Field Notes: El Nino to bring more rain to the Upstate this winter, forecasters say

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The map above shows the chances of rain this winter across the United States. Provided by the NOAA.

Meteorologists predict ‘wetter-than-average’ winter for Upstate

Upstate residents should brace for a wet winter this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center recently released its winter weather outlook, predicting “wetter-than-average conditions” in the southern United States through February.

Meanwhile, the Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley, and Mid-Atlantic “all have equal chances for below-, near-, or above-average temperatures,” meaning the chances of snow and ice this winter remain a mystery.

“Snow forecasts are generally not predictable more than a week in advance,” according to the NOAA winter outlook. “Even during a warmer-than-average winter, periods of cold temperatures and snowfall are still likely to occur.”

Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said increased levels of precipitation in the southern U.S. can be attributed, in part, to climate patterns such as El Nino. 

El Nino is “an ocean-atmosphere climate interaction that is linked to periodic warming in sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific,” according to NOAA. During the winter, typical El Nino conditions in the U.S. can include wetter-than-average precipitation in the South and drier conditions in parts of the North.

“We expect El Nino to be in place in late fall to early winter,” Halpert said. “Although a weak El Nino is expected, it may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the southern United States, and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the north.”

Other climate patterns that can affect winter weather include “Arctic Oscillation,” which influences the number of Arctic air masses that penetrate the South and could result in below-average temperatures in the eastern part of the U.S., according to NOAA.

The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center produces seasonal outlooks to “help communities prepare for what is likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather’s impacts on lives and livelihoods.” The next update will be available in December.

For more information, visit www.noaa.gov.

Southeast EPA administrator resigns following indictment

Pictured above: The Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Skyhobo/iStock.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s top official for the Southeast has resigned after being indicted on state ethics charges in Alabama.

Trey Glenn, who oversaw South Carolina and seven other states in the Southeast as the EPA’s Region 4 administrator, was indicted earlier this month on charges of using his office for personal gain and soliciting or receiving a “thing of value” from a principal or lobbyist, according to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

The charges against Glenn and a former business partner, Scott Phillips, stem from their work with a coal company to stall the cleanup of a polluted site in north Birmingham.

A 2013 investigation of the site found levels of arsenic and other contaminants that could increase the risk of cancer for people living in the community, according to EPA records.

Glenn was a private consultant and registered lobbyist at that time, while Phillips was a member of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission. Glenn submitted his resignation on Nov. 18 to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

“Stepping down now, I hope removes any distraction from you and all the great people who work at EPA as you carry out the Agency’s mission,” Glenn wrote in his letter, which was reported by AL.com. He added, “I intend to focus on my family, fight these unfounded accusations and ultimately clear my name.”

Wheeler’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, announced earlier this month that Mary Walker, the region’s deputy administrator, would become acting administrator for the EPA’s Region 4 office. Walker previously served as the regional director of the Water Protection Division. 

The EPA’s Region 4 office is headquartered in Atlanta and encompasses eight states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Do people still care about conservation? Google data say yes

Photo Credit: FG Trade/iStock.

This year has been full of bad news for the planet: The Trump administration wants to reverse more than 70 environmental regulations, a federal report shows that global warming will damage the U.S. economy and kill thousands of people over the next couple of decades, and more than 26,000 wildlife species are threatened with extinction worldwide. On the bright side, however, the public is becoming more interested in protecting the natural world.

A new report from Princeton University shows that the number of Google searches for conservation-related topics has been increasing since 2004.

The report, which appeared in the November print issue of “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment,” was led by Zuzana Burivalova, a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, according to a news release.

Burivalova and other researchers studied monthly search results between 2004 and 2017 by combining data from an adapted version of Google Trends, which tracks user searches on Google, with their own estimates of how the total number of searches changed over time. Search terms included everything from “conservation” and “biodiversity” to “environmental protection” and “ecotourism.”

The report shows that Google users around the world conducted about 110,000 conservation-related searches per month. That’s similar to online interest in poverty, which garners approximately 165,000 searches per month. It also shows a significant increase in searches for “conservation” in many East African countries as well as India and Nepal.

While the researchers can’t pinpoint why Google users searched the terms they did, they are confident the results signify increasing interest in both topics, the release said. 

“We think our work highlights the value of presenting objective, evidence-based findings about conservation in an accessible, engaging and relatable way. This is especially crucial in a time of growing political polarization and misinformation,” said David Wilcove, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs at the Princeton Environmental Institute, who oversaw Burivalova’s research.

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Field Notes is the Greenville Journal’s weekly recap of outdoors and environment news, compiled by staff writer Andrew Moore.

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