Human-Environment Relations: How humans relate to the environment, and how the environment relates to humans, or "The Human Factor"

America’s top 10 most endangered rivers in 2014 


American Rivers has released its sad top 10 of the most endangered rivers in the United States in 2014. Topping the list is the San Joaquin River, Central California’s largest river. Why is it in such bad shape?

Well, for years the San Joaquin has been managed badly primarily to meet the needs of agriculture, hydropower, flood control, etc. It has dams, levees, and all kinds of excessive water diversions which have have hurt the river habitats and reduced community access. Over one 100 miles of the mainstream river have been dry for over 50 years and the diversions along the tributaries take more than 70% of the natural flow.


Here’s the complete top 10, with links to descriptions of each river, what threatens it, and most importantly, what must be done to fix the problem.

1. San Joaquin River
2. Upper Colorado River
3. Middle Mississippi River
4. Gila River
5. San Francisquito Creek
6. South Fork Edisto River
7. White River (Colorado)
8. White River (Washington)
9. Haw River
10. Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers

For your pleasure, here’s a map showing all the rivers in the USA (more details and the ability to zoom in here):


with 362 notes
#Human-Environment Relations

Fires Cloak Sumatra in Smoke

Dense smoke cloaks central Sumatra, Indonesia, in these images taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The smoke is coming from fires in Riau province, where palm oil and pulpwood plantations are abundant. Though illegal for all but small landowners, fire is frequently used to clear brush and trees for farming, especially plantations. The forest and peat soil produce dense smoke when burned, as shown in these images.

The top image shows conditions in the morning (10:45 a.m. local time), while the lower image is from the afternoon (1:45 p.m. local time). The fires, which are outlined in red, build throughout the day.

The fires and resulting air pollution have forced the Riau government to declare a state of emergency, reported the Wall Street Journal. The smoke has caused illness, closed schools for the past two weeks, and reduced visibility.

  1. Reference

  2. Wall Street Journal (2014, February 27) Fires prompt state of emergency in Indonesia’s Riau. Accessed February 28, 2014.

NASA images courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Instrument(s): Terra - MODIS

(Source: earth-as-art, via rjzimmerman)

with 10 notes
#Queue: Finals

China Admits That One-Fifth Of Its Farmland Is Contaminated 

#Human-Environment Relations
#Public Health


via The Concourse

(via rjzimmerman)

with 17 notes
#Human-Environment Relations
#Public vs Private Land

Arizona legislation allows ranchers to kill endangered wolves 

(Source: seekingthemoon)

with 3 notes
#Wolf Conservation
#Endangered Species List
#Mexican Gray Wolf

(Source: usatodayopinion)

with 2 notes
#Human-Environment Relations
#Climate Change
#Global Change
#Pew Research Center


AMAZONIA: Deforestation, drought, and burning worsen damage to Amazon forests

The volatile combination of deforestation, drought, and burning now increase the Amazon’s vulnerability to climate change. Scientists fear that the region may to approaching a dangerous “tipping point” that could cause rapid, large-scale destruction during dry years, according to a new study. 

The eight-year study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the largest, longest-running experiment investigating the effects of fire on tropical forests. It is also the first to show how fire and drought could lead to significant forest die-back in the Amazon.

Large areas of tropical forest, particularly in the southeastern Amazon, are being logged and cleared for crops. Such practices thin the forest canopy, promote growth of invasive, quick-burning grasses and cause warmer air to move in from cleared lands, drying the forest floor during times of little rain, according to the study.

with 1 note
#Global Change
#Tropical Ecology
#Climate Change



Pollution From Asia Makes Pacific Storms Stronger

Brian Clark Howard

National Geographic


What happens in Asia doesn’t stay in Asia, a new study warns. Pollution from booming economies in the Far East is causing stronger storms and changing weather patterns over the Pacific Ocean, which in turn is changing weather in North America, scientists report.

"Whether the weather [in North America] will change in a good direction or bad is hard to say at this time," says Renyi Zhang, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station. Zhang is a co-author, along with several scientists from the U.S. and China, of a study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

The scientists say pollution from Asia is likely leading to strongercyclones in the midlatitudes of the Pacific, more precipitation, and a faster movement of heat from the tropics toward the North Pole. As a result of these changes, “it’s almost certain that weather in the U.S. is changing,” says Zhang.

Smaller Drops, Bigger Storms

Zhang and his colleagues used computer modeling to study the effects on the weather of aerosols, which are fine particles suspended in the air. The main natural aerosols over the Pacific are sea salt tossed up by waves and dust blown off the land.

But those natural particles are now increasingly outnumbered by human-made ones. According to Zhang, the most significant aerosols the team considered are sulfates, which are emitted primarily by coal-fired power plants. Other aerosol pollutants are released by vehicle emissions and industrial activities.

In the atmosphere, such aerosols scatter and absorb sunlight, and thus have both cooling and warming effects on climate. But they also affect the formation of clouds and precipitation—and the magnitude of that indirect effect on clouds is one of the biggest uncertainties hampering scientists’ ability to forecast climate change.

Clouds form when water vapor condenses around aerosol particles to form liquid droplets. Because pollution increases the number of particles, it leads to more water droplets—but smaller ones. Those smaller droplets in turn rise to greater heights in the atmosphere—and even form ice—before they precipitate back out.

In an earlier paper, Zhang and his colleagues used satellite data to show that the amount of “deep convective clouds,” including thunderstorms, had increased over the North Pacific between 1984 and 2005. The most likely reason, they concluded, was an increase in aerosol pollution from Asia. ”The intensified Pacific storm track likely has profound implications for climate,” they wrote.

Global Effects

In the recent study the scientists took a first stab at considering those global implications. Standard global climate models simulate the atmosphere at grid points that are too widely spaced to resolve the fine-scale processes involved in cloud formation—which is one reason clouds remain such a knotty problem for climate scientists. But the researchers found a way to embed a “cloud resolving model” into a conventional climate model.

They then used that “multiscale” model to compare the preindustrial atmosphere of 1850, when levels of aerosol pollution over the Pacific were low, with the present atmosphere.

read more from Nat Geo

In addition to causing weather pattern changes in North America, scientists are concluding that particulate matters are causing more “dirt” in the atmosphere in North America as far east as Chicago, settling down to the ground.

with 95 notes
#Queue: Finals
#Human-Environment Relations

(Source: rjzimmerman)

with 6 notes
#Queue: Finals
#Human-Environment Relations
#Environmental Advocacy

(Source: rjzimmerman)

with 3 notes
#IPCC 2014
#Fossil Fuels
#Climate Change
#Global Change