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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

H2O, H2O, Everywhere: "Unstoppable" Glaciers and "Produced" Water

    Water, water everywhere...

                      Photo credit: M. Ruegels

     Too much, not enough, contaminated with salt and hydrocarbon extraction/fracking chemicals: water and the words associated with H2O have been spun this week, especially in two articles.
      The "unstoppable" movement of glaciers into the sea in western Antarctica was documented in a NASA press release yesterday:

      This NASA/JPL photo shows the Amundsen Sea on the western side of Antarctica:

        The principal researcher, Eric Rignot, spoke of unstoppable, inevitable, and irreversible processes associated with the glaciers noting that a sea level rise of 1.2 meters is eventually inevitable, yet unstoppable is the term being used in most of the day's publicity. Unstoppable is a more active adjective than irreversible or inevitable--it exudes movement.

          "Produced water" is another science spin term used locally by Colorado Public Radio (CPR) to describe water produced together with hydrocarbons:

            "PRODUCED WATER"

     This positively spun term denotes what's leftover after extracting hydrocarbons--water with benzene, toluene, salt, etc. which, according to the article, is responsible for tuberculosis in cattle. "Unstoppable glaciers" is a reasonable term; produced water is not. Even "connate water" is not, since, by definition, it is the water originally deposited with the rock.

       The CPR article refers to the original salt deposited with the rocks as part of the produced water or flowback and downplays the chemicals added in hydrocarbon extraction/fracking. Produced water--really?

        Just hiked past some (quite cold) springs here in the Colorado hills. Now, those are "produced," unstoppably crystal clear waters!

Turn, turn, turn, turn,
Spin, spin, spin, spin,

Looking forward to your liquid thoughts,

Word Woman (aka Scientific Steph)

P.S. More Water. . .

        Great morning with Al (Aluminum) and the kindergarteners today. We made boats from Aluminum foil and determined the best structure for piling on pennies til the boats sank. 

        They know H2O, CO2, NaCl, O2 and now Al. Big leap today as I asked them the chemical formula for ice. After a few guesses of I, they came round to H2O. 

        "Ok, how about steam?" 


          It was quite a moment ;-).




  1. SS,

    When I first heard the term “produced water,” I guessed it would be made from scratch, using the basic watery building blocks, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. I guess I should have guessed again.

    So, produced water is free of hydrocarbons, but that extrating process introduces potentially deadly benzene, toluene, salt, etc. to the “product”? Do I understand this correctly?

    If you were the CPR reporter, Steph, what would you use as a more honest, unspun term to replace “produced water,” which does sound benign?

    Your discussion about glacier and sea level vocabulary reminded me of the proverbial (adjectival?) “irresistible force meeting the immovable object.” Kind of like irresistible Cary Grant wooing immovably aloof Grace Kelly, or irresistible Angelina Jolie seducing a stoic Brad Pitt!

    “Unstoppable,” is, I agree, a real “action adjective.” It smacks of Fordham University’s “seven blocks of granite” offensive football line (which included Saint Vince Lombardi!) steamrolling down the field like some seven-helmeted juggernaut.

    In comparison, “inevitable“ is wimpy, rooted in evasion (“We can’t evade it, but if it is STOPPED, we don’t need to!”). And “irreversible” describes a not-so-versatile ski jacket.

    Beautifully breathtaking graphics, as usual.


    1. Yes, Lego, you do! I might go for "Gray Water that is still full of very harmful crap," so harmful that we are debating who is responsible for its cleanup down the line even before we agree to start spraying it on road surfaces or reintroducing it into our streams...

      I love a good action adjective ;-).

    2. Harmful crap? Invasive carp? You make the call. Talk about your “unstoppable!”

    3. Hard not to carp on that, Lego! Harp on carp...or maybe carp on harp ;-).

  2. I'd bet those marketers at Coors could come up with something a lot more enticing than "produced water" if they wanted to.

    1. Coorate water? JC Juice (for Joe Coors). Beer with me ;-)

      Missed you and several of the Blainesville crew this week.

    2. Long weekend in CA. I waved as I flew over.

    3. Thanks for your waving and unwavering support, jan.

      Speaking of maths: A Smith College diploma circle math problem (no Christine Lagarde here, though):

      The Diploma Circle in action ( 2.5 minutes):

  3. No comment.

    1. Coors marketing execs:
      “Coors Beer. Made with vintage mineral water from the heart of Mother Earth!”

      Re: “No Comment”:
      “…the free market at work in the way that God … intended.”
      “…government needs to get out of the way of glaciers.”
      “The Ice Sheet melt is only a problem if you live in Antarctica, which, honestly, is a pretty dumb place to live. Polar bears live in Antarctica because they have no choice, but we’re not polar bears.”

      So, I see the New Yorker is now reprinting The Onion.

      Paul Ryan, my guy in the Badger State. Michele Bachmann, my gal in the Gopher State. I have never been more proud!


    2. To say nothing of the fact that polar bears do NOT live in Antarctica. . .

      Lego, so sorry about MB and MN. Michele Bachmann: Must Be a better way.

  4. The oil and gas industry spilled 26 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, fracking wastewater, and other toxic substances last year in the U.S.:


  5. Great morning with Al (Aluminum) and the kids today. We made boats from Al foil and determined the best structure for piling on pennies til the boats sank. They know H2O, CO2, NaCl, O2 and now Al. Big leap today as I asked them the chemical formula for ice. After a few guesses of I, they came round to H2O. "Ok, how about steam?" H2O! It was quite a moment ;-).

    1. I tried Googling the words to the limerick that ends:

      'Cause what he thought was H20
      Was H2SO4

      and I found a whole bunch of chemistry jokes your kids might appreciate:

    2. Thanks, jan. These are great. We talked about the glass half full of liquid and half full of air on Friday. . .

      Why is there no element named A?! Surely one of the early A_ elements could have taken that honor?

      What the kids have to look forward to:

      I especially liked Picasso and CuBiSm.

  6. If you are into science quizzes:

    I find it amusing that quizzes are so in vogue these days.

  7. While I'm endeavoring to catch up on the quizzes, chemistry jokes, and such, I'd like to return to the unstoppable glacier movement for a moment.
    Well, just barely touch upon it, actually; long enough to note that what I find even more unsettling is the Thawing permafrost.
    Maybe I'm just dense, and/or too lazy to crunch the numbers, but something about 'positive feedback loop' (aka, vicious cycle) scares the beJesus out of me.

  8. Paul, the thawing semi-permafrost is quite unsettling. We ought to be concerned. The news is not at all good.

    Thanks for the link with the quite profound graphic. . .

  9. Who needs science if you have coal and oil?

  10. Oh, those chemistry nerds: