September 16, 2014

The small lumber town of Weed is home to about 3,000 people—about half of whom have evacuated due to a wildfire.     Photo: Rojer/Flickr

Wildfire Overtakes Northern California Town

Residents evacuate as blaze destroys 100 homes

A wildfire overtook the Northern California town of Weed, destroying around 100 homes, according to an Associated Press report. No deaths have been reported, but more than 1,500 residents have been evacuated to a nearby fairground. 

Weed, a small lumber town at the foot of Mount Shasta, 50 miles from the Oregon border, was named for a 19th-century lumber mill owner. Its population was around 3,000 at the time of the 2010 census.

The fire, dubbed the Boles Fire, began burning on Monday afternoon and was quickly spread by 40 mph winds. Firefighters had achieved 15 percent containment by Monday night, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Boles fire is one of many wildfires burning in California that have been partially attributed to the ongoing statewide drought.


The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory will be crafted out of steel transported 2,500 miles from southern Brazil by raft and truck.     Photo: Dallas Krentzel/Flickr

Amazon Supertower to Measure Climate Change

Rainforest structure will be tallest in South America

Brazil has broken ground on an observation tower in the Amazon that will rise above every skyscraper in South America and help scientists understand climate change in rainforest ecosystems.

The BBC reports that the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO), rising 1,066 feet above the rainforest, will enable researchers to measure atmospheric changes over hundreds of square miles. Equipped with more than 30 high-tech instruments, the tower will enable scientists to investigate cloud formation, greenhouse gases, weather patterns, and other processes important for understanding climate change.

Located 100 miles from Manaus in an area relatively free of human impact, the tower will give researchers a better idea of how forests naturally influence atmospheric cycles. Large and dense forests like the Amazon play a major role in global carbon intake and release, a primary factor in global warming. According to USA Today, the tower will also help researchers measure the impact of climate change on the Amazon. 

Brazilian newspaper Estadão reports that the tower is a joint effort between Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research and Germany’s Max Planck Institute. It has been in planning stages since 2007 and has already cost nearly $8,500,000. It will be integrated into a system of smaller observatories, including one in Central Siberia. 

For a visual representation of the tower, see Estadão’s interactive graphic (text in Portuguese).


Ditching the car is associated with weighing less (even controlling for other factors) and better mental wellness.     Photo: Tobias Ackeborn/Thinkstock

Improve Your Life: Don't Drive to Work

Studies show biking, walking, public transportation make you happier, healthier

According to a pair of new British studies, commuting to work by foot, bicycle, or public transit is associated with a boost in both physical and mental health when compared to driving.

A study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine and University College London found that nondrivers weighed less than those who used a car for their commute—about seven pounds for men and about 5.5 pounds for women—even when controlling for factors like overall fitness, diet, and age.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of East Anglia reported greater mental well-being in commuters who walk, cycle, or use public transit, a finding that might surprise anyone who’s been late to work thanks to an unexpected subway delay.

The authors of both studies credited the positive effects of physical activity. While the health benefits of commuting by bike or on foot may seem obvious, taking the bus or train offers subtle upsides as well. As research fellow Ellen Flint, lead author of the obesity study, explained to Fast Company, “Public transport use involves a greater level of incidental physical activity than we commonly assume.”


Weiher's body was found below the summit of Mount Siyeh.     Photo: Steve/Flickr

Death in Glacier National Park

Botched BASE jump probable cause of young man's demise

On Sunday, September 14, the body of a 22-year old Missoula resident was recovered from the north side of Mount Siyeh in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Initial reports suggest that the man, Beau Weiher, died in an ill-fated BASE jumping attempt.

According to a press release from the park, Weiher’s family contacted park dispatch on Saturday evening to report that he hadn’t returned from a solo hike in the Many Glacier area.

At approximately 6 p.m. on Sunday, a search and rescue crew aboard a helicopter from Whitefish-based aviation support company Two Bear Air spotted what they believed to be a parachute in the vicinity of Mount Siyeh. An hour later, Weiher’s body was found below the summit. The body was airlifted out, and the deceased was subsequently identified by the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office.

The proximity of the parachute and the body’s location suggest that Weiher had attempted a BASE jump. The investigation is ongoing.

BASE jumping is an acronym for parachuting off a building, antenna, span, or earth. The activity is illegal in most national parks, including Glacier.