Retrofitting busy highways to let wildlife travel safely, too ~ The Washington Post

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Elk stand near U.S. Highway 285 in Colorado. (Matthew Staver for The Washington Post/For The Washington Post)
Oct. 11, 2019 at 3:15 p.m. MDT

 

COLLEGIATE PEAKS SCENIC BYWAY, Colo. — U.S. Highway 285 was once a death zone for the dwindling herds of elk and mule deer on Colorado’s Western Slope. But today it offers a lifeline, helping them travel from their summer range high in the mountains to winter foraging grounds along the Arkansas River.

 

For the past year, a tunnel dipping under three lanes of speeding traffic has beckoned. And as frost descended recently on subalpine meadows and glittering-gold aspen, a huge bull elk, measuring at least nine feet from antlers to hoofs, entered the structure ever so cautiously. Infrared cameras on both ends captured his meandering.

“Yes!” exulted Mark Lawler, an environmental specialist with the state transportation department, sitting under the 25-foot-wide tunnel arch and watching images pop up on his laptop. The ground there was marked by coyote, deer and even squirrel tracks, more proof of success. But Lawler was focusing on the elk’s safe passage. He “won’t be hit by someone on the highway.”

The $3.5 million project is one of several planned for Colorado’s ever more crowded roads, on which some 4,000 bears, bighorn sheep, coyotes and myriad other animals died last year. The cost of the carnage exceeded $80 million, according to state officials.

Across the country, as development continues to encroach on natural areas, wildlife-vehicle collisions are taking a massive toll. More than 1.9 million animal-collision insurance claims were filed in fiscal 2019, a State Farm report found, with some researchers estimating the annual price tag of the resulting human fatalities, wildlife mortality, injuries, vehicle damage and other costs at almost $10 billion.

Yet advances in satellite tracking technology are helping biologists to better understand how many animals rely on corridors — strips of land that link habitats — and how wildlife crossings over and under roads are essential to reconnect these shrinking settings. Federal and state officials, conservationists and landowners are now partnering across borders on remedies.

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Hundreds of birds face extinction due to climate change ~ The Hill

Irrigation For Farming Could Leave Many Of The World’s Streams And Rivers Dry ~ NPR

The long arms of pivot irrigation rigs deliver water from the Ogallala Aquifer to circular fields of corn in northwestern Kansas. A new study suggests many of the world’s rivers and streams could dry up because people are draining underground aquifers that sustain streams through dry periods.

Dan Charles/NPR

 

 

Something odd is happening to streams and rivers on the high plains of Kansas and Colorado. Some have disappeared.

“We would go and visit these streams, and in many cases it’s like a dirt bike channel. It’s no longer functioning as a stream,” says Joshuah Perkin, a biologist at Texas A&M University who studies the fish that live in these streams.

These waterways, he says, were partly fed by groundwater: Water moving underground, through rock and sand, draining into streambeds or bubbling up in natural springs. That groundwater kept the streams flowing through dry periods.

But people have been tapping those underground pools of water for themselves. They’ve drilled deep wells, mostly to irrigate farmland. “We’re growing crops in a region that’s arid and becoming increasingly arid,” Perkin says. “And the way you grow crops when you don’t have rain is to pull water from the ground.”

Farmers have pumped so much water that in some places, the water table has fallen by more than a hundred feet. The water is now so deep underground that it can’t flow into streams and rivers anymore. Streams dry up, and as a result, fish and plants and birds around those streams also disappear.

This is happening in other places as well, such as California’s Central Valley, northern India, and the North China Plain.

Hydrologist Inge de Graaf, at the University of Freiburg, in Germany, wanted to see the whole global picture of groundwater depletion, including how it might change in the future.

She and her colleagues created a computer simulation of groundwater and rivers all around the world. They threw in a heavy dose of climate change; an extreme scenario, with lots of warming.

“One of the goals of this study [is] raising awareness. To explain what is happening under our feet,” she says.

The results of her study have just been published in Nature. The computer model shows a future with less rainfall; farmers then pump even more groundwater to make up for that deficit. As a result, in places where farmers rely on groundwater, the flow of water in streams and rivers shrinks dramatically. In half of them, it falls beyond a kind of ecological limit. “Healthy ecosystems cannot be sustained” at that level, de Graaf says. “The plants and the fish that live in the rivers or the lakes, they will die.”

De Graaf says that she doesn’t want people to panic. “It’s pretty alarming, but there also are things we can do about it, to avoid it,” she says.

That includes, of course, cutting greenhouse emissions to slow global warming. In addition, some places, including California and parts of Kansas and Texas, are moving to reduce the amount of groundwater that farmers can extract from the ground.

NOAA’s fall outlook: Above-average temperatures everywhere ~ The Washington Post

Temperatures through December are forecast to be above average across the entire Lower 48 and Alaska.

NOAA’s fall 2019 outlook calls for above-average temperatures across the entire Lower 48 and Alaska. (NOAA Climate Prediction Center)

September 20

Following one of the hottest summers on record, the fall looks to be exceptionally toasty, as well. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fall outlook calls for above-average temperatures across the entire Lower 48 and Alaska.

The areas with the highest likelihood of warmer-than-average conditions this fall include the North Slope of Alaska, the Four Corners region and New England. Ordinarily, sea ice would chill Alaska’s North Slope. But not this year.

“The overall retreat in the Beaufort Sea is about as extreme as our analyses have shown in the last 20 years,” wrote the National Weather Service in Anchorage. Utqiaġvik — Alaska’s northernmost town — spent an astonishing 85 days above freezing, from June 25 to Thursday.

“Prior to the 1990s it wasn’t uncommon for the longest above freezing streak to be [less than] 10 days,” tweeted Rick Thoman, an Alaska climate specialist at the International Arctic Research Center. Satellite-derived Arctic sea ice extent this season reached its second lowest on record, behind only 2012.

This fall should prove no different.

It’s no surprise that this red-plastered map comes on the heels of an exceptionally warm summer, during which not a single state ranked below average.

July was the planet’s warmest month on record, while the summer overall ranked as the hottest on record for the Northern Hemisphere. The past five years have marked the warmest period on record, as well.

Despite this, much of the United States hasn’t been as toasty as it might be, thanks to a stubborn dip in the jet stream over the Plains and northern tier.

Summer in the contiguous United States was the coolest in five years, but cool is relative — it was still anomalously hot, compared with long-term baselines, and summer ranked in the top third of such seasons historically, NOAA found. The Central United States cool-down prevented us from ending up higher on the leader board. But a number of other locations logged mind-boggling heat.

Take Alaska, for instance. Anchorage recorded eight 80-degree days this year. The previous record is four times in a season. The overnight low failed to drop below 60 degrees nine times. That’s as many times in three months as occurred between 1950 and 1990. This summer was 12 percent more humid in Alaska’s largest city than during any other summer on record.

Hawaii is in the same boat because of anomalously high sea-surface temperatures surrounding the islands. Honolulu saw its warmest summer on record. So did Kahului and Lihue, two of Hawaii’s other three long-running climate stations. The only Aloha State station to miss the mark was in Hilo, where 2019 came in second place behind 2015. Four of the five warmest summers on record there have occurred in the past five years.

Maxar | Weather Desk@Maxar_Weather

2019 has been a ridiculous year for record heat in in Hawaii. Honolulu’s (129-year period of record) set 45 daily record highs this year so far and Lihue (114-year period of record) has set records in 27 of the last 32 days including a streak of 20 straight!

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Lihue, on the island of Kauai, broke or tied its record-high temperature 20 days in a row! Bob Henson, a meteorologist at Weather Underground, described the remarkable feat as “likely unprecedented.” Twenty-seven of the past 32 days have featured record-tying or -breaking temperatures for the station, at which records date back to 1905. That means if you were to select a random day during the past two months, there’s a roughly 2 in 3 chance of it being a record-setter.

Lihue also has seen 41 record-high minimum temperatures since the beginning of July. For comparison, Lihue has measured exactly zero record lows during 2019.

Hawaii’s not the only tropical paradise baking. Miami is feeling the heat, too. Temperatures didn’t drop below 80 degrees for nine days in a row, ending Sept. 11. The city also saw a four-day stretch of temperatures topping 95 degrees back in June. Miami has hit 90 or greater every day this month except Thursday. Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang’s tropical weather expert,pointed out that it’s been the warmest front half of September on record in Miami.

Just about everybody’s been hot outside that trough that chilled the nation’s heartland. Even New England saw an exceptionally hot summer. July was the warmest month on record in Boston, Portland, Hartford and Manchester. Sure, there’s been cold in some spots. But there’s been a heck of a lot more warmth.

And it looks as if that trend is set to continue. The majority of weather models depict a warmer-than-average pattern as we head into winter. A chunk of average or slightly below average temperatures may become briefly nestled over New England, but otherwise, warmth is favored virtually everywhere.

SCIENTISTS TO DRIFT WITH ARCTIC ICE

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Anja Sommerfeld of the Alfred Wegener Institute, working with a balloon for experiments during Mosaic training in April.

 

 

By

Photographs by

  • Norway — Just days before the German icebreaker Polarstern sets sail on the largest and most ambitious climate-change research expedition the Arctic has ever seen, an air of quietpandemonium prevails aboard ship.

Crates of scientific equipment — more than a million pounds in all — are stacked on deck and in passageways, scattered seemingly at random among spools of hose, gas cylinders, duffels filled with survival gear and even a spare blade for the ship’s twin propellers.

Scientists scurry about, sorting through supplies and making sure equipment is working and strapped down in the research ship’s permanent laboratories and more than a dozen portable ones in modified shipping containers, above and below deck.

The crew is performing its own last-minute tasks, including lifting four gleaming new snowmobiles aboard with a crane. Dangling high in the air, the machines look like insects against the hulking 400-foot-long ship.

The Interior Secretary Wants to Enlarge a Dam. An Old Lobbying Client Would Benefit.

CreditCreditWalter Bibikow/Denita Delimont, via Alamy

 

WASHINGTON — For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California. The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area, as well as the bald eagle, and devastate the West Coast’s salmon industry downstream.

But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit substantially by gaining access to more irrigation water from a higher dam and has been trying to get the project approved for more than a decade.

For much of the past decade, the chief lobbyist for the group was David Bernhardt. Today, Mr. Bernhardt is the Interior Secretary.

It is not the first time that the Interior Department under Mr. Bernhardt’s leadership has taken actions that benefit his former client, the Westlands Water District, a state entity created at the behest of, and largely controlled by, some of California’s wealthiest farmers. Mr. Bernhardt also promoted the weakening of an endangered-species regulation that would get Westlands more water, a move that has put him under scrutiny from his department’s inspector general.

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Rō’bear Re’por going to the dark side

Unknown.pngDear Readers

Rō’bear is going to the Dark side for a few weeks beginning Sept. 14th. Traveling south to check out rumors of a Deep State in the Central Andes along with some fly fishing and of course observance of the daily Pisco Hour.  He will procure assistance from local personas de mala reputación y conferencistas invitados residing in Rio Blanco, Portillo & Papudo Chile  …  then hopefully return with a few stories early October to share with rŌbert devotees.

While the jefe is visiting the Dark Side you can go to the bottom of each page in the Re’por to Older Posts which will take you back in time to past stories from the bad old days.

“It’s the truth even if it didn’t happen”  Ken Kesey

Seguro, 

The Management

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The Fashion Executives Who Saved a Patagonian Paradise ~ Serria

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PHOTOS BY KILIII YUYAN

 

 

 

THE MINISTER of public lands was about to arrive, a television crew in tow, so everything had to be just right. It was 8:15 on a summer morning in February, and the office of Tompkins Conservation outside the Chilean hamlet of El Amarillo was hive-busy. The philanthropy’s controller was hunched over a laptop filled with spreadsheets. A supervisor was giving orders to groups of men in blue coveralls. Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the organization’s president, sat at a conference table toggling between a pair of laptops and her cellphone.

Aerial photo shows Patagonian mountains in Chile. The image shows rolling hills, mostly treeless, and the rocky foreground has an orange hue.

For 20 years, Tompkins worked at the outdoor-clothing company Patagonia, where she became the CEO and transformed the outfit from the backyard start-up of adventurer Yvon Chouinard into a global fashion icon. Tompkins, 69, has stayed brand loyal—she was wearing a Patagonia heather-colored fleece and red puffy jacket with bits of down poking out of a hole near the right pocket. Bowls of organic almonds and blueberries were scattered about the office, leftovers from a meeting that had taken place the day before with staff from the National Geographic Society. Outside the window stretched a postcard view of Pumalín Park: unbroken temperate rainforest climbing toward the glacier-shielded summit of the Michinmahuida volcano.

One year earlier, Tompkins and then—Chilean president Michelle Bachelet had announced an agreement under which Tompkins Conservation would donate to the Chilean government the vast swaths of land acquired by the philanthropy over the course of 25 years—and the government would, for its part, put 9 million acres of southern Chile under new protection, in the process creating five national parks and expanding three others. Now, Tompkins and her staff were racing to wrap up the final details of the deal in advance of the agreed-upon handover on April 30, 2019. The meeting with the lands minister had been scheduled to introduce him to Pumalín Park, which he had never visited but which would soon be his to manage.

 

 

“Landscape without wildlife is just scenery. What we’re doing is creating national parks as a strategy toward slowing down the extinction of species.”

In just two months, the table that Kris Tompkins and I were sitting at would be the property of the Chilean people. So would the carved panels of foxes and pumas adorning the room and the framed landscape photographs and the wood-burning stove Tompkins was now stoking. The donation to the government of Chile would also include, among other things, 15 habitable buildings, 11 outbuildings such as barns, four trucks, five dozen chainsaws, 200 shovels, one museum, a fully equipped restaurant, 740 works of fine art, and 16 telephones. Then there were the roughly 725,000 acres to establish Pumalín National Park and another 206,000 acres to create Patagonia National Park in the remote south of the country.

A brown southern caracara, with a hooked beak, looks to the side.
A BROWN SOUTHERN CARACARA

Combined with earlier gifts—Corcovado and Yendegaia National Parks in Chile; Monte León, Perito Moreno, and Iberá National Parks on the Argentine side of the Andes—the Tompkins Conservation donations in South America mark the largest act of wildlands philanthropy in history. Altogether, Tompkins Conservation and its partners have given away an area larger than the state of Delaware. Never before has a private organization donated fully functioning parks of such scale to national governments.

Tompkins was high off the accomplishment. “I’m still truly beaming inside that we were able to pull it off,” she told me. She also admitted to being exhausted from overseeing the myriad technicalities of the handover, including a complex, eight-part agreement governing everything from land use to wildlife conservation. “Oh my goodness, as I say, I don’t know that I would have the strength to do it again. It took everything off our hides.”

The overtime endeavor had been her response to the unexpected death of her husband, Doug Tompkins, in December 2015. Doug, founder of the outdoor-gear company the North Face and a cofounder of the clothing brand Esprit, had been on a kayaking trip on a Patagonian lake with Chouinard and other pals when his boat capsized and he succumbed to hypothermia. Kris said that losing Doug was like “an amputation.” After his death, her instinct was to fulfill their shared vision of donating the properties they had amassed during their marriage. “A week or 10 days after Doug died, I decided to pick it up and just go for it,” she said.

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Tomorrow, Friday the 13th the harvest moon ~ The Washington Post

For the first time in 13 years, a full moon will occur this Friday the 13th

 

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September 11 at 9:46 AM

This Friday the 13th full moon is the first since January 2006.

But this full moon, most commonly known as the harvest moon, will appear much smaller than most. That’s because the moon will be at apogee, or the farthest point in its roughly four-week orbit. Timeanddate.com estimates a “micromoon” appears 14 percent smaller and 30 percent dimmer than the widely reported “supermoons” that dominate the news.

Though there is no universal definition governing what qualifies as a supermoon or micromoon, Time and Date says micromoons must be more than 251,655 miles away from Earth. Friday night’s moon will be 816 miles farther than that.

Supermoons, on the other hand, must be at least 2,039 miles closer to Earth than a micromoon. Most of the time, the moon sits somewhere in between those bounds.

Some call the harvest moon the “corn moon,” since September marks a time during which farmers in the Plains typically begin harvesting their corn. Farther north, some may wait a bit later.

The next time we’ll have a moon approaching fullness on Friday the 13th (before achieving total illumination the next morning) will be in a little over 13 years. in May 2033.

And if you’re looking for something really riveting, mark your calendar for 2037. There will be two blue moons in a span of three months — a blue moon defined as the second full moon in a calendar month. They’ll occur on Jan. 31 and March 31, both months that will also feature a full moon on the first of the month. In addition, March 13, 2037, falls on a Friday.