But this week saw the beginning of desert SW style temperatures in the inland Pacific NW -- places like Pendleton -- with temperatures in the high 100s. By coincidence this week also saw a rock festival dedicated to Earth issues, and a convenient opportunity to Al Gore to tell us so in his preachy voice. You had to take notice, even though Portland was cooled by a nice breeze from the sea.
Whether or not you like Gore or not, or whether you think global warming is a hiccup or a chain reaction, or whether you are a born again Christian who believes it's all good and we're fucked anyway, what is indisputable is that everywhere strange things are going on, though we try our best to avert our eyes and not click on the links.
A sampler, starting from the local and narrow issues to more global ones:
1. This summer is expected to be a bad fire year again in Oregon and Washington. The rain and cool weather into late June is all for naught after a week or two of what we have seen in the interior. Looking at the Oregon Forest Service website, in terms of acreage, there seems to be no pattern. Nothing comes close to 1992 in terms of land burned. There were bad years in the 1970s too. But in terms of number of fires, it is increasing every year. And there is a difference between a desert brushland fire and a coastal rainforest fire.
2. Plankton is disappearing offshore, with numerous effects. This is an old article, but it is again in the news. Between you and me, it is not a good sign when you see the line ", mystifying scientists" in a science article.
3. Glaciers on Mt. Hood are melting, just like everywhere else, in case anyone was in doubt. No summer skiing in the not too distant future? No whitewater rafting east of the Cascades? Say it ain't so.
4. Lake Superior is down two feet and up five degrees. Lake Powell is drying up. (Though regarding the latter I can only say, about time. )
5. The Oregon fisheries continue their step forward, two steps back pattern of decline. The state of salmonid populations is hard to diagnose as it is a complex system with many different species and different seasonal runs. And you have issues like sea lions out in droves at the Bonneville dam 80 miles inland feasting on the spring run, which leaves the impression that things are plentiful but actually signals that things may be out of whack in deeper water. The basic numbers are bad -- you name it, fleets, catch, number of independents are all down severalfold from the 1980s. And prices keep rising (unless you want to eat "Atlantic salmon" with dyes and sea lice). But everyone knew that, right?
6. Most disturbingly Nestle just issued an announcement that food prices could rise significantly in the years ahead. And we're not talking breakfast cereal and chocolate here. Nor almonds (almond prices having more than doubled due to demand and poor harvests due to heat waves in California). We're talking corn and wheat. This is even going to affect the supersize demographic -- the inner-city and poor white folks who eat nothing but white bread and high-fructose corn syrup. From here on out, it's Soylent Green for them. Just kidding. After all, it can't be Soylent Green for them, because they can't make the claim that Soylent is actually plankton, remember? See #2 -- the plankton has disappeared!!
OK. Seriously, what is going on here? Population has been increasing steadily since time began, and now the price of a basket of food rises 50%? Not to put too fine a point on it -- it seems that 1) oil is running out, and we need the grain fields to produce biofuel (at least this is preferable to feeding cattle with our premium grain, but we do that anyway, because we need meat); 2) India and China need more food to support their populations and they are environmental basket cases -- even the Chinese don't want to eat their cadmium-laced production anymore, just as it is harder to find people there who are willing to work for $3 a day.
7. Meanwhile, the honeybees worldwide are having their own version of the 1960s -- their kids are leaving the hive and dropping out. Fruits and vegetables will go unpollinated. To my knowledge Colony Collapse Disorder has not yet been solved, and who knows how much worse it is getting.
* A major issue right now in Oregon is the fact that police couldn't find a car that crashed off a major highway even though all but the GPS coordinates were phoned in by a caller, but I have to say the tsunami defenses are ramped up. We are due for a big one, they tell us. The Entering/Leaving Tsunami Danger Zone road signs are very prominent at Seaside.