Chemistry-Newsletter-2019

I recently took a car trip to visit my mom out east and a quick trip out west to do some camping. From direct observation, much of the country is underwater and/or covered in snow! Record amounts of precipitation fell out west, where our trip turned into an unexpected winter wonderland. Driving out east, many fields as far as Ohio have standing water. Here in Vermillion, a large April storm dumped lots of rain on top of thick snow and frozen ground causing severe flooding in the region. My backyard had standing water for the first time, and 77 of 93 Nebraska counties have recently been granted federal disaster assistance, with South Dakota soon to follow if it does not dry out soon. Country roads are closed or impassible in many cases, causing hardship for farmers that are already hurting economically. I have never seen anything like it on such a large scale. I realize that people have differing viewpoints about climate change, but the fact is the average temperature for South Dakota has increased two degrees over the past 100 years (statesummaries.ncics.org/chapter/sd/) , which means the atmosphere holds more moisture. The inevitable consequence is more liquid or frozen water falling on the ground. Since 2006, I count 22 Federal Emergency Management Disasters, those related to severe winter or summer storms and flooding in South Dakota (fema.gov/disasters) , occurring almost every year (the few dry years account for the South Dakota FEMA fire emergencies—the other swing of the climate pendulum). For the previous 13 years, there were 15 FEMA storm-related emergencies, and only three emergencies in the 13 years after the initial founding of FEMA in 1979, constituting a general increasing trend. Higher homeowner’s insurance premiums, a larger crop insurance program, more county, state and federal infrastructure repair costs, and more disaster aid appear to be the unimaginative, costly solutions so far. However, I am incredibly proud to be a part of a clever, imaginative group of people called chemists! Thanks to chemists, better battery technology, new solar energy materials and better catalysts are being invented to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, including research conducted by several faculty members within this department. Often incremental, rarely flashy, but extremely important, chemistry, more than any other science, will continue to allow us to maintain a high standard of living in a sustainable fashion. Please stay dry! Andrew G. Sykes, Professor and Chair asykes@usd.edu From the Chair D epartment of C hemistry Chemistry students participated in Spooky Science Day at the Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Annual Newsletter Summer 2019 Andy Sykes

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