Category Archives: Environment

Bloody indigenous protest over another pipeline

While indigenous people in the U.S. are battling one pipeline project, two indigenous groups are battling each other and the government over another pipeline, this one in Mexico.

And the conflict has suddenly turned violent.

From  Mexico News Daily:

Yaqui indigenous communities in disagreement over a proposed natural gas pipeline clashed yesterday, leaving at least one person dead.

The confrontation involved close to 300 people from the neighboring Yaqui communities of Loma de Bácum and Loma de Guámuchil in the state of Sonora. The former community is opposed to the pipeline project, while the latter is in favor.

The Yaqui from Bácum filed and won an amparo against the construction, which resulted in the temporary suspension of all activity in the area, but the construction company started work again last Saturday, allegedly with the support of government officials and the Yaqui of Guamúchil.

Those from Bácum have accused Guámuchil leader César Cota Tortola of being “close to the state government” and receiving “millions of pesos” for his support for the project.

The refusal of those from Guámuchil to abide by the amparo was what sparked the violence between the two communities, which reportedly started late Thursday night and climaxed about noon yesterday.

20th Century sea level rise underestimated?

Sea level change resulting from Greenland ice melt, derived from NASA GRACE measurements. Black circles show locations of the best historical water level records, which underestimate global average sea level rise due to Greenland melt by about 25 percent. Credits: University of Hawaii/NASA-JPL/Caltech

Sea level change resulting from Greenland ice melt, derived from NASA GRACE measurements. Black circles show locations of the best historical water level records, which underestimate global average sea level rise due to Greenland melt by about 25 percent. Credits: University of Hawaii/NASA-JPL/Caltech

The world’s coastal regions have been submerging even faster than we thought, according to a new study which finds that the measuring devices used to calculate the rise may be given readings lower than the real rate of sinking.

From NASA:

A new NASA and university study using NASA satellite data finds that tide gauges — the longest and highest-quality records of historical ocean water levels — may have underestimated the amount of global average sea level rise that occurred during the 20th century.

A research team led by Philip Thompson, associate director of the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Manoa, evaluated how various processes that cause sea level to change differently in different places may have affected past measurements. The team also included scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia.

“It’s not that there’s something wrong with the instruments or the data,” said Thompson, “but for a variety of reasons, sea level does not change at the same pace everywhere at the same time. As it turns out, our best historical sea level records tend to be located where 20th century sea level rise was most likely less than the true global average.”

One of the key processes the researchers looked at is the effect of “ice melt fingerprints,” which are global patterns of sea level change caused by deviations in Earth’s rotation and local gravity that occur when a large ice mass melts. To determine the unique melt fingerprint for glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, the team used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites on Earth’s changing gravitational field, and a novel modeling tool (developed by study co-author Surendra Adhikari and the JPL team) that simulates how ocean mass is redistributed due to ice melting.

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DroughtWatch: Major relief for California

For the first time in three years, two of California’s counties, Del Norte and Humboldt in the state’s northwestern corner, are officially drought-free, thanks to the storms of the last week.

It’s the first time in ages all of the state hasn’t been one or another of the five stages of drought.

From the United States Drought Monitor:


Maps of the day: It’s getting really, really hot

So hot that 2016 is set to become the hottest year ever recorded since modern meteorologists began collecting data.

First up, a graphic look at the global picture from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, showing the relative departures of September temperatures from historical averages:


And a look at conditions in the United States from, again showing the relative departure of temperatures from historical September averages:


Finally, the prognostication from Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who tweeted “With data now available through September, 2016 annual record (~1.25ºC above late 19th C) seems locked in”:


Quote of the day: Clinton foundation’s toxic legacy

From a devastating report on the much-touted foundation’s projects in Colombia, reported in Fusion:

Colombia should be the Clinton Foundation’s best case study. Ground zero for the drug wars of the 1980s and 90s, racked by uneven development and low-intensity conflict for half a century, Colombia has received more foundation money and attention than any other nation outside the United States. Bill and Hillary Clinton have visited the country often and enjoy close relationships with members of Colombia’s ruling party. Colombia has also been home to the vast oil and natural gas holdings of the man who is reportedly the Clinton Foundation’s largest individual donor, Canadian financier Frank Giustra. In short, conditions were right for Colombia to be the shining example of what the Clinton Foundation’s philanthropy can accomplish in the world, and what makes Hillary so proud of its efforts.

The American Media Institute, a nonprofit news service based in Alexandria, Virginia, partnered with Fusion to send us to Colombia to investigate the Clinton Foundation’s impact. We found ground realities that contrast, often starkly, with the nonprofit’s platitudes about its good work.

Many of the Colombian “success stories” touted on the foundation’s website – the ones specific enough for us to track down – were critical about the foundation’s effect on their lives. Labor leaders and progressive activists say foundation programs caused environmental harm, displaced indigenous people, and that it concentrated a larger share of Colombia’s oil and natural gas reserves in the hands of Giustra, who was involved in a now bankrupt oil company that worked closely with the Clinton Foundation and which used the Colombian military a 1984-style surveillance program to smash a strike by its workers.

It was a shocking record that belies the progressive principles on which the Clintons have based their political dynasty and philanthropy, embodied in the Clinton Foundation’s advertising copy: “Everyone deserves a chance to succeed.”

DroughtWatch: Another week. still no changes

All of California remains in one level or another of drought conditions, with no change in levels for the last three months.

From the United States Drought Monitor:


Map of the day: Spread of a deer-killing disease

A lethal plague is spreading the deer population of North America, a disease threatening to annihilate a critical species in already endangered ecosystem.

Dubbed Chronic Wasting Disease [CWD], the ailment is similar to the human affliction Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease [mad cow disease], and like the human ailment, it attacks the brain and nervous system, resulting in erratic behavior and a wasting away of bodily tissues.

Both diseases appear to be caused by prions, particles smaller than viruses.

From the U.S. Geological Survey:

Chronic wasting disease may have long-term negative effects on white-tailed deer, a highly visible and economically valuable keystone species, according to a new study from the USGS and published in Ecology [$38 to read].

CWD is an always-fatal, neurological disease of the deer family, scientifically referred to as cervids that include white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. The disease is an internationally-significant wildlife management issue for free-ranging and captive white-tailed deer. Originally described in captive mule deer about 35 years ago in Colorado, CWD has now been discovered in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, the Republic of Korea and Norway.

“Despite the health threat of CWD to deer populations, little is known about the rates of infection and mortality caused by this disease,” said Dr. Michael D. Samuel, USGS wildlife biologist and lead author on the report.

Researchers used mathematical models to estimate infection and mortality for white-tailed deer in Wisconsin and Illinois outbreaks. They found that adult male deer have three times the risk of CWD infection than female deer and males also have higher disease mortality than females.

“Additional research is needed to more fully understand how CWD is transmitted to healthy deer and the potential long-term impact of the disease on North American deer populations,” said Samuel. USGS scientists found that CWD-associated deaths can cause substantial reductions in deer populations in areas where CWD is not addressed.

Scientific understanding of the ecology and transmission of CWD in free-ranging wildlife is limited, but this information is critical for making management decisions and helping to better understand the ecology of CWD in free-ranging populations.

The paper, “Chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer: infection, mortality, and implications for heterogeneous transmission,” was published in Ecology and authored by Michael D. Samuel, USGS, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Wisconsin; Daniel Storm, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, and currently with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.