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climate

If the world does nothing to limit carbon emissions, the US economy will suffer — but, according to a new study published Thursday in Science, the Pacific Northwest might actually benefit.

Microsoft is trying to put the brakes on its greenhouse gas emissions.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

It’s rush hour in Wallingford, and commuters are stepping off a bus, closing up their laptops and heading into the evening sun. It’s not public transit. It’s a Microsoft Connector bus.

The United States is stepping away from the Paris Climate Agreement, but the consequences of climate change will be more difficult to leave behind. Take ocean acidification, a major emerging threat to West Coast fisheries.

Researchers at Oregon State University have recorded some of the highest levels of ocean acidification in the world – and they exist right off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Facebook Photo/Governor Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington state will continue to honor the goals of the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump's decision to withdraw from the international agreement to reduce global carbon emissions.

When asked what he'd like to say to Trump, Inslee replied: "Your resignation letter would be gratefully accepted by an optimistic and innovative nation."

Polar bears aren't the only beloved Arctic animal threatened by climate change. Scientists believe reindeer are at risk as a warming world makes their main winter food source disappear.

But reindeer on one Alaskan island are surprising researchers.

And that surprise doesn't just come from the fact that the reindeer are hard to spot.

On St. Paul Island, Lauren Divine of the EcoSystem Conservation Office was not having luck seeing a herd of 400 reindeer, even on this treeless island with tundra as far as the eye can see.

This week, President Trump's transition team put new restrictions on government scientists' freedom to communicate. The restrictions are being characterized as temporary, and some have already been lifted.

There have been no executive orders yet to undo President Barack Obama's signature climate plan, but many officials and environmental groups consider it as good as dead. The Clean Power Plan is on hold while a legal battle plays out, and even if an appeals court upholds it — a decision could come any day — the Trump administration is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The state of New York decided to forge ahead anyway. Like a number of other mostly liberal states, it is continuing with efforts to drive down the carbon emissions that drive climate change.

Brian Wahlberg gives daughter Luciena a good view of the proceedings as the crowd sings at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle.
KUOW photo/Gil Aegerter

In the liberal bastion that is Seattle, the response to the election was acute. People cried openly on buses and in cafes. Some took time off work to mourn in bed. It wasn't that their candidate had lost, we heard again and again, it was that they feared for the future.

Flickr Photo/Javacolleen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Seattle has a rat problem. Rat sightings in Seattle are double the national average. Population growth is part of the problem; so is the weather.

That’s meant good business for Adam Truitt, owner of Pest Fighter.

Ben Silesky, 26, and Sydney Allen, 21, go door to door to raise awareness and support for ballot Initiative 732, which would put a tax on carbon emissions in Washington.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

If you could make energy companies pay $25 for every ton of CO2 they emitted, would you?

What if that tax increased your electric bill and the cost of gasoline by 25 cents per gallon – but the revenue from that tax reduced sales taxes and gave money back to low-income families in the form of a rebate?

Rising sea levels have eroded an Inupiat Eskimo village for decades. Now, residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, have officially voted to relocate.

The island community, located near the Bering Strait, opted to move rather than remain in place with added safety measures to protect against the rising waters. The city clerk's office told NPR that 94 votes favored relocating and 78 votes wanted to protect in place.

COASST / Cliff Brown

Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer, and scientists can't say why.

John O'Brien

As Representative Jim McDermott prepares to retire after 28 years of service, the top three contenders for his 7th District seat in Congress are on the stump to succeed him. 


Beach-goers soak up the sun in view of the Puget Sound and Olympic mountains behind during a likely third day in a row of record high temperatures Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Another hot summer is ahead for Washington. The National Weather Service predicts the entire nation will have higher than average summer temps, especially in coastal states.

The weather service says Washington and Oregon have a 50-60 percent probability of well above average temperatures this summer. It's the same prediction for Alaska and the northeast. 


The U.S.S. Bear, a cutter that was dispatched by President McKinley to rescue the Belvedere and other ice-bound whaling ships. The Bear wasn’t able to break through the ice to Point Barrow until July 28, 1898. Today, there is no ice.
U.S. Library of Congress

Audio Pending...

When the steamship Belvedere left San Francisco in the spring of 1897, its crew members couldn’t have known what a treacherous voyage awaited them.

A couple winters ago, a team of Northwest scientists jumped in a pickup and traveled hundreds of miles around the U.S. and Canadian backroads. They were after samples of dirty snow.

"I actually think we're going to solve this thing."

That's what President Obama said in a news conference just before he left a United Nations summit on climate change.

"Climate change is a massive problem," Obama said. "It is a generational problem. It's a problem that by definition is just about the hardest thing for a political system to absorb, because the effects are gradual, they're diffused. And yet despite all that ... I'm optimistic. I think we're going to solve it."

Seafloor Samples Reveal Ghosts Of Blobs Past

Nov 26, 2015

A huge mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is causing problems off the coast of Oregon and Washington. The so-called “blob” is being blamed for toxic algae blooms, which have caused marine mammal deaths and crabbing closures.

New evidence shows this isn’t the first time the blob has appeared off the Northwest coast.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The latest El Niño forecast report is out from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and it looks like the drought will continue into next year for most of Washington.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Under Friday's gun-metal skies, Seattleites might be forgiven for thinking the drought gripping Washington state for the past year is over.

It’s not.

Houseboats on Lake Union in the Eastlake area.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Marcie Sillman speaks with Ken Brettmann, senior water manager for the Army Corps of Engineers' Seattle District, about why Lake Washington and Lake Union have hit record low water levels, what the consequences might be for boaters and floating homes, and what he's doing to fix the problem.

The Washington drought report for Aug. 26, 2015.
U.S. Drought Monitor

Washington is seeing fire and rain this weekend, as huge wildfires burn in Chelan and Okanogan counties and a major storm bears down on the western part of the state.

“There is a potent, juicy system headed our way,” state climatologist Nick Bond told KUOW's Marcie Sillman.

It wasn't all in your head — last month was hotter than ever before.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that July had the highest average temperatures in records since 1880.

And it's not just in the U.S. Average July temperatures around the world set heat records too, NPR's Kat Chow reports.

She tells our Newscast unit that:

"This confirms what NASA and a Japanese agency found using separate data.

The giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America's treasures, but for the first time in Sequoia National Park's history, the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought.

On a hike last summer, a scientist noticed that the needles of the giant sequoias were browning and more sparse than usual. This finding got ecologists thinking: Did the drought cause this?

inciweb.nwcg.gov

Hundreds of people fled wildfires that surrounded the city of Chelan after multiple lightning strikes on Friday, emergency officials said.

Residents and visitors watched dramatic scenes during the day as aerial tankers and helicopters dropped fire retardant and water in attempts to stop lines of fire advancing from the south and northeast.

A historically strong El Niño is taking shape according to climatologists watching the Pacific Ocean. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said during a briefing Thursday that the current El Niño has the potential to develop into one of the most potent on record by late fall or early winter.

This year was supposed to be one of the biggest returns in 40 years for the endangered Idaho sockeye salmon. But it’s not turning out that way. Only a fraction of these fish have survived their journey up the Columbia and Snake rivers. The biggest problem: warm waters. Now dam and fish managers and tribes are in a race against time to save the few remaining fish.

In the middle of a heat wave this month, Portland State University researchers Vivek Shandas and Jackson Voelkel drove across the city of Portland with a thermometer sticking out the window.

The thermometer was connected to a GPS unit. Together the two devices logged the temperature and location every second as the car moved along city streets. As they drove past the Portland International Airport, Shandas noted lots of asphalt and a near total lack of trees.

"This is one of the hottest places in the city," he said.

Unusually warm waters in the Columbia River Basin have prompted federal officials to invoke measures to help migrating fish survive the hostile conditions.

A federal plan to protect endangered salmon and steelhead, known as the BiOp (or biological opinion), has contingencies for drier, warmer years. That includes the release of cooler water from upstream reservoirs.

So far, extra water has been released from reservoirs in Canada, Montana, and Lake Roosevelt in Washington.

Seattle sunrise.
Flickr Photo/Michael B. (CC BY NC ND)

It’s fair to say that dire warnings about climate change have become the new normal. Consider these recent headlines from NASA’s Climate Change Blog: "Turkish Glaciers Shrink By Half," "A Third Of Big Groundwater Basins In Distress," "It's The Final Act For Larsen B Ice Shelf," and "Longer Melt Season A Game Changer For Arctic Mammals."

So we shouldn’t expect a great punch line when our bar scenario takes place, as it did recently at Columbia City’s Royal Room. 

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