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Tom Bayles

WGCU Environmental Reporter
  • Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center are now issuing daily reports about tropical activity in the Atlantic Ocean, despite it being two weeks prior to the official start of tropical season on June 1. The full mobilization of the NHC staff early is a test of sorts, because in each of the past seven years named storms have formed in May. Last year, it was Anna. In 2020, there were two: Arthur and Bertha. The agency is considering whether it should move the official start date of the Atlantic hurricane season forward by two weeks, which would make staffing in May the norm.
  • A roseate spoonbill Audubon Florida tagged as a chick in the early 2000s was rediscovered alive and feeding chicks of her own earlier this year, and now at more than 18 years old is the oldest known bird of that species. The bird has made Florida Bay at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula its home the whole time. That a spoonbill has grown so old is a milestone of sorts. The bright pink birds with long legs and an unusually-shaped bill were in jeopardy in the early 1900s. Back then they were heavily hunted for their striking plumes, which were highly prized back then when women’s fashion included hats adorned with feathers -- and even entire birds.
  • The National Hurricane Center in Miami is tracking the first tropical wave over the eastern Atlantic Ocean a full three weeks before hurricane season begins June 1. The early tropical wave comes as the hurricane center is already considering whether it should move the start date of the Atlantic hurricane season forward by two weeks. In each of the past seven years named storms have formed in May. Last year, it was Anna. In 2020, there were two: Arthur and Bertha.
  • The Florida Forest Service lowered the risk of wildfires in the region mid-May as the Sunshine State moves into its typical summer rainy season.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will include more than $30 million in the state's 2023 budget to try and figure out why record numbers of manatees are dying in Florida waters. Scientists blame agriculture and development for polluting the rivers where manatees live.
  • Southwest Florida has a plethora of opportunities to volunteer with environmental attractions, whether it be for a retiree with lots of time and a bunch of skills to offer or a high schooler with little time and experience but with enthusiasm to donate some time during summer break.
  • That humans contribute to making red tides stronger and last longer has been anecdotal. Now, researchers in Southwest Florida have explained that it's really true. Environmental researchers led by the University of Florida’s Center for Coastal Solutions documented the link after studying a decade of red tide data from the Caloosahatchee River, Charlotte Harbor, and the surrounding watersheds including the coasts of Charlotte and Lee counties. The findings are published in the June issue of Science of the Total Environment.
  • Right now there is a box-shaped, metal thing sliding along the surface of Lake Okeechobee. It’s called a boat, but it resembles an aluminum scooper that doesn’t look like it should float. It moves with paddlewheels and sports a pitchfork. The smelly, messy endeavor is the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s latest stab at ways to rid Lake Okeechobee of the invasive species.
  • As drought grips Southwest Florida, and the threat of wildfires grows stronger, forest managers are issuing burn bans so that campfires don’t become wildfires. Collier County has joined Lee, Charlotte and Hendry counties in putting in temporary rules against burning stuff. Sarasota County has a year-round rule against burning yard waste. And the South Florida Water Management District has banned most burning on its lands, too.
  • Top hurricane researchers are considering advancing the start of the Atlantic hurricane season by two weeks, in part because each of the last seven years has had tropical systems occur prior to the current kickoff of June 1.