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Abdallah Issa / Flickr

Post-Fire Landslide Problems Likely to Worsen: What Can Be Done?

By Lee MacDonald

Several weeks after a series of wildfires blackened nearly 500 square miles in Southern California, a large winter storm rolled in from the Pacific. In most places the rainfall was welcomed and did not cause any major flooding from burned or unburned hillslopes.

But in the town of Montecito, a coastal community in Santa Barbara County that lies at the foot of the mountains blackened by the Thomas Fire, a devastating set of sediment-laden flows killed at least 20 people and damaged or destroyed more than 500 homes. In the popular press these flows were termed "mudslides," but with some rocks as large as cars these are more accurately described as hyperconcentrated flows or debris flows, depending on the amount of sediment mixed with the water.

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Politics

Governors Weigh in on Water, Climate and the Environment: What We Know So Far

By Brett Walton

State of the State speeches are where governors sketch their legislative priorities and report on the overall health of their dominions. The state of the state is almost always "strong" and water issues are occasionally mentioned.

Below are summaries of the governors' references to water, climate and the environment.

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The Puelo River in Patagonia. Katalin Szarvas / xinature.com

Patagonia’s Puelo and Cuervo Rivers Win Crucial Protections in Supreme Court of Chile

By James Blair

Local residents and environmentalists in Chile are enjoying a prolonged New Year's celebration, thanks to two major legal decisions that will protect the country's free-flowing rivers. Chile's justice system put a final stop to two controversial large hydroelectric dam developments in Chilean Patagonia: 1) Mediterráneo S.A.'s run-of-the-river project proposed on tributaries of the Puelo River near the city of Cochamó; and 2) Energía Austral SpA's three-dam power plant proposed on the Cuervo River in the Aysén region.

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Climate

California Mudslides Kill 17 in Areas Wrecked by Wildfires

Editor's Note: As of 7:30 am EST Thursday the California mudslides death toll has risen to 17. Southern California, which just endured the largest wildfire in state history, is being bombarded by flooding and destructive mudslides triggered by torrential downpours.

The "waist-high" mud destroyed homes, uprooted trees and washed away dozens of cars in Santa Barbara County, CNN reported.

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Climate
A rescue underway on normally busy route 107 behind the writer's parents' house in Salem. Fred Biebesheimer

4 Key Questions About the Surprising Winter Storm Grayson

By Erika Spanger-Siegfried

On Thursday in Massachusetts we were asking ourselves questions that have rarely, if ever, needed asking.

What happens when half-frozen seawater suddenly floods onto roadways? Can something the consistency of a milkshake and 3 feet deep be plowed? There's a large dumpster floating down the street … What depth of water is sufficient to do that? What happens if some of this water freezes in place before it retreats (as I write this, the temps have plummeted to 12 degrees F and dropping)? Will those cars now filled with seawater in the snow-emergency parking lot run again? What if the water freezes inside them over the weekend—can that punch out doors?

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Energy
Crawfisherman Jody Meche drives through Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin on his way to check his traps. Emily Kasik

Why a Crawfisherman Is Fighting the Bayou Bridge Pipeline

By Emilie Karrick Surrusco

Jody Meche and his family have harvested crawfish from Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin for generations. When he set his first trap in the 1980s, he hauled in an abundant catch. These days, his traps come back full of dead crawfish.

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Climate

Coastal Flooding X-Factor: Natural Climate Patterns Create Hot Spots of Rapid Sea Level Rise

By Arnoldo Valle-Levinson and Andrea Dutton

For Americans who live along the east and Gulf of Mexico coasts, the end of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season on Nov. 30 was a relief. This year forecasters recorded 17 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes. Six were major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger), and three made landfall: Harvey in Texas, Irma in the Caribbean and Florida, and Maria in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. It was the most costly season ever, inflicting more than $200 billion in damages.

Many scientists have found evidence that climate change is amplifying the impacts of hurricanes. For example, several studies just published this month conclude that human-induced climate change made rainfall during Hurricane Harvey more intense. But climate change is not the only factor making hurricanes more damaging.

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To reduce grid dependence, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago installed 913 solar panels on the Abbott Oceanarium roof. Shedd Aquarium / YouTube

5 Steps to Make Your Business More Climate Resistant

By Elizabeth Sturcken

No business is immune to the devastating effects of climate change anymore, as we saw from the onslaught of extreme weather events in 2017. Disasters brought more than $300 billion in damages this year, a 60-percent increase over 2016, Swiss Re reported last week.

As every business leader has long known, storms, flooding, wildfires and other calamities all threaten to disrupt their operations and growth, and can even affect an entire supply chain.

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Even pocket parks in cities (e.g. Duane Park in Lower Manhattan) can shelter wildlife. Read below for ideas about urban biodiversity. Aude / CC BY-SA

Creating a Sustainable Future: 5 Essential Reads

By Jennifer Weeks

Much news about the environment in 2017 focused on controversies over Trump administration actions, such as proposals to promote more use of coal and budget cuts at relevant federal agencies. At the same time, however, many scholars across the U.S. are pursuing innovations that could help create a more sustainable world. Here we spotlight five examples from our 2017 archives.

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