Alaska’s Current Off-the-Charts Wildfire Situation

Alaskans can take a peek out the window this week to catch a glimpse of climate change. It seems the entire state is on fire, and those fires are burning up land at a pace far beyond that of 2004, the previous record-setting year.

Here are the stats:

  • Wildfires in Alaska have burned more than 1.25 million acres so far this year. That’s an area 32 times the size of Washington, D.C.
  • 3,343 firefighters are currently working in Alaska. That’s one-third of all the wildland firefighters currently tasked in the United States.
  • 85 percent of the area burned nationwide this year by wildfire has been in Alaska.

The state of Alaska is at its highest level of alert. Its Tuesday wildfire situation report was 65 pages long. And the problem is getting worse: Wildfires now burn five times more acreage each year in our northernmost state than they did in 1943.

More: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/30/alaska_wildfires_climate_change_is_helping_spark_big_fires_at_a_record_pace.html

 

 

More fireworks stands close due to fire danger

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http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2015/jul/01/more-fireworks-stands-close-due-to-fire-danger/

July 1, 2015,

WENATCHEE — More fireworks stands are closing as a result of widespread fireworks bans, tinder-dry fire conditions, and some outward community concern for fire safety.

Throngs of Independence Day revelers would normally be lining up this time of year to buy their annual dose of sparklers, rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers.

But tents and trailers offering fireworks for sale are either closed or shy of business this year. Those that are open have had far fewer sales than their proprietors have had harassments. The only flag waving seen, they say, is with middle fingers.

As a result, several more stands agreed to close Wednesday afternoon.

With everything going on, and in the name of fire safety, TNT is voluntarily deciding to let local organizations shut down. It’s the right thing to do,” said Greg Burger, an area manager assistant for TNT Fireworks. The company provides fireworks, often a tent and insurance to organizations and individuals who want a share of the profits, often for local fundraisers.

The change is a response to the devastating loss of homes during the Sleepy Hollow Fire, widespread firework bans and tinder dry fire conditions throughout the region.

Several fireworks stands previously decided not to open. The Church of the Nazarene, the Wenatchee Valley Appleaires and the Douglas County Republicans earlier decided not to open stands in East Wenatchee. The new TNT decision will close four stands in Wenatchee and two others in East Wenatchee.

Most of the stands that remained open were run by organizations bound by contract. Sales at the stands had been far from sparkling.

Wenatchee Eagles had one such stand near the organization’s auxiliary hall at 1202 N. Wenatchee Ave. They planned to open another stand today at Coastal Farm & Home in East Wenatchee.

Eagles member Dena Saylor said the group signed a contract with TNT Fireworks last October. Saylor said the Eagles used profits from last year’s sales to pay organizational property taxes and to give to local charities. One was to help fire victims from last year’s Carlton Complex fires.

Member Christine Farley said the Wenatchee stand had only nine sales in the first two days they’ve been open.

But we’re getting harassed quite a bit. A couple of people seemed really over the edge. I didn’t know what they were going to do,” she said.

Farley and Saylor said they weren’t forcing anyone to buy fireworks. They told them they can’t shoot them off in Wenatchee and most parts of Chelan County and to be cautious if they did. Burger, the TNT assistant stopped by Tuesday at the same time as a Chelan County fire marshal, and that’s when an agreement was made to shut down, Farley said.

WENATCHEE — More fireworks stands are closing as a result of widespread fireworks bans, tinder-dry fire conditions, and some outward community concern for fire safety.

Throngs of Independence Day revelers would normally be lining up this time of year to buy their annual dose of sparklers, rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers.

But tents and trailers offering fireworks for sale are either closed or shy of business this year. Those that are open have had far fewer sales than their proprietors have had harassments. The only flag waving seen, they say, is with middle fingers.

As a result, several more stands agreed to close Wednesday afternoon.

With everything going on, and in the name of fire safety, TNT is voluntarily deciding to let local organizations shut down. It’s the right thing to do,” said Greg Burger, an area manager assistant for TNT Fireworks. The company provides fireworks, often a tent and insurance to organizations and individuals who want a share of the profits, often for local fundraisers.

The change is a response to the devastating loss of homes during the Sleepy Hollow Fire, widespread firework bans and tinder dry fire conditions throughout the region.

Several fireworks stands previously decided not to open. The Church of the Nazarene, the Wenatchee Valley Appleaires and the Douglas County Republicans earlier decided not to open stands in East Wenatchee. The new TNT decision will close four stands in Wenatchee and two others in East Wenatchee.

Most of the stands that remained open were run by organizations bound by contract. Sales at the stands had been far from sparkling.

Wenatchee Eagles had one such stand near the organization’s auxiliary hall at 1202 N. Wenatchee Ave. They planned to open another stand today at Coastal Farm & Home in East Wenatchee.

Eagles member Dena Saylor said the group signed a contract with TNT Fireworks last October. Saylor said the Eagles used profits from last year’s sales to pay organizational property taxes and to give to local charities. One was to help fire victims from last year’s Carlton Complex fires.

Member Christine Farley said the Wenatchee stand had only nine sales in the first two days they’ve been open.

But we’re getting harassed quite a bit. A couple of people seemed really over the edge. I didn’t know what they were going to do,” she said.

Farley and Saylor said they weren’t forcing anyone to buy fireworks. They told them they can’t shoot them off in Wenatchee and most parts of Chelan County and to be cautious if they did. Burger, the TNT assistant stopped by Tuesday at the same time as a Chelan County fire marshal, and that’s when an agreement was made to shut down, Farley said.

We are telling them about the fireworks show at the park and set them off New Year’s Eve,” Farley said about her few customers. “But when people come in and start yelling and screaming at us, that’s not cool. It’s not like we don’t care about fire victims. We do.”

WENATCHEE — More fireworks stands are closing as a result of widespread fireworks bans, tinder-dry fire conditions, and some outward community concern for fire safety.

Throngs of Independence Day revelers would normally be lining up this time of year to buy their annual dose of sparklers, rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers.

But tents and trailers offering fireworks for sale are either closed or shy of business this year. Those that are open have had far fewer sales than their proprietors have had harassments. The only flag waving seen, they say, is with middle fingers.

As a result, several more stands agreed to close Wednesday afternoon.

With everything going on, and in the name of fire safety, TNT is voluntarily deciding to let local organizations shut down. It’s the right thing to do,” said Greg Burger, an area manager assistant for TNT Fireworks. The company provides fireworks, often a tent and insurance to organizations and individuals who want a share of the profits, often for local fundraisers.

The change is a response to the devastating loss of homes during the Sleepy Hollow Fire, widespread firework bans and tinder dry fire conditions throughout the region.

Several fireworks stands previously decided not to open. The Church of the Nazarene, the Wenatchee Valley Appleaires and the Douglas County Republicans earlier decided not to open stands in East Wenatchee. The new TNT decision will close four stands in Wenatchee and two others in East Wenatchee.

Most of the stands that remained open were run by organizations bound by contract. Sales at the stands had been far from sparkling.

Wenatchee Eagles had one such stand near the organization’s auxiliary hall at 1202 N. Wenatchee Ave. They planned to open another stand today at Coastal Farm & Home in East Wenatchee.

Eagles member Dena Saylor said the group signed a contract with TNT Fireworks last October. Saylor said the Eagles used profits from last year’s sales to pay organizational property taxes and to give to local charities. One was to help fire victims from last year’s Carlton Complex fires.

Member Christine Farley said the Wenatchee stand had only nine sales in the first two days they’ve been open.

But we’re getting harassed quite a bit. A couple of people seemed really over the edge. I didn’t know what they were going to do,” she said.

Farley and Saylor said they weren’t forcing anyone to buy fireworks. They told them they can’t shoot them off in Wenatchee and most parts of Chelan County and to be cautious if they did. Burger, the TNT assistant stopped by Tuesday at the same time as a Chelan County fire marshal, and that’s when an agreement was made to shut down, Farley said.

We are telling them about the fireworks show at the park and set them off New Year’s Eve,” Farley said about her few customers. “But when people come in and start yelling and screaming at us, that’s not cool. It’s not like we don’t care about fire victims. We do.”

5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/5-activists-detained-as-Shell-drill-ship-heads-for-Arctic-311005971.html

Published: Jun 30, 2015 

5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic
“Kayaktivists” gather in Everett to protest oil drilling in the Arctic.
EVERETT, Wash. – Police detained five so called “kayaktivists” Tuesday who tried to slow down Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling ship Noble Discoverer as it left for the Arctic Ocean.

In all, police say 20 protesters were in the water as the ship departed Everett on its way to Alaska at about 4 a.m., guarded by two Coast Guard vessels.

Coast Guard personnel brought the activists to shore and issued citations for violating the safety zone around the drill ship. All were later released.

The protesters oppose Shell’s plans to drill for undersea oil in the Arctic. Groups of people from Oregon, Washington and Alaska have been holding a vigil on the waterfront since last Wednesday.

Shell’s drill rig, the Polar Pioneer, left Seattle earlier this month. Two dozen protesters were cited when they tried to block that rig from leaving Seattle.

Starting next month, Shell proposes to drill up to four exploration wells over two years in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s coast.

Seafood supply altered by climate change

http://news.ubc.ca/2015/06/30/seafood-supply-altered-by-climate-change/

The global supply of seafood is set to change substantially and many people will not be able to enjoy the same quantity and dishes in the future due to climate change and ocean acidification, according to UBC scientists.

These findings were released today in Japan by the Nereus program, an international research team led by UBC scientists and supported by the Nippon Foundation. The Nereus program was formed to study the future of the world’s oceans and seafood resources. Today it released a summary of the first phase of its research in a report titled ‘Predicting Future Ocean.’ Researchers say that the future supply of seafood will be substantially altered by climate change, overfishing and other human activities.

“The types of fish that we will have on our dinner table will be very different in the future,” said William Cheung, UBC associate professor and the co-director of the Nereus program. “Fisheries will be catching more warm-water species, with smaller size, and that will affect fish supply through our domestic and oversea fisheries as well as imports.”

The report highlighted climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems as the primary drivers of ocean change. Researchers say these changes will lead to a decline in fisheries in many regions and alter marine biodiversity and food web structures.

Researchers say there are solutions to help the ocean and communities prepare for the future. These include improving ocean governance globally to ensure sustainable fisheries and the need to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

“Global marine ecosystems have already been largely altered by overfishing,” said Daniel Pauly, professor at UBC and an advisor to Nereus. “This report clearly points out that any solution needs to deal with the CO2 problem as well.”

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Massive algae bloom causing seizures in sea lions

http://www.king5.com/story/tech/science/environment/2015/06/16/noaa-toxic-algae-bloom-domoic-acid-sea-lion/28841659/

Alison Morrow 6:51 a.m. PDT June 17, 2015

In recent video from Long Beach, a sea lion does something researchers have never seen before on Washington’s coast.

“A sea lion with his head arched back, he’s basically having seizures,” said NOAA Fisheries Research Oceanographer Vera Trainer.

The reason for the seizure is in a laboratory refrigerator at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

It’s an algae called pseudo-nitzschia, and while each cell is microscopic, millions together on Washington’s are massively destructive.

“We’re seeing effects on marine ecosystem we haven’t seen before,” Trainer said.

The algal bloom is unprecedented in size. It extends from southern California to Alaska. Though invisible, it produces a toxin called domoic acid.

The toxin has already closed crab and razor clam fisheries. Now, its effects are spreading to mammals.

“I think it’s scary,” Trainer said. “When we see marine mammals suffering from these toxins, they’re not that far in the food chain from us.”

NOAA fisheries scientists have deployed to study it. They’re joining other researches to trace where the toxic cells are, just how toxic they are, and what’s feeding their growth.

They believe “the blob” is partially to blame, a large expanse of warmer water off the coast.

With the information, they suspect they may not be able to stop the algae, but learn how to live with it.

“But we’re able to figure out how to live with them,” Trainer said. “This is just one animal found on the beach. You wonder what animals that aren’t on the beaches, what’s happening to them.”

24 activists detained as Arctic oil rig heads out of Seattle

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Activists-form-human-chain-as-Arctic-oil-rig-heads-out-of-port-307363311.html

by KOMO Staff Published: Jun 15, 2015

SEATTLE – A massive oil-drilling rig pulled out of Seattle on Monday and headed for the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean despite a last-ditch effort by protesters to block it from leaving by forming a waterborne blockade of the harbor.

The Coast Guard says 24 people were detained while taking part in the blockade of the Polar Pioneer.

Many of those detained were in kayaks – including Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien, said a Greenpeace spokesman. Around 50 other protesters on the water were not arrested, Greenpeace said.

The Polar Pioneer’s owner, Royal Dutch Shell, plans to tow the rig to the Arctic Ocean off Alaska to drill for undersea oil deposits during relatively calm summer weather conditions.

The first wave of “kayaktivists” headed out in the predawn darkness, as soon as they got word the Polar Pioneer would be on the move. Protesters accused Shell of trying to sneak the rig out of town during the darkness of night.

“Shell was trying to get the Polar Pioneer out of Seattle under cover of darkness, but the kayaktivists prevented them from leaving for several hours and exposed what they were doing to the world,” said Greenpeace’s Arctic Communications Manager Travis Nichols.

Several tugs guided the Shell-owned oil rig out of Elliott Bay as the sun rose over the city.

The petroleum giant’s plans to drill in the waters off Alaska drew a similar kayak protest in May. Activists also have chained themselves twice to a support ship in Bellingham, north of Seattle.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith says the company remains “committed to operating in a safe, environmentally responsible manner.”

The Coast Guard didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

—–

This is a developing news story. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Deepwater-Horizon-CDVIDS

(Can you say Deepwater Horizon?)

The Late John Livingston on the Arctic Oil Debate

I was surprised to learn that the late Canadian naturalist, author and part-time misanthropist, John Livingston, wrote a book on Arctic Oil back in 1981, long before hardly anyone knew for sure if or when the ice sheet was going to melt off and how dire the consequences of that would actually be.

On page one of chapter one of Introduction to the Arctic Debate:

“Each of the ‘constituents’—if only because of (even unilateral) individual involvement has a very real vested interest in what is going to happen in the north. But they all have one thing in common. They consist of both northerners and southerners, but they are all people.

“There are still others, however, with legitimate vested interest who neither voice their views nor hear ours. On the admittedly preposterous assumption that a walrus were to achieve standing before some tribunal, no doubt he would have many things to say on behalf of the inarticulate classless clams and mussels of the ocean bed. A shrimp like crustacean called an amphipod might rise on the part of the minute squid like copepods he depends upon, and the sea birds of Lancaster Sound would have a compelling case for the helpless amphipod. Ivory gulls would plead for their benefactors the polar bears, bears for seals, seals for arctic cod. Foxes would argue for lemmings, and lemmings for grasses. Caribou would be represented by wolves, and wolves by ravens, eagles, gulls and jaegers. Grizzly would fight for ground squirrels; snow geese would speak for sedge meadows, which in turn explicate their vested interest in the sun and the rivers and the permafrost itself.

“Arctic beings and processes are not of course voiceless; we simply choose not to hear them. We elect not to recognize them. Complicated as discussion over northern policy has become, it has not yet entertained the addition complication that would arise were it to become anything more than a unidimensional proceeding, with any more than one interest represented. There is after all only one protagonist, and he is talking to himself. The arctic ‘debate’ is not a debate at all; it is a monologue. The singe participant is ourselves. Were the implications and possible outcomes not so tragic, the whole charade could be dismissed as mere absurdity. But of course absurdity is never ‘mere’; it can be dangerous.”

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North American Moose dying in droves as climate warming fuels disease, pests

North American moose are dying by the thousands as they struggle with soaring temperatures and health problems linked to disease and parasites that thrive in the heat, scientists are finding.

In north east Minnesota alone, moose numbered about 8,000 a decade ago. Today, the population is down to 3,500. The story is similar throughout Canada, New Hampshire and Maine.

“All across the southern edge of the range, from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Minnesota, Michigan, all across the southern fringe of their range, moose numbers are in a significant decline,” Eric Orff, biologist with the National Wildlife Federation, told PBS.

Biologist Seth Moore has been taking samples of the Minnesota population since 2009. Of the 80 percent of collared moose that have died, 40 percent died from an infection known as brain worm, 20 percent died from a heavy winter tick load that sucks the blood from the animals, and the rest died from a combination of both, reports Motherboard. Both scourges are linked to warmer temperatures.

Minnesota has had unusually warm winters for the last few years. Warmer temperatures also overheat the shaggy, cold-loving animals.

In addition, calves appear to be far weaker now, or abandoned, leaving them more vulnerable to predators.

The population of moose in New Hampshire has fallen from 7,600 in 1996 to 4,000 last year. But the tick population and calf deaths seem to be down this season. But the Kristine Rines, the state’s moose biologist, believes the moose will be in danger as long as climate change is a factor.

“There’s no mystery at all as far as I’m concerned,” said Rines, who believes climate change is clearly to blame for plunging moose populations.  “It’s as clear cut as you can get in examining the natural world.”

A study earlier this year predicts that up to 97% of birds and mammals living in the vast region of northwest Alaska will experience major habitat affects from climate change. The northern climes tend to show more radical changes that serve as a blueprint for what’s eventually ahead for other regions, scientists believe.

The Science of Global Warming

Six Things Michael Mann Wants You to Know About the Science of Global Warming

2 Scientists Drown Measuring Artic Sea Ice–Mother Jones

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/05/two-climate-scientists-just-gave-their-lives-their-research

These Scientists Just Lost Their Lives in the Arctic. They Were Heroes.

| Thu May 7, 2015
Philip de Roo (left) and Marc Cornelissen.

Early last month, veteran polar explorers and scientists Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo set out on skis from Resolute Bay, a remote outpost in the patchwork of islands between Canada and Greenland. Their destination was Bathurst Island, a treacherous 70-mile trek to the northwest across the frozen sea, where they planned to document thinning Arctic sea ice just a few months after NASA reported that the winter ice cover was the lowest on record.

It wasn’t hard to find what they were looking for, according to a dispatch Cornelissen uploaded to Soundcloud on April 28.

“We’re nearing into the coast of Bathurst,” he said. “We think we see thin ice in front of us…Within 15 minutes of skiing it became really warm. In the end it was me skiing in my underwear…I don’t think it looked very nice, and it didn’t feel sexy either, but it was the only way to deal with the heat.”

His next message, a day later, was an emergency distress signal picked up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. According to the Guardian, a pilot flying over the spot reported seeing open water, scattered equipment, and a lone sled dog sitting on the broken ice. By last Friday, rescuers had called off the search. The pair are presumed to have drowned, victims of the same thin ice they had come to study. Cornelissen was 46; de Roo had just turned 30.

Yesterday, Cold Facts, the nonprofit with whom the pair was working at the time, dispatched a snowmobile expedition to attempt to recover their belongings. You can follow their progress on Twitter here. The dog, Kimnik, was found a few days ago and is doing fine, the group said.

In a blog post on the website of the European Space Agency, Cornelissen was remembered by former colleagues as “an inspirational character, an explorer and a romantic. He had fallen in love with the spellbinding beauty of the poles and had made it a personal mission to highlight the magnitude of the human fingerprint on this last wilderness.”

It’s not clear whether the ice conditions the pair encountered were directly attributable to climate change, according to E&E News:

That the region had thin ice is evident. Perhaps the ice had been thinned by ocean currents that deliver warm water from below, or by the wind, which could generate open water areas. It is difficult to know. Climate change may have played a role, or it may not have…the impacts of the warming on ice thickness regionally can be unpredictable, [ESA scientist Mark] Drinkwater said.

Still, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth. We rely on the work of scientists like these to know exactly what is happening there and how it will affect those of us who choose to stay safe in warmer, drier places. Their deaths are a testament to the dedication and fearlessness required to stand on the front lines of climate change.

Rest in peace, guys.