1 month ago

Wetlands, crops can mitigate storm damage to coastal cities, study led by UAH finds

Coastal cities can be spared some wind destruction from intensifying hurricanes or tropical storm systems if they have functional wetland ecosystems and agricultural croplands in the area, according to new computer modeling research led by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

“Our study was about how changing land cover in coastal areas affects rain from tropical storms,” says Emily Foshee, co-author of the research and a research associate at UAH’s Earth System Science Center who analyzed the models. Dr. Eric Rappin from Western Kentucky University ran the numerical model experiments.

The paper was published in Scientific Reports in November. UAH teamed with Western Kentucky University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Georgia, the University of Colorado Boulder, Purdue University, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to conduct the study.

Scientists used the model with a simulation of a flooding storm over Baton Rouge as a control and then modified the type of land the storm passed over to assess the effect. They modeled three land types: healthy coastal marshland, marshland that had become saturated or turned to open water and coastal land that had been converted mostly to agricultural use.

The ground moisture and vegetative buffering of healthy marsh impede storm intensification but increase rainfall in the model.

“If you want to keep the marsh ecology intact because you don’t want to lose all the other benefits of marshland such as preventing soil erosion and the wildlife and aquatic life benefits, and if you are concerned about how to have less damage from storm winds, then you must keep the wetlands,” says Dr. Udaysankar Nair, UAH associate professor of atmospheric science and the paper’s lead author, whose research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

“When you have a landfalling hurricane, if you have wetlands there, then there is a greater chance that the storm or hurricane will weaken,” Dr. Nair says.

Scientists modeled the effects on the Baton Rouge, La., region by using NASA land surface model data and data from an actual large flooding storm. Study findings, which support preservation and restoration of healthy marshes, may be especially important in Louisiana, which loses the equivalent of a football field of land to water every hour.

Agriculture continues to convert wetland in Louisiana to crop uses, and those practices tend to dry soils. Cut off from a source of water vapor, storms in the model that passed over cropland were less intense and windy. But there’s a tradeoff. Single crop agricultural lands don’t possess the erosion control and biodiversity benefits of marshland, Dr. Nair says.

The combined effect of healthy wetlands transitioning to cropland reduced storm intensity in the model no matter what soil moisture conditions were present.

The research says that if current trends continue, a substantial portion of Louisiana wetlands will transition to open water in coming decades, likely making the studied region even more vulnerable to heavy rain events from future tropical systems.

Marsh that has become super-saturated or has turned to open water, known as a brown ocean, produces the most damaging winds in the model, while at the same time spreading out rainfall. That’s because saturated wetlands or open water continue to feed energy into a hurricane’s system.

Air spirals in toward the eye of a hurricane, and as it does it has a tendency to cool, Dr. Nair says. While the storm is over warm open ocean, over open water resulting from conversion of wetlands, or over the brown ocean of a saturated marsh, the energy from the wet and warm surface offsets the cooling effect with warm humid air and the storm can continue to grow stronger.

“What happens when a hurricane comes ashore is that the land cuts off that source of energy,” Dr. Nair says. “Different forms of land cover affect the storm. What we found out is that it’s not just the water vapor that affects storms.”

The natural vegetation in healthy marsh has more buffering friction than if it has been converted to open water or agriculture, he says.

“If all these marsh regions are instead filled with water, essentially that is like the open ocean coming right to land,” Dr. Nair says. “Then you see more wind and more spread out rain, and more damage out of the storm. The storm will continue to intensify as it comes in.”

The work points to other areas for further study.

“If we do more of these kinds of studies,” Dr. Nair says, “then we can potentially be able to say something about how the patterns of land use change and land management affect landfall in hurricanes.”

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville)

12 hours ago

Nick Saban: I still consider Jalen Hurts ‘one of our players’

MOBILE — Former University of Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback Jalen Hurts is still beloved by many in Bama nation, including head coach Nick Saban.

Saban has spoken this past year about his respect and admiration for Hurts. However, speaking to members of the media on Wednesday at the second day of Senior Bowl Week practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Saban made it clear he really feels that Hurts is still part of the Tide family.

To open his remarks, Saban said, “My only comment is we’re glad to be here. It’s always great to come back to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. It’s such a tradition, and I think this community really embraces this game.”

“It’s really good for the players to have the opportunity to showcase their talent, any player from any place but especially good to see our players be able to do it — and Jalen, who I still consider one of our players … always good to be here to support our players,” Saban continued.

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The legendary coach then answered questions for approximately four minutes.

He discussed what NFL teams will like about both Hurts and outgoing Tide junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Watch:

This came after Hurts this week has spoken highly of the University of Alabama football program, its fanbase and the state of Alabama.

Hurts will wear a two-sided helmet during Saturday’s Senior Bowl game; one side is a replica of his iconic No. 2 Bama helmet, and the other has the Oklahoma Sooners logo on it.

RELATED: Bama’s Jared Mayden glad to be reunited with ‘natural leader’ Jalen Hurts for Senior Bowl

Hurts recently said about Saban, “We always had a love for each other … our relationship will never die.”

Get tickets to Saturday’s Senior Bowl game here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Shelby County sheriff one of 18 officials appointed to Trump law enforcement commission

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego on Wednesday was named by the U.S. Department of Justice as an appointee to the newly-established Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr appointed Samaniego and 17 other law enforcement officials from across the nation to the commission, which was created through executive order by President Donald Trump in late October.

The commission will explore modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime, according to the DoJ.

“There is no more noble and important profession than law enforcement,” Barr said in a statement. “A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty.”

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“But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities,” he continued. “This is why the President instructed me to establish this critical Commission, whose members truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement. Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation.”

Read more about the commission here.

This comes after Samaniego was recently named as the winner of the 2019 Crime Stopper of the Year Award by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama.

On Monday, he was one of eight Alabama sheriffs to publicly endorse former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2020 bid to return to the Senate.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Etowah County mega-site to receive $2.7M in improvements

The Etowah County-located Little Canoe Creek mega-site is to receive $2.7-million in improvements as part of an effort to make it a more attractive location to potential industry.

The site is composed of around 1,100 acres just off of I-59 southwest of the city of Gadsden. The funding for the improvements comes from a donation by the Norfolk Southern Corporation.

According to a release sent to Yellowhammer News, the improvements “will include grading a portion of the over 1,000-acre property to create a pad-ready rail-served site sufficient to accommodate a large industry. Natural gas lines will be relocated near the edge of the property, and a new railroad crossing will be added to the industrial access road off U.S. Highway 11.”

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“The mega-site has many location advantages for industrial recruitment and this project will improve upon its assets and greatly increase our overall competitiveness,” said Marilyn Lott, economic development director for Etowah County.

Etowah County began buying the land that now composes the Little Canoe Creek site in 2008. In addition to bordering the local interstate, the site is also adjacent to U.S. Highway 11 and a Norfolk Southern mainline.

Little Canoe Creek was designated an “Alabama AdvantageSite” in 2018. Being labeled an “AdvantageSite” amounts to a guarantee from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama “that the site is ready for major industrial use.”

According to local leaders, a key factor in the improvements announced on Wednesday is the Growing Alabama Tax Credit. A credit “is equal to 100% of the donating taxpayer’s contributions to the economic development opportunity during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed and may offset up to 50% of the taxpayer’s income tax liability.”

“We truly appreciate this funding made possible by Norfolk Southern and the state,” said Jeffery Washington, president of the Etowah County Commission.

“This infrastructure improvement project at the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site perfectly illustrates how we can use the Growing Alabama Credit as a tool to facilitate growth and expand employment,” added Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

13 hours ago

Steve Marshall travels to D.C. to urge Senate to reject Trump impeachment articles

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday traveled to Washington, D.C. to file a blistering 14-page “friend of the Senate” letter urging the upper chamber to reject the two articles of impeachment filed against President Donald J. Trump.

The Senate on Tuesday began the impeachment trial of Trumps, and Marshall joined 20 of his Republican attorneys general from across the nation in signing the letter.

However, Marshall was only one of six of the attorneys general invited to the U.S. Capitol to attend a press conference Wednesday commenting on their letter and the impeachment trial.

Of the letter, Marshall remarked, “It is thorough. It is a full examination of both the facts and the law that the Senate has to apply. But despite that significant analysis, fundamentally what that letter is about is the idea of fairness — or maybe better said, the lack of fairness.”

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“As a prosecutor for 20 years, what I’ve seen is an unfair process brings about an unjust result,” Marshall advised. “And that is what the Senate now has an opportunity to stop.”

“I also find it remarkable, as somebody who has stood before juries and judges, whose brought charging instruments against defendants, to now hear the House say that they are not prepared. And that they are not ready. What that simply shows is not that they are not prepared but that they have no case,” he continued. “Our letter demonstrates the various reasons why the Senate should reject this effort, and we need to return the president back to the work of this country…”

Watch:

In a tweet referencing the letter, Marshall called the articles of impeachment passed by House Democrats against Trump “unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

The letter states, “If not expressly repudiated by the Senate, the theories animating both Articles will set a precedent that is entirely contrary to the Framers’ design and ruinous to the most important governmental structure protections contained in our Constitution: the separation of powers.”

Read the letter below:

State AG letter to Senate o… by Fox News on Scribd

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele inks three-year extension

Auburn University head football coach Gus Malzahn on Wednesday announced that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has officially agreed to a new three-year contract that will take him through the 2022 season.

In a statement, Malzahn said, “Kevin has done a fantastic job with our defense the last four years making it one of the best in the country.”

“This will provide great stability and leadership for our defense in the future. I’m appreciative of Kevin’s hard work,” he added.

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Steele has been Auburn’s defensive coordinator for the last four years. During that tenure, the Tigers’ defense has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense. Additionally, Auburn is one of only five FBS programs to hold opponents under 20 points per game in each of those seasons.

Malzahn and Steele were both spotted at Senior Bowl Week practice in Mobile on Tuesday.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn