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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Water Quality

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River beach water quality met government standards 76.5% of the time in 2015, according to a recent report from Swim Guide (www.theswimguide.org). By comparison, water quality standards were met 72.5% of the 2014 season.

Swim Guide compared monitoring results for 1,496 beaches around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and calculated the number of days beaches in each watershed passed water quality tests, failed water quality tests, or had no data. The findings published in the second annual Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Beach Report.

Swim Guide is a beach information service created by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper in Toronto. The resource offers water quality alerts, beach descriptions, photos, and directions for over 7,000 beaches in Canada, the U.S.A., as well as Baja Mexico, and New Zealand.

For more information, visit www.theswimguide.org.

Friday, December 4, 2015

BC Canada Parks and Protected Areas

The Province of British Columbia (BC) is home to more than 1000 national parks, provincial parks, recreation areas, conservancies, ecological reserves, and other protected areas.

BC parks and protected areas facts:

 - British Columbia has one of the largest protected areas systems in North America

 - British Columbia has the highest percentage of its land base dedicated to protected areas of all provincial Canadian jurisdictions.

 - Since 2004, the area of parks, conservancies, ecological reserves, and protected areas has increased by more than 3.3 million hectares.

- British Columbia is home to some of Canada's most popular national parks including Glacier National Park, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, Kootenay National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and Yoho National Park

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Canada to Support Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS)

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, recently announced Canada’s contribution of $10 million to support Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) in vulnerable communities.

Canada’s contribution will be delivered through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to improve Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems in developing countries, particularly the small island developing states and least developed countries.

These systems have been proven to reduce loss of life and economic hardship caused by meteorological hazards such as tropical cyclones, floods, severe storms, forest fires, and heat waves.

The announcement is part of Canada’s historic pledge of $2.65 billion over the next five years to support developing countries’ transition to low carbon economies and adapt to the changing climate.

source: Canada Ministry of Environment and Climate Change

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

USGS Alaska Permafrost Study

Permafrost in Alaska could be reduced significantly by the end of the century, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study.

Using statistically modeled maps drawn from satellite data and other sources, USGS scientists have projected that the near-surface permafrost that presently underlies 38 percent of boreal and arctic Alaska would be reduced by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the 21st century under widely accepted climate scenarios.

Permafrost is defined by USGS as ground that stays below freezing for at least two consecutive years.

In addition to developing maps of near-surface permafrost distributions, the researchers developed maps of maximum thaw depth, or active-layer depth, and provided uncertainty estimates.

The research has been published in Remote Sensing of Environment. The current near-surface permafrost map is available via ScienceBase.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Where is the Salish Sea?

The Salish Sea is an inland sea along the Pacific Coast of North America.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) defines the Salish Sea as:

"5,500 square miles; extends from the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca eastward and northward to include Puget Sound and Georgia Strait, and their associated bays, coves, and inlets."

The Salish Sea is home to several of North America's most famous port cities including Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Port Angeles and Victoria.

The first known use of the term Salish Sea was in 1988, when marine biologist Bert Webber from Bellingham, Washington, created the name for the combined waters in the region. The term was officially recognized by British Columbia in 2010.

sources: U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center, British Columbia Geographical Names Office

Thursday, November 12, 2015

USGS Field Photographs Collection

The U.S. Geological Survey has made part of a huge national repository of geographically referenced USGS field photographs publicly available, according to a recent announcement.

Images in the collection can be located by using a new mapping portal called the Land Cover Trends Field Photo Map. The collection contains over 33,000 geo-referenced field photos with associated keywords describing the land-use and land-cover change processes taking place.

Initially, nearly 13,000 photos from across the continental US will be available to the public, yet the online collection will grow as more processed photos become available. Photos may also be found on the USGS Earth Explorer website.

“This is a treasure trove of royalty and copyright-free photography collected using consistent procedures,” said Chris Soulard, project leader and USGS research geographer.

The benefit of these photos being hosted by the USGS is equal access to all without copyright concerns and quality control,” said Jason Sherba, USGS geographer and project web-developer.

The photography was collected as part the USGS National Land Cover Trends Project, a research effort that spanned over ten years and represented one of USGS’ largest cross-center research efforts.

source: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey

Saturday, October 24, 2015

USA Winter Weather Predictions 2015-2016 (NOAA)

In North America, information related to weather is always popular. One of the anticipated reports is the U.S. Winter Outlook, issued by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

According to NOAA's 2015-2016 U.S. Winter Outlook, the upcoming winter could be cooler and wetter weather in Southern Tier states with above-average temperatures most likely in the West and across the Northern Tier.

This year’s El NiƱo, among the strongest on record, is expected to influence weather and climate patterns this winter by impacting the position of the Pacific jet stream.

Other factors that often play a role in the winter weather include the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of arctic air masses that penetrate into the South and nor'easters on the East Coast, and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which can impact the number of heavy rain storms in the Pacific Northwest.

2015 USA Winter Outlook Highlights (December through February):

Precipitation

Wetter-than-average conditions most likely in the Southern Tier of the United States, from central and southern California, across Texas, to Florida, and up the East Coast to southern New England. Above-average precipitation is also favored in southeastern Alaska. 

Drier-than-average conditions most likely for Hawaii, central and western Alaska, parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, and for areas near the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.

Temperatures
 
Above-average temperatures are favored across much of the West and the northern half of the contiguous United States. Temperatures are also favored to be above-average in Alaska and much of Hawaii. Below-average temperatures are most likely in the southern Plains and Southeast.

source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Maine Coastal Cleanup 2015

Hundreds of volunteers along the Maine coastline will join people around world for the 30th annual International Coastal Cleanup, September 19th to 26th.

Volunteers will be participating in Coastweek, which is part of the 30th annual International Coastal Cleanup, the world's largest single day volunteer effort to clean up beaches, lakes and rivers.

Last year, more than 500,000 people globally picked up 16 million pounds of trash along 13,000 miles of coastline. In Maine, volunteers found 10,484 pounds of trash in 2014.

For more information, visit mainecoastalprogram.org.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Highest Mountain in North America - Denali

A new, official height for Denali has been measured at 20,310 feet, 10 feet lower than the previous elevation, According to the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Denali (also known as Mount McKinley) is the highest mountain on the North American continent. It is located in the USA, in the state of Alaska.

According to USGS, the new elevation is due to advances in technology to better measure the elevation at the surface of the Earth.

To establish a more accurate summit height, the USGS partnered with NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS), Dewberry,  CompassData, (a subcontractor to Dewberry), and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to conduct a precise Global Positioning System (GPS) measurement of a specific point at the mountain’s peak.

Denali National Park where the mountain is located, was established in 1917. Each year, more than 500,000 people visit the park.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Green Movement Trends

The green movement in North America is gaining momentum as more and more people become interested ecology, sustainability, alternative energy, and other subjects.

This list includes recent trends that are associated with the green movement:

alternative energy

- solar power
- wind power
- electric vehicles
- wood fuels

food

- organic foods
- farmer's markets
- community supported agriculture
- small scale farms
- homesteading
- home gardening
- hoop houses, greenhouses
- heirloom vegetables
- home canning
- vegetable fermentation
- heritage breed animals
- free range chickens, ducks, geese
- grass fed beef, pork, lamb
- locally sourced foods; bread, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs
- aquaculture
- small scale wineries
- craft brewing
- non GMO foods
- reduced food miles

recreation

- kayaking
- canoeing
- stand up paddleboarding (SUP)
- hiking
- eco-tours
- wildlife appreciation

arts and crafts

- repurposed wood
- hippie art
- organic materials, weaving

Monday, August 17, 2015

Signs of Autumn in North America



Autumn, also known as fall, is a favorite time of year for many people. In North America, there are dozens of signs that the Autumn season is approaching.

Many of the signs of Autumn are first seen by farmers, fishermen, hunters, hikers, and others that spend much of their time outdoors.

Plants provide some of the first signs that Autumn will soon be here. In August, a few scattered trees begin dropping leaves. Others may show touches of red, gold, or other hues. These early displays of color will soon by followed by an abundance of fall foliage.

Wildflowers usually provide clues about seasons. As Autumn approaches, some of North America's most familiar wildflowers begin blooming.

Agricultural crops also indicate North America's seasons. As the days grow shorter, crops such as corn and beans start to change color.

Birds often provide clues about the change of season. In many parts of North America, flocks of blackbirds appear in the sky overhead.

At first, the lines of birds are scattered and last only a few moments. Before long, the migration becomes an incredible sight, with noisy flocks occupying the sky from horizon to horizon.

Geese also announce the coming of Autumn. Resident geese become restless and begin taking short flights around sunset, honking loudly as they circle their summer territory.

Signs of Autumn can also be seen in the skies. As the air becomes drier, bluebird skies become common. At dawn, they may contain unique cloud formations known as mare's tails.

Periods of fair weather are sometimes broken by storms. Along the Atlantic Coast, the approach of Autumn is usually accompanied by powerful storms known as noreasters. Even more powerful are late-summer hurricanes, which lash coastal communities.

In much of North America, the summer season may end abruptly, not by a date marked on a calendar, but by the passing of a noreaster, hurricane, or other storm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Farmers Markets

North America is home to an incredible range of farmers markets. Vendors offer fresh fruits, vegetables, produce, herbs, flowers, garden plants, breads, jellies, jams, fresh eggs, dairy products, honey, poultry, rabbits, goats, sheep, lamb, seafood, and more. In addition to traditional produce, farmers markets may also offer arts and crafts, clothing, and other items.

Fall Foliage in North America (Atlantic Coast)

North America is famous for its beautiful fall foliage. Fall foliage colors can vary considerably from year to year, depending on Autumn temperatures, rainfall, storms, and a host of other factors.

During the Autumn season, trees release a chemical called phytochrome, which slows down chlorophyll production and allows the tree to go dormant. As green chlorophyll recedes from the leaves, other colors begin to show.

Leaf pigment is also influenced by the amount and acidity of tree sap. Strongly acidic sap tends to result in reds and other bright colors, while less acidic sap produces more yellows or softer tones.

Depending on locations, travelers can expect to see a variety of foliage colors during Autumn.

Along the Atlantic Coast of North America, brightly colored fall foliage can usually be found in places such as the Canadian Maritimes, the New England states, Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland.

Fall Foliage Colors

Yellows

Ash, White
Basswood
Beech
Birch, Rive
Birch, Sweet
Buckeye, Ohio
Coffeetree, Kentucky
Cottonwood, Eastern
Elder, Box
Elm, American
Hazel Nut
Hickory, Mockernut
Hickory, Pignut
Hickory, Shagbark
Hickory, Shellbark
Hophornbeam, Eastern
Locust, Black
Locust, Honey
Maple, Silver
Oak, Chestnut
Pecan
Redbud, Eastern
Shad Bush
Tuliptree
Walnut, Black
Walnut, White
Willow, Black

Reds - Pinks - Oranges

Dogwood
Gum, Black
Oak, Northern Red
Oak, Pin
Oak, Scarlet
Oak, Southern Red
Oak, Swamp Chestnut
Sourwood
Sumac

Browns

Oak, Bur
Oak, Post
Oak, Shingle
Oak, Swamp White

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2015 Environmental Disasters


The following is a partial list of spills and other environmental incidents in North America during 2015.

January, 17, 2015

An oil spill occurred on the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana. The spill originated from Bridger Pipeline’s Poplar Pipeline system located about 9 river miles upstream of the City of Glendive.

February 2, 2015

A break in a stormwater pipe beneath an ash basin at the retired Dan River Steam Station in Eden caused a release of ash basin water and ash into the Dan River.

February 15th, 2015

A CSX train traveling from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va., derailed in Fayette County, West Virginia, spilling Bakken crude oil into the Kanawha River.

May 19, 2015

A pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline failed near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, California. Officials estimated that more than 20,000 gallons of crude oil reached the Pacific Ocean.

July 15, 2015

Near Fort McMurray in Alberta Canada, approximately 5 million litres of bitumen oil, water, and sand were spilled.

August 5, 2015

Environmental Protection Agency workers were conducting an investigation of the Gold King Mine when loose material gave way, spilling approximately one three million gallons of mine water into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

An Overview of North America

North America is one of the world's great continents.

Wikipedia defines North America as:

"North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea."