H2O Radio
This Week in Water
Highlights from the Week's News
Global Water Headlines Delivered Every Sunday
homepagegrey1 awwaLogo_TWIW

"Arctic Melting May Be Triggering California’s Drought and Fires." That story and more in the latest edition of "This Week in Water"[ Show/Hide Transcript ]

Peak of California's Rainy Season Is Bone Dry and According to One Expert, a Climate Emergency

As of Sunday morning, the largest fire in southern California was again raging out of control and threatening the towns of Carpentaria and Montecito. The Los Angeles Times reported that nevertheless, firefighters had made some progress in other areas. The Thomas Fire in Ventura County is the biggest so far destroying about 700 structures. Other smaller fires occurred in Los Angeles County, Riverside, and south to the San Diego. At one point the Thomas Fire was growing by the size of a football field every second.

Meteorologist, Eric Holthaus writing in Rolling Stone, noted that it now should be the peak of California’s rainy season, but instead bone-dry winds fed the wildfires. Rainfall in the Los Angeles area has been scant. From Oct. 1, until now, L.A. normally receives two inches but has received only about a tenth of an inch. “There is no fire season anymore,” a Cal Fire spokesman told Reuters, particularly in Southern California, meaning fires are occurring year-round. And, Governor Jerry Brown said that the situation was the new normal.

Holthaus says there's no denying the facts anymore: What's happening in California is a "climate emergency." And what scientists have been warning about for decades is here. A new study out last week by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory concludes that the massive ice thaw in the arctic is triggering changes in the atmosphere that are likely to shrink rainfall in California.

Warming In Arctic Freaks Out NOAA’s Weather Station

New data is showing that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet. Each month NOAA produces a climate report. One of the stations where it receives data is located in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, formerly called Barrow–the northernmost place of the U.S. But the data this December from that station was missing, as were all of the numbers for 2017 and for the last few months of 2016.

Deke Arndt writes on NOAA’s website that the average temperature at the weather station has changed so rapidly that it effectively stopped the location from being used for analysis, leaving northern Alaska appearing a little cooler than it really was. He told the online news site Earther that it is the first time climate change is responsible for an American weather station being messed up.

The actual data on the warming Arctic is dramatic. Arndt compared two time periods, over the last 40 years. On average Utqiaġvik warmed 6.5°F. Even more striking is that in October of this year the temperature was nearly 8 degrees higher than the average.

Bears Ears May Be Open to Uranium Mining After Trump Reduces Boundaries

Donald Trump radically reduced by about 85 percent the size of the Bears Ears monument established by Barack Obama. Trump also reduced Grand Staircase Escalante by almost 40 percent from what President Bill Clinton had designated.

Five Native American tribes have already filed suit to stop Trump’s action, and Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company sued calling the move illegal. The tribes’ point is that the Antiquities Act does not allow a president to revoke or modify a monument—only to designate one. At least two other suits were also filed by 10 environmental and wilderness groups.

Unless Trump’s action is stopped, The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that unprotected lands could be eligible for drilling. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans said mining and drilling issues played no role in the decision. But the Washington Post uncovered documents showing that a uranium company lobbied to scale back Bears Ears so it could get easier access to deposits. Uranium mining is particularly sensitive to the Navajo which is one of the 5 tribes suing. The Navajo’s nearby reservation has about 500 old mines which have not been cleaned up and still contaminate drinking-water wells, springs, and storage tanks.

Puerto Rican Situation Still Grave; Tax Plan Could Make It Worse

The official death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria has come under scrutiny. The New York Times analyzed data and found that in the 42 days after the Category 4 storm, more than 1,000 people than usual died across the island. But the official toll is only 64. One of difficulties in determining the fatalities may be the lack of electricity because only about 65 percent of the island has power restored.

The situation in Puerto Rico is still grave. CNN reported last week that the Army Corps of Engineers has installed about 18,000 temporary roofs on people’s homes, but this is only a bit over one quarter of those requested.

The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, is also pointing out another devastating problem facing Puerto Rico: The Republican tax bill. The House version would effectively impose a 20% tax on goods manufactured in Puerto Rico, which could kill any chance of rebuilding the island. Other officials say that the result would be companies such as pharmaceuticals moving to other countries.

Scientists Record Earth’s Humming but Don’t Know Where It’s Coming From

If we were able to strip away all the daily sounds we’re accustomed to—traffic, music, or even birds chirping, we’d be made aware of something scientists have known for decades: the earth...hums. Scientists have been attempting to record the hum since the late 1950s, and there have been hundreds of attempts to measure it using seismometers on land, but no one has been certain where it comes from. Now, new research is attempting to explain it, and scientists think it might have something to do with the ocean. And because water covers 70 percent of the Earth, if seismologists want to get at the source of this phenomenon, it would be good to detect it under the sea.

European scientists did just that. They placed seismometers near Madagascar to make the first observations of the Earth’s buzz from the bottom of the ocean, which is tricky because the underwater world is noisy, with waves and earthquakes, and migrations of sea life. But, the team was able to use signals from seismometers that they’d placed on the ocean floor and cross-reference with data from terrestrial stations—and voilá—all that remained was the hum.

And even though the buzz is imperceptible to our ears, recording it is an important step toward figuring out what actually produces it. Hypotheses range from atmospheric disturbances or ocean waves pounding on the sea floor, to possibly currents whisking over continental shelves. Whatever the cause, this new research may get scientists closer to identifying the source, which could give us more knowledge about the inner workings of our planet—and help us be more in sync with the tune it hums.

Music Credits: The Fixer, Funkygroove  | Qin, Dr.Guonake  | Jah Moon, Sun Ska Riddim Originale  |  Scott Holmes, Cat and Mouse  |  Grégoire Lourme, Rain  |  Maze, Dark Clouds  |  Creative Commons

Want to hear past episodes? Here are shows from this year and archives from 2016

Journalism About Water and the Environment
© 2017 H2O Media, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.