Writings

Social Media Could Help Save Species on the Verge of Extinction

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 29, 2014   View Article

Dodo, meet Instagram.

Scientists think that the same technology that brought us the selfie could be used to help save some of the thousands of species tottering on the brink of extinction around the world.

While an untold number of butt selfies and pictures of food are posted on social networks daily, people are also snapping images of birds, flowers, and other creatures that can help researchers who keep a close eye on flora and fauna at the tipping point.

Arctic Ship Traffic and Oil Spill Worries Rise as Ice Recedes

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 25, 2014   View Article

Ships packed with frozen mackerel and herring will sail in convoy behind a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker from Norway to Asia this summer along the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Ocean — a trial run as companies rush to capitalize on the world’s hunger for fish and to extract minerals from the top of the world.

Dozens of ships now transit the Arctic each year amid decreasing summer ice — in 2013,71 vessels plied the Northern Sea Route, including the first container ship. In another first, a bulk carrier transited coal through the famed Northwest Passage on a voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Finland. And that traffic is only likelier to get busier.

Hundreds more ships “go up to the Arctic and perform some activity and then they come out,” Lawson Brigham, a professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, explained to NBC News. Most of these ships transport equipment to mines and other industrial sites and leave with commodities such as oil, gas, copper, nickel, and iron ore.

Climate Warming Driving Native Trout to Extinction, Study Says

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 25, 2014   View Article

Montana fly fishing guide and shop owner Jason Lanier hooks a feisty rainbow trout almost every day he hits the waters in the lower valley of the Flathead River system. From an angler’s perspective, the catch is a thrill. Rainbows put up a good fight, much better than the one offered by the state’s native westslope cutthroat trout.

“And cutthroats that have some rainbow genetics in them typically fight harder for sure,” the owner of the Bigfork Anglers Fly Shop told NBC News.

About 20 million rainbows were stocked in the river system that spans Montana and southern British Columbia, Canada, from the late 1800s to 1969. The fish can, and do, mate with cutthroats. This hybridization may drive the genetically pure natives to extinction, according to Clint Muhlfeld, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in West Glacier, Mont.

What’s more, climate change is accelerating the hybridization process, according to new research led by Muhlfeld. “This is the first example we are aware of that has shown how invasive hybridization has probably spread due to climate warming,” he told NBC News.

Global Warming Linked to Frigid U.S. Winter, Scientist Says

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 22, 2014   View Article

The extreme cold and snow across the eastern half of the United States this past winter makes global warming seem laughable. But, paradoxically, the blasts of polar air were fueled in part by planet-warming gases, according to a new paper.

In particular, the gases helped plow heat into the tropical western Pacific Ocean that, in turn, drove the jet stream further north toward the Arctic before it funneled cold, snowy weather over the Midwest and East Coast, explained Tim Palmer, a climate physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Fracking Tie to Earthquakes Raises Question of Liability

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 13, 2014   View Article

Earthquakes like the one that woke residents from their beds on March 10 in Poland Township, Ohio, might become a more frequent occurrence in areas where fracking is becoming big business. Scientists are reporting mounting evidence that tremors can be tied to the much-debated drilling technique and related activities. What’s not clear is who might be held responsible for the quakes.

Fracking refers to the method the petroleum industry uses to break apart chunks of shale rock deep within the earth to free trapped oil and gas. Geologists in Ohio established a “probable connection” between fracking and the magnitude 3.0 quake on March 10. In Oklahoma, geologists report a spike in earthquakes associated with injecting into deep underground wells the wastewater generated during fracking operations.

The heightened awareness of seismic activity associated with fracking and wastewater injection raises the question of who is responsible should an earthquake occur that causes damage to people or their property.

Pacific Northwest’s Salish Sea Eyed as Fossil Fuel Gateway

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 9, 2014   View Article

Trains loaded with crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation rumble past the outfield bleachers of the Seattle Mariners’ baseball stadium several times a week. From there, the trains head north, their cargo destined for multiple refineries in Washington State.

The traffic is new: Just three years ago, no oil trains were coming to Washington. Bakken crude is filling a void created by dwindling shipments from aging oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope, and the petroleum industry wants to bring in more. But the push to build more rail and shipping capacity in the Pacific Northwest is spurring debate over how that oil flow will affect the region—and where it should ultimately go.

‘That Was Home': Residents Rebuild in Wildfire-Prone Areas

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 12, 2014   View Article

The most destructive wildfire in Colorado history swept through the Black Forest community outside of Colorado Springs and destroyed nearly 500 homes last June, and scores of those residents are starting to come back. But so could the fire.

Less than a year after the wildfire, 171 permits for new homes have been issued and the rebuilding process is well underway. There’s always a possibility that another massive fire may sweep through the area, but that’s just part of life in the woods, according to residents.

Among the first homes to burn belonged to Ray and Cindy Miller, who have lived on five acres in the quiet, forested community for 32 years. “When we came back to the property, it was devastating because all of the trees were pretty much gone,” said Cindy Miller, who had fled her home with just two blouses, makeup, and a camera as wind-whipped flames and black smoke engulfed the home. “But I just closed my eyes and listened to the sounds. That was home. I knew that I had to rebuild there.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach