Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: California’s national parks air pollution levels are at a three-year high

Our national parks may no longer offer a breath of fresh air. At the same time, extremely rare Sierra Nevada red foxes delight biologists with surprising growing numbers. Meanwhile, a weekend brush fire sparked near Palm Springs while Santa Clarita shook into Sunday. Welcome to your Monday morning greens.

Yes, our cities are smoggy, but California parks also have extremely polluted air. As KQED shares, “Air pollution in national parks is at a three-year high, and two California parks have recorded the worst readings, according to a report by the National Parks Conservation Association.” Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks exceed smog standards, as does Joshua Tree National Park. Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon experience bad air because they are downwind of San Francisco, while the same is true for Joshua Tree because of its proximity to Los Angeles.

Sierra Nevada red foxes are making a welcome comeback in California. As the Los Angeles Times reports, last week the U.S. Forest Service shared that “At least half a dozen Sierra Nevada red foxes, a species once believed to have been nearly wiped out in the 1920s, roam the high country wilderness south of Yosemite.” While six animals still makes the species extremely rare, experts are expanding their studies in hopes of finding more.

A brush fire burned, and is still burning, over 500 acres near Palm Springs. While no structures are threatened, “The fire is burning in the rugged San Jacinto Mountains near the San Gorgonio Pass. Wind gusts were blowing smoke into the Coachella Valley,” writes NBC LA. The fire started late Saturday and prompted a temporary closure of the 111 Highway northwest of Palm Springs. It is now about 50% contained.

Were you shaking in Santa Clarita yesterday? CBS LA shares that a magnitude 3.2 earthquake struck 8 miles north of the city on Sunday at 11:23am. There were no reports of damage or injury.

And in nautical news, 62-year old Diane Nyad of Santa Monica was forced to give up her Havana-to-Key West endurance swim on Sunday because of man-of-war stings. She was nearly 70-miles into her swim when she was forced to stop. As KPCC reports, Nyad ended her goal “after medics warned another painful sting from a Portuguese Man o' War could be life threatening.” 

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