Category Archives: Climate Change

Winters passed and future

An old friend barks defiance at winters passed and future.I have not yet pulled out my snowthrower. Foolishly, perhaps, I am counting on the Allegheny Mountains to keep from my door the 102 inches already dumped on Erie and other parts to my north and east.

I learned the value of snow fences when I was a kid. Farmers would stretch the fences, looking like rows of wire-bound two-inch slats, across their fields, about 20-30 feet from and parallel to the road. Wind would blow the snow across the pasture, against the fence, up and over, to drop it down on the opposite side – the side nearer the road – where it “drifted,” into a wall sometimes eight to 10 feet tall.

But not on the road.

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Needed: A new generation of problem solvers

Left portion of a computer keyboardSanta and the grandkids are gone, leaving in their wake a pathway to my garage piled high with cardboard and torn and crumpled wrapping paper, as well as numerous smaller boxes that once contained the makings of various foodstuffs. All must be cut or crushed and delivered to the end of the driveway, where it can be disappeared, first into a big truck and then into a landfill most of us know, or care, not where.

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Marking the Middle of Autumn

Female Ruby-Throated HummingbirdThrough the trees a couple of honks announced a gaggle of Canada geese approaching from the north. In less than a minute, maybe 20 individuals in a signature V floated just over the stand of oak trees, wings beating in almost perfect unison. They likely would land in a field of corn stubble, at least near a stream, if not in the pond across from the Mount St. Mary’s University campus a few miles down the road.

For the past few days, Blue Jays here been gathering, like caravaners of old, preparing to head south, rather than west, for the winter. Apparently, though, the new caravaners are mostly young birds. Older couples – blue jays, by the way, are monogamous – tend to stay around here for the winter. That’s OK. The jays love the peanuts we toss out to the squirrels, and we love watching as they drop down to the back deck, grab a nut, and make off to feast in peace.

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(More than) 40 million people…

Frozen reservoirThe evening news begins nearly every night with some version of, “Forty million people will be affected by the weather tonight.” Unless another Malaysian Air flight disappears, our TV screens will be filled with 8 feet of snow in Boston, and 18-wheelers piled up on Midwestern interstate highways.

Of course, news casters, not to be accused of unqualified hyperbole, usually note the effect will be limited to residents of Illinois through Massachusetts. If they’d include folks in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, and maybe Virginia and West Virginia, they could get those numbers up. Even Texas has had snow this year – which is odd since part of the state was wondering as Fall approached whether they would have water at all.

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Coast to coast, water supplies severely stressed

The nightly television news tells seemingly disconnected stories.

California is suffering a historic drought in the middle of its winter “rainy” season.

Power plants have been forced to reduce output in the summer as the Great Lakes, several rivers and an ocean used to cool the machinery become too shallow or too warm —or both.

Earlier this month, a Freedom Industries storage tank leaked 7,500 gallons of coal-processing chemical into the Elk River near Charleston, W.Va., to be sucked into a West Virginia American Water treatment facility about a mile downriver.

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A little less black(top), please

Bass Pro Outdoor World opens onto a blacktop desert,trees and grass replaced by pavement.First printed in the Gettysburg Times, 7/19/2013)

The TV reporter stands in Manhattan, NYC, telling us the temperature where she is standing is 97F. A couple blocks away, in Central Park, it’s only 92, she says.

What she does not mention is Central Park is an island of trees and grass. She is standing, sweating, amid pavement, buildings and motor vehicles together pouring rivers of heat into their already oven-like ambiance. Continue reading

Coal barons’ chronic affliction: Mumpsimus.

Fighting for the future of PA Coal dot org, billboard adjacent to a solar-powered meat packer.(First published in the Gettysburg Times, 7/12/2013)

While the nightly TV news blathers on about fires in the west and floods in the northeast, with barely a mention what might be causing the growing catastrophes, a battle of a different, though related, sort may be brewing in the Pacific Northwest.

Many roads in Pennsylvania, especially in the western part of the commonwealth, are lined with billboards touting efforts to keep jobs and blaming the EPA for regulating jobs out of existence. Many of us believe the claims. Either we know a family that has lost at least one coal mining job, or we watch the evening news that every now and then mentions EPA Clean Air regulations causing electricity generators to switch to natural gas. Continue reading

Pa taxpayers subsidize King Coal, pull subsidies from new technologies

A coal train appears like a rattlesnake from a mountain near Hometown, PA(This column first posted 12/30/2011 on Rock The Capital)
A report published this month says fossil fuels receive subsidies of about $2.9 billion a year from Pennsylvania taxpayers. It also says most of the assistance has been in exemptions, such as removing sales and use taxes from gasoline to make the fuel seem less expensive.
The result is state coffers take a hit while motor fuel producers maintain their profits. And hospital costs escalate, powered upward in part by kids and elderly with breathing problems – even those who don’t smoke tobacco.
Actually, the only reason tobacco use is noticeable is relatively few of us inhale cigarette smoke – way fewer than spend large portions of their days inhaling secondhand effluent from the clutter of rush hour people haulers, bumper to bumper, 5-10 mph, into and out of our nation’s large towns and cities. Continue reading

Even the snow portends Spring

(Originally published in Gettysburg Times, March 8, 2013)

When I awoke Wednesday, entirely too early for my morning breakfast with a friend, I found about four inches of the white stuff on the backyard picnic table, and still coming down. Already it was falling off the Jeep, leaving behind rivulets of melt. By noon, it was almost gone, mostly turned to water.

A nice “now you see it, now you don’t” springtime snowfall.

It put me in mind of the storm we had in mid-to-late March 1998. I’d only been in Gettysburg a couple weeks. Continue reading

Warm winter could be a job killer for snow sports industry

Mid December on a rained-on fogbound ski slopeA report published jointly this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Protect Our Winters notes global warming is making winters warmer, and snowfall lighter – especially at lower elevations. That, the report’s authors say, will cost jobs and cash in the nation’s snow sports industry.

“Snow is currency in the 28 states that benefit from (winter sports),” said Elizabeth Burakowski, researcher at University of New Hampshire and co-author of the report titled “Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States.”

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