NASA photo

A NASA satellite being used to track flooding following Hurricane Florence shows polluted runoff from the storm's eight trillion gallons of rain -- yes, eight trillion -- flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The gloppy brown and black floodwaters are full of all sorts of wonderful environmentally terrible muck, and if it's any comfort, only some of it is pigshit and coal ash. No word on whether Donald Trump has seen the images and wondered if there are any neat boats in the mess.


The image above, taken September 19, shows all sorts of nastiness flowing out of three waterways south of Cape Lookout, North Carolina, as reported by the Raeigh News & Observer:

The color of the water in the image "reveals how soils, sediments, decaying leaves, pollution, and other debris have discolored the water in the swollen rivers, bays, estuaries, and the nearshore ocean," according to NASA.

That soil, decaying plant matter, pollution and other debris is also referred to as "colored dissolved organic matter" or CDOM, according to NASA.

The discoloration is the result of natural "pigments and chemicals (such as tannins)" in the decaying organic matter, like leaves, bark, and roots. When all that dissolves, you get not just a lot of icky colors, but serious environmental consequences. Streams and rivers in the Carolinas are normally various shades of not-crystal-clear, due to all the vegetation in the region.

But when more of that organic matter washes into waterways because of major flood events, it can become a pollutant, leading to reduced water quality and potentially harming wildlife by changing the pH of the water or its oxygen levels.

This discoloration of Carolina waters from various pollutants has been seen in the wake of previous storms, and can lead to mass fish kills and other environmental effects, North Carolina scientists say.

NASA also released a second September 19 image combining visible and infrared data to show all that colored dissolved organic matter that hit the fan when it spilled into the ocean.

That brown cloud isn't just unpleasant to look at, it's bad news for the ocean ecosystem, since all that crap from the former landscape -- including huge amounts of runoff from agribusiness -- ends up altering the chemistry of huge areas offshore:

UNC scientist Hans Paerl, N.C. State University scientist Christopher Osburn and their team are studying the flow of the water, largely discolored by organic matter such as leaves, straw, manure, wood, food-processing waste and other pollutants into North Carolina waterways following hurricanes.

The scientists are using the Neuse River as their area of study, analyzing "the flow of nutrients into the Neuse estuary and the sound, since excessive organic matter can pollute waters and damage ecosystems by killing off fish and other organisms," The News & Observer previously reported.

When a major storm concentrates all that crap in a massive outflow, it results in in "dead zones" that can have long-lasting effects, Paerl said:

In the discharges after hurricanes Floyd and Matthew, these dead zones grew large enough to affect shellfish and finfish habitats for miles [...] Fish kills lasted for months.

And yes, in case you were wondering, Hurricane Florence's rainfall totals were far greater than those resulting from Matthew and Floyd. And thanks to all the climate change that Republicans insist isn't happening, we can expect future hurricanes to continue growing in intensity, meaning more gunk washed into oceans and greater environmental disasters in the aftermath. And of course, the local disruptions from storms are just piling on to the overall effects of climate change on oceans and marine life.

Fortunately, we may not have to think about it too much, because when Republicans took over the Senate in 2014, they promptly set to work telling NASA to stop wasting so much money on Earth science and monitoring climate change. That agenda has only accelerated under Donald Trump. So while we'll still hear about natural disasters -- hurricanes are rather difficult to disguise -- the scientists won't be allowed to place the bigger, more damaging storms in any sort of global context. At least, not while Republicans are running things.

Really makes you wonder why the world is laughing at us, doesn't it?

[Raleigh News and Observer / Weather.com / Union of Concerned Scientists / National Climate Assessment]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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