looks like the environment hasn’t escaped either: researchers from the University of Michigan predict that the largest Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” on record will result from the flooding.
The dead zone is forecast to be between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles – an area roughly the size of New Hampshire, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The zone is a threat to aquatic organisms as well as the humans who depend on them in the gulf’s booming seafood industry.
“Stream flows were nearly double normal during May, delivering massive amounts of nutrients to the Gulf, and that’s what drives the dead zone,” said Donald Scavia, Special Counsel to the U-M President for Sustainability and director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.
(See pictures of flood waters rising along the Mississippi river.)
Scavia noted that the most likely 2011 scenario is a Gulf dead zone of at least 8,500 square miles. This estimate far surpasses the 6,000-square-mile average of the past five years, as well as the current record, set in 2002, of 8400 miles.
The oxygen-starved Gulf dead zone is largely caused by farmland runoff containing fertilizers and livestock waste from as far away as the Corn Belt. Nitrogen and phosphorus from these sources flow down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf in late spring and summer each year, prompting explosive algal blooms, which later die and sink to the ocean floor. As they decompose, the algae provide bottom-dwelling bacteria with organic matter to feast on. Oxygen is consumed in the process, producing an oxygen-starved region in bottom and near-bottom waters: a dead zone.
This year, nitrogen and phosphorus have been seeping from Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers into the Gulf in alarmingly high amounts. In May 2011, 164,000 metric tons of nitrogen were transported to the northern Gulf, according to the U.S. Geological Survey – a 35% climb from average May nitrogen estimates in the last 32 years. The Gulf has seen a shocking 300% increase in nitrogen content since 1960.
This Marketplace report on the OPEC summit highlights what we’ve seen revealed in the Wikileaks memo. Don’t think that just because oil prices dropped for a bit that everything’s better now. These fluctuations will continue and the overall trend will be a continued rise.
The price of crude jumped by more than $2 a barrel today. A key meeting of the Oil Producers’ Cartel — OPEC — failed to find agreement on an increase in production. The meeting in Vienna was a contentious one — and that’s putting it mildly. Now, just weeks after a consumer pullback that prompted gas prices to drop, there are fears of another sharp rise in the price of oil. Which would not bode well for any kind of global economic recovery.
But there’s an even more fundamental divide in the cartel. Between those countries like Saudi Arabia with big reserves that want a stable price for their oil, and those like Iran, Libya and Venezuela who have little spare capacity. Samuel Ciszuk is an oil analyst with IHS Global Insight.
Samuel Ciszuk: Those who are starting to see the end of their reserves are obviously interested in maximizing the amount of money they will get out of it.
That group of countries today refused to back Saudi Arabia’s call to pump more oil and restrain prices, hence the jump in the price of crude. But the Saudis hinted that they may step up production anyway. Chris Skrebowski of Peak Oil Consulting says this could herald the end of OPEC.
Chris Skrebowski: I think it’s probably a 60 or 70 percent chance that this will fundamentally change the cartel. That in practical terms, it will split.
With Saudi Arabia pumping more oil and with OPEC in disarray, that would seem to be good news for beleaguered oil consumers. But as Professor Kent Moors of Duquesne University told the Marketplace Morning Report, don’t bet on it.
Kent Moors: Well, gas prices probably have gone down as much as they’re going down nationally. We’re not going back anywhere close to $3.30 or thereabouts.
Such is the rapid growth in demand for oil — in China, India and elsewhere — the price seems headed inexorably higher.
Meanwhile, the oil sands in Canada which are touted as an alternate solution further reveal how problematic peak oil is becoming as we get closer to spending a barrel of oil to extract one:
This pipeline fight is over the most expensive oil in the world. Oil companies drilling in the Canadian oil sands typically spend $60 or more to produce one barrel of crude. It’s what’s called tough oil — it takes a lot of energy, geology, and fancy acronyms.
Drew Zieglgansberger: Probably the most advanced technology right now is called SAGD, or it stands for Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage.
Drew Zieglgansberger is vice president at the Canadian oil firm Cenovus. We’re on a bus, touring their operations in middle-of-nowhere, Alberta. He says the world’s easy oil is gone.
Zieglgansberger: The oil now that people are looking for are not the nice light oil sitting in pools that you drill into it and it just flows by itself.
What’s left is in remote places, often way underground. As for the oil sands, they’re not even a liquid.
Zieglgansberger: It’s basically a solid matter. It’s very much like a shoe polish. It’s hard and it’s… if you put it in a cup it would be there forever. If you dump it out, it’d be like dumping some wet sand in your sandbox.
Still, processing the oil sands is worth it, ‘cause American import one hundred barrels of crude, every second. That comes out to 24,000 barrels by the time this story is over. Or one million gallons. The key ingredient to oil sands is heat: you send steam down a well, turn the sand into liquid, and pump it.
Zieglgansberger: This is basically a big, big boiler.
The steam source runs almost 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. Great big fire.
Zieglgansberger: This is where we’re burning natural gas. If you look at a normal barbecue, your barbecue is probably about 30,000 or 40,000 BTU of heat, maybe. This one generator is 250 million. It’s a massive amount of energy.
There’s the rub. In some cases, the energy put in equals what you get out.
Not worth it, says Calgary author Andrew Nikiforuk. His book is called Tar Sands.
Andrew Nikiforuk: The returns are absolutely minimal. It takes one barrel of oil or oil equivalent to get one-and-one-half barrels. Some steam plants are getting even negative returns.
Energy use makes the oil sands process emit 17 percent more greenhouse gases than normal oil — according to a U.S. government study. Critics say that makes for one of the dirtiest crudes in the world, not to mention the chemical wastewater, and clearing of forests for mining.
Canadian activist Danielle Droitsch is with the Pembina Institute.
Danielle Droitsch: It’s similar to Venezuela. It is similar to Nigerian oil. So it’s sort of the worst of the worst.
Droitsch moved to D.C. last year, in her view to keep the oil sands industry honest. She’s fighting the expansion of a pipeline carrying Canadian oil sands crude to the United States. And for now it is stalled. The application’s been at the State Department for 33 months. Opponents like Droitsch think choking off supply will help choke off oil addiction quickly. But the reality of driving suggests, maybe not.
Analyst Jim Burkhard at IHS Cambridge Energy says most of us own our cars for a decade or more. So it’ll take a long time to retire a whole generation of oil guzzlers.
Jim Burkhard: So even if we have stunning success in electric vehicles, it will take decades before we see that reduce overall global oil demand.
Read the rest of the article to find out more about the pipeline. Peak oil isn’t fake science. It’s real. Oil companies have been talking about it for a decade, but try to play it down. We have some time left, but we’re on the down-hill slope at this point.
killciv - I agree that CME’s are more likely right now given given that we recently entered a period of increased solar activity in 2011. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg…
very valid point about the nuclear infrastructure in this scenario.
I’ve been meaning to start listing on-going bacterial, viral, and pandemic types of threats. I see them as one of several types of Mother Nature’s tools for population control. These are lower probability threats in the US, but I like to watch them in case something ever gets out of control. Anyway, here are the more interesting news stories happening right now.
Deadly E. coli outbreak - rare strain plagues Europe - June 2, 2011
London – An entirely new super-toxic bug is causing the frightening food poisoning outbreak that has sickened at least 1600 people and killed 18, researchers and global health officials said today.
Cows, People infected with new strain of MRSA - June 2, 2011
Scientists say a new strain of antibiotic-resistant staph has been identified in humans and fresh, unpasteurized cow’s milk in Europe, although it’s not known how widespread or virulent it is. A bigger concern, according to their study, is that a newer test may miss this strain of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.
Dr. Gregory Moran, a clinical professor of medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine who is not affiliated with the study said “There is nothing to suggest that this is some new, extra dangerous strain that will spread further and take over from the MRSA that we already have.”
MRSA infections plague Providence infant care unit - June 2, 2011
Providence Alaska Medical Center is dealing with a serious outbreak of a drug-resistant staph infection among some of its most vulnerable patients, babies in the newborn intensive care unit.
Fourteen babies since March have contracted mild to moderate infections caused by MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, a state health department epidemiologist said Wednesday.
Seventeen other infants have been found carrying the bacteria on their skin or noses, but did not get sick from it, said Kim Porter, a state epidemiology expert.
MRSA “superbug” found in meat in Detroit supermarkets - May 13, 2011
Now, drug-resistant superbugs are showing up in supermarket meat. Raw beef, chicken and turkey from Detroit grocery stores contained methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a sinister strain of bacteria that doesn’t respond to typical antibiotics, researchers reported Wednesday.
NEW DELHI: NDM-1, the enzyme associated with extensive antibiotic resistance that was found in India last year, has jumped to new bacteria strains and infected a Canadian, who had no travel history to India.
For the first time, scientists in Canada have reported local acquisition of an organism producing NDM-1 in Ontario, Canada. NDM-1 has been found in bacterial species other than E coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae.
The findings are in tune with a TOI report a few weeks ago that had pointed out about NDM-1 gene, which has been jumping between various species of bacteria at a “superfast speed.”
Ugandan Ebola outbreak in May - May 15, 2011
The Ministry of health yesterday confirmed a new outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in the country. Test results from the Uganda Virus Research Institute indicate that a 12 year-old girl from Zirowe Sub County in Luwero district died from the deadly disease on May 6 at Bombo Military hospital.
“Laboratory investigations confirmed Ebola to be the cause of death and illness. So far about 30 people who had contact with the girl including the health workers are being monitored,”said Dr Anthony Mbonye, the head of the Ebola task force.
SLC measles outbreak contained in May - May 15, 2011
(Salt Lake County) -The Salt Lake Valley Health Department (SLVHD) announced today that there have been no new confirmed measles cases in Salt Lake County in 28 days, indicating that the county is no longer experiencing a measles outbreak. The outbreak ends with a total of 9 confirmed cases requiring 3,000 health department staff hours and a not-yet-final cost of $130,246.00
US part of growing spread of measles outbreak - May 15, 2011
Following large outbreaks of measles in Europe as well as in a growing number of countries around the world, cases are now appearing across the United States. Over the past year, a dramatic increase has been seen in the number of measles cases in such countries as France, Germany, Belgium, Romania, and the UK, and now several American states are reporting an increase in the number of cases as well.
Normally, only about 50 cases of measles occur within the U.S. each year. However, since the beginning of 2011, a total of 98 cases have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of cases reported have been caused by unvaccinated people traveling to countries where large outbreaks exist.
Oyster Outbreak a first in US for mild strain of cholera - May 12, 2011
The raw Florida oysters that sickened at least 11 people during March and April were contaminated with an unusual but mild strain of cholera. ”This is the first outbreak of illness from this strain of cholera in Florida, and we have yet to be able to find any other cases in the United States,” said Sterling Ivey, spokesman with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
70% of all US antibiotic consumption is used up in adding low-doses to animal feed to make up for unsanitary living conditions and promote faster growth, according to NRDC. This practice has been steadily growing over the last six decades, despite the every-growing threat to humans of superbugs.
The antibiotic doses used in feed or water for turkeys, cows, pigs and chickens are too low to treat diseases - however, they are low enough for a significant number of bacteria to survive and build up resistance. These antibiotics, such as penicillin and tetracyclines, are used to treat humans too.
Health and consumer organizations are demanding to know why the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) came to the same conclusion regarding the antibiotic resistance threat a long time ago, but did not act on its findings.
Approximately half of the current antibiotic production is used in agriculture to promote growth and to prevent crop disease as well as to treat sick livestock. With such massive use, drug-resistant bacteria generated in animals can be then later transferred to humans in food. Antibiotics are frequently given to healthy animals to encourage faster growth. This is of course convenient to the farmer because of faster growth it also provides cheaper meat. However, it also provides more opportunities for bacteria to evolve into drug resistant strains.
The second problem is the sharp drop in the development of new antibiotics. In the past drug companies coped with antibiotic resistance by developing new drugs. More recently, however, drug companies are claiming that ‘investing in antibiotics is not attractive’.
Instead, drug companies are shifting their research dollars to developing drugs that treat chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These drugs are less challenging to bring to market than antibiotics from a regulatory standpoint and are much more lucrative because they are used for years rather than days or weeks as is the case with antibiotics. Furthermore, much of the drug resistance currently is in poor countries that cannot afford expensive new drugs.
Between 1983 and 1987, 16 new antibiotic drugs were approved by the FDA. Since 2003 only seven and since 2008 only two have been approved.
To read more about other trends check out my other Round-ups:
- Pattern Recognition - Mass Fish Kill Roundup - Early May 2011
- Pattern Recognition - Mass Fish Kill Roundup - Late April 2011
- Pattern Recognition - Fish & sea animal deaths April 2011
- They’re everywhere! Massive Insect Plagues & Infestations - March 2011 Round-up
- Dead Fish Round-up March 31st
- Dead Fish Round-up - March 30th
- Pattern Recognition - Mass whale & Dolphins strandings 2011
- Pattern Recognition - Dramatic Earth Changes: Trying to make sense of odd seismic activity
- Cracked Earth Round-up - Indonesia, Phillipines, Thailand, California
- Pattern Recognition: Food Crisis Round-up - late April 2011
- Pattern Recognition - Food Crisis News - April 10, 2011
- Food Crisis News Round-up - 2/28/2011
EMP, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll give it a listen.
I knew about EMP as a phenomena for a long time, but it never really struck me fully until I read William Forstchen’s “One Second After”. In my opinion, that book is one of the most realistically presented works in the post-apocalyptic genre.
After I read it I was fairly disturbed for a while and spent a lot of time reading the report from the EMP Commission. The potential EMP threat was even making the news in late 2010 at USAToday. That article is worth the read. Here’s another report by an Air Force guy titled “EMP Threats in 2010”.
However, as I began to take a more centered approach to preparation and the types of events I prepare for I started looking at the list in terms of impact and probability.
An EMP event that put us back into the world we lived in several centuries ago is a “high impact, low probability” scenario.
Is it a threat? Yes.
Is it as likely as an earthquake, tornado, or pandemic? I honestly don’t think it is.
Here’s the most common scenario presented for EMP events - besides a large solar flare (coronal mass ejection):
A small EMP-optimized nuke launched from a container ship in the Gulf of Mexico could take out the power grid of the entire continental United States. The same thing could be done anywhere, like Europe or Japan. Source
A commenter, Ben, on the post linked above effectively summarizes my thoughts on EMP:
For EMP Doomsday to be a risk, there must be a group out there with the following:
1. the capability to build a nuke small and rugged enough to fit on a ballistic missile and make it “EMP-optimised” – this is technology advanced enough that it requires the resources of a state
2. suitable ballistic missile technology
3. a desire to cause chaos in the US, triggering a massive global depression and wrecking everyone’s economies
4. the willingness to risk nuclear retaliation given that the source of the attack could be traced using informers, or satellite imagery of the launch correlated with shipping records, or possibly the characteristics of the device. The one part of Western society that would function well after the EMP attack is the military.
No state in the world has these things. North Korea and Iran don’t currently have the technology; I doubt India and Pakistan do either, and neither of those has the motivation; none of the remaining nuclear states with the technical capability to do the attack (which I make UK, France, Israel, China, Russia) would want to wreck a huge trading partner.
Nobody who can presently do it would want to. You could make up a political scenario where tension between the US and Pakistan or China, or the technology level of Iran, might greatly increase in the next few decades. But if an aggressor state was considering a first strike, why would it limit its initial attack to a single EMP missile, while inviting a full nuclear attack in response? Source
I do think this is as real a threat as nuclear war, but the probability is low that someone will be able to pull it off any time soon. I find it hard to believe that the critical military functions needed to respond to such an attack would not already hardened. The rest of our infrastructure, well, that’s another matter.
If it ever does happen, we’re screwed. In that case, use your preps to survive while you learn to live like the pioneers. :) My philosophy is that if you prepare for the more probable threats, you will eventually be prepared for the less probable ones.
Thanks for reading and keep posting. Your new Tumblr is relevant to my interests.
Thanks Michael, on all counts. :) I appreciate the support. I’ll be sure to read “Seven Degrees of Relevance”. I work hard to keep up a pragmatic hope. :)
Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal said Sunday that he wants oil prices to drop so that the United States and Europe don’t accelerate efforts to wean themselves off his country’s supply.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on “CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS,” the grandson of the founding king of modern Saudi Arabia said the oil price should be somewhere between $70 and $80 a barrel, rather than the current level of over $100 a barrel.
“We don’t want the West to go and find alternatives, because, clearly, the higher the price of oil goes, the more they have incentives to go and find alternatives,” said Talal, who is listed by Forbes as the 26th richest man in the world. Source
It has been a historic tornado season in the United States. More than 500 people have been killed, according to figures from the National Weather Service and local authorities. That makes 2011 the deadliest season since 1953, when 519 people were killed in twisters. Source
The Joplin Missouri tornado was the deadliest on record
At least 126 people in Joplin had died due to the storm as of Thursday night, said Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges. That makes the tornado the single deadliest to touch down in any U.S. community since modern record-keeping began in 1950. Source
The deadliest tornado year on record is 1925, which had 794 deaths, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The number of fatalities so far this year is more than 8 1/2 times the average number for an entire year — 56, according to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. Source
From a hillside, Kamal Saadat looked forlornly at hundreds of potential customers, knowing he could not take them for trips in his boat to enjoy a spring weekend on picturesque Oroumieh Lake, the third largest saltwater lake on earth.
“Look, the boat is stuck… It cannot move anymore,” said Saadat, gesturing to where it lay encased by solidifying salt and lamenting that he could not understand why the lake was fading away.
The long popular lake, home to migrating flamingos, pelicans and gulls, has shrunken by 60 percent and could disappear entirely in just a few years, experts say — drained by drought, misguided irrigation policies, development and the damming of rivers that feed it.
Official reports blame the drying mainly on a decade-long drought, and peripherally on consumption of water of the feeding rivers for farming. They put 5 percent of the blame on construction of dams and 3 percent on other factors. Others disagree about the relative blame.
The first alarm over the lake’s shrinking came in late 1990s amid a nagging drought.
Nonetheless, the government continued construction of 35 dams on the rivers which feed the lake; 10 more dams are on the drawing boards for the next few years. Read more
Eurozone fears bring instability to global markets - May 25th, 2011 “…there are also mounting protests in the Continent against public sector spending cuts and rising unemployment. At the same time, fears that Greece, Italy and Spain will be unable to re-pay their sovereign debts without an expensive bail-out sent markets in Europe and North America tumbling earlier this week.” Source
Thousands in Greece austerity protest - May 25th, 2011 - ATHENS - Thousands of protesters gathered in Athens and other major Greek cities Wednesday to condemn the government’s austerity policies after an online campaign inspired by recent turnouts in Spain.
More than 10,000 people, according to media estimates, assembled in the capital’s central Syntagma Square, shouting and shaking their fists at the lawmakers inside the nearby parliament building.
Another 5,000 gathered in the northern city of Thessaloniki and similar protests were planned in the cities of Patras, Ioannina, Iraklio and others.
Spain went through similar protests last week leading up to their election:
Protests to continue in Spain - May 25, 2011 - Since mid-May, Spain has been witnessing demonstrations against the government’s austerity measures.
The massive protests came after the government of Prime Minister Zapatero introduced a slew of drastic austerity measures, including the cutting of civil servant wages, as part of its plans to curb the budget deficit from 11 percent a year earlier to within three percent of the GDP, a limit set by the European Union by 2013. Source
Meanwhile, protests are returning to Egypt:
Egypt’s PM tries to head-off “Second Revolution” - May 25, 2011 - Facebook groups, which helped oust President Hosni Mubarak in February, have been complaining about what they see as slow political and economic reforms and delays by the military council and the interim government in bringing to justice former officials charged with abuse of power and graft.
They have called for a massive demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the hub of protests that toppled Mubarak, on Friday in what they dubbed the “second revolution”. Source
And yet the Slut-walk Protesters, which have also gone global, would rather invest their time in protesting a stereotype. Ladies, I know it’s a problem that is deeper than some, but really, people are putting it all on the line for a shitload of heavy, heavy issues and you organize against what some dumb cop said in Canada? #firstworldproblems
Check out this map of protest camps and pick a revolution. Then organize a Slutwalk to feed the hungry in India.
Officials in Joplin, Missouri, confirmed at least 116 people dead after a twister smashed the city Sunday. Destructive tornadoes and severe storms tore through the South in late April, killing hundreds of people.
With all the advancements in storm technology, the question is simple: Why?
“That’s the question of 2011,” Henson said. “Why have so many people died in these tornadoes? That’s the open question. It’s partly because of the strength of these tornadoes. Also because they’ve hit populated areas.” Source - CNN Image source - CNN
There have been increasing numbers of measured tornadoes in the past 60 years, and may be even more in the future. Meteorologists chalk this up to better detection. But climatologists believe that we’re going to see more and worse severe storms and tornadoes in the U.S. in coming years thanks to climate change.
Two studies from 2007 point to a warmer future that could “bring the USA a dramatic increase in the frequency of weather conditions that feed severe thunderstorms and tornadoes by the end of the 21st century.” The first, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that the some locations will see twice as many days per year that favor severe thunderstorms.
“The densely populated regions of the South and East, including New York City and Atlanta, could be especially hard-hit,” reports study lead author Jeff Trapp of Purdue University.
A second study from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York says that “the strongest severe storms and tornadoes are likely to happen more often and be stronger.”
However, there are other forces at work, such as reduced wind shear (or side to side movement of air) in a warmer climate, that could have the opposite effect on tornado frequency. So basically, climate change could lead to more tornadoes, or possibly to fewer tornadoes.