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environment

Before it got cold this winter, it was warm. Very warm. In fact, new data out Monday shows 2017 was the third warmest year recorded in the lower 48 states.

And it was also a smackdown year for weather disasters: 16 weather events each broke the billion-dollar barrier.

First, the heat. Last year was 2.6 degrees F warmer than the average year during the 20th century.

Emergency meetings are underway to discuss the threat of a possible landslide near Yakima, Washington. Dozens of federal, state, county and tribal officials are trying to work out a plan as this threat looms. 


This week's news isn't going to pump itself

Jan 5, 2018
KUOW PHOTO/KARA MCDERMOTT

The Trump Administration says it will stop telling prosecutors to look the other way when states legalize marijuana and wants to open federal waters off the coast to oil drilling.

Seattle taxpayers will pay to settle a sex abuse lawsuit against former mayor Ed Murray. And Oregonians will finally get to pump their own gas, but please cool it with the jokes.

Could Slower Ships Help The Orcas?

Jan 5, 2018

 

This story first appeared at Crosscut.com

To the human eye, big ships cruising along the west side of San Juan Island this summer might have looked like they were traveling in slow motion. To the perceptive ears of killer whales, those same ships might have sounded a little bit quieter.

While above-average temperatures might sound good to much of the U.S. right now, it's too warm in rural Alaska. High temperatures 10 to 20 degrees above average are upsetting everything from recreation to hunting for food.

Last Saturday, Maurice Andrews won the Kuskokwim River's first sled dog race of the season.

"It felt awesome, man," Andrews said, "Finally! Finally good to be out."

Washington’s commissioner of public lands is calling on the state legislature to put a price on carbon to try to curb emissions in the state.

But Hilary Franz differs with Gov. Jay Inslee about how to use the money.

The Trump administration announced a new plan Thursday that would allow offshore oil and gas drilling in the ocean off the West Coast for the first time since 1984.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the plan would open up 90 percent of the country's outer continental shelf to oil and gas leasing, including an area off the coast of Oregon and Washington.

Officials in Yakima County, Washington, are strongly urging residents living below a shifting mountainside near Union Gap to evacuate. 



A huge crack that appeared on Rattlesnake Ridge last year is beginning to widen.

After a mysterious disease killed millions of sea stars up and down the West Coast in recent years, they’ve shown some signs of recovery in pockets of southern California. But, in the Pacific Northwest, they’re still suffering.

After you collect your cans, bottles and paper, then put them out by the curb, do you ever think about where everything goes after the truck picks things up? Largely, it goes to China.

Every day, nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclables leave US ports bound for China. China sends the US toys, clothes and electronics; in return, some of America’s largest exports back are paper, plastic and aluminum.

Gardener Marcia High of Seattle's Kubota Garden overlooks the landscape in front of Moon Bridge.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

If you’re looking for something outdoorsy yet tame to do, there’s a free place to visit this winter: Seattle's Kubota Garden. 

The wildfires that burned through the Pacific Northwest this past summer caused hazy skies throughout Washington and Oregon. Air pollution from tiny particles released by fire is a known health hazard.

New research from Colorado State University is trying to quantify the effect on human health.

How Drones Are Helping Washington's Moose

Dec 22, 2017

Deep in the forests of northeastern Washington, snow blankets the ground. Through the trees, it’s hard to see the moose wandering in the woods.

But from a bird’s eye view? You can see a little brown splotch — with antlers.

Wildlife researchers are ditching the usual (costly, time consuming and invasive) ways they count moose. They’re taking to the sky and taking a new drone for a spin.

A new study from Oregon State University scientists finds that old-growth forests could be an important refuge for songbirds in the face of climate change.

Lead author and ecologist Matt Betts tracked songbird populations in different kinds of forests – including old growth and mature tree plantations.

They’ve been called devil fish. They’re No. 1 on the hit-list for invasive aquatic life in Washington waters.

And they’re creeping farther and farther down the Columbia River system.

So far, northern pike have reached Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir that's impounded behind Grand Coulee Dam.

A warming planet due to human-induced climate change is likely to contribute to an increase in volcanic activity, according to

KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Which airline you choose can help cut back on the damage your air travel does to the climate, according to a new study.

Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

Marcie Sillman talks to Anna King, Northwest News Network's Richland correspondent, about the radioactive contamination that was found on six workers and fourteen cars around the Plutonium Finishing Plant in Richland Washington. 

The area and amount of stuff contaminated by radioactive waste at the Hanford Site in southeast Washington state keeps getting bigger.

First it was two cars. Then it was eight. The count is now 14 vehicles that are contaminated with radioactive waste. Half of them are personal cars. One is even contaminated on the inside. 

It was hardly a footnote in most national stories on the issue, but Congress' passage of the Republican tax bill will be a chapter in Alaska's history books. The law opens a part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development, ending an epic, nearly four-decade battle.

For years, environmental groups, the oil industry, Alaska Native communities and the state's political leaders have debated the potential consequences of oil development in ANWR — on species like caribou and polar bears, on Alaska's oil-dependent economy, on nearby villages and on the climate.

A private pilot takes off at Franklin County State Airport in Vermont.
Flickr Photo/Franklin County State Airport (CC BY 2.0)/flic.kr/p/KUpsL9

If you thought it could help save the planet, would you give up flying?

Gov. Jay Inslee’s attempt to lower the Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions has suffered a setback:  A judge's ruling that the state can't implement parts of his signature Clean Air Rule.

The ruling, issued last Friday, strikes down the Washington Department of Ecology’s plans to curb greenhouse gases from imported petroleum and natural gas products. Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon said the state needs the Legislature to pass a law okaying that part of the rule.

If you gave up flying how would your life change?

Dec 19, 2017
iStock

There was a moment when Janisse Ray realized she couldn’t call herself an environmentalist and an activist and keep traveling by airplane.


Two activists were acquitted of felony charges Thursday for protesting a liquefied natural gas plant currently under construction at the Port of Tacoma.

Marilyn Kimmerling, Cynthia Linet, and three other protesters linked themselves together last May to block construction crews from working on the future plant site.

Washington adopted new federal rules Wednesday that establish protections for farmworkers working with and around pesticides.

They bringing state regulations in line with new federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

The state has been trying to navigate ambiguity around the status of the EPA rules. Hector Castro of the Washington Department of Agriculture says they acted after learning the federal regulations would take effect next month.

The Lower Duwamish River Superfund site in South Seattle
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Toxic waste cleanups in Renton and Portland are going to get renewed attention from the Environmental Protection Agency, according to an announcement from the EPA.

Updated at 10 p.m. ET

Driven by fierce Santa Ana winds, four intense fires near Los Angeles grew to engulf more than 115,000 acres Thursday, and officials say residents should continue to expect dangerous fire conditions, as both strong winds and very dry conditions persist.

A band of raccoons scamper over a downed tree. A coyote sneaks a drink from a mossy pool. The black and white photos that flash across Professor Mark Jordan’s computer screen look like they could have been shot out on the Olympic Peninsula or maybe at a remote spot in the Cascades — until a curious house cat sneaks out of the underbrush.

NASA, Scientists Want Help Measuring The Snow

Dec 5, 2017

Cities, farmers, and conservationists all need to know how much water is in each winter’s snowpack.

But there aren’t many weather stations that measure the snowpack, and “they tend to be at lower elevations,” says David Hill, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Oregon State University.

That’s why a team of Northwest scientists and NASA are looking for help. They’re asking snowshoers, snowmobilers, and skiers in Washington and Oregon to measure snow depth in the backcountry.

 

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is calling for one of the Northwest’s national monuments to be reduced in size.

 Zinke released a months-old report Tuesday making recommendations to President Trump on the fate of national monuments that previous presidents had established or expanded. Among the recommendations: that the president roll back at least part of the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National monument.

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