Record Breaking Fire Season

Fire Statistics. Note Acres Burned

Fire Statistics. Note Acres Burned

We’ve posted often this summer about the fires sweeping the west, and especially Alaska. Note the number of acres burned so far this year — well above any year of the last ten.

Sea Ice Hunting Gone Walrus Refugees Haul Out On Beaches

Like human refugees fleeing bad conditions around the world north Pacific walrus are going anywhere they can get, over crowded, over stressed and under fed.

Climate WalrusHaulOut

“With the sea ice they depend on for hunting and habitat disappearing at the end of the Arctic melt season, thousands of walruses have once again hauled out onto the northwestern Alaskan shoreline near Point Lay, Alaska.”  from Mashable

Seven out of the last nine years, this has happened.  In 2014 some 35,000 were estimated.

President Obama is due to make an historic visit to Alaska and the Arctic on August 31, with hopes by some that visuals from the great melt will finally end the ginned up debate and get action plans in place.

“The Arctic is unraveling,” said Rafe Pomerance, a member of the Polar Research Board and chair of Arctic 21, a coalition of groups lobbying for action on climate change and other Arctic matters.

… On land, melting permafrost is allowing more planet-warming greenhouse gases to seep into the atmosphere. At sea, there is increased access for shipping, natural resource drilling and military activities.

In the Fairbanks area there is a phenomenon known as “drunken forests” and “drunken homes”, where trees and buildings are leaning at odd angles because the previously frozen soil they rested in is softening up as average temperatures climb.

Thousands of Miles of Toxic Algae Bloom

Climate NOAAView_chloro_july2015_610

“A record-breaking algal bloom continues to expand across the North Pacific reaching as far north as the Aleutian Islands and as far south as southern California.  Coinciding with well above average sea surface temperatures across the North Pacific and West Coast of North America, the bloom is laced with some toxic species that have had far-reaching consequences for sea life and regional and local economies.

  • At least 9 Fin whales were found dead near Kodiak Island, AK, in June, potentially related to the algal bloom…
  • In July, the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association received reports of dead and dying whales, gulls, and forage fish in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands…
  • Eextremely high levels of an algal toxin called domoic acid have led to closures of recreational razor clam harvests in Oregon and Washington, as well as closing of large portions of the Washington state Dungeness crab fishery and some of the sardine and anchovy fisheries in California.

NOAA Climate dot gov

From Scientific American, earlier in August:

Although domoic acid, produced by marine diatoms of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia, is a naturally occurring toxin, during a toxic algal bloom, it accumulates at dangerous levels in shellfish and small fish like sardines and anchovies, which are then eaten by larger marine creatures and humans. Contaminated seafood can cause nausea and vomiting in people. At high levels, the toxin can cause brain damage, memory loss and even death.

Plastic in the Pacific

The great Great Pacific Garbage Patch is certainly not News; we’ve known about it for years.  What is News is that it grows with little being done about it.

From Greenpeace

The most recent report comes from a fine young Dutch fellow, Boyan Slat, who has taken it on himself to organize, research and start cleaning it up.  His project is at TheOceanCleanUp.   He needs help, of course.

Scientists and volunteers who have spent the last month gathering data on how much plastic garbage is floating in the Pacific Ocean returned to San Francisco on Sunday and said most of the trash they found is in medium to large-sized pieces, as opposed to tiny ones.

Volunteer crews on 30 boats have been measuring the size and mapping the location of tons of plastic waste floating between the west coast and Hawaii that according to some estimates covers an area twice the size of Texas.

 … “It was a good illustration of why it is such an urgent thing to clean up, because if we don’t clean it up soon, then we’ll give the big plastic time to break into smaller and smaller pieces,” said Boyan Slat, who has developed a technology he says could start removing the garbage by 2020.

A 171ft mother ship carrying fishing nets, buckets, buoys and bottles, among other items, and two sailing boats with volunteers who helped collect the garbage samples arrived at San Francisco’s Piers 30-32

The Guardian

And more about Slat and his project at Eco-Business.

Fires In the West

Sky News reports:

A massive wildfire raging in north-central Washington has become the largest is the state’s history.

Western States Wildfires (click for interactive)

Western States Wildfires (click for interactive)

The blaze measured overnight at just over 400 square miles, Okanogan County Fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said on Monday.

He called the record unfortunate, particularly due to it coming so early in the wildfire season.

“It’s only August 24,” Mr Isaacson said. “In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November.”

And it’s worse in Alaska.  Click here for interactive map of all US fires, and here for an article at EcoWatch, a good site to keep track of.

Resisted War, Resisted Racism, Resisted Silence: George Houser

Ninety Nine years is only the last accomplishment of George Houser’s amazing life:

  • WW II conscientious objector, 1940
  • Co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, 1942
  • Bus rider with Bayard Rustin into the segregated south, 1948
  • South African anti-apartheid organizer, 1952

The New York Times has an obituary.  How can we absorb his conscientious humanity?

“Deeply influenced by the work of Henry David Thoreau and Gandhi, Mr. Houser joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1938, while a student there.

In 1940, he and a group of classmates, including David Dellinger, who went on to become a member of the Chicago Seven, refused to register for the draft as mandated by the Selective Training and Service Act. The act had been signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that year.

“As theological students, we had an automatic exemption,” Mr. Houser explained in a 2002 interview with The Journal News of Westchester County, N.Y. “But we wanted to protest peacetime conscription.”

Mr. Houser, Mr. Dellinger and six fellow students were sentenced to prison in November 1940. Their story was the subject of a 2000 PBS documentary, “The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It.”

After serving a year in the federal prison at Danbury, Conn., Mr. Houser joined the staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation as its youth secretary. He later moved to Chicago, where he completed his divinity degree at the Chicago Theological Seminary and received ordination.

In 1942, after Mr. Houser and his friend [James] Farmer were denied service at a Chicago restaurant, they, [Bayard] Rustin and others established what became CORE. Mr. Houser served as the group’s first executive secretary.

Bayard Rustin and George Houser, undated, sitting in at Cleveland restaurant

Bayard Rustin and George Houser, undated, sitting in at Cleveland restaurant

CORE soon became a national organization, enrolling tens of thousands of members in dozens of chapters within its first few years. Endorsing nonviolent protest, it convened sit-ins in public accommodations around the country.

In 1946, ruling in a landmark case, Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, the Supreme Court held that segregation on interstate transit was unconstitutional.

The next year, to test the ruling, Mr. Houser and Mr. Rustin, CORE’s first field secretary, organized the Journey of Reconciliation. They convened a team of 16 men — eight black and eight white — to ride interstate buses through the South.

[Cross posted at All In One Boat]

Hot, Hotter, Not Yet Hottest

CNN reports on NOAA measurments:

July saw the highest average temperatures since record-keeping began — globally, not just in the United States — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday.

Globally, the first seven months of the year also had all-time highs. The latest global temperature data make it likely that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, the agency said.

NOAA’s findings follow reports by NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency, which reached the same conclusion using their own data.


At the same time as CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere, so are methane emissions, as long submerged biological matter on seafloors begins to change.

Climate Change Gulf Stream

Methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean appear to be primarily caused by rising ocean heat that is carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean.

AND, methane leaks in human built natural pipelines are now known to be higher than formerly thought.

A little-noted portion of the chain of pipelines and equipment that brings natural gas from the field into power plants and homes is responsible for a surprising amount of methane emissions, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Natural-gas gathering facilities, which collect from multiple wells, lose about 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year, about eight times as much as estimates used

For a couple of short, scary videos on methane, try these.


The same warming seas have driven lobster populations further north along the Atlantic seaboard, changing the economics and livelihoods in its wake.

The lobster population has crashed to the lowest levels on record in southern New England while climbing to heights never before seen in the cold waters off Maine and other northern reaches — a geographic shift that scientists attribute in large part to the warming of the ocean.

In drought stricken California, the massive unmonitored extraction of ground water has led to land surfaces changing form, buckling and collapsing.

Last year, areas around the Kings County town of Corcoran between Fresno and Bakersfield dropped 13 inches in eight months, according to the data released Wednesday. Arbuckle, in Colusa County north of Sacramento, sank 5 inches in six months, and points along the California Aqueduct, which carries water beside Interstate 5 in the San Joaquin Valley, fell 8 inches in four months.

Irrigation canals have begun to buckle, wells have fractured and even streets are cracking. State and federal officials fear that railroad lines and home foundations may be next. [SFC]


In the Middle East severe weather is trumping fear of jihadists as Thomas Friedman points out.

On July 31, USA Today reported that in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, a city adjacent to the Persian Gulf, the heat index soared to 163 degrees “as a heat wave continued to bake the Middle East, already one of the hottest places on earth. ‘That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,’ AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani said in a statement.

The temperatures are so high in Baghdad, and the electricity for cooling off so irregular that major demonstrations are taking place.


A large group of Muslim scholars recently joined Pope Francis and other religious leaders (and here) in calling for faster action in dealing with the rising temperatures, increasing extreme weather events and the human cost.

The Islamic community became the latest to reaffirm a duty of stewardship on Tuesday, when prominent Muslims from 20 countries urged all 1.6 billion followers of the Prophet Muhammad to “set in motion a new model of well-being.”

In the 8-page declaration, signed at a gathering in Istanbul, Turkey, religious leaders including the Grand Muftis of Lebanon and Uganda issued an urgent message to madrasses and mosques worldwide.

To avoid “ending life as we know it,” they called for “a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels,” which scientists blame for global warming. They also urged a swift transition to “100% renewable energy” by mid-century.

Julian Bond: Principled Pragmatist

A nice remembrance of Julian Bond by Todd Gitlin, sent on by Marshall Ganz, both of whom worked with Bond.

“He was a pragmatist man of principle, no oxymoron intended. The principle was nonviolence, which, as one of his last public statements bears out—I shall quote it below—was his principle to the end. A pragmatist is not a trimmer. A pragmatist looks for results and changes his or her modus operandi—and theory—accordingly. Thus, at first, he and others in SNCC thought they were “still operating on the theory that there was a problem, you expose it to the world, the world says ‘How horrible!’ and moves to correct it.”

A Great Life that Matters

Bond, in one of his last known letters, supported the Iran nuclear deal worked out by the Obama administration.

“Today we have before us an issue that should unite all Americans, supporting the nuclear agreement with Iran. This historic diplomatic accord will not only help prevent the proliferation of mankind’s most heinous weapon, it will help avoid yet another disastrous war in the Middle East.'”

The World Will Not Be Your Oyster for Long

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the latest to realize that its famed oyster and clam harvests are increasingly at risk from risinc ocean acidity.

An August 15 front page above the fold article in the SF Chronicle laid out the ugly findings.

About 10 years ago, baby oysters, or spat, began to die at an alarming rate. Farms along the West Coast lost more than half of their bivalves before they reached maturity, creating a shortage of seed. That deficit hit Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall especially hard

… That culprit, ocean acidification, is the caustic cousin of climate change, and it shifts the chemistry of ocean water, making it harder for oysters to grow. That’s because about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, causing pH levels to plummet and making the water more acidic. The more pollution in the air, the more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs.

climate change clams-hi

Back in February, regional newspapers from the Chesapeake Bay and New Orleans picked up on the new study from Nature Climate Change that ocean acidification was going to have major economic impact on their bi-valve farms and the communities that depended on them.

Climate Change Bi Valve Vulnerability


In 2012 a meeting of scientists in Monterey, California took up the issue.

In 2010, Science, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science had a long scholarly article which, despite its academic restraint, was terrifying.

The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystem. 

Just for starters:

Recent studies indicate that rapidly rising greenhouse gas concentrations are driving ocean systems toward conditions not seen for millions of years, with an associated risk of fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation. The impacts of anthropogenic climate change so far include decreased ocean productivity, altered food web dynamics, reduced abundance of habitat-forming species, shifting species distributions, and a greater incidence of disease… [link]

Picturing the Enemy

An interesting article appeared in BBC today.  A young Chinese man has built a significant collection of “war memorabilia” from Japanese soldiers, who invaded and occupied China prior to and during WW II.  What interests him, however, are not the gruesome “collectible” photos of beheaded civilians or bombed out cities, but very ordinary photos, many carried by the soldiers, of family and self in non-war settings.  He’s made quite a study of his collection, noting the small details of human life.

1943, Soldier with Friends. [He was later killed.]

Besides his collector’s obsession, what is in his mind as he pours through possible purchases on e-bay or from collectors or antique stores?  Why these and not something else?

“I collect these albums not to remember hatred, but to avoid repeating the same pain,” he emphasised.

“They teach us a lesson: war is cruel and there is no winner.”

He adds a small voice to those trying to counter the narrative of the necessity of war and revenge, like super dried landscape ready to explode at the smallest spark.  And doubly good for him that he says this contemplating those who very likely affected his own forebears in terrible ways.