Washington Post - NASA is undertaking an "intensive research effort" into the problem of rising seas brought on by global warming, the agency announced Wednesday. And it will include satellite mounted tools so accurate that "if they were mounted on a commercial jetliner, flying at 40,000 feet, they could detect the bump caused by a dime lying flat on the ground," as agency earth science director Mike Frederich put it Wednesday. The focus reflects the growing urgency of the topic. Recent scientific reports have documented apparently accelerating ice loss from Greenland, and potential destabilization of parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet.
Washington Post - One of the biggest concerns about climate change is how it will affect global water supplies. Rising temperatures and changes in future precipitation patterns are expected to cause a spike in droughts around the world. Couple these factors with rising global populations and access to usable water is likely to be a major problem for many parts of the world in the coming decades. A new analysis from the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows which regions are most vulnerable to water stress - in other words, the places where demand for water will be highest and supply lowest.
New York Times - Federal and state regulators underestimated the potential for a toxic blowout from a Colorado mine, despite warnings more than a year earlier that a large-volume spill of wastewater was possible, an internal government investigation released on Wednesday found. The regulators wrongly concluded there was little or no pressure from the millions of gallons of water trapped inside the inactive Gold King mine, the federal Environmental Protection Agency concluded in its inquiry. It was unclear when that determination was made. The spill occurred on Aug. 5 when a government cleanup crew doing excavation work triggered the release of about 3 million gallons of sludge that fouled hundreds of miles of rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
Washington Post - U.S. officials responsible for the Aug. 5 spill of toxic mine waste in southwestern Colorado had no plan in place for dealing with a catastrophic breach of the kind that fouled a long stretch of the state's Animas River, an internal inquiry has concluded. No one, from the local contractor to federal overseers in Washington, saw warning signs of a dangerous build-up in water pressure inside the Gold King Mine, which discharged 3 million gallons of liquid waste when an earthen wall collapsed as cleanup work was underway, investigators said in a report released Wednesday.
Wall Street Journal - Hurricane Katrina was a disaster of nature and of government, and President Obama and George W. Bush - who are in New Orleans this week to observe the storm's tenth anniversary - would probably disagree on which force deserves more blame. Our view is that while nature's fury is eternal, the Gulf Coast's remarkable recovery shows that government can change, and better outcomes are possible with the right reforms. Katrina was the most ruinous natural disaster in American history, and still its scale manages to astonish. The Category-3 storm at landfall featured winds as high as 145 miles an hour and was fronted by a surge of water as high as 27 feet that breached the levees of New Orleans. Roughly 80% of this city below sea level was flooded, and the larger damage was spread over nearly 93,000 square miles in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, an area the size of the United Kingdom.
New York Times - Eight years ago as a senator running for president, Barack Obama visited New Orleans, a city still battered and broken two years after Hurricane Katrina, and made the kind of extravagant promises that candidates often make to get elected. "American failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast long before that failure showed up on our television sets," Mr. Obama said at the time. "American failed them again during Katrina. We cannot - we must not - fail for a third time." He promised to overhaul the city's health care infrastructure with new facilities and incentives for doctors, he said he would rebuild schools and provide local children with better educations than ever, and vowed to rebuild the local economy.
Washington Post - The car creeps along mile after mile of nothingness along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, passing empty parking lots and rows of vacant yards overlooking sugar-white man-made beaches and a calm sea. Where once sat antebellum mansions how sit clipped green lawns and magnolia trees and moss-draped live oaks, concrete slab foundations and grand brick steps leading nowhere. "This is the boulevard of broken dreams," said Rebecca Kremer Kajdan, 54, who was born and raised on the Gulfport and has worked for five mayors. So when she drives to work at the newly built city hall here, she plays a memory game.
Wired - After the storm, after the flooding, after investigations, the US came to realize that what happened in New Orleans on August 29, 2005 was not a natural disaster. The levee system built by the US Army Corps of Engineers had structural flaws, and those flaws were awaiting the right circumstances. In that way, what happened was all but inevitable. And just as the storm is not to blame, New Orleans is not unique in its vulnerability. The city endured a lot of tsk-tsking in the aftermath of Katrina, as if the storm was the climax to a parable about poor urban planning. Sure, the city sits below sea level, at the end of the hurricane alley, and relies heavily on an elaborate (and delicate) system of infrastructure. But where the city's geography is unique, its vulnerability is anything but. Just about every coastal city, state, or region is sitting on a similar confluence of catastrophic conditions. The seas are rising, a storm is coming, and critical infrastructure is dangerously exposed.
Coastal News Today - For those who live and work along the coast, sound science is essential to both your daily life and your long-term livelihoods and safety. Without science, coastal preservation and protection becomes a hit-and-miss enterprise and planning for a coastal future becomes nearly impossible. So why is science getting such a bad rap these days? Not so long ago, science was widely viewed as the key to a better life. The rigorous pursuit of predictable and testable explanations of how things work or why things occur helped humans unlock all manner of marvels and mysteries, enabling exploration and education, reaching farther and looking deeper than ever before.
Chinook Observer - Port managers, local seafood processors and Pacific County residents aiming to keep local issues at the forefront of future policy and federal budget discussions met with congressional and senate staff at a round-table discussion at the Port of Ilwaco Aug. 24. Staff from the offices of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrerra Beutler, R-WA, 3rd Dist., U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep Suzanne Bonamici, D-OR, 1st Dist., and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley D-Ore., were present to answer questions and listen. They toured the area earlier that mourning, getting a close-up look at the rehabilitation work ongoing at North Jetty in Cape Disappointment State Park and at dredge work at the entrance of the Baker Bay channel outside of the Port Ilwaco's marina.
Next City - Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of the storm remains visceral to even the distant observer. Few people outside Louisiana, however, realize that the city's future depends on large part on what happens some 80 miles to the southeast, where the Mississippi River meets the sea. Along the river, decades of infrastructure have crippled the Delta's natural regenerative, land-building systems, withering its wetlands. With these protective lands diminished, Katrina's surge rolled unstopped into the heart of New Orleans. The alarming pace of the Delta's decline is now a familiar refrain of statistics: nearly 1,900 square miles of coastal wetlands - an area the size of Delaware - have vanished in the last hundred years, and every hour, a football field-size area of land is lost.
Aerial planting of mangrove seeds proving to be effective method of protecting struggling marshes in Louisiana
The Advocate - Taking to the sky and pelting deteriorating wetlands with mangrove seeds has proven to be a quicker and cheaper way to get the plants established than the traditional method of taking long boat trips and planting by hand. Tierra Resources, a New Orleans-based group working to find new ways to fund coastal restoration through carbon credit funding, announced that three, 1-acre plots have shown the aerial planting technique works. Tierra Resources did a three-year pilot project in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes testing the theory that planting mangroves by air could be a cost-effective alternative to traditional methods. The work was done in partnership with ConocoPhillips, which owns 640,000 acres of wetlands in coastal Louisiana.