Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to comment through March 20, 2017 on a proposed sustainable energy project. The National Park Service is proposing a solar power system to support the electrical power needs of the Cable Mill area in Cades Cove. This project would reduce usage of traditional fossil fuels and provide opportunities for park visitors to learn about solar power and clean energy sources.
Cades Cove receives approximately 1.8 million visitors per year. Many of these visitors stop at the Cable Mill area to visit the exhibit of historic structures assembled there. This area also provides access to a small visitor center, bookstore, and comfort station with flush toilets and potable water. Given its remote location at the west end of Cades Cove, the Cable Mill area is off the commercial power grid and all power must be generated on site. The existing power system consists of a propane-fueled generator and battery system, which is costly and labor-intensive to operate. The existing system also generates air pollutant emissions and noise.
The proposed location for the solar array is southeast of the Cable Mill comfort station in an open field. This location maximizes solar exposure and is close to areas requiring power, but is separated from the Cable Mill historic exhibits. The array would consist of 80 panels and would occupy a 40 by 65-foot area. Several proposed design features are intended to minimize visual intrusions to the historic setting and cultural landscape of Cades Cove. The array’s three foot high, low-profile design coupled with the site’s natural slope, selective grading, and use of native vegetation would help the array blend into the landscape.
Park staff have initiated the National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act and other compliance processes to evaluate potential adverse and beneficial impacts of the proposed project on the natural, cultural, and human environment. Staff invite the public to comment on the proposed project using the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website here: “Cable Mill Sustainable Energy Project,” or by US Mail to Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
The postcard is almost 40 years old. Angelenos of a certain age will recognize it-a wide-angled, aerial shot of the downtown core of Los Angeles and its then, much-more modest skyline. Framed by the intersection of the Santa Monica and Harbor freeways, the whole scene is muffled in a brown smear of smog. Barely visible in the deep background, just poking above the thick toxic stew, is a snow-capped Mt. Baldy, the tallest of the San Gabriels.
In the fall of 1972 you almost never saw its bold face. Now you can see Mt. Baldy every day, often with stunning clarity, as if the entire range was etched out of a blue true dream of sky. How strange, then, that Republicans in Congress are maneuvering to gut the Clean Air Act, stop the EPA from regulating Greenhouse gases, and, in a special affront to Los Angeles, roll back the federal agency’s ability to monitor tailpipe emissions. It’s enough to make you gasp for air.
Their regressive political agenda, designed to savage public health, ought to infuriate any who lived–and suffered–through the dark-sky years that hung over SoCal like a pall. It took decades of fierce struggle on the local, state, and national levels to build the political capital and legislative clout needed to write the binding regulations, a battle that began in the late 1940s.
It took just as long to create and fund the federal Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and the local South Coast Air Quality Management District (1976). Neither organization had an easy birth: President Nixon created the EPA with reluctance and under considerable pressure; and Governor Ronald Reagan twice vetoed the creation of SCAQMD, which only came into being with a stroke of Governor Jerry Brown’s pen. You now have blue skies only because of the robust regulatory regime that emerged out of this fraught politics of smog.
Spring has sprung in the Smokies. Daffodils have popped up, trees are budding, and grass is sprouting green but that’s not necessarily a good thing. For a lot of the country spring has arrived about 3 weeks too soon, a growing result of climate change according to a recent study shared by the US Geological Survey. Looking at data spanning the past 112 years, the study found that spring has been advancing in 76% of the nation’s national parks. And more than half of all parks are experiencing what’s classified as “extreme early springs”, including an “extreme early first bloom” here in the Smokies.
So what does that “extreme early spring” mean for the Smokies? Well, early springs are sometimes followed by sudden frosts or droughts later in the summer, which can effect wildlife and their natural food supplies. In recent years, we have seen first-hand the impact changes to the park’s mast crop (nuts and berries) can have on black bears. The onset of warm weather is also associated with the reemergence of disease-carrying insects, like ticks and mosquitoes, the bane of summer hikers.
Park visitation also increases as the temperature climbs, which can mean longer visitation seasons and a higher toll taken on park operations and facilities, including projects that your donations to Friends of the Smokies help fund. This impact is especially true for parks with natural seasonal attractions like the Smokies’ wildflowers.
So plan your next trip to the Smokies with the weather and climate in mind. Pack your patience during peak visitation periods along with extra water and sunscreen for your warm-weather outdoor activities.
From a helicopter clattering over Greenland’s interior on a bright July day, the ice sheet below tells a tale of disintegration. Long, roughly parallel cracks score the surface, formed by water and pressure; impossibly blue lakes of meltwater fill depressions; and veiny networks of azure streams meander west, flowing to the edge of the sheet and eventually out to sea.
In Greenland, the great melt is on. The decline of Greenland’s ice sheet is a familiar story, but until recently, massive calving glaciers that carry ice from the interior and crumble into the sea got most of the attention. Between 2000 and 2008, such “dynamic” changes accounted for about as much mass loss as surface melting and shifts in snowfall. But the balance tipped dramatically between 2011 and 2014, when satellite data and modeling suggested that 70% of the annual 269 billion tons of snow and ice shed by Greenland was lost through surface melt, not calving.
The accelerating surface melt has doubled Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise since 1992–2011, to 0.74 mm per year. “Nobody expected the ice sheet to lose so much mass so quickly,” says geophysicist Isabella Velicogna of the University of California, Irvine. “Things are happening a lot faster than we expected.”
It’s urgent to figure out why, and how the melting might evolve in the future, because Greenland holds the equivalent of more than 7 m of sea level rise in its thick mantle of ice. Glaciologists were already fully occupied trying to track and forecast the surge in glacial calving. Now, they are striving to understand the complex feedbacks that are speeding up surface melting.
Since it’s summertime there, sea ice cover is poised to drop even further.
Sea ice can fluctuate from year to year, but over the past 20 years, Antarctica has lost 61,390 square miles of ice — a Florida-sized chunk.
That’s Act I of the unfolding Antarctic drama. In Act II, the continent’s fourth-biggest ice shelf, Larsen C, sheds a Delaware-sized iceberg. It could break away any minute now.
In other record-breaking news, the World Meteorological Organization just announced new high temperatures for the Antarctic. On March 24, 2015, the thermostat at a research base on Antarctica’s northern tip hit 63.5 degrees F.
Looking for your next winter vacation spot? Consider Antarctica, where the sun never sets and the ice melts fast. You can leave your heavy down jacket at home.
With millions of jobs up for grabs, China seizes clean tech leadership from United States.
We are witnessing a historic passing of the baton of global leadership on technology and climate from the United States to China.
The new U.S. administration has said it will abandon climate action, gut clean energy funding, and embrace coal and oil — the dirty energy sources of the past that experts say can’t create a large number of sustainable new jobs. At the same time, China is slashing coal use and betting heavily on clean energy, which is clearly going to be the biggest new source of permanent high-wage jobs in the coming years.
Indeed, Beijing plans to invest a stunning $360 billion by 2020 in renewable generation alone, and China’s energy agency says the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the world has redoubled its commitment to ramping up clean energy and ratcheting down carbon pollution, as required by the Paris climate agreement. That’s a $50 trillion (or more) commitment in the coming decades. That means tens of millions of new jobs in clean energy are up for grabs, something no other emerging sector can match.
Tragically for U.S. workers, while America, under the Obama Administration, helped pave the way for a China deal, and then a global deal, that ensures the world economic prosperity will belong to the countries that lead the way on clean energy, the U.S. elected a president who campaigned on zeroing out clean energy funding and waging a losing battle to stanch the loss of fossil fuel jobs.
Globally, grasslands are one of the most converted and least protected ecosystems. The rich soil of Earth’s grasslands plays an important role in feeding the world and because of this much of our grassland has been converted to row-crop agriculture. Loss of grasslands is a big problem for two reasons:
The ability of ecosystems to store carbon is one of the most promising natural solutions to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Strategies that avoid conversion of ecosystems take advantage of this natural ability to offset carbon emissions. Forests have long been recognized for their carbon storage potential. But what about grasslands?
Despite the lack of trees, grasslands store a substantial amount of carbon. Imagine if the trees in a forest grew into the soil instead of towards the sun. This is what the underground world of a grassland does. Grasslands are an underground forest of carbon. Native prairie plants have long, dense root systems that store carbon themselves as well as cycle carbon between the above ground vegetation and the soil for storage.
The good news is protecting grasslands keeps that carbon in the ground and provides numerous other benefits to native plants, wildlife and water quality.
In June of 2016, a group of scientists reported that a tiny rodent found only on a single island off the coast of Australia had officially gone extinct — the first mammalian causality, according to the scientists, of man-made climate change.
The tiny mammals might have been the first to go extinct due to man-made climate change, but it’s unlikely they’ll be the last. One in five species now faces extinction, and that trend could climb to as high as one in two by the end of the century, according to biologists attending a meeting this week at the Vatican aimed at discussing ways to stave off a major extinction event.
“Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate,” biologist Paul Ehrlich, who is attending this week’s meeting, told the Guardian. “We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones. We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have triggered a major extinction event. The question is: how do we stop it?”
Organizers of the event are focusing extra attention on the way humans are competing with other species — and each other — for finite resources, such as arable land for raising crops and livestock.
The Forest History Society has recently launched a web resource showcasing sets of repeat photographs for scientific study and education in the domain of forest and land management in support of the Society’s mission.
Repeat photography is the practice of taking photographs of a specific location at two or more different times. It is a powerful visual resource for scientific study and education in forest and landscape management.
From working forests to wilderness areas, such photographic pairs or sequences can help us understand ecosystem processes, and effects of human and non-human disturbances. They can inform our concepts of sustainability, help us understand the implications of public policy, and assess the results of management decisions.
While many repeat photos of forested land exist, they are scattered in many locations, occur in widely different formats, and are relatively difficult to find. Thus the FHS has aimed at collecting sets of repeat photographs relating to land management and environmental research. View the project at www.repeatphotography.org.
This centralized database will allow users to search for photos by subject keyword, location, date, format, and photographer, among many other characteristics. Additionally, repeat photography sets will be presented with contextual information and individual images will be displayed at detailed resolution for comparison and analysis.
For 20,000 years, grizzly bears padded over Washington’s North Cascades, foraging for berries and plants, hunting small prey, and fishing for salmon in frigid streams. Then a few centuries ago, white settlers showed up and starting shooting, and driving the bears out. Today only a handful of grizzlies remain in these mountains.
Documentaries and fictional films, from Grizzly Man to The Revenant, and plain old common sense have taught that Ursus arctos horribilis is an Animal to Be Avoided. But what if we learned to share some space with the grizzly, namely about 2.6 million acres of wilderness in remote north-central Washington State? Only four grizzly bear sightings have been confirmed in this region in the past decade, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service (which are co-leading the restoration talks) estimate that the area could support as many as 280 of the animals.
Because the grizzly bear is a threatened species, the FWS must draft a plan to help the population recover in areas where it’s warranted. According to Ann Froschauer, a FWS public affairs supervisor, there are four options. Option A is basically doing nothing and hoping the grizzly recovers on its own—an idea that’s a bit fanciful considering the grizzly’s dismal numbers. Options B and C involve capturing grizzlies from populations in Montana or British Columbia and gradually releasing them into the North Cascades. And then there’s fast and furious Option D, which would entail releasing as many grizzlies as possible until reaching the goal of 200 bears.
This is not how February is supposed to feel.
From D.C. to Denver, from Charlotte to Chicago, towns and cities across the United States have posted strings of record-breaking summery days in what is normally the final month of winter. Wednesday was only the third time since 1880 that Green Bay, Wisconsin, cracked 60 degrees Fahrenheit in February. Ice on the Great Lakes covers only a quarter of its normal surface area. And parts of Oklahoma and Texas have both already been scorched by 90-degree afternoons.
All in all, the United States has already set more than 2,800 new record high temperatures this month. It has only set 27 record lows.
Most people handle this weather as the gift it is: an opportunity to get outside, run or bike or play catch, and get an early jump on the spring. But for the two-thirds of Americans who are at least fairly worried about global warming, the weather can also prompt anxiety and unease. As one woman told the Chicago Tribune: “It’s scary, that’s my first thing. Because in all my life I’ve never seen a February this warm.”
If these feelings take the form of a question, it is something like: How much should we really be enjoying weather so unseasonal, so suggestive of the consequences of climate change, when we’re doing so little to combat the larger phenomenon? If we think the future consequences of climate change will be very bad, are we allowed to savor them now?
With an influx of visitors expected to visit Canadian National Parks in 2017 Parks Canada has spent the past several months getting some of its most popular visitor attractions ready for Canadians who want to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation by visiting national parks and national historic sites.
Parks Canada will continue to upgrade its infrastructure across the country so Canadians can experience the outdoors and connect with nature. This year, Jasper National Park starts the third year of its infrastructure renewal program. The construction you will see around the park is part of the largest investment in infrastructure in Parks Canada’s history.
The agency is investing $3 billion dollars over five years to support infrastructure work to heritage, visitor, waterway and highway assets located within national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas across Canada. These projects will ensure the quality and reliability of visitor facilities and make it easier for visitors and residents to enjoy their favorite places in the parks.
Puts the American National Parks to shame. Still facing a $12 billion infrastructure repair deficit, monies allocated by the U.S. Congress for their parks look even farther away with the present political climate in Washington, D.C. America could take a good look at their neighbors in the Great White North.
The global electric vehicle (EV) revolution reached another milestone last month as EVs made up 37 percent share of Norway’s car market.
Norway understands the future of ground transport is electric and has been pushing EVs harder than almost any other country in the world with incentives such as an exemption from the 25 percent value added tax for new cars.
In December, the country hit 100,000 zero-emission EVs on the road, and they are projected to quadruple to 400,000 by 2020. These numbers are especially remarkable for a country of only 5.2 million people. Over five percent of all of Norway’s cars are EVs, up from one percent two years ago. Norway’s transportation minister says it is “realistic” that sales of new fuel-burning cars could end by 2025.
EV sales have been soaring worldwide. By 2025, more than 37 million fully electric vehicles are expected to be on the road globally, and those EVs will be “cost competitive” without subsidies.
No wonder every country is racing to be the EV leader — or, rather, every country but one. America’s science-denying president is committed to killing domestic climate action and slashing federal clean energy funding. If Trump keeps his campaign pledge to promote oil rather than clear air, U.S. workers could miss out on one of the biggest new job-creating industries of the next quarter century.
Do you ever wonder what animals lurk in the wildest parts of the state? Or in your own backyard?
With spring just around the corner, now is a great time for North Carolina residents, particularly those in the central and western parts of the state, to help uncover the secrets of local wildlife. By participating in “NC’s Candid Critters,” a new research project of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and N.C. State University, you too can become an important part of the largest camera trap survey ever.
Camera traps are motion-activated cameras that allow scientists (and non-scientists) to collect pictures of animals without disturbing them. Since the project’s launch in eastern North Carolina last December, participants have already sent in more than 50,000 images that will ultimately be used by scientists to learn more about the distribution of mammal species across the state, which in turn informs future wildlife management and conservation efforts.
The goal of N.C.’s Candid Critters is to monitor 20,000-30,000 sites spanning the entire state over the next three years, which would make it the largest-ever mammal survey of its kind. According to project coordinator Arielle Parsons, research associate with the Museum of Natural Sciences’ Biodiversity Research Lab, “To collect massive amounts of camera trap images from across all 100 counties in North Carolina, we really need the public’s help. The more people that participate, the more we can learn about North Carolina’s critters.”
The USA-National Phenology Network is tracking the start of the spring season across the country using models called the Spring Leaf and Bloom Indices.
HOW DOES THIS YEAR STACK UP AGAINST THE RECENT PAST?
We can evaluate whether spring is arriving early, late, or right on time this year at a location by comparing the day of year the Spring Leaf Index requirements were reached in 2017 to the day of year the Index is typically reached. We determine what is typical for a location by averaging the day the Index was reached over the 1981-2010 period. The number of days between when the Index was reached this year and when it is typically reached at a location is called the “anomaly.”
In 2017, we see very large anomalies in the southeastern United States on the Spring Leaf Index map, where the Index was met up to three weeks earlier than what is typical for these locations.
The timing of leaf-out, migration, flowering and other seasonal phenomena in many species is closely tied to local weather conditions and broad climatic patterns. The Spring Index maps and Accumulated Growing Degree Day Maps offered by USA-NPN shed light on plant and animal phenology, based on local weather and climate conditions.
If you peruse NASA’s social media feeds dedicated to climate change, you would have no clue a new administration has taken power that has expressed doubts about the reality or seriousness of the issue.
Every day, NASA has dutifully posted updates on Twitter (@nasaclimate) pertaining to climate change science, including some that are in direct contradiction to statements made by President Trump and some of his Cabinet picks.
Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson, said the change in the administration has not altered how the agency communicates science. “We’re doing our jobs, it’s business as usual,” Cole said.
Trump has long been a global warming doubter, at one point calling it a Chinese hoax. In a November interview with the New York Times, he would only concede there may be “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.
But last week, and in direct contradiction to Trump, the @NASAClimate Twitter account retweeted a scientific finding that humans are climate change’s dominant cause. “Humans are changing the climate 170 times faster than natural forces, according to a new study,” the tweet said.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt and monitor tree plots.
The volunteers will collect information at tree plots throughout the park as part of an important research project tracking phenology, or cyclic and seasonal biological changes.
For each plot of trees, volunteers will record when trees leaf out and when leaves start to change colors. They may also track the presence of target migratory birds.
The phenology data will help scientists to better understand how plants and animals might be influenced by seasonal variations in climate.
Training for the phenology monitoring project will be held from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg. For those who cannot make it in February or live farther east, an alternate training date will be held from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11 at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C.
After training, volunteers will be assigned to a phenology plot where they will collect data multiple times throughout the growing season. Plots are located near parking areas near Sugarlands, Greenbrier and Twin Creeks in Tennessee, and Deep Creek, Fontana Lake, Oconaluftee, Purchase Knob, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, Newfound Gap and Davenport Gap in North Carolina.
Information collected by volunteers will be entered into a national database that helps scientists answer climate questions throughout the region.
In recent decades, park temperature records show trends that indicate spring has warmed by almost 5 degrees. Monitoring phenology will help park rangers understand how mountain forests are being affected by the earlier springs and subsequent cold snaps.
Those interested in volunteering for the phenology research project can email Natalie Rothenberg at [email protected] or call her at 828-497-1945.
After an unproductive meeting between Gov. Gary Herbert and outdoor recreation business representatives, industry leaders say they hope to find a new location for the Outdoor Retailer shows “as soon as possible.”
“Unfortunately, what we heard from Governor Herbert was more of the same,” according to a written statement by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), which has close ties to the massive, twice-yearly shows in Salt Lake City.
“It is clear that the Governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats — that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses. We are therefore continuing our search for a new home as soon as possible.”
The show’s owner, Emerald Expositions, said in a news release that it would not include Utah in its request for proposals from cities hoping to host the trade shows, which bring about 40,000 visitors and $45 million to Salt Lake City each year.
OIA director Amy Roberts said “it is important to our membership, and to our bottom line that we partner with states and elected officials who share our views on the truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation.”
The next fee-free day of 2017 is just around the corner. In honor of Presidents Day, all national parks will waive their admission fees on February 20. Take advantage of the opportunity at any of the sites that President Theodore Roosevelt helped designate himself or enjoy his lasting legacy which lives on at any of the over 400 parks across the National Park System.
The thought of our 26th president calls to mind a few descriptors: rancher, Rough Rider, Bull Moose, and America’s youngest president, to name a few. Perhaps none are as ubiquitous as President Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy as a conservationist. His foresight while in office and decisive actions instilled the notion of resource preservation in our national psyche.
Though the National Park Service only came into being seven years after the end of Roosevelt’s presidency, many units across the National Park System are linked to him.
Between the parks he established in partnership with Congress and his enactment of the Antiquities Act in 1906, Roosevelt designated 23 sites that would become part of the National Park Service’s purview when it was created in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. Look through these 5 places where you can enjoy the natural, cultural, and historical resources protected now and for future generations, all thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt.
Sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to the smallest annual extent on record after years of resisting a trend of manmade global warming, preliminary US satellite data has shown.
Ice floating around the frozen continent usually melts to its smallest for the year towards the end of February, the southern hemisphere summer, before expanding again as the autumn chill sets in.
This year, sea ice extent contracted to 883,015 sq miles (2.28m sq km) on 13 February, according to daily data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
World average temperatures climbed to a record high in 2016 for the third year in a row. Climate scientists say warming is causing more extreme days of heat, downpours and is nudging up global sea levels.
At the other end of the planet, ice covering the Arctic Ocean has been at repeated lows in recent years.