Environment

Tracking Wildfires
4:59 am
Tue August 12, 2014

Is Wildfire Severity Really Getting Worse?

FILE - A plane drops fire retardant over a wildfire as clouds of smoke billow behind and above Saturday, July 19, 2014, near Carlton, Washington.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it's ever been. But there's a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

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Environment
11:30 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

Native Groups, Environmentalists Rally To 'Protect Our Salish Sea'

Courtesy of James Leder / Idle No More Washington

Flanked by Puget Sound on one side and railroad tracks on the other, dozens of people gathered at Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park on Monday to bring attention to protecting the Salish Sea — the waters of Puget Sound, Georgia Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

The coalition of environmental groups and Native Americans voiced their opposition to the increased traffic in coal- and oil trains, as well as the proposed coal terminals that would be built in Longview and on the Great Lummi Nation’s sacred burial ground.

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Climate Change
11:10 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

New Ocean Acidification Monitors Could Protect Nation's $70 Billion Fisheries Industry

The prototype of an underwater ocean glider is one of many new tools that are said to be smarter, smaller, more durable and more accurate for gathering data on ocean conditions including acidification.
Bellamy Pailthorp

Federal scientists and their supporters are seeking increased funding to monitor ocean acidification in an effort to gather additional environmental intelligence.

U.S Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and fellow Democrat Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska toured a lab in Seattle Monday to see the latest technology and highlight their hopes of making ocean acidification monitoring a national priority. 

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Weather
10:49 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Gallery: Supermoon Over Western Wash.

Supermoon over Mount Rainier.
Tim Durkan

Did you catch the supermoon over the weekend? Lucky for us, several Seattle-area photographers did. 

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Environment
5:08 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Crews At Work On Slow, Expensive Disposal Of Notorious Derelict Vessel Helena Star

The Helena Star at Stabbert Marine in Seattle on August 8, 2014.
Bellamy Pailthorp KPLU

A poster child for Washington state’s problem with abandoned boats is at a shipyard in Seattle. The notorious Helena Star is being scrapped by Stabbert Maritime in Ballard.

The decrepit vessel once made headlines as a drug-smuggling ship; in 1978, the U.S. Coast Guard seized the ship off the coast of Washington with $75 million worth of marijuana on board. Now it’s an object lesson on how and why the process of cleanup and recovery of abandoned boats is so complex and expensive.

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Northwest Salmon
12:34 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Tribes Urge U.S., Canada To Update Columbia River Treaty

FILE - In this March 7, 2012, file photo, the Columbia River flows past the Vista House on Crown Point at right near Corbett, Oregon.
Don Ryan AP Photo

The U.S. and Canada are looking at renegotiating the Columbia River treaty, which has been in effect since 1964.

The treaty put into place a mechanism for the two countries to reduce flooding and increase electrical power generation. But it did not address the status of salmon and steelhead that have been decimated by the dams on the giant waterway. 

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Environment
5:00 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Fatal Attraction: Ospreys In A Bind With Baling Twine, Fishing Line

This is how ospreys' unhealthy affinity for baling twine can kill. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury rescued this osprey in the nick of time.
Beth Waterbury Idaho Fish and Game

Osprey nests are a common sight near rivers, lakes and bays in the Northwest. If you look closely with binoculars, you might notice some of these large raptors like to line their nests with discarded baling twine or fishing line. The problem is it can kill them.

Now wildlife biologists are working with ranchers and at boat ramps to keep the attractive nuisance out of the ospreys' clutches.

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Environment
2:39 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

B.C. Mine Dam Break Threatens Northwest Salmon Fisheries

Silty water from the breached Mount Polley Mine dam floods a downstream creek and road Monday.
Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre

A dam break at a central British Columbia mine could threaten salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Polley is an open-pit copper and gold mine roughly 400 miles north of Seattle. A dam holding back water and silt leftover from the mining process broke Monday, releasing enough material to fill more than 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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Elwha Restoration
5:00 am
Wed August 6, 2014

New Life After Dam Removal: Surf Smelt Spawning In Mouth Of Elwha

File image of surf smelt.
NOAA Fisheries West Coast

Tiny forage fish don’t have the iconic status of Northwest species such as salmon or orcas, but the marine creatures at the bottom of the food chain play a critical role. So scientists are excited to see signs they’re spawning in new habitat created by the Elwha dam removals. 

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Oil Train Hazards
5:05 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

King County To Lead Rehearsal Of Oil Train Disaster Response

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013.
Paul Chiasson AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Local and federal responders plan to rehearse how they’d handle the fiery crash of an oil train in Seattle – a hypothetical disaster that will play out around a table in King County.  

King County’s Emergency Management Department is coordinating with about a dozen different agencies in what they call a “tabletop exercise.” Staff will present the scenario, and responders around the table or on the phone then go through the motions of what happens next.

“Let’s say [it's] just a day like today, a nice wonderful day in Seattle. Oil train derails, oil spills, ignites, there's a large fireball in the sky,” said department director Walt Hubbard. “Who would you coordinate with? How would you communicate?”

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Climate Change
2:14 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Why The Northwest Is A Potential 'Climate Refuge' From Effects Of Global Warming

The colored dots plot out expected effects of climate change.
Courtesy Cliff Mass

The Pacific Northwest stands out as just about the only part of the country that will be largely spared from the ill effects associated with global warming, according to KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, who mapped out all the calamities expected to result from climate change over the next century.

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Washington Wilderness
9:38 am
Thu July 31, 2014

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area Expansion Bill Clears Key Committee In Congress

The Pratt River Valley, which is the heart of the more than 20,000 acres of Wilderness additions to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The bill would also designate the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers (pictured) as "wild and scenic."
Rick McGuire Courtesy Washington Wild

A bill that would expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area east of Seattle is one step closer to becoming law. For the first time in nearly four years, the proposal has moved forward in the U.S. House.  

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Climate Change
5:00 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Inslee Touring Wash. Sites That Show Costs Of Climate Change

Constructed in 1966, West Point treats the wastewater generated by approx. 1.5 million people in the greater Seattle area. Its shoreside location makes it vulnerable to sea level rise.
Courtesy of King County Wastewater Division.

Gov. Jay Inslee took a walk through King County’s wastewater facility in Discovery Park on Tuesday as part of his tour of sites affected by climate change. 

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Earthquake Science
5:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

USGS Tries Listening To Human Racket To Understand Seismic Hazards

This photo shows a seismic "thumper" used to map earthquake faults.
Horemu Wikimedia Commons

Research geologists have just finished a field trial to test a less invasive way to complete seismic hazard surveys.

The federal scientists attempted to map an earthquake fault under Seattle simply by listening for underground echoes from all the noise we humans create at the surface.

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Environment
5:00 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Donors Pay To Test Seawater For Traces Of Fukushima Radiation

Fukushima seawater radiation plume dispersal model by Rossi et. al.
Deep-Sea Research Journal

It's been more than three years since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident resulted in a spill of millions of gallons of radioactive cooling water into the Pacific. Oceanographers projected that it could take until this year for highly diluted traces of that spill in Japan to reach the West Coast of North America.

Radiation experts don't believe there is cause for alarm on our shores, but some coastal residents are stepping forward to pay for seawater testing just to be sure.

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