The Stream, February 7, 2019: Rare Wet Winter Eases Drought in California

The Global Rundown

Heavy precipitation eases dry conditions in California. Researchers struggle to assess the origins and impacts of PFAS across the globe. Scientists verify that 2018 was the fourth-hottest year in recorded history. Bosnia declares a state of emergency after severe flooding swamps homes and damages roads. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency halts efforts by Washington state to regulate harmful water temperatures in its Columbia and Snake rivers.  

“As long as this pattern persists, we should end up way above normal. Reservoirs will be filled. Hopefully, there won’t be too much damage in the burn zones.” –Bill Patzert, a climatologist in Southern California, in reference to the recent rain and snowfall across the state. After several dry years, California is in the midst of an unusually wet winter. Recently, the Sierra Nevada mountains have received excessive precipitation, with up to 10 feet of snow recorded in some areas. Los Angeles Times

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By The Numbers

0.83 °C (1.5°F) Amount that global temperatures in 2018 were above average, based on the average set between 1951 and 1980. Scientists have confirmed that 2018 was the world’s fourth-warmest year on record, behind 2016, 2017, and 2015. The Guardian

15 °C (27 °F) Temperature change in central Bosnia earlier this week, which sparked rapid snowmelt and heavy flooding. The government declared a state of emergency after the flooding damaged roads, inundated homes, and caused a bridge to collapse. Al Jazeera

Science, Studies, And Reports

Chemists and toxicologists across the globe are carefully researching the sources, structures, and impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These “mystery” chemicals are polluting water across North America, Europe, and Australia–and researchers fear they could pose myriad health issues. With the help of high-resolution spectrometers, scientists have recently discovered almost 500 new kinds of PFAS in the environment, but the impacts of PFAS on the human body are still largely unknown. Nature

In context: PFAS: What You Need To Know.

On The Radar

A combination of climate change and dams have caused temperatures in Washington’s Columbia and Snake rivers to rise 1.5°C (2.7°F) in recent decades, endangering the region’s salmon. In an effort to improve river quality, the state Department of Ecology had begun a public comment process on pollution-discharge permits for federal dams along the rivers. Last week, however, the U.S. EPA unexpectedly withdrew the draft permits, blocking the state’s efforts to improve water quality. The Seattle Times

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