Melting glaciers expose bodies of dead climbers on Mount Everest

Scientists have found ponds expanding and joining up on the Khumbu Glacier in Nepal, as global warming increases in the Himalayas. Photo: C. Scott Watson / University of Leeds
Scientists have found ponds expanding and joining up on the Khumbu Glacier in Nepal, as global warming increases in the Himalayas. Photo: C. Scott Watson / University of Leeds

By Navin Singh Khadka
21 March 2019

(BBC News) – Expedition operators are concerned at the number of climbers’ bodies that are becoming exposed on Mount Everest as its glaciers melt.

Nearly 300 mountaineers have died on the peak since the first ascent attempt and two-thirds of bodies are thought still to be buried in the snow and ice.

Bodies are being removed on the Chinese side of the mountain, to the north, as the spring climbing season starts.

More than 4,800 climbers have scaled the highest peak on Earth.

“Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association.

“We have brought down dead bodies of some mountaineers who died in recent years, but the old ones that remained buried are now coming out.”

And a government officer who worked as a liaison officer on Everest added: “I myself have retrieved around 10 dead bodies in recent years from different locations on Everest and clearly more and more of them are emerging now.” […]

“Hands and legs of dead bodies have appeared at the base camp as well in the last few years,” said an official with a non-government organisation active in the region.

“We have noticed that the ice level at and around the base camp has been going down, and that is why the bodies are becoming exposed.” [more]

Mount Everest: Melting glaciers expose dead bodies

Direct killing by humans pushing Earth’s biggest animals toward extinction – “70% of megafauna species are decreasing and 59% are threatened with extinction”

Current threats to megafauna. Shown are percentages of threatened megafauna species in each class facing different types of threats. We used the top‐level coded threat data on species Red List fact sheet pages, grouping threats 5.1/5.4 together as “Harvesting,” 5.2/5.3 as “Logging,” 2.1/2.2 as “Cropping,” and 2.3/2.4 as “Livestock/aquaculture.” Only threatened species with coded threat information available (145/155) were used for this plot. Only the seven most common threats for each group are shown. No panel is shown for the single threatened amphibian species, the Chinese giant salamander. It was threatened by harvesting, system modifications, pollution, logging, energy, and cropping. Similarly, no panel is shown for the single threatened bird species, the Somali Ostrich, which was threatened by harvesting, livestock, and cropping. Graphic: Ripple, et al., 2019 / Conservation Letters
Current threats to megafauna. Shown are percentages of threatened megafauna species in each class facing different types of threats. We used the top‐level coded threat data on species Red List fact sheet pages, grouping threats 5.1/5.4 together as “Harvesting,” 5.2/5.3 as “Logging,” 2.1/2.2 as “Cropping,” and 2.3/2.4 as “Livestock/aquaculture.” Only threatened species with coded threat information available (145/155) were used for this plot. Only the seven most common threats for each group are shown. No panel is shown for the single threatened amphibian species, the Chinese giant salamander. It was threatened by harvesting, system modifications, pollution, logging, energy, and cropping. Similarly, no panel is shown for the single threatened bird species, the Somali Ostrich, which was threatened by harvesting, livestock, and cropping. Graphic: Ripple, et al., 2019 / Conservation Letters

By Steve Lundeberg
30 January 2019

CORVALLIS, Oregon (OSU) – One hundred forty-three species of large animals are decreasing in number and 171 are under threat of extinction, according to new research that suggests humans’ meat consumption habits are primarily to blame.

Findings published today in Conservation Letters involved an analysis of 292 species of “megafauna” – species that are unusually large in comparison to other species in the same class.

“Direct harvest for human consumption of meat or body parts is the biggest danger to nearly all of the large species with threat data available,” said the study’s corresponding author, William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “Thus, minimizing the direct killing of these vertebrate animals is an important conservation tactic that might save many of these iconic species as well as all of the contributions they make to their ecosystems.”

Ripple and colleagues in the College of Forestry were part of an international collaboration that built a list of megafauna based on body size and taxonomy.

The mass thresholds the researchers decided on were 100 kilograms (220 pounds) for mammals, ray-finned fish and cartilaginous fish and 40 kilograms (88 pounds) for amphibians, birds and reptiles since species within these classes are generally smaller.

“Those new thresholds extended the number and diversity of species included as megafauna, allowing for a broader analysis of the status and ecological effects of the world’s largest vertebrate animals,” Ripple said. “Megafauna species are more threatened and have a higher percentage of decreasing populations than all the rest of the vertebrate species together.”

Over the past 500 years, as humans’ ability to kill wildlife at a safe distance has become highly refined, 2 percent of megafauna species have gone extinct. For all sizes of vertebrates, the figure is 0.8 percent.

“Our results suggest we’re in the process of eating megafauna to extinction,” Ripple said. “Through the consumption of various body parts, users of Asian traditional medicine also exert heavy tolls on the largest species. In the future, most megafauna species are likely to experience further population declines and could become extinct or very rare.”

Nine megafauna species have either gone extinct overall, or gone extinct in all wild habitats, in the past 250 years, including two species of giant tortoise, one of which disappeared in 2012, and two species of deer.

“In addition to intentional harvesting, a lot of land animals get accidentally caught in snares and traps, and the same is true of gillnets, trawls and longlines in aquatic systems,” Ripple said. “And there’s also habitat degradation to contend with. When taken together, these threats can have major negative cumulative effects on vertebrate species.”

Among those threatened is the Chinese giant salamander, which can grow up to 6 feet long and is one of only three living species in an amphibian family that traces back 170 million years. Considered a delicacy in Asia, it’s under siege by hunting, development and pollution, and its extinction in the wild is now imminent.

“Preserving the remaining megafauna is going to be difficult and complicated,” Ripple said. “There will be economic arguments against it, as well as cultural and social obstacles. But if we don’t consider, critique and adjust our behaviors, our heightened abilities as hunters may lead us to consume much of the last of the Earth’s megafauna.”

Collaborators included Christopher Wolf, Thomas Newsome and Matthew Betts of the College of Forestry, as well as researchers at the University of California Los Angeles and in Australia, Canada, Mexico and France.

Direct killing by humans pushing Earth’s biggest fauna toward extinction


Megafauna extinction risk and trends. Shown are percentages of species classified as (a) threatened (IUCN Red List Category Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered) and (b) with decreasing population trend. Data are separated by megafauna (dark green) versus all vertebrate species (blue) in each class, and for all vertebrates combined (IUCN, 2018). Numbers of megafauna species in each class followed by numbers of all IUCN‐assessed species in each class are indicated at the bottom of each panel. Only species with IUCN Red List category and population trend data are counted for panels (a) and (b), respectively. Megafauna are defined here as species with ≥100 kg body mass for mammals, ray‐finned fish, and cartilaginous fish, and ≥40 kg for amphibians, birds, and reptiles. Graphic: Ripple, et al., 2019 / Conservation Letters
Megafauna extinction risk and trends. Shown are percentages of species classified as (a) threatened (IUCN Red List Category Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered) and (b) with decreasing population trend. Data are separated by megafauna (dark green) versus all vertebrate species (blue) in each class, and for all vertebrates combined (IUCN, 2018). Numbers of megafauna species in each class followed by numbers of all IUCN‐assessed species in each class are indicated at the bottom of each panel. Only species with IUCN Red List category and population trend data are counted for panels (a) and (b), respectively. Megafauna are defined here as species with ≥100 kg body mass for mammals, ray‐finned fish, and cartilaginous fish, and ≥40 kg for amphibians, birds, and reptiles. Graphic: Ripple, et al., 2019 / Conservation Letters

ABSTRACT: Many of the world’s vertebrates have experienced large population and geographic range declines due to anthropogenic threats that put them at risk of extinction. The largest vertebrates, defined as megafauna, are especially vulnerable. We analyzed how human activities are impacting the conservation status of megafauna within six classes: mammals, ray‐finned fish, cartilaginous fish, amphibians, birds, and reptiles. We identified a total of 362 extant megafauna species. We found that 70% of megafauna species with sufficient information are decreasing and 59% are threatened with extinction. Surprisingly, direct harvesting of megafauna for human consumption of meat or body parts is the largest individual threat to each of the classes examined, and a threat for 98% (159/162) of threatened species with threat data available. Therefore, minimizing the direct killing of the world’s largest vertebrates is a priority conservation strategy that might save many of these iconic species and the functions and services they provide.

Are we eating the world’s megafauna to extinction?

The strongmen strike back: Authoritarianism reemerges as the greatest threat to the liberal democratic world

Facial recognition software records the faces of people in China in November 2017. Revolutions in communications technologies, data collection and artificial intelligence have reshaped the competition between liberalism and anti-liberalism. Photo: Gilles Sabri / The Washington Post
Facial recognition software records the faces of people in China in November 2017. Revolutions in communications technologies, data collection and artificial intelligence have reshaped the competition between liberalism and anti-liberalism. Photo: Gilles Sabri / The Washington Post

By Robert Kagan
14 March 2019

(The Washington Post) – Of all the geopolitical transformations confronting the liberal democratic world these days, the one for which we are least prepared is the ideological and strategic resurgence of authoritarianism. We are not used to thinking of authoritarianism as a distinct worldview that offers a real alternative to liberalism. Communism was an ideology — and some thought fascism was, as well — that offered a comprehensive understanding of human nature, politics, economics and governance to shape the behavior and thought of all members of a society in every aspect of their lives.

We believed that “traditional” autocratic governments were devoid of grand theories about society and, for the most part, left their people alone. Unlike communist governments, they had no universalist pretensions, no anti-liberal “ideology” to export. Though hostile to democracy at home, they did not care what happened beyond their borders. They might even evolve into democracies themselves, unlike the “totalitarian” communist states. We even got used to regarding them as “friends,” as strategic allies against the great radical challenges of the day: communism during the Cold War, Islamist extremism today.

Like so many of the theories that became conventional wisdom during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, this one was mistaken. Today, authoritarianism has emerged as the greatest challenge facing the liberal democratic world — a profound ideological, as well as strategic, challenge. Or, more accurately, it has reemerged, for authoritarianism has always posed the most potent and enduring challenge to liberalism, since the birth of the liberal idea itself. Authoritarianism has now returned as a geopolitical force, with strong nations such as China and Russia championing anti-liberalism as an alternative to a teetering liberal hegemony. It has returned as an ideological force, offering the age-old critique of liberalism, and just at the moment when the liberal world is suffering its greatest crisis of confidence since the 1930s. It has returned armed with new and hitherto unimaginable tools of social control and disruption that are shoring up authoritarian rule at home, spreading it abroad and reaching into the very heart of liberal societies to undermine them from within. [more]

The strongmen strike back

Mongolia: A toxic warning to the world

By Stephanie Hegarty
24 March 2019

(BBC News) – All over the world cities are grappling with apocalyptic air pollution but the capital of Mongolia is suffering from some of the worst in the world.

And the problem is intrinsically linked to climate change.

The country has already warmed by 2.2 degrees, forcing thousands of people to abandon the countryside and the traditional herding lifestyle every year for the smog-choked city where 90% of children are breathing toxic air every day.

Population Reporter Stephanie Hegarty finds out why.

A toxic warning to the world

U.S. farmers hit by tariffs see crops swept away by flood – Midwest flood risk to persist for months – “The most widespread destruction we have ever seen in our state’s history”

Floodwater surrounds a farm on 22 March 2019 near Craig, Missouri. Midwest states are battling some of the worst floodings they have experienced in decades as rain and snowmelt from the recent "bomb cyclone" has inundated rivers and streams. At least three deaths have been linked to the flooding. Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images
Floodwater surrounds a farm on 22 March 2019 near Craig, Missouri. Midwest states are battling some of the worst floodings they have experienced in decades as rain and snowmelt from the recent “bomb cyclone” has inundated rivers and streams. At least three deaths have been linked to the flooding. Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images

By Jim Salter
23 March 2019

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Even as floodwaters receded in hard-hit places in in the Midwest, experts warned Saturday that with plenty of snow still left to melt in northern states, the relief may only be temporary.

Rainfall and some snowmelt spurred flooding in recent weeks that’s blamed in three deaths so far, with two men in Nebraska missing for more than a week. Thousands were forced from their homes in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, as water broke through or poured over levees in the region. The damage is estimated at $3 billion, and that figure is expected to rise.

As temperatures start to warm, snowmelt in the Dakotas and Minnesota will escalate, sending more water down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries.

Lt. Col. James Startzell, deputy commander of the Corps of Engineers’ Omaha, Nebraska, district, said even warmer temperatures are possible into next week. He urged people living near rivers to be watchful.

Bill Brinton, emergency management director for hard-hit Buchanan County, Missouri, which includes St. Joseph’s 76,000 residents, said his counties and surrounding ones have already been ravaged by flooding.

“There’s a sense from the National Weather Service that we should expect it to continue to happen into May,” Brinton said. “With our levee breaches in Atchison and Holt and Buchanan counties, it’s kind of scary really.” [more]

Experts warn Midwest flood risk may persist for months


Floodwaters surround corn sitting under a collapsed grain bin outside Council Bluffs, Iowa, on 23 March 2019. Photo: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg News
Floodwaters surround corn sitting under a collapsed grain bin outside Council Bluffs, Iowa, on 23 March 2019. Photo: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg News

By Annie Gowen and Frances Stead Sellers
23 March 2019

SIDNEY, Iowa — His farm is still cut off by floodwaters, so Iowa soybean farmer Pat Sheldon had to view the damage from the air. On a helicopter ride over what seemed like an endless stretch of water, he came to a place he recognized as his own land — and saw that one of the grain silos had burst open, spilling yellow soybeans into the dingy, toxic water.

“It was like a punch in the gut,” Sheldon said.

“You work hard planting, taking care of these beans and harvesting them. Then, to have that happen makes you almost physically ill,” he said. “But I haven’t had time to get mad — too many responsibilities and people that need still need help.”

Although the water has yet to recede enough for a true examination, Sheldon says more than $350,000 of his corn and soybeans is in jeopardy, and he worries he may lose the farm that’s been in his family for generations.

Before the terrible “bomb cyclone” sent warm rain down on frozen ground, resulting in catastrophic flooding throughout the Midwest and displacing thousands, American farmers were already struggling after several seasons of low commodity prices and the continuing trade war with China. In towns along the overflowing Mississippi and Missouri rivers, farmers are seeing their crops — and their futures — swept away by floodwaters.

In Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) has called the flooding “the most widespread destruction we have ever seen in our state’s history.” Iowa has more than 100,000 acres of farmland still underwater. Officials from both states say the damage estimates are more than $1 billion and counting.

“It’s devastating for a lot of these folks, there’s no doubt about it,” said Jeff Jorgenson, a farmer and board member of the Iowa Soybean Association. “Essentially, it’s two years of negative; these farmers lost what was stored in the bins and won’t be able to plant next year’s crop. So it’s going to be really tough for a lot of people.” […]

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned people to prepare for a prolonged disaster.

“The stage is set for record flooding now through May,” said Mary C. Erickson, deputy director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. Edward Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center, called it “potentially an unprecedented flood season.” […]

“We’ve had no real communication from the Corps of Engineers since this started,” said Mike Crecelius, the emergency management coordinator for Fremont County.

He estimates that there have been 14 breaches in their levees alone, causing $147 million in damage — more than $100 million from farm crops and equipment.

“It’s been one big nightmare,” he said. [more]

‘A punch in the gut’: Farmers hit by tariffs see crops swept away by flood

Retirees flee Florida as climate change threatens their financial future – “We will miss the warm winters”

Karen Colton, a 54-year-old Florida resident who lives near Upper Tampa Bay. Colton is leaving Florida but hopes to retire in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, Rebecca Turner, fearing the effects of climate change. Photo: Karen Colton
Karen Colton, a 54-year-old Florida resident who lives near Upper Tampa Bay. Colton is leaving Florida but hopes to retire in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, Rebecca Turner, fearing the effects of climate change. Photo: Karen Colton

By Rebecca Mordechai
19 March 2019

(Money) – Florida, with its plentiful beaches, warm weather, and lack of a state-income tax, is the most popular destination for older adults in the U.S. But some who have lived in the Sunshine State for years are moving in the opposite direction.

As damaging storms and other effects of climate change have hit Florida particularly hard in the past few years, some older adults living there have become concerned about their safety and their ability to enjoy retirement. So they’re fleeing this otherwise balmy state.

About 52,630 people ages 65 and over left Florida in 2017, versus 48,174 in 2016 and 43,356 in 2012, according to Jon Rork, professor of Economics at Reed College in Portland, Oregan, who studies retirement migration. “Many of these people have left Florida for states like Georgia and North Carolina,” Rork says. “There’s a hypothesis that those who have left Florida for Georgia and North Carolina have done so to avoid hurricanes and big insurance premium jumps.”

Dire warnings become harder to ignore

It has grown harder for Americans to ignore global warming in the wake of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which released a report last fall warning of catastrophic consequences like increased droughts and food shortages if the atmosphere rises by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels by 2040 — a possibility that scientists consider likely. […]

“We will miss the warm winters,” says Karen Colton, a 54-year-old resident who lives near Upper Tampa Bay. There may be fewer sun-filled days at her new destination, yes, but Colton is still eager to retire to Asheville, N.C., with her wife, Rebecca Turner, this summer. Colton says she’s done fearing the “killer hurricane and floods” that wreak havoc on her current hometown, and craves peace of mind during her retirement years. […]

The couple has been fortunate to have escaped severe hurricane damage so far. But, Colton wonders, “What if I won’t be as lucky next time”? “I like that Asheville seems to be immune to most natural disasters,” she says. […]

Jessa Madosky, 35, hopes the robust real estate market continues until she’s ready to sell her home in Lithia, Fl., near Tampa, and move out of state. As an assistant professor at the University of Tampa’s biology department, Madosky is especially attuned to how global warming is affecting and will continue to affect Florida. “With an increase in global temperatures and an increase in ocean temperatures, hurricanes are becoming more severe,” Madosky says. “Warmer air can also hold more water, so hurricanes will be dumping a lot more water when they come through.”

She projects that these changes will not only affect the real estate market, but will also increase the prices of homeowners’ insurance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plans to adopt risk-based pricing in 2020, switching from the current, outdated system used by the National Flood Insurance Policy. A FEMA spokesperson says that the proposed redesign will offer a “more accurate assessment of risk to determine flood insurance policies.” The upshot? Coastal communities have a greater chance of experiencing sudden, soaring rates, experts say.

If that’s not enough, a report from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation projects that homeowners’ premiums from 15 of the state’s largest insurance companies will rise significantly in the next five years. They already have, in Madosky’s experience. “We were pretty shocked by the cost of insurance in Florida versus previously owning a house in North Carolina,” Madosky says. “The insurance cost is way higher here and it keeps going up by $100 to $200 a year.” [more]

‘We Will Miss the Warm Winters.’ Retirees Are Fleeing Florida as Climate Change Threatens Their Financial Future

Midwest voters in Trump country face historic floods and call for climate action – “People are being smacked with climate change at a phenomenal rate”

An angel statue in a flooded yard near Hansen Lake in Bellevue, Nebraska, 22 March 2019. Residents were allowed into the area for the first time since floodwaters overtook several homes. Photo: Kent Sievers / Associated Press
An angel statue in a flooded yard near Hansen Lake in Bellevue, Nebraska, 22 March 2019. Residents were allowed into the area for the first time since floodwaters overtook several homes. Photo: Kent Sievers / Associated Press

By Hans Nichols and Stefanie Cargill
19 March 2019

La CROSSE, Wisconsin – In two states that flipped from Democratic to Republican in the 2016 presidential race, the devastating floods are focusing voter’s attention on climate change — and both parties’ response to it.

“My big concern is the environment,” said Amy Bouska, a retired actuary, at a town hall event for Rep. Amy Finkenauer, a freshman Democrat from eastern Iowa. “People know that the Canadians are clearing land to plant corn.”

“Whether they’re attributing it to climate change is another question, but people know things are changing,” added Bouska, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

As midwestern states grapple with historic flooding that is devastating communities and threatening crop rotations and livestock, some voters are demanding action on what they see as the cause: climate change and more extreme weather patterns.

This year, as Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin begin their annual thaw, a flash of warm weather, combined with unusually high snowmelt, is making it difficult for the land to dispose of the winter’s water. And that’s causing pain in parts of the country that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump.

Cut rows of corn stand in a March mix of slush and mud, with water pooling just about anywhere that’s flat. Rivers and streams have crested and may rise yet again.

Farm groups say that it’s worse than in the past. […]

Mark Neumann, a retired pediatrician, said that Rep. Ron Kind’s positions on climate change and his opposition to a single-payer health care system may lead him to challenge Kind next year in the Democratic primary.

“People are being smacked with climate change at a phenomenal rate,” Neumann said. “These are issues that go beyond our binary partisan divide.” [more]

Midwest voters in Trump country face historic floods and call for climate action

Smuggled orangutan seized at Bali airport – Two-year-old male was found drugged inside a rattan basket

A drugged, smuggled orangutan was seized at Bali airport on 22 March 2019. The two-year-old orangutan was drugged by a Russian national accused of trying to smuggle the protected animal from Bali to Russia. Tapanuli orangutans, found in isolated forests in Sumatra, have been described by conservationists as the most endangered great ape species in the world. Photo: Denpasar Quarantine office
A drugged, smuggled orangutan was seized at Bali airport on 22 March 2019. The two-year-old orangutan was drugged by a Russian national accused of trying to smuggle the protected animal from Bali to Russia. Tapanuli orangutans, found in isolated forests in Sumatra, have been described by conservationists as the most endangered great ape species in the world. Photo: Denpasar Quarantine office

23 March 2019 (BBC News) – A Russian man has been arrested in Bali on suspicion of trying to smuggle a young orangutan out of Indonesia.

The two-year-old male was found drugged inside a rattan basket when Andrei Zhestkov was stopped at security at Denpasar airport on Friday night.

Mr Zhestkov is said to have told officials he was given the primate by a friend who bought it for $3,000 .

Orangutans are a protected species and Mr Zhestkov could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

“The Russian also had injections and drugs in his bag. He said he planned to re-administer the drugs when they transited” in South Korea, Dewa Delanata, from the airport’s quarantine office, told the Jakarta Post.

Two live geckos and five lizards were also found in the passenger’s luggage. [more]

Smuggled orangutan seized at Bali airport

Global warming taking toll on $20 billion ski industry – Snowpack in Western U.S. declined 41 percent from 1982 to 2016 – “Where is my livelihood in the future, in three to four, five years?”

Decline of snowpack in the Southwest U.S., 1982-2016. The pink-to-red areas on this map of the Four Corners region shows statistically significant decreases in annual snow mass since 1982. Those areas correspond to many of the region’s highest mountain ranges. Darker colors represent larger trends. Graphic: Patrick Broxton
Decline of snowpack in the Southwest U.S., 1982-2016. The pink-to-red areas on this map of the Four Corners region shows statistically significant decreases in annual snow mass since 1982. Those areas correspond to many of the region’s highest mountain ranges. Darker colors represent larger trends. Graphic: Patrick Broxton

By Diana Olick
21 March 2019

(CNBC) – Skiers in the western U.S. are enjoying one of the best seasons in years. But experts warn that years like this are quickly becoming the exception, not the rule.

Snow sport seasons are getting shorter, due to warmer temperatures. That is already having a distinguishable financial impact on residential and resort properties that profit from snow.

Vail Resorts, the largest player in the U.S. ski field, reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings in its latest report but had to lower its full-year guidance because of a weak start to the season. The company’s CEO, Robert Katz, attributed that “to guest concerns after two prior years of poor pre-holiday conditions.”

The amount of snow in the west has seen an average drop of 41 percent since the early 1980s, according to research just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. As a result, the snow season shrunk by 34 days.

Snow sports tourism contributes about $20 billion to the U.S. economy each year, according to researchers at the University of New Hampshire and Colorado State University. The bulk of that spending is at ski resorts, like Colorado-based Vail Resorts. […]

Home values in mountain towns like Vail and Aspen are some of the highest in the nation, and those values are at risk. By 2050, home values near ski resorts could drop by at least 15 percent due to warmer winters, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin. At lower elevation ski areas, such as in Utah, Idaho, Nevada and parts of California, they could fall as much as 55 percent.

Josh Lautenberg sells multimillion dollar homes in the Vail area, some of which are used for just a few winter months each year. He was stunned by the poor conditions to start last year’s ski season. […]

“So we do certainly worry that we wouldn’t be able to sustain one or two or three consecutive years low snow volume due to climate change,” Lautenberg said. “And as far as the real estate business that I own and that I also am a broker within, what will happen? You know, where is my livelihood in the future, in three to four, five years?” [more]

Climate change is taking a toll on the $20 billion ski industry


ABSTRACT: Snow water equivalent (SWE) variability and its drivers over different regions remain uncertain due to lack of representativeness of point measurements and deficiencies of existing coarse‐resolution SWE products. Here, for the first time, we quantify and understand the snowpack change from 1982 to 2016 over conterminous United States at 4‐km pixels. Annual maximum SWE decreased significantly (p < 0.05) by 41% on average for 13% of snowy pixels over western United States. Snow season was shortened significantly by 34 days on average for 9% of snowy pixels over the United States, primarily caused by earlier ending and later arrival of the season over western and eastern United States, respectively. October–March mean temperature and accumulated precipitation largely explain the temporal variability of 1 April SWE over western United States, and considering temperature alone would exaggerate the warming effect on SWE decrease. In contrast, temperature plays the primary role in the 1 April SWE variability over eastern United States.

SIGNIFICANCE: Snow is one of the most important wintertime land surface characteristics and is crucial for water resources over western United States. However, regional snow mass variability and its drivers remain uncertain. Based on our recently developed high‐quality gridded snow mass product, here, for the first time, we quantify and understand the snowpack change from 1982 to 2016 over conterminous United States (ConUS) at 4‐km pixels. Annual maximum snow mass decreases significantly by 41% on average for 13% of snowy pixels over the western United States (or the size of South Carolina). Over ConUS, snow season was shortened significantly by 34 days on average for 9% of the snowy pixels (or the size of Virginia). October–March mean temperature and accumulated precipitation largely explain the temporal variability of 1 April snow mass over western United States, and considering temperature alone would exaggerate the warming effect on the snow decrease. For the snowpack projection in the next few decades over United States to be reliable, Earth system models need to demonstrate their capability in reproducing historical snowpack variabilities and trends and their different relations with temperature and precipitation over western versus eastern ConUS, as reported here.

Snowpack Change From 1982 to 2016 Over Conterminous United States

U.S. falls to 19th in World Happiness Report, continuing slow decline since at least 2000 – “This year’s report provides sobering evidence of how addictions are causing considerable unhappiness and depression in the U.S.”

World dynamics of happiness, 2005-2018. The three panels show the global and regional trajectories for life evaluations, positive affect, and negative affect. The whiskers on the lines in all figures indicate 95% confidence intervals for the estimated means. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019
World dynamics of happiness, 2005-2018. The three panels show the global and regional trajectories for life evaluations, positive affect, and negative affect. The whiskers on the lines in all figures indicate 95% confidence intervals for the estimated means. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019

NEW YORK, 20 March 2019 – As in 2018, Finland again takes the top spot as the happiest country in the world according to three years of surveys taken by Gallup from 2016-2018. Rounding out the rest of the top ten are countries that have consistently ranked among the happiest. They are in order: Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria. The US ranked 19th dropping one spot from last year.

This year, the Report analyzes how life evaluations and emotions, both positive and negative, have evolved over the whole run of the Gallup World Poll, starting in 2005-2006. For life evaluations at the national level, there have been more gainers than losers.

When you factor in population growth, world happiness has fallen in recent years, driven by the sustained downward trend in India. As for emotions, there has been a widespread recent upward trend in negative affect, comprising worry, sadness and anger, especially marked in Asia and Africa, and more recently elsewhere.

Among the 20 top gainers in life evaluations from 2005-2008 to 2016-2018, 10 are in Central and Eastern Europe, five are in sub-Saharan Africa, and three in Latin America. The 10 countries with the largest declines in average life evaluations typically suffered some combination of economic, political, and social stresses. The five largest drops since 2005-2008 were in Yemen, India, Syria, Botswana and Venezuela.

This year’s happiness report focuses on happiness and the community: how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes. Special chapters focus on generosity and prosocial behaviour, the effects of happiness on voting behavior, big data, and the happiness effects of internet use and addictions.

Life Satisfaction and voting in the French 2017 presidential election. Lines show the smoothed weighted average of the proportion of people voting for Marine Le Pen at each level of life satisfaction and at different quintiles of income (‘revenue’). Data: Algan, et al., 2018. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019
Life Satisfaction and voting in the French 2017 presidential election. Lines show the smoothed weighted average of the proportion of people voting for Marine Le Pen at each level of life satisfaction and at different quintiles of income (‘revenue’). Data: Algan, et al., 2018. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019

“The world is a rapidly changing place,” said Professor John Helliwell, co-editor of the report. “How communities interact with each other whether in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods or on social media has profound effects on world happiness.”

The World Happiness Report 2019, which ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, according to their evaluations of their own lives, was launched today at the United Nations. The report was produced in partnership with The Ernesto Illy Foundation.

“We are living a moment of transition to a new age and this generates a sense of uncertainty,” said Andrea Illy, Chairman of illycaffè and Member of the Board of Fondazione Ernesto Illy. “Social happiness is therefore even more relevant, in order to give a positive perspective and outlook for the present and for the future.”

The chapter by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network focuses on the epidemic of addictions and unhappiness in America, a rich country yet one where happiness has been declining rather than rising.

General happiness, U.S. adults, General Social Survey, 1973-2016. Even as the United States economy improved after the end of the Great Recession in 2009, happiness among adults did not rebound to the higher levels of the 1990s, continuing a slow decline ongoing since at least 2000. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019
General happiness, U.S. adults, General Social Survey, 1973-2016. Even as the United States economy improved after the end of the Great Recession in 2009, happiness among adults did not rebound to the higher levels of the 1990s, continuing a slow decline ongoing since at least 2000. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019

“This year’s report provides sobering evidence of how addictions are causing considerable unhappiness and depression in the US,” Sachs said. “Addictions come in many forms, from substance abuse to gambling to digital media. The compulsive pursuit of substance abuse and addictive behaviors is causing severe unhappiness. Government, business, and communities should use these indicators to set new policies aimed at overcoming these sources of unhappiness.”

The report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) with the support of the Ernesto Illy Foundation, is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Professor Richard Layard, co-director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Sachs, director of SDSN and the Earth Institute’s Center on Sustainable Development. Policy applications of happiness research are collected in a companion SDSN publication Global Happiness Policy Report 2019.

According to Professor Sachs, “The World Happiness Report, together with the Global Happiness and Policy Report offer the world’s governments and individuals the opportunity to rethink public policies as well as individual life choices, to raise happiness and wellbeing. We are in an era of rising tensions and negative emotions (as shown in Chapter 2) and these findings point to underlying challenges that need to be addressed.”

General happiness, U.S. 8th, 10th, and 12th graders (ages 13 to 18), 1991-2017. Happiness and life satisfaction among United States adolescents, which increased between 1991 and 2011, suddenly declined after 2012. Thus, by 2016-17, both adults and adolescents were reporting significantly less happiness than they had in the 2000s. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019
General happiness, U.S. 8th, 10th, and 12th graders (ages 13 to 18), 1991-2017. Happiness and life satisfaction among United States adolescents, which increased between 1991 and 2011, suddenly declined after 2012. Thus, by 2016-17, both adults and adolescents were reporting significantly less happiness than they had in the 2000s. Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019

The World Happiness Report 2019 includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 2 Changing World Happiness: by John Helliwell, Haifang Huang and Shun Wang, presents the usual national rankings of life evaluations, supplemented by global data on how life evaluations, positive affect and negative affect have evolved on an annual basis since 2006, and how the quality of government and various forms of conflict have influenced those evaluations.
  • Chapter 3 Happiness and Voting Behaviour: by George Ward, considers whether a happier population is any more likely to vote, to support governing parties, or support populist authoritarian candidates.
  • Chapter 4 Happiness and Prosocial Behavior: An Evaluation of the Evidence by Lara Aknin, Ashley Whillans, Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn, shows that engaging in prosocial behavior generally promotes happiness, and identifies the conditions under which these benefits are most likely to emerge.
  • Chapter 5 The Sad State of US Happiness and the Role of Digital Media: by Jean Twenge, documents the increasing amount of time US adolescents spend interacting with electronic devices, and presents evidence that it may have displaced time once spent on more beneficial activities, contributing to increased anxiety and declines in happiness.
  • Chapter 6 Big Data and Well-Being: by Paul Frijters and Clément Bellet, asks big questions about big data. Is it good or bad, old or new, is it useful for predicting happiness, and what regulation is needed to achieve benefits and reduce risks?
  • Chapter 7 Addiction and Unhappiness in America: by Jeffrey Sachs, surveys a number of theories of addiction, presents evidence of rising US prevalence of several addictive behaviours, and considers a variety of possible causes and cures.

In presenting these results at the launch, coeditor John Helliwell noted that “over the seven years of World Happiness Reports, there has been a steady increase in the level and sophistication of reader interest. At first, readers mainly wanted to see how countries ranked. Now we see ever-increasing interest in using the happiness lens to help understand what makes for happier homes, schools, workplaces, and communities, and to use these findings to help make lives better everywhere.”

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