Bellamy Pailthorp | KNKX

Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat from the Seattle offices of KNKX Public Radio News, where she has worked since 1999. She also hosts and produces the weekly segment, The Weather With Cliff Mass, which airs every Friday. She holds a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006 mid-career during her stint on KNKX’s Business and Labor Beat from 2000-2012.

From 1989-98 she lived in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a bi-lingual producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989 for a project on theater studies and communist history. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. (Yes, she is fluent in German.)

She strives to tell memorable stories about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Character-driven narratives of exploration and innovation excite her. 

Outside work, she practices yoga, walks half marathons with friends, backpacks with her husband and extended family, reads and watches fiction with nieces, enjoys tasting new foods and admiring all kinds of animals -- especially her two house cats, who often remind her she should spend more time sitting on the couch with them.

Ways to Connect

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Leaders from five Coast Salish tribes joined a delegation from the United Tribes of Bristol Bay in Seattle this week to formally unveil a Bristol Bay Proclamation.

It demands that the U.S. government protect the tribes' way of life, as “people of the salmon,” by halting the permitting process for the so-called Pebble Mine in Southeast Alaska. And it’s a pledge of unity in a fight that has been an uphill battle.

Youth plaintiffs in the Juliana v. United States climate change lawsuit gather in a federal courthouse for a hearing in front of a panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
Robin Loznak / pool file photo via The Associated Press

A lawsuit filed by 21 young people against the federal government nearly five years ago in Eugene should not go to trial. That’s according to a ruling from a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

But attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case say it’s far from over, despite Friday’s decision.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Forecasting technology has come a long way since KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass first got his start in the field. He often marvels at how precisely most events can be predicted, using powerful computers that run ensembles of modeling programs that meteorologists compare before they decide what to tell the public. The aim is helping people prepare, especially for potentially dangerous weather.

But in the Northwest, snow – especially the kind that hit parts of Western Washington this week – is notoriously difficult to forecast. Mass agrees, this past week was a case study in that challenge.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to the media after a state Supreme Court ruling that reinstated a severely limited version of his plan to cap carbon pollution in the state, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

In a close ruling, the state Supreme Court has partially invalidated the Clean Air Rule drafted by the Department of Ecology.

The court says it cannot be used to regulate companies that sell or distribute petroleum or natural gas, because they don't make their own greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of climate action remain optimistic.

As snow and wind are likely to linger in the city through Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan urges residents not to sled on closed roads.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A new storm system packing more lowland snow is expected to move through our area tonight and tomorrow morning. But high winds could accompany this storm. The strongest gusts will be in areas near shorelines, especially Bellingham, Neah Bay, Port Townsend and Westport.

The Capitol dome is seen across Capitol Lake in Olympia. The Legislature convenes today for the 2020 session, and environmental groups are identifying their top priorities.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

As the new session gets underway in Olympia today, environmental groups have released their legislative priorities.

Items topping their list this year are renewed attempts to pass a clean fuels standard to reduce carbon pollution from transportation, as well as a statewide ban on thin, single-use plastic bags. 

Two people walk through Seattle toward the beginning of last year's big snowstorm. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says it's too early to tell how much snow we could get next week, but a half a foot or more is possible Wednesday and Thursday.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

With the first chance of major lowland snow in the forecast since last February’s big snowstorms, people all around the Puget Sound region on stocking up on supplies and getting their snow shovels ready.

But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says forecasting snow around sea level here is one of the biggest challenges forecasters face. And at this point, the only thing anyone’s really sure of is that it will soon get very cold.

Snow covers a Seattle sidewalk during the big snow storm of February 2019. Advocates are uring residents to be mindful of their role in clearing sidewalks ahead of a forecast calling for potential "problematic snow."
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Snow flurries have started in many areas around Western Washington, and an Arctic front is on its way to the Puget Sound region.

At this point, not much is expected to stick until later this weekend. But the National Weather Service says the bitter cold certainly will arrive by early next week, along with a real chance of "problematic snow."

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has signed an executive order implementing a Green New Deal for the city to fight climate change.

As she signed the executive order, Durkan also announced $250,000 in environmental justice grants, going to seven projects that respond to the impacts of climate change. 

Time Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

A recent study named Seattle the No. 1 "gloomiest place in America." The website Bestplaces.net, which ranks locations on all kinds of qualities, created a "gloom index" for the largest cities in the nation, based on weather data during the darkest months of the year.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

It's not only a new year but Jan. 1 also marks the start of new regulations on recycling for residents of King and Pierce counties.  

Seattle Public Utilities and King County Solid Waste are no longer accepting plastic bags or plastic wraps in curbside bins. (Pierce County already made this change). Instead, residents are asked to bundle these thin plastics up at home and take them to drop off sites at retail stores.

The main reason for the change is that thin plastics get caught in the gears of the sorting machines that separate different kinds of recycling. 

Southern resident orca whales, seen frolicking in 2008 less than 200 yards from shore near the light house at Lime Kiln Point State Park.   The one breaching is Canuck L-7, in the foreground is Faith L-57. Neither is still living.
Jeanne Hyde

Author’s note: Sometimes the best stories are not planned out or deeply researched in advance, but rather the product of simply listening and letting a narrative take you where it wants to go. This one came about because I had always wanted to learn more about how orcas communicate: the extent to which we know they have some sort of language. I asked around and learned the person to contact is Jeanne Hyde, a wonderful character who has devoted more than a decade of her life to constantly listening to killer whales. Jeanne’s passion for telling the stories of these orcas is infectious. And her collection of sounds provides unique perspective, especially on the tragic grief ritual of mother orca Tahlequah, who caught the world’s attention in 2018. You’ve gotta listen! (This story originally aired March 29.)

A pedestrian bundled up against the falling snow walks near Pike Place Market Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in downtown Seattle. Schools were closed across Washington state as winter snowstorms continued pummeling the Northwest, breaking records. .
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo / file

Shortly after the big snows happened in February, residents of the Puget Sound region were already hearing how the winter storms would be an event to remember and tell their grandchildren about.

As we wrap up 2019, KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says that event still stands out as the biggest one of the year — despite a lot of other features that add up to a year of extremes.

“It was the coldest, snowiest February that we’ve ever had in western Washington,” says Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

If you want to see snow on Christmas in the greater Puget Sound region, you’ll probably have to head for the mountains. Or, close your eyes and dream, as the classic holiday tune suggests.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says this year — as is most common around here — there’s no chance of white stuff over the next week in most places.

The half-built LNG facility at the Port of Tacoma.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The Puyallup Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups have filed two separate appeals against the permit for a controversial liquefied natural gas plant at the Port of Tacoma.

Island Spring Organics owner and founder Luke Lukoskie samples the processed soy that will become organic tofu.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Transportation remains the largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases in Washington. Tailpipe emissions amount to about 40 percent of the problem.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency wants to tackle that with a first-ever regional clean fuels standard, covering King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.  

A young southern resident killer whale chases a Chinook salmon in the Salish Sea near San Juan Island, Washington, in September 2017. Image obtained under NMFS permit #19091.
John Durban/Southwest Fisheries Science Center / NOAA Fisheries

Chinook salmon – the Northwest’s largest and most iconic fish species – are shrinking.

Researchers have documented that adult kings returning from the North Pacific are on average 10 percent shorter and as much as 30 percent lighter than 40 years ago.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

 

 

Jenny Shrum is a National Park Biologist in one of the most beautiful places on Earth: San Juan Island.

 

Before coming to the island, she worked on seasonal contracts for years at national parks all over the west. As a biologist, most of those jobs involved monitoring large animals.

 

“I’ve worked with lynx in Colorado and wolverine in Idaho and grizzly bears in Montana, seals in Alaska, Hawksbill turtles in Hawaii,” said Shrum.

 

Larry Workman / Quinault Tribe

Rising sea levels caused by global warming hit coastal communities the hardest. In Washington, many of those communities are tribes that settled near the water long before climate change became an issue. A new bill moving through Congress aims to provide them with more relief.  

The North Cascades Highway closed for the season on Wednesday, as snow filled avalanche shoots alongside it. The annual closure for safety was the latest in more than a decade.
Washington State Department of Transportation.

After the driest November in 43 years, precipitation is finally returning to Washington. The North Cascades Highway closed Wednesday – its latest closure in over a decade. The state Department of Transportation shuts it down annually for safety, after snow fills the avalanche chutes that line the highway. About a foot of snow fell this week above 3500 feet.

The liquefied natural gas facility under construction in Tacoma's tideflats recently received its final permit from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Environmental groups in Tacoma say they're planning a swift appeal against the decision from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency approving a permit for the liquefied natural gas facility that's being built in the city's tideflats.

Members of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians gather alongside students at Chief Leschi Schools for climate emergency vote.
Courtesy of Puyallup Tribe

The governing council of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians has approved a resolution declaring a climate emergency. The vote took place at a special meeting held during an assembly at Chief Leschi Schools, with all grades of the schools gathered around.

The Seattle Space Needle as seen Nov. 30, 2019.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

The dry, cool and sunny conditions that brought extraordinary fall color to the Northwest also have toppled a major record. Seattle charted its driest November in 43 years, with just 1.71 inches of rain – about 26 percent of normal. (Spokane was at 30 percent of normal, with .68).

That’s the driest November since 1976 — a “startlingly dry” year that saw about half of last month’s precipitation, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

Seattle police use gas to push back World Trade Organization protesters in downtown Seattle on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1999. The protests delayed the opening of the WTO third ministerial conference.
Eric Draper / The Associated Press (file)

Advocates for fair trade are gathering Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the WTO meeting that became known as the Battle in Seattle. The World Trade Organization gathering made front page news around the world, with scenes of police controlling protestors with tear gas and pepper spray.

An orca is seen swimming free in the Salish Sea.
Photo by Katy Foster

In the Puget Sound region, whale lovers call the early 1960s the Capture Era. That’s when hundreds of local killer whales were rounded up, hunted and sold to amusement parks. Seattle became a hub of that brutal international trade, which decimated the population of now-endangered Southern Resident orcas. 

The National Weather Service relies on a network of buoys to collect real-time data about ocean conditions. But they’re prone to malfunction and expensive to maintain.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass is working with a company that is offering a potential alternative. Oakland-based Saildrone has a fleet of autonomous sailboats that are loaded with high-tech equipment and can be deployed to collect highly accurate weather and upper-ocean observations.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX Pacific Public Media

This interview with the late Bill Ruckelshaus originally aired in March 2017. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Read a full obituary here

Streams of clouds skim across the peak of Oregon's Mount Hood, as a darker bank of clouds heads east toward the mountain as seen from Portland on Nov. 22, 2016.
Don Ryan / The Associated Press (file)

Holiday travelers had lots to contend with ahead of Thanksgiving, as an unusual storm known as a "bomb cyclone" hit Southwest Oregon and California Tuesday, reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour in places.

Its effects were felt in Washington on Wednesday.

 Mount Rainer is seen at dawn in this Jan. 2, 2012, file photo, from Seattle, some 50 miles away from the national park.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Snow levels are dropping over the Cascade mountains. Weather officials are warning that anyone planning to cross the passes before Thanksgiving should be aware of the potential for hazardous conditions. As much as a foot is expected to pile up by Wednesday above 3,500 feet, as the temperature drops.

And it will be cold enough all around the Northwest to store your extra food outdoors if the fridge is overflowing, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass. But don’t expect to build a snowman. Only a few snow flurries are expected in the lowlands on the west side.

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