Published 14 mins ago on September 20, 2022 By BNO News
Scientists in New Zealand have raised the alert level at the Taupō supervolcano from 0 to 1 after a series of small earthquakes, but emphasize that the chance of an eruption “remains very low.” The last eruption happened nearly 1,800 years ago.
Geological agency GeoNet said nearly 700 small earthquakes have been recorded at Lake Taupō since May of this year, although many of them were too weak to be felt on land. The largest was a 4.5-magnitude earthquake on September 10.
Ground deformation has also been observed at Horomatangi Reef, where the existing magmatic system is believed to be located and where most of the earthquakes have been recorded.
“We interpret the ground uplift and earthquake activity to be caused by the movement of magma and the hydrothermal fluids inside the volcano,” the agency said. “We have also sampled springs and gas vents around the lake for changes in chemistry that may be related to the earthquake and ground uplift.”
As a result, GeoNet has raised the Volcanic Alert Level for Taupō from 0 to 1 for the first time since the alert levels were introduced in 1994. The system has 6 levels, from 0 to 5, although an eruption is possible at any level.
There have been 17 episodes of unrest at Taupō since 1870, including four episodes which could’ve been classified at alert level 2 if the system had existed, according to GeoNet. None of those events caused an eruption.
“The Volcanic Alert Level reflects the current level of volcanic unrest or activity and is not a forecast of future activity,” GeoNet said in Tuesday’s statement. “Volcanic unrest at volcanoes like Taupō could continue for months or years and not result in an eruption.”
The Taupō Volcano caused the largest eruption on Earth in the past 5,000 years when it exploded nearly 1,800 years ago, covering lakeside areas in tens of meters of rock and pyroclastic flows. Parts of the North Island were covered in at least 1 cm of ash.
An even bigger eruption occurred at the volcano about 25,500 years ago, creating a large basin that formed much of the present lake shape. It least 27 other eruptions are known to have happened in between those events, many of which were much smaller.
Recently Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland visited the isolated Aleut community of King Cove on the Alaskan Peninsula southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, to see and hear firsthand whether to approve the construction of a road across the Izembek Wilderness and National Wildlife Refuge. Recently, a federal court approved a Trump Administration land exchange proposal to facilitate the road right of way through the refuge.
The Izembek Refuge is one of the blue areas is on the Alaskan Peninsula which connects the Aleutian Islands to the main part of Alaska.
The debate about a road pits Alaskan Aleuts against the legal mandate of the Wilderness Act to preserve wildlands and protect wildlife. The 315,000-acre Izembek Wildlife Refuge is a critical stopping ground for migratory waterfowl. Its eel grass lagoons are considered of International Importance.
The road would connect the King Cove community to an all-weather airstrip (built during WW11) 37 miles away in Cold Bay, Alaska. The airport was initially operated as a military base before being transferred to the state of Alaska.
The 10,000 foot airstrip in Cold Bay was built by the Army and can easily service jets. Photo American Airlines
Currently, access to the Cold Bay airport is either by air from a strip in King Cove or by boat.
Roads are prohibited in wilderness areas. The Izembek Refuge Wilderness was designated in 1980 as part of the expansive Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
Henry Mack, the major of King Cove, Stanley Mack, the mayor of Aleutian East Borough, and Della Trumble, a member of the King Cove Corporation and Agdaagux Tribal Council, suggests in an editorial Anchorage Times, opponents put wildlife ahead of humans.
As they wrote in a commentary about opposition to the road by former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt and former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Clark, “It’s easy for highly paid former federal officials like Bruce Babbitt and Jamie Clark to pretend that the lives of nearly 1,000 indigenous Aleuts in King Cove, Alaska don’t really matter.”
Some 98 percent of all black brant spend part of the year feeding among the eelgrass lagoons of the Izembek NWR.
Izembek is particularly important for Pacific Black Brant; 98 percent of those small geese spend part of the year there, slurping up the world’s most extensive eelgrass beds, their dietary staple. The area also supports about half the world’s Emperor Geese and a substantial percentage of the threatened Steller’s Eider population. The refuge supports one of the denset population of grizzly bears on the Alaskan Peninsula, as well as wolves, foxes, caribou, and even walruses.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that allowing a road through the refuge would “degrade irreplaceable ecological resources.” It also would jeopardize the global survival of a migratory sea goose, called the Pacific black brant, and the emperor goose and other waterfowl.
A 2013 Record of Decision on a Final EIS that reviewed the potential impact of the road concluded: ” Construction of a road through the Izembek NWR wouild lead to significant degradation of irreplaceable ecological resources.”
The document went on to note that the proposed land trade between the Aleuts and federal government would compromise the ecological integrity of the refuge. “The Service has determined that increased acreage would not compensate for the overall values of the existing Izemeck REfuge lands and Wilderness that would be removed. Nor would the offered lands compenstate for the anticipated impacts that the proposed road would have on wildlife and the habitat that surround the road corridor.”
Therefore, in 2013 Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell decided to preclude road construction from protecting the wildlife and wilderness values of the area. But the Trump administration, under the Secretary of Interior, approved a land exchange between the Aleut natives of King Cove and the Department of Interior that would permit the road construction to proceed.
Jewell found ” Increased human traffic and noise, changed hydrology of the wetlands, pollution runoff, and introduced contaminants and invasive species would despoil the isthmus.” She further concluded there were other modes of transportation available to address emergency medical transportation and pledged to work to implement them.
The King Cove villagers contend they need the proposed road for “medical emergencies.” Although King Cove has an airport, planes and helicopters cannot operate in extreme weather, which frequently closes the King Cove facilities. The Cold Bay airport can operate in more inclement weather. A road connecting the two communities would also permit villagers to fly more frequently to Anchorage and other destinations for shopping and other purposes.
The mountains along the Alaskan Peninsula in an unusually good weather day. Photo George Wuerthner
I have some sympathy for the situation of the villagers. I have experienced the horrific weather typical to the Aleutian Islands and Alaskan Peninsula. I was once trapped for days without food other than the fish I caught while camped at Ugashik Lake because aircraft could not fly to pick me up. Other times I was delayed for days by bad weather while trying to fly out of the villages of Port Moller and Meshik. I’ve been out numerous times on trips to the Alaskan Peninsula in the rain with 50 mile per hour winds, so I know how difficult the weather can be at times.
Villagers have latched on to the idea that a road would provide safe passage between King Cove and Cold Bay. However, a doctor who oversaw medical evacuations in King Cove for 15 years said traveling almost 40 miles on the gravel road during 60 mph winds and blinding snowstorms would be “suicidal” for patients and rescue teams.
“Should the road happen, I foresee all sorts of calamity,” said Dr. Peter Mjos, who was the Eastern Aleutian Tribes’ medical director until 2002. He retired from practicing medicine in 2015.
The original justification for the road was more pecuniary. “In 1994, King Cove passed a resolution saying the road would “link together two communities having one of the State’s premier fishing ports/harbors (including North America’s largest salmon cannery) in King Cove with one of the State’s premier airports at Cold Bay.”
But twenty years later, the justification was changed to the medical emergency rationale.
Izembek NWR. Photo Audubon.
To find an alternative to the road, the federal government contributed $37 million (a taxpayer subsidy of over $56,000 per King Cove resident) for an improved medical clinic in King Cove and the purchase of a hovercraft and improved dock facilities that could link both communities by water. The hovercraft only operated for three years before the Borough shut it down, arguing it was too expensive to operate and failed to work in high winds. However, during the three years it operated, the hovercraft successfully transported 22 medical evacuations.
In addition, of the original $37 million allotted by Congress for the hovercraft purchase and operation, villagers chose to spend $26 million to construct part of the road they hope will eventually link the two communities. In other words, they spent $26 million on a road to nowhere which could have paid hovercraft and other alternative transportation like Coast Guard transport for many years.
Community leaders admitted they used part of the federal grant to construct a partial road because they believed it would make it harder for the federal government to deny its completion.
However, some suggest the real purpose of the road is related to money. The Peter Pan Processing plant in King Cove is Alaska’s biggest salmon and seafood processing operation. The route would make getting workers in and out of King Cove easier. But it would also reduces costs for shipping fish. Currently, Peter Pan must load fish on a boat, transport it by sea to Cold Bay, where it is loaded on another truck to be transported to the airstrip.
The transport of fresh fish to markets is another justification for the road. However, the land exchange approved by the Trump Administration has specific language that precludes large companies like Peter Pan from using the road to transport fish.
The agreement says explicitly: “The road shall be used primarily for health, safety and quality of life purposes (including access to and from the Cod Bay Airport) and generally for non-commercial purposes. The commercial transport of fish and seafood products, except by an individual or small business on any portion of the road shall be prohibited.”
The term “generally”and “small business” opens a big loophole. Not surprisingly, the local Aleut leaders of King Cove all support road construction. Since they own fishing boats, including in 2019, the mayor of King Cove and five out of six city council members, all considered small business owners, would not be prohibited from using the road to transport fish.
It is important to note that the US Small Business Administration defines a firm engaged in “seafood product preparation and packaging” to be a small business if it has no more than 750 employees. Though Peter Pan is owned by a fortunte 500 Maruha Nichiro Corporation in Japan. The Peter Pan currently operates with 500 employees. So all Maruha would have to do is spin off as a separate company, and it would qualify as a “small business.”
Another important issue is that such an exemption to Wilderness Act prohibition against roads could easily become a precedent for new roads in other parts of Alaska where many villages are not part of any road network. In this instance, apparently, the Izembek Refuge is not part of the traditional “sacred” lands of the Aleut.
Many villages in Alaska have no road access to year-round air service. People choose to live in these places. While I might support the road if I thought there were no other viable alternatives, as former Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell concluded, viable (if not expensive) alternatives do exist including emergency transport from the U.S. Coast Guard. It seems to me that “medical emergencies” is a red herring. While there may indeed be a few times when alternative means of transport are not available, I do not believe this is the real reason for the road. The main motive is to create economically viable alternatives for seafood transport. This is about advancing economic desires rather than satisfying the “needs” of King Cove residents.
Many Alaskan communities face the same limitations on transportation due to weather, terrain and other constraints. People choose to live in these places. While the Indigneous Aleuts living at King Cove have other alternatives, the Indigenious wildlife that depends on the Izembek Refuge lands do not.
Secretary of Interior Haaland has stated she wants to represent the interests of Indigenous people. It will be interesting to see whether she agrees with the conclusion of former Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell that other options exist to meet the desires of King Cove residents while protecting globally significant wildlife and wilderness values.
The 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire created a mosaic burn pattern from unburned to high severity. Photo George Wuerthner
The Capital Press, an Agricultural emphasis newspaper, recently ran a story about the 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire and the influence of forest management on the fire’s impact upon trees. In particular, the 26 Nov 2021 issue story titled Lessons from Disaster: What The Bootleg Fire Reveals About Forest Managementfeatures quotes from people representing The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Klamath Tribe, ranchers, and forestry professors.
Blackened stumps indicate this area was thinned prior to the Bootleg Fire but with no effect on fire severity. Photo George Wuerthner
The basic theme of the Capital Press article is how thinning and prescribed burning reduced the Bootleg fire’s intensity and the mortality of trees in a thinned and prescribed burned area owned by TNC. The article’s photos show treated areas with limited mortality and nearby untreated areas with blackened snags. Proponents of thinning have cited this article in favor of more forest manipulation. The article has been republished in other areas like the Deschutes River Conservancy website.
If one did not know much about wildfire ecology, the photos accompanying the article might persuade you that thinning and prescribed burning should be widely applied to our forests.
However, there is much unstated in the article. For instance, there is abundant evidence from numerous high severity blazes around the West that “fuel reductions” typically fail. Of course, not all fuel reductions fail, but most do not significantly alter the outcome of fires.
The blackened stumps are trees that were “thinned” prior to this fire in the Scratchgravel Hills near Helena, Montana. The density of the remaining trees is lower than most “thinning” projects, but still burned severely in this wind-driven blaze.” George Wuerthner
Like in nearly everything in science, there are anomalies, what I call the 99-year-old grandmother exception. Everyone has heard about people who might smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and live to be 99 years old. Some point to such people to “prove” that smoking cigarettes doesn’t cause cancer or reduce your life expectancy.
However, science is about statistical averages. And statistically, if you smoke, you are more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers.
This map shows the perimeter of the Bootleg Fire, and all the bright colors indicate past “fuel reduction”. Map by Bryant Baker.
And this is where the TNC “proof” needs context. I have no idea why the fuel treatments on TNC lands appeared to reduce fire severity, but I can say that it was an exception in the Bootleg Fire. A review and map of the Bootleg Fire Perimeter showed that nearly 75% of the area had previously been “treated” by various “fuel reductions.”
TNC logging advocates would likely respond and say not all “fuel treatments” are equal, which is true. The best treatments involve thinning smaller trees, followed by prescribed burns.
The 2007 Jocko Lakes Fire in Montana severely burned an area that had been previously logged/thinned. Photo George Wuerthner
Nevertheless, I have visited dozens of large wildfires and seen many areas that had been thinned and treated by prescribed burn where the fire spread and tree mortality was unaffected by such fuel reductions. Nearly all large wildfires have burned through landscapes with significant acreage of “fuel reductions.”
More than 19,000 structures were burned in the Camp Fire which raced through Paradise, California. Note the green trees above the burned-out foundations of a gas station. Photo George Wuerthner
For example, the Camp Fire, which charred the community of Paradise, California, was surrounded by clearcuts, hazardous fuel reductions (FS euphemism for logging), and even several recent wildfires—none of which prevented the rapid spread of the blaze.
Holiday Farm Fire burned the western slope of the Cascades in a region with extensive logging. Map Oregon WIld
Similarly, the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire, which raced across the western slope of the Cascades in Oregon, burned through a landscape dominated by past commercial logging, including numerous clearcuts.
Map of the 2021 Dixie Fire in northern California where bright colors indicate past fuel reductions. Map Bryant Baker.
The 2021 900,000 acres Dixie Fire blazed across a heavily logged landscape in northern California also failed to alter the fire progress.
A previously thinned area on the Dixie Fire near Chester, California. Photo George Wuerthner
A 2016 review of 1500 fire found that fire severity was higher in areas treated by fuel reductions compared to wilderness and parks where no logging is allowed, and presumably, fuels are higher.
All of these examples are robust because they don’t focus on the exceptions, but provide a statistical test of the idea that fuel reductions can reduce large blazes.
NOT ALL BURNING IS UNIFORM
Some of the variability in fire burn patterns is due to weather, timing, and topography. For example, the wind has an enormous influence on fire spread. Wind effect is exponential. Wind gusts can push a fire through any fuel reduction or toss embers over any treatment. Conversely, if the wind dies down, fires will shift to the ground surface and often muddle along.
Slope also influences fires. A fire racing up a hill burns hotter because of the “preheating” of the fuels above by the fire below. Conversely, a fire “backing down” a slope tends to burn at a lower intensity.
Finally, most fires tend to burn at a lower intensity at night due to higher humidity and lower air temperatures.
An area that had been thinned and treated just two years previously with a prescribed burn on the Deschutes National Forest, Oregon. The robust regrowth of grass now makes this more vulnerable to fire and should be burned again. The requirement for continued “management” makes the idea of doing extensive forest-wide treatment a pipe dream. Photo George Wuerthner
Even to the degree that thinning/prescribed burning might reduce fire severity, its effectiveness wears off over time. Thus, any fuel reduction treatment must be continuously “maintained” by additional logging and burning—all of which is disruptive to the forest ecosystem, wildlife, and soils.
The people quoted in the Capital Press article attribute the larger fires across the West to “excess fuels.” However, nearly all studies show that climate/weather is the driving force in high severity large blazes. The West is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in a thousand years does not seem to enter the discussion with the “fuels are the problem, logging is the solution” crowd.
For one thing, the idea that “fire suppression” contributed to fuel build-up ignores the role of climate. Large blazes had always occurred with the right weather/climate conditions long before any “fire suppression” and even with Indian burning.
The decades in the middle of the last century (in blue) were cool and moist and the area burned was significantly less than the decades before or after which were warmer and drier. Nature was “effective” at fire suppression.
During the middle of the last century (approximately 1940-the 1980s), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a periodic shift in Pacific Ocean currents, brought cooler and moister weather to the West. During this period, there were far fewer ignitions and limited acreage burned. Interestingly glaciers also grew in the PNW during this period due to the increased moisture and cool temperatures.
Glaciers in the PNW grew during the cool PDO in the mid-1940s-1980s. Photo George Wuerthner
Fire suppression proponents point to this period as the time of “successful” fire suppression, but in reality, Nature was good at suppressing fires.
Then starting in the late 1980s and continuing to the present, the PDO shifted, and warmer, dryer weather has prevailed. That shift in climate, along with human Greenhouse Gas Emissions, has led to much warmer conditions, as well as extensive drought. It is these weather conditions that are the main factor in large blazes.
Proponents of logging like TNC and forestry professors tend to discount the harmful effects of logging on forest ecosystems. However, the snags resulting from high severity fires are not ecological disasters but critical to healthy forest ecosystems.
Dead trees killed by the Dixie Fire are critical to healthy forest ecosystems. They store carbon, provide habitat for many plants and animals. Photo George Wuerthner
Therefore, high severity fires are essential for “healthy forest ecosystems. Some studies suggest that biodiversity in the snag forests resulting from high severity burns is the highest of any habitat type. For instance, nearly 50% of all birds depend on the snags resulting from high severity fires, whether for nesting, roosting, or feeding. In addition, down logs and snags store considerable amounts of carbon.
Episodic fires are the source of snags that fall into streams creating some of the important habitats for fish and aquatic insects. George Wuerthner
And many ecosystems depend on the periodic input of large dead trees for ecological stability. For instance, the input of large trees into rivers may only occur every couple of hundred years, but that input of large snags is critical to healthy aquatic ecosystems.
Logging along the Santiam River, Oregon. Logging is a major contributor to GHG emissions which creates climate warming that promotes more wildfires. Photo George Wuerthner
Another issue downplayed or ignored in the Capital Press piece is that even dead trees store carbon for significant amounts of time. While logging releases carbon immediately. Studies in Oregon show that 35% of the annual GHG emissions result from logging and wood processing.
Thinning and new logging road on Willamette National Forest, Oregon. Logging roads are a major source of sedimentation in streams. Photo George Wuerthner
Other impacts associated with logging include sedimentation of streams resulting from logging roads, the spread of weeds, disturbance of wildlife, and changes in age and genetic structure of forest stand (resulting from thinning), compaction of soils, and other well-documented impacts associated with any logging operation are all typically ignored or dismissed.
I have often gone on field trips with thinning proponents and asked them to indicate which trees in the stand are genetically resistant to drought, fungi, mistletoe, or bark beetles. Thinning can reduce the genetic variability in a forest stand; all I get is bewildered stares as if my question is crazy.
Ironically, the proponents of massive thinning across the forested landscape are among the first to point out that the active “fire suppression” policy was a failure; few of them appear to question their promotion of a similar west-wide forest manipulation in the name of fire reduction.
An even more critical question seldom entertained is whether efforts to reduce fire severity and spread is even a wise policy. There are continued references by proponents of thinning that the forests are burning differently than in the historical past, without acknowledging that the current climate/weather conditions are different. We are experiencing one of the worse droughts in a thousand years. Under different climates, you would expect different responses by vegetation. Perhaps large blazes in some forested stands are a way for the planet to adjust to extreme drought and high temperatures.
TNC and the Forest Service’s response to wildfire is based on an Industrial Forestry Paradigm that sees dead trees as undesirable and failure to see the forest ecosystem through the trees. Even if thinning/prescribed fire reduced wildfires, translating that into a general policy of forest manipulation across the landscape might be a disaster for forest ecosystems.
Foundation of a burnt-out house near Fort Klamath. Treating the area from the home outward is the best way to protect communities. Photo George Wuerthner
Promoting fuel reductions from the home outward for a hundred feet or so can help protect communities, but beyond this distance, fuel reductions typically have little influence when extreme fire weather conditions prevail.
About The Author
George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology Visit Authors Website → If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it!
”At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour.”
Victory for great gray owls and forests in Oregon! We won a recent victory for forests and great gray owls in Oregon. The Griffin Half Moon timber project would have logged more than 900 acres home to perhaps the largest and most well-known population of great gray owls in southwest Oregon. We successfully argued the Bureau of Land Management’s assessment did not consider the effects of logging on this at-risk owl. We are elated to have protected not only the forest, but also this iconic owl.
Opposing the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands to oil and gas We filed formal legal objections to the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands for oil and gas leasing. Oil and gas in the proposed leases contain up to 246 million tons of climate pollution, as much as 62 coal-fired power plants emit in one year. Public lands should be off limits for leasing because of the government’s failure to assess and avoid harm to land, water, communities, and endangered species from the fossil fuel industry’s climate pollution. In January, the Biden administration paused new oil and gas leasing pending a review of the program, yet since then has approved more than 2,800 new permits to drill. Learn More
Fossil-fueled hydrogen in New Mexico is a climate threat, not a solution WELC and other New Mexico community, environmental, and justice organizations warned state and federal lawmakers of the risks of diving head-first into fossil-fueled hydrogen projects. Our letter provides guidance on the safeguards that must be enacted before hydrogen projects are considered in the San Juan Basin, and New Mexico more broadly. Hydrogen from fossil gas presents significant climate and health dangers. New Mexico must prioritize climate legislation to light the pathway to benefit all of New Mexico’s workers and families. We cannot drill our way out of the climate emergency. Further, hydrogen is a risky bet of taxpayer resources that would further entrench the power of fossil fuel corporations. Learn More Your support makes all our work possible. Thank you!
Western Environmental Law Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the western U.S. Donations are tax-deductible as allowable by law. WELC does not rent, sell, or trade your contact information. Photo credits iStock.com: Owl by /mirceax, Colorado by /AndrewSoundarajan, New Mexico by /Dean_Fikar.
ExxonMobil has not backed away from its commitment to carbon taxes contrary to what media reports built around the comments of one lobbyist suggest.
In fact, the oil and gas company remains committed to combatting climate change by creating market incentives that will supposedly cut a path toward ?net zero emissions? in its recent reports and its public comments.
That path will come at a hefty price for American consumers, American families, and businesses without making any discernable impact on climate, according to recent studies from free market-oriented outfits.
But there are no indications that Exxon is prepared to reverse course on its anti-carbon proposals. That much is made clear in Exxon?s 2021 ?Energy and Carbon Summary? where the company details new emissions reductions objectives in line with the goals of the U.N.?s Paris Climate Agreement in its 2021 ?Energy and Carbon Summary.? That?s pretty green.
Washington, D.C.—Two imperiled plants threatened by fracking in northwest New Mexico took a big step forward toward protection today, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the Aztec gilia (Aliciella formosa) and Clover’s cactus (Sclerocactus cloverae) should be reviewed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The positive 90-day findings for both species comes in response to scientific petitions filed by WildEarth Guardians calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the gilia and cactus under the Endangered Species Act. Both imperiled plants inhabit the Grater Chaco Landscape of northwestern New Mexico. The region’s public lands, cultural integrity, and biodiversity continue to be threatened by fracking and oil and gas extraction.
Clover’s cactus is found only in Rio Arriba, Sandoval, and San Juan counties in New Mexico, while the Aztec gilia is found only in San Juan County. Both plants only live in a geological formation called the Nacimiento Formation. Unfortunately for the plants, this formation is also the site of intensive fracking that has been authorized by the U.S. Bureau Land Management.
“The Bureau of Land Management has been rubber stamping fracking in this region for decades, running roughshod over the Greater Chaco Landscape and communities,” said Rebecca Sobel, Organizing Director for WildEarth Guardians, a member of the Greater Chaco Coalition. “If unfettered fracking is not reined in, the health of the landscape and these endemic species remains in grave peril.”
Previous Freedom of Information Act requests to the agency revealed internal strife, oil and gas companies failing to comply with their Conditions of Approval and monitoring requirements, and poor record-keeping in regards to transplanted Clover’s cactus and their survival rates. The Aztec gilia population has declined steeply since 1995.
“Up to this point, the Bureau of Land Management has failed in its duty to preserve rare plants in the Nacimiento Formation from oil and gas drilling and associated development,” said Lindsay Larris, Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The goal of WildEarth Guardians’ listing petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to make sure these rare species don’t get thrown under the bus for fracking, but instead get the Endangered Species Act protections they need to survive and thrive.”
Since the ESA’s enactment, 99 percent of listed species have avoided extinction, and hundreds more have been set on a path to recovery. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; species are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities, resulting in what some scientists term a “biological annihilation.” According to a recent United Nations report, over a million species are currently at risk of extinction. Researchers estimate that, if not for ESA protections, 291 species would have gone extinct since the law’s passage in 1973.
The Carmichael Coal Mine formally know as Adani, located in central Queensland, Australia, has been found to be clearing potential Koala and endangered animal habitat without the required wildlife spotter as promised by the company. Large mining companies in Australia have been getting away with too much for too long, and the power they have in Australia makes this type of lawless behaviour possible. The Adani Mine has admitted to clearing land without the promised wildlife safeguard and has potentially decimated important Koala habitat as well as that of many other endangered species.
Act now and demand Environmental Minister Sussan Ley follow up on this environmental injustice and hold large mining corporations accountable for the mistakes they make!
The Adani Mining Corporation has breeched environmental codes on many occasions, including clearing around a separate mining pit, which was cleared in a manner that was inconsistent with clearing procedures. Another incident was documented in January 2021, when an additional environmental officer should have been present for flora and fauna spotting.
The mining company admitted to these faults, although this was only after the clearing and damage had already been done. This is the fifth documented instance with non-compliance to environmental conditions and the governments slap on the wrist style of punishment is highlighting the failure within the Australian judicial system to stop this from happening. The Carmichael Coal Mine is not complying with the legal codes surrounding the environment and its animals and seems to believe they are somewhat untouchable when it comes to Australian law.
Sign the petition now and tell Sussan Ley to take action in following up environmental breaches by large mining companies in Australia!SHARE2.4KTWEETEMAILEMBED
🌎 As much as NASA missions and scientists turn their gazes outward at the cosmos, we continue to spend the most time studying our own oasis and keeping fingers on the pulse of Earth's changing climate.https://t.co/OMAaX1JzFR
Given adequate sunlight and nutrients, phytoplankton populations can multiply into blooms large enough to be visible from space. That was the case on May 18, 2021, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image of a phytoplankton bloom along the coast of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Some of the nutrients that fueled the bloom likely came from runoff from the Delaware River watershed. Farms, wastewater treatment plants, urban and suburban areas, and other sources all contribute nutrients that can encourage blooms.
“It’s always a challenge to be definitive about what MODIS is picking up in the coastal zone. There are a lot of things that provide color to the coastal ocean, including sediment, chromoporhic dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and phytoplankton,” explained Bob Chant, an oceanographer at Rutgers University. “But in this case, it sure looks like we are seeing the Delaware River plume, which contains all three of those elements of color, plus enough nutrients to fuel and sustain large blooms.”
The Delaware River plume may have also gotten some help from below the waterline. “Winds from the south often drive surface waters offshore due to Earth’s rotation and Ekman Transport,” said Chant. “This often causes nutrient-rich water to well up toward the surface in the summer.”
The tides likely also contributed to the appearance of this bloom. “The image occurred during a neap tide, a period with more moderate tides when the bay discharges more fresh water and the plume becomes larger,” said Chant.
On a global scale, phytoplankton are responsible for nearly half of Earth’s primary production, turning carbon dioxide, sunlight, and nutrients into the food that ultimately fuels almost everything in the sea, from finfish to shellfish and from zooplankton to whales.
Unchecked oil and gas extraction threatens climate, Colorado’s North Fork Valley
WASHINGTON—Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service’s 2020 approval of a plan that allows fracking across 35,000 acres of Colorado’s Western Slope. The North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan allows 35 new fracking wells in the North Fork Valley and Thompson Divide areas of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.
Today’s lawsuit says federal agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws by failing to fully assess the potential for water pollution and harm to the climate, and by refusing to analyze alternatives that would minimize or eliminate harm to the environment. The plan would result in about 52 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution, equivalent to the annual pollution from a dozen coal-fired power plants.
“This case is about confronting the Trump administration’s complete disregard of law, science, and public lands,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We can’t frack our way to a safe climate and we certainly can’t afford to keep letting the oil and gas industry run roughshod over Colorado’s irreplaceable and vital public lands.”
“The Trump administration charted a course to destroy public lands and our shared climate,” said Peter Hart, staff attorney at Wilderness Workshop. “This master development plan is a 30-year commitment to the disastrous ‘energy dominance’ agenda which ignored significant impacts on the communities and spectacular values of the North Fork. We are determined to hold our federal government accountable to a more sustainable future for Colorado’s public lands, wildlife, people, and climate.”
“Fossil fuel development and sustainable public lands don’t mix, especially in the roadless headwaters of the Upper North Fork Valley,” said Brett Henderson, executive director of Gunnison County-based High Country Conservation Advocates. “This project is incompatible with necessary climate change action, healthy wildlife habitat, and watershed health, and is at odds with the future of our communities.”
“We are in a megadrought in the North Fork Valley and the Western Slope. The water used to frack in the watershed risks precious water resources and only exacerbates the climate and the water crisis,” said Natasha Léger, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community. “This 35-well project is the beginning of much larger plans to extract a resource that should be left in the ground and for which the market is drying up.”
“This dangerous plan promises more runaway climate pollution in one of the fastest-warming regions in the United States,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re suing to force federal agencies to stop ignoring the climate emergency. Like the planet, the Colorado River Basin can’t survive a future of ever-expanding fossil fuel development.”
“It is past time for the federal government to meaningfully consider climate change in its oil and gas permitting decisions,” said Melissa Hornbein, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Gunnison and Delta Counties have already exceeded 1.5°C of warming; the project failed to meaningfully analyze impacts to climate, roadless areas, and the agriculture and eco-tourism centered economies of the North Fork Valley. More drilling is projected to harm Delta County’s tax revenue, not help it. These communities need land management that serves the public interest.”
Colorado’s Western Slope is already suffering from severe warming. The Washington Post recently featured the area as the largest “climate hot spot” in the lower 48 states, where temperatures have already risen more than 2 degrees Celsius, reducing snowpack and drying Colorado River flows that support endangered fish, agriculture and 40 million downstream water users.
In January 574 conservation, Native American, religious and business groups sent the then president-elect a proposed executive order to ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal public lands and waters. In February the Biden administration issued an executive order pausing oil and gas leasing onshore and offshore pending a climate review of federal fossil fuel programs. In June the Interior Department will issue an interim report describing findings from a March online forum and public comments.
Background: Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide fossil fuel leasing ban on federal lands and oceans would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals.
Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroy habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have inflicted immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.
Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons. Pollution from the world’s already producing oil and gas fields, if fully developed, would push global warming well past 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Melissa Hornbein, Western Environmental Law Center, (406) 471-3173, email@example.com, Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414, firstname.lastname@example.org, Grant Stevens, Wilderness Workshop, (319) 427-0260, email@example.com , Brett Henderson, High Country Conservation Advocates, (866) 349-7104, firstname.lastname@example.org, Natasha Léger, Citizens for a Healthy Community, (970) 399-9700, email@example.com
The peer-reviewed evidence is compelling that CO2 emissions are net-beneficial, rather than harmful, and the social cost of carbon is negative. Here are some papers:
Dayaratna, K.D., McKitrick, R. & Michaels, P.J. Climate sensitivity, agricultural productivity and the social cost of carbon in FUND. Environ Econ Policy Stud 22, 433–448 (2020). doi:10.1007/s10018-020-00263-w
Uddin S, Löw M, Parvin S, Fitzgerald GJ, Tausz-Posch S, Armstrong R, O’Leary G, Tausz M. Elevated [CO2] mitigates the effect of surface drought by stimulating root growth to access sub-soil water. PLoS One. 2018 Jun 14;13(6):e0198928. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0198928
Fitzgerald GJ, et al. Elevated atmospheric [CO2] can dramatically increase wheat yields in semi-arid environments and buffer against heat waves. Glob Chang Biol. 2016 Jun;22(6):2269-84. Glob Chang Biol. 2016 Jun;22(6):2269-84. doi:10.1111/gcb.13263.
Donohue, RJ, Roderick, ML, McVicar, TR, and Farquhar, GD (2013), Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 3031–3035, doi:10.1002/grl.50563.
O’Leary GJ, et al. Response of wheat growth, grain yield and water use to elevated CO2 under a Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment and modelling in a semi-arid environment. Glob Chang Biol. 2015 Jul;21(7):2670-2686. doi:10.1111/gcb.12830.
Loehle, C., Idso, C., & Bently Wigley, T. (2016). Physiological and ecological factors influencing recent trends in United States forest health responses to climate change. Forest Ecology and Management, 363, 179–189.doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.12.042
Zhu, Z Piao, S, Myneni, RB, et al (2016). Greening of the Earth and its drivers. Nature Climate Change, 6(8), 791–795. doi:10.1038/nclimate3004
Those are all recent papers, but studies measuring the benefits of elevated CO2 go back more than a century; for example: Gradenwitz A. Carbonic Acid Gas to Fertilize the Air. Scientific American, November 27, 1920. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican11271920-549
The ONLY justification for wind power – the massive subsidies upon which it entirely depends (see our post here); spiralling power prices (see our post here); and the suffering caused to neighbours by incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound (see our post here) – is the claim that it reduces CO2 emissions in the electricity sector.
Because wind power fails to deliver at all hundreds of times each year, 100% of its capacity has to be backed up 100% of the time by fossil fuel generation sources – which run constantly in the background to balance the grid and prevent blackouts when wind power output collapses – as it does on a routine, but unpredictable, basis (see our posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). And for more recent woeful ‘efforts’:
The mountains of dismal hard data tends to cut against the wilder claims emanating from the wind-worship-cult compounds that wind power ‘displaces’ – and will eventually ‘replace’ – conventional generation sources, but the ‘threat’ to BIG COAL, BIG GAS & BIG OIL is more imagined than real:
Even before the blades start spinning – the average wind farm clocks up thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions: “embedded” in thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete. So, every wind farm starts with its CO2 abatement ledger in the negative.
Here’s Andy’s Rant with a breakdown of just how much CO2 goes to build one of these things.
So what’s the carbon foot print of a wind turbine with 45 tons of rebar & 481m3 of concrete? Andy’s Rant 4 August 2014
Its carbon footprint is massive – try 241.85 tons of CO2.
Here’s the breakdown of the CO2 numbers.
To create a 1,000 Kg of pig iron, you start with 1,800 Kg of iron ore, 900 Kg of coking coal 450 Kg of limestone. The blast furnace consumes 4,500 Kg of air. The temperature at the core of the blast furnace reaches nearly 1,600 degrees C (about 3,000 degrees F).
The pig iron is then transferred to the basic oxygen furnace to make steel.
1,350 Kg of CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg pig iron produced.
A further 1,460 Kg CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg of Steel produced so all up 2,810 Kg CO2 is emitted.
45 tons of rebar (steel) are required so that equals 126.45 tons of CO2 are emitted.
To create a 1,000 Kg of Portland cement, calcium carbonate (60%), silicon (20%), aluminium (10%), iron (10%) and very small amounts of other ingredients are heated in a large kiln to over 1,500 degrees C to convert the raw materials into clinker. The clinker is then interground with other ingredients to produce the final cement product. When cement is mixed with water, sand and gravel forms the rock-like mass know as concrete.
An average of 927 Kg of CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg of Portland cement. On average, concrete has 10% cement, with the balance being gravel (41%), sand (25%), water (18%) and air (6%). One cubic metre of concrete weighs approx. 2,400 Kg so approx. 240 Kg of CO2 is emitted for every cubic metre.
481m3 of concrete are required so that equals 115.4 tons of CO2 are emitted.
Now I have not included the emissions of the mining of the raw materials or the transportation of the fabricated materials to the turbine site so the emission calculation above would be on the low end at best.
Extra stats about wind turbines you may not know about:
The average towering wind turbine being installed around beautiful Australia right now is over 80 metres in height (nearly the same height as the pylons on the Sydney Harbour Bridge). The rotor assembly for one turbine – that’s the blades and hub – weighs over 22,000 Kg and the nacelle, which contains the generator components, weighs over 52,000 Kg.
All this stands on a concrete base constructed from 45,000 Kg of reinforcing rebar which also contains over 481 cubic metres of concrete (that’s over 481,000 litres of concrete – about 20% of the volume of an Olympic swimming pool).
Each turbine blade is made of glass fibre reinforced plastics, (GRP), i.e. glass fibre reinforced polyester or epoxy and on average each turbine blade weighs around 7,000 Kg each.
Each turbine has three blades so there’s 21,000 Kgs of GRP and each blade can be as long as 50 metres.
A typical wind farm of 20 turbines can extend over 101 hectares of land (1.01 Km2).
Each and every wind turbine has a magnet made of a metal called neodymium. There are 2,500 Kg of it in each of the behemoths that have just gone up around Australia.
The mining and refining of neodymium is so dirty and toxic – involving repeated boiling in acid, with radioactive thorium as a waste product – that only one country does it – China. (See our posts here and here).
All this for an intermittent highly unreliable energy source.
And I haven’t even considered the manufacture of the thousands of pylons and tens of thousands of kilometres of transmission wire needed to get the power to the grid. And what about the land space needed to house thousands of these bird chomping death machines?
You see, renewables like wind turbines will incur far more carbon dioxide emissions in their manufacture and installation than what their operational life will ever save.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the “cure” of using wind turbines sound worse than the problem? A bit like amputating your leg to “cure” your in-growing toe nail?
Target: Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
Goal: Halt sand dredging that threatens marine ecosystems and habitats of Taiwan.
China has begun a fresh round of obliterating the sand banks that separate it from Taiwan. This maneuver is believed to be a tactic for intimidating the smaller region and attempting to wipe away its natural defenses. The strong-arm method is also taking a hidden but no less devastating environmental toll.
The operations involve mining sand by essentially displacing and pumping it up with large dredging ships. Hundreds of these vessels often conduct illegal dredging around Taiwan’s waters, but as tensions have risen between the regions the activity has become more frequent and more overt. The estimated 100,000 tons of sand dredged on a daily basis are already likely devastating the delicate marine ecosystems that call these waters home.
The centerpieces of these systems, small seabed-dwelling organisms, lose their lives directly as their habitats are destroyed and their bodies sucked up and spit back out as carcasses. A devastating domino effect could collapse the entire food chain. Worse yet, the loss of sand creates shoreline erosion that could even adversely impact life on land.
Sign the petition below to urge an immediate cease and desist to this wholesale environmental degradation.
Dear President Xi,
China wants to position itself as a leader on clean technology and environmental sustainability. Yet this country continues to conduct arguably the most devastating and least-regulated form of mineral extraction on a wide scale. So-called sand mafias have made blood money from the destructive practice of sand mining. The world’s most populous country has created an empire out of this environmentally unsound practice.
The continued dredging of the Taiwan Strait is the most egregious example. You may see these exercises as a short-term power play, but the decades’ worth of damage you are inflicting on vibrant marine ecosystems will last several lifetimes. Nearly 100,000 tons of sand are likely lost in one day alone. With this loss comes habitat erosion, a seabed strewn with carcasses, and a food chain without its most critical links.
Please stop these dangerous dredging exercises before they fuel a catastrophe beyond your control.
Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate could mean the end to the affordable energy that makes modern American life possible.
In comparison to the Trump administration, which has prioritized deregulation and energy dominance, the former vice president and California senator have both committed themselves to heavily restrict fracking as they focus on climate change and renewable energy. If enacted, the Biden-Harris plan would reduce energy choices, increase prices and drive Americans back to international markets for essential energy supplies.
On issues of energy supply, Biden has been clear. For example, moderators at the Democratic Party debates asked him about his position on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the means by which American natural gas producers have helped to free us from many of the vagaries of international energy markets. He boldly replied, “No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period. Ends!” Later, in the same debate, he added, “No new fracking.”
That broad and somewhat vague pronouncement likely raised blood pressure readings among supporters in Biden’s campaign. Promising to put as many as 1.7 million American workers out of a job by banning fracking would be a hard sell for any campaign, especially in gas-producing states such as Texas or Pennsylvania. So no one was surprised to see Biden staffers walk back the former VP’s ambiguous promises immediately after the debate. They quickly limited his anti-fracking rhetoric to targeting energy development on federal lands.
And Biden staffers aren’t the only ones openly correcting policy stances for the former vice president. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who co-chairs the Sanders side of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, is getting in on the action, too. Jayapal has publicly bragged about her ability to “significantly push Joe Biden to do things that he hadn’t signed on to before.” Biden is, in her estimation, “movable.”
That malleability is not terribly surprising given that, for some time now, Biden has been seen as increasingly confused and frail. Keying in on those concerns, a recent Rasmussen poll indicated that 59 percent of Americans believe that he will not finish a first term, were he to win the upcoming election. For that reason, American voters must recognize that, come November, they may well be considering Harris as the actual Democratic presidential candidate. So, her take on energy policy should be understood as well.
While The New York Times recently tried to sell Harris as a “pragmatic moderate,” on issues of energy, her policies align far more closely with the progressive wing of the party. For example, Harris recently introduced the Climate Equity Act with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). In the Democratic presidential debate, Harris bluntly stated that she “support[s] a Green New Deal,” the nearly $100 trillion climate change policy authored by Ocasio-Cortez. In that same appearance, Harris promised that, “on day one as president,” she would “reenter us into the Paris Agreement.”
In last year’s CNN climate town hall, Harris was asked about her views on fracking by a climate activist with the environmental group 350.org. Without pause, Harris confirmed, “There is no question I’m in favor of banning fracking.” She then gave a simple, one-word answer, “Yes!” to CNN host Erin Burnett’s follow-up question, “So, would you ban offshore drilling?”
The Biden-Harris position on fracking and natural gas production is abundantly clear, as reported by a recent string of tweets from Alex Epstein, author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.” Epstein contends that fracking is the means by which the U.S. produces 60 percent of our oil and 75 percent of our natural gas. Banning it would put millions out of American workers back in unemployment lines already swollen by policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stifling the development of the fuels and technologies that power our economy with clean, affordable and reliable energy would be like killing the goose and then tossing the golden egg out the window. That’s an extremely bad way for the freshly minted progressive duo to start their campaign.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Indigenous peoples have called for the suspension of all resource extraction in the Amazon.
Big oil, mining, logging and other extractive industries helped the virus spread into Indigenous territories, making people sick and killing their elders. For too long heads of state have listened to corporations rather than to Indigenous communities, which has led to loss of biodiversity, runaway climate change, raging fires, and now extreme illness. In the face of multiple crises, leaders have failed to act.
Right now in Ecuador, two of the Amazon’s most precarious oil pipelines are on the brink of rupture for the second time this year. A spill could happen any day due to unaddressed erosion, sending contamination downriver into Peru and Brazil. Why are they still pumping? Where is the justice for Indigenous communities whose rivers and soils were poisoned? Every avoidable disaster caused by extraction is another blow to the Amazon rainforest, Indigenous peoples, and our climate.
You can see the power of the Indigenous movement in recent groundbreaking wins across the world— from the victory at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Waorani victory against oil drilling in the Pastaza region of Ecuador. However, governments and corporations are continuing to exploit the world’s resources at alarming rates with great risk to Indigenous peoples.
Around the world, Indigenous movements are fighting back and winning. From Standing Rock, USA to Pastaza, Ecuador, Indigenous peoples are demonstrating their resilience and power to confront injustice and protect their ancestral lands.
Today I stand with the Indigenous movement in calling for immediate action to shut off the hazardous oil pipelines in Ecuador and suspend extraction across the Amazon until safety is restored and justice is served.
People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process.
Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines.
Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.
Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding.
D. Rex Miller
NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure.
NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.
Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.
Image Image Credit David Bocanegra/USFWS
Image Image Credit Lia McLaughlin/USFWS
Image Image Credit Greg Thompson/USFWS Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore
Bringing Wildlife Back
People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.
For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.
Image Image Credit FWS
Image Image Credit Steve Brooks
Image Image Credit Michele Hoffman
NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.
Image Image Credit Andrew S. Wright/USFWS
Image Image Credit NPS
The Future of NNBF
In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world.
Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet.
Senior Conservation Policy Analyst Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.
A car drives past a crack in the road on Highway 178, south of Trona, California, after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit the nearby town of Ridgecrest on July 4, 2019. Photograph by Fredric J. Brown, AFP via Getty Images
In Southern California, the landscape is fractured in the shape of an enormous letter Z. The top arm is made up of a winding series of cracks that were responsible for quakes that rattled the city of Ridgecrest last year. The diagonal section is an ancient fault called Garlock that runs to the west. And along the bottom sits the mighty San Andreas.
Earthquakes along this lengthy fault, which runs more than 800 miles through California, are an ever-looming concern—and a new study suggests that in the next year, a large quake near the bustling city of Los Angeles could be three to five times more likely than previously thought. The research, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, found that the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes made a future quake along the nearby Garlock fault more likely. If a big enough quake hits Garlock, it could trigger the San Andreas fault as well—a series of events that the researchers estimate has about a 1 in 87 probability of occurring within the next year.
However, the overall probability of such an event remains low. The research team estimates that there is a 2.3 percent chance of a magnitude 7.7 earthquake occurring on the Garlock fault in the next year, and a 1.15 percent chance of a similar quake hitting San Andreas.
“So, the sky is not falling,” says study co-author Ross Stein, CEO of Temblor, Inc., a company that assesses risks from hazards such as earthquakes. “But it is significantly higher, in our judgement, than what it would have been had the Ridgecrest earthquake not occurred.”
Estimating the probability of earthquakes is notoriously tricky. The deep faults that generate them, scientists have increasingly realized, are complex networks of cracks and chasms. “They’re fractal. They’re grungy. They have bends and breaks,” Stein says.
Faults can also interact: Movement along one might increase stresses on another, sparking a sequence of quakes, “like a domino effect,” says Alessandro Verdecchia, a geologist at McGill University who was not part of the study. The new model is the latest attempt to assess the likelihood of this potentially deadly scenario.
How the dominos fall
The San Andreas fault marks the boundary where the North American tectonic plate and the Pacific plate grind past each other. As the Pacific plate inches along a northwesterly route, stresses build until the ground breaks, which sends the surface rolling in an earthquake.
There have been many quakes in California over the past century, but the last time a big temblor occurred along the San Andreas itself was in 1906, when a magnitude 7.9 earthquake unzipped some 300 miles of the fault, leveling buildings across San Francisco and killing more than 3,000 people. It was the deadliest quake in U.S. history.
The new study suggests that the Ridgecrest quakes have increased the chances of another big one occurring, this time in southern California.
The 2019 event was a double whammy, with a magnitude 6.4 and then 7.1 quake striking one day apart. The movement from these quakes distorted the surrounding landscape, shifting the stresses on nearby faults such as the Garlock.
To estimate this change in stress, Stein and study co-author Shinji Toda of Tohoku University in Japan created a model based on the motion along faults during the Ridgecrest quakes. They also incorporated data from a host of earlier quakes to visualize the fault as a spidery zone of fractures, Stein says.
The model estimates that in the year after Ridgecrest, there was an eight percent chance of a magnitude 7.7 event along the Garlock. While that did not come to pass, the work suggests a greater risk still remains than previously recognized. In the upcoming year, the chance of such a quake remains at 2.3 percent, about 100 times as large as previous models found.
A big enough quake along the Garlock—magnitude 7.5 or bigger, by the researchers’ calculations—could spark a quake along the San Andreas that travels southward toward Los Angeles.
“The fact that it’s higher is interesting and maybe motivates us to look at it more closely,” says John Vidale, a geophysicist at the University of Southern California who was not involved in the study, referring to the estimated probability of a major quake. But many uncertainties still remain, he says, and the time period with the greatest risk of a Garlock rupture has already passed, so the new model “doesn’t necessarily mean we need to be more scared than we otherwise would be.”
Even so, the new work is a good reminder that all residents living in earthquake country need to be prepared, Stein says. If a big quake hits the Garlock fault, it could be weeks, months, or more before the San Andreas slips as well—if it does at all. But quakes in this region at some point in the future are inevitable. (Learn more about earthquake safety and how to prepare.)
“Creaking limb of assumptions”
All models, including the latest, make simplifying assumptions about our astoundingly complex planet. For example, the new model doesn’t account for the complexities of fluid interactions, which can change the fault stresses over long periods of time, says Pablo Gonzalez, a geophysicist with the University of Liverpool in England and part of the Spanish National Research Council who was not part of the study.
The model also assumes that the ground is uniform in composition. But movement along the Garlock fault over millions of years has offset the land by some 40 miles, meaning the rocks to the north differ from those to the south, Gonzalez says.
One particular challenge with all earthquake forecasts is that researchers don’t know how much additional stress is required to cause a fault to break, says Chris Goldfinger, an earthquake geologist at Oregon State University who was not part of the new study.
“When you get over to the San Andreas, you’re kind of on a long creaking limb of assumptions,” Goldfinger says. “I would still sleep well in L.A. tonight—or as well as you would otherwise.”
On a warm day in March 1982, biologist Francis “Jack” Putz strayed into a knot of black mangrove trees seeking relief from the afternoon heat. Drowsy from his midday meal and hours of fieldwork in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste National Park, Putz decided to lie down for a short siesta.
As he gazed skyward, the wind stirred the tops of the mangroves above him, causing the limbs of neighboring trees to claw at each other and snap off some of their outermost leaves and branches. Putz noticed that this reciprocal pruning had left tracks of empty space running through the canopy.
This network of treetop chasms, called crown shyness, has been documented in forests around the world. From the mangroves of Costa Rica to the towering Borneo camphor trees of Malaysia, gaps in the greenery abound. But scientists still don’t fully understand why the tops of trees so often refuse to touch.
Beneath the mangroves 40 years ago, teetering on the verge of a post-lunch snooze, Putz reasoned that trees need personal space, too—a critical step toward unraveling the roots of the branches’ bashful behavior.
“I often make great discoveries at naptime,” he says.
Today, a growing body of work continues to support the early observations of Putz and his colleagues. Wind, it seems, plays a crucial role in helping many trees maintain their distance. The boundaries carved by bouts between branches may improve the plants’ access to resources, such as light. Gaps in the treetops might even curb the spread of leaf-munching insects, parasitic vines, or infectious disease.
In some ways, crown shyness is the arboreal version of social distancing, says Meg Lowman, a forest canopy biologist and director of the TREE Foundation. “The minute you start keeping plants from physically touching each other, you can increase productivity,” she says. “That’s the beauty of isolation … The tree is really safeguarding its own health.”
Tussling in the treetops
Though descriptions of crown shyness have appeared in scientific literature since the 1920s, several decades passed before researchers started systematically digging into the phenomenon’s cause. Some scientists initially pursued a hypothesis that trees were simply failing to fill the spaces between their canopies due to a lack of light—a crucial resource for photosynthesis—where their foliage overlapped.
But Putz’s team published research in 1984 showing that in some cases, crown shyness may simply be the product of a battle between windblown trees, each racing to sprout new branches and parry strikes from their neighbors. In their research, the more mangroves swayed in the wind, the more widely their canopies were spaced from those of their neighbors—some of the first results supporting this so-called abrasion hypothesis to explain the treetop patterns.
Other scientists have found clues that several paths to crown shyness likely exist, and some are perhaps less combative than these windy tussles. For instance, Rudnicki says some trees may have learned to stop growing at their tips entirely, wising up to the fact that any new foliage will be stripped away.
Trees could thus avoid unnecessary damage, says Inés Ibáñez, a forest ecologist at the University of Michigan. “Growing new tissue is very costly for plants … It’s like the trees being preemptive: Let’s not grow here because it’s not worth it.”
Some trees may be capable of taking this prudence a step further by using a specialized sensory system to detect chemicals emanating from nearby plants. “There’s a growing body of literature around plant cognizance,” says Marlyse Duguid, a forester and horticulturist at Yale University. Data on chemical communication in woody plants is sparse, but if trees can sense each other, they may be able to halt canopy growth before they’re forced to tussle.
The perks of personal space
Regardless of how crown shyness occurs, the separation likely comes with benefits. “Leaves are like a tree’s most expensive diamonds—you want to protect them at all costs,” Lowman says. “If a whole bunch get bumped off, that’s a terrible disaster for the tree.”
Sparser foliage could also help sunlight reach forest floors, nurturing the ground-dwelling plants and animals that in turn support arboreal life. Putz thinks the gaps may even help trees avoid invasive, woody vines called lianas—which are common in tropical and temperate forests around the world—or buffer the plants against disease-causing microbes and flightless insects that use canopies as conduits. (Some germs and bugs could still theoretically make the hop when trees box in the breeze.)
Many of these possible advantages, however, have yet to be conclusively linked to crown shyness. Forest canopies—the tops of some of the world’s tallest plants—aren’t easy to study, says Lowman, a self-described “arbonaut” and one of the few scientists who has made a career studying canopies. Examining the tops of trees requires quite a bit of climbing, balance, and bravery. “The limiting factor is our inability to deal with gravity to get to those places,” she says.
Still, ignoring the canopy of a tree is like trying to understand the human body from only the waist down, Lowman says. The crowns of trees teem with life—and much of this biodiversity may still be undiscovered, especially in the tropics.
Luckily, crown shyness “isn’t something you have to get on a plane to see,” Putz says. “It’s happening all around—and what an enriching thing for people to look up and see.”
In February, the administration finalized plans to drill and mine in these areas which until recently were protected under National Monument status. Their plan “puts tens of thousands of archeological sites, Native American sacred sites, and recreational public lands in the hands of private industry to mine, drill, and develop for their own benefit.”
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) describes Bears Ears as “a stunningly beautiful, ecologically fragile landscape that has played a crucial role in Native American culture in the Southwest for thousands of years” and Grand Staircase-Escalante as “one of the richest and most important paleontological sites in North America.”
We cannot allow this recklessness to damage lands that Americans love and that are sacred to Native Americans. Sign this petition telling Congress that you want to protect all of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase now!
Sign these other relevant petitions to stand up against more environmentally damaging plans and proposals made by the Trump administration:
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A top official at the Environmental Protection Agency informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska late Thursday that the EPA would not formally object at this point to the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive gold and copper deposit where mining could damage the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.
Christopher Hladick, the EPA’s regional administrator for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, wrote to the Alaska district engineer, Col. David Hibner, that the agency still has serious concerns about the plan, including that dredging for the open-pit mine “may well contribute to the permanent loss of 2,292 acres of wetlands and … 105.4 miles of streams.”
But Hladick said the EPA would not elevate the matter to the leadership of the two agencies, which could delay necessary approvals for the project to advance. The EPA “appreciates the Corps’ recent commitment to continue this coordination into the future,” he wrote.
The move marks the latest chapter in a years-long battle that has pitted a Canadian-owned mining company against commercial fishing operators, native Alaskans and conservationists determined to protect the unique and economically critical sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.
The Corps is set to decide this summer whether to grant a federal permit to the Pebble Partnership to move forward with the project. The EPA could still veto such a permit. Last year, it sent the Corps a letter saying the project slated for southwestern Alaska “may” harm “aquatic resources of national importance.”
But the EPA had to determine by Thursday whether the mine “will” cause such harm, and it opted not to do so — an indication that the environmental agency does not appear likely to block the mine.
Pebble Partnership chief executive Tom Collier, whose company has proposed a 20-year plan to extract copper, gold and molybdenum from a deposit worth hundreds of billions of dollars, hailed the decision in a statement as “another indication of positive progress for the project.”
Rich Nolan, president and chief executive of the National Mining Association, also welcomed the EPA’s determination. “It is encouraging to see the permitting process proceeding as intended on this important project, especially after so many years of delay and inappropriate overreach,” he said in an email.
But opponents of the proposed mining operation — located in a watershed that supports a long-standing Alaska Native subsistence tradition, as well as a lucrative commercial and recreational fishery — noted that the EPA and other key agencies have raised concerns the Corps has yet to address.
“There are still many substantive issues with the project proposal that have yet to be resolved,” said the vice president of Bristol Bay Native Corp., Daniel Cheyette, whose Alasksa Native corporation opposes the mine, which would be the largest in North America.
Mark Ryan, a lawyer in private practice who served as regional counsel in EPA Region 10 between 1990 and 2014, said in a phone interview that the EPA’s letter appears contradictory.
“It’s a very odd letter,” Ryan said. “It points out the mine’s very serious environmental damage but then does not invoke EPA’s powers to elevate the issue for further discussion.”
A crab swims above a waving seagrass bed in the Chesapeake Bay.Photograph by Jay Fleming
When scientist Wen Jun Cai and his colleagues boated across the pea-soup-like waters of the upper Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 2016, water sampling kits and pH sensors in hand, they didn’t expect to find chemical magic at play.
The scientists were taking stock of a looming problem facing the 200-mile-long bay: the acidification of its waters, a human-caused phenomenon that threatens the health of the crabs, oysters, and fish iconic to the large estuary.
They started collecting their samples in the recently restored, vibrant underwater grass beds of the Susquehanna Flats near the top of the bay, and motored their way some 60 miles downstream to the deep central channel.
When they rounded up their hundreds of data points and analyzed them, they found evidence of something surprising and encouraging: Gently waving seagrasses in the bay are performing a magnificent chemical trick. As they photosynthesize in the beating sunshine, they produce tiny granules of a carbon-based mineral that acts like a miniature antacid tablet.
And those acid-neutralizing “micro-Tums” don’t stay put. They’re swept miles down the length of the bay, eventually dissolving into the deepest waters, which have long been soured by acidification caused by human sources like agricultural runoff and untreated waste.
“It’s like the seagrasses are producing antacids that counter the indigestion of the bay,” says Jeremy Testa, a marine ecologist at the University of Maryland and an author of the paper in Nature Geoscience describing the newly discovered phenomenon.
Without this acid-neutralizing trick, the bay’s waters and shelled creatures would be even more vulnerable to the human-caused threats, he says.
Acid waters run deep
The Chesapeake gets its name from the Algonquin word for “great shellfish bay.” For thousands of years, its rich ecology depended on the ways its shellfish, grasses, fish, and other species interacted; each influenced the chemistry and biology of the others, in a delicate biological dance.
Seagrasses and other underwater plants packed the bay’s shallows, stilling and smoothing the surrounding water, leaving it clear and clean for baby fish, crabs, and shellfish to populate. Vegetation stabilized the muddy bottom during storms. And it absorbed the brunt of wind and waves, protecting shorelines against erosion.
But as more and more people populated the land around the bay, the grasses took hit after hit. A steady flow of nitrogen-rich pollutants overloaded the waters; the grasses and other underwater plants died off en masse. Between the 1950s and 1980s, vegetation coverage across the bay plummeted. Only 10 percent of sites in the upper bay had vegetation when they were surveyed in 1980.
The nutrient overload also spurred enormous, suffocating algal blooms at the water’s surface. When such blooms happen, the algae die off and sink to deeper water, where they’re eaten by bacteria that use up any oxygen in the water and breathe out carbon-rich acid waste, creating “dead zones.” Almost nothing can survive in such corrosive waters. Worse, during strong winds or at certain times of the year, currents can sweep that deep, super-acidic water into places populated by creatures like oysters and crabs, potentially eroding their ability to maintain their calcium-carbonate based shells.
“Acidified waters can be really challenging for oysters, especially in their larval stage,” says Allison Colden, a biologist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
In other coastal regions, particularly along the U.S. West Coast, acidification has already damaged shellfish populations, thinning their shells and messing with their offspring’s ability to mature. But scientists aren’t totally sure if those same effects have hit the East Coast. In estuaries like the Chesapeake, natural acid levels vary a lot, so shell-forming creatures have a built-in ability to deal with some amount of ups and downs. The worry, for some scientists, is that there might be a tipping point beyond which the iconic species of the bay might not be able to adjust.
“We don’t have enough data anywhere in the world to tell us exactly how those creatures are going to meet the thresholds of acidification,” says Doug Myers, a scientist also with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
They’re particularly concerned because there’s another force, besides nutrient overloading, that’s making the bay’s water more acidic: human-caused burning of fossil fuels. That leads to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air, which gets pulled into the surface waters as ocean and air make their way toward equilibrium, where it dissolves and makes the water more acidic.
During the early 2000s, states bordering the bay collaborated to rein in polluting runoff, putting the bay a “nutrient diet—” and in response, it began to heal. Old seagrass seeds, long buried in the gooey sediments, started to sprout as the water above them cleared. By the mid-2010s, underwater vegetation covered expanded over an extra 65 square miles of the Bay, more than 300 percent more area than was covered in the 1980s.
Those grasses, like the ones in the Susquehanna Flats, can offset some of the acidity. But they’ll have to work harder and harder as carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere grow.
“This is one of the big questions for us all,” says Emily Rivest, a biologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “What’s going to happen to our oysters, our blue crabs, all the things that live in our waters, as the waters get more acidic?”
Grasses to the rescue
It’s obvious just from looking at the Susquehanna Flats that they’re doing something special, Testa says. Outside the beds, the water often looks pea-green. But inside, it’s crystal clear and much warmer than the water outside the Flats. When they looked closely, they found that even the chemistry was different.
As they photosynthesize, seagrasses and other vegetation pull particular forms of carbon out of the surrounding water, making that water less acidic. They use some of that carbon to build their plant bodies, but turn some of it into tiny crystals of calcium carbonate, a chemical variant on the material that shells are made of. The plants hoard these crystals—which are essentially tiny antacids—both inside and on the surface of their leaves.
The crystals are big enough to feel with your fingers, like a fine grit coating the leaves, says Myers. When a grass dies, it disintegrates, releasing the built-up crystals from its inside as well as out.
The crystals make a big difference for the water chemistry and biology up near the Susquehanna Flats. But they also make a big difference far downstream, demonstrating with unusual clarity how interconnected the ecology of the bay can be. In total, the team calculated, the seagrass-sourced crystals reduced the acidity of the down-bay waters, some 60 miles away, by about 0.6 pH units. They reduced the acidity of the water by four times than it otherwise might have been (because the pH scale is logarithmic, small changes in the numbers on the pH scale mean big changes in terms of acidity).
“If not for the dissolution [of the tiny crystals], the pH downstream would be even lower,” says Cai (a lower value of pH signifies a more acidic environment). “So the vegetation upstream provides a more stable environment for what’s living down the bay.”
Seagrasses and other vegetation do this chemical trick elsewhere, as well, and scientists have seen similar local chemistry shifts in places where grasses have been restored, like the estuaries fringing the Loire River and Tampa Bay. But they haven’t seen this long-range effect before.
It’s not yet clear exactly what impact the seagrass-driven help has on the blue crabs or the oysters. But it does seem clear to many scientists that the whole bay can benefit from the effect as the grasses spread their little acid-neutralizing crystals far and wide—also serving as building material for the shell-growers downstream.
“The dissolving of last year’s grass beds is helping to feed this year’s oysters [to help them build their shells],” says Myers.
The new discovery makes a strong case for restoring even more of the seagrasses in the bay, says Jonathan Lefcheck, an ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland. “You just see so clearly that there are these knock-on effects [from the seagrass restoration],” he says.
“Everything is connected. Something that was happening under our noses—this big unintended benefit, this added value—it turns out we’re solving two problems by attacking just one.”
In May of 1977, an unusual snow event occurred across parts of the Northeast. Before it was all over, one to two feet of snow blanketed some higher elevations. The snow was accompanied by high winds. Extensive tree and power line damage kept crews working for days to restore power.
Snow is not unheard of in May over parts of the Northeast, but many residents will refer to the Mother’s Day event in 1977. Actually, Mother’s Day (May 8th) was chilly with rain across much of the region. That night and into the next day, some dramatic changes were occurring in the upper atmosphere which would usher in cold air and change the rain to snow.
From parts of the Mid-Atlantic through Upstate New York and into New England, the landscape became whitened with snow on Monday, May 9th and the following night. The last flake didn’t stop falling until early on the 10th.
Heavy wet snow was accompanied by fierce winds across parts of New England. Massachusetts was particularly hard hit. There were blizzard conditions at times in eastern Massachusetts. There were wind gusts to 55 mph at times.
Boston only picked up .50 inches of snow but that set a record for the latest measurable snowfall. Foxboro, Massachusetts picked up 10 inches and 7 inches fell down to Providence, Rhode Island. For Providence, it was their only measurable snowfall in the 20th century. Heavier amounts of snow fell west of Boston with Worcester picking up 12.7 inches from the event.
One driver gave this description on a message board from www.americanwx.com about the storm :
I was out driving around the communities between 128 and 495.. Lincoln, Sudbury, Concord…
It was absolutely crazy. Tree branches were crashing down, roads blocked, no plows out… I called my boss and said, “I need to come in the driving is dangerous out here”. He acted like I was crazy. I told him we had 8 inches of snow on the ground and it was snowing heavily.
Here is another account:
We lived in Lexington at the time and lost many tree branches. My Dad was at a meeting at my school that evening, a mile and a half away from home, and couldn’t get home for more than a day because all the roads were blocked. He had to stay with friends that night.
Farther west, the Berkshires of Massachusetts picked up 10-20 inches of snow. 500,000 customers were without power across Massachusetts. Extensive power outages also extended westward into eastern New York and down into Connecticut.
In New York, a foot of snow fell in higher elevations west of Albany and 5 inches fell in the Glen Falls area. Parts of the Mohawk Valley saw 2 to 3 inches of snow. A couple of locations in the Finger Lakes region picked up 4 inches of snow. One location in the Catskill Mountains reported a whopping 27 inches of snow.
Crews attempt to restore power in western Massachusetts while snow is falling on May 9, 1977. Credit-WMEC.
The higher elevations of northern Connecticut picked up over a foot of snow. Hartford recorded 1.5 inches.
Photo of snow on the ground at Tolland, Connecticut, on May 9, 1977. Public Domain.
Only a trace of snow fell around New York City but that was the latest snowfall on record. Trace amounts fell over New Jersey and much of Pennsylvania. Thunderstorms in southern Pennsylvania were accompanied by 70 mph winds.
The only good thing about the storm was that temperatures in the lower elevations were above freezing and with the higher sun angle, most of the roads didn’t become snow covered.
Northern New England also saw snow but only light amounts fell.
Snowfall map for the May 9-10, 1977storm. Map Credit-Kocin-Uccellini/Northeast snowstorms.
On May 8th there were two areas of low pressure that were moving eastward. The first one was moving across southern Ontario while the other was moving into southern Pennsylvania. These systems were responsible for chilly temperatures and areas of rain.
Around the East Coast, there was a deep trough of low pressure developing. At the surface, the Pennsylvania low became the one dominant low around coastal New England, with, with a deep upper-level trough aloft. Coler sir flowed down into the Northeast region from Canada. There was also some very cold air aloft that was manufactured by the upper trough.
Map 0Z May 10, 1977, showing a deep upper-level trough on the East Coast. Map Credit-Kocin-Uccellini/ Northeast Snowstorms.
As temperatures fell on May 9th, the rain changed to snow in many locations. Due to the time of year, it was mainly an “elevation” snow event, but parts of southeast New England was proximate to the upper-level trough so significant snow fell at the lower elevations as well.
Surface weather map for May 9, 1977, shows a strong low-pressure system along the East Coast and associated precipitation. Map Credit- NOAA Central Library (Daily Weather Maps).
With leaves on the trees and heavy wet snow falling all you had to do was add significant wind to create havoc with trees falling on power lines all over.
CAMS monitored the rather unusual ozone hole that formed over the Arctic this spring and was reported closed April 23. Ozone holes are more common over the Antarctic every year, according to CAMS, but “the conditions needed for such strong ozone depletion are not normally found in the Northern Hemisphere.”
The Arctic stratosphere is usually less isolated than its Antarctic counterpart because the presence of nearby land masses and mountain ranges disturbs the weather patterns more than in the Southern Hemisphere, CAMS reports. The total column ozone field (in Dobson Units) from CAMS on 29 March 2020 showing values below 250 DU over large parts of the Arctic. (Source: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF) Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF
“The behavior of the ozone and the stratospheric polar vortex during the winter into spring is supported by a couple of research papers,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck. “They state that the coldest and strongest polar vortex in the stratosphere and the lowest concentration of ozone over the Arctic are more likely to occur when you have a combination of a solar minimum, which we are in now, and a westerly QBO [quasi-biennial oscillation, meaning lower stratospheric westerly winds over the equator], which we had from last summer through most of this winter.
“These are all naturally occurring processes,” Smerbeck said.
A polar vortex that remained above the polar region without weakening and a strong positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) were among a combination of factors that led the contiguous U.S. to experience higher-than-normal temperatures from December 2019 through February 2020. null
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Photo: Courtesy of H&M
It was over 10 years ago that H&M debuted its first capsule collection made of organic cotton. What felt like a novelty at the time has become mainstream and almost expected; if you aren’t using organic cotton, then what are you even doing? It’s a pattern H&M is hoping to repeat with its latest eco-forward materials, which debut today in its new Conscious Collection.
Ranging from startlingly high-tech to almost-DIY, the collection follows last year’s push into bio-based materials and a move way from strictly-recycled fibers. The most surprising, potentially game-changing one is Vegea, a soft vegan leather alternative made from the byproducts of wine; H&M discovered it through its own Global Change Award in 2017. You’ll find the Vegea “leather” on chain-strap handbags and a few pairs of shoes. Also rooted in nature but ostensibly less complex is a new dye made from the coffee grounds in H&M’s offices in China.
“Going forward, we need to be using more bio-based materials and use more waste in our collections,” Pascal Brun, H&M’s sustainability manager, explains. He’s still excited about recycled materials, but is focused more on “fiber to fiber” recycling, like Renu’s recycled polyester, which comes from actual garments, not plastic water bottles. Similarly, a new material called Circulose is made from recovered cotton and viscose—making it 100% natural—and is making its worldwide launch with H&M. Brun hopes it will eventually become a permanent part of the collection, not just the Conscious Exclusive capsules. “These collections are here to help enable the scale of these new innovations, and make them more commercial [to us and to other brands].”
Still, buying a dress made from recycled viscose or polyester isn’t a shortcut to “being sustainable.” Brun and Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M’s creative advisor, agreed that the big challenge is still their garments’ end of life; recycled polyester sheds micro plastics in the wash and doesn’t biodegrade in a landfill. “In 2020 and beyond, we need to take the concept of circularity to another level,” Brun adds. “It’s the only way to think about our goals for natural resources [in the next decade]. It isn’t just about materials, though, it’s about how we can design clothes to last longer and to be eventually recycled, and how can we involve our customers to have more sustainable behavior? It’s a holistic approach.”
Johansson also name-checked H&M’s garment collection initiatives—you can take old clothes to any H&M store to be recycled or donated—and a few potential new business models in resale and rental. As far as design, she and her team are thinking about longevity and timelessness rather than trends, falling right in step with the luxury fashion conversation. “We’re talking about making clothes that are more durable and recyclable, but there has to be emotional durability, too,” she said. “If you fall in love with a garment, you take care of it and keep it for a long time. The price doesn’t matter—if you really love it, you’ll care for it, you’ll mend it, and when you don’t want it, maybe you can resell it. The emotional feeling is quite important.”
The one-shouldered recycled polyester blouse with an XXL ruffle Anna Ewers models in the lookbook certainly qualifies: It’s covetable and makes a statement, but isn’t so of-the-moment that it will feel dated. The same goes for the easy printed dresses and recycled glass jewelry. By 2030, those might not feel novel at all; H&M’s goal is that 100% of its materials will be recycled or sustainably-sourced by that time. Until then, mark your calendar for March 26th when you can get your hands on the capsule’s “wine leather” bags and recycled-poly gowns.
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