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

FILE -- This Aug. 3, 2009 photo shows clerk Allison Ure lifting groceries she's bagged in a plastic sack at the M Street Grocery in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington is poised to become the ninth state in the nation to ban the use of thin plastic bags in retail sales. After passing both chambers of the Legislature with strong bipartisan support, it was signed by the president of the state Senate on Wednesday.  

In this March 23, 2015 photo, Chris Owens pulls a geoduck clam out from deep in the sand while harvesting geoducks for Taylor Shellfish Farms near Harstine Island, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo/ file

While lots of people are feeling frightened or inconvenienced by the novel coronavirus, at least one group is also financially devastated: geoduck divers. They normally sell the huge, iconic bivalves as a luxury export item, primarily for customers in China. Not right now. 

An early springtime view of Port Townsend Bay , as seen from the Larry Scott memorial trail on March 1, 2020.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Do you doubt that spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest? With cool temperatures and copious rain dousing much of the region lately, it can be hard to believe.

Just a couple of weeks ago, KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass talked about the typical arrival of "meteorological spring," when big storms cease and other weather changes indicate that for all practical purposes, winter has ended. It happens here a full month prior to the end of winter on the East Coast.

Elaine Thompson / AP Images

The Chehalis River has flooded 18 times in the past 20 years, sometimes submerging Interstate 5 near Olympia. The local Flood Control Zone District is proposing a new dam to prevent extreme high water. A draft environmental impact statement is now out for public comment.  

A view from Seattle on Feb 21, 2020.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

People in Western Washington have enjoyed plenty of mild, warm days and sunshine lately — typical weather for late winter and early spring. Suddenly, we’re shedding layers and searching for our sunglasses.

But in Eastern Washington and Oregon, early spring marks the onset of what can be a terrifying phenomenon: Northwest dust storms that dramatically reduce visibility and air quality when winds pick up.

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

UPDATE, Feb. 27, 2020: The Whale Sanctuary Project that was considering sites in Western Washington and British Columbia has announced it will not be setting up here anytime soon. It has chosen to start its work in Port Hilford, on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. That location will be primarily dedicated to rehabilitating beluga whales that are retiring form marine parks and aquariums.

Curatorial contributor Sasha La Pointe is Coast Salish, from the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian Tribes. Many of her tattoos  commemorate her heritage, as do her traditional earrings, made of dentalium shells.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

An exhibition at Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture celebrates tattoos. "Body of Work" provides a historical overview of the genre, along with profiles of some of the most prominent artists based around the Pacific Northwest. And it offers practical tips for people considering getting one for the first time.

It also starts with something new for MoPOP.  

Puddles, a dog used by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to sniff out invasive quagga and zebra mussels during boat inspections, waits for instructions during a demonstration of her skills for reporters.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

At a public boat launch on Black Lake, south of Olympia, Sgt. Pam Taylor holds dozens of small, dark black shells in the palm of her hand. At her side is an inquisitive white hound, barking enthusiastically.

“These are what I put in the little socks to train Puddles,” says Taylor, an inspector with the Aquatic Invasive Species program at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It's Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington. Public officials, like Taylor, are warning that non-native invaders can proliferate quickly and wipe out native ecosystems. And they’re calling on the public to help find them and prevent their spread.

In this May 17, 1999 file photo, two Makah whalers stand atop a dead gray whale, moments after helping tow it to shore in the harbor at Neah Bay, Wash. Earlier in the day, Makah Indians took it in their first hunt since opting out 70 yrs. earlier.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

A little less than a month remains for public comment on a proposal to allow the Makah Indian Tribe to resume its hunt for gray whales.

A shopper places her goods into her car outside a supermarket in Christchurch, New ZNew Zealand, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. New Zealand plans to ban disposable plastic shopping bags by next July as the nation tries to live up to its clean-and-green image.
Mark Baker / AP Images

The proposal for a statewide ban on thin plastic bags in retail establishments is quickly moving forward.

A vote is scheduled for Tuesday in the state Environment and Energy Committee, where lawmakers heard public comments from a packed chamber this week.

A view from Seattle on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

The mornings have been cold and crisp under clear skies this week in many parts of the Pacific Northwest, with lows around freezing in places. But powerful sunbeams have pushed afternoon highs into the pleasant realm of the 50s.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says this is in keeping with what he calls “meteorological spring,” when the weather stops delivering storms and cold temperatures that are the hallmarks of winter. Instead, trees and shrubs start sprouting green buds, crocuses push through the soil and people begin shedding layers of clothing needed in colder weather as they enjoy warmer temperatures.

Drinking water is seen on a cafeteria table in Los Angeles on Friday, Aug. 2, 2109. Among the proposals Washington legislators are still considering this session is a ban on new sales of water rights to bottling companies.
Richard Vogel / The Associated Press

Members of Washington's Environmental Priorities Coalition say they're making good progress on the legislative agenda they set for this session. The agenda comes out of annual cooperative agreements between more than 20 organizations statewide.

Ron Peltier and Betsey Wittick at Bainbridge Vinyards.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It started over a few glasses of wine, with friends passing around a smartphone and sharing views of a sketch by late-night comedian Bill Maher.

The idea presented there, for a holiday on par with those honoring moms and dads, often provokes laughter. “I Didn’t Reproduce Day” would celebrate single people, aunts and uncles who help out — and not just by being allies to parents or mentors to young people. Maher makes the case that people who remain childless are saving resources and preventing thousands of tons of carbon pollution from warming the Earth’s climate.  

Rain is in the forecast this weekend, but don't worry. Sun is on the horizon starting Monday.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The rain just keeps coming. Our reservoirs are above normal now, and it looks like there’s more rain on its way all weekend long. But can you trust that forecast? KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says some weather apps are often the most acurate source — and anyone can check their reliability.

Jeff Lewis biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife attempts to coax the fisher from the case.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

UPDATE: Four fishers were released  Thursday afternoon and "ran away really well" into habitat around Bedal Campground, about 15 miles southeast of Darrington, said Jeff Lewis, lead biologist on the program with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  

The new animals are Neville (juvenile male), Katie (juvenile female), Kendra (adult female), and Niffler (large adult male).


In this Aug. 28, 2017 photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state.
David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP

Four large environmental groups are suing the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

At issue is the agency's approval of Cooke Aquaculture's plans to switch to native steelhead farming in net pens in Puget Sound. The permit would apply to four existing net pens with valid leases and possibly three more later.

A flood watch continues till 4 o'clock Friday. The National Weather Service says although the rain had tapered down earlier in the morning and most area rivers were expected to crest in the afternoon, flooding will continue into Saturday.

Eleven people were evacuated from an apartment complex in Issaquah Thursday, with standing water causing road closures all around the region. 

This kind of flooding does happen regularly in western Washington, especially in areas that are connected to rivers that drain off the Cascade Mountains.
But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says the rainfall people have experienced here this week has been exceptionally intense. It’s because of the angle at which the atmospheric river that’s causing the precipitation has come in.

Nick Dubitzky (L) and farm manager Charlie Delius display the current crop of kelp at Hood Canal Mariculture during a growers workshop Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2020..
Washington Sea Grant

As seaweeds grow in the ocean, they naturally pull carbon dioxide from the water for photosynthesis, much as trees pull CO2 from the air. Many people in western Washington see an opportunity in that.

A pedestrian makes his way along a waterfront as downtown Seattle is partially hidden in a steady rain beyond Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

It’s been a wet month in Western Washington, with few breaks from steady, and sometimes heavy, rain.

“We’ve just tied the record for number of rainy days at Seattle and at this point, Seattle got about eight inches of rain so far this month,” KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass said on Friday morning. “Typically, we only have about five and a half. So, it’s been a wet period.”

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Washington’s mountain ranges not only produce spectacular vistas and recreational activities year-round. Their location near the Pacific Ocean also creates a variety of unique weather features that add to the special atmosphere in the Northwest.

“You have to love the meteorology of this region. I certainly do,” says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, who teaches atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and wrote a popular book on the subject.

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. Lawmakers have passed a bill banning defenses based on a victim's gender identity or sexual orientation.
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.

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