Thursday, August 11, 2016

Climate Change Is Turning the Water Around Us into a Threat

Algal blooms, like these on Ferril Lake in Denver, are a nightmare for the environment and could be exacerbated by climate change. (Credit: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
We grasp the connection now between our changing climate and the quantity of water around us.  Scientists say that climate change means both more frequent and severe droughts and a heightened risk of flooding.

What about the quality of our water?  Crises as disparate as Florida’s “guacamole-thick” algal blooms and the record number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease are linked to the effects of climate change on water safety ― or so a paper published last month in the journal Nature argues.

And problems like these appear to be getting worse.

But the extent to which climate change is working with other factors to muddy the water isn’t clear, said Anna Michalak, a faculty member in global ecology at the Carnegie Institute of Science and author of the paper.

“We tend to think of water quality issues as local phenomena controlled by what people are doing at a relatively local-to-regional scale,” Michalak told The Huffington Post.

The reality, she said, is that water quality depends on the interaction between human behaviors and “things that have to do with weather and meteorology — and they themselves are changing as a result of the climate.”

For instance, when changing climate and weather patterns combine with the excessive use of fertilizer on farmland — which contributes to nitrogen runoff into waterways — the results can be extreme.  In the Gulf of Mexico, the toxic algal blooms have created a Connecticut-sized dead zone wreaking havoc on both the ecosystem and the local economy.

And algal blooms are just one example of this costly relationship.  Here are some others:

Read more at Climate Change Is Turning the Water Around Us into a Threat

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