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

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. 

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.

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.

With Mount Rainier in the background right, morning fog clears from downtown Seattle as seen from the roof of the Space Needle on Friday, Nov. 8.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

It was just over a month ago that an early snow storm hit the Cascade Mountains, stoking the hopes and dreams of Northwest skiers for an above average season.

“October 8-9th, we had enough snow that it was messing up travel across the passes,” said KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. “Now unfortunately most of that has melted. And we’ve gone into a very dry pattern.”

Makah Tribal Council member Patrick Depoe has been present since the hearing started last week. He says the response this time around is nothing like 20 years ago.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story has been updated to include remarks from members of the Makah tribe. 

Thor Hanson / Courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Wildlife officials are appealing to landowners on San Juan and Lopez islands. They’re asking them to set aside patches of habitat for the rare island marble butterfly, before it gets official protection under federal law.  

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

One in six children in Washington is food insecure. And in the greater Seattle area, one in eight working people struggles against hunger.

That fight  will be center stage on Monday (Nov. 11) at a food justice panel at Town Hall Seattle.

Northwest Harvest is one of the panel organizers. The organization is aiming to cut hunger rates in Washington in half by 2028.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Normally early November is a wet and stormy time of year in the Northwest. Not this year. It has been generally dry and sunny over the past few weeks — dry enough to tie a record for lack of rain, assuming no precipitation falls on Friday.

“The record for a period in November is 14 days. That happened in 2002. That’s a very long stretch of no rain,” says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

“In fact, I think it’s the longest stretch of this particular year, even including the summer, of having no rain.”

Courtesy King County Solid Waste Division

King County is grappling with how to handle its trash as the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill reaches capacity. The Maple Valley facility, which first accepted waste in the mid-1960s, is expected to fill up in less than 20 years. Expansion efforts have stalled as neighbors complain about the effects of squeezing more refuse into the little space remaining.

Smoke from the Maria Fire billows above Santa Paula, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. Calmer weather allowed crews to increase containment on wildfires after a three-week siege of gusts fanned blazes across California and led utilities to cut power.
Noah Berger / The Associated Press

People in the Puget Sound region have experienced chilly weather this week, especially overnight. Temperatures have dipped into the low 30s in some places, with cool and partly sunny weather most days. That's going to continue pretty consistently through the weekend.

At the same time, furious winds have been stoking California's wildfires. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says the cold here is directly connected to the Diablo and Santa Ana winds that are fueling infernos there.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Weeks after thousands of young people stormed the streets to demand more action on climate change, the issue is shaping campaigns across the nation.

That wave is rippling through two races in Western Washington — and big money is flowing in, both for and against candidates who are outspoken about the need to rein in use of fossil fuels.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

This fall, the Puget Sound region has graced residents with an abundance of clear and crisp sunny days – classic fall weather. And the colors displayed on fall foliage have been exceptionally stunning, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, speaks Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at a rally supporting Initiative 1631.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, is the new president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Oyster growers in Southwest Washington have given up on their push to use a controversial neurotoxin to control burrowing shrimp. The shrimp can turn oyster beds into quicksand that suffocates the shellfish.  The growers have dropped an appeal before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, in favor of a settlement agreement with the state department of ecology.  

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

It’s been a dark and stormy week in the Pacific Northwest. Starting Wednesday, the region was pummeled with wind and wet stuff as series of weather fronts started pushing through the skies above us. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says that’s going to continue all weekend and into next week, before it lightens up a bit.

The contrast can be jarring, especially when you have the stunning crisp fall days of early October that we did this year, often with sunshine. But Mass says this is absolutely normal.