Science and Environment

Hurricanes, oil spills, and the latest efforts to manage them.

The goal of the 2016 Paris Climate agreement is to limit global warming to less than two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. While President Trump has announced his intentions to pull out of the agreement, other nations, cities, and researchers are still working toward that goal.

This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report showing what will happen if the earth warms more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels (we’re already at about 1°C). The outlook is dire.

For this week’s coastal news roundup, WWNO’s Travis Lux spoke with one of the report’s authors, Bill Solecki, professor of Geography at Hunter College in New York.

Scores of coastal research labs around the U.S. are helping communities plan for sea level rise. But now many are starting to flood themselves, creating a dilemma: stay by the coast and endure expensive flooding, or move inland, to higher ground, but away from their subject of study.

The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium lab is located along the state's fragile coast, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans. The giant X-shaped building is at the end of a gravel road, surrounded by open water and grassy marshes.

Every summer, a dead zone forms in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an area with so little oxygen that marine life can’t survive, caused mostly by agricultural fertilizers that wash down the Mississippi River.

 

According to a new study from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), it’s much smaller this year. But, that might not necessarily be a sign of progress.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a system for classifying river and hurricane levees across the country. On Thursday, officials announced the final classifications for Southeast Louisiana. From Baton Rouge to New Orleans levee systems are considered “Moderate to High Risk.”

Though that may sound concerning, the Army Corps stresses that these classifications are not safety ratings. New Orleans District commander Colonel Mike Clancy says the levees themselves are in good shape.

The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico where the oxygen is so low that fish and shrimp can’t live.

 

Scientists say this year’s dead zone is 8,776 square miles now -- about the size of New Jersey. Over the last five years it’s averaged 5,543 square miles.

 

It’s caused largely by agricultural runoff from the Midwest, and brought downstream by the Mississippi River. That runoff is high in nitrates, from fertilizer, which causes algae to bloom. When the algae dies, it sucks oxygen out of the water.

As part of our ongoing reporting on flood recovery in Louisiana, Betsy Shepherd set out to tell the story of Guidry Brangus Ranch, a family-owned cattle farm in rural Vermilion Parish. Struggling to recover after being submerged by floodwater last August, Shannon Guidry planned to sell his farm. But just a few weeks after the interview, another tragedy struck - and this agriculture recovery story took a turn that no one could have imagined.

Exergaming Helps With Bone Density

Mar 28, 2016
Frank Barnett, WRKF

A study at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge was conducted to determine what impact, if any, “exergaming” had on weight loss – and the focus was on adolescent girls.

Exergaming, if you don’t already know, is video gaming that requires physical activity – kind of like the Nintendo Wii. However, this study used the Kinect for Xbox, which has no remote.

Coffee Science

Mar 14, 2016
Frank Barnett, WRKF

Before a company like Community Coffee purchases coffee from origin, they need to know what they’re buying. So, a pre-ship sample of the coffee is sent before (and after) purchase and that sample is taken to the “Cupping Lab.”

Much like a wine connoisseur would taste test a wine, “cupping” provides a consistent methodology of grading and evaluating a coffee’s quality; whether you’re in Brazil, Sumatra, or Baton Rouge, everyone who “cups” does it the same.


Making Faces

Feb 8, 2016
Larry Livaudais, LSU FACES Laboratory

When local authorities find a decomposed body they can’t identify, what do they do?

Well, they send it to the LSU FACES Laboratory.

“It goes through a processing stage where anthropologists try to identify the gender, the race, and the approximate age range," says Larry Livaudais, the Imaging Specialist and Facial Reconstructionist at the FACES Lab. "Then after that it comes to me and I try to put a face to it as best I can with the clay.”

Microwaving Saturn

Feb 1, 2016
http://www.playbuzz.com/tomnixon10/can-you-recognize-a-planet-by-its-picture

For most people, a microwave means a quick way to "nuke" your food.

But for LSU Math Professor Dr. Robert Lipton, a microwave means another thing: “Deep space communications – like how do you control the Mars Rover? They can use microwaves or radiowaves.”

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