was digging through the Rhino Pit the other day and found Jorge’s old shoes he used in the Tetons that he passed on to me so long ago … and with a little help from the Goo in the right places they’ve become my stylish footwear on the river. Thanks Jorge, I think of you every time I pull on those shoes to go fishing… salud ……
Scientists are studying the extreme weather in northern Argentina to see how it works — and what it can tell us about the monster storms in our future.
By Noah Gallagher Shannon
At the time, Lenardon was at the local radio station, where he moonlighted as the town’s weather forecaster. It was a role the 22-year-old had inherited, in some sense, from his grandfather Eduardo Malpassi, who began recording daily weather observations in a family almanac almost 50 years before. Like many farmers in Córdoba Province, Lenardon had learned from older generations how to read the day’s advancing weather according to a complex taxonomy of winds and clouds that migrated across the pampas — the vast pale grasslands that blanket much of the country’s interior. If the winds turned cool as the day wore on, Lenardon knew it meant rain, brought north from Patagonia. More troubling were the winds that blew in wet and hot from the northwest — off the sierras.
As forecaster, Lenardon’s chief concern was identifying weather patterns that might breed a thunderstorm, which on the pampas are notoriously swift and violent. Few official records are kept in Córdoba and the surrounding regions, but over the previous two years alone, newspapers reported that hail, flooding and tornadoes had damaged or razed thousands of acres of cropland, displaced more than five thousand people and killed about a dozen. Locals described barbed hailstones, shaped like medieval flails, destroying buildings and burying cars up to the hoods. Lenardon’s own family had lost their entire harvest to flooding three of the last five years, forcing them at one point onto state assistance. People in Berrotarán spent much of their summer bracing for the atmosphere to explode; the fire department had recently taken to standing at the ready with rescue equipment and heavy machinery, in hopes of getting a jump on digging people out of debris. Even so, Lenardon didn’t think much of the fog when he first saw it. The cool, moist air didn’t indicate anything, as far as he knew, except a welcome relief from the heat.
As Lenardon prepared to leave the station, he pulled up the feed from the region’s lone radar dish in the nearby city of Córdoba, more out of habit than anything else. When the radar completed its 15-minute sweep, a massive red splotch flashed on the screen — a powerful storm appeared to be bearing down on them. Convinced it was a glitch, Lenardon raced outside to check the sky — forgetting in his panic that it was shrouded by fog. While the fog had little meteorological effect on the storm, it had nonetheless ensured that it would be maximally destructive. “No one could feel the wind,” he said. “No one could see the sierras.” Though he rushed to go live on the radio, it was already 9 a.m. by the time he issued a severe storm warning for 9:15.
The storm descended quickly. It engulfed the western side of Berrotarán, where winds began gusting at over 80 m.p.h. Soon, hail poured down, caving in the roof of a machine shop and shattering windshields. In 20 minutes, so much ice had begun to accumulate that it stood in the street in mounds, like snowdrifts. As the hail and rain continued to intensify, they gradually mixed into a thick white slurry, encasing cars, icing over fields and freezing the town’s main canal. With the drainage ditches filled in and frozen, parts of the town flooded, transforming the dirt roads into surging muddy rivers. Residents watched as their homes filled with icy water.
At home, Lenardon went back over his forecast, searching for what he had missed. “When you don’t have a sophisticated forecast system,” he said, “everyone is afraid of future storms.”
It seems like such a simple question: How hot is Earth going to get? Yet for 40 years, climate scientists have repeated the same unsatisfying answer: If humans double atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from preindustrial levels, the planet will eventually warm between 1.5°C and 4.5°C—a temperature range that encompasses everything from a merely troubling rise to a catastrophic one.
Now, in a landmark effort, a team of 25 scientists has significantly narrowed the bounds on this critical factor, known as climate sensitivity. The assessment, conducted under the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and publishing this week in Reviews of Geophysics, relies on three strands of evidence: trends indicated by contemporary warming, the latest understanding of the feedback effects that can slow or accelerate climate change, and lessons from ancient climates. They support a likely warming range of between 2.6°C and 3.9°C, says Steven Sherwood, one of the study’s lead authors and a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales. “This is the number that really controls how bad global warming is going to be.”
The new study is the payoff of decades of advances in climate science, says James Hansen, the famed retired NASA climate scientist who helped craft the first sensitivity range in 1979. “It is an impressive, comprehensive study, and I am not just saying that because I agree with the result. Whoever shepherded this deserves our gratitude.”
Humanity has already emitted enough CO2 to be halfway to the doubling point of 560 parts per million, and many emissions scenarios have the planet reaching that threshold by 2060. The report underscores the risks of that course: It rules out the milder levels of warming sometimes invoked by those who would avoid emissions cuts. “For folks hoping for something better, those hopes are less grounded in reality,” says David Victor, a climate policy researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who was not part of the study.
The WCRP sensitivity estimate is designed to be used by the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when it publishes its next major report in 2021 or 2022. The estimate will also inform projections for sea-level rise, economic damage, and much else. A clearer picture of those consequences could do much to spur local governments to cut emissions and adapt to warming, says Diana Reckien, a climate planning expert at the University of Twente. “The decreasing uncertainty could potentially motivate more jurisdictions to act.”
The study dispels uncertainty introduced by the latest climate models. Models have historically been used to estimate sensitivity, beginning in 1979, with the world’s first comprehensive assessment of CO2-driven climate change. That summer, at a meeting in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, led by Jule Charney, scientists produced a paper, known ever since as the Charney report, that predicted between 1.5°C and 4.5°C warming for a CO2 doubling. Those numbers—based in part on a model Hansen had developed—stuck around far longer than anyone imagined: The latest IPCC report, from 2013, gave the same range.
The WCRP study arose out of a 2015 workshop at Schloss Ringberg, a castle in the Bavarian Alps. Many participants were dissatisfied with the IPCC process and wanted to look at how physical mechanisms might set the boundaries of the sensitivity range. “Work on the ends, rather than on the middle,” says Bjorn Stevens, a cloud scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, who edited the WCRP report with Sandrine Bony of the Pierre Simon Laplace Institute. Sherwood and Mark Webb, a climate scientist at the United Kingdom’s Met Office, agreed to lead the effort.
The first line of evidence they considered was modern-day warming. Since record keeping began in the 1800s, average surface temperatures have risen by 1.1°C. Continuing that trend into the future would lead to warming on the lower end of the range. But recent observations have shown the planet is not warming uniformly; in particular, warming has barely touched parts of the eastern Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, where cold, deep waters well up and absorb heat. Eventually, models and paleoclimate records suggest, these waters will warm—not only eliminating a heat sink, but also spurring the formation of clouds above them that will trap more heat. Adjusting the temperature projections for this fact rules out low-sensitivity estimates, says Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Second, the team probed individual climate feedbacks. Some of these, like the warming effect of water vapor, are well known. But clouds, which can cool or warm the planet depending on how they reflect sunlight and trap heat, have long been a wild card. In particular, climate scientists want to understand the decks of stratocumulus clouds that form off coastlines. If they grow more extensive in response to warming, as some suspect, they could have a cooling effect.
Several years ago, a suite of high-resolution cloud models identified two feedbacks that would have the opposite effect, thinning clouds and making warming worse. In the models, higher temperatures allowed more dry air to penetrate thin clouds from above, preventing them from thickening. At the same time, higher CO2 levels trapped heat near the clouds’ tops, subduing turbulence that drives the formation of more clouds. Satellites have since observed these dynamics in warmer-than-average parts of the atmosphere. “There’s a growing consensus that the [cloud] feedback is positive, but not super large,” says Thorsten Mauritsen, a climate scientist at Stockholm University.
Finally, the team looked at records from two past climates—20,000 years ago, at the peak of the last ice age, and a warm period 3 million years ago, the last time atmospheric CO2 levels were similar to today’s. Recent work suggests climate sensitivity is not a fixed property of the planet, but changes over time. During warm periods, for instance, the absence of ice sheets probably raised sensitivity. Records of ancient temperatures and CO2 levels enabled the team to pin down sensitivities of 2.5°C and 3.2°C for the cold and warm periods, respectively. “It’s really comprehensive,” says Jessica Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, who was not part of the report. Even for the coldest climate state, she says, the possibility of a sensitivity below 2°C seems negligible.
Assembling the three lines of evidence was a huge task. But wiring them together for a unified prediction was even tougher, Marvel says. The team used Bayesian statistics to churn through its assembled data, which allowed the researchers to test how their assumptions influence the results. “The real advantage” of Bayesian statistics, Tierney says, is how it allows uncertainties at each stage to feed into a final result. Co-authors often butted heads, Marvel says. “It was such a long and painful process.” The final range represents a 66% confidence interval, matching IPCC’s traditional “likely” range. The WCRP team also calculated a 90% confidence interval, which ranges from 2.3°C to 4.7°C, leaving a slight chance of a warming above 5°C.
Either way, the report has a simple takeaway, Sherwood says: A doubling of CO2 all but guarantees warming of more than 2°C. “Three major lines of evidence are all very difficult to reconcile with the lower end of climate sensitivity.”
In recent years, another uncertainty in the climate future has also narrowed: Global emissions seem unlikely to reach the worst-case scenarios IPCC helped craft 15 years ago, ruling out some forecasts of extreme warming. “We’re light-years ahead of where we were in 1979,” says Reto Knutti, a co-author and climate scientist at ETH Zurich.
Unfortunately, the years of work needed to attain that certainty came with a cost: 4 decades of additional emissions and global warming, unabated.
THE VIRUS SWEPT THROUGH THE REGIONlike past plagues that have traveled the river with colonizers and corporations.
It spread with the dugout canoes carrying families from town to town, the fishing dinghies with rattling engines, the ferries moving goods for hundreds of miles, packed with passengers sleeping in hammocks, side by side, for days at a time.
The Amazon River is South America’s essential life source, a glittering superhighway that cuts through the continent. It is the central artery in a vast network of tributaries that sustains some 30 million people across eight countries, moving supplies, people and industry deep into forested regions often untouched by road.
But once again, in a painful echo of history, it is also bringing disease.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis and the uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism, it is understandable if many Americans overlooked the Trump administration’s continued attacks on the management of public lands and the Constitution’s mandates about how our leaders are appointed.
The most recent attack of this type came with President Trump’s June 30, 2020, nomination of William Perry Pendley to be the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Interior Secretary David Bernhardthas kept Pendley “exercising the authority of the director” in the role of Deputy Director of the Bureau since last July, in an illegal end-run around the federal law and the Constitution that limits the roles of “acting” directors. Now the administration is trying to get Pendley officially confirmed.
Even in normal times, Pendley would be a terrible choice to lead the Bureau, whose mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” He’s a self-described “sagebrush rebel” who has a long record of opposing the very existence of the public lands he now oversees. Writing in 2016, Pendley said, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.” He has overseen the Bureau’s highly-politicized move from Washington, D.C. to the agency’s new western Colorado headquarters, losing critical long-term staff and creating vacancies in key positions.
Pendley not only approves of selling off the public lands but also selling out federal laws. In 2014, he complained that the Obama administration was waging a “war on the West” in its higher scrutiny of fossil fuel operations on public lands, and he claimed that environmental groups use the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act to “prevent anybody from making a living on federal land.”
As the former longtime president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, he fought against workplace affirmative actionand voting rights for Native Americans out West. In addition, his 2017 op-ed, “Black Lives Matter began with a lie,” should be sufficient to disqualify him from national office; at this time in history, we need someone who will unify Americans, not seek to disparage the civil movements seeking justice for all. It’s all too clear that Pendley is a problematic nominee, for so many reasons.
Even if Pendley were an appropriate choice – and he’s not – the President’s recent nomination of him to head the Bureau does nothing to correct the legal and Constitutional deficiencies of Pendley’s unlawful current tenure. To head a big federal agency like the BLM, the candidate must be nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. Short of this, under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, the President can appoint an Acting Director from among current high-level Bureau of Land Management officials for a period no longer than 210 days. As of next month, he will have run the Bureau for an entire year. And, as the nominee to be the Director, Pendley is prohibited under that Act from also serving as the de facto acting Director Allowing the Trump Administration to snub the norms of the American system of government is a Constitutional crisis with massive implications.
The Republican U.S. senator says he spoke to Erin Martinez on Tuesday, who survived the blast that killed her husband and brother, and afterward released a statement condemning the ad.
“I spoke to Erin Martinez (Tuesday) and expressed to her that I would not have personally run the ad, and I hope the ad comes down,” Gardner said in a written statement. “If I had the power to take down the ad, I would.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP U.S. Senate campaign arm, said Wednesday that it won’t take its ad down. Politico first reported that Gardner is calling for the spot to be pulled.
Last week, when the ad was unveiled, Gardner’s campaign declined to comment after Martinez called the ad “horrifying.” She said it disgraces the memory of her husband, Mark Martinez, and brother, Joey Irwin.
“While I am glad that Sen. Gardner has finally realized the ad should be taken down, I am sorry that it has taken him and his staff more than four days to respond to my phone call and request for some relief for my family,” Martinez said in a statement this week. “Our family’s trauma should not be the subject of a horrible political ad. We have worked very hard to create a positive legacy for my husband Mark and my brother Joey to ensure no one relives our nightmare.”
She added: “Sen. Gardner underestimates his power to have the ad taken down if he publicly speaks forcefully to make it happen. After talking to him, I wonder if he really understands the harm the ad has inflicted.”
Gardner’s campaign said it received a message from Martinez and called her back the same day.
The 30-second ad accuses Hickenlooper of not doing enough to respond to the 2017 explosion, which was caused by a pipeline that was severed during construction of the Martinez home. The pipeline was attached to a well that was dormant until a few months before the incident. When it was restarted, raw natural gas leaked into the house and then ignited.
The ad does not name Martinez’s family, but it does use graphic images of their home engulfed in flames. Erin Martinez has become a leading advocate for drilling safety in Colorado and was a key player in the 2019 passage of Senate Bill 218, which rewrote the state’s oil and gas regulations.
Both Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Gardner have faced criticism for their ties to the oil and gas industry. Anadarko’s political action committee has donated $10,000 to Gardner’s 2020 reelection effort, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Hickenlooper, too, has called for the ad to be taken off the air.
The NRSC is one of the biggest outside spenders aiding Gardner’s tough 2020 reelection bid. It has booked or spent $4.9 million in Colorado for the election cycle, including $1.3 million this month alone.
Cory Gardner is at it again. Trying to put a glossy polish on a fake concession and sell it as a hard-earned victory for Coloradans.
First, there were the ventilators. Gardner was thrilled to talk about his hard-fought effort to secure 100 ventilators for Colorado, until we learned he let the Trump administration redirect 400 others that were supposed to come to our state.
This time, it’s the environment. Cory Gardner is on a media tour, from The New York Times to The Denver Post, touting how hard he fought for a promise to get a vote to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) later this summer. Here’s the thing: the Senate had already agreed to vote on it. Gardner got these same headlines about this promise to get a vote soon on March 4!
The only thing Gardner really seems to be working on here is how to rebrand his environmental record in the Senate — and desperately cover up his tight relationship with Mitch McConnell — before November.
This is the same Cory Gardner who previously voted to cut the LWCF by 90%.
It is the same Cory Gardner who still refuses to support the CORE Act, sponsored by Colorado’s own U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse to protect our water, wildlife and natural habitats.
And yes, it is the same Cory Gardner who has taken $ 1.6 million from big oil to fund his campaigns, and voted to allow corporate polluters to drill and develop on Colorado’s public lands.
What Gardner is selling is a hollow victory — he is bragging about a potential future vote on a bill that Trump already said he would sign in early March.
Why does this matter? It’s just optics, right? It matters because of what Gardner gave up on our behalf to get absolutely nothing in return.
Gardner gave up federal relief for our state to make sure we can keep hospital workers going during a pandemic.
He gave up stimulus money for our cities to make sure we can keep teachers and firefighters on the job.
And he gave up expanded unemployment so Coloradans out of work during the coronavirus pandemic can pay their rent and put groceries on the table.
On May 20, Cory Gardner promised to fight for coronavirus funding for Coloradans, calling the idea that anyone in the Senate would go on recess without passing additional relief “unfathomable.”
The very next day — literally May 21 — the Senate did exactly that, adjourning for vacation without passing relief funding and with no real plans to return. Gardner didn’t even stand up on the floor and try to make an impassioned speech. He didn’t use his political leverage to try to force McConnell to change his mind.
Instead, he walked away and immediately started the hunt for a shiny object to distract us from his cowardly retreat to McConnell. What did he find? A promise to pass a bill that he already had for months.
Meanwhile, in the over 30 days since — even as Gardner takes his victory lap — Colorado’s outdoors industry continues to be decimated by the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession. A survey from the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable released this month found that 88% of businesses surveyed reported laying off or furloughing employees and 94% have seen decreased sales.
These businesses are core to who we are as a state. They deserve a senator — especially one who claims to care so much about our great outdoors — to fight hard for funding to keep them going.
Gardner told The New York Times: “This isn’t about me. I look at this as a huge accomplishment for Colorado.” He’s right, the Great American Outdoors Act is great for Colorado.
And he’s also right, it isn’t about him either. It’s always about McConnell and Trump.
Edie Hooton is the state representative for House District 10. She serves as the Majority Caucus Chair and the Vice Chair of the Committee on Energy and Environment.
Great American Outdoors Act heads to Trump as Cory Gardner leans on measure in reelection bid ~ The Colorado Sun
By Jessie Paul, The Colorado Sun
The Republican U.S. senator, who is facing an uphill election battle, has run ads touting his work on the legislation and in recent weeks toured western Colorado to celebrate the bill
Congress on Wednesday sent President Donald Trump a major, bipartisan public lands bill that has become a pillar of Republican Cory Gardner’s reelection campaign in Colorado, finalizing the swift passage of a measure seen as an election-year gift to the U.S. senator.
The U.S. House approved the Great American Outdoors Act, which would achieve the long-held goal of fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund while also tackling the nation’s massive national parks maintenance backlog, by a vote of 310-107.
Trump has said he will sign the bill.
The measure moved through Congress at lightning speed relative to the normal pace of legislation after Gardner, who was a prime sponsor of the bill, negotiated the support of Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in March. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been trying for years to secure full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“It shows what can happen when you’re committed to the path of your legislation,” Gardner said in an interview with The Colorado Sun on Wednesday. “Every state, every county across the country will benefit.”
Gardner said he believes the legislation will create thousands of jobs in Colorado at a time when people are feeling the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis. He said it’s one of the greatest accomplishments of his congressional tenure.
Democrats and environmental groups with a liberal lean also applauded the bill’s passage.
“Whether it’s urban parks you access to escape the fast pace of the city or hiking trails in our national parks you enjoy over the weekend, Coloradans love and utilize public lands,” Hannah Collazo, the state director for Environment Colorado, said in a written statement. ”This bill is not only an investment in outdoor spaces but also in our emotional, spiritual, and physical health as Coloradans.”
Gardner, who is facing an uphill reelection battle as he seeks a second term, has capitalized on the win. During the Senate’s July 4 recess he toured Colorado to tout his work on the bill. His campaign has also run two television ads boasting of its passage in the Senate.
“Gardner’s law — endorsed by every environmental leader,” a 30-second TV ad released this week says.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, is scheduled to make a stop in Colorado on Thursday to celebrate the bill’s passage at Rocky Mountain National Park with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
Even the president weighed in on the legislation’s passage Wednesday.
Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, is another GOP member of Congress facing a tough reelection bid in November.
The Great American Outdoors act has two key provisions:
It mandates that the Land and Water Conservation Fund receive all of the money it was allotted — $900 million annually — from royalties collected on offshore oil and gas drilling. Congress, in the decades since the program was created, has repeatedly diverted the fund’s money.
It allocated $9.5 billion over five years to address the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to help pay for a number of projects in Colorado.
Meanwhile, the state’s public lands operated by the National Park Service had an estimated maintenance backlog of $2 billion in 2018. That included $84 million in needed repairs at Rocky Mountain National Park, $76 million in deferred maintenance at Mesa Verde National Park, and $21 million in put-off repairs and upgrades at the Colorado National Monument.
Democrats, while excited about the bill’s passage, have accused Gardner of trying to “greenwash” his record on the environment through the measure. They point to his decisions not to support tougher regulations on emissions of carbon dioxide and methane and his proximity to the Trump administration, which has rolled back a number of environmental regulations.
What Gardner is selling is a hollow victory,” state Rep. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder, wrote in an opinion piece published Sunday by The Sun. “… The only thing Gardner really seems to be working on here is how to rebrand his environmental record.”
No one is more important to the history of environmental conservation than John Muir — the “wilderness prophet,” “patron saint of the American wilderness” and “father of the national parks” who founded the nation’s oldest conservation organization, the Sierra Club. But on Wednesday, citing the current racial reckoning, the group announced it will end its blind reverence to a figure who was also racist.
As Confederate statues fall across the country, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in an early morning post on the group’s website, “it’s time to take down some of our own monuments, starting with some truth-telling about the Sierra Club’s early history.” Muir, who fought to preserve Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Forest, once referred to African Americans as lazy “Sambos,” a racist pejorative that many black people consider to be even more offensive than the n-word.
While recounting a legendary walk from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, Muir described Native Americans he encountered as “dirty.”
Muir’s friendships in the early 1900s were equally troubling, the Sierra Club said. Henry Fairfield Osborn, a close associate, led the New York Zoological Society and the board of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History and, following Muir’s death, helped establish the American Eugenics Society, which labeled nonwhite people, including Jews at the time, as inferior.
The Sierra Club isn’t the only organization that is shaking its foundations. Leaders of predominantly white, liberal and progressive groups throughout the field of conservation say they are taking a hard look within their organizations and don’t like what they see.
African American and other minority employees are pointing out the lack of diversity in green groups and the racial bias that persists in top and mid-level management.
The most startling example is a manifesto by Ruth Tyson, an employee at the Union of Concerned Scientists who quit recently after she “woke up feeling resentment and agony” because her job there was unbearable. Tyson flipped open a laptop to write a short email explaining why she was quitting with only a three-day notice but didn’t stop until she had written 17 pages of searing criticism.
She sent it to 200 people.
Her open letter ripped the organization’s casual indifference to black workers. Their ideas were routinely dismissed and the community outreach jobs they were hired to perform were a low priority. Tyson said the Union of Concerned Scientists, along with other groups, has fallen woefully short in its efforts to make its workplace more diverse and help communities disproportionately impacted by pollution.
Tyson was one of four black women on a 14-member team when she started work three years ago, watching as they quit or were forced out. Now there are none.
“They simply baited us in with the language of equity without making significant infrastructural, cultural, and procedural changes to prioritize and accommodate the [people of color or] the actual work of racial equity,” she wrote. “As if anti-racist work were something you could just sprinkle on top.”
Remarkably, her bosses agreed.
“I’ve read the letter many times,” said Ken Kimmell, the organization’s president. “I thought it was fair, yeah. I think this is part of a larger issue in all of society and there is real meaning to the culture of white supremacy.
“There are ways that a white-dominated workplace doesn’t make it welcoming to persons of color,” Kimmell said. “I have subsequently learned that many of the things she raised in her letter were not unique to her and things other people of color have experienced.”
Now, like other green groups, the Union of Concerned Scientists is vowing to look at the way it’s structured; diversify its board, workers and managers; and police casual racial bias.
At the 53-year-old Environmental Defense Fund, Fred Krupp, its president, also promised change. “The pandemic has exposed for the American public inequities that have existed, including access to health care, neighborhoods that are much more polluted than others,” Krupp said.
“I don’t feel EDF is being pressured. I’m feeling pressure from the facts, the inequities that have been laid bare by covid and the events following George Floyd’s murder and that EDF hasn’t done nearly enough on environmental justice issues and issues involving racism,” Krupp said.
Piles of trees, boulders and rocks are piled up along the banks of Henson Creek just outside the town of Lake City, Colorado, on May 25, 2019. An abnormally heavy snowpack in the San Juan Mountains above Lake City have prompted fears of flooding. But of equal concern is the amount of debris brought down by avalanches over the course of the winter. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)
By Scott Condon, The Aspen Times
ASPEN — Mike Cooperstein and Jason Konigsberg maneuvered a 6-foot long cross-cut saw with menacing teeth into position Tuesday on a hulking spruce trunk that was ripped out of the ground by an avalanche in March 2019.
“It makes a ringing sound when you get a groove going,” said Konigsberg, who had prior experience as a sawyer while working on U.S. Forest Service trail crews.
Indeed, the two-person cross-cut saw did emit a ring as they sliced into the dried wood. Before long they completed the cut through the 42-centimeter diameter trunk, then immediately started another just inches away from the first. Their work produced a disk or cookie of wood that exposes the tree rings.
The men were part of a four-person crew from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center along with Brian Lazar and Brandon Levy, and they harvested 12 cookies recently 2 miles up the East Snowmass Creek Trail outside of Snowmass Village.
A massive, D5 avalanche started at Garrett Peak and continued roughly 2 miles of the ridgeline toward Willow Pass at the end of a historically significant avalanche cycle in March 2019. The slide rolled down about 2,200 vertical feet. D5 is the highest on the destruction scale. It is a landscape-altering event.
The Garrett Peak/East Snowmass Creek slide was one of three D5 slides known to have occurred during the cycle, according to Lazar, CAIC’s deputy director and a Carbondale resident. Another of the most destructive slides occurred in Conundrum Valley southwest of Aspen.
CAIC recorded about 1,000 avalanches in the Colorado mountains during the cycle. Lazar previously said in presentations that the total number could easily be five times greater.
“To put it into perspective, there’s nobody alive today who has been in a cycle quite like this in Colorado,” Lazar said. “These are less than once in a lifetime cycles. They’re quite rare.”
And, thus, the cycle makes for a goldmine of research opportunities.
“It provides a rare opportunity to get insights into a few things. One is what is the set-up necessary to produce these kind of events?” Lazar said. “We can try to get some insights into the frequency or return intervals of these events.”
Other research will be in avalanche flow dynamics and impact pressures.
The cookies cut from the tree trunks are the key to that research. Dendrochronologists with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey will extract clues about Colorado’s climate from the tree ring growth.
They will also look for the presence of “reaction wood,” abnormal growth on the lower side of trees positioned on an incline. It can signal impacts from major events like avalanches or small incidents like a boulder crashing down. The presence of reaction wood can tell a dendrochronologist if the trees that were felled in the 2019 avalanche cycle suffered major, prior impacts and how long ago.
CAIC has harvested 730 tree disks or cookies so far over the past two summers for research by its partners. They target Engelmann Spruce and other conifers, which grow slow and therefore provide a longer picture than faster growing aspen trees. By providing lots of samples, researchers can look for longer-term trends in climate and avalanche activity.
In the field, the CAIC workers measured the length of the tree trunks and diameter at human breast level. They noted factors such as a “broken butt” and “broken tip” and whether the subject tree was in place where the force of the avalanche knocked it down or if it was swept away.
The information is entered into an app on their smart phones. Once they returned to cellular service, it automatically downloaded into the CAIC database.
After the cookies are carved from the trees, the workers use a Sharpie to label the location. They will be placed in storage until they can be delivered to the Forest Service’s Fraser Experimental Forest in Fraser, Colorado. There, the cookies will be sanded, labeled with metal tags and mounted on material before they are shipped to a U.S. Geological Survey facility in Bozeman, Montana, where they will be analyzed.
Lazar and company didn’t have to look hard for appropriate samples on East Snowmass Creek. The massive slide felled thousands of conifer and aspen trees. The trunks lie in a mixed jumble on the valley floor. The force of the avalanche was so great that snow and debris swept up the opposite valley wall and knocked over hundreds of additional trees.
Once cleared of tree cover, the valley floor came to life with fireweed, arnica, paintbrush and multiple other varieties of wildflowers. In the slide paths, thin aspens that bent rather than broke when the slide thundered down now dot the landscape. A few bedraggled conifers remain standing where the slide struck.
“They got hammered,” Lazar said of the standing trees. “They got branches ripped out 50 feet high.”
Small core samples will be taken from the standing trees for analysis.
Lazar said that at first glance, it appeared some of the trees in the Garrett Peak slide were more than 100 years old and possibly up to 150 years, but he cautioned that was a guess.
“Dendrochronology is really not our area of expertise,” he said. “That’s why we bring in folks from the Forest Service and U.S.G.S. who are a lot more experienced doing this kind of stuff.”
Avalanche center crews previously harvested cookies from areas that were easier to access and where chainsaws could be used. The avalanche carnage in East Snowmass Creek is within the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, so handsaws must be used. Mechanized and motorized uses are prohibited in designated wilderness except for medical emergencies.
Cookies were also cut in the Aspen area from the massive slide in Conundrum. In East Snowmass Creek, CAIC crews also harvested cookies from a previous trip and would likely return for another two to create a total of 20 samples, according to Lazar.
His goal is to also get up Lincoln Creek drainage east of Aspen to collect samples from multiple slide paths.
CAIC will share results of the studies in coming years.
“We couldn’t sample every avalanche path because so many ran,” Lazar said. “It’s been kind of triaging which ones we can do, looking at some of the bigger avalanches events, looking at ones that impacted highways. We have a list of avalanche paths we’d like to get to. Garrett was certainly on the list not because of an impact to a roadway but because of the sheer size of the avalanche in East Snowmass Creek.”
Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century as a result of shrinking sea ice in the Arctic if global warming continues unabated, scientists said Monday.
Nearly all of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, from the Beaufort Sea off Alaska to the Siberian Arctic, would face being wiped out because the loss of sea ice would force the animals onto land and away from their food supplies for longer periods, the researchers said. Prolonged fasting, and reduced nursing of cubs by mothers, would lead to rapid declines in reproduction and survival.
“There is very little chance that polar bears would persist anywhere in the world, except perhaps in the very high Arctic in one small subpopulation” if greenhouse-gas emissions continue at so-called business-as-usual levels, said Peter K. Molnar, a researcher at the University of Toronto Scarborough and lead author of the study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Even if emissions were reduced to more moderate levels, “we still are unfortunately going to lose some, especially some of the southernmost populations, to sea-ice loss,” Dr. Molnar said.
The fate of polar bears has long been a flash point in the debate over human-caused climate change, used by scientists and environmentalists as well as deniers in their arguments.
By rough estimates there are about 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic. Their main habitat is sea ice, where they hunt seals by waiting for them to surface at a breathing hole in the ice. In some areas the animals remain on the ice year round, but in others the melting in spring and summer forces them to come ashore.
“You need the sea ice to capture your food,” Dr. Molnar said. “There’s not enough food on land to sustain a polar bear population.” But bears can fast for months, surviving on the energy from the fat they’ve built up thanks to their seal diet.
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Arctic sea ice grows in the winter and melts and retreats in spring and summer. As the region has warmed rapidly in recent decades, ice extent in summer has declined by about 13 percent per decade compared to the 1981-2010 average. Some parts of the Arctic that previously had ice year-round now have ice-free periods in summer. Other parts are now free of ice for a longer portion of the year than in the past.
Dr. Molnar and his colleagues looked at 13 of the subpopulations representing about 80 percent of the total bear population. They calculated “dynamic energy budgets” for bears to determine how long they could survive — or, in the case of females, survive and nurse their cubs — while fasting.
Combining that with climate-model projections of ice-free days to 2100 if present rates of warming continue, they determined that, for almost all of the subgroups, the time that the animals would be forced to fast would eventually exceed the time that they are capable of fasting.
In short, the animals would starve.
“There’s going to be a time point when you run out of energy,” Dr. Molnar said.
Compounding the problem is that a longer fasting time also means a shorter feeding period. “Not only do the bears have to fast for longer and need more energy to get through this, they also have a harder time to accumulate this energy,” he said.
While fasting, bears move as little as possible to conserve energy. But sea-ice loss and population declines create new problems — having to expend more energy searching for a mate, for example — that could further affect survival.
Even under more modest warming projections, in which emissions peak by 2040 and then begin to decline, many of the subgroups would still be wiped out, the research showed.
Over the years, the fate of polar bears has become highly politicized. Groups including the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization that challenges aspects of climate change, have called concerns about the bears overblown, arguing that some research shows that the animals have survived repeated warm periods. But scientists say during earlier warm periods the bears probably had significant alternative food sources, notably whales, that they do not have today.
Poignant images of bears on isolated ice floes or roaming land in search of food have been used by conservation groups and others to showcase the need for action to reduce warming. Occasionally, though, these images have been shown to be not what they seem.
After a video of an emaciated bear picking through garbage cans in the Canadian Arctic was posted online by National Geographic in 2017, the magazine acknowledged that the bear’s condition might not be related to climate change. Scientists had pointed out that there was no way of knowing what was wrong with the bear; it might have been sick or very old.
The new study did not include projections in which emissions were reduced drastically, said Cecilia M. Bitz, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington and an author of the study. The researchers needed to be able to determine, as precisely as possible, the periods when sea ice would be gone from a particular region. “If we had wanted to look at many models we wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Dr. Bitz said.
Andrew Derocher, a polar bear researcher at the University of Alberta who was not involved in the study, said the findings “are very consistent with what we’re seeing from empirical studies like monitoring work in the field.”
“The study shows clearly that polar bears are going to do better with less warming,” he added. “But no matter which scenario you look at, there are serious concerns about conservation of the species.”
Of the 19 subpopulations, little is known about some of them, particularly those in the Russian Arctic. Of subpopulations that have been studied, some — generally those in areas with less ice loss — have shown little population decline so far. But others, notably in the southern Beaufort Sea off northeastern Alaska, and in the western Hudson Bay in Canada, have been severely affected by loss of sea ice.
One analysis found that the Southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation declined by 40 percent, to about 900 bears, in the first decade of this century.
Dr. Derocher said one drawback with studies like these is that, while they can show the long-term trends, “it becomes very difficult to model what is happening from year to year.”
Polar bear populations can be very susceptible to drastic year-to-year changes in conditions, he said. “One of the big conservation challenges is that one or two bad years can take a population that is healthy and push it to really low levels.”
Henry Fountain specializes in the science of climate change and its impacts. He has been writing about science for The Times for more than 20 years and has traveled to the Arctic and Antarctica.