Category Archives: Climate change

Amusing Monday: World Reef Day calls attention to coral catastrophe

On the first day of June, ocean advocates around the world celebrated the very first World Reef Day. The event got me to thinking a little more about the role of corals in the most productive ecosystems around the world, as well as the coral reefs located in our own backyards here in the Pacific Northwest.

“Our goal was to stimulate a global conversation about reef conservation and the simple things we can do in our own lives to make huge changes,” said Theresa Van Greunen of Aqua-Aston Hospitality, one of the sponsors of World Reef Day.

The event was launched with a special focus on Hawaii, but the issue of conserving critical coral habitats has worldwide appeal, with 5.5 million people pledging to use reef-friendly sunscreen and reduce their usage of single-use plastics that can harm the marine ecosystem, according to a news release from sponsor Raw Elements and another from sponsor Hawaiian Airlines. While there were elements of fun in this new event, I guess it does not fit my normal criteria for “amusing,” so we’ll have to settle for educational.

Corals are marine invertebrates that live in compact colonies that can grow into extensive reef systems under the right environmental conditions. The individuals in the colonies are soft-bodied organisms called polyps. Reefs begin when a free-floating larva attaches itself to a rock and begins cloning itself over and over into thousands of identical animals.

For genetic diversity, male and female corals release their gametes all at once as an annual event, apparently timed to the lunar cycle and water temperature, as described on a webpage by NOAA’s National Ocean Service and in a video below. The resulting embryo, called a planula, can float for weeks but eventually settles down to start a new colony if conditions are right.

Some coral reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, take shape over thousands of years. Although coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, they are rich ecosystems, supporting 25 percent of all marine creatures, according to an interesting summary in the National Geographic video “Coral Reefs 101,” below.

Although we think of corals as growing in far-off places, the Pacific Northwest is home to all sorts of colorful corals. In fact, deep-water explorations within the Pacific Coast National Marine Sanctuary off
Washington’s shoreline have found a reef-forming coral, Lophelia pertusa, previously believed to exist only in the Atlantic Ocean, as described in a report by the environmental group Oceana.

To dive deeper into the corals off the Washington Coast, check out the 2007 cruise report the NOAA ship McArthur II: “Observations of Deep Coral and Sponge Assemblages in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Washington” (PDF 3.4 mb). If nothing else, it’s worth a look for the pictures of Washington state coral.

Primnoa pacifica, a soft deep-water coral, was found within Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. // Photo: NOAA

“Even Puget Sound contains hydrocorals scattered throughout its various inlets and islands,” according to the Oceana report. “These corals are living habitats that provide structure on the seafloor for other marine life. Biogenic habitat provides feeding areas, shelter from predators, and nursery for juveniles.

“Trawling in the Pacific Northwest has taken its toll,” the report adds, “both on the fish and their habitat. Targeting flatfish, whiting and rockfish, trawlers have flattened many of the corals, sponges and other living seafloor animals before scientists even knew they were there.”

For the full Oceana report, download “Deep Sea Corals: Out of sight, but no longer out of mind” (PDF 2.7 mb).

Another interesting research project involves the discovery of corals along the seamounts northwest of the Hawaiian Islands, where corals were not supposed to grow. Low carbonate levels had been expected to inhibit coral growth, while pH levels were thought to dissolve coral skeletons. See the news release from Florida State University.

While new discoveries help with our understanding of coral, researchers are desperately concerned about the future of coral reefs, which are dying at an extraordinary rate because of global warming. When local conditions are combined with thermal stress, about 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs are at risk of collapse, according to a report from the World Resources Institute.

Peter Harris, a North Kitsap native recognized worldwide for his expertise in marine ecology, told me last year that coral bleaching, caused by warming waters, is one of the top three concerns for the world’s oceans — even above ocean acidification.

“The world is past the tipping point for coral reefs,” according to Peter, who directs GRID-Arendal, a nonprofit foundation that gathers and synthesizes scientific information to help decision-makers. “We are past the point where the corals are under stress,” he told me. “They will keep dying off.” See Water Ways, June 6, 2018.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow down the warming would surely help, even as other researchers work on developing more resilient strains of coral that might survive the worsening conditions and eventually repopulate the oceans. HBO’s Vice News has produced an informative 14-minute program on this issue. See the video “Scientists are breeding super coral,” above.

Other general information:

By the way, this past Saturday — a week after World Reef Day — World Oceans Day was commemorated. Launched worldwide in 2002, the event recognizes the importance of and the declining state of our oceans.

Ocean acidification gets attention in four bills passed by the U.S. House

The issue of ocean acidification gained some traction this week in the U.S. House of Representatives, where bipartisan support led to the approval of four bills designed to bring new ideas into the battle to save sea life from corrosive waters.

If passed by the Senate, the legislation would allow federal agencies to set up competitions and offer prize money for the best ideas for reducing ocean acidification, adapting to ongoing changes or solving difficult research problems. The bills also foster discussions about climate change by bringing more people to the table while providing increased attention to the deadly conditions that are developing along the coasts and in estuaries, such as Puget Sound.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer

“We know that changing ocean chemistry threatens entire livelihoods and industries in our state, said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, in a press release. “There are generations of folks in our coastal communities who have worked in fishing and shellfish growing — but that’s endangered if we don’t maintain a healthy Pacific Ocean.”

Later in this blog post, I will reflect on other Kilmer-related issues, including the so-called Puget Sound Day on the Hill.

In a phone conversation, Rep. Kilmer told me that he was encouraged with the widespread support for a bill that he sponsored called the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act of 2019 (HR 1921), which passed the House on a 395-22 vote. The bill would allow federal agencies to sponsor competitions and offer prize money for the best ideas. Money would come out of existing funds that agencies use for related purposes. The bill was co-sponsored by Northwest Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, along with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat, and Rep. Don Young, an Alaskan Republican. Five representatives from coastal areas in other parts of the country added their names to the bill.

“There is a legitimate problem, and people are beginning to see the impacts of the changing ocean chemistry,” Derek said. “This should a bipartisan issue.”

Both Democrats and Republicans from coastal regions of the country are hearing from people in the fishing and shellfish industries about threats to their livelihoods from ocean acidification. For some lawmakers that is a more practical and immediate problem than just focusing on the environmental catastrophe shaping up along the coasts.

“A whole lot of people in D.C. still don’t get it; that’s just a reality,” Derek said with respect to the closely related causes of ocean acidification and climate change. President Trump, he noted, has never backed down from his assertion that the climate crisis is a hoax.

“By coming out of the House with 325 votes, we hope to provide some traction with forward motion going into the Senate,” he said of his plan to foster innovations for addressing ocean acidification.

The bill was crafted in consultation with various groups, including the XPRIZE Foundation, which has demonstrated how the power of competition can launch a $2-billion private space industry, according to Kilmer. The Ansari XPRIZE competition resulted in 26 teams competing for $10 million, yielding more than $100 million in space-research projects, he noted.

Rep. Herrera Beutler said she, too, is optimistic that the legislation will lead to innovative solutions.

“Shellfish and fishing industry jobs in Pacific County are jeopardized by the detrimental effects of ocean acidification…,” she said, “and I’m pleased that my House colleagues gave it their strong approval. The next step is approval by the U.S. Senate, and I’ll continue advocating for this legislative approach to protecting fishing businesses and jobs.”

Increasing acidity of ocean water has been shown to result from increasing carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere. The effect is exacerbated by land-based sources of nitrogen, which can increase the growth of algae and other plants that eventually die and decay, thus decreasing oxygen while further increasing carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide readily converts to carbonic acid, which can impair the critical growth of shells in commercially valuable shellfish, such as oysters and crabs, as well as pteropods and other tiny organisms that play a key role in the food web — including herring, salmon, right up to killer whales.

The problem is even worse along the Pacific Northwest Coast, where natural upwelling brings deep, acidified and nitrogen-rich waters to the surface after circulating at depth in the oceans for decades, if not centuries.

To help people understand the economic threat, Kilmer cites studies that estimate the value of shellfish to the Northwest’s economy:

Other ocean acidification bills passed by the House and sent on to the Senate:

Puget Sound Day on the Hill

About three weeks ago, on a reporting project for Puget Sound Institute, I joined more than 70 people who traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional leaders. Climate change and ocean acidification were among the many Puget Sound concerns discussed during the series of meetings.

The annual event is called Puget Sound Day on the Hill, and it includes representatives of state and local governments, Indian tribes, environmental groups and businesses. Participants may share their own particular interests, but their primary goal is to get the federal government to invest in protecting and restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem — the same type of investment that the Washington Legislature expanded upon this year.

During those meetings, Kilmer expressed optimism that federal funding for salmon and orca recovery would match or exceed that of the past two years, when President Trump in his budget proposed major cuts or elimination of many environmental programs. Congress managed to keep the programs going.

Here are my reports from that trip:

Fix Congress Committee

During the trip to Washington, D.C., I learned that Derek Kilmer is chairing a new bipartisan committee nicknamed the “Fix Congress Committee,” formally known as the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Goals include improving transparency of government operations, reducing staff turnover to heighten expertise, and implementing new technology. High on the list of challenges is improving the budget and appropriations process, which Kilmer called “completely off the rails.”

The committee recently released its first recommendations with five specific ideas to “open up” Congress. Check out the news release posted May 23 or read the news article by reporter Paul Kane in the Washington Post. One can stay up to date with the committee’s Facebook page.

Derek tells me that many more recommendations will be proposed by the end of the year. If you are interested in the workings of Congress or would like to follow bills as they work their way through the process, you might want to review the videos of committee meetings.

I found it interesting to learn about all the things that technology can do. One of my complaints is that it is difficult to compare final versions of a bill with its initial draft, not to mention all the amendments along the way. Current technology would allow two versions of a bill to be compared easily with a simple keystroke.

“Some technology issues are simple, and some will take more time,” Derek told me, adding that the committee’s staff is limited but some of the ideas are being developed by staffers who work for House members. Some of the ideas are being developed by outside groups.

Other specific issues to be addressed by the committee include scheduling issues; policies to develop the next generation of leaders; ideas for recruiting and retaining the best staffers; and efficiencies in purchasing, travel and sharing staff.

Legislative Action Award to Kilmer

Rep. Kilmer is among six members of Congress — two senators and four representatives — to be honored this year with a Legislative Action Award from the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit think tank that promotes good ideas coming from both Republicans and Democrats.

“The Legislative Action Awards recognize members with the unique capacity to identify common interests and get things done,” said BPC President Jason Grumet in a March 13 news release. “It takes real skill and commitment to govern a divided country.

“Thankfully,” he continued, “there are still true legislators in the Congress who understand how to build coalitions that deliver sound policy for the American people. It is an honor to recognize six of these leaders today and remind the public that principled collaboration is the essence of effective democracy.”

In accepting the award, Derek issued this statement: “The folks I represent want to get the economy on track — and they want Congress to get on track too. In recent years, there’s been far too much partisan bickering and far too little Congress. That’s why I’ve been so committed to finding common ground.

“Congress is at its best when people listen and learn from one another to find the policies that will move our country forward. It’s an honor to receive this award, and I thank the Bipartisan Policy Center for encouraging members of Congress to work together for the common good.”

Amusing Monday: ‘Science Guy’ flips out during climate demo

“I think we’ve all broken Bill Nye — and I, for one, am absolutely on board with his gritty new reboot,” says comedian John Oliver after “the Science Guy” launches into a profanity-laced demonstration of climate change, in which he literally watches the globe go up in flames.

“I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12,” Nye tells Oliver’s HBO audience after firing up his blowtorch. “But you’re adults now, and this is an actual crisis! Got it?”

Nye appeared yesterday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, where moderator Brian Stelter asked him about his blowup. The CNN piece, shown in the first video, goes straight to Bill’s line, “The planet’s on f—— fire! You’re not children anymore!…”

“The writers had this premise,” Nye tells Stelter, “and my performance was heartfelt. But keep in mind, you guys, that I’ve been trying to get people interested in addressing climate change since long about 1993.”

Stelter asks Nye how he hopes to get through to climate-change deniers.

“Climate change deniers, to me, are like astrology people or haunted-house people…,” Nye says. “It takes a couple years for people to change their minds.”

I was amused by the full interview on “Reliable Sources,” which includes Nye’s reaction to the recent sighting of UFOs by Navy pilots.

But the original 20-minute segment about climate change on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is well-crafted, offering Oliver’s typical humorous take on a serious topic. The second video demonstrates how Oliver likes to feed his audience tidbits of real science and politics while sarcastically poking fun at those who seem to ignore the serious problems of our time.

Here’s to hoping that John Oliver, Bill Nye and others will continue their amusing ways to help people learn about climate change.

Gray whale deaths lead to declaration of ‘unusual mortality event’

As more gray whales wash up dead on beaches in Puget Sound and along the West Coast, NOAA Fisheries has declared an “unusual mortality event” to mobilize additional research into what is killing these massive marine mammals.

Aerial images, such as this one off Central California, help biologists assess the condition of gray whales as part of a declared “unusual mortality event.”
Photo: Southwest Fisheries Science Center and SR3 under federal permits NMFS 19091 and MBNMS 2017-8.

About 70 gray whales have been found dead so far this year along the shorelines of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, with another 73 in Mexico and five in Canada. That’s the most since the year 2000, when more than 100 gray whales were stranded along the U.S. West Coast, triggering a previous unusual mortality event, or UME.

Many of the dead whales have shown signs of emaciation, suggesting that they failed to find enough food in the Arctic last summer, a time when they need to build up enough energy reserves to make it through the winter. Each year, the Eastern North Pacific gray whales travel from their feeding grounds in Alaska to their over-wintering areas in Mexico. As they return north at this time of year, they could be exhausting the remainder of their fat reserves, experts say.

A gray whale found dead at Washington state’s Leadbetter Point State Park near Long Beach was examined and found to be unusually thin.
Photo: John Weldon, Northern Oregon/Southern Washington Marine Mammal Stranding Program.

Not all the dead animals are showing signs of malnutrition. Other possible causes of death can include contaminants, environmental conditions, disease and being struck by moving ships. At least three of the animals were killed by ships.

The 70 whales found dead in U.S. waters this year compare to an average of 15 whales found stranded during the same January-through-May time period over the past 18 years. That number is just a fraction of the whales that actually died, however, since only 4 to 13 percent of dead gray whales are ever recovered, according to a study from the last UME.

For Washington state, the migration is about halfway through, while it is just beginning in Alaska, so officials predict that more gray whales will perish before they make it back to their feeding grounds. Of the 70 dead gray whales found on U.S. beaches so far, 37 stranded in California, 25 in Washington, five in Alaska and three in Oregon.

The total population of gray whales along the West Coast is estimated at 27,000, up from about 16,000 following the UME in 2000, when the population dropped by about 5,000 whales, according to Dave Weller, research wildlife biologist with NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

“We know the population can recover, given that all the other parameters remain the same, that the environment remain the same and there is enough food,” Weller said during a telephone news conference this afternoon.

“I would say that the number-one priority is learning as much as we can from the stranded animals,” he added. “Our monitoring will continue, and we will do another abundance estimate … and we’ll also be following calf production. We’ve got our finger on the pulse, and we will continue to monitor it closely.”

The number of calves born this year also appears to be down from average, as it has been in previous unusual mortality events. Whether feeding conditions will be better this year has not yet been determined.

Sue Moore, a biological oceanographer at the University of Washington, said gray whales eat a variety of things, and they can go where food is available. But conditions in the Arctic are changing rapidly, and it isn’t clear yet if they are eating amphipods — tiny shrimplike creatures that normally sustain them — or if they are shifting to other kinds of prey.

The sheer number of gray whales also may be a factor, in that their feeding areas could be reaching “carrying capacity” — although the experts stress that the number of whales that can be supported in the Arctic will vary, depending on environmental conditions that can increase or decrease prey populations.

“Carrying capacity varies by year,” said John Calambokidis, research biologist with Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia. “It certainly plays a role. How I would view it, too, is when animals are closer to the limits of the food supply is when you would start to see a portion of the population that isn’t as fit become more vulnerable.”

John noted that during these high-mortality incidents, more gray whales seem to come into Puget Sound and other busy estuaries, including San Francisco Bay. As a result, they are more likely to be hit by ships or become entangled in fishing nets.

Sue Moore said reports of deaths among other marine mammals, such as sea lions and walruses, will be investigated as part of the effort to understand the gray whale deaths and the overall ecosystem.

“In our investigation, we will bring in experts on gray whales, but we will bring in experts on the larger environment, and that includes other animals,” she said. “We do have some die-offs of birds along the California Coast, so we want to know if what is affecting the birds is different or the same as what is affecting the whales.”

Unusual mortality events can be declared by NOAA Fisheries when there is a significant die-off of any marine mammal species. In this case, the agency cited two of seven possible criteria used to declare a UME:

  • 1. A marked increase in the magnitude or a marked change in the nature of morbidity, mortality or strandings when compared with prior records, and
  • 5. Affected animals exhibit similar or unusual pathologic findings, behavior patterns, clinical signs, or general physical condition (e.g., blubber thickness).

The UME declaration can be used to mobilize a special UME Contingency Fund to reimburse people who officially help with the investigation. People may contribute to the fund or to local stranding networks on the NOAA Fisheries website.

Anyone who sees a dead, injured or stranded marine mammals is asked to call the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, (866) 767-6114. Only local and state officials and those authorized by NOAA Fisheries may legally handle live or dead marine mammals.

The annual gray whale migration — some 10,000 to 12,000 miles — is said to be the longest migration of any mammal. Adult grays can reach up to 46 feet long.

Unnamed stream could be named LeCuyer Creek for KPUD hydrologist

UPDATE, MAY 31
The name LeCuyer Creek was approved yesterday by the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names. The name change now goes to the state Board of Natural Resources, which sits as the state Board of Geographic Names. Action is normally a formality. The name, which will be recognized for state business, will be forwarded to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which is likely to adopt it for federal actions as well.
—–

The late Jim LeCuyer, who developed a system of monitoring rainfall, streamflow and groundwater levels in Kitsap County, could be memorialized next week when a stream near Kingston is officially named LeCuyer Creek.

Jim LeCuyer

The state’s Committee on Geographic Names will meet Tuesday Thursday to consider the proposed stream name in honor of LeCuyer, who died in 2012 from a blood disorder.

Jim, who joined the Kitsap Public Utility District in 1984, came to understand the water cycle on the Kitsap Peninsula perhaps better than anyone else. When Jim took the job, one of the looming questions for government officials was whether the peninsula would have enough water to serve the massive influx of people who were coming to Kitsap County.

“Jim started doing hydrological monitoring about 1991,” said Mark Morgan, KPUD’s water resources manager who proposed the name LeCuyer Creek. “What he developed became one of the best monitoring systems in the state, some say on the West Coast.”

It is Jim’s system that I use when I report on water conditions in North, Central and South Kitsap, which are widely different most of the time.

Since Kitsap has no mountain glaciers or snowpack, all the water we get falls from the sky. It then either soaks into the ground or becomes part of a stream. Jim’s ambitious goal was to account for all that water and let people know when low groundwater levels were threatening water supplies or when low streamflows were affecting salmon spawning.

For the system to work well, the data must be rigorously and consistently maintained, month after month, year after year, Mark told me. There is no room for a haphazard approach, and Jim was steadfast in his work.

Beyond that, I can personally testify that Jim was good at putting pieces of the puzzle together, using numbers to prove his point. He would sometimes call me, especially during low-water years to explain the threat to wells and the need for people to conserve water.

A stream on Miller Bay in North Kitsap would be named LeCuyer Creek under new proposal.

I would arrive at Jim’s office, and he would spread out colorful charts and graphs across the top of the table. Then he would proceed to explain, calmly and patiently, the technical details and answer my questions.

“The data and systems we have today is because of Jim,” said Bob Hunter, general manager of Kitsap Public Utility District. “He knew we were in a unique spot on this peninsula with no glacial runoff. It was his idea to collect the data to determine if (the water supply) is influenced by the water purveyors or if it is truly tied to rainfall.”

Those questions are still being pursued, but it appears from the latest studies that the Kitsap Peninsula will have adequate water supplies for the foreseeable future, provided people adopt a variety of conservation measures and that utilities are able to move water from place to place.

In early 2012, looking forward to retirement, Jim sat down with Bob to discuss the future.

“I told him that I wanted him to hire his replacement,” Bob recalled, adding that continuity was so important that he wanted the new person to have a year to learn from Jim. The PUD went through the normal hiring process and interviewed several applicants.

After the search had gone on awhile, Jim came to Bob and said, “I know of only one person who you can trust with managing the data,” according to Bob who added, “Knowing Jim as long as I did, I knew he meant that.”

Jim recommended his own son, Joel, for the job, and the KPUD board approved the hire, which has worked out well for everyone.

While Joel was in training, his father came down with an illness and was taken to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, where he died. After his death, his family learned that he had a form of lymphoma.

The stream chosen to bear the name LeCuyer Creek drains into Miller Bay near White Horse Golf Course west of Kingston, where Jim and his family lived for about 20 years before moving to Port Ludlow. The stream is a little more than a half-mile long and has never had an official name.

Born April 10, 1953, Jim received bachelor degrees in environmental science and biochemistry from Saint John’s University and the University of Minnesota. He worked for Northern States Power Company and Grain Belt Brewery, both in Minneapolis, and Honeywell in Deer Park, Ill., before moving to Seattle, where he took a job with James Brinkley Company, which manufactures equipment for pulp and paper mills.

In 1984, Jim went to work for Kitsap Public Utility District, where I first met him. At the time, he was scrambling to add new data by testing monitoring wells throughout Kitsap County. Check out the Kitsap Sun, Nov. 12, 1991. Among the stories I wrote involving Jim was a drought in 2009 — a condition we may be facing again this year. See Kitsap Sun Oct. 3, 2009.

Jim, whose family said his work with KPUD was “the job of his dreams,” also loved outdoor sports, animals and spending time with his family. He was 59 years old when he died on Dec. 10, 2012. In addition to his son Joel, he is survived by his wife, Jody; his daughter, Jackie; and two brothers, Bob and Bill.

The Committee on Geographic Names will hold a hearing on the proposed name LeCuyer Creek on Thursday in Olympia. To provide comments, go to the webpage of the Committee on Geographic Names within the Department of Natural Resources.

Amusing Monday: A comedy connection to climate change info

Climate scientist Josh Willis, who graduated from the Second City Comedy School, does a pretty good impersonation of Elvis Presley, as he tries to help people understand climate change.

“It’s a tough thing to communicate, and I think that we need to use all the tools that we can in order to really reach people and help them understand what’s happening to the planet,” Willis said in an interview on KNBC’s “Life Connected” show in Los Angeles, which aired last week.

The first video on this page features a rock ‘n’ roll song that answers the question, “What’s climate … What?”

“You take a bunch of weather and you average it together and you’re doing the Climate Rock!”

Professionally, Willis, who works for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is part of a team that travels to Greenland to observe how changing temperatures are melting away the glaciers and raising sea levels. They call the project OMG, for Oceans Melting Greenland.

Willis, who holds a doctorate in oceanography from the University of California, San Diego, makes his living as a scientist, but he has long enjoyed connecting with people in a humorous way.

“Being a scientist, we’re trying to discover something about the world, and I think being a comedian, you’re trying to discover something about people that makes them laugh,” he said in the KNBC piece by Belen De Leon and Tommy Bravo.

Willis spends a portion of his free time performing in comedy clubs. He developed the Elvis character and produced a video on YouTube.

“Being a kind of a middle-age, doughy, white guy with big hair and sideburns, Elvis seemed like the perfect guy,” Willis said.

He has found that people might ask Elvis basic questions about climate change that they might not ask a stuffy scientist, and those personal interactions have improved his ability to communicate science in more creative ways, according to an article last week by Zoe Sayler of Grist magazine.

“Climate scientists have become a political weapon, right? We’re seen as this kind of imaginary force that’s either being manipulated or telling you the truth, depending on your political leanings,” Willis was quoted as saying. “We need to be humanized a little bit, because we’ve lost that.”

In the Grist article, Sayler gets Willis to tell the story about a research paper he co-wrote that suggested a brief shift toward global cooling — a finding that, if true, would have reverberated through the world of climate science. Just before presenting the paper at a climate conference, Willis found an error in the data.

The mistake was like a comedy routine with no laughter, and Willis decided the best thing to do was rewrite the paper, provide the correct findings and explain what went wrong.

“We all fail, and we all make mistakes,” Willis said in the Grist article. “When you can own up to them, and try to move on, then people usually forgive you. I think in comedy, the same thing is true. When you bomb, the best thing you can do is own up to it and make fun of yourself.”

The other two videos are bits by Willis, featuring one character called Dick Dangerfield and another called Guy Scientist.

Amusing Monday: A new Earth Day anthem from a comedic rapper?

Loving the Earth is the theme of a new music video by comic rapper Lil Dicky, who enlisted the voices of two dozen famous singers to play the roles of animals in the video.

Just released Thursday, the video is one of the hottest-trending items on YouTube, where it reached 25 million views just before I posted this. With its catchy tune, the song is being promoted as a new anthem for Earth Day. Happy Earth Day!, by the way.

It feels almost redundant to share this video, considering all the anticipation and attention surrounding it, but it is a far more fun and amusing than the dull and somewhat ironic Earth Day message posted by Andrew Wheeler, the current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was clever of Dave Burd, Lil Dicky’s real name, to put the voices of some famous singers into the bodies of animals, including Justin Bieber as a baboon, Ariana Grande as a zebra, Halsey as a lion cub, Zac Brown as a cow, Adam Levine as a vulture, Shawn Mendes as a rhino, Charlie Puth as a giraffe, Miley Cyrus as an elephant, Katy Perry as a pony, Ed Sheeran as a koala, Leonardo DiCaprio as himself, and several others.

Proceeds from the video will go to help out the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which strives to educate the public about the environment and climate change while working on environmental projects.

“Dicky frolics with penguins, analyzes chatty microbes under a microscope, and talks to a marijuana plant voiced by Snoop Dogg (duh),” writes Zoya Teirstein for Grist magazine. “The video might look like a Disney channel special, but isn’t too concerned with being wholesome (Justin Bieber’s line: ‘I’m a baboon. I’m like a man just less advanced and my anus is huge).’

“If you don’t want to watch an animated Lil Dicky sing about the planet in a loincloth g-string for seven minutes, I don’t blame you,” she continues. “But think of it this way: what if this whole video is a critique of the tired and worn-out tropes used by old-school Earth Day advocates? Hmm??”

Ellen DeGeneres was able to preview the video on her show last week, but she didn’t seem to have much time or know what to ask Lil Dicky — or Dave Burd, who turned 31 last month.

Burd, who grew up in a middle-class, Jewish family, launched his career by emphasizing feelings of self-consciousness in his characters. Lil Dicky’s first rap video in 2013 was “Ex Boyfriend,” which contains sexually explicit lyrics about feelings of inadequacy around a hot girlfriend. Ellen said she liked “Freaky Friday,” in which Lil Dicky suddenly finds himself in the body of Chris Brown with all of the implications that brings.

Dave Burd clearly has a knack for rap, and that may be where he continues to grow his comedic fame and fortune, but there is another side to this man who graduated from the University of Richmond in Virginia, and began working in account management for the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (Bio, Wikipedia).

In a 2014 interview with Michael Trampe of HipHop magazine, Burd said: “I started rapping simply to get attention comedically, so I could write movies, write TV shows and act. I had very little interest in being a rapper. I fell in love with rapping though, so I’m not leaving that game until I’ve proved my point. However, I plan on having two concurrent careers going on at the same time, as a rapper, and as a comedian/actor/writer. I value the non-musical career just as much as the rap career, and can’t wait to begin acting on that.”

Amusing Monday: Eco-comedy videos have gotten edgier than ever

Amateur video producers seem to have grown darker and more intense in dealing with the topic of climate change — even when their task is to create a humorous video. At least that seems to be a trend in this year’s Eco-Comedy Video Competition, a trend I mentioned last week in Water Ways with respect to stand-up comedy.

Winners were recently announced in the annual Eco-Comedy competition, a contest that challenged people to create a two-or three-minute video about climate change while using humor to engage their audience. Sponsors were the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University in Washington, D.C., and The Nature Conservancy.

The competition was open to anyone, with four categories available for entries: kindergarten-eighth grade, high school, college, and nonstudent. More than 250 entries were submitted for this year’s contest.

Judges included Bethany Hall, comedian-in-residence at AU’s Center for Media and Social Impact, and Keith Haskal, producer for Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”.

“Office Fish,” shown in the first video, is a provocative piece about the migration of species brought about by shifting ecosystems as a result of climate change. The short film, which was the winner in the college category, was directed by Benjamin Vornehm of the University of Television and Film in Munich, Germany, with photography under the direction of Alexander Dirninger.

“Climate Change is Real” shows a rapper getting in the faces of young students. The film, second on this page, was produced and directed by Jake Rasmussen and was written and performed by Tom McGovern. Rasmussen is an independent filmmaker who has worked for VICE Media.

Links to all of this year’s winners, along with grand prize winners from previous years, can be found on the Eco-Comedy website.

Kitsap weather shifts to unusual patterns over past three months

“Average, very average.” That’s how things were going for the first quarter of Water Year 2019, which began in October and ran through the end of last year (Water Ways, Jan. 4). But the second quarter, which began in January, presented an uncharacteristic upheaval, as various portions of the Kitsap Peninsula went their own way.

We’ve talked before about how Southwest Kitsap typically has twice the rainfall as North Kitsap. But even the patterns of rainfall have been different the past three months, and you can’t compare these areas to anywhere else. Let’s take them one at a time:

Hansville: Representing the north end of the peninsula, Hansville received 2.5 inches of precipitation in January, well below the 4.4-inch average for the month. February followed with a little below average, 2.8 compared to 3.2 inches. Like January, March was quite low, with 1.1 inches compared to a 3.5-inch average. In the first chart (click to enlarge), you can see this water year’s rainfall total (blue line) slipping below average (pink line).

Silverdale: Representing Central Kitsap, Silverdale received 5.9 inches of rain in January, somewhat below the 7.2-inch average. The gap widened in February, when 3.4 inches of rain fell — below the average 4.9 inches. In March, the 0.8 inches of precipitation was even below dry Hansville’s 1.1 inches and way below 5.6 inches — the March average for Silverdale. In the second chart (click to enlarge), this water year’s rainfall has fallen below the average (pink line) and even below last year’s below-average precipitation (orange line).

Holly: Representing Southwest Kitsap, Holly was about average for January, with 11.6 inches of rain compared to an average of 12.8. But if the gap was wide between February’s rainfall and the monthly average in Silverdale, it was wider in Holly, where the 4.2 inches of rainfall was just half of the 8.3-inch monthly average. And rainy Holly just about dried up in March, when the area seemed more like the north end during a drought. The 1.2 inches of precipitation that fell on Holly in March was just 13 percent of the average 9.1-inches. The chart (click to enlarge) shows the drop from about average to well below average in just two months.

I can’t easily describe the mixed pattern across the Kitsap Peninsula, but the lack of rainfall is part of an overall picture for Western Washington, which has been officially declared “abnormally dry” on the Drought Monitor managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As you can see on the map, the entire region was below 50 percent of average rainfall for March.

The drought picture could change quickly with anticipated April showers — actually RAIN — that should arrive late tonight or tomorrow morning throughout the region, according to the latest forecast by the National Weather Service. Rain is expected through Saturday, when the weather changes to mostly cloudy with a continuing chance of showers through next Tuesday.

Weak El Nino conditions are expected to continue in our area throughout the spring and into summer, bringing warmer- and drier-than-average conditions to the Northwest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ENSO Adviser and the State Climatologist’s Office.

Amusing Monday: Climate-change comedy grows more intense

The growing urgency of climate change is altering the nature of comedy among those who tell jokes for a living. I’ve noticed a greater intensity in the satire, as warnings from scientists become more specific about the imposing reality of climate change.

Rachel Parris of the BBC’s “Mash Report” discusses this dire topic in a most cheerful way, as you can see in the first video.

“Some of you have been asking, ‘Rachel, all this feels kind of inevitable,’” Rachel says in the video. “’Would it be better if we just give up and let the world burn? Who really needs birds and trees? I’d rather just be taking pictures of my own face.’”

Maybe the damage would be less, Rachel continues, if we all went limp and “floppy” like a drunk person falling out of a window.

Climate-change comedy used to be mostly jabs about higher temperatures and rising oceans. When he hosted “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno would toss out one-liners about what would happen if the Earth continued to warm beyond 2015: “Hillary Clinton might actually thaw out.”

Reader’s Digest once suggested new names for cities when the polar ice caps melt, names such as “Atlantis City, New Jersey.”

Mary Pols, a reporter for the Press Herald in Portland, Maine, uncovered the Leno and Reader’s Digest jokes and others while touching on the history of climate-change comedy. Her story focused mostly on a local man, Jason Wentworth, who gave up his green laundry business to launch a career in comedy, focusing on climate change. He has even set up a Go-Fund-Me account to get started, as seen in the last video on this page.

Jason’s routine often targets his own audience with jokes about the failure of people to address climate change on an individual level. I would think this would leave audience members feeling at least a bit uncomfortable. Here’s one of Jason’s jokes cited by Mary Pols:

“So many people say, ‘I would ride public transit more, but it is so inconvenient.’ My response is, ‘Have you tried it?’ I want to talk about how inconvenient it is to row Grandma in a canoe to a Red Cross center after a hurricane and then return to your house to rip out wet sheetrock. Or if you live in Paradise, California, it is super inconvenient.”

“Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” sharpened its approach after dire warnings came out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as you can see in the second video.

“We don’t really worry about climate change, because it is too overwhelming, and we’re already in too deep,” says co-host Colin Jost. “It’s like if you owe your bookie a thousand dollars, you’re like, “Oh yeah, I gotta pay this dude back.’ But if you owe your bookie a million dollars, you’re like, ‘I guess I’m just gonna die!’”

It seems some of the late-night hosts are becoming less humorous about climate change and more direct in their sarcasm. I featured video clips from Stephen Colbert’s show in Water Ways in February. The third video on this page is a clip from “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” who has always found the right sarcastic voice for his news-based commentaries.