Energy and Environment | KUNR

Energy and Environment

A landscape with mountain peaks made of volcanic rock and dirt in the foreground. Snowcapped mountains line the background.
Noah Glick

The Sony Handycam, of all things, foretold what may soon be a massive mine on public lands in Nevada.

In the early 1990s, the camcorder became the first product to use lithium-ion batteries commercially. Since then, the technology has been used to power our laptops, smartphones, and now electric vehicles and homes.

Three men installing solar panels.
Unsplash

It's been a tough year for gas and oil prices, but solar power has seen steady growth during this pandemic year. 

This week, the northern spotted owl and the monarch butterfly were denied protections under the Endangered Species Act, even though both animals qualify.

An image of a big meadow with forests surrounding it.
Cody Reed

Researchers have found that it’s not just forests on the landscape that can help mitigate climate change. Meadows also provide an efficient way to keep carbon out of the atmosphere.

Solar panels in Nevada desert
andreiorlov / Adobe Stock

The U.S. is now officially out of the Paris climate accord

Climate policy is mixed around the Mountain West, but many states are seeing action and a transition to renewable energy regardless of federal leadership. 

Bulldozer helps with firing operation
Inciweb

Scientists say the size and intensity of wildfires that we’re seeing today is alarming because it’s what they were predicting would happen 30 years down the road – not right now. 

An ominous smoke cloud fills the sky in Wyoming
Greg Sanders / InciWeb

Drought, wildfire and record-breaking heat are all part of the current climate landscape in the Mountain West. 

It’s a triple whammy that’s expected to continue into the coming months. 

A U.S. map with drought monitor readings from October 6, 2020. The map displays extreme and exceptional drought throughout the west, with the most notable readings in Utah, Nevada and New Mexico.
Brian Fuchs / National Drought Mitigation Center

A few weeks ago, rancher Noah Brooks said what was troubling him most was the weather.

“The fact that it didn’t rain, June, July, August but maybe three times, that this community runs around cattle and feed and if we don’t get some rain, we’re in big big trouble, and I think that we’re drying out,” he said.

Brooks lives in Clark, Colorado. But the conditions he describes are persistent throughout the region.

Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue Truck
Scott King

This story was originally published to the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science's website on August 22, 2020.

California is blazing with three of the largest wildfires in the state’s history, with much of the state facing smoke-filled skies and evacuation orders. In just seven days, the fires have charred nearly a million acres, according to Cal Fire, which is more than triple the area burned during a typical fire season (a little over 300,000 acres). In the Tahoe region and the Great Basin, firefighters are already exhausted as they gear up for more potential fires during a dry fall.

A power bill with a balance of two-hundred eighty-two dollars sits on a table.
Brendan Wood / Flickr Creative Commons

Many states introduced moratoriums to protect residents from having their utilities shut off for non-payment during the early days of the pandemic. But those moratoriums are coming to an end.

William Perry Pendley’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Land Management may have been pulled, but he’s still effectively leading the organization. Two lawsuits are still trying to put that to an end. 


Photo of a lake with visible rocks under the water and a woman paddleboarding.
Isaac Hoops

The Annual Tahoe Summit was held virtually on Tuesday. This year, officials focused on climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the lake.

A tornado swirling inside of a wildfire.
Courtesy of Tasha Farrell

No, it's not a sci-fi movie. A fire tornado touched down near the Nevada-California border Saturday, during the Loyalton Fire about 25 miles west of Reno, Nev.

Grand Teton National Park is asking for the public's help in addressing its non-native mountain goat problem. The park announced Thursday, August 6, it is now accepting applications from qualified volunteers for a culling program. Culling is set to begin mid-September and wrap up by the middle of November.

The silhouette of a person standing outside on a hot day.
NOAA

There's an effort afoot to better identify heat waves – like the one gripping much of the American West right now.

Round Mountain mine in Nye County, Nevada.
Uncle Kick-Kick, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Any one of three joint resolutions passed during the recent special session of the Nevada Legislature could ultimately change the way and rate at which mines are taxed in Nevada, and rural counties and mining companies are worried. As a warning, this story contains language that some readers may find offensive.

A sunset at Whale Beach.
Bob Tregilus / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (7/10/2020)

Researchers at the Desert Research Institute in Reno are teaming up with League to Save Lake Tahoe citizen scientists to find the source of microplastics in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Sierra Nevada Ally reporter Brian Bahouth has the story.

Aerial shot of a desert mountain.
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

The landscape appears arid. Yet, water flows at the heart of the controversy about a federal plan to build a national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in southwestern Nevada. A new scientific paper concludes water is moving through the mountain much faster than researchers previously had suspected. This may increase the possibility that groundwater in the region could become contaminated with radioactive elements.

Fire burns at dusk on a foothill
Luke Flynt / Unsplash

Reno saw one of its first major wildfire events of the dry season this past weekend with the Poeville Fire. And with the pandemic going on, agencies across the West are having to rethink how to fight fires while fighting the novel coronavirus.

A map of the Western U.S., showing varying levels of drought.
United States Drought Monitor

As the country turned its attention toward the pandemic, something else was creeping into the Mountain West: drought conditions.

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