Environment

KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

This humpback whale breached off Strawberry Island.
Dan Acosta

Research biologist John Calambokidis talks to KUOW's Kim Malcolm about the death of a juvenile humpback whale on a West Seattle beach, and what the incident tells us about the health of Puget Sound.

A new study finds the West is likely to see slower-growing Douglas fir trees in the future, as temperatures and droughts increase with climate change.

Researchers with the University of California-Davis took core samples from 122 Douglas fir trees across the region to measure how fast the trees grew over a 91-year period.

The results clearly show that the trees grew more slowly in drought years, according to researcher Christina Restaino.

Just days after the Bureau of Land Management finalized two forestry plans for Oregon, conservation and timber interests have each filed lawsuits in federal court.

The Western Oregon plans will govern how forests are managed for the coming decades – including what land will be logged and what will be set aside to protect water quality and endangered species habitat.

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

People may wonder when Seattle will get the 90 degrees days that were common over the last couple summers. Where's that hot weather?

The first weeks of August are typically the hottest all year in Seattle. But the clouds above will tell you, we're not breaking any records this week.

A study of drinking water supplies throughout the U.S. shows that numerous sources are contaminated with firefighting chemicals.

A team of scientists examined government data from thousands of public drinking water supplies. The water samples had been collected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The scientists were looking for several types of chemicals from a class of fluorinated substances used commonly in firefighting foam.

The Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle.
Flickr Photo/GD Taber (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/8s5xjo

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle Times environment reporter Lynda Mapes about Seattle trees, why they're dying and what that tells us about the state of the environment. 

More than 20 fires were sparked in eastern Oregon over the weekend — mostly in Baker and Malheur counties.

Though only four of those fires were significant in size, said Robyn Broyles with the National Interagency Fire Center, a majority were caused by lightning strikes throughout the Northwest.

"There's quite a bit of lightning that came in to our general area that came up from the southwest and spread northwest coming across Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon," said Broyles. "Essentially a lightning pattern came across the corners of those states."

The Bureau of Land Management on Friday finalized two plans to manage more than 2 million acres of public land in western Oregon. These forests, once owned by the Oregon and California Railroad, have been particularly controversial because counties have traditionally relied on them for logging income to fund local services.

Scientists have answered a burning question central to the charm of sunflowers: Why do young flowers move their blooms to always face the sun over the course of a day?

And then: Once sunflowers reach maturity, why do they stop tracking the sun and only face east?

Bill Radke speaks with KUOW's environmental reporter Ashley Ahearn about the growing debate around oil trains traveling through Washington state and why we are in the crosshairs for even more trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. 

Larches are a staple of the North Cascades.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with author Ana Maria Spagna about the natural beauty of the North Cascades National Park in Washington. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. Spagna has lived and worked in the North Cascades for the past 15 years.  

Nestle’s plans to build a commercial water bottling plant in another Northwest town is stirring up more controversy. Waitsburg, Washington's mayor resigned this week amid accusations of backroom deals and protests of the plan by many area residents.

Nestle wants to build a water bottling plant in the Northwest. It first looked to Cascade Locks, Oregon, but voters in Hood County effectively blocked that plan.

If you live in an apartment complex in the greater Seattle area, you might open your door this summer and find a pair of college students in green polos on your front step. They won’t try to get you to vote, buy their wares or convert you. They just want you to recycle.

Russia is fighting a mysterious anthrax outbreak in a remote corner of Siberia. Dozens of people have been hospitalized; one child has died. The government airlifted some families out because more than 2,000 reindeer have been infected.

Officials don't know exactly how the outbreak started, but the current hypothesis is almost unbelievable: A heat wave has thawed the frozen soil there and with it, a reindeer carcass infected with anthrax decades ago.

Some scientists think this incident could be an example of what climate change may increasingly surface in the tundra.

It's a warm, sunny morning at the Homestead National Monument of America in southeastern Nebraska. A burn crew dressed in yellow and green flame-resistant clothing is about to set a patch of tall-grass prairie on fire — on purpose.

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