Chemistry For Your Life

This week, Melissa, Jam, and very special guest Renee Collini (Melissa's sister and climate scientist) delve into the important topic of sea-level rise. What causes it to rise? What affect will it have on the world? How should we feel about it? Is there anything us regular folk can do?

Show Notes

#025 Rebroadcast

This week, Melissa, Jam, and very special guest Renee Collini (Melissa's sister and climate scientist) delve into the important topic of sea-level rise. What causes it to rise? What affect will it have on the world? How should we feel about it? Is there anything us regular folk can do?

References from this episode

  1. Thermal Expansion Model - Jet Propulsion Lab - California Institute of Technology
  2. Climate Science Leader Expands Extension Role - Susan Collins-Smith, Red Hills News Mississippi
  3. Chemistry, Edition 2 - Theopold, Langley, Flowers, and Robinson
  4. Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States - Sweet, Kopp, Weaver, Obeysekera, Horton, Thielar, Zervas
  5. Special thanks to Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant, the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative, and Mississippi State University

There have been some updates since the other Dr. Collini first visited us:

  1. New Application Guide on How to Apply Sea Level Rise Science: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/sealevelrise/sealevelrise-tech-report-sections.html#application-guide
  2. Videos to learn more about sea-level rise science and how to take action: bit.ly/Future-Flooding  

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What is Chemistry For Your Life?

A podcast that helps you understand the fascinating chemistry hidden in your everyday life.

Have you ever wondered why onions make you cry? Or how soap gets your hands clean? What really is margarine, or why do trees change colors in the fall? Melissa is a chemist, and to answer these questions she started a podcast, called Chemistry for your life!

In each episode Melissa explains the chemistry behind one of life’s mysteries to Jam, who is definitely not a chemist, but she explains it in a way that is easy to understand, and totally fascinating.

If you’re someone who loves learning new things, or who wonders about the way the world works, then give us a listen.

Melissa:

Hi, y'all. So, normally, this week's episode would have been a bonus q and r if you're following along with our schedule, but Jam and I are both preparing for some major life events. I'll be visiting Canada for most of the month of August, and he is preparing for a brand new baby.

Jam:

That's right. So that makes things a little crazy. So instead of doing a bonus episode, we are bringing you another rebroadcast, but it's a super cool one.

Melissa:

It's a super cool one, and it fits really well in with our weather, climate, natural disasters series that we're in. And it will be the other and on to the other doctor Calini sharing about some of her work and also why the sea level rises.

Jam:

So check it out. And then next week, we'll be back with a brand new episode that we are recording well in advance.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

And so we're gonna keep coming with the every other week new episode thing. So that won't change. Don't worry about that.

Melissa:

Won't change. And we're just mixing up the order of the q and r's. It's hard to rerecord those as far in advance because you can't ask questions about episodes you haven't listened to yet. So we're maybe gonna do some slightly really different ones or changed the rebroadcast, but there will always be a new episode every other week.

Jam:

Can always be something in the weeks in between.

Melissa:

Something good and fun, and it usually relates to what else is going on in the episodes of the week before and after.

Jam:

So enjoy, and thanks for listening.

Renee:

Here. Hey.

Melissa:

I'm Melissa.

Jam:

And I'm Jam.

Melissa:

And I'm a chemist.

Jam:

And I'm not.

Melissa:

And welcome to chemistry for your life.

Jam:

The podcast helps you understand the chemistry of your everyday life.

Melissa:

Jam, I'm so excited for today.

Jam:

Why's that?

Melissa:

Well, you know why because we have a very special guest today.

Jam:

Yes. We do. And it's our 1st time ever having a guest too, which is, like, Double excitement.

Melissa:

Double triple excitement because it's my sister.

Jam:

Woah. I

Melissa:

know. You're so surprised. Well, she is a scientist.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So I guess so. So we're gonna go in a little bit different order today.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

I'm going to explain some chemistry stuff.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

If you're interested, I'm gonna explain to you how thermometers work.

Jam:

I'm very interested

Melissa:

in that. Good. That's important to the premise of the show.

Jam:

And you're talking, like like, physical like, analog thermometers?

Melissa:

Thermometers with liquid in them. Okay. Got it.

Jam:

I don't

Melissa:

know how digital thermometers work.

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

Computers? Outside my realm. So here. I'm going to explain how thermometers work.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

And then I'm going to pass the baton along Uh-huh. To Renee.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

She's gonna explain some about her work and how that relates to the thermometer stuff, and then you'll be able to explain it all back to us. You'll be an an expert on your own.

Jam:

Woah. Okay. I'm ready. So I sought to learn stuff. It's from 2 different people.

Jam:

2 different people. Job is the same. Okay.

Melissa:

Got it. And we'll talk more about her and all that she does when we get to that part. But she is coming to talk to us about, essentially, how thermometers are related to the sea.

Jam:

Excellent. I'm excited. Here. I'm excited for that and for the topic and for just having a guest in general would be awesome.

Melissa:

Me too. So let's get right in.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

Atoms and molecules. How thermometers work. You ready?

Jam:

I'm ready.

Melissa:

Atoms and molecules are always in motion. I imagine them like little children, not during nap time.

Jam:

Okay. So, like, any other time?

Melissa:

Any other time. Uh-huh. When they're not asleep, they're, like, bouncing around. They're moving they're moving their arms and legs, and they're moving around the house, and they're doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Yeah.

Melissa:

Especially think about, like, an 18 month old.

Jam:

Uh-huh.

Melissa:

That is a lot like how atoms and molecules work. Okay. Molecules have rotational motion. They're they're spinning. Here.

Melissa:

They have vibrational motion. They're they're vibrating. Uh-huh. They're stretching out and coming back together. They have all those different kinds of motion.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

And they're moving around in the air moving back and forth around. So it's just like how a kid is wiggly and is running around.

Jam:

Yes. They themselves are moving relative to themselves, and then also, They're moving to the observer. They're

Melissa:

Exactly.

Jam:

They're moving around, running around the couch, jumping on stuff.

Melissa:

Yes. That, to me, that is the perfect explanation of a molecule. And, actually, there's a professor at the University of Miami in Ohio who makes her students imagine what it's like to be a molecule. Uh-huh. So they're, like, running around the classroom, swapping their arms, doing all kinds of crazy stuff, so I think that's fun.

Jam:

That's so funny too, because this it'd be natural for us if you asked, like, 5 year old to do it, then you're asking these, like, college students to do it. And it's like basically, you could you could think I'll be a molecule, or I'll be a 5 year old.

Melissa:

It's like,

Jam:

go back to our roots, and then we know what it's like to be a molecule.

Melissa:

And it really helps in getting the mental picture of what a molecule the actual model of a molecule in your mind if you have to put yourself in its shoes.

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

Sort of like how I wanna shrink down and see how electrons work.

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

So the thing about that motion is if there's more energy put into the molecule Uh-huh. Just like with a child, there's more motion.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

And if there's less energy put into it, there's less motion.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

That corresponds to heat and cool.

Jam:

Heat, more energy Mhmm. Cool, less energy.

Melissa:

Yes.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So if you're heating something up, those individual molecules are moving more.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

And because of that, they need and will create more space that they're moving around and filling up. Mhmm. Just like, if a little kid is sick and tired, they're not taking up so much space.

Jam:

Mhmm.

Melissa:

And if they're fully healthy and fully energetic, here. They basically take over the whole house. Mhmm. Yesterday, I was with my nephew who's maybe 18 months, and he really and truly was everywhere all the time. Uh-huh.

Melissa:

The kitchen, the living room, the bedrooms, nothing was off limits unless the doors were physically closed. Just like molecules. And because of that, most substances, as they heat up, will expand.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

Your And most substances as they cool will contract.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

There are a few exceptions that have to do with through the formations of solids and stuff, intermolecular forces. We don't have to get into those today. But that is a good general rule. Mhmm. Mhmm.

Melissa:

So now how do you think that relates to thermometers?

Jam:

Okay. I'm not sure what is in thermometers. I think old ones had mercury. That's what I always heard.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Jam:

Because they would be, like, Yeah. Phone thermometer breaks or whatever.

Melissa:

Yeah. I broke a mercury thermometer on 2 occasions in the lab, and it was very stressful.

Jam:

Yeah. That doesn't sound Fun. So my guess would be that whatever is in the thermometer does that. It expands Mhmm. When it gets hot, Condenses more when it's cold.

Jam:

Mhmm. But it'd have to be either, like, the perfect amount in there so that it'd do it corresponding to actual degrees Right.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

Or, I guess, be the right kind of substance. I don't know.

Melissa:

Right. Got it.

Jam:

Do that.

Melissa:

You got it. So most thermometers that we use in the lab that have liquid Mhmm. Now they use alcohol, and they work by knowing roughly how much Alcohol expand for different temperatures, and so they build the little tube inside there and put the gradiations on there Mhmm. Corresponding to what the alcohol will move to when it heats or cools.

Jam:

Interesting.

Melissa:

And that's it.

Jam:

Alcohol. I like not that I would know what Other substance to use, but, like like, all I've ever heard is mercury. Mhmm. And then the ones that are look just like water or, like, that are rad

Melissa:

or whatever. Ones. Right?

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

They just diet.

Jam:

Here. Interesting. Yeah. Weird.

Melissa:

So that's it. That's how thermometers work. It's that simple.

Jam:

That simple, but it probably took forever to figure out. Like, at least a lot of smart people to get it to be right. Because, like, I could put some alcohol on a

Melissa:

tube, and

Jam:

we'd have no idea what temperature it is still.

Melissa:

That's exactly right. Yeah. That's probably true.

Jam:

And we're like, yeah, it must must be really full outside.

Melissa:

And you get it and you

Jam:

get it really expanded. It's like, wow. It's really full outside.

Melissa:

Yeah. There probably is. If you heat a closed container, eventually, it will explode. So there has to be some level of

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

There's a vacuum in there or whatever, so it can expand and contract without exploding or Right. Whatever. But Yeah. That's the basics. In that concept, we don't have a name for that really in chemistry.

Melissa:

Here. But when I hand it over to Renee, that concept is referred to as thermal expansion.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

When you're heating, things expand. We don't really use that term in chemistry. I've I'd never really heard it. Mhmm. We more just talk about kinetic energy and the motion of the molecules and heat and cool, and that that's kind of it.

Melissa:

Uh-huh. But there is a name for that in her field, thermal expansion.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So that's it. You know everything about thermometers. Woah. You could make one yourself. Probably not.

Jam:

Yeah. Probably not. I don't

Melissa:

know if

Jam:

my wife will let me handle any, like, dangerous chemical like alcohol or anything. So

Melissa:

Okay. So that's it for me. That's it for my part today.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

You've learned all the chemistry you need to know.

Jam:

That was kind of a a nice, like, make me feel good. Like, it wasn't crazy complicated. It didn't take you very long to explain to me.

Melissa:

Confidence builder.

Jam:

Yeah. So, hopefully, now I've I have the confidence necessary to go into this your Other topic.

Melissa:

New situation. Yeah. Yeah. So we're gonna have Renee. She is extension faculty at Mississippi State.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

I didn't know what extension meant for a long time. I just joked that I have no idea what she does. But a good way to describe it is just She takes science that's already available Mhmm. And makes it to where people can make decisions with it. So so that would be government, residents, can make decisions with it that are informed by science.

Melissa:

Okay. So sort of makes it usable for people.

Jam:

Got it.

Melissa:

And she works in conjunction with Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant on this a crazy thing that has a terrible name. It's awful, and she knows it's awful, called Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative. Yikes. So it's a mouthful. It's awful.

Melissa:

Even the acronym is awful. I

Jam:

Are there any vowels in there? I I was, like, trying to

Melissa:

Well,

Renee:

they do

Melissa:

o, I think, for Gulf of Mexico. It's, like, in in what is it? N g o m. That's terrible. Yeah.

Melissa:

So I'll let you talk to her about that and ask her some questions.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

But that works in the same field of extension, specifically about sea level rise science into decision making on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So that's like, twice the volume of work I do at least. Yeah. Even counting everything we do for the podcast Yeah. And all my volunteer work. She's, like, amazing.

Melissa:

So that's a little bit about her.

Jam:

Awesome.

Melissa:

And now I'm going to pass the reins over to let her teach you

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

About sea level rise.

Jam:

Awesome. Hey, Renee. What's up?

Renee:

Not a lot. I'm very, very excited to be here. Yay.

Jam:

Thanks for coming.

Renee:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Jam:

So was that an accurate description? Did Melissa do a good job of explaining what you do?

Renee:

It's pretty close. Yep. I, like Like Melissa said, help make the science

Melissa:

usable.

Renee:

Uh-huh. But a lot of times, it's actually physically being in the room and helping people use it. Okay. It's here Even if you make science really accessible and understandable

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

Even when you hand it off to somebody, it's still intimidating. So a lot of times, we're in the room Yeah. Helping them use it.

Jam:

Got it. Taking data that's just data that maybe the person who has to make a decision about doesn't understand the data on its own?

Renee:

Like So, like, For example, with sea level rise, there's a lot of maps, like, showing where water will go. Uh-huh. And even though we have maps showing where the water will go, there's still a lot that people aren't sure about it. Yeah. And so being able to help answer questions and make them feel comfortable, so then when they make a decision 2 weeks later or a month later

Jam:

Yeah.

Renee:

They really get it. Not I didn't just hand him a map and walk away.

Jam:

Got it. Got it. That sounds really helpful. I mean, especially because it would be very, like, a nightmare to think about people making decisions being handed just raw data, and, like, that's it. Like, that'd be that would make me not feel very confident

Renee:

in our current world.

Melissa:

Good luck.

Jam:

Yeah. That's really cool. That makes a lot of sense.

Renee:

Yeah. Extension has a long history of doing that. It started with helping farmers get access to agricultural science back, in the fifties and forties, I think, maybe even earlier. And so there's institutions called land grant institutions just like Sea Grant. Here, and every state has land grant institutions.

Renee:

Uh-huh. And so we've just continued that on from there on other topics besides agriculture.

Jam:

Interesting. Through Extension 2, it it wouldn't it's not super intuitive to me, so it helps that you've explained that. Because, like, I think that's the phrase I might use would be, like, dubbing something down or, like No. No. No.

Jam:

Explaining or whatever it is to people who wouldn't understand it at the higher level, basically, what we do here for me. So

Renee:

Really, the difference is Melissa does education. So there's, like, learning objectives so people have knowledge. And then extension is about making decisions, Whether it's on your farm or buying a house or building a city or something like that.

Melissa:

It's

Jam:

it's in motion. Something needs to happen. There needs to be this information needs to be acted upon in some way or whatever. Yep. Got it.

Melissa:

But it is interesting. This is Melissa again, in case I can't tell. I'm worried. But it is interesting that we are in such similar fields just with different outcomes. We do very similar work, but with different end goals.

Jam:

Sweet. Okay. So that is what you do, and I'm guessing we're gonna go beyond thermometers

Melissa:

Yes.

Jam:

Into Something bigger, grander, scarier? I don't know. What are we gonna talk about?

Renee:

Not I mean, maybe a little scarier than thermometers.

Melissa:

Yeah. So thermometers really scare me. So

Renee:

That Mercury man.

Jam:

Oh, yeah.

Renee:

So like Melissa said, we really focus on sea level rise and its impact specifically, helping people make decisions around that. And so what I'm gonna talk about today through is how thermal expansion, you know, how the molecules move and take up more space, has anything at all to do with that.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

And so To do that, we're gonna take just a step back and look at the whole globe. And so we have our atmosphere. Right? And the way the atmosphere works is sunlight can come in, but then some of it gets trapped here helps make us warm because space is real, real cold.

Jam:

Mhmm.

Renee:

But when we use our cars and produce carbon emissions, whether that's c o two is usually what we think about, It adds to the atmosphere.

Melissa:

And

Renee:

so the atmosphere is kinda like a blanket. And as we have more and more carbon emissions, it makes that blanket thicker and thicker and thicker.

Jam:

Got it. Okay.

Melissa:

And so

Renee:

it makes our planet warmer.

Jam:

Yeah.

Renee:

So if you think about your car Mhmm. After it's been sitting outside in your sun, and you get into it, it's much warmer than outside.

Jam:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I have, like, no tint on my windows at all. Here. And even in the winter, if I've parked conveniently in the sun, that happens to me, which is really nice.

Jam:

I mean, like, not having tint is not great in other ways, here. But it's definitely nice whenever. It's, like, cold outside, but it's still warm in my car.

Melissa:

How's that in the Texas summer for you?

Jam:

That's horrible. Yeah. I just basically get I I get, like, cooked every time I get in. So there's already this the those gases in our atmosphere that here. Help our planet be, like, bearably warm so they can survive.

Jam:

But we are adding to That in the atmosphere. So we are kind of, like, basically making that effect stronger

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

On by what we do, the vehicles we use, the stuff we put in the air. Got it. Okay. So that was just already there, but we are the effect was already there, which is great, but we might be, like, making it Too much there?

Renee:

It's like adding an extra blanket in the winter.

Jam:

Got it. Yep.

Renee:

Yeah.

Jam:

Or if you're in the summer and you put a blanket on, and you're like, I don't really need one.

Renee:

Yes. That's closer, actually. Okay. I don't really want this blanket anymore. Unfortunately, we can't just take the blanket off.

Renee:

Okay. It's gonna take some work. But so because of that, because the world gets warmer, there are 2 things that affect sea level directly.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

And so before we can get into that, I just wanna make sure we're on the same page about what c level even is. Okay.

Melissa:

I

Renee:

think we've heard it referenced and how that works. Through Yeah. But, essentially, what happens is if you go down to, say, the beach and you're sitting there and you see waves, and then if you're there for, like, a whole day, you see that there's tides. People heard of tides. Right.

Renee:

Water goes up and down. Like, there's the Bay of Fundy, I think, people heard about that has, like, an 18 foot tide or something crazy. Gosh. I might be too much.

Melissa:

I've never heard of that, but that is crazy.

Jam:

That is is crazy.

Renee:

In the northern gulf where I live, it's like a foot and a half.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

That's a big tide for us.

Melissa:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Renee:

So it's all different. So but there's these perceptions of where sea level is that alter all the time. The ocean's always in motion.

Jam:

Yeah.

Renee:

But there's sort of like a starting point you can think about that those waves happen around going up and down, and tides happen and go up and down. Mhmm. And if you think about events like hurricanes, which we've had heard a lot about lately, then storm surge comes in, the starting point from which all those things happen.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

Through that itself is coming up.

Jam:

Got it. Okay. So even though the ocean and the sea is always changing, it's obviously not, like, just perfectly still. There is a basic, like, number we've had to kind of keep in mind. It's like this

Renee:

is average.

Jam:

Yeah. It's like around here, And the around here is getting higher.

Melissa:

Yes.

Jam:

Okay. Yikes.

Renee:

So for example, we know that through High tide and low tide. Right? We sort of know where high tide is, and the waves come up on top of high tide and are hitting in, like, a certain point.

Jam:

Yeah.

Renee:

And so the shoreline is ready for that. It's adapted to it. Mhmm. But with that starting point with sea level going up

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

Now the waves can hit higher.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

And so now storm surge can go even farther.

Jam:

Yeah.

Renee:

Things like that. Right?

Jam:

Right.

Renee:

So there's 2 main causes that make the actual sea level, the starting point, go up.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

So one of them is that ice that's on land Uh-huh. Is melting. Yes. And so when it melts, it goes downhill into the oceans. Okay.

Renee:

So the actual amount of water in the oceans is increasing.

Jam:

The it's so crazy that we're talking about this now. I just When when we were in New Zealand a few weeks ago, we just saw a glacier for the first time. And so all these points where they said, like, in, you know, 19 through o five when they discovered it, it was here.

Renee:

Yeah.

Jam:

In 1960, it was here. And then they had a 10 years ago one. This was the here. Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. It was, like, in 2009, it was here.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

And we had to hike about 45, 50 minutes further passage has a 9 point to get to where it is now. That's a 10 year difference. And so, like, I wouldn't have any real Concrete, like, relatability to this, what you're talking about, other than just, like, I understand that things melt or whatever. But it's crazy to have seen that, and then now we're talking about this here Because it's like, that does that must be a lot of ice that was just from that 1 glacier.

Melissa:

Can I ask a clarifying question? Yeah. Because I'm not an expert in this. Is there a difference between glaciers and icebergs and how they melt differently and what they do? Because I thought that glaciers were floating in the ocean until you just said you

Jam:

hiked. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Renee:

So there are some complicated things with ice sheets and what they're made of that I honestly don't understand all of it. But there is a big difference between glaciers and icebergs. Mhmm. So glaciers are not adding to the water Okay. When they're up and frozen, because they're up and

Melissa:

out

Renee:

of the way. Yeah. But an iceberg is floating in the water. Uh-huh. So that's what we call sea

Jam:

ice. Okay.

Renee:

In the water. Glaciers and other types of land ice are on land. They're out of the way. They're not in the water giving it more Uh-huh. Through space.

Renee:

So when it melts, it comes down and then enters the water.

Jam:

So icebergs are fine unless you're a Titanic. Correct. And then, here. But glaciers are our threat in terms of them they have an effect Yes. When they melt.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

They're, like, up solid on land. Yeah.

Jam:

And then when

Renee:

they melt, they come in. So glaciers are so big, like you said, because you hiked up them. They're massive that they have their own gravitational pull. So it's It's this thing in science. I don't know if everyone knows this, but mass has gravitational pull.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

But, usually, it's something as big as a planet.

Jam:

Right.

Renee:

Or, In this case, the glaciers themselves are so big that they sort of change the gravitational pull of the Earth, the where we're pulling it.

Jam:

Oh my gosh. That's crazy.

Renee:

And so part of that means they're pulling ocean water towards them.

Jam:

Oh, interesting.

Renee:

So when the glaciers melt, not only does their water enter the ocean Uh-huh. But it changes where the water

Jam:

here in the oceans is hanging out at. What?

Renee:

And so when that glacier gets smaller and its gravitational pull gets less Uh-huh. Then some of the water that's, like, piling up near the poles. Uh-huh. We'll end up other places like near the equator.

Jam:

That's crazy. I can, like

Renee:

In the Gulf of Mexico.

Jam:

Sort of Barely get my head around that a little bit, but it's, like, not only is there water that melts from the glaciers having effect on the sea, but also just They're changing mass. Yes. This is affecting the sea in a

Renee:

crazy way. Distributed.

Jam:

Yeah. Yeah. Oh my gosh.

Renee:

So it's really cool, and it's mind blowing. But it is pretty complicated, so don't worry about too much the process or get in too much depth. But It's so neat I wanted to mention it.

Jam:

Gosh. That is so cool and mind blowing and crazy. Thank you for sharing that. Especially, I think, like, I would be overwhelmed by that. If I hadn't encountered a glacier recently, it would feel like, woah, woah, woah.

Jam:

I'm learning what glaciers even are and that they have a way bigger effect Than I ever thought, but that's awesome.

Renee:

Yeah. It just goes to show how complicated all the science is. There's just so much cool stuff happening. Yeah. Through So that's one part of it, melting land ice.

Renee:

So just making the volume of water bigger.

Jam:

Okay. Okay.

Renee:

The other part of it is thermal expansion.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

So the actual molecules of water in the ocean that make it up experience those same forces from chemistry just like Melissa talked about.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

And so As the oceans absorb all that extra heat that we're trapping in the globe Mhmm. That means that the molecules get more excited.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

I anthropomorphize, molecules. I make them sound like humans all the time.

Melissa:

Me too. I also do that, and some scientists get mad, but I think it's so useful. Yeah. So useful.

Jam:

I think me and all the listeners are thankful that you guys are willing to do that.

Renee:

Okay. Good. Thanks. Good. So the molecules get more excited, and they have more energy.

Renee:

And so then they're moving around more and more Uh-huh. Which means they take up more space. Uh-huh. And so if they're taking up more space, that sea level, that starting point, goes up to reflect that extra movement.

Jam:

Got it. The thermometer of the Earth.

Renee:

Yes.

Jam:

It's it's wow. Okay. So it also behaves just like a thermometer. It's gonna get higher Yeah. Higher.

Jam:

With more heat. Yeah. Dang it. That's crazy.

Melissa:

Another way to think of it rather than higher is it has a larger volume.

Jam:

Got it. So there's a space between Like, it's microscopic. It's tiny, tiny, tiny. But the space between all the water molecules, if it even just changed a little bit on all of them

Melissa:

Right.

Jam:

Would Big difference?

Renee:

Because there's so much ocean.

Jam:

Got it.

Renee:

And it's worth noting that the earth itself through On land, we haven't seen that much change with all this extra warmth we've generated because the oceans can absorb so much heat.

Melissa:

Got it. So and that's something we talked about in this specific heat episode, how water can take more heat than sand on land. So, Physically, water's been looking out for us this whole time. Right? It's been taking in this heat, and we haven't experienced much change.

Melissa:

But now it's almost getting to a point where it's taken in so much. Here It is

Jam:

being effective. Yeah.

Renee:

So I'm gonna take a stab at the chemistry side.

Melissa:

Nice. This

Jam:

is great. This is

Renee:

just to clarify, this is Renee, but I'm gonna try.

Melissa:

Okay.

Renee:

At the chemical level, you're adding more water molecules. That's the melting land ice.

Jam:

Got it.

Renee:

And you're causing thermal expansion, So they're getting more excited and moving around. So it's sort of twofold. There's more molecules, and the molecules are more excited.

Jam:

Got it.

Melissa:

Nice. Way to go. Chemist approved. The only change I would make is, I would say, at the molecular level. Yeah.

Melissa:

Yeah. Yeah. But you're not a chemist, so it's just fine. I'll let I'll let it slide.

Renee:

So so that's it. That's, like, why sea level itself rises. Okay. But it's important to keep in mind other things through on land or other factors can influence what that looks like where you're at on a coast. Okay.

Renee:

So how we talked about waves and tides that change exactly how the water level is. There's other things that go into it. So all we talked about today was what makes the sea level, the starting point, Itself go up.

Jam:

Got it. Not like how coast change or if things like weather over time or something like that We're that's obviously a factor, but it's not you're we're talking about the ocean itself.

Renee:

Yes.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

What's making the ocean itself change.

Jam:

Here. Okay.

Melissa:

So that's it.

Renee:

So now this is the part where you tell me? Yes. Okay. Cool. Okay.

Melissa:

I think

Renee:

I'm excited. I think

Jam:

I've got it. I hope.

Renee:

This is my test of my communication skills. Nice.

Jam:

So there's ice all over the world. We know that to be true, whether it's, like, on the top of a mountain or kind of in a valley like a glacier or whatever. And That ice is melting, whether it's, like, really fast or like the glacier that I was at, or who knows how many glaciers there are. Some of them might be fine for a while, but that's all water that has not been in the ocean. It's been elsewhere, stored safely somewhere else.

Jam:

And over time, if all those say there's, like, a 100 lakeshores, just way more than that probably. Here I'd say it's a 100. If all of them are trickling a little bit into the ocean, it's gonna have an impact. So more water is being added to the ocean than there was before.

Renee:

Yes. And there are people who are measuring all that all the time and getting better at how fast it's melting all the time.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

So yeah. Perfect.

Jam:

So there's more water, but at the same time, the thermometer of the Earth, all the water, which there's plenty of, Just like a thermometer as it's getting warmer is just taking up more space. The molecules are spreading out

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

More a little bit. Here. And even if even if water wasn't being added, if that was happening, the sea level could still just rise because The Blancos are getting a little bit more spread out. Perfect. And that's that's that part is thermal expansion?

Renee:

Yes.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

Good job.

Jam:

So those are the 2 ways. Yes. Wow. Okay.

Renee:

And the amount that each one contributes to sea level rise is changing. So remember how you're talking about here's after 50 years. Here's after the past 10 years and how that was different spaces. Yeah. So in the past, it's been a lot of thermal expansion and not as much glacier melt.

Melissa:

Okay.

Renee:

I don't know the exact ratios, but now it's switching.

Jam:

Oh, man, that's crazy. It's also just overwhelming to think about. Like, I I have zero idea how much ice is out there that's melting. Like, the 1 glacier I experienced seemed like plenty to me, but there's probably so much more.

Renee:

Yeah. And they're if we want to, we can link to it. There's a a paper that came out recently that Actually breaks down by some of the major ice sheets Mhmm. How much they're gonna contribute.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

It was really neat.

Jam:

Through So 1 question I still have, I guess, that I don't know if I understand yet is but I kind of assume is that It's bad for the sea to keep rising. Is that right?

Renee:

Yes. It

Melissa:

doesn't sound like a

Jam:

good thing, but is that is that right? That's what we I think a lot of the general public, nonscientific people like me walking around that hear a little bit here and there just think like that's sounds like it's not good.

Renee:

Yeah. No. It's not good. The coastal areas have a lot of people in them and a lot of really important infrastructure. Mhmm.

Renee:

And I think sometimes there's this idea like, oh, it's just rich people homes on beaches.

Jam:

Right.

Renee:

But, actually, there's a lot of industry that is sort of foundational to our like, in the United States, in our country that happens in those spaces. Uh-huh. So one thing is shipping and ports in that industry makes up around a quarter or more of the national GDP in the United States.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

And all the infrastructure that lets that happen happens in the coast. Right. So as here. Storm surge gets higher and goes farther inland Mhmm. And causes more damage with sea level rise.

Renee:

That'll be a problem.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

Even little things like, Oh, saltwater is getting in places it didn't used to, and we didn't build it to handle saltwater

Jam:

Right.

Renee:

Will start wearing out, Or train tracks will start having water over them. Uh-huh. Even little nuisance things like that will have a negative effect on our economy.

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

So So

Renee:

that's sort of the macro level, what happens, like, for the whole country. But if you think about the individuals and the people and community and families that are there, their homes are at risk to more flooding, flooding when it hasn't ever flooded before. Their whole lives are gonna be interrupted and impacted by this. Right. Sometimes we hear like, oh, well, people should just leave.

Renee:

That's a really big and complicated problem and question, and there actually are some communities who have elected to try and leave because of sea level rise.

Melissa:

Got it.

Renee:

And they are finding a lot of really practical and community challenges. Uh-huh. First of all, money. Who's gonna pay to move everybody?

Jam:

Yeah.

Renee:

But then on top of that, the economies, the cultural fabric of these places are important. And so how do you transfer a whole neighborhood, and where do you put them? And so it's a really complicated topic. And like to think, oh, that just impacts the people on the coast. Yeah.

Renee:

But it's gonna impact our whole country as we try and deal with these challenges.

Jam:

Oh my gosh. Renee, thank you so much for for teaching us that and for being on the show in general. It's like, man, it's a fascinating topic your and 1 I just knew nothing about at all. Thank you for taking the time to explain it at my level.

Melissa:

Yeah. Thank you so much for coming and teaching me about this. I've learned in the past, but through I would not have known anything about this if you weren't my sister, so I've learned a lot. And I think we get these big words that are so scary, like sea level rising, climate change, and global warming or whatever, and this made it not scary, very understandable, and oh, okay. This this all makes sense.

Renee:

Yeah. Thank you guys for having me. This has been awesome. On that same note of it not being scary, because I'm an extension. We like people to take this knowledge and then Make themselves safer or prepared or ready for it.

Renee:

So I wanted to touch on a couple things that your listeners could do as individuals

Melissa:

through And then things they

Renee:

might be able to do in their communities.

Melissa:

Okay.

Renee:

Because this happens at all scales. Yeah. So as individuals, one thing I don't think people think about is food waste.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

Because food waste contributes a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, and then you don't even use the food. Right? So be thinking about is the ugly produce really does it need to be thrown away, or is it just a little ugly? Maybe I can eat it. Yeah.

Renee:

Or splitting meals at restaurants. And this is a little trick, but check your pantry and fridge before you go to the grocery store.

Jam:

Right.

Renee:

So little things like that.

Melissa:

Through And we

Renee:

don't need people doing it perfectly, but we need a lot of people doing it

Melissa:

Yes.

Jam:

Perfectly. Got it.

Renee:

So that's 1. Another is thinking about Ride sharing or minimizing amount of time you're in the car using public transit for people who have that option Mhmm. Things like that. Eve every little bit, every time you drive 1 car instead of 2 Mhmm. That helps.

Jam:

Got it.

Renee:

And so the third thing I just wanted to mention Mhmm. Is thinking about through how you heat and cool

Melissa:

your home.

Renee:

So sort of two sides to this. You can make your house

Melissa:

more efficient

Renee:

Mhmm. Which saves you money. Yeah. Yeah. Putting in insulation or new windows or things like that.

Jam:

Yeah.

Renee:

But from a a really easy perspective, you can just change your thermostat when you walk at the door. Right? So if you're gonna be gone for 8 hours or more, it's better to turn your temperature up in the summer Mhmm. So you're not using your AC as much.

Jam:

Got it.

Renee:

And so that's less energy we're using. That's less carbon.

Jam:

Okay.

Renee:

So those are 3 ways an individual person can help reduce the fact that sea level rise will happen or as much.

Jam:

Got it.

Renee:

For people who live on the coast, you wanna be thinking about it when you buy Mhmm. Your house. You wanna be thinking about flood insurance and making sure even if it's not required

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

That you have it. Mhmm. Things like that. But that's gets a little more complicated. You coastal people give me a call.

Melissa:

I'll help

Renee:

you out.

Jam:

Okay. So that's that's the kind of stuff that if we had like, maybe 1 person doing it wouldn't make each difference, which would be a bummer. But To think about it more like, okay. If I'm doing it and at least, you know, some other amount of people are doing it, there's a collective effect of slowing, potentially, the the rising of the sea, by all of us ride sharing or all of us not buying too much food or wasting too much food or whatever. And that effect could just be cumulative if we all were trying to do our best.

Melissa:

Well, and if

Renee:

you think about it, that's how we got here in the 1st place

Melissa:

Uh-huh.

Renee:

Is people individually generating a little bit more carbon than they would otherwise.

Jam:

Got it.

Renee:

So if we all generate a little bit less.

Jam:

Yeah. We're in this together. It's a team effort.

Renee:

Yep. So, the number one thing that we can all do Mhmm. Is to talk about this. The Gale Climate Center found that Over 2 thirds of Americans are concerned about climate change.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Renee:

But less than a third of them even talk about it.

Jam:

Got it.

Renee:

So at a community level, change won't happen if we don't

Melissa:

all

Renee:

sort of agree it needs to happen. Mhmm. And so that's the biggest thing. On our website, we have videos and, like, fact sheets on how to talk about it. Mhmm.

Renee:

But even if you just have a conversation and just make it more normal to talk about, that is one of the biggest things that we can all do.

Jam:

Got it. Thank you so much for that. That's very helpful. It's like just sharing about something that I didn't know about before and not having any practical things that I can do Would be scary, so thank you so much.

Renee:

Yeah. Thanks for being willing to take action.

Melissa:

Well, thank you so much. This is so exciting. I'm so glad that we had you on, Renee.

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

Personally, it's fun for me to hang out with my sister, but, also, this stuff is so interesting and so important and so helpful. So I'm

Melissa:

really glad we had the opportunity to do that. Now I think we're just gonna

Melissa:

go ahead and wrap it up because we had Renee on, so it was a little different than normal. Here. But I would like to give a shout out. Mhmm. So cool that Renee was here today because our parents, the day this episode comes out, it's their 38th wedding anniversary.

Jam:

Nice.

Renee:

Here That's awesome.

Melissa:

Which is amazing that they've had a relationship for that long. And so thank you guys for working hard on your marriage and giving us an example of through that. And

Jam:

And for putting these 2 scientists out into the world.

Melissa:

Yeah. For bringing us to life. So so congratulations on 38 years, mom and dad. We love you so much.

Jam:

Wilson and I have a lot of ideas for topics of chemistry and everyday life, but we wanna hear from you. So if you have questions or ideas, you can reach out to us on Gmail, Twitter, through Instagram, Facebook at chem for your life. That's chem, f o r, your life, and share thoughts and ideas. If you enjoy this podcast, you can subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And if you really like it, You can write a review on Apple Podcasts.

Jam:

That helps us to be able to share chemistry with even more people. If you'd like to help us keep our show going and contribute to the cost of making it, go to your kodashfi.com/chemforyourlife, and donate a cup of coffee.

Melissa:

This episode of Chemistry For Your Life was created by Melissa Collini, Renee Collini and Jam Robinson. References for this episode can be found in our show notes or on our website. Jam Robinson is our producer, and we'd like to give a special thanks to a Heffner and a Colini who reviewed this episode.