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Prepare for more downpours: Heavy rain has increased across most of the United States, and is likely to increase further

                      Precipitation Map

Warming conditions mean more evaporation, which leads to more water vapor in the air. When rain-triggering conditions are favorable, more saturated air leads to heavier precipitation. This has been the story across most of the United States in the past century. Extreme precipitation events have grown more frequent since the start of the twentieth century, and such events are likely to become even more frequent over the twenty-first.

Adapted from Figure 2.6 in the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), these maps show observed and predicted changes in heavy precipitation events—those bouts of heavy rain or snow ranking among the top 1 percent (99th percentile) of daily events. All four maps use the same color scale. Percentage changes below 0 (decreases) are pale yellow, and increases appear in shades of pale green (smallest) to navy blue (greatest).

The maps of observed changes cover two time periods, 1901–2016 and 1958–2016, and display uniform percentage changes by region: Northwest, Southwest, Northern Great Plains, Southern Great Plains, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast. Because the latter half of the twentieth century had denser weather station coverage, different methods have been used to calculate changes. The change from 1901–2016 reflects the difference between 1901–1960 and 1986–2016. The change from 1958–2016 shows the linear trend over that period. (The high-resolution image for 1958–2016 also shows observed changes in Alaska and Hawaii.)

Read more on RNRF's blog, the Renewable Resources Report, by clicking here.

Atmospheric Microplastic Found Everywhere (Including the Pyrenees)


The presence of microplastic in oceans has become a growing problem over the past decade. Microplastics, defined as plastic particles less than 5 mm in size, have typically been studied in the context of urban environments, yet it is apparent that microplastics have permeated the world’s most remote waterways.

In late 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its Arctic Report Card in which it noted that microplastics had been found in the most isolated parts of the Arctic Ocean. Moreover, microplastic concentrations in the Arctic were found to be higher than any other ocean basin. Additionally, earlier this year, studies conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences confirmed the presence of microplastics in the deepest parts of the Mariana Trench, over 30,000 feet below the surface. Microplastics have also been found in remote parts of the South Indian Ocean, and on Henderson Island, an uninhabited island lying more than 5,000 km off the coast of South America.

These cases have illustrated the ability of plastics to infiltrate the most remote parts of the world. Moreover, while media coverage has largely focused on the presence of microplastics in oceans, it is becoming evident that microplastics also have the ability to spread to isolated areas via atmospheric transport.

A recent article from Nature Geoscience details the discovery of considerable microplastic deposition in the French Pyrenees.1 While there have previously been findings of atmospheric microplastic in French urban areas, this report is one of the first to document their presence in an uninhabited land area...

Read more on RNRF's blog, the Renewable Resources Report, by clicking here.

Harvard University's Environmental Policy Initiative is tracking the Trump Administration's environmental rollbacks.  Click here to learn more.


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RNRF 2019 Award Announcements

RNRF congratulates the winners of its annual awards in Sustained Achievement, Outstanding Achievement, and Excellence in Journalism. The awards will be presented at the annual meeting of the RNRF Board of Directors in Potomac, Maryland on November 12, 2019.

Sustained Achievement

DKarlenouglas Karlen is the recipient of RNRF’s 2019 Sustained Achievement Award. The award recognizes a long-term contribution and commitment to the conservation and protection of natural resources by an individual.

Karlen retired in March from his position as a Research Soil Scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Over the course of his 40+ year career, he has advanced the protection of soil as a critical natural resource by mentoring soil scientists and agronomists and developing, and promoting scientifically sound agricultural management practices to protect and conserve soil and water resources.

He is internationally recognized for soil health/quality assessment and bioenergy feedstock harvest strategies for sustainable food, feed, fiber and fuel production. He has nearly 400 refereed journal, book chapter, and proceedings publications with 36 in peer-reviewed journals.

He has numerous accomplishments and contributions. These include service on the National Academy of Sciences Alternative Liquid Transportation Fuels panel, advising for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) report, and serving as a contributing author for the International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) “Responses to Soil Degradation” report.

He holds a B.S. in soil science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a M.S. in soil science from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in agronomy from Kansas State University.

Outstanding Achievement

USACE logoEWN logo

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering with Nature (EWN) program is the recipient of RNRF’s 2019 Outstanding Achievement Award. This award recognizes a project, publication, piece of legislation, or similar concrete accomplishment in the natural resources field.

Since 2010, the EWN initiative has contributed to the understanding and implementation of approaches to integrate natural resources systems with conventional infrastructure to deliver more sustainable and resilient solutions. In January 2019, the EWN initiative reached a significant milestone with the release of Engineering with Nature: An Atlas, which showcases 56 projects from around the world illustrating the principles and practices of engineering with nature.

The USACE began its EWN program with the expressed purpose of promoting, “the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through collaborative processes.” The EWN program includes communication, research and development, and demonstration activities organized to promote four key elements in infrastructure project development and execution:

• Using science and engineering to produce operational efficiencies;
• Applying natural systems and processes to maximum benefit;
• Broadening and extending the benefits provided by projects to include economic,
environmental and social benefits; and
• Employing science‐based collaborative processes to engage, organize and focus interests,
stakeholders and partners.

Raising public awareness and adoption of the principles and practices of engineering with nature has been a core feature of EWN from the start. Just within the past year, in addition to releasing the Atlas, the EWN team has conducted more than 10 workshops, short courses, presentations, and other meetings to promote engineering with nature, including a briefing on Capitol Hill and an 8‐hr. short course during ASCE's International Conference on Coastal Engineering in July 2018.

More information about the program can be found here:

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