Forest Service to allow chain saws in two Southwest Colorado wilderness areas ~ The Durango Herald

This is what happens when the government amends laws with only a bureaucratic  signature that changes the nature of an established law without citizen input …  rŌbert

Wilderness advocates fear decision sets precedent, could chip away at Wilderness Act

The U.S. Forest Service approved the use of chain saws in two Southwest Colorado wilderness areas to clear downed trees from trails.

Stunning video of a ‘particularly dangerous’ tornadic storm from 22,236 miles in space

View of tornadic thunderstorm Sunday over the Texas Panhandle from GOES 16 satellite. (NOAA Satellites)

May 6 at 3:07 PM



What does a tornadic thunderstorm look like from space? The GOES-16 satellite captured a stunning view of a Texas supercell Sunday evening as it dropped a photogenic twister amid a busy day for severe weather in the Plains.

The twister struck just east of Tahoka, a community of 2,600 about 20 minutes south of Lubbock. It quickly grew into a large tornado, with the National Weather Service warning, “This tornado is wrapped in dust and rain and may be difficult to see.” The warning was labeled PDS — a rare “particularly dangerous situation.”

No injuries were reported, but the storm damaged power lines and barns and tore the roof off a home, according to The tornado was one of 23 reported to the National Weather Service between Texas and Nebraska on Sunday.

Video shot by storm chasers shows the tornado dancing elegantly and ominously as it becomes enshrouded in rain, hail and dust. The dust acts as a tracer showing the pattern of the winds near the surface as they feed into the vortex from all angles. It’s a remarkable scene — but 22,236 miles above the surface, the view was equally impressive.

The GOES-16 satellite tracks cloud-top temperatures, a good indicator of just how high is a cloud. As the cap (a stable air layer that prevents early storm formation) erodes and storms explode, towers can be seen billowing upward like steam penned up beneath a lid in a pot of boiling water.

To better understand this feature on satellite, imagine holding a flaming lighter a few inches beneath a giant piece of white paper. The spot of paper just above the lighter would quickly become discolored and eventually burn. Then imagine moving the paper, as though it’s being blown by jet steam winds. Now instead of a burn, there’s a dark stripe marking all the places torched by this heat source. That’s kind of how an intense anvil can stretch so far downstream of a very localized heat source.

It’s important to note that the towering anvil cloud is not a hot plume, rather, a thick cloud of frozen particles (ice crystals and snow flakes).

Remnants of the storm’s anvil are carried hundreds of miles downwind, over long distances by the strong jet stream winds. Meanwhile, a constant plume of upward motion farther west sustains the behemoth storm, its updraft plume marked by a bubble of red colors. That’s the “overshooting top” — the product of an updraft so strong the storm punctures the tropopause — ordinarily an effective “ceiling” or stable layer for weather systems. But when a pocket of air rises with enough momentum, it struggles to put the brakes on even when it shouldn’t be able to rise. That’s a surefire sign of a vicious storm.

As a result, the cloud tops are extremely cold since they reach so high. Some may appear a bit warmer because of contact with the stratosphere — a region about 10-12 miles above the ground where temperature climbs with height.

A 3-D radar view of tornadic thunderstorm Sunday over Tahoka, Tex. (GR-2, adapted by Matthew Cappucci)



At the same time, ripples can be seen propagating throughout the anvil. These are little waves in the upper atmosphere caused by disturbances originating from the turbulence around the overshooting top. It would be like diving to the bottom of a pool and then blowing a really big bubble. When that pocket rises (less dense) and then hits the top, concentric wavelets would ripple outward from the center.

Ground-based radars offered an equally remarkable perspective, peering into the storm and noting a rain-free void where the updraft was so intense that precipitation was unable to fall. Dust along a boundary wrapping into the tornadic circulation can be seen, as well.

Close-up 3-D view of tornadic thunderstorm Sunday in Tahoka, Tex. (GR-2, adapted by Matthew Cappucci)



They’re images that combine natural beauty with raw destructive power, and similar scenes may unfold on the Plains in the days ahead. Following scattered afternoon storms Monday, a more significant severe weather event could play out Tuesday and Wednesday.

Weather Service says its upgraded American forecasting model is about ready for prime time ~ The Washington Post

Tentative launch date is set for mid-June.

GFS-FV3 forecast of temperatures Tuesday afternoon. (
May 6 at 11:35 AM

The National Weather Service is readying to launch its “next-generation” weather model after a delay of several months.

Pending a successful test over the next 30 days, the Weather Service will replace its GFS (Global Forecast System) model, often referred to as the American model, with an upgraded version around mid-June.

The new version of the model is known as the GFS-FV3 (FV3 stands for Finite­ Volume Cubed-Sphere dynamical core), and it contains what is known as a “dynamic core.” The Weather Service says this dynamic core will make the model run more efficiently and modernizes the agency’s approach to forecasting.

The Weather Service had planned to launch the FV3 model in March but paused implementation after users of the test version of the model reported that its forecasts were unrealistically cold and snowy.

Since February, the Weather Service has worked to fix these problems. “We took this time to correct some of the deficiencies,” said Brian Gross, director of the Weather Service’s Environmental Modeling Center in an interview. “It’s better than where we were. We’re pretty confident in its performance.”

In a memo released Monday, the Weather Service explained that in previous test versions of the FV3, “snow was not adequately melting under warm conditions” and that its calculations for the sun’s intensity were incorrect. Together, these two factors meant the model’s forecasts were too cold and too snowy.

In recent months, the Weather Service made modifications to address these problems and, after some initial testing, concluded that “the results are promising and give NWS confidence to proceed.”

However, the memo noted that some cold bias remains in the model, which may still inflate snow amounts, mainly in forecasts three or more days into the future.

“The cold bias has been substantially reduced, but it is still there,” Gross said. “You get a cold bias, you can still get too much snow. That’s what we’re working on now and figuring out what to do.”

Assuming the Weather Service determines that the FV3 is ready to go after its upcoming 30-day test and launches it mid-June, it will continue to run the old version of the GFS until Sept. 30 so users can compare and contrast forecasts.

Gross said user feedback on the experimental version of the FV3 thus far has been “enormously” helpful.

“One of our key messages to our partners is to keep it [feedback] coming,” he said. “The more eyeballs we have, the better it’s going to be.”

The One Animal That Humbles Humankind ~ The Atlantic

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~~~  WATCH  ~~~

May 06, 2019

Video by Ben Moon


When Doug Peacock returned from his second tour in Vietnam, he was ready for some peace and quiet. He found it in the wilds of Montana and Wyoming, where Yellowstone National Park provided refuge for thousands of species of wildlife. Peacock learned to live among these creatures in the mountains and on the plains. An encounter with a grizzly bear, however, would change everything.
“My companions ended up being grizzlies,” Peacock says in Ben Moon’s short documentary Grizzly Country. “Those bears saved my life.”
Grizzlies, classified as an endangered species, have dwindled in number, from the estimated 50,000 bears that roamed between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains in the 1800s to just over 1,000 today.
In the film, Peacock explains how observing the bears in their natural habitat inspired him to become a naturalist. “The voiceless really needed a human voice,” he says, going on to describe how he has dedicated his life to documenting grizzly behavior and advocating for the preservation of their habitat.
“Living out on the land with the grizzly bear, you’re not the dominant creature, and you’re physically aware of that,” Peacock says. “The grizzly bear is the one animal capable of reminding the most arrogant species on Earth of its true place in the world.”
“In a culture like ours, we fear what we don’t know, and we really hate what we fear,” he adds. “To make a friend of that kind of fear—it really does expand a tolerance towards all other kinds of beings.”

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Author: Emily Buder

Civilization Is Accelerating Extinction and Altering the Natural World at a Pace ‘Unprecedented in Human History’ ~ NYT

Fishing nets and ropes are a frequent hazard for olive ridley sea turtles, seen on a beach in India’s Kerala state in January. A new 1,500-page report by the United Nations is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe. Credit Soren Andersson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in.

As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts.

Cattle grazing on a tract of illegally cleared Amazon forest in Pará state, Brazil. In most major land habitats, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. Credit Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

The report is not the first to paint a grim portrait of Earth’s ecosystems. But it goes further by detailing how closely human well-being is intertwined with the fate of other species.

“For a long time, people just thought of biodiversity as saving nature for its own sake,” said Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services,which conducted the assessment at the request of national governments. “But this report makes clear the links between biodiversity and nature and things like food security and clean water in both rich and poor countries.“

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

The Rio Grande and a cinematic odyssey about the river, its ecology and a border wall ~ The Washington Post

A section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in director Ben Masters’s “The River and the Wall.” The Rio Grande forms part of that border, and it serves as a vehicle for an exploration of the environmental and social impacts of an expanded wall. (Gravitas Ventures/“The River and The Wall”)

Five friends, 1,200 miles, one iconic river. That could be a formula for a great buddy movie. But “The River and the Wall,” a film that begins with that premise, is no rollicking road trip.

The film, now in theaters and on-demand on major online platforms, follows a different path: the U.S.-Mexico border. The Rio Grande forms part of that border, and it serves as a vehicle for an exploration of the environmental and social impacts of a potential border wall.

Director Ben Masters is an environmental documentarian with a background in wildlife biology. He’s also a character in the film, which follows a trip he took with four friends by bike, horse and canoe. An ornithologist, a river guide, a conservationist and a National Geographic explorer round out the crew. Two of the characters have a special connection to the wall itself: Illegal border crossings are part of their personal stories.

The mission is to find out how a wall might affect the people, wildlife and plants along the river. The friends follow the river and even get in it, stopping to interview wildlife biologists, Border Patrol agents and then-U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.).

But the real star of the show is the river. It’s home to birds, bears, fish. It feeds delicate and varied ecosystems. It creates a deep sense of identity for both Mexicans and Americans.

A scene from “The River and the Wall.” (Gravitas Ventures/“The River and The Wall”)

This is a film with an agenda. Scientists have long sounded the alarm on the wall. In 2018, more than 2,500 researchers signed a paper that lays out some of the threats, which range from wasting conservation investments to causing floods, endangering animal migrations and destroying all kinds of habitats.

The film sides with those scientists — and will probably prompt passionate conversation. It may stoke more than debate, however, leaving viewers with a new perspective on the river.

The soaring visuals of the Rio Grande have a grace and gravitas that transcends politics. And though “The River and the Wall” has something to say, it’s most powerful when it doesn’t say anything at all.