Articles on this Page
- 12/08/17--05:25: _This soul-crushing ...
- 12/08/17--20:43: _5 major fires are r...
- 12/09/17--06:00: _Polar bears aren't ...
- 12/10/17--07:37: _The most captivatin...
- 12/11/17--07:47: _California's devast...
- 12/11/17--08:32: _The wildfire in Ven...
- 12/11/17--09:15: _The Netherlands is ...
- 12/11/17--12:35: _Incredible satellit...
- 12/12/17--10:00: _More than 50 US may...
- 12/13/17--14:39: _Hurricane Irma was ...
- 12/15/17--07:00: _The Arctic is melti...
- 12/15/17--07:30: _Watch a Delaware-si...
- 12/15/17--08:23: _6 innovative produc...
- 12/15/17--10:09: _Earth will likely w...
- 12/15/17--11:53: _Trump is dismantlin...
- 12/16/17--04:35: _Wind power is getti...
- 12/17/17--09:41: _The world's largest...
- 12/19/17--07:27: _An unusual weather ...
- 12/20/17--08:28: _An endangered butte...
- 12/21/17--06:48: _This winter may bri...
- Heartbreaking video shows a starving polar bear scavenging for food on dry land.
- The scene in Canada's Baffin Islands was taken by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen.
- Nicklen said he and his crew were "filming with tears rolling down our cheeks."
- 12/09/17--06:00: Polar bears aren't actually white, and sometimes they can turn green
- California's wildfires are getting worse: 14 of the 20 largest wildfires in the state have happened since the year 2000, according to an analysis.
- The state spent $505 million fighting fires in 2017, and if trends continue, that cost will continue to go up.
- December 2017: Thomas, 230,500 acres
- September 2016: Soberanes, 132,127 acres
- July 2015: Rough, 151,623 acres
- August 2014: Happy Camp Complex, 134,056 acres
- August 2013: Rim, 257,314 acres
- August 2012: Rush, 271,911 acres
- August 2009: Station 160,557 acres
- June 2008: Klamath Theater Complex, 192,038 acres
- June 2008: Basin Complex, 162,818 acres
- October 2007: Witch, 197,990 acres
- July 2007: Zaca, 240,207 acres
- September 2006: Day, 162,702 acres
- October 2003: Cedar, 273,246 acres
- July 2002: McNally, 150,696 acres
- Multiple wildfires continue to race through parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Diego counties in Southern California.
- The largest blaze — known as the Thomas Fire — has scorched more than 230,000 acres.
- Evacuation orders have been extended to parts of Santa Barbara, affecting nearly 100,000 people.
- One death has been blamed on the Thomas Fire so far.
- Thomas Fire in Ventura County: 230,500 acres burned, 15% containment, 981 structures destroyed out of at least 18,000 threatened, one death.
- Creek Fire in Sylmar: 15,619 acres burned, 95% containment, 89 structures damaged or destroyed.
- Rye Fire in Santa Clarita: 6,049 acres, 93% containment.
- Skirball Fire in Bel Air: 421 acres, 85% containment.
- Lilac Fire in San Diego County: 4,100 acres, 151 structures destroyed, 75% containment, evacuation orders lifted.
- The Dutch government has built a "sand motor"— hundreds of millions of cubic feet of dredged sand that will protect the Netherlands' southern coast from sea level rise and erosion.
- Over the next 20 years, waves will push the sand into protective barriers along the coast.
- A significant portion of the Netherlands sits below sea level, a reality that has prompted the country to seriously address the looming consequences of climate change.
- US mayors have pledged to meet the US goals set in the Paris climate agreement, despite President Donald Trump's pledge to pull out.
- In the Chicago Climate Charter, mayors have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the targets set by the Paris agreement, as well as promote investment in clean energy, public transit, and other climate-friendly initiatives.
- The initiative is led by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and supported by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Barack Obama.
- Hurricane Irma topped the list of Google search trends for the year. Hurricanes Harvey and Maria also were among the most Googled news events.
- The storms may not be trending searches anymore, but in many places that got hit, recovery has barely begun.
- It'll be years before any sort of normalcy returns — and some places will never be the same.
- 2017 was the second-hottest year on record for the Arctic, according to NOAA's Arctic Report Card.
- Even though the summer wasn't as hot as 2016's scorcher, the greening and melting processes continued.
- As the region changes, older multi-year ice that helps it bounce back is disappearing.
- Surface air temperatures in the Arctic were the second-warmest from October 2016 to September 2017 that they have ever been, behind only 2016.
- The winter ice maximum on March 7 was the lowest on record (which goes back to 1979), 8% lower than the average ice maximum between 1981 and 2010.
- Sea temperatures are climbing: surface temperatures in the Barents and Chukchi Sea are 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the average.
- Vegetation and greening is taking over tundra, accompanying record permafrost melting.
- Satellites that continuously photograph Antarctica recorded a Delaware-size iceberg breaking off in July.
- A glaciologist has animated nine months-worth of photos from space into a short animation.
- The animation shows iceberg A-68 — the third-largest in human history — breaking off and floating away from the Larsen C ice shelf.
- These six products in 2017 could help save the planet.
- They include a seaweed-extract water capsule, a bin designed to clean up ports and harbours, and a startup that is making recipes with fruit fly larvae.
- A new report estimates that global temperature will increase 3.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.
- That's well over the 2-degree limit set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.
- But it's not all bad news: China and India have made huge strides in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, despite the US' pledge to pull out of the agreement.
- 12/16/17--04:35: Wind power is getting taller and stronger — especially in Texas
- According to Energy Information Administration, wind turbines have grown taller and more powerful in the last ten years.
- Texas is leading the U.S by having the largest onshore wind farm.
- Wind speeds are frequently higher as you get further above the ground, producing more electricity.
- Exxon, Shell, and BP have announced initiatives to report the risks climate change pose to their business, bowing to shareholder pressure.
- The oil-and-gas giants have also rolled out investments in renewable energy, though skeptics point out the investments are tiny compared to the companies' overall revenue.
- However, it marks a critical shift for the fossils fuels industry, and shareholders and consumers alike are demanding change.
- A La Niña weather pattern could shake up winter forecasts across the country.
- High snow totals are expected in the Rocky Mountains and across northern states, into the Great Lakes.
- If temperatures dip a little, as they did last week, the La Niña pattern can mean more snow for folks in the south and northeast as well.
- Four environmental conservation nonprofits have filed suit against the United States Department of Homeland Security.
- The groups argue that the Trump administration's planned border wall would jeopardize more than a dozen endangered species, including the Quito checkerspot butterfly and the Arroyo toad.
- At a hearing in February, a judge will make a decision, which would impede the border wall's construction in San Diego and Calexico, California if the environmental groups win.
A video of a starving wild polar bear roaming around dry land looking for food has gone viral.
In the heartbreaking footage, taken in Canada's northerly Baffin Islands, the bony male polar bear slowly ambles along dry land.
Head down, he rummages in a nearby rubbish bin looking for food. When he finds nothing, he slumps to the ground.
Canadian photographer Paul Nicklen, who recorded the scene with conservation group Sea Legacy, told National Geographic: "We stood there crying — filming with tears rolling down our cheeks."
The bear most likely died "within hours or days of this moment," and there was nothing Nicklen could have done to save him, he said on Instagram.
Feeding wild polar bears is illegal in Canada, and even if it weren't, feeding the bear would only prolong his misery, National Geographic said.
Nicklen added: "It's not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat."
Watch the video, which Nicklen posted on Instagram on Tuesday, here:
My entire @Sea_Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear. It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy. This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death. When scientists say polar bears will be extinct in the next 100 years, I think of the global population of 25,000 bears dying in this manner. There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear. The simple truth is this—if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems. This large male bear was not old, and he certainly died within hours or days of this moment. But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth—our home—first. Please join us at @sea_legacy as we search for and implement solutions for the oceans and the animals that rely on them—including us humans. Thank you your support in keeping my @sea_legacy team in the field. With @CristinaMittermeier #turningthetide with @Sea_Legacy #bethechange #nature #naturelovers
The photographer wrote in the accompanying caption:
"My entire Sea Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear.
"It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy.
"This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death.
"When scientists say polar bears will be extinct in the next 100 years, I think of the global population of 25,000 bears dying in this manner.
"There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear.
"The simple truth is this — if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems. This large male bear was not old, and he certainly died within hours or days of this moment.
"But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth — our home — first."
A new fire, the Lilac Fire, broke out in San Diego County on Thursday evening, prompting further evacuations and school closures.
State officials say more than 168,000 acres throughout the region are burning from five major blazes. Over 5,000 firefighters have been deployed to combat the fires, and authorities have closed major highways, canceled school, and ordered close to 200,000 people to evacuate.
The fire danger was a 296 on the brush burning index on Thursday — a record high, according to CNN. The figure is calculated based on a range of factors including moisture levels, wind, and humidity. A rating above 162 is considered the most extreme risk.
While high winds subsided somewhat on Friday, forecasters are expecting gusts of about 60 mph.
The first and largest blaze, the Thomas Fire, started Monday night in Ventura County. The Creek Fire near Sylmar and the Rye Fire in Santa Clarita broke out in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and the Skirball Fire, centered on the wealthy Bel Air neighborhood in Los Angeles, started Wednesday morning.
Here are the locations of all the fires, as well the most recent total acreage burning as of Friday morning.
Thomas Fire, Ventura County
The Thomas Fire is burning 143,000 acres and has destroyed at least 439 structures out of at least 15,000 threatened. Firefighters have contained 10% of the blaze as high winds continue to whip the fire.
Officials ordered further evacuations in the Ojai area as high winds pushed the fire closer to populated areas on Thursday. A woman's body was found near a vehicle in a burn area near Ojai, but officials have not yet determined a cause of death.
Creek Fire, Sylmar
As of Friday night, all evacuation orders were lifted in areas around Sylmar that were affected by the Creek Fire.
The inferno has burned 15,619 acres, and officials estimate it has destroyed at least 56 homes and damaged 45 others, according to the state fire agency Cal Fire. Another 49 structures were destroyed and 25 were damaged out of at least 2,500 threatened. Firefighters have managed to contain 70% of the blaze.
Rye Fire, Santa Clarita
The Rye Fire has burned 6,049 acres near Santa Clarita, and firefighters have contained 50% of the fire. Authorities said nearly 5,500 homes were still threatened as of Friday night.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Polar bears aren't actually white. Their color is determined by the lighting and climate of their surroundings. Following is a transcript of the video.
Polar bears aren't actually white.Turns out, they can come in all sorts of colors: yellow, gray, orange, and even green. That's because polar bear fur is transparent and hollow.When light strikes the outer fur some of it is absorbed while the rest is scattered away.
The result? The fur can appear as different colors under different lighting. Normally, polar bears look white. That's because their fur is scattering sunlight, which is also white. But on a cloudy day, the bears can look slightly gray. At sunset, they can appear reddish-orange. But lighting is only half the story.
Polar bears in zoos have been known to turn green. Concrete floors in their pens scrape against the fur. The abrasions form tiny holes in their hairs, opening a gateway for algae that can live and breed inside. In the Arctic, temperatures are too cold for these algae. But wild polar bear fur can still change color to yellow, thanks to oils from their prey that stain the fur.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about polar bears? Underneath all that hair, polar bear skin is actually black. The black skin readily absorbs sunlight to keep the bear warm. Polar bears aren't just the ambassadors of the North Pole. They're masters at manipulating color to survive.
From the on-the-ground perspective, Earth is pretty stunning.
But that view is limited.
Take to the skies and you can see the world in entirely new ways.
These are some of the most stunning aerial photos that Reuters photographers took of life on Earth over the past year.
Cities peek through clouds of smog, forests smolder as they burn, and rivers flow through the Australian outback.
Check out some of the most amazing perspectives of Earth from above captured in 2017.
A rainbow of bicycles sits at a parking lot in Shanghai, China.
Agents of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources burn forest to combat illegal logging in the state of Amazonas, Brazil.
A machine tries to clear a road across the Sognefjellet mountain in Krossbu, Norway.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
A series of wildfires have devastated Southern California over the past week, and they're showing few signs of slowing down.
The Thomas Fire in Ventura County, which had burned over 230,500 acres as of Monday morning, already ranks as the fifth largest fire in California's history (since records were kept).
While that's a far cry from the Rush Fire, the largest fire in California's history — which burned 271,911 acres in 2012 — the Thomas Fire is still only 15% contained.
According to an analysis from Climate Nexus, these fires, and the fires that devastated Northern California in October, are part of a larger trend of climate change that's only going to get worse.
Fourteen of the 20 largest fires in California's history have occurred since the year 2000, according to Climate Nexus. California is coming off of a record heat wave in September that dried out the state, turning Southern California into a tinderbox.
Because of climate change, the average wildfire season lasts at least 2 1/2 months longer than it did in the early 1970s. And the amount of land burned in the US since 1984 is double what would have been expected without the effects of climate change.
Gov. Jerry Brown called the wildfires a "new normal," for California.
"This could be something that happens every year or every few years," Brown said over the weekend, per The Los Angeles Times. "We're about to have a firefighting Christmas."
Here's the list of the fourteen largest fires since the year 2000, from Climate Nexus:
Between 1930 and 1999, there were only six fires over 100,000 acres in California, according to Climate Nexus.
As larger fires burn in the state, fire-related expenditures are also increasing. Climate Nexus calculated that in the 2017 fiscal year (which ends in October), California's Department of Fire and Forestry protection spent $505 million fighting fires across the state. Twenty years ago, in 1997, the state spent only $47 million.
The Soberanes wildfire in 2016 set the record for the costliest firefight in history, with the state spending $260 million to battle the blaze.
Santa Barbara is now threatened by the rapidly-growing Thomas Fire, as thousands of firefighters battle several infernos burning through Southern California.
The fire grew by 50,000 acres on Sunday as dry Santa Ana winds continued, triggering evacuation orders throughout Santa Barbara County. One death has been blamed on the Thomas Fire: the body of 70-year-old Virginia Pesola was discovered at a car crash site on an evacuation route in Ventura County on Wednesday night, according to NBC.
Over 9,000 firefighters are working across the region to contain the blazes. Over 1,000 structures have been damaged or destroyed, and 98,000 people have been forced to evacuate since the fires started a week ago.
The first and largest blaze, the Thomas Fire, started Oct 4 in Ventura County. Its flames reached the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday. Several cities in the Ojai Valley were under mandatory evacuation orders on Saturday, though some of those orders have been lifted. Officials issued a new round of evacuations for residents in Santa Barbara on Sunday, however, and warned that they may order more on Monday.
Mandatory evacuation orders now affect nearly 100,000 people, down from 200,000 last week.
The Skirball fire in Bel Air threatened the Getty Center art museum, though firefighters had contained 85% of the blaze by Monday morning and the museum remained unharmed.
Officials called the combination of dryness and powerful winds a "recipe for explosive fire growth." Wind gusts of up to 80 mph were recorded on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mark Lorenzen, the Ventura County fire chief, told reporters that the fires' spread had been "absolutely exponential."
The region is still under a "red flag" advisory. Forecasters expect the winds to subside this week, though there is still no rain in the immediate forecast.
"We're chasing the fire trying to get ahead of it, trying to get in front to provide structure defense," David Richardson, the Los Angeles County deputy fire chief, told the LA Times.
"There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds," Ken Pimlott, California's fire chief, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. "At the end of the day, we need everyone in the public to listen and pay attention. This is not 'watch the news and go about your day.' This is 'pay attention minute-by-minute … keep your head on a swivel.'"
Lorenzen told The LA Times on Thursday that if rains don't fall on the region, the Thomas Fire could continue burning for weeks. That prediction has held up as of Monday, as the fire continues to grow.
"My hope is that within a week, the issues around the population areas are going to be gone, but then it’s still going to be up in the forest in the wilderness areas, and it's a challenge," Lorenzen said. "It's hard to get. The size and the scope of this thing is going to be enormous."
Officials urged residents to wear masks outside, as the air quality near the fires was rated "hazardous"— the worst classification.
Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, freeing up state funds to help tackle the wildfires.
"This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we'll continue to tackle it with all we've got," Brown said. "It's critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so."
Brown called the fires a "new normal," over the weekend, since this year's devastating wildfire season is part of a larger trend fueled by climate change.
"This could be something that happens every year or every few years," Brown said on Monday, per The Los Angeles Times. "We're about to have a firefighting Christmas."
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles' mayor, told reporters on Friday, "these are days that break your heart, these are also days that show the resilience of our city."
Hours before the blazes started on Monday, the NWS warned that there would "be the potential for very rapid spread of wildfire" and "extreme fire behavior." Fire danger was rated a 296 on the brush burning index on Thursday — a record, according to CNN. The figure is calculated based on moisture levels, wind, humidity, and a range of other factors. A rating above 162 is considered the most extreme risk.
California has been ravaged by wildfires in recent months. In October, a series of fires destroyed communities in Northern California's Napa and Sonoma counties in what is considered the deadliest wildfire in the state's history. Experts said at the time that it would take years for the state to recover.
Here's a map of the location of the current fires:
And here's a map showing all of the areas under a red-flag warning, where there is the highest risk of fire:
If the world continues on current path of high greenhouse gas emissions, scientists predict that oceans could rise more than six feet by the end of this century. Sea level rise is already eroding coastlines and flooding cities and towns — from Miami, Florida to Sussex, England— during storms.
Cities in the Netherlands have long served as examples of how to grapple with these threats. For years, sand dunes and sea walls have protected the country's coasts.
But now, environmental engineers and scientists say these strategies are not enough. The Dutch government is turning to "sand motors"— dredged sand that simulates the natural formation of dunes.
The country devoted $81 million toward its first sand motor along the southwestern coast in 2011. Over the next 20 years, waves will push the sand into protective barriers along at least six miles of the southern coast. The project used 756 million cubic feet of sand from the North Sea, creating over 10,000 acres of land.
The photo below shows the motor's progress so far:
As Yale Environment 360 notes, the idea came from Marcel Stive, chair of coastal engineering at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The goal is to expand the country's coasts, making them safer from erosion and rising sea levels. Around 21% of the country's population resides below sea level, putting them at risk.
Stive's team will monitor the sand motor to determine if other areas in the Netherlands (and elsewhere) should implement the technology.
"Besides coastal protection, the knowledge we will gain here is very important. With all this data, we will try to gain more knowledge around this pilot. And we would like to export our knowledge to other countries," project manager Carola van Gelder-Maas said in a video.
While the most destructive wildfire season in California's history slogs on, satellites are recording the devastation from space.
California's latest group of blazes began with the Thomas fire in Ventura County on December 4. Since then, at least six other large fires sparked across the Southern California counties of Los Angeles (Creek, Rye, and Skirball fires), San Bernardino (Little Mountain fire), San Diego (Lilac fire), and Riverside (Liberty fire).
The Thomas fire in Ventura County is by far the largest at more than 230,000 acres in size, and it's only about 15% contained as of Monday morning. It continues to burn along with four other fires that are spreading due to strong Santa Ana winds, which peak during December and January.
The new blazes have triggered the evacuation of almost 100,000 people, killed at least one person, razed some 1,000 buildings, and scorched more than 250,000 acres of land. This ongoing disaster in Southern California also joins the deadly wildfires across Northern California in October that killed 42 people, destroyed 9,000 structures, and may take the state years to recover from.
Thick smoke and intense heat make it difficult for low-flying aircraft to capture the extent of a wildfire's damage. However, a few satellites with high-power cameras and special sensors offer unique and detailed views of the evolving disaster from space.
Here's what they've recorded so far, plus a few incredible images taken by astronauts in space:
Shortly after the fires started, satellites passing over Southern California began watching the blazes develop.
This view is from the European Space Agency's Sentinel-2 satellite. It shows Ventura County, which is about a 1.5-hour drive northwest of Los Angeles, on December 5.
Brown shows the burn scar (center), green shows plants, gray shows urban areas, and orange shows active fires.
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
The smoke from the wildfires wafted over the Pacific Ocean for hundreds of miles.
NASA's Terra satellite shows the Thomas fire in Ventura County on the afternoon of December 5.
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
Astronaut Randy Bresnik also began taking photographs as the Thomas fire developed and new blazes broke out.
Source: Randy Bresknik/Twitter
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
US mayors are stepping up on the two-year anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, despite President Trump's vow to pull the US out.
More than 50 mayors from across the US and Canada participated in the North American Climate Summit in Chicago earlier this month, signing an official agreement — the Chicago Climate Charter— in which they pledged to meet the emissions-reduction goals set out by the Paris agreement.
The agreement, which former President Barack Obama signed exactly two years ago, pushed member nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide and methane, to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Trump has claimed the agreement would harm US businesses and pledged to pull the US out — a process that will take several years. If the US does remove itself, it will be the only country in the world not signed on. Trump has left the door open to "renegotiate and rejoin" the agreement, though world leaders have said that is not an option.
The Chicago Climate Charter will pick up where Trump left off
The Chicago Climate Charter, led by Chicago's mayor Rahm Emmanuel, outlined concrete plans that municipal governments will take to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.
The charter lays out plans for all signatory cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the targets set out by the Paris agreement, as well as a mechanism for cities to track and report their progress.
Since the majority of the US population lives in cities, the mayors' agreement recognizes that municipal governments can lead on the issue by promoting clean energy, investing in public transit, and working to reduce the carbon footprint of existing infrastructure.
The charter also outlines a process for mayors to develop policies and local laws that empower cities to take greater action on climate change. The document also pledges to include voices that have generally been left out of the climate change conversation, including people with disabilities and marginalized communities.
"The Chicago Climate Charter represents tens of million residents who are committed to confronting climate change head-on," Emmanuel said in a press release. "Even as Washington fails to act, cities have the power and will to take decisive action to protect our planet and the health and safety of our residents."
Obama briefly spoke at the event in support of the mayors' initiative. And though he didn't mention Trump by name, his intent was clear.
"Obviously, we’re in an unusual time when the United States is now the only nation on Earth that does not belong to the Paris Agreement," Obama said at the event, per The Chicago Tribune. "And that’s a difficult position to defend. But the good news is that the Paris Agreement was never going to solve climate crisis on its own."
The Chicago Climate Charter builds on a pledge that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg made last year — cities and businesses will lead on climate change, he said, with or without the federal government's support.
The Global Covenant of Mayors,a group chaired by Bloomberg, was in part responsible for organizing the Chicago event.
Bloomberg is in Paris this week attending French President Emmanuel Macron's One Planet Summit, a gathering of 50 world leaders and corporate executives to discuss solutions to the climate change problem.
Trump was not invited to the summit.
It was a busy year for storms. But as we look at year-end news wrap ups, it's worth remembering that although these terms are no longer being Googled as frequently, disaster recovery is still ongoing. A return to any sort of "normal" for many people in Florida and the Caribbean is still years away — and most places hit by the storms will never be the same.
After thrashing the Caribbean, Irma arrived in the Florida Keys on September 10. The area took the brunt of the storm's force in the US.
I visited South Florida and the Keys eight weeks after Irma hit. In many places, people were still trying to pick up the pieces, let alone think of rebuilding.
Locals told me they were spending any and all free time trying to pick up the wreckage, but debris was still piled several stories high beside the roadside. In many cases, these were the second or third round of rubble mountains that had been collected and stacked to get towed out. Boats are still washing up today.
Erich Bartels, a resident of Big Pine Key and a scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory's research center on Summerland Key, told me that many locals were still unable to return as of five weeks ago — and in many cases, unlikely to.
Bartels said he was lucky that his family only had to gut one bedroom in their house.
"The community in general is just in shambles," he said.
A post-Irma labor shortage has also hit the region. With a tourism-dependent economy, the Florida Keys rely on service-industry workers. But many places where lower-income residents could afford to live got destroyed by the storm, and the Keys have little affordable housing in the first place. So many of those service industry employees haven't come back.
Effects from Irma are are still being felt on the peninsula of South Florida as well.
Miami was at one point forecast to take a major hit from Irma; many residents packed up and made for safety. The storm's slight trajectory change meant that the Miami area didn't get hit by Irma's worst, but it still ripped up weaker structures and tore down trees and branches all over the city.
That burden now weighs on some neighborhoods more heavily than others.
Residents of Liberty City, a lower-income neighborhood in Miami, woke up one morning several weeks after the storm to find that the city had designated a few blocks in their area as debris disposal sites.
Fallen trees were mixed with mattresses, refrigerators, and other garbage collected from all over Miami, then simply dropped there. The waste filled entire city blocks in stacks roughly three stories high. Locals said they had no idea that their neighborhood was being turned into a disposal site.
"Since the dump has been here there has been a spike of vermin — rats, snakes, possums, raccoons," said Esi Fynn-Obeng, a community organizer with the Miami Workers Center.
Birds that you’d expect to see in marshes flew back and forth, dodging bulldozers and heavy machinery.
Loud machines there run from early morning until late at night, churning the trash into mulch and releasing dust into the air, a process that's expected to continue into early 2018.
"It's becoming more difficult for me to breathe," said resident Joanna Janvier.
In many ways, Irma and other hurricanes this year have provided a glimpse into how major storms could transform and eventually shrink coastal cities as seas continue to rise and hurricanes get more intense. Just recently, two new studies found that the record-setting rainfall that hit Houston during Hurricane Harvey was augmented by climate change. That suggests similar sorts of events will likely become more frequent.
Lower-income and less powerful communities are the first to lose their housing or become unwitting debris disposal sites after such disasters. Eventually, life in those places could become untenable.
"Financial risk or risk to their own person is probably going to put pressure on people to make decisions about leaving," Nicole Hernandez-Hammer, a researcher who studies sea-level rise with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Business Insider.
Offshore from the continental US, the situation is in many cases even more dire.
Irma demolished 90% of buildings on the island of Barbuda and caused approximately $250 million worth of damage. By the end of November, almost none of the evacuees had returned. The storm also caused more than $1.4 billion in damage on St. Martin and St. Barts before churning across the US Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Parts of the Virgin Islands National Park are still closed and as of December 6, not even 50% of residents of these islands had power fully restored.
Areas still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which slammed the Caribbean in Irma's wake, have just as far to go — if not more.
In Puerto Rico, almost 40% of the island's 3.4 million residents still don't have power, and hundreds of thousands of people still don't have access to clean water. More than 200,000 residents have left the island for Florida.
Maria, Harvey, and Irma may no longer be considered trending searches. But the people affected by those storms will be feeling their impacts for years.
There's a "new normal" in the Arctic — and it isn't a frozen one.
That's according to the 2017 Arctic Report Card released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Even though 2017 didn't shatter as many warming records as 2016 did, "the Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago," according to a news release about the report.
It was the second-warmest year the Arctic has ever experienced. But the past summer was relatively cool in the Arctic when compared to the summer of 2016, which was the hottest the world has ever seen. This contributed to more snow cover in Eurasia and less melting from the Greenland ice sheet than during the previous nine summers — signs that on the surface might seem hopeful.
But the disconcerting thing, according to the report, is that the overall warmth the region has experienced over the past decades seems to have triggered a transformation process that continued through the summer of 2017. The Arctic is changing, becoming greener as ice melts.
Here are some highlights from the report:
One of the biggest changes that NOAA researchers have observed has to do with the age of sea ice. Older sea ice tends to be thicker, stronger, and better able to bounce back from unfavorable conditions. But there's a lot less of it now than there used to be.
Very old ice (greater than four years old) made up 16% of the ice pack in 1985 but was only .9% of the ice pack in March of 2017. Ice that was multiple years old made up 45% of the Arctic cover in 1985. Now, only 21% of the ice is that old — 79% is just year-old ice.
The NOAA animation below documents the change. In the animation, ice that has persisted for 9 or more years is white, seasonal ice is darkest blue.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the world in general — something that's particularly concerning because a frozen Arctic helps moderate temperatures in the rest of the world by reflecting solar radiation (and the heat that comes with it) back into space.
The Arctic may even be melting faster than we realize. At one Alaska weather station, NOAA scientists recently noticed that the instruments used to measure temperature had stopped reporting data because temperatures had gone up so rapidly that the computers decided they couldn't be accurate — but they were.
In July, a huge crack in Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf calved the third-largest iceberg in recorded history.
The scale of the giant ice block, dubbed A-68, is truly awesome: roughly the area of Delaware, the mass of 5.6 Mount Everests, and voluminous enough to fill Lake Erie more than twice.
Adrian Luckman, a glaciologist at Swansea University, has used a polar satellite called Sentinel-1 along with other Antarctic researchers to keep an eye on the iceberg since before its birth.
On Wednesday, Luckman posted an animation to Twitter that compressed nine months-worth of satellite images into a few seconds. "Bon voyage A68," Luckman said in his tweet.
We've slowed down that animation down to 10 seconds to show the iceberg's birth and evolution:
In the first half of the animation, from March through early July, you can see the large rift develop from south to north. Then, in mid-July, the huge iceberg breaks free from its ice shelf. The rest of the clip shows A-68 floating into the Weddell Sea, bumping back into the ice shelf, and slowing working its way north through December.
It will ultimately melt into sea water, which will evaporate and make its way into clouds, rain, snow, more icebergs, and living beings.
These are the six innovative products that we covered over the last year that could help save the planet.
The products range from an edible water blob to a floating rubbish bin.
Watch the video to see what else made our list.
Produced by Jasper Pickering
Two years ago this week, the world came together in Paris to sign a landmark agreement aimed at stopping the Earth's temperature from rising dangerously high.
But according to a new report from Climate Tracker, an independent research group, we're way off track to hit the target laid out in the Paris climate agreement.
The Paris Agreement pushed member nations to curb their greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide and methane, in order to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Each country submitted its own plan for reducing emissions that cause our atmosphere to trap more heat.
But if all of the signatories fulfill their pledges — and that's a big if — global temperatures will still increase by 3.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, according to Climate Tracker's latest report.
President Donald Trump has pledged to pull the US out of the agreement, claiming it hurts US manufacturing — but that process that will take several years. If the US does leave, it will be the only country in the world not signed on.
What could happen if the planet exceeds the 2-degree limit
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if global temperature rise exceeds 2 degrees Celsius, climate-related risks like wildfires, sea level rise, and crop failure will be magnified.
The 2-degree limit was first established in a working paper by an economist — not a climate scientist — in the 1970s, but it has proved to be a useful rallying point for the international community.
Scientists have outlined how continued emissions could lead to the complete loss of ice sheets in Greenland over the next few centuries, which could cause sea levels to rise by 7 meters, or over 21 feet, submerging populated coastal cities like New York and Miami. In certain regions, moving past the 2-degree limit could cause average crop yields to be 25% lower — and those effects only increase the warmer it gets.
It's important to note, however, that modeling climate change is a highly complex process with many variables, so these effects are a matter of probabilities, not an absolute certainty.
The US' potential withdrawal would add 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100
Climate Tracker's report calculates that the US's withdrawal from the Paris agreement would add approximately 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming to its projections for the year 2100.
And while the report notes that carbon dioxide emissions have flattened over recent years, it's too soon to say that global emissions have peaked. Climate Tracker predicts that greenhouse gas emissions will grow between 9% and 13% from 2020-2030 based on current trends.
In order to hit the targets laid out by the Paris agreement, global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak around 2020 then rapidly fall.
But there are some positive signs. Climate Tracker estimates that policies implemented in 2017 reduced their global temperature predictions by 0.2 degrees Celsius over 2016 projections. And India and China — two of the fastest-growing economies in the world — have made significant headway in reducing the growth rate of their greenhouse gas emissions.
Nonetheless, Climate Tracker predicts emissions in India will grow approximately 7% between 2020-2030, and China's will rise 51% in the same period.
The report notes, however, that climate modeling is a tricky business with a lot of room for error.
A study published by Nature earlier this month estimates that the world will be 15% hotter in 2100 than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — whose work formed the basis of the Paris agreement goals — projected, based on a new set of calculations.
This new research suggests humans will probably have to reduce emissions even more steeply to avoid crossing the thresholds agreed to in Paris.
President Donald Trump has said he believes climate change is a hoax.
So it's no surprise that Trump's EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is working to roll back the Clean Power Plan— former President Barack Obama's signature pollution-curbing legislation.
Since entering the White House, Trump's administration has made efforts to revoke or reverse at least 52 Obama-era environmental polices aimed at fighting the gradual warming of the planet.
Trump has called these polices "stupid" and claimed they are unfair to the fossil fuel industry. The administration's long string of regulatory rollbacks have also been accompanied by the green-lighting of several projects that Obama had blocked because of their potential negative impacts on the climate.
Here are some of the most important changes:
Rolling back and replacing the Clean Power Plan
What the rule did: The centerpiece of Obama's climate change policy was designed to curb pollution from coal- and gas-fired power plants. It would have required states to create comprehensive plans to reduce their emissions from energy generation, a strategy that researchers estimated would slash that type of pollution — which currently accounts for a third of all US carbon emissions— by 32% by 2030.
Current status: In March, Trump issued an executive order instructing the EPA to reassess the plan, which has yet to take effect due to legal complications. In October, the EPA said it would repeal it.
Revoked a plan to require higher flood standards for highways and bridges
What the rule did: Required US government agencies to meet higher flood standards when designing and constructing new roads, bridges, and housing developments. Trade groups and several Republican lawmakers said the rule was too costly, but the Obama administration estimated it would have raised construction costs by 0.25% to 1.25%.
Current status: Revoked as of August.
Reversed the ban on new coal leases
What the rule did: Under Obama, the rule banned new coal leases on federal public land, a move the coal industry opposed. However, coal use and production has been declining for years for economic reasons — it is more expensive and less efficient in most parts of the country than natural gas and wind. Coal burning is also the largest source of carbon emissions from electricity generation in the country.
Current status: Revoked as of March.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Wind turbines in the United States have grown both taller and stronger over the past decade, according to analysis by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Today, the weighted average wind turbine in the United States is about 280 feet (~85 meters) tall with an electricity generating capacity of just over 2 Megawatts (MW). According to the EIA’s analysis, the biggest wind turbines can currently be found generating in the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island. This wind farm is the only operating offshore wind farm in the United States, though two projects – in Ohio and Virginia – are slated to come online in the next few years.
On land, Texas is standing tall, with the largest onshore wind turbines found in the United States at 4 MW each. The Lone Star State is also home to the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, which is currently the world’s largest wind farm with its 420 wind turbines, which are spread out across 47,000 acres. All told, the Horse Hollow wind farm has an electricity generating capacity of 735 MW.
This trend toward taller wind turbines matters because wind speeds are frequently higher as you get further above the ground. So, taller turbines mean more electricity from wind power.
In the photos above from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), one can see average wind speeds in the United States at 30 meters (~98 feet) from the ground, 80 meters (~262 feet), and a bit higher at 100 meters (~328 feet).
The world's largest oil-and-gas companies are going green. At least that's what they're saying.
Companies like Exxon Mobil — which counts Secretary of State Rex Tillerson among its former CEOs — and Shell have pledged to reduce their emissions, and have publicly adopted plans to disclose risks climate change poses to their core businesses.
After bowing to shareholder pressure, Exxon said in an SEC filing earlier this month that it would report the "impacts" that climate change and environmental policies have on the company. The disclosure would include implications of the 2 degrees Celsius warming limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, as well as how the company is positioning its business for a "lower-carbon future."
Shell, one of Exxon's largest competitors, is taking its climate commitment a step further. The oil-and-gas conglomerate announced earlier this month a pledge to reduce its net carbon emissions 20% by 2035, and 50% by 2050.
A new direction for Exxon?
A whopping 63% of the Exxon's shareholders supported the proposal for the company to disclose how climate change will affect its business, though Exxon initially rejected the proposal in May.
Vanguard, the world's largest provider of mutual funds, is one the largest shareholders in Exxon. In November, Vanguard announced that it would push companies it holds shares in to disclose climate risks.
But some in the climate community are still skeptical that the shift will be meaningful.
"ExxonMobil’s filing shows that the company can’t stem the tide of investor demand for disclosures of companies’ plans to meet 2 degrees Celsius scenarios—but the devil is in the details," Kathy Mulvey, a spokesperson for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement.
"ExxonMobil is still investing aggressively in developing future reserves under the assumption that economies worldwide will continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels," she added.
The New York state attorney's office is investigating Exxon for deliberately misleading its investors about the risks climate change poses to the business, according to Reuters. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a court filing that the company had made "potential materially false and misleading statements" about how greenhouse gases factor into the company's profit-and-loss calculations for new projects.
Shell and BP are stepping up their renewable energy commitments
Shell has said it will accomplish its promised emissions reductions with a multi-pronged strategy. First, according to the company's recent announcement, will be an increased effort to provide lower-carbon fuels like biofuels to customers. Second, the company will seek to ramp up its investments in renewable energy like solar and wind. And third, the company is developing carbon capture and storage systems to remove the carbon dioxide and methane it emits from the atmosphere.
Shell shareholders initially rejected a proposal to set and publish annual targets for reducing emissions. But the company eventually adopted some of the suggestions shareholders had included in that proposal anyway. (Vanguard is one of the largest shareholders of Shell as well as Exxon.)
Shell plans to revise its targets every five years. But the company noted in its announcement that these aren't binding resolutions — they're just goals.
Energy giant BP is taking similar steps — it has announced a $200 million investment into Lightsource, one of Europe's largest solar companies, according to Axios' Amy Harder. While that's a tiny portion of the company's overall profits, it's a sign that it's positioning itself to ramp up investments on the renewable side.
In November, BP, Shell, Exxon,and a number of other oil and gas companies pledged to reduce methane emissions from natural gas production, according to The Wall Street Journal. The companies have touted natural gas as an effective solution to meeting consumers' energy demands while still reducing emissions from dirtier sources like coal.
But that may not be enough — the World Bank announced at the One Planet Summit in Paris, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on the second anniversary of the signing of the Paris agreement, that it would halt financing for new oil-and-gas projects by 2019 in response to the threats posed by climate change.
The World Bank stopped financing coal projects in 2010.
All this comes at a critical time. A recent study in the journal Nature predicts that global warming by the year 2100 could be up to 15% higher than the highest projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Dreams of a white Christmas may come true this year.
The National Weather Service is out with its predictions for the beginning of winter (which starts December 21), and its shaping up to be a month of heavy snow around the Great Lakes. The week of December 24 is expected to usher in high winds for the southwestern US and heavy rain across the lower Mississippi Valley and the southeast.
We've already seen a very snowy fall. Earlier this month, people from Texas to Florida were pummeled with unusual snow totals — spots in the Florida panhandle got up to 2 inches, while Corpus Christi, Texas saw its eighth-snowiest day in recorded history, with a full inch of powder.
“Those are areas where we wouldn't even talk about a snowfall forecast in general, because it's such a rare event there,” Meteorologist Stephen Baxter, who studies long-term seasonal forecasts at the National Weather Service, told Business Insider.
Meanwhile in New York City, seven inches of snow were recorded last week in Central Park. That’s a high total for a place that usually gets an average of 35 inches over an entire year.
What's going on?
Baxter said some of the seasonal weirdness can be explained by this year’s La Niña weather pattern. A La Niña winter generally ushers in wet, snowy winters for the northern states (especially in the Great Lakes region and the Rocky mountains) and a warm, dry season in the South. But when temperatures dip, as they did last week, that can mean a lot of snow — even in the south.
It’s slightly paradoxical: A mild La Nina effect can lead to more snow for everybody.
Here’s a map of how La Niña typically impacts the jet stream:
La Nina weather patterns tend to block the west-to-east flow of the jet stream, and more storms gets stuck over the Pacific Ocean.
Snowy weather in the Rockies is good news, Baxter said — both for ski resorts and the annual water stores in the mountains of the western US.
“We expect a fairly healthy snow pack to develop this year,” he said, a welcome trend for water resource managers. But La Niña also means its likely there will be less precipitation in other spots.
“That includes parts of Southern California where drought could be exacerbated by dry weather,” Baxter said. That region has already been devastated by a dry, hot summer and a fall full of crippling wildfires.
This all comes with the usual caveats, of course: While this winter is projected to be a mild one for much of the country, long-range forcasts are never certain.
“There's probably still about a 25% chance that the winter ends up colder than normal, temperature wise” Baxter said. “And if that happens it would certainly favor more snow.”
NOW WATCH: How El Niño and La Niña affect weather
In early 2018, the Trump administration's planned border wall may face hurdles from unlikely sources: several endangered animal and plant species on the US-Mexico border.
Four environmental nonprofits — the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Center for Biological Diversity — have filed suit against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over wildlife concerns and the proposed barrier.
The lawsuit, filed in late November, argues that the border wall would threaten more than a dozen endangered species in southern California and northern Mexico, including the Arroyo toad, the Quino checkerspot butterfly, the peninsular bighorn sheep, and the Mexican flannel bush.
The species are protected under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, both of which the DHS wishes to sidestep to construct the wall on the California border. In September, acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke posted a Federal Register Notice explaining that the agency needs to lift environmental protections so it can take "immediate action" on undocumented immigration. The environmental groups say that doing so would be unconstitutional.
"The sector remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads," the DHS wrote in August, when it announced its waiver.
US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel will hear the case on February 9, and decide whether the Trump administration can build its wall near the border of San Diego and Calexico.
In total, San Diego has about 46 miles of existing fencing along its 60-mile border with Mexico. Fencing spans 59 of 70 miles near the Calexico border. But the Trump administration hopes to replace the barriers with a solid wall. To construct wall prototypes in San Diego, the DHS has waived 37 environmental laws and regulations.
According to the environmental groups, the border wall would disrupt endangered species' migratory patterns as well as block their access to the Rio Grande River, a vital water source.
"Nobody is above the law. Environmental laws were enacted to protect imperiled wildlife, delicate landscapes, and the American public," Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement.
Whether you like it or not, winter is officially here. Forecasters at the National Weather Service have released their final winter predictions as a La Nina weather pattern sweeps across the country, disrupting temperatures nationwide.
Many Americans could get a balmier-than-usual winter, with mild temperatures across much of the South and the Northeast. But it may get chillier than folks are used to in a few areas, including the Pacific Northwest through the upper Midwest. The forecast is also suggesting big snow totals in some spots.
Take a look at how your region is expected to fare.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service are predicting "above normal" temperatures across the Southwest — in much of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.
The warm temperatures could extend as far east as Florida.
The Northeast also has a good chance of higher-than-usual temperatures.
That's especially true in northern New York and the other states that border Canada in the Northeast (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island should see a fairly mild season as well, though forecasters warn that if temperatures dip even slightly lower, that could lead to heavy snows.
Predictions suggest above-average temperatures in Alaska, especially above the Arctic Circle.
The region known as the North Slope is especially likely to see a warm winter — which could spell another year of bad news for Arctic sea ice.
In December the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that"the Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago."
See the rest of the story at Business Insider