Category Archives: North America

The Top Four CO2 Emitters: China, U.S. Europe, and India

The Global Carbon Project’s 2014 Report shows that in 2013 China’s CO2 emissions were twice that of the second largest carbon emitter, the United States. Third largest were the 28 European countries of the European Union (EU); India was in fourth place. Important to note is not just the rapid rise of China’s emissions but also that they grew at 4.2% last year. This contrasts with the downward trend of both the U.S. (with a small uptick in 2013 because of increase in coal usage) and Europe. India’s emissions showed the highest year gain and will continue to do so, particularly because according to a recent statement by an Indian official the  country has no plans to limit the CO2 emissions. (Read that article here). You’ll find the Global Carbon Project report here.


A recent report from the Global Carbon Project shows China’s soaring trajectory for heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Credit Global Carbon Project


Scenes from the August 24, 2014 Napa Valley 6.0 Earthquake

Yes, we were rudely awakened at 3:30 am here in Berkeley by the magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered in nearby Napa, California, and although our house rocked and rolled for about 20 seconds we suffered no real damage compared to communities 30 miles north where over a hundred people were injured and many, many buildings and homes were severely damaged. Here’s video raw footage ( mainly without narration) that shows not just the building damage experience in Napa but also, importantly, the scene in the local hospital parking lot as they prepare to receive casualties. More news and updates later once things settle down (pun intended)


Grain Waits as Trains Move North Dakota Oil

Grain Waits as Trains Move North Dakota Oil

North Dakota’s oil boom is causing a transportation crisis for Midwest grain farmers according to an article in this morning’s New York Times written by Ron Nixon. You’ll find the whole article here. And here are several key lead  paragraphs:

“The furious pace of energy exploration in North Dakota is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for breakfast cereal giants like General Mills….

Although the energy boom in North Dakota has led to a 2.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, the downside has been harder times for farmers who have long been mainstays of the state’s economy. Agriculture was North Dakota’s No. 1 industry for decades, representing a quarter of its economic base, but recent statistics show that oil and gas have become the biggest contributors to the state’s gross domestic product.

An oil train rolled east through Fargo, N.D. Grain shipments have been delayed as oil has taken up freight space on the railways, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses. Credit Dan Koeck for The New York Times

An oil train rolled east through Fargo, N.D. Grain shipments have been delayed as oil has taken up freight space on the railways, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses.
Dan Koeck for The New York Times


Most U.S. Global Warming in the Northeast and Southwest

A fascinating article today by Seth Bornstein of the Associated Press documents how global warming is effecting the United States differentially, with the greatest change since 1984 taking place in the Northeast and Southwest. You can read the whole article here. Highlights from this article follow:

“Northeastern states — led by Maine and Vermont — have gotten the hottest in the last 30 years in annual temperature, gaining 2.5 degrees on average. But Southwestern states have heated up the most in the hottest months: The average New Mexico summer is 3.4 degrees warmer now than in 1984; in Texas, the dog days are 2.8 degrees hotter. The contiguous United States’ annual average temperature has warmed by 1.2 degrees since 1984, with summers getting 1.6 degrees hotter. But that doesn’t really tell you how hot it’s gotten for most Americans. While man-made greenhouse gases warm the world as a whole, weather is supremely local. Some areas have gotten hotter than others because of atmospheric factors and randomness, climate scientists say. “In the United States, it isn’t warming equally,” said Kelly Redmond, climatologist at the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nevada. “Be careful about extrapolating from your own backyard to the globe.”

“To determine what parts of the country have warmed the most, The Associated Press analyzed National Climatic Data Center temperature trends in the lower 48 states, 192 cities and 344 smaller regions within the states. Climate scientists suggested 1984 as a starting date because 30 years is a commonly used time period and 1984, which had an average temperature, is not a cherry-picked year to skew a trend either way.

“All but one of the lower 48 states have warmed since 1984. North Dakota is the lone outlier, and cooled slightly. Ten states — Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Mexico, Connecticut and New York — have gotten at least 2 degrees warmer in the past 30 years.Since 1984, 92 percent of the more than 500 cities and smaller regions within states have warmed and nearly two-thirds of them have warmed by at least a degree. The regions that have warmed the most have been New York’s St. Lawrence Valley, northeastern Vermont, northern Maine, the northeastern plains of New Mexico and western Vermont, all of which have warmed by more than 2.5 degrees.

“The Southwest warming, especially in the summer, seems to be driven by dryness, because when there is little water the air and ground warm up faster, said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. And in the Northeast, the temperatures are pushed up by milder winters and warm water in the North Atlantic, said Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. And less snow on the ground over the winter often means warmer temperatures, said Alan Betts, a climate scientist at Atmospheric Research in Pittsford, Vermont.”



Exploring San Francisco’s Rooftop Gardens

Our coauthor William Wyckoff, whose book How to Read the American West: A Field Guide, was discussed earlier in a post, is now blogging about his explorations and adventures in the North American landscape. Here’s the link to his University of Washington Press blog, where you’ll find a fascinating discussion of San Francisco’s rooftops gardens and parks. Like his book each landscape essay is accompanied by terrific photographs; here’s the first paragraph and a couple of photos from Bill’s rooftop garden essay:

“San Francisco’s rooftop greenery is part of a growing national phenomenon. Visit the top of Chicago’s City Hall or New York City’s new High Line Park (an abandoned elevated railway corridor replanted in gardens and walkways) and you will see similar central-city landscapes taking shape. Some of these spots are specifically maintained as public places, but many are so-called POPOS (privately owned public open spaces) where access is often little advertised, gained through quiet stairways or high-rise elevators. Downtown San Francisco’s Financial District offers a particularly rich mix of these verdant little getaways.”

High-rise oasis at 1 Kearny Street near Union Square in San Francisco. (photo by William Wyckoff)

High-rise oasis at 1 Kearny Street near Union Square in San Francisco.
(photo by William Wyckoff)

Top Floor garden of the indoor Crocker Galleria in San Francisco. (photo by William Wyckoff)

Top Floor garden of the indoor Crocker Galleria in San Francisco.
(photo by William Wyckoff)



How to Read the American West: A Field Guide

How to Read the American West: A Field Guide, a fabulous new book by William Wyckoff, good friend and coauthor of our world regional geography textbooks, was published recently to glowing reviews, and I add my own hearty endorsement of this fine field guide for anyone wanting to know more about western North American landscapes. First of all check out this video of Bill taking about the book, which you’ll find here. Then go the University of Washington Press website to read their description of the book. To whet your appetite further here’s s description of the book from the Amazon website:

“From deserts to ghost towns, from national forests to California bungalows, many of the features of the western American landscape are well known to residents and travelers alike. But in How to Read the American West, William Wyckoff introduces readers anew to these familiar landscapes. A geographer and an accomplished photographer, Wyckoff offers a fresh perspective on the natural and human history of the American West and encourages readers to discover that history has shaped the places where people live, work, and visit.How to read the western landscape

This innovative field guide includes stories, photographs, maps, and diagrams on a hundred landscape features across the American West. Features are grouped according to type, such as natural landscapes, farms and ranches, places of special cultural identity, and cities and suburbs. Unlike the geographic organization of a traditional guidebook, Wyckoff’s field guide draws attention to the connections and the differences between and among places. Emphasizing features that recur from one part of the region to another, the guide takes readers on an exploration of the eleven western states with trips into their natural and cultural character. How to Read the American West is an ideal traveling companion on the main roads and byways in the West, providing unexpected insights into the landscapes you see out your car window. It is also a wonderful source for armchair travelers and people who live in the West who want to learn more about the modern West, how it came to be, and how it may change in the years to come. Showcasing the everyday alongside the exceptional, Wyckoff demonstrates how asking new questions about the landscapes of the West can let us see our surroundings more clearly, helping us make informed and thoughtful decisions about their stewardship in the twenty-first century.


Despite Cold January in the East, Global Warming Continues

Despite cold spells in the Eastern and Midwest U.S., global warming continues, as shown in the NASA map

Despite cold spells in the Eastern and Midwest U.S., global warming continues, as shown in the NASA map

Despite several really cold spells in the Midwest and  eastern parts of the United States, at a world scale global warming continues. Here are some details from the NY Times February 20, 2014 article accompanying NASA’s map and climate data.

“For people throughout the Eastern United States who spent January slipping, sliding and shivering, here is a counterintuitive fact: For the earth as a whole, it was the fourth-warmest January on record. It was, in fact, the 347th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average, the government reported Thursday.

That may feel plausible to Californians, whose state experienced temperatures 10 or 15 degrees above normal in some places last month, and especially to Alaskans, where the average temperature was almost 15 degrees above normal. But on a map of January temperatures released Thursday by government weather analysts, the Eastern United States stood out as one of the coldest areas on the planet, compared with seasonal norms.

The United States covers only 2 percent of the surface of the globe, so what happens in this country does not have much influence on overall global temperatures.Brazil, much of southern Africa, most of Europe, large parts of China and most of Australia were unseasonably warm in January, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday. That continues a pattern of unusual global warming that is believed to be a consequence of human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases.

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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Global Environment, North America