The End of Summer

“Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach. I feel it in the air, the summer’s out of reach.”  (The Eagles/Don Henley). And so, we left the sunny beach at Rugged Point to the wolves and the bears and went back out into the ocean and down to Espereranza Inlet.

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Rugged Point Parc Marin

 

Riding the west swell into Gillam Channel and taking the inside route brought us after a couple days to historic Nootka Sound where for millennia the Nuu Chah Nulth have abided at Yuquot. Here we contemplated the intersection of aboriginal and european cultures. In 1790 the English and Spanish signed an accord here that prevented a war between the two colonial powers as they vied for control of this part of the New World. Only two centuries later the presence of the white man seems greatly diminished but the Muchalat Band remains. It was to the Band’s elder Ray Williams that we paid our landing fee and got permission to walk around and explore.

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Nootka Light Station

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Above: Inside of the Catholic church donated by the Spanish, now more of a First Nations cultural house. Set aside on the floor are a few very graphic christian images, romans hammering spikes through Christ, etc. No doubt these were helpful in showing the heathens how civilized people treat each other. We paid Ray a few bucks extra to stay on the dock overnight but it was a noisy, unsettled arrangement. It was a weird dock and it woke me up squawking and groaning, I had to go out to adjust lines in the middle of the night. Unresolved tensions, maybe?
Anyway, we departed Nootka at first light and rounded Estevan Point, the 3rd most exposed rounding on the West Coast. It was a little bit rough and a little bit chilly and a slow passage but as we pulled into Hot Springs Cove the sun came back out. The Hot Springs is a major tourist destination with many boats and float planes bringing folks over from Tofino to experience the miracle of geothermal bathing. We broke out an early happy hour and waited until almost everyone had left before we rowed ashore and hiked out the boardwalk to take a soak. It was marvelous! Showers as strong as a therapy jacuzzi and as hot as you could stand it. Very relaxing.

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Next day we cruised down to Tofino and checked out the surfing town that sucks on the teat of tourism. Very cool place but it did not have the off-season feel that we’d hoped to find. Many no-vacancy signs hung outside the motels all along the strip. By one day we had missed the dedication of a sculpture that had been acquired and brought back to its home in Tofino. She was cast in the 1980’s as the anti-logging protests were building. The message of Weeping Cedar Woman is “Stop, and consider Nature.” More and more I discover truth in fiction and in art. Don’t you?

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Weeping Cedar Woman

Back out on the ocean we went slowly down into the fog at Amphitrite Point and up to the little town of Ucluelet, known affectionately by locals as “Ukee”. Although it also is reliant on tourism it did feel off season and had an entirely different vibe from Tofino, more family-like, more blue collar. We liked it.

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Raven Lady (Surf woman in background)

 

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1850’s anchor found in 1996 by a fishing vessel in 540 meters

From Ukee we expedited out visit in Barkley Sound in deference to our desire to keep moving on. It is a lovely place, much loved by cruising sailors. I especially like the rugged islands in the eastern part that have sea caves and lots of snug beaches to explore.

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Tarani, our stout and faithful vessel at anchor, Tzartus I.

At the southwest corner of Barkley Sound sits pretty little Bamfield. There’s not much here, the town’s divided by a 2 mile inlet, half the town doesn’t have roads, only sidewalks. There’s a pub with no beers on tap, a mud and gravel road up to the Marine Sciences Center, a Health Center, a few restaurants, a couple stores and, well actually it is a pretty cool town. I could spend more time here someday. Met an inspirational figure here, a fellow sailor and retired firefighter from Vancouver (big Vancouver, that is) who retired 27 years ago and still looks fit as a fiddle, full of life. This got me thinking.

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Bamfield

Its been four months since Karen and I left Port Townsend to explore and experience the maritime environment of the Pacific Northwest. We’ve seen much and have loved it, but as Debbie Downer (not Karen) says, “all good things must come to an end.” Tonight we sit at anchor in Bamfield, tomorrow we start the long run down the Strait of Juan de Fuca and back towards civilization. But, in less than a week we will be back to Port Townsend and back to “normal”, or will we?

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Pre-dawn departure Cape Beale, last day of summer 2016

I think our experiences have changed us. Maybe the effect will fade after a few months but I now know more about the natural world than when I started. We’ve seen humpbacks and orcas, porpoises and otters,  ravens and eagles, grizzlies and black bear. We’ve become intimate with the tidal cycle, wandered wilderness beaches and rediscovered ourselves. And we have met a lot of good people. I have greater hope for the future even when humans seem oblivious to our interdependence with all life.

I am more sure than ever that I will be involved in the seemingly hopeless struggle to help humanity confront the reality of climate change, but I need to maintain my sanity and immerse myself in nature on a regular basis. I will continue to encourage people to transition away from burning fossil fuels for energy, and to demand from our government protection of the environmental Commons. The sooner we can mitigate the damage we are doing, the better the chances for human survival and the less damage we do to the other species sharing our ecosystem. I especially want to get involved in societal efforts to prepare for and adapt to the changes expected. These run the gamut; extreme weather, droughts and famine, sea level changes, ocean acidification, increased global conflict, mass extinctions and the potential for the collapse of human civilization. I feel privileged, challenged, humbled and horrified that I am alive during this period of human history. We have burned the fossilized remains of life from eons past and we have opened Pandora’s Box. Yes, it seems likely that our ship will be thrown up on the rocks but as mariners know you have to stay with your ship, she’s the best chance we have and we may yet survive the coming winter’s storms. So, hang on matey! Even though it looks like the end of summer for globalized human civilization we can hope for the dawn of something better.

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Strait of Juan de Fuca sunset on the last day of summer, 2016.

 

South of Brooks Peninsula

We paid the monthly charge of $119 to stay at the Coal Harbour marina run by the Quatsino First Nations folks. Nice place. Quiet, clean washrooms and showers, laundry, and reliable bus service into Port Hardy. $119, including power. When you think about that, its a hell of a good deal. We parked the boat here for 10 days so I could make a trip back east to visit family and attend a funeral. Karen worked hard while I was gone on minor maintenance.On returning to the west coast it was sunny September weather but I detected a whiff of autumn and began to faintly hear that old Zeppelin tune, feels like its time to Ramble On.

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quiet Coal Harbour

The night before we planned to go south around Brooks peninsula found us pre-rigging the sail with a double reef. The forecast included northwest winds of up to 20-30 knots. I expected and hoped we would be able to shake out one or both reefs after we got on our course but Cape Cook on the Brooks peninsula along with Solander Island standing just off the coast deserve respect. We would be trying to stay about 5 miles offshore and we wanted to be ready. Once our work was done the sun was setting gloriously. We relaxed with a cold beer and cooked up a nice little piece of ling cod that a fisherman had given us in exchange for a spare lightbulb we’d given him. It felt great to be at anchor in a quiet cove away from megalopolis.

Retired nurse showing how to use a foley bag.
Retired nurse showing how to use a foley bag.

Next day dawned dark, that is we left before dawn. Sun was rising as we went out from Quatsino Sound. about an hour later. Swells were of decent size on this trip, 2-3 meters. Wind turned out to be just about perfect for us, about 15-20 knots going our way. After 4 hours or so, we were abeam Solander Island we altered course and went into the Bunsby Isands.

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Downwind around Brooks Peninsula

The Bunsbys are the site where sea otters were reintroduced to the environment back in 1969. They had been nearly hunted to extinction over a short period in the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s., basically eradicated from California to Alaska. It was typical short-sighted human behavior, a lust for their pelt and greed for money. Between 1969 and 1972 some 89 sea otters were released here and by 2008 their population had grown to an estimated 5,000. Another survey underway now is expected to show much greater numbers. In Alaska some 450 animals were reintroduced and by 2012 the population had grown to an estimated 25,000. Our anecdotal experience just over the past few years is that sea otters are more ubiquitous. We have noticed a curious difference between Alaskan animals and those of Vancouver Island;. Although all the otters in Alaska, B.C. and Washington are of the Northern species the Alaskan otters seem to be much shier around people. The Vancouver Island animals don’t dive until our boat is much closer. To be clear we don’t try to approach them but they are often floating nearby as we follow our course. At anchor on the west coast you will sometimes here a “clack-clack-clack” next to your boat and find another busy cracking his clam against a rock on his belly.

Crew from s/v Arrow at Walters Cove, only critters we've found cuter than sea otters.
Crew from s/v Arrow, only critters we’ve found cuter than sea otters.

The recovery of the sea otters is not without controversy. They exist in ecological balance with sea urchins and kelp. They eat crabs and shellfish and so find themselves in competition with humans. The Nuu Chah Nulth and other coastal First Nations groups are however supportive of the effort and would like to regain the balance within which their peoples thrived for millennia prior to contact with “civilized” white man. There is concern that some fisherman may already be taking matters into their own hands, killing animals. It seems mankind has not yet learned to live in balance with the ecosystem. We seem to be especially hard-headed and ignorant. We have such a hard time learning that we are inseparable from nature. We forget the lessons of history at our own peril. For further info in sea otters here’s a general reference and an article on the recovery:

http://www.defenders.org/sea-otter/basic-facts
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/the-remarkable-comeback-of-sea-otters-to-the-bc-coast/article19681665/

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Rugged Point Marine Park

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Sitka Surreal

One of the good things I’ve experienced cruising along the Alaskan coastal waters known as Southeast is being cut off from cell and internet service for days at a time. I used to read multiple political blogs and news sites every day but now I feel disconnected from the American political scene. On arriving in Sitka I spent some time internetting and I was struck with a sense of the surreal. Its like the Twilight Zone, I can’t believe how weird things have become. Donald Trump? Are you kidding me? Hilary Clinton is really the best we can do? WTF?

I mean, whatever happened to the little bird from Bernie Sander’s event in Portland? I really don’t know how all this came to be but I might just hang out in Canada until November if they’ll have me. Just kidding, I guess I’m coming back to vote. But holy shit, where is this crazy train going?

Meanwhile, things in Sitka seem pretty normal I guess. If you disconnect from the internet and wander around you’ll see it all. I like to walk with no particular destination in mind and thus we found ourselves at the edge of a typical neighborhood at a trail with a sign warning that we were entering onto sacred grounds and to act accordingly. (Always good advice.) It was a predominantly Russian Orthodox cemetery buried in the woods and being tended carefully by nature. Graves were tilted every which way upon the misty wooded slopes as though they’d been washed up by the sea.

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Five minutes later we popped out onto Saw Creek Road and walked through a national military cemetery. How different the two were from one another. Not sure what that means.

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We wandered on and found this Sitka Surreal phone booth. It makes about as much sense as Donald Trump running for president.

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One is forced to ponder the question, “Yes, but is it art?”

Stopped to browse the Etolin St. Library.  Then past the grocery. Stopped for a bite to eat at the Larkspur, the cafe with a radio station upstairs.

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Headed back through town to the harbor, paying attention to Community bulletin boards and was reminded of issues more important than our Clinton Trump tragicomedy.

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So, my advice is when in Sitka, relax and keep it local. Put on your xtratuf sneakers, wander around a little, listen to the Raven, and try the local brew.

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Thanks for the reality check, Sitka! Sea ya later.

Farragut Farm

We left the sailboat anchored in a minefield of crab pots and just a stone’s throw away from a mud flat. It was close to low tide and the water had dropped about 18 vertical feet revealing lots of mud and lots of activity amongst the birds. Ducks were busy swimming and diving. Gulls were beach combing for tasty treats. A couple eagles were perched on crab pots that had been exposed. As we rowed towards shore the flies and gnats tested us as prey and found us to be good. We found a little creek winding up through the mud and went up until we grounded then pulled the dinghy across the mud, every step required a hand assist to the boot to break the suction of the brown over black sticky ooze. We tied off the dinghy to a barnacle rock, shouldered our packs and set off.

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While in Petersburg a couple days before we kept seeing these signs for Farragut Farm. The grocery stores and the little restaurants seemed to be proud that they were supporting a local farm. The flyers indicated that everything was organic, fresh and tasty, and grown only 24 miles away. The flyers also described the farm as off-the-grid and fossil-fuel free. It sounded very cool.

Later that evening while Karen was working on dinner I was sent for ice. It was not a far walk to Kito’s Kave, a classic fisherman’s dive bar and liquor store. When I got there I realized I was thirsty. When the barkeep set my pint down I saw that right under my elbows, under the glass, was an old chart for Farragut Bay. Surely this was a sign but it took another pint for me to be sure of that. Surprisingly, I remembered the ice on my way out. I described my serendipitous experience to Karen and she agreed. We must seek out Farragut Farm.

We had little information to go on, the internet connection at Kito’s had only mentioned that the Farm was near Francis Anchorage. This was on the chart and the next day we found ourselves heading into an area that is only described in our cruising guidebooks as somewhere with extensive shoals. We pointed our binoculars landward and saw a cabin with a wind generator on a pole next to it. This could be the place for an off-the-grid operation. There was a small tongue of slightly deeper water that indented the mudflats and was charted as 4 fathoms deep. As we slowly worked our way in we found ourselves surrounded by dozens of crab pots, carefully we dropped anchor in about 30 feet.

When I write about climate change its much more enjoyable to focus on positive examples of adaptation. It is easy to get gloomy by reporting on the latest research that indicates change is happening faster than was thought possible only a couple decades ago. It sometimes seems an exercise in frustration to remind how we must abandon the burning of fossil fuels that subsidizes the unsustainable lifestyles that most of us live. Instead its much more fun to take a close look at ways that communities are working towards resilience. It can truly inspire hope in humankind to find places and people that could thrive in a fossil-fuel-free future. Farragut Farm sounded like it might be one of these places.

Southeast Alaska’s residents have many resources to draw upon. Fat fish swim in the sea, crabs and prawns are plentiful. Deer, elk, moose and bear inhabit the forests. However, they are also heavily reliant on supplies delivered by tug and barge and aircraft. Petersburg, it seems was making a move towards increased resilience by supporting local production of non-meat food. A salad and some nice fresh potatoes goes great with a sweet salmon.

Over the mudlfats, across little tidewater creeks and sandbars then we were into the grasses. We were working our way towards the wind generator but the closer we got the taller the grasses got.The footing was tricky, you couldn’t see where your feet were and there were lots of little sinkholes and small driftwood. Eventually we found an electric fence and followed it to a corner of the property. It became apparent that this was no farm, no one seemed home and the grass was up to our shoulders. I offered that we’d given it a good try and maybe we should turn back. Karen suggested we go forward just a bit to a line of trees up ahead. Just past the trees we found a little trail  in the mud and then we caught a glimpse of some greenhouses and knew we’d found it.

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The trail towards the farm followed planks laid down in the mud through a wood that had a rain forest feel to it. Eventually we emerged at another electric fence at the edge of the farm. We could hear a BBC broadcast playing on a radio somewhere. “Hellooo”, we called several times before someone heard us. It must have been a bit of a shock to have something on two legs emerge from the brush but Marja greeted us warmly and invited us to duck under the hot wire.

She gave us a tour of the place and we met her husband Bo. The place was beautiful. Crops were mostly in raised beds, weed-free and very healthy looking. Accents of orange and red and every color. Hummingbirds buzzed around, solar panels in abundance were mounted on the house and outbuildings to power refrigeration and provide for pressurized water. The grassy meadows ran away to the north where the forest met them at the base of the snow capped mountains. It truly seemed we had stumbled into a garden of eden.

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We asked a few questions but we knew that they, like farmers everywhere, were busy. Indeed, they had a big market coming up in just a few days and we didn’t want to take up too much of their time. We apologized for showing up out of the blue (or green as it were) and we thanked them for showing us around. They suggested a better way back to our boat was to follow the trail that ran along the tidewater slough behind the farm. They told us to be careful not to get between a mama moose and her calf. OK, then.

We passed by their sailboat on the way back, high and dry on the mud. This is how they transport their goods to market. Old school. We found our dinghy also high and dry and had to drag it back across the mud to the water’s edge. After dinner we felt pretty tired and settled down to read and drift off for a nap in our bunks. A little while later, from the depths of quasi-dreamland I heard some kind of bird making a plaintive cry that sounded almost human. It sounded like it was calling, “Helloo”. It got louder and clearer and I went on deck to find Bo in his rowboat. He wanted to know if we would be interested in helping them get their harvest together for their upcoming market. Without hesitation we both agreed, Karen had been sorely missing her garden and I wanted to learn more about how they make it work. It seemed like it would be a good change of pace.

Hard work was indeed a change of pace. We arrived about 9:00 and were put to work right away. First thing that needed doing was inspecting, weighing and bundling multiple varieties of kale. Some were for the Petersburg market and some were to be sent to Juneau. Bo made sure I inspected each and every leaf for defects, bug holes, discoloration, etc. But thing was the kale was practically perfect; shiny, glossy, clean. After banding the kale went right into coolers so that the stems could rest in water and stay hydrated.

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Marja put Karen to work harvesting snap peas and garlic scapes. The peas were weighed and placed into 8 ounce and 18 ounce clear bags. The garlic scape is the tall part of the plant from which the plant tries to produce a flower. However this takes energy that the farmer would rather see go into larger bulbs. As it turns out the garlic scape is a very tasty and versatile product. Marja was into making pesto with it but its also great in stir fries, etc. (I put it into mason jar pickled kimchi carrots.) After I finished with the kale I helped Bo harvest little baby candy carrots. These got plunked into the veggie washer machine until they were cleaner than clean and then packed into little 1/2 pound bags for people to munch on as walk-around snacks for at Petersburg. At about lunch we were treated to a fabulous salad topped with smoked salmon. When the tide was high enough Marja had to leave to fetch the skiff up the slough so the product could be loaded and transported out to the sailboat on the mud.After lunch it was back to work, more harvesting, weighing and packing. At the end of the day we even got to weed the onion bed. It felt great to dig through the soil rich with compost that includes shells from crabs and barnacles.

Back on our boat we were that good kind of tired that comes after a decent day’s work, and we were energized by knowing that people like Bo and Marja are out there making it work. Southeast is lucky to have Farragut Farm. Special thanks for the bags of fresh goodness they gave us as we said goodbye. For more information see their Facebook page, or this article in Edible Alaska: http://ediblealaska.ediblefeast.com/shop/off-the-grid-Alaska%27s-farragut-farm

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Support your local farmers! Especially those working off the grid and transporting goods by sailboat!

 

 

A Generation of Lost Opportunity!

Vancouver is a big city with an aggressively progressive plan to transform itself in a sustainable direction in response to the climate change problem. They want to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.  British Columbia has implemented a very successful carbon tax that has shifted incentives in a favorable direction, business favors it, and Washington State will get a chance to vote on I-732 this fall to implement a similar scheme (please support it!).

So today on a sunny Sunday I was feeling optimistic. We worked on the system that allows our boat’s solar panels to charge the batteries and then we rowed our dinghy ashore for a 15 mile urban wander about. We saw a huge number of people on bikes as well as thousands of pedestrians. The very young were out in strollers, the old were out as well. People of all races and cultures were getting around enjoying the turn in the weather. The non-car infrastructure was amazing as those who have visited Vancouver know.

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Bike & Ped paths along English Bay towards Stanley Park.
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It makes sense, bikes separated from pedestrians (and from cars).

 

We visited Granville Market, the Maritime Museum and  made our way around Stanley Park back to Coal Harbour where we stopped at a cool spot to grab a beer. I wanted to sit at the bar that had like 40 taps of beers but Karen wanted and table and so it happened that we were seated in what I would call their library section; one whole wall was covered in books. Awesome, I love used books as everyone knows. You never know what you’re going to get. Then a certain book caught my eye.

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I Spy a book titled “Climate Crisis”, I rose from our table and plucked it from the stack. It appears to be a very well-done book providing the basics of science education relating to the Greenhouse Effect and the threat of runaway Global Warming. It was geared to a younger audience and when I turned to the inside page there, next to the library checkout card, it said this book had been discarded by the Gilpin Elementary School in Burnaby. I thought this was ironic given that Portland School District has just recently ordered the removal of  curriculum that confuse on the sources of climate change (this is considered progressive today.) Obviously we need to educate our kids on the dangerous direction the world is taking.

The Thing is, sadly, that the copyright of the “discarded” book was 1989. As in 27 years ago. 1989! We knew back then. We knew.

What happened? Well, politics happened. Corporate lobbying happened. Reagan and anti-government attitude happened. Republicans especially but also neoliberal democrats altered course to the right. Faux news started in the 1990’s and stink tanks and money from Charles Koch and his ilk began to exert strategic influence. Exxon buried what they knew (as surely did many other fossil fuel companies) in order to earn profit. And we engaged in denial about the science and ignored the corruption of our democracy. That’s what fucking happened!

Wonder not that greed itself can bring down an empire no matter how mighty or widespread.

I sat back and started to consider all this as I sipped that beer (Fat Tug, great IPA) and I once again felt sad about what we’ve allowed to happen. If we had started a generation ago transitioning away from fossil fuel energy, if we had educated our kids, if we had faced facts, if we had been doing more of what Vancouver is doing today back then well maybe, just maybe…

This generation of lost opportunity is something that deserves examination. Our kids and grandkids will want to know what were we thinking, this won’t be easy an easy conversation. Meanwhile, the sun’s setting, its time to finish that beer, figure out where we left our dinghy and row back to the boat.

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Tarani at anchor Vancouver BC, May 2016

 

 

Cancer Magister’s bad acid trip

Troubling news from Seattle researchers indicates Dungeness crab larvae don’t do so well in seawater that is acidifying due to the excess CO2 in the atmosphere from human activities. I plan to conduct some personal research into this matter but need to buy a new crab pot first.

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http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/noaa-dungeness-crab-in-peril-from-acidification/

The State of State-level Climate Action

A lot of the practical action to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis happens at the state (and local) level. The Center for American Progress has prepared an analysis of how many states still have governors or attorneys general that are not on board. In fact some 173 million people in the USA are represented by leaders who are part of the problem. Perhaps this fall people will send a message by voting against climate deniers and electing leaders who will be part of the solution.

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/05/04/3774746/governors-ags-climate-research/

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Baby, Its hot outside!

We Just Crushed The Global Record For Hottest Start Of Any Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Just Crushed The Global Record For Hottest Start Of Any Year
BY JOE ROMM APR 15, 2016 1:25 PM
CREDIT: NASA

NASA reports that this was the hottest three-month start (January to March) of any year on record. It beat the previous record — just set in 2015 — by a stunning 0.7°F (0.39°C). Normally, such multi-month records are measured in the hundredths of a degree
Last month was the hottest February on record by far. It followed the hottest January on record by far, which followed the hottest December by far, which followed the hottest November on record by far, which followed the hottest October on record by far. Some may detect a pattern here.
We reported two weeks ago that “Last Month Was The Hottest March In The Global Satellite Record.” It was also the hottest March on record — by far — in the dataset of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), as the World Meteorological Organization tweeted Thursday.

As has been the story all winter, the biggest and most worrisome warming is occurring in the Arctic. Indeed, as we reported on Wednesday, blistering temperatures over Greenland jump-started the summer melt season — with 12 percent of Greenland’s massive ice sheet melting by Monday, beating the previous record by a month.
Even though 2015 crushed the previous record for hottest year — which of course was just set in 2014 — it seems increasingly likely that 2016 will top 2015, even as the current El Niño fades.
El Niños generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend. But, as I reported last month, we are blowing out the temperature records set during the last big El Niños.
The bottom line is that we are being warmed globally at an alarming rate thanks to human-caused carbon pollution.