Ashley Ahearn

International leaders gathering in Paris to address global warming face increasing pressure to tackle the issue of "climate refugees." Some island nations are already looking to move their people to higher ground, even purchasing land elsewhere in preparation.

In the U.S. Northwest, sea-level rise is forcing a Native American tribe to consider abandoning lands it has inhabited for thousands of years.

China has closed its doors to all shellfish imports from an area that stretches from northern California to Alaska. The state of Washington says it's losing as much as $600,000 a week.

Among the shellfish not being harvested is the geoduck, a long-necked clam that can fetch up to $150 per pound in China. It's a major export for the Pacific Northwest.

Across the Western U.S., yearly areas of snowpack are decreasing, and researchers are trying to figure out what that means for everything that relies on the snowmelt — from farms to power plants to a little creature known as the Cascades frog.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

Fishing nets are designed to ensnare fish. But when those nets are lost or abandoned at sea, they don’t stop catching fish.  Instead, they become ghost nets – floating death traps for the marine life that continue to get trapped in their mesh. Ghost nets are a problem internationally – but there’s an international response underway.  And some of the leaders in the movement are at work in the Pacific Northwest.

Doug Monk captains the 39-foot Bet Sea out into the waters of Puget Sound, just south of the Canadian border.  

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

A coalition of tribal leaders and politicians gathered in Seattle Monday to announce the formation of a new group that opposes coal exports in the Northwest.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and State Representative Reuven Carlyle were among a group of Washington politicians and tribal leaders who announced the creation of the Leadership Alliance Against Coal. The group says it will work to “raise awareness about the damaging economic, cultural and health impacts of coal trains and coal exports”.

Marketplace/APM

A coalition of environmental groups that oppose exporting coal through terminals in the Northwest have announced plans to file a lawsuit against BNSF Railway and several coal companies.

The groups say coal that escapes from trains is polluting the water and should be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

Environmental groups have collected samples of black rock in waterbodies along train tracks in the Northwest and found that some of that rock is coal.

Climate change will affect different regions of the country in different ways. In the Southwest it may get warmer and drier. In the Northwest, however, climate models predict it getting warmer and wetter. That means less snow and more rain. It could also mean more stormy weather.

The Northwest is famous for its steady gray drizzle. But for violent storms and down pours? Not so much. But that might be changing.

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis looked at rainfall data gathered at 13 sites around the U.S. over the last 70 years or so.

Marketplace/APM

For the last year EarthFix has been looking at the issue of coal being exported through the Northwest.

There are five proposed coal export terminals under consideration in Washington and Oregon. They would be built to transfer coal off of trains from Wyoming and Montana mines and on to ships bound for Asia.

Some coal dust will escape along the journey from the mines to the terminals.

The Black Thunder mine  located near Gillette, Wyoming is one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

Katie Campbell / EarthFix

There are now five coal export terminals under consideration in Washington and Oregon.
Environmental groups, businesses and communities along rail lines are asking questions about the potential impacts of transporting coal through the Northwest.

Some of those questions are about coal dust. How much of it will escape along the journey from Wyoming and Montana mines to the proposed export terminals on the West Coast? And how might the dust impact the health of people who live along the train routes?

Oceiana/Flic

That nice piece of fish you might order at a restaurant or pick up from the grocery store may not actually be the type of fish you think it is.

EarthFix

During the course of their lives some salmon travel thousands of miles - out to the open ocean to feed and mature. Then, after a few years, they head back to the exact river where they hatched, to spawn the next generation. Scientists don’t fully understand how salmon find their way home, but a new study might provide some more answers.

The answer is magnets - according to a new study in the journal Current Biology.

It's about 25 degrees on a clear Saturday morning when Gregg Treinish — executive director of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, a nonprofit that puts volunteers to work gathering data for scientists around the world — gathers a small group of outdoor adventurers around him near the Duckabush River in the Olympic National Forest in Washington state.

Michael Werner / EarthFix

More than 2,000 people showed up Thursday to tell regulators what they think should be considered in the environmental review of a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash. If built, it could be the largest such facility on the West Coast.

Katie Campbell / EarthFix

Regulators in the region are weighing the potential impacts of trains full of coal moving along the Columbia River and the shores of Puget Sound. Meanwhile, trains full of Oil are quietly on the rise.

The crude is being extracted from a deposit known as the Bakken shale formation – located in North Dakota and Montana mainly.  Some of that oil is now on its way to refineries in the Northwest.

Dale Jensen is the spill program manager for the Washington Department of Ecology. Oil trains are new concern for him.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

If you’re a resident killer whale Puget Sound can be a busy and noisy place.

Some research shows that during the summer tourist season - when the orcas come into Puget Sound most regularly - they can be surrounded by an average of 20-25 boats.

Scientists are trying to figure out how pleasure boats and larger vessels may be affecting the behavior and recovery of this endangered species.

We get word that the whales are nearby soon after leaving the dock at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island.

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