West Virginia and climate change

By: Carley Posey

I’m sure we have all noticed that in the last couple of years our seasons sometimes seem out of whack. Could climate change have something to do with it? I think back to just this previous year and how I was driving to my parents for Christmas Eve with the windows down,  how the worst snow we got came in late February and March, and how even in late April we are dipping down into the 30’s at night and sometimes not warming up much during the day. One thing we are getting is plenty of rain, but we have other states struggling with drought like California. Yet with all of this going on as a state we can’t decide how to teach climate change, yet I think we are living it.

climate change

Climate change refers to a change in weather patterns over a long period of time such as a decade or longer. I hesitate to call this climate change for West Virginia, but it sure seems like the last decade of weather has been changing as we have gotten snow earlier and earlier and sometimes even late into the season. Last year we has so much rain it was hard to actually dry out.

climate change2

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that Earth’s overall temperature has risen 1.4 degrees in the last century and they look for it to raise another 2 to 11.5 over the next century.  Not only does climate change affect our weather, but it has been tied to some health problems. It can worsen smog and increase pollen production which can gravely affect breathing for some West Virginians. We could also deal with extreme heat that could lead to dehydration and heat stroke, and with more heat comes more insects especially those that carry infectious diseases such as those carried by mosquitos.

However, not everything goes together. West Virginia has already experienced times of drought, flooding, and just extreme weather in general. The swings of the weather will only become worse as climate change becomes worse. In 2011 alone, West Virginia counties broke heat, rain, and snow fall records.

Not all of the problems with climate change are solely linked to weather though, West Virginia school boards have been debating for the last year or so how to proceed on teaching climate change in school. In December 2014, the board decided to alter the way climate change was being taught in West Virginia schools. The change was thought to encourage students to debate on climate change and be able to form their own opinions on it. However, just a month later the board voted to go back to the old way of teaching because students need to learn the facts about climate change.

There is a lot more research that needs to be done on climate change, but sadly I think a lot of it will just need to be observed to be understood.

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Turkeys, Turkeys everywhere!

By: Carley Posey

In the past ten years there have been a couple times that West Virginia didn’t have a spring turkey hunting season, but in the last couple of years with hunters taking less turkeys in the season that usual should we be worried about overpopulation of turkeys in the same way white tail deer are in the mountain state? Spring turkey season in West Virginia is set to kick off this weekend on Saturday April 25th, 2015 with a youth hunt available to all children ages 8-18. The official start of the season begins on April 27th, 2015.

turkey2 My grandfather and I, circa 1994

Turkey hunting season of 2013 yielded the highest kill rate in a few years at 10,974 birds. Hunters say the success of that hunting season was due to the favorable weather, a low kill rate in the 2012 season, and a good 2011 poult production. 52 out of the 55 counties in West Virginia reported their highest amount of kills since 2006 this year.

Turkey hunting is a season where you have multiple fall season broken up around different parts of the state with some counties having multiple weeks.The spring season is state wide for all counties. During fall season your bag limit is one bird of either sex, but during the spring season you are allowed one bird daily with a two bird season limit, but they may only be bearded birds. During spring female turkeys are having their little ones, and are otherwise protected.

turkeys

Baby turkeys and their moms on a Lewis County roadway.

However, many hunters say the state opens up season too late for them to be successful, because the turkey are already out and about as early as March. While the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) says that the spring season is set to ensure the future of the turkey population. The DNR says that other states around us that start their season early arte really hurting their turkey population because it doesn’t give the female turkeys enough time to bed down with babies.

2013 has been the largest harvest of turkeys in the last several years, so will there be overpopulation of turkeys before we know it? There seems to be far less turkeys than white tailed deer that we are over run with. Only time and hunting season turn out will be able to tell if we will be overrun with turkeys in the future.

deer

Fracking the Ohio River

By: Carley Posey

Since 2014, the state legislature has been mulling over the idea of fracking underneath the Ohio River. In December they finally passed the motion to do so, but many residents of the state are not happy and it could really destroy our environment. The decision to so is said to possibly bring millions of dollars into the state, but at what cost?

fracking 1

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth and using high pressure water to remove the gas under the earth’s surface. While the advantages of fracking are that you are able to get gas and oil from deep in the earth that other methods may not be able to reach, the controversy and hatred for it see to outweigh the good.

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Sign at a anti-fracking protest. thinkingpress.org

The worries are that it uses so much water that once used becomes contaminated. Environmentalists worry about the possible cancer causing chemicals leaking out and contaminating even more water in the form of groundwater sent out into the nearest town. The usage of water is also a major concern, as it can take between 1-8 million gallons of water to do one fracking job.

When West Virginia legislature gave the okay to drill under the Ohio River they were told they could make money and would get paid per acre from the companies involved. Right now 12 miles of the river would be affected, but as many as 9 more are under discussion.

fracking 3

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition is just one of the groups fighting the ruling. Their biggest concern is the disposal of the waste from fracking and how they will get the supplies down the river on barges. They don’t want anything or anyone to be contaminated, and it seems as though there is a very real possibility it could happen at some point.

While other groups like the Wheeling Water Warriors who have taken to sending around a petition against the Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. The Ohio River runs into the Mississippi though so this fracking and the potential of contamination could affect more than just West Virginia. The water from the Ohio River runs straight down to the Gulf of Mexico. It would be a shame for the beautiful Ohio River to be lined with water trucks and rigs.

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The Ohio River during summer.

Mountaintop removal, and why it might be time to stop!

Mountaintop removal is a safer way of mining coal than digging a mine, but West Virginia should really consider the reasons why we should stop this process.

  • It destroys the beauty of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is done by surface mining the tops of mountains and ridge lines. While West Virginia has plenty of hills and mountains, these spots will never be the same once they are mined. Powerful explosives are used to get 400 vertical feet under the surface of the dirt, and then the dirt is thrown into a valley. Once all mining is done the mountain is supposed to be put back the way it was found, but it will never be the same. The vegetation will taka long time to come back or may never come back at all. While the dirt is being pushed into the valley it can hold back head water of rivers as well. In the time that mountaintop removal has been practiced 2,000 miles of streams have been compromised and by 2020, close to 1.4 million acres of forest and mountaintops will have been compromised

Mountain top removal

This is a drawing of the mountain before any works is done.

Moutain top removal 2

This is the mountain after the hole is blasted and dirt begins to be shoved into the valley.

  • There is evidence now of health issues in those surrounding areas where mountain top removal has gone on. West Virginia legislature is looking into reports that those who live near these areas experience health problems like birth defects, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems.  There are over 24 peer reviewed reports on the subject that environmentalist are hoping will take into account. Small rock particles, silica, and heavy metals have been found at ground level near these mines, which worries those surrounding them. The heavy metals,  such as cadmium, selenium, and arsenic get into the water system and could be what is making people sick.
  • It’s bad for wildlife. While the water is compromised by the heavy metals coming from the mining, it can make wildlife sick or even kill them by poisoning their blood stream. Aquatic animals are already under attack because of the dirt pushed into the valley that takes up the water heads. There also is a lack of vegetation due to the clearing to blast the mountain, and even when it restored it could take years or may never grow back. Lack of vegetation will send wild life else where or may even starve them out. A lot of West Virginia families depend on hunting seasons to stock their freezers for the year.

The thought behind mountaintop removal is that it saves lives, but clearly it may not. If something isn’t done West Virginia and all the Appalachian states are going to continue to lose their beauty, health, and wildlife.

Flooding and Erosion at Blackwater Falls

By: Carley Posey

black water falls

Late winter brought some crazy weather in West Virginia, along with the snow and rain came flooding in all parts of the state. Blackwater Falls is a major nature attraction in Davis, WV, but does all this flooding and water coming out of the banks affect the future landmark for future generations?

Flooding hit the region in 1985, and reduced the height of the falls from 65 ft tall to 57 ft tall. However, the park still advertised the falls at a height of 65ft. Tourist that then visited the falls were disappointed to learn that the falls weren’t as tall as they thought they were. The falls still are majestic no matter the height.

The ledge of the falls is formed from Homewood and Conoquenssing sandstone, which makes the falls changeable. Millions of years ago as the Black River was flowing over the falls it washed more sediment into place to build up the falls, but as the water continues to run over it and the river begins to flood the river is less able to deposit that sediment and the falls actually take more erosion. The top ledge of the rocks don’t erode as much as the softer rock underneath the ledge that haven’t had the chance to harden like the top of the ledge that constantly has sediments running over top of it.

As the water splashes back against the rock facing it will begin to erode more and before too long geologist think the shape of the falls themselves will change with a larger top shelf and a curved middle, where the rock will be much less thick.

The falls look much more violent when they’re flooded.

During the winter the falls freeze completely over and they are kind of protected unless you get massive flooding or until the ice melts.