Astronauts Snag Dramatic Photographs of Alaska’s Erupting Volcano
“Astronauts living on board the International Space Station managed to get these dramatic pictures of the Pavlof Volcano as it erupted over the weekend. The volcano began acting up last Monday, the 13th, its first eruption since 2007.”
See more images at The Atlantic.
Definitely click through!
Water from the world’s shrinking glaciers was responsible for almost a third of the rise in sea levels between 2003 and 2009, shows new research.
An international team of scientist compared data gleaned from two NASA satellites as well as traditional ground measurements from glaciers around the world.
Their work, published in the journal Science , is the most accurate estimation of how glaciers contribute to sea level rises to date.
“For the first time, we’ve been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea rise,” says lead author Assistant Professor Alex Gardner, assistant geography professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets.”
The most significant ice losses occurred in Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and the Himalayas, the study found.
The glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic sheets lost an average of roughly 260 billion metric tons of ice annually during the period, leading to a rise in ocean levels of about 0.7 millimeters per year.
By contrast the glaciers in Antarctica, smaller ice masses that are not connected to the ice sheet, made scarcely any contribution to sea-level rise over the study period.
Note that sea level rise is uneven, and effects coastlines with high degrees of variability. Some coast will experience more rise and erosion, some less.
Via ABC.AU h/t Marcacci Comm.
After reading Adam Welz’s take down, “Bloodthirsty “factual” TV shows demonize wildlife,” of the Discovery Planet’s animal killing TV show, Yukon Men, I did a little bit of research. The City of Tanana, where the show is filmed, is absolutely not the secluded, dangerous place as the Discovery Channel advertizes. The town has never been “attacked” by bears, wolves, wolverines, lynx, etc., as the show will have you believe. Still, each type of these animals is gunned down for your viewing pleasure.
The City of Tanana (above) is small, no doubt. But it is not a remote outback full of danger.
Above, a TV show character uses an AR-15 semi-automatic (rather than a hunting rifle) to kill a wolf.
Local Alaskans posting in various wilderness and hunting forums are calling Discovery’s ‘Yukon Men’ a joke, full of lies and exploitation. They even make fun of the choices of guns that the characters in the show use (no local hunter, they say, uses an AR-15 to shoot animals in Alaska).
One man wrote that, unlike actual remote villages, the City of Tanana has a burger joint, functioning utilities, and cell phone, internet, and satellite services, making it far from “remote” and hardly dangerous.
I dug around and found other interesting facts that belie the Discovery Channel’s claim that the town is a dangerous remote outback. Tanana has schools, an agricultural extension of the University of Fairbanks, annual foot and dog-sled races, and even family and emergency services provided by the Tanana Chiefs Council (this is in addition to services provided by the State of Alaska).
Indeed, Tanana even has its own airport, with over 3,000 flights per year (see #516). The airport has a webcam, radio towers, and weather stations. This is not remote. Nor are provisions hard to obtain - twice daily a plane lands with food, fuel, mail, visitors, and materials.
Learning from and enjoying the wilderness is one of the greatest privileges we Americans enjoy. Creating a false myth that nature is scary is not what we need, especially now with so many people unhealthy from increasingly sedentary lifestyles. In my opinion, Discovery needs to set the record straight. They need to refocus on educating viewers of the deep importance of our dwindling natural resources. They need to do this rather than exploiting animals and creating fear all for a quick buck.
It’s a choice confronting more than 180 native communities in Alaska, which are flooding and losing land because of the ice melt that is part of the changing climate.
In a special three part series on the imminent crisis, the Guardian has visited Newtok and spoken to the villagers, politicians and climate scientists about their plight. You can read about it here.
The Guardian covers “climate refugees” in America.
The Guardian has a multi-part, video heavy media set on climate refugees in America. I’d argue that the title “first” is a misnomer and would point to the coastal communities in Texas, New Orleans, and the Carolinas who’ve been retreating from the coasts for several years. But, the point is made - that sea-level rise and coastal erosion is much more aggressive than at anytime in history. Thus, tens of thousands of people are at immediate risk, especially the poor.
The above is one minute.
The people of Newtok, on the west coast of Alaska and about 400 miles south of the Bering Strait that separates the state from Russia, are living a slow-motion disaster that will end, very possibly within the next five years, with the entire village being washed away.
The Ninglick River coils around Newtok on three sides before emptying into the Bering Sea. It has steadily been eating away at the land, carrying off 100ft or more some years, in a process moving at unusual speed because of climate change. Eventually all of the villagers will have to leave, becoming America’s first climate change refugees.
In Kivalina v ExxonMobil, I and two other students represented ExxonMobil in ‘moot court’ in a climate change law class at Vermont Law School. We won. In fact, my team crushed the environmental law students who represented the impoverished Native Alaskans of the Village Kivalina.
ExxonMobil (and about a dozen other oil companies) was sued by a small island village located along the northern coastline of Alaska called Kivalina. The claim was that the oil companies had altered the earth’s atmosphere so much that its climate changed to the detriment of the village. The village is, as you read this, literally being eaten by the ocean at rates never seen in history. They wanted the oil companies to pay for relocating the villagers. They also sued to expose a conspiracy to mislead the public - the so-called “climate denial” you hear so much about.
Exxon defended itself on several grounds, and easily won the case. Although climate change was not under question, Kivalina could not prove that Exxon et al were the actual cause of their harm. This is called traceability - basically, they couldn’t trace the exact carbon molecules back to the oil companies.
So, the case was thrown out for ‘lack of standing.’ Standing is the first hoop of getting into court - you have to show a clear connection between the harm and the cause. If you can’t make it past this first test, the case is thrown out. None of the ‘merits’ or arguments for or against are even discussed. Such is the law.
Ironically, Kivalina was represented pro-bono (free) by one of the most controversial and powerful attorneys in America, Theodore Olson. Recall, Ted is a conservative-republican, anti-Clintonian who argued and won in Bush v Gore in the Supreme Court. In fact, he’s won 20 out of his 23 SCOTUS cases, almost all for conservative causes.
Olson, strangely, has taken a severe left turn as of late (perhaps to make up for a career of bullying liberals). In addition to representing the poor people of Kivalina, he’s currently the co-lead attorney in the Prop 8 same-sex marriage case that everyone is so stoked about. So the man who wrought George Bush upon the world is now representing core liberal causes, thus demonstrating that America’s cultural memory is astoundingly atrocious.
There are about 400 Native Alaskans (technically Inupiat Eskimos) in Kivalina, and their island is literally eroding away by rising sea levels and melting because much of the land is permafrost - both issues are caused (in part) by a changing climate. Warmer temperatures causes thermal expansion in the ocean, and the temperatures melt glaciers and sea ice. This causes sea levels to rise, and islands and coastal cities have to deal with the impacts (they were originally planned to handle a little bit of sea rise, but not the aggressive rise occurring today).
The above Kickstarter, and the quasi-point of this long post, is for a documentary about the lives of the Kivalinans - it’s about the people, and not about the legal case.
Kivalina People is being directed by a young film maker from Brooklyn named Gina Abatemarco, who decided to film and produce the documentary about 5 years ago.
I’ve been following the plight of the Kivalina for several years, hoping that they’d have their justice, or at least a good day in court. They haven’t. Their island is disappearing, and it will cost tens of millions to move them to new territory. I hope Gina’s documentary is viewed by millions.
One of the most important skills I learned in law school was how to argue - convincingly - the opposing side. I learned that the law is skewed to protect the accused, even in cases where the accused is clearly liable. We won that case in class on a technicality. And in court, technicalities can be cold and cruel son’s a bitches.
Some pictures I took in Alaska a few years ago. Seward, Homer, and a glacier in Kenai NP. That sea otter was fear free and huge - looked like a person floating in the water. And bald eagles were everywhere in Homer, this one was medium sized.
Royal Dutch Shell barred from returning to drill for oil in Arctic without overhaul
Caveat: This is a short-term environmental win. Shell owns billions of dollars in oil drilling permits in the Arctic. All they need is to invest in safer rigs, ships, and other infrastructure to show that their operations will be safe. The Dept. of Interior, which governs (in part) oil drilling on US lands and waters, is not known for its consistent decision making.
In fact, considering Obama’s aggressive oil and gas drilling policies, I’d be surprised if Shell wasn’t back by 2016…
Still, a sweet sweet win for environmental groups that pressured the administration to rethink Arctic drilling.
(Above) Shell have been criticised after their Arctic oil drilling rig Kulluk ran aground off a small Alaskan island on New Year’s Eve. Photograph: Sara Francis/AP
Shell “screwed up” drilling for oil in Arctic waters and will not be allowed back without a comprehensive overhaul of its plans, the Obama administration said on Thursday.
A government review found the oil company was not prepared for the extreme conditions in the Arctic, which resulted in a series of blunders and accidents culminating in the New Year’s Eve grounding of its drill rig.
Shell announced a “pause” in Arctic drilling last month. But Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told a reporters’ conference call that the company will not be allowed to return without producing a much more detailed plan, one tailored specifically to the harsh Arctic conditions.
“Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan put in place,” said Salazar, in one of his last acts before standing down as interior secretary. “It’s that plain and simple.”
The findings of the review could mean further costs and delays for Shell, which has spent years and $4.5bn securing permits to drill in Arctic waters.
But it did not satisfy some environmental groups which said the review demonstrated the government should never have allowed drilling in the first place.
Salazar and other officials said Shell had not been prepared to drill last year, when a season of blunders and accidents was capped with the New Year’s Eve grounding of one of its drilling rigs.
“Shell screwed up in 2012 and we are not going to let them screw up after their pause is removed,” Salazar said.
“Air and water quality, national parks and surrounding communities, and clean energy development will be hard hit by across-the-board spending cuts in the federal budget that took effect today.
President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders came out of a White House meeting this morning without resolution to the budget impasse, known in Washington as the sequester. Each side blames the other, but regardless of who is to blame, the sequester means painful cuts to natural resource and environment services across the country.
Municipal water supplies, already underfunded to the tune of about $30 billion a year, will lose millions more. “With the sequestration, the State Revolving Funds, the most common mechanism through which communities receive federal support for their drinking and wastewater systems, could be cut by about six percent, or $135 million, says Hauter, citing figures from the Associated General Contractors of America.
In a letter addressed to President Obama and Congress, businesses emphasized how reducing park budgets kills jobs. Kirk Hoessle, local business owner of Alaska Wildland Adventures said, “Congress needs to understand that my business suffers when Denali National Park suffers from cuts. Not only do we need to keep park roads and visitor centers open, but we need to make sure visitors have a great experience.”
In adventurous work sponsored by the BLM, Pam Groves and Dan Mann - both researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks - in summer 2012 found in the thawing bank of a northern river almost the entire skeleton of a steppe bison that died during the last ice age.
Read the full article: Alaska Dispatch
Lovely shot of an Alaskan glacier.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
A polar bear and her two cubs scavenge from the remains of a bowhead whale at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in North Slope, Alaska
Picture: Steven Kazlowski / Barcroft Media / Bear Country