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One way to help coho salmon survive NW pollution

There is an air filter for your car, a filter for your tap water, and air filters for our smoky Northwest air. Now, there could be a filter to help the region’s struggling salmon.

According to a new study from Washington State University, using simple biofilters on stormwater runoff can dramatically increase the survival rate of newly hatched coho salmon.

Jen Mcintyre.

“This study highlights how vulnerable the fish are as soon as they hatch to the toxic impacts of stormwater runoff,” said lead author and associate WSU professor Jen McIntyre. “Biofiltration appears to be very effective at preventing that acute lethal toxicity. We also found that it prevented some of the sub-lethal effects, but not all of them.”

The effects of chemical-carrying stormwater runoff from roads, and other places, into streams and rivers has recently received a lot of attention. After years of searching for the cause of so many salmon deaths, researchers discovered in 2020 that a tire stabilizer (6PPD) breaks down into a toxic substance. As tires wear down on the road, their rubber, and all the chemicals they carry, wash into local bodies of water where fish and wildlife encounter them.

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WSU Insider



‘Another tough election’

As one of two Republican members of Congress from Washington to have voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler faces one of her toughest primaries since she was first elected to represent the southwest region of the state in 2010.

The number of Republicans in the race — including a former Green Beret endorsed by Trump — and the anger that the six-term congresswoman sparked among some in her party with her impeachment vote means Herrera Beutler could face a scenario that seemed unfathomable in her previous re-election bids: not making it through the primary.

Due to the nature of the top-two primary, the vote in the 3rd Congressional District could cut in a variety of ways, including the incumbent advancing to the general election against a fellow Republican or against a Democratic challenger — in previous elections Democrats have always captured enough of the primary vote to advance to November. But Herrera Beutler could also be edged out.

It all comes down who turns out to vote and how much power the Trump endorsement holds, said Mark Stephan, an associate professor of political science at Washington State University-Vancouver.

“The 3rd District taps into that national story of, where is the Republican Party headed,” he said. “How much continued influence does President Trump have over the party?”

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KREM2 News

Lightning can start fires even when there’s heavier rainfall

The crack of lightning is sure to get your attention. When it’s not part of a deluge of rainfall, it can often start a fire, depending on where it hits.

But now, a new study led by Washington State University suggests the amount of rain that can fall during a fire-starting lightning strike is triple what was thought before.

Dmitri Kalashnikov.

“Before, forecasters had this sort of rule-of-thumb amount that’s one-tenth of an inch of rain or less, and we found that in some situations, and in some areas, there can be up to one-third of an inch of rain that will still start a fire,” said Dmitri Kalashnikov, a PhD candidate in the WSU School of the Environment and lead author of the study published in the Journal Geophysical Research Letters.

It’s important information, formulated by the study of 4,600 naturally caused fires in the western U.S. from 2015-2021. New technology allows for higher resolution results and better data, according to Kalashnikov, who said it will help experts get a better handle on dry-lightning-sparked fires.

“It will help anticipate fires when lightning is forecasted,” Kalashnikov said. “By knowing how much rain can fall or not fall and have there be a lightning risk, forecasters and fire managers can be better prepared to deal with possible fires.”

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National Science Foundation News
WSU Insider

We might have accidentally killed the only life we ever found on Mars nearly 50 years ago

NASA may have accidentally killed evidence of alien life on Mars in its first-ever experiment on the Red Planet, an expert has claimed.

The delicate forms of life that could have easily been over-watered or over-heated, according to Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a professor at the Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Technical University Berlin and adjunct professor at the School of [the Environment]  Washington State University,

The US space agency sent two Viking landers to the surface of Mars in the 1970s with the hope of finding life on another planet. An experiment found trace amounts of chlorinated organics, which was written off as contamination from Earth at the time.

Writing in BigThink, Makuch believes these organic compounds – while chlorinated – could have been misunderstood forms of life. While we now know that organic matter, such as methane, does exist on Mars – human understanding was very different 50 years ago. During the Viking landings, scientists didn’t understand the Martian environment like they do today.

Makuch explained: “Since Earth is a water planet, it seemed reasonable that adding water might coax life to show itself in the extremely dry Martian environment.

“In hindsight, it is possible that approach was too much of a good thing.”

For example, microbes living inside salt rocks in the Atacama Desert, Chile – which has been likened to the Martian environment – do not need any rain at all, just a little moisture from the atmosphere, survive.

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A surprising amount of dry lightning hits California, fueling fire risk

Lightning strikes are rare in Northern and Central California — so infrequent as to be overlooked by science.

But the subject has been of urgent interest since August 2020, when a massive complex of thunderstorms thrashed its way across the state, dropping not rain but thousands of bolts of “dry lightning”: cloud-to-ground strikes without accompanying rainfall exceeding one-tenth of an inch (2.5 millimeters). The effects were predictable, immediate and immense: wildfires, 650 in total, burning upward of 2 million acres.

Dmitri Kalashnikov.

The first in-depth look at the region’s dry lightning events was published this month, prompted by that historic event. For a sunbaked land now deep into a drought, the top-line findings are ominous: There may be more of these strikes than realized.

“Our team knew dry lightning happens in California during the summer,” said the paper’s author, Dmitri Kalashnikov of Washington State University at Vancouver. “But we didn’t know that it would be almost half (46 percent) of all lightning strikes in 34 years that were dry.”

Previous studies have shown that while Southern California sees more human-caused wildfires, lightning-caused fires are more prevalent in the northern section of the state, particularly over mountainous terrain.

There’s currently one active lightning-sparked wildfire in California: the Six Rivers Lightning Complex, about 30 miles east-northeast of Eureka. It had burned more than 27,000 acres as of Tuesday morning and is about 80 percent contained. It began the evening of Aug. 5, when thunderstorms touched off 11 blazes.

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The Washington Post
CBS News Sacramento
San Francisco Chronicle
Discover Magazine
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