The United States has been hit hard by extreme weather events in recent months, including major storms and hurricanes, blistering heat and scorching wildfires. Now, as a drought is affecting the 40 million people who rely on the Colorado River system, IU Professor Travis O’Brien is embarking on a project to better predict the future of water availability in the west. As part of the Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory, or SAIL, O’Brien and colleagues will study the Upper Colorado River Basin for roughly the next two years. It is the world’s first bedrock-to-atmosphere observation system, and researchers will collect a massive amount of data to help more accurately model water availability. O’Brien says it is important to study the Upper Colorado River because it’s a key provider of hydroelectric power and fuels more than $1 trillion in economic activity. However, the ongoing drought has led to mandatory water consumption cuts for both individuals and the agriculture industry. O’Brien says one of the project’s goals is to understand how global warming affects water sources. The team hopes to better predict the timing and availability of water resources, specifically mountain watersheds, which supply 60 to 90 percent of water resources worldwide. The SAIL project will focus on the physical processes and land-atmosphere interactions affecting how Rocky Mountain watersheds deliver water. O’Brien aims to find out what drives extreme monsoon rainfall events in the region and how atmospheric and climate models need to be improved to better simulate precipitation in the mountainous West. O’Brien says understanding the impact of climate change on monsoons is important because they can affect reservoir water levels. And the availability of water and control reservoirs, he says, can also have a consequential effect on downstream rivers and ecology.
In other news, according to the CDC, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes. IU endocrinologist Dr. Zeb Saeed says for most people, diabetes is a lifelong companion. She says it is important for people to make room for diabetes in their lives and learn to manage their condition. One way is by monitoring all carbohydrates. Our bodies break down carbs into simple sugars, called glucose. People with diabetes, Saeed says, need to pay attention to the total grams of carbs in their food, not just the sugar content. She says natural sugars also count. While it’s good for people to trade cookies for fruits, she says, that doesn’t mean loads of fruit should be consumed – moderation is key. She says people with diabetes can also refer to the glycemic index, a measurement tool that gives a better idea of which foods, including fruits and vegetables, are best for diabetes management, and how likely a food is to boost your blood sugar. Saeed says foods like berries are lower on the index scale and lower in natural sugars than bananas, raisins or grapes. While glycemic index ratings don’t appear on most packaged foods in the United States, calculators are available online. People with diabetes should also make sure to take their medicine correctly, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Saeed says people should not get discouraged if it takes some time for diabetes medications to begin working, and that they should not expect to see major results within the first couple of days or weeks, something that also applies to healthy lifestyle changes. It may take months, she says, but people should start feeling better.