The Revenue Cutter Thomas
Corwin, in which John Muir sailed as part of an Arctic research trip. Photo: Frank H. Nowell
July 1879, 33 Navy men set sail for the North Pole aboard the U.S.S. Jeannette Arctic
expedition. That fall the ship became mired in ice off southern Alaska and drifted
for three years. Its hull was later crushed and the crew abandoned the ship,
pulling smaller crafts over the ice, searching for open water. In the end, only
11 men survived. But the logbook, in which the ship's crew wrote detailed
weather and sea ice observations, also survived.
Climate scientists are hoping the data inside that and many other Naval and
Coast Guard ships, dating back to the mid 1800s, will improve climate science
and boost the accuracy of modeling for future weather patterns. Last year, the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Archives and
Records Administration (NARA) began digitizing these logbooks. Now,
OldWeather.org, a collaboration between a number of
academic, government and citizen science research organizations, is spearheading the Arctic Rediscovery Project, an effort to transcribe this
massive amount of data, a vital first step in the data analysis process.
month, sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean fell to the lowest extent in the
existing records, which extend back to 1979, when satellite-based data first
became available. This was an alarming discovery, especially given the absence
of extreme weather that has precipitated ice loss in years past. But the Arctic
Rediscovery Project could greatly improve climate scientists' understanding of
Arctic sea ice by extending the archives of scientific sea ice data by
more than 100 years.
Left: BLM land open to solar development before 2011; right: BLM's current 17 solar energy zone. Maps: NRDC
Wind, solar, geothermal and other so-called green energy
sources might not spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but they're far
Ask any bird conservationist what she or he thinks of wind
farms and you might get a less-than-glowing response. Back in 2005, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Agency put migratory bird mortality due to wind turbines
somewhere around 440,000 each year. And solar power developers made no friends
among the conservation world when the Ivanpah solar project in Southern
California and adjacent to the Mojave Desert Preserve
butted up against the endangered desert tortoise. The project was stalled as
many hundreds of the reptiles were relocated.
"For a couple of years I was basically in cardiac
arrest," says Ileene Andrerson, a biologist with the Center for Biological
Diversity. "Because of the amount of land to be developed [for renewable energy] and
the piecemeal approach."
Anderson is referring to the years following the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, during which companies filed
hundreds of project applications for mostly solar but also wind projects on
land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which had $350 million in ARRA
funds with which it was mandated to "restore landscapes and habitat, spur
renewable energy development on public lands, and create jobs."
That looks great on paper, but environmental groups quickly
raised red flags over where the renewable energy developments would be sited
and what oversight (or lack thereof) would be placed on them. This effectively
pitted greens against greens in what looked like a counterproductive, senseless
battle. But Bobby McEnaney, land policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council,
contends that the efforts the NRDC and similar groups have made to ensure
renewable energy is developed with minimal negative impacts on wildlife,
recreation access and cultural resources were rooted in lessons learned from
decades of oil and gas development on public lands.
"Solar and wind energy developers would probably prefer
the laissez-faire approach, which is what oil and gas developers have had on
BLM land," McEnaney says. "But two wrongs don’t make a right."
up outside of Philadelphia, it was never much of a decision. There
were no mountains to climb. We lived the city life and my upbringing was
simple: Good beer came in a bottle, crap came in a can.
Flash forward a few
years and I'm pacing the beer aisle in a store near the Front Range of the Rockies, my
fingers still greasy from prepping my bike chain. Now immersed in an arena of outdoor
activity, my priorities have changed—biking and bottles and backpacks certainly
don’t mix. Ten years ago, this would have meant inappropriately pairing a light canned
beer with a crisp, fall ride through the foliage. Today, I’m happy to say, we
finally have options. Lots of them.
have long ruled the craft brew scene in the United States. But that's
changing, largely thanks to Dale Katechis, founder of Longmont, Colorado-based
brewery Oskar Blues.
"I won’t call out anyone in particular, but they were all pointing and laughing at
the new kid in town," says Katechis, recollecting the reaction he received when
he began canning his hoppy pale ale back in 2002. "They thought it was a joke,
yet today they’re all canning beer.... Talk about funny."
That hilariously hoppy brew is Dale’s Pale Ale, a drink that has been
widely praised by beer experts and easily recognized in stores across the United States
in its red, white, and blue can. It’s true: Oskar Blues was indeed the pioneer
of the U.S. craft beer canning movement. As it approaches its 10-year
“CANniversary” in November, Osker Blues is now one of more than 220 American breweries
that have followed suit, according to Craftcans.com.
it comes to gear, from backpacks to tents to bikes to shoes, weight matters. Whether
heading into the backcountry or on a leisurely day hike, no one wants to lug an
ounce more than is necessary. The same goes for adult beverage choices: cans
are lighter, smaller, and easier to pack out than bottles. So cheers for the
trend in canned craft beer.
we're not the only winners. Cans also offer significant environmental benefits.
When I was in seventh grade, my parents took my six siblings and I out of school for a late spring vacation to the East Coast. We camped along the way and eventually landed in a Virginia campground that had great trees for climbing, thanks in part to the vines winding up their bases that made ascending easy. Climbing was a blast, until I fell head first off a branch, about 15 feet to the ground. I put out my right arm for protection and broke my humerus just beneath the ball when I hit. An ambulance showed up and a paramedic asked if I had moved since I fell. I hadn't. Then he pointed to the vines at the base of the tree and asked if I was allergic to poison ivy.
For the contiguous United States, the first
nine months of 2012 were the warmest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As of October 2, 64 percent
of the United States was in the middle of a drought. Wyoming and Colorado experienced the
warmest summer on record, while Wyoming and Nevada saw the driest summer on record. In western and central regions of the
country, wildfires burned a record-breaking 3.6 million acres in August.
In other words, it was a cruel summer. It stressed wildlife
and depleted water reserves, but it also made life difficult for river runners
in the Mountain West, whose business success is dictated largely by the health
of the rivers they run. This followed very big water during the summer of 2011,
thanks to major snowfall during the 2010-2011 season.
"We're usually kayaking in March, April, May, and
usually into June," said Peter Van De Carr, who operates Backdoor Sports
in Steamboat Springs and runs the Yampa River. "But last summer, we were
done [kayaking] at the end of March. As of June 20, the river was 40 cubic feet per second and going down. A year before, June 20, 2011, it was 4,000cfs and going up."
"Some would say it's not climate change, but climate
strange, with one of the wettest years on record followed by one of the
driest," said Soren Jespersen, northwest Colorado wildlands coordinator
for the Wilderness Society. "I think all the businesses that depend
somewhat on consistent weather patterns are having a hard time adjusting to
these shifts, whether it be ski resorts or river guides."