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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'm being followed by a rain shadow...

I was born and raised in the valley of Wyoming in northeastern Pennsylvania. In addition to my parents, family members, coaches and other role models, I had some great teachers along the way @ Loveland Ave, Main Street, Wyoming Valley West, GAR Memorial, and Wilkes College.

In the order I remember them: Mrs. Jones, Ms. Rowlands, Ms. Bryant, Mr. Dombeck, Mr. Sobocinsky, Mr. Black, Mr. Mascioli, Mrs. Mengeringhausen, Mr. Rushton, Mr. Sparks, Mr. Mattei, Drs. Berryman, El-Ashry, Bellas, Cline, Kemrer and Redmond.

I especially remember Dr. Berryman, a meteorologist and Environmental Science department chair @ Wilkes. During my time there, he was working on a project to prove the existence of a "rain shadow" in the Wyoming Valley, which was ( simply put ) created by wind hitting the mountain ridges, being forced up, and causing "bands" of rain to fall in a somewhat predicable pattern, e.g. some areas would get drenched while others would get little or no rain depending on the direction of the prevailing winds, wind speed, temperatures, etc.  Anyone living in the Wyoming Valley who has bothered to look up during an extended storm event over the years would have noticed long horizontal bands of darker clouds separated by much lighter skies.

As there was no internet or online database available in ~1975, I had to hop on a bus and take a trip to ( I believe ) the National Weather Service office in Philadelphia to gather historical precipitation data as part of his research. What I do specifically recall is that the meteorologists at the local ( WB/SCR ) airport basically told Dr. Berryman that the rain shadow effect did not exist and that he  - pretty much - didn't know what he was talking about. Having worked with Dr. Berryman for several years, and taken many of his meteorology and climatology classes, I knew otherwise. 

So, imagine my "surprise" many years later when I tripped across the following journal published by the American Meteorological Society. Seems the Dr. Berryman was dead spot on…it just took some other "experts" 20+ years to figure it out.

Fast forward to the present day, folks. We have hordes of "experts" on both sides of the horizontal hydrofracturing debate. Those supporting ( and probably funded by ) the natural gas industry say everything is fine, we know what we're doing, nothing we do underground has or will negatively impact freshwater aquifers, we've been doing this for 60+ years...yada - yada - yada. And those on the other side say we need to slow down and make sure we're doing this right or, in some cases, are calling for an outright moratorium. I'll side with the latter group.

Anyway…who is right? Having had some great science teachers in my life, and having done a great deal of reading and research in the 3+ decades after leaving Wilkes, I believe - with almost no doubt whatsoever - that due to the highly fractured and folded subsurface geology of northeastern PA - we will be dealing with the migration of fracking fluids upward into our drinking water supply within the next decade or so…if not sooner. The more wells they are allowed to drill and frack, the greater the probability it will happen in my lifetime.

And the NG folks and their allies - provided they haven't moved on to rape another part of the country - will do what they do best when it becomes undeniably evident what is causing the contamination: deflect, distract, discredit & deny. Or blame faulty geology.

Hey...there's a spin they haven't used yet: It's the rock's fault!
Water under pressure follows the path of least resistance, and that toxic brew - my friends - is slowly headed in our direction.

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