+

For the last five or six years, there's been a big mystery in climate science: What's behind the sudden rise in global ethane gas emissions?

Ethane is a hydrocarbon (a gas made of hydrogen and carbon) and is the second most common one in the atmosphere.


A simulation showing surface ozone levels over the U.S. GIF via Michigan Engineering/YouTube.

One of the main sources of ethane is the process of drilling for fossil fuels. When ethane enters the atmosphere, it can react with sunlight and other molecules to form ozone, which is a greenhouse gas.

Ethane emissions were steadily decreasing until about 2009, when they started to crawl back up again — and no one could really explain why.

Scientists had their suspicions, though: One thing that seemed to coincide with the rise in ethane emissions was a rise in shale oil and gas production in the U.S. using a process called hydraulic fracturing.

A hydraulic fracturing site in Pennsylvania. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Hydraulic fracturing (referred to as "fracking") is a controversial process wherein drills inject fluid into underground shale formations in order to fracture them and release their oil.

Fracking is already responsible for water contamination, according to a report by the EPA, and releasing toxic chemicals into the air, which can cause health problems for those living nearby.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Ethane emission is just one more thing added to the list of dangerous consequences of fracking.

A massive amount of these ethane emissions are coming from a single (huge) place called the Bakken Formation.

Stretching across parts of North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the Bakken Formation is a massive oil and gas field that contains many pockets of oil thousands of feet below the surface.

Sections of pipe waiting to be welded together in North Dakota. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

So how much ethane are we talking about?

Oil production at the Bakken Formation jumped by a factor of 350 between 2005 and 2014, and with that rise came a rise in ethane emissions.

At the Bakken Formation alone, about 250,000 tons of ethane are produced per year. Which accounts for 2% of the total ethane globally.

"Two percent might not sound like a lot," Eric Kort, assistant professor of climate and space sciences at the University of Michigan, told ScienceDaily, but the emissions in the Bakken Formation are "10 to 100 times larger than reported in inventories" and they "directly impact air quality across North America."

A worker on an oil rig in North Dakota's Bakken region. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Ethane emissions on this scale are harmful in many ways.

Besides the greenhouse-warming effect they can have on our planet, they're also a surface-level air pollutant.

In fact, they're one of the pollutants the national Air Quality Index measures when it wants to let people know that breathing outside for extended periods of time could be harmful.

Rural North Dakota, which sits atop the Bakken formation. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Ethane also forms ozone on the surface. Ozone up in the stratosphere is good because it protects us from the sun's ultraviolet rays. But when it forms on the surface and is breathed in by people, it can cause lung damage, worsen asthma and emphysema, and even damage ecosystems.

The fact that one region in the U.S. is poisoning the air on a massive scale should amaze you just as much as it scares you.

"These findings not only solve an atmospheric mystery — where that extra ethane was coming from — they also help us understand how regional activities sometimes have global impacts," said Colm Sweeney, a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

We're all living in the same climate.

Actions on a regional level don't just affect us here in America or those living near the Bakken Formation, they affect the air people breathe the world over. If one area in the United States can suddenly start creating 2% of global air pollution, imagine what else increases in oil production can be capable of.

A kid living in the Bakken region. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

On the other hand, if we can do that much damage in such a short amount of time, surely we can move quickly to do some good too.

Sure, putting an efficient lightbulb in your kitchen isn't going to save the world, but as we've seen, actions large and small, especially on a regional level, can have big impacts.

If we as individuals decide to start being energy efficient quickly and on a massive scale, the way oil companies decided to drill the Bakken Formation quickly on a massive scale, maybe companies would follow suit, and then, who knows what positive effects we'd see?

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less