30 Dec 2016: Zika Exacerbates Falling Birth Rates

Ann Morrison
By Ann Morrison February 6, 2017 16:43

Update as of 30 Dec 2016

John Moore, The Liberty Man, & Ann

Dr. Bill Deagle, Nutrimedical Report, & Ann


Biosecurity: Flavivirus Zika


Constitution – BLM

Climate Change





Climate Change

Arctic Ozone Watch 25 December 2016

Arctic Ozone Watch 25 December 2016


National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center


Antarctic Ozone Hole Watch 26 December 2016

Antarctic Ozone Hole Watch 26 December 2016




Northern Jet Stream crosses the Equator!

2016-12-29 21 00 UTC at 250hPa




National Current Large Fire Incidents for December 29, 2016

Eleven Large Fire Incidents across South

National Current Large Fire Incidents for December 29, 2016

National Interagency Fire Council



Will We Miss Our Last Chance to Save the World From Climate Change?

Will We Miss Our Last Chance to Save the World From Climate Change?



“We have not hit the disastrous level,” says leading climate scientist James Hansen. “But we are close.”

“The energy system and the tax system have got to be simplified in a way that everybody understands and doesn’t allow the wealthy few to completely rig the system,” says Hansen. Benedict Evans/Redux

By Jeff Goodell 5 days ago from 2/6/2017 11:20 AM

In the late 1980s, James Hansen became the first scientist to offer unassailable evidence that burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet. In the decades since, as the world has warmed, the ice has melted and the wildfires have spread, he has published papers on everything from the risks of rapid sea-level rise to the role of soot in global temperature changes – all of it highlighting, methodically and verifiably, that our fossil-fuel-powered civilization is a suicide machine. And unlike some scientists, Hansen was never content to hide in his office at NASA, where he was head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York for nearly 35 years. He has testified before Congress, marched in rallies and participated in protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline and Big Coal (he went so far as to call coal trains “death trains“). When I ran into him at an anti-coal rally in Washington, D.C., in 2009, he was wearing a trench coat and a floppy boater hat. I asked him, “Are you ready to get arrested?” He looked a bit uneasy, but then smiled and said, “If that’s what it takes.”

The enormity of Hansen’s insights, and the need to take immediate action, have never been clearer. In November, temperatures in the Arctic, where ice coverage is already at historic lows, hit 36 degrees above average – a spike that freaked out even the most jaded climate scientists. At the same time, alarming new evidence suggests the giant ice sheets of West Antarctica are growing increasingly unstable, elevating the risk of rapid sea-level rise that could have catastrophic consequences for cities around the world. Not to mention that in September, average measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record 400 parts per million. And of course, at precisely this crucial moment – a moment when the leaders of the world’s biggest economies had just signed a new treaty to cut carbon pollution in the coming decades – the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet elected a president who thinks climate change is a hoax cooked up by the Chinese.

Hansen, 75, retired from NASA in 2013, but he remains as active and outspoken as ever. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, he argues, sweeping changes in energy and politics are needed, including investments in new nuclear technology, a carbon tax on fossil fuels, and perhaps a new political party that is free of corporate interests.

He is also deeply involved in a lawsuit against the federal government, brought by 21 kids under the age of 21 (including Hansen’s granddaughter), which argues that politicians knowingly allowed big polluters to wreck the Earth’s atmosphere and imperil the future well-being of young people in America. A few weeks ago, a federal district judge in Oregon delivered an opinion that found a stable climate is indeed a fundamental right, clearing the way for the case to go to trial in 2017. Hansen, who believes that the American political system is too corrupt to deal with climate change through traditional legislation, was hopeful. “It could be as important for climate as the Civil Rights Act was for discrimination,” he told me.

Last fall, I visited Hansen at his old stone farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It sits on 10 acres, with a tennis court and a row of carefully trimmed apple trees lining the walk to the front door. We talked in his office, a big room connected to a stone barn outfitted with solar panels. He had the cool, cerebral manner of a man whose mind is always processing complex algorithms. But at times he seemed downright cranky, as if he were losing patience with the world’s collective failure to deal with the looming catastrophe that he has articulated for the past 30 years. “It’s getting really more and more urgent,” Hansen told me. “Our Founding Fathers believed you need a revolution every now and then to shake things up – we have certainly reached that time.”

You’ve arguably done more than anyone to raise awareness of the risks of climate change – what does Trump’s election say about the progress of the climate fight?

Well, this is not a whole lot different than it was during the second Bush administration, where we had basically two oil men running the country. And President Bush largely delegated the energy and climate issue to Vice President Cheney, who was particularly in favor of expanding by hundreds the number of coal-fired power plants. Over the course of that administration, the reaction to their proposals was so strong, and from so many different angles – even the vice president’s own energy and climate task force – that the direction did not go as badly as it could have.

In fact, if you make a graph of emissions, including a graph of how the GDP has changed, there’s really not much difference between Democratic and Republican administrations. The curve has stayed the same, and now under Obama it has started down modestly. In fact, if we can put pressure on this government via the courts and otherwise, it’s plausible that Trump would be receptive to a rising carbon fee or carbon tax. In some ways it’s more plausible under a conservative government [when Republicans might be less intent on obstructing legislation] than under a liberal government.

Hansen devoted his career at NASA to researching climate change. Mary Altaffer/AP

Trump’s Cabinet nominees are virtually all climate deniers, including the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. Are Trump’s appointments a sign that climate denialism has gone mainstream?

Climate denialism never died. My climate program at NASA was zeroed out in 1981 when the administration appointed a hatchet man to manage the program at Department of Energy. Denialism was still very strong in 2005-2006 when the White House ordered NASA to curtail my speaking. When I objected to this censorship, using the first line of the NASA Mission Statement [“to understand and protect our home planet”], the NASA administrator, who was an adamant climate denier, eliminated that line from the NASA Mission Statement. Denialism is no more mainstream today than it was in those years.

How much damage can a guy like Pruitt do to our chances of solving the climate crisis?

The EPA is not the issue. They have been attacked several times by an incoming administration since I got into this business – but they always survive without much damage. EPA cannot solve the climate problem, which is a political issue.

If President-elect Trump called you and asked for advice on climate policy, what would you tell him?

What we need is a policy that honestly addresses the fundamentals. We must make the price of fossil fuels honest by including a carbon fee – that is, a straightforward tax on fossil fuels when they come out of the ground, and which is returned directly to people as a kind of yearly dividend or payment. Perhaps someone will explain to President-elect Trump that a carbon fee brings back jobs to the U.S. much more effectively than jawboning manufacturers – it will also drive the U.S. to become a leader in clean-energy technology, which also helps our exports. The rest of the world believes in climate change, even if the Trump administration doesn’t.

You know, he said exactly what was necessary to get the support of the people that he needed to win the election. But that doesn’t mean he necessarily will adopt the implied policies. So he wants to save the jobs of coal miners and fossil-fuel workers and make the U.S. energy-independent, but he also wants to invest in infrastructure, which will make the U.S. economically strong in the long run, and you can easily prove that investing in coal and tar-sands pipelines is exactly the wrong thing to do.

I would also tell him to think of what the energy sources of the future are going to be and to consider nuclear power. China and India, most of their energy is coming from coal-burning. And you’re not going to replace that with solar panels. As you can see from the panels on my barn, I’m all for solar power. Here on the farm, we generate more energy than we use. Because we have a lot of solar panels. It cost me $75,000. That’s good, but it’s not enough. The world needs energy. We’ve got to develop a new generation of nuclear-power plants, which use thorium-fueled molten salt reactors [an alternative nuclear technology] that fundamentally cannot have a meltdown. These types of reactors also reduce nuclear waste to a very small fraction of what it is now. If we don’t think about nuclear power, then we will leave a more dangerous world for young people.

If the Trump administration pushes fossil fuels for the next four years, what are the climate implications?

Well, it has enormous implications, especially if it results in the building of infrastructure like the Keystone Pipeline, which then opens up more unconventional fossil fuels, which are particularly heavy in their carbon footprint because of the energy that it takes to get them out of the ground and process them. But I don’t think that could happen quickly, and there’s going to be tremendous resistance by environmentalists, both on the ground and through the courts. Also, the fossil-fuel industry has made a huge investment in fracking over the past 20 years or so, and they now have created enough of a bubble in gas that it really makes no economic sense to reopen coal-fired power plants when gas is so much cheaper. So I don’t think Trump can easily reverse the trend away from coal on the time scale of four years.

How would you judge President Obama’s legacy on climate change?

I would give him a D. You know, he’s saying the right words, but he had a golden opportunity. When he had control of both houses of Congress and a 70 percent approval rating, he could have done something strong on climate in the first term – but he would have had to be a different personality than he is. He would have to have taken the FDR approach of explaining things to the American public with his “fireside chats,” and he would have had to work with Congress, which he didn’t do.

You know, the liberal approach of subsidizing solar panels and windmills gets you a few percent of the energy, but it doesn’t phase you off fossil fuels, and it never will. No matter how much you subsidize them, intermittent renewables are not sufficient to replace fossil fuels. So he did a few things that were useful, but it’s not the fundamental approach that’s needed.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on energy after a tour of a Solar Panel Field at the Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility, the largest photovoltaic plant operating in the country with nearly one million solar panels powering 17,000 homes, in Boulder City, Nevada, March 21, 2012. Lawrence Jackson/The White House

Climate change hardly came up during the election, except when Al Gore campaigned with Hillary Clinton. Do you think Gore has been an effective climate advocate?

I’m sorely distressed by his most recent TED talk [which was optimistic in outlook], where Gore made it sound like we solved the climate problem. Bullshit. We are at the point now where if you want to stabilize the Earth’s energy balance, which is nominally what you would need to do to stabilize climate, you would need to reduce emissions several percent a year, and you would need to suck 170 gigatons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, which is more than you could get from reforestation and improved agricultural practices. So either you have to suck CO2 out of the air with some method that is more effective than the quasi-natural improved forestry and agricultural practices, or you leave the planet out of balance, which increases the threat that some things will go unstable, like ice sheets.

You’ve described the impacts of climate change as “young people’s burden.” What do you mean by that?

Well, we know from the Earth’s history that the climate system’s response to today’s CO2 levels will include changes that are really unacceptable. Several meters of sea-level rise would mean most coastal cities – including Miami and Norfolk and Boston – would be dysfunctional, even if parts of them were still sticking out of the water. It’s just an issue of how long that would take.

Right now, the Earth’s temperature is already well into the range that existed during the Eemian period, 120,000 years ago, which was the last time the Earth was warmer than it is now. And that was a time when sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher than it is now. So that’s what we could expect if we just leave things the way they are. And we’ve got more warming in the pipeline, so we’re going to the top of and even outside of the Eemian range if we don’t do something. And that something is that we have to move to clean energy as quickly as possible. If we burn all the fossil fuels, then we will melt all the ice on the planet eventually, and that would raise the seas by about 250 feet. So we can’t do that. But if we just stay on this path, then it’s the CO2 that we’re putting up there that is a burden for young people because they’re going to have to figure out how to get it out of the atmosphere. Or figure out how to live on a radically different planet.

Trump has talked about pulling out of the Paris Agreement. How do you feel about what was achieved in Paris?

You know, the fundamental idea that we have a climate problem and we’re gonna need to limit global warming to avoid dangerous changes was agreed in 1992 [at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. This new agreement doesn’t really change anything. It just reaffirms that. That’s not to say there’s nothing useful accomplished in Paris. The most useful thing is probably the encouragement of investment into carbon-free energies. But it’s not really there yet. I mean, the U.S. should double or triple its investment in energy. The investment in research and development on clean energies is actually very small. There are these big, undefined subsidies, like renewable portfolio standards, that states place on their electricity generation, which can help them get 20 or 30 percent of their power from renewables. But we’re not actually making the investments in advanced energy systems, which we should be doing. There were agreements to do that in Paris. They have to be implemented – somebody’s gotta actually provide the money.

I think that our government has become sufficiently cumbersome in its support of R&D that I’d place more hope in the private sector. But in order to spur the private sector, you’ve got to provide the incentive. And that’s why I’m a big supporter of a carbon fee.

Is the target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, which is the centerpiece of the Paris Agreement, still achievable?

It’s possible, but barely. If global emissions rates fell at a rate of even two or three percent a year, you could achieve the two-degree target. People say we’re already past that, because they’re just assuming we won’t be able to reduce missions that quickly. What I argue, however, is that two degrees is dangerous. Two degrees is a little warmer than the period when sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher. So it’s not a good target. It never had a good scientific basis.

In Paris, negotiators settled in an “aspirational” target of 1.5C.

Yes. But that would require a six-percent-a-year reduction in emissions, which may be implausible without a large amount of negative emissions – that is, developing some technology to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Let’s talk more about policy. You’re a big believer in a revenue-neutral carbon fee. Explain how that would work, and why you’re such a big supporter of it.

It’s very simple. You collect it at the small number of sources, the domestic mines and the ports of entry, from fossil-fuel companies. And you can distribute it back to people. The simplest way to distribute it and encourage the actions that are needed to move us to clean energy is to just give an equal amount to all legal residents. So the person who does better than average in limiting his carbon footprint will make money. And it doesn’t really require you to calculate carbon footprint – for instance, the price of food will change as sources that use more fossil fuel, like food imported from New Zealand, become more expensive. And so you are encouraged to buy something from the nearby farm.

So this would provide the incentive for entrepreneurs and businesses to develop carbon-free products and carbon-free energies. And those countries that are early adopters would benefit because they would tend to develop the products that the rest of the world would need also, so it makes sense to do it. But it’s just not the way our politics tend to work; they tend to favor special interests. And even the environmentalists will decide what they want to favor and say, “Oh, we should subsidize this.” I don’t think we should subsidize anything. We should let the market decide.

Hansen arrested at a White House protest in 2011. “We have to move to clean energy,” he says. “If we burn all the fossil fuels, then we will melt all the ice on the planet, and that would raise the seas by about 250 feet.”   Ben Powless

Of course, the problem with getting carbon-fee legislation passed is that Congress is run by people who don’t even acknowledge that climate change is a problem.

Yeah, although behind the scenes a lot of them do. And many of them would support a revenue-neutral carbon fee. And, you know, I am equally critical of the liberals and the conservatives, because the liberals are using climate policy as a basis for getting some support from people who are concerned about the environment and recognize the reality of the climate threat. But they’re not addressing the fundamental problem. The public understands that, and that leads to all the other things that people are concerned about, like the fact that you’re answering to lobbyists while you’re in Congress, then you become a lobbyist when you retire. [Former House Democratic Majority Leader] Dick Gephardt retired after he couldn’t get the nomination for president, and in the first year out of office he got $120,000 per quarter from Peabody Coal, almost half a million dollars a year from a single source. It’s like when Hillary Clinton is asked, “Why did you take $250,000 from the banks to give a talk?” and she said, “Well, that’s what they offered.” That’s the way it works.

We need a revolutionary third party that takes no money from lobbyists. Look at Obama and Bernie Sanders: Their campaigns initially were funded by small donors. They didn’t have to take lobbyist money. The public is not into the details of what’s going on, but it knows that it’s become a rotten system.

I agree that a carbon fee could be an effective tool to cut emissions, but how do you get the politics right to get it done? I mean, it’s one thing to…

Well, you have to make it simple. You can’t do this 3,000-page crap, like they did with cap-and-trade in 2009. You gotta simplify it down to the absolute basics, and you do it in a way that the public will not let you change it. If the public is getting this dividend, they won’t let you change it.

That’s the same argument people use for a flat tax, which will never happen because all the loopholes in the tax system are deliberate. And political.

That’s why we need a new party, which is gonna be based on these principles. These are the most fundamental things. The energy system and the tax system have got to be simplified in a way that everybody understands and doesn’t allow the wealthy few to completely rig the system.

Sounds like you think we need a Boston Carbon Party.

[Laughs] Something like that.

A lot of people say you are a great scientist, but when it comes to policy, that’s a whole other thing – and something you should leave to politicians.

Bullshit. What scientists do is analyze problems, including energy aspects of the problem. I got started thinking about energy way back in 1981, when I published a paper that concluded that you can’t burn all the coal, otherwise you end up with a different planet. There’s nothing wrong with scientists thinking about energy policy, in my opinion. In fact, if you have some scientific insights into the implications of different policies, you should say them. It’s the politicians who try to stop you. And that includes people who ran NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where I worked for 33 years. Before I would go to Washington to testify, I’d sometimes get a call from the director of the center – somebody who I respect a lot and is a very good scientist and engineer. But he would tell me, “Just be sure to only talk about science, not policy.”

Well, I don’t agree with that. Here’s another example – at NASA headquarters, we would have a trial run on press conferences. And at one of them, which was about declining sea ice in the Arctic, one of the trial questions was, “What can we do about it?” The scientist who responded said, “Well, we can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.” And some of the more political types in the agency said, “No, you can’t say that. That’s policy!” [Laughs]

When I was working at NASA, I always felt I was working for the taxpayer. I was not working for the administration. When a new administration comes in, they think they can control public-information offices and science agencies and influence what they’re saying so they become, in effect, offices of propaganda. But that’s just wrong. When we have knowledge about something, we should not be prohibited from saying it as clearly as we can.

You were among the first to alert the world to the dangers of climate change back in the 1980s. Since that time, carbon pollution has just gone up. What does that tell you about humanity?

Well, that’s always been the way we do things. In the U.S., we didn’t face up to the dangers of World War II until we were forced to. And then we did a lot. But in this case, it’s particularly difficult and crucial because of the inertia of the climate system and the fact that the climate system gains momentum, and you’ve gotta stop that. It is a very powerful system. We’re close to that point of no return. Whether we’ve passed it or not, I don’t know…. We’ve passed it in the sense that some climate impacts are going to occur and some sea-level rise is going to occur, but we have not necessarily hit the disastrous level, which would knock down global economies and leave us with an ungovernable planet. But we are close. So this is why it’s really crucial what happens in the near term. But it will take a strong leader who is willing to take on special interests. Whether that can be done without a new party that’s founded on just that principle, I’m not sure. So we’ll have to see.

Do you ever feel a sense of futility about the situation we’re in – the essential insanity of continuing to emit carbon pollution, given what we know about the future consequences

It’s not at all surprising, because it’s related to the desire of people to raise their standard of living out of poverty levels. That’s what we did in the West. We discovered fossil fuels, which allowed us to replace slavery with fossil fuels. That’s what China and India and other countries want to do now. But if they do it the way we did, then we’re all going down together. If we go over there and say, “You guys do it differently. Use solar panels” [laughs], that’s stupid. We have to work together in a way that will actually work. And they understand the risks, too.

There is a lot of talk about the rise of China as a military power. Well, they’re not gonna bomb their customers. The bigger threat is this climate threat. That’s what could destroy civilization as we know it.


Only one major polical party in the world denies climate change, and it’s in charge of the most important political body in the world. Watch here.

© Rolling Stone 2016
Accessed at http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/will-we-miss-our-last-chance-to-survive-climate-change-w456917?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=daily&utm_campaign=122216_16 on December 27, 2016.


Informed debate on the use of fire for peatland management means acknowledging the complexity of socio-ecological systems

Informed debate on the use of fire for peatland management 16 Dec 2016

RIO EU citizen science gateway for biodiversity data


Nature Conservation 16: 59-77 (16 Dec 2016)
G. Matt Davies, Nicholas Kettridge, Cathelijne R. Stoof, Alan Gray, Rob Marrs, Davide Ascoli, Paulo M. Fernandes, Katherine A. Allen, Stefan H. Doerr, Gareth D. Clay, Julia McMorrow, Vigdis Vandvik


The effects of fire and its use on European peatlands and heaths are the focus of considerable research and debate due to the important services these ecosystems provide and the threats they face from climatic and land-use change. Whilst in some countries ecologists are actively promoting the restoration of historic fire management regimes, in the UK the debate has become increasingly acrimonious. Positions seem entrenched between continuing the intensive form of management associated with grouse moors or ceasing burning and seeking to eliminate fire altogether. In a recent paper we argued that participants’ positions appeared influenced by political and philosophical beliefs associated with, for example, private land-ownership, hunting, and associated conservation conflicts such as raptor persecution. We also suggested there was inadequate engagement with key concepts and evidence from fire and peatland ecology. We argued that management debates should aim to be inclusive and evidence-based, and to understand the benefits and costs of different fire regimes. In a strongly-worded critique of our paper, George Monbiot (author of “Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding”) suggested we: i) framed our research question too narrowly; ii) made the implicit assumption that moorlands were the “right” ecosystem for the UK countryside; and iii) failed to adequately engage with arguments put forward for cessation of managed burning. Here we critically examine each of these issues to provide further insight into how adaptive, participatory land-management could develop. We argue that a productive debate must acknowledge that complex trade-offs are inevitable during ecological management. Choosing the “right” ecosystem is difficult, especially in a landscape with a long history of human influence, and the answer depends on the values and ecosystem services we prioritize. Natural resource management decisions will be improved if based on an understanding and valuation of the multiple scales and levels of organization at which ecological diversity exists, the role of disturbance in controlling ecosystem composition and function, and the need for participatory action.

Adaptive Management, diversity, heathland, managed burning, moorland, participatory, scale


The ecological effects of fire in European peatlands and heathlands are the focus of considerable research and debate due to the important services these ecosystems provide (Whitfield et al. 2011), their conservation importance (Thompson et al. 1995), and the threats they face from climatic (Gallego-Sala et al. 2010) and land-use changes (Acs et al. 2010). Though heathland and peatland ecosystems occur naturally in NW Europe, for instance at high elevations above the tree-line or in areas of cool temperatures and high rainfall, across much of their British range heathlands and peatlands are fundamentally anthropogenic landscapes deriving their current ecological composition, structure and function from millennia of low-intensity human management (Simmons 2003). Despite this, human interventions in the more recent past, including drainage, high rates of livestock grazing, and intensive use of managed burning have interacted with other anthropogenic impacts such as nutrient deposition, acidification and climate change to have significant ecological consequences (Holden et al. 2007). Each of these drivers can affect biodiversity and ecosystem services in their own right, but they also vary significantly in time and space and interact with each other in complex ways (e.g. Evans et al. 2014). Fire is a critical control on the current structure and function of peatlands but over time we have grown concerned that the dominant narrative in the UK surrounding the use of fire as a management tool has become antagonistic, politicised and overly-simplified. We are not alone in being concerned about the tone of upland land-management debates in the UK. Wynne-Jones (2016) recently critiqued the hyperbolic character of the debate regarding interactions between upland sheep farming, reforestation and catchment hydrology. The current debate about managed burning risks failing to adequately acknowledge the complexity associated with multiple drivers of peatland ecosystem function, our growing global understanding of the ecological effects of fire in peatlands (e.g. Turetsky et al. 2015) and the potential flexibility of prescribed burning as a management tool (Russell-Smith and Thornton 2003). We laid out our concerns in a recent paper “The role of fire in UK peatland and moorland management: the need for informed, unbiased debate” (Davies et al. 2016), which has been the subject of subsequent discussion, debate, and no small amount of misrepresentation.

Notable amongst the coverage our paper received was the critique made by the respected author, journalist and commentator George Monbiot (Monbiot 2016a). Monbiot’s comments followed newspaper reports (e.g. Webster 2016) which, without consulting us, reported on our paper before it was published and distorted our key messages. After mistakenly being placed open access on an institutional server following its acceptance, our paper was picked up by the organization “You Forgot the Birds” (YFTB) which produced a press-release based on it. In subsequent newspaper reports (e.g. Webster 2016), Monbiot and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) were publicly and unfairly criticized, based on a partial reading of our work, highly selective quoting from our paper and a distortion of our conclusions. We made it clear at the time that we did not endorse any of the pre-publication coverage of our paper (Avery 2016). It is deeply ironic that our paper, which called for unbiased, informed science reporting, was used in this way given that we specifically criticized science journalism for failing to adequately engage with the authors of research papers, for not seeking or allowing pre-publication review of their articles, and for a tendency to be insufficiently critical of simplified and sometimes biased press-releases.

Given the wider issues Monbiot (2016a) raised regarding peatland and moorland ecology, we feel it is important to respond to his criticisms and to develop our arguments further. By our reading, Monbiot has three key issues with our paper: i) that we frame our question too narrowly and thus pre-empt our own conclusions to favour the continued use of current forms of burning; ii) that we make the implicit assumption that moorlands are the appropriate ecological state for large areas of the British Uplands; and iii) that we failed to read and/or understand one of his recent articles and, as a result, did not adequately engage with his criticisms of burning or his arguments in favour of “rewilding”. We believe his conclusions stem from not unusual misunderstandings regarding:

  • How scientists frame research questions within the context of peer-reviewed journal publications and why we chose to focus our paper on the ecology of peatland fires.
  • The ecological, social, economic and conservation importance of peatland and heathland ecosystems.
  • The nature of ecological diversity and the importance of considering ecological patterns and processes across multiple scales.

These misunderstandings are important as they potentially influence one’s attitudes regarding the role of science in the development of conservation policy and management decision-making, how one reads and interprets scientific literature and how one assesses the value of peatland and heathland landscapes and fire’s role in them. Our aim here is to address each of the three points above before considering how this knowledge should influence attitudes towards land-management and the character of ecological debates.

1. Framing research questions – understanding fire effects on peatlands

A scientific paper, even a review or opinion piece, aims to shed light on a particular, focused question. Debates regarding ecosystem management and restoration are inherently complex and require an integrated understanding of socio-ecological systems. However, within these larger debates one can still identify specific process and interactions each of which often require detailed study on their own before the whole picture can be constructed (Figure 1). Arguments can often develop at cross-purposes due to misunderstandings regarding the particular element of the system being studied or debated. The objectives of our paper were to i) review recent evidence of the effects of fires (managed and wild) on moorland and blanket bog ecosystems; and ii) examine the manner in which this knowledge is communicated in scientific publications and the media. This focus is rather different from the socio-cultural debates Monbiot (2016a) primarily focused on (Figure 1). We believe our objectives were justified because as we, and others (e.g. Glaves et al. 2013), have explained, there is considerable debate about the environmental effects of managed burning and wildfires on peatland ecosystems and ecosystem services. We believe that the debate about environmental processes is being muddied by wider political, social and economic issues, and a highly simplistic view of fire management. This would have us believe that the only options are to cease or ban burning entirely, or to continue with an intensive use of fire as associated with management on some grouse moors (see Figure 1 in Davies et al. 2016). This is a simplification of the significant variation in current and historic managed and wild fire regimes within the UK, the flexibility of fire as a management tool, and the extent to which one can manipulate its ecological effects. The objective of our paper was to elucidate the effects of fires on heathland and peatland ecosystems without taking a position regarding the wider issues associated with moorland management – our focus was solely on understanding how fire affects these ecosystems. It is essential to address this issue as it is critical in evaluation of current ecosystem management practices and the identification of future options.

Figure 1.



Ecosystem function (including species composition and ecological processes) is controlled by a series of abiotic (e.g. soil type, temperature) and biotic (e.g. species diversity and species’ traits) variables. The abiotic and biotic controls also act as filters controlling the species found at a particular site out of those available from the regional (or historical) species pool. Disturbances, such as managed burning or wildfire, influence both biotic and abiotic variables and therefore ecosystem function. The nature of that influence will depend upon the characteristics of the disturbance regime and the particular ecosystem function of concern. Socio-economic decisions influence the system by impacting directly on disturbance regimes (e.g. via regulation of prescribed burning), the species pool (e.g. by re-introducing locally or regionally extinct species), and environmental stress (e.g. via anthropogenic climate change). Disturbance (fire) effects (orange) were the focus of Davies et al. (2016) whereas socio-economic decision-making (blue) were the focus of Monbiot (2016a). We argue that views in the blue region should not influence the interpretation of scientific data in the orange region. This does not mean socio-economics are not important, but these issues should be addressed in a participatory manner rather than via polemics, which assume one has a monopoly on the “right” answer about ethical, conservation and economic priorities. This diagram was adapted from Halle (2007).

Before one proposes a shift in management regime, one ideally needs to understand the range of ecosystem effects the current disturbance regime generates, and the trade-offs any changes could produce. Where such knowledge is lacking, an Adaptive Management approach (Holling 1978) should be adopted. Adaptive Management emphasizes the need for a conceptual model of inter-related ecological structures and processes; identification of areas of uncertainty; ecologically-justified, testable hypotheses about what the outcomes of management change will be given existing uncertainties; a range of potential intervention/change options that can be applied experimentally; and mechanisms that allow the measurement of management effects and the identification of trade-offs such that the conceptual model can be updated and management options expanded or adapted if desired outcomes are not reached (Westgate et al. 2013). Adaptive Management therefore emphasizes “learning by doing” and presents an alternative to wholesale changes followed by reactive responses to problems if/when they occur. Management should not proceed by trial and error or with an unwillingness to acknowledge and account for ecological, social and economic uncertainties.

Monbiot’s criticism could be taken as suggesting that scientists and managers know all they need to about the ecological effects of variation in fire regimes or the ecosystem dynamics of heathlands and peatlands, but this is very clearly not the case (e.g. O’Brien et al. 2007, Glaves et al. 2013). Monbiot (2016a) says “Is fire good for ‘landscapes that owe their existence to the use of fire as a management tool’? Er, let me get back to you on that”, thus suggesting that we pre-empt the answer to our own question and that we argue that fire is “good”. But there is, in fact, no clear answer to the question he has posed. Monbiot himself appears to be aware that the relationship between moorland ecosystems and fire can be complex and that, contrary to the sentiment expressed in the quote above, certain fire regimes can be damaging to these systems. In a previous contribution, Monbiot (2016b) highlighted degradation of moorlands as a result of interactions between fire and grazing. Degradation of peatlands or heathlands by fire is indeed possible but, as we argued in our paper, such processes are often not the sole result of one particular disturbance but rather a result of disturbances outwith the historical norm, e.g. severe wildfires (Maltby et al. 1990, Davies et al. 2012), compounded or interacting disturbances (e.g. Vandvik et al. 2005, Britton and Fisher 2006), or disputed classifications of ecosystem health (see Box 1 in Davies et al. 2016). In Monbiot’s example of the decline in bog and heathland habitats on Dartmoor (Monbiot 2016b), we would suspect that inappropriate combinations of burning and grazing are more likely to be to blame than the use of burning as part of the management of the system per se. Previous research has shown the role that heavy grazing has played in the decline of heather-dominated moorlands (e.g. Stevenson and Thompson 1992), whilst areas which retained grouse moor management (and thus managed burning) have shown comparatively small declines compared to other land-uses (Robertson et al. 2001).

Prescribed burning has long been known to influence the behaviour of wild and domestic grazing animals (e.g. Grant and Hunter 1968, Oom et al. 2002) with grazers typically congregating on more recently burnt patches. Where the relationship between area burnt and stocking rates is out of balance this can lead to heavy grazing pressure in the years following burning and the loss of heather cover. Overstocking in general, poorly timed grazing, and burning vegetation that is either too young for the heather to have recovered after the last fire or too old for the heather to resprout can also precipitate heather loss (Anderson and Yalden 1981, Hobbs and Gimingham 1987). Significant variation can exist within and between regional fire regimes, as well as between different types of fire, such as managed burns versus wildfires (Davies et al. 2016), and even within individual prescribed fires (Davies et al. 2010). It would thus be a simplification to argue that fire, or any other disturbance, is “good” or “bad” – one has to consider it in relation to the character of the wider disturbance regime and the ecological functions or features of concern.

2. The ecological value of moorland landscapes

Monbiot clearly has strong views about what ecosystems are appropriate for the British uplands and he has been at the forefront of the nascent “rewilding” movement in the UK (Monbiot 2014a). Some of his ideas have gained a sympathetic hearing amongst the authors here. Monbiot, however, suggests that we failed to engage with this wider debate about whether anthropogenic ecosystems, such as peatlands and heathlands, are “right” for our uplands. In his comment on our paper, and in previous writings (e.g. Monbiot 2013a, Monbiot 2013b, Monbiot 2014b, Monbiot 2015), he has questioned the ecological value of anthropogenically-derived ecosystems in general, and heathlands and peatlands specifically, in rather strong terms. Many of his contributions mix political and ecological issues in a manner we suggested in our paper was unhelpful when trying to discern the ecological effects of fire. He suggests that we started from an assumption that current conservation priorities, including statutory designation of large areas of heathland, are correct. There are undoubtedly strong arguments to be made for increasing forest and woodland cover in the British Uplands (e.g. Thomas et al. 2015), but it would be incorrect to suggest that heathlands and peatlands hold no or little ecological value, or that one has to choose between these ecosystems and forests at a national or landscape scale. Heathland and bog ecosystems have statutory conservation recognition not just in the UK but in many other regions of Europe (European Commission 2013). The report by Van der Waal et al. (2011) highlights the diverse array of provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services provided by upland and heathland ecosystems in the UK. Douglas et al. (2015) pointed to the overlap between designated areas in the UK uplands and areas with a history of managed burning activity, which, in our view, highlights the role historic management has played in creating some features of conservation importance. Whether current management regimes are appropriate for maintaining the range of ecosystem services that are now desired from upland landscapes is an open question. In our paper we pointed to the fact that several other countries in Europe are actively seeking to reintroduce burning and/or grazing to protect and restore similar habitats in the absence of grouse moor management or any economic incentive from agricultural use (e.g. Keienburg and Prüter 2004, Vandvik et al. 2005, Ascoli et al. 2009). Many ecologists recognize the importance of management for early-successional habitats such as shrublands even in otherwise forested landscapes and in the face of public skepticism about their value (e.g. Askins 2001). Nevertheless, there is considerable debate about the use of fire as a management tool on moorlands and peat bogs even amongst those who believe these habitats are worthy of conservation protection.

3. Species, habitat and ecosystem diversity – the importance of scale

We would agree with previous authors (e.g. Levin 1992, Legg 1995) that management needs to consider the importance of scale in ecology and conservation, and to think about ecological processes and diversity across multiple taxonomic, spatial and temporal scales. This is particularly true when considering the effects of disturbances such as fire or grazing. Ecological responses to management vary across spatial and temporal scales including both between and within landscapes. For example, looking at the short-term effects of grazing removal on upland grasslands has shown initial declines in species richness in some locations, but the effects were different at higher elevations where species diversity increased when stock was removed (Davies and Bodart 2015). Scale is critical here – if Davies and Bodart had been able to consider longer timescales of decades or centuries, rather than years, and a wider range of bioclimatic settings, their conclusions might have been different (Bakker et al. 2009). Unfortunately long-term and large-scale studies are in woefully short supply.

Contrary to what Monbiot (2016a) appears to suggest, it is simplistic to assume that one can choose the “right” ecosystem simply by counting the number of species a particular habitat contains (Fleishman et al. 2006). Monbiot’s point that birch and pinewoods in the Cairngorms contain a wonderful diversity of species is certainly true (Shaw and Thompson 2006), though few of these are particularly rare internationally (exceptions would include endemics such as the Scottish crossbill, Loxia scotica). However, patch-scale (alpha) species diversity is not the only metric by which ecologists evaluate ecosystems. Diversity occurs at a variety of scales of organization and includes, in addition to the local species richness, the diversity of communities and habitats at landscape scales (e.g. Peterson et al. 1998), the diversity of ecosystems globally, as well as genetic diversity within species (e.g. Rao and Hodgkin 2002, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2005). Species diversity responses to management can often be rather specific. For example the response of species richness to birch colonization of moorland (as might occur during “rewilding”) depends upon which species group one considers – plant species richness has been shown to decline but the diversity of Collembola and mites increased in the same study (Mitchell et al. 2007). The heterogeneity in habitat structure associated with burning can have important effects. For example in the study by Bargmann et al. (2016), variation in the composition of invertebrate communities meant traditional burning practices increased diversity of this group at the landscape scale. Davies and Legg (2008) found similar effects for lichen species and Velle et al. (2014) for vascular plants.

Diversity in species composition and ecosystem function is just as important as species diversity when making ecological management decisions. Temperate peatlands, including heathlands, moorlands and blanket bogs, are extremely rare in European and global terms and there have been dramatic losses in recent decades (e.g. Blackstock et al. 1995, Robertson et al. 2001). These ecosystems support important functions including carbon storage and sequestration, particularly in blanket bogs (Ostle et al. 2009), and the provision of habitat for internationally important populations of breeding birds (e.g. Stillman and Brown 1994, Thompson et al. 1995). Many of these species, such as golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), merlin (Falco columbarius) and hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) would likely be displaced by conversion to woodland or forest. With regard to ecosystem function, relationships with land management and vegetation structure can also be complex. For instance, shrub and tree encroachment of bogs can presage fundamental changes in their carbon balance (Walker et al. 2016) and changes to land-surface albedo means the climate change implications of forest regeneration can be complex (de Wit et al. 2014).

Making decisions about land-management in anthropogenic landscapes

We of course do not suggest the above points make grouse moors, moorlands in general, or blanket bogs the “right” ecosystem for all of the uplands. However, we know of few ecologists involved in upland management who would not agree that such ecosystems have ecological value, harbor unique species assemblages and should form part of a structurally diverse, holistically-managed landscape. Managers and policy-makers need to be aware of the inevitable trade-offs involved in management change. None of this prevents, or argues against the desirability of, alterations to “traditional” fire use strategies, woodland restoration or even “rewilding” in some parts of the uplands. In some situations win-wins may exist in addition to trade-offs. For example, in a recently published study, Gao et al. (2016) showed that restoring riparian woodland cover in peatland catchments could have important benefits for flood management. Protecting riparian corridors from fire might also mitigate some of the potential impacts of burning on aquatic ecosystems described by Rachmunder et al. (2013). The suggestion that a choice must be made between “rewilding”, restoration, moorland (traditionally- managed or not), or peatlands is therefore artificial as there is significant room for a diversity of upland ecosystems some of which are presently more abundant than others. The idea that a choice must be made between natural and managed landscapes is also illogical. Disagreements about the status and value of anthropogenically-derived landscapes, such as heathlands and peatlands, may stem from differences in philosophical position regarding humans’ place in the “natural world” and a desire to see naturalness as a simple binary concept rather than as a complex gradient (e.g. Machado 2004, Anderson 2005). Whatever management decisions are made in the British uplands, the resulting ecosystems will never be truly “natural”, if the term is intended as “not affected by anthropogenic activities”. Even in the absence of active management, our landscapes and their species pools have developed under millennia of human impacts on both biotic and abiotic conditions. Our landscapes’ Anthropocene future includes biota, biogeochemical cycles, and climates heavily affected by human activities. Challenges for ecosystem management therefore include: i) understanding how species assemblages and ecosystem services are distributed along gradients of naturalness in order to protect and value the full range of ecological diversity; ii) ensuring that the diversity of human socio-cultural perceptions and priorities are reflected in management decision making; and iii) taking an Adaptive Management approach and monitoring ecosystem dynamics so that development along suitable trajectories can be ensured. The assumption that one can reintroduce species, particularly those that have been missing over evolutionary timescales, and necessarily see a “natural” ecosystem state unfold is simplistic, something Monbiot himself seems aware of (Sahn 2014). Again, this does not argue against the potential desirability of woodland restoration or “rewilding”, but management decision-making should be based on ecological knowledge gained through a rigorous application of Adaptive Management.

Finding the right balance between different habitats, such as woodland and moorland, whilst maintaining or enhancing habitat connectivity and minimizing fragmentation will require landscape-scale approaches to management. We agree with Wynne-Jones (2016), that this in turn requires trust and collaboration between diverse land-owning groups, interest groups, and individuals in making use of the best available evidence of the ecological trade-offs involved. Getting buy-in for management change requires shared knowledge and understanding of the evidence. The right balance between different ecosystems is not for us or any one person or interest to decide. It is an ecological, economic, philosophical and aesthetic decision that needs to be made by society as a whole, respecting the differing stakes and legal rights that people have in these landscapes.

Monbiot (2014a) takes one particular view about what the priorities for future landscape management should be. In his comment on our paper he questions the legitimacy of heathland and peatlands landscapes seeing them as a “reflection of cultural hegemony”, which favours particular interests such as grouse moor owners (Monbiot 2016a). His ecological priorities thus appear to be at least partly politically-motivated – in our paper we specifically requested people to try to set politics aside when discussing ecosystem dynamics. That does not mean that politics and socio-economics cannot play a role in determining land-management priorities, indeed they are vital components of the socio-ecological system that needs be understood and managed in order to gain desired outcomes (Figure 1). We do however suggest that when specifically discussing ecological dynamics one should try to exercise a degree of self-awareness regarding one’s inherent biases, and try and minimize the extent to which they influence interpretation of environmental data. Contrary to Monbiot’s views we would argue that the fact that peatlands are cultural landscapes (sensu Birks et al. 2004) does not mean they are a reflection of the current culture and its associated forms of land-ownership and management. This is merely the latest (and in ecological terms fairly recent) phase in their history and evolution. The classic text by the eminent Charles Gimingham (Gimingham 1972) and the excellent volume by Ian Simmons (Simmons 2003) highlight the long (pre)history of heaths, moors and bogs in the UK. These systems are a reflection of millennia of post-glacial human modifications and climatic changes, extend along the Atlantic regions of Europe from Portugal to northern Norway, and are not simply the outcome of 19th century style grouse shooting in the UK. These are ecosystems in which species have had long enough to evolve to disturbance by fire (Vandvik et al. 2014), and they are a function of the sum total of human management and culture over the last several thousand years.

Where there is a desire to move away from existing land-uses such as grouse moor management and driven grouse shooting, trade-offs between the benefits and dis-benefits of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ forms of management need to be considered. This will need to include acknowledgement that, whatever one’s view about hunting or the wider aspects of moorland management, the significant private financial investment required for any form of ecosystem management or restoration will need to be accounted for (Robertson et al. 2001, Tharme et al. 2001, Sotherton et al. 2009). We suggest that collaborative, inclusive and balanced approaches to landscape scale planning and ecosystem management will minimize conflicts and more successfully leverage the human and financial resources of heathland and peatland stakeholders. Ecological management tools, such as fire, can be used to achieve a diversity of objectives. However, as previous publications have argued (e.g. Davies et al. 2006, Penman et al. 2009), fire use should be ecologically based, bounded by clear objectives and utilized under an Adaptive Framework.

The need for informed, critical, and respectful debate remains

As we stated in our paper, we believe that the current tone of the debate about the use of fire as a management tool is overly simplistic. This is highlighted by the controversy that surrounded the pre-publication release of our paper, with several newspapers and organisations using it as an opportunity to selectively quote us in an attempt to further their own agendas – something we had specifically critiqued in our paper. The involvement of a Public Relations agency, for which YFTB appears to be a “front organization” (sensu Smith and Malone 2006, Beder 2014), was particularly troubling as YFTB appears to have been developed for the specific purpose of criticizing the RSPB. We do not believe using PR agencies is an appropriate approach for unbiased dissemination of scientific research nor should research be used as an opportunity to further agendas or propagate conflict.

These behaviours are symptomatic of a lack of respect between different stakeholders at the more extreme ends of the upland management debate and we would urge that further discussion takes place without resorting to language or accusations that could cause offence. Monbiot (2016a) suggested that in our paper we did not engage properly with the article of his we cited because we focused our critique on his title “Meet the conservationists who believe that burning is good for wildlife” and strap-line “Our national park authorities are vandals and fabulists, inflicting mass destruction on wildlife and habitats, then calling it conservation”. The relevant section of our paper was specifically focused on the need for constructive debate (it was not about the conservation implications of current or potential future management). We do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that Monbiot’s headline and strapline may have caused offence to dedicated conservationists and land-managers and may not have been particularly effective in promoting a balanced, evidence-based debate. Likewise we were disappointed that the title of Monbiot’s comment on our work, “Bonfire of the verities” (Monbiot 2016a), could be taken to suggest that we were somehow being dishonest in our paper. We are not alone in making such criticisms of some of his writing (Wynne-Jones 2016), though Monbiot has previously emphasized the need for inclusivity and presented his ideas with greater nuance (Stahn 2014). The need to be respectful does not mean it is not legitimate to critique and debate relevant contributions to the scientific or popular press, we just need to do so with a greater degree of respect for differing perspectives.

Conclusion – ecological, participatory, adaptive fire management

We actually think that we and Monbiot are arguing at cross purposes (Figure 1) – whilst his original article was a somewhat politically-motivated higher-level critique of heathland as a valid target for conservation, and therefore of fire as an effective means to manage the landscape, we were concerned with understanding the complex ecosystem effects of fire. In a heated debate like the one surrounding the use of fire as a management tool, it is essential for science communication to be based on facts and data, not emotions and politics. Ironically, both those opposed to burning (seemingly in general, not just in current forms), and those defending intensive grouse moor management practice (such as that can be generalized), have sought to portray our work as defending the status quo – something that was never our intention. Instead, we continue to argue for an ecological approach to the use of fire that is based on Adaptive Management principles, scientific evidence, and a clear understanding or hypothesis about how fire can be used to achieve specific aims. In our view, not only is the current debate unconstructive, it is also illogical – debating whether fire has either “benefits” or “impacts” is pointless as it has both, depending on the spatial and temporal scales and ecological values and ecosystem services one considers. As Reed et al. (2013) have already pointed out, we need to move towards an evidence-based assessment of the trade-offs inherent in different management regimes and mechanisms to promote participatory, landscape-scale prioritization of land use.

Unfortunately, the effect of fire on moorland and blanket bog ecosystems is likely to remain a topic of debate well into the future as its knowledge base is still far from adequate and managers are not in the position to make informed trade-offs. For instance, there is poor understanding of the complex interactions between different disturbances (such as fire, grazing, drainage, and nutrient deposition) on carbon cycling, vegetation dynamics, and wildlife habitat utilization, but management decisions have to be made nonetheless. In doing so it is vital that none of us are parochial about the evidence we use and that we do not cherry pick studies which support our own positions.

Many valuable ecosystems owe their structure, function and conservation value to human manipulation of fire regimes (Bowman et al. 2011). Nevertheless, globally, the use of fire as a management tool is not without debate and seeing ecosystems burning arouses strong emotions (e.g. Ryan et al. 2013). Understanding what makes people so passionate about the use (or not) of fire is important (McCaffrey 2006) as there is recognition that, just like conservation grazing (e.g. Plassmann et al. 2010), fire is a valuable part of the ecosystem manager’s toolkit (see, for example, Russell-Smith and Thornton 2013 and references therein). Where there is conflict over management it is vital that an Adaptive Management approach is followed (Holling 1978). This emphasizes the importance of monitoring the effects of management and adapting to achieve desired outcomes rather than just ploughing on with traditional approaches, or making wholesale changes, without evidence for the benefits. Crucially, Adaptive Management also stresses the importance of constructive engagement with all stakeholders and that all stakeholders buy into the principle of evidence-based management. The successful “Bogathon” events organized by the Moorland Association and the Heather Trust in cooperation with Natural England and others are an important example of the positive outcomes of collaboration and cross-sector cooperation (Moorland Association 2015; Natural England 2015). Everybody is entitled to hold strong views and preferences for certain ecosystems on the basis of aesthetics, emotional response, or political outlooks. At the same time, biodiversity and ecosystems are also regulated by national and international regulations and conventions, that mean managers are not completely free to choose which habitats to conserve, restore, or even create in UK landscapes. Once a decision about the conservation or restoration target for a particular area is made, there is a critical need to understand the ecological processes operating in the systems in order to make sound management decisions. We would suggest that it is possible for people from the diverse array of upland interest groups, and those with differing opinions and priorities, to engage in the important debates about the future of ecosystems without insulting each other. Afterall, a key positive conclusion that can be drawn from these exchanges is that we all care passionately about the future of these landscapes.

We are extremely grateful to colleagues in the UK and elsewhere who have expressed appreciation for our initial paper and provided constructive feedback on the ideas we expressed. We are appreciative of the fact that other contributors, including George Monbiot, have challenged us to develop and justify our position. Two anonymous referees provide a robust critique of this paper and helped to substantially improve it.
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The growing role of methane in anthropogenic climate change

Recent rapid rise in global methane concentrations is predominantly biogenic


IOP_Fig 2 Annual methane emissions

Recent rapid rise in global methane concentrations is predominantly biogenic

Ecosystem function



Unlike CO2, atmospheric methane concentrations are rising faster than at any time in the past two decades and, since 2014, are now approaching the most greenhouse-gas-intensive scenarios. The reasons for this renewed growth are still unclear, primarily because of uncertainties in the global methane budget. New analysis suggests that the recent rapid rise in global methane concentrations is predominantly biogenic-most likely from agriculture-with smaller contributions from fossil fuel use and possibly wetlands.

Additional attention is urgently needed to quantify and reduce methane emissions. Methane mitigation offers rapid climate benefits and economic, health and agricultural cobenefits that are highly complementary to CO2 mitigation.




Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdusakova brightens in December

Comet 45P-Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková From October 1st 2011

Image credit and copyright Michael Jäger/Credit Universe Today

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková From October 1st, 2011 taken with a 10″/3.8 Newtonian and CCD imager. Image credit and copyright: Michael Jäger. Credit: Universe Today
November 10, 2016 by David Dickinson, Universe Today

Looking for a good binocular comet? Well, if luck is on our side, we should be getting our first looks at periodic Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková as it tops +10th magnitude in dusk skies over the next few weeks.

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is expected to reach maximum brightness around late February 2017. Discovered independently by astronomers Minoru Honda, Antonin Mrkos and L’udmila Pajdušáková on December 3rd, 1948, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková orbits the sun once every 5.25 years on a short period orbit. Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is set to break binocular +10th magnitude brightness in mid-December 2017, and may reach a maximum brightness of magnitude +7 from January through February 2017.

Currently and through the end of 2016, the comet sits towards the center of the Milky Way Galaxy in Sagittarius at a faint +15th magnitude in the evening sky. The comet may break +10th magnitude and become very briefly visible in the first few weeks of December before getting too close to the sun to observe in late 2016 and crossing into the morning sky in early 2017.

Visibility prospects: At its brightest, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková will be passing through the constellation Hercules during closest approach on February 11th. The comet then passes through the constellations of Corona Borealis, Boötes, Canes Venatici, Ursa Major into Leo through to the end of February as it recedes. In the second week of February, the comet is visible in the dawn sky 82 degrees west of the sun at maximum brightness. This apparition favors the northern hemisphere. The comet will reach perihelion on December 29th, 2016 at 0.53 Astronomical Units (AU) from the sun, and the comet passes just 0.08 AU (7.4 million miles) from the Earth on February 11th at 14:44 UT. The comet made a slightly closer pass in 2011, and was a fine binocular object that time around. At its closest, the comet will cross nine degrees of sky from one night to the next. Some notable dates for comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková are:

The swift path of Comet 45P February 9th to February 12th 2017

Image credit Starry Night/Credit Universe Today

The swift path of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková on the nights of February 9th to February 12th. Image credit: Starry Night. Credit: Universe Today

Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdusakova brightens in December

  • November 23rd: Venus passes 6′ from the comet.
  • December 12th: May break 10th magnitude.
  • December 14th: Passes near M75.
  • December 15th: Crosses into the constellation Capricornus.
  • January 4th: Passes near the +4th magnitude star Theta Capricorni
  • January 10th: Crosses the ecliptic northward.
  • January 16th: Passes into Aquarius.
  • January 22nd: Passes near NGC 7009, M72 and M73.
  • January 25th: Passes 8 degrees from the sun and into the dawn sky.
  • January 28th: Crosses into Aquila.
  • February 3rd: Crosses the celestial equator northward.
  • February 4th: Passes 4′ from the star +3.3 magnitude star Delta Aquarii.
  • February 6th: Crosses the Galactic equator.
  • February 7th: Crosses into Ophiuchus.
  • February 9th: Crosses into Hercules.
  • February 16th: makes a wide pass near M3.
  • February 19th: Drops back below +10th magnitude.

This is the final close (less than 0.1 AU) passage of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková near the Earth for this century.

On July 1st 1770, Comet D/1770 L1 Lexell passed 0.0151AU from the Earth; a comet in 1491 may have passed closer. Next year’s passage of 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková ranks as the 21st closest passage of a comet near the Earth.

Slovak astronomer -udmila Pajdušáková co-discoverer of 5 comets

Image credit The Skalnaté Pleso Observatory

Slovak astronomer ?udmila Pajdušáková, co-discoverer of 5 comets, including Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková. Image credit: The Skalnaté Pleso Observatory

Why do comets end up with such cumbersome names?

Well, comets derive their names from the first three discovers that submit the find within a 24 hour period to the Minor Planet Center’s Central Bereau for Astronomical Telegrams, which, in fact, received its last ‘telegram’ during the discovery of Comet Hale-Bopp around two decades ago. Increasingly, comets are receiving names of all sky surveys such as LINEAR and PanSTARRS from robotic competition against amateur hunters. It does seem like you need an umlaut or the chemical symbol for boron to in your moniker to qualify these days… rare is the ‘Comet Smith.’ But hey, it’s still fun to watch science journalists try and spell the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull and comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko over and over… Perhaps, we should insist that our first comet discovery is actually spelled Comet Dîckînsðn…

And Comet 45/P is just one of the fine binocular comets on deck for 2017. We’re also expecting to break +10th magnitude next year… and the next great naked eye ‘Comet of the Century’ could light up the skies at any time.

  • Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák
  • 2/P Encke
  • C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS
  • Comet C/2015 V2 Johnson

Binoculars are the best tool to observe bright comets, as they allow you to simply sweep the star field and admire the full beauty of a comet, coma, tail(s) and all. Keep in mind, a comet will often appear visually fainter than its quoted brightness… this is because, like nebulae, that intrinsic magnitude is ‘smeared out’ over an extended area. To my eye, a binocular comet often looks like a fuzzy, unresolved globular cluster that stubbornly refuses to snap into focus.

Don’t miss your first looks at Comet 45/P 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, as it spans 2016 into 2017.

Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdusakova brightens in December

The path of Comet 45/P from mid-November through December 15th, 2016. Credit: Starry Night

Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdusakova brightens in December

The path of Comet 45-P from mid-November 2016 through December 15th 2016

Credit Starry Night

The path of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková through the inner solar system. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdusakova brightens in December

The path of Comet 45P through the inner solar system

Image credit NASA/JPL

The light curve of Comet 45/P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková. Credit: Seiichi Yoshida’s Weekly Information About Bright Comets

Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdusakova brightens in December

The light curve of Comet 45-P

Credit Seiichi Yoshida’s Weekly Information About Bright Comets

Goldstone radar pings comet 45-P back in 2011

Credit NASA

Goldstone radar pings comet 45/P back in 2011. Credit: NASA
Source:: Universe Today
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-11-comet-45phondamrkospajdusakova-brightens-december.html#jCp
© Phys.org 2003 – 2016, Science X network
Accessed at http://phys.org/news/2016-11-comet-45phondamrkospajdusakova-brightens-december.html#nRlv on December 28, 2016.


Comet U1 NEOWISE—a possible binocular comet?

Comet C-2016 U1 NEOWISE on December 23rd 2016 as seen from Jauerling Austria

Michael Jäger

Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE on December 23rd as seen from Jauerling, Austria. Credit: Michael Jäger

December 28, 2016 by David Dickinson, Universe Today

Well, it looks like we’ll close out 2016 without a great ‘Comet of the Century.’ One of the final discoveries of the year did, however, grab our attention, and may present a challenging target through early 2017: Comet U1 NEOWISE.

Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE is expected to reach maximum brightness during the second week on January. Discovered by the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space observatory on its extended mission on October 21st, 2016, Comet U1 NEOWISE orbits the Sun on an undefined hyperbolic orbit that is perhaps millions on years long. This also means that this could be Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE’s first venture through the inner solar system. Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE is set to break binocular +10th magnitude brightness this week, and may just top +6th magnitude (naked eye brightness) in mid-January near perihelion.

Visibility prospects: At its brightest, Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will pass through the constellations Ophiuchus to Serpens Cauda and Sagittarius, and is best visible in the dawn sky 12 degrees from the Sun at maximum brightness. This apparition favors the northern hemisphere. Perihelion for Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE occurs on January 13th, 2017 at 0.319 AU from the Sun, and the comet passed 0.709 AU from the Earth on December 13th.

This is the ninth comet discovered by the extended NEOWISE mission since 2014.

Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE ends 2016 and early January 2017 as a difficult early dawn target, sitting 25 degrees above the eastern horizon as seen from latitude 30 degrees north about 30 minutes before dawn. Things will get much more difficult from there, as the comet passes just 12 degrees from the Sun as seen from our Earthly vantage point during the final week of January. The comet sits 16 degrees from the Sun in the southern hemisphere constellation of Microscopium on the final day of January, though it is expected to shine at only +10th magnitude at this point, favoring observers in the southern hemisphere.

The time to try to catch a brief sight of Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE is now. Recent discussions among comet observers suggest that the comet may be slowing down in terms of brightness, possibly as a prelude to a pre-perihelion breakup. Keep a eye on the Comet Observer’s database (COBS) for the latest in cometary action as reported and seen by actual observers in the field.

The orbit of Comet U1 NEOWISE. Credit: NASA/JPL

Finding C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will be a battle between spying an elusive fuzzy low-contrast coma against a brightening twilight sky. Sweep the suspect area with binoculars or a wide-field telescopic view if possible.

Here are some key dates to watch out for in your quest:

Comet U1 NEOWISE—a possible binocular comet?

The pre-dawn view on the morning of December 28th. Credit: Starry Night


  • 25-Crosses in to Ophiuchus.
  • 26-Passes near +3 mag Kappa Ophiuchi.


  • 1-Crosses the celestial equator southward.
  • 3-Passes near M14.
  • 7-Passes near the +3 mag star Nu Ophiuchi.
  • 8-Crosses into the constellation Serpens Cauda.
  • 10-Passes near M16, the Eagle Nebula.
  • 11-Passes near M17 the Omega Nebula, crosses the galactic equator southward.
  • 12-Crosses into the constellation Sagittarius.
  • 13-Passes near M25.
  • 16-Crosses the ecliptic southward.
  • 27-Crosses into the constellation Microscopium.
  • 28-Passes near +4.8 mag star Alpha Microscopii.


  • 1-May drop back below +10 magnitude.

The path of Comet U1 NEOWISE through perihelion on January 13th. Credit: Starry Night

A rundown on comets in 2016, a look ahead at 2017

  • C/2016 U1 NEOWISE was one of 50 comets discovered in 201

Notables for the year included

  • C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS
  • 252/P LINEAR
  • C/2013 US10 Catalina

What comets are we keeping an eye on in 2017? These are expected to reach +10 magnitude brightness in the coming year:

  • Well, Comet 2/P Encke
  • 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak
  • C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS
  • C/2015 V2 Johnson
  • Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková has already done so, a bit ahead of schedule.

These are all broken down in our forthcoming guide to the top 101 Astronomical Events for 2017. Again, there’s no great naked eye comet on the horizon (yet), but that all could change… 2017 owes us one!

Source:: Universe Today
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-12-comet-u1-neowisea-binocular.html#jCp
© Phys.org 2003 – 2016, Science X network
Accessed at http://phys.org/news/2016-12-comet-u1-neowisea-binocular.html on December 28, 2016.



Volcanic Activity for the week of 21 December-27 December 2016

Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program

Volcanic Activity for the week of 21 December-27 December 2016


The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program. Updated by 2300 UTC every Wednesday, notices of volcanic activity posted on these pages are preliminary and subject to change as events are studied in more detail. This is not a comprehensive list of all of Earth’s volcanoes erupting during the week, but rather a summary of activity at volcanoes that meet criteria discussed in detail in the “Criteria and Disclaimers” section. Carefully reviewed, detailed reports on various volcanoes are published monthly in the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network.


Name Location Activity  
Bezymianny Central Kamchatka (Russia) New
Bogoslof Fox Islands (USA) New
Ebeko Paramushir Island (Russia) New
Klyuchevskoy Central Kamchatka (Russia) New
Langila New Britain (Papua New Guinea) New
Bagana Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) Ongoing
Copahue Central Chile-Argentina border Ongoing
Dukono Halmahera (Indonesia) Ongoing
Fuego Guatemala Ongoing
Kilauea Hawaiian Islands (USA) Ongoing
Sabancaya Peru Ongoing
Sheveluch Central Kamchatka (Russia) Ongoing
Sinabung Indonesia Ongoing


Bogoslof Volcano Fox Islands (USA)

Bogoslof Ash Cloud Forecast


© 2016Alaska Dispatch Publishing. All rights reserved.

AVO reported that the explosive eruption at Bogoslof, which was reported by several pilots around 1530 on 20 December and produced an ash plume that rose to 10.3 km (34,000 ft) a.s.l., lasted about 30 minutes. The ash plume detached and dispersed S. AVO had raised the Aviation Color Code (ACC) to Red and the Volcano Alert Level (VAL) to Warning, but since no further activity was detected or observed the ACC was lowered to Orange and the VAL was lowered to Watch. On 21 December periods of discrete earthquakes and continuous seismic tremor were recorded by instruments on nearby volcanoes. At 1610 an explosive eruption detected in satellite data and by seismic instruments on nearby islands again lasted about 30 minutes. An ash plume rose to an altitude of 10.7 km (35,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted N. The ACC and VAL were raised to Red and Warning, respectively. Seismicity declined rapidly afterward and remained low; the ACC was lowered to Orange and the VAL was lowered to Watch. Strong continuous seismic activity started abruptly at about 1340 on 22 December.

AVO noted that the eruption had dramatically changed the island. Satellite images showed that a small new island had formed just offshore of the NE end of the main island, the previous shore and much of the NE side of Bogoslof Island adjacent to the new island had been mostly removed (and was likely the site of the new, underwater vent), and deposition of material had occurred on the W side of the island.

An explosion occurred at 0930 on 23 December. A Coast Guard ship in the vicinity reported ash emissions, lightning, and ejected lava and fragmented material. The ash plume rose to an altitude below 9.1 km (30,000 ft) a.s.l. Coast Guard observers noted that ash emission subsided around 1037. The ACC/VAL were raised to Red/Warning. On 24 December seismic unrest was periodically detected by nearby island networks, but levels were generally low. The ACC was lowered to Orange and the VAL was lowered to Watch. A period of tremor detected in the evening on 25 December may have been associated with a minor, low-level ash emission (below 3 km or 10,000 ft a.s.l.); several lightning strikes in the area were recorded. Lightning strikes, seismic data, and satellite images indicated a continuing eruption that began at 1405 on 26 December. An ash plume rose to an altitude of 9.1 km (30,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted WSW. The ACC/VAL were again raised to Red/Warning.

Source: US Geological Survey Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO)

Ash plume at 34,000 feet from Bogoslof Volcano Fox Islands USA

Map of Alaska Volcanoes Bogoslof



AVO reported that a short-lived explosive eruption at Bogoslof, observed and reported by several pilots around 1600 on 20 December, produced an ash plume that rose to 10.3 km (34,000 ft) a.s.l. A subsequent pilot report made 50 minutes later indicated that activity had decreased. Satellite data showed a discrete, short-lived explosion just prior to 1600, and a detached plume that drifted S. AVO raised the Aviation Color Code to Red and the Volcano Alert Level to Warning.

Source: US Geological Survey Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO)


Name Location Activity  
Bezymianny Central Kamchatka (Russia) New
Bogoslof Fox Islands (USA) New
Colima Mexico New
Copahue Central Chile-Argentina border New
Bagana Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) Ongoing
Cayambe Ecuador Ongoing
Cerro Hudson Chile Ongoing
Dukono Halmahera (Indonesia) Ongoing
Fuego Guatemala Ongoing
Kilauea Hawaiian Islands (USA) Ongoing
Nevados de Chillan Chile Ongoing
Sabancaya Peru Ongoing
Sheveluch Central Kamchatka (Russia) Ongoing
Sinabung Indonesia Ongoing
Suwanosejima Ryukyu Islands (Japan) Ongoing


Earthquakes for the week ending 29 December 2016

Earthquakes for the week ending 29 December 2016




It’s Not Just Fracking: New Database of Human-Induced Quakes

Oil Sands


An oil sand mine in Alberta, Canada. Processes involved in mining, such as removing material from the surface or subsurface, can induce earthquakes. A team of researchers recently cataloged 715 human-induced earthquakes and found that although media attention focuses mainly on earthquake sources like wastewater injection, most induced quakes are caused by other processes. Credit: Design Pics via AP

In the largest compilation of anthropogenically induced earthquakes, causes range from building water reservoirs to mining.

Oil sand mine in Canada.

By JoAnna Wendel 22 December 2016

How many earthquakes have human processes induced? Probably many more than we think, scientists indicated last week at American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

Just in the United States, the number of earthquakes per year in the center of the country has jumped dramatically since the early 2000s. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), each year between 1973 and 2008, the central United States experienced about 21 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher. This number grew to almost 100 per year between 2009 and 2013. In 2014 alone, the region experienced more than 400 earthquakes.

In the past few years, scientists have begun to better understand the relationship between industrial processes and “induced” earthquakes. Recent media attention has zeroed in on fracking and wastewater injection, but earthquakes are also induced by the load of water impounded behind a dam, mining processes, and extracting groundwater for irrigation, among other causes.

The team found that induced earthquakes are tremendously underreported.

After repeated small quakes struck areas around an oil field in the Netherlands, the Dutch oil and gas exploration company NAM commissioned a study by earthquake experts to better understand human-induced earthquakes. The team, led by Gillian Foulger, a geologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom, ended up compiling the most complete database of occurrences to date.

The team also found that induced earthquakes are “tremendously underreported,” Foulger said. She presented her team’s findings on Tuesday, 13 December.

Hunting for Quakes

Foulger and her colleagues spent a year digging through scientific literature, industry literature, newspaper reports, and accounts from colleagues to create the database of as many previously reported induced earthquakes as they could find. The database, which stretches back through the early 19th century, currently lists 715 earthquake sequences, each consisting of as many as several hundred quakes.

The catalog divides the causes of induced earthquakes into four general triggers: surface operations (such as quarrying, building structures, and impounding water reservoirs), injecting material into the subsurface (such as wastewater disposal in fracking), removing material from the subsurface (such as mining or pumping water for irrigation), and explosions from underground nuclear tests.

Mining-Induced Quakes Dominate

Processes like mining and drilling tunnels, which displace material from the subsurface, can induce earthquakes.

Processes like mining and drilling tunnels, which displace material from the subsurface, can induce earthquakes. Credit: iStock.com/aeduard

When the researchers looked at the data, one thing was clear: Out of the 715 cases of induced earthquake sequences, “mining by far dominated the picture,” Foulger said, with about one third of the earthquake sequences tied to mining processes. In fact, “British mine quakes account for about 50% of all earthquakes in Britain,” she noted.

Mining falls under the category “removing material from the subsurface.” Imagine gradually removing support beams and walls from a tall building, Foulger said—at some point, the building will collapse.

In 2007, for example, more than 100 mines in China reported seismic events larger than magnitude 4, Foulger said. In 1989, an induced magnitude 5 quake in Germany collapsed the surface over 5 square kilometers of a potash mine, killing three.

Not all the mining-induced quakes are so large, however. The majority of the mining quakes in the database range between magnitudes 2 and 4, according to the report.

Earthquake Sources in Groundwater Removal

Another example from the “removing material” column stems from Spain, Foulger said. In 2011, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake razed a small town called Lorca and killed 10 people. Research following the earthquake tied the event to the decades-long removal of water from the ground for irrigation, which drastically lowered the water table. This led to ground subsidence and resulted in the earthquake.

“There’s just so much material you can remove from the earth before it has to subside.”

In fact, a 2014 paper in Nature found that the increase in small earthquakes recorded in California’s San Joaquin Valley could be tied to underground water removal. More than 100 cubic kilometers of water have been removed from the ground in the region over the last 150 years, mostly for irrigation purposes.

“The removal of any mass from under the ground is going to create voids, and essentially the earth is going to collapse,” Foulger said. “There’s just so much material you can remove from the earth before it has to subside.” And sometimes that subsidence results in an earthquake, she continued.

Dam-Induced Quakes

Lake Nasser

Load from water reservoirs can induce earthquakes by lubricating existing faults underneath it


A view of Lake Nasser (bottom body of water), with north in the top left, captured by the International Space Station in April 2015. The lake, which holds 132 cubic kilometers of water, is impounded by the Aswan High Dam (curved central structure). The load from water reservoirs such as this can induce earthquakes by lubricating existing faults underneath it. Credit: NASA/ISS Crew

After mining, the next most common source of induced earthquakes, making up about 20%, is water reservoirs, Foulger said. Huge masses of water piling up on Earth’s surface affect the hydrology of the earth below in ways that can increase stress on faults. “If water is forced into fault zones, it reduces the confining stress and squeezes the fault open a little bit. It’s lubricating the fault,” she said.

A notable example is the Koyna Dam in India, which impounds about 3 cubic kilometers of water. There, a magnitude 5 earthquake occurs about every 5 years, according to the researchers’ report.

Other examples in the report include Egypt’s Aswan High Dam, which impounds about 132 cubic kilometers of water and has induced earthquakes up to magnitude 5.7. Also, in 2007, more than 7000 earthquakes were recorded over a 2-month period in Algeria as water was pumped from one reservoir into another.

Database for All

Unfortunately, induced earthquakes are likely underreported, Foulger noted, because documented earthquake sequences tend to come from places where humans felt them. Some projects, such as offshore oil and gas extraction, may be far from people, where earthquakes aren’t felt and thus aren’t recorded, she explained.

As populations move and grow, risk increases.

A corollary of this is that as populations move and grow, risk increases. For example, 15 years ago, “the residents of Oklahoma would not have suffered from the quakes” because, at that time, fewer people lived near areas where ongoing industrial processes induced quakes, Foulger explained.

In the spring, Foulger and her colleagues will launch a website, InducedEarthquakes.org, which will allow anyone to report induced earthquakes. She hopes that by crowdsourcing for more information, researchers will be able to use the database to further catalog induced earthquakes and thus better understand them.

One caveat, Foulger also noted, is that the current list includes not only confirmed induced quakes but also earthquakes that scientists don’t necessarily agree were induced.

This could potentially cause problems, noted Susan Hough, a seismologist at the USGS’s Earthquake Science Center in Pasadena, Calif., who wasn’t involved with the research. “There will be a danger of people taking the catalog as gospel, not appreciating the fact that some associations remain controversial,” she said.

However, it’s a “worthy effort to try to compile a catalog,” Hough continued. “It will be useful to test hypotheses about induced earthquakes and, fundamentally, to highlight the scale and scope of the problem.”

Minimizing Risk

Think of it like building a road, she explained. The future road may be a source of car accidents, but “people don’t prevent industrial activity because new roads have to be built. These earthquakes are the same—a potentially dangerous side effect of industrial activity that needs to be managed.”

—JoAnna Wendel (@JoAnnaScience), Staff Writer
Citation: Wendel, J. (2016), It’s not just fracking: New database of human-induced quakes, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO065433. Published on 22 December 2016.
© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
© 2016 American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.
Accessed at https://eos.org/articles/its-not-just-fracking-new-database-of-human-induced-quakes?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_content=its-not-just-fracking-new-database-of-human-induced-quakes&utm_campaign=ealert&utm_source=Eos+Primary+List&utm_campaign=08a1bffad1-Weekly_All_Content_Digest&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f923f18da4-08a1bffad1-500686449 on December 27, 2016.


UTC 2016-12-21 00 17 15 M6.7 – 172.9 mi ENE of Dili, East Timor 94 mi depth

UTC 2016-12-21 00:17:15 M6.7 - 172.9 mi ENE of Dili, East Timor 94 mi depth



UTC 2016-12-25 14:22:27 M7.6 – 24.5 mi SSW of Puerto Quellon, Chile 22.6 mi depth

UTC 2016-12-25 14:22:27 M7.6 - 24.5 mi SSW of Puerto Quellon, Chile 22.6 mi depth



UTC 2016-12-28 09:13:47 M5.5 – 16.8 mi SW of Hawthorne, Nevada 5.3 mi depth

World_UTC 2016-12-28 09 13 47 M5_5 - 16_8 mi SW of Hawthorne Nevada 5_3 mi depth



UTC 2016-12-29 22:30:18 M6.2 – 20.9 mi S of Tolotangga, Indonesia 50 mi depth

UTC 2016-12-29 22:30:18 M6.2 - 20.9 mi S of Tolotangga, Indonesia 50 mi depth




Calvert Cliffs ITT Enidine Inc Event 52458 Transducer Component Flaw

Calvert Cliffs Maryland Event 52406 SCRAM Hot Standby Leak in the Main Turbine Electro-Hydraulic Control




Part 21 Event Number: 52458
Region: 1 City: WESTMINSTER State: SC
County: License #:
Agreement: Y Docket:
Notification Date: 12/22/2016 Notification Time: 17:35 [ET]
Event Date: 11/02/2016 Event Time: [EST]
Last Update Date: 12/22/2016 Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section: 21.21(d)(3)(i) – DEFECTS AND NONCOMPLIANCE


Event Text


The following information was received via fax:

“The ITT Conoflow models GT25CA1826 and GT25CD1826 current to pressure (l/P) transducers produce a calibrated 3.0 to 15.0 psi output pressure from a 4.0 to 20.0 mA DC (input) signal. On November 2, 2016, a discovery was made of unqualified electrical component substitutions on the internal circuit board. Supplier and internal record reviews indicate these unqualified components were used as early as May 10, 2013, as the previously qualified PCB components are no longer available. Environmental qualification of the suspect circuit boards is planned for early 2017. If any component falls to meet requirements, nuclear facilities which use this product will be advised to examine their product for unqualified printed circuit boards via notification and visual references. Qualified replacement components will be provided to all affected customers.


Customer Name Item Number No.: Unit
Calvert Cliffs Nuclear GT25CD1826 30
Control Components Inc. GT2SCD 1826 3
Duke Energy Carolinas LLC GT25CA1826 8
Duke Energy Carolinas LLC GTI:SCD1826 4
Enertech Curtiss-Wright GT25CA1816 19
Enertech Curtiss-Wright GT25CD1826 4
Ergytech Inc. GT25CA1826 3
Ergytech Inc. GT25CD1826 3
Gefran Benelux NV GT25CD1826 2
Ontario Power Generation GT25CD1826 31
SPX Flow Technology GT25CA1826 2
Weir Valves & Controls UK GT25CA1826 78
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, December 23, 2016
Accessed at https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2016/20161223en.html on December 29, 2016.


Cook Michigan Event 52456 Hot Shutdown 3 Emergency Diesel Generators Inoperable

Cook Michigan Event 52456 Hot Shutdown 3 Emergency Diesel Generators Inoperable




Power Reactor Event Number: 52456
Facility: COOK Region: 3 State: MI
Unit: [ ] [2] [ ] RX Type: [1] W-4-LP,[2] W-4-LP
Notification Date: 12/22/2016 Notification Time: 05:45 [ET]
Event Date: 12/21/2016 Event Time: 23:00 [EST]
Last Update Date: 12/22/2016 Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section: 50.72(b)(3)(v)(D) – ACCIDENT MITIGATION
Person (Organization): STEVE ORTH (R3DO)


Unit SCRAM Code RX CRIT Initial PWR Initial RX Mode Current PWR Current RX Mode
2 N N 0 Hot Shutdown 0 Hot Shutdown

Event Text


“With D.C. Cook Unit 1 in Mode 1 and 100 percent power and Unit 2 in Mode 4 during a refueling outage, the following emergency diesel generators (EDGs) were declared inoperable due to a discovered design and manufacturing issue involving some of the diesel fuel pumps/injectors in each of the following EDGs:

“Unit 1 CD (Train A) EDG, Unit 2 AB (Train B) EDG, and Unit 2 CD (Train A) EDG

“Due to both Unit 2 EDGs being inoperable, Unit 2 is required to be in Mode 5 by 1300 [EST] on 12/23/16. Unit 1 is required to restore its emergency diesel generator within 14 days (by 2300 [EST] on 1/04/17).

“In connection with both trains of Unit 2 EDGs being inoperable, this is being reported as an 8-hour report pursuant to 10CFR50.72(b)(3)(v)(D) as loss of safety function in connection with mitigating the consequences of an accident.

“The NRC Resident Inspector has been informed.”

Unit 1 maintenance will be prioritized over Unit 2 and Unit 2 will most likely proceed to Mode 5.

Accessed at https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2016/20161223en.html on December 29, 2016.


RADCON on 29 December 2016 One of Concern-Watch

One of concern on 29 December 2016

© Copyright 2012-2014 Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, LLC (netc.com).

© Copyright 2012-2014 Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, LLC (netc.com).All information that is produced by netc.com websites belongs to Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, LLC   (netc.com).
NETC.COM   © 2014


Station ID 1:EAC4B084.3   Cookeville, TN, US

CPM: current 26 Low 2 High 34

Average 15

Bakers Crossroads TN.

Last updated: 2016-12-29 11:41:31 GMT-0600

only Power plants in Tennessee near Bakers Crossroad




Constitution – BLM

Obama Designates Two New National Monuments In Nevada And Utah

New Gold Butte National Monument 300,000 acres close to Cliven Bundy land.

gold butte petroglyphs road


Rick Bowmer/AP
December 28, 20168:02 PM ET Nathan Rott

President Obama has designated two areas in the deserts of southern Nevada and Utah as national monuments, after years of fighting and debate over the management of both areas.

The newly created Bears Ears National Monument will protect roughly 1.35 million acres of land in southeast Utah from future development. Gold Butte National Monument will give federal protections to roughly 300,000 acres in southwest Nevada, not far from the site where local ranchers and law enforcement had an armed standoff just two years ago.

In a statement, Obama said the designations “protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.”

Those protections begin immediately, but how long they’ll last is uncertain.

State and local politicians in Utah and Nevada have vowed to fight any federal designations on state land, calling them land grabs and executive overreach — arguments heard in many parts of the rural West.

They may have an advocate in President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to undo many of Obama’s policies.

Obama has used executive power to establish or expand national monuments 29 times during his tenure, most recently in California, Hawaii and the Atlantic Ocean. But the designations in Nevada and Utah, two largely rural, Republican-held states, could prove to be the most contentious.

The ownership and management of land is one of the biggest issues in both states, for understandable reasons. More than 80 percent of the land in Nevada is owned by the federal government. In Utah, it’s roughly 65 percent. Republican lawmakers and rural constituents have tried for years to get the federal government to give some of that land back to the states, arguing that local governments are better able to manage local resources.

Obama’s move to establish the national monuments does the opposite.

“[This] midnight move is a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, in a statement. “We will work to repeal this top-down decision and replace it with one that garners local support and creates a balanced, win-win solution.”

The designation is a win for a number of groups. Environmental activists and Native American tribes have been fighting for protection of both areas for years and are applauding the decision.

The Navajo, Hopi, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni all have ancestral ties to Bears Ears. Under the new designation, they’ll co-manage the national monument with the federal government and will still be allowed to access the land for tribal ceremonies, firewood and herb collection, hunting, grazing and outdoor recreation.

“As a coalition of five sovereign Native American tribes in the region, we are confident that today’s announcement of collaborative management will protect a cultural landscape that we have known since time immemorial,” said Alfred Lomahquahu, vice chairman of Hope Tribe.

Gold Butte is home to the Moapa Band of Paiutes and has a number of archaeological sites, which have seen a recent rise in vandalism as anti-federal-government sentiments have simmered in Nevada.

Until recently, the federal government had stopped managing Gold Butte entirely, owing to safety concerns.

There are concerns that Obama’s designations could add fuel to that fire and call into question the very future of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the president the power to establish or expand national monuments.

© 2016 npr

Accessed at http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/28/507314596/obama-designates-two-new-national-monuments-in-nevada-and-utah on December 28, 2016.


New Bears Ears buttes National Monument near Blanding, Utah, 1.9 million acres of southeastern Utah

The first ever tribally-led push for a national monument aims to protect 1.9 million acres of southeastern Utah.

Bears Ears National Monument



Malcolm Lehi remembers the stories his father told him about the Bears Ears Buttes and the deep cultural ties of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to the mountainous knolls, canyons, forests, water and wildlife of the Manti-La Sal National Forest and surrounding public lands.

It’s where Lehi, a lawmaker and member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council, harvests chokecherries, knowledge passed down by his father, who taught Lehi where to find them. It’s mid-July and the berries are about the size of a quarter.

“They’re ripe right now,” Lehi says, adding that he told Willie Grayeyes, of Navajo Mountain, Utah, about the wild berries. Both men were attending an intertribal gathering of cultural leaders and Native families connected to the Bears Ears who want to see the region protected.

After learning the news, Grayeyes borrowed Lehi’s horse and rode west through the wet sagebrush and pine trees, away from the Bears Ears Buttes, to a hogan—a traditional wooden structure made from logs and mud—to see the berries for himself.

The hogan, according to Lehi, is where his own family camped during traditional seasonal migrations. Known as “hooghan nimazi” in Navajo, the hogan is a Navajo cultural site that once sheltered 19th century Navajo headman Chief Manuelito and the Bit’ahnii (Within His Cover) Clan. It lies just a few miles away from Shash Jaá (“the Bears Ears”). Manuelito, who was born in 1818 at the Bears Ears, is best known for his role in brokering the 1868 treaty of Bosque Redondo, allowing the Navajo to return to their homelands in the Four Corners; he encouraged young Navajos to climb the educational ladder and protect the Navajo people.

In her 2007 biography, Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita, historian Jennifer Nez Denetdale, herself a descendent of Manuelito, says: “Today, for both whites and Navajos, albeit in different ways, Manuelito remains a symbol—the spirit of Navajo resistance.”

The hogan is one of over 100,000 archeologically and culturally significant sites in the Bears Ears area, according to archaeologists who study the region.

Tribes fear that looters seeking to cash in on Native American artifacts will further desecrate cultural sites in the area, many of which have already been ransacked.

The Bears Ears are significant to both Lehi and Grayeyes, whose ancestors hunted deer, elk, and wild turkeys here, as their relatives do today. Tribal members harvest medicinal herbs such as sage, juniper, and mountain tobacco, as well as edible wild onions in the area. Some of these herbs are still used for healing in the Ute Mountain Ute Bear Dance and in Navajo ceremonies like the Blessing/Beauty Way.

Both men will tell you how their ancestors migrated with the seasons up and down the Abajo Mountains—from the canyon country near the banks of the San Juan River to Cedar Mesa and up to the Bears Ears Buttes. “I want to take the aboriginal lands back to our people,” Lehi said, explaining that Ute Mountain Utes historically herded livestock in the high country.

The Navajo call the region “Náhonidzó” (“the escaping place”); many Navajos hid out here from Kit Carson’s raiders, avoiding the Long Walk, a testament to the area’s ruggedness and remoteness. Presently, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service jointly manage the area. This, however, could soon change.

The Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition, led by a core group of five tribes and formally supported by 25 Colorado Plateau tribes brought together by Native non-profit Utah Diné Bikéyah, is urging President Obama to protect approximately 1.9 million acres of public lands by designating a new Bears Ears National Monument co-managed by the tribes.

Utah Diné Bikéyah has done extensive groundwork through local community organizing, including collecting data and documenting interviews for cultural mapping of the Bears Ears region. Many of the tribes have passed resolutions in support of the idea within their respective legislatures.

It’s the only Native American-led push for a national monument in the 109-year history of the Antiquities Act.

“The land is what I’m here for,” added Lehi, who had disassembled his weekend camp and was waiting for Grayeyes to return from his berry hunt to load his horse into its trailer.

Representatives of the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service and high-ranking Obama administration officials attended the July Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition meeting, which included members of the Ute Mountain Ute, Northern Ute, Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Cochiti Pueblo and other tribes. The meeting took place in a meadow, just below the Bears Ears Buttes. According to Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Obama administration is committed to upholding trust, accountability, and treaty obligations to Indian tribes.

“We share the desire of tribal leaders to protect sacred places and leave the earth better than we found it,” Washburn said in a Department of Interior blog post days after the meeting. Instead of broad general protection, tribes want to ensure a national monument will also include a place at the table for them to work with federal agencies to help manage the land. Tribal leaders recognize that a Bears Ears co-management proposal presents an opportunity for them to come together for the first time in a way that demonstrates their presence and sovereign power to help manage public lands to which they have unique cultural attachments.

Lehi was initially reluctant to join forces with Utah Diné Bikéyah because he worried the monument proposal disproportionately favored Navajo interests. But after the first Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition meeting, Lehi began to understand that the proposal represents an opportunity for the Ute Mountain Ute to help co-manage a Bears Ears National Monument. After all, the area includes Ute Mountain Ute ancestral lands.

Making sure the coalition speaks with one voice is critical, Lehi said, noting that this approach is thecoalition’s best bet when it comes to countering possible opposition from Utah congressional leaders, as well as state leaders, ranchers, off-roaders and the uranium and oil and gas industries.

Speaking with a united voice has already resulted in more tribal support, with the effort focused on protecting the region from further natural resource exploitation. Across the region, non-profits are standing behind the tribes and their leadership in support of protection. According to Lehi, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has banned uranium and oil and gas development on its reservation and is pushing for a similar ban in the Bears Ears proposal.

The older Grayeyes, who is Utah Diné Bikéyah’s board chairman, had much more to add about the Bears Ears proposal. According to Grayeyes, Manuelito’s Bit’ahnii people weren’t the only ones who lived in the Bears Ears. Other Navajo clans, including the Hashtlishnii (Mud) Clan and Hooghan láni (Many Hogans) Clan, trace their roots to the region as far back as 1,003 AD.

“I’m sure there are other dwellings still existing elsewhere…in these canyons, that are probably earlier than that,” Grayeyes said, noting that interviews with elders and medicine men from Navajo communities in Utah referenced longstanding connections with the canyon lands and forests in and around the Bears Ears.

Physical presence and evidence of Navajo occupation was enough for the coalition to lobby the Navajo Nation for support of the initiative, especially since looting, grave robbing and vandalism are rampant under current Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management control.

In April 2013, the Navajo Nation and Utah Diné Bikéyah proposed the creation of a conservation area with wilderness designations. This past spring, the Navajo Nation Council passed legislation supporting permanent protection for the area.

Proposed Bears Ears National Monument

“I think this is a unique, one-of-a-kind landscape that we need to designate as a monument,” Grayeyes said. “There is no other place on earth that compares to the composition of this land.”

With no plan to protect it, non-Native Americans would develop the land, Grayeyes said, explaining that any economic development in the area would deface its natural beauty.

“Once you disturb a landscape of this magnitude, you will never, ever preserve [or restore] it back to its natural state,” he added. Once the Bears Ears is designated a national monument, the need for law enforcement to patrol and monitor sacred sites would increase, Grayeyes said.

Congressionally, the coalition faces the threat of amendments that would weaken the Antiquities Act of 1906, a federal law that grants U.S. presidents the authority to create national monuments from public lands to protect natural, cultural or scientific features.

“There needs to be a position from the tribes to show Congress not to make any amendments,” Grayeyes said, adding that the act is key to protecting the Bears Ears region. “In this case, [the act is] 100 percent applicable to what we’re doing and they want to limit or eliminate this instrument, which is so important to Native Americans.”

Grayeyes is calling on all Native Americans to lobby Congress not to amend the act.

Evangline Grey of Westwater, Utah, an isolated community in the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation, also attended the July coalition gathering. Grey is of the Bit’ahnii Clan, the same lineage as Manuelito. Protecting the Bears Ears is important for her and the 120 or so Navajos that live in this small community. The Bears Ears region is the ancestral homeland of at least 29 Westwater families.

“If this Bear Ears continues to be another open area for miners and for oil and gas…the whole place is going to be ruined,” Grey said.

“This is why we are asking the president to sign this into a monument. That way it can be protected.”

According to Grey, converting the area into a national monument would allow Native people to continue to travel to the Bears Ears and to other cultural sites to offer prayers, collect herbs, harvest wood and hunt wild game. Grey noted that current management of the area is unduly influenced by non-Native ranchers and off-roaders.

Jonah Yellowman, of Halgaitoh Wash, Utah, wasn’t sure about the coalition until he began thinking of how the proposal would impact him as a Native American Church roadman—a priest who conducts all night peyote ceremonies, a common practice among Navajo and Ute tribal members. Yellowman relies heavily on the Abajo Mountains for wood sources to conduct his Native American Church ceremonies, and must first get a permit through the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service before collecting firewood or harvesting Douglas firs for tipi poles.

The evening before members of the intertribal coalition, federal, state and tribal leaders and their families assembled at the Bears Ears, Yellowman conducted a Native American Church service on the site and prayed for all life forms. He recounted how the animal and plant spirits were thirsty for blessings and how he offered prayers, songs and tobacco in their honor. This explains why deer came near the coalition’s camp during the intertribal gathering, Yellowman said.

“Where I live [in Monument Valley] we don’t have trees, plants or medicines,” Yellowman said, adding that preserving and protecting the Bears Ears is important for tribal sustenance and survival. “We’re not going to lose what we have—our prayers and traditions.”

This long history and myriad tribal stories and connections have united the 25 tribes of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition.

“We’ve never been given this opportunity to speak on behalf of our sacred sites on public lands,” said Hopi Vice Chairman Alfred Lomahquahu.

“This landscape has been called home by so many Native American cultures over several millennia, so it is the right approach to protect the Bears Ears landscape as a coalition of tribal nations.”

Alastair Bitsoi
Alastair Lee Bitsóí is a freelance writer from Naschitti, New Mexico. He worked as a reporter for the Navajo Times from 2011 to 2015.
Copyright © 2016 Grand Canyon Trust
Accessed at http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/advocatemag/fall-winter-2015/tribes-unite-to-protect-bears-ears on December 28, 2016.


Biosecurity: Flavivirus Zika

Zika Counts in the US as of December 21, 2016 (5 am EST)

  • Zika virus disease and Zika virus congenital infection are nationally notifiable conditions.
  • This update from the CDC Arboviral Disease Branch includes provisional data reported to ArboNET for January 01, 2015 – December 21, 2016.

US States

Locally acquired mosquito-borne cases reported 215
   Travel-associated cases reported 4,541
   Laboratory acquired cases reported 1
     Total 4,756
       Sexually transmitted 38
       Guillain-Barré syndrome 13

US Territories

   Locally acquired cases reported 34,463
   Travel-associated cases reported 131
     Total 34,594*
       Guillain-Barré syndrome 51

*Sexually transmitted cases are not reported for US territories because with local transmission of Zika virus it is not possible to determine whether infection occurred due to mosquito-borne or sexual transmission.

Laboratory-confirmed Zika virus disease cases reported to ArboNET by state or territory — United States, 2015–2016 (as of December 21, 2016)§

States Travel-associated cases* No. (% of cases in states) (N=4,541) Locally acquired cases† No. (% of cases in states) (N=215)
Alabama 30   (1) 0   (0)
Arizona 52   (1) 0   (0)
Arkansas 13   (<1) 0   (0)
California 389 (9) 0   (0)
Colorado 53   (1) 0   (0)
Connecticut 58   (1) 0   (0)
Delaware 17   (<1) 0   (0)
District of Columbia 28   (1) 0   (0)
Florida 825   (18) 210     (98)
Georgia 106 (2) 0   (0)
Hawaii 16   (<1) 0   (0)
Idaho 4     (<1) 0   (0)
Illinois 88   (2) 0   (0)
Indiana 49   (1) 0   (0)
Iowa 20   (<1) 0   (0)
Kansas 18   (<1) 0   (0)
Kentucky 24   (1) 0   (0)
Louisiana 35   (1) 0   (0)
Maine 13   (<1) 0   (0)
Maryland 126 (3) 0   (0)
Massachusetts 110 (2) 0   (0)
Michigan 63   (1) 0   (0)
Minnesota 64   (1) 0   (0)
Mississippi 23   (1) 0   (0)
Missouri 36   (1) 0   (0)
Montana 7     (<1) 0   (0)
Nebraska 13   (<1) 0   (0)
Nevada 18   (<1) 0   (0)
New Hampshire 12   (<1) 0   (0)
New Jersey 164 (4) 0   (0)
New Mexico 9     (<1) 0   (0)
New York 967   (21) 0     (0)
North Carolina 83   (2) 0   (0)
North Dakota 2     (<1) 0   (0)
Ohio 78   (2) 0   (0)
Oklahoma 29   (1) 0   (0)
Oregon 41  (1) 0   (0)
Pennsylvania†† 164 (4) 0   (0)
Rhode Island 48   (1) 0   (0)
South Carolina 54   (1) 0   (0)
South Dakota 2     (<1) 0   (0)
Tennessee 58   (1) 0   (0)
Texas 277 (6) 5     (2)
Utah 20** (<1) 0   (0)
Vermont 10   (<1) 0   (0)
Virginia 103 (2) 0   (0)
Washington 61   (1) 0   (0)
West Virginia 11   (<1) 0   (0)
Wisconsin 48   (1) 0   (0)
Wyoming 2     (<1) 0   (0)


Territories Travel-associated cases* No. (% of cases in territories) (N=131) Locally acquired cases† No. (% of cases in territories) (N=34,463)
American Samoa 1     (1) 114         (<1)
Puerto Rico 128   (98) 33,487*** (97)
US Virgin Islands 2     (2) 862         (3)
  • Only includes cases meeting the probable or confirmed CSTE case definition and does not include asymptomatic infections unless the case is a pregnant woman with a complication of pregnancy

*Travelers returning from affected areas, their sexual contacts, or infants infected in utero

†Presumed local mosquito-borne transmission

††One additional case acquired through laboratory transmission

**Includes one case with unknown route of person-to-person transmission.

***The Puerto Rico Department of Health is retroactively reporting cases, resulting in larger than normal increases in cases in recent weeks.

   Page last reviewed: December 22, 2016
   Page last updated: December 22, 2016
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Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html on December 28, 2016.


Prevalence of Antibodies to Zika Virus in Mothers from Hawaii Who Delivered Babies with and without Microcephaly between 2009-2012

Pacific Ocean Islands Prevalence of Antibodies to Zika Virus in Mothers from Hawaii 2009-2012


   Mukesh Kumar,     Lauren Ching,     Joshua Astern,     Eunjung Lim,     Alexander J. Stokes,     Marian Melish,     Vivek R. Nerurkar
   Published: December 20, 2016
   http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0005262 This is an uncorrected proof.


Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging mosquito-borne pathogen. ZIKV infection is linked to the development of severe fetal abnormalities that include spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, hydranencephaly, and microcephaly. ZIKV outbreaks have been recorded in the United States. We recently demonstrated the first congenital ZIKV infection in the United States. In this study, we investigated archived blood samples from six mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly and 12 mothers who gave birth to healthy babies in Hawaii between 2009 and 2012. We tested maternal blood for the presence of ZIKV IgM and IgG antibodies using commercially available human ZIKV IgM and IgG ELISA kits. Blood from one mother who delivered babies with microcephaly tested positive for ZIKV IgM antibody (16.6%) and blood from three mothers tested positive for ZIKV IgG antibody (50%). ZIKV showed a trend toward significance with microcephaly. ZIKV IgG antibody positive mothers were more likely to deliver babies with microcephaly than mothers who were negative for ZIKV IgG antibodies (Odds ratio [OR] = 11.0, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.8–147.9, p = 0.083). Similarly, ZIKV IgM antibody positive mothers were also more likely to deliver babies with microcephaly than mothers who were negative for ZIKV IgM antibody (OR = 6.8, 95% CI = 0.2–195.1). These data provide further evidence of a link between ZIKV infection and microcephaly and suggests presence of ZIKV positive cases and associated microcephaly in the United States as early as 2009.

Author Summary

Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is linked to the development of severe fetal abnormalities that include spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, hydranencephaly, and microcephaly. The WHO in early February 2016 declared global ZIKV outbreaks and its link to birth defects an international public health emergency. ZIKV outbreaks have been recorded in the United States. In a quest to find a link between ZIKV infection and babies born with microcephaly in Hawaii, we investigated archived blood samples from mothers who gave birth in Hawaii between 2009 and 2012 to babies with microcephaly. ZIKV antibodies were detected in three (50%) out of total six mothers who delivered babies with microcephaly. ZIKV showed a trend toward significance with microcephaly. This report adds to the potential evidence of a link between ZIKV infection and microcephaly and suggests presence of ZIKV positive cases and associated microcephaly in the United States as early as 2009.

Citation: Kumar M, Ching L, Astern J, Lim E, Stokes AJ, Melish M, et al. (2016) Prevalence of Antibodies to Zika Virus in Mothers from Hawaii Who Delivered Babies with and without Microcephaly between 2009-2012. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 10(12): e0005262. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0005262
Editor: Alan L. Rothman, University of Rhode Island, UNITED STATES
Received: October 25, 2016; Accepted: December 14, 2016; Published: December 20, 2016
Copyright: © 2016 Kumar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.
Funding: This work was supported by a grant (P30GM114737) from the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, grants (U54MD007584, G12MD007601) from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), National Institutes of Health, and Institutional funds. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging mosquito-borne pathogen that is part of the Spondweni serocomplex of the genus Flavivirus, family Flaviviridae. Mosquitoes of the Aedes genus transmit ZIKV. Approximately 80% of individuals infected with ZIKV have no symptoms [1, 2]. ZIKV caused only sporadic cases of infection in Africa and Southeast Asia until 2007, when the first large outbreak occurred in the Yap State in Micronesia [3, 4]. Another outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013 was notable for being associated with an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) [5–7]. In 2015, the virus was first reported in Brazil and since then has spread through several additional countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean. Simultaneously, several of these countries have seen a dramatic increase in the incidence of infants born with microcephaly [1, 2, 8]. Since then ZIKV outbreaks have been recorded in the United States and Hawaii has encountered few cases of travel related ZIKV [9–11]. Similarly, since fall 2015 Puerto Rico has seen a sudden increase in cases of ZIKV infection particularly in pregnant women [12]. During the current epidemic in Latin America, ZIKV infection has been linked to the development of severe fetal abnormalities that include spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, hydranencephaly, microcephaly, and placental insufficiency that may cause intrauterine growth restriction [1, 2, 8]. The rapid spread of ZIKV through the Americas, together with the association of infection with microcephaly and GBS, has resulted in the World Health Organization declaring a public health emergency. No effective therapies currently exist for treating patients infected with ZIKV.

We recently demonstrated the first congenital ZIKV infected case in the United States, confirmed by high ZIKV IgM antibody titers in serum and cerebrospinal fluid [10]. In this case, a ZIKV-infected mother delivered a baby with microcephaly. In a quest to find a link between ZIKV infection and babies born with microcephaly, we investigated archived blood samples from mothers who gave birth in Hawaii between 2009 and 2012 to babies with microcephaly. We tested maternal blood for the presence of ZIKV IgM and IgG antibodies using commercially available human ZIKV IgM and IgG ELISA kits [11].

Materials and Methods

Ethics statement
Ethical approval for this study was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of the University of Hawaii (CHS#23889). All samples were collected with post-partum written informed consent.

Human plasma samples

Patient information and plasma samples were obtained from the University of Hawaii Biorepository (UHB). The UHB archived plasma samples from mothers who gave birth at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children (KMCWC) in Hawaii between 2007 and 2013 with post-partum written informed consent. All the samples were collected post-partum. In years 2007 and 2008 we did not find in the database mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly. However, from 2009 onwards, we identified six mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly.

Microcephaly diagnosis

The attending physicians identified all cases of microcephaly. Additionally, retrospectively pediatrician MM, coauthor on this publication, reanalyzed the clinical data (head circumference, body weight, chest circumference and body length) for all babies along with mothers’ gestational age. Microcephaly was defined as head circumference < 2 standard deviations from the mean or < 3rd percentile using Fenton Head Circumference Charts. MM was blinded to mothers ZIKV serological results.

Selection of controls

Controls were selected from the plasma samples stored in the UHB. We selected 12 mothers who gave birth to healthy babies during the same timeframe in which we identified six mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly (2009–2012), using a 1:2 ratio to match with the cases. Controls were selected based on mothers age and gestational age. There was no significant difference between the mothers age and mean gestational age for both sets of mothers who gave birth to healthy babies or babies with microcephaly. We also attempted to match the controls using ethnicity. For both set of mothers ethnicity was 100% Asians or mixed Asians (mixed with Pacific Islanders including Native Hawaiians) (Table 1).

Table 1. Clinical and epidemiological characteristics of mothers who gave birth in Hawaii (2009–2012)


ZIKV-specific IgM and IgG antibodies were determined in the samples using EUROIMMUN anti-ZIKV IgM and IgG ELISA, respectively, as per manufacturers’ instructions [13]. Briefly, plasma samples were diluted 1:101 and incubated in the wells coated with recombinant non-structural protein (NS1) of ZIKV. To detect the bound antibodies, a second incubation was conducted using an enzyme-labeled anti-human IgM or anti-human IgG (enzyme conjugate) catalyzing a color reaction. Before IgM detection, samples were pre-incubated with sample buffer containing rheumatoid factor absorbent as recommended. Photometric measurement of the color intensity was determined at a wavelength of 450 nm and a reference wavelength between 620 and 650 nm as per manufacturers’ instruction using a Victor 3 microtiter reader (Perkin Elmer).

ELISA results were interpreted as per EUROIMMUN recommendations [13]. For IgG ELISA, a standard curve was obtained by point-to-point plotting of the extinction values measured for the three calibration sera against corresponding units. As no quantitated international reference serum exists for antibodies against ZIKV, the calibration is performed in relative units (RU). The standard curve was used for the determination of the antibody concentration in samples. IgG values above 22 RU/mL were considered positive. IgG values between 16 to 22 RU/mL were considered borderline positive and below 16 RU/mL were considered negative.

For IgM ELISA, results were evaluated semi-quantitatively by calculating a ratio of the extinction value of the sample over the extinction value of the calibrator. A ratio of more than 1.1 was considered positive. A ratio between 0.8 and 1.1 was considered borderline positive and below 0.8 was considered negative. For every group of tests conducted, the extinction values of the calibrator and the relative units and ratios determined for the positive and negative controls for both IgG and IgM ELISA were within the limits stated for the relevant test kit lot.

Statistical analysis

Fisher’s exact tests for categorical variables and two-sample t tests for continuous variables were used to compare between normal babies and babies with microcephaly. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were also computed to investigate association between microcephaly and subject characteristics. A correction of 0.5 was used to compute OR if a cell contains zero. P-value <0.05 was considered statistically significant and p-value <0.10 was considered trend toward significance.

Results and Discussion

An overview of clinical and epidemiological data from the 18 cases is presented in Table 1. There was no significant difference between controls and cases on the matching factors (Table 2). The mean mothers age was 28 years (range 21–35) with no significant difference between mothers who gave birth to healthy babies vs. babies with microcephaly; 29 vs. 26 years. Mean gestational age was 38 weeks (range 35–40) for both sets of mothers who gave birth to healthy babies or babies with microcephaly. Of the 18 mothers, six gave birth to babies with microcephaly. Blood from one mother who delivered a baby with microcephaly tested positive for ZIKV IgM antibody (16.6%) and blood from three mothers tested positive for ZIKV IgG antibody (50%). ZIKV IgG antibody was detected in one of 12 (8.3%) mothers who delivered healthy babies and all 12 mothers were negative for ZIKV IgM antibodies. ZIKV showed a trend toward significance with microcephaly. ZIKV IgG antibody positive mothers were more likely to deliver babies with microcephaly than mothers who were negative for ZIKV IgG antibodies (OR = 11.0, 95% CI = 0.8–147.9, p = 0.083). Similarly, ZIKV IgM antibody positive mothers were also more likely to deliver babies with microcephaly than mothers who were negative for ZIKV IgM antibody (OR = 6.8, 95% CI = 0.2–195.1, p = 0.333) (Table 2). Of the three ZIKV IgG positive mothers (one was borderline positive) who gave birth to babies with microcephaly, one was ZIKV IgM positive and other two were IgM negative. Interpretation of the two ZIKV IgG positive and IgM negative result is challenging. One possible explanation is that IgM was positive in the mothers’ blood earlier in gestation. Propensity score was also estimated using a logistic regression with the matching factors (i.e., mothers’ age, gestational age, ethnicity). There was no significant difference between two groups in propensity score (control: 0.31±0.12 vs. case: 0.39±0.18, p = 0.34 by nonparametric test). The ORs adjusting for the propensity score were similar to the unadjusted ORs.

Demographics of Zika Babies in Hawaii 2007-2009


Table 2. Bivariate Association between Microcephaly and Subject Characteristic

Laboratory results for chlamydia, hepatitis B virus, and gonococcus were available for 18 mothers and all were negative. All three ZIKV positive mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly were tested negative for chlamydia, hepatitis B virus, and gonococcus. Similarly, laboratory results for syphilis tests were available for all six mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly and all were non-reactive. However, two mothers who were positive for herpes simplex virus, of which, one gave birth to a baby with microcephaly and both mothers were negative for ZIKV IgG and IgM antibodies.

Diagnosis of ZIKV infection has been complicated by cross-reactivity between antibodies to other flaviviruses and by the fact that dengue virus is endemic in the Pacific [1]. The high degree of cross-reactivity of currently available serological flavivirus assays is a major issue of concern. Therefore, in this study we employed EUROIMMUN anti-ZIKV IgM and anti-ZIKV IgG ELISA based on ZIKV NS1 antigen. It has been demonstrated that the Euroimmun ELISA is highly specific and reliable when used for patients with previous flavivirus exposure or vaccination. In one published study, none of the samples from patients with tick borne encephalitis virus, dengue virus, and West Nile virus infection and recent yellow fever vaccination demonstrated reactivity above the threshold for positivity, demonstrating the high specificity of the Euroimmun ZIKV IgM and IgG ELISA [13]. Similarly, we also did not observe any reactivity above threshold for a confirmed dengue virus positive and ZIKV negative sample using this kit. Moreover, we recently reported the first mother in the United States who gave birth to a baby with microcephaly, who was positive for ZIKV by plaque reduction neutralization test [10].

Outbreaks of ZIKV infection have occurred in Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands and the virus is endemic in regions of Africa. Currently, there is an ongoing outbreak in the Americas and autochthonous cases have been reported from 37 countries and territories worldwide [1, 7, 8]. ZIKV outbreaks have been recorded in the United States [9, 11, 14]. To date, there have been no cases of locally acquired ZIKV infection in Hawaii. Several cases of travel related ZIKV infection have been reported by the Hawaii Department of Health over the past 5 years. However, travel history for these archived samples is not available. In the Pacific ZIKV outbreak was first reported in 2007 on the Island of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), followed by widespread small outbreaks throughout the Pacific [3–7]. The period of the outbreak (2007 to now) overlaps with collection of samples analyzed in this study (2009 to 2012).

As mentioned above, except for travel related ZIKV cases ZIKV outbreak has not occurred in Hawaii. We therefore hypothesize that pregnant women may have been exposed to ZIKV during their visit to Pacific Island Nations resulting in babies born with microcephaly. Due to close proximity and historic ties between the islands, travel to various islands in the Pacific from Hawaii is relatively frequent and the duration of stay is comparatively long. The majority of travelers from Hawaii to these islands are visiting friends and relatives (VFR). International studies suggest that these travelers experience a higher risk of contracting travel-related infectious diseases compared to other groups of international travelers [15]. VFR travelers are less likely to obtain pre-travel medical advice, usually have closer contact with local populations and their associated housing conditions, and are more likely to have a longer duration of travel. Interestingly, majority (5 out of 6) microcephalus babies reported in this study were delivered in the years 2009–2010 (Table 1), which coincides with ZIKV outbreaks in the Pacific starting in 2007 [3–7]. Moreover, one baby with microcephaly delivered in the year 2015 in Hawaii [10] was associated with ZIKV outbreak in Latin America [1, 8]. This data collectively suggest increase in microcephaly cases in Hawaii coincide with ZIKV outbreak in the Pacific and Latin America.

Based on Hawaii Birth Defects Surveillance Report (1986–2005), there was a declining trend of incidence of microcephaly in Hawaii, with a rate of 13.6 per 10,000 total births in 1986 to 4.8 per 10,000 total births in 2005. Over the period (1986–2005), a total of 370 cases of microcephaly were reported in Hawaii, which is equivalent to 9.4 per 10,000 total births [16]. However, based on the University of Hawaii Biorepository data, over the period of 2007–2013, microcephaly rate was 14.7 per 10,000 total births. This increase in microcephaly rate coincides with ZIKV outbreaks in the Pacific starting in 2007 [3–7].

Limitation of this study is the lack of ZIKV plaque reduction neutralization test and PCR testing for detection of viral RNA due to insufficient quantity of plasma. However, recently published report using EUROIMMUN ZIKV ELISA gives credence to our study [13]. In this retrospective study, our analysis was restricted to the link between ZIKV and microcephaly. It will be important to ascertain whether ZIKV is associated with other fetal or neonatal neurological complications as suggested by other investigators [17]. Our study was retrospective, with a small sample size and prospective studies in a large scale to assess incidence of ZIKV-associated microcephaly in Hawaii and other regions of the United States are urgently needed.

In this study, we investigated the association between ZIKV and microcephaly. Due to small sample size, the association did not reach the common statistical significance of p-value 0.05. However, this report adds to the potential evidence of a link between ZIKV infection and microcephaly and suggests presence of ZIKV positive cases and associated microcephaly in the United States as early as 2009.

S1 Checklist. STROBE Checklist.
We thank Dr. John Chen of the Office of Biostatistics and Quantitative Health Sciences for assistance with the discussion.
Author Contributions
   Conceptualization: MK VRN.
   Data curation: JA AJS MM.
   Formal analysis: EL MM.
   Funding acquisition: MK VRN.
   Investigation: MK LC.
   Methodology: MK VRN.
   Project administration: MK VRN.
   Resources: MK VRN JA AJS MM.
   Supervision: MK VRN.
   Visualization: MK VRN.
   Writing – original draft: MK VRN.
   Writing – review & editing: MK VRN.
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America’s demographic squeeze

Not enough babies to go around

The Economist

Double bind

  • A falling birth rate and much slower immigration presage long-term trouble ahead
From the print edition | United States December 15th 2012, 00:00

ALTHOUGH America’s fiscal problems are among the worst in the rich world, its policymakers long took comfort that, when it came to demography, its outlook was one of the best. Because Americans have so many babies and welcome so many immigrants, they had more room to deal with the coming burden of pensions and health care for the elderly.

But the savage recession of 2007-09 and its aftermath have not just deepened America’s fiscal hole; they have weakened those demographic advantages. America’s fertility rate has been falling since 2007, as has net immigration. Compounding this, the share of the population that is active in the labour force has slipped, both because of ageing and because of the recession’s lingering effects.

On December 12th, 2012, the Census Bureau said America’s projected population would rise 27% to 400m by 2050. That is 9% less than it projected for that year back in 2008. Those 65 and over will grow to 22% of the population by 2060 from 14% now, while the working-age population slips to 57% from 63%.


The new projections, based on the 2010 census, are based on recent trends in fertility and immigration. The number of babies born per 1,000 women of childbearing age (also called the “general” fertility rate) fell to 63 in the 12 months that ended in June of this year, the lowest since at least 1920, and well below the recent high of 69 recorded in 2007. That is partly because the average age of women of childbearing age has increased. The “total” fertility rate adjusts for the age of the population and extrapolates how many children each woman will have over her lifetime. This, too, has fallen, and at 1.9 it is below the replacement rate of 2.1. America’s fertility rate is still higher than the average for the OECD, but has fallen sharply since 2007.

Fertility rates Total Children per woman 1970 – 2014 Source Demographic references

Demographic References


Immigration has been an important component of America’s population growth, thanks both to the influx of new people and to their tendency to have more babies. Those advantages, too, have started to dwindle. A report by the Pew Research Centre notes that the birth rate has fallen especially sharply for immigrant women, to 88 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2010 from the recent peak of 102, though it remains well above that of American-born women. The Census Bureau reckons that net migration in 2011 was only 700,000, down 28% from 2006 and the lowest for at least a decade.

The main reason for the fall in both fertility and immigration is the economy. There are fewer opportunities on construction sites and elsewhere for immigrants. Children are expensive, so couples delay having them when their prospects dim. Gretchen Livingston, a demographer at Pew, notes that the only state in which births rose in 2009 was North Dakota, largely bypassed by recession, whereas they fell especially sharply in devastated Arizona, Nevada and Florida. This means that when the economy recovers, so should fertility. Policymakers have yet to panic; the Social Security Commission, which manages America’s public pension system, reckons fertility and immigration will bounce back in the next few years.

This may be too sanguine. Structural as well as cyclical factors are at work. Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau, a research outfit, notes that couples have been getting married ever later in life; in 2011 the median age at first marriage was 28.7 and 26.5 for men and women respectively, the highest on record. A rising share of women in their early 40s are childless. In this respect America may be following the experience of Europe.

Though it will be two decades before today’s lower fertility affects the ranks of workers, America can ill afford it. Growth in its labour force has slowed dramatically since the recession; in November it was only 1% larger than at the end of 2007, a period in which the working-age population grew by 5%. This is partly because of the weak economy, which has driven many people into early retirement, others on to disability payments, and some out of the job hunt altogether. Nevertheless, the Congressional Budget Office sees the potential labour force (that is, after excluding purely cyclical influences) as growing by only 0.5% a year in the coming decade, largely because the population is ageing. That puts ever more of the burden of supporting old-age benefits on a stagnant population of workers.

For politicians struggling over the deficit, these trends point to some remedies. One would be gradually to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare over coming decades, encouraging Americans to work longer. Another would be to allow more immigration. Neither would solve America’s immediate deficit problem; but they would make the long-term challenge more manageable.

Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2016. All rights reserved.
Accessed at http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21568398-falling-birth-rate-and-much-slower-immigration-presage-long-term-trouble-ahead-double on December 27, 2016.


New Census data has worrisome fiscal implications

Components of U. S. Population Growth

NumbersUSA.com/U. S. Census Bureau

By Daniel J. Mitchell, contributor – 12/27/2016 09:20 AM EST

The Census Bureau reported on December 20, 2016, that America’s population grew 0.7 percent from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016 — the slowest rate of increase since the Great Depression. In some sense, this is neither good news nor bad news, just a reflection of demographic trends.

But demographic trends can have big implications. As a general rule, businesses like the idea of more people for the simple reason that they will have more customers.

An expanding population is particularly important for certain sectors of the economy such as housing. So there is a general assumption that a nation with a growing population will have more economic output.

Though, what presumably matters most is not total economic output, but rather per-capita output. People sometimes get agitated, for instance, that China’s gross domestic product (GDP) eventually may exceed GDP in the United States.

Perhaps that’s not good news for geopolitical reasons, but that’s not a reason to trade places if we care about living standards. After all, per-capita economic output in China is only about one-fourth of what it is in America and that’s assuming that Chinese economic numbers can be trusted.

That being stated, there is a big reason to worry about the slowdown in population growth in the U.S. Many of our entitlement programs were created based on the assumption that we would always have an expanding population, as represented by a population pyramid.

In other words, a relatively small group of old people, a large number of working-age people, and then an even bigger cohort of children. And with that demographic profile, a modest-sized welfare state (mostly based on redistribution from workers to retirees) is mathematically feasible.

Over time, however, we’ve seen major changes in demographic trends, including longer lifespans and falling birthrates. The combination of these two factors means that our population pyramid is slowly, but surely, turning into a population cylinder.

This has very painful implications for fiscal policy. In the absence of structural entitlement reform, this looming shift in America’s population profile means massive amounts of red ink as the baby boom generation moves into full retirement.

This implies either big tax increases or significant budget cuts. Not because politicians actually want those changes, but simply because there will be too many beneficiaries and too few taxpayers.

This isn’t empty theorizing. The Congressional Budget Office’s long-run fiscal forecast, which is based on current law (meaning not only no structural reform, but also no tax hikes or spending cuts), shows burgeoning levels of government debt.

The long-run fiscal outlook for the U.S. is also very grim if you look at the forecasts from international bureaucracies, such as the Bank for International Settlements, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and International Monetary Fund.

Indeed, these international bureaucracies project that the U.S. will have more red ink than Europe’s decrepit welfare states.

For what it’s worth, I don’t actually think the fiscal outlook for the U.S. is worse than it is for countries like Italy and France. The international bureaucracies assume that policymakers won’t act, so their models show that we’ll have European levels of government spending within a couple of decades while keeping our tax burden at current levels. That would mean ever-larger deficits and compounding levels of debt.

That could happen, of course, but it’s also possible that Washington will get serious about genuine entitlement reform. For instance, if Congress adopted the structural reforms that have been in House budgets in recent years, much of our long-run spending problem would disappear.

Given the built-in changes in our demographic profile, the real goal is to make sure that government spending grows slower than the private sector. This will protect the U.S. from either the no-growth economic anemia found in places like Japan, or the fiscal chaos and disarray of nations such as Greece.

But, a slowly growing population isn’t just a challenge for the nation’s long-run fiscal outlook. If you closely review the numbers from the Census Bureau, it becomes increasingly apparent that there are some very uncompetitive, high-tax states, such as Illinois, that are in deep trouble due to internal migration.

Most people have focused on the overall population loss of 37,508 in Illinois, but the number that should worry state politicians is, on net, a staggering 114,144 people left for other states. Only New York (another high-tax state with a grim future) lost more people to internal migration.

Of course, what really matters, at least from a fiscal perspective, is the type of person who leaves. Data from the internal revenue service shows that states like Illinois are losing people with above-average incomes. In other words, the net taxpayers are escaping.

Moreover, when you then look at state-by-state data for unfunded liabilities — state employee retirement and health benefits — many of the same high-tax states that are losing taxpayers and taxable income also are on the hook to pay out lots of money in the future.

Needless to say, all of this is a recipe for budgetary disaster.

The situation isn’t theoretically hopeless, however. Just like the federal government, the states also can dig their way out of their respective messes by restraining the growth of spending.

The problem is that there do not seem to be any politicians in states such as Illinois that have a serious approach to long-term fiscal issues.

The bottom line is that population changes are inexorably creating a fiscal crisis for the federal government and many state governments.

The good news is that there’s still a lot of time to adopt the reforms that are needed to restrain spending and avert a big mess. The bad news is that politicians rarely address problems ahead of time.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. Prior to joining Cato, Mitchell was an economist for Senator Bob Packwood and the Senate Finance Committee.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.
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Accessed at http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/311859-new-census-data-has-worrisome-fiscal-implications on December 27, 2016.


Ann Morrison
By Ann Morrison February 6, 2017 16:43
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