By Jenna Peneueta-Snyder
A leading cause of water quality issues is nonpoint source pollution (NPS) caused by agricultural practices and run off. Current models may not be able to adequately analyze these areas because depression-dominated basin areas are most vulnerable to NPS pollution.
SWAT Modeling of Non-Point Source Pollution in Depression-Dominated Basins under Varying Hydroclimatic Conditions was published in November 2018 in the MDPI International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The team of authors for this project includes Mohsen Tahmasebi Nasab, Kendall Grimm, Mohammad Hadi Bazrkar, and Lan Zeng as well as Dr. Xuefeng Chu, Professor from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at North Dakota State University; Dr. Jianglong Zhang, Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and Afshin Shabani from the Earth System and Science Policy department, both from the University of North Dakota.
The project set out to hopefully “improve water quantity/quality modeling and its calibration for depression-dominated basins under wet and dry hydroclimatic conditions.”
“Climate and hydrologic models can be linked to predict the future of water resources under different scenarios,” said Nasab. “In one of our recent studies, we evaluated the impacts of temperature variations on macro-scale snowmelt simulations in the Missouri River Basin. We found that even sub-daily temperature fluctuations around the freezing temperature can significantly affect the generation of snowmelt.”
“Hydrologic models are simplifications of the real-world water cycle systems and are being increasingly used to simulate different water-related processes or hydrologic processes such as snowmelt, surface runoff, and infiltration,” said Nasab. “Historically, water security or a reliable supply of water for agriculture, communities, and ecosystems has been one of the top priorities of humans.”
In order to improve SWAT water quality and quantity modeling, wet and dry years must be taken into account as well as surface depression areas. Both of these factors can cause analytical readings of these basins to be off. For this reason, topographical depressions and varying hydroclimatic conditions must be taken into account.
By Ashley Rone
Nanotechnology is an important part of biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. This type of technology relies on controlling matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. A particle is considered a nanoparticle if its dimensions are less than 100 nanometers in size which means they are not visible to the naked eye.
Nuri Oncel an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astrophysics at the University of North Dakota is studying the different uses of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has found its way into the medical field. “Functionalized nanoparticles can travel in the bloodstream and attach to cancer cells. Under near-infrared light, the malignant tumor becomes visible,” said Oncel. This specific use of nanotechnology can save lives by allowing doctors to detect cancer cells early on and therefore helping patients receive treatment faster.
Nanotechnology is prevalent in the field of energy science. Oncel explains, “Nanotechnology can be used to optimize lithium batteries and enhance the battery life.” This would allow consumers and companies to save money because they would purchase fewer batteries and other devices that contain lithium batteries.
This field of science also applies to the environment. Sunscreen and beauty products such as lotions and face creams contain nanoparticles. “Putting these nanoparticles on your body can cause them be absorbed into your skin,” said Oncel. “But when you go into the ocean they are washed off and remain in the water source.” Oncel also stated, “These nanoparticles are not naturally occurring they are synthesized so we are unsure of how they affect the environment and living organisms.”
The United States has already spent $1.4 billion on nanotechnology research this year. But Oncel believes this is a step in the right direction for science. “Research on nanotechnology can contribute advancement in many fields in science.” This funding would benefit different areas of research such as the medical, environmental, and electronics. It seems that the research on nanoscience and nanotechnology is going to be around for a long time. Recent developments in technology have enabled scientists to study properties of atoms and molecules which will allow them to fine tune properties of nanomaterials for many new applications.
By Jenna Peneueta-Snyder
North Dakota is the reported blizzard capital of the United States. With global temperatures on the rise, what does this mean for the future of potential blizzards in the Northern Great Plains?
Dr. Aaron Kennedy, CRCS co-lead and Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at UND, presented, “Identifying Northern Great Plains Blizzards in the Past, Present, and Future,” at the 99th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ on January 9, 2019. He addressed how warming climate will impact blizzard conditions in the Northern Great Plains.
“Unlike the storms out east, our storms don’t get hashtags, the weather channel doesn’t acknowledge them, but they’re just as important for us,” Kennedy began in his presentation. “There’s a good reason why we get a lot of blizzards, there’s a combination of factors that provide the perfect environment to get blowing snow.”
During his presentation, Kennedy contributes blizzards to the combination of four main factors: topography, land cover, meteorological forcing, and snowpack conditions.
“When these factors combine, we end up with not just your stereotypical blizzard, with high snowfall rates and strong winds, but we also end up with these ground blizzards,” Kennedy said during his presentation. “These are situations where the snow has fallen anywhere to several days in advance of the strong winds behind an arctic front and this picks up the snow and this makes our life hectic.”
In addition to these factors, there are various pressure systems that contribute to blizzards in the Northern Great Plains. The first and “most notable” according to Kennedy is the Colorado Lows, a low pressure system with a high level of moisture, strong winds, and reduced visibility. Similar to the Colorado Low is the Alberta Clipper, which has weaker snowfall but strong winds. There also exist hybrid systems and arctic fronts which are responsible for ground blizzards.
In order to conduct this research, Kennedy and his graduate students utilize Self-Organizing Maps (SOMs), coupled with North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) composites, and Community Earth System Model (CESM) to simulate the Earth’s climate system.
From this analysis, the first step was to create a grid of classification using the data gathered by SOMs. Kennedy and his team looked at various patterns and focused on those that presented blizzard conditions. In order to test for blizzard conditions, they used thresholds for wind speed and temperature.
The results showed a reduction of at least one blizzard every two years through the 21st century. Kennedy notes these are preliminary results, so they are a conservative estimate of what might be expected for blizzard conditions in the future. One thing is for certain, a warmer climate will reduce the amount of blowing snow.
For the recorded version of Dr. Kennedy’s presentation, please visit https://ams.confex.com/.
By: Ashley Rone
Wetlands are a crucial part of the natural environment that provide a habitat to animals and plants, improve water quality, and reduce flood potential. The loss of wetlands changes stream and river chemistry and can alter the way ecosystems function. The decrease in water leads to an increase in pollutants that are not filtered out and the water quality decreases. This reduced surface area of water leaves the land prone to flooding under heavy precipitation and snow build-up.
Research done on the loss of wetlands in North Dakota can provide valuable information about flooding potential and how to restore wetlands. One particular researcher at the University of North Dakota, Dr. Xiaodong Zhang, has focused on the Devils Lake water basin.
“North Dakota is part of pothole area in the U.S., and used to be covered with stretches of wetland,” said Dr. Zhang. “Draining wetland has certainly increased flooding potential in the region.”
He and his team of fellow scientists used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) hydrological model to identify water movement in the Devils Lake watershed area. Combined with data from the historical and Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP-5) they were able to estimate flood risks.
“Currently, 11% of the Devils Lake basin is covered by wetland. A 5% increase to 16% of wetland coverage would reduce the Devils Lake water level by approximately 0.5 m,” Zhang explained. “This is mainly because the presence of wetland reduces the peak stream flow.”
A figure taken from the research article published by Sergey Gulbin, Andrei P.Kirilenko, Gehendra Kharel, and Xiaodong Zhang called Wetland loss impact on long term flood risks in a closed watershed. Image A shows a map of the Devils Lake Basin and the Red River North basin boundaries. Image B shows the water level change of Devils Lake.
Based on these predicted flood risks, the researchers examined potential solutions that would benefit the Devils Lake area in the future. “Operating the two outlets that have been built is more effective in controlling rising water of Devils Lake than restoring wetland,” said Zhang. “On the other hand, diverting water from Devils Lake to the Sheyenne River would increase the flooding potential of the river and degrade its water quality. So, there is no perfect solution.”
This information is useful for the state of North Dakota in terms of risk management and building river diversions that help prevent flooding. The next step in flood risk research is to approach state agencies with hopes that they will take the research findings into account in their future decision making.
By Jenna Peneueta-Snyder
Hopped up on Science is a monthly STEM café organized by Dr. Aaron Kennedy, CRCS co-lead and Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at UND. Hosted by Half Brothers Brewing Company in downtown Grand Forks, the cafés meet during the academic year and feature presenters from various disciplines. This gives the community a chance to learn about a variety of topics and catch-up on the latest research being conducted in the region.
Kennedy decided to set up the STEM café due in part to the overall lack of science and educational forums in town.
“Science cafés have been around forever and there used to be some in town but overtime they went away,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s good for the public and researchers to interact and demonstrate the good that STEM provides.”
For this month’s café, the topic was “Droning on about drones: The science and policy of unmanned aircraft” presented by UND’s own Joe Vacek, lawyer and Professor of Aviation. Vacek’s research is heavily influenced and inspired by aerospace law and policy.
Drones are becoming increasingly common for both professional as well as recreational uses. High resolution image mapping, fire suppression, police tracking, and tourism were just a few of the examples Vacek laid out in his presentation.
While drones have arguably made life much more convenient, they have also been utilized for mal intent such as disrupting flights and delivering contraband.
For the past two years, Vacek’s research has focused on policy to identify these negative utilizations and stop them. He also addresses issues of privacy and a question he gets asked quite a bit: Can I shoot a drone down?
“If it’s too close–and you’ll know when it’s too close– if you’re standing in your garden and can swat at it with your garden hose, then you can shoot it down,” said Vacek. “But you might still face some consequences.”
Currently, Vacek has a patent pending on an Autonomous UAS Detection and Mitigation program which identifies foreign drones over a particular air space. This system then gathers data on the drone such as its flight path and elevation and analyzes the drone’s behavior. If the drone is intruding or acting suspicious, corrective action can then be taken.
Next month on March 20th, the STEM café will feature Dr. Nuri Oncel, from UND’s department of Physics. His topic is Nanoscience/Nanotechnology.
The Hopped up on Science STEM café meets once a month during the fall and spring semesters. For more information, and a complete list of presentations, visit their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HoppeduponScience/ .