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Recycle Lebanon

Thursday, March 19, 2020

In the summer of 2017, a young woman living in Beirut remarked to me, “People are used to going around the government to achieve what needs to get done. People are resilient, resourceful, and fed up.” This sentiment is common among those I work with in Lebanon as daily life is structured by intersecting issues of environmental and infrastructural degradation, perceptions of instability, and government ineptitude. Since the civil war ended in the 1990s, the government has struggled to provide basic infrastructures like 24-hour electricity, waste management, or public transportation and, like most places around the world, continually mismanages environmental resources from their forests to their coasts. As an anthropologist, however, I work to understand how these issues of infrastructure and the environment intersect with people’s resilience and resourcefulness, leading them to create alternatives to increase wellbeing for themselves, their communities, and the planet.

I have long been interested in how people practice environmental politics and have been studying and researching in Lebanon since 2012. As a doctoral student in sociocultural anthropology, I wanted to study infrastructure as a way of better understanding how environmental degradation and everyday service provision influence how people develop their political ideologies and practices. For my dissertation research, I study how decentralized networks (people who are not part of state or traditional civil society groups) come together to practice infrastructural politics to demand alternatives to environmental and infrastructural degradation and institute new forms of environmental and social wellbeing.

One of these organizations is Recycle Lebanon, founded by Joslin Kehdy, who have become crucial community partners in this research. Recycle Lebanon is a social change and circular economy hub focusing on data visualisation, access to circular living and local alternatives for waste reduction, education, and prevention and legislation to raise national awareness, connect, and empower individuals to drive collective action. They originally emerged in response to the garbage crisis in 2015, dealing with the environmental fall-out from inadequate waste treatment and management. Most recently, popular uprisings against the government, new austerity measures, and a deepening economic crisis (among several other connected issues) beginning in October 2019 has created new needs that Recycle Lebanon and their networks are responding to. These include helping coordinate massive volunteer clean-ups and recycling initiatives of “revolutionary waste” from the protest sites and feeding roughly 200 people a day from a zero waste kitchen in Martyrs Square as a form of mutual aid and solidary building.

I began working with Recycle Lebanon as a volunteer last summer, helping with their data project called “Regenerate Lebanon,” which I will be working on during the CLIMAS fellowship, and beyond. Regenerate Lebanon is an open-source online platform visualizing local environmental and infrastructural issues and connecting people to solutions. Using qualitative and quantitative methods we’ve amassed datasets on the solid waste supply chain in Lebanon along with several other growing datasets to help visualize both the current issues and solutions. This platform emerged in response to crucial questions: How can I make Lebanon better? What can I do? Who’s already doing what, where, and how can we visualise these solutions for collective action? Lebanon has solutions for many environmental and resources problems and there are an abundance of initiatives working towards the sustainable development of the country. With the launch of “Regenerate Lebanon” it will be easier to understand the activities and initiatives available to get involved in on an individual and collective level. We need to first understand what is being done and how others can contribute and innovate from the foundation of sustainable actions already in place.

 


Photo Credit: Recycle Lebanon.

Photo Captions:

  • Temporary infrastructures created in Martyrs Square, including solar panels for electricity, water tanks, and tents to house conversations and workspace for protestors in Beirut.
  • Enjoying lunch from the Regenerate Lebanon zero waste kitchen.
  • Protestors gather together to collect and sort waste.
  • A snap-shot of the Regenerate Lebanon platform.

Responsibility of an Apsáalookbia (Crow Woman) to the protection of Apsáalooke bilé (Crow Water)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

I was raised by an Apsáalooke/Crow matriarch who also came from strong, independent Apsáalookbia/Crow women. Apsáalooke people are a matrilineal and, traditionally, an egalitarian society. It is innately known that we have three mothers: the earth, our homes, and our birth mothers. We are taught that we must respect all three mothers and do what we must so that they stay protected. Our mothers are our first teachers and have taught us much of what we know as Apsáalooke people. We were taught the stories of Hisshiishduwiia/Red Woman, the Chíilapsahpua/Seven Sacred Big Horn Rams, rock medicine, and old man coyote stories. In particular, it was the stories of Hisshiishduwiia/Red Woman and the seven sacred rams that struck a distinct chord with me. Both of these stories remind me of the inherent responsibility I have to protect all that has provided. I know that I only play a small role in protecting but I hope that role has a much larger impact than I can imagine.

It is said that when the last duck succeeded by bring mud to the water’s surface that Iichiikbaalia/First Maker created the earth and Biluke/Our side (referring to strictly Crow people) from those ground materials. After land was created, it was the feminine power who brought about the lifeline  that it was Hisshiishduwiia/Red Woman who created waterways. Apsáalooke elder, George Reed, states, “Red Woman appeared and pulled out her root digger and started scratching the earth and made the springs, creeks, and rivers. As the water flowed from the riparian areas, plants started to grow. Red Woman said . . . ‘If you are sick take the roots of the plants and eat and you will be healed’”(Bull Chief 2016). It was the might and doings of Red Woman that allowed water to flow in the land that we live on. It is now the duty of Awakkulé/Little People, because they “make sure that the rivers flow and the grass grows . . . [and] they take care of the Crows” (Grant Bulltail 2018).

Photo 1.  Location where I was raised and favorite swimming spot along the Little Bighorn River on the Crow Reservation. Courtesy: JoRee LaFrance (2019)


It is our duty, as Apsáalooke people, to pray for and give gifts to Awakkulé and to protect the land that we are merely borrowing from our children. We are also reminded of the time when Uuwaatisaash/Big Metal was saved by the Chíilapsahpua/Seven Sacred Big Horn Rams, and he was eventually raised among them. Uuwaatisaash/Big Metal became a prominent leader amongst Apsáalooke people, and we were taught that the rivers that flow through our home must always be named after the sacred seven rams. These rivers represent our identity as Apsáalooke, and our ancestors have taught as various ways that we must take care for the river. We are told to feed the river our finest meats when the cotton first falls, to jump in the freezing water after a sweat lodge ceremony, and to always respect water and Bimmuummaalakoolé/water beings that make their own in our shared waters.  I believe that the water is reflection of who we are because our sole identity as Apsáalooke people depends on this very life-source.

As a result of broken promised and inhumane federal policies, the Crow Reservation which is home to the various bands that make up Apsáalooke people decreased to a fractional size of 2.5 million square acres. Gratefully, we still live along the Big Horn and Little Bighorn Rivers and we have water rights to surface and groundwaters to sustain our people. I grew up along the Little Bighorn River and that flowing water is all I have ever known. We still rely on this river for domestic, municipal, tribal, individual, cultural, and spiritual uses. We still have the teachings of our ancestors and our language is still spoken. We are teachers, lawyers, scientists, health professionals, ranchers, descendants, caretakers, and the future of Apsáalooke people. I believe that is our time to act and to draw on our teachings to ensure our security as strong, resourceful, and thriving people.

Photo 2. Yellowtail Dam Reservoir also known as the Big Horn River Canyon. Near the location of where the seven sacred rams saved Big Metal. Courtesy: JoRee LaFrance (2019)


As I have acknowledged my role as a contemporary Apsáalookbia/Crow woman, I have found a way to braid my understandings of this world into a practical skillset that can provide my own efforts in protecting this way of being. With modern technology, I have been afforded the opportunity to take a closer look at the molecular level of what is happening in our water systems. As a second year PhD student in the University of Arizona Department of Environmental Sciences, I am researching surface water quality within the Little Bighorn River watershed. I aim to understand the impact on contaminant behaviors from the various water flows within the Little Bighorn River. The changing water flow occurs as a result of the changing seasons such as high flows in June when the snow is melted in the mountains, or the lowest flow of water in the winter when water is being stored in the ground and in snow-packs. I am working to identify contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and perfluoroalkyl substances better known as PFAS. These contaminants come from a variety of sources such as natural elements, mining activities, intense agricultural development, water treatment discharge points, and man-made products. I have taken it upon myself to determine what contaminants are elevated in the Little  Bighorn River to have a better understanding of its long-lasting impacts. I want to ensure that my people will always have access to clean, healthy water systems and that Bimmuummaalakoolé/water beings are always protected and respected Ultimately, I strive to support my tribe in their own efforts in setting their own water quality standards on the basis of cultural practices. This can be done under the Clean Water Act when a tribe is granted treatment-as-state status from the United State Environmental Protection Agency. This is absolutely crucial in the future of the quantity and quality of water on the Crow Reservation, home to Apsáalooke people.

Photo 3. During my first sampling campaign in the Little Bighorn River back in December 2019. Courtesy: JoRee LaFrance (2019)


As the seventh generation from Chief Pretty Eagle, the last principal chief of Apsáalooke people, it is my duty to do all that I can in order to protect the advancement and survivance of my people. It is the old stories and teachings that have informed the work that I do. As an Apsáalookbia/Crow woman, I take the teachings and independence from strong women like my mother, grandmothers, Biáwacheeitchish/women chiefs, and Hisshiishduwiia/Red Woman. If it had not been for the support, love, and teachings I have been fortunate to know such as those that come from Hisshiishduwiia/Red Woman and the Chíilapsahpua/Seven Sacred Big Horn Rams, I would not know where I would be. If it had not been for my family and people, I would not be where I am today. There is nothing more honorable than to have the opportunity to learn technical and professional skills to protect a being of water that has always provided for my ancestors, myself, and our future children. I know that the work that I do is much bigger than I am. I am forever grateful to be Apsáalooke and to come from our home. When my work inspires others to believe more in themselves that is when I know that I am fulfilling my purpose. My dream is that all Apsáalooke people can, unapologetically, be themselves and that I inspire the next generation of Apsáalooke scientists. 

Photo 4. Descendants of Chief Pretty Eagle along the banks of the Little Bighorn River. I am pictured with my grandfather, Joe Whiteclay, and my nephew. This is a four-generation photo. Courtesy: JoRee LaFrance (2019)

What feeds you? An exploration of resilience, sense of place, and food

Thursday, March 19, 2020

This question has followed me around my entire life. Who and what contributes to my healing, development, growth? Literally, physically, romantically, academically, environmentally; what gives me strength?

Figure 1. Photograph of part of Kunal's extended family. Kunal is pictured second from the right in a black t-shirt.

Growing up Jain, I was taught critical appreciation and curiosity about the natural world through the lenses of food and non-human connection. I also grew up in an affluent New Jersey suburb where I had easy access to hiking trails, farmer’s markets, and my Nani’s cooking in Queens. My family, queerness, privileges, religion, experiences with whiteness, and more all contribute to my sense of place.

I ask this question to other Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QT2SBIPOC) because we are not often given the space we need to deeply consider our relationships to environment and healing. For me, there is a lot that keeps me going in the wake of environmental catastrophe, personal hardship, and activist burnout. But, it boils down to sharing meaningful food with meaningful people.


However, many folks do not have positive relationships to environment because of the disproportionate and systemic harms that are placed onto them, specifically Black and Indigenous communities. So what does relationship to environment look like when your rivers are polluted, when you have to grapple with the history of lynching in your forests, when your community’s treaties are not followed, when you do not see yourself represented in the mainstream media? What keeps you going? What feeds you?

Figure 2. Photograph of Kunal eating a meal in Tucson, AZ.I want you to take five minutes and deeply think about the question. What are you favorite recipes? What part of the world do they come from; who grows and harvests the ingredients? Is it easy to find where you currently live? Is it expensive? Do you know how to cook it or is it a dish that only your grandparent can create and that you dream of? Is it harder to find because of drought? Have climate change exacerbated wildfires made it difficult to share this meal with loved ones? How have histories and realities of imperialism, colonialism, and slavery impacted this dish and your connection to it?

Food is inextricably linked to nature, culture, and community; and all three of those things have the incredible potential to feed us and to harm us. Through the Environment and Society Fellowship, I have the opportunity to explore these ideas with four environmental justice communities in Arizona and develop a cookbook to highlight how food and sense of place feed communities and build resiliency in the face of pollution, climate change, and injustice. Stay tuned and email me at kpalawat@email.arizona.edu if you want to know about upcoming recipe tasting events!

 

 

 


Figure 1. Photograph of part of Kunal's extended family. Kunal is pictured second from the right in a black t-shirt.

Figure 2. Photograph of Kunal eating a meal in Tucson, AZ.

The World is My Oyster

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Over the past eight years, I have lived in five different states as I have been pursuing my dream of becoming an environmental microbiology and water quality research scientist.

As a native Floridian, I ventured to Michigan during my undergraduate degree and became interested in molecular genetics research. I focused on confocal microscopy analysis of tau protein in fruit flies to better understand potential drivers of Alzheimer’s disease and was a collegiate soccer player. After I graduated, I moved to rural Colorado to serve a term with AmeriCorps and work in a county public health office as a tobacco specialist. I provided math and literacy intervention to students in grades K-12 and ran an after-school program. While working in the county public health office, I was influential in changing the tobacco policy in the school district. I realized the importance of public health and headed to Louisiana for my MSPH.


It was during my time at Tulane University that I was introduced to microbial water quality and food safety. I began my research in the field with an evaluation of coliphage as a fecal indicator at recreational sites on Lake Pontchartrain to assess human health risk. My projects transitioned to an analysis of Vibrio spp. in oyster harvesting waters in Southeastern Louisiana. My masters work left me with a heightened interested in environmental drivers of water quality, Vibrio spp., oysters, and health.

In 2018, I started my PhD studying Environmental Health Science with a focus on microbial water quality and quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) through the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. The interconnectedness of microbial water quality and human health from my MSPH research intrigued me to the point of taking the next step. The primary focus of my dissertation is to expand scientific knowledge of the interactions between shellfish, microbial water quality, environmental factors, and public health. Globally, there is no consensus on the interactions between oysters, Vibrio, and environmental parameters and I am leading a study to represent this state using GIS and comprehensive literature review. The current FDA policies on oyster harvesting are based off Atlantic Oysters from studies performed on the East and Gulf Coasts. Therefore, I will target my oyster research in Southern California, a geographic area increasing oyster production but with limited health risk information from Vibrio spp. I will identify implications for human health by coupling oyster research in Southern Californian estuaries and in simulated marine environments with QMRA using qPCR, FDA culture-based methods, and statistical analysis to evaluate the prevalence and persistence of pathogenic Vibrio from oysters harvested in Southern California. My laboratory findings will influence a QMRA model and assess regulatory standards.


This work is a collaboration with Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP). The collaboration between the University of Arizona and SCCWRP provides a platform for groundbreaking Vibrio research on the West Coast and the ability to influence current oyster harvesting policy in Southern California. I will use my research to evaluate existing policy to reduce human health risk from exposure to pathogenic Vibrio. The opportunity to impact the community was influential in my choice to pursue a PhD in Environmental Health Science.

I hope to use the culmination of environmental health, ecology, microbiology, and risk assessment skills and knowledge to have a career focused on microbial water quality and human health. I hope my career allows the opportunity to continue to do research with microbial pathogens.

Southwest Climate Outlook January 2020 - Climate Summary

Friday, January 31, 2020

Monthly Precipitation and Temperature: December precipitation was average to above average in most of Arizona, while New Mexico ranged from below average to above average (Fig. 1a). December temperatures were average to above average in Arizona and above average to much above average in New Mexico (Fig. 1b). Daily average temperature anomalies for Dec 1 – Jan 15 (Fig. 2) highlight the fluctuations at select stations around the region. Positive anomalies reflect above average daily temperatures, while negative anomalies reflect below average daily temperatures. The histograms show the frequency of the anomalies for each location.

 

 

Seasonal Precipitation: Three month precipitation rankings for Oct-Nov-Dec were above normal or much above normal for most of Arizona and New Mexico, with the notable exception of the Four Corners region (Fig. 3), which continues to miss out on recovery from both short and long term drought conditions.

 

Annual Precipitation and Temperature: Total precipitation for 2019 in Arizona ranged from below average to much above average, while New Mexico ranged from below average to above average (Fig. 4a). Mean temperatures in 2019 were average to above average in Arizona and average to much above average in New Mexico (Fig. 4b).

 

Snowpack & Water Supply: As of Jan 13, snow water equivalent (SWE) was mostly above median in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Utah and Colorado (Fig 5, see detailed SWE map). Many of the reservoirs in the region are at or above the values recorded at this time last year, but most are below their long-term average (see Arizona and New Mexico reservoir storage).

 

Drought: The Jan. 6 U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) has scaled back the intensity and extent of some drought characterizations in the Southwest, but the Four Corners region remains consistently in the center of regional drought designations (Fig. 6). A large pocket of “Moderate Drought” (D1) and “Severe Drought” (D2) is centered on the Four Corners region, reflecting acute and accumulated precipitation deficits.

 

ENSO Tracker: Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are generally consistent with an ENSO-neutral outlook for 2020 (see ENSO-tracker for details).

Precipitation Forecast: The three-month outlook for February through April calls for increased chances of below-normal precipitation in California and in small pockets along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, with equal chances of above or below normal precipitation across much of the rest of the Southwest. Notably, the upper Colorado River Basin is forecast for increased chances of above normal precipitation (Fig. 7, top). Temperature Forecast: The three-month temperature outlook calls for increased chances of above-normal temperatures across Texas, New Mexico, and most of Arizona, along with much of north central Mexico (Fig. 7, bottom).

 

Online Resources

  • Figures 1, 4 - National Centers for Environmental Information - ncei.noaa.gov
  • Figure 2 - Climate Assessment for the Southwest - climas.arizona.edu
  • Figure 3 - West Wide Drought Tracker - wrcc.dri.edu/wwdt
  • Figure 5 - Natural Resources Conservation Service - nrcs.usda.gov
  • Figure 6 - U.S. Drought Monitor - droughtmonitor.unl.edu
  • Figure 7 - International Research Institute for Climate and Society - iri.columbia.edu

Southwest Climate Outlook - El Niño Tracker - January 2020

Friday, January 31, 2020

Warm waters continue to linger in the equatorial Pacific (Figs. 1-2), and while sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are expected to fall back within the range of ENSO-neutral, some forecasters made note of these warm conditions as something to keep an eye on in 2020.

Forecast Roundup: On Jan 7, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology noted “the tropical ocean…remains warmer than average” but that ENSO indicators remained consistent with neutral conditions. On Jan 9, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued their ENSO diagnostic discussion with an inactive alert status and called for a 60-percent chance of ENSO-neutral through spring and a 50-percent chance of ENSO-neutral lasting through summer.  They stated “the oceanic and atmospheric system was consistent with ENSO-neutral, though recent observations reflected a trend toward warmer conditions that will be monitored.” On Jan 9, the International Research Institute (IRI) issued an ENSO Quick Look noting that despite recent above normal SSTs that were likely to last for another month or so, they would not last long enough to meet the criteria for an El Niño event. They maintained a 60-percent chance of neutral conditions through spring (Fig. 3). On Jan 10, the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) maintained their call for a 60-percent chance of ENSO-neutral conditions to continue until spring 2020. The Jan 2020 North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) shows positive SST anomalies into January, but is predicted to return and remain within the range of ENSO-neutral in February (Fig. 4).

Summary: Recent positive SST anomalies in the equatorial Pacific have been attributed to seasonal variability and not the return of El Niño. This appears to still be the case, with forecast consensus on ENSO-neutral conditions lasting into mid-2020. Most recent forecast discussions emphasized that these positive SST anomalies were large enough, but would not last long enough to meet the El Niño criteria, not to mention a lack of atmospheric coupling that is characteristic of El Niño events. A few agencies made note of warm oceanic conditions lasting longer than expected, but so far, all still see ENSO-neutral as the most likely outcome. In the Southwest, ENSO-neutral winters have produced some of the wettest and driest winters (and everything in between). We continue to monitor sub-seasonal and short term forecasts for insight into upcoming events. Given recent and long-term drought conditions in the Southwest, and regardless of ENSO status, a sustained run of regular precipitation events spread out over the cool season would be most welcome.


Online Resources

  • Figure 1 - Australian Bureau of Meteorology - bom.gov.au/climate/enso
  • Figure 2 - NOAA - Climate Prediction Center - cpc.ncep.noaa.gov
  • Figure 3 - International Research Institute for Climate and Society - iri.columbia.edu
  • Figure 4 - NOAA - Climate Prediction Center - cpc.ncep.noaa.gov

Southwest Climate Outlook December 2019 - Climate Summary

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Monthly Precipitation and Temperature: November precipitation was much above average in much of Arizona save for a small pocket of below average in the four corners region, while New Mexico was mostly above average or much above average (Fig. 1a). November temperatures were above average or much above average in most of Arizona and ranged from average to much above average in most of New Mexico (Fig. 1b). The daily average temperature anomalies for Oct 1 – Nov 19 (Fig. 2) highlight the fluctuations at select stations around the region.

 

Fall 2019: Fall precipitation (Sept-Nov) in Arizona ranged from much below average in the four corners region to much above average or even record wettest in the southern third of the state (Fig. 3a). Fall precipitation for New Mexico was average to below average in the northern third, and average to much above average across the rest of the state (Fig. 3a). Fall temperatures were generally above average across Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 3b).

 

 

Annual: Total precipitation (Jan-Nov 2019) was mostly average to above average in Arizona except for the four corners region. New Mexico was average to below average across most of the state (Fig. 4a). Mean temperatures are mostly average to above average in Arizona and above average to much above average in New Mexico (Fig. 4b).

 

Snowpack & Water Supply: As of Dec 17, there is a wide range of snowpack values across Arizona and New Mexico, with more consistent above median snowpack in northern New Mexico and into Utah and Colorado (Fig 5). Many reservoirs in the region are at or above the values recorded this time last year, but most are below their long-term average (see Arizona and New Mexico reservoir storage).

 

Drought: The Dec. 10 U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) has scaled back some of the drought characterizations in the Southwest, particularly in the southern regions of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 6). This reflects the wetter than normal conditions in November, but it remains to be seen whether this pulse of moisture provides any substantive and long-term drought relief for the affected regions. A large pocket of “Severe Drought” (D2) remains centered on the Four Corners region, reflecting acute and accumulated precipitation deficits.

 

 

ENSO Tracker: Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are generally consistent with an ENSO-neutral outlook for 2019 and into 2020 (see ENSO-tracker for details).

Precipitation and Temperature Forecast: The three-month outlook for January through March calls for increased chances of below-normal precipitation along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, Southern California, and eastern New Mexico, with equal chances of above or below normal precipitation across much of the rest of the Southwest. (Fig. 7, top). The three-month temperature outlook calls for increased chances of above-normal temperatures across most of Texas, New Mexico, and Southeastern Arizona, along with much of north central Mexico (Fig. 7, bottom).

 

 

Online Resources

  • Figures 1,3-4 - National Centers for Environmental Information - ncei.noaa.gov
  • Figure 2 - Climate Assessment for the Southwest - climas.arizona.edu
  • Figure 5 - Natural Resources Conservation Service - nrcs.usda.gov
  • Figure 6 - U.S. Drought Monitor - droughtmonitor.unl.edu
  • Figure 7 - International Research Institute for Climate and Society - iri.columbia.edu

Southwest Climate Outlook - El Niño Tracker - December 2019

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Warm waters continue to linger in western regions of the equatorial Pacific (Figs. 1-2), but are expected to fall within the range of ENSO-neutral for winter 2019-2020 and into spring 2020.

 

 

Forecast Roundup: On Dec 10, the Japanese Meteorological Agency highlighted a trend towards near-normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the equatorial Pacific, despite recent positive SST anomalies. They maintained their call for a 60-percent chance of ENSO-neutral conditions to continue until spring 2020. On Dec 10, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology noted “abnormally warm sea surface temperatures in the western tropical Pacific” and their influence on regional weather patterns but maintained their ENSO Outlook at ‘inactive’ through early 2020. On Dec 12, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued their ENSO diagnostic discussion with an inactive alert status and called for a 65-percent chance of ENSO-neutral through spring 2020. They noted that oceanic and atmospheric conditions were “consistent with ENSO-neutral” despite some above average SSTs, especially in the western equatorial Pacific, but forecasters also highlighted a 25- to 30-percent chance of El Niño. On Dec 12, the International Research Institute issued an ENSO Quick Look (Fig. 3), noting recent above normal SSTs had “returned to normal in December” and ENSO-neutral was most likely in 2019-2020, but with “slightly higher chances for El Niño than La Niña”. The Dec 2019 North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) shows the persistent positive SST anomalies in November but is predicted to return and remain within the range of ENSO-neutral through 2019 and into 2020 (Fig. 4).

 

 

Summary: Recent positive SST anomalies in the equatorial Pacific are mostly attributed to seasonal variability and not El Niño, although the recent CPC forecast discussion did include a forecast probability for El Niño, so we will keep an eye on any additional developments. The consensus remains that despite recent warming, most oceanic and atmospheric conditions are within the range of ENSO-neutral, and ENSO-neutral remains the most likely outcome for winter 2019-2010. In the Southwest, ENSO-neutral winters have produced some of the wettest and driest winters (and everything in between). We continue to monitor sub-seasonal and short term forecasts for insight into upcoming events. Given recent and long-term drought conditions in the Southwest, a sustained run of regular precipitation events spread out over the cool season would be most welcome.


Online Resources

  • Figure 1 - Australian Bureau of Meteorology - bom.gov.au/climate/enso
  • Figure 2 - NOAA - Climate Prediction Center - cpc.ncep.noaa.gov
  • Figure 3 - International Research Institute for Climate and Society - iri.columbia.edu
  • Figure 4 - NOAA - Climate Prediction Center - cpc.ncep.noaa.gov

Working on Projects with Students at Naco Elementary

Monday, December 9, 2019

Energetic middle schoolers fill the classroom air with excitement.  Three UA graduate students are standing in the way between their final hours of summer school and unlimited summer fun.  We better make this engaging! I think to myself. Today, we are there to talk about environmental science, and how the quality of our environment- the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the soil that we run on- affects our every day lives, including our health.

 Naco, Arizona is a small border community that has been on the radar of environmental and health service agencies due to historic transnational sanitary sewage overflows near residential areas. The Naco Elementary School community has expressed concern and we have been working with them and the Cochise Health and Social Services to test for residual microbial contamination.  It is also important for Naco Elementary students to be aware of such events and be critical of the quality of the environment that surrounds them.  We all have a right for a safe place to live and play.



Students get into teams and follow a worksheet guiding them through the scientific process…

Ask a question- Is the water from the water fountain outside of the cafeteria safe to drink?

Make a hypothesis- Since many students drink from it, it must be safe to drink.

Test it!

Teams come back to the classroom carrying water samples from their site of choice.  They are provided store-bought water quality testing kits. Some teams decide to split up responsibilities- as one dips the strips testing for different indicators such as total chlorine and pH, the other refers to the color chart and records the results.

Analyze the data & make conclusions- Once all gloves and strips have been discarded, teams  are asked to discuss their findings. How similar or different were our results from each other? How many of our samples were within acceptable levels?

After our activity, a student comes up and asks us where we bought the water testing kits. He says he is interested in testing the water at his home.  Another girl comes up to me and asks me if I am Mexican because she can hear my accent.  I tell her yes, I grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and was brought to U.S. when I was nine years old.  She excitedly replies, “me too!” and tells me she also wants to go to college. 

Ice cream sandwiches are passed around and with sticky fingers we say goodbye as students walk out to the school bus. “Don’t forget to practice your English during the Summer!” the principal waves to the students.

To the north of the school the Mule Mountains stand starkly against the clear blue sky.  To the south, the border fence snails along with the Port of Entry close in sight.  Naco Elementary is part of an integrated binational community. Although a physical structure separates both countries, protecting our shared ecosystem is a responsibility that concerns us all.


Save it for a rainy day: Roof-Harvesting Rainwater in the Sonoran Desert

Monday, December 9, 2019

Today, water shortages affect 1 out of 9 people. To put this in perspective, imagine a room with 9 people in it, 8 of those people may grab a cup full of water from a pitcher in the room but 1 person must walk thirty minutes for the same cup of water. Water shortages are not limited to dry environments, like Tucson, places with a stable water supply can, unfortunately, lack the infrastructure to provide access to safe drinking water. Imagine you were that unlucky person who had to walk for a drink of water. However, there are places where you do not have to walk thirty minutes because there is abundant groundwater but the infrastructure to supply is yet to be constructed. You may be thinking, drilling wells, pumping the groundwater, treating it to safe drinking standards and designing the delivery system will be rather costly. It is. But are there economical alternatives that can provide safe drinking water to rural communities around the globe?  Luckily for us, there are, and one we have been practicing for over 4,000 years: rainwater harvesting.

The capturing and storing of rainwater goes back thousands of years to when we first started to farm the land and needed to find new ways of irrigating crops. In dry climates, collecting the rainfall often meant the difference between life and death for communities. With urbanization, the need to conserve water fell away in the last thousand years. Today, global water shortages return us to this old-fashioned, low technology and critical part of sustainable living. A common technique that has been used for hundreds of years in India, Brazil, and China is to build water harvesting systems on top of the roofs of houses. It’s a simple technology that has spread across the world, particularly to countries such as Honduras, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, and the United States. Together we can combat water shortages by conserving, protecting and maximizing our existing water supply, roof-harvested rainwater can be reused for irrigation and garden, laundry and toilet flushing!

What is the first thought that comes to mind as you hear the rainfall? Is it an image of children jumping from puddle to puddle? Or perhaps you think of petrichor: that pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. These thoughts also rush to my mind as I attempt to grasp that idle umbrella that has been hiding quite successfully beneath a heap of cardigans overflowing the coat rack.  With the umbrella on hand, I step into the rain. As I stand motionless under the umbrella I see the raindrops fall vertically, yet I remain dry and I think of rainwater quality. As an engineer, I wonder how raindrops form. As a chemist, I ponder what chemicals exist peacefully almost unnoticeable within a raindrop? Water is an interconnected system. What is poured on the ground today can end up in our drinking water years later. If we plan to use roof-harvested rainwater for food production and possibly drinking, perhaps an important query is what is the quality of a raindrop? Sir Isaac Newton once said, “What we know is a drop, what we do not know is an ocean.”

Visualize a raindrop as it falls on your roof and travels down to a collection reservoir. At this moment, you try to remember the last time you cleaned it. Suddenly, you recall the three buckets of sealants you applied for protection last summer and the eight lines of ingredients you did not recognize. Envision that electric blue plastic reservoir a used for capturing and storing that has been sitting outside all summer in the heat.  What is that blue plastic reservoir even made out of? Could some of the materials we use to harvest rainwater dissolve into that water?

 Currently, national rainwater quality standards for both potable and non-potable domestic usages are yet to be determined. My dissertation research explores the presence or absence of chemical pollutants in rainwater.  My goal is to identify and quantify chemical pollutants in rooftop harvested rainwater samples, our overall goal is to generate a dataset that will inform guidelines and recommendations for safe, harvested rainwater use. My desire to spotlight this issue extends even to children, the smallest victims of water pollution. With the help of CLIMAS, I will be producing a book on the topics of rain formation, water conservation, pollution and uses which children would illustrate and for which I will provide age-appropriate explanations.

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