Words matter: The Guardian announces updated climate crisis language

May 22, 2019 by  
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Words matter, and last week The Guardian announced it will start using more appropriately strong words that reflect the magnitude of the climate crisis. Instead of “climate change,” which editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said sounds passive and gentle, staff writers will now use the terms “climate crisis” and “climate emergency”. “What scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity,” Viner said in a statement sent to all Guardian staff. “Increasingly, climate scientists and organizations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in.” Related: Ireland declares a climate emergency, promises action Recent reports about the urgency of reducing carbon emissions and the loss of biodiversity also helped motivate the change to take a stronger stance on the climate crisis. The Guardian will also use “wildlife” instead of “biodiversity” and “fish populations” instead of “fish stock.” The Guardian has also decided to discontinue the misleading use and recognition of “climate skeptics” who will now be called “climate science deniers.” A  skeptic is “a seeker of truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions.” However, in today’s climate skeptics can more accurately be described as those who deny overwhelming scientific evidence. Writers at the BBC have also been advised to give less airtime to climate science deniers, a position which is no longer widely accepted as an alternative and balanced side to climate debates. The Guardian recently began including the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on their daily weather reports. The change is the first time that weather reports symbolize not only how weather is predicted to impact human activity on a certain day but also how humans are impacting the weather. “Wording around climate really does matter, and though The Guardian’s changes are technically small, they may help reinforce the importance of climate reporting in the minds of both readers and newsroom staff,” Laura Hazard Owen from think tank Nieman Labshe wrote of the change. Via The Guardian Image via brontiN biswaS  

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Words matter: The Guardian announces updated climate crisis language

National Weather Service claims 2019 flooding could cause record-breaking damage

March 26, 2019 by  
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The historic flooding that has been devastating the Midwest may be just the beginning of an ongoing trend. Last week, the National Weather Service released the flood predictions for 2019, and it does not look good. Toward the end of spring, the flooding could spread to over two-thirds of the United States, causing more record-breaking damage. The vast majority of rivers and lakes in the Midwest are at elevated levels, increasing the likelihood of flooding over the next few months. This includes the Missouri River, the Red River of the North, the Mississippi River, the lower Cumberland River, the Tennessee River basins and the lower Ohio River. Related: Climate change causing Nebraska’s worst floods on record, damage visible from space “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities,” the NOAA’s National Water Center’s Ed Clark explained. According to Grist , the floods this month have cost the Midwest around $3 billion in damage, and those estimates are expected to increase. The flooding was caused by heavy snowfall over the winter and excess rainfall in early spring. With rain accumulations this spring set to be at an all-time high, the over-saturated ground will lead to more devastating flooding. This is one reason why the lakes and rivers are already at a breaking point. Unfortunately, there is not much anyone can do to prevent the flooding . The situation is only going to get worse over the next few months. NOAA  predicts that additional melting snow and future rainfall will lead to flooding in the Midwest — and it will be even more widespread than what Nebraska experienced this month. As a reference, the 200 million Americans that could be affected by the flooding represent close to 60 percent of the population of the entire country. With flooding expected to continue throughout the spring, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ) is advising people to make sure they have the right insurance to cover flood damages. Normal home insurance policies typically do not cover flood damage, which is sold as a separate policy. FEMA also urges individuals to keep an eye on weather reports and flooding alerts, so they can be prepared for when disaster hits. + NOAA Via Grist Images via NOAA and Maxstrz

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National Weather Service claims 2019 flooding could cause record-breaking damage

Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080?

February 18, 2019 by  
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The phrase “global warming” gets tossed around a lot, but do we really understand what it means and how it will feel? In the groundbreaking Paris Agreement, 195 countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius — but how will those 2 degrees really affect our lives? A new study in Nature links 540 U.S. cities to other cities with a current climate that is similar to how those cities will feel in 60 years. As CityLab’s Robinson Meyer explained , the study takes each city and finds “the city whose modern-day weather gives the best clue to what conditions will feel like in 2080.” The researchers’ goal is to translate what abstract climate science and meteorological changes really mean for people by making them understandable in a modern — and personal — context. For example, Philadelphia will feel more like Memphis in 2080. That equates to summer days that are warmer by an average of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and winters that are warmer by 10 degrees. Memphis, on the other hand, will feel more like College Station, Texas.  Use this web tool to find your city’s ‘climate twin’. The ‘Arkansas-ification’ of U.S. cities “Every place is getting warmer and many are getting drier,” Matthew Fitzpatrick, author of the study, told CityLab. In fact, most cities’ future climate twin is approximately 500 miles farther south and toward the middle of the country. “In the Northeast, you can envision the future as one big Arkansasification,” Fitzpatrick explained. For those who haven’t been to Arkansas, the authors explained that means more humid, subtropical climates typical of the southeast and Midwest. Western cities, however, will start to feel more like the desert conditions of Southern California and the southwest. The cities selected in the study cover 250 million urban Americans. By using a method called climate analog mapping, the authors used different emission scenarios and weather predictions to find all similar cities, and then narrowed down the options to find the best match based on statistical and topographical similarities. The 540 cities selected were those that had the strongest match and the most relatable “twin.” A lot can happen in 60 years, and most are still hopeful that we can make changes to curb climate change. The authors used different examples of carbon emission rates, called Representative Concentration Pathways, to compare the results based on our best- and worst-case scenarios. For example, if progressive policies are put in place soon to curtail carbon emissions, Washington D.C. might feel like Paragould, Arkansas by 2080. If mitigation policies are not put into place, however, D.C. will become more like Greenwood, Mississippi — an additional 200 miles south. D.C. residents are already familiar with hot, humid summers in the low-lying capitol, so the news that their children will face even stickier summers is lamentably relatable. Though the matches aren’t perfect, the authors explained they do give modern-day examples that make abstract climate change realistic and easier to understand. Climate change puts cities at risk Cities are especially vulnerable to climate change, with rapidly increasing populations, urban sprawl, aging infrastructure and limited budgets for forward-thinking climate adaptation. In New York City , where heat island effect (the intensification of heat by concrete, urban environments) is already a major problem, the thought of becoming Jonesboro, Arkansas is daunting. Imagine a stifling hot, underground subway platform well above 85 degrees in July with no breeze. Now add an average of 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Related: Reimagine a resilient future for your city with this nature-based tool But human discomfort isn’t the only problem. These shifts in climate also affect other species. Migratory bird patterns are already changing but so are insect populations . Increased humidity, flooding and temperatures cause an uptick in mosquitoes, ticks and flies. This means an increase in diseases such as zika and dengue that were previously contained to fewer states. Winter freezes that used to kill off larva may no longer be cold enough to have the same population-controlling effect. Climate changes we can understand For most urban dwellers, this alarming news of hotter days and health consequences is not new. However, the authors of the study are hopeful that these results help people conceptualize climate change and make discussions more relatable. Their assessment is “place-based” and aims to use cities that are familiar. Many people have visited these cities, know about them or at the very least have an idea what the weather in their future “twin” city is like compared to where they live. Framing the discussion about climate impacts in a way that is understandable — and in some cases so real you can almost feel it — is critical. Hopefully, these terms and tools help people understand the urgency at a global scale in terms that are meaningful at a personal level. Via CityLab Image via Pixabay

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Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080?

This is how climate change will impact wine

February 14, 2019 by  
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Look at a wine label or chat with a wine connoisseur, and you will find that wine has always been intimately connected to location and climate. Grapes taste different from region to region, and even grapes from the same vineyard taste different from year to year, depending on the weather each season. So it is no surprise that drastically changing weather patterns have a huge and confusing impact on the wine industry. Increasing temperatures and climate volatility not only impact the flavor profiles for wine enthusiasts, but the unreliability also has a negative impact on wine farmers . Climate scientists argue that growers need to start implementing adaptation measures  and experiment with lesser-known varieties of grapes, but these solutions come with risks and expenses that are often too costly for farmers. The last four years have been the hottest on record , a drastic change for grapes that generally thrive in cool, temperate climates. Unpredictable weather, such as droughts, heatwaves and hail can devastate farmers of all kinds, but grapes are a particularly sensitive and vulnerable crop. In Sonoma County, a region in California known for wine production, a record-breaking wildfire devastated the county in 2017, followed by an even more devastating, record-breaking fire in 2018. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley Even in cases of more subtle changes, the impact on sensitive grapes is noticeable. Soil salinity is changing in some regions as a result of sea level rise, and many farmers struggle with increased pests and diseases. Typically, winter frost kills off pest larva, reducing the population in spring, but when temperatures no longer reach below freezing, the populations continue to grow. Wine’s climate connection The wine industry is highly dependent on subtle climate and soil characteristics. In fact, enthusiasts argue that wines are made from four ingredients: the weather, the soil, the topography and the grape. Wine is often defined by its terroir , a word derived from the Latin word terra , meaning earth. It is used to describe a wine’s “sense of place” — in other words, the very specific microclimate and soil of a particular area. To understand the specificity with which soil and temperature characteristics impact the wine, it is important to note one vineyard alone might contain many different microclimates. For example, the slope and orientation of a row might dictate how much sun the grapes receive. Weather affects the grape’s sugar content, acidity and tannin content. As temperatures increase, grapes are ripe and ready to harvest sooner than usual. If left on the vine, the sugar and alcohol content will rise past acceptable (and delicious) levels. Unfortunately, harvesting grapes earlier means they also lose their complexity and the quality that successful vineyards and their customers rely on. In New Zealand, for example, where 85 percent of exported wine is Savignon Blanc, the world renowned “acidic gooseberry” flavor profile is becoming more of a “mellow tropical fruit.” Climate-smart agriculture for wine growers Many farmers have begun to implement climate-smart agriculture practices on their land; however, broad changes and new technology are still unattainable for some growers. Examples of adaptation measures include cover cropping and drip irrigation to conserve soil and water , nets to protect vines from hail and limiting the height of vines. Other farmers are planting on south-facing slopes to reduce sun exposure, while some farmers are going so far as to relocate their entire vineyards to cooler climates and higher altitudes. Even the more modest solutions require significant costs in terms of new equipment and additional labor. One frost fan alone, which controls the temperature variation on the vines, can cost $40,000 . Researchers suggest lesser-known grapes Researchers argue that experimenting with lesser-known varieties of grapes is one solution that farmers should invest in. In a recent Harvard University publication , assistant professor Elizabeth Wolkovich explained, “There are more than 1,000 varieties — and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 percent of the wine market in many countries. We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change .” Farmers, however, are hesitant to experiment, because new varieties come with risk as well as changes to their brand. In Europe, only three varieties of grapes can legally be labeled as champagne. Champagne farmers are therefore uninterested in testing other varieties, because they will lose their name and their market share. Related: Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change In other regions, like the U.S. and Australia, labeling requirements are less strict; therefore, farmers have more freedom to experiment. Still, customers largely buy based on grape name recognition, such as “pinot noir.” Changing the grape means introducing new names and flavors to customers, which is a marketing challenge many vineyards are not excited to take on. In addition, experimentation is a risky and long-term solution. Christine Collier Clair,  director of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon, explained , “When you plant, you won’t get your first crop for four years, and your first wines in six years. And you won’t know if it’s a really great site for maybe 20 years.” The wine industry is in a difficult and critical moment of decision. Growers must decide now to risk investing land and money into new practices and uncertain grapes or else risk serious problems from an uncertain future. Via New Zealand Herald Images via Qimono , Chee Hong , Bernard Spragg and Tjabeljan

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Hurricane Michael leaves uncertainty for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida

October 18, 2018 by  
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The full extent of damage from Hurricane Michael is still not known. But when the storm hit the Florida Panhandle, it did more than destroy property and accumulate a human death toll that is still on the rise. Part of the hurricane’s devastation included sweeping away the nests of threatened baby loggerhead sea turtles that were hatching on Florida beaches after damage from previous storms. From May through October, the Gulfside Beaches in Florida’s Franklin County are dotted with sea turtle nests. But Hurricane Michael has replaced the dunes with scalloped sand in the town of Alligator Point, which was one of the most prolific areas for sea turtle nests in the state. Loggerheads are a federally-protected species and the most common type of sea turtle in Florida. Sea turtles lay eggs many times throughout the season, which results in hundreds of nests across the Panhandle that each hold anywhere between 50 to 150 eggs. Protecting those nests is a 24/7 job, and volunteers and city staff both work to make sure the hatchlings can make it to the ocean safely. At St. George Island in Franklin County, there were only seven nests left after the hurricane, but volunteers said if they haven’t already hatched, it is likely that none survived. According to Reuters , the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute started monitoring the beaches of Franklin County for sea turtle nesting activity back in 1979. In the 1990s, there was a huge increase in the number of turtles hatching and crawling to the ocean. Since then, there has been a significant drop-off. “The downward trend seen with hatch success began as a result of beach conditions and has continued due to tropical storms, high tides and erosion,” said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s website. However, during the last year, Franklin County had more than 1,1100 loggerhead nests — the most the state had seen in four years. Hurricane Michael came late in the nesting season, and that might be the only reason that this year’s turtle population wasn’t totally wiped out. Florida master naturalist Lesley Cox said that they had a lot of nests this year and no storms until Michael, so there is a good chance that a lot of hatchlings made it. Now, the question remains whether or not the beach erosion from the storm will keep the area from being a sufficient habitat for nesting next year. Via Reuters Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 )

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Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

September 11, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Florence is on a collision course with the southeastern United States. The immense and powerful storm will create high winds and surges along coastal towns and cities, but scientists are more concerned about how much rain Florence might produce — and the increased frequency of similar storms as a result of climate change . James Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , said flooding is the biggest risk with the incoming hurricane. Florence is moving so slow across the ocean that it might come to a near standstill once it hits land, moving somewhere around two to three miles per hour. If that happens, Florence could hit cities on the East Coast with record rainfall. Related: 2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year A similar situation occurred last year when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. The massive storm slowed almost to a halt in the Houston area, dumping more than 60 inches of rain in some locations. The excess rain led to 93 deaths and completely shut down certain areas. With Hurricane Florence set to repeat history, scientists believe slow moving storms may become the new norm — and it is all thanks to climate change. Kossin and his team published a study this year that showed cyclones are moving slower on average. In fact, hurricanes have undergone a decrease in speed by about 10 percent over the past 70 years. Kossin believes climate change is slowing down wind currents, which hurricanes use to travel across the ocean. Once the storms stall over land, they continuously dump rain and produce record flooding. The only exception to this trend is in the Indian Ocean, where wind currents have remained strong. Along with slowing down hurricanes, climate change is creating larger and more intense storms as ocean waters warm. The added warmth creates more fuel for the storms as the water evaporates. Harvey and Florence are two examples of this, and scientists believe that trend will continue until we begin to cut down greenhouse gases. + NOAA Via NPR Image via NOAA

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Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

State of emergency in effect as Hurricane Lane barrels toward Hawaiian coastline

August 23, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Lane is swiftly moving along its course toward Hawaii, where a hurricane warning is in effect for Maui and the Big Island. A hurricane watch has also been issued for Kauai and Oahu. According to the National Weather Service , the storm has now been downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make contact with the state later today. Related: After three months, Kilauea eruptions might be over The NWS reported that “the center of Lane will track dangerously close to the Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday.” In addition, the organization noted that, “regardless of the exact track of the storm center, life-threatening impacts are likely over some areas as this strong hurricane makes its closest approach.” Despite the storm’s demotion from a Category 5 to a Category 4, many locals are comparing Hurricane Lane to the devastating Hurricane Iniki, which hit Hawaii in 1992. Governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation on Tuesday in case Hawaii needs relief for “disaster damages, losses and suffering.” In a news release from the Governor’s office , Ige said, “Hurricane Lane is not a well-behaved hurricane. I’ve not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I’ve seen with this storm. I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact.” Related: The Eye of the Storm dome home can withstand hurricanes — and it’s officially on the market Residents have already “rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, ramen, toilet paper and other supplies,” according to an Associated Press report. With maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and rainfall accumulations of between 10-15 inches, the storm is expected to cause flash-flooding and landslides in Hawaii. In addition, the NWS has reported the possibility of “large and potentially damaging surf.” As the hurricane continues to approach the Hawaiian coastline, many residents are hoping Lane will show a little more mercy than 1992’s Iniki, which killed six people and caused $1.8 billion worth of damage. Numerous government buildings have closed as the state’s residents prepare for the storm. Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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State of emergency in effect as Hurricane Lane barrels toward Hawaiian coastline

Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

July 3, 2018 by  
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Narwhals, or the “unicorns of the sea,” could be at risk from additional Arctic shipping routes as polar ice continues to recede. A peer-reviewed study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests as many as seven marine mammal species may face new threats and uncertain consequences from increased ship traffic. The Arctic Ocean is home to hundreds of animals, like narwhals, polar bears and whales. However, as the polar ice caps retreat, more shipping companies are taking advantage of open waters to reduce travel time. To determine how the increase of ships could affect marine mammals , the research team from University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Washington studied wildlife during the fall shipping season. The group looked at 80 different subpopulations among the seven species to determine if they were directly exposed to the ships and how much these ships could affect the wellbeing of the marine life. Related: The melting Arctic is already changing the ocean’s circulation During the study period, over half of the subpopulations were impacted by ships, with narwhals inheriting the highest amount of risk. In addition to an increased risk of injury or death from collisions,  toothed whales also face communication challenges because of their audio sensitivity. Like dolphins, the ocean unicorn “talks” with a language of buzzing, clicking and calling. While narwhals could have the most to lose, polar bears and seals have the least risk because of the time they spend on land. But researchers note their populations also come with high long-term uncertainty, and the team concluded more data is required to determine how shipping affects their livelihood. The news wasn’t entirely bad for wildlife populations. The scientists noted through additional data collection, shipping companies could plan for environmentally-sustainable transportation options. “Regions with geographic bottlenecks, such as the Bering Strait and eastern Canadian Arctic, were characterized by two to three times higher vulnerability than more remote regions,” the researchers wrote in their study abstract. “These pinch points are obligatory pathways for both vessels and migratory [ocean mammals], and so represent potentially high conflict areas but also opportunities for conservation-informed planning .” Arctic planning groups are aware of the wildlife threats and are working out plans to balance shipping with environmental concerns. The Arctic Council instituted regulations on transport companies in January 2017, with the goal of making shipping safer for both crews and marine mammals. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via Earther

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Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

Climate change has transformed much of Alaska over the past three decades

June 4, 2018 by  
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Climate change disproportionately impacts the Arctic, where rising global temperatures wrought by the burning of fossil fuels have brought rapid, fundamental changes to places like Alaska. In a new study published in Global Change Biology , researchers conclude that 67,000 square miles of land in Alaska, 13 percent of the total land, have been affected over the past three decades. The land has been impacted by what the study calls ‘directional change,’ in which a location has experienced fundamental change in its ecology from historic levels. For example, some areas have become greener and wetter and others have dried out as glaciers shrink and wildfires rage across the state. Even trees have shifted, with treelines moving farther north to adjust to a warming Arctic. To study the drastic changes in Alaska , scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey used satellite and aerial imagery integrated with field data to create a mapping algorithm that assesses the level of change throughout the state. The study analyzed 540,000 square miles of land, noting the various kinds of changes in different Alaskan ecosystems. Near the tundra, the environment is becoming greener as trees and other plants spread beyond their traditional northern border. Meanwhile, interior forests are drying out, resulting in increased and more intense wildfires, which the researchers conclude is the greatest factor in Alaska’s ecological change. “What impressed me [was] how extensive and influential the fires were,” study co-author Bruce Wylie told Earther . Related: One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact Climate change has also disrupted the state’s historic water patterns. Melting permafrost has led to depressions, allowing wetlands to form in unusual places. This has also exacerbated erosion along the coasts, which are being tested by an ever-shorter season of sea ice. The comprehensive study of these varied changes may be helpful as scientists and policymakers plan for Alaska’s future. “Now with this study we have spatially explicit interpretations of the changes on the land, with specific drivers identified and attributed to the changes,” NASA carbon cycle scientist Peter Griffith told Earther . However, there is still so much more to learn. The study’s results, limited by available technology and resources, do not tell the whole story. + Global Change Biology Via Earther Images via Depositphotos and USGS

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Climate change has transformed much of Alaska over the past three decades

Hawaii’s Kilauea is creating its own weather

May 30, 2018 by  
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Volcanoes can “make their own weather ,” according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) — and the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii is doing just that. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists have observed what are called pyrocumulus clouds, which could possibly turn unstable and cause thunderstorms, over the Kilauea fissure system in Leilani Estates. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.0’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Did you know that volcanoes can make their own weather? #HVO scientists are beginning to observe "pyrocumulus" clouds… Posted by USGS Volcanoes on  Monday, May 28, 2018 Pyrocumulus clouds, or flammagenitus clouds or fire clouds, are often caused by fires. Digging into the science behind the clouds above Kilauea, USGS said they form “when intense heating of the air from the ground induces convection, which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture (which condenses and forms the cloud).” Related: 1,000-foot-long fissure opens on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano amid fears of an explosive eruption USGS shared a photograph on Facebook of a pyrocumulus cloud above Kilauea’s Fissure 8, and said there was another such cloud above the volcano’s Lower East Rift Zone. That cloud rose up to an estimated 3.7 miles, and they said it was described as “tightly roiling and set apart from other stratus clouds.” In a recent status update , USGS said Fissure 8 fountained as high as 200 feet into the air. Volcanic gas emissions from Kilauea are still high due to fissure eruptions. Since trade winds could return in upcoming days, vog — or smog with volcanic dust and gases — could impact the southern and western sides of the Big Island. Everyday, a team of #USGS scientists canvass areas along Kilauea Volcano’s east Lower Rift Zone. #science #KilaueaErupts #volcano pic.twitter.com/wCug0tF8eF — USGS (@USGS) May 30, 2018 The USGS also said Pele’s hair — threads of volcanic glass named after the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes — “and other lightweight volcanic glass from high fountaining of Fissure 8 are being transported downwind and falling to the west of the fissure…Residents are urged to minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation similar to volcanic ash.” + USGS Volcanoes Facebook + USGS Kilauea Updates Via Earther Image via U.S. Geological Survey

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