Dead fish lie on a beach in Florida, 14 Augusat 2018. A red tide in Florida has been killing thousands of marine animals, leaving beaches and shorelines covered with dead wildlife. Photo: Chris O'Meara / AP

By Alexa Lardieri
14 August 2018

(U.S. News & World Report) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for several counties suffering from the impacts of a prolonged red tide.

According to the governor's declaration , red tide is a naturally occuring algae that appears almost every year on Florida's Gulf Coast. However, the tide is toxic and it has been killing thousands of marine animals, leaving beaches and shorelines covered with dead wildlife.

With Scott's emergency declaration, the state will be able to dedicate more funding and resources to the communities suffering from the effects of the red tide "so we can combat its terrible impacts."

The order is in place for Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties. It will make Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists and scientists available to assist in animal rescue efforts, as well as cleanup efforts. The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium will receive more than $100,000 in additional funding to increase its response to the red tide.

Additionally, $500,000 will be allocated to help local communities maintain their tourism industries, "that support so many Florida families and businesses." About $1.3 million has been allocated to Lee County alone, which has been hit particularly hard, according to the governor's declaration.

"While we fight to learn more about this naturally-occurring phenomenon, we will continue to deploy all state resources and do everything possible to make sure that Gulf Coast residents are safe and area businesses can recover," Scott said in his declaration.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission , red tides can last anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year. The tides produce toxic chemicals called brevetoxins that can harm the central nervous systems of fish. Swimming is usually safe during red tide, but it could cause skin irritation or lead to serious illness for those with severe or chronic respiratory conditions. Controlling a red tide is especially difficult, the Conservation Commission explains, because any controls must kill the red tide organism and eliminate the toxins the organism releases when it dies.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Declares State of Emergency Amid Red Tide Crisis

A truck and a street are covered in red fire retardant dropped by an air tanker as crews battle a wildfire on 10 August 2018 in Lake Elsinore, California. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

SEATTLE, 14 August 2018 (AP) – A Washington state judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by young activists who argued the state is violating their rights by failing to protect them from climate change.

In his ruling Tuesday, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott says the issues in the case are political questions that must be addressed by the legislative and executive branches and cannot be resolved by a court.

The activists sued the state, Gov. Jay Inslee and state agencies in February 2018 asserting a constitutional right to a healthy environment and a stable climate system. But Scott wrote that there is no such specific right found within the state Constitution.

Among other things, the activists wanted the judge to order the state to submit a climate recovery plan to reduce emissions.

In dismissing their claims, Scott wrote he hoped the plaintiffs won't be discouraged.

Seattle Judge Dismisses Young Activists' Climate Lawsuit

Sverage monthly temperature for July in Phoenix and Philadelphia, 1948-2018. The average monthly temperature for July is rising in both Phoenix and Philadelphia. Data: NOAA. Graphic: The Guardian

By Oliver Milman
14 August 2018

PHILADELPHIA (The Guardian) – On yet another day of roasting heat in Phoenix, elderly and homeless people scurry between shards of shade in search of respite at the Marcos De Niza Senior Center. Along with several dozen other institutions in the city, it has been set up as a cooling centre: a free public refuge, with air conditioning, chilled bottled water, boardgames and books. Last summer a record 155 people died in Phoenix from excess heat, and the city is straining to avoid a repeat.

James Sanders, an 83-year-old who goes by King, has lived in the city for 60 years and considers himself acclimatised to the baking south Arizona sun. “It does seem hotter than it used to be, though,” he says as he picks at his lunch, the temperature having climbed to 42C (107F) outside. “Maybe it’s my age. Maybe the wind isn’t blowing. It can’t get much hotter than this though. Can it?”

The heatwave that has recently swept the US has put 100 million Americans under heat warnings; caused power cuts in California where temperatures in places such as Palm Springs approached 50C (122F); and resulted in deaths from New York to the Mexican border, where people smugglers abandoned their clients in the desert. Further north, in Canada, more than 70 people perished in the Montreal area after a record burst of heat.

Record temperatures raise wrenching questions about the future viability of cities such as Phoenix, where taking a midday jog or doing a spot of gardening can pose a deadly risk. Climate change is spurring increasingly punishing heatwaves that are projected to cause tens of thousands of deaths in major US cities in the coming decades.

“There’s a point where the human body can’t cool itself, which means you are either in an air-conditioned space or you’re having serious health problems,” says Gregory Wellenius, an epidemiologist at Brown University. “Some places in the US will get to that point. The way we live, work and play will be altered by rising temperatures.”

Heat already kills more Americans than floods, hurricanes, or other ecological disasters. That puts sweltering cities like Phoenix – where flights were cancelled last year because it was simply too hot – under growing pressure. But heat is rapidly becoming a national problem.

Recent research suggests warming conditions are leading to suicides, as rising nighttime temperatures deprive Americans of sleep and respite from scorching days. A new study, released last week, predicts that a warming climate will drive thousands to emergency rooms for heat illness. The very hottest days experienced in the US could be a further 15F warmer this century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed.

A national plan to deal with heat, however, remains a distant prospect, as the Trump administration attempts to demolish almost every measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has also outlined deep cuts to climate programmes, and steered federal agencies away from adapting to more frequent and more extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding and stronger storms. For the most part, US cities are facing burgeoning heatwaves on their own.

The Center for Disease Control states that around 650 deaths occur a year due to heat but Wellenius argues that this is too conservative, as heat isn’t always explicitly cited on death certificates; with related mortality the total swells to around 3,500. Crucially, the death toll is afflicting US cities that haven’t previously had to spend much time fretting about heat. […]

Though the federal government is currently trying to extricate itself from the scientific reality of climate change, at some point it will have to deal with the societal implications of huge swathes of the country requiring expensive modifications to support a human populace.

“It’s only a matter of time until the west is completely insufficiently prepared for climate change,” says Brian Petersen, a climate change and planning academic at Northern Arizona University. “If we really wanted to be prepared we would be doing a lot of different things that we’re not doing.

“The fact is, there’s not going to be enough refuge for everybody.” [more]

'It can’t get much hotter ... can it?' How heat became a national US problem

Wind and currents push thousands of dead fish together in a massive fish kill during the red tide bloom off the coast of Sanibel, Florida, 8 August 2018. Photo: Ben Depp / National Geographic

By Maya Wei-Haas
8 August 2018

(National Geographic) – The first thing you notice is the smell. It’s not a scent, exactly, but a tingling in the nose that quickly spreads to the throat and burns the lungs. But then you see the carcasses.

Thousands of sea creatures now litter many of southern Florida’s typically picturesque beaches. Most are fish—mullet fish, catfish, pufferfish, snook, trout, grunt, and even the massive goliath grouper. But other creatures are also washing ashore—crabs, eels, manatees, dolphins, turtles, and more. It's a wildlife massacre of massive proportions. And the cause of both the deaths and toxic, stinging fumes is a bloom of harmful algae that scientists say is the region’s worst in over a decade.

“It's just like a ghost town,” says Heather Barron, head veterinarian at Florida’s Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). “Anything that can leave has, and anything that couldn't leave has died.”

Many organisms around the world can cause these harmful algal booms, which are also known as red tides for their common rust-red color. In Florida, the culprit is usually the tiny, plant-like alga known as Karenia brevis, which produces toxins, dubbed brevetoxins, that cause both gastrointestinal and neurological problems when eaten. The latest bloom now stretches around 100 miles along the coast and miles offshore, often pushed into concentrated patches by winds and currents.

Red tide in the Gulf certainly isn't new, with reports as far back as the 1500s when Spanish explorers documented what seemed to be K. brevis-like fish kills and irritating fumes. But this latest event has turned into an algal nightmare, causing many to question the reasons behind such an intense bloom, and whether humans might be to blame. There are no easy answers, scientists say, and many researchers are split on the culprits.

The algae began coloring southwest Florida’s waters in October 2017, picking up intensity in recent months. Now residents are entering the tenth month of the bloom with no end in sight.

Background K. brevis concentrations usually fall below 1,000 cells per liter. Yet in recent counts, many sites tip the scales at over 10 million cells per liter, says Richard Bartleson, a biologist at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), who has been monitoring the bloom's intensity. In select spots, he's seen counts up to 140 million cells per liter.

Animals accidentally ingest the algae while feeding, which makes them “almost comatose,” says Gretchen Lovewell, program manager for Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program. “Their flippers will just be dangling there,” she says of rescuing the few live stranded turtles. But most, she says, are already dead.

This dead loggerhead is just one of a record number of turtle deaths during the ongoing Karenia brevis algae bloom in southern Florida, 8 August 2018. Wildlife ingests the toxin, which attacks their nervous system with often fatal results. Photo: Ben Depp / National Geographic

Since the beginning of the year, 80 manatees have washed ashore, all suspected victims of brevetoxin. Last week, to scientists’ surprise, a 26-foot-long juvenile whale shark was even swept onto Sanibel Island's coast, its muscles rife with algae toxins. Turtles have also been hard hit; hundreds have been killed this year. Many are the critically endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles.

To make matters worse, Florida isn’t just suffering from red tide. The inland waterways are clogged with yet another bloom of vibrant green cyanobacteria. Runoff from cattle farms and residential developments that lie north of the state's largest freshwater body, Lake Okeechobee, carries in nutrients, turning its waters into a thick green smoothie.

Development and sugar farms south of the lake prevent the natural trickling and filtering of overflow through the Everglades. Instead, to prevent flooding of nearby towns, heavy rains force engineers to release polluted water into the estuaries that lead out to the sea. The problem has worsened in recent years—and solutions are mired in politics.

“There's just dead fish everywhere,” says local resident Tammy Hodgson, who has lived in south Florida for 25 years. There's some hesitation to spread information about what's going on for fear of further impacting local business, she explains, but something must be done. [more]

Red Tide Is Devastating Florida's Sea Life. Are Humans to Blame?

Burned down remains of homes are seen from an areal photo in the Keswick neighborhood of Redding on 10 August 2018. Fire crews have made progress against the biggest blaze in California history but officials say the fire won't be fully contained until September. Photo: Michael Burke / AP Photo

By Alex Sosnowski
14 August 2018

(AccuWeather) – A couple of very tough months are ahead for the wildfire season and firefighting efforts in the western United States, especially California.

Approximately 110 large wildfires are burning across the U.S., and most of these fires are burning in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Countless acres of brush, which growth was spurred on by winter and spring moisture, have had all summer to dry out.

Extreme heat, dryness, blazing sunshine, and accidental and intentional incidents by humans have already contributed to a formidable fire year.

As much as 90 percent of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans, according to the National Park Service.

On Monday, 13 August 2018, it was announced that a firefighter, who was from the Draper City, Utah, Fire Department, was killed while battling the Mendocino Complex Fire. At least six firefighters have died battling wildfires in California this season.

However, even as sunshine and average temperatures decline moving forward into the autumn, episodes of wind traditionally increase during September and October.

Temperatures can still spike to triple-digit levels during the first part of autumn. Temperatures have topped 100 F in Los Angeles well into October, and have climbed into the 90s in San Francisco during October.

In coastal areas of California, extreme temperatures during the late summer and autumn are often accompanied by gusty Santa Ana, Diablo, and Sundowner winds. […]

Recurring drought and humid activity have essentially extended the fire season to a year-round concern. […]

The great number and size of the existing fires are producing a vast area of smoke.

Light winds and heat tend to trap the smoke in populated areas.

"The current smoke event is delivering the longest period of unhealthy air quality since Environmental Protection Agency record began in 2000," according to the National Weather Service in Medford, Oregon. [more]

Worst may be yet to come amid an extreme California wildfire season

(a) Monthly averaged global mean sea level (cm; black line) observed by satellite altimeters (1993–2017)  from the NOAA Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry relative to the start of the altimeter time series in late 1992. Monthly averaged global ocean mass (blue line; 2003–Aug 2017) from GRACE. Monthly averaged global mean steric sea level (red line; 2004–17) from the Argo profiling float array. Mass plus steric (purple line). All time series have been smoothed with a 3-month filter. (b) Linear sea level trends (cm yr−1) from altimetry during 1993–2017. (c) Linear sea level trends (cm yr−1) from altimetry during 2012–17. Graphic: BAMS State of the Climate in 2017

2 August 2018 (NOAA) – It’s official: 2017 was the third-warmest year on record for the globe, trailing 2016 and 2015, according to the 28th annual State of the Climate report. The planet also experienced record-high greenhouse gas concentrations as well as rises in sea level.

The annual checkup for the planet, led by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorology Society, is based on contributions from more than 500 scientists in 65 countries and offers insight on global climate indicators, extreme weather events and other valuable environmental data.

Notable findings from the international report include:

  • Levels of greenhouse gases were the highest on record. Major greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere -- including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide --reached a new record highs. The 2017 average global CO2 concentration was 405.0 parts per million, the highest measured in the modern 38-year global record and in ice-core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.
  • Sea level rise hit a new high -- about 3.0 inches (7.7 cm) higher than the 1993 average. Global sea level is rising at an average rate of 1.2 inches (3.1 cm) per decade.
  • Heat in the upper ocean hit a record high, reflecting the continued accumulation of thermal energy in the uppermost 2,300 feet of the global oceans.
  • Global land and ocean combined surface temperature reached a near-record high. Depending on the dataset, average global surface temperatures were 0.68-0.86°F (0.38-0.48°C) above the 1981-2010 average.  This marks 2017 as having the second, or third, warmest annual global temperature since records began in the mid- to late 1800s.
  • Sea surface temperatures hit a near-record high. While the global average sea surface temperature (SST) in 2017 was slightly below the 2016 value, the long-term trend remained upward.
  • Drought dipped and then rebounded. The global area of drought fell sharply in early 2017 before rising to above-average values later in the year.
  • Arctic maximum sea ice coverage fell to a record low.  The 2017 maximum extent (coverage) of Arctic sea ice was the lowest in the 38-year record. The September 2017 sea-ice minimum was the eighth lowest on record, 25 percent smaller than the long-term average.
  • The Antarctic also saw record-low sea ice coverage, which remained well below the 1981-2010 average. On 1 March 2017, the sea ice extent fell to 811,000 square miles (2.1 million square kilometers), the lowest observed daily value in the continuous satellite record that began in 1978.
  • Unprecedented multiyear coral reef bleaching continued: A global coral bleaching event spanned from June 2014 through May 2017, resulting in unprecedented impacts on reefs. More than 95 percent of coral in some affected reef areas died. [more]

2017 was one of three warmest years on record, international report confirms

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the FY2019 funding request and budget justification for the Interior Department, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., 10 May 2018. Photo: Yuri Gripas / REUTERS

By Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler
3 August 2018

(Reuters) – The Trump administration has rescinded an Obama-era ban on the use of pesticides linked to declining bee populations and the cultivation of genetically modified crops in dozens of national wildlife refuges where farming is permitted.

Environmentalists, who had sued to bring about the two-year-old ban, said on Friday that lifting the restriction poses a grave threat to pollinating insects and other sensitive creatures relying on toxic-free habitats afforded by wildlife refuges.

“Industrial agriculture has no place on refuges dedicated to wildlife conservation and protection of some of the most vital and vulnerable species,” said Jenny Keating, federal lands policy analyst for the group Defenders of Wildlife.

Limited agricultural activity is authorized on some refuges by law, including cooperative agreements in which farmers are permitted to grow certain crops to produce more food or improve habitat for the wildlife there.

The rollback, spelled out in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service memo, ends a policy that had prohibited farmers on refuges from planting biotech crops - such as soybeans and corn - engineered to resist insect pests and weed-controlling herbicides.

That policy also had barred the use on wildlife refuges of neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, in conjunction with GMO crops. Neonics are a class of insecticides tied by research to declining populations of wild bees and other pollinating insects around the world.

Rather than continuing to impose a blanket ban on GMO crops and neonics on refuges, Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Greg Sheehan said in Thursday’s memo that decisions about their use would be made on a case-by-case basis.

Sheehan said the move was needed to ensure adequate forage for migratory birds, including ducks and geese – favored and hunted by sportsmen on many of the nation’s refuges. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose department oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, has made expansion of hunting on public lands a priority for his agency. [more]

Trump administration lifts ban on pesticides linked to declining bee numbers

In this 16 May 2018 file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. A federal appeals court has ruled that the Trump administration endangered public health by keeping a top-selling pesticide chlorpyrifos on the market, despite extensive scientific evidence that even tiny levels of exposure could harm babies’ brains. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to remove chlorpyrifos from sale in the United States within 60 days. Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

By Michael Biesecker
10 August 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration endangered public health by keeping a widely used pesticide on the market despite extensive scientific evidence that even tiny levels of exposure can harm babies’ brains.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to remove chlorpyrifos from sale in the United States within 60 days.

A coalition of farmworkers and environmental groups sued last year after then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt reversed an Obama-era effort to ban chlorpyrifos, which is widely sprayed on citrus fruit, apples and other crops. The attorneys general for several states joined the case against EPA, including California, New York, and Massachusetts.

In a split decision, the court said Thursday that Pruitt, a Republican forced to resign earlier this summer amid ethics scandals, violated federal law by ignoring the conclusions of agency scientists that chlorpyrifos is harmful.

“The panel held that there was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in the court’s opinion.

Michael Abboud, spokesman for acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, said the agency was reviewing the decision, but it had been unable to “fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science.”

EPA could potentially appeal to the Supreme Court since one member of the three-judge panel dissented from the majority ruling.

Environmental groups and public health advocates celebrated the court’s action as a major success.

“Some things are too sacred to play politics with, and our kids top the list,” said Erik Olson, senior director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The court has made it clear that children’s health must come before powerful polluters. This is a victory for parents everywhere who want to feed their kids fruits and veggies without fear it’s harming their brains or poisoning communities.”

The attorneys general of California and New York also claimed victory.

“This is one more example of how then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt skirted the law and endangered the health of our children — in this case, all because he refused to curb pesticide levels found in food,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California said in a statement. [more]

Court orders ban on harmful pesticide, says EPA violated law

Smoke from fires in North America (grey colors) as observed on 7 August 2018. The colored circles and triangles show the air quality index (AQI) at EPA PM2.5 monitors. Graphic: EPA

Dr. Jeff Masters
8 August 2018

(Weather Underground) – Smoke from the raging fires in California has brought dangerously high levels of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5, particles less than 2.5 microns or 0.0001 inch in diameter) to portions of California, Oregon, and Nevada since late July, and wildfire smoke now covers more than half of the continental U.S. and much of Canada. Much of this smoke is due to the largest fire in California history, the Mendocino Complex, which had burned over 292,000 acres as of August 8, and was just 34% contained. A major amount of smoke has also come from the sixth deadliest fire in California history, the Carr fire, which has killed 7 people and burned over 172,000 acres, and is 47% contained. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, on August 8 there were 107 active large fires in the U.S., which had collectively burned over 1.6 million acres. […]

On three consecutive days, July 26 – 28, hourly levels of PM2.5 pollution in Yosemite peaked above a suffocating 400 μg/m3, thanks to smoke from the Ferguson fire. On August 3, a personal air pollution sensor made by purpleiar.org recorded even higher levels of PM2.5 at Wawona, on the south side of the park: an insanely high 1044 μg/m3. There is no EPA 1-hour standard for PM2.5, but the 24-hour standard is 35 μg/m3, and PM2.5 levels in excess of 250 μg/m3 maintained for an entire day are considered “hazardous”—the highest level on the Air Quality Index (AQI) scale. The highest 24-hour PM2.5 levels in Yosemite were 166 μg/mon July 28, which is solidly in the purple “very unhealthy” range. At this level, EPA warns to expect “Significant aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; significant increase in respiratory effects in general population.” [more]

Wildfire Smoke Causing Hazardous Air Quality in Western U.S.

 

Blog Template by Adam Every . Sponsored by Business Web Hosting Reviews