Energy and Environment | KUNR

Energy and Environment

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

Last year, wildfires destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres, displaced hundreds of people and caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage. So, what can we expect this year?

A close up of a wheat plant in a field of crops.
Scott Butner / Flickr Creative Commons

Heat waves induced by climate change will threaten future agricultural crops at a faster rate than gradual global warming, according to a new study published in the Journal of the European Economic Association. Steve Miller, a UC Boulder assistant professor of environmental studies, was a lead researcher in the study.

A grove of pinyon-juniper trees with a mountain range in the background.
Wikimedia Commons

Pinyon-juniper woodlands stretch across much of the high desert in the American West. While quiet on the outside, this forest is at the heart of contentious debate between environmentalists, tribes and the federal government.

While these woodlands cover millions of desert acres, they are still among the least studied forest types in North America, according to the National Park Service.

Dry and cracked soil covering a large span of sparingly bushed landscape.
Famartin

Nevada had its driest year on record in 2020, according to the National Center for Environmental Information, and recent trends point to it continuing to get drier. Currently, all of Nevada is in drought, with over 72% of the state’s land experiencing “extreme drought conditions,” according to Drought.gov. Desert Research Institute Assistant Research Professor and Climatologist Dan McEvoy says our conditions in the summer months are dependent on the precipitation our area gets in the winter.

A new report could help you analyze wildfire risks to homes in your state, county or community.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has created its first committee to research the financial risks posed by climate change.


 

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden ordered a temporary suspension of new leasing and permitting for oil and gas development on public lands. But the order will not apply to tribal lands.

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.

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