Fish Failing to Adapt to Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels in Ocean

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA’s Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

Spiny damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus.
Photograph: Flickr/creative commons

Rising carbon dioxide levels in oceans adversely change the behavior of fish through generations, raising the possibility that marine species may never fully adapt to their changed environment, research has found.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that elevated CO2 levels affected fish regardless of whether their parents had also experienced the same environment.

Spiny damselfish were kept in water with different CO2 levels for several months. One level was consistent with the world taking rapid action to cut carbon emissions, while the other was a “business as usual” scenario, in which the current trend in rising emissions would equate to a 3C warming of the oceans by the end of the century.

The offspring of the damselfish were then also kept in these differing conditions, with researchers finding that juveniles of fish from the high CO2 water were no better than their parents in adapting to the conditions.

This suggests that fish will take at least several generations to cope with the changed environment, with no guarantee they will ever do so, meaning several species could be at risk of collapsing due to climate change.

The research was conducted by the ARC center of excellence for coral reef studies, based at James Cook University in Queensland.

Previous studies by the center have found that rising CO2 levels in the oceans directly alters neuron transmitters in fish brains, modifying their behavior. Their sense of smell is hindered, as well as their wariness, meaning more are picked off by predators.

More than 90% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is soaked up by the oceans.

When CO2 is dissolved in water it causes ocean acidification, which slightly lowers the pH of the water and changes its chemistry. Crustaceans can find it hard to form shells in highly acidic water, while corals are more prone to bleaching.

Professor Philip Munday, a co-author of the study, told Guardian Australia the research suggested fish would not be able to adapt to climate change in the short term.

>>> Read the Full Article

A Cure for Climate Change: Muscle Over Motor


[Why hasn't this caught on, in the age of carbon footprint awareness?]

It’s definitely late fall here in Colorado, and the trees have dumped most of their leaves onto the ground. In my neighborhood, this invariably triggers a flurry of lawn contractor activity. A pickup truck pulling a long trailer full of equipment pulls up, a fleet of young guys gets out and each picks up a leafblower, then for the next hour they blow leaves and gasoline fumes back and forth at each other while the surrounding square mile of city becomes a toxic and ear-splitting war zone. Eventually they manage to get a portion of the leaves into plastic bags in their trailer and they motor off.
Just a few days ago, there was yet another snowstorm here, dropping four inches of luxurious fluffy powder onto the newly blown lawns. I was enjoying a quick bike riding errand through the stuff when I encountered another one of my fellow Longmontians clearing the light powder from his short sidewalk with a SNOWBLOWER! Like 99% of the snowfalls in this region, this was a quantity of snow that could have been easily swept aside with a shovel, or a broom, or even a tiny little bird feather.. but my man was out there doing his duty with a gas-powered appliance. The stench leaking from the crude 2-stroke engine left a stain in the air that could be smelled from 500 feet away.
Earlier in the week, when the temperature was in the 60s, other neighbors were using gas-powered lawnmowers to slowly mow their lawns while simultaneously sucking up and chopping the autumn leaves into the lawnmower’s bag, which they then threw out with their weekly trash.
All of these events led my brilliant engineer’s brain to come up with a few new Inventions:
Imagine a leafblower so advanced that it harnesses the power of your abdomen and biceps, while sucking away your stored fat reserves. Yet it operates nearly silently and costs under 15 bucks. With just a simple wooden handle and a few ounces of sturdy bent plastic or metal prongs, it could be lightweight and quite wide, and be able to clear thousands of square feet of densely-packed leaves per hour, leaving you feeling refreshed and healthier and more connected with Nature every time you use it.
Imagine a snowblower so supreme that it works a complementary set of muscles to the leafblower above: your shoulders and your lower back, as well as the hamstrings and portions of the gluteus. It also operates with silky silence, and it ALSO gets 100% of its power from the ultimate renewable resource – your beer belly. You would assume this would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, right? Wrong! This too is under fifteen bucks.
My next invention is an advanced motorcycle that weighs less than thirty pounds and costs less than three hundred dollars. Yet it has a range of over a hundred miles per day, and you never have to find a power outlet to plug it in, because its power source is – you guessed it – the cellulite stored in your ass which gets converted into muscles in your legs and calves as a side effect of the transportation!!
I know I am blowing your mind with these inventions, but I actually have working prototypes right in my garden shed and garage.
I also have a lawnmower with a spinning reel of sharp metal blades that gets its power from me pushing on the handle, and even a boat (which I am demonstrating for you in the picture below), that is 11 feet long, and able to navigate everything from tranquil lakes to roaring ocean surf waves to car-sized river rapids.. but which deflates to fit in a bike trailer, weighs less than 25 pounds, costs less than $100, and is also powered entirely by muscles.
Yee Haw! Motorboats be damned.
I think you might be noticing a pattern here. And the pattern is of course Muscle over Motor. It’s more than just an article. It’s a Founding Principle of Mustachianism, because when you embrace it, it adds great fun to your life even while it simultaneously strips away the fat from your physique and your budget. It’s one of the most powerful little three-word sentences you can embrace.
Because of the power of Muscle over Motor, you should be deeply suspicious of anything with a motor. A motor represents a shortcut to getting something done. That sounds good on the surface, but you must consider what you are shortcutting.
A motorboat will get you across the lake quickly, but wait a minute, you like being on the lake – so why not use your muscles to actually earn your trip across it. It takes longer – that is a good thing. You will enjoy the beers on the deck afterwards much more when you really deserve them.
A Hummer will get you up the logging road and across the rocky meadows. But dude, you’re sitting in a glorified Lazy-Boy recliner and pushing on a pedal. What kind of wussy way of climbing a mountain is that? Leave the motor vehicles where the pavement ends and put on your hiking boots like a Real Man or Woman (or a pair of old flip-flops if you want to be even more badass like a local ultrahiker friend of mine). If you want speed and the ability to cross dozens of miles of terrain per day (as well as catching much more air on the descents), try a mountain bike instead of an SUV.
A Harley with its quiet stock mufflers replaced with illegal straight pipes will get you through some beautiful rocky canyon roads and allow you to ruin the outdoor dining of thousands of people in the hopping downtown Chicago restaurant districts. But a nice lightweight road bike will get you up the same roads and let you hear the birds at the same time, and your resulting muscular physique and healthy glow will get a lot more positive attention in downtown Chicago than the overpriced motorcycle and standard-issue black leather “Independent-minded Renegade Harley® Rider” Halloween costume ever will.
If you need to carry a few bags of cement over to a neighbor’s house, try a wheelbarrow or dolly instead of a pickup truck. If you need to get up to a different level of a building, give me a break, you don’t need an elevator or escalator… find the stairs! You work on the 63rd floor? I envy you!
In the gym, the machines with displays are to be mocked, because there is already a much more effective yet simpler tool that helps you exercise, namely the chunks of metal with handles on them in the free weights section.. or better yet, in your own garage or basement or living room or friend’s house. Even if you’re missing some of your younger physical abilities or you are in a wheelchair, you can still use what you’ve still got to kick as much ass as possible!
The thing about this philosophy is that it keeps you very busy, which means it keeps you out of trouble. If you are following Muscle over Motor, your leisure time is packed with active high-effort outdoor activities which you love. And because of this, you don’t even have time to take up expensive hobbies like waterskiing behind a powerboat, or jacking up your Jeep so it has higher ground clearance so you can drive it around the trails at Moab, or riding ATVs around to shoot at animals. These are surely fun activities as well, but we all have a finite amount of time and money. So which activities do we choose: the expensive ones where you sit on your butt and twist a throttle? Or the low-cost ones that also make us healthy and develop our physical skills?
This isn’t a perfect rule, because there are exceptions. Motors are still useful when we’re trying to get some serious work done. I’m not suggesting that the world’s excavator operators climb down out of their cabins and pick up garden shovels, or that carpenters sell their table saws and start cutting 16-foot trim boards with a handsaw. Taxi drivers may or may not want to switch to rickshaws, and accountants should definitely not give up their computers.
But when applied to most of your life, this whole idea of powering your own damned recreational activities (including lawn care) is a great one. It’s another form of Insourcing, but it applies to everyone, not just homeowners with chores.  If you find yourself tempted to use a motor when a muscle will do just as well, you should imagine me hovering behind you and reminding you of the slogan every time you reach for a gas-powered lifestyle accessory. More:
[Again, why hasn't this caught on, in the age of carbon footprint awareness?]

Monkey populations will suffer as climate change alters their food

October 2, 2014   Science Editor

If you consider the consequences of global warming, it’s always the major effects that receive the most attention – glaciers melting, sea levels rising, more frequent and more intense bushfires, floods and cyclones.

But climate change is affecting plants and animals in ways that are far less spectacular and harder to detect. And yet these subtle changes have the same potential to decimate populations.

This month scientists will publish research that links a decline in the nutritional quality of leaves eaten by colobus monkeys in Uganda to changes in climate over the past 30 years.

Specifically, the team found that in a range of plant species in Kibale National Park the amount of fibre had increased by up to 15 per cent, while the proportion of protein had decreased by about 6 per cent.

David Raubenheimer, a professor of nutritional ecology and co-author of the study, said this shift was significant because many variety of monkey selected their food based on its nutritional quality, in particular the amount of protein to fibre in plant leaves.

“We know if we go out and measure leaves and find patches that have a lot of protein to fibre, that’s good territory for monkeys,” said Professor Raubenheimer, from the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney.

But over the past three decades the climate in Kibale National Park has become hotter and wetter, which in turn has altered the composition of plant foliage.

The team, led by primatologist Jessica Rothman from the City University of New York, found nine out of 10 species had increased their fibre concentration and reduced in protein. Only one plant showed the opposite trend, where its protein level increased.

“There are a number of experiments on plants showing that an increase in temperature and moisture has an impact on the fibre concentration,” Professor Raubenheimer said.

A rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has also been linked to a drop in the amount of protein in leaves.

While colobus populations remain stable, the study, published in the Ecology journal, propose that this shift in plant nutrients will have a significant effect on future populations.

Professor Raubenheimer said monkeys cannot digest a lot of fibre. So as fibre increases in their diet, he predicts their other nutrients needs, from protein and sugars, will not be met.

Females deprived of a balanced diet are less fertile and give birth to smaller young.

“The population birth rate is slowed, so you get a decline in population,” he said.

Because humans had destroyed so much plant and animal habitat for urbanisation and agriculture, many species were confined to isolated pockets of bushland or nature reserves.

“If climate change is causing these [reserves] to change biologically, then there is nowhere for them to go,” Professor Raubenheimer said.

“They can’t migrate to follow climates that are better suited to them like they could have a few hundred years ago.”

Warm North Pacific Waters Threaten Native Fish, Usher in Unusual Species

By Kevin Byrne, Staff Writer
October 3, 2014

Unusually high water temperatures throughout the North Pacific Ocean have brought concerns from researchers about how it could affect native species of fish as well as sightings of uncommon species.

The three areas of the North Pacific with the most notable warming trend include the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea and an area off the coast of Southern California down to Baja California, Mexico, with temperatures as high as 5 degrees above average.

These sea surface temperature anomalies have remained this way for more than a year, one of the longest stretches on record, according to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This is a sea surface temperature anomaly map in the North Pacific Ocean. The darker the red, the farther above average the sea surface temperature, according to NOAA. (Photo/NOAA)

The warmer water has prompted questions about how it will impact the marine food web, said Laurie Weitkamp, a research fisheries biologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fishery Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

A big concern for native species of fish, such as salmon, is that the primary food items they eat may no longer be available, Weitkamp said.

Potentially adding further stress to the situation, warm water also increases the metabolic rate of the fish so they have to eat more in warmer water, but there may not be enough to eat because the conditions are not suitable for their food items, Weitkamp said.

Great White Shark Populations Increase in Both Pacific, Atlantic Waters
PHOTOS: Rare Blue Lobster Caught in Maine
Northwest Regional Weather Radar

Nate Mantua, leader of the landscape ecology team at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, attributes these conditions in the Gulf of Alaska to the same ridge of high pressure that’s believed to have contributed to California’s extreme drought. Storms and winds that commonly cool and stir the sea surface have been quelled by the ridge.

“If the warming persists for the whole summer and fall, some of the critters that do well in a colder, more productive ocean could suffer reduced growth, poor reproductive success and population declines,” Mantua said in a NOAA Fisheries article.

“This has happened to marine mammals, sea birds and Pacific salmon in the past. At the same time, species that do well in warmer conditions may experience increased growth, survival and abundance,” Mantua said.

Another effect likely brought about by the noticeably warmer waters is observations of different species of fish that are not known for frequenting this part of the ocean.

Earlier this past summer, a research vessel found a thresher shark in the Gulf of Alaska, which was the northernmost documented catch of the species, according to Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries.

“Thresher sharks are know for preferring warm waters,” Milstein said.


Ebola and Climate Change: Are Humans Responsible for the Severity of the Current Outbreak?

Sierra Leone has, in recent years, seen significant deforestation and other man-made environmental changes which, some argue, could be one cause of the recent Ebola outbreak. Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

The army base, a cut of cleared land amidst a thick, verdant, unnamed jungle, is filled with soldiers and locals, dead or dying of a mystery disease. A pile of bodies burns outside. At the sound of a U.S. army plane approaching, Americans and Africans both run out of the medical tents, arms raised to the sky in welcome and anticipation. But one man’s smile turns to horror when he realizes the airdropped package isn’t relief in the form of a cure or supplies, but instead another kind of solution. The bomb explodes, killing the men and devastating their arboreal surroundings; out of the wreckage run two white-headed capuchin monkeys.

This is the opening scene—ground zero—in the 1995 film Outbreak, in which an Ebola-like virus ultimately lands on U.S. soil and becomes an unstoppable killer. In the film, the virus is connected directly to the deforestation of the land enacted by western military: a local health care worker tells a U.S. army virologist, played by Dustin Hoffman, that the local “juju man” believes “the gods were awoken by their sleep by the man cutting down the trees where no man should be, and the gods got angry; this is their punishment.”

In 2011, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion looked anew at the same issues of global infection, and here too, the filmmakers came to the same conclusion: the source of the killer virus is (spoiler alert) also industrial deforestation. In the 21st century edition, a multinational bulldozes a grove of palm trees in China for some unnamed purpose, destroying the nest of some local bats. Those bats end up flying over a pig farm, dropping a piece of infected fruit into the pen. The pig eats the fruit, the humans eat the pig, and the next thing you know, the contagion is spreading.

These, and other, pop culture characterization of Ebola-like viruses place the blame for the spread of the disease squarely on the shoulders of globalization and man’s careless despoiling of the environment. It’s not just Hollywood that believe that we are the cause of our own potential demise.

“Humans are the major driver of emerging diseases,” says Jonathan Epstein, an epidemiologist at the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance who studies Ebola and other infectious disease. “Things like agricultural expansion and deforestation…and certainly travel and trade — these are things that manipulate our environment and allow pathogens to get from animal hosts to people and then travel around the world.”

In a study published in 2012, researchers asked national infectious disease experts in 30 different countries whether or not they thought climate change would affect infectious disease patterns in their countries. The majority agreed.

Nevertheless, it’s unclear whether these beliefs are driven by good science, or, as Malcolm Gladwell argued way back in 1995, a guilt-driven “idea of disease as a punishment for wickedness.”

It’s true that West Africa, where the latest and most catastrophic Ebola outbreak is currently raging, has faced unequivocal environmental changes in recent years. The International Food Policy Research Institute published a report in 2013, finding that in Sierra Leone (the epicenter of the outbreak), climate change has resulted in “seasonal droughts, strong winds, thunderstorms, landslides, heat waves, floods, and changed rainfall patterns.”

And there is, according to the World Health Organization, a recent global increase in infectious diseases that seems to correspond with rising global temperatures. But determining whether there is a direct causative relation between the two is a hazy business.

One issue at play is food scarcity. The Ebola virus is known to spread into human populations through contact with an infected animal. The virus can live for years in animal populations (such as bats and monkeys) without harming the animals, becoming dangerous to humans only when humans prepare and eat infected bush meat. Poorer populations, living in resource-strapped areas, are the most likely to become stricken with the virus—because they’re the ones most likely to rely on bush meat to feed their families. And according to the 2013 IFPRI report, “poor communities suffer the most from climate change impacts.” It’s not hard to extrapolate from there and estimate that as these communities become more and more needy, they will encroach further into the wild in search of food. These changes in human behavior will likely impact the natural environment.

“We we see more incursion into the forest, we might see more exposure to Ebola,” says Stephen Morse, an infectious disease and epidemiology expert at Columbia University. “But it’s unclear whether there would be a net positive or net negative.”

Morse believes that the only way to make an educated guess at how climate change will impact future Ebola outbreaks is to undertake nuanced microclimate analyses of the specific African regions that have been affected in the past. And even that might not say all that much, given that Ebola and other emerging diseases seem to pop up in new parts of the continent every few years.

On the other hand, research does suggest strongly that warming global temperatures will make vector-borne diseases like malaria more common, mostly because the vectors that carry those diseases — like mosquitoes — thrive in warmer climates.

In the past few century, the temperatures of the oceans have risen significantly, at an average of  0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. And it turns out cholera thrives in warm water; research has shown that rising sea temperature seem to be connected to rising incidences of cholera. Further, as temperatures rise, the polar ice caps will continue to melt, leading to rising sea levels. The most dire prognosticators warn that low-elevation coastal zones

This is particularly problematic in developing countries. Globalization has  led to significant change in the demographics in these parts of the world; in Africa, more and more people are moving out of the rural areas and into the growing cities. That, in turn, has had some serious public health consequences that look to worsen in coming years.

“As you move towards these megacities and mega populations on coastal areas, you wind up with huge vulnerability to infectious outbreaks because of inadequate sanitation and water,” says Stephen Morrison, the director of the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center. “And then if you have flooding, those coastal environments will be more at risk because of climate change. You’ll be at a higher risk of the kind of infectious outbreaks like cholera.”

And the reality is that both malaria and cholera have had — and are expected to continue to have — a much bigger impact on public health than Ebola (unless the current outbreak becomes a truly once-in-a-lifetime, Hollywood-style pandemic). The WHO estimates about 110,000 deaths due to cholera every year; malaria killed an estimated 627,000 in 2012 alone. Meanwhile, since the first Ebola case was identified in 1976 there have been only 1,600 Ebola-related deaths.

That, though, is not exactly good news for human populations. Because though modern society’s impact on the Earth’s environment may not result in an explosion in Ebola, it seems that it will almost certainly drive up rates of these other, far more dread diseases.

Climate Change May Impact Predators to Influence Entire Ecosystems

Predators play crucial roles in ecosystems. They weed out prey that are sick or old, and they can even push species to move in order to stay in their climatic comfort zones. Now, scientists have taken a look at how climate change might impact predators which could, in turn, affect entire ecosystems…

A historical example of this particular phenomenon is the sea otter. These mammals were once decimated by the fur trade that spanned the late 1700s to the early 1900s. This important predator species regulated prey in areas spanning from Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.

“The near extinction of sea otters is one of the most dramatic examples of human-induced impacts to the structure and functioning of temperate nearshore marine ecosystems,” said Rebecca G. Martone, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Without sea otters, which live on abalone, clams, crabs, mussels, shrimp and sea urchins, kelp forests suffer. Without the otters, undersea urchins prey on kelp forests, causing dense areas to become barren and essentially disrupting entire ecosystems. In fact, scientists found that this may even have an effect on climate change.

Kelp forests grow rapidly and store large amounts of carbon. This means that if otters are absent and urchins are destroying these forests, more carbon is released. Not only that, but kelp provides a three-dimensional habitat for species such as rockfish, seals, sea lions, whales, gulls, terns, snowy egrets and some short birds. Without otters, though, these communities rapidly decline.

The analysis of the effect of sea otters shows that predators play huge roles in ecosystems. This means that climate change that affects predators negatively can also greatly impact ecosystems. A symposium focusing on climate’s effects on predators will occur during the Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California.

Tell the Feds NO Arctic Offshore Drilling

From Ocean

Breaking: The U.S. government is beginning to make plans for future offshore oil and gas operations—and those plans could open Arctic waters to risky drilling.

This follows Shell Oil’s decision to abandon Arctic drilling this summer, after an accident-plagued 2012.

If a disaster like BP Deepwater Horizon happened in the Arctic, spill response would be even more challenging. The Arctic’s sea ice, freezing temperatures, gale force winds, and lack of visibility could make cleanup next to impossible.

The government’s public comment period ends on July 31, so we only have 10 days to respond. We need you to tell the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to say no to risky Arctic drilling now.

Take a stand against oil and gas operations in the Arctic Ocean. Act now, and tell BOEM not to open additional Arctic waters to oil and gas drilling!

The Arctic Ocean and all those who depend on it are already under stress. The rapidly changing climate, including extreme deterioration of the summer sea ice, is putting Arctic marine animals at risk. Many people who live in coastal communities in the Arctic depend on a clean and healthy ocean to support their subsistence way of life. Offshore drilling for oil and gas would expose this already fragile ecosystem to significant noise, pollution and traffic.

Stand against risky oil and gas operations in the Arctic Ocean. Tell BOEM not to open additional Arctic waters to oil and gas drilling!

also see:


What do Wolves, Hunting Accidents and Trophy Hunter Kendall Jones have in Common?

Answer: Well, nothing really, yet. They just happen to be three of the more popularHNTSTK_1_2__66133_1314490481_1280_1280 keywords, and I hoped that if I used them in a title I’d tempt more of you to read some of the recent posts that have been overlooked according to this blog’s stats.

Why, for instance, did an article about Kendall Jones’ trophy hunting pictures receive over 22,000 reads here, whereas posts about climate change, elk or mute swans have only been looked at by a few dozen?

I’m trying to figure out what makes people tick.

Maybe there just aren’t enough hunting accidents involving trophy hunters to keep people reading, so here’s one that someone made up:








Obama: Western wildfires have a lot “to do with climate change”


While I’m generally no hardline presidential apologist, I do have to praise Obama for acknowledging that the record-setting Carlton Complex wildfire, along with other ongoing western blazes, can be attributed to climate change.

“A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns, and a lot of that has to do with climate change,” the USA Today quoted the president as saying during a recent visit to Seattle.

Unfortunately since then, the media has been silent about the president’s statement, omitting it in any subsequent article about President Barack Obama signing a federal emergency declaration for the areas affected by the wildfires. The declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate disaster relief and help state and local agencies with equipment and resources.

That’s good news for this particular weather event, but it hardly trumps the fact that the planet is sure to experience this scale of catastrophic wildfire again and again in the future.

Perhaps the reason we’re not hearing about the climate change connection has to with the results of a recent survey revealing that Americans are more skeptical of climate change than others polled across the globe.

According to an ABC News article, when asked if they agreed with the statement, “The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity,” just 54 percent of Americans surveyed said yes. Although this number indicates a majority, the United States still ranked last among 20 countries in the poll.

Meanwhile, China topped the list, with 93 percent of its citizens agreeing that human activity is causing climate change. Large majorities also agreed in France (80 percent), Brazil (79 percent), Germany (72 percent) and other countries.

Similarly, 91 percent of those from China agreed with the statement, “We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly.” Only 57 percent of Americans thought so — again, last among 20 nations surveyed.

‘Mother Nature is winning here': Wildfire destroys about 100 homes in central Washington

As  you’ve probably heard by now, Washington’s scenic Methow Valley, up in the North central portion of the state, is on fire. Big time. The title of the attached U.S. News article, “Mother Nature is Winning Here,” hit the nail on the head. What started out two days ago as 4 small fires covering 18,000 acres has mushroomed almost overnight to a monstrous 240,000 acre inferno, capable of gobbling up any town that tries to stand in its way.

photo Copyright Jim Robertson

photo Copyright Jim Robertson

I lived in the  Methow for 20 some years, in a cabin in the heart of the Lake Chelan Sawtooth range, nestled on the eastern edge of the North Cascades mountains. My wife grew up in the valley; my brother and his wife still live there.

It was there that I learned to really respect the power of wildfires. I was working on a trail crew for the U.S. Forest Service. When we were sent on “controlled” burn on the Gold Creek Ridge near the now infamous town of Carlton I saw just how quickly an out of control fire can spread.

Being a “controlled” burn, it was planned for the spring when conditions aren’t nearly as dry as they are this time of year. We were using drip torches to set off slash piles. One big pile was next to the edge of a flagged “unit,” next to an unlogged slope. The guy working on that pile got carried away, so a couple of us went over to help keep his fire from spreading. We started frantically pulling slash off the unburned slope and tossing it out of reach of the flames. But the effort was too late; one worker who stopped to take a break saw the flames reach across the flag line behind us. He yelled, “Get out of there, you guys.” We turned to see the fire move over our fire line and into the brush and trees outside the unit. Luckily we hurried out of the fire’s path. Within seconds, the flames reached the crowns of the trees and the fire shot uphill and blackened the entire slope before we could even think about trying to get ahead of it and slow its progress…


‘MOTHER NATURE IS WINNING HERE': Wildfire destroys about 100 homes in central Washington


PATEROS, Wash. (AP) — A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley.

Friday’s dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. Most residents evacuated in advance of the flames, and some returned Friday to see what, if anything, was left of their houses. There were no reports of injuries, officials said.

A wall of fire wiped out a block of homes on Dawson Street. David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening just as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.

“It was just a funnel of fire,” Brownlee said. “All you could do was watch her go.”

Next door, the Pateros Community Church appeared largely undamaged.

The pavement of U.S. Highway 97 stopped the advance of some of the flames, protecting parts of Pateros.

Firefighters poured water over the remnants of homes Friday morning, raising clouds of smoke, steam and dust. Two big water towers perched just above the town were singed black by the flames. The fire consumed utility poles from two major power lines, one feeding Pateros and the other feeding the towns of Winthrop and Twisp to the north.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.

Inslee said that the state was rapidly training about 1,000 additional National Guard troops and active duty military could be called in as well.

“This, unfortunately, is not going to be a one-day or one-week event,” he said.

The Methow Valley, about 180 miles northeast of Seattle, is a popular area for hiking and fishing. Sections of several highways were closed.

“There’s a lot of misplaced people, living in parking lots and stuff right now,” said Rod Griffin, a fly-fishing guide who lives near Twisp. “The whole valley’s in disarray.”

He described long lines for gasoline, with at least one gas station out of fuel, and said cellphone towers must have been damaged as well because there was very little service.

In Brewster, 6 miles to the south, a hospital was evacuated as a precaution. The smoke was so thick there Friday it nearly obscured the Columbia River from adjacent highways. The smoke extended all the way to Spokane, 150 miles to the east.

Jacob McCann, a spokesman for the fire known as the Carlton Complex, said it “ran quite a bit” Thursday and officials were also able to get a better handle on its size. It blackened 260 square miles by Friday morning, up dramatically from the prior estimate of 28 square miles.

“Mother Nature is winning here,” Don Waller, chief of Okanogan County Fire District 6, told The Wenatchee World newspaper.

The county sheriff, Frank Rogers, said his team counted 30 houses and trailers destroyed in Pateros, another 40 in a community just outside the town at Alta Lake, and about 25 homes destroyed elsewhere in the county of about 40,000 people.



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