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climate change

The Coast Guard icebreaker HEALY has returned to Seattle. The summer ice has gotten easier to navigate, which made it possible for the HEALY to travel alone.
U.S. Coast Guard

An American icebreaker has returned home to Seattle after a historic mission to the North Pole.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy broke its first ice floe in August, just north of Alaska.

Much of the forestland above the Illinois River in Southwest Oregon is a tangled mess of manzanita, shrubby hardwoods and ceanothus. Bushwhacking through it is a branch-to-the-face, boot-snagging, poison-oaky horror.

And this is one of the easy spots, says Portland State University Ph.D. student Charles Maxwell.

“Yeah, this one is a pretty accessible site relatively. Some are quite a bit further in,” he says.

Scientists believe that Kivalina, population 457, will be the first casualty of climate change in the U.S., and that it will be inundated by sea water by 2025.
Suzanne Tennant

Ross Reynolds talks to journalist Elizabeth Arnold about how rural Alaskan communities are dealing with fast rising tides and severe storms caused by climate change.

On Thursday morning, Patricia was a relatively small Category 1 hurricane. By Friday afternoon, it was the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.

Is climate change to blame for this record-breaking storm's ferocious rise?

The answer is complex, and shows why it's so hard to tie a single weather event to global warming.

A tall rectangular building juts out of a mountainside on a Norwegian island just 800 miles from the North Pole. Narrow and sharply edged, the facility cuts an intimidating figure against the barren Arctic background. But the gray building holds the key to the earth's biodiversity.

Scientists today laid out a truly worst-case scenario for global warming — what would happen if we burned the Earth's entire supply of fossil fuels.

Virtually all of Antarctica's ice would melt, leading to a 160- to 200-foot sea level rise.

"If we burn it all, we're going to melt it all," says Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Melting glaciers and dry lakebeds may seem to be a purely negative result of global climate change, but they’ve had a positive impact for one group of people: archaeologists.

As previously inaccessible areas become exposed, thousands of new artifacts are being uncovered, leaving archaeologists scrambling to keep up and preserve what they can.

A view of the sea near Kivalina, Alaska, in May 2014. Normally the ice would have been solid into June.
Suzanne Tennant

President Barack Obama becomes the first sitting president to set foot on U.S. soil north of the Arctic Circle on Wednesday. Marcie Sillman talks to Nadine Fabbi, managing director of the Canadian Studies Center at the University of Washington, about why the Arctic is increasingly important to U.S. foreign policy.

Two teenagers in Kivalina, Alaska, play near a skinned polar bear. Scientists predict Kivalina, an Alaskan village, will be the first casualty of climate change and sea rising in the U.S.
Suzanne Tennant

President Barack Obama is coming to Alaska later this month.

The White House released a video Thursday morning to explain why he will be the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic. 

The folksy video (it starts with the president saying, “Hi, everybody”) features dripping glaciers, raging wildfires and Alaska Natives hanging salmon to dry.

Mt. Hood’s Timberline Resort is the only place offering a full summer ski season in North America. But not this year. The resort closed to the public on August 2 -- five weeks earlier than normal. And that’s after a dismal winter ski season.

Pope Francis today issued a sweeping 184-page papal letter, writing that climate change is a global problem with far reaching environmental and social consequences — especially for the poor. He blamed apathy and greed and called on developing countries to limit the use of nonrenewable energy and to assist poorer nations.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Protesters of Arctic drilling have run afoul of the ocean environment in their own small way.

In addition to assembling a flotilla of kayaks on Seattle's Elliott Bay last weekend, the activists brought in a construction barge. It's a solar-powered platform for protests against Shell Oil's plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean. But the protesters anchored their solar barge over one of Seattle's most popular sites for scuba diving. 

John Ryan / KUOW

Seattle planning officials say the Arctic drill rig at the Port of Seattle has to leave or get a new permit by June 4. 

The city issued a notice of violation to the Port of Seattle, Shell Oil and Foss Maritime on Monday afternoon.

The notice says the port's permit is only good for cargo ships, not oil rigs like the Polar Pioneer.

Protesters buzz along the West Seattle shore as the Polar Pioneer is hauled toward the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 on Thursday, March 14, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Shell Oil pulls into Elliott Bay, the University of Washington pulls out of coal and President Obama is pulled in two directions. KUOW's Bill Radke debates carbon and its alternatives with environmentalist Bill McKibben, Alaska North Slope Port Authority executive director Paul Fuhs and panelists Eli Sanders, Chris Vance and Joni Balter.

Plus: Should we ban smoking in Seattle parks? Do Washington legislators deserve a pay raise? And do Seattle "brogrammers" deserve blame for a changing Seattle?

Student activists Angela Feng, Sarra Tekola and Alex Lenferna of Divest UW appear before the UW Board of Regents on March 12, 2015 to urge the university to get rid of its coal investments.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

David Hyde speaks with Vox.com writer David Roberts who says student activists at the UW and elsewhere are changing the debate about climate change by making it a moral issue.

A container ship at the Port of Seattle.
Flickr Photo/Bari Bookout (CC-BY-NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/6kUVcr

Ross Reynolds speaks with economics reporter Jon Talton about climate change's affect the economy of the Pacific Northwest.

A snowpack that is less than 20 percent of the normal amount has farmers and ranchers in southern Oregon worried, but the region’s rafting guides say in spite of the limited snowfall they expect to have plenty of water to float on this summer.

Pete Wallstrom, a guide and owner of Momentum River Expeditions, says he’s getting lots of calls from clients wondering if they should cancel their trips on Oregon’s iconic Rogue River due to drought.

The Antarctic is far away, freezing and buried under a patchwork of ice sheets and glaciers. But a warming climate is altering that mosaic in unpredictable ways — research published Thursday shows that the pace of change in parts of the Antarctic is accelerating.

China's top weather scientist has made a rare official acknowledgement: climate change, he says, could have a "huge impact" on the country's crop yields and infrastructure.

Zheng Guogang, the head of China's meteorological administration, tells Xinhua news agency that China is already experiencing temperature increases that outpace those in other parts of the world.

As a result, China — the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases — faces a possible "ecological degradation," he says.

There are more than two dozen pens at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, Calif., and no vacancy. They're filled with more than a hundred sea lion pups, grouped by health condition.

The pups in the first row of pens are swimming in small pools and sliding across the wet concrete.

"These guys on this half of the facility are actually doing pretty well," says Lauren Palmer, the chief biologist at the center. "They're eating on their own. They're playing. They're porpoising."

For the first time, biologists have caught a rare type of coral in the act of reproducing, and they were able to collect its sperm and eggs and breed the coral in the laboratory.

The success is part of an effort to stem the decline in many types of coral around the world.

It’s a double-whammy kind of year for the Pacific.

An unusually warm winter in Alaska failed to chill ocean waters. Then this winter’s El Nino is keeping tropical ocean temperatures high. Combine these and scientists are recording ocean temperatures up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average off the coasts of Oregon and Washington.

“This is a situation with how the climate is going, or the weather is going, that we just haven’t really seen before and don’t know where it’s headed,” says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Chris Harvey.

Scott Pattee stands well over 6 feet, but he’s dwarfed by the tall white tube set up near the Stevens Pass Ski Area to measure snow depth.

Little black numbers marking inches of snow ascend the side of the tube. The top number reads 250 inches, an amount of snow that’s hard to imagine right now.

Most of the mountains around Pattee are green and brown, not white - even though it’s officially still winter until March 19 arrives.

And the snow depth, according to the tower?

Northwest Faces Greater Risks From Acidifying Waters

Feb 24, 2015

The Pacific Northwest faces a higher risk of economic harm from ocean acidification than other parts of the country, according to a new study released Monday.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found a "potent combination" of risk factors along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. The region has cold ocean water that absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warmer water, and it has upwelling ocean currents that bring corrosive water to the surface.

Ross Reynolds talks with University of Waterloo professor Daniel Scott about how climate change could affect the winter tourism industry.

Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, left, and Kevin Ranker. On Christmas Day, Ashley Ahearn asked them to join her at the Spar Cafe, a bar in Olympia.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Earlier this winter, Ashley Ahearn was growing tired of polarized political debate.

She wondered: Did politicians actually believe what came out of their mouths? So she invited Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, leaders, to drinks at Spar Cafe in Olympia.  

Two teenagers in Kivalina, Alaska, play near a skinned polar bear. Scientists predict Kivalina, an Alaskan village, will be the first casualty of climate change and sea rising in the U.S.
Suzanne Tennant

I first heard of Kivalina, a sliver of an island in far northwest Alaska, when I was looking for a photo project.

It appealed in part because of this one startling fact: Scientists believe that Kivalina, population 457, will be the first casualty of climate change in the U.S., and that it will be inundated by sea water by 2025. That’s in just a decade.

Last year was the hottest year on record, according to data released Friday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"For the 21st century, nine out of 10 years have been warmest on record — 1998 was the only year prior to the 21st century that made the top 10," said Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Ocean temperatures were higher than land temperatures, which raised the overall global average.

U.S. Coast Guard/Travis Marsh

The Seattle Port Commission decided on Tuesday to let Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet use West Seattle as its home port.

Shell's drill rigs and barges would overwinter at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 in West Seattle while the terminal is being renovated.

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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