Pacific Northwest heatwave virtually impossible without climate change

The last week of June saw shocking temperatures in Oregon, Washington state, and British Columbia. Differentiating a forecast in Canada from a forecast in Phoenix is usually a breeze, but not in June. All-time high-temperature records—not just daily records—were smashed across the region. Portland International Airport broke its all-time record of 41.7°C (107°F) by a whopping 5°C (9°F). The small town of Lytton set a new record high for the entire country of Canada at 49.6°C (121.3°F) on June 29. In the days that followed, most of the town burned in a wildfire…

As with other extreme weather events, the World Weather Attribution team has generated a rapid analysis of this heat wave in the context of climate change…The goal is to fit a mathematical relationship that tells you how unusual an event was—it can produce figures like 1-in-10 or 1-in-50 odds in any given year, for example. But with events this extreme, the statistics are often challenging, as this heat wave went far beyond anything in the instrumental record. As near as they could estimate, the researchers put this heat wave at a 1-in-1,000 probability—the kind of thing that ought to happen roughly once in a thousand years.

Comparing this to the world before human-caused climate change requires adding in model simulations. As usual, the team compared historical temperatures in the area to a large database of models, tossing the simulations that fit the historical trend poorly. Statistics from simulations of climate in the late 1800s can then be combined with the historical data to see how rare this event would have been in the past.

Remember, it’s taken our dumbass species two centuries to screw things up this bad. Just because quantitative events have accumulated sufficiently to produce qualitative change…the disasters we’re sliding into…doesn’t mean they were caused by short-term phenomena. Nor will there be much of a chance for short-term solutions.

Indigenous forest gardens still productive after 100 years


Chelsey Armstrong

…In the last few decades, archeologists have learned that perennial forest management—the creation and care of long-lived food-bearing shrubs and plants next to forests—was common among the Indigenous societies of North America’s northwestern coast. The forest gardens played a central role in the diet and stability of these cultures in the past, and now a new publication shows that they offer an example of a far more sustainable and biodiverse alternative to conventional agriculture.

This research, which was done in collaboration with the Tsm’syen and Coast Salish First Nations, shows that the gardens have become lasting hotspots of biodiversity, even 150 years after colonists forcibly removed the inhabitants from their villages. This work, combining archeology, botany, and ecology, is the first to systematically study the long-term ecological effects of Indigenous peoples’ land use in the region. The gardens offer ideas for farming practices that might restore, rather than deplete, local resources to create healthier, more resilient ecosystems…

By comparing the gardens to the neighboring forests, the researchers’ results clearly showed that the gardens had a much higher species and functional diversity. In addition, the gardens frequently showed a carefully overlapped structure, with a canopy of fruit and nut trees, a mid-layer of berries, and roots and herbs in the undergrowth. Thanks to the increased availability of fruit, nuts, and other edible plants, these places also supported local wildlife, such as moose, bears, and deer.

“There’s a kind of false dichotomy debate going on right now that biodiversity is at odds with food production, and what we see here is very clearly that it’s not,” said Armstrong. “Forest gardens are one of the examples of how you can get multiple species occupying multiple niche spaces—there are all sorts of ecological lessons there.”

We could compare cultural diversity if the Anglos moving into the region hadn’t decided it was in their best interest to remove the people who had been living there for centuries. Often by force.

That history is also part of this article.

A new home – if you’re not up to fighting for democracy

❝ In a widely read manifesto posted in 2011 on his survivalblog.com, JW Rawles, a former army intelligence officer, urged libertarian-leaning Christians and Jews to move to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and a strip of eastern Oregon and Washington states, a haven he called the “American Redoubt”.

Thousands of families have answered the call, moving to what Mr Rawles calls America’s last big frontier and most easily defendable terrain. Were hordes of thirsty, hungry, panicked Americans to stream out of cities after, say, the collapse of the national grid, few looters would reach the mostly mountainous, forested and, in winter, bitterly cold Redoubt. Big cities are too far away. But the movement is driven by more than doomsday “redoubters”, eager to homestead on land with lots of water, fish, and big game nearby. The idea is also to bring in enough strongly conservative voters to keep out the regulatory creep smothering liberty in places like California, a state many redoubters disdainfully refer to as “the C-word”.

That’s “liberty” punctuated by gunfire – not democracy.

❝ Estimates of the numbers moving into the Redoubt are sketchy, partly because many seek a low profile. Mr Rawles himself will not reveal which state he chose, not wanting to be overrun when “everything hits the fan”. But Chris Walsh of Revolutionary Realty says growing demand has turned into such a “massive upwelling” that he now sells about 140 properties a year in the north-western part of the Redoubt, its heart. To manage, Mr Walsh, a pilot, keeps several vehicles at landing strips to which he flies clients from his base near Coeur d’Alene.

What? You expected hippies in VW Kombis?

RTFA for the glorious alternative truthiness.

Let’s go to the beach and play in the radioactive water from Japan!

12/30/14 — Radioactivity from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors has turned up off the British Columbia coast and the level will likely peak in waters off North America in the next year or two, according to a Canadian-led team that’s intercepted the nuclear plume…

The radioactivity “does not represent a threat to human health or the environment,” but is detectable off Canada’s west coast and the level is climbing…The team’s seawater measurements reveal Fukushima radioactivity first showed up 1,500 kilometres west of British Columbia in June 2012, more than a year after the Japanese nuclear accident.

By June 2013, the “Fukushima signal” had spread onto the Canadian continental shelf off the B.C. coast, and by February 2014, it was detectable “throughout the upper 150 metres of the water column,” says the report, showing how the Pacific currents are carrying the radioactive plume slowly across the ocean. It says the Fukushima’s radioactive signal off the B.C. coast is now double the “background” radiation in the ocean from atmospheric nuclear bomb testing…

The scientists predict the Fukushima radioactivity off North America will continue to increase before peaking in 2015-16 at levels comparable to those seen in the 1980s as a result of nuclear testing. Then levels are expected to decline and, by 2021, should return to levels seen before that Fukushima accident — considered one of the most serious nuclear reactor accidents…

A huge earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that flooded the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants. Loss of backup power led to overheating, nuclear meltdowns and evacuation of the Fukushima site. Land and farms around the nuclear plants were severely contaminated and a large radioactive discharge washed into the Pacific…

While the Cesium-134 from the accident will disappear within a few years, Cesium-137 can linger for years.

Thus, the scientists predict the Cesium-137 levels off the North American coast will not return to the levels seen before the Fukushima accident until 2021.

The level of Cesium-137 in the water is far below levels seen in the 1960s and 1970s from nuclear weapons testing and “well below Canadian guidelines for drinking water quality,” they say.

I recall the response from many scientists in the 1960s and 1970s. They campaigned to stop the nuclear weapons testing exactly because it was contaminating Earth’s air and water. Now, we’re supposed to believe everyone passed through that era without harm so radioactive contamination at those levels are safe.

I worked with materials used in nuclear reactors in the 1950s and 1960s and recall many occasions when we were notified that the level of radiation previously declared safe – was no longer considered safe. Sorry, folks.

I have to ask the arch-typical question of the scientists and politicians who say we needn’t worry. Any of you live on the seashore – and let your kids play in that water?

Scientists expect wildfires to increase as climate warms – air quality will continue to degrade


Click to enlarge

As the climate warms in the coming decades, atmospheric scientists at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and their colleagues expect that the frequency of wildfires will increase in many regions. The spike in the number of fires could also adversely affect air quality due to the greater presence of smoke…

Previous studies have probed the links between climate change and fire severity in the West and elsewhere. The Harvard study represents the first attempt to quantify the impact of future wildfires on the air we breathe…

Using a series of models, the scientists predict that the geographic area typically burned by wildfires in the western United States could increase by about 50 percent by the 2050s due mainly to rising temperatures. The greatest increases in area burned (75-175 percent) would occur in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains.

In addition, because of extra burning throughout the western United States, one important type of smoke particle, organic carbon aerosols, would increase, on average, by about 40 percent during the roughly half-century period.

“By hypothesizing that the same relationships between meteorology and area burned still hold in the future, we then could predict wildfire activity and emissions from 2000 to the 2050s,” explains Jennifer Logan.

As a last step, the researchers used an atmospheric chemistry model to understand how the change in wildfire activity would affect air quality. This model, combining their predictions of areas burned with 2050s meteorology data, shows the emissions and fate of the smoke and other particles emitted by the future wildfires. The resulting diminished air quality could lead to smoggier skies and adversely affect those suffering from lung and heart conditions such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.

It’s important to understand these computer models only contained one qualitative factor that changed. Temperature. Everything else is presumed to function as normal. It only takes that one change to screw all of us in the Rocky Mountain West and the Pacific Northwest.