Worst Weather Ever: Has It Become a Cliché Yet?

Satellite image of Poyang Lake on November 15, the day after the lake’s water level fell below eight meters. NASA image courtesy LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

Satellite image of Poyang Lake on November 15, the day after the lake’s water level fell below eight meters. NASA image courtesy LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

The troubles of Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, are getting drowned out by the clamor generated by the superstorms Typhoon Haiyan and Cyclone Phailin. A crisis is still a crisis, however, even if it is not punctuated by 150mph winds and catastrophic flooding.

The problem is, Poyang’s waters are receding earlier in the season now.  The local government reported that the lake now enters its dry season more than seven weeks earlier than it did in the second half of the 20th century. The region receives 60 percent less precipitation, and the lake’s water level is reaching a historic low. More than a million people have suffered drinking water shortages as a result this autumn, and the lake’s fishing industry has literally been grounded.

Poyang Lake is the focus of my latest post for National Geographic; to read more please visit: http://on.natgeo.com/19IZ8RG.

 

Migration By Any Means Necessary

A Siberian Crane at the International Crane Foundation’s facility in Baraboo, WI (Credit: Dan Klotz).

A Siberian Crane at the International Crane Foundation’s facility in Baraboo, WI (Credit: Dan Klotz).

The airplane passenger of the month for October was an unusual breed of traveler, one who gratefully received first-class airfare even though the ticket sent him more than 2,000 km out of his way. He was trying to head south for the winter, got lost along the way, and has ended up with winter accommodations near Moscow—not quite the ideal warm-weather destination.

But this is no ordinary traveler. He and five of his pals tried this trip last year as well, and received an escort from the President of Russia, who was flying an ultralight plane of all things!

The passenger’s name is Raven, even though he is a Siberian Crane. His species is the focus of my latest post for National Geographic; to read more please visit: http://on.natgeo.com/1foj1Tm

Do Factory Farms Need a Pooper-Scooper Law?

Pooper-scooper signage in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Credit: Dan Klotz

Pooper-scooper signage in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Credit: Dan Klotz

In 1978, New York embraced a major public health and environmental innovation.  The idea, which became known as the “Pooper-Scooper Law,” was that all dog owners must collect their pets’ waste and deposit it in the trash so that it didn’t muck up the urban environment.

Industrial-scale livestock operations—known as factory farms—annually generate 500 million tons of manure in the United States, more than three times the amount generated by people in the U.S. Should all that manure go directly into our environment? More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog, http://on.natgeo.com/19Nj6xa.

Explosive Agriculture and That Larger April Fireball

Corn tassels. Credit: Huw Williams.

Corn tassels. Credit: Huw Williams.

In mid-April, a humongous explosion rocked the Texas town of West when a fire broke out at an agriculture retail facility storing ammonium nitrate. The blast killed 14 people, injured more than 200, and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. If this and other forms of ammonia are so explosive before being used as fertilizer, what happens when it is used in agriculture? More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog, http://on.natgeo.com/10oCQjh.

Fresh Piracy Off West Africa Highlights Link to Overfishing


Modern-day piracy, it seems, happens at the intersection of global shipping lanes, overfished parts of the oceans, and nations whose governments are troubled or failing. If fishermen have no fish to catch and no rule of law to restrain them, piracy would appear pretty attractive. More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog. http://on.natgeo.com/RVyZGh

Lonesome Larry: An Unsung Hero


In early August, I wrote for NationalGeographic.com on the nexus between Woody Guthrie and sockeye salmon. The occasion? The folk singer’s 100th birthday, and the 20th anniversary of Lonesome Larry, the only sockeye to make it to Redfish Lake in 1992 (in decades past, the sockeye in the lake numbered at least 30,000). More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog. http://on.natgeo.com/RTEbQv