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

A pocket beach near Hilton Harbor boat storage provides still-rare public access to Bellingham Bay.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

It’s been more than a dozen years since the Georgia Pacific pulp mill on Bellingham’s waterfront shut down and the local port district took ownership of 137 heavily polluted acres. Residents recently got a chance to tour the central waterfront parcel and learn about a new cleanup plan that they hope will ultimately lead to revitalization.

Lenticular clouds cap Mount Rainier, at dusk as a jet passes by, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, as seen from Seattle. Lenticular clouds, sometimes called "cap clouds," form over mountain peaks when moisture begins to increase in the upper levels of the atmosphere
Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Summertime in the northwest can provide a remarkably mellow atmosphere, with lots of clouds, temperatures that hover around 70 degrees and the kind of sprinkles that evaporate on your skin almost as soon as they land. Low clouds often filter the light and you can enjoy the soft focus all around.

That’s the kind of weather people in most of western Washington can look forward to for the next several days.

The growler image issued with the U.S. Navy's record of decision on March 14, 2019.
U.S. Navy/ NAS Whidbey Island

A citizens’ fight against jet noise from the U.S. Navy’s expanding fleet of Growler jets on Whidbey Island is getting help from the state’s top lawyer. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed suit against the Navy, calling its environmental impact statement and review process inadequate.  

Karl Hagel & Pat McChesney, University of Washington Pacific Northwest Seismic Network Field Engineers, working to install earthquake monitoring equipment on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens, with Mt. Hood in the distance.
Marc Biundo, PNSN University of Washington Field Engineer / Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

Seismologists in the Pacific Northwest have been getting a lot of calls in recent days after a major earthquake rattled remote Southern California over the Fourth of July weekend. No one was killed, but the event raised many questions. 

Whale watchers at Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island sighting members of the J and K pods of southern resident orcas on Friday July 5th after an absence of nearly 8 weeks.
Jeanne Hyde / Whale of a Purpose Blog

Whale scientists have spotted several Southern Resident orcas off the west side of San Juan Island, in Haro Strait. The sighting comes after an unprecedented absence that had many worried.  

A view of Seattle's Seafair Festival Fireworks, July 4th, 2019.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

There’s a joke in Seattle that summer doesn’t start around here until July 12– three weeks after the solstice and nearly a week after Independence Day.

“And I have a feeling that may be true this year,” says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass after a damp Fourth of July with cloudy skies and cool temperatures around 70 degrees.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Summer solstice, the longest day of the year, is upon us — marked in Seattle by the colorful Fremont Parade (famous, among other things, for body-painted cyclists). Though the sun sets after 9 p.m., it’s not the sunniest part of summer. June in the Pacific Northwest typically means lots of low clouds, our annual "June Gloom."

That’s been tempered lately by lots of iridescent clouds — another feature of the season that is fed by the sun’s position, high up in the sky. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass expects a little of both this weekend.

A storm surge on Lummi Island in Washington state.
P. GRANGER / Washington Sea Grant

A new study from a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group takes a look at the near-term costs of projected sea level rise due to climate change. Washington faces the highest cost on the West Coast for impacts to shorelines.  

 Screenshot of the King County Connect app, available in the Google Play or Apple app store
Courtesy King County

King County has a new mobile app that aims to make it easier for residents to reach local government services. As officials unveil the app this week, they’re highlighting its use in the fight against noxious weeds, for which it has so far been most fully developed.

King County has 17 specialists who work to stop the spread of new invasive species and poisonous plants that spread quickly, such as giant hogweed, tansy ragwort or poison hemlock. King County's program tracks dozens of weeds in five categories.

A spectacular sunset accompanied record-setting temps over Seattle's Eliott Bay on Wednesday June 12, 2019.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

The mercury hit a record-breaking 95 degrees at Sea-Tac Airport Wednesday, causing a road to buckle in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood  in a dramatic display of what heat can do to infrastructure.

But where there was heat, there were none of the wildfires some folks often associate with warmer temperatures. In a somewhat ironic twist, the risk of wildfires in the region increased Friday as a push of cooler marine air surged in off the ocean, bringing the low clouds locals more often associate with June weather, sometimes known as "June gloom."

King County

Carbon credits that protect forests have been around for more than 20 years. Companies that want or need to reduce their carbon footprint can purchase offsets, and that money is invested to preserve or plant trees. Trees inhale carbon dioxide, so they help offset climate-warming pollution produced when we burn fossil fuels. 

But the forests that have generally benefited from carbon credits are in rural areas and in faraway countries that offer the largest stands of trees.

"Sky theater" provided by mother nature Wednesday, June 5, in Seattle.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Many people woke up to big patches of blue sky in the Puget Sound region Friday, especially in the South Sound. But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says the sun breaks will yield to cloudier weather as low pressure moves into the region. And a rare batch of thunderstorms is expected to douse and excite parts of the state.

A drift net fishing boat in Bristol Bay.
Courtesy Mark Titus, Eva's Wild

Bristol Bay, Alaska, provides more than half of the world’s sockeye salmon. And every summer, hundreds of commercial fishermen from the Puget Sound region join Alaskan locals to reap the benefits of its pristine salmon habitat.

rain pike place market
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

The wet season has returned to Western Washington, with showers and all out rain alternating through early next week, a continuation of the pattern we’ve been seeing for a while.

“But none of that’s going to be that heavy. And the reason is, most of the weather is going into California,” said KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, who teaches atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, pulls off his "100%" cap, standing for a goal of 100% clean energy, after posing for a photo with supporters after signing climate protection legislation Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Washington state now has the strongest clean electricity law in the nation. That's how many environmentalists describe new regulations that force utilities to get off coal by 2025 and to be 100 percent free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

There’s a key weather battle that plays out every summer. It determines how warm (or hot) conditions can get in the Puget Sound region. It’s the tug of war between onshore and offshore flow, says KNKX weather expert Cilff Mass.

Transient whales swim through the Salish Sea near Friday Harbor in March. While sightings of transients are growing, the endangered Southern Resident population is bordering on extinction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

“For as the orca go, so go we.”

Those were words from Gov. Jay Inslee as he signed five bills that aim to help keep endangered Southern Resident killer whales from going extinct. All are based on recommendations from the orca recovery task force he convened last year.

Growler jets
John Froschauer / The Associated Press

A national parks organization filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy last week, related to jet training at Air Station Whidbey Island.

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association sued the Navy to get more information about the exercises, which are planned for one of the quietest places in the lower 48.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

It’s a prequel to the infamous June Gloom — that dreary period of typical Northwest, in-between weather, with clouds that hang low and persist for weeks without providing any meaningful rain.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says May actually marks the start of the "low cloud season" that dominates in June. And we should expect it to extend from now until mid-July.

A drone view of flooding in Hamiton in 2017.
Courtesy of Joan Cromley

A town on the Skagit River that’s plagued with chronic flooding is one step closer to moving out of the flood plain. That’s thanks to a $1 million investment from the conservation group, Forterra.

Recycling is changing dramatically. So, a Seattle Public Utilities staffer put on some gloves, rolled up her sleeves and sorted through the recycling at a local coffee shop with KNKX Public Radio. Here are the top 10 tips she shared.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Recycling the right way is a point of pride around here. “Obsessive Compulsive Recycler, you’re one of us,” local insurance company Pemco says in one of its cheeky Northwest Profiles.

But getting it right has become more difficult, after China stopped accepting most of our recyclable waste. With so much piling up, some worry if their careful efforts are ultimately keeping the items out of landfills.

Seattle sunset
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Clear blue skies and sunshine got the weekend off to a beautiful start in Western Washington. Both are expected to stick around all day Friday, before shifting to showers Saturday morning.


More than 200 businesses — including many in Washington state — are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend permitting for the controversial Pebble Mine project. The proposed mine would be located in the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, in Bristol Bay Alaska.  

Mount Rainier in Washington state is surrounded in a haze of wildfire smoke, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

Warmer weather and wildfire smoke are causing more air pollution in Washington. Three metropolitan areas in the state have the worst air pollution in the nation. They made the top-15 list for particle pollution in this year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association, which looks at both particle pollution and ozone.

A drone photo of the Arlington Microgrid Community Solar Project, which officially launches on Monday, April 22, 2019 in honor of Earth Day.
Courtesy Snohomish County PUD

Solar power can feel out of reach. Upfront costs are usually considerable and you need a sunny roof or open space where you can put the panels.

Community solar projects make it more accessible, by allowing ratepayers to buy shares in an installation that’s financed and operated by a group of investors. Utilities around the state, including Seattle City Light and Avista, offer them. Now, Snohomish County PUD is getting in on the game — in a big way.

A photographer looks out over the Puget Sound and Mount Baker, some 70 miles distant, Friday, March 13, 2015, at the marina in Edmonds, Wash.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

If you’re tired of all the precipitation that has been raining down on the Northwest since early April, take heart. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass promises this weekend will be dry and even a bit sunny.

courtesy of state Department of Health

A bill that would address environmental justice is still alive in the state Legislature.

The so-called Healthy Environment for All, or HEAL, Act passed the House in the nick of time, getting a last-minute bipartisan vote of 88-10 just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, to clear the cutoff deadline.

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo / file

Low numbers of Chinook salmon expected to return to the Columbia River this summer have led state and tribal officials to close that fishery until Aug. 1. They’ve also announced new restrictions on Puget Sound Chinook.  

A whale watching boat, from a distance, watches one of several transient killer whales during a whale watching trip last month.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Experts and enthusiasts agree, whether on water or on land: it’s difficult to describe the feeling people get in the presence of orcas.

“I wish you could bottle what happens when people see whales,” said Donna Sandstrom, while passing out binoculars to passersby in West Seattle. “The sheer joy and the awe is always moving.”

April, a critical month for protecting snowpack and filling reservoirs, is shaping up to be wetter than normal.
Tim Durkan Photography

Major April showers are dousing the Pacific Northwest, and they're bringing more than flowers. Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp talked with weather expert Cliff Mass, who provided the latest forecast and an update on the water situation in the region following an unusually dry March.