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 U.S. Geological survey map shows the hot zones for potential earthquakes in the U.S.
U.S. Geological Survey

KUOW's Deborah Wang produced this story as part of her 2010 series “On Shaky Ground.”

The rocks and mud of the Pacific Northwest tell the story of much larger earthquakes that have hit this region in the past – and that could hit us again in the future.

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Most of us in Seattle aren't ready for The Big One.

Eric Holdeman, former director of the King County Office of Emergency Management, said we shouldn’t expect outsiders to swoop in and save us when a long-anticipated massive earthquake hits (and it will hit, we just don’t know when).

A remote mountain village on the Northwest end of Lake Chelan in Washington state, was braced for an evacuation order because of wildfire Monday night.

A damaged icebreaker that's essential to Shell Oil Company's controversial plans to drill in the Arctic this summer is heading to Portland's Vigor Industrial shipyard for repairs.

The company says the vessel was damaged on its way from Alaska's Port of Dutch Harbor to the drill site in the Chukchi Sea, about 70 miles off the coast of Alaska. Shell plans to drill two exploratory oil wells in the area this summer.

The region known as the wettest place in the lower 48 states is on fire. Washington State’s Olympic National Park, characterized by lush foliage, massive hanging ferns and spongy lichens, is experiencing the worst wildfire in the park’s history — a blaze that has consumed 1,600 acres and is not expected to be under control for another two and a half months.

Fire crews said Monday afternoon that the Douglas County Complex fire burning near Wenatchee, Washington, is at least 55 percent contained.

The hottest June on record for Oregon and Washington came on the heels an unusually warm winter and spring. Now, Northwest rivers are running at or near all-time lows and cities with water reserves are drawing them down.

Some towns have already issued water advisories and asked residents to cut back voluntarily. Even the cities with lots of water, like Portland and Seattle, are finding they have less to work with.

A bill that would make big changes to how the federal government pays to fight wildfire passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday.

The Oregon Legislature has just adjourned for the year, leaving some unfinished business when it comes to a state forest that’s been the subject of controversy.

Conservation groups expressed dismay last year when state officials decided to sell parts of the Elliott State Forest to timber companies. The Legislature had the opportunity to shape the future of the forest. But with no action on three different bills, its fate is still far from decided.

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. 

There's new evidence that wild bees, some of nature's most industrious pollinators of wildflowers and crops, are getting squeezed by our planet's changing climate.

With more than half of Oregon in a drought emergency, Governor Kate Brown said state agencies can help conserve water for the rest of the state.

Juniper is a native Oregon species. But decades of fire suppression and grazing have allowed the tree to spread voraciously over Eastern and Central Oregon. That's a problem because juniper consumes sage grouse habitat and sucks up a lot of water.

The Oregon Legislature passed two bills at the end of the session to help boost juniper harvest, HB 2997 and HB 2998.

The bills provide funding to boost the state's fledgling juniper harvest industry.

Gerard Joseph LaBrecque operates a milling and harvesting company out of Hines that targets juniper.

Smoky skies from wildfires in Vancouver makes for an orange sun as it sets.
Flickr Photo/Alejandro Mejía Greene (CC BY NC ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with Vaughn Palmer, columnist for the Vancouver Sun, about the worst fire season British Columbia has ever seen. And Gary Schneider, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, talks about  smoke from Canadian wildfires and the impact it's having in Washington state. 

A view from the Big 4 ice caves in Washington from December 2014. Last weekend, warm weather caused a collapsed that killed one hiker and injured five others.
Flickr Photo/Michael Matti (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Kim Malcolm talks to Doug Clark, associate professor of geology at Western Washington University, about the different types of ice caves, how they are formed and their risks.

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