Paper: Virological assessment of hospitalized patients with COVID-2019 — Nature #coronavirus #COVID19

Click on the image to go to the Twitter thread. Nice explanation.

Click here to read the “Accelerated Article Preview” of the paper. From the paper:

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an acute respiratory tract infection that emerged in late 2019. Initial outbreaks in China involved 13.8% cases with severe,and with critical courses. This severe presentation corresponds to the usage of a virus receptor that is expressed predominantly in the lung. By causing an early onset of severe symptoms, this same receptor tropism is thought to have determined pathogenicity, but also aided the control, of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. However, there are reports of COVID-19 cases with mild upper respiratory tract symptoms, suggesting the potential for pre- or oligosymptomatic transmission. There is an urgent need for information on body site-specific virus replication, immunity, and infectivity. Here we provide a detailed virological analysis of nine cases, providing proof of active virus replication in upper respiratory tract tissues. Pharyngeal virus shedding was very high during the first week of symptoms (peak at 7.11 × 108 RNA copies per throat swab, day 4). Infectious virus was readily isolated from throat- and lung-derived samples, but not from stool samples, in spite of high virus RNA concentration. Blood and urine never yielded virus. Active replication in the throat was confirmed by viral replicative RNA intermediates in throat samples. Sequence-distinct virus populations were consistently detected in throat and lung samples from the same patient, proving independent replication. Shedding of viral RNA from sputum outlasted the end of symptoms. Seroconversion occurred after 7 days in 50% of patients (14 days in all), but was not followed by a rapid decline in viral load. COVID-19 can present as a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Active virus replication in the upper respiratory tract puts the prospects of COVID-19 containment in perspective.

Cranes of Blue Water: Ancient Creatures Over Historic Waters — Platte Basin Timelapse

Here’s a great story map from Kylee Warren that you can access on the Platte Basin Timelapse website. Click through to read and view the whole thing and to view the beautiful images.. Here’s an excerpt:

It was 2008, and I was on a family road trip through familiar lands. My aunt and uncle generously included me on their thirtieth wedding anniversary vacation to see the spring sandhill crane migration. I had never seen a crane before, and little did I know this journey would change my life…

But I knew this road well. I traveled Highway 92 many times while living with my grandparents during my childhood summers. At this moment, the only unfamiliarity was the group of many tall, silvery birds feeding and lingering in spent corn fields in front of the railroad tracks. The cranes also surprised my aunt and uncle. They grew up in this area but did not remember seeing so many cranes on this stretch of highway. I wanted to linger in Lewellen to get a closer look, but I heard I would see plenty of cranes on the 70 mile stretch of river between Kearney and Grand Island.

Sustainable mushroom production

From The North Forty News (Blaine Howerton):

When growing mushrooms biological diversity and sustainable agricultural practices create environments through the interdependence of natural ecosystems and recycling of by-products from farming and forest activities, species diversity and biological succession.

Fungi transform wood and other carbon material into amazing soil. In sustainable mushroom farming gourmet and medicinal mushrooms are involved as key organisms in the recycling of agricultural and forest by-products, creating an environment that produces intensive levels of productivity.

Mushrooms are a protein-rich food source and the by-products of mushroom cultivation provide nutrients for other members of the ecological community in the ecosystem. Recycling nutrients back into the ecosystem boosts the soil and makes mushroom farming very sustainable for plants, animals, insects and soil microorganisms that consume the recycled nutrients.

Fungi facilitate the transmission of nutrition from the soil to a plant’s roots and also from plant to plant. There are 10,000 known species of mushrooms but only about 100 are cultivated commercially.

The choice of deciding which mushrooms to grow is probably the hardest part of the process. When starting out in mushroom farming it is best to start with one species and expand from there.

You will have to consider what available space you have access to and also consider if you are going to grow indoors or outdoors. Indoor cultivation provides a more controlled environment, but set up costs can be quite high.

Commercial mushrooms are usually grown in sterile, climate-controlled laboratory-like settings. Growing mushrooms outside is more simple due to it’s low set up costs. Outdoor cultivation also allows for more location choices as well as more growing space.

I recommend that beginners start out with a small kit to learn the art of mushroom cultivation before investing in a commercial mushroom operation. Many kits for gourmet and medicinal mushrooms are available from a variety of online shroom suppliers.

Many mushroom species that can be incorporated into the sustainable farm or garden. The addition of mushrooms in a sustainable farm or garden will take you to another level because when fungi is incorporated into sustainable farms or gardens the ecological health of the whole ecosystem benefits immensely.

Shiitakes are the easiest to grow with the highest rate of success. They grow on fresh-cut hardwood logs that you inoculate with spores. These logs can be partially buried or lined up in fence-like rows.

Once the logs have stopped producing, the softened wood can be broken up, sterilized, and re-inoculated. Indoors, these mushrooms can be grown on sterilized substrates or on logs.

Oyster Mushrooms can be grown indoors on pasteurized corn stalks, wheat and a wide range of other materials including paper and pulp by-products. Oyster mushrooms can also be grown on hardwood stumps and logs. The waste substrate from Oyster production is useful as fodder for cows, chickens, & pigs.

The waste straw can be mulched into soils to provide structure and nutrition. Oyster mushrooms are available in several colors, including blue, white, pink and bright yellow. Under ideal conditions, fruiting can occur as quickly as three weeks.

King Stropharia mushrooms are an ideal element in the recycling of complex wood debris and garden wastes, and thrives in complex environments. Vigorously attacking wood (sawdust, chips, twigs, branches), the King Stropharia also grows in wood-free substrates, particularly soils supplemented with chopped straw.

Acclimated to northern latitudes, this mushroom fruits when air temperatures range between 60-90° F which usually translates to ground temperatures of 55-65° F. King Stropharia is an excellent edible mushroom when young, but edibility quickly declines as the mushrooms mature.

Reishi mushrooms are also an excellent choice for the sustainable mushroom farmer. Logs and stumps can be inoculated which provides opportunities for stump culture in regions where hardwoods predominate.

Shaggy Mane mushrooms grow in rich manured soils, disturbed habitats, in and around compost piles, and in grassy and gravel areas. Shaggy Manes are extremely adaptive and tend to wander. Shaggy Mane patches travel great distances from their original site of inoculation in their search for fruiting niches. Morels grow in a variety of habitats, from abandoned apple orchards and diseased elms to gravelly roads and stream beds.

The complex habitat of a compost pile also supports Morel growth. When planting cottonwood trees, you can introduce spawn around the root zones in hopes of creating a perennial Morel patch. Growers should note that Morels are fickle and elusive by nature compared to more predictable species like King Stropharia, Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms.

Mycorrhizal species can be introduced via several techniques. The age-old, proven method of satellite planting is probably the simplest. By planting young seedlings around the bases of trees naturally producing Chanterelles, Truffles or other desirable species, you may establish satellite colonies by replanting the young trees after several years of association.

Sustainable mushroom farming doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. By using spores from reliable sources and following the basic steps, shrooming can be a fun and easy way to make your farm or garden more sustainable.

#Colorado #climate webinar to discuss decarbonization, energy, #climatechange — @CUBoulderNews

Click on the graphic to go to the website for all the inside skinny.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020
5:00 – 6:30 PM
ONLINE ONLY THROUGH ZOOM

Registration Required | More Info

The Power Dialog will support College and University partners across the US, focused on the potential to solve the energy side of climate change by 2030. Here in Colorado, the Dialog gives students and community members a voice in critical decisions that will determine their future, and the future of the earth.

5:00-6:30 PM MESSAGES ON COVID19+CLIMATE
Messages from National PowerDialog and Governor Jared Polis

LIVE PANEL DISCUSSION
On A Just Transition in Colorado& Beyond

COMMUNITY FORUM
Ask Questions & Talk with Panelists

Panelists

  • Phaedra Pezzullo, Environmental Communication,CU Boulder
  • Bill Ritter, Former Governor of Colorado, Center for the New Energy Economy, CSU
  • Jorge Figueroa, Co-Founder and Director, El Laboratorio
  • Max Boykoff, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research
  • Here’s the release from the University of Colorado:

    CU Boulder will host the regional version of a national effort to “make climate a class.”

    Associate Professors Max Boykoff (Environmental Studies) and Phaedra Pezzullo (Communication) along with undergraduate student Andrew Benham (Engineering) are hosting the webinar “Power Dialog: Climate Solutions for Colorado“—mainly targeted to college and high school educators—on Tuesday, April 7. The aim is to foster discussions focused on decarbonization, energy and climate change in Colorado over the next decade.

    The event in Boulder is taking place simultaneously with similar online events in every U.S. state and also in Puerto Rico, as well as in Washington, D.C.

    Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will first offer his comments on these issues in a prerecorded message specific for the event. Then, Boykoff will moderate a panel called “A Just Transition in Colorado and Beyond.”

    Panelists include: former Gov. Bill Ritter, founder of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University and author of Powering Forward—What Everyone Should Know About America’s Energy Revolution; Phaedra Pezzullo, founding co-director of the Just Transition Collaborative and co-director of Inside the Greenhouse; and Jorge Figueroa, a Water Education Colorado board member who runs El Laboratorio to promote agricultural and food security in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

    Teachers of all disciplines are encouraged to use this webinar to “make climate a class,” and help refocus the nation and the world on the challenge that still lies beyond COVID-19: climate change. The recorded webinar, plus subject-area online resources, will be available through May.

    “The success of these efforts in Colorado over the coming decade will depend on each of us recognizing that our individual perspectives and expertise have great value when confronting a set of collective-action challenges like energy, decarbonization and climate change,” said Boykoff.

    This Colorado discussion is part of a national effort of 55 university-hosted webinars, led by Eban Goodstein from Bard College in New York, with support from David Blockstein from the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences. For more information, visit http://solveclimateby2030.org.

    “We are living through a unique moment in the history of this country where the role of states in safeguarding the wellbeing of its peoples is highlighted like never before,” Boykoff said. “We are seeing in real time the criticality of cooperation, civic-mindedness and trust across our communities and institutions. Going forward, we must continue to invest in these values for the benefit of Colorado.”

    This event is co-sponsored by the Colorado Energy Office, the Conference on World Affairs, the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, the Boulder Faculty Climate Science & Education Committee, the Media and Climate Change Observatory, and Inside the Greenhouse at CU Boulder.

    Registration is required. Those who RSVP will be emailed the log-on information just before the event to participate.

    Spring brings more fears for #MissouriRiver flooding — The Kirksville Daily Express

    2019 Nebraska flooding. Photo Credit: University of Nebraska Lincoln Crop Watch

    From The Kirksville Daily Express (Mike Genet):

    A year after flooding battered the Missouri River’s levee system, inundating towns and farmland and causing multiple closures to the nation’s interstate highway system, early forecasts warn that more of the same could be on the way: above-normal rainfall, greater than normal spring runoff. A USA TODAY Network analysis delves into records of an aging system of nearly a thousand levees where nobody knows how many were damaged last year or how many were repaired…

    The forecast is a veritable index of meteorological plagues: above-normal rainfall; greater than normal spring runoff; thoroughly saturated soils; and an aging system of nearly a thousand levees where nobody knows how many were damaged last year and in previous floods or how many were repaired.

    The 855 levee systems throughout the Missouri River basin protect at least half a million people and more than $92 billion in property. Yet a USA TODAY Network analysis of Army Corps of Engineers’ records found at least 144 levee systems haven’t been fully repaired and that only 231 show an inspection date.

    Of those, nearly half were rated “unacceptable,” which means something could prevent the levee from performing as intended or a serious deficiency was not corrected. Only 3.5% were deemed acceptable; the rest were found to be “minimally acceptable.”

    U.S. levee systems map via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Click on the map to go to the interactive website.

    Only 231 of the levee systems show any inspection date. For 38, the most recent inspection date was more than five years ago.

    In the Army Corps’ Kansas City district, for example, about 70 projects, spanning 119 levees that requested repair assistance, are eligible for funding, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be ready if the waters rise like they did last year.

    “Some of them have been repaired, but from a total system perspective, I don’t think any of them are whole,” said Jud Kneuvean, the district’s chief of emergency management, who expects full levee rehabilitation and repair to take at least another year.

    In the meantime, the extent and impacts of flooding will depend on when and where the rain falls…

    The 2,300-mile Missouri River begins in southwestern Montana, where the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson rivers converge near the community of Three Forks, before gathering water from 10 states and parts of two Canadian provinces to become the “Big Muddy,” North America’s longest river.

    In recent years, more rainfall has been pouring into the Missouri River basin, raising questions about whether climate change is bringing worsening floods more often. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dating back to 1895 shows record-setting rainfalls in the area occurring more often. Last year, for example, was the wettest on record in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

    All that water adds to the challenge faced by Corps policymakers, who juggle sometimes conflicting priorities that include maintaining navigation; managing the reservoir system to prevent flooding; providing farmers with irrigation and hydropower; protecting endangered species; and preserving recreational opportunities.

    While the priority is protecting human life and safety, the Corps’ decision-making sometimes puts special interest groups at odds, and the agency remains embroiled in controversy over whether the engineering of the river exacerbates flooding.

    Things came to a head last year when a bomb cyclone in March melted all the snow in Nebraska and Iowa at once and dumped tremendous rain, swelling not just the Missouri, but the Elkhorn, Platte, James and Big Sioux rivers.

    The Niobrara River in Nebraska breached the Spencer Dam on March 14, sending a wall of water downstream and into the Gavins Point reservoir near Yankton, South Dakota. At the peak, water flowed into the reservoir at 180,000 cubic feet per second — nine times more than the normal average for March. Meanwhile water was coursing into the rivers downstream of the dam and the effects of all that water were felt in nearly every community downstream.

    Two other big rain events occurred in May and September. When the Corps’ Kansas City district deactivated its emergency operations center in December, it had been open for 279 days, the longest period on record…

    Construction of the higher levee is in the administrative and planning stages, with actual construction activity set for fall.

    Most of the Missouri’s levees fall into one of two categories: either federally built and locally operated or locally built and operated. The Corps inspects — and helps pay to repair — only the levees maintained to federal standards that participate in the federal flood program.

    That exception means no one has a full list of damaged levees still in need of repair.

    The number of levees that aren’t regularly inspected doesn’t surprise Neal Grigg, an engineering professor at Colorado State University who chaired a Corps-appointed review panel after 2011 flooding.

    In an ideal management system, every levee “would be under the responsibility of some authority that was responsible and had enough money and good management capability to do that,” Grigg said.

    But that’s not realistic, he added, noting that the Corps has tried through a task force to get some organization to the levee systems along the river, but it’s problematic, in part, because there are so many conflicting interests.

    A host of agencies are cooperating to repair levees, but the progress is slow, said Missouri farmer Morris Heitman, who serves on the Missouri River Flood Task Force Levee Repair Working Group.

    In addition to the Corps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state of Missouri, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and a large number of local levee districts all work to repair levees.

    “We’re trying to dance with different agencies,” Heitman told the University of Missouri Extension. “All these agencies have their own requirements and parameters, and we’re trying to coordinate those to build a secure system against the river.”

    Fixes to the 144 levee systems listed in disrepair in the Corps’ Omaha and Kansas City districts are in various stages of completion, and some aren’t expected to be done for more than a year.

    In the Omaha district that includes Nebraska and Iowa, “pretty much all of the levees were damaged in one way or another,” said the corps’ Matt Krajewski.

    While almost all of the district’s levees that qualify for federal aid have been restored to pre-2019 flood heights, Krajewski said they don’t offer the same level of “risk reduction” because they need final touches such as sod cover and drainage structures to protect against erosion. The Corps hopes to complete those repairs this summer.

    In the meantime, the Corps is working to prepare its flood storage capacity by releasing more water than normal from its dams.

    “We’re being really aggressive with our releases and trying to maintain our full flood storage,” said Eileen Williamson, a Corps spokeswoman for the Northwestern region.

    But the projections for spring runoff don’t look good and may limit how much the Corps can do.

    In February, the runoff was twice the normal average, said Kevin Grode, with the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management district.

    The James River, a tributary that flows out of South Dakota, has experienced flooding since March 13 last year and that flooding is forecast to continue. Moderate flooding is expected along the Big and Little Sioux Rivers in South Dakota and Iowa, and possibly in Montana’s Milk River basin. A risk of minor to moderate flooding is forecast from Nebraska City to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi in St. Louis.

    But it’s not just the spring runoff that’s a problem, Grode said. The forecast also calls for “above average runoff for every month in 2020.”

    John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division, said during a March briefing that if those projections are realized, “the 2020 runoff will be the ninth highest runoff in 122 years of record keeping.”

    In March, a three-man team with Montana’s Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest set off on horseback for a 35-mile, five-day journey into the wild North Fork of the Sun River, a tributary of the Missouri River.

    They rode horses for the first 12 miles. When they reached a foot of snow, they switched to skis and took turns breaking trail.

    Greeted by a half inch of new snow each morning, higher and higher they skied, encountering snow depths of 19 inches, then 2 feet, 9 inches and finally, 3 feet, 3 inches.

    Karl Wetlaufer (NRCS), explaining the use of a Federal Snow Sampler, SnowEx, February 17, 2017.

    At each elevation, aluminum tubes with non-stick coating were stuck into the snow to collect core samples used to measure the depth and water content of the snowpack.

    “The numbers are used for everything from dam control along the Missouri River to regulating the locks on the barges of the Mississippi,” said Ian Bardwell, the forest’s wilderness and trails manager, who led the snow survey expedition. “It just depends on what level you are looking at it from.”

    As of Wednesday, mountain snowpack in the Missouri River basin in Montana was 112% of normal, said Lucas Zukiewicz, a water supply specialist with the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Montana.

    In 2018, Montana’s April snowpack was 150% of normal, then 7 to 9 inches of rain over six days drenched the Rocky Mountain Front, inundating communities in its shadow. The Corps was forced to release water from the Fort Peck Dam spillway, a rarity, as a result of surging flows. Had that same thing happened last year, flooding in states downstream would have been even worse.

    “With the way things are changing with our climate,” said Arin Peters, a senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls, Montana, “it’s probably a matter of time before something combines to create a big catastrophe downstream.”

    Yet for this year, there may be some good news downstream from the Montana snowpack, at the Gavins Point Dam in Yankton.

    Gavins Point is what’s known as a reregulation dam, its purpose to even the Missouri’s flow from the reservoirs upstream. Because Gavins Point wasn’t designed to hold floodwater, its gates had to be opened last year, sending a surge downstream after Nebraska and parts of South Dakota were hit with rain and the bomb cyclone.

    In November and December, Gavins Point was still releasing water at a rate of 80,000 cubic feet per second — more than five times the average flow, and something that had never happened before, said Tom Curran, the dam’s project manager.

    The good news? Releasing all that water through the winter left the mainstem dam system drained to its multipurpose zone, where it has capacity to absorb runoff while also fulfilling its other functions, including recreation and downstream barge traffic.

    Created by Imgur user Fejetlenfej , a geographer and GIS analyst with a ‘lifelong passion for beautiful maps,’ it highlights the massive expanse of river basins across the country – in particular, those which feed the Mississippi River, in pink.

    @NASA, @U_Nebraska Release New Global Groundwater Maps and U.S. Drought Forecasts

    Weekly maps of dry conditions in red and wet conditions in blue relative to the historic record are now available for the globe at three depths: surface soil moisture, root zone soil moisture, and groundwater, the latter shown in this global view. Credit: NASA / Scientific Visualization Studio

    Here’s the release from NASA:

    NASA researchers have developed new satellite-based, weekly global maps of soil moisture and groundwater wetness conditions and one to three-month U.S. forecasts of each product. While maps of current dry/wet conditions for the United States have been available since 2012, this is the first time they have been available globally.

    “The global products are important because there are so few worldwide drought maps out there,” said hydrologist and project lead Matt Rodell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Droughts are usually well known when they happen in developed nations. But when there’s a drought in central Africa, for example, it may not be noticed until it causes a humanitarian crisis. So it’s valuable to have a product like this where people can say, wow, it’s really dry there and no one’s reporting it.”

    These maps are distributed online by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) to support U.S. and global drought monitoring.

    “Being able to see a weekly snapshot of both soil moisture and groundwater is important to get a complete picture of drought,” said professor Brian Wardlow, director for the Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies at UNL, who works closely with Rodell on developing remote sensing tools for operational drought monitoring.

    Monitoring the wetness of the soil is essential for managing agricultural crops and predicting their yields, because soil moisture is the water available to plant roots. Groundwater is often the source of water for crop irrigation. It also sustains streams during dry periods and is a useful indicator of extended drought. But ground-based observations are too sparse to capture the full picture of wetness and dryness across the landscape like the combination of satellites and models can.

    [Using measurements from two satellite missions assimilated into a computer model, researchers have created global maps of terrestrial water around the planet. In addition, they can forecast water availability in the United States up to three months out. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio]

    A Global Eye on Water
    Both the global maps and the U.S. forecasts use data from NASA and German Research Center for Geosciences’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellites, a pair of spacecraft that detect the movement of water on Earth based on variations of Earth’s gravity field. GRACE-FO succeeds the highly successful GRACE satellites, which ended their mission in 2017 after 15 years of operation. With the global expansion of the product, and the addition of U.S. forecasts, the GRACE-FO data are filling in key gaps for understanding the full picture of wet and dry conditions that can lead to drought.

    The satellite-based observations of changes in water distribution are integrated with other data within a computer model that simulates the water and energy cycles. The model then produces, among other outputs, time-varying maps of the distribution of water at three depths: surface soil moisture, root zone soil moisture (roughly the top three feet of soil), and shallow groundwater. The maps have a resolution of 1/8th degree of latitude, or about 8.5 miles, providing continuous data on moisture and groundwater conditions across the landscape.

    The GRACE and GRACE-FO satellite-based maps are among the essential data sets used by the authors of the U.S. Drought Monitor, the premier weekly map of drought conditions for the United States that is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among others, to evaluate which areas may need financial assistance due to losses from drought.

    “GRACE [provided and GRACE-FO now provides] a national scope of groundwater,” said climatologist and Drought Monitor author Brian Fuchs, at the drought center. He and the other authors use multiple data sets to see where the evidence shows conditions have gotten drier or wetter. For groundwater, that used to mean going to individual states’ groundwater well data to update the weekly map. “It’s saved a lot of time having that groundwater layer along with the soil moisture layers, all in one spot,” Fuchs said. “The high-resolution data that we’re able to bring in allows us to draw those contours of dryness or wetness right to the data itself.”

    One of the goals of the new global maps is to make the same consistent product available in all parts of the world—especially in countries that do not have any groundwater-monitoring infrastructure.

    “Drought is really a key [topic]… with a lot of the projections of climate and climate change,” Wardlow said. “The emphasis is on getting more relevant, more accurate and more timely drought information, whether it be soil moisture, crop health, groundwater, streamflow—[the GRACE missions are] central to this,” he said. “These types of tools are absolutely critical to helping us address and offset some of the impacts anticipated, whether it be from population growth, climate change or just increased water consumption in general.”

    Both the Center for Advanced Land Management and the National Drought Mitigation Center are based in UNL’s School of Natural Resources, and they are working with international partners, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank, to develop and support drought monitoring using the GRACE-FO global maps and other tools in the Middle East, North Africa, South Africa, South East Asia, and India.

    U.S. Forecasts Maps for the Lower 48

    30, 60, and 90-day forecasts of dry and wet conditions relative to the historic record for the Lower 48 United States use groundwater data from the NASA/GFZ GRACE-FO satellites for the initial conditions. This comparison shows the groundwater forecast made for August 2019 compared to the output based on the satellite observations for the same month.
    Credits: NASA / Scientific Visualization Studio

    Droughts can be complex, both in timing and extent. At the surface, soil moisture changes rapidly with weather conditions. The moisture in the root zone changes a little slower but is still very responsive to weather. Lagging behind both is groundwater, since it is insulated from changes in the weather. But for longer-term outlooks on drought severity—or, conversely, flood risk in low-lying areas—groundwater is the metric to watch, said Rodell.

    “The groundwater maps are like a slowed down, smoothed version of what you see at the surface,” Rodell said. “They represent the accumulation of months or years of weather events.” That smoothing provides a more complete picture of the overall drying or wetting trend going on in an area. Having an accurate accounting of groundwater levels is essential for accurately forecasting near-future conditions.

    The new forecast product that projects dry and wet conditions 30, 60, and 90 days out for the lower 48 United States uses GRACE-FO data to help set the current conditions. Then the model runs forward in time using the Goddard Earth Observing System, Version 5 seasonal weather forecast model as input. The researchers found that including the GRACE-FO data made the resulting soil moisture and groundwater forecasts more accurate.

    Since the product has just been rolled out, the user community is only just beginning to work with the forecasts, but Wardlow sees a huge potential.

    “I think you’ll see the GRACE-FO monitoring products used in combination with the forecasts,” Wardlow said. “For example, the current U.S. product may show moderate drought conditions, and if you look at the forecast and the forecast shows next month that there’s a continued drying trend, then that may change the decision versus if it was a wet trend.”

    The U.S. forecast and global maps are freely available to users through the drought center’s data portal.

    To download the maps, visit: https://nasagrace.unl.edu/

    To learn more about GRACE and GRACE-FO, visit: https://gracefo.jpl.nasa.gov/

    GRACE-FO is a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GeoForschungsZentrum [GFZ]). Both spacecraft are being operated from the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, under a GFZ contract with the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt). The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA. The GRACE-FO mission was launched in early 2018.

    GRACE was implemented as a joint mission of NASA and the German Aerospace Center. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed the mission’s implementation and operations. The GRACE mission was decommissioned in late 2017.

    Development of the drought/wetness products was funded by NASA’s Applied Sciences–Water Resources, Terrestrial Hydrology, and GRACE-FO Science Team programs.

    Cover image: Weekly maps of dry conditions in red and wet conditions in blue relative to the historic record are now available for the globe at three depths: surface soil moisture, root zone soil moisture, and groundwater, the latter shown in this global view. Credit: NASA / Scientific Visualization Studio

    There’s too much nitrogen and phosphorus in U.S. waterways — Florida International University

    Algae. Photo credit: Florida International University

    Here’s the release from Florida International University (Chrystian Tejedor):

    Even minor amounts of human activity can increase nutrient concentrations in fresh waters that can damage the environment, according to a new study.

    These findings suggest most U.S. streams and rivers have higher levels of nitrogen and phosphorus than is recommended. Although nutrients are a natural part of aquatic ecosystems like streams and rivers, too much of either nutrient can have lasting impacts on the environment and public health.

    In Florida, toxic blue-green algal blooms have been triggered by releases of phosphorus-laden waters from Lake Okeechobee. Algal blooms produce a foul odor along waterways, decrease dissolved oxygen, threaten insect and fish communities and can even produce toxins that are harmful to mammals and humans.

    “Ecosystems are being loaded with legacy and current nitrogen and phosphorus, and their capacity to hold these nutrients in many cases is decreasing,” said FIU associate professor John Kominoski, an ecologist and co-author of the study. “Not only are they being overwhelmed by nutrients, but they also have and continue to undergo hydrological and land use alterations.”

    As human populations and demands increasingly grow, more land – including wetlands – is converted to agricultural and urban uses. This can introduce more nitrogen and phosphorus onto the land, which eventually makes its way into bodies of water. To make matters worse, soil erosion and climate change are also impacting nutrient pollution, leading to nutrient export to coastal waters, Kominoski said.

    Nitrogen is most likely to come from transportation, industry, agriculture and fertilizer application, while increased phosphorus is more commonly the result of sewage waste, amplified soil erosion and runoff from urban watersheds.

    “High concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in our waterways are concerning because they threaten both human and ecosystem health,” said David Manning, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and lead author on the paper. “Nutrients are essential for all life, but when they get too high in our waterways, they can fundamentally change the way a stream looks and operates.”

    In addition to causing algal blooms, these elevated nutrient concentrations can lead to a lack of species diversity and oxygen depletion. High nutrient concentrations can also affect the purity of the water we drink.

    Nutrient pollution is a complex problem. While there’s still a lot of work to be done to develop management tools and set thresholds for nutrient concentrations in streams and rivers, better understanding of how nutrients are transported through the interconnected network of waterways can help lead to solutions. Kominoski emphasized the importance of management solutions at local-to-global scales required to effectively manage various sources of nitrogen and phosphorus.

    “Water is a shared resource that connects communities, landscapes, and continents across the globe,” Kominoski said. “We must increase the protection and rehabilitation of ecosystems and water resources throughout the world, especially as human populations increase and climate changes.”

    The study was published in Ecological Applications.