Water vapor and Covid-19: The viral threat of cold, dry weather

Even before Covid-19, most people were acutely aware of the viral threat of winter. Seasonal colds seem to be more abundant during the winter while the widely broadcasted threat of flu season and subsequent chore of annual flu vaccinations are predictable components of late fall. However, I have also had my fair share of exceptional warm weather colds. I have encountered a collection of rumors as to why viral infections such as the common cold and influenza are statistically worse during the winter, but I have never really done enough research to actually believe any of them, or care, for that matter. Insert Covid-19.

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History and Science; An Essential Duet for River Conservation

Recently I was down by the Mississippi River with a friend when he remarked, “Look at that tree!” A 30 foot log was barreling downstream in the middle of the 1 mile wide river channel bouncing along the many eddies created by the rushing, brown water. I had heard about large wood rafts that historically clogged up the Red River in Louisiana and many rivers around the world. I tried to imagine what thousands of 30 foot logs floating in the river together would look like and I didn’t get very far before I googled “The Great Raft.” The old images of a massive log jam displayed on my phone were beyond anything I could have imagined.

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Salty about coastal walls

Artificial barriers are one of humans favorite thing to build. We build them to keep ‘other’ people in or out. We build them to keep animals in or out. And of course we build them to keep the natural environment out or our AC in. Usually walls are just temporary solutions to a much deeper problem which is definitely true in the case of sea level rise. Coastal communities need walls to protect against flooding. But what happens when to the impounded ecosystem when mother nature crashes through the wall anyway?

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Ecological grief: In my feelings along the Gulf Coast

Aldo Leopold stated “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” He meant that those of us with deep connections to the natural environment, whether that be a farmer, fisher, or ecologist, are more aware of declining ecological health. We notice that there are less birds. We notice all the dead turtles along the road. We notice that it hasn’t rained in weeks and all the plants are crying. The unprecedented changes stemming from climate change have gained an increasing amount of people’s attention leading to the formation of the term ecological grief. The verdict is out. Climate change is making many of us depressed.

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White water in the swamp: The success of the Bonnet Carré in controlling the Mississippi River

“Why are there rapids in the cypress swamp?”, I ask myself. It is a weird scene. White water is tumbling through the cypress forest out towards Lake Pontchartrain from the southwest, traversing a completely flat landscape. A strong current tears out under the bridge into the lake. “That would be a fun kayak,” I think. I am cruising down Interstate 10 right where it touches the edge of the lake just upriver from New Orleans. I quickly remember that the Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway. Again.

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Where the mangrove grows

A 65 meter tall mangrove. Imagine that. A tree growing in saltwater that is 20 stories tall. Considering the only mangroves I have seen look like shrubs, I couldn’t believe that some mangroves could reach such heights. But then I saw some photos on Twitter and talked with a scientist who is using new technology to estimate the enormous amount of carbon stored by these beastly coastal trees. Mind Blown.

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Scaling up: How forest hydraulic diversity may throw off global climate models

Have you ever wondered how scientists model climate? Climate models are broad scale mathematical representations of atmospheric, oceanic, and land surface processes. Organisms, specifically plants, play an important role in how water, carbon dioxide, and solar energy is used and transformed. In fact, land plants are responsible for taking out an estimated 450 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year much of which is quickly returned to the atmosphere through respiration and decay. That number gives you an idea of just how important it is to understand plant physiology in order to be able to predict future atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and thus future climate. A recent article in Nature explores how misrepresenting tree water use strategies may throw off climate models.

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Why coastal flood maps are wrong: the tale of compound hazards

Coastal flooding is expected to increase in frequency due to future sea level rise and more extreme weather, but most coastal flood hazards maps do not portray the increase risk. We dive deeper into how these maps are made and uncover why the current flood hazard maps may be misleading.

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Flooding beneath your feet

It is flood season along the Mississippi River (seen in the cover photo) and as water is piling up in backwater storage areas across the lower Mississippi Valley it is worth taking a look at how the ground absorbs water. This involves taking a closer look at a little known field called soil physics. When I say those two words most people immediately stop listening and try to turn the conversation to literally anything else, but I am here to convince you that if you care about flooding you should care about soil physics. And maybe, just maybe, respect the soil you live upon a little bit more. We will explore the basics of soil physics and how different land cover types impact flood reduction.

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