Tag Archives: Environment

Wildfire isn’t listening

The Prairie Ecologist

Most of you are familiar with the wildfire that affected our Niobrara Valley Preserve this summer.  Well, we’re still trying to regain our footing after that event.  A great deal of time and money has already been spent on rebuilding and redesigning infrastructure (especially fences), but there’s still much to do.  In addition, the staff of the Preserve, along with a few of us from around the state, has taken this opportunity to do some deep thinking about what the Preserve can be in the future.  It’s an incredible place, and we want to be sure it lives up to its potential.  I’ll share more about that process as the picture becomes more clear.

In the meantime, we’re also trying to learn what we can from the 2012 wildfire so that we and others can be more prepared the next time something like this happens.  I’ve been asked to help organize…

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BBC Nature – ‘Criminal’ penguin caught on film

The soundtrack and narration are really kind of cute here.

A “criminal” stone-stealing Adelie penguin has been captured on camera by a BBC film crew.

The team, filming for the documentary Frozen Planet, spent four months with the penguin colony on Ross Island, Antarctica.

The footage they captured shows a male penguin stealing stones from its neighbour’s nest.

Read the accompanying article at bbc.co.uk

Lead poisoning from battery industry reported in developing countries

Higher levels of lead found in children living near battery facilities

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 15, 2011) – Documenting the hazards of lead battery manufacturing and recycling operations in emerging markets, a study in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene reports that children living near these facilities in developing countries had approximately 13 times more lead in their blood than American children.

The researchers, using data from studies published between 1993 and 2010 on environmental and occupational exposures from lead battery manufacturing and recycling in developing countries, also found:

  • Workers in this industry in developing countries had approximately three times higher blood lead levels than battery workers in the U.S.
  • Lead levels in the air inside lead battery plants in developing countries were seven times greater than the levels permitted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Children and workers in developing countries face significant risks of lead poisoning, which can cause lifelong health problems,” said Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) and author of the study. “Without major improvements, we expect that lead poisoning cases will continue to increase as the industry grows.”

Approaching record drought, Texas water districts consider oil and gas industry use

In the midst of the second-worst drought in Texas history, towns across the state are going to extreme measures to cope, capping residential water use, and limiting the number of days households can water their lawns. Earlier this week, the West Texas town of Kemp ran out of water. In Big Spring, the local water district is building a plant to recycle treated wastewater back into the drinking supply.

But oil and gas producers are injecting millions of gallons of freshwater into the ground at a time, with hydraulic fracturing jobs in every corner of the state, from once-abandoned oil fields in West Texas to the South Texas boom towns of the Eagle Ford Shale.

Even while downplaying risks of water contamination, industry officials have said the state’s water shortage could choke Texas’ growing natural gas industry, and some operators have begun preparing for tighter regulation of their water usage.

But with a patchwork of state agencies and local water conservation districts responsible for Texas’ water use — and state laws that exempt much of the oil and gas industry — it’s a mystery just how much water is being pumped into the ground for hydrofracking, or how the state could limit industry’s water use.

Read the rest at washingtonindependent.com

Polar bear kills young British adventurer in Norway

A polar bear

A polar bear has mauled to death a British citizen in Norway, according to reports. Photograph: Andrew Stewart/Rex Features

A British adventurer has been killed by a starving polar bear which attacked an expedition organised by the British Schools Exploring Society.

Four other people were injured by the animal, which the group then shot dead, at the Von Postbreen glacier on the island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago.

The party of around 80 were on a five-week expedition in the Arctic run by the BSES, a youth development charity.

Continue reading here: guardian.co.uk

2011 ties record for most billion dollar weather disasters in United States

Billion dollar weather events in the U.S. during 2011. Count indicated by size of bars (adapted by author to include Missouri River flooding in 2011), damages indicated by lines (damage numbers in 2011 do not include Missouri River flooding).
(From NOAA, adapted by author)

Add the flooding of the Missouri River to the list of billion dollar weather disasters in the U.S. in 2011. The economic toll from that historic flood – which is ongoing – brings the total number of billion dollar weather events in 2011 to nine, tying 2008 for the most on record since 1980. And hurricane season still remains.

Although NOAA has not yet officially listed the Missouri River flooding as a billion dollar event, Angela Fritz, atmospheric scientist at Weather Underground estimates the flood has produced at least $2-4 billion in damages.

Fritz points out that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said damage to levee and dam systems alone could reach $1 billion. That figure doesn’t include damages to roads or the 500,000 flooded acres in seven states.

Continues at washingtonpost.com

World’s driest desert hit by snow, rain

Image: Children play during an unusual snowfall in the Atacama desert, near Copiapo, Chile, Sunday, Sunday.

Alex Fuentes

Children play during an unusual snowfall in the Atacama desert, near Copiapo, Chile, Sunday.


8/2/2011 4:52:56 AM ET

This has been the wettest winter in decades for Chile’s arid northern desert, where fractions of an inch of rain have done major damage in some areas and set the stage for spectacular floral displays in the weeks to come.

July came and went with major storms that together dumped more than five times the annual average of rain and snow on parts of the world’s driest desert.

The past weekend’s precipitation blocked highways, forced the cancellation of a top Chilean football match and damaged the homes of 1,800 people, said Vicente Nunez, chief of the Interior Ministry’s national emergency office.

A similarly wet stretch in early July dumped four years’ worth of rain in one day on coastal Antofogasta.

That was just a quarter of an inch but it was still enough to cause collapsed or leaking roofs in homes and businesses that usually have no reason to protect themselves against even minimal precipitation.

Three feet of snow

That storm also brought as much as three feet of snow to mountains that normally receive zero precipitation during the southern winter.

Soldiers helped rescue 400 people including busloads of foreign visitors who were trapped in snow drifts and 50 mph winds, said Ernesto Figueroa, chief of Chile’s emergency agency in the northern Tarapaca region.

Some copper mines in the region, including the massive Collahuasi operation, temporarily halted production because of snowfall.

Further south in Copiapo, dry riverbeds became torrents, trapping people who tried to drive across. The government helped out by delivering plastic sheeting to shantytown residents.

Video: Snowmageddon hits southern Chile (on this page)

Article continues at msnbc.msn.com

Pictures: Rare Antelope, Big Cats Caught by Camera Trap

Click through for article and more pics: news.nationalgeographic.com

The new abnormal: look who’s talking about climate and weird weather

Storm clouds

Photo: Chris Toombes

Cross-posted from Sightline Daily. This is part two in the series “Talking Weather and Climate.” Read part one.

If you’re like me, you’ve been mentally cataloging a bunch of weather
events that have seemed weird and extreme, wondering to yourself: Is this normal? Am I the only one who thinks this is odd?

Prompted by those feelings, and spurred on by a nascent conversation
about the connections between extreme weather and climate change, I
started asking the question: Just how should climate change communicators be talking about the weather?

One possible answer came from national climate action guru Bill McKibben.

Sidestepping (stomping on?) the standard-issue disclaimer that “no
single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change,” in a Washington Post op-ed called “A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!,” McKibben pours on the sarcasm and tops it with a big helping of irony. He insists that we should absolutely not, under any circumstances, make connections between climate science and the
devastating storms, fires, drought, bug infestations, crop failures, or
floods we’re witnessing at home and across the globe. Nope! “Best not to
ask yourself if there’s a connection,” he writes, “because then you’d
inevitably have to wonder about all kinds of other things that you
probably don’t want to wonder about, for example, whether President
Obama really should have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal
mining,” or if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should really “sign a
permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the
tar sands of Alberta?”

My initial response: Yes! Go, Bill McKibben! He articulated
exactly what a Climate Nerd like me was feeling — and said it all without
really saying anything at all that science deniers could attack. Why didn’t I think of that?! (Incidentally, McKibben’s op-ed makes for a chilling voice-over script for this video montage by Plomomedia.)

Still, there was inevitable backlash. Even from within the “climate community,” McKibben took some heat for “making overwrought assertions.”

Was it too snarky? Is dark humor inappropriate in this context? Were
his claims exaggerated? Climate policy advocates get antsy when one of
their own goes on the attack or strays from those ubiquitous
disclaimers. Indeed, there are many climate communicators who are gun
shy after 2009 polling by Gallup that showed that a record-high 41
percent of Americans thought that media coverage of the threats of global warming were exaggerated. That’s when many of us swore off messages about scary “gloom and doom” climate impacts, instead focusing on solutions and opportunities.

Despite the backlash — or perhaps because it prompted extreme
reactions — I’m thinking that McKibben’s approach probably worked best to
fire up tried and true climate activists — and it did get a charge out of
the science denial set as well. That’s McKibben’s job, after all. But
not all of us can pull that kind of thing off. Still, it’s our job to
acknowledge and communicate about the fact that climate scientists are
increasingly seeing the “fingerprints” of human-made carbon overload of
the atmosphere at the “crime scenes” of weather events.

Who else is talking about it?

Keep reading at grist.org