climate change

A Day Late and A Summit Short: Can California Save the World?

The Global Climate Action Summit that wrapped recently in San Francisco was trumpeted as a “subnational” approach to climate change solutions, a riposte to the regressive environmental policies of the Trump administration. For three days, delegates from diverse international municipalities, provinces, states and corporations discussed ways to cut carbon emissions and mitigate global warming.

High-Risk Housing Developments Fan the Flames for Wildfire

The world certainly seems more flammable these days. Thousands of homes were lost last year in Sonoma County alone, and wildfires have raged across California all summer. And not just in California: Records from the federal National Interagency Fire Center show that U.S. acreage burned in wildfires leaped from 1.8 million in 1995 to 10 million in 2017.

Tensions Rise In the Battle To Save Old Trees

The timber wars are heating up again in Northern California, this time at Rainbow Ridge, a tract of mature Douglas fir near the remote community of Petrolia in Humboldt County. As reported in California earlier this year, the property is the focus of a dispute between the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC), which intends to log it, and local residents who steadfastly oppose the proposed cutting.

Reading Roundup: Volcanic Umbrellas, Student Oscars, More

Volcanic Umbrella

When Mt. Pinatubo exploded in the northern Philippines in 1991, it spewed millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. For nearly two years, that sunlight-blocking plume acted as a sort of volcanic “umbrella,” cooling the Earth by almost 1 degree Fahrenheit. As climate change increasingly alters our lifestyles and embeds itself into our collective consciousness, geoengineering—in this case, humans playing volcano to replicate this cooling event—became a fascinating idea.

Reading Roundup: Probing the Sun, Draining the Swamp, and More

Hot Hot Heat

This Saturday, NASA plans to launch the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft designed to touch the edge of the solar corona, the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun. It will be the first-ever spacecraft to enter into the orbits of Venus and Mercury, a feat scientists have dreamt of for decades.

After Heavy Snowfall, a Massive Rainstorm Hits California: What You Need to Know

Water managers and hydrologists are a mite worried. The good news is that the recent cold storms dumped a lot of new snow in the Sierra. That will help keep reservoirs charged and Californians adequately hydrated through the coming year. But there’s a literal dark cloud counterbalancing that silver lining—a massive “atmospheric river,” aka the Pineapple Express, now poised to wallop California.

The California Timber Battles Shift to New Grounds

California’s Lost Coast isn’t that hard to find—just drive south on a narrow, twisting road from the Humboldt County town of Ferndale. The landscape is extreme in its beauty, wending across ridge top meadows that plunge eastward to forested gorges and roll to the cobalt blue Pacific to the west. The route skirts miles of deserted beach where the only sound is the lapping of gentle surf and the cries of seabirds, and finally tracks through Petrolia, a tiny settlement on the Mattole River.

A Deep Dive Into California’s Recurring Drought Problem

Feel it yet? That dire sense of déjà vu? It probably depends on your livelihood or interests. If you’re a Bay Area boulevardier or the type once described in singles ads as a lover of long walks on the beach, you’re no doubt delighted by the unceasing blue skies and unseasonably pleasant temperatures. But it’s another matter if you’re a farmer, salmon fisherman, water agency manager, skier or whitewater kayaker. Your income—or at least, your sense of well-being— is directly determined by what falls from the sky.

The Big Suck: Can Atmospheric Carbon Removal Stop Climate Calamity?

Strategies to deal with climate change have focused largely on reducing emissions of CO2 and other planet-warming compounds from industry, transportation and agriculture. The news isn’t particularly heartening on that front. After three years of leveling off, CO2 levels are expected to rise by two percent by the end of 2017, due largely to increased coal-burning in China.

Are Wet Winters or Drought Worse for California Fires?

Disastrous wildfires are popularly associated with drought. But the North Bay fires followed one of the wettest winters in decades.

The nightly news tends to make things even more confusing. During drought, newscasters sound the alarm about dead trees and the general flammability of parched forests. After wet winters, dire warnings are issued about the abundant growth of grass and brush that will become tinder during the hot, dry days of California’s summer and fall. So are wet winters worse for fires? Or are dry winters worse?

Physicist Q&A: Trump “Makes Sense” On Energy, Not On Climate

Richard Muller is a Berkeley physics professor, senior scientist at Berkeley Lab, and founder of the group Berkeley Earth, a non-profit established to systematically address the concerns of climate change skeptics. (Muller considers himself a converted skeptic.) He is the author of numerous books including The Instant Physicist and most recently Now: The Physics of Time.

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